Here’s a handful of quick-fire marketing inspired tips to help you get your on-site marketing house in order, from asking the most basic SEO question to the right and wrong way to go about content creation.
5 simple marketing and content tips
1. Do you really want to be on page one of Google?
Do you need to be on page one of Google’s SERPs? Getting onto page 1 is such a challenge these days it’s worth thinking through carefully. In my case the answer is no. If you’re freelance or run a very small service-focused business it might prove a bit much for you, too.
When I started freelance copywriting I made damn sure my site was on page 1 for all sorts of keyterms. It was great at the time, giving me the push I needed to drum up a good-sized customer base. Nowadays it’d be disastrous. I don’t want to turn people down, nor do I want to be swamped. My current off-page one positions are just right, delivering enough new customers to fill any gaps left by my regulars and word-of-mouth referrals.
2. Write content like New Scientist
How do you speak to potential punters? People are people, whether you’re talking B2B or B2C. As a business, the best way to talk to your fellow humans is to write like New Scientist. They’re adept at explaining horribly complex concepts in simple terms, which is exactly what’s needed almost all the time.
With their help a total physics and maths numpty like me can grasp the concept of quantum physics and even take a dim stab at some of the intricacies. Do the same with your business and you’ll strike the right human chord: succinct, professional, intelligent, entertaining and clear.
3. How much information do you put on web pages?
It’s tempting to include everything you have ever known and ever will know about your subject. But it’s a bad idea from a marketing perspective.
Say you’re a business support organisation. You provide six core services, all of which you talk about on the ‘our services’ page. Do you need to go into the fine detail of each service too? If you do, you risk over-egging your sales message, which should shine out loud and clear without being interrupted, obscured or buried.
You need to give people enough information in the main pages to make a buying or contact decision, no more and no less. When you do, the majority of people will have what they need to make an informed decision.
Those who prefer to dig deeper before taking the plunge should be pointed towards the fine detail, deeper in the site, and it’s your job to provide really clear navigation.
4. Communication skills no-no… whatever you do, don’t do this!
National Parks are brilliant. We walk the South Downs a lot, sometimes more than thirty miles in a day. I love it. But the organisation’s communication skills could do with a boost. I scratched my head for ages over these paragraphs and I’m still not sure what they mean.
“Thank you for your communication regarding the application at Nine Acre Copse (planning reference SDNP/13/05896/CM). The Authority will accept further representations on the case up to the date of committee (11 September 2014). Please be advised that online submission of comments is the only medium that will receive acknowledgement.
If you have received an email referring to the scheduling of committee, you will already have made representations on the case. If you wish to add additional comments, you may register (if not done so already) and comment online by clicking the following link.”
It’s a fine example of how not to communicate. Even worse, although they have my full name they’ve called me ‘Dear Madam’. Urgh. And the email title is RE: Application SDNP/13/05896/CM – Nine Acre Copse. Double urgh.
5. Great communication skills in action – do it like this!
In complete contrast, here’s an excerpt from an email by a US crime writer I’m very fond of. That’s more like it. If you’re going to write to a customer or prospect, do it more like this:
I’m not Martha and the Vandellas (♪ Dancin’ in the Streets ♫), but I have an invitation for you to do some “virtual” Dancing in the Streets in exchange for some freebies… if you’re interested.
Maybe you’ve heard that it takes a village to sell a book today. It’s true, and many authors, myself included, have begun to use Street Teams (they originated in the music industry) to help spread the word about their books.
I’m looking for a few, select, enthusiastic fans to do some minor tasks online, in-person, or both to help get the word out about my books, audios, and short stories. Examples include: writing an honest review, doing the occasional social media share or post, and maybe even asking a library or bookstore to carry one of my books.
In exchange for these undertakings — things that you might do anyway, I hope – the Street Team will have daily access to me and other members of the team. You’ll also get some fun goodies from time to time.
You’ll be the first to learn about my upcoming books and events, get an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of my latest novel, and generally be “in the know” about my goings on.
Ready to learn more?”
I have a love-hate relationship with marketing. On one hand, because I spent two decades in direct marketing I know a great campaign is a delight to everyone in the target market who encounters it. On the other hand there’s also plenty of rubbish, mad behaviour and marketing weirdness out there.
Here’s an almost wholly negative look at today’s marketing world… apologies in advance – I’m usually an annoyingly positive person!
Google Glass marketing mega-fail
I’ve mentioned before how I signed up with Google, giving them my personal details so I’d get updates about Glass. Well, I never did hear a word out of them. And now Glass is in the shops.
The lack of marketing communication makes Google seem breathtakingly arrogant. Having said that, I will still be buying Glass, but with a sour taste in my mouth. When a brand you express a specific, direct, personal interest in doesn’t appear to give a flying f*** about you, pardon my French, it doesn’t feel good.
Blog comments frustration
Do I want to give a load of random apps free access to my social media accounts and let them do stuff on my behalf? No I do not. That’s why I rarely if ever make comments on blog posts, even when the information they contain is sheer brilliance.
It’s a marketing no-brainer. The more obstacles you put in the way of spontaneous engagement, the fewer people will bother. Isn’t it better to take the inevitable spam on the chin and do your housework than force readers to sign up for invasive apps like Disqus before letting them comment?
Innocent as charged? Your reputation is still muddied
When you’re prosecuted you’re either found guilty or not guilty. Whatever happened to ‘innocent’, the diametric opposite of guilty? Not guilty is a totally negative phrase, a mealy-mouthed non-acknowledgement of a person’s lack of culpability. If you didn’t do it, you’re innocent. It might be ‘just’ semantics but as a copywriter, I know it makes a big difference.
Why do TV advertisers infantilise the British public?
Why do such a high proportion of TV ads aimed at adults feature cartoons and animated characters? I am a grown up. Why on earth would I respond to confused.com’s mega-irritating, childish, jabbering nonsense, for example, or the all-singing, all-dancing ridiculousness created by the insurance broker Admiral? Or those mad adverts where people cook a meal only to find their home is suddenly invaded by hundreds of gyrating nutters? WTF?
Next time you’re watching telly, count how many ads in each break are clearly infantile. Why are so many brands so determined to infantilise their audience? Am I the only one who finds it sinister?
What does loyalty mean in a marketing context?
Customer loyalty is a strange concept. What does it mean to be ‘loyal’ to a product or brand? It’s obviously very different to the pure, clean, powerful, intuitive loyalty we feel for friends and family. It’s multi-faceted, consisting of all sorts of different emotional and practical elements including the quality of the product or service itself, how closely it meets your needs, how convenient it is, what it costs, customer service and support.
As such brand loyalty is easily damaged, whereby real loyalty to the people you love is much more resilient. You don’t leave your lover unless there’s a very good reason. But you’ll switch brands like lightning if you’re the least bit pissed off or inconvenienced. If our local Co-Op closed down there’s no way I’d travel miles to find the next-nearest Co-Op and carry on as normal. I’d shop at Tesco instead, because it’s closer to home.
In a world where punters turn against you at the slightest provocation, there’s no room for complacency.
Telly fun – Messing with advertisers’ heads
Advertisers love to mess with our heads. In our house we like to turn the tables. Here are two games to while away the tediously frequent three minutes of (mostly) nonsense we’re expected to put up with.
- Turn the sound off half way through an advert’s core proposition and create your own ending. The current TV ad for Kindle Paper White, for instance, kicks off with the sentence “We asked book lovers to…”, which you can finish off any way you like. My favourite, from last night, is, “take acid.”
- Turn the sound down and read the small print. It’s an eye-opener, especially unregulated sectors like the cosmetics industry which blatantly, gleefully lies about the effectiveness of its products because there’s nobody to make it tell the truth. Once you start reading the small print, a surprisingly large proportion of TV and off-the-page ads suddenly become far less convincing.
Banksy on advertising
Last but not least, I love what Banksy says about advertising. If you treat punters with less than the expected amount of respect, forethought, intelligence and consideration, this is exactly how they will feel about your ads.
Here’s an image, hooked from Twitter. I’d love to credit the source of the piece but since I don’t know where it originated, I can’t. If you know, leave a comment and I’ll do the decent thing.
There’s all sorts of fascinating stuff going on in the amazing world of marketing right now. Here are my favourite marketing stories.
Brazil beats the world on online freedom
Brazil has awarded its internet its very own Bill of Rights in a move widely lauded by internet activists including the web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee.
On 23rd April the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, signed a document called Marco Clvilda da Internet. The agreement sets out guidelines for freedom of expression, data privacy and web neutrality, making the internet a better place place for Brazil’s 100 million users. Well done, Brazil. Come on, Britain.
Royal London goes mental on telly – They’re so yesterday
Royal London is a venerable, trustworthy, happy-to-be-traditional mutual financial institution, AKA a friendly society. It was founded way back in 1861 by two men with astonishingly large, rampant beards, Henry Ridge and Joseph Degge. It’s all very serious stuff. Which is the way it should be when you’re charged with looking after other people’s money.
But the TV ads they’re running at the moment tell the company’s story in a startlingly, wonderfully, uniquely silly way that, while it highlights their preference for doing things the good, old-fashioned way, brings the brand bang up to date.
In a world where it’s often depressingly easy to see client interference in ad scripts, transforming thrilling ideas into horribly dull and boring productions, it’s hugely refreshing. I salute VCCP, the creative agency who dreamed up the idea. And I salute the client even more fervently. Brave people.
Having worked in insurance direct marketing for many years, I know just how challenging it can be to push good ideas past compliance departments, technical folk and typical financial service fuddy-duddies. Thanks for the laughs, Royal London. You’re obviously a different animal from the norm. Next time I need a financial service, I shall come and find you.
If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s a link to Royal London’s new TV ads. They’re hilarious. Enjoy.
Keyterm research v keyword research – Are you a novice or a guru?
Apparently people who really know their SEO onions call it keyword research, while people who don’t know their search engine visibility ass from their elbow call it keyterm research.
Duh. It looks like the difference between my ass and elbow has been giving me grief for many years without my realising it. I use the idiots’ term. As a copywriter and content creator I find it more accurate and logical. After all, keywords can be single words, multiple-word terms or entire sentences, and can include numbers and symbols as well as letters.
Compare the Market says “stuff our products” and focuses on the fun bit
Those clever Meercats. They’ve outdone themselves this time around with their latest ad featuring the cutest baby meercat on the planet, a little chap called Oleg. The ad is clearly designed to promote their new baby meercat toy. But hang on a minute… Compare the Market is an insurance price comparison site. Not a toy store.
This is clever, clever stuff. While insurance is deadly dull, meercats are funny and cute. So why not pin your brand on the fun stuff and sideline its core purpose? The agency, VCCP again, and client have taken a huge risk and gone way off piste, but I reckon they’re probably pulling it off.
Unless anyone out there knows otherwise, I’d be willing to bet good money that people are flocking to the site to get hold of an Oleg toy. They can only get one by buying insurance, and that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.
Here’s a link to the latest meercat advert, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.
We’re all funny bunnies… and don’t forget it!
The very fact that we’re seduced into buying from a particular source because we can’t resist the fluffy toys they’ve created, even though they have bugger all to do with the products on sale, proves we’re funny bunnies.
It’s something marketers forget at their peril. If you’re ever tempted to see your customer and prospect base as rational, logical grown-ups who make sensible buying decisions based on common sense criteria, stop yourself and remember there’s nowt as queer as folk.
Google content length rumours?
I heard a rumour the other day about Google giving advice on the length of posts, articles and web pages. Someone thought they’d heard that ‘content’ should be at least 600 words long these days, longer than the search engine giant had, allegedly, previously recommended. Hm. I’m sceptical, since the Big G isn’t usually in the habit of prescribing how long or otherwise content should be.
If anything less should be more, rather than wittering on unnecessarily just for the sake of adding more words. I write enough copy to do a proper job, no longer and no shorter. Anything else smacks of manipulation, a bad idea when content creators should be doing the decent thing and putting readers first.
I’ve had a good look for the news but can’t find anything. Unless we hear different, it’s safe to assume that Google has recommended no such thing.
Google Glass database marketing fail
I want Google Glass. Six months ago I signed up for email updates about it. I keep reading thrilling stuff about how scientists and geeks worldwide are playing with Glass code to create remarkable new applications, but I haven’t heard a peep out of Google. No emails, no newsletters, no news, no teasers or tasters… nowt.
I rarely hand over my contact details but when I do, I actually expect to be contacted. Poor show, Google. You could be building anticipation through your presumably vast opted-in database of hot prospects. But instead you leave us dangling. Come on Google, blow my mind.
Bling, bling… meet the projector necklace
If you find the idea of Google Glass a bit too close to the Borg for comfort, how about accessing smartphone content through a necklace or brooch? Such gadgets could one day revolutionise the way we consume data by projecting stuff like emails, tweets and text alerts onto nearby surfaces, to be opened using hand gestures. Along with smartwatches, they represent yet another reason why Google Glass marketers need to get their skates on before another revolutionary gadget grabs the new technology crown.
‘Cheap software’ used by whistleblowers?
The NSA says Edward Snowden used ‘cheap’ software to access and scrape data from its websites. In their words, “We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence”. Presumably the software, being cheap, should also have been easy to detect? Whoops.
Can you ‘speak to’ that?
Ouch. When I first heard someone on TV say , “I can speak to that”, it hurt. It’s awful hearing your language so badly mangled. A short time later it started popping up everywhere as Americans gleefully spread the habit. That was six months ago. Now, although it’s butt ugly and downright wrong, it’s fast becoming common parlance. And it’s starting to sound OK. So yes, I can speak to that, although until it goes totally mainstream in Britain I would never include it in content.
Here’s another one that’s escaped into the wild. If I see one more sign advertising a Permissive Footpath, I shall fall to the ground and start foaming at the mouth. Because footpaths are permissive by nature, all you need to say is Footpath. If there’s no footpath, you don’t need a sign. If it’s private you just put up a sign saying Private Footpath or No Entry. Simple.
Here are some of the best, from You Go To My Head, penned by the mighty Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots back in 1938.
It’s awesome stuff, and a brilliant example of plain language used to its most powerful effect. Have a read of this. And listen to the Billie Holiday version of the tune on YouTube if you fancy a treat. It’s the best of the bunch.
You go to my head
You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning ’round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne
You go to my head
Like a sip of sparkling Burgundy brew
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two
The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought to my plea
Cast a spell over me
Still I say to myself get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see that it never can be
You go to my head
With a smile that makes my temperature rise
Like a summer with a thousand Julys
You intoxicate my soul with your eyes
Though I’m certain that this heart of mine
Hasn’t a ghost of a chance in this crazy romance
You go to my head
Whoops… copywriting fail!
Many thanks to Sing365 for the lyrics.
I’ve nofollowed the Sing365 link. How come? Because I spotted some scary copy on the site, which I don’t want to link to just in case Google decides to take a dislike to it and devalues the site, which could in turn affect my own rankings. To make it clear I didn’t write it, I’ve marked it up as a <blockquote>.
Mentioning the key term ‘lyrics’ six times in the following paragraph is poor SEO practice. It’s badly written too, and I suspect it has been spun.
Sorry folks. Your site is brilliant. But this is nasty:
These lyrics reveal with what sophistication and insight into the human condition that lyrics used to be written as opposed to the lyrics of today which are a race to the bottom covering the most basest of human emotion. These lyrics challenge our understanding of ourselves whereas todays lyrics reinforce simple cliches of pseudo celebrity fantasies that we take on as identity. These deep lyrics over chords which exude mood not found in todays repetitive robotic chord progressions make this a superb example of what song writing can be.