Friday, November 17, 2017

Attention Accountants: Your Impressions Are About to Skyrocket

Have you heard the news? There are some drastic tax code changes on the horizon.

The GOP plan for tax overhaul cleared the House on Thursday. Regardless of your political leanings, that’s big news for your AdWords account! If you’re a CPA (Certified Personal Accountant), or an agency running accounts for accountants, you’re going to want to prepare for the impending increase in impressions and subsequent clicks. Otherwise, you risk wasting a ton of your budget on clicks that represent absolutely no value to your business.  

Here’s a quick rundown on what’s changing, and how you can alter your AdWords account to hedge against wasted spend, impending doom, etc.

What’s Changing?

Who knows!? And that’s the point.

As news, both real and fake, permeates the internet, Americans will enter panic mode and begin searching for answers to their tax-related questions. Here’s a screenshot I took this morning:

Tax Reform Bill

Look at those articles, those pivots to video, those clickbaity headlines.

Do you know what searchers looking for information as to whether they should weep or cheer aren’t looking for? A CPA.

How Will The Tax Reform Bill Impact Your AdWords Account?

Even though you probably aren’t bidding on “tax reform bill,” you’re not out of the woods.

In the coming days, folks across the country will make millions of tax-related search queries.

From 3 am to 11 am on Nov. 16th, search interest in “tax reform” rose 84%.

Tax Reform Bill Trends

Tax Reform Bill 2

Images via Google Trends

If you’re bidding on any broad, broad match modified, or phrase match keywords that contain the word “tax” (which seems likely since, you know, you’re an accountant) and you aren’t explicitly negating the words “reform” and “bill,” you’re in for a world of hurt.

And by hurt, I mean a massive uptick in impressions. Which will inevitably lead to a whole mess of unqualified clicks.

Guess what? You still have to pay for those clicks.

What Can You Do?

Add. Account. Level. Negative. Keywords.

AdWords allows advertisers to create lists of negative keywords that can be applied at the campaign level. Luxury advertisers use this technique to stop their ads from being served for queries that contain modifiers like “discount,” “sale,” or, god forbid, “free.”

Here, I’m going to show you how accountants can use negative keyword lists to hedge against tax reform-related queries cannibalizing their AdWords budgets.

Enter the new AdWords interface and click the helpful little wrench at the top of the screen. From there, click the “Negative keyword lists” option under the “Shared Library” menu.

Tax Reform Bill Lists

Here, simply click the giant blue circle bearing a tiny white plus sign.

 Tax Reform Bill Negative Keywords

List creation time!

Name your new list of negative keywords something like “Tax Reform Bill” (this will make it easy for you to find it among other lists of negative keywords or remember what you’ve included here so that you can remove it at a later date if need be). In the “Add negative keywords” box, add “reform” and “bill.”

^ You see how I formatted those? Make ‘em look just like that. Adding the words “reform” and “bill” as negative phrase match keywords will ensure that any query containing either word will not trigger one of your targeted keywords. Whatever you do, do not add the word “tax.” Please.

 Tax Reform Bill Negative Keywords

Save your list of keywords and leave this menu. Navigate over to the keywords tab (on the vertical bar to the left of your interface) and select the “Negative Keywords” header.

Tax Reform Bill Add

Use the radio buttons to select the “Use negative keyword list” option, add all of your campaigns in the “Add to” section, and, finally, use the search field (depicted at the bottom of that screenshot you see above) to find your “Tax Reform Bill” negative keyword list.

And you’re done. Congratulations: you just saved your AdWords budget!

Final Thoughts

Adding specific, account-level negative keywords is a quick fix for a problem that could completely derail your AdWords account.

Leave your account untouched, and you run the risk of paying to put your ads in front of frenzied searchers who either won’t click them (which will destroy your expected click-through rate and, as a result, diminish your Quality Scores) or, worse, will click but with zero intention of hiring you to help them out come April.

The Fundamentals of a Great YouTube Video Description

YouTube isn’t new. I don’t need to tell you that. It was a revolutionary video sharing platform for the masses well before Google acquired it, effectively cannibalizing the now defunct Google Video platform. A big difference that has emerged these last couple of years, however, is the accessibility of high quality video — both as consumers and as creators — for the general public. Anyone can shoot a full HD (or even a 4K) video these days using their smartphones.

You can invest in more expensive equipment, to be sure, improving both your picture and audio quality. You can get terrific video editing software to really up your production value and you can add in all sorts of effects to really capture the attention of your audience. That’s the thing: you still need an audience. That’s why it’s so critically important that you pay attention to how you write a YouTube video description.

The video description effectively serves two main purposes. First, it can provide the viewer with valuable information to supplement the video itself. Second, it can really help the YouTube algorithm determine what your video is about, what search terms it should rank for (if any at all), and what audience may be most interested in it. The question, then, is what should you include in your video description text. Let’s go over some of the basics.

Your Website Link

there are a number of different approaches to how you might want to do this. For me, I put the URL of my website front and center, even before the actual description text itself. This maximizes branding and exposure. You can see this in place with all my vlogs, like this one where I indulged in the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival.

A Video Description

This is probably going to sound ridiculously obvious, but it needs to be stated. Your YouTube video description needs a video description! It doesn’t need to fully spell out everything that is happening in the video (nor should it), but it should give the viewer some idea of what to expect. This also helps the YouTube search engine determine the subject matter.

Relevant Links

It may or may not always be the case that you have some supplementary material to go along with your YouTube video. When you do have something, though, you should definitely link to it in the video description. In the case of my vlog, I wrote up a quick blog post to go with it and that link is clearly provided in the description.

Similarly, I listed the locations where I went for the hot chocolate festival. This is a “value add” for the viewer, in case he or she wants to go to these places too. This inclusion was not sponsored in any way and I was under no obligation, but at the end of the day, content is king and you want to provide as much value for your audience as possible.

Music Licenses and Other Information

Don’t get caught using unlicensed music in your video. You could get a strike against your account, your video might be blocked in certain countries (especially Germany for some reason), or you might get outright banned from YouTube altogether. If you find royalty-free music that you can use in your video, that’s great. Just make sure you give credit where credit is due.

Social Links

Someone who is watching your video in YouTube and has taken the added step of expanding your video description is likely pretty interested in what else you’re doing and where they can find more information. Make it as easy as possible for them to find you.

Here’s the video description for the unboxing video I did for the Linksys Velop mesh Wi-Fi system on MEGATechNews. You’ll notice that the corresponding Twitter and Facebook links for MTN are provided right here. You’ll also notice that we didn’t simply use an “@username” format, so that the links would be easily clickable. Make it as easy as possible!

Affiliate Links

I’ve written before about how you can make money on YouTube. Relying solely on the AdSense revenue from the in-video ads leaves a lot of potential cash on the table. One opportunity you should definitely take advantage of is with affiliate links. Amazon Associates is one of the easiest if you feature physical products in your videos.

So, in the case of this router unboxing, I included the Amazon links (both Canada and the US) for where someone can buy the Linksys Velop. Similarly, if you get questions about the gear you use in your videos, many successful YouTubers also include a “gear I use” section in their video descriptions for that purpose.

Updated Information

Your YouTube video description does not need to be a static piece of text. It can adapt and adjust as the circumstances change. Maybe the same question keeps getting asked in the comments or you get a specific request come up again and again. You can address this in the description and tell people the answer is on the way.

In the case of my Velop unboxing, the original description said the full written review was “coming soon.” After I finished writing the review and publishing it on the site, I updated the video description with a link to the article. People who watch the video are probably interested in that material too and this keeps them within our branding loop.

Be Creative

The sky is the limit for what you can do with the video descriptions on YouTube. It’s true that the overwhelming majority of viewers will never expand the text, but there’s a huge opportunity among those who do. They’ve already demonstrated their increased interest in your material and this is your chance to cash in (and keep them around and engaged).

And remember to take advantage of YouTube cards and end screens too!

How To Make 6-Figure Monthly Online Income! Download John Chow’s New eBook!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The High Price of Low Cost

On of the biggest advantages of starting an internet marketing business is the ultra low start up cost. However, this low cost can come with a very high price. Watch this episode of Driving with John Chow to find out what this price is.

Click Here To Download John Chow’s New eBook, The Ultimate Online Profit Model!

9 Ways to Lower Your Facebook Ad Costs

Facebook is a compelling platform for advertisers for many reasons, including powerful targeting options and affordable costs, among others.

Your Facebook ad costs, of course, will vary based on a number of factors, including your audience, industry, goals, and optimization settings.

Facebook ad costs cost per action graph

Average cost per action on Facebook

However, Dan Rohsler, social account manager at digital agency Power Digital Marketing, said it is common to expect cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) to vary between $5 and $10 and cost per click (CPC) to come in below $2.

Likewise, Kevin Miller, director of growth at home-buying app Open Listings, said a safe average cost per click on Facebook for most businesses is $1.50. And Peter Messmer, director of growth and strategy at conversion optimization platform AddShoppers, said CPC costs for retargeting are typically in the $0.75 to $1.25 range, with cost per acquisition (CPA) costs for retargeting in the $5 to $10 range.

These costs are competitive and well within reach of smaller businesses.

With that in mind, here’s a look at nine actionable steps your brand can take to save money on Facebook ads and come in below average.

1. Target a more specific audience.

Per Ben Cook, marketing director of social media agency JC Social Media, advertisers should be as precise with their criteria as possible when specifying audiences.

“By narrowing your target audience, you can drastically reduce the competition from other brands running ads to a similar audience,” he said. “Remember you are in a bidding war with hundreds of other brands – only bid on who you really want to reach.”

Cook said this means marketers increase the odds that their promoted content will resonate closely with target individuals.

“It means you can tailor ads to appeal to people in a specific demographic, geographical area and set of interests, giving you the best chance of gaining clicks and generating traction,” he added.

Facebook ad costs targeting parameters

That was the case with children’s book brand Clever Tykes, which worked with JC Social Media to target mothers of children ages six to nine and who were also self-employed or business owners, rather than simply targeting parents with children ages six to nine. (Cook co-founded Clever Tykes.)

“When targeting a broader audience, we achieved good reach metrics, but click-through rates and conversion rates were low,” Cook said. “It was only once we refined the targeted audience to those who were perfect for the brand did conversions improve. When the content, tone of voice, and actual product resonated with the target audience, all of the key metrics improved.”

That’s likely in part because the inventory is low and ad cost is high when you go after an audience that many other advertisers want, said Timothy Masek, senior growth strategist at growth marketing agency Ladder Digital.

“If instead you target a segment where there are less advertisers competing for ad space – for example, in international markets – then your ad cost will be cheaper,” he added.

Masek also noted that Facebook charges more or less depending on the relevancy of your ads.

Facebook ad costs relevance score concept

“In an effort to reward advertisers for adding value to the Facebook user, Facebook will decrease your [ad] cost if your content is relevant to your target segment,” he said. “This relevance is quantified by Facebook's quality score.” 

2. Use bid caps.

Katy Lowe, social media executive at digital marketing agency Passion Digital, on the other hand, said the more granular you go with audience targeting, the more expensive results tend to be, as Facebook is offering a tool to reach your most valuable audience, and it’s in its own interest to charge more.

Lowe said Passion Digital manages this for its clients by using rules and bid caps, especially for app installs, based on the lifetime value of an individual lead or sale.

3. Look for audience overlap.

In addition, Phillip Reinhardt, CEO and cofounder of digital marketing agency PBJ Marketing, said to use the Facebook Audience Overlap tool to see if audiences are overlapping significantly – and, if they are, to choose the audience that is most relevant to your marketing goals.

“If they have some overlaps, mutually exclude those audiences to avoid bidding against yourself,” he added.

This is what PBJ Marketing did for the University of Maryland’s Master of Professional Studies in Technology Entrepreneurship program, which seeks part-time students and was targeting entrepreneurs and startup founders in the US.

“After creating two separate audiences for people living in the United States interested in ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Startup Company,’ we quickly ran an audience overlap check on Facebook,” Reinhardt said.

Facebook ad costs audience overlap tool

“As we can see, nearly 50% of the ‘Startup Company’ audience is also interested in ‘Entrepreneurship,’” he said. “If we set up a campaign targeting these two audiences in separate ad sets without any audience exclusion and pay – let us suppose – $0.10 per click, we could waste up to $220,050 in the ad auction by bidding against ourselves.”

Instead, he excluded the interest in entrepreneurship in the startup company audience and vice versa, and ran the overlap tool again and got 0%.

Facebook ad costs audience overlap excluded results

This is important because if there is a high percentage of overlap, you are essentially bidding against yourself in the Facebook auction in order to serve ads to the same people.

“You are not only advertising to the same person more than once, but you’re also paying more to serve ads to that person because of internal competition,” Reinhardt said.

In addition, having low – or no – overlap also allows you to better A/B test the different audiences you are using and customize your bids based on each audience's ROI.

“For low intention audiences, we bid lower,” Reinhardt said. “For remarketing audiences or converters, we bid higher. This way, we can make sure we are not wasting money on people who are not as interested in us.”

As for those who are interested in both, Reinhardt said to create a dedicated audience that satisfies both criteria:

Facebook ad costs detailed targeting options

“Now if we run the audience overview tool one last time for all three audiences, we will have a perfectly segmented group of audiences,” he added.

Facebook ad costs selected audiences overlap tool

4. Set up your Facebook Pixel.

Morgan McGregor, photography and online content specialist at social media marketing firm Hyped, said her biggest tip is to set up your Facebook Pixel, which is a few lines of code you insert into your website to track conversions and access data about your clients.

“It can not only track who your clients and visitors are right down to their Facebook page, but it also collects data such as: What are they interested in? Where do they live? How many kids do they have? How much money do they earn? What things have they bought recently? What is their average purchase price? Are they going on holiday soon?” McGregor said.

It can get very detailed, which means marketers are able to target people who are in a position to start purchasing their products.

“You can not only retarget people who have gone on your website, you can even target down to what actions they've taken, such as people who added to their cart but never completed their purchases,” she said.

Setting up a Facebook Pixel also means brands can track which ads are performing best and yield more sales, which means they can really start putting money where it counts.

“It also allows you to create dynamic sales funnels [for Top Of Funnel, Middle Of Funnel and Bottom Of Funnel] that can last forever and bring you sales while you sleep – that's the lifestyle we all dream of,” McGregor added.

Facebook ad costs dynamic sales funnels

5. Test different creative.

Cook also recommended testing your Facebook creative to see which executions resonate most.

“Facebook ad sets enable you to run multiple ads concurrently with the same budget,” he said. “Even if you know your audience inside out, tiny nuances in the image chosen, the copy and the call to action can make a large difference in the results over time.”

He continued: “By using different combinations of text and images, you’ll be able to spot trends in the adverts' performances. Take the best elements from the better performing ads and drop the worst. This data-driven ad crafting is the best way to get the best value from your ads budget.”

Facebook Ads coach Monica Louie said she typically starts with testing the image in the Facebook ad, followed by headline and ad copy.

“It's fascinating how just changing the image can have a dramatic effect on the costs,” she said. “All of these are done in this specific order to keep costs down and increase conversions.”

Even small improvements in click-through rate and conversion rate can make a huge difference to ROI in the long term. The following ad sets are from a B2B client whose CPC JC Social Media reduced by using this testing method.

Facebook ad costs per link chart

High cost per click

Facebook ad costs low cost per click

Low cost per click

6. Tap into retargeting segments.

Messmer highly recommended segmenting website visitors by engagement levels to create better retargeting segments in Facebook.

“We use a custom retargeting algorithm that automatically sorts your website visitors into low, medium and high engagement groups, and that audience pushes to any ad network,” he added.

Facebook ad costs retargeting audience segments

Jason Parks, president of digital marketing agency The Media Captain, also said he runs dynamic retargeting and retargeting advertisements to generate sales at a cheap cost per acquisition on Facebook.

Check out WordStream’s complete guide to Facebook remarketing here.

7. Target fans separately.

In addition, Reinhardt said to segment consumers who are connected to your Facebook page and save them as an independent fan audience and build dedicated campaigns for them. Meanwhile, also exclude existing Facebook fans in other audiences. The same could be done for website visitors and converters.

That’s because Facebook fans are typically the best-performing audiences in terms of engagement rate and conversion rate, he said.

Facebook ad costs fan stats

“We want to ensure that all the Facebook fans are reached and the best way to do it is to create a separate audience for Facebook fans,” he added.

For example, for a nonprofit client, Reinhardt said he ran a fundraising campaign and the segmented Facebook fan audience had a cost per conversion of $1.16 and a ROAS of $56.58. The interest targeting excluding Facebook fans audience PBJ Marketing used, on the other hand, had a cost per conversion of $98.45 and a ROAS of $2.22.

“During the final stages of the fundraising campaign, we quickly lowered the daily budget and bids for the interest targeting and prioritized on high return audiences,” he said. “A perfectly segmented account allows us to clearly identify where the opportunity is and spend our client's money on the best audiences.”

8. Refresh your creative.

Miller said to refresh your Facebook ad creative every two weeks to avoid ad fatigue.

Jomel Alos, online PR lead and content marketing strategist at digital marketing company Spiralytics, agreed.

“One of the most common problems we see with our clients before they hire us is their failure to refresh their ad visuals,” Alos said. “Once they see that an ad is performing they don't monitor its frequency anymore, which results in ad fatigue, or the point when the audience is already too familiar with the ad.” This causes ad performance to drop off precipitously.

Alos pointed to a case study with what he called a healthy campaign with consistent CPC/CTR/CR and CPL for the first six days. On day seven, however, CPC and CPL started to increase, as everyone targeted had seen the ad four times on average. And as fewer users click on your ad, Facebook starts to lose money and must decide whether to stop showing your ad or to charge you more, Spiralytics noted in a blog post.

To prevent this, advertisers should report on ad-level conversion metrics daily. And, Spiralytics said, after a few ads run, you’ll get a feel for your range of impressions/person for where the ad will fatigue, and you can indicate this metric in your reports and pause ads as they approach the fatigue point.

9. Take advantage of video.

Damon Gochneaur, founder and managing partner of digital marketing firm Aspiro Agency, said his #1 tip for reducing the cost of advertising on Facebook is to use video anywhere you can.

“Video is on average 10% of the cost of carousel or single image ads,” he said. “We pay on average anywhere from $0.15 to $0.50 per click on video campaigns, with single image ads in the $2.00 and higher CPC, for the same audience.”

Lowe agreed: Facebook values video content in ads because it gives videos bigger impression share and therefore cheaper CPC.

“For smaller clients without budgets to produce dedicated video ads for campaigns, we often use Facebook’s own in-platform tools to create slideshows of product or service imagery, which can be downloaded as video content in the ideal spec for Facebook video ads,” she added.

For more help, check out our comprehensive guide to online advertising costs.

Want More Traffic and Leads? Follow These WordPress Tips – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of our Traffic and Leads series through WordPress. If you haven’t read Part 1 & 2, I suggest you go back and read those before continuing because they will help shed a lot of light on the setup process of WordPress. WordPress is an awesome platform because it gives you complete control of your blogging. A website that used to take several weeks to setup can now be done within minutes. I personally created several websites for my clients in under 4 minutes simply using WordPress. Installation through hosting is very simple and theme customization can be done through simple drag & drop. However, much of the functionality of your website can only be done after installing various different plugins and the one you choose will depend on your requirements. However, keep in mind, there are some plug-ins that have to be installed no matter what and these will improve your traffic and leads retention rate.

Let’s look at the main plug-ins required for every website going forward.

All-In-One SEO –

An amazing plug-in that streamlines your SEO process and once it’s been installed, it will add the right code to all your pages. The only thing left for you is to add the correct title, description, and keywords to the bottom of pages and posts. For you to use this to its full potential, I encourage everyone to conduct extensive keyword research so you will add the right “targeted” keywords to your pages and content.

WP Cache –

Website load speed has widely been considered one of Google’s ranking factor and this plug-in will optimize the overall performance. The functionality is very simple as it will create a mock-up of your pages and display them to your users instead of having to load each individual file. However, when changes are made to the page, it will automatically update the markup to provide an updated version to your visitors. By simply creating a screenshot of your site, you are decreasing load time because files don’t have to be continuously loaded.

Backup Plug-in –

I know many of you are probably wondering what does this have to do with traffic and leads…right? The answer is simple because you are simply protecting your website by backing up all the files. In reality, a website that is no longer functioning will receive NO traffic and leads. I encourage all of you to always create a backup and this can be done by installing a plug-in to automate the entire process. I am currently using VaultPress.com, which is costing me roughly $10.00 a month. This plug-in will create backups for me daily so I have the security of knowing I can re-install my website completely if anything does go wrong.

WordPress Scheduler –

The more content on your website, the better for traffic and to generate leads. Creative bloggers know how to utilize different pages by installing different opt-in forms. It’s even been proven the more high quality content on your website, the higher the chances of generating organic traffic. However, if you’re like me, then you’ll have a problem writing content and keeping track of all your ideas. I use different WP Scheduling plug-ins because I tested which ones provide me with the best features. You can find a complete list of the ones I’m testing here but I highly recommend you install “1” to help keep track of your writing. Here’s something else…

If you’re like me and work on several different projects, then you need a handy plug-in to alert you and keep you on track to make sure you keep posting content.

WordPress Lead Pages –

This plug-in and tool has been receiving enormous praise over the last several months. For those of you not aware of what this does, it simple allows you create attractive, smooth, customizable opt-in forms in under 3 minutes. It integrates with many of the popular email service providers, easily allowing you to streamline the opt-in process for visitors. The most important thing is this plug-in provides you with a complete testing and tweaking backend by providing you in-depth statistics on your conversions. If you are looking to generate traffic and leads, then install this plug-in to streamline the testing process. I believe every website should have a solid way to capture leads because it’s a great way to build your brand and loyalty. Imagine how many people you can have return to your website by sending a simple follow-up message containing valuable content. It’s amazing and has been proven to work time and time again!

Wrapping It Up…

This is the end of Part 3 and I encourage all of you to start installing these plug-ins. Many of them work right out of the box so don’t require any configuration after they’ve been added to WordPress. All of these plug-ins will help optimize your website so you can continue to generate traffic and leads while NOT worrying about the elements that, at this point, can be automated. When I blog, I prefer to direct my attention to what’s important for my readers like a smooth interface and awesome high quality content.

How To Make 6-Figure Monthly Online Income! Download John Chow’s New eBook!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How I Made $24,476.80 While Shopping

This is little mid-month update on my MOBE earnings for November 2017. Yes, I made $24,476.80 today while I was out shopping. Watch the video to find out how much I made so far this month. Tune in at the end of the month to see the final results.

How To Live The Ultimate Dot Com Lifestyle

I have many internet products and services that makes me money 24/7. Continuity affiliate programs like Aweber, LeadPages, ClickFunnel, MOBE, and others ensure a steady flow of income no matter what I’m doing or where I am in the world. Of all the programs, MOBE has consistently been one of the highest earners. It’s the program I recommend for new and experienced Internet marketers.

One of the most common questions I get from people who are thinking about joining MOBE is, “Will all of this work for me?” and “Can I really do this business?” The answer is, regardless of your age, background, where you’re from, or your experience level, you can do this business. You can start your own online business, and be successful at it.

Your first first step is to download my free ebook, the Ultimate Online Profit Model. This details the business systems I use to make six-figure monthly income and live the Dot Com Lifestyle.

Attend The IM Freedom Workshop

If you wish to talk to an expert face to face about Internet marketing, then I invite you attend a live IM Freedom Workshop in your area.

Each workshop will have both an afternoon session and an evening session. Find the workshop that’s most convenient to you, and register now. Space is limited. Tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis. You must be pre-registered to attend. There is no on-site registration. Find the closest workshop here.

Apply for My Ultimate Dot Com Lifestyle Coaching Program

If you’re truly ready to move forward and make a positive change in your financial future, then go applying for my Ultimate Dot Com Lifestyle coaching program.

This is a 21 step system I created with MOBE to help you make your first $1,250, $3,300, $5,500, and even $10,000 online. You’ll also be given a one on one coach who will work with you, and answer any questions you may have. All you have to do is follow the system and do what your coach advises. You may not make $13K while out to lunch, but it’s pretty easy to make $1,000 a month from it.

The application fee is one time $49, and allows you to go through all 21 steps. I recommend you go through the steps, then decide if this is something you want to do. If it is, great! Welcome aboard. If you decided this is not something you want to do at this time, then get a refund and go on with your life. I can’t make it simpler than that.

Click Here To Download John Chow’s New eBook, The Ultimate Online Profit Model!

7 Ways to Write More Engaging, Compelling Website Copy

Kurt Vonnegut, one of the heavyweights of 20th century literature, once said that every single sentence of a story should either reveal something about a character or advance the action.

website copy tips

You might not be crafting traditional narratives on your website, but Vonnegut’s timeless advice still holds true whether you’re helping people learn a new skill or selling plumbing fixtures.

Every single line of copy on your website should help your visitors accomplish or learn something, and in this post, I’ll show you seven ways to write more engaging, compelling website copy.

These tips and techniques aren’t specific to any one particular type of website, so whether you’re in ecommerce or run a nonprofit, there’s something here for everyone.

1. Emphasize Benefits Over Features

One of the most common mistakes companies make with their web copy is spending too much time talking about how great they are. While it’s understandable to want to highlight the accomplishments, distinctions, and aspects of your organization that make it great, this is not why your visitors came to your site.

We’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – people don’t care about your company, they only care about how your company can solve their problems.

Website copy I don't care rainbow illustration 

That’s not to say that none of your visitors care about your company. Some, like your fiercely loyal brand evangelists, may in fact care about your company quite deeply. That doesn’t change the fact that most visitors are looking for a solution to a very real problem.

Let’s take a look at the differences between benefit-driven copy and feature-driven copy.

Feature-Driven Copy

The screenshot below was taken from the Infinity website.

Website copy Infinity rear parking sensor illustration 

As you can see, this particular page tells the reader about Infiniti’s rear-view camera and proximity sensor technology, and features several high-resolution images showing this tech in action.

This is all well and good, but the copy – and the overall framing – doesn’t mention any benefits explicitly. You could argue that the benefits of this technology are obvious or implied; having a 360-degree field of vision around the entirety of the vehicle will definitely make parallel parking easier, but the copy doesn’t tell us that; we’re left to assume what the benefits of these features are.

The Hyundai ad below, however, makes the benefits of this kind of technology abundantly clear, which makes for a much more compelling demonstration of the underlying tech: 

Benefit-Driven Copy

The screenshot below is taken from Slack’s website.

Website copy Slack benefits illustration 

As a communications platform, Slack could have focused on the bells and whistles that people like about Slack, such as private chat rooms, emoji responses, and the service’s many integrations. However, Slack knows that its ideal customers aren’t interested in that – at least, not as much. No, Slack’s potential users want to save time and hassle, which is why Slack’s primarily benefit-driven copy is so persuasive. Who wouldn’t want to receive almost 50% fewer emails or spend 25% less time in meetings?

By leading with the benefits, Slack is answering the user’s most important question – how will this make my life better or easier?

Emphasizing the benefits of your products or services doesn’t stop you from mentioning features completely – it’s just a simple matter of priorities. By all means include copy that tells visitors how great your products are, but don’t do so at the expense of explaining clearly and concisely why using your products or services will make visitors’ lives better.

How this improves your website copy

By showing visitors exactly how your offerings will make their lives better.

2. Use The Voice of the Customer

Tone and style are crucial when it comes to website copy, as they define the voice of your brand across multiple channels. However, as important as style and tone can be in establishing and maintaining editorial consistency, we can take it one step further to serve as a powerfully persuasive way to reach prospective customers with your copy, known as the “voice of the customer.”

What Is the Voice of the Customer?

As Brad McMillen explains in his excellent primer on the technique, the voice of the customer is a technique commonly used in market research, which “focuses on customers’ (and prospects’) wants and needs, then prioritizes them into a hierarchical structure before prioritizing them in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives."

Simply put, VOC is a way to describe your customers’ experiences with and expectations for your products or services in their own language.

What does this mean? Let’s take a look.

Website copy FreshBooks voice of the customer example 

An example of web copy written using the voice of the customer

You can find examples of your customers' real language in a number of different ways; for example, reading customer reviews and conducting surveys are two of the best ways to gather this data, as they provide customers with ample opportunity to tell you about their problems in their own words.

Before we can create a profile to begin crafting our voice of the customer, we need to identify several key data points, including:

  • The problems that frustrate people who could benefit from your products or services
  • What they would like to see as a potential solution
  • Customer desires and expectations for companies like yours
  • Powerful or memorable quotes based on actual user experiences

Identifying common pain points should be among the first things to look for in your customer research data. This likely includes the frustrations that are common in your industry; think labyrinthine automated customer service helplines, hidden fees or opaque pricing structures, lack of competition, that kind of thing.

Following on from this, you should identify the things your customers want in a company or service provider like yours, such as responsive customer assistance from an actual person, or a simple, easily understood pricing structure.

Once you have this data, you can write copy that addresses each of these elements in order of importance. All the information on your site – from your About page to individual product descriptions – should address one of the dimensions you identified in your market research. This means that, wherever a user happens to be on your site (or within the traditional marketing funnel), your copy is speaking to something that your prospective users have identified as a priority for them.

In the example above from FreshBooks, the copy mirrors common customer pain points, such as the time-intensive nature of some bookkeeping workflows, as well as the solution that these customers want, which is simplified, streamlined accounting software that lets them get on with actually running their business.

How this improves your website copy

By showing visitors your speak their language, you're on their level, and you understand their problems.

3. Conduct Customer Surveys to Determine Brand Values

These days, many companies have jumped firmly on the “corporate values” bandwagon in an attempt to attract top talent. However, brand values aren’t just what you say they are – they’re just as much a byproduct of how your customers and audience views your business. How can you discover what values people associate with your brand? By conducting customer surveys.

Website copy customer survey illustration 

Image via Lynda.com

Similar to the market research you conducted to gather data to create the voice of the customer, surveys and questionnaires are an excellent way to learn how people perceive your brand with regard to brand values. Just as there is often a considerable disconnect between how we think users behave and how they actually behave, there can sometimes be a similar gap between the brand values you think your company exemplifies and how prospective customers actually see your company.

At the heart of this process is a concept known as “brand attributes.” This refers to the characteristics that people associate with your brand. For example, philanthropy and charitable giving is a brand attribute of companies that have embraced ethical marketing, such as TOMS shoes. Similarly, glamour and opulence are brand attributes commonly associated with brands such as Rolex or Swarovski.

Conducting Brand Value Research

One of the greatest challenges of conducting brand value research is that it is primarily qualitative, meaning that the responses necessary to create this kind of profile are often much more in-depth and personal to the person taking the survey. Quantitative research, on the other hand, usually relies on larger data sets often involving standardized questions, typically presented as yes/no or agree/disagree scenarios or multiple choice questions.

Website copy qualitative research concept illustration 

This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Although this type of qualitative research can be tremendously valuable, it’s also significantly more time-consuming to gather than quantitative research data, and it asks a great deal more of your respondents. To offset this, many companies offer incentives such as discounts, coupons, freebies, and other goodies to tempt people into completing these surveys.

However you decide to structure your questionnaires, consider the following:

  • Don’t just ask respondents which brands they like – ask them why they like those brands
  • Invite participants to explain how their perceive those brands and the characteristics they share
  • Ask speculative questions about not only the brand attributes your audience already associates with your brand, but the attributes they want to associate with your brand in the future
  • Embrace negative feedback – it can be just as valuable (if not more so) than positive feedback
  • Ask open-ended questions that give respondents ample opportunity to answer

A Real-World Brand Values Case Study

Fortunately for you, WordStream recently conducted this research for our own use, so I can show you exactly what this process looks like.

We asked respondents to select five brand attributes that they associate with the WordStream brand. Here’s what they told us:

Website copy WordStream brand attributes 

As you can see, the top five attributes respondents associated with WordStream are:

  • Knowledgeable
  • Helpful
  • Educational
  • Influential
  • Friendly

This data was not only immensely useful to us, but also very rewarding. Our aim is to make digital marketing and PPC accessible to businesses of all sizes – small businesses in particular – by providing valuable, actionable, and insightful content. The participants’ responses tell us that we’re succeeding in this goal, which is awesome.

We didn’t stop there, however. We also asked participants which attributes they want to associate with the WordStream brand in the future:

 Website copy WordStream desired brand attributes

This is almost as revealing as our initial results. Based on these responses, we know that the top five brand attributes people want to associate with WordStream in the future are:

  • Creative
  • Trustworthy
  • Influential
  • Helpful
  • Friendly/Educational

This tells us several things. For one, people want to see WordStream as a creative brand; we like to think we’re on our way, but it’s clear we still have room to improve. Secondly, trust remains a highly desirable brand attribute, and it’s one that we’re constantly striving to cultivate. Finally, this data tells us that what we’re doing is working and that we need to not only diversify and branch out into more creative avenues, but also that we need to continue to develop the influential, helpful, and friendly/educational brand values people already associate with the WordStream brand.

In just two slides of actual audience response data, we’ve gained incredible insight into how our audience perceives us, highlighting how useful and actionable this kind of market research data can be.

How this improves your website copy

By ensuring that your writers reflect the brand values that your valued customers want to see on your site.

4. Create a House Style Guide to Establish Brand Voice

You’ve probably heard of news agencies such as The Associated Press, or AP. The AP began as a newswire service, meaning that it provided newspapers around the world with syndicated news content produced in part by regional reporters known as stringers who work exclusively for news agencies rather than newspapers themselves.

Website copy AP style headline with corrections 

TFW an Associated Press story doesn’t adhere to AP style

Since the AP was founded long before the advent of online content, space in newspapers was (and still is) at a premium, meaning no space – typically measured in column inches – could be wasted. This necessary brevity resulted in the creation of the AP Stylebook, a bible for journalists and copyeditors alike that states how certain things should be written and formatted.

Getting Started with an In-House Style Guide

The first thing you need to do when creating an in-house style guide is to meet with your editorial team and relevant stakeholders and identify the priorities to be addressed by the style guide. Voice and tone have an incredible impact on the entire experience of using your site, so it’s important to settle on an appropriate brand voice for your company that aligns with the business goals of your copy and content.

MailChimp has a particularly good in-house style guide that covers a range of content types including technical documentation, social media content, general copy, and also features a section dedicated to voice and tone. For example, it includes this list of guidelines for how to nail the MailChimp voice:

One way to think of our voice is to compare what it is to what it isn’t. MailChimp’s voice is:

  • Fun but not silly
  • Confident but not cocky
  • Smart but not stodgy
  • Informal but not sloppy
  • Helpful but not overbearing
  • Expert but not bossy
  • Weird but not inappropriate

This is an excellent resource for marketers hoping to create their own style guides, and should give you an idea of the kind of things a solid style guide should cover.

How this improves your website copy

By establishing brand standards that all your writers can reference for a consistent user experience.

5. A/B Test Copy on High-Value Pages

Nobody knows your customers better than you do, but that doesn’t mean you should gamble by making decisions based on how you think your visitors will behave. Just as you would (or should) test crucial elements of your campaigns such as landing pages, you should be regularly A/B testing the copy on your highest-value pages.

Website copy A/B test concept 

Not All Copy Is Created Equal

Before we go any further, it’s important to mention that even if you have the resources to do so, it’s probably unnecessary to A/B test every single word of copy on your site – you just need to focus on the pages that really bring home the bacon. Maybe your product overview page has a killer conversion rate, or maybe it’s your FAQ page or product documentation. Whatever your strongest pages are, those are the pages you should be testing.

Some web copy elements you might want to test could include:

  • Questions versus statements in headlines
  • Headline length
  • Short-form versus long-form copy
  • Language and/or word choice
  • Points of view (i.e. first-person versus third-person)

Actually conducting an A/B test on your web copy is largely similar to the way you’d split-test pretty much anything else. Begin by identifying those high-value pages using Google Analytics or similar data, then create two versions of the page, each with its own unique copy. Send approximately 50% of your total traffic to the control version of the page (the original page as it exists today), and send the other half to the variant (the page with the new copy). Allow the test sufficient time to ensure you’re working with a statistically significant data set, and see which page converted better. Easy, right? Well, kinda.

Website copy A/B test concept 

Image via VWO

Since you want to figure out which copy performs more strongly, you need to test copy that actually asks the user to do something. This could be a prompt to download a guide, sign up for a free trial, subscribe to a newsletter – some kind of clearly defined call to action. If you don’t focus on actionable copy with a true call to action, it’s harder to determine if the variant of your copy is any better than the control page. However, since your highest-value pages are likely already associated with a defined conversion pathway, this shouldn’t be an issue but it’s worth bearing in mind.

How this improves your website copy

By giving you data, rather than assumptions, on what copy really resonates with potential buyers.

6. Think About Intent At All Times and Write From the Perspective of the User

We’ve talked about commercial intent before (as well as the wider topic of intent marketing), but it amazes me how few websites seem to factor in user intent into their web copy.

What Is User Intent?

User intent refers to what a given person intends to do when they reach your site. Sometimes this intent leads to a clearly defined action – such as buying something – while other times it may not.

Although the underlying problems your users are trying to solve are likely quite diverse, there are only a few reasons a person visits a website. These align with one of the three primary types of search – informational, navigational, and transactional – and include:

  • To learn about the industry in which your company operates
  • To learn more about service offerings in your industry
  • To learn more about your company in particular
  • To comparison shop and compare products, offers, prices etc.
  • To buy something

Obviously, it’s impossible to account for every user’s intent in your web copy, and you definitely shouldn’t attempt to. However, considering user intent should inform every aspect of your web copy.

How to Write Web Copy with User Intent in Mind

Whether you’re writing the copy for your website yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, it’s crucial that you consider user intent from the outset.

Picture yourself in your prospective customers’ shoes and ask questions about your copy:

  • Is it immediately obvious what your company sells or does?
  • Is your web copy benefit-driven, and are those benefits clear?
  • Does your website assume prior industry knowledge on the part of the visitor? Is this knowledge necessary to understand and navigate your site?
  • Does your site’s navigation allow different kinds of users at different stages of the funnel to quickly and easily access the information they need?

Considering user intent can be challenging, because it can be difficult to truly divorce yourself – and your considerable industry knowledge and expertise – from the reality of the experience of using your site. To this end, it may be worth conducting qualitative market research by asking laypersons who aren’t familiar with your business to use your site and provide feedback. This can highlight gaps in both your web copy and your awareness of these gaps, allowing you to craft web copy that better addresses these issues.

Website copy user intent diagram 

Image via SuperX Growth Hackers

Writing from the perspective of the user, on the other hand, is a little easier than trying to preemptively solve for user intent. Whenever you’re writing any copy – or content – ask yourself whether your copy follows our variant of Vonnegut’s rule: does every single sentence of copy reveal some useful information about your products or services, or advance your visitors’ understanding of what you do?

Many people mistakenly assume that focusing on user intent or benefit-driven copy means there’s no room to talk about their company’s achievements. This isn’t true at all – you just have to consider where and when to wax lyrical about how great you are.

For example, if you’d never heard of a company and weren’t familiar with their goods, you probably wouldn’t care about how that company is a great place to work, or how many awards it has won – none of this information answers your questions or helps you solve your problems.

If, however, you’ve already done some research into the company, like its products, and can visualize how patronizing this company will make your life better – essentially at any point during or beyond the “consideration” stage of the classic sales funnel – information about how great the company is might be a powerfully persuasive tool. That’s when you want to hit your visitors with your innumerable accolades.

It all comes back to thinking about the user and what they want, rather than what you want.

How this improves your website copy

By giving your visitors what they want to see, increasing their satisfaction and encouraging them to stick around.

7. Include Statistics, Quotes, and Original Data to Increase Your Site’s Authority

Not so long ago, blogs and bloggers were rightly seen as amateur ventures whose passion and enthusiasm were faultless, but whose actual credibility and authority were suspect. Not so today, when some blogs and independent bloggers have become on par (or even surpassed) “traditional” journalism and media outlets.

However, the little guys still have to work harder than the bigger players, and one of the best things you can do to establish (or enhance) your credibility and authority is to use statistics, quotes, and original data in your web copy and content.

Website copy WordStream original data 

An example of WordStream’s original research data

One of the reasons that the inclusion of statistics, quotes from industry experts, and original data is so persuasive is because it strengthens the points you make in your copy considerably. It’s one thing to make a vague assertion about, say, Facebook’s growing ad revenue, but it’s another thing to say that Facebook’s total revenue increased by 56% and ad revenue increased by 59% in 2016.

This technique works so well because it’s an established journalistic convention, and readers expect this kind of citation in their content. However, it’s not without its downsides.

The Dangers of Overreliance on Third-Party Data

There is no doubt that including statistics, quotes, and original or third-party data in your copy can significantly increase the authority of your site. Overreliance on this kind of data, however, can have a detrimental effect.

Website copy how many citations is too many PhD comics 

Image via Jorge Cham/PhD Comics

You’ll already know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever read a blog post in which every other statement is cited or begins with, “According to…” Relying too heavily on cited stats – no matter how well-sourced or relevant – can dilute the authority of your copy because it suggests either an inability or reluctance to make an assertive, original statement. People don’t want to read copy or content that reads like a book report written by a nervous high-school student – they want to hear original thoughts and opinions that challenge their ideas or help them learn more about a topic.

One way to offset this without losing the authority that comes with including and correctly citing statistical data is to use original research. Here at WordStream, we devote a great deal of time and energy to producing original data and research. This isn’t just a ploy to increase our authority; it’s a way to reinforce our copy and content with research that other publications want to link to.

 Website copy WordStream original data

Granted, creating original research requires sufficient data to draw from (which we’re lucky to have in abundance, something not every business has) or the financial means to commission professional researchers to produce original data, but as far as assets go, it’s hard to beat in terms of return on investment. Our original research has generated millions of unique visits and hundreds of inbound links over the past several years, making it one of our most consistently valuable and strongest-performing content assets.

How this improves your website copy

By making your brand more trustworthy and dependable.

Better Copy, Better Results

Writing web copy that converts like gangbusters is a lot harder than it looks. However, by making just a few adjustments to how you view and approach web copy, you can provide your audience with a much more useful, relevant, and ultimately actionable experience.