Categories
SEO

Can Some Words Stop You From Ranking?

In 2002, I wrote about how words can change the meaning of a sentence. In it, I explained that choosing certain words, including formatting, can help give a sentence more impact and even change its meaning completely.

I titled the article: “It's not what you say but how you say it.”

At the time, I wrote it as a copywriter and from the perspective that words give meaning, and that your choice of words can change that meaning.

But since I've shifted from copywriting to SEO as my primary focus, I applied much of what I know about copywriting to SEO. They share a same goal: know your audience, the questions they're asking, and how to answer them.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that this morning an interested thread on Twitter started by some very respected SEOs regarding the use of “stop words.” Stop words are words like “in,” “at,” “the,” “this,” “and,” “ever,” “more,” “only,” etc.

For years, many SEO experts advocated the reduction in stop words to help rankings, such as their removal from URLs. And for while, this was true.

But with today's algorithms, I'm not so sure anymore.

Stop Words Impact Retrieval, Not Understanding

First, writing for SEO is simply writing for your user. SEO is no longer about stuffing keywords into your content, but about understanding your audience and writing for them. By giving them what they want (in the way they want it), you give Google what they want, too. SEO expert Alan Bleiweiss said it well:

Removing stop words can trim excess words and highlights keywords. But removing stop words can also make your content feel robotic, unreadable, disjointed, keyword-stuffed, and annoying.

Back then, the SEO reasoning made sense: search engines look for keywords and use information retrieval processes that look for and pay attention to them, such as TF-IDF or “term frequency and inverse document frequency.”

Without getting too technical (I may be a geek but I'm far from being a technical engineer), it means the number of times a keyword appears on the page, and how important it is in relation to all the other keywords on the page (and across a set of pages, such as the rest of the blog, for example).

That's where things like “keyword density” have become common practice.

TF-IDF is still important (to help in the extraction of keywords, for example). But it doesn't help to understand their meaning. The growing popularity of machine learning (or “artificial intelligence,” although that's misleading) has helped to improve the search experience by understanding keywords.

I've mentioned before that stop words are important for SEO. They give adjacent keywords context and therefore the sentence (or phrase) meaning. Sometimes, a stop word can completely alter the meaning of a keyword.

It's All In The (Search) Intent

Remember, SEO is about matching the reader's search. But while writing content that informs the reader is one thing, doing it in a way that specifically satisfies their search and provides value is another.

That is what SEO is becoming.

It's about matching the intent behind your patient's query and not just the query itself. It's what Google wants and the way Google is growing, as we see with its increasing sophistication in information retrieval and processing using natural language and machine-learning algorithms.

In plain language, it simply means that Google is getting better at reading and understanding information like a human being. Therefore, it makes sense to write for human beings, too, and forget all the search-engine trickery.

So, are stop words important in SEO? They should be, because we, as humans, use them all the time in natural speech. Will it help your rankings? Not directly.

But they likely have some influence.

The greater the match with the user's intent is, the greater the relevance given to a result will be. To determine this, Google pays attention to “implicit user feedback” such as user clicks and dwell times. This feedback helps feed machine learning, which, according to Google, influences ranking factors.

In short, we went from keyword-driven SEO to intent-driven SEO.

Use Natural Language. Naturally.

Back when the web was young, people were slowly adopting the Internet (and computers, too). It made sense to type in keywords into search forms because a) people were learning how to type and b) machines were rudimentary. Searches were entirely keyword-driven for this reason.

But today, we live in an Internet-connected, mobile-first world. We use smart devices, type in complete sentences, use auto-complete suggestions, or dictate queries using voice search into Google, Alexa, or Siri.

So stop words are now more important than they've ever been.

This is where search is going: retrieving content not based on keywords but based on user intent. Since stop words can alter the meaning (and therefore, the intent) of the query, it goes to reason that stop words have a role to play.

Here's an outstanding example.

Similar to my article about how formatting can change the meaning of a sentence, my favourite writing tool, ProWritingAid, just tweeted this example of the way stop words can completely alter the meaning of a sentence.

Can Some Words Stop You From Ranking? 1 | stop words
How stop words can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Provide great content that satisfies your patients' search and user intent, and you also provide a great user experience. In fact, creating keyword-stuffed gibberish you think Google wants will only kill the user experience.

So don't let stop words stop you from writing good, meaningful content for your users. Most times, they're more like “start words.”

Categories
SEO

Content Creation or Content Expansion? SEO Experts Confirm

Last week I was very busy completing a few 360° SEO Audits for two plastic surgeons, and one of them asked a very good question. After I recommended content creation on a weekly basis (about three times a week), he asked: “That's a lot of content, can I add it all to the same web page?”

In essence, what the client was asking is if it's possible to add to existing content instead of creating three new pieces each week.

Here's what I said.


Creating Doesn't Mean “From Scratch”

To clarify, when I suggested creating three new content assets each week as a best practice, it was a recommendation and not an obligation. Moreover, an asset doesn't always have to be a blog post or textual content. It can be a long-form video, an infographic, a podcast episode, etc.

With every long-form video or audio you produce, including those of which you were a part (such as an interview or a podcast on which you were a guest), you can add it to your blog as an embed.

(If they turned off the ability to embed the recording, or if the recording is hidden or walled in some way, you might want to ask permission first.)

But don’t just add the recordings. Transcribe them, polish up the transcripts, add them to the page, and insert internal links to other content in your blog as you would normally do with other content.

A transcript creates additional content you can use as captions for your videos or for creating additional standalone content pieces. I personally use a tool called Otter (relatively cheap). You can also use Descript or Screechpad.

Secondly, “new” content creation doesn’t have to be new content.

It can be a refresh of an existing piece of content. You take an older piece and rewrite it, expand it, update it (e.g., add or update any references, statistics, citations, and supporting images), and add new internal links to existing content (particularly if you have new posts since its original publication).

Finally, redate the piece to the current date so that it brings it back to the top of your blog index and signals Google that your content is updated.

Add New? Or Expand The Old?

Now, as far as the question about whether it's best to add to existing content or create new ones, the answer is that it depend from an SEO perspective.

If it’s the same topic and it makes sense to the reader and improves the user experience, that’s acceptable and even recommended. You are, to a degree, doing the “refresh” that I indicated earlier.

But if they’re widely diverse subtopics, I don’t recommend it — unless you are creating a pillar page and making it as comprehensive as possible.

If the search intent for a subtopic is different from the intent for the main topic, then you risk cannibalizing your content. (Although, that might change with the upcoming passages ranking algorithm.)

With the hub-and-spoke content model, the spokes are pieces of content that help to support the main pillar content, creating a topical cluster. If subtopics are too different, you’re likely confusing the reader (and Google), and you might be diluting the other subtopics on the same page.

The question to ask is, is the topic for the additional content a subtopic of a main/parent topic? If so, you can add it to the main piece. If it can stand on its own (the subtopic can be its own topic), or if it can have more than one search intent, then it might be better off as a separate piece.

Search Intent is The Key

Remember, there are four types of search intents: 1) informational, 2) investigational, 3) transactional, and 4) navigational.

Navigational intent is when people are looking for you, your business, or your website. For the sake of this example, I'll refer to the first three as your aim is to build content that drives people to the site who may not know you.

For example, take “facelift surgery” as a topic. The search intent is likely informational. (I could have used the term “facelift” by itself, but it's a little misleading. “Facelift” is often used in a non-surgical context, such as “giving your website a facelift.” So let's say “facelift surgery.”)

People who search using this term likely want more information about facelift surgery. Any subtopic that falls under both the same topic and search intent can be added to the same page, like “how long does a facelift take to heal?”

However, if someone searches for “top facelift surgeon near me” or “best facelift surgery [city],” that’s investigational search intent. The person is now past the information stage and they’re thinking about having it done.

Since the intent is different, adding a piece around that subtopic to the main page would be confusing and possibly counterproductive. It may better to write a separate piece, either about an award or survey where you were voted as the best, or about tips on how to find the best surgeon for one's situation.


What Other Expert SEOs Say

I believe this is the best approach. To be sure, I conferred with other SEO experts for their input. I'm a member of an SEO mastermind community called Traffic Think Tank, which is frequented by some of the world's top SEOs, including SEO directors from companies like Shopify, HubSpot, LendingTree, Moz, and others.

Their thinking seems to be in alignment with mine.

Even some SEOs on Twitter responded, and this is what they said:

As they said, cannibalization is less of an issue if the two or more pieces, vying for the same keyword, target different search intents.

And then, Britney Muller, someone I've been following for a long time who is a senior SEO data scientist and worked at Moz, added this:

Finally, one thing to keep in mind.

Is Long Content a Ranking Factor?

There’s a lot of debate about content length with SEO. Some say longer pieces rank better. But Google has expressly stated that word count is not a ranking factor. Any benefits are typically correlational and not causal, because long-form content will likely increase the incidence of keywords, tags, links, etc.

Not only that, but also long-form content tends to offer “more substantial, comprehensive, and complete information on the topic,” which is what Google looks for according to its Quality Raters Guidelines.

So from a user experience perspective, the argument can be made that sticking with existing content can provide more comprehensiveness to the article.

I also surmise that the upcoming passages ranking, where parts of a page (such as subtopics) will rank differently than the page itself, is going to make it easier for a long-form piece of content to serve multiple intents.

We will have to wait and see.

For now, the point remains: when it comes to content creation, it is always better to provide comprehensive information on a topic — whether it's in one long piece or it's in multiple pieces that are properly interlinked to indicate a relationship (i.e., a topical cluster).

Either way, more content, and better content, will always serve you well.

Categories
SEO

Bottom-Up SEO Strategy: Why Keyword-First SEO is Wrong

I use tools for SEO audit research all the time. But one of the best ways to do research for SEO (and I've said this before but it bears repeating) is to go directly to the source: Google itself.

By using Google, you can do a search and find out what Google thinks you want. Tools help make the process efficient, but if you want to see quickly what Google thinks, going straight to the source gives you a ton of great information.

I mention this for two reasons.

First, Google actually tells us what they want.

It's called the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Now, it's only a guide. It doesn't tell the full story as Google doesn't want to give away the store for fear black-hatters find holes they can exploit or ways to game the system.

But the guide gives us a great understanding of some of the key metrics Google is looking for.

I've said before that, to rank well, you need to create quality content. But how you define quality is based on relevancy and value to the user. It's not about just posting a piece of content you think is good. It's about posting a piece of content that's good in the eyes of your audience. Not Google.

For example, according to the rater's guidelines, Google has human raters who measure the effectiveness of the search results using two criteria: Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating.

That's what I meant by “relevance” and “value.”

Your content is considered “quality content” if it's relevant to the user who did the search on Google (i.e., it matches their search intent and therefore meets their needs), and it's valuable to them (i.e., it's helpful, insightful, actionable, etc). The more value it offers, the greater its page quality rating will be.

Quality, in terms of the raters guidelines, is based on a host of factors and subject to interpretation. That's why “quality content” is subjective. The only way to measure it is to ask, “Does this content match what the user is looking for and really helps them?”

To rank on the search engines, the goal is simple: aside from user experience (UX), simply provide good content — content that users find relevant and valuable. And to rank higher on the search engines, simply provide better content — content that's more relevant and more valuable than others.

No, it has nothing to do with length (e.g., number of words). It has nothing to do with sophistication (e.g., academic-level language). And above all, it has nothing to do with keywords (e.g., forced inclusion or keyword stuffing).

So the two things that you need to pay attention to that will make a world of difference in your SEO audit, as a plastic surgeon or aesthetic practitioner, are these:

  • User search intent (UI),
  • Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT).

Understanding and matching your content to UI adds to its relevance while providing content that has stronger EAT adds to its value. The better these two are, and the better it can do so in relation to other results that come up for the same queries, then the better the chances of ranking higher will be.

The second reason is that it turns SEO upside down.

Last week, amid all the Black-Friday/Cyber-Week hoopla, I watched two videos that I suggest you watch, too.

The first one was an old presentation from 2016 by Google Engineer Paul Haar who discusses how Google works. The part of his talk I liked best is when he discussed “scoring signals.” It's a great peek “behind the curtains” (just a little) to see how queries are rated over at Google.

But what struck me from that talk is that human raters are not the only ways they gauge the quality of a result. They use live experiments. Specifically, they conduct A/B split tests. All. The. Time.

When you consider that there over 3,000 queries per second, split-tests can reveal a lot of information. And when we use Google, we are not only tapping into the Internet Zeitgeist but also getting a better understanding of how users use Google and what they want.

Google does a lot of different split-tests, but the one that caught my attention is when they do it is to serve two different results for a query.

They see how many people click on one result in the top spot for a certain query. They swap it for another for the same query and compare clickthrough rates (CTRs). One getting more clicks than the other may indicate that one result more closely matches what people are looking for.

The second video was more recent.

Grow and Convert are SaaS content marketers and SEO audit experts, and they really focus on content and the quality of your content when it comes to optimizing for the search engines and boosting conversions. I like their approach because I despise backlink begging, which is the riskiest part of SEO.

Their approach, which I'm a big fan of, is called “pain-point SEO.”

Typical SEO does this:

  1. Find keywords based on assumptions,
  2. Select highest volume keywords, and
  3. Create content around those keywords.

But Grow and Convert flips that on its head.

  1. Find out what pain points users have,
  2. Create content around solving them, and
  3. Find keywords to map content to user intent.

I absolutely love this approach.

Granted, they use this for SaaS companies. But this could very well apply to plastic surgeons and cosmetic medicine, too.

Prospective patients conduct a lot of research before approaching a cosmetic surgeon. They're trying to fix a problem, gauge the effectiveness of various solutions, choose a solution, and find the best provider of that solution. These are part of the stages of awareness (i.e., my OATH formula).

Here's the video that I'm talking about. It's an interview with Bernard Huang, the co-founder of Clearscope. Bernard describes a simple truth: that different queries deserve different optimizations that appeal to the user.

He reveals how to rank using this flipped approach, which drives the concept of creating quality content over other SEO audit approaches like keywords or backlinks.

In essence, it's user-first SEO audit rather than keyword-first SEO audit — the way most SEOs have been doing it for ages.

User-first SEO is also the way I've been doing SEO and the approach I've been trying to hammer so often through my own content. In fact, watch the video. It's amazing. Bernard shares his desktop and does live experiments to prove his point. You also get to see how a user-driven SEO expert thinks.

Now, he does get a little geeky, but the point is this.

You can learn what users want (and what Google thinks they want) by looking at what Google is doing and paying attention to what results it provides (and in the order it provides them) to determine intent-driven topics to write about.

Simply, it's a bottom-up approach. And it's better.

In short, create good content users want and provide a good experience users appreciate, and you will have patients beating a path to your door.

Categories
SEO

Content Amplification to Become a Recognized Authority

To add to your attractability, you need to position yourself as an authority in your field. And the best way to do that is by becoming a recognized expert, which you can do through, among others, vertical specialization.

But once you do, the next step is to communicate and amplify your digital marketing company. It makes no sense to become a recognized expert when no one recognizes you — or better said, when no one knows you or knows enough about you.

There are many ways to do this, and content marketing is one them. But there are quite a few more. And I did promise you that I would write about them.

So here it is.

Before I dive in, I know you may be doing some of these already. But, and forgive me for sounding a bit Coveyvian, if you do them without doing the first things first, many of your efforts may be in vain or with less ampleur.

So here are some of the most common authority-based activities you can do to help market yourself and become a recognized authority in your field.

1. Claim Your Expertise

By far, this is the most important step to follow.

Branding, particularly personal branding, is not for the sake of getting your ego in the spotlight. In fact, your unique expertise is attached to you, what you do, what you offer, and how you do it. So your unique expertise is your brand.

But creating an identifiable and distinct brand around your expertise adds value because it generates top-of-mind awareness, communicates inherent competitive advantages, and above all, feeds your SEO machine.

People who get to know you and hear about you will feel an affinity with who you are and what you stand for. So they will remember you, look you up when they need you, or tell others about you openly. And often.

To claim your expertise, you need to brand yourself as an expert. “Claim your crown and assume the throne,” as Lisa Sasevich says in Meant For More.

But you don't do it by yelling “I'm an expert!” You do it through implication, and remember that implication is more powerful than specification. You do it by labeling yourself in a way where your expertise is implied.

You do it through your branding, tagline, position statement, and names on your business, products/services, and processes (including your work processes as well as your thought processes, such as your intellectual property).

For example, if people don't know you or they only know your credentials, then saying you're “an authority on hair transplants” is nothing remarkable, and may even seem suspect and self-serving.

But if you said you're the creator of the Microfollicular Redistribution™ process, then you are an authority because you appear as an industry pioneer.

You're instantly claiming your expertise without having to flaunt it. And instead of going up against other surgeons in an already highly competitive and overly saturated hair transplant category, you are creating your own category, and becoming the leader in it because no one else is competing with you.

Nevertheless, once you claimed your expertise, don't forget to promote your brand in everything you do, say, and write. That includes your style, your logo, your tagline, your color scheme, your voice, and all those things that add attractability to your expertise.

Use it in all your collateral materials, in your content, and with your people. For example, each time Seth Godin ends a book or presentation, he signs off with “go make a ruckus.” That's his thing. His signature. His purple cow.

2. Create Your Content

Content marketing is by far the best and most productive way to communicate and amplify your expertise. While the first one above was “claim your expertise,” I could have called this one “share your expertise.”

The goal is create content assets that you can leverage and disseminate. There are many types. You can write or create:

  • Print books
  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Newsletters
  • Kindle books
  • Reports
  • Tipsheets
  • Cheatsheets
  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Case studies
  • Quickstart guides
  • Slide decks
  • Infographics
  • Carousels
  • Social media posts
  • Video recordings
  • Audio recordings
  • Podcasts
  • Web apps
  • Phone apps
  • Guest posts
  • Transcripts
  • Infoproducts
  • Courses

This is a partial list. But of all these, writing your book is definitely a priority as it is one of the most effective tools for establishing yourself as an authority.

Authors are instantly perceived as experts on their subject matter. But your book also creates a domino effect and helps other areas (including those I will cover in this article), such as building a following, attracting media attention, creating speaking opportunities, and of course, selling yourself to ideal clients.

3. Speak Your Authority

An expert doesn't have to speak publicly to prove their expertise. Their written, audio, and video content should communicate that. However, proving their authority can often be better communicated in a live, public setting.

There are many reasons for this.

I understand this is not for everyone. But public speaking, though it's a fear for many, is an incredibly powerful tool to communicate your authority.

It's about having the courage to speak your truth and the ability to speak on your feet. Because that is what communicates authority: your ability to speak authoritatively, which can be hard to appreciate in a written format.

While public speaking can be prewritten and rehearsed, the ability to speak in front of others, in a live setting, adds an extra dimension to your content.

It doesn't matter if it's from the stage, lectern, podium, or pulpit, or if it's in an auditorium or in front of a camera, you can truly judge someone's level of expertise, knowledge, and authenticity when you see them speak live.

You can perceive the meta-messages, the messages beyond the message — the subtle cues and nuances you wouldn't be able to capture in written text.

Body language and vocal characteristics — like posture, stance, mannerisms, pitch, volume, inflection, and so much more — offer clues as to the person's level of credibility, clues that are often perceived unconsciously.

More importantly, these clues also convey the level of confidence, belief, and conviction they have in their expertise, knowledge, and point-of-view.

Sure, an expert can be incredibly knowledgeable in their field but still sound dry, boring, or dispassionate. (I know of a few college professors who exemplify this quite well, thank you very much.) And you certainly can communicate your expertise without uttering a single word in public.

But to be a recognized authority, you have to be able to sell ideas, as well as your services, in a public setting. At least in a face-to-face situation.

Also, you don't need to learn public speaking skills. As a former executive speaking coach said, “Speaker training is helpful — if you want to be a professional speaker.” As she said in this article with which I agree wholeheartedly: “Authenticity overrides form.” I also like this passage:

Watch a few TED talks. You'll find plenty of reticent, wonky presenters who are fascinating. What makes a person a strong presenter is that their presence shines through, showing their passion and expertise for their topic.

Kristi Hedges

So grab every chance you can to speak. Host live events, such as YouTube and Facebook livestreams, which you can restream with tools like Streamyard. If you don't know what to say, do live Q&As, opinion pieces, or Zoom meetups.

Of course, there are live teleseminars and webinars, too. While you could (and should) record these to use as additional content assets, they are first done live and provide that extra dimension I talked about.

4. Build Your Following

Social media is definitely important when it comes to amplifying your content. But the true power of social media is reaching your audience and creating a following — people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Some professionals have audiences so large that they've reached influencer status. But you don't need to rise (or stoop, as some might argue) to the level of a Kardashian. And you certainly don't need to create a cult of personality.

But having and leveraging a group of people who follow what you say, post, do, or share can help augment and propagate your expertise.

Whether it's on third-party platforms such as social networks, or on your own platforms such as your blog or email list, building a following along with a connection with your followers also creates a valuable, leverageable asset.

Your followers will resonate with you, write content about you, refer others to you, evangelize for you, and even defend you if your integrity or credibility is ever questioned let alone attacked.

Speaking of third-party platforms, remember that the second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. People search YouTube as often as they do Google to find information, particularly how-to information.

It goes to reason that you need to have video content on YouTube as well. However, the secondary benefit is the ability to create a loyal fanbase of subscribers who are eager to watch every video you publish.

Often, people share videos they find (or from channels they follow) on other platforms — including in their social media feeds, on their blogs, to their lists, or within their own content pieces.

Which brings me to the next point…

5. Form Your Alliances

Without question, owning your own content assets is essential. They, along with your following (such as your list), are assets you can leverage to help promote your expertise and authority. But often, you can leverage other people's content assets, platforms, or followings, too.

One of the many tools I used when I first started out, for example, was creating strategic marketing alliances. I was fortunate and grateful to have created some richly rewarding partnerships and joint ventures that allowed me to tap into other pools of clients, leads, and followers.

Early in my career, I learned from marketing guru Dan Kennedy to “be prolific.” And it is as effective today as it was back then — even with the Internet.

Being a prolific author often means to have a large body of work. But being a prolific authority is to be ubiquitous, too. To be everywhere (that counts).

One way to expand your reach is to run your own affiliate program. Having affiliates is one of the easiest ways to proliferate your authority, which is just a way of paying others a finder's fee or commission for referring someone to you.

But for many licensed professionals, doing this is highly regulated, discouraged, even prohibited. However, there are ways to create alliances and leverage other people, without getting any kickbacks or offering any kind of incentive.

For example, offer your expertise they can use in their content assets.

Offer to write guest posts, contribute to their newsletters, become a guest on their podcasts, respond to their interviews, help in causes important to them, create your own association (or at least join and help them), and so on.

Other publications, blogs, and shows are desperate for content. Make yourself available or offer to provide fresh, unique content they can use.

While you can contribute to others who appeal to similar audiences, don't ignore mainstream media. HARO, or “Help a Reporter Out,” is a great service that allows you to connect with reporters who need experts like you.

Then there are third-party learning platforms you can sell courses on or publish free courses to. There are many, but some of the most popular ones are Udemy, Teachable, Thinkific, Podia, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare.

There's also marketing and affiliate networks you can sell courses through, like Clickbank, JVZoo, ShareASale, and many others (and let's not forget Amazon).

When you create courses, you certainly can host and sell them yourself. But by also using these third-party platforms, you can leverage their existing exposure, affiliate programs, and database of ready-to-promote affiliates, as well as their existing traffic and clients.

Finally, don't forget to be active on other platforms as well. Engaging others on social media platforms, blogs, emails lists, or livestream events, such as asking questions or commenting on other people's posts, allow you to piggyback on other people's brand and level of reach.

In short, you're demonstrating your expertise to an already captive and targeted audience — even if it's not yours, as long as it is ethical to do so.

A final word.

Being an expert is relatively easy. Being an authority can be just as easy. But being a recognized authority takes work. It's not an overnight process, I agree, But it doesn't have to take as much time as you think.

Just create content assets and use platforms, yours as well as those of others, that allow you to amplify your expertise so that people can find you, learn about you, follow you, buy from you, and tell others about you.

In other words, be become a recognized authority, you need to amplify it.

Categories
Marketing

Add Breadth And Depth To Your Marketing

Back from a short vacation. It was a beautiful week at a cottage by the lake. Most days were hovering around a warm 22° Celsius (72° Fahrenheit), but with a couple of frosty mornings that caused a dense fog to cover the entire lake.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

Before I left, I appeared as a guest on my client Ed Rush’s weekly video-based podcast. If you missed it, I’ve posted the recording and transcript.

Ed uses StreamYard, a service that allows him to livestream simultaneously on multiple platforms, and to pull in comments, questions, and guests in real-time. There’s also Restream.io, which some of my other clients use.

Ed streams his podcast on YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope. But you can also restream on LinkedIn, Twitch, Twitter, Discord, Facebook Groups, and more.

Restreaming aside, there’s a reason why you might want to consider video as part of your inbound marketing and overall marketing strategy.

First, content marketing is one of the most effective marketing practices available. If you want to increase your visibility and grow your practice, you need to produce content. You don’t have to write it from scratch if you don’t have time. You can co-create, curate, or compile content.

Content marketing has many benefits.

Its value goes beyond simply communicating your expertise, which is the number one reason most professionals do it. It also improves your SEO, generates traffic, prequalifies your audience, promotes awareness, amplifies your brand, and much more.

There's written content, of course. But there are podcasts, too. If you're an entrepreneurial professional who wishes to grow her practice with the least amount of investment, you should consider doing one.

However, visual marketing is increasingly popular. In fact, statistics show that the highest performing types of content are those with visuals.

For example, accompany posts with featured images, as they create eye gravity and increase readership of the written content. You can also post photo-stories and social graphics with text art, where the image is the content.

Also, infographics, slides, and carousels help to convey longer forms of visual content if necessary — which increases both readership and engagement.

Above all, there’s video.

Short videos are easy to produce, and you can use them to showcase a product or service, a quote, an idea, a tip, a newsworthy item, a mini-tutorial, a demo, a tour, or a question.

You can (and should) dissect your longer videos, and pull out and edit them into bite-sized clips, which you can use to promote your website, your email list, your social platforms, or the rest of the longer video from which it came.

While it can be costly to have a video professionally produced, recording yourself while doing your podcasts can add an extra form of content you can use without much effort.

Some professionals I know simply read their written content on camera. Some will offer an accompanying slide presentation. Others will pause once in a while to add commentary, offer related resources, or answer questions about it.

Bottom line, visuals engage more senses.

By engaging more senses, you increase traction.

Studies show that visuals used in your marketing efforts increase:

  • Attention and engagement;
  • Retention and recall scores;
  • Reshares and comments;
  • Credibility and reliability;
  • Connection with audiences;
  • Comprehension levels;
  • Traffic quantity and quality;
  • Brand awareness and loyalty;
  • Response and purchases;
  • And so much more.

You don't have to create professionally produced videos. Simply record yourself reading a script. Or add an opinion or analysis about something you've read, or share a recent news item that's important to your audience.

You can stream it live and record the livestream for future publication.

You can also do the converse.

You can pre-record your video, edit it, and stream the recording at a later time. Some professionals I know restream a previously recorded video, and answer comments and chat questions live as the recording streams.

If you struggle doing live presentations, then follow a prompt, use slides, share your desktop, interview a guest, or have someone interview you.

Don't worry too much about the quality of your presentation. While you want to avoid making errors, with live events your audience will be more forgiving than some professionally produced video.

After all, it's live and no different than lecturing in front of a room of people.

It humanizes your content and shows authenticity, too.

Just offer valuable content your audience will love. The quality of the content is more important than the quality of the production.

Make sure every video you produce has a call to action, preferably your website address or email list, which should appear at the bottom of your video.

You should also include your brand, such as your logo or at least your name. If you prefer to be less overt, simply add a watermark tucked away in a corner, and you can include your website address in bumper cards (i.e., the before and after video thumbnails).

Then, distribute the video recoding through every channel, social media network, and video hosting site that your audience frequents. You don’t need to be everywhere, just be where your market happens to be.

Finally, the best forms of video content are webinars.

Webinars and online classes have grown considerably, particularly in light of the COVID lockdown. Use this to your advantage. Showcase your services by sharing your expertise. Host a class, live event, or how-to presentation.

Webinars help to promote your practice and attract potential clients. There are many web conferencing platforms, Zoom being the most popular one. You can also manage attendance using a variety of online tools — such as Facebook events and Eventbrite, among others.

Promote your webinar to increase attendance. Use your promotion as an opportunity to gather questions and content ideas. The incentive to join the class might be that you will answer a select number of attendee questions live.

After the presentation, upload the recording to your blog. Include a transcript too, since some prefer to read (or to read as they watch). In fact, you should include captions and subtitles, as statistics show that over 80% of people watch videos with the volume turned off.

Then promote and amplify it as you do any article.

Just remember, Google is the largest search engine in the world.

But the second largest is YouTube.

Back in 2004, I wrote a manifesto about the death of the long-scrolling, text-only web salesletters. I predicted they would become more dynamic, personalized, and visual — including the rise of videos in marketing.

And this was before YouTube came out in 2005.

Today, videos have become an integral part of any marketing program. So include video content somewhere in your marketing repertoire.

Video may add dimension to an otherwise static piece of content. But the best part is that it allows you to create derivative content, reach more people, and multiply your results, all with the same effort.

Categories
Marketing

The 4 Pillars Of Power Positioning

Back in 2002, I wrote a book called Power Positioning. It was an expanded version based on my booklet, The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning, which I wrote back in 1992.

In it, I defined Power Positioning as a skillful blend of “the art of positioning” and “the science of direct response” because it has two goals:

  1. Attracting an abundant quantity of high-quality prospects, and
  2. Effectively converting those prospects into profitable relationships.

It stems from my artistic and analytical sides; those dueling parts of my brain that love the creative aspect of marketing as well as the logical one.

According to Trout and Ries who wrote the book on the subject, positioning (specifically, brand positioning) is to occupy a position in the market's mind above the competition.

But positioning is not a single marketing strategy.

It's doesn't stop at differentiating yourself or branding, either. It involves every aspect of your operations. Every process, every touchpoint, every message, and every person involved in your business are contributing to your positioning.

Once you have attained that position, however, you must keep it, amplify it, and exploit it, or better said, empower it (hence, the “power” qualifier).

To illustrate this point, I outlined four pillars.

1. Focus

First, the goal is to increase perceived value. The most common way is by narrowing your focus — whether it's focusing on who you serve (vertical specialization) or on what you do (horizontal specialization). Or both.

Another way is to define if not manufacture your most marketable, competitive edge, and then transform that edge into a compelling, memorable, and impactful message.

Then, you need to communicate that message, which can be done through branding, packaging (as in both the packaging people see, and the way services are packaged or productized), content marketing, copywriting, etc.

2. Target

Next, the goal is to find and target ideal clients that fit within your area of focus — people who are genuinely interested in and qualified for what you do or sell — takes more than just promotion.

You need to define a profile of your perfect client, i.e., a buyer persona, so you can precisely pinpoint where good, qualified prospects happen to be. Better to go after big fish in small ponds that chasing minnows in the ocean.

Targeting also includes crafting marketing messages, from your blog content to your ad copy, that directly speak to that perfect client.

3. Multiply

Then, the goal is to be prolific. Once you've defined your focus and your target, this step will become relatively easy. You will likely attract opportunities to spread your message. Almost effortlessly.

You want your message to spread by allowing others to market for you. To help them, you must create assets that others can use, such as publishing (writing a book, for example), public speaking, podcasting or guest-podcasting, etc.

To propagate your leverageable assets, you can also create tools and systems to fuel their propagation, such as creating strategic marketing alliances, doing cross-promotions, offering your own affiliate program, etc.

4. Direct

Finally, once you've positioned yourself well and attracted your ideal clients, you need to sell. But most professionals look at selling as transactional when it's neither a single event nor the result of one.

Every aspect of your operations is (or has the ability to become) a form of direct marketing. You're not asking for the sale at each step, but you're asking for something. Let's call them “micro-commitments.”

From building credibility to building relationships (and everything in between), selling takes place over time and through various steps that go beyond the transaction. Engaging your audience, asking for feedback, or simply asking for referrals. It's all selling.

A final point.

Many professionals have told me they've positioned themselves (either by specializing or highlighting something that distinguishes them), but they can't seem to get any traction.

A plane requires full throttle before it takes off. It needs full power, extra fuel, and ample acceleration to get enough lift for the initial climb. But once it reaches cruising altitude, the throttle can be eased off and the power cut back to half.

When positioning yourself, you will gain traction over time. But the initial momentum needs help. It needs leverage. It needs fuel. It needs power.

Narrow your focus to position yourself, be clear on who you want to target, multiply your marketing to expand your reach, and direct your audience along the way. And soon you'll be cruising.

Categories
Copywriting

The Stigma And Struggle Of Being A Medical Copywriter

A subscriber to my daily newsletter, Corinne Swainger, asked a question, reprinted here with permission:

Today, many people tend to associate the word “copywriter” with someone who only writes websites, content marketing or blogs. This often means practically everyone now thinks they can write, and is therefore a copywriter.

My own background is based in traditional and modern advertising/healthcare PR/medical education agencies, where a wide range of media (eg, digital, print ad, posters, patient leaflets, booklets etc) are still used for integrated campaigns. My work is also based on several years of medical marketing experience. But it seems less people understand this.

Do you have ideas about to break this misunderstanding that “copywriting” is just associated with writing web content?

Here was my answer, slightly edited for clarity.

Corinne,

Great question. Thank you for asking.

I intimately understand your struggle. This was precisely the same reason why I rarely used the term “copywriter” when I first started out 30 years ago.

Back then, I focused primarily on medical copywriting, too. But instead of promoting myself to doctors as a copywriter, I called myself a marketing consultant.

I did so for three key reasons:

  1. Websites may not have been common back then, but copywriting was mostly associated with writing salesletters and promotions.
  2. The stigma associated with copywriting (being scammy, unethical, hyperbolic, etc) made doctors quite reluctant to hire anyone who could potentially raise the ire of their licensing bodies and jeopardize their careers.
  3. And as I’m sure you know, some doctors have a bit of an elitist mentality, so hiring a “copywriter” was often considered a little undignified and cheapening.

So I avoided calling myself a copywriter from the onset.

Instead, I positioned myself as “The Success Doctor” and wrote a booklet on how doctors could grow their practices. It was a subtle yet powerful form of promotion.

I've since rewritten it to appeal to a wider audience, and it may be a little outdated today. However, it did a good job of educating my clients on what I do.

But I digress.

All this to say, the way you promote yourself — including your value proposition — should communicate, as efficiently and succinctly as possible, what makes you and what you do so attractive to your ideal clients.

I know, we’re both experienced copywriters, so I’m preaching to the choir here.

But if I may be candid, my point is that you shouldn't focus on what you do. Focus on what goals you help reach or the results you help create.

By promoting yourself as a medical copywriter (and given the challenges you expressed), it's like swimming against the current. You have to work harder in educating your clients and clearing up any misunderstanding even before they consider your services.

What’s the purpose of hiring you? Focus on that instead of what you do.

On your LinkedIn profile, I like the last title you give yourself: “Pharmaceutical-healthcare Communications Specialist.” That’s a lot better than “medical copywriter.”

I would change it to “Integrated Marketing Communications Specialist” or “Marketing Communications Writer Specialising in the Health and Pharmaceutical Fields.”

Or better: “I help healthcare and pharmaceutical clients generate more awareness, attention, loyalty, and sales through compelling marketing communications.”

That’s a mouthful, but you get the idea.

Ultimately, I suggest that, instead of promoting what you do, promote what your clients get by hiring you, and then use that as your headline/title in your LinkedIn profile.

But if you absolutely must keep the title, highlight the holistic aspect of your work, such as adding “multichannel,” “omnichannel,” or “integrated marketing” copywriter.

I hope this helps.

— Michel