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.

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The Most Essential Tips for Planning an Ebook

The most essential tips for planning an ebook: Computer monitor filled with books

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.

Image: Man shooting arrow at  trget: Define your audience to kind a killer topic for your ebook
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.

Visualizations of statistics: Ebooks require reliable evidence to build credibility.
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

Build a Sales Pipeline

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

How to Improve Website Stickiness: 5 Essential Copywriting Tips

Main image: how to improve website stickiness: Tips for Copywriters (computer with post-it notes on the screen
Keep your visitors! Learn how to improve website stickiness

Don’t lose website visitors!

Learn how to improve website stickiness.

SEO is all about getting people to your site. But once you get a visitor, how do you get them to stay there? Do they interact with the site, or do they vanish into thin air (and go to your competitor’s site)? There are many things a copywriter can do to improve website stickiness and lower the bounce rate. Follow the advice in the article, and you can improve search engine results, traffic, visitor engagement, and lead generation.

First, some definitions about website stickiness and bounce rates:

What is website stickiness?

Stickiness is a term for keeping people on a website longer, which generally means they look at more pages within the site and interact with content. Search engines prefer sites that are sticky and track how long users stay on a site as a result of an organic search.

What is bounce rate?

This is a calculation that represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave, rather than continuing to onto other pages of the website. Exact definitions can vary from just looking at one page or leaving after just a few seconds. You want your bounce rate to be low, indicating that they find your site to be valuable. Or, as Avinash Kaushik, a well-known business analyst,  put it, “I came, I saw Yuk, I am out of here.”

A high bounce rate indicates a low level of user interaction with your website.

What is a typical bounce rate?

The short answer is that there is no typical bounce rate. For that reason, it’s also difficult to define “good” and “bad” bounce rates. The figures below bear this out:  

  • A B2B website has an average bounce rate of 25-55%
  • According to ConversionXL, landing pages have an average bounce rate of 60%-90%. However, another source that notes that, for landing pages, the main traffic sources are PPC and social media ads—and the ideal percentage is up to 40%.
  • For homepages and service pages, organic search is the most important traffic source. The importance of bounces is medium. The ideal percentage is less than 60%.
  • Blogs have an average bounce rate of 65-95%

It’s difficult to know how to improve website stickiness,. Remember that you can expect bounce rates to vary based on industry and niche, where the traffic comes from (Google calls this the channel), type of website, and type of web page.

Here are some examples illustrating how bounce rate averages differ according to website type and industry:

Website stickiness vary by website type.; ecommerce and retail 20-45%; b2b websites 24-55%; lead generation websites 30-55%. non-ecommerce content websites 35-60%; landing pages 60-90%; dictionaries, blogs, portals 65-90%
Website stickiness varies by website type. (Source CXL)
Bounce rate varies by industry (source: Kissmetrics)

What is the right bounce rate for your website?

A good piece of advice to help learn how to improve website stickiness for your site is to set a benchmark and goals for your own website, analyze bounce rates over time, see what works for your specific company, and adjust website content accordingly.

Now that we’ve covered the basics about stickiness and bounce rate, we can get down to how to improve stickiness if you are a copywriter.

Read here to find out about setting goals using the SMART framework.

Website stickiness Tip #1:
Ensure quality and readability.

Quality and readability go hand-in-hand when it comes to improving website stickiness. (Man reading a book)
Quality and readability go hand-in-hand when it comes to improving website stickiness.

If you read my blog articles regularly, you hear a lot about publishing only high-quality copy. It’s my #1 tip for almost any aspect of copywriting, including how to increase website stickiness.

Google designs its search algorithm based on your audience’s behavior, so in the end, it always comes down to whether your audience likes your content and comes back for more. When in doubt about content, be audience-centric and not self-serving. There are many aspects of what makes content high quality.

Read how to avoid content mistakes that can damage website stickiness.

Read these additional tips on improving content readability.

First is to write for a specific audience or audience persona. This will help you determine a relevant topic and what type of information to include. When thinking about how to increase website stickiness, pay special attention to readability and how easy it is for the reader to find what they are looking for.

Learn how to create your audience persona with this template.

Website stickiness Tip #2:
Leverage page titles and subheads

Again, we’ll start with some definitions about page titles (the H1 tag) and subheads (H2, H3, H4 tags–and down the line):

What is the H1 Tag?

Also known as the post title, the H1 Tag is the title that shows up on the webpage itself. It’s the first thing the user sees when they land on the page, so it must capture their attention. Note: Don’t confuse it with the HTML “page title” (also known as the meta tag, HTML title tag, or SEO title), which shows in the browser window and as the title in the search engine results page snippet.

What is the H2 Tag?

The web page should be set up with a hierarchy of heading tags. First is H1, as defined above. Logical subheads would be set up hierarchically with H2, H3, and H4 tags (and down to line).

Here’s how copywriters can optimize H1 and subheading tags as a way to improve website stickiness:

How to Optimize Your H1 Tag:

Your H1 page title is the first place where the copywriter can affect stickiness. If it doesn’t immediately capture the audience, they may leave very quickly. Most important, it should clearly and correctly indicate what the article is about. Again, if you mislead the user they will likely move away from the page and your website. Make it useful—not self-serving or overly hyped.

How to Optimize Your H2 Tags:

If the reader decides to read the content on the page, you’ve won your first stickiness battle. The next step is to engage your audience and help them move smoothly through the content. One way to do this is making it easy for them to scan the article to tell them what to expect and determine if the content is relevant. This is where your H2 and H3 subheads can help you boost website stickiness.

In addition to helping your reader scan, subheads help them find the information they are specifically interested in. Equally important, the content should closely reflect the subhead it falls under, or both the reader and Google will become confused. An adjunct of this is to have each subsection focus on a discrete idea. Be sure to include your keywords (or synonyms), but don’t overdo it or inappropriately force it, or Google and your readers will be turned off and your bounce rate will jump.

Website Stickiness Tip #2:
Improve website stickiness through ease and emphasis.

Empahsis helps readers pick out important details. Image shows examples of underline, color, italics, bold, bulleted list, call-out.
Emphasis signals helps readers pick out important details.

I don’t want to say that your readers are lazy, but they are busy and easily distracted. Make it easy for them to digest content by making sentences short, easy to understand, and varying in length. Likewise, short paragraphs aid comprehension, break up the copy, and add some eye-calming white space. As for specific words, avoid hype, jargon, or complicated words when an easy one will do.

Website Stickiness Tip #3:
Use formatting wisely.

Another way to make reading easier is with the smart use of formatting. Numbered lists, bullet points, and call-outs lists draw attention to interesting details, break up the page, and keep the reader interested. Other ways to help the reader call attention to important details include care use of boldface, italics, underlining, and colors.

Website Stickiness Tip #4:
Know how much information.

Provide the right amount of information to decrease bounce rate: Shows 2 side-by-side images. (1) road signs pointing in 7 directions, (2) blank road sign
Know how much information is right for your audience.

Determining how much information to provide on each page is tricky. Again, there’s no single answer. For SEO, Google likes to see at least 300 words per page. But again, you need to judge page length based on what is useful for your readers.

Too little and your readers might be frustrated by not having enough decision-making information. Too much information and your risk overwhelming them. Some of this comes down to what your audience likes and the type of page (blog article, product page, contact us page). Each type of page has opportunities to make it appealing, readable, and optimized to decrease bounce rates and increase conversion.

Website Stickiness Tip #5:
Learn how to boost stickiness through internal links.

Image representing internal links
Add internal links while creating a page or at a later time. as part of keeping your site updated.

Internal links are helpful for several reasons. They help SEO, but they also help readers. Logical internal links help your audience find related information if they want to know more about the topic. Up to several internal links on a page can lead visitors to helpful, relevant resources. Some people recommend many more, up to a dozen or more, but I find too many links within paragraphs confusing and difficult to read.

I’m going to repeat the previous paragraph in 2 different ways so you can see what I mean (Note that the links in the paragraph are fake!):

Example 1 – Too Many Links:

Internal links are helpful for several reasons. They help SEO, but they also help readers. Logical internal links help your audience find related information if they want to know more about the topic. Up to several internal links on a page can lead visitors to helpful, relevant resources. Some people recommend many more, up to a dozen or more, but I find too many links within paragraphs confusing and difficult to read.

Messy, right? Instead, cut down the number of link or find alternate ways to display them. Here’s the same paragraph—you still have internal links, but it’s easier for the reader to make sense of and to find the extra resources they may want.

Again, the sample paragraph below includes fake links.

Example 2 – fewer, but more useful, links:

Internal links are helpful for several reasons. They help SEO, but they also help readers. Logical internal links help your audience find related information if they want to know more about the topic. Up to several internal links on a page can lead visitors to helpful, relevant resources. Some people recommend many more, up to a dozen or more (source), but I find too many links within paragraphs difficult to read.

Read more about internal links here.
Here are more resources about SEO.

Much better! The paragraph above shows that you can have several links even in a short paragraph without overwhelming the reader. Instead, you made it easier for your website visitor to access related pages and direct them to other valuable content—increasing stickiness.

Successful copywriters focus on how to increase stickiness.

A copywriter’s first duty is to the reader. However, it would be silly to suggest that the modern copywriter doesn’t have to be mindful of website performance. It just takes a little more knowledge and practice. If you use external creative resources, look for a freelance copywriter who creates SEO-friendly content that engages your audience and keeps them on your website.

If you need copy that enhances stickiness, contact Westebbe Marketing, (617) 699-4462.

#SEOcopywriting #WebsiteStickiness #MarketingCopywriter

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!