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SEO Copywriting Challenge: Brain-Warming Exercises

The advantage to writing “fascinations” for bullet points and subheads

Are you a copywriting tortoise or a hare?

I’m a slow starter in the SEO copywriting race. Not a procrastinator, I simply take a while to get up to full speed.

Does that describe you, too? If you’re like me, you believe there’s no single “right way” to start an SEO copywriting project.

You might begin by printing out all the targeted keyword phrases first. I prefer to do that and keep the list on my desk, right next to the computer keyboard, so I can refer to them frequently.

Perhaps you like to write from an outline, and so you begin by preparing a roadmap for your SEO copywriting journey. I admire that approach, but I’m usually not so well organized.

My best SEO copywriting routine begins with making copious notes about the product until I see a logical order emerge. Then, slowly — as blood beads up on my forehead — the search-engine-optimized, rapid conversion landing page (RCLP) or sales letter landing page (SLLP) takes form.

Getting started and mentally focused is my first SEO copywriting challenge. But I’ve found a reliable technique. The best “brain-warming” exercise I’ve discovered for beginning an RCLP or SLLP is to write a list of “fascinations.”

You know, fascinations — those eye-catching, intriguing, bullet points that tease the reader and provoke curiosity. Typographical symbols followed by a single idea, thought, or concept in a few, concise words.

Fascinations can be compelling, benefit-driven bullets that motivate the reader to discover the answer to a riddle. Often, fascinations take the form of mini-puzzles that engage the reader and force him to break out of his “trance state.”

Boardroom Reports and its sister publication, Bottom Line Secrets are legendary for using fascinations to promote their newsletters. They confront, tease, dangle bits of information, and well, fascinate the reader.

Example: What you should never eat on an airplane.

If you buy the Bottom Line Secrets book, you’ll eventually discover that the cryptic reply to that pithy warning is food. Yep, food is what you should never eat on an airplane.

Disappointed? I was, when I discovered the answer was a diatribe about the dangers of intestinal distress at 35,000 feet.

But the “fascination” was effective in capturing and keeping my attention. And I acquired the book. So I guess it served its purpose. But I prefer to write fascinations that don’t disappoint the reader or stretch my client’s credibility.

Writing fascinations in the fog of imprecision

Fascinations are a license to be vague and imprecise. You don’t need a lot of hard answers when you write them; you’re only creating a list of fuzzy questions. But the publication you’re selling surely needs to answer them.

So, you can begin a fascination with a word like how, when, where or why. Or use the words discover and secrets and amazing.

Fascinations needn’t be as clever as the “What you should never eat on an airplane” example. They can be as simple as the questions that pop into your mind when you first read the client’s newsletter, magazine, book, report or white paper.

The only essential element is that the fascination must confront the reader with a question, puzzle or mystery. That’s because questions always interrupt the complacency of reportage. Questions literally break the internal mental dialogue of the reader.

Some copywriters argue that a fascination must be short and punchy. But I disagree. Like the sales letter itself, length is not as important as content. As (the late) Gary Halbert used to say, “It can never be too long, it can only be too boring.”

Here’s a few of the fascinations from a sales letter I wrote for DreamJobInfo.com.

  • How to gain a huge advantage over your fellow graduates for getting a job after college. Don’t share this tactic with anyone or you could have unwelcomed competition for the job of your dreams.

  • The absolute worst strategy for getting a job after college, especially your first job.
  • How to distinguish yourself from the mass of cookie-cutter graduates that flood the market each spring.
  • How to overcome a record of mediocre college grades using tactics that will put you ahead of any egghead in your graduating class.
  • How to determine in advance a potential employer’s hiring criteria.
  • How to compel your chosen employer to want to hire you — even in an economic recession.
  • The foolproof strategy that virtually guarantees that you will land an interview for the job of your dreams.
  • Where to find little-known information on entry-level jobs.
  • The 25 questions you must ask yourself in order to focus your job search. Don’t worry, we provide you with plenty of help answering them.
  • How to solve the first-time job seeker’s paradox: Getting a job that requires experience when you have no experience.
  • The secret to finding smaller employers where real talent and hard work are recognized, appreciated and rewarded.
  • The exact questions that you should be able to answer about the prospective employers on your short list — before your interview.
  • How to befriend the dreaded “gatekeeper” and get her cooperation in scheduling an interview with a business owner or top executive.
  • The priceless eight-word sentence that you must repeat verbatim when speaking to a receptionist or company switchboard operator. Memorize this amazing phrase and it will open doors for you for the rest of your life.
  • Why you will automatically become a more viable job candidate when you learn the core beliefs and business goals of your prospective employer — and how to discover them.
  • How to prepare an agenda for your job interview, including the nine questions you must ask.
  • The questions you should never ask during a first interview.
  • How to deflect questions that reveal your “bottom line” starting salary until you get an irresistible offer.
  • Five ways to ask for the job at the conclusion of an interview that will make your prospective employer recognize your business acumen and value to the organization.

In addition to bullet points, fascinations often can be used as subheads, and as the headlines within OFIEs (order forms in editorial). So you can’t have too many fascinations at your disposal before you begin the more formal construction of your sales letter.

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What about you?  How do you write fascinations? What’s your favorite technique for beginning an RCLP or SLLP?

Please share your experience or advice here.

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Peter A. Schaible is Mequoda’s Chief Copywriter. For more of his unique perspective on copywriting, you can subscribe to his complimentary series on Targeting Your Prospective Customer by Type: How to Position Your Brand to Trigger an Emotional Response, available at www.SunDanceNewMedia.com. No obligation.

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