Categories
Copywriting

Copywriting Productivity Tools to Boost Your Writing

These days, I do a lot of SEO consulting and content strategy work. But a big part of my career was in copywriting. And when I write copy, some tools help me tremendously. Whether it's doing research, writing the copy itself, or working with my clients, there are certain resources that help.

I previously shared tools I use for SEO work. I use some of them for copywriting, too. Below are some extras that I specifically use. You don't need to be a copywriter. But these resources may help you either write your own copy or, when you outsource it, know what to look for or how to fix it.

Before I dive in, a caveat. These are my tools. They don't have to be your tools. By all means, use whatever you're comfortable with.

Google Docs

I use Google for pretty much everything. I used to do most of my copy work with Microsoft Word, but when Google came out with their online version (MS wasn't there, yet), I switched. It's not just for writing. It's great for sharing and collaborating, especially with clients, editors, associates, etc.

Google Sheets

Same thing with Google Sheets. With Excel, emailing files back and forth was a nightmare. Which version is correct? Where did I save it? Did I email a copy? Instead, I prefer to use one document in one central location. Plus, the beauty is that it can also import and export in a variety of popular formats.

Google Keep

Research is a critical part of copywriting — or of any marketing endeavour for that matter. I often come across a ton of passages, sources, citations, images, etc I want to use or reference in my copy. With my browser plugin, I can select and save as I go, and add comments and notes to them.

Google Drive

I used to use multiple tools for online storage. The problem was that things got scattered. I prefer sticking everything in one place. And since I use Google for everything (I use Google Workspace for my practice), Google Drive makes it easy to save, share, collaborate on, and associate files with.

Slack

I admit that, for the longest time (particularly when I ran my own agency), I used Basecamp to manage my projects. But as an advisor, I don't need it as much. Slack is simpler. Communication is the key benefit, with the ability to share, connect with Google assets, other apps like Zoom, etc.

Loom

Loom records my desktop and allows me to do copy critiques, project walkthroughs, demos, etc. It's a great tool to communicate questions to clients, staff, suppliers, etc. But it's also a great way to keep personal notes and record ideas. The fact that it integrates with Slack makes it a no-brainer.

CleanShot

Quite simply, CleanSot takes screenshots. But it's quite effective at that job. It allows me to annotate, edit, and store clippings to the cloud. It also makes it easy to add copy elements such as social proof, create GIFs, and even has a timer if I need to use my mouse during recordings (such as mouseovers).

Q&A Sites

I visit question-and-answer websites for my research all the time. They're rich sources of information for market research and ideas, too. To write compelling copy that connects with your audience, you need to know the questions people ask and how people talk about the problem you solve. My favorites include:

Grammarly

This is my favorite writing tool. I prefer it over Google Docs' built-in grammar and spellchecking tools. I occasionally use Hemingway App when I want to check my writing, or when I need to express something with more clarity and conviction. If I do use it, it's usually with the finished writing.

Headline Analyzer

Offered by CoSchedule, a marketing and editorial calendar, this tool provides a number of scores on your headlines, including readability, sentiment, skimmability, and engagement level. It also counts characters, which is good for headlines in ads and subject lines. I use it all the time.

RhymeZone

I've been using RhymeZone for ages. It's helpful to find rhymes, related words, poems, quotations, literary references, and word variations. With Google Doc, I use several add-ons like PowerThesaurus.org to find synonyms. But when I need to find a related word, a variation, or a descriptive word, I use RhymeZone.

Descript

This is the newest tool in my arsenal. Often, I need to transcribe recordings to use as content for my copy. I often use Otter.ai for my transcriptions, but Descript takes it to whole new level. Its machine-learning capabilities are truly revolutionary, like cutting out all the “ums” and “ahs” in one click.

(I wish I used Descript more. But since upgrading to Mac's Big Sur, it's not working anymore. They have said they're working on an update, so I'm patiently waiting. In the meantime, visit Descript and watch the video. It's impressive.)

There you have some of my most commonly used tools. I have more, but hopefully this will get things started. What are yours? Let me know.

Categories
SEO

6 Important, Useful, and Free SEO Tools

When it comes to managing your SEO, there are hundreds if not thousands of free SEO tools out there. Many of them are free, many are not. Some of them are easy to use, others require a PhD-level education.

But it doesn't have to be that complicated.

If you want to know what you need for your website and to improve your SEO, it's not much. Here's a list of six must-haves and should-haves that I recommend.

1 – Google Analytics – Necessary

Of course, you need some kind of analytics. I prefer Google simply because Google is the largest search engine and it makes sense to use the same tools they use to track and measure certain SEO signals.

Plus, GA version 4.0 just launched, and I'm amazed by how many new features and functionalities are available. The additional insights were only previously available after considerable customizations and third-party tools. Now, it's much easier to measure user interactions.

If you currently use GA, you might want to upgrade now.

2 – Google Search Console – Necessary

To understand how your website is performing in Google (such as how many times your site came up in searches, was clicked on, under which keyword, and for which page), you need GSC. It's also a vital tool to learn about any issues Google finds on your website so you can address them.

Through GSC, you can submit sitemaps, track errors, fix penalties, and disavow toxic links among others. There's also Bing Webmaster Tools, but now they can easily pull in domain information from GSC.

3 – PageSpeed Insights – Necessary

One of the most important ranking factors is page speed. It also affects your conversions. Due to the preponderance of mobile device usage (and Google is now 100% mobile), load times are critical to SEO. PSI scores your page speed, and gives you a list of issues you need to fix or improve.

You also need to test every page, too. In fact, this week Google made it clear that one page can actually affect your entire site. In other words, your website's weakest link can hurt your overall rankings and not just that page. So if only one page is slow, Google might derank your fast pages, too.

4 – Google My Business – Important

You want to manage how your business appears in Google Search and Maps, and how people find you, call you, and discover your services. So claiming and optimizing your GMB profile is important for regular SEO and local SEO.

Also, remember that claiming your profile also creates a conduit between you and Google. So if any issues come up, such as responding to reviews and reporting fake reviews, your GMB account will help.

5 – Google Add-Ons – Optional

Although not entirely necessary, Google offers a variety of useful tools to help you in your efforts to increase your rankings and your traffic.

  • Google Tag Manager – GTM simply centralizes your external scripts from third-party tools, concatenates them, and makes them easier to load and manage. I manage all my analytics, conversion tracking, paid advertising tools, and more from one simple location.
  • Google Rich Results – Google often uses metadata either to understand what your page is about or for different types of search results — and not just links. This tool tests to see if your site is eligible for rich snippets and tells you what kinds it finds. Schema markup code is one of them.
  • Google Site Kit – I use WordPress. GSK adds all the necessary Google scripts and tools I need (including Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, AdSense, Google PageSpeed Insights, etc) with a few clicks. Plus, you get a search funnel snapshot of each page, which will give you an overview of that page's performance — including traffic sources, search impressions, bounce rates, and top queries.

6 – Third-Party Technical Tools – Helpful

There are several tools that I use and highly recommend. One of them is Screaming Frog‘s SEO spider tool. With it, you can find crawl errors, broken links, 404 errors, bad redirects, duplicate content, missing tags, even spelling and grammar errors, and so much more.

This single tool can do a variety of things in one fell swoop, which saves me time and money. Also, by connecting it with your Google assets (GA, GSC, and PSI), it can do a deeper dive and offer better insights.

Of course, the above tools are not for SEO research. (If you want to know more, I've written about them here, here, here, and here.) But they are important if not essential to properly track, measure, and improve your SEO.

Do you have a preferred free SEO tool? Let me know what it is and why.

Categories
Marketing

My Name is Michael, I Got a Nickel…

OK, this post has been a long time coming.

For over a decade, people keep asking me, “So, what is it: Michel? Michael? Mike? Or what?” (I prefer “Master Overlord,” but I digress. Oh, and here's a little-known fact: a nickname high school kids gave me was “Spike.”)

My name is “Michel,” formally pronounced “Mee-shell.” Like Michelle Obama, for example. My late wife used to call me “Mish.” But when I introduce myself to English audiences or clients, particularly American ones, I don't pronounce it that way for several reasons.

My name is French-Canadian. I was born in Gatineau, Quebec. For those of you not familiar, Quebec is primarily a French-speaking Canadian province.

Anglophone Recognition of My Name

Canada is a bilingual country, so most anglophone Canadians will instantly know that “Michel” can be male or female. But after someone introduced me to my very first American client decades ago, he responded in a confused and disconcerting manner:

“What? But, you're not a girl!”

This confused me at first, since the female version of the name requires an “e” at the end. Similar to Italian, Spanish, or any other Latin-based language, words that end with “a” are female, and “o” (or the lack of an “e” in French) are male. Like “Gino” versus “Gina,” for example.

“Michelle” or “Michèle” is the female name, like Michelle Obama. But the “e” at the end is silent. In writing, if there's no “e” at the end, it's easy to recognize that it's a male's name. But when introducing myself in person with “Mee-shell,” it would confuse a lot of Americans.

This happened several times. More times than I cared to count. So at a certain point, I felt compelled to do something about it since I was tired of explaining myself. So today, I pronounce it “Michael,” which is my nickname, anyway.

“I Got a Nickel Shiny and New…”

As a child, my French-speaking parents nicknamed me “Michael.” I even remember when they bought me my first 45-speed vinyl record, which was “Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes. (The chorus goes, “My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”)

I also remember when I took English immersion in junior high school. (Boy, do I remember!) When the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves on the first day of school, I told my teacher, Sister Helen (yes, it was a catholic school and some of our teachers were nuns), that my name was “Michael.”

The principal was in class that day. (Coincidentally, his name was Michel, too.) And I remember Sister Helen looking at me, with a stern frown that Catholic nuns are notorious for, saying in her disapproving voice:

“Les noms propres ne sont pas traduisibles!” (“First names are not translatable!”)

Now, maybe she said that because the principal was around, and he was a proud francophone. Francophone Quebeckers are very protective of their language and culture. (They even instituted laws to do so.) Heck, if we spoke English in the hallways, we could get reprimanded. Even suspended.

(Long story made short, in the late 70s and 80s, there was a movement to secede from Canada, culminating in not one but two votes on Quebec independence. The government-funded school system definitely shared the anti-Canadian, anti-English sentiment.)

“Michael” is My Preferred Nickname

Nevertheless, I wasn't trying to translate my name or break any rules (it was an English immersion class after all). I was using the nickname my parents used so often — even when they didn't speak English.

I thought I was being smart by using it in class. (Luckily, Sister Helen was a lot gentler with me as time went on. I even became her teacher's pet.)

For a lot of French Canadians it seems, calling a Canadian francophone person by the English version of their name often ends up as a nickname. It's like a term of endearment, particularly when used by your closest friends and family.

For example, I had a friend named Jean and we called him “John”. Another, Caroline (pronounced “Caro-leen” in French), we called her “Caro-line” (the English way, which rhymes with “fine”). This was a very common practice.

(As a child, when my parents called me by my French name — that is, my proper name — it was an alarm bell because I knew I was in trouble for something! When I heard “Michel Guy Fortin!” I knew I was in trouble.)

So, I'm used to “Michael” and I prefer it. After all, it's my nickname. It's the name I use in business and I introduce myself with. Sure, it's spelled “Michel.” But I pronounce it, and prefer when people pronounce it, as “Michael.”

“Who is Like God” or Calling on God

So if you ever wondered, now you know. I hope this solves it once and for all.

By the way, Michael comes from Hebrew. “Mika-El” (where “Mika” is Hebrew/Aramaic for “Who is like” and “El” is God). It's a theophoric name, meaning that the bearer of the name is invoking the name's divine protection — like archangel Michael, who was the “protector and leader of the army of God.”

Nevertheless, here's a final thought. Most French Canadians are bilingual. In fact, many francophone Canadians incorporate English words in their day-to-day vocabulary. We call them “anglicisms.” (I know we did it alot as kids in both grade and high schools.)

Here's a perfect example. It's also one of my favorite vloggers (i.e., video bloggers) on the Internet. This guy is from Montreal and he produces videos with claymation and barbie-doll characters, with his own face superimposed. It's the funniest stuff I've ever seen!

If you're American or an anglophone Canadian, you'll hopefully grasp at least 50% of what this next video says. (Just the video itself is a riot!) And if you're Canadian or of French descent, let me warn you: you're going to roll on the floor laughing your posterior off. I know I did.

Here is an English version, however a lot of the jokes get lost in translation. But it's still quite funny.