Posts by Alyson Shane

How Digital Marketing Consulting Can Help Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

The world of digital marketing changes every day.

From SEO updates, to shifts in posting strategies across social media networks, to digital advertising best practices — it can be hard to keep up and keep meeting your growth goals.

Working with an expert who offers digital marketing consulting can help you level-up your online strategy and edge past the competition. They bring a fresh perspective, ideas, and tactics to the table that you might not have known about or considered, and that can make all the difference.

That is, as long as you find a competent expert to work with.

One of the challenges with partnering with a digital marketing consultant is now knowing what you’re getting into, and what you’ll get out of the process. 

That’s why we’ve put together this overview what you can expect, and how investing in digital marketing consulting can help your business:

1. Audit your progress

The key to developing a successful plan is understanding what you’ve done to date and comparing it against industry benchmarks.

A digital marketing consultation compares things like your goals, target audience, and what you’ve done across all your marketing channels (social media, your website, newsletter, ads, etc.) to find ways to better align your actions with the outcomes you want to see. 

An audit might also include reviewing the copy on your website, blog, and your newsletter to make sure that your messaging is on-brand and you’re using keywords and language that are Search Engine Optimized (SEO).

2. Develop a new digital marketing strategy

One of the biggest outcomes of a digital marketing audit is the strategy that is developed during the process. 

This starts with a SWOT analysis which assesses your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This gives the consultant insight into how you run your business, your position relative to your competition, how effective your digital marketing has been to date, and more.

Other things that need to be developed include Audience or Buyer Personas, lists of competitors, and other supporting documents that codify how your business engages (or doesn’t) with your ideal customer base.

All of this information will be used to assess what you’ve done to date, the platforms and strategies you should be using, and develop an outline to help you start implementing the findings. 

3. Create a high-converting sales strategy

Paid advertising is a “must” for most businesses looking to stay competitive. Google Ads (also known as Pay-Per-Click, or PPC ads) generate $2 in revenue for every $1 spent

Whether you’re new to the world of digital ads or you’ve been running ad campaigns for a while, getting a fresh take on the return-on-investment (ROI) of your ads can help you increase sales and generate more leads.

However, Google Ads aren’t the only option — a digital marketing consult will help you determine which advertising channels will get you the best ROI as well as areas like:

  • Audience segments and targeting
  • Geo-targeting 
  • Keywords
  • Duration
  • Budget
  • … and more!

4. Establish your KPIs

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator, and refers to a set of quantifiable measurements that you can use to gauge your overall performance.

A digital marketing consultation will walk you through which KPIs and metrics you should be tracking in order to meet your specific goals and objectives. Your consultant should also explain how different KPIs relate to one another so you know how to gauge your success.

For example, when your social content has a high Reach but low Engagement, it means that your audience is seeing but not interacting with your posts. This is a sign that you need to find content that resonates with your audience in a more meaningful way to encourage them to engage via Likes, Comments, and Shares.

Ready work with a digital marketing consultant with over 20 years’ experience publishing content online? Drop us a line and let’s chat!

5. Drive growth across multiple channels

Omnichannel marketing is the process of creating a cohesive brand experience across multiple channels, like your social media, website, newsletter, ads, and more.

The best digital marketing consultants have experience with a wide range of marketing platforms and can help you think about how different elements of your strategy interact with and influence each other.

They can also help you think strategically about how your brand sounds on various platforms while staying consistent to your “brand voice”. 

After all, people talk to each other differently on LinkedIn and Instagram, but you might need to be active on both platforms — do you know how to “code switch” while still sounding authentic? A competent digital marketing consultant can show you how.

6. Help you develop processes for success

The key to great digital marketing is being organized and staying on-task, but this is easier said than done, especially if marketing is just one part of your job function.

A digital marketing consultation will help you take a top-down view of all your digital marketing channels and help you think about how to develop processes to keep everything running smoothly.

This can include how-to documents that you can refer back to, suggesting (and sometimes setting up) project management tools, and even creating visual frameworks so you can see how all the pieces of your plan connect at-a-glance.

How to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Consultant in 4 Steps

Hiring a digital marketing consultant is an investment, so you want to make sure you’re spending your money on someone who will deliver the value you’re looking for.

If you’re not sure what to look for, here are five qualities to keep an eye out for:

1. Do they have the right experience?

Digital marketers come in all shapes and sizes, with different levels of expertise and focus. If you’re looking for something specific, make sure they have experience in that area.

When researching potential experts to work with, pay attention to the clients they’ve worked with in the past, as well as the size and types of businesses they typically work with.

2. Can they “walk the talk”?

A digital marketing consultant should be able to showcase their knowledge by how they market themselves and their firm. Look at their website, social media accounts, and their overall approach to how they market themselves online.

Don’t be fooled by flashy graphics and name recognition: if the company in question isn’t actively “walking the talk” then they aren’t worth your time.

3. Are they credible?

Anyone can make a claim about their abilities and results, so make sure to find testimonials and social proof from online sources before deciding which expert to hire.

4. Are they knowledgeable?

You’re hiring someone to help educate you and set you up for success, so they need to have the knowledge and expertise to give you solid advice and answer any questions you may have.

Whoever you hire should have in-depth knowledge about digital marketing best practices, shifts and changes in trends, and lots of hands-on experience.

How Digital Marketing Consulting Can Help Your Business: Conclusion

There are lots of reasons why you might be considering hiring a digital marketing consultant, but the key to getting your money’s worth is hiring someone competent, knowledgeable, and who you feel you can trust to point you in the right direction.

If you’re looking for a consultant with over 20 years’ experience publishing content online, drop us a line and ask about our free consultations.

If you’re interested in levelling-up your own digital marketing knowledge, subscribe to our weekly newsletter for the latest news, trends, and insights you need to grow your business.


How to Run a Spooktacular (and Successful) Halloween Campaign on Social Media

- by Alyson Shane

Did you know that Halloween is the 4th most popular holiday after Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter? It’s also the time when most consumers start ramping up their spending!

Halloween isn’t just about trick-or-treating anymore; it’s one of the best holidays where you can get creative, have a little fun, and create a spooktacular digital marketing campaign.

Wondering how to develop a Halloween marketing campaign for your business? Keep reading to find out!

Why should you run a Halloween campaign? 

Halloween kicks off a series of major shopping events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, making this spooktacular season the perfect time to start engaging with your ideal customers.

Some other reasons you should consider a Halloween campaign include:

  • Halloween is celebrated worldwide. 91% of Canadians and 148 million Americans celebrated Halloween in 2020, and the holiday is popular in the UK, major European countries, and even Australia. The global popularity of the day is perfect for any ecommerce business looking to increase sales locally or internationally.
  • Halloween spending is rising. Canadians spent nearly $1.4 billion (roughly $86 per person) for Halloween in 2020, and in the U.S. consumers spent an average of $92.12 USD per person. Costume sales also went up by 31% last year.
  • Halloween is a cross-category selling opportunity. People buy costumes for themselves and their pets, decorations, clothes, household decor… you name it, there’s probably a “Halloween version” of it. There’s so much to buy, in fact, that last year consumers spent $490 million on Halloween items!

Halloween trends you can use

If you’re not sure how to create a spooky social media campaign, never fear! Below are some of the hottest Halloween-related trends to get the wheels in your head turning:

COVID is still impacting Halloween

Obviously the pandemic is still a thing, and even though masks and vaccinations are helping restore some sense of normalcy, people are still planning to celebrate differently this year.

In 2020, Pinterest reported that more consumers were searching for unique ways to celebrate at home, including spikes in searches related to: 

  • “Halloween breakfast” saw a 2x increase
  • “Haunted garage” saw a 4x increase
  • “Halloween scavenger hunt” saw 2x increase
  • “Halloween costumes with masks” a whopping 27x increase

If you sell products related to any of these searches, make sure to update your keyword strategy and include them in any social media campaigns you’re running!

Halloween is a “DIY” time of year

Consumers love getting ready for Halloween almost as much fun as the day itself, and that means they’re stocking up on makeup, accessories, and other goods in advance of the big day.

People regularly search for and share posts related to DIY costumes, makeup tutorials, decorating, cooking and making treats, and pumpkin carving, so find ways to incorporate those themes into your social media.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Be the spooky inspo you want to see. Showcase how your products or services make Halloween easier, safer, and more fun so your customers can get excited about buying from you.
  • Share your favourite DIY tutorials. Inspire your audience by showing them the tutorials, ideas, and products YOU love for Halloween. Bonus points if you can tie in a comparison or reference to your own products or services!
  • Run a Halloween-themed influencer marketing campaign. Reach out to influencers in your niche and ask them to showcase how they’re using your products to make costumes, decorate, and more.
  • Dress up your pets. Most of us are still in a hybrid or full-time remote position, so encourage team members to share photos of their fur babies (or real babies!) to add a human, non-salesy element to your online presence.

Halloween holiday deals

According to the National Retail Federation, 40% of consumers do their Halloween shopping before the actual date, making this the perfect chance to offer Halloween discounts and get a leg-up on the busy shopping season.

The key to success here is to start promoting on social media early so people have time to take advantage of the savings. This is also a great email marketing opportunity, too!

Ready to start making every holiday work for your business? Book a free discovery call today.

Halloween campaign strategies 

If the idea of running a Halloween campaign still sounds scary, use these tips to plan ahead and take advantage of this important shopping date:

  • Start early. Most people start Halloween shopping in September (aka, right now!) so spend a day or two planning what you’ll do and begin executing on those tasks.
  • Create your visual assets. Make a list of all the social media profiles where your brand is active and create 2-3 promotional images for each platform. This will help reduce user fatigue since consumers won’t be seeing the same images over and over again.
    • Protip: if you’re running social media ads, make sure to create additional images for each platform so they don’t look exactly like your social media posts!
  • Write out your posts in advance. We’re huge fans of “batch writing” your social media content because it’s more efficient and helps maintain creativity, and that’s especially important for these types of campaigns.
    • Bonus points if you schedule them in advance, too!
  • Plan your email marketing campaign. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach consumers, so plan to write at least 4-5 “drip” emails promoting your special offers between now and October 31st.

Run a successful Halloween campaign

Halloween is a great way to create a fun campaign that engages your customers, sells more products and services, and reminds them of your business and what you have to offer right as we enter into the busiest time for sales each year.

Using the strategies we outlined above will help you create a memorable, Halloween-themed brand experience for your audience and give you the chance to have a little fun, too.

Is your business running Halloween-themed campaigns? We’d love to feature them on our social media! @ us or slide into our DMs on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn and we’ll reshare your posts on our timelines.

And hey — if you liked what you read here, consider signing up for our weekly newsletter. It gets sent straight to your inbox every Tuesday and has a snappy lil roundup of the articles you need to read to become the savviest business owner (or marketer) in the room. Subscribe today.


Facebook Ads Not Delivering? Here's How to Solve It

- by Alyson Shane

There’s nothing quite like logging into Facebook Ads Manager and seeing all those rows of statistics and data, showing you that your ad is accomplishing its goals.

But what if you log in and your ads aren’t delivering? 

This is (understandably) one of the most stressful things to see — those zero’s across the board are enough to give anyone a heart attack!

If your ads aren’t delivering, or you’re running into issues getting your Facebook ads approved, then this is the post for you. We’ll be diving into four of the most common reasons why ads don’t deliver, and what you can do to solve it.

Not seeing your ad doesn’t mean it’s not showing

This post is going to focus on ads that aren’t earning any Impressions, not on ads that you haven’t seen personally. 

Here’s why: sometimes a client will say something like “I’m not seeing my ad, does that mean it’s not working?”

The short answer is: no, just because you’re not seeing your own ad doesn’t mean it’s not delivering. 

In fact, if you’re not a member of the audience you’re targeting with your ads, then it’s a good thing that you can’t see the ad. Otherwise something would be off in your audience targeting!

So for the purposes of this article we’re going to focus on solving  why your ad isn’t earning an Impression share — not when you aren’t personally seeing your ad.

Issue #1: Your audience is too small

This is the most common reason ads don’t show up: the audience you’ve selected is too small. 

Facebook requires advertisers to have a minimum of 1,000 users in your target audience, so trying to be too specific can actually hurt your ad delivery. 

Things that could be causing this issue include:

  • The targeting parameters you’ve chosen don’t have enough users in them
  • You’re excluding too much of your audience to try and be efficient 
  • The customer list you’ve uploaded isn’t matching as many people as anticipated
  • Your targeting layers aren’t set up correctly

If you’re trying to be very, very targeted with your Facebook ads, it might be causing your ads to not show up at all.

How to solve it

Solving this issue comes down to answering this question: can people outside of the audience you’ve created see your ads? 

If no, then your ads won’t be able to run because the audience you’ve defined is too small.

If yes, then you can solve this issue by expanding your target audience. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Add some additional behaviours or interests
  • Extend your geographic restrictions
  • Add more users to your customer upload list

No matter what you do, you’ll need to reach the 1,000-person threshold before your ads will show.

Issue #2: Your ads are limited, or disapproved

Until pretty recently, one of the biggest issues with ads not showing was the amount of text in the ad,  but September 2020, Facebook announced that it was removing text limits on ad images.

This is great news for advertisers, as this was the most common reason why ads were being limited or disapproved.

Nowadays the biggest challenge with having an ad approved comes down to how it’s categorized is whether or not it falls into a “special category” like:

  • Social issues, elections, or politics. Ads made on behalf of, or about a candidate for public office, political parties, etc.
  • Credit opportunity. This includes credit cards offers, auto loans, and other personal or business loan services.

  • Employment opportunity. Ads related to full or part-time jobs, internships, job fairs, and other related topics.

  • Housing opportunity. Ads that link to housing opportunities, including homes for sale, rentals, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, and more.

You can read more about special ad categories on the Facebook website.

If your ad falls into a special ad category your targeting will be limited (you can’t target by age for housing-related ads, for example), and your ads will require special approval to make sure there’s no discrimination happening on the platform.

If your ads are flagged or wrongly disapproved you can reach out to support to get them approved again, but beware: this can take a long time.

How to solve it

Your options are pretty limited here: either fix the ads to fit within Facebook’s rules, or your ads won’t show.

This could mean filling out political paperwork, changing the text and images in your ads, or contacting support and waiting around while your ads have been approved (we’ve done this, it sucks). 

Either way, without approval your ads won’t show.

Ready to run more efficient Facebook Ad campaigns?
Drop us a line and let's chat!

Issue #3: Your ads have bad or low engagement

Facebook wants to show ads that are engaging and entertaining, so if ads are getting little/no engagement, they won’t get shown as often as ads that receive higher levels of engagement.

Facebook assesses this based on three ranking factors:

  • Quality ranking. Quality is measured using feedback on your ads and the post-click experience, which is then compared against ads that competed for the same audience.

  • Engagement rate ranking. A ranking of your ad’s engagement rate, including clicks, likes, comments, and shares. Again, your ad is ranked against ads competing for the same audience.

  • Conversion rate ranking. This measures how well your ad is converting, and ranks it against other ads with your optimization goal competing for the same audience.

How to solve it

The easiest way to solve this issue is to create a new ad and hope it gets better engagement. In our experience, a poorly-performing ad isn’t going to suddenly start receiving higher levels of engagement — it’s time for a redo.

There are actually lots of ways you can solve this issue. So many, in fact, that Facebook created a whole guide on how to do it:

You can read more about this topic on Facebook’s website.

Issue #4: Your bid/budget parameters are too restrictive

One of the most common reasons why an ad isn’t showing is the bid or budget is too restrictive to show it to your target audience.

Think about it this way: your audience targeting tells Facebook’s algorithm who you want to see your ads, and the algorithm serves the ad to a selection of that audience who are most likely to take the action you want them to take, whether that’s a lead gen form submission, purchase, landing page view — you get the idea.

The algorithm makes these choices based on performance (good or bad), and if you’re too restrictive with your budget it might be limiting your ad’s delivery to such a narrow audience that the algorithm can’t learn from it.

For example, if you run ads with a daily budget of just $1, Facebook can’t serve ads and learn fast enough for the algorithm to determine if the ads can be successful, and it will stop serving your ads altogether.

On the flipside, let’s say you’ve set a reasonable daily budget (say, $30/day) but you set a tight bid cap at $1. 

Just like with the budget example, a too-small daily budget doesn’t give Facebook enough opportunities to reach audiences who are likely to convert. Since the ads aren’t being seen, the algorithm will stop serving them.

How to solve it

Solving this is easy: keep your budget and bid restrictions flexible enough to give Facebook enough time to learn and optimize your ads.

One way around this is to ignore daily limits altogether and set a “lifetime budget” instead. This allowed Facebook to spend your ad as it sees fit and avoids this issue altogether. 

If you’re set on daily bid caps, we suggest starting off with automatic bidding for lowest cost, and then adjusting based on initial performance. 

Facebook ads not delivering: use these tips!

There are lots of reasons why your ads might not be delivering, but unless you’re running an ad that’s breaking all of Facebook’s rules there’s no reason to let your ads languish!

Using the tips above should help you get your ads approved, delivering, and generating the results you’re hoping for. 

Do you have any tips for solving Facebook ad issues? Tweet them at us!

And hey — if you thought this article was useful, sign up for our weekly newsletter and get articles like this (plus handy industry resources, news, and more) delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning.


10+ Enticing Headline Examples To Drive More Targeted Website Traffic

- by Alyson Shane

Headlines are one of the most important tools to drive traffic and conversions that you have in your digital marketing arsenal.

When we talk about “headlines” people typically think we mean just blog posts, but that’s just a narrow slice of the pie.

If you do any sort of copywriting you’re also writing headlines for social media posts, headlines that encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, introductions on your web pages, and more.

Why are headlines important for businesses?

A strong headline helps your content stand out from the competition, and can position you as a thought leader, expert, and resource in your industry — all things that contribute to a positive brand image and lead to more sales.

Headlines that are vague, confusing, and that don’t contain SEO keywords won’t entice your readers to stick around and see what you have to say. 

Of course, writing snappy headlines is easier said than done — that’s why we like using formulas to take the guesswork out of writing attention-grabbing headlines. 

The best headline formulas for business

The formulas below aren’t just intended to give you a framework to create eye-catching headlines; we’re also going to go into the psychology of why each one is useful with examples of how you can use them for your own business.

Let’s explore:

1. X Examples of ______ To ______

This headline works because it provides the reader with examples that help them achieve a specific outcome. 

You can also replace the word “example” with “steps” for a similar effect — basically, you’re providing a framework for success.

In case you didn’t notice, the title of this blog post follows this example, but here are a few more to get you started:

  • 10 Examples of How Businesses Are Using Chatbots To Drive Sales
  • 5 Cold-Email Examples To Generate More Leads
  • 12 Amazing Landing Page Examples To Inspire Your Next Campaign

2. The X Best Ways to Get _____ Without ______

These headlines appeal to readers looking for (you guessed it) the best way to accomplish something without resorting to obvious or common methods.

Statements like the one in this headline position you as a subject matter expert who has a “hack” to share with your audience, so make sure your content delivers!

Check out these examples:

  • The 10 Best Tools for Taking Notes Without a Pen and Paper
  • The 5 Easiest Ways to Grow Your Business Without Using Paid Ads
  • The 6 Secrets to Shooting Professional Photos Without a DSLR

3. X of the _____ _____ You’ll Find Today

This headline combines an adjective with a noun, which adds weight to the statement. Using an unusual adjective also helps your headline stand out, which encourages people to click on it.

You can also change this headline to singular form, too. Let’s see some examples:

  • 12 of the Best Blog Posts About SEO Copywriting
  • 5 of the Most Eco-Friendly Cars for Growing Families
  • The Most Important Trick to Growing Your Brand on Social Media

4. Here’s What You Don’t Know About _______ That Could _______

The headline is effective because it piques your reader’s curiosity and clearly states how they can make a positive change.

It tells your readers that, by not educating themselves, they’re putting themselves in a precious and undesirable position. This increases the likelihood that they’ll click through to read your piece!

Let’s explore a few examples:

  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About Instagram “Bots” That Could Hurt Your Business
  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About SEO Copywriting That Could Harm Your Business
  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About Car Repairs That Could Void Your Insurance

5. _______ Vs _______: Which Is _______?

Consumers make purchasing decisions by comparing one option against another, which can be confusing and time-consuming.

Creating content that does the leg work for your customers benefits you in a few ways:

  • It drives traffic to your website. Rakuten Marketing found that the average consumer makes 9.5 visits to a brand’s website before buying, so this gives them reasons to come back!
  • It positions you as an expert. Giving customers helpful information builds trust and endears your reader to you — all before they see a sales pitch.
  • You can target long-tail SEO keywords. Long-tail keywords are SEO gold, and help drive more targeted traffic to your website. You can read more about SEO keywords here.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  • Mac vs. PC: Which is Right For You? (the “OG” comparison topic)
  • Facebook vs. TikTok Ads: Which Earns the Best ROI?
  • KitchenAid vs Cuisinart Stand Mixer: Which Is the Best for your Kitchen?

6. Are You Still Doing ______? You Might Regret It

The headline works because it implies that the reader is missing out by not implementing the change you’re suggesting. 

Unlike the last example, which presents an option, this headline offers a definitive conclusion that we’re encouraging readers to take. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Are You Posting to Social Media On-the-Fly? You Might Regret It
  • Are You Still Putting Off a New Furnace? Here’s Why You Need to Upgrade Today
  • Have You Put Off Replacing Your Winter Tires? Here’s What Could Happen

7. How to [Do Something] In [Short Amount of Time]

We all want to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time, and this headline tells a reader exactly how to do it.

These informational headlines work great because they empower your reader to take action and implement the steps you’re suggesting — which builds trust and creates positive feelings towards your brand.

Here are a few samples:

  • How to Increase Instagram Engagement in 30 Minutes a Day
  • How to Land a New High-Paying Client in the Next 7 Days
  • How to Give Your Bike a Tune-Up in 60 Minutes or Less

8. How to [Accomplish/Benefit] In [Short Amount of Time] Without [Expense]

This is a play on the headline template above that suggests an even greater benefit to the reader. It combines several eye-catching things: a specific benefit, a time frame, and how your reader benefits from taking your advice.

These headlines are most effective when you can tie the outcome to a specific number, like this:

  • How to Grow Your B2B Business Without Spending a Penny
  • How to Land Your Ideal Clients Without Sending 1,000 Emails
  • How to Pay Off Your Student Debt Without Working 4 Jobs

9. How to [Accomplish Something] Like [Famous Person/Brand]

This headline is effective at driving traffic because it connects a specific outcome with a well-known and successful example. 

The trick here is to choose a person or brand who will be easily recognizable by your reader, who is relevant to their industry, and to link them to a goal your customer might have. 

Here are a few examples:

  • How To Grow Your Startup Like Elon Musk
  • How To Build a Personal Brand Like Tony Hawk
  • How To Run Effective Meetings Like Jeff Bezos

10. The Science-Backed Formula For [Accomplishing Something]

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of these headlines introduce an actionable way for your reader to accomplish something. 

This is great, but an easy way to help your headline stand out from the rest is to showcase a peer-researched study or other scientific data that backs up your claim.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • The Scientifically Proven Formula For Growing Your Business 25% Each Quarter
  • The Scientifically Proven Formula For Profitable Blogging
  • The Scientifically Proven Formula For Writing SEO Headlines That Convert

11. Is [Something People Do] Causing [Something Bad]?

One of the best ways to demonstrate industry expertise is to show your reader how to solve a problem or stop doing something the wrong way.

The trick with these headlines is that they need to mention something that your audience does regularly, and then show how it could be causing a problem. This grabs their attention, encourages them to click, and sets you up as the expert by providing them with a solution that solves the issue.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Is Your Pitch Causing Investors to Avoid Your Startup?
  • Is Your Email Campaign Causing Potential Clients to Drop Away?
  • Is How You Give Feedback Hurting Employee Morale?

Bonus: A Checklist For Great headlines

Use the checklist below to make sure you’re writing the best headlines possible:

Conclusion: Start Writing Better Headlines Today

Attention-grabbing headlines are the easiest way to drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness.

Remember: you don’t need to be an experienced copywriter to write headlines that resonate with your audience — all you need to do is follow the steps outlined above.

If you’d like more useful articles like this one (from us + other industry leaders) subscribe to our weekly newsletter and become the savviest business owner in just 5 minutes per week.

You can also drop us a line and let us know how we can help create content for your website and blog that connects with your audience and increases sales. Just click here.

Tags: Copywriting


The 5 Most Important Elements of SEO Copywriting

- by Alyson Shane

One of the hardest parts of content marketing is writing copy that’s optimized for search engines, but is still fun and entertaining to read.

Regularly publishing useful, interesting updates (usually to your website's blog) gives people a reason to visit your site over and over again, which familiarizes them with your business, builds trust, and increases the likelihood that they'll buy from you.

In fact, a recent HubSpot survey found that 20% of marketing leaders described company blogs as one of their "most important channels" for hitting goals.

However — this is easier said than done. In order for your blog to be successful, you need to do more than just “write content". Your copy needs to:

  1. Appeal to your target audience
  2. Solve a specific problem
  3. Show how YOU, specifically, solve that problem

The easiest way to convey all of the above is by using strategic SEO keywords to drive targeted traffic to your website. 

Keep reading to learn how to write SEO-friendly copy that attracts the right audience to your posts and builds brand awareness with your ideal customers.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It refers to the process of writing your website copy and setting up your site in a way that helps it appear on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Where your website shows up (or “ranks”) on a SERP is the result of your SEO.

When it comes to applying SEO to your content strategy, that process looks like this:

  • Research keywords relevant to your industry
  • Select a particular keyword (or keyword phrase)
  • Use that keyword to write a blog post
  • Share that post on social media and encourage others to do the same

How Are SERP results calculated?

A search engine’s algorithm calculates SERP results on a few factors, which are:

The content on your page. Things that are measured include the amount of times a keyword (or key phrases) are used throughout your content.

Types of clicks. According to Moz, there are three types of clicks you should pay attention to: First, Long, and Last.

Authority. Authority refers to the number of links pointing back to that page, and how trustworthy those links are. The more popular and linked-to a website is, the more “trustworthy” those websites are.

Think about links like “upvotes” on Reddit: the more upvotes your post gets, the higher it appears at the top of the comment thread. Websites and SERPS work the same way.

The “comment” that gets upvoted is your website, and it receives an “upvote” when a trustworthy website links back to it. Pretty simple, right?

What is SEO copywriting?

SEO is the process of writing content that is useful, ranks well, and communicates expertise and value to your target audience.

The practice of effective SEO copywriting has changed a lot over the years.

Starling Social started as a freelance copywriting business, but back when we started doing SEO copywriting it was more about following a specific format, like mentioning the business name, services, city, and phone number in the opening paragraph of a web page.

Unsurprisingly, this made the internet sound boring and repetitive.

These issues also caused search engines like Google to start rolling out updates to their ranking algorithm and how it parses (categorizes) content on a website.

Nowadays there are lots of factors that go into how a website ranks, but consistently communicating how you solve your customer’s problems through your content is how you write truly “effective” SEO copy.

The 5 most important elements of SEO copywriting

Like we said: there are lots of things that contribute to a web page’s SERP ranking, but when it comes to copy, the most important elements are:

  1. Headlines
  2. Content
  3. Meta descriptions
  4. Keyword frequency and density
  5. Page links

1. Headlines

Your headline is one of the most important elements of your SEO copy, since the headline is what catches people’s attention and entices them to click and read further.

Some writers suggest writing your headline first, then writing the rest of your copy, but the order you do it in is up to you. We usually write ours last, and check it against Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer to see how it’ll do.

Not sure how to write snappy headlines? Use these tips as your guide:

  • Include a number in the title if possible. Conversion XL found that headlines with numbers earn higher click-through rates.
  • Keep your headline short. Search engines cut off titles after 72 characters, so avoid long, meandering headlines if you can help it.*
  • Use Google for content inspo. Search for your target keywords and pay attention to the themes that appear in the topic, content, and which headlines turn up — this will show you the hottest topics that are getting the most traffic.
  • Use Yoast SEO. This handy WordPress plugin will help you optimize your content for SEO by using an easy-to-understand ranking system.

* For reference, the title of this article “The 5 Most Important Elements of SEO Copywriting” is 48 characters. 

2. Content

When someone looks something up, they’re searching for content that meets those needs, and SEO copywriting is how we create the high-quality content that gives them what they’re looking for.

How to strategically plan SEO content

The best way to plan your SEO content is to target keyword phrases, instead of individual keywords. Let’s look at an example:

As we can see, this generic search turns up about 197 million results — not great if you’re a small business without an ad budget to give you an edge in such a crowded space.

Now, let’s take a look at a more specific keyword phrase and compare:

By targeting a more niche keyword phrase, we reduced the volume of results by 97%!

While this is still a pretty sizable number of results, it does a good job of illustrating how targeting specific keyword phrases can increase the likelihood that your page will turn up on a less-crowded SERP.

How to write high-ranking SEO content 

Before you start writing, it’s essential to know who you’re writing for.

Consider your customers and ask yourself: what kinds of questions can I answer for them? As you can see in the screenshots above, the more “niche” you can be, the more likely your content will show up on a SERP, so try to avoid general questions and focus on industry-specific topics instead.

The Google Panda 4.1 update specifically penalizes “thin” or shallow content, so make sure your articles and posts are at least 1000 words long, and include your keyword phrase several times on the page.

But beware: search engines penalize “keyword stuffing” so don’t jam your keywords into sentences in ways that feel repetitive or sound unnatural.

3. Meta descriptions 

Meta descriptions are short, text-based descriptions of what’s on a page. Here’s an example of some of the meta descriptions from the Starling Social website:

If you check out your website’s HTML, you can find it in the <head> section </head>. Updating it can be tricky if you aren’t a web developer, so we recommend using Yoast SEO for this purpose if you’re serious about optimizing for SEO.

How to write eye-catching meta descriptions

Meta descriptions need to do two things: rank well in a search, and be engaging enough to capture readers’ attention and encourage them to click.

Make sure to keep keyword intent in mind. Keyword intent is the reason behind the keywords. 

Think about it this way: if you’re a digital marketing agency (like us, hello), then you might assume that you'd want to target only keywords like “digital marketing agency” — but if someone else is typing those words into Google, what are they looking for?

Obviously they want to find a digital marketing agency, but why? Maybe they want help understanding how to run Facebook ads, or how to grow their following on Instagram. 

Whatever it is, your meta description needs to speak to those needs! Use this tip sheet as your guide:

4. Keyword frequency and density

Keyword frequency refers to how often your keywords appear on your page.

Keyword density, on the other hand, refers to the ratio of your keyword phrase to other words on the page. 

If you write a 1000-word post with the target keyword phrase “professional Manitoba photographer” — how many times does that phrase come up, and how much are you using it in relation to the other words on the page?

Overdoing it here is called “keyword stuffing”. Jamming your keyword (or phrase) into your text too many times can cause search engines to flag your page as “spammy”, and also has the unfortunate side effect of making your content look spammy, too.

Here’s an example of how not to do it:

“For the best professional Alberta photographer look no further. We offer the highest-quality professional Alberta photography at competitive rates. Want to learn about our professional Alberta photography services? Click here.”

Not great, right?

The example above is pretty obvious, but if you’re not sure what your keyword-to-content ratio is, we suggest using the SEObook keyword density tool.

5. Page links

Page Links are how search engines see that your website is connected to the rest of the web and that your content is useful enough that it links to other, relevant content online.

Google’s stated mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible, so adding outbound links to your content indicates that you value what other people have to say, which helps your website as more valuable to search engines.

What SEO copywriters (like us) do is identify target keywords, research supporting and accurate information to support our content, and then use both to create useful and interesting content.

There are no “hard and fast” rules about page linking, but here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Link to relevant pages within your own site
  • Link to in-depth 3rd party guides and resources
  • Link to other pages with appropriate anchor text* that sounds natural

 * WordStream defines anchor text as “the clickable text in a hyperlink”

Bonus: site speed

Site speed isn’t technically related to SEO copywriting, but how fast your website loads play a huge role in how your website ranks on a SERP so we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.

According to a study by Akamai, 53% of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, and mobile sites that loaded in 5 seconds earned almost double the revenue of sites that took 19 seconds to load.

If your web page takes more than two seconds to load, you could be losing out on valuable traffic! We recommend testing your website’s loading speed using Google’s PageSpeed insights tool.

SEO copywriting tools

Looking for more tools to increase your SEO copywriting abilities? Check out this list of handy resources:

Hemingway App. This tool identifies excess text and helps keep your copy short and snappy (just like Hemingway’s writing).

Coschedule Headline Analyzer. Exactly what it sounds like.

Moz Keyword Explorer. A keyword research tool that gives you up to 10 free keyword searches a month with a free account.

Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List: Exactly what it sounds like.

Start writing better SEO copy today

Following these SEO copywriting strategies will help you drive more traffic to your website, improve your brand’s reputation, and (most importantly) write content that people and search engines love. 

And hey — if you thought this was a useful post and you want to get more of this kind of content (ours and others) delivered to your inbox once a week, subscribe to our newsletter.

Tags: SEO


How We Manage Digital Marketing Workflows With Trello

- by Alyson Shane

At Starling Social, we use Trello every day to create, manage, and track updates to various deliverables across multiple digital marketing campaigns.

If you’ve never heard of it before, Trello is a great tool that uses a kanban-style layout to help teams work more efficiently.

In this post, I’ll share why we use Trello, how we set up our Trello boards, and how we use them to stay on track, communicate with our clients, and make sure no detail gets missed.

There’s a lot I could go into, but for this post I’ll be sharing:

  • Why do we use Trello?
  • How we organize Trello cards
  • How we use Trello columns to manage our workflow

Why do we use Trello?

Trello allows our team to collaborate with clients without calling, emailing, or jump into a meeting. By creating a space where every aspect of a project can be managed, edited, and approved, everyone stays on the same page. We also have a record of everything that happened.

Starling Social has always been (and always will be) a fully remote agency. I’ve never liked working in an office, but deciding to be remote meant that I needed to figure out a way to accomplish the following goals:

  • Reduce email back-and-forth since that’s where details get lost
  • Create a “hub” where my team and clients could work together
  • Keep track of everything without needing to check in all the time
  • Create a repeatable, scalable process we could use with every client
  • Avoid using Slack (I hate Slack, sorry/not sorry)

Trello solves all of those problems for us. Every client gets their own board, and we use a series of template cards to manage projects, track their progress, and keep everyone on the same page.

Wondering how we set up our Trello boards? Let’s dive right in:

How we organize Trello cards

Every template card is a little bit different, but they all share some similar characteristics, including:


These help us know what each card is about at-a-glance. I don’t have many pet peeves with Trello, but I do wish there were more options to customize label colours.


When creating these boards for our clients, we add the people related to the development and approval of the task to the template card — this way, everyone gets notified when something changes, and nobody misses an @ mention, so approvals don’t lag.

If you look closely at the example images in this post, you’ll see that I’m also tagged on every card. This allows me to keep track of multiple moving projects at once.

Due dates

Due dates get added when the card is created and typically relate to the checklist’s first item. Due dates are updated as we go down the checklist, so everyone involved knows what’s due and when.


We use this section to lay out the details, files, and other important information needed to complete each card’s task.

Descriptions change on a per-template basis since different tasks require different information to get done. Here’s an example of the “Description” section for a template card related to developing quarterly interview features for a client’s blog:


Checklists also change on a per-template basis. When creating new checklists, we make sure to mention who’s responsible for each task, so there’s no confusion. 

The example below lists “Client” as the assigned person, but with clients, we list the person’s name, specifically, so there’s no confusion about who needs to take care of what.

How we organize columns in Trello

Now that we've covered what goes into creating a card, let's take a look at how I set up our boards.

What I love about kanban-style project management workflows is you can visualize where a project is at-a-glance because it literally moves from column to column as it moves further towards completion.

By organizing different columns as workflow stages, the team and I can keep track of the status of every project we're working on, add or update due dates, and talk to each other and our clients about needs and deliverables in a shared space that we can all access in order to stay on the same page.

Some clients require custom columns for specific tasks or topics, but generally our Trello columns are organized into these categories:

Column 1: Templates

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in business is to have a template for everything.

Templates increase efficiency, create repeatable processes, and make sure nothing gets missed. Templates also help us quickly pivot and update our processes when we discover a roadblock or bottleneck.

As you can see in this example, we create template cards for repeating tasks like copywriting, general social media tasks, as well as “one-off” items like events.

Column 2: Assigned

This column serves two purposes: 

  1. House tasks that are newly-assigned
  2. House upcoming tasks like events, special days, and campaigns

For our team, this column serves as our to-do list, and our clients have a place to add new tasks without needing to write an email about them. 

Column 3: Events

This column is where we keep track of any upcoming events our clients are planning, as well as any events they’re planning to attend.

We organize events chronologically. The due dates relate to when items related to promoting the event are due — usually visual assets, website URLs, and promotional videos.

When we start promoting an event, the card moves from “Events” to “Doing” so everyone knows that it’s an active task.

Column 4: In review

This column is somewhat self-explanatory; items in review go here when something on the card needs a review. Sometimes this could be a blog post that needs a once-over or a campaign video that requires final approval.

Whatever it is, this is how everyone knows at-a-glance where the card is in the process.

Column 5: Doing/Ongoing

This is another self-explanatory column. When cards are in progress, this is where they live. 

Cards move into this column once all necessary information is added and approved. Cards stay here until they're complete, and then they move over to our final column:

Column 6: Done

Anything completed gets moved to this column. Over time, this column can get really long. 

Still, we don’t delete any of our old cards because they might contain important information, details about the approval process, or attached items we may want to reference or come back to later.

Column 7: Resources

As I mentioned, Starling Social is a fully remote agency, so we needed somewhere to store all of our client-specific information and documentation in an easily accessible place.

Cards in this column often include things like:

  •  a link to a secure image file with login information
  • how-to documentation
  • holidays and “special days” relevant to the client’s industry
  • a card for social media sizing (I add this to every board since it’s a really useful resource)
  • and other miscellaneous items we may need to reference on an ongoing basis

Managing your digital marketing workflow with Trello

The thing I love most about using Trello is how much it streamlines communicating with our clients. Having a single place where we can keep everything means the board’s layout becomes part of our process. 

Because I run the business, I get Trello notifications anytime anything happens on any board. This allows me to maintain a bird’s eye view of everything our account managers and copywriters are doing without needing to follow up and interrupt their workflow constantly.

Since everyone is added to the card, we can @ mention each other when we need something, reducing email clutter and keeping everyone on the same page.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into how Starling Social uses Trello to keep our digital marketing processes on-track. If you’d like to know more about how we bring strategy and structure to our client’s businesses, check out our services page

If you have any questions (or want to chat about how we can help your business grow) I’d love to chat! You can reach me at", at @starling_social on Twitter, or by filling out our contact form.


Are Instagram Giveaways Killing Your Growth?

- by Alyson Shane

Instagram giveaways are one of the most popular “IG hacks” out there — but are all those contests and giveaways helping or hurting your growth?

In this post, I’ll talk about why all those contests and new followers you’re gaining might not be as good for your business as you might think.

Does this situation sound familiar?

I’ve been thinking about (and doubting) the efficacy of Instagram contests for a while. Back in the “before times” when the pandemic wasn’t keeping us all at home, I was visiting a small business and chatting with the owner about how things were going.

She said, “we’re working with an agency who just helped us throw a huge contest that grew our account by over 10,000 new followers!”

I replied, “that’s awesome! How did the contest increase your sales?”

She blinked and said she hadn’t seen an increase in sales. 

I followed up by asking if she’d seen a boost in engagement with her Instagram content, and she replied by saying that it was lower than ever.

“I don’t get it,” she sighed “we got all these new followers and brand awareness, but it isn’t generating the results I was hoping for.”

Does this sound familiar? Have you been running Instagram giveaways, hoping to grow your business, but not seeing any sales or return-on-investment (ROI) beyond more IG followers?

If so, keep reading:

Why (most) Instagram giveaways are bad for growth

Instagram giveaways have been popular ways to grow your account since the beginning, and not all giveaways are bad (more on that later). 

However, since Instagram changed its algorithm to distinguish fake accounts from real accounts and began rewarding engagement over numbers, everything changed.

Instagram’s goal is to create the best user experience possible. It’s why they abandoned the chronological feed and replaced it with a feed showing the “best quality” content, which is measured through engagement: likes, comments, shares, and saves.

Instagram rewards accounts who spend time on the platform engaging with other accounts and creating real relationships.

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

To understand why contests don’t work, we need to dive into how the algorithm works.

Instagram’s algorithm is programmed to provide users with the best experience possible, which means weeding out fake accounts, spammy activity, and buying likes and followers (which we’ve also been against since day one).

Instagram is too big to track down and shutter all those fake accounts by hand, so the company relies on the algorithm to monitor for sketchy activity, like commenting on thousands of posts from a single hashtag, liking too many posts in a row, and other spammy actions.

This is why the algorithm is so focused on engagement, not on how many followers an account may or may not have.

The two types of Instagram giveaways

As I said at the top: not all giveaways are bad. There’s one type of giveaway that can be useful for growing your business, so let’s explore:

Giveaway one: big, generic giveaways

Giveaway two: small, niche-specific giveaways

Type one, the “generic giveaway,” is the kind of giveaway that hurts your business. Here’s an example:

The business owner I was talking to runs a niche business that sells female-focused products and services. She’s a local business, so most of her followers were young women in Winnipeg and the surrounding areas. 

She started with 6K followers, was posting once a day, and receiving 200 likes and around 30 comments because her followers are very engaged.

She hosted a month-long giveaway where people have a shot at winning a $500 gift card if they like, comment, share, and tag a friend in the post. This giveaway earned her 2500 new followers a week. Now she’s got over 15,000 followers! Great, right?

But, then she starts to notice that her likes per post are down to about 100 per post, even though she has all these new followers.

She also sees that she’s only getting about half the number of comments as before, and it’s mostly from people she knows, not any of the new followers.

She’s also not seeing an increase in sales or business growth.

What happened?

The answer is pretty clear: by hosting a generic giveaway, she attracted a bunch of people who only cared about winning the prize, and not enough people who actually cared about her business.

Her new followers might not be the kinds of people who would typically buy her products or services, have the same interests, or even be located within the same geographic location.

So while the giveaway increased her total number of followers, it caused her engagement to drop as soon as the giveaway ended, which  told Instagram's algorithm that her content wasn’t as useful as it used to be. 

Now her posts are seen by fewer people less often, which means she has to work harder to grow her presence on the platform and turn the limited engagement she gets into sales.

Other drawbacks of generic giveaways

Here’s a short summary of why generic giveaways hurt your business and Instagram growth:

  • They increase your total number of followers but decrease the percentage of engaged followers
  • This results in lower engagement for your posts
  • Which results in your account being shown to fewer followers
  • Which decreases the average number of likes and comments
  • Which, in turn, makes authentic growth even harder

If you’ve artificially inflated your total number of followers with people who don’t care about you, then Instagram’s algorithm will conclude that your content isn’t as interesting as it used to be. It will also conclude that your followers aren’t as engaged with your content as they once were, and show fewer of your posts to them. 

This starts in a spiral that shows less of your content to the people who are most likely to support your business. 

And, worst of all: generic giveaways attract people to your business who are less likely to buy from you. Why invest money in a “sales strategy” that doesn’t generate sales?

Effective Instagram giveaways

Like I said: not all Instagram giveaways are created equal. 

Small, niche-specific giveaways can be great for growing your follower count and attracting real customers to your business. 

Let’s use the business owner from earlier as an example. Since her business is local and targeted at a niche of women in a certain age bracket with particular spending habits, here’s what she could have done:

  • Offered to give away something specifically appealing to the audience she wants to attract
  • Something that would not appeal to people who aren’t in her target audience

Sure, giveaways of this type aren’t going to net 1000 new followers a week — but as we just discussed, we don’t want that kind of growth.

A small niche-specific giveaway would have had the following impact:

  • More likely to gain followers who are interested in her business
  • Rewarding the followers she already has, and attracting more like-minded women who are likely to engage with her posts
  • Often cheaper/less resource-intensive than big, generic giveaways

Who benefits from doing Instagram giveaways?

Don’t get me wrong: businesses do benefit from Instagram giveaways! 

But they benefit the most when they’re giving away products they already make or sell, and when their giveaway is targeted at their audience on the platform (not everyone).

For example, our client Portage & Main Press / Highwater Press specializes in educational curriculum material and Indigenous-focused literature. We regularly help them host contests and giveaways where the prizes are niche-specific: we give away copies of popular or upcoming titles, free sets of books for classrooms, etc.

These contests don’t earn them tens of thousands of new followers, but that’s not the point — the point is to get their books into the hands of people who will use and enjoy them, and to encourage people who care about the books they publish to follow them on the platform and buy from them in the future.

These small, niche-specific giveaways help us grow their total followers and increase engagement at the same time. 

Don’t make these Instagram growth mistakes

Running too many giveaways

Just because niche-specific giveaways are more effective than generic giveaways doesn’t mean we should overdo it. 

Remember: contests and giveaways are an artificial growth strategy. They motivate people to follow, like, comment, and share in the hopes of winning something — not typically because they care deeply about your business and what you have to say.

Running lots of contests and giveaways risks attracting people for reasons other than wanting to see your posts. But if you focus on niche giveaways that appeal to your target audience, you can help people with similar interests find your account. 

Focusing on vanity metrics

“Vanity metrics” are numbers that make you feel good, but don’t actually help you grow your business, increase sales, or generate a higher return-on-investment (ROI). 

On Instagram, the vanity metric people obsess over are their follower counts. 

Instagram giveaways: final thoughts

Like I said above, vanity metrics are just that: vanity. Who cares if you have 10,000 followers if only 100 of those followers genuinely care about buying from your business?

While small giveaways targeted to your niche can be great ways of growing your Instagram following, running big, generic giveaways hurts your growth, business, and wastes your time and money.

True, sustainable growth takes time, energy, and real commitment to fostering a community of people who love and support your business — something generic giveaways don’t do.

Do you have questions about running nice-specific giveaways? Drop us a line and let’s chat about how you can run contests and giveaways that actually grow your business.

And hey — if you like what you’ve read here, sign up for our weekly newsletter that’s jam-packed with articles and resources to help you make more strategic, informed decisions about your digital marketing. 


Are These 3 eCommerce Mistakes Killing Your Conversions?

- by Alyson Shane

Are you struggling with low conversions on your ecommerce website?

When designing an online store, a lot of focus tends to go to the homepage since it’s the first thing visitors see when they arrive on the website. However, the real goal of any ecommerce website is sales, and those sales happen on the product page.

If you’re seeing low conversions (sales), then your product pages might be to blame.

In this post we’ll cover the three most common ecommerce mistakes businesses make on their product pages, and what you can do to fix yours.

What is a Product Page?

Product pages are exactly what they sound like: they’re pages on your website dedicated to a featured product.

Unlike a landing page, which is designed for a specific campaign, product pages exist only to convey the value of the product and to promote a sale. Prodigy pages tell shoppers what the product looks like, tells them what it feels like, what makes it better than similar products, and why it’s something they absolutely need to own.

Now that we've covered what a product page is, let's dive into the most common e-commerce mistakes, and how to fix them:

1. Poor-quality product images

One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce businesses make is not investing in high-quality product images and video.

Since customers can’t see, touch, or try the products before buying, your product images need to be clean, high-resolution, and help the customer picture what the product is like in real life.

The internet is a sketchy place, and as an independent seller there’s even more pressure on your business to look legitimate and create a sense of trust with your customers. 

Beautiful, eye-catching images help your customers feel more confident in their purchase. 

Which product images do you need for your ecommerce product page? Here are some must-haves:

Primary images

Primary images are standard, high-resolution images where the product is emphasized against a pure white background (like the images you see on Amazon, for example).

These photos should look professional, and should showcase the product from a few different angles.

Lifestyle images

These images are intended to show the product being used in real-life. This could mean showcasing a pair of earrings on a real person’s ear, or how the humidifier your company sells will look in a living room or an office.


While not as important as primary or lifestyle images, infographics or “how to” manuals or illustrations can show how easy your product is to use.


Short videos are one of the fastest ways to sell products through your ecommerce store. Research found that customers are anywhere from 64-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video, and you can re-use the video elsewhere on your social media (like in ads, for example) to get the most out of your investment.

Important: while DIY is of course an option, we recommend working with professionals for your product images and video. Bush-league video taken on a smartphone, or in poor lighting, can hurt your business more than paying for a pro.

2. Writing Bad Copy

The second-biggest mistake ecommerce businesses make is writing bad copy.

Website copy should be concise, engaging, and inspire the reader to take action (aka: buy)... but this is easier said than done. Not everyone has almost 20 year’s experience writing for the web.

To keep your product page copy short and snappy, follow these steps:

  • Focus on the unique value proposition (UVP) of your product. What makes it better than similar, competing products?
  • State all the benefits of using your product as a bulleted list
  • Use your copy to address any questions or doubts customers may have
  • Highlight any warranties or return policies you offer 
  • Write your copy for SEO and include keywords when you can
  • Use a casual, friendly tone without jargon or run-on sentences

3. Not Sharing Social Proof

Social proof, according to Wikipedia, is a “psychological and social phenomenon referring to people’s reliance on the feedback and actions of others to determine what is right and what is wrong in a given situation.”

Why does social proof matter? A study from Trustpilot found that 92% of consumers read reviews on the internet, and 80% of shoppers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

But how do you collect social proof? One of the easiest ways is by emailing your customers and asking them to share their feedback. Since there’s usually nothing in it for them, it might take a few follow-up emails showing that their feedback is important to you to get a customer to agree to submit a review.

The second (and more powerful) approach is to be proactive and incentivize your customers to leave reviews by offering them discounts and rewards in exchange for leaving honest feedback on your website.

A benefit to this second tactic is it builds customer awareness and loyalty from the get-go.

If your customers are leaving lots of negative reviews, take the time to respond to them in a polite, courteous way and reassure them that you’ll do everything you can to improve moving forward. Whatever you do, always respond to customer reviews, and never respond with a rude or disrespectful comment.

Even better: reviews are social proof that you can repurpose into social media quotes and testimonials to use elsewhere in your marketing.

Common eCommerce Product Page Mistakes: Conclusion

There are lots of moving parts to any ecommerce business strategy, but keeping your product pages up-to-date with professional images, clever copy, and social proof is the easiest way to make sure your customers complete a purchase before leaving the page. 

If you’re struggling to increase conversions on your ecommerce website (or if you need help increasing brand awareness to increase website traffic) get in touch and receive a free quote for service.

You can also stay up-to-date with the latest digital marketing news and strategy from across the internet by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.

Tags: Ecommerce


How to Create Better PPC Ads By Improving Your Writing

- by Alyson Shane

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is HOT right now. 64% of consumers interact with Google ads when shopping online, and anecdotally we’ve seen a big jump in the number of clients interested in search ads in 2020 here at Starling Social.

Back when the market was less saturated, ad agencies took a (misguided) approach of “set it and forget it”, thinking that setting up a few ads with targeted keywords would be enough to generate results for their clients.

These days, a “set it and forget it” approach just doesn’t work.

PPC ads require a lot of up-front work: taking time to know the client, their customers, the most common questions customers ask, geotargeting, identifying keywords and calls-to-action… but the “secret sauce” that ties all of these elements together is strong, compelling writing.

As a team with +20 years’ running PPC ads and publishing content online, we know a thing or two about creating great ad copy, so today we're sharing a post that will teach you:

  • Why is strong writing important for PPC?
  • What does “strong” writing in a PPC ad look like?
  • How to write strong PPC ads
  • Two easy ways to improve your PPC ad writing skills

Why is strong writing important for PPC?

Google and Bing, the world’s two most popular search engines, reward strong writing with higher ad quality scores that help your ads be seen and decrease your cost per ad.

Obviously a low cost per ad is important, but a well-written ad can maximize the limited character space you have available and hold readers’ attention long enough to get them to take the action you want them to take (also known as “reacting to our call-to-action (CTA)”.

Ads with strong copy stand out and capture users’ attention, speak to the specific pain point or need that person is having, and include a clear, actionable CTA.

What does “strong” writing in a PPC ad look like? Two examples:

Before we dive into how to write great PPC ads, let’s review a few examples of what great PPC ads look like:


What makes it great?

  • Clear CTA
  • Great use of the second headline “reinforcing” the first
  • Uses the Google Sitelink Extension*

*According to Google, adding a single ad extension to a campaign can increase the click-through rate between 10-25%.

Upwork is a marketplace that connects clients with freelancers. This ad is great because the CTA encourages you to use the service to hire the BEST, not just any ‘ol freelancer.

The ad further reinforces this by calling them experts in their field, which builds trust, and language like “a pool of agencies” helps customers feel confident that Upwork will help them ger great work done for less than they’re paying now.

(Hint: offering anything free, or focusing on cost savings tends to do well.)

Upwork also uses site extensions to direct users to the most important pages, like “how does it work” and “browse freelance talent” which make the ad larger (taking up more real estate on a user’s screen) and greatly increase click-through rate (CTR) by giving specific options for users to click on.

Even better: using site extensions gives us more data to understand what users care about, which we can re-apply to future ads to increase CTR. Yahoo!


What makes it great?

  • Clearly lists benefits
  • Speaks to timely concerns (contactless delivery)
  • Is relevant to the shopping season (holidays)
  • Call-to-action (CTAs) in site extensions

You probably know who Apple is by now, so you may be wondering: why the heck are they running PPC ads if they’re such an established brand?

The answer is twofold: to start, people forget about products no matter how big or well-known the company is. Second (and more importantly) if Apple doesn’t hold the top spot in a search engine results page (SERP), then a competitor will — not good for Apple!

This tactic — of fending off competition — is one of the things that makes PPC advertising so powerful and important for businesses. 

The ad starts by listing all the latest Apple products and speaking to customers’ concerns about holiday shopping, contactless delivery, and fast and free shipping — all things we know customers care about right now.

By using site extensions, Apple can direct search traffic to specific landing pages for the products they’re trying to sell and include CTAs about trade-ins to encourage clicks.

How to write strong PPC ads

PPC copywriters must have a deep understanding of the audience they're targeting with their ads.

Understanding what customers want and need is essential to writing copy that clearly states how you solve those needs. Below are the most important things to keep in mind when writing PPC ads:

Use audience-specific language

Once you know what your customers needs are, you can write copy that speaks directly to their interests, challenges, and proactively shows how clicking on your ad solves their problems.

Again, this comes down to knowing your audience. If you’re not sure what your customers care about, ask yourself:

  • What do my customers want when they contact us?
  • What language do they use when talking about their needs?
  • What are things they care about, like discounts or free shipping?
  • What adjectives can I use to convey the value of what we do?

Be detail-oriented

PPC ads are successful when they speak to a person’s specific search query, which means being detail-oriented about the copy you use when targeting different types of searches.

Think about it this way: every search is your customer telling you what they want.

The more specific the search, the more specific your ad copy should be.

On the flipside, a less specific search query requires less specific, more general copy.

Keeping the search intent and level of detail in mind, and crafting copy that reflects it, is how you can write PPC ads that speak to your customer’s needs.

Use call-to-action (CTA)s 

Your call-to-action is one of the most important parts of your ad.

A strong CTA is clear, direct, and to-the-point. Your CTA should specifically state what you want the reader to do and incentivize them to take that action.

Whether that’s “learn more”, “book now”, or “sign up”, your reader needs to be clear on what you want them to do with your PPC ad. 

Hint: an easy way to do this is to lead with a strong action word. “Shop”, “discover”, and “download” are all examples of action words you can use to encourage your reader to click on your ad.

Evoke emotion with your ad copy

By using words that evoke excitement, enthusiasm, or a sense of urgency, you can encourage readers to take the next step. 

This Buffer analysis of the IPA dataBANK (which itself has 1400 case studies of real ad campaigns) found that campaigns with emotional content performed twice as well as ads that were straightforward and unemotional. 

According to Buffer, here are the top five:

  1. Amusement
  2. Interest
  3. Surprise
  4. Happiness
  5. Delight

Before you start writing, ask yourself: what kind of emotional reaction do I want to evoke in the people who see my ad?

Have a beginning, middle and end

Whether you’re writing a tweet, blog post, or a PPC ad, your copy should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

This isn’t just regular ‘ol writing advice — people are conditioned to expect “story arcs” because we grow up with them in the books, TV, and movies we consume. As a result, it’s a pattern we expect, and one that makes us feel good when we see it.

Having an “arc” in your PPC ads creates a familiar structure for your readers, allowing them to act with the ad in a way that feels intuitive and “ends” with them taking the action you stated in your call-to-action. 

Two easy ways to improve your PPC ad writing skills

Below are two of the tools we use here at Starling Social to hone our copywriting and create PPC ad copy that drives results:

The Hemingway App. Ernest Hemingway was known for his tight, concise prose in his novels, and this tool identifies complicated sentences and helps your writing be more clear and direct.

The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. This tool is exactly what it sounds like! By scoring things like sentence length, keywords, and emotion, this tool (which is technically for blog titles but is useful across the board) can help you understand how your copy is likely to perform.


Remember: writing (like everything) takes practice, but by using the strategies we’ve outlined here you can make your PPC ads stand out from the competition and give you an edge in generating the click-throughs that are essential to a successful ad campaign.

If you’d like more tips on promoting your business and connecting with more customers, subscribe to our weekly newsletter


How to Find New Leads on LinkedIn

- by Alyson Shane

Want to use LinkedIn to find more leads? Looking for more ways to turn your cold connections into warm leads that move through your sales funnel?

With almost 700 million active users in 2020, LinkedIn has become more than just a job-hunting and networking tool. These days, LinkedIn isn’t just for CEOs and salespeople - it’s a must-use tool for any B2B business looking to increase brand awareness, find new leads, and increase sales by expanding their customer base.

If you’ve never tried using LinkedIn to generate leads, then don’t miss this post! These strategies will help you start reaching prospects and nurturing them into warm leads. 

Update Your LinkedIn Profile To a Custom URL

This simple strategy is one of the most overlooked tactics on LinkedIn. Custom links create a sense of consistency across your LinkedIn profiles and helps you look more professional. 

Instead of your LinkedIn profile URL looking like this:

To this:

Updating this field is super simple! Just follow these steps:

  • Start by clicking on the Me icon on the top-right of your LinkedIn home page
  • Click View Profile

  • On your profile page, click Edit Public Profile & URL on the right

  • On the new window that opens up, click on Edit your custom URL on the top-right

That’s it! This simple step will help create a sense of cohesion across your LinkedIn profiles.

Invite connections to like your LinkedIn company page

It seems simple, but it works! This new(ish) feature might not be available for all company pages yet, but once it’s available inviting your connections to like your page is super easy. Just follow these steps:

  • Navigate to your Linkedin company page
  • Under the Admin Tools drop-down menu, select Invite Connections

  • A pop-up window will appear with all your connections listed
  • Select each person you’d like to invite, and click Invite Connections
  • If an error appears, you may have reached your invitation limit

To prevent companies from spamming their contacts, LinkedIn only allows 100 invites at a time. These invites are “credited” back to your account once someone has accepted your invite to like your page.

Share curated content from LinkedIn Content Suggestions

Another way to find new leads on LinkedIn is to regularly share posts focusing on topics they’re interested in. 

If you’re not sure what to share, LinkedIn has a handy Content Suggestions feature for company pages. This tool helps you discover topics and articles that your audience is engaging with on LinkedIn and is a quick, easy way to share content with your followers.

To use this feature, take the following steps:

  • Navigate to your Linkedin company page
  • Select Content

  • In the pop-up window, select your industry and a few demographics about your audience (ideal leads)
  • Click View Content Suggestions

LinkedIn will generate a list of trending content from the last 15 days based on your selected industry and audience demographics. You can refresh this list over and over to find new content suggestions that appeal to different audience types.

But beware: not every content suggestion will resonate with your followers, so choose wisely.

Use LinkedIn Messaging to build relationships

The more people become familiar with you, the more they like and trust you. This is also known as the Mere-Exposure Effect. Our favourite example of this effect in action is this chart of Benedict Cumberbatch

Obviously this chart was made as a joke, but it demonstrates exactly how the Mere-Exposure Effect works: the more someone sees Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, the more attractive he becomes.

So what does the Mere-Exposure Effect have to do with finding new leads on LinkedIn? 

Building the authority and brand awareness necessary to move a prospect from a cold lead to a warm lead takes time. After all, people want to buy from people and brands they like and trust, and the higher the investment in a product or service is, the higher that trust level has to be.

One of the easiest ways to establish this trust is to use LinkedIn Messaging to build strong relationships with prospective customers. 

How to develop a LinkedIn messaging strategy

Sliding into people’s DMs and asking them to buy from you right away is a tactless move, and it’s honestly a little rude, especially if you don’t know the person you’re messaging.

If you want a response you need to approach the relationship naturally. Ask questions, provide value, and be a real human being before pressing for a consultation or sales call. Think about this outreach as a multi-step process that could look something like this:

Step 1: Send a connection request

When you send a LinkedIn connection request, always click Add a Note to customize the invitation. Here’s an example of the kind of note we add (notice it’s focused on them and doesn’t try to sell anything right off the bat):

Step 2: Thank them for connecting with a value-add

Once someone accepts your connection request, send them a follow-up message as soon as possible. This message should thank them for connecting, and include a link to a relevant article or group you manage.

Here’s an example of a follow-up message on LinkedIn:

Hey Sandra,

Just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for connecting! I’m looking forward to keeping in touch. 

Since you work in a technical field, I’d love your thoughts on this article we recently published about writing technical blog posts. You can find it here: [LINK]

Looking forward to your feedback!

Cheers, Alyson

Remember: the purpose of this message is to show them that you’re a trustworthy resource of content they care about. Make sure to tailor this value-add to the person you’re talking to!

Step 3: Share a link to a high-quality 3rd party resource (article, video, webinar, etc.)

We recommend waiting at least a few days between sending these messages so you don’t seem pushy and overbearing. 

This message should again relate to something they’ve said, posted, or shared on the platform. Be specific about why you think they’ll be interested in the resource and what you think about it as well. Don’t forget to ask for their feedback!

Here’s an example of what this message could look like:

Hey Sandra, 

I hope business has been going well! I found this article and it made me think of you, so I wanted to send it your way. It talks about the importance of showcasing company culture in “technical” industries like yours. 

You can find it here: [LINK]

I thought the suggestion to use the new Instagram Reels feature to introduce followers to your office team was really great. I’d love to know what you think!

Cheers, Alyson

Message 4: Request a phone call

Unless you’re a born salesperson, this is arguably the most anxiety-inducing of all the messages in this strategy.  This message should be short, polite, and to the point.

Here’s an example of what it could look like:

Hey Sandra,

I’m working on getting to know my LinkedIn connections a little better, and since we’ve been crossing paths lately I’d love to hop on a quick call and see how we can both benefit from being connected.

Are you free to chat next week? How’s Thursday, November 5th, in the morning work for you?

Cheers, Alyson

Did you notice that we suggested a specific date and time to meet? This strategy makes it easier for someone to say “yes” because they can quickly check to see if they’re available.

Message 5: Follow up

If the person doesn’t reply, send this follow-up message a few days after you’ve sent the message above. 

Hey Sandra,

Hope you’re doing great! Just following up on my invite to have a short phone chat to get to know each other a bit better. I’d love to learn more about how we can both benefit from being connected.

If not, that’s totally fine! You can always reach me directly via email. I hope to hear from you soon!

Cheers, Alyson

Only send this message once. Sending it multiple times will look pushy and might damage both yours and your brand’s reputations. 

How to find new leads on LinkedIn: conclusion

These are just a few of the many strategies you can use to generate new leads for your business on LinkedIn. 

Remember: the best way to use LinkedIn is to be helpful, positive, and consistent. By posting regularly, liking and commenting on the posts your connections share, and using the strategies we outlined above, you’ll be generating new leads for your business in no time.

Want more resources like this delivered to your inbox once a week? Subscribe to our hand-picked roundup of the strategies you need to know. 

If you’re ready to level-up your LinkedIn marketing strategy, drop us a line!


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