Categories
SEO

5-Step SEO Content Strategy For Plastic Surgeons

If you're a plastic surgeon or cosmetic medical professional, and you want to build organic traffic to your website, you need content. But you also want content that attracts interested, qualified patient leads. Just adding content alone is not going to do this for you.

To attract quality traffic, you need to create quality content.

And for that, you need an SEO content strategy.

Defining a content strategy for your website is a foundational component of search engine optimization (SEO) — and once the foundation is built and it's solid, the rest can follow and work far more effectively.

So let's look at how to build a content strategy.

1. Understand Your Market

Sounds obvious, but this is more than simply learning who you're trying to target. You need to know what their problems are, how they're talking about them, and what they're looking for in order to solve those problems.

In copywriting, there's a technique that goes:

“Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.”

Robert Collier in The Robert Collier Letter Book

By doing so, your copy will connect with your audience, it will resonate more effectively with them, and it will have greater chances of being successful.

In SEO, it's no different. You need to create a content strategy that aligns with your patient's query and continues the conversation that's already going on in their mind. In other words, it matches the search intent as well as the user intent.

By doing keyword research, the goal is not to find keywords to stuff your content with. It's to understand your patient's thinking that went on when conducting their search so you can create valuable content that's relevant to them.

2. Define Your Content Architecture

During the first phase, a large part of the process will be to uncover topics (not search terms) your market is interested in and wants to know more about. While doing so, you will notice recurring themes, also called parent topics or umbrella topics, that various subtopics fall neatly under.

These are topical clusters.

The old SEO methodology was breaking a website into well-defined, isolated categories, often referred to as a “silo content architecture.” It still works today. But now that Google is becoming better at understanding context and not just content, a more effective technique is the hub-and-spoke architecture.

It's where pieces of content are interconnected through similar themes, ideas, or goals. Think of it as giving them labels instead of filing them under folders, like some email services for example.

The hub-and-spoke model centers around a single piece of high-value content, or “pillar content,” that covers a topic comprehensively and from which expanded content, subtopics, supporting content pieces, etc are developed.

The Five “Ps” of Plastic Surgery SEO

In my 30 years of being a marketing consultant with a large focus on cosmetic professionals and plastic surgeons, I've found that there are usually five major areas of content: Parts, Problems, Procedures, People, and Products.

The first three are the most common while the other two are optional and depend on the situation. They are:

  1. Parts: the body parts you treat (e.g., skin, face, breasts, hair, chin, forehead, stomach, legs, buttocks, nose, etc).
  2. Problems: the conditions you treat (e.g., psoriasis, drooping skin, sagging breasts, hair loss, rosacea, wrinkles, vitiligo, etc).
  3. Procedures: the treatments you offer (e.g., hair transplants, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, injections, liposuction, laser resurfacing, etc).
  4. People: the doctors and team members, including nurses, aesthetic professionals, and support staff (usually for larger clinics).
  5. Products: the products you sell (e.g., makeup and lotions, postsurgical compression garments, supplements, etc).

An effective website will appeal to all of these, but the first three (or at least the first two) will become the centerpieces around which the rest of the content strategy will be built. And they will connect with one another strategically for context.

For example, you might have a page on wrinkles and the various treatments for this condition. Each treatment mentioned is linked to its respective procedure page. Similarly, each procedure page might have a list of the various conditions this procedure treats.

This interconnection is part of the hub-and-spoke model.

One of my dermatologist clients had a website with content discussing the various procedures she offered. When I restructured and refined her content, and added a new navigation menu for all the conditions she treated, too, her organic traffic and leads nearly tripled.

3. Develop Your Pillar Content

Once you've defined your content architecture, next is to develop your pillar pieces or hubs, if you will.

It's too easy to write unfocused, self-serving content when you don't have a strategy. But having one will keep you from straying. This is where your research will come in handy, too. Knowing your market and how they search will give you a clear idea of who the content is for and why they should care.

I've met plenty of doctors who wrote their own content and their websites were unorganized, unclear, or untargeted. Either they were writing all over the place or their content sounded like boring academic papers written for their peers — or to make themselves look clever.

Your clients are your patients, not your peers.

So create content around the conversation that's going on in your patient's mind. A patient who just started conducting some research may be interested in understanding their condition (i.e., “problems”). Those who are more aware may be looking into options for treating their condition (i.e., “procedures”).

That's the key to conducting research. You want to understand what they're looking for and why. So focus on providing valuable content that's relevant and continues their internal conversation — and the journey they're on.

Choose high-volume, relevant keywords from your original research as your pillar topics. You can use complimentary keywords for developing additional content, either on the same page or later on.

In fact, you don't want to force-feed keywords into your content. Include them if they naturally fit, but the goal is the make the content valuable to the reader. If you do and you stay on topic, you will likely include, without knowing, related or similar keywords, anyway.

Variations, synonyms, and closely related keywords (often called “latent semantic indexing” or LSI keywords) will provide search engines with a good understanding of the content and its context — without having to stuff keywords that will corrupt your content and ultimately diminish its value.

Keyword stuffing will work against you. Guaranteed.

4. Add Supporting Content

Supporting content pieces are the spokes — subtopics that add value and depth to the main topic. Once you've defined your pillar content, you might have a list of related topics that expand on or support parts of the main one.

For example, say you offer tummy tucks and one hub piece is the procedure itself. Another hub piece might be the condition (i.e., sagging belly skin) or the body part (i.e., stomach, lower abdomen).

But spoke content might be blog posts discussing how to get rid of loose skin following a pregnancy or significant weightloss; what are some of the most common concerns about the procedure; how to select a tummy tuck doctor; what kinds of questions to ask when considering a tummy tuck; etc.

Your subtopics will delve into a question, concern, or issue that your patient is looking into, and hopefully, it will provide value and something authoritative that will lead them to investigate further and take the next step.

But invariably, it will contain related topical keywords, perhaps long-tail keywords that are less popular but far more relevant to your target audience.

When I specifically create an SEO content strategy for my clients, I create a list of pillar content topics and what they should be about or contain, along with a list of initial spoke content (such as three to eight articles). I also prepare an editorial calendar for content pieces to be delivered over time.

5. Link Everything Together

Of course, it's important to link all the content together. Aside from the navigation menu, doing so within the content will provide three major benefits:

  1. To create content relationships and add context;
  2. To increase dwell times and lower bounce rates;
  3. To boost signals through anchor texts within links.

The hub-and-spoke SEO content strategy helps to organize the relationship between pieces of content. Think of Wikipedia with its plethora of links to interconnected content pieces linked in specific, strategic parts of the article.

Similarly, interlinking articles together adds weight to your content by teaching the reader either the entirety of a particular topic or the depth of one or more of its parts. So add links between content pieces where it makes sense.

Also, when you subsequently promote your content (e.g., sharing it, posting it on social media, advertising it) or amplify it (e.g., repurposing it, extracting pieces from it, publishing in other formats), these internal links will also do double-duty, creating additional SEO signals.

So there you have it.

This is only a high-level look.

Ultimately, creating an SEO content strategy is not about developing content that will be picked up by Google. It's about providing value to your users at whatever point in their journey they happen to be, and subsequently helping them continue that journey on your site.

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
Marketing

Narrow Your Focus to Broaden Your Sales

In the competitive marketplace of the new millennium, the demand for specialized products or services will increase. If your site sells everything or to everyone, chances are that your audience will not perceive any greater value in shopping from you than anyone else.

The more generic you are, the greater your competition will be since you've placed your offering in the same ring as the Wal-Marts, Targets, and eBays of the world.

To borrow the fishing analogy, some people say that going after a larger market is casting a wider net. Not so. (The net is really your website.)

Rather, it's like fishing in a larger body of water where there are more fish, the fish are more spread out, and there are more competitors going after the same fish you are.

Unless you are trying to be another Wal-Mart, there's no point in competing with them. The sheer size of such big box Goliaths gives them a sizeable competitive advantage — particularly purchasing power, both in terms of products sold and advertising dollars.

In addition to being able to buy more ad space than small businesses can, they can buy their stock at considerable bulk discounts, ostensibly giving them the lower price-point advantage against which most small businesses cannot compete.

So how do you increase your sales in such a competitive, price-sensitive marketplace?

Before I give you some helpful ideas, let's talk about price for a moment.

Price is never an issue. What's important is the value behind the price. Price only becomes an issue when your value proposition is the same as those of your competitors.

When you're trying to compete with the big guns and there's nothing different about you, the lowest common denominator will be the price. And if there's nothing else to compete with or compare to, naturally the cheapest alternative wins.

Here's an example: you walk to your local home furnishings store. You ask the sales clerk, “How much for that washer?” to which he responds, “$600.” “Wow! That's a lot of money,” you exclaim. “The price is way too high for me. I just can't afford that.”

This is a typical knee-jerk response.

Moments later, you walk by a car dealership and notice that favorite new car you've been itching to buy for the last month and a half. You walk in. “It's $25,000,” says the salesperson. “Wow! That's great!” And you drive it off the lot that same day.

Now tell me, if you said you could not afford the $600 washer, then why could you afford the $25,000 car? Being able to afford something is not based on how much money you have but on how much money you're willing to spend. Big difference.

And how much money you're willing to spend is based on how much you want what is being sold, which in turn is based on how valuable the object of your desire is to you.

So, price is never an issue. Value always is.

Price is an arbitrary figure that merely represents the value of an offering. Affordability is often the result of both price and value matching up in the minds of the market.

In the case of the car, the perceived value matched or surpassed the price, which wasn't the case with the washer — i.e., the washer was too pricey based on its perceived value.

And perceived value is such a personal, subjective, and immeasurable thing.

Take the weather, for example. When you meet someone for the first time, the weather will likely be a topic of discussion. After all, the temperature is the same for everyone — 70 degrees is 70 degrees. But whether it's “hot” or “cold” is different for each person.

Similarly, price is a common currency to which most people can relate. That's why it's often the first thing people look for or want to talk about when considering a purchase.

The problem arises when price becomes the chief metric — and sometimes the only one — used because there's nothing to which one can compare your value. If there's nothing different about you, then price becomes a purchase criterion by default.

Of course, price is not the only metric, but it is the most common one. It's the lowest common denominator. Units of dollars make more sense than “units of value,” which is often more personal.

But I digress. Here's the point I wanted to make…

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have. The less competition you have, the less substitutable you are. And the less substitutable you are, the less important price becomes. (In business schools, they call this “price elasticity.”)

Being unique or different doesn't mean to be better than your competition. And claiming that you're better than your competition doesn't make you any different, either.

Why? Because, if you try to copy your competition, or trying to promote your offering as one that's better than your competition, like it or not you're only reminding people of that which you are better than… your competition!

It's better to be different than it is different to be better.

So don't compete on price — unless price is your competitive advantage. Compete on value. And one way you can do that is to narrow your focus (i.e., your message, website, copy, product, offer, or audience) on a smaller niche.

A lot of people tend to appeal to large markets with multiple or generic offerings in an attempt to secure more sales. Sure, doing so will likely help you to stumble onto a few who will visit your site and respond. That's the age-old law of averages.

For instance, sales managers motivate their staff using the law of averages. They say that the more “no's” you get, the closer to your “yes” you will be. So the trick to making more sales is to keep finding more people to sell to. Makes logical sense, right?

But the law of averages is wrong. (Not the law itself but its application.)

Sure, if you ask more people (other than improving your conversion rate), you increase the likelihood of making more sales. But if you qualify your audience more and target better prospects for your offering, chances are you will get more “yes'es” than “no's.”

It's the same as your website. If you increase your traffic, you will increase your sales. But that's not the problem. The problem with such an approach is the fact that you must generate a large number of visitors in order to produce a certain result.

It is absolutely true that, if you want a lot of sales, you want your site to be in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But what about quality? Would it matter if your site generates an incredible quantity of uninterested visitors that will simply never buy from you?

To find more effective and cost-efficient ways of selling online, then attracting a higher quality stream of website visitors — interested, pre-qualified, genuinely interested visitors who are ready to buy — is definitely a better alternative.

Sure, where you advertise is part of it. But I'm also talking about targeting your market with your message — and how congruent your message is with them in the first place.

The more focused you are on your market, the more congruent you will be. And the more congruent you are with your market, the greater the value you will communicate.

Conversely, the more general or broad you are, the more you will need to paint your website with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. In the end, the traffic you do generate will be just as general or broad.

Even if your product is a perfect fit for most visitors, if you attempt to target everyone only a small percentage of your market will see that fit and take action.

Additionally, even if your product has mass-market appeal, the broad nature of your offer and the generic image you project will likely convey your value is equal to that of others, and there's no added value in buying from you than in buying from others.

Out of the small handful of qualified prospects that hopefully hit your site, a large number of them — if not all of them — will likely leave due to your apparent lack of empathy and understanding of their specific needs, goals, and concerns.

In short, dilute your value and you will dilute your sales.

As a sidenote, let me clear up another big misconception.

Some marketers tout that niche marketing is all about targeting smaller, denser markets. Not necessarily. Sure, it is the most common form — it's the easiest and most effective one, too, for beginning marketers. But niche marketing is not limited to niche markets.

The word “niche marketing” means a hole in the marketplace that needs to be filled. That hole still can be filled by a product with mass-market appeal, but one offered, sold, and delivered in a unique way or with a unique twist.

In other words, you don't have to just go after narrow markets to be a niche marketer. You can narrow your message, your theme, your product's features, your offerings, the results you promise, or a combination of any of these.

By narrowing your focus considerably lessens the need to produce a sufficient quantity of visitors to produce similar results.

Let me explain.

If you're an offline retailer, for example, being everything to everyone is understandable to a certain degree since, geographically, you invariably reduce foot traffic to your store.

Online, however, marketing to smaller niches can work well since a market will expand and is easier to reach.

But it's a double-edged sword. The web may increase your target market, but it also increases the competition as a byproduct. Again, cast your net in a larger body of water, and the likelihood you won't be the only one fishing in it will be higher.

Offline, location is important. And a competitor next door can be your biggest headache. But online, thousands of competitors have instantly become your neighbors.

Thus, niche marketing is even more important online since, by narrowing your focus, you both increase your target market and decrease your competition!

Let's say that your best client is the corporate executive earning $50,000 annually or more, and your site receives approximately 10,000 unique visitors per month.

If your site's message aims for the public at large, there will be only a small percentage of that ideal market that will hit your site. And an even smaller percentage will genuinely be qualified for, and interested in, your offering, too.

Let's say this percentage is 1%. That means that, out of 10,000 monthly visitors, only 100 will fit your perfect customer profile — and that's a very optimistic figure.

Since your site is too general or too vague, an even smaller percentage of those ideal prospects — say another 1% — will be truly interested in your offer and eventually buy. In this case, 1% of 100 qualified visitors would equal to one sale for an entire month.

Still following me so far?

Looking at it in reverse, it means that, if you want to achieve just one sale a month from this ideal market, your site will thus require at least 10,000 visitors monthly.

So based on the law of averages, to produce two sales you will need to double your traffic, and therefore double your advertising and marketing, to generate twice as many visitors — i.e., you need 20,000 visitors to make two sales, 30,000 for three, and so on.

In other words, you will need to multiply your marketing efforts exponentially in order to create a high enough quantity of traffic to yield acceptable results.

Now, take the example of another website dedicated exclusively to corporate executives earning over $50,000. However, this site receives a meager 1,000 visitors per month.

Admittedly, it's not a lot, especially when compared to the other. But in this case, the percentage of those 1,000 that fall into that site's target market will be 100% — that's around a hundred times better than the other.

Furthermore, the percentage of interested leads in a much better position to buy will be far higher by virtue of the fact that the site centers on their specific needs, goals, and concerns. The perceived value will be greater in the mind of those specific prospects.

To be conservative, let's say that this percentage is only 5%. It means that out of 1,000 visitors per month, one can achieve 50 sales — that's almost 50 times more sales!

But let's be a little more conservative for a moment. Let's say only 1% buys. It's still a remarkable improvement over the other, as 1% of 1,000 visitors equals to 10 sales per month — that’s almost 10 times more sales than the other with only a 10th of the traffic.

Of course, the above example is simplified and with all things considered are equal. I agree that there are many variables, here. And my math may be skewed a bit.

But the spirit of this illustration is clear.

By narrowing one's focus, it took an equal if not lesser investment of time, effort, and money to achieve as many as 10 times more sales than it did to achieve a single one.

Incidentally, when I first wrote this article a reader shared this interesting story with me that paralleled this example. It was from Jim Banks, who started selling carpets online in 1998. He admitted that, at the time, he knew nothing about it…

“I thought that it would be a non-competitive market (‘who would want to sell carpet online?' I asked myself) and it would allow me to learn about this whole new Internet thing.”

At first, Jim floundered…

“I showed carpet on the website, sent out samples, and used a wholesaler in Georgia to deliver the goods. I made some money, but it was a lot of hard work. In fact, a lot of hand-holding of customers was required, and my time was a limiting factor in how much money I could make.”

But then, Jim had an idea…

“I had read one or two of your articles at the time where you stressed the importance of niche marketing. And after thinking about that, and applying it to my industry, I came up with the idea of selling carpets and area rugs with children's designs (e.g., animals, letters, game boards, etc). Today, things are going very well!”

(That site, by the way, is KidCarpet.com. I'm not sure if Jim Banks still owns it, but the site still exists. And, since it does, I imagine is still doing relatively well, too.)

Obviously, you should first find a niche and fill it. If not, then narrow your focus to a specific outcome, audience, theme, offer, or product. Or to continue the earlier fishing analogy, if you want to fish in a bigger lake, bring a sonar with you.

By zooming in on your market, you will proportionately magnify your sales.

Categories
Copywriting

P.S.: Don’t Forget to Include This in Your Copy

One of the most venerable and common elements of good salesletters, following the headline, is the postscript or “P.S.” at the end.

The end of every great sales letter should be capped with a strong P.S. We are often told that the P.S. is the second most read part of a salesletter, because after reading the headline many people tend to scroll or jump to the bottom.

It's like the “second headline,” so to speak.

This is particularly true when we know that most people tend to read the headline or the “Dear Friend” salutation, then turn to the closing of the letter to see who signed it or who is it from. Partly out of curiosity. Partly to justify reading it in the first place.

Including a P.S. in your copy may not always be necessary. I've seen some great, proven salesletters that did not have any postscripts at all. But if you do include one, don't add it just for the sake of adding one. Make sure it does the job.

In fact, you shouldn't use a P.S. the way it's supposed to be used…

In traditional letter writing, a P.S. is an afterthought. An additional, incidental, or forgotten piece of information. Hence the meaning of the word “post script,” as in, “after writing.”

And the reason it exists is because, in the old days of handwritten or typewritten letters, where you couldn't go back to edit their letter or insert new pieces of information, the P.S. would allow the author to add final bits of information after the letter was finished.

Back then, we did not have the luxury of real-time editing or correction fluid as we do today, so adding a P.S. was common practice. Now, it is no longer necessary.

But salesletters keep using them, and they work extremely well, in large part because they look more personal and informal, and less like a professional, formal sales pitch.

However, with salesletters, a postscript is not really a place to introduce new pieces of information — unless those pieces are supported or discussed in the letter, or meant to arouse curiosity, forcing the reader back into the copy.

But it is a perfect tool to get the reader to take action.

As the last opportunity to convert your reader into a buyer, the P.S. is a final statement that supports the copy that came before, reminds or reinforces an underlying principle of the letter, or emphasizes the need to take action quickly.

To that end, it can be a great place for adding new, undisclosed information, such as a few surprises or twists, in order to clinch the deal. (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

But the easiest and most common use for a P.S. is to provide a brief summary of the letter, reiterate its main purpose or objective, or restate any of its key points, such as the big idea, the compelling promise, the major benefits, or the call to action.

This follows with the three major steps in delivering presentations. And what is a sales letter at its core but a written presentation? As a refresher, the three major steps are:

  1. Tell them what you're going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.

Your P.S. can be part of that important final step.

Specifically, you've already told them everything in your sales letter, especially if it's long copy. Now it's time to choose the one aspect you believe is most likely to be holding them back from buying after reading all the way through, and to resolve it.

A strong P.S. does not beg, but rather invites the reader to take the final step before purchasing. It's a strong and clear statement that contains the final call to action.

You can use the P.S. to recap the entirety of your offer. Tell them again what your offer includes, list the important benefits, add up the dollar value (including the value of your bonuses), and outline the extras to reinforce the value of the offer.

An effective technique is to restate your headline, or something important you've expressed in the headline. You won't necessarily copy the headline verbatim, but present the same information but paraphrase it in a benefit-driven manner.

For example, your headline says:

“The Accidental Weight-Loss Discovery of a Juggling Career Mom Who Lost Six Inches of Baby Fat Around Her Waistline Without Any Exercise of Diets — In Just a Few Weeks!”

The postscript can then say:

“P.S.: If you're a career mom or about to become one, and you're concerned about unwanted, stubborn baby fat, then this product is perfect for you. Imagine turning heads as you melt away those few extra inches amazingly fast — in just a few short weeks! — while avoiding exercises or diets you don't have time for, anyway.”

Also, using the “oh, by the way” approach is an effective one. This resembles the original purpose of a P.S., since it is indeed intended to be an afterthought or an important piece of information one has forgotten to mention after the letter was written.

That's why they are perfect places, not only to add additional information we failed to include in our letter, but also to use this seemingly accidental omission to highlight a specific piece of information we want our reader to remember, absorb, and appreciate.

So while you can use a postscript to restate the primary benefit of your product or service, you can also use it to introduce a completely new surprise benefit — such as one or more special, “last-minute” bonuses you are including with your offer.

Thus, a P.S. is a great way to strengthen the offer and “sweeten the deal.”

However, one of the most powerful P.S. techniques is to highlight the sense of urgency — either by creating or increasing the scarcity factor not mentioned in the letter, or by restating or emphasizing it if one was already mentioned.

This way, the P.S. prompts the straggler to take immediate action, whether it's buying your offer now, or at least going back and reading the letter before it's too late.

Nevertheless, let's not forgot the proof element. In fact, a postscript is a perfect opportunity to increase buyer confidence, reduce skepticism, and lower resistance.

At this point, you want to alleviate any lingering doubts. Expressing you understand your reader's hesitancy — especially once they've read to that point but have yet to take action, which is a great indicator — can be a bridge to overcoming their final objection.

Adding another proof element may be your chosen tactic in this case.

Personally, this is my favorite. I love using P.S.'s to enhance the credibility of my offer in some way, perhaps by including an additional testimonial or endorsement, or by adding or restating the guarantee. Perhaps a newer and even stronger guarantee.

What you are looking to do with your P.S. is identify the one objection you foresee as being the key to holding your reader back from ordering. If you decide on using a testimonial, then choose the one that inherently answers this lingering objection.

To handle this objection further, a postscript may be the place you repeat an important or unique aspect of your offer. Since this is what sets your product or service apart from everything else in the market, it may be important to point it out to your reader again.

However, in doing so it's best to paraphrase as to make it easier for the reader to understand and truly appreciate its meaning, and make it appear less repetitive.

In other words, reword the original information that was previously introduced as to specifically deal with the objection. Ideally, it will be the last piece of the puzzle your reader needs to push them over the fence and make the decision to buy.

Finally, a proven technique is to include more than one postscript (e.g., “P.P.S.” and “P.P.P.S.”), and using them with a variety of different methods discussed in this article.

If you decide on more than one P.S., then you should stick to three. Why? It's because studies and split-tests show that, in a triad of P.S.'s, people tend to read, remember, and respond to the second one more than they do the first and last ones.

In other words, include your biggest benefit, a major selling point, or an element you want your readers to focus on the most in the second or middle P.S.

Bottom line, try adding one to your salesletter. As with all aspects of the sales letter that come before, you will have to experiment with your P.S. until it is just right. It can take a while to adjust the angle and the wording until it reaches the peak of effectiveness.

Though shorter and less intense than most other aspects of your sales letter, no less care should be taken with the crafting of this aspect. Considering its position and purpose, it's a feature you don't want to forget to include in your sales copy.

Categories
Copywriting

The Seven Deadly Sins of Website Copy

Throughout my research, I'm always surprised when I stumble onto websites that are professionally designed and seem to offer great products and services, but lack or fail in certain important elements.

Elements that, with just a few short changes, can help multiply the results almost instantaneously.

Generally, I have found that there are seven common mistakes. I call them the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Is your website committing any one of these?

1) They Fail to Connect

Traffic has been long touted to be the key to online success, but that's not true. If your site is not pulling sales, inquiries or results, then why would it need more traffic?

The key is to turn curious browsers into serious buyers. Aside from the quality of the copy, the number one reason why a website doesn't convert is that the copy is targeting the wrong audience or fails to connect with them.

First, create a “perfect prospect profile.” List all the attributes, characteristics and qualities of your most profitable and accessible market.

Don't just stick with things like demographics and psychographics. Try to get to know them.

Who are they, really? What are their most pressing problems? What keeps them up at night? How do they talk about their problems? Where do they hang out?

Then, target your market by centering on a major theme, benefit or outcome so that, when you generate pre-qualified traffic, your hit ratio and your sales will increase dramatically.

Finally, ensure that your copy connects with them. Intimately. It speaks their language, talks about their problems, and tells stories they can easily appreciate and relate to.

Since this is the most common error that marketers and copywriters commit, and to help you, follow the following formulas.

The OATH formula helps you to understand the stage of awareness your market is at. (How aware of the problem are they, really?)

The QUEST formula guides you in qualifying and empathizing with them. And the UPWORDS formula teaches you how to choose the appropriate language your market can easily understand, appreciate and respond to.

2) They Lack a Compelling Offer

“Making an offer you can't refuse” seems like an old cliché, but don't discount its relevance and power. Especially in this day and age where most offers are so anemic, lifeless, and like every other offer out there.

Too many business believe that simply offering a product or service, and mentioning the price, are good enough. But what they fail to realize is that people need to intimately understand the full value (the real value and, more importantly, the perceived value) behind the offer.

Sometimes, all you need is to offer some premiums, incentives and bonuses to make the offer more palatable and hard to ignore. (Very often, people buy products and services for the premiums alone.)

Other times, you need to create what is called a “value buildup.”

(In fact, premiums are not mandatory in all cases, particularly when the offer itself is solid enough. But building value almost always is.)

Essentially, you compare the price of your offer not with the price of some other competing offer or alternative, but with the ultimate cost of not buying — and enjoying — your product or service.

This may include the price of an alternative. But “ultimate cost” goes far beyond price. Dan Kennedy calls this “apples to oranges” comparisons.

For example, let's say you sell an ebook on how to grow better tomatoes. That might sound simple, and your initial inclination might be to compare it to other “tomatoe-growing” ebooks or viable alternatives.

But also look at the the time it took for you to learn the best ways to grow tomatoes. Look at the amount of money you invested in trying all the different fertilizers, seeds and techniques to finally determine which ones are the best.

Don't forget the time, money and energy (including emotional energy) people save from not having to learn these by themselves. Add the cost of doing it wrong and buying solutions that are either more expensive or inappropriate.

That's what makes an offer valuable. One people can't refuse.

3) They Lack “Reasons Why”

While some websites are well-designed and provide great content, and they might even have great copy, they fail because they don't offer enough reasons for people to buy — or at least read the copy in the first place.

Visitors are often left clueless. In other words, why should they buy? Why should they buy that particular product? Why should they buy that product from that particular site? And more important, why should they buy now?

What makes your product so unique, different and special? What's in it for your customers that they can't get anywhere else? Not answering those questions will deter clients and impede sales.

John E. Kennedy, a Canadian fireman and copywriter at the turn of the last century, talked a lot about the power of adding “reasons why.” His wisdom still rings true to this day, and we know this from experience.

Once, my wife had a client whose website offered natural supplements.

It offered a free bottle (i.e., 30-day supply). But response was abysmal. Aside from being in a highly competitive industry, the copy failed to allay the prospect's fears. They thought it might be a scam or that there's a catch.

So all she did was tell her client to add the following paragraph:

“Why are we offering this free bottle? Because we want you to try it. We're so confident that you will see visible results within 30 days that you will come back and order more.”

Response more than tripled.

Similarly, add “reasons why” to your copy. To help you, make sure that it covers all the bases by answering the following “5 why's:”

  • Why me? (Why should they listen to you?)
  • Why you? (Who is perfect for this offer?)
  • Why this? (Why is this product perfect for them?)
  • Why this price? (Why is this offer so valuable?)
  • Why now? (Why must they not wait?)

4) They Lack Scarcity

Speaking of “why now,” this is probably the most important reason of all.

A quote from Jim Rohn says it all, and I force myself to think about it each time I craft an offer. He said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.”

People fear making bad decisions. With spams, scams and snake oils being rampant on the Internet, people tend to procrastinate, and they do so even when the copy is good, the offer is perfect and they're qualified for it.

Most websites I review fail to effectively communicate a sense of urgency. If people are given the chance to wait or think it over, they will. Look at it this way: if you don't add a sense of urgency, you're inviting them to procrastinate.

Use takeaway selling in order to stop people from procrastinating and get them to take action now. In other words, shape your offer — and not just your product or service — so that it is time-sensitive or quantity-bound.

More important, give a reasonable, logical explanation to justify your urgency or else your sales tactic will be instantly discredited. Back it up with reasons as to why the need to take advantage of the offer is pressing.

Plus, a sense of urgency doesn't need to be an actual limit or a deadline. It can be just a good, plausible and compelling explanation that emphasizes the importance of acting now — as well as the consequences of not doing so.

For example, what would they lose out on if they wait? Don't limit yourself to the offer. Think of all the negative side-effects of not going ahead right now.

5) They Lack Proof

Speaking of the fear of making bad decisions, today's consumers are increasingly leery when contemplating offers on the Internet.

While many websites look professional, have an ethical sales approach, and offer proven products or services, the lack of any kind of tangible proof will still cause most visitors to at least question your offer.

The usual suspects, of course, are testimonials and guarantees. Guarantees and testimonials help to reduce the skepticism around the purchase of your product or service, and give it almost instant credibility.

(I often refuse to critique any copy that doesn't have any testimonials. It's not just to save myself time and energy. I would be wasting my client's money if the only recommendation they got from me was to add testimonials.)

Elements of proof is not just limited to guarantees and testimonials, either.

They can include the story behind your product, your credentials, actual case studies, results of tests and trials, samples and tours, statistics and factoids, photos and multimedia, “seals of approval,” and, of course, reasons why.

Even the words you choose can make a difference. Because, in addition to a sense of urgency, your copy also needs a sense of credibility.

Today, people are understandably cynical and suspicious. If your offer is suspect and your copy, at any point, gives any hint that it can be fake, misleading, untrue, too good to be true, or too exaggerated to be true…

… Then like it or not your response rate will take a nose dive.

So, help remove the risk from the buyer's mind and you will thus increase sales — and, paradoxically, reduce returns as well. Plus, don't just stick with the truth. You also need to give your copy the ring of truth.

To help you, follow my FORCEPS formula.

6) They Lack a Clear Call to Action

Answer this million-dollar, skill-testing question: “What exactly do you want your visitors to do?” Simple, isn't it? But it doesn't seem that way with the many sites I've visited.

The KISS principle (to me, it means “keep it simple and straightforward”) is immensely important on the Internet. An effective website starts with a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome.

If your site is not meant to, say, sell a product, gain a customer or obtain an inquiry for more information, then what exactly must it do? Work around the answer as specifically as possible.

Focus on the “power of one.” That is:

  • One message
  • One audience
  • One outcome

If your copy tells too many irrelevant stories (irrelevant to the audience and to the advancement of the sale), you will lose your prospects' attention and interest.

If it tries to be everything to everyone (and is therefore either too generic or too complex), you will lose your prospects completely.

And if you ask your prospects to do too many things (other than “buy now” or whatever action you want them to take), you will lose sales.

Use one major theme. Make just one offer. (Sure, you can offer options, such as ordering options or different packages to choose from. But nonetheless, it's still just one offer.)

Most important, provide clear instructions on where and how to order.

Aside from the lack of a clear call to action, asking them to do too many things can be just as counterproductive. The mind hates confusion. If you try to get your visitors to do too many things, they will do nothing.

Stated differently, if you give people too many choices, they won't make one. So keep your message focused or else you will overwhelm the reader.

7) They Lack Good Copy

It may seem like this should be the number one mistake.

While it's still one of the top seven mistakes, it's last because the ones above take precedence. If you're guilty of making any of the previous six mistakes, in the end your sales will falter no matter how good your copy is.

Nevertheless, lackluster copy that fails to invoke emotions, tell compelling stories, create vivid mental imagery, and excite your prospects about your product or service is indeed one of the most common reasons websites fail.

Top sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said, “Selling is the transference of enthusiasm you have for your product into the minds of your prospects.”

Copy is selling in print. Therefore, its job is no different. In fact, since there's no human interaction that you normally get in a face-to-face sales encounter, your copy's job, therefore, has an even greater responsibility.

It must communicate that same enthusiasm that energizes your prospects, excites them about your offering and empowers them to buy.

Aside from infusing emotion into your copy, give your prospects something they can understand, believe in and act upon. Like a trial lawyer, it must tell a persuasive story, make an airtight case and remove any reasonable doubt.

Above all, it must serve your prospect.

Many sites fail to answer a person's most important question: “What's in it for me?” They get so engrossed in describing companies, products, features or advantages over competitors that they fail to appeal to the visitor specifically.

Tell the visitor what they are getting out of responding to your offer. To help you, first write down a series of bullets. Bullets are captivating, pleasing to the eye, clustered for greater impact and deliver important benefits.

(They usually follow the words “you get,” such as “With this product, you get.”)

But don't just resort to apparent or obvious benefits. Dig deeper. Think of the end-results your readers get from enjoying your product or service.

Do what my friend and copywriter Peter Stone calls the “so that” technique. Each time you state a benefit, add “so that” (or “which means”) at the end, and then complete the sentence to expand further.

Let's say your copy sells Ginko Biloba, a natural supplement that increases memory function. (I'm not a Ginko expert, so I'm guessing, here. Also, I'm being repetious for the sake of illustration.) Here's what you might get:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can be clear, sharp and focused… so that you can stay on top of everything and not miss a beat… so that you can be a lot more productive at work… so that you can advance in your career a lot faster… so that you can make more money, enjoy more freedom, and have more job security… so that (and so on).

That could have turned another way depending on the answer you give it, which is why it's good to repeat this exercise. Here's another example:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can decrease the risks of senility, Alzheimer's disease, and other degenerative diseases of the brain… so that you won't be placed in a nursing home… so that you won't place the burden of your care on your loved ones… so that you can grow old with peace of mind… so that you can enjoy a higher quality of life, especially during those later years… so that (and so on).

Remember, these are just examples pulled off the top of my head. But if you want more help with your own copy, my FAB formula is a useful guide.

Bottom line, check your copy to see if you're committing any of these seven deadly sins. If you are, your prospects won't forgive you. By not buying, that is.