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Secure your SMX West pass now & save big. Rates increase next week!

Don’t miss out: Your chance to lock in the lowest rate on a seat at SMX West expires next week! The West Coast’s largest search marketing conference is coming to San Jose, California, March 13-15, and we want you to join us for three days of actionable, cutting-edge search marketing tactics…



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Does Your Copy Pass the ‘Forehead Slap’ Test?

how to craft compelling copy

One of the most repeated rules of writing compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features.

In other words, identify the underlying benefit that each feature of a product or service provides to the prospect, because that’s what will prompt the purchase.

This is one rule that always applies, except when it doesn’t.

We’ll look at the exceptions in a bit.

Fake benefits

The idea of highlighting benefits over features seems simple. But it’s often tough to do in practice.

Writers often end up with fake benefits instead.

Direct response copywriter Clayton Makepeace asserts that fake benefits will kill sales copy, so you have to be on the lookout for them in your writing. He uses this headline as an example:

Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!

That sounds pretty beneficial, doesn’t it? In reality, there’s not a single real benefit in the headline.

True benefits

Makepeace advises to apply his patented “forehead slap” test to see if your copy truly contains a benefit for the reader. In other words, have you ever woken up from a deep sleep, slapped yourself in the forehead, and exclaimed “Man … I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!”

I think not. So getting someone to pull out their wallet to buy that so-called “benefit” will be difficult at best.

Here’s how Makepeace identifies the real benefit hidden in that headline:

“Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.”

A high-risk person will want to avoid the terrible effects of diabetes. That is the true benefit that the example product offers.

How to extract true benefits

So, how do you successfully extract true benefits from features? Here’s a four-step process that works:

  1. Make a list of every feature of your product or service.
  2. Ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place.
  3. Take the “why” and ask “how” does this connect with the prospect’s desires?
  4. Get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.

Let’s look at a product feature for a fictional “read later” app.

Feature:

“Contains an artificial intelligence algorithm.”

Why it’s there:

“Adds greater utility by adapting and customizing the user’s information experience.”

What’s in it for them:

“Keeps the data you need the most at the forefront when you’re in a hurry.”

Emotional root:

“Stay up-to-date on the things that add value to your life and career, without getting stressed out from information overload.”

Getting to the emotional root is crucial for effective consumer sales. But what about B2B prospects?

When features work

When selling to businesses or highly technical people, features alone can sometimes do the trick. Overtly pandering to emotions will only annoy them.

Besides, unlike consumers (who mostly “want” things rather than “need” them), business and tech buyers often truly need a solution to a problem or a tool to complete a task. When a feature is fairly well-known and expected from your audience, you don’t need to sell it.

However, with innovative features, you still need to move the prospect down the four-step path. While the phrase “contains an artificial intelligence algorithm” may be enough to get the tech-savvy reader salivating, he’ll still want to know how it works and what it does for him.

The “What’s in it for me?” aspect remains crucial.

For business buyers, you’re stressing “bottom line” benefits from innovative features. If you can demonstrate that the prospect will be a hero because your CRM product will save her company $ 120,000 a year compared to the current choice, you’ve got an excellent shot.

While that may seem like a no-brainer purchase to you, you’ll still need to strongly support the promised benefit with a detailed explanation of how the features actually deliver.

Remember, change can be scary to the business buyer, because it’s their job or small business on the line if the product disappoints.

Sell with benefits, support with features

We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are.

Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify after the fact with logic. So, first help create the emotional desire, then aid the rationalization process with features and hard data so that the wallet actually emerges.

Are you a writer who wants to become a Certified Content Marketer?

Inside our Content Marketer Certification program, we’ve got a lot more for writers.

We designed this program to help writers make the most of their careers — to help them position themselves and their offerings, so that they can build profitable freelance writing businesses.

And we’re opening the program soon. Drop your email address below and you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on February 19, 2014.

The post Does Your Copy Pass the ‘Forehead Slap’ Test? appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Win a Free Pass! Get Content Marketing Smart at MarketingProfs University in Minneapolis

MarketingProfs-University-Minneapolis

One of the biggest problems that many marketing organizations are facing today is creating quality content on a consistent basis. It can be a challenge to make sure every piece of content you produce is effective at helping to attract, engage and convert target customers.

In fact, according to research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 38% of B2B marketers state that their content marketing is effective. If you are one of the 62% of marketers that really need to improve content marketing performance, we have just the ticket. Literally!

Our friends at MarketingProfs are hosting a series of workshops focused on helping marketers reach content marketing success. From September 30 through October 2nd, these workshops will be held in Minneapolis.

Get Creative and Win! TopRank Marketing will award one free pass to the workshop of your choice in Minneapolis to whomever leaves the most creative comment on this post about why they should attend.

What Will You Learn at MarketingProfs University?

“MichaelWorkshop Title: Content Rules
Date: September 30, 2015
Instructor: Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at NewsCred

In this workshop, Instructor Michael Brenner will cover the many ways to make content magic through industry best practices and show you how (and where) to find inspiration as well as how to reach the ideal audience(s) with whom you want to develop a lasting relationship.

Michael will also guide you through many group exercises focusing on critical elements in developing award-winning content, exploring various content formats and platforms, and creating relevant personas and messaging to drive conversions. You’ll walk away with a toolbox full of tactics that you can immediately apply back in the office.

Use the Code: TOPRANKWS for $ 200 off!
Enroll Now

Kerry O'Shea GorgoneWorkshop Title: Everybody Writes
Date: October 1, 2015
Instructor: Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, Instructional Design Manager, Enterprise Training at MarketingProfs and Host of the Marketing Smarts Podcast

This workshop will focus on audience-centric writing and the fundamental shifts in thinking that require marketers to inspire, educate, and help rather than talk up benefits and features. Learners will receive hands-on training in creating different types of content for their ongoing marketing initiatives, so bring some current writing projects with you to the workshop.

The session will demonstrate various ways to collaborate on content creation, and you’ll have the opportunity to give each other feedback on voice, tone, and medium. You’ll not only learn to develop long- and medium-form content, but you’ll examine how these different types of written content align with various stages of the buyer’s journey.

Use the Code: TOPRANKWS for $ 200 off!
Enroll Now

Letisha MillsapWorkshop Title: Finders Keepers
Date: October 2, 2015
Speaker: Letisha Millsap, Marketing Strategy and Demand Generation Consultant

In this workshop, you’ll learn the difference between a lead nurturing and general marketing campaign. You will be able to review specific programs geared towards prospects and customers, the ten steps to create a lead nurturing program, and the different types of tests you can apply to measure your campaigns’ effectiveness.

Letisha will guide you through many group exercises focusing on critical elements in developing a nurturing program—from creating a buyer’s persona, to building specific messages for that persona, to documenting your content library. You’ll walk away with a toolbox full of tactics that you can immediately apply back in the office.

Use the Code: TOPRANKWS for $ 200 off!
Enroll Now

For even more reasons to check out the MarketingProfs University workshops, here are the top three from MarketingProfs marketing manager, Matt Snodgrass (plus a BONUS):

1) People will learn these three topics (writing, content marketing, lead generation) in a way that’s standardized and easily repeatable. We’re calling it the ‘MarketingProfs way.’ The way we do things. These are proven tips, tactics, and techniques.
2) Small, intimate workshop sizes. Lots of instructor interaction, group work, peer collaboration and cooperative learning to better reinforce the material.
3) This is not only a workshop, it’s an entire learning experience. We provide pre-course preparation, in-workshop learning, and post-workshop reinforcement to keep the content fresh and help learners incorporate it into their daily work routines.

Ann Handley
4) They get to talk to Ann Handley at the end of them!

Are you ready to get content marketing smart?

Members of the TopRank Marketing team will be in attendance at each of the MarketingProfs University workshops in Minneapolis and we’d love to see you there as well! If you don’t want to chance it, be sure to check out each of the links above for more information.

How can you win a FREE PASS worth $ 795?  Just leave a creative comment below on why you would like to attend one of the workshops. We will pick and announce a winner on this blog post and on Twitter using the @TopRank handle on Monday September 28.

Remember, creativity wins!

If you’re already registered for a workshop, we’d love to connect with you at the event in person.

Image via Shutterstock


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The post Win a Free Pass! Get Content Marketing Smart at MarketingProfs University in Minneapolis appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Can You Pass This Content Marketing Test?

Image of Old Schoolhouse Desks

Most content marketing authorities should ace the quiz below. But no worries if you don’t … we’ve got you covered (I’ll explain).

As you probably know content marketing is a hot topic, and study after study tells us that it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

This is very good news if you’re a content creator. It’s even better news if you’re building authority as an author online.

But are you?

Are people calling you for advice … inviting you to sit on expert panels … knocking down your inbox begging you to work on their best projects?

When you become an authority in your field, you become more influential, get more attention, receive greater recognition, and earn more money. That’s what true authority can do for you.

Time to test your content marketing chops

So, are you a content marketing authority? Take the short quiz to test your knowledge below.

Leave your answers in the comments …

  1. True or false: keyword research tools allow you to see what people are actually searching for on the web.
  2. What are the three pillars of online content marketing? (Hint: one of them is “Content” … the other two start with an “S”.)
  3. When is the best time of day (or night) to send an email to your list, to get the best response?
  4. Name two benefits of creating a content landing page (there are a total of four).
  5. What’s the difference between content marketing and copywriting?
  6. What does it mean when we say “don’t build on rented land”?
  7. True or false: cornerstone content has a short shelf life.
  8. What is the optimum number of goals a landing page should have: one, two, or three?
  9. What does CTA mean?
  10. Based on Average Order Value, which source of traffic is more profitable: search or social?

Now, if you got all ten right, you … you, my friend, are a marketer to be worshipped. Seven to nine right and you are one smart content marketing cookie. Four to seven and you are certainly on your way to authority status.

Less than four? Don’t worry …

How to ace a content marketing test in the real world

Whether you’re just starting out with this practice of content marketing, or you just need to brush up on the basics, we’ve got you covered with one of the most comprehensive free marketing training resources available online.

We call it MyCopyblogger, and when you register (no charge) you’ll get instant access to nearly 100,000 words of proven marketing training in fourteen ebooks … and the answers to all the questions above.

Plus, we’ll enroll you in our 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out the proven framework for online marketing that works, sent directly to your inbox.

Click here to join now.

And remember, leave your answers to the quiz in the comments below. I’ll swing back through with the correct answers in a few days …

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Why Webmasters Pass Their Margins Onto the Googleplex

In previous articles, we’ve looked at the one-sided deal that has emerged when it comes to search engines and publishers. Whilst there is no question that search engines provide value to end users, it’s clear that the search engines are taking the lionshare of the value when it comes to web publishing.

That isn’t sustainable.

The more value stripped from publishing, the less money will be spent on publishing in future. In this respect, the search engines current business model undermines their own long-term value to end users.

In this ecosystem, the incentive is to publish content that is cheap to produce. Content might also be loss-leader content that serves as a funnel leading to a transaction. Some of the content might be advertorial, the result of direct sponsorship, and may well include paid links. Curiously, it has been suggested by a Google rep that “….you blur the lines between advertising and content. That’s really what we’ve been advocating our advertisers to do”. Some of it might be “the right kind of native“, courtesy of Google Doubleclick. Some of the higher value content tends to be a by-product of the education sector, however the education sector may be the next in line to suffer a commodification of value.

There is little return to be had in producing high value content and making it publicly available for free, with no strings attached, so naturally such content is disappearing behind paywalls and taking other forms.

YouTube

Some YouTube producers are rebelling.

In a recent post, Jason Calacanis outlines the problem for video content producers. He maintains that Google’s cut of the rewards amounts to 45%, and that this cut simply isn’t sustainable for video producers as their margins aren’t that high.

Successful media businesses today have margins in the 20% to 50% range–if they hit profitability. That means if you give a partner 45% off the top, you have no chance of breaking even (emphasis mine). In fact, this absurd revenue is so bad that people have made amazingly clever strategies to skirt them, like VICE producing the Snoop Lion documentary and Grace Helbig becoming the face of Lowe’s Hardware. A full 100% of that money goes to the content creator — boxing out YouTube. More on this later.

Sure, it can *feel* like you’re making money, but when you look across the landscape of YouTube businesses — and I won’t call anyone out here — it’s very, very clear they are losing millions and millions of dollars a year.

YouTube doesn’t have to worry because they simply lop off 45% of the revenue from the top for providing video hosting. Hosting for them is, essentially, free since they have a huge — and growing — network of fiber (see ‘Google’s Fiber Takeover Plan Expands: Will Kill Cable & Carriers’).

Since YouTube doesn’t have to create any content, just aggregate it, they don’t need to worry about the individual profitability of any one brand……With YouTube, as with their AdSense product, Google is trying to insert itself between publishers and advertisers and extract a massive tax. In the case of YouTube, it’s a 45% tax

In a subsequent post, Calacanis laments that whilst a lot of publishers got back to him in support of his views, he received no contact from YouTube, even though he is supposedly a high value “partner”.

And what do YouTube do for this 45% cut? Hosting? They’ve pretty much outsourced support and liability to the MCNs for no money down. I imagine running a video network is pretty expensive, although I wonder about the true costs for Google. Calacanis obviously doesn’t think they’re great enough to justify the cut.

PPC Not Immune

Paid search also extracts a high tax.

Let’s run the numbers. A site has an average order price of $ 100. The site converts at 1% i.e. a site makes a sale to one in every hundred visitors. Sales are $ 1 per visitor. If the total cost of providing the order is $ 50, then the profit is 50 cents per visitor. The site can pay the search engine up to 49 cents per click and make a profit.

Let’s say the site invested heavily in conversion optimization to raise the conversion rate. They redesign their site, they refine their offer to give users exactly what they want, they optimize the sales funnel, and they manage to double their conversion rate to 2%. Now, for every 100 visitors, they make $ 2 per visitor. They can now bid up to $ 1.99 and still make a profit.

Great, right.

But along comes the competition. They also invest heavily in conversion optimization, and copy, and process, and they double their conversion rates, too. These sites must then keep upping their bids to stay on top in the auction process. Who benefits?

The search engine does.

The search engine benefits from this content improvement in the form of higher bid prices. The producer improves the value of their sites to users, but whilst the competition is doing the same thing, the real winner is the search engine.

This is one reason the search engine spokespeople will advise you to focus on delivering value to customers. The more value you create, the more value you’re going to end up passing to a search engine. As publishing becomes easier, the more gets published, yet the amount of attention remains relatively static. The competition increases, and it is likely that those with the deepest pockets eventually win high value and/or mature verticals.

How To Deal With It

Whilst we’re waiting for a new paradigm to come along that swings the pendulum back in favor of publishers – and we may be waiting some time – we need to think about how to extract more value from each visitor. This is not meant as a beat-up on the search engines – I’m glad they exist and enjoy most of what they do – rather this is about trying to get a handle on the ecosystem as it stands and how to thrive in it, rather than be crushed by it. In long tail markets – and web content is a l-o-n-g tail market – most of the value flows to the person organizing the market.

The key to prospering in this environment – if you don’t have the deepest pockets and you don’t organize the market – is to build relationships.

SEO is built largely on the premise that a relationship doesn’t exist between searcher and publisher. If a relationship already existed, the searcher would go direct to the publisher site, or conduct a brand search. I’m sure that’s how most people reading this article arrived on SEOBook.

So, try to make the most of every search visitor by turning them into non-search visitors. The search engine gets to extract a lot of value on first visit, especially if they arrive via PPC, but if you can then establish an on-going relationship with that visitor, then you get to retain value.

1. Encourage Subscriptions

Subscriptions can be in the form of bookmarking, signing up to Twitter, on Facebook, email subscriptions, RSS, and forum subscriptions. Encourage users to find you, in future, via channels over which you have more control. If you’ve buried these subscription calls to action, make them overt.

2. Form Alliances

Share exit traffic with like-minded but non-competitive sites. Swap advertising. Make guest posts and allow others to do likewise. Interview each other. If appropriate, instigate affiliate programs. Invest in and grow your personal networks.

3. Invest In Brand

Define a unique brand. Push your URL and brand everywhere. Take it offline. Even down to the basics like business cards, pens, whatever, emblazoned with your logo and URL. If you don’t have a definitive brand in your space, pivot and build one. Own your brand search, at very least.

4. Widen Distribution Channels

Publish ebooks. Build apps. Publish white papers. Make videos. Think of every medium and channel in which you can replicate your web publishing efforts.

Once you establish a relationship, give people reasons to come back. Think of what you do in terms of a platform, destination or place. How would this change your current approach? Ensure your business is positioned correctly so that people perceive a unique value.

You can then treat search engine traffic as a bonus, as opposed to the be all and end all of your business.

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Should The Senate Pass Online Sales Tax Legislation?

Currently in the U.S., state governments are only obligated to collect sales taxes from online retailers that are based in their own states. If an online sales tax bill makes it to law, states could collect from online retailers that don’t reside in their state.

Should online retailers have to pay taxes to states where they don’t reside? Let us know what you think in the comments.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Marketplace Fairness Act (S.336), before. The bill aims to ensure that states receive taxes that they’ve been otherwise missing out on. A similar proposal is up for vote in the Senate this week thanks to an amendment to a Democratic budget resolution from Senators Mike Enzi and Dick Durbin (pictured), who sponsored the bill.

Opponents are slamming the Senators for trying to “sneak” the legislation through. The Hill reports:

Phil Bond, the executive director of the WE R HERE coalition, accused backers of online sales tax measures of trying to “sneak through” their legislation outside regular congressional order.

“There are good reasons this policy hasn’t been considered in the US Senate for over a decade: Taxpayers don’t like it, it turns the Internet into a tax collection platform, it allows state tax collectors to exercise authority far beyond their boundaries and it will put thousands of small businesses out of business,” Bond, a top Commerce Department official under George W. Bush, said in a statement.

The official summary of the Marketplace Fairness Act says:

The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, there is a caveat: States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.

Simplification is required because of two Supreme Court rulings (Bellas Hess and Quill, described below) cite concern that collecting sales tax for multiple states would be too difficult.

The Marketplace Fairness Act requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws in order to ease those concerns and make multistate sales tax collection easy. Specifically, states seeking collection authority have two options for simplifying their sales tax laws.

Under the Marketplace Fairness Act, states can join others that have already adopted “simplification measures” of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) or they can meet five mandates listed in the bill. States would have to agree to:

  • Notify retailers in advance of any rate changes within the state
  • Designate a single state organization to handle sales tax registrations, filings, and audits
  • Establish a uniform sales tax base for use throughout the state
  • Use destination sourcing to determine sales tax rates for out-of-state purchases (a purchase made by a consumer in California from a retailer in Ohio is taxed at the California rate, and the sales tax collected is remitted to California to fund projects and services there)
  • Provide free software for managing sales tax compliance, and hold retailers harmless for any errors that result from relying on state-provided systems and data

You can take a look at the bill here. Hundreds of national trade associations, state and local trade associations and businesses support the bill. These are listed here. They include Amazon, Autozone, Barnes and Noble, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Best Buy, Buy.com, Foot Locker, Gap, Home Depot, Kroger, Lowes, Meijer, J.C. Penney, Safeway, Sears, Petsmart, and Walmart, to name a few.

The bill’s site only lists ten opponents, including: eBay, American Catalog Mailers Assocation, Americans For Prosperity, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Direct Marketing Association, Freedomwworks, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation, National Taxpayers Union, NetChoice, R Street, TechNet, and We R Here Coalition.

AT&T, Council on State Taxation, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and Verizon are listed as neutral or undecided.

The main difference between the Marketplace Fairness Act, and what is coming up for vote this week, is that the new proposal doesn’t include the mandatory simplification, and is non-binding, as CNET’s chief political correspondent Declan McCullagh explains.

“It appears to be intended as a clever political hack: secure plenty of votes on a non-binding Internet tax amendment, then use those vote totals to argue there’s sufficient support for S.336 when it’s up for a binding vote later,” he says, before going to quote eBay’s senior director of federal government regulations and global public policy, Brian Bieron:

“The strategy of the bill’s supporters is to offer this general amendment and then claim that all the senators that vote for it support the bill. That is not just a stretch, it is not accurate. But the game plan is to rack up a sizable vote and then make the claim the bill itself should jump over the Finance Committee and go right to the floor.”

Hence the “sneaking” accusations.

Some supporters of the legislation think it’s really just a matter of when, rather than a matter of if, and whatever happens with this week’s vote could have a significant bearing on that.

Either way, brick-and-mortars have ramped up their lobbying for online sales tax, but opponents claim it’s bad for consumers and for small businesses.

Do you think the proposed online sales tax legislation is bad for small businesses? Consumers? Let us know in the comments.


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IL Affiliate Tax Being Challenged As CA Pass it

The Performance Marketing Association challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois law taxing products sold by affiliate marketers residing in the state, filing a lawsuit claiming it violates federal law; as the California State Assembly passe…
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