What would you focus on today, if you had to start from scratch?
Choose who you want to reach, and find out everything you can about them. Their problems and desires. The topics that relate to those problems and desires. The language they use when searching Google and social media for those topics. Who else is serving the needs of these people, both with content and with products and services. This is where you always start.
You describe some very specific thing. Where would you begin search for this type of data.
know a lot about music, specifically of the 80s-90s alternative period, but
also punk, jazz, old school rap, R&B and ambient. But you’re probably more
interested in these topics:
marketing, copywriting, email marketing, research strategies, landing pages and
the art formally known as SEO copywriting. Better to stick to this stuff today.
provide sufficient context and specificity in your questions. If I don’t have
enough to work with, I’ll ask you for more detail before giving up.
questions that you’re interested in, so I can provide the most value to the
most amount of people. But I’ll also answer questions that are specific to your
here from now until 1 pm Eastern, 10 am Pacific. I’m on Mountain time in
beautiful Boulder Colorado, so let me know if we have any CO people in the
Any suggestions on Ecommerce product listing copy/content? It always seems the most difficult part of content creation to generate anything unique when you're adding the 50th pair of socks/waste oil burner brushes/underwater basket weaving flanges.
Look at the best mail order catalogues and their corresponding websites. Tell a story around the product.
Could you please offer an example of a product offer, encapsulated within a story.
Look at The J. Peterman Company webste and get their catalog for products wraped in stories.
This is a great opportunity to either target several different long tail SEO goals and/or A/B test the heck out of different techniques.
What's your favorite punk band from the 80s? Thoughts on Stiff Little Fingers?
Not familiar with his formula. Long copy still works when necessary (expensive or novel products are two examples). These days though, the red headline / yellow highlighter approach is only effective on certain people. Better to use long copy combined with really great design. You're providing all the detailed information people want, without creating that "ugh" factor that drives a lot of people away.
Glad to hear you say this as I would def agree and we have based our recent sales page on the latter advice.I think good design is paramount
Yes, that kind of copy makes me feel I'm being sold to...and then I leave.
1. NWA vs Wu-tang :p?2. What should Mark Zuckerburg focus on, to keep the success of Facebook, 5 years from now.
1. NWA vs Wu-tang :p?
That's too tough to answer. As for Zuckerberg, he'll have to figure that out himself, given that the performance demands of Wall Street will continue to force decisions that compress the user base. I don't think FB will necessarily go the way of Friendster and MySpace, but it will arrive at an equilibrium that is much less than it is now. It's just the nature of the social media environment.
Is it more effective to reach a wide audience with a broad topic or go niche when you're looking for conversions?
Find a broad topic and uniquely position yourself within that broad area. This is how you create your own niche and effectively eliminate competition. This means no "me too" approaches though -- it's got to be truly unique, even if that's only demonstrated with your own voice and personality.
Representative from WordStream here in Colorado! (Denver.)
Do you ever find that a piece of content you think will be a sure hit ends up flopping or getting a mediocre response? When that happens, do you try to fix it, or just let it go and move on?
All the time. During the first three months of Copyblogger, I failed big twice before I hit on something that proved to be the catalyst for exposure that got me going. The key is to learn from the failures and try something else. Meanwhile, keep producing you day-to-day content that provides the foundation of your site.
That said, I can generally predict a winning piece of content these days with remarkable certainty. That comes from experience, observation, and really knowing our audience after serving them for 8 years.
In your view, what are the best top-of-funnel content types?
Content that addresses the starting-point queries that people have when they have a problem or desire. Use that to attract, make sure you make every effort to get them to opt-in and follow you over time, and then you can lead them further down the conversion path with more detailed education, content that overcomes common objections, etc.
When promoting (featured article, or your website as a whole), do you always pre-determine the times you'll post on different platforms? or sometimes go with the flow of your timeline?
Both. And the pre-determined times to post are mostly just for the sake of convenience tied to points when the audience is paying attention. I don't get too hung up on that. On the other hands, we're dealing with a real-time always-on environment, so there are plenty of opportunities to improvise. You can't check out and automate everything.
Thanks for doing this! I'm curious what your rule of thumb is for marketing emails? Short and sweet with call to action? Epic long emails with tons of information? Depends?
The purpose of an email, in our practice, is to 1) get it opened, then 2) sell the click. We send people to pages for the bulk of the copy/content, so you're really just trying to get as many people to that page as possible. That's the purpose of the email.
Thanks! Very useful.
Your top 5 rappers of all time?
If you were going to do a teaching sells-ish ILE, what would you do it on? What topic or what problem would yours be focused on solving? Not based on your passion but based on the most profitable opportunity?
It would be a uniquely-positioned training program in health/wellness, business/investment, or personal development. Always money to be made in the those broad areas. That said, without some degree of passion and personal interest, I personally wouldn't do it, because it starts to feel like a job.
Hey Brian I have been following you on Copyblogger as an Authority member for quite some time and just bave to say its the best information out there. I remember you mentioned in an audio series about an idea you pitched about making a blog who were health conscious but wouldnt zap there life away and thought it is a great idea. I'm in the Health wellness industry as an exercise scientist and often thought of a training program like that but the unique positioning is something I am not use to as a way to market it.
We're about to spend a significant amount of our time reaching out to other bloggers and websites with guest blogs as this is an area we have neglected in the past. If you had one tip to give what would it be? I am confident that our content is of the high quality required but the thing I am most concerned with is getting the attention of the blogger/website so that they consider our blog.
Focus on matching up your content with their audiences, whether is be for their curation purposes or as an offer to guest post. Don't just ask for a link. I'm not sure that ever worked, but it really doesn't work now. And if you can find a way to go above and beyond for an influential publisher, it's worth it. You're after relationships, because over time, these will provide way more in return than a simple pitch.
Thanks Brian, I appreciate the response, very helpful and will bear in mind. What's been the best example of people going above and beyond for Copyblogger? What did they do?
Most of the "above and beyond" we've seen has been in the submission of perfectly on point, epic guest posts. These people know they're going to benefit from reaching our audience, so they are extra generous. We of course benefit as well. Many people have built careers and businesses by writing for CB, and I couldn't be happier for them. They would have succeeded no matter what because they understand that giving big returns big, but often in unexpected ways.
Thanks again for your response - really appreciate you taking the time and will certainly look to make sure we go 'above and beyond'.
Hi Brian, Thanks for the chat opportunity. What advice would you give for someone in a rut for her personal/professional blog? I write on marketing to millennials which has led to 2 full-time jobs, tier 1 press and speaking gigs, but I'm not feeling inspired lately. I'm not sure where to take it and I know you're the master of overcoming various forms of writers block. Any advice would be appreciated!
PS hope you're enjoying Boulder! I was born in Aurora, but currently live in Boston. I bet it's gorgeous today.
I've been thinking about Millennials lately, and it's an important topic. I see them as the natural extension of Gen X, just amplified and facing terrible economic times. Remember that we Gen Xers had our own economic crisis in the early 90s, which led to a lot of anger and apathy. I see the Millennials as less angry and more resilient. More practical if you give them a chance, unlike a lot of the stereotypes of entitlement, etc.
Maybe write about the way the millennials are similar to the previous generation, instead of how they're so radically different? And then accentuate the positive things about them that I've mentioned above. No one seems to be doing that, and it could really breathe life into your work and the attention you receive.
Interesting. Am a millennial myself and do find that most people write very negatively about 'us'. If I could suggest one thing that millenials are looking for - I would say it's purpose - probs not any different to any previous generation??
It's funny. In some ways we're just like twentysomethings from any generation (looking for purpose anyone?) but we're coming of age in a time of infinite information that makes things more accessible but also more paralyzing. The negative entitlement spin is too simplistic for me. How can a person not expect more when he is aware of all the opportunities (for knowledge/jobs/relationships/self-expression) out there? I wrote a bit more about how millennials are defined by access, not narcissism here: http://howtomarkettome.com/2013/05/19/millennials-are-defined-by-choices-not-narcissism/
Exactly. 20-somethings are 20-somethings to a large extent, what changes is the environment they grow up in and thus the input they receive and the opportunities they have change. I think we do want more - and that more doesn't necessarily mean quantity - it means better quality - the opportunity is there for us now, like never before. Will check out your post in a sec, thanks.
Remember how motivated Gen X became when the dot com boom happened? That. The Millennials need that kind of catalyst, which is why you see so many of them attracted to the startup culture.
We sure could use an economic boom! I imagine that would "wake us up" a bit.
Hmmm, definitely some interesting food for thought here. I don't think millennials are characterized by anger/disillusionment as GenX--we (FYI: I'm a millennial) err more on the side of optimism despite economic times, but with a real practicality as wel. I'll chew on this and see if there's an article there. Thanks and I'll make sure to share it with you once it's written! Appreciate your thoughts.
Exactly. But the independence and lack of trust in institutions in favor of independence that characterized Gen X is even stronger in the Millennials. That autonomy of thought, behavior, and lifestyle is the core characteristic.
Google the lyrics to the song Tom Sawyer by Rush. It was written about Gen X kids. Multiply by 10 and you've got Millennials.
I'll check it out! I see where you identify autonomy as millennials' defining characteristic. There's more opportunity than ever to pursue self-expression, super granular passions and independent careers. Everything you used to need to get from an organization, you can get online independently.Yet, coming of age with the internet also gives millennials more opportunity to form groups and relationships than ever before. Whether around common interests, attending the same event or just mutual connections, we're part of a larger social network (not just the Zuckerberg version) and more group-focused than ever.I think the defining characteristic for millennials is access, not autonomy. We have unprecedented access to data, products/services, relationships and self-expression...and it's completely normal for us! More on this thought here (same link I shared with Alex): http://howtomarkettome.com/2013/05/19/millennials-are-defined-by-choices-not-narcissism/Already feeling the juices flowing for a new post. Great conversation!
Another good point. I made it through high school, college and law school without owning a computer. It was only the introduction of the web that got me going in 1994, thanks to all the William Gibson novels about cyberspace I read in the 80s. ;-)
Yeah I would agree with all this said. And yes access is def a key characteristic - in a way that's never been possible before.
Off the top of my head, no. Health care is infamous for dry copy, but there are some sites out there that effectively use emotion in a non-cheesy, non-patronizing way. Ultimately, the choice of health care provider (along with everything else) comes down to an emotional response, which is then rationalized by logic.
This isn't a healthcare organization - it's a charity that teaches people first aid. It has a very powerful video, some interesting interaction going on afterwards, and solid copy. It's worth checking out http://savetheboy.sja.org.uk/savetheboy/.
I'm asking multiple questions because I'm greedy like that.
1.) SaaS companies doing content well?
2.) Similarly, eCommerce companies?
3.) And for my final and most important question, in the battle of who has the better radio voice, who wins: you or Robert Bruce?
Lots of people in the CM space (I think you write for all of them). 37 Signals is my favorite company to watch, because Jason write great copy and they test everything.
Anyone emulating the approach taken by the great catalogue companies, like J. Peterman. Content that sells the lifestyle around the product, not just the product itself.
Robert. Hands down.
Great suggestion/advice for commerce: sell the lifestyle around the product not just the product itself. YES.
What do you think about the importance of SEO copywriting for high quality niche sites whose primary source of income is affiliate sales? Do they focus that extra bit on copywriting or not?
What we call SEO copywriting is actually reflecting the language of the audience back at them (when done correctly). This has been the secret to effective copywriting in general for decades before search engines. The key is to quit worry about gaming an algorithm (that's getting more "person like" all the time) and focus on the language of the audience in order to connect with them, first and foremost.
Thanks for doing this :) Two quick product questions:
Synthesis looks to becoming an ever better content-Wordpress platform. Curious what you'd do if you could snap your fingers and make the perfect content writing and publishing platform on the fly?
What do you think of Ghost as a new blogging platform? https://ghost.org/features/
>>Synthesis looks to becoming an ever better content-Wordpress platform. Curious what you'd do if you could snap your fingers and make the perfect content writing and publishing platform on the fly?
We've been working 3 years so I can snap my fingers in January. For us, the perfect platform is what we use ourselves, which is WordPress plus everything we've built to make it better. If you think about what the word Synthesis means, you get the picture.
>>What do you think of Ghost as a new blogging platform? https://ghost.org/features/
Ghost will attract a certain crowd, and I wish them well. I don't see it as a serious business solution though, and that's the market we serve. While blogging remains the core of any effective content marketing strategy, it's only one part of the equation.
Is something new coming in Jan for Synthesis?
What makes you say that? ;-)
interesting ... guess we'll have to stay tuned!
Based on your experience selling digital products, especially SaaS, what's been the best technique for converting customers? This is making the (huge) assumption that you're product actually solves your audience's pain.
Techniques I'm thinking of include money-back guarantees, trial periods, special sales, etc. I'd love your thoughts - thanks so much!
Money back guarantee for sure. Stand behind your service and reverse the risk of becoming your customer.
Free trial periods should work, but we know the data coming from the freemium models is mixed. I think the main issue there is that there is some expectation that the free model will simply sell the upgrade. It usually takes a bit more work than that to convey the benefits of paying.
Periodic price promotions or bundled offers can really move the needle. But I would do it sparingly, and keep it for your email list most of the time as a special event. You don't want to compete on price, and you don't want to devalue your service. You also don't want to train the audience to wait for the sale, which can be tricky.
Which Google Plus Communities do you partake in Brian?
The Google Authorship / Author Rank community is highly active and interesting. There's a community built around our Genesis design framework for WordPress which attracts a lot of developers and designers. Plus we use a private G+ community for Copyblogger Media internal stuff.
Awesome, just joined it.
+1 for the Google+ Authorship community. You'll love it, @Takeshi!
will definitely check out ... thanks, squared:)
What was your first exposure to "internet marketing", and what was the transition like to where you are now?
Anything you would have done differently?
I started publishing online in 1998. Back then it was publishing content by email to subscribers instead of blogs (ezines) and my idea (like everyone else's) was to make money from advertising. in 1999 I read Seth Godin's Permission Marketing and understood that the Internet is a direct marketing medium more than an advertising medium. However, getting people to follow you voluntarily (permission) was the major difference. And that required valuable content.
So, I suppose that's when I became an "internet marketer" and taught myself copywriting and studied past principles of direct marketing so I could smartly apply them in a new context. It's all been an evolving path from there.
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I'm worn out. Thanks so much for all the great questions, and to Inbound.org for the opportunity. Special thanks to Ed Fry for setting this up and staying after me. ;-)
1. What advice will you give to a newbie who wants to be a good copywriter?
2. How should one write quality content when he is doing 9to5 job?
3. Any tools to help us in writing good content?
Hi Hyderali,It's funny that you said "BRAIN" instead of "BRIAN".The thing is - He really got some big BRAINS :)
If we could only know one thing about content marketing, what would that be?
Know your audience better than they know themselves.
No, but it's on the list now. ;-)
Hi Brian,Do you read the WordStream blog? http://www.wordstream.com/blog
If so, what was the last thing you read, and what advice do you have for us to improve on that piece of content?
I don't, but don't take it personally. I don't read many blogs at this point.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you. How do you feel about approaching companies to write copy for them instead of them approaching you?
I've always been an "inbound" marketer using content, dating back to 1999. I cannot and will not cold call or solicit business -- that's just me. So, I figured out early on how to make people come to me via search engines and then social media. It's more effective and much less painful. Plus you're building a media asset (website) in the process.
I am also a few months into my blog and understand its a process. Can you give some brief examples (I know you can't share to much of the secret lol) of how you made people come to you. I have a blog (follow my Copyblogger rules), partake in social media and do my SEO research, but do not get much business from it.
Beyond your day to day content, you've got to do something "big" to get attention. I call these content events. As I mentioned above, during the first three months of Copyblogger, I tried three of these, and finally succeeded with a free report on gaining traffic with content (a hot topic at the time and always). But I also reached out to every popular blogger around to get the word out. Remember, at the time I was completely unknown.
At first, producing great content is not enough. You've got to hustle to get it seen. But, at a certain point you'll have enough of an audience (what I call a minimum viable audience) and they will begin spreading the word for you via social media, links, and other forms of sharing like email forwarding. That's when all your hard work starts to really pay off.
Thanks so much Brian!
Could u give some examples of content events?
Free reports, an email training course, a webinar, a manifesto, a free video presentation, an audio interview series. Anything bigger than the day-to-day value you provide with your regular content. Remember, at first you're doing content events to get people subscribed to your regular content stream. You're selling your ongoing content, not your product or service.
The free report I did that was a breakthrough for CB did not require an opt-in. It was a PDF that I let spread freely everywhere. At the end, the call to action was to subscribe to Copyblogger for even more content related to getting website traffic. In that way, it was a "sales letter" for my young blog.
.. very interesting that you using a free piece of content without an opt-in to get started, with a CTA to subscribe. In the early stages before you are known, is it presumptuous to put the content behind a form?
Brian, what do you think will me the mayor changes when it comes to SEO for the next 5 years?
If you haven't read up on Hummingbird yet, start there. That is the start of where it's going. We've been preaching for 8 years to write for people first, while artfully spoon feeding the Google algorithm as needed. Now, the algorithm is better than ever with natural language and synonyms, and will keep getting better. So if you understand the language of your audience (think search query research instead of just "keyword" research) the "art" of SEO copywriting simply becomes the art of serving your intended audience.
Thanks! What do u think will be the changes when you look at rankings?
Hopefully the content that best satisfies the query. But as with the real world, that will be influenced by subjective factors. I think the biggest one of those will be the trust Google places in the person who creates the content. This is the ultimate goal with authorship, and it's designed to emulate the way subject matter expertise works in the offline world.
May not be a tight enough topic to content marketing, but I do content marketing and website management for 20+ sites. We're considering a move to WordPress Multisite for easier management. My clients only need to create/edit a blog post each month on their own. I manage everything else. They pay a monthly fee for the nice site and turnkey page/content management. Any opinions or warning on using a solution like WP Multisite for my situation?
I'm going to have to pass on this one due to a lack of personal experience. But I know there's a lot of good advice on multisite out there in the larger WP community. Hit up @andrea_r on Twitter, she'll know.
Do u think the number of blogs will grow or shrink in the next 10 years?
Grow, but they mostly won't be called blogs. Evolved blogging software like WordPress (which is a functional CMS) will be used to create ease of publishing constantly fresh content, but the sites themselves will look more like digital magazines as opposed to a blog tacked onto a brochure website.
Two parter: (1) the biggest full-time content team you've encountered? (Not the branding world like Red Bull or AmEx but to drive leads/customers directly?) and (2) the best-organized, even if the team itself isn't huge?
Hmmm. Good question. I'd say that a great team doesn't necessarily need to be big, especially in relation to the enterprise. That said, for some reason I'm not invited to check out other people's content departments. I wish that would happen, because I love to learn from other people's processes.
As for organized, we're talking about writers and content producers. There is no organization, because we're all crazy. ;-)
Seriously though, managing creativity (to the extent that's not a complete oxymoron) is a challenge. Keeping content creation aligned with business goals is tough enough, and absolutely essential. Beyond that, I think it comes down to agreed workflow processes that the content team thinks is best (as opposed to what other departments think).
After that, it's all about communication. Remember, "real time" and "agile" are not buzzwords, they are the reality of online content creation. Managed chaos will likely product the best results, as long as there is a process for good communication.
Maybe a bit too late but will post anyways its worth a shot. saw the link from google+ last min.I'd like to set up an optin form and give an added benefit for my fitness blog what would be something ud suggest I could give to a new reader to optin? my audience is directed at people who want to be healthy and fit but don't want it taking up there whole life and schedule. so its for the non hardcore types who dont have a clue. let me know. thanks!
Great content vs content that works?
Brian, Great that you are doing an AMA here on Inbound.org. I've been following Copyblogger for a while now and it's among my top 5 favorite sites.
I know it's likely a bit late, but a few quick questions ...
1. How does Copyblogger test content? (or do you even test content?)2. How do you see the general content creation marketing roles evolving over the next 3-5 years?3. What process, or tips do you have for individuals to write content (mainly tag lines) from their value proposition?
Now this is the biggest discussion I've ever seen on Inbound.I think Brian got a huge list of questions remaining to answer. Looking forward to see them :)
I won't ask a question (what I wanted to ask has already been covered), but rather, I just wanted to thank you Brian for doing this. It has been great!
Great! Head over to login and use your credentials there