Writing for leads: How professionals can market themselves online
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Writing for leads: How professionals can market themselves online

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I wrote this presentation a while back for attorneys. I've now re-written it as a general guide for all professional services folks. Have a look, and as always, let me know if you have questions.

I wrote this presentation a while back for attorneys. I've now re-written it as a general guide for all professional services folks. Have a look, and as always, let me know if you have questions.

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  • \n
  • I know what you’re thinking as I stand here.\n\n
  • You think I’m going to stuff ridiculous rules about writing for the web down your throats. \n\nNope.\n\n
  • My history, in a graph.\n\nIn this time, I’ve invested a lot of work in testing and measuring different kinds of writing, marketing and otherwise, to see what works best.\n
  • And before you say “Oh, but you get to write about all sorts of exciting stuff - this is law. No one wants to hear about it.” \n\nYeah. No.\n\nI’ve had to write articles about reroofing the Tacoma Dome, the importance of colon cleansing, the magical moment when you select just the right rubber grommit for your HVAC unit, and I’ve had to impersonate a pleasant bride-to-be writing about her bridesmaids.\n\nI’m picking on me, too, by the way.\n
  • What I will be talking about: Everyone who comes to your blog post should somehow convert. That’s the perfect world. And you can write to make them do that. I’m not talking about deception, or selling, or anything else. I’m talking about writing that makes the reader want to read the next thing you write, at a minimum.\n\n
  • This is the cycle.\n
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  • No one cares about you. They care about them.\n
  • Readers on the web are more distracted, less attentive and less willing to stop and actually read the words on the page than a preschooler who just ate 10 bags of M&Ms. You can beg, plead and bribe. You'll get nothing.\n
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  • Search engines use the title tag. On any given page, the title tag is the strongest signal of a page’s relevance. The words that come first in the title tag are the words for which you have the best chance of being found.\n\nAnd, search engines display the title tag at the top of the search ‘snippet’. So once you show up in the rankings, the title tag is the strongest signal to the reader that this is a page they do or do not want to read.\n\nIf you look at this example, the title is ‘Captain Crazy Pants and the Flight to Nowhere’ with some other stuff after it. If you search for ‘captain crazy pants’...\n\n\n
  • ...this article is #3 out of 2 million competing pages, beating sites like YouTube. That is, in large part, because of the title tag. I only use the phrase ‘captain crazy pants’ one more time on the whole page.\n\nI know what you’re saying - that’s just some nonsense phrase, Ian. We’re real journalists. We don’t write about drunk Google engineers who harass innocent SEOs. This will never work for me. But nice job presenting the best possible case. Loser.\n
  • Feed readers use the title tag. A feed reader is a tool many people use to subscribe to a site’s latest stories. When I subscribe to a web site’s RSS feed, I get a list of titles from the latest stories. It’s convenient, because I can review the latest stories from many different sites, all in one place. Then I can decide which stories I want to read and click through to those sites. \n\nIf your headline becomes your title tag, and your title tag is the first thing someone sees in a feed reader, then your headline determines whether they’ll click through to your site.\n\nThat’s pretty important.\n\n
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  • I couldn’t get permission to share specific client data, but we’ve tested great, clever but not fully descriptive headlines against fully descriptive headlines that aren’t as clever. The fully descriptive headline wins every time, without fail, usually by 2:1 or more.\n\nAnd that’s not just in search!!!! Clickthru from feed readers, Twitter ‘tweets’ and other ways of forwarding a story to others perform better, as well.\n\nNow, a couple of examples...\n
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  • It’ll be too hard to read.\nI won’t understand it.\nIt’ll be the same stuff I’m reading everywhere else.\nIt will be a waste of time.\n
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  • Be the one attorney everyone can understand, right off the bat.\n
  • Be the one attorney everyone can understand, right off the bat.\n
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  • Don’t ignore them. But understand that search engines are awfully good at what they do. If you follow the blank sheet of paper rule you should be fine. So don’t “write for search engines.” Leave that to the professionals.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • \n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
  • If you’re fully descriptive, the rest will take care of itself.\n
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  • First, if you are responsible for formatting your images, compress them! Look at this image.\n
  • Then look at this one. It’s 18 kb. Almost 1/4 the size. It’ll load faster, which means more people will use it (because they don’t have to wait). It also means search engines are more likely to index the image.\n\nThis isn’t really part of fully descriptive or properly classified, but it aids in both. Slow loading images don’t perform as well in the rankings, and they sure don’t get as much love from your readers.\n
  • You also need to resize images in a photo editor, not using the height and width attribute.\n\nI see many cases where an image that’s 300 x 300 pixels (dots) on a page is actually a 600 x 600 pixel image that’s been scaled in the HTML itself.\n\nYour content management system probably lets you scale images by a % or specific dimensions when you insert them into your articles. But most of those systems don’t actually resize the image - they don’t take the original file, smush it down, and then save that as a new, smaller file. Instead, they wedge the original file into a smaller space by using some code: The height and width attributes of the IMG element. I won’t nerd out about it - you can look that up if you need to.\n\nWhen that happens, the page still delivers the humungous image file. Visiting browsers and search engines have to take the time to download an image that’s larger than necessary in both dimensions and file size. \n\nAnd, visiting search engines can’t properly classify the image. Google and other engines classify images by dimension. If you scale your images in the HTML code, you’re forcing the search engines to take an extra step. Why do that? Don’t!\n
  • And, make sure you fully describe the image in its ALT attribute.\n\nThe ALT attribute is literally the alternate description of an image. It’ll show up if, for whatever reason, a visiting browser doesn’t download the image. It’s also used by search engines to categorize images. \n\nRemember the blank sheet of paper test? If you write your ALT attribute on a blank sheet of paper and show it to a stranger, they should know what the image is about.\n
  • No one cares about you. They care about them.\n
  • Chain content. Make a blog post the entry point for the reader to get a whitepaper, or to sign up for a webinar, or to just subscribe to the blog. Then they get more content. You get the idea.\n
  • Be the one attorney everyone can understand, right off the bat.\n
  • Be the one attorney everyone can understand, right off the bat.\n
  • Those shares are more than just a happy feeling. They help your firm and your blog rank higher. This is an opportunity for you, cause your competitors aren’t doing it.\n
  • Be the one attorney everyone can understand, right off the bat.\n
  • Those shares are more than just a happy feeling. They help your firm and your blog rank higher. This is an opportunity for you, cause your competitors aren’t doing it.\n
  • Chain content. Make a blog post the entry point for the reader to get a whitepaper, or to sign up for a webinar, or to just subscribe to the blog. Then they get more content. You get the idea.\n
  • Chain content. Make a blog post the entry point for the reader to get a whitepaper, or to sign up for a webinar, or to just subscribe to the blog. Then they get more content. You get the idea.\n
  • Chain content. Make a blog post the entry point for the reader to get a whitepaper, or to sign up for a webinar, or to just subscribe to the blog. Then they get more content. You get the idea.\n
  • This is the cycle.\n
  • \n

Writing for leads: How professionals can market themselves online Writing for leads: How professionals can market themselves online Presentation Transcript

  • Writing for leads Ian LurieFriday, February 17, 12
  • I know what you’re thinking. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Engage! Converse! Write gooder! Oh, great. Here’s another jackass to tell me all the stuff I hear 30x a day, like “engage your audience”. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Ian’s Life, 1990-2011 Not true! I’ve spent 16 years now 150000 Hours 150000 testing, experimenting and learning what kind of writing works best online. So we’re gonna get specific. 112500 75000 50000 37500 15000 0 Law School Writing & Marketing Parenting portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • I’ve had to use this learning writing copy to sell, teach and promote stuff like the Tacoma Dome’s roof, the importance of colon cleansing, and rubber grommits. Yeah. I’m livin’ the dream. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Writing for conversion But I digress. I’m not going to give you platitudes. This is about writing for conversion. And make no mistake: Everyone coming to your blog post should somehow convert. I’m not talking about deception, or selling, or anything else ‘cheesy’. I’m talking about making sure readers keep reading, or subscribe, or otherwise stick around. That’s the kind of conversion you want. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • You need to fill the top of the leads I nd/read your post ‘funnel’. That’s what the blog is for. It’s not to get folks to hire you. So your job is to get folks who read your I subscribe stuff to this point. You keep in touch I hire you portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Blog = Top of funnel portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • 9 rules I’ve got 9 basic rules I use whenever I write for online consumption. Follow them and you maximize the odds that you can get readers to convert. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • No one cares. Write accordingly. 1Friday, February 17, 12
  • me. mememe you. no... me. me. me. People are self-interested. On the web, they’re more distracted, less attentive and less willing to stop for a second than a preschooler who just ate a bag of M&Ms. Beg, plead, bribe. You’ll get nothing. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Tell people why they should read. So, you need to put whatever you’re writing in their terms. Why would they want to read your post? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • For example: “Don’t let an uninsured loss devastate your project. Look out for these insurance policy gotchas.” If I’m a general contractor, guess what? I worry about this all the time. So this first sentence tells me why I should read this post. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Around tax time, this one will grab me, too: “Check your payables or you may end up with IRS penalties.” portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Don’t write a white paper. Whatever you do, don’t write the staid, white paper. First, most of the readers aren’t lawyers, or accountants, or engineers, or whatever. Second, even the nerdiest of us will have a hard time not going into a coma when you start throwing white papers on a blog. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • ect nt hit ta arc oun n- cc no -a a on a n -lawyer an on Answer this: Why should I care? Answer this question: Why should someone outside your profession care about this post? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Sell the page. Sell the page, not yourself. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Write for a blank sheet of paper. 2Friday, February 17, 12
  • Your headline must, when written on a blank sheet of paper, explain your post to a complete stranger. ‘nuff said. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Headlines get taken out of context, all over the place. Here’s the headline on a post I wrote a while back.Friday, February 17, 12
  • And here it is, in a search result.Friday, February 17, 12
  • Headlines show up in feed readers, too. My point: Any headline you write - any title for any post - must be fully descriptive. It must stand on its own, because it’s going to have to. Ignoring this rule leads to all sorts of tragedies...Friday, February 17, 12
  • This is from an Anderson Cooper article. What the heck was he writing about? I dunno. Come on in, the water’s ne. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • This one probably touched off an international incident. Karzai pardons Taliban portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Ewwwwwwww.... Royals Get a Taste of Angels’ Colon (it’s about baseball, by the way) portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • And my personal favorite. Supreme Court Tries Sodomy portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Clickthru from headline/titles, by type Clever Descriptive 40% We’ve tested this over the years. Descriptive beats clever, every time. 30% 20% 10% 0% Search Feeds Twitter E-mailFriday, February 17, 12
  • Be fully descriptive. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Just say it. 3Friday, February 17, 12
  • Active voice should always be what you use. Er, yeah. Use active voice, Er, yeah. Use active voice, not passive voice. not passive voice. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Use active voice. Ah. So much better. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “A study of properties” Lose the ‘of’. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “A properties study” portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “Trend higher” Can you think of a better way to say this? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “grow” Yep. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “Skill at communicating” Again, lose the ‘at’. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “Communications skills” Much better. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “The manner in which” Can you think of a better way to say this? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • “How” Uh-huh. Don’t use 4 words where 1 will do. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Know the no’s. 4Friday, February 17, 12
  • “This will be too hard to read” “I won’t understand it” “It’ll be the same stuff I read everywhere else” “It will be a waste of my time” Know the reasons people give themselves for leaving your blog post. Most important: You have to constantly reinforce that this is a fantastic use of their time. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Don’t write like a lawyer. (until you’re billing someone) 5Friday, February 17, 12
  • “Don’t write like a #$#@!@ lawyer!!!!!!” -Steven Reinhardt, 1992 Judge Reinhardt is brilliant, and super-liberal. He also called me a fascist, and told me the above. He got the latter right, at least. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • In the event that = “if” Not less than = “at least” Thereafter = “later” or “after” Subsequent to = “after” portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/legalese.htm A brilliant classmate of mine at UCLA is now a professor there. He wrote the above list. You should print it and tape it to your monitor. It’ll improve your writing in minutes. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Search engines don’t pay you. 6Friday, February 17, 12
  • Don’t sweat the keywords. I won’t belabor this: Just don’t worry about search engines that much. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Do be fully descriptive. If you’re fully descriptive in your headlines, you provide a good clue to search engines that lets them classify your post. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Do link like with like. If you write 3 posts on a similar topic, link them together. That’s not just for search engines - it also helps your readers. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Do keep tags to a minimum. If your blog or site uses tags, use no more than 3-4 tags per post. If you don’t know what tags are, don’t worry about it - you won’t have any issues, because you won’t add any tags. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Put on the breaks. You need to break up your writing. It’s hard to read online. People tend to scan the page, first. Make your pages scannable. 7Friday, February 17, 12
  • 6-8 lines/paragraph. Keep your paragraphs short. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • 3-4 paragraphs per ‘chunk’. And never have more than 3-4 paragraphs before you place a subheading or an image. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Subheadings. Speaking of subheads, use ‘em. Your blogging software lets you add a ‘level 2 heading’ or an ‘h2’. Use those as subheads. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Use bullets and lists. Use lists for three reasons: They help people scan the page. They make your points more obvious. And they help you organize your thoughts. Use lists for three reasons: 1. They help people scan the page. 2. They make your points more obvious. 3. They help you organize your thoughts. See the difference? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • By grouping lists and subheadings, you can turn a massive post (this one was over 1000 words) into an easily readable page. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • By grouping lists and subheadings, you can turn a massive post (this one was over 1000 words) into an easily readable page. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Images. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Images are a great way to break up the page, too. And they add detail your readers can take in at a glance. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Images are a great way to break up the page, too. And they add detail your readers can take in at a glance. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Use images wisely Images are great, but they can really screw up a blog post. 8Friday, February 17, 12
  • First, they can be too large. This image is 115 kilobytes. In plain language, that means it’s going to take a really long time to download to your readers’ computers. Will they wait? I doubt it. 115 kbFriday, February 17, 12
  • Here’s the same image, compressed to 18kb. You can use any photo editing software to get the same results. If you don’t know how to do this, have someone else do it for you, or use a service like Picnik, which is owned by Google and won’t send you viruses. 18 kbFriday, February 17, 12
  • Scale images using that same editing software. Don’t scale them using the height and width attributes. oy. this is very cramped.Friday, February 17, 12
  • Good ALT attribute: “Sheep say web 2.0” Bad ALT attribute: “What the heck?” Write a fully descriptive ALT attribute for all images. Your blogging software lets you enter a photo description and, depending on how it’s set up, an ALT attribute. Fill out those two fields and you’ll be setting a good ALT attribute.Friday, February 17, 12
  • Have a call to action. Finally, have a call to action. Ask folks to do what you want them to do. And that call to action doesn’t have to be ‘hire me’. It should be an action that brings them into the funnel. 9Friday, February 17, 12
  • Invite subscriptions/follows How about asking folks to follow you on Twitter, or subscribe to your blog using an RSS reader? portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • First, have a link that reads exactly like this: You should follow me on Twitter. This wording gets best results as far as building followers. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Get in touch on LinkedIn. Maybe have this, too. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Social media = rankings If you’re wondering, ‘why bother’, well, there’s more to social media sharing than warm tingles. Social media shares help content rank higher in search results, too. And they build the kind of authority search engines and social media sites use to rank and filter content. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • 25 SEO: B+ 108 SEO: F Look at these rankings. These guys have no business being #3 for ‘law firm’. They 11 only rank there because they have far SEO: C+ more followers on Facebook. Social shares matter, a lot. 44 SEO: D- portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Subscriptions = visibility And, of course, every subscription you get builds visibility: It’s one more user who’ll remember you, and potentially come back. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • Chain your content. Finally, use one piece of content - one blog post- to draw the reader into another. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • For example, ask folks to register for a webinar, or sign up to download a related white paper. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • For example, ask folks to register for a webinar, or sign up to download a related white paper. portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • blog post 1 By ‘chaining’ a series of posts together you can build your authority and trust, and then get more folks willing to provide their information to get a more in-depth piece. That gets folks deeper into the blog post 2 funnel. blog post 3 e-book/whitepaper/ seminar portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • I read your post That’s how all of these tips work: They fill the top of the funnel. Then they help readers make a good decision about whether they should subscribe to your blog. If they keep in touch, they’re more I subscribe likely to hire you. There you have it: Inbound marketing, without a hard sell. You keep in touch I hire you portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12
  • If you’ve got questions: ian@portent.com @portentint portent.com conversationmarketing.com portent.com copyright 2011 Portent, Inc. conversationmarketing.comFriday, February 17, 12