Online Copywriting Strategies and Techniques

This is a continuation of last week’s article on online copywriting. In the previous article we focused on style. Here we cover content creation strategies and techniques.

Creating Content

Many blogs, forums and articles say you should produce quality content, but what exactly is quality content? First let’s define crap content. From the article “The Web Encourages Crap Content”

…It is almost always expensive to produce quality content, which is why YouTube, et al, consists almost entirely of people making silly faces. Again, there are exceptions, but this is generally true. People spend time, and that time costs. The more time they spend, the more thought goes into the process, the more the content costs to produce. When will we see quality content on YouTube, Google Video, etc? When we pay for it, in one way or another…..I was in a bookshop yesterday, and there was just so much interesting stuff – so much “quality” content. I find that I spend longer and longer on the web and don’t come across anywhere near as much quality content as I do in the average bookshop, and the reason is that it is seldom worthwhile producing quality content for the web.

Book content has much more quality than the web. Even blogs and sites perceived as quality resources rarely match book quality in depth, and style.

So what is quality content? It’s exactly that: quality content. It’s something you put time, effort and thought into. It’s not a quick blog post, but a well-thought-out, in-depth article. Jakob Nielsen of Useit.com shares his content creation strategy in his 200th article since 1995. His approach is to create in-depth articles as opposed to short posts with little value. His argument is that in-depth articles offer much more value than short blog posts to search engine visitors.

A Different Approach to News Coverage

Picture a search engine user who is researching a past news story. He was not interested in the topic when the event occurred, or simply did not keep track of all coverage. He needs a review of the event starting with the cause, listing the players in the event, showing its impact, offering a strategic perspective, an official version of the events, commentary and editorial.

In most cases we have to look around for this content on different websites. In many cases if you search for news, many low quality blog posts pop up. If, on the other hand, someone was to offer an article with all the details of the story in place, users would appreciate it and link to it much more. This is pure link bait, created with nothing more than news.

You can track news stories in your industry from start to finish and then create an in-depth article about the story, including many links to different publications with your own commentary. With this approach to news reporting you will miss many hot links when the news come out, but you can gather many links over time, as people tend to go back and review stories. Sometimes they just need a good article to cite in their research or a resource to do their own investigation.

Rustybrick has a very neat widget called Rusty Budget. You can “bookmark” stories into different folders, and then come back and review them.

Recycling someone else’s content doesn’t work. When people realize they need quality content, in many cases they start recycling content already considered to be quality (including this author). The problem with this is that, once original idea spreads, it becomes a commodity. It loses its value because everyone becomes aware of it, thus rendering it an old idea. The author of the original idea benefits because he gets links, or monetizes the idea. Repeaters benefit less and less.

The second person who steals the ”original” idea and paints it in a different color still benefits, but benefits less. The third person who “borrows” the idea benefits less than the second. The pattern continues until it’s impossible to benefit from an idea, because it has spread too far, and because others have already established themselves with this idea and are going to protect their ground.

This is how the market works, but this pattern also applies to link distribution online. If you want to build quality content, but that content is nothing more than the citation of old, well-established ideas, you won’t get far. There are plenty of sites like that online. The majority of small site owners make this mistake.

On the other hand, it’s not always easy to spread an original idea. Sometimes ideas are met with hostility and plain ignorance. An example of meeting an idea with ignorance is search. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL ignored the new idea of quality search, and now Google is bigger than Yahoo and AOL and poses a threat to Microsoft.

An example of hostility towards an idea was the proposition that the earth was not flat. Once people accepted that the earth was not flat, the Catholic Church turned hostile to the idea that the earth rotates around the sun and not the other way around.

A modern example of hostility is the rejection of the idea that our thoughts manifest the reality that we experience and that our lives are a mirror reflection of our beliefs and repeated thought patterns. It’s the new "flat earth" approach to the new idea, and it will take more time for it to spread as more people become aware of their thoughts, build better thought habits and realize that this has a direct relationship to their experience of reality.

Your new idea will face either hostility or ignorance.

The antidote to hostility or ignorance towards your new idea is described in Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich:

CHAPTER 9

PERSISTENCE

THE SUSTAINED EFFORT NECESSARY TO INDUCE FAITH

Without PERSISTENCE, you will be defeated, even before you start. With PERSISTENCE you will win….. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PERSISTENCE! It cannot be supplanted by any other quality! Remember this, and it will hearten you, in the beginning, when the going may seem difficult and slow…..

….Those who have cultivated the HABIT of persistence seem to enjoy insurance against failure. No matter how many times they are defeated, they finally arrive up toward the top of the ladder. Sometimes it appears that there is a hidden Guide whose duty is to test men through all sorts of discouraging experiences. Those who pick themselves up after defeat and keep on trying, arrive; and the world cries, "Bravo! I knew you could do it!" The hidden Guide lets no one enjoy great achievement without passing the PERSISTENCE TEST. Those who can’t take it, simply do not make the grade. Those who can "take it" are bountifully rewarded for their PERSISTENCE. They receive, as their compensation, whatever goal they are pursuing. That is not all! They receive something infinitely more important than material compensation–the knowledge that "EVERY FAILURE BRINGS WITH IT THE SEED OF AN EQUIVALENT ADVANTAGE."

———

If we are to analyze persistence we need look no further than Google. Its AdWords Platform failed three times before making billions. What if Google gave up with the first try? It sounds silly, yet many people give up after their first failure. You’ll need to be persistent with your new idea for it catch on effectively and attract links.

You may not be after billions or riches, but incorporating the habit of persistence into your life is worth it in all areas. Whether you’re after more money, love, less weight, or SEO links, you will agree it’s impossible to acquire it without persistence.

It’s very important to format your content professionally. You can see great examples of this by observing Quicken Loans and SEO Moz. Their content includes big headings, clearly visible links, short paragraphs and plenty of subheadings. It’s also wrapped in professional templates which induce trust.

Personally, I am not very thrilled with SEO Chat’s article format and would change a lot of things for greater scannability, but that’s not up to me. SEO Chat has a strong enough brand and offers enough quality to get away with its current style of content formatting, yet you may not.

Consumer Content

Google and other search engines see the difference between reviews and comments, hence blogs with more comments are valued more than those with no comments.

It’s harder to optimize content added by others, but there many benefits:

  • Additional keywords capture more long tail searches. People search using the same keywords they use to describe the product.

  • People love reading feedback and trust it far more than the official word from the company.

  • In some local markets, reviews are a part of ranking algorithm (not the entire criteria, but a part), so having reviews is key.

You also collect valuable feedback about the product/articles. Many people love to share their ideas, giving you more thoughts — and more to write about.

Be sure to list all feedback on one page, since combined words create more keyword weight for search engines, making the page even more relevant.

If you’re bad at writing, have no time or do not want to work on content, you can hire writers to do the job for you. The cost depends on the writer you use, and there are both high cost and low cost solutions. Keep in mind the rule that “you get what you pay for.”

You can hunt around the net for freelance writers and college students who will write your content for around $20 per hour. It’s best not to go below the $10 per hour mark, since the quality will go down with the price and you’ll end up getting recycled content with little value, rephrased by the writer. In general, writers won’t give you new ideas, since they’re in it for money, but they can supply you with pretty decent articles.

You can look at the Pro Blogger Job Boards to find freelancers. Also check out Elance. There are many forums around the net where you can post and get a lot of offers

Non-Written Content

Non-written content includes comparison engines, tools, extensions and anything that involves coding. If you’re like me and you have no coding knowledge you’re limited to written content.

If you’ve been blessed with an understanding of mathematics and code (the two usually go together), on the other hand, then creating tools is the way to go. We won’t go in-depth here, but you can learn a lot more with a simple search.

Good luck.

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