Sunday, August 30, 2009

Will Write Copy--5 Cents Per 500-1000 Word Article

Is there anything at all unusual about that headline? I mean besides the fact that I'm willing to put in a minimum of 1-2 hours of brainstorming, researching and writing work for 5 cents. 

The answer to my question, as a lot of us seasoned copywriters have found, is no.  We're now in competition with overseas copy shops  that can turn out mass copy for pennies on the dollar; English may not be these folks' native tongue--that's generally obvious from the content produced--but that doesn't stop them from pumping out the copy.

Likewise, with the current economy, many folks stateside are looking for new ways to make money from home; one way is writing.  All you is a keyboard and time, right?

The most disheartening part of this new trend towards budget copy is that people like me who have put years of time and money into increasing our education and learning not just about the craft of writing, but also about sales and marketing--the fundamentals of making money--are left out in the cold.  Who wouldn't buy a Nordstrom's quality purse at Wal-Mart prices? The problem, though, is that better than 95 percent of the time, "copy deals" are anything but. 

Consider this:  Would you outsource your company's accounting, IT security or business planning to the lowest bidder? Probably not.  Your business is important; it's your livelihood.  You can't afford a mistake in your books or a network vulnerability.  So, you look for quality service providers, get recommendations from friends and colleagues and choose whom you'll work with based on a variety of factors, including the provider's reputation, ability to deliver and their professionalism.  Essentially, you refuse to put your business into the hands of just anyone.

Now consider that copywriting (writing to sell), blog writing and content creation, at a time when people thirst for constant information, is the lifeblood of a marketing campaign.  Without copy, people don't know what you do, how well you do it or why they should be calling you for XYZ needs.  You're anonymous, a nobody until carefully crafted words get you noticed and make people think, "I need to find out more about YOUR NAME HERE."

Most usually, those 5 cent articles are driven by volume; the people doing them aren't concerned over your return; they just want the money.  And if you're not happy, no big deal.  There are thousands more like you who want the world and more for that nickel.  So, they'll gladly take your place on the "writing" schedule.

How I and the other professional copywriters I know differ is that we're not working on volume; we're accepting a set number of clients to whom we can offer high quality marketing advice and then translate that into copywriting that sells.  We care if an article we write or post is not drawing in a  return on your investment, because we know that your livelihood (and ours) depends on how successfully we can help you convert casual information perusers into customers. 

Now, as a business owner, if that's not important to you, you perhaps are best advised to find a "writer" who is in it for the nickel.  You'll get your money's worth. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charlotte Social Fresh Attendees, What Was Your Best Take-Away?

Social Fresh attendees in Charlotte learned from social media experts this week (Check out today's Charlotte Observer to see why Jeff Elder thinks social media are like sex).

If you were in attendance, please share some of what you learned with those of us who didn't go. Include a link to your own Web site or blog, and let us know by posting a comment, "What was your best take-away?" What golden nugget are you glad you now know because of Social Fresh?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three "Sales" Pitches We Can Live Without

Ever heard the term "white noise?" It's sort of like when Charlie Brown's parents spoke to him: it was just a "wa, wa, wa, wa" sound. Charlie Brown didn't hear what his parents were specifically telling him, just this muffled...noise.

The same thing can be said for certain "marketing" terms and catchphrases that are still--to my surprise--widely popular.

Three "Sales" Pitches We Can Live Without

1. "Earn Your Business" has to be one of the most over-used phrases in marketing history. Yet, how many products or services still cling to this phrase, as though it really means anything? "Earn Your Business" has definitely become a white noise phrase; people have heard it so much that when you say it, it's like yelling into the wind. It's lost its punch, its significance, and any meaning it once held because of overuse.

Sadly, as with everything, a few bad apples ruin it for everyone. Those folks who used the "Let us earn your business" tagline and then acted in a way directly opposite of their said slogan, have made us distrustful of anyone using it.

2. "Get it now for the low, low price of $X," is another phrase marketers could forever bury, and it wouldn't be missed. In my opinion, this phrase is equivalent to the "It's the last one on the lot," or "The offer's only good for the next 30 minutes" type campaigns associated with sleazy marketing. It's a high pressure phrase that insinuates that if you don't buy now for this "low, low price," you'll have to pay a high, high price later.

3. Be a rockstar at savings. Get a rockstar deal. If I never again hear the term "rockstar" used to describe anything other than Ozzy Osbourne and his colleagues, it will be too soon. The term "rockstar" now applies to BUSINESS! How can that be? It's a pop culture reference at best, but you hear very high level executives regularly use the term. Because it's transcended the teeny boppers and now become so mainstream, it' guessed it...lost its power. Nowadays, we're all rockstars at something. I'm a rockstar mom, a rockstar copywriter, a rockstar cook...

These marketing terms (and I'm sure there are others I've missed) are useless because they appeal to base needs and wants: the desire to be valued, to save money, to be highly regarded. But today's customers are more savvy, more sophisticated and require marketing campaigns that are creative, but genuine. We know marketing initiatives are launched with the bottom line of bringing in money. But we don't want to feel like marketers are underestimating our intelligence when a product or service is pitched on us.

So my advice to marketing professionals: Just give me a sales pitch I can live with.

SEMCLT Sept. 3. Meetup Details Released This Week

Sept. 3, SEMCLT meetup details

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 5 Types of "Friends" We All Have on Facebook

If social media hasn't changed the meaning of friendship, nothing has. Facebook especially has done its due diligence in redefining what a "friend" is; it's highly common to get "friend" requests on Facebook from not just real, honest to goodness friends, but also from people you may have met once at a networking event, concert, wedding, the scene of an accident, etc.

Because the meaning of "friend" is clearly changing in light of social media's growing influence, I've compiled a list of the 5 Types of "Friends" each of us has on Facebook. Here goes...

1. The Real Friend. This is a genuine friend or relative, someone you know and like and with whom you want to share your latest goings-on. You use social media as another means of connecting with a real friend, but you may also communicate with a real friend on the phone, via email and in person.

2. The Acquaintance. The Acquaintance is someone you know professionally or only mildly. This could be someone you met at a networking event, a co-worker or a parent of another child in your daughter's classroom. With acquaintances, we want to keep an open line of communication, but we typically have a more distant relationship than we do with real friends.

3. Professional/Co-Worker/Boss. The great thing about social media is that it breaks down barriers that have previously existed; office culture, for example, is very hierarchical. So, you may not have told your boss about your skydiving hobby or your weekend in the mountains before. But by giving our bosses access to our Facebook profiles, we give them permission to read all about the interesting people we are away from the office. We reveal ourselves in a different light--no longer are we just the suit and tie wearing accountant in the cubicle by the door. We're real people with families, friends and exciting lives.

4. The Looky-Loo. These are the people whom we accept as "friends," but know they're just keeping tabs on us. They could be people we knew from Cub Scouts, freshman year, etc. They want to know what we're up to (and perhaps vice-versa--on Facebook, you can't be a Looky-Loo without giving someone else permission to view your page).

5. The Enemy. OK, admittedly this sounds way more dramatic than it actually is. But who among us hasn't received a friend request from someone we were certain hated us? The Enemy (or former Enemy) may have grown up, matured and simply want to see how we're doing. Or the Enemy could still be evil and filled with animosity and just want to keep tabs on us. If we're doing well, we'll generally be happy to let them.

What we must remember is that each of our "friends" has access to our posts; while social media brings us all closer together and essentially tears down privacy walls, it can also bring information to the attention of others we'd rather them not know. So, when making updates, ask yourself, "Am I comfortable sharing this with a real friend? A professional associate? An enemy?"

You may be fine with your best friends seeing pictures of last Friday night's drunken escapades, but you may not want your boss or pastor to see them. It's best to live by this rule when partaking in social media: Only post updates or pictures you're comfortable having anyone see, because once it's "out there" on-line, there's a good chance that anyone could see what you've posted.

In effect, the variety of folks that find us on social media platforms is a testament to how widespread social media really is. We just have to keep in mind that everything we post is up for public judgment among "friends."

AUG 12 SEMCLT Presentation on SEO & Usability

Last Tuesday evening's SEMCLT presentation on SEO & Usability was very informative, especially for me, since I'm a copywriter and not typically as involved with the visual and graphic elements of Web design. Ben Ullman, who designs Web interfaces for Bank of America, was the presenter. You can see his detailed slideshow at BUDesigns. Very nice gentleman & great info! Hope you'll check it out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SEMCLT Meetup Tonight in Charlotte

I'm looking forward to tonight's SEMCLT meetup. The topic is SEO & Usability, and one of the guest speakers is a senior visual designer at Bank of America. Plus, these events always draw in some very informational comments and questions from the audience (fellow search engine and marketing professionals). If you're in the Charlotte area, I encourage you to to stop by.

Registration information for SEMCLT

Monday, August 10, 2009

How Much Copywriting is SEO Copywriting?

In a recent interview, I casually mentioned that I've been finding a great deal of my copywriting projects are now SEO copywriting. The SEO expert with whom I was speaking immediately stopped and asked, "What makes SEO copywriting different than regular copywriting?"

I was a little surprised by his question, mostly because I started my career in a newsroom where print publication was still king. In the central Illinois town were I lived, people still loved having something tangible to hold onto. My first taste of writing for a public audience was writing for a print audience.

In the 15 years since then, the world has changed. Most young people will never care that the newspaper arrived at 5:30 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. They don't have any interest in combing through huge pages of newsprint and coming away with black ink on their hands just to find out where Justin Timberlake performed last night.

In fact, they probably already know. The Internet is reknowned for putting information at our fingertips, usually the second it's happening. Search engines have replaced indexes and tables of contents.

And you have approximately three seconds to capture a Web user's attention before he hits the back button and resumes a new Google search. It's not like the old days when people had already bought the newspaper or magazine, so they were your audience whether or not they cared what a headline said or how a "teaser" caption read.

SEO copywriting has to take into consideration today's user's short, very short attention span. It has to get to the meat and potatoes of a call to action, sometimes in the headline. And most importantly, it has to be findable. One of the key ways this is possible is through keyword density, but even that has its complexities.

As a writer, I have the power to make an article so awkward that it puts off an audience. Words that appear too often, so often that it looks as if they were intentionally placed there, lead to clumsy articles. And it only takes a second for a reader to click away; that's the key to SEO copywriting, what makes it different than traditional copywriting. It only takes a second for a reader to click away.

Copywriting today is about reaching a whole different type of audience; it's not just low, low prices or catchy tag lines that engage readers. It's creating worthwhile content that sells, but also informs, and in a way that compels readers to start at word one and end at word 500.

Even the best of us can have difficulty doing that with an audience that has been hard wired to be attention-deficient when using the Internet. That's where SEO copywriting comes in--it's a lot more manipulated, targeted and strategized than perhaps any traditional copywriting before it.