Brian is CEO of Copyblogger Media. He runs Copyblogger.com, an awesome copyblogging, copywriting, and SEO tips and tricks blog that frequently makes the AdAge Top 150. Brian is regularly referenced in popular books including Chris Brogan's Trust Agents and Seth Godin's Linchpin.
In this episode, we chat about:
The biggest copywriting mistakes you can make and how to avoid them.
Not paying attention to headlines. Headlines are how people decide whether or not to pay attention to your writing.
Not formatting your blog posts correctly. You need to include a call-to-action at the end of a post. You need to make your content engaging.
2. Write for Both Search Engines and Humans
"You have to take Google into account, but what Google wants to see is that people love it."
With search engine optimization, you need inbound links. The principle way Google and other search engines decide how content/websites rank in search results is through analyzing the inbound links that site/page has received. Content that generates more inbound links is more valuable and more highly rankable than similar content without inbound links.
So if you have a good, easily scannable piece of content with a solid headline, people are going to share that and link to you. The more links you have, the more highly you rank, and so on.
The substance has to be there, but it's also about how you present the information. If you're giving an in-person presentation, you have to have great information and amazing slides. It's the same thing with the written word and video.
You need to have great content, but you also need to present it well with an enticing, clear headline and easy-to-digest information. Your content has to be easy for people to find, share, and link to. And it needs to have the right keywords that your audience is searching for.
3. Create Clear, Interesting Headlines
"A traditional copywriter in direct response will always write the headline first, but they know what they are going to write about in general. They have a product to sell."
Brian recommends writing the headline before you write the post. You've had to think about your post and what you're going to write and what you're trying to accomplish.
The main point is that the headline is the promise of what the content delivers. So whether you write it first, or go back and create a headline after you've written the post, it needs to foreshadow your content.
4. Find Inspiration for Blog Posts
"I always love to tell the story about how the printing press was invented by Gutenberg seeing a wine press and a coin stamp. Those two things have nothing to do with printing, but he figured it out from there. Or like Henry Ford went to a meat packing plant in Chicago and saw how they had conveyor belt assembly lines, and he applied that to the automobile industry, which was completely unheard of before then. So you have got to look for the intersections, but they are usually off in another area, and just be very observant about it. There are ideas everywhere."
You can find inspiration everywhere. Watch movies, read books and news articles, and you'll start to see analogies you can make in your writing. It's about making observations and judging whether the idea will work.
5. Don't Undermine the Power of the List Post
"Think of yourself online. You don't generally read every word unless it's really something that is a homerun that you need to pay attention to. That is why list posts work. I know they are called trite and cliche, but they have been working for over 100 years, and they are not going to stop because people haven't changed."
It starts with the headline. The more specific you can be, the higher your click-through rates will be, because readers will have more information to determine whether reading the post is worth their time.
Specifying a number is just very brain-friendly, as is scannable content. You can go through a list post quickly and determine whether or not you want to go back and read every item.
6. Keep a Swipe File
"I don't do it as much as I used to. People of all experience levels keep swipe files, but mainly, the great thing is seeing what has worked in the past and making sure you understand why they worked."
A swipe file is a great way to keep track of what's worked in the past and why. Swipe files are also great for inspiration. The important thing is to adapt great things you see (headlines, etc.) to your audience.
Brian's Favorite SEO and Copywriting Resources
"I don't read a ton of blogs. A lot of what I go back to time and again are classic copywriting books, philosophy, even Aristotle's Rhetoric. It sounds bizarre, but all those foundational aspects of persuasion date back thousands of years. Now, of course, times change, technology changes and context changes, but people are fundamentally the same. So you just have to adapt into this new environment."