The Most Essential Tips for Planning an Ebook

The Most Essential Tips for Planning an eBook. Boston Copywriter Westebbe Marketing

If you’re a content marketer, ebooks are a hot commodity. Their potential for high-conversion rates makes them valuable assets for lead generation, but starting one can seem overwhelming. If you’re planning an e-book for your next content marketing campaign, here are tips on the what, why, and how of ebook writing.

What is an Ebook?

First, let’s define what an ebook IS NOT. These days, marketers use the term ebook very loosely, which is unfortunate because it devalues the true nature and value of the ebook as a well-written, substantive educational document. It’s not a short-lived blog post, an opinion piece, or an ad. While ebooks may resemble white papers, they are distinct differences. Ebooks are usually shorter (a minimum of 3-5 pages), have quick takeaways, and feature visual pizazz. They read more like a user-friendly book, rather than a hard-nosed report.

Now, let’s define what an ebook IS. An ebook is a branded, long-form content asset that should reflect your expertise on a topic and provide solid value for the reader. Ebooks are a favorite asset for content marketers because they typically generate highly qualified leads—especially those in the mid to late stage of the marketing funnel. Further, ebooks have legs. Often published in PDF form, they are easily sharable, increasing the likelihood of introducing other prospects to your brand.

Find out more about writing white papers and using them as a lead generation tool.

Identify your audience to determine your topic.

Pick a Topic – Step 1: Identify a narrowly defined audience.

Define your audience to find a killer topic for your ebook. Boston Copywriter - Westebbe Marketing
Define your audience to find a killer topic for your ebook

When planning an ebook, it makes no sense to choose a topic before selecting a narrowly defined audience. For example, you might be targeting a senior-level decision-maker in the financial software sector, with ompany revenues of $50-100 million.

Once you have determined who you are writing for, your task is to identify a very specific question they want the answer to—written at the right knowledge level, using language that is accessible to them, and creating a tone that suits both them and your brand.

If you don’t already have a buyer persona for your target audience, here’s how to create a buyer persona, along with an easy-to-follow template.

Pick a Topic – Step 2: Leverage your expertise.

When planning an ebook, remember that you want to be perceived as authoritative, plus you want to be original. Pick a topic that matches your area of expertise, preferably a subject that is not already well-covered, or one where you can provide a unique viewpoint. If you’re stuck, you can get ideas from industry websites, articles from expert bloggers, your own high-performing blogs, and your sales team. You can also type a relevant keyword or phrase into a search engine and see what comes up on the results pages. Your topic should be narrowly defined, with one core idea that is supported by all the other elements.

Do the research to support your topic with hard facts.

Ebooks require reliable evidence to build credibility. Boston Copywriter - Westebbe Marketing
Ebooks require reliable evidence to build credibility

An ebook is not a blog article, an editorial, or a promotional piece. It doesn’t have to be stuffy, but you need to provide reliable facts that your audience can trust. People are counting on you to be clear and correct, so this is no time to cut corners.

It’s important to use recent, verifiable data from well-known sources (making sure to cite the source). If you get facts from a second-hand article (“According to Study X…”), go back to the original source to verify the statistic. The author of the article you are reading may not have bothered. As you’re gathering facts, stay focused, and don’t go down the rabbit hole to explore tangents.

Here’s an article that gives some great tips on doing online research.

Writing your ebook using a planning process.

Scrabble tray with "organize:" Plan your ebook to be on target, thorough, and efficient.
Plan your ebook to be on target, thorough and efficient.
  1. Write the title: The title has to get attention—without too much hype. It should also clearly and honestly state what the ebook is about. Your title is the core topic upon which every element in the ebook is based. You can brainstorm titles at any point during the creation process.
  2. Primary subheads: Your main subtopics should be directly related to the core topic so that you deliver what the reader expects. The subheads form the framework of your ebook’s story, similar to chapters in a printed book. Put them in a sensible, logical order.
  3. Secondary subheads: Each secondary subhead supports the primary subhead it’s under. Be careful that the secondary subheads directly relate to that section or the reader will become confused. Again, put these subheads in a logical order. Plow ahead to the next steps before filling in all the sections.
  4. Transitions: Transitions from one section to the next enhance the overall flow, adding to the reader’s comprehension. Write smooth transitions from subhead to subhead. If the transition is extremely hard to write, it may be that something is out of place and you need to reorder your sections.
  5. Initial research: Steps 1-4 above represent the ebook’s outline, which is your point of departure. Now you have a clear picture, or a roadmap–but haven’t yet written the full-blown content. This is a good time to do your initial research, selecting evidence that your premises are correct (and sometimes finding out that your argument is flawed and requires rethinking). Your findings may also provide interesting insights that shift your perspective.
  6. Filling It Out: This is where you put your head down and fill in all the elements of your outline, making smart use of your research points. You’ll be doing multiple drafts, so don’t get too hung up on specific words the first time around—you’ll have a chance in subsequent revisions. Continue to check that the ebook has good flow and sufficient real-world data.
  7. Formatting: Big blocks of copy are hard to read and understand. This is one reason to break the ebook into subheads. Aim for short paragraphs and easy-to-read sentences. Also add eye-candy, such as bullet points and lists, images, pull-quotes, and other ways to draw interest and rest the reader’s eyes.
  8. Interactivity: While an ebook isn’t necessarily interactive, it’s good to go that route for several reasons. First, digital navigation, bookmarks, and hyperlinks make it easier for readers to find the specific information they need without endless scrolling. It also makes it possible for search engines to index the content.
  9. SEO: I always say that you should write for people first, not search engines. Nonetheless, SEO is necessary for getting found online, increasing traffic, and generating leads. I’ll leave the topic of SEO for another time. I just wanted to point out that I don’t focus on SEO until the end.
  10. Edit: Here, you want to be merciless. Cut out all the fat—it’s not a contest to see how long your ebook can be. It’s more important to be concise to make it worth the reader’s time.
  11. Proofing: I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Too many typos, grammar problems, and awkward sentences can blow it. Poor proofing can lead to your company looking unprofessional and prone to making mistakes. Grammar checkers are good, but they don’t catch everything. Make sure to scour your ebook for typos, with several people reviewing it if possible before publication.

As in all content, readability is a primary consideration. Learn the 5 Most Important Rules for Readability.

Build your pipeline with high-quality ebooks

EBooks. Building Your Pipeline with High Quality Leads. Boston Copywriter - Westebbe Marketing

Ebooks aren’t the easiest type of content to write and produce, but they are one of the best ways to get high quality leads into the sales pipeline. Baking ebooks into your content marketing strategy is a smart move. When planning your ebook, ensure that you have expertise in the topic, B2B writing talent, and top-notch creative skills. Boston-based Westebbe Marketing has the experience to make sure your ebook meets your audience’s needs. Contact Boston-based Westebbe Marketing.

#ebookCopywriting #BostonCopywriter #ContentMarketing #BostonCopyExpert

Tips for Writing Content That Boosts Sharing

Audience clapping About Tips for Writing Content

Have you ever thought about the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Since this article is about how to write content that boosts social sharing, how does this relate? Let me explain. Whether you think the tree makes a sound or not, you can ask a similar question about sharing on social media. I’d pose the question as, “if you write a blog article, and no one reads it or shares it, did you write it?”

The answer to the question about the tree falling may be ambiguous. But the answer about sharing content is clearer. You still wrote the article, despite no one having read it, even if no one sees it. However, the critical question is that if you create content and no one sees it, is it worth writing at all?

I think we would all say no to this question unless someone is just practicing their writing skills or is only sharing the piece with their immediate circle. But I’m guessing that you’re writing blog articles and other content to raise your Google page rank, get known as a subject matter expert, or attract viewers to your website.

The way to reach these goals is to get more eyeballs on your written content, and the way to do that is to encourage social sharing by writing directly to your ideal audience. What are they interested in? What makes them think content is worth sharing? Why do they think their social network would find it interesting? 

Let’s dig deeper into how you can create the kind of audience appeal that will promote shareability.

Continue reading “Tips for Writing Content That Boosts Sharing”

12 Surefire Best Practices for Formatting Website Copy

Properly formatting website copy makes your webpages easy to scan.

VISITORS COME TO YOUR WEBPAGE. BUT DO THEY ACTUALLY READ WHAT YOU WRITE? Probably not. More likely they scan the page—and this is where the art of formatting website copy is essential.

Users today take only seconds to decide if they think a webpage is worthwhile; If they don’t immediately think the page has what they’re looking for, it’s just so easy just to go back to the search page and pick the next entry.

Continue reading “12 Surefire Best Practices for Formatting Website Copy”

Winning Headings for Blog Posts: 7 Killer Tips

H1 Titles-main image

Studies show that the right headings for blog posts can yield big results. A post’s CTR (click-through rate) and SEO performance can vary widely simply based on how well the post heading is crafted. A bad heading can make your article tank, while a great headings can lead to killer traffic and conversion. Here are the facts:

These statistics go to show that it’s worth taking the time to craft your headline wisely to get better blog post results and boost CTR. Make it a priority—or the rest of your good content can go to waste.

Here’s a prerequisite before diving into blog post headings:

Do you know the difference between title tags and H1 heading? This can be a source of confusion for marketers and bloggers, but it’s important to understand.  In some ways they’re similar. They are both essential for grabbing user attention, increasing popularity, and boosting click-through rates (CTR). But there are also important differences between them.

Let’s start with definitions of title tags and H1 headings for blog posts:

The H1 header tag (aka post title), is what users see on the page. They are particularly helpful to increase user appeal and social media shares.

Title tags (aka page titles, meta titles, and SEO titles) are what users see in the browser bar window. They are the clickable blue titles in search engine snippets and are also shown the post is shared on social media.

This graphic shows the difference between the H1 tag and the page title in greater detail:

Page Titles and H1 tags both help drive traffic, but in different ways.

The page title and H1 tag can be similar and closely related but they don’t have to be identical. In WordPress and other CMS systems, the platform will automatically convert your post title to the page title. Using an SEO plugin like Yoast enables you to change post and page titles to better describe the page, make the title more concise, or to include keywords.

H1 tag is the on-page post title. The title tag is the clickable item in the snippet

Use compelling blog post headings to captivate users and encourage shares.

H1 tags are useful for both users and SEO. They are mostly used by users once they are on the page. While title tags have the prime location in the search page snippet, H1 tags are still quite useful. They signal to Google what the page is about and how relevant it will be to a particular user search. There is generally one H1 per page, while there can be several heading tags lower down in the hierarchy.

This video provides more details on the H1 tag:

Best practices for improving blog post headings:

There are some well-established ways to use your post title to improve your blog post results:

  1. Establish the key subject of the article and set the tone
  2. Address one of the audience’s pain points
  3. Include a value proposition that shows the information will make the personal life or job better.
  4. Include target keywords to help search engines understand what the page is about. It’s helpful to plug your “test” title into the search bar to see what comes up regarding your competition. For other title ideas, see the “People Also Ask” section in the middle of the search page and the “Searches related to…” area at the bottom.
  5. Use a proven format, such as including a number (such as percentages, dollar amounts, time saved), education How-Tos, Secret or Little Known, Warnings, The Best, Tips, Top 10, and questions.
  6. Be honest about what the reader will gain from reading the article (the takeaway).
  7. Keep it 6-13 words, or under 55-60 characters to the title won’t be cut off.
Different types of creative marketing ideas

To find what works best for your business, one idea is to analyze how your other blog posts have performed. What do the titles of your best (and worst) performing blog posts have in common? What topics do they cover, what type of language do they use, what keywords did you focus on, and what type of format were they? Can you see any trends over time? You can also conduct A/B testing to see the relative performance of two different headlines. Studying these H1 elements will guide you in developing headlines for future blog posts.

Pay attention to H1 article headings and boost your click-through rate.

Don’t spend time creating quality content without diving into creating the best headline you can. It’s not always easy, but it’s time well spent. If you need to shore up your blog posts, with great headlines that boost your click-through rate, contact Boston-based Westebbe Marketing, 617-699-4462.

Do you have any helpful tips? Share with us!