Why You Need To Create Clickable Headlines For Your Site Pages

clickable headlines featured image

Being clickable comes with baggage. Journalists and readers alike lament the rise of clickbait headlines, used to entice readers into clicking on a story that’s actually much less interesting than originally promised. The rise of the practice has led to a loss of trust from readers, with people becoming more cynical about what they click through to.

This doesn’t mean it’s a dead practice though. Catering your headline copy to be as clickable as possible is still a vital part of gaining clicks, no matter how much readers complain about it. So even with all the negative press, why should you trust in the method?

 

Powerful headlines influence SEO

When you’re trying to appeal to a search engine, how you write a headline can be as important as the on-page content. Headlines play a part in determining whether the content on the page is right for what the user is searching for. While you shouldn’t focus your writing entirely around the whims of Google, making smart use of keywords will have an impact on your ranking. As Mashable suggests, your page will better appeal to search engines if it has a headline that combines both creative clickability and SEO best practices.

 

It Attracts Readers

The truth of the matter is we all still fall for clickbait. Even when we know what we’re clicking through to can’t be as good as expected, we still can’t resist. A headline that grabs attention and appeals to key emotions is much more likely going to gain clicks than one that dryly conveys facts.

If you’re giving me the full story in the headline, why should I click through? There’s a reason clickbait-style headlines from BuzzFeed continue to get so many clicks years after everyone worked out what they were doing, the style appeals to our need for answers and plays with temptation.

A well-crafted clickbait headline withholds a certain level of information. Treat your webpages and content as a news story and drip feed hooks of information in your headline. If your readers have something to grab their attention they’ll pay the cost of a click to see the rest.

 

It encourages sharing on social media

Social media is a battlefield for attention, and some of the biggest success stories on the platform have mastered the art of clickable writing. Many of the more clickbait heavy news and culture websites have made good use of clickable writing practices to build their brand.

The constantly changing nature of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook means you’re less likely to lose a reader if your content is good, as the clickable practices that got them there will be forgotten.

 

It’s testing for email campaigns

See writing clickable headlines as testing what your audience, and a possible future audience, respond to. Rather than limiting your email headline testing to simply emails, let your webpages guide future campaigns. If you’re finding success with certain headline styles and seeing improved click-through rates then it might be worth implementing the style in your next email newsletter.

 

It appeals to search and reading habits

Consider your own searching habits. What makes you click on a website link while searching for information? Is it the meta description? The URL? Chances are it’s not, it’s the headline. The habits of readers and search engine users are very specific, and you should appeal to that.

The practice of writing for clicks is familiar to people. It reassures them that the information they’re going to read is of the same quality as websites they’ve used in the past, and more importantly it’ll be presented in a digestible way that saves reading time. If you’re not following this style you’re going to be the only headline not enticing a click, which instantly puts you on the backfoot. Appeal to the style and structure search audiences have become accustomed to and helped shape, not your own personal sense of how something should read.

 

The market is competitive

If you’re appearing in a strong position in search results, chances are you’re already investing time and money into catching the right attention. Don’t let that go to waste but not keeping up with your competitors. Having artistic integrity is no good when everyone else is writing headlines that appeal to the human impulse to quickly click through. Using clickable language in your headlines is just smart practice to make sure you don’t fall behind.

As Neil Patel says the headlines that often do the best are useful, identifying a problem and offering a solution. The key to being competitive is leveraging being clickable to do the same.

 

Conclusion

Writing headlines with the aim of making them clickable may feel like you’re selling your creative soul or appealing to the lowest common denominator. Not only is it best practice in a technical sense, but it shows an understand of how modern reading habits have changed and what people see as a signifier of good quality and easy to read pages.

 

About the Author

Rodney Laws is an online entrepreneur who has been building online businesses for over a decade. Rodney uses his experience to help fellow entrepreneurs start and run their own companies. Find out how he can help you by visiting EcommercePlatforms.io or heading over to @EcomPlatformsio. “


How To Write Persuasively to Clearly Demonstrate The Benefits of Your Products Or Service

Whether you’re a low-level marketing manager or novelist of 30 years, the writing process can be agonizing, especially when you’re writing about something you are passionate about.

 

Copywriting for marketing is no different. It’s hard. Not only are there very specific things that work and very specific things that don’t work, the things we learned in school are often completely antithetical to what works in the marketing field.

 

That being said, good copywriting is more about unlearning than learning. Unlearning how to write in a hoity-toity academic style, best suited for scholarly articles that no one ever reads. Unlearning how to talk about yourself like you’re trying to get someone to hire you for a job. Unlearning how to make things flowery, poetic, and over the top.

 

The good news, though, is that it’s not out of anybody’s reach. There are some very specific techniques and stylistic methods to making your writing more successful and convert visitors to your website.  That’s why we wanted to include persuasive copywriting as a foundational piece in our online small business marketing course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business.

 

If you follow these tips, your writing will get better. And not only will it get better, you’ll see more conversions on your website and a greater ROI for your company. Plus, you’ll feel less like a sleazy salesman looking to quick make a quick buck.

 

Before You Write

 

What you do before you sit down to the computer is equally – if not more – important than your writing. Any serious writer will tell you that the research process for their project is what really makes or breaks the quality of the work. Copywriting is no different, except instead of doing research on a historical event or a person, you’re doing research on your own product and your customer.

 

According to Conversion Rate Experts, you shouldn’t start writing until:

 

          • You know everything about the product.
          • You have bought and purchased the product with your own money.
          • You can understand why people buy it.
          • You could sell it to yourself or to your friends.
          • You know all the objections and have great counters to those objections.
          • You’ve gathered legal proof to support all your claims.

 

Now, sometimes it’s not realistic to have bought your own product. People selling $100,000 yachts can’t be expected to purchase their own product, especially on a salesperson’s salary.

 

But you do need to know your product intimately and how to sell it in person before you ever write about it. Your website is, for all intents and purposes, “a robot sales person,” and it won’t be any better of a sales person than you are. If you can’t sell it, your website won’t sell it either.

 

Become Your Customer

 

If you can, buy your own product. Beyond that, go through the entire buying process your customer would go through. Shop around for products like yours. Send your product back. Call technical services. Spend your own money if you can. Is it worth it? What are some of the problems that you find in the process? Can those be fixed? What objections do you have to your own process? This knowledge will become integral to you writing about your product at a later stage.

 

Now use your own product. Take it out, unpackage it, put it together, use it at your own home and in your own life. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What are the things that it offers that competitor products don’t? This is the experience that your customer will have. And if you’re gonna’ write about your own product, you need to know what that experience is like.

 

Ask your current customers directly about their experience. Ask them what areas of weakness you have on your website. Inquire about the aspects of your product that make buying difficult for them. Find out what their objections to purchasing were. You can do this in a couple ways:

 

          • Conduct a survey on your website homepage.
          • Talk to some of your customers one-on-one.
          • Interview a VOC Aggregator.

 

A VOC aggregator is someone that’s heard the customer voice so many times they know the answer to their questions. These are the people talking directly to your customers. They can be a sales person, a technical support worker, or a repair person. They should have the opportunity to let you know what the customers are concerned about in their journey to purchasing your product.

 

The process that a buyer goes through before they purchase your product is called the “buyer’s journey”. During the buyer’s journey, your prospective customer is going to think about a great many things, including:

 

          • If your site is relevant
          • If your product is the best of its type
          • The ease of finding your product
          • If the product is what they really need
          • If your site’s claims are supported by proof
          • Whether their objections are answered
          • Whether the experience was pleasurable and they’d do it again

 

Writing persuasive copy is about answering these questions before the customer does. You want to make the experience of your customer on your website as delightful and informative as possible. By knowing your product and your customer intimately, you’re going to be infinitely farther along than other marketers that don’t do this work on the front end.

 

Enchanting Marketing calls this entire process “writing with your ears”.

 

1950s and ‘60s copywriter Eugene Schwartz said that the ability to listen is one of the greatest assets a writer could have. Instead of trying to create his own copy, Schwartz stole marketing messages from his customers and his prospects instead of inventing them himself. He essentially fed people’s words back to them so they would be more likely to make a purchase. And it worked.

 

By listening to his customers, he was able to write some of the most effective copy of his time.

 

As You Write

 

Now comes the writing process. What you do before you write is very important. But the techniques you use while you write are equally as important. Bad copy on the website can quickly turn a prospective customer away. It can make you look unprofessional – or worse, insincere.

 

But there’s good news here: most good copywriting techniques simply boil down to writing in the way you would actually talk to someone.

 

Use A Structure

 

When people talk about a product that they like, they generally follow a specific format:

 

          • Problem: what was the problem they were experiencing?
          • Solution: what was the product or person that solved that problem for them?
          • Proof: what proof is there of real transformation?
          • Action: how can the person they’re talking to repeat their experience?

 

This is also true for spiritual or philosophical transformations.

 

Here’s a couple of ways this could be expressed in real life.

 

I was really struggling to get good sleep at night now that I have my baby. A friend told me about CBD oil over coffee one day. Though I was a little hesitant, I gave it a try. I’ve had some of the best sleep of my life using it! Even better than I had before my baby! You should check it out. It’s easy. You just search for it on Google.

 

I was really depressed about some of the things I’d done in my previous marriage. It was really affecting my life. A friend of mine invited me to church. At first, I didn’t go because I was skeptical. But finally I attended one week and all that pain came out at the service. I started going more regularly and, though I certainly don’t have it all figured out, it’s really helped me to get out of the rut that I was in. It seems like you’re struggling with the same thing, so I thought that maybe you could come with me some weekend.

 

Every argument follows this same structure. And the good news is that your copy is little different. It should simply follow the same general structure as if you were telling it to someone over coffee.

 

There are multiple structures that different copywriters have suggested.

 

          • The PASTOR method
          • The 1-2-3-4 Method
          • The Inverse Pyramid

 

We here at White Hat Matt use the PASTOR format, so we’ll focus specifically on that structure in this post.  This method was popularized by Ray Edwards and that’s where we learned about it.  Thanks Ray!

 

P is for Problem

What is the problem your customer is having? Are they losing money because of a subpar software solution? Are they getting made fun of because of their acne? Are they spending way too much money on their Internet service only to have it crash on them every weekend because of overuse? Your copy needs to address the problem of the customer.

 

A is for Amplify

What’s going to happen to the customer if they don’t buy your product or service? Will they continue to lose money? Will they continue to experience social ostracization and feelings of negative self-worth? Will they continue to be frustrated by their internet’s sub-par performance? Amplify what’s really at stake here if they don’t accept what you have to offer.

 

S is for Solution

How does your product or service solve their problem? What benefits are they going to get by using your product, both practical and emotional? This is not the place to talk about the specifics of your product. Instead, talk about its benefits. What’s in it for the customer?

 

T is for Testimonial

Who has already experienced these benefits from your product? What did they say about it? What evidence is there that your product works and will work for your prospective customer? People don’t like risk. And the risk of making a purchase is less if others have gone before them and had a good experience!

 

O is for Offer

What exactly are you offering? Are you offering them a free trial of the product? Are you offering them a 10% discount for their first buy? This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you’re offering.

 

R is for Response

What are you asking your prospective customer to do? What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to fill out an email opt-in form? Are you wanting them to call you so you can talk more about their needs or desires? Do you want them to add your product to their shopping cart? Be specific about what you want your customer to do.

 

There are other copywriting methods than the PASTOR format, but they all boil down to the same thing: problem, solution, proof, and action.

 

Whichever structure you choose, it’s important that you follow it and address every section. If you do, you’ll be writing like a customer thinks. And thinking like your customers is the most important thing in the writing process.

 

Write Like A Human

 

Karl from Conversion Rate Experts says that “the act of writing turns many a genius into a moron.” What he means by this is that as soon as people sit down to write, they stop writing like they talk and start writing like they think they should. (source: How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters)

 

Good writing should sound human.

 

Your writing should sound the same way you actually speak in real life, just more polished.

 

A couple of ways you can do this is to record yourself speaking your sales pitch. Analyze it, then repeat that in your copy for your website.

 

Use as many words in your website copy as you do you selling your product face-to-face. This will probably make your website longer than you are comfortable with. But remember, your website is a robot sales person. If it is going to make sales, it needs to have all the information that you would have in a real life sales meeting.

 

Also, after you’ve written a draft, have someone else read it out loud for you. Where do they get confused? Where did they get it wrong? Where did they get hung up? These might be areas you need to improve.

 

Be Concise

 

Brevity is the soul of wit. Shorter sections and sentences are easier for people to read. People shouldn’t have to work hard to understand who you are, what you’re offering, and what you can do for them. It should be easy.

 

You can do this by using short and broken sentences. Like I’m doing right now. In high school and college, you may have learned academic writing which uses long, complex sentences. Sales copy is different. It has to be easy.

 

So use short sentences. Break up your copy with segments. Short segments are much less terrifying than a giant block of text. This also makes your content skimmable so that people can read it over quickly to take what they need and move on.

 

Be Specific

 

We’ve all been on that website where we’re halfway down the page and we still don’t know exactly what they offer. Don’t be that page! Get right to your unique value proposition with your heading. Be specific about what you’re offering and the benefits your customer will accrue.

 

Bad Heading Good Heading
We Love Web Design! We’ll Transform Your Website Into Your Best Sales Representative!
Cool Art Products For Sale! The One-Stop-Shop for All Your Art Supplies At a Discount!

 

Generic statements make you sound like a sleazy salesperson. Use specific statements to boost your credibility.

 

Bad Statement Better Statement
We’re the best copywriters in town! We’ll improve your conversions by 175% and your ROI by 124% in one year.
We believe in quality as our highest concern. Last year we had only a single quality infraction in over 900,000 products shipped.

 

Keep your sentences simple and to the point and avoid flowery adjectives. Don’t talk about your product being the best at something. Instead, state the facts that prove that it’s the best.

 

Bad Better
With our powerful, affordable product, you’ll see results quickly! Engines that use MagnaPlus oil see a 10% reduction in wear the first month it’s used.
Our Calendar App is the best on the market! Our calendar app had 1 billion more downloads than the 2nd place app last year.

 

 

Be Concise, Be Specific… But Write Long

 

One of the biggest myths in marketing is that nobody will read long copy. People are too busy, you might think, so I’m not gonna write that much on my subject.

 

That’s true if people don’t really care about what you’re offering. But if someone is going to spend $8000 on a new snowmobile, I promise you, they will read your copy.

 

Write as much as you would say in a one-on-one meeting with someone. You need to answer all objections that a customer may have about your product.

 

I had a friend who recently wanted to buy a new laptop. But glossy screens hurt his eyes. He knew that he needed to have a computer that he could fit with a matte screen. If a website did not answer this objection for him, he would certainly not make a purchase from them.

 

Every customer will have objections and questions just like this. You need to anticipate these objections and specifications and answer them in your website copy.

 

Write To Your Audience, Not To Yourself

 

Many business owners are tempted to write what they think would be interesting or convincing, not what their customers would. But remember, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customers. Instead of thinking what would make me buy the product, think about what would make them buy the product.

 

You might want your website to have a flowery, inspiring heading. But with that convince your audience to buy? You might understand big words like rotator cuff and antinominal, but would your audience understand them?

 

Instead of using the terms you use to describe your business, use the terms that your audience uses to describe your business.

 

We recently did a website for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy. Mountain Valley Therapy is a company in rural Eastern Oregon that offers physical therapy and other holistic therapy methods, such as pericardial massage and craniosacral therapy.

 

Consider if Mountain Valley physical therapy wanted to change their name to Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy. This might more accurately describe what they do, but to an audience of highly-conservative Eastern Oregon Oregon clients, this name would be confusing, not well searched for on search engines, and maybe even off-putting. For this reason it’s probably better for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy to keep their current name.

 

Remember, writing is about what your customers search for and understand. If you’re writing what you think is powerful copy and that conflicts with what your clients want and are searching for, you’re in for a rough wake-up call when your website doesn’t sell.

 

Write About Your Customer, Not Just About Yourself

 

Make sure that your copy is about the value that will be provided to your customer, not just all the features of your product.

 

Neil Patel used the example of the new iPhone 5 copy to showcase this technique. On the sales page, the word iPhone appeared 81 times. “Apple” appeared an additional 26 times. But the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ were even more prevalent. They appeared 110 times.

 

By writing about your customer, you make them feel at home and cared for on your website. You make them feel like it’s more about what they need than your product. Because it is more about filling their need than it is about your product, right? Only write about your product in regards to what it can do for your customer – not the other way around.

 

Support Your Claims With Evidence

 

The trademark of a charlatan is that they say things without any evidence to back it up. Don’t be a charlatan. Back up your claims with solid, specific evidence. If you make a claim, link to the case study that you’re referencing. This will build trust with your customers.

 

Also, use technical details to show your expertise. Technical details about your product make you more convincing. Showing exact details like names, data, and materials used shows you know what you’re talking about. You might think that these aren’t really all that important. But like Neil Patel says, details sell.

 

You can also bring people into your product with fascinating stories. Stories are personal and interesting ways of proving your product’s value. Do you have any stories you could tell about your product? What successes have you had in the past? Stories are a human way of bringing your prospective customers into your world and entertaining them a little bit.

 

Write Clear, Respectful Calls-To-Action

 

A call-to-action is a call for a customer to take a specific, desired action on your website. This could be a link to another one of your pages. It could be a button bringing them to your Contact Us page, or it could be to download your white paper.

 

A good call-to-action should be specific. It should be clear about what you’re wanting the customer to do and why they should do it. A good call-to-action should summarize the benefits, present the offer, and justify the price to the customer one more time.

 

A good call-to-action should also be respectful. It shouldn’t assume that the customer is ready to take that action. Give your website visitors more than one option. “Start today” should be followed closely by a “Read More About Our Product” option. In this way, more people will continue on their buyer’s journey on your page than just the ones ready to make a purchase.

 

After You Write

 

Woo hoo! Congratulations. You’ve written your copy. And it’s really, really good!

 

But this is just the beginning. Once your copy is up and working for you on your website, it needs to be optimized. Optimization simply means being revised based on data. Going back and optimizing your website copy will continue to make your website better and more profitable.

 

This can be done in multiple ways including:

 

          • A-B Split Tests
          • Heatmaps On Your Site
          • Surveys on your pages

 

I’m not going to go into the specifics about all of these in this blog post except to say it’s  important. According to a presentation with Paris Chopra, the founder and CEO of Visual Website Optimizer, a single word change on a website can lead to a 161% increase in conversions.

 

Visual Website Optimizer re-wrote copy for one company with the keywords that people were searching for on search engines. As a result, this company got 150% more leads, $15,000 in additional sales inquiries, and an increase in annual sales of $500,000. This is not small potatoes.

 

Bottom line, after you’re done writing, use analytics to drive further insights and make changes. Use search tools to figure out the keywords that people are actually looking for. And use surveys to gain insight into what your customers want and are having trouble with on your website.

 

Does all this sound just a little bit too daunting for you? That’s OK. You can hire someone to do this for you. You can learn more about White Hat Matt’s copywriting services on our copywriting page or hire someone locally in your area.

 

But whoever you hire, make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. If you’re going to hire out your copywriting, make sure it’s someone who is getting wins with their copy in a professional setting.

 

Writing clearly and persuasively and thoroughly demonstrating the benefits of your product or service is something that anyone can do. With a little bit of learning, and a lot of unlearning, you, too, can be on your way to writing copy that works for your website.

 

Additional Reading/Listening

 

We recommend you start by picking up a free copy of How to Write Copy That Sells, by Ray Edwards. This may only be available for free for a limited time; if you find this link has gone down, just try searching for the book on Amazon.

 

Otherwise, please check out:

Ray Edwards – How to Write Copy that Sells (on the Smart Passive Income Podcast)

Conversion Rate Experts – How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters

Conversion Rate Experts – Making Websites Win (Available in Hardcover or Kindle Format)


The Top 7 Components of a Successful Online Marketing Plan

 

If you’re on this website, chances are you’re looking to up your online marketing game.  Whether you’ve already jumped into the digital marketing universe or are reluctantly conceding for the first time that this whole “world wide web” thing appears to be sticking around for a while, you’ve likely arrived at the conclusion that there is a lot more to marketing your business online than simply owning a website.

 

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of tools and tricks of the trade, so in this 3rd module of our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business, we’ll break down the hallmarks of a successful online marketing plan into 7 basic components that you can implement into your own ongoing marketing strategy (or hire someone to do for you). Keep in mind that you can apply these principles whether you are building a website for the first time or are looking to improve upon an online presence that you already have in place.

 

1. Objectives

 

You’re probably thinking, “well, duh, of course a marketing plan needs to have objectives.”   Yes, but the reason I included objectives is so that you can be confident that you are creating the right objectives.  It’s not enough to have the general objective of selling more products or increasing revenue.  A successful ongoing digital marketing plan will include the following three categories of objectives.

 

Traffic Objectives

These objectives are related to how many people you want to get to visit your website.  When creating your traffic objectives, you’ll want to include KPIs and well-defined goals, not vague ideas. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are numerical metrics that are used to track the progress that you are making toward your specific objectives, and tracking them will go a long way in helping you to determine whether or not your marketing strategies are working.

 

Examples of key performance indicators include: sales revenue, lead-to-customer ratio, organic traffic, social media referral traffic, email click-thru rate,  and the list goes on and on.  Your KPIs will vary depending on your business model and marketing needs, but the point is that your traffic objectives need to be specific and trackable.

 

Here’s an example:  Let’s say you own a restaurant in Redmond, OR.  One of your traffic goals might be to receive 300 visitors/month to your website by a certain date. One KPI you might want to measure could be the number of “clicks” from organic searches (e.g. people typing “restaurant Redmond OR” into Google) as measured by Google Search Console over a 30-day period.

 
Content Objectives

Think of this as the architecture of your website. Content objectives define the kind of content you want to have as part of your online marketing plan, whether that be on your initial website build, in your emails, or on social media. Again, be specific.  Do you want certain images or videos?  Blog articles?  Downloadable documents?

 

Before you wantonly throw up a website, add a new blog post or open a social media account and stare at empty space, you would do well to determine the nature of the content you would like to include.  Continuing with the restaurant example, one of your content goals might be to provide a copy of your menu on your website.  If you have a Facebook page for your business, you could set your content objective as creating 3 unique posts per month. For more on the specific make-up of your content, see # 4.

 

Conversion Objectives

Once you’ve gotten visitors to your website and expose them to your exceptional content, you need them to actually do something. Conversion objectives represent the actions you want visitors to take. Perhaps you want more people to sign up for your newsletter or make a donation or purchase online.  As with your traffic objectives, create goals with specific numbers that you can track to see how you are doing in reaching those goals.

 

If you are the restaurant owner in Redmond, your conversion objectives would likely include an increase in the number of customers entering your restaurant, or perhaps a measurable increase in the number of take-out orders. However, keep in mind that these objectives need to be trackable, so if one of your objectives is for customers to visit your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to focus on the measurable micro-conversions that will likely occur as a direct result of your online marketing efforts before they walk through your door.  This could mean that they sign up for an email list or click a designated link to receive a coupon.

 

Core Job to Be Done

Finally, succinctly describe the principal goal of your business by describing what end-benefit it provides to it’s customers.  Try to whittle it down to its most basic form, ideally a sentence or two.  Your business statement might include more than one objective (i.e. customer service, employment opportunities), but try to focus on most the important one(s).

 

The core job to be done isn’t just your core product or service, it can actually go much deeper than that.  Think of the job to be done as the need that is being satisfied through what you offer.  For example, when we did the strategy for Thai Fresh Gardens (a restaurant here in La Grande), the core job to be done that we formulated was “Provide a unique dining experience to Union County residents so customers can have high quality social engagements outside of their home, while enjoying a good meal.”

 

You can even put the job to be done in the perspective of your target personas.  One of our personas for Thai Fresh might have said, “As a wife who is working part-time, when I am looking for a better dining experience, I want to have a great experience with one of my closest friends, so I can get up to speed with her while enjoying a nice meal, without spending a ton of money.

 

2. Competitor Research

 

One of the easiest ways to enhance your marketing strategy is to find out what your competitors are doing in the digital realm.  Yep, we’re asking you to spy. You probably already know who your primary competitors are, but if you don’t, you can always find out by doing a quick Google search of keywords related to your industry.

 

Check out a sampling of your competitors’ websites or social media to gauge what types of marketing they are doing online, if at all.  Next, make a list of their strengths and weaknesses.  Different aspects of competitor websites you can focus on include: branding, call-to-action, tone, messaging, voice, quantity/quality of content, mission statement, navigation, etc.

 

Then think about: What could you emulate?  What could you avoid? For example, you may see that a competitor has a really well-written mission statement right at the top of the homepage.  On the other hand, maybe you find a website with no discernible call to action, leaving visitors unsure what to do next.  Make a note of these observations so that you can do the job even better on your own site.

 

 

3. Persona Development

 

A really important key to developing a successful online marketing plan is figuring out who your target audience is.  You may have a large variety of customers, but you’ve probably got a good idea of who your typical customer is.  Based on your knowledge of your customer base, create your “typical” customer profile.  I would suggest coming up with at least three distinct profiles. Go all the way and have fun with this!  Make up a fictitious name and a short backstory about the persona, including their demographics (age, gender, location, education, socioeconomic status, etc.).

 

Then ask yourself, “what problem are they trying to solve that drew them to my business?”  Think about the many objections they have to converting, the media channels they might use, and the pages on your website they are most likely to be interested in. If you’re having trouble getting started, Hubspot and Xtensio have free tools that can help you create your personas.

 

https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona

 

https://xtensio.com/user-persona/

 

Even though persona development can be fun, your personas need to be based on real people, not people you envision might use your service or buy your product.  If you’re a small business with a limited data set, here are some places you can find real customer data quickly:

 

Google Analytics.  You can use the “Audience” tab in Google Analytics to get some additional insight into your target audience.  You may want to look at where they reside geographically, what type of device they are using to access your site, and of course, what pages they seem most interested in.

 

Talk to your best salespeople.  Your salespeople have tens if not hundreds of interactions with real customers every week.  Quiz them on what trends they see and what objections your potential customers have.

 

Survey your current customers.  This might take the form of real, 15-30 minute interviews with current clients.  Our favorite question is, “why did you almost not buy?”

 

4. Content Strategy

 

There are two types of content to be included in a good marketing plan: static and ongoing.  Static content is the content that is always on your website and will likely undergo few changes over time.  Websites following web design best practices will typically include the following types of static content: homepage, about page, product/services pages, and contact page.  Additional content types will vary depending on your particular industry and conversion objectives.

 

On the other hand, ongoing content refers to new content that will be added to keep your site up-to-date and engaging, and to drive traffic.  This can be in the form of blog articles, landing pages, videos, podcasts, email newsletters, infographics, how-to guides, and so on.

 

When creating content for your site, you must consider the following:

 

1) Voice. This refers to the tone of the content and will be based on your target audience and brand.  For example, if you are offering legal services, the tone or “voice” of your copy should be professional, not humorous or filled with trendy terms.  You’ll also want to avoid jargon which might confuse your visitors.  On the other hand, if you are a fashion company targeting 18-25 year-olds, you’ll want to avoid a stodgy tone and are free to be creative and use wit and slang if that fits your brand.

 

2) Message. Considering the overarching message that ties all the content together will help you to stay focused on the specifics of what you are trying to communicate.  To help guide your message, you can employ the PASTOR strategy.  This acronym, developed by the uber-successful copywriter Ray Edwards, represents the following point you’ll want to address in your content: P=Person/Problem/Pain; A=Amplify the problem; S= Story/System/Solution; T=Testimonials, O=Offer; R=Response.

 

Using this formula can make your content creation easier and more successful.  Start by identifying the problem that your target persona has that can be solved by your product or service.  Next, you’ll want to amplify the problem by highlighting the possible consequences your customer will encounter if they don’t find a solution to their problem.

 

For example, if you own a painting businesses and your target persona’s problem is that his house needs a paint job, then one possible consequence of him not repainting his house could be a decrease in the home’s value. Don’t be shy about pointing this out to your potential clients!

 

Now is the point at which you present the solution to the problem.  At this point you’re not presenting your “pitch” per se, you’re simply identifying the answer that will solve their dilemma. As you can see, if you’re following the P.A.S.T.O.R. formula, you’ll essentially be writing a narrative that includes all the elements of a typically storyline – an introduction, conflict and resolution.

 

Providing testimonials (T) is always a great idea, as visitors to your website will be eager to know how others fared when purchasing your product or service.

 

Finally, provide a clear call-to-action that will give your potential customers the opportunity to respond to the offer you just presented to them. This is typically in the form of a button with directives like “Call Now,” “Subscribe,” “Get Started,” and so on.  Make the call-to-action visibly prominent so that your visitors don’t leave your website unsure of what their next step should be.

 

 

5. Publishing Calendar

 

Unless you are abnormally gifted in the memory department, you probably don’t go to the grocery store without a list of items to buy and a plan of how you are going to use them.  In the same way, the best marketers use a publishing calendar to plan what types of content they will be publishing and when.

 

Create a list of the types of content you want to publish along with a list of topics or titles for those articles, social media posts, email campaigns, podcasts, etc. Then make a calendar with clearly defined dates and/or timelines for when and how often you want to publish your content.

 

Not sure what topics to address? Research what people are looking for by browsing the web to see what kinds of questions people are asking and what are the current talking points or issues related to your industry.  If all else fails, simply ask your customers what they would like to know.

 

6. Conversion Tracking

 

You might be doing a double take at this point since I already covered conversion objectives, but it would be negligent to leave out the specifics of conversion tracking.  By conversion tracking, I am referring to the technical execution of elements on your website to measure the progress you are making toward your conversion objectives.

 

Depending on your digital marketing strategy and KPIs, you will need to employ different means to track your conversion rates and analyze the performance of your marketing efforts. Common actions that can be measured include contact forms submissions, downloads, and purchases made.

 

However, there is a lot more to conversion tracking than the obvious actions I just mentioned.  Thanks to programs like Google Analytics, you can even track how many people visit your website and which pages they view.  We’ll cover these types of online tools in more detail in a different module, but for now, the important thing to take away is that you’ll need to make sure you implement conversion tracking strategies into your digital marketing plan.

 

The most important point of this exercise, believe it or not, is to make sure you don’t have too many calls-to-action on each page.  One – or at maximum two – calls-to-action will prevent your users from becoming overwhelmed with the options you present to them.

 

7. Keyword Research & Mapping

 

This component is extremely important, so don’t stop now!  Even if you follow the above strategies and create a killer online digital marketing plan and excellent content, it won’t do any good if no one can find you. I can’t stress this enough.

 

As you’re aware, search engines use keywords to locate content that people are searching for.  Accordingly, you’ll need to do some research to figure out what keywords your audience is typing into search engines.  The first step is to start a list of your products or services, essentially whatever you think that your potential customers are searching for.

 

For example, if you are a hair stylist, your list will include words like “haircut”, “hair stylist, “hair salon”, etc.  If you want to expand your list, try typing keywords related to your industry into the Google search bar and let Google autofill the rest to see what people are searching for.  You can also look for ideas by typing your principal keywords into Google and scrolling down to the bottom of the results page to the “Searches related to” section. Consider using various iterations as well, such as “haircuts for men” in addition to “men’s haircut.”

 

There are some wonderful (and free!) tools online that you can use to aid you in this process.  Both Ubersuggest and Google AdWords Keyword Planner will give you suggested keywords related to your original keyword ideas, and they will generate reports on expected traffic and competition for your chosen keywords.

 

This is hugely important, as you need to be aware of which keywords are highly competitive so that you can opt for those which are within your reach to rank for.  This is also where long-tail keywords come in.  Long-tail keywords are phrases with three or more words that make up the entire search term.

 

For example, “hair stylist for kids in Redmond, OR” is longer and more specific than simply “hair stylist,” which is very general and, therefore, more competitive and difficult to rank for.  The more specific your keyword, the less competition you will likely encounter.

 

In addition, notice that the keyword above is location specific (Redmond, OR).  Adding your location to your keyword can go a long way in making sure that the right audience finds you, especially if you expect to do all or most of your business locally.

 

Now that you have a list of keywords that you want to rank for in search engines results pages, it’s time to apply them to your content.  The best method for this is what is known as keyword mapping. Keyword mapping is exactly what it sounds like: creating a map for how your keywords and related content will fit together on your website.  There are various ways to do this, and it typically involves a spreadsheet.

 

Now, if the mere thought of launching Excel or Google Sheets makes you lose your lunch, do not fear!  Moz has an excellent video that explains keyword mapping using a good ol’ fashioned whiteboard and markers.  I highly recommend that you check out their video for a detailed explanation of how to create a keyword map to plan out your content: https://moz.com/blog/build-content-keyword-map-for-seo-whiteboard-friday

 

Conclusion

 

If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry – it totally is!  Developing a successful online marketing strategy is a ton of work, but, unlike other risky and expensive business investments (like commercials or billboards, wink wink), we promise that this will be worth it.  And, if you have any questions, you can always give us a buzz or leave a comment below.