How to incorporate SEO copywriting exercises into your life
Working with the fantastic Mary Van Doren, our content optimization director, has turned me into a marketing words geek. I cheerfully admit it. Words that can sell products are constantly in the background of my brain … bubbling around, vying for my attention, waiting to be assigned to just the right product. If a friend convinces me to check out the latest blockbuster movie, I find myself taking mental notes on how she persuaded me. I always appreciate a good political bumper sticker, even when it’s not supporting my candidate.
And that leads me to one of my favorite copywriting exercises that Mary taught me – a favorite not least because I do it while I’m relaxing with my feet up watching one of my favorite crime shows, or Sherlock.
You probably zone out during TV commercials. Not me! I’ll watch any commercial once, alert to anything – a word, phrase, strategy or concept – that I can use. And it doesn’t have to be a commercial for a media product either, even though that’s what I write about for Mequoda.
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But how, you ask, can a commercial for a spray mop become one of my favorite SEO copywriting exercises? Here’s how it works:
“I’m done!” cries the jubilant mom, completing her floor-cleaning chores and heading for the porch to drink her coffee. Now you turn off the tube and ask yourself why that commercial works. The answer should be obvious if you follow one of the copywriter’s prime directives: The commercial emphasized the benefit of the mop – spending less time cleaning – instead of the feature – spray cleaner built into the mop.
The next time you’re struggling to create benefits from the features of the product you’re writing about, try conjuring up the image of Mom on the porch, and remember how she got there.
For example, if Mary is in the middle of an SEO copywriting project to promote a Mequoda event, for example, she’ll turn the benefit of the mop – spending less time at something tedious – into a benefit of the Mequoda Institute: Learning how to make keyword research an efficient, effective process instead of laborious, sloppy guesswork. If she’s learning from the couch like I do, now she’s flexed her SEO copywriting muscles without ever leaving the La-Z-Boy.
Please kids, DO try this at home!
Another copywriting exercise Mary has taught me that’s almost as much fun: Practice writing “fascinators” – that is, those little teasers posing a mystery or a puzzle, often including the words how, when, where, why, discover, secrets or amazing.
Take the product you’re writing about and focus on these fuzzy, non-specific promises:
- How to live a debt-free life
- Where Ryan Gosling vacations
- The amazing diet secret of a desperate housewife
- Discover the ultimate options trading system
- When gravity takes over your face, try this natural remedy
- Why you should never use this skin product
These will get the words flowing! Bonus: You can often use the fascinators you’ve just written as email subject lines or subheads in your copy, too!
Another of my favorite SEO copywriting exercises, credited back to Mary once again:
There’s nothing like adrenalin to hone your skills. Close your eyes right now and imagine that you’re in a life-or-death situation – trapped in a cave, stuck on a life raft in the middle of the ocean, or held captive in a dungeon. You have one chance for rescue, and that is to write, in just a matter of seconds, a note pleading for help that you’ll put in a bottle or tie to the leg of a pigeon. If you write “Help!”, practice this one again.
If you write “You could be a hero to your community and collect a large ransom or reward if you rescue me,” you’re a copywriting genius. (There are those benefits again!)
Which copywriting exercises work for you? Let the community know!
This article was originally published in 2012 and is updated continually. Mary Van Doren contributed to this article.