David Garfinkel is not only one of the best professional copywriters I’ve ever had the pleasure and honor of working with, but also he is known as the world’s top copywriting coach. And for good reason.
Not many people, including copywriters, can distill the craft of writing persuasively into easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement concepts.
But David can.
I’ve known David for close to 20 years. We’ve shared the stage together, delivered seminars together, and even created products together.
And in the last few years, David has been hosting a podcast called the Copywriters Podcast. It’s a must-listen if you’re into copywriting or just want to learn how to be more compelling in your communications.
On his Copywriter’s Podcast Episode 187, David had me on as his guest. We talked about SEO copywriting, how it’s changed, and how it’s just as important for conversion as it is for driving traffic.
Thanks, David, for the opportunity.
David Garfinkel 0:10
Okay, so today I’m pleased to have an old friend on the show, friend who has branched out beyond direct response copywriting. In the early 2000s, Michel Fortin, also known as Michel Fortin was a living legend. And I mean that.
He wrote the first online sales letter that brought in over $1 million in one day for Traffic Secrets, I think it was. And I am forever grateful on a different note to Michael for being my presentation partner in my famous 2005 las vegas breakthrough copywriting seminar.
And both of us also took the stage a few years later at Harvey Becker’s marketing event, which I think was called the greatest marketing seminar in the world, which I feel every seminar should be called just by virtue of the fact. You know, it’s marketing.
And we sold somewhere in the nature of $100,000 worth of products from the stage during our presentation. After that, a number of things happened, and not all of them good for Michael, but he took his career in a different direction. today.
He’s an expert and a certified expert in SEO copywriting, which means optimizing your copy for the search engines.
And you have to understand that regardless of what you think of SEO, copywriting, everything Michael is going to tell you today about SEO copywriting can make you a lot of money, if you act on and listen to what he says.
Now, I want to tell you something now, that’s not gonna make you any money, but it could save you a lot of money, and time and even your personal freedom. And that is this copy is powerful, you’re responsible for how you use what you hear on this podcast.
Most of the time, common sense is all you need. But if you make extreme claims, and or if you’re writing copy for offers, in highly regulated industries, like health and finance and business opportunity, you may want to get a legal review after you write.
And before you start using your copy my larger clients do this all the time. Okay, let’s get started with the good stuff. Michael, welcome. And thanks for doing this really good.
Michel Fortin 2:33
Thanks, David. It’s It’s an honor and and not only because we are we known each other for a long time, but I also listened to your podcast quite religiously. So it’s a it’s always a staple in the copywriting community, right?
David Garfinkel 2:46
Yeah. Well, thank you. I appreciate that. So let’s, let’s talk about your I don’t know your trials of job, whatever you want to 15 or 20 years ago, you were a renowned direct response copywriters, I said, highly revered partner of mine, to presentations, which I mentioned in the intro, and you still are in my mind.
But let’s fast forward to 2020. Today, over the past decade, fate took your career in a different direction. Could you tell us about that?
Michel Fortin 3:22
Sure. I trying to squeeze a long story into a very small amount of time as I possibly can. So I had a very turbulent turn of the last decade where I lost my mother, my father, my sister, my only sister, and of course my wife, who I owned up, and it will thank you.
And the thing is, we were together in business, we were speaking at seminars, we were selling courses, and I was doing copy. But after all of that happen, I just didn’t feel I had the headspace or the motivation to stay in business.
So what I did is I took a job as a well, first of all, there’s no such thing as a right, you know, Director of copywriting at a marketing agency digital mortgage, they were actually a Google premier partner agency. They primarily did SEO. And they hired me as their Director of Communications.
So I did everything from marketing, marketing communications to display ads to SEO and fast forward to now so basically what happened was, while I was there, I just discovered that I am chronically unemployable.
I’ve been a freelancer all my life so and when your side hustle where see the thing is I always kept clients clients kept hiring me for copy. And when that income kind of surpasses your full time income, I decided, you know what, I’m just gonna go back into business and I was always better by then.
And it was this is furious later. got remarried. And and this is where I’m at. And just to put everything in perspective, the fact that I knew about marketing and copywriting, whether it’s for SEO, whether it’s for ads, whether it’s for brochures or direct mail, it’s a, it’s a very portable skill no matter where you go.
And so I was able to pivot my career easily because of that one skill. So there you have it.
David Garfinkel 5:25
Wow, that that’s, that’s quite a story. I mean, I don’t know if I know anyone else personally, who’s lost that many people in a period of time, but you seem like you’re on your feet, and my heart goes out to you. I’m glad you’re doing well now or better anyway.
So let’s talk about SEO copywriting. What is it? What is it these days? And how does it work?
Michel Fortin 5:53
It’s not like it used to be keep in mind that Google has gone through an amazing transformation in the last just the last five years. Since 2016 2017, new algorithms came about that change the way they look at websites, they look at copy or content, and they rank them.
As you know, Google has an artificial intelligence you know, I hate to call it AI because it’s it’s no we’re talking Skynet.
David Garfinkel 6:28
You might be might come in and change.
Michel Fortin 6:32
But but they’re, but their AI is actually called rankbrain. And what happens is, they look no longer at keywords, keywords is no longer the thing like it used to be. We, you know, we used to stuff, our content, and even some sometimes in the code or in the back end, with all these keywords.
It’s no longer about that anymore. Now, it’s about good quality content. And of course, you can write copy content that helps to get people to change their minds to buy into an idea or, of course, to buy a product or service. And as long as you serve your customer, which is really what Google is all about.
Now, it’s we know you as a client, you as a website owner, or business owner, and Google share the same client, it’s the user.
So they want to provide a great search experience to their user, you want to create a great search environment and learning environment for your client, your user, your client, and of course, a search a buying experience.
So SEO kind of sort of blends into two other aspects called CRM, conversion rate optimization, and UX, which is user experience optimization. Now, Google is kind of giving you brownie points, not just for having good content.
But by having a great experience. Having a website that’s responsive, that’s mobile, that is also what we call Voice Search enabled.
So when you know people nowadays, we use our phones to to ask Google or Siri or Alexa to do searches for us.
And, and to, to also create a great engagement with the user, the more engaged the user is on your website, which is why copy is so important, the more Google will actually rank you higher, because it says, Wow, people we sent it, we’re sending people to the search result, this website.
And apparently it’s a great result for the people, they’re actually looking for that result, they’re staying there, they’re not bouncing back. And so you’re going to get better rankings that way. So that’s what really SEO copywriting kind of evolved to.
David Garfinkel 8:37
Okay, that’s, that’s really interesting. And this is the first time I’ve heard that, and it’s great, great information.
So I’m a little curious about this, because I, I can understand how rankbrain can measure the amount of time someone spends on the site, they might even be able to tell how much they scroll, how many pages they go to all of those things.
How does a computer program evaluate good quality content? Or does it only evaluated by the results by the amount of time people are spending on the site? Are there other things?
Michel Fortin 9:16
There’s there’s a number of factors, there’s actually over 300 ranking factors now. Before it was just keywords. And then it would be maybe the authority of a website? I mean, how long has it been in business? How long has it been on the internet?
And then there’s links like people are linking to the website, meaning is it actually valuable content, but a lot of those things, people can hack and circumvent. You can buy links, you can do all this blackhat stuff.
So now Google is has evolved to look at other signals that would, that would increase that sites, like ability or relevancy. Actually in the search engines, and it does it through a myriad of different things.
For example, in the recent time, there is a new algorithm called at eat, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. You know, it’s kind of funny, because there’s a lot of jokes going around like, do you want to eat your rankings?
And, and the reason that is, is that Google will now pay more attention to your site, if it shows that you have expertise, you know, the subject matter. Your it’s properly credentialed. There’s actually proof. Do you fact check your stuff.
And in fact, when that came about, it was called the medic update, because the most websites that got affected by it was medical websites. But now we were realizing that it affected any website that deals with what we call your money or your life.
So anything about health, wealth, money, finances, and all that stuff. And then second thing that came around, which is actually just recently called BERT, now Burt’s, Bert and Ernie and Bert, but it’s actually an acronym that stands I was thinking of Frank Zappa song, my name is Bertrand.
Yeah. Only people like us will know that.
David Garfinkel 11:15
Maven, Maven is stone faced, not his generation, man.
Michel Fortin 11:20
But BERT stands for bidirectional encoding, representations and transformations. If I think I have that, right. And what that really means is that before you had a keyword, and then Google say, Oh, that’s it, that’s a signal. But now it’s bi directional. So it says, okay, maybe you have a key word.
What’s the context? It’s not just about content, it’s words around it, maybe images, maybe the code in the background, it’s basically trying to understand the context behind the content. And so it uses something called No, we you know, we call it we call it NLP. But we know NLP stands for other things.
But it’s called natural language processing, which is part of this rankbrain process. So basically, it looks at adjacent keywords before and after around it, images, what the images are saying. And all those things will help to determine what that content really is.
For example, if I look at keywords, soap, and I type in soap, well, does it mean soap opera? Does it mean dish soap, does it mean carwash soap, does it mean SAP the programming language?
So the whole point, and I’ll finish with this, Google has looking at more and more at one to one topics, not keywords anymore. So we actually I don’t even do keyword research, I do topical research.
And that’s what really is, is is important these days. And as long as your topic is, in line with this other thing, search intent. What’s the search intent of the user? Are they looking for just information? Are they looking for education?
Or are they actually looking at possibilities of our different solutions for a problem that they’re undergoing? Are they actually looking for to buy the problem, they don’t buy solution to the problem, they’re fit, they want to fix the problem.
We call that you know, navigational search, informational search, investigative search, and commercial or transactional search. So all those things is the only way you can determine that.
Now, first of all, when you’re using Google, by you, by you searching the kinds of questions you ask, you know, nowadays, just a single keyword isn’t enough. Sometimes we ask a full question. Hey, Google, what is the How do you make a gluten free vegan pizza?
Now I just said Google, though, my phone just went off my Android. But that’s the point is that now it knows that I’m when I’m looking for pizza. I’m not just looking for a pizza place. I’m actually looking for a recipe for a gluten free pizza. But now that’s great. Google knows what you want.
But what about the sites that it wants to send you to? So what it does, it looks at the copy on their websites, the content and all those things that I just mentioned, to determine the context.
And then it will send you and because what it really wants is to give people the best search results possible, so that their experience is great, because what they hate is people what they call Pogo sticking, which is they click on the link, they go to the website.
That’s not me. And they go back, they just backspace or back, you know, to the to the search engine. That’s when Google says, oh, that cert that search result is not really what you’re looking for. So that no, it’s it’s another one of those signals, but it’s one of many signals.
Hopefully that answers your question. I’m not sure it does. It
David Garfinkel 14:32
does give me an idea. It’s certainly a lot more than you know, what I used to think of is keyword stuffing where you would find the keywords and you try and jam as many of them into what becomes unreadable copy that looks like it was written written by a bot or something.
Okay, but I’m sure this question comes up to you a lot from clients. So I’m just going to put it right at you. How does all of this affect traffic and conversion, especially if you’re using paid advertising?
Michel Fortin 15:15
Right? So, the bottom line is this, the one number one rule that I’ve always used in copywriting. In fact, I taught it at the seminar at your seminar, which is also a great way to beat writer’s block, which is to know more about your market, research your market as much as you can.
It’s not about restricting keywords anymore. It’s about researching your market. What do they want? In fact, you David said something that I love. You said, What is the market? What’s their problem? And how are they talking about it? Right?
Like I remember, you said that at a seminar one time, and I think you also said on your podcast, who is your market? What is their problem? And how are they talking about it? That’s that’s exactly what you need to know, not only for copy, but for SEO for CRM conversion rate, and all those things.
Because here’s the thing, if you can deliver, and meet and connect with them and deliver the content in the copy that matches that search intent that where they’re at, to meet them where they’re at, you know, Collier said to continue the conversation going on in their mind, well, that’s the same thing with SEO.
Because when they are looking for something on Google and they land on your site, or even if they click on an ad, is there a connection is there congruency.
In fact, the more congruent your copy is, with the intent behind the person landing on your site, or opening your direct mail piece, or whatever the case is, the greater your conversions, the greater your response rate. And it’s the same thing with SEO.
The best seo tip that I’ve ever heard is from a guy who actually doesn’t even do SEO, he says, and he’s getting millions and millions of visitors, he actually has a podcast with millions of subscribers, and he says, I just look for the kinds of questions my particular audience is asking. And I just answered them.
David Garfinkel 17:13
That’s it. Okay, so it’s, it’s not really that different than marketing fundamentals to just basic stuff, right? Is what you’re saying?
Michel Fortin 17:24
Absolutely. Just no more about your market, find out what they’re looking for, and just give it to them. content that will get you better SEO, it answers what they’re looking for. And it’s also going to increase your sales and your your conversion rates when they land on your site.
And the read your sales offer whatever the case is, whatever you’re offering, wherever you’re selling, it’ll sell better because it’s in line with what you’re looking for. And it’s also and then I’ll bet I’ll just add another point.
Remember, I told you about search intent, there’s navigational, there’s, there’s informational, educational, so if people are not really ready to buy, you know, we both you and I, we know we love Eugene Schwartz, he talks about the stages of sophistication of the market.
I use a an acronym called oath, the oath formula, how aware is your market? And it’s kind of saying how prepared are they take an oath?
Are they oblivious about the problem? Are they apathetic, meaning they know about it, but they don’t care? Are they thinking about doing something about their problem? Or actually, are they hurting and they want to buy it now they will need to solve the problem now.
Well, guess what, in in SEO, they talk about the funnel, they talk about problem aware, solution aware and are no problem, we are product, who here solution aware and so on and so forth. It’s the same thing.
And my point in saying that is before we used to write these long sales letters that would sell make an offer and educate the client to put the prospect throughout the entire process.
But nowadays, you can just do education, bring people at the front end, the top end of the funnel, we call the top of funnel, educate them, get them into the funnel, get them interested, get them to raise their hand.
And slowly but surely taking them by the hand, whether it’s through a long page, or through a drip campaign, or multiple videos, that you eventually get them to take action, you get them to finally buy whatever you’re selling.
And that’s why that’s why it’s so important to when you write copy or SEO copy is that you write it at the level of where it is they’re at that we’re there, you know, what kind of conversation having so back to my my initial point, know your market, do your market research.
And you know, you’ll get great SEO as much as great copy.
David Garfinkel 19:34
That’s, that’s awesome. Let’s, let’s look at the surprises for a second. What’s counterintuitive about SEO, and if you want to see our Oh, and UX, so that is what works that you wouldn’t expect good work and vice versa.
Michel Fortin 19:50
Well, the thing is, because of the changes with the search engines, the changes with Google specifically and the fact that it’s becoming better and better at Knowing what kind of content is on your website, what kind of information you’re giving out, and also what kind of searches people are making.
Before, when we used to think about SEO, we used to think of stuffing cute, like you just said, stuffing keywords.
And nowadays, it really comes down to a couple things, very simple things, giving great content, good quality content that actually helps people that actually serves their their their interests, that that solves their problem that that answers their questions.
And what you do is you optimize the event that the way that people can use or consume that content, I’ll come down to this. SEO really boils down to two things, a good quality content and good quality, good user experience.
That’s it, those are the two things you need to do, as long as you offer good content that matches their their intent. And then once they land on your site, or sales copy, or whatever the case is, they have a great user experience.
They they have a great experience of consuming that content, then, you know, that’s it’s kind of topic, you know, it’s it’s, it’s counterintuitive to the degree because a lot of people thought, Oh, I need to do keyword research, I need to do all this Hocus Pocus in the backend I used to I need to do all this coding stuff.
And you know what? Yes, those things are important from a, let’s say, a usability standpoint. But really, what’s important is, is your site crawlable can Google actually see your website? And and all the things that help get create a good user experience? Is it secure?
Meaning, you know, nowadays, if you land on a website that has HTTP rather than HTTPS, you’ll get a warning, you know, Google will say, hey, this site is not secure. Do you still want to do you want to proceed? Well, you need now you need now to secure site.
It’s all back to this user experience optimization, I was telling you about. Fast loading time, if you don’t guess now, most, you know, 99%, that’s not true. It’s about 60% 7060 65% of the population now use their mobile devices to access the internet. So you need to have a fast loading website.
And if it’s taking too long, people will do what we call that pogosticking, they’ll just land on the site is that gets taken too long, they’ll just backspace and go back to Google to look at the next search result, well, then Google will then penalize you.
You’re going to lose traction, because you’re not giving them a good experience. So so it’s kind of counterintuitive to the greed that it’s not as mathematical as it used to be. Just write good content, just serve your client, well solve problems.
Good, you know, and give them a good experience and consuming that content. And you’ve you’ve got a you’re going to be very successful that way.
David Garfinkel 22:38
That’s really good. You know, they don’t call me the Nostradamus of podcasting for nothing. I predicted Nathan would have a question anyway. And I think he does.
Yeah. So here’s kind of a controversy that’s going on between copywriters and search engines right now, is a lot of the search engines are moving away from sending people to websites.
So they don’t, when you look up something on Google, Google wants to give you the answer without having to send you to someone Oh, yes. And so a lot of times, especially you mentioned, most searches are being done on mobile.
They don’t want you to have to go so they’ll just take a snippet of your website, and you won’t actually get that traffic. So I kind of want to know what your thoughts are, as far as going forward. How is that going to impact?
And I know a lot of copywriters that are concerned that Google is taking their content, serving it as their own content and not giving the traffic that the whole reason we’re writing the content is for traffic. And Google’s saying, hey, we’ll take what you’re giving us.
But we’re not going to give back Why you’re giving it to us.
Michel Fortin 23:50
I am so glad you asked that question. You know why? Because it really boils down to this one skill called copywriting. And I say this because we I had this argument just the other day, and it’s exactly the same issue. People are thinking, I’m getting zero because zero clicks search results.
So that’s when your answer appears at the top, and people can see your answer or see your website content on their website without sending traffic to your site. And that’s the reason why Google kind of is doing that is because they want to remove the number of clicks that people will get to a final result.
And if they’re if they’re in the informational stage, they’re just looking for information. That’s kind of understandable. It’s frustrating. I understand that. However, this is where if you can use great content, great copy. There’s a you know, when you’re a content appears in the top search results.
This is called schema markup, or what we call featured snippets or Rich Snippets rich, rich data. I think some other people will call it structured data. You know, sometimes when you type in a recipe, and you’ll actually have the recipe at the top of the Google search result right? then going to the actual site.
You know why? Because a lot of people, the reason why Google does that, too is because a lot of people when they visit a search site or a recipe site, you know how many recipes or like, you have to go through a lot of content and all the bads and a lot of crap before you actually get to the actual recipe.
So Google is trying to give a better user experience to their user. Remember, we shared the same client, Google’s clients, and our clients are the same.
So the thing is, if they are actually looking for just information, then you want to be focused on your brand, your value proposition, what makes you unique, what makes you good, what makes you better, and then put that in the rich snippet.
Because now you can actually do what we call a rich rich data markup on your website, so that that will actually appear. And you can control what they show to their users. Not all the time. No, Google is Google.
But you can, and we want to make sure that you get them their attention, because you want if you are good at copy, you’ll be able to also get their attention enough that they will click on that link. Even if you give them the answer to their question, they’ll say, Well, I want to know more.
And they click on the link and they visit your website. However, there’s also the issue that if you if you if you’re good at quotes, a branding, and mentioning your brand, or especially your unique sales proposition, you’re going to create one called Top-of-mind awareness.
So that when you appear the search engines later on in other search results, or even when they just need you when they’re actually in because right now they’re probably just at the educational and informational gathering stage.
But if when you’re ready to buy or when you’re ready to look for a solution, you’ll remember your brand, because that’s what that is really good for is to increase the branding element. Now, finally, the final answer to this is, Google is now testing different things.
In fact, there’s a recent Google what they call search 2020, which is kind of their annual State of the Union address to the search community, right?
They’re saying that they’re moving away from that a little bit more and then moving towards where you probably noticed this, when you go to Google and you type in on a search result, it’ll actually go to the section of the same on that page that gives them that particular answer for their question.
And, and so they’re saying, great, okay, fine, we’re going to give people the chance to visit your site, we’re going to do less and less of that, you know, showing up and doing zero click results, we’re going to give people a chance to visit your site.
But we want to get them to the actual section on your page that answers your question. So they don’t have to go through a whole bunch of crap before and give them a really bad user experience.
So it boils down to good copy just big, you know, learn good copywriting, you will be able to capture not, you know, maybe some traffic from that. And if they’re if you’re selling a product or service, oftentimes your your search result won’t appear there.
I mean, sorry, your your content will won’t appear there. Because you’re not answering your question, you’re actually getting people to buy product, if they’re in that, that that stage.
In fact, Google wants probably wants you to buy shopping ads, right, they probably want you to buy ads to drive traffic rather than giving them information.
But if they’re just looking for information, then focus on having good copy that gets them interested clicking on the link, probably visiting your site, or at least getting the your unique sales proposition, your unique offer, or your brand, your brand name, your product, name, whatever the case is.
So that you create that Top of Mind awareness, it also creates authority. Remember, I told you earlier, eat expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
The fact that you appear at the top of search results is implied authority, oh, he must be an authority or she must be an authority or this site must be an authority. So that either they’ll visit from that result or later on when they do more searches. And your result will pop up in a normal search results.
Direct. they’ll recognize you they say oh, yeah, that’s I was like on that on that other search. They’ll click on you.
And this has actually been proven they’ve done ample test to show that when you do appear, and you don’t get enough traffic, you’ll you actually increase what we called secondary ancillary traffic, because you’re becoming known as an authority you create that implied authoritativeness.
So it’s the goal seems to be give people what they’re looking for. And also subtly try and sell the click as well. But um,
Michel Fortin 29:27
David Garfinkel 29:29
That was pretty good. How do people keep up with your content?
Michel Fortin 29:34
Sure. Well, my own website, my own blog is at Michel fortin.com. But if you want to send them directly to the page that I probably would want to send them to, so that we avoid Google stealing my click. David Garfinkel, stealing my click No, I’m kidding. Go to daily marketing memo.com that’s my newsletter.
And it actually goes it’s it’s just redirects to my own website, but To the page where people can learn about my newsletter, it’s called the daily marketing memo. So dailymarketingmemo.com.
David Garfinkel 30:06
Excellent. Wow. You completely changed my mind about SEO copywriting. And, you know, in a way, I’ve always felt like the the goal of the good hearted journalist and the goal of search engine was the same, you know, just to provide people the information they want need. And of course, life interferes.
Well. Anyway, Michael, thank you so much. So good to catch up with you after all these years.
Michel Fortin 30:36
Thank you. Thank you.
David Garfinkel 30:38
I’m glad you’ve made it through all these trials and you seem to be better man for it. So hope things get even better for you in the future. Oh, they are. Yeah. All right. Thank you.
Michel Fortin 30:47
Awesome. Thank you, Michael, for coming on. David. Thank you for putting this together. listeners out there. If you want to check out more episodes head on over to the copywriters podcast website and that’s copywriterspodcast.com and until next time, we will catch you later. Bye.