The 5-Step Process that Solves 3 Painful Writing Problems

writing tips - how to write clear, clean content

I once asked the Copyblogger community to name their biggest writing challenges.

From the many responses, a pattern developed:

  • How to get started
  • How to cut the fluff
  • How to finish

These three issues are really symptoms of the same painful problem, which boils down to not clearly understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing. Don’t worry … it’s a fairly common ailment.

There’s a five-step process you can work through that will help clarify your objectives, which leads to greater clarity in your writing.

This method also helps you kick-start any writing project (and finish it) with only the necessary elements, because you’ll know exactly what you’re after and how to make it happen.

Step #1: Begin with the end in mind

The most important step in the process happens before you even write a word.

You must understand your objective for the content.

You have an idea, but what’s the goal? From a content marketing standpoint, you’re usually seeking to educate or persuade (often both, and as we’ll see in the next step, they’re actually the same thing even when intentions vary).

Having a “great idea” and sitting down to write can often lead to a half-finished train wreck.

What’s the “why” behind the idea? Figure this out first, or move on to another idea.

Step #2: Identify questions

Okay, so now you have a goal in mind – a mission, if you will.

What’s standing in the way of your mission?

The obstacles you face are the concepts your audience does not understand yet, but must accept by the time they’re finished reading. These are the questions you must answer before you can achieve the goal you’ve identified in Step #1.

In copywriting circles, we say an unanswered question (an objection) is a barrier to buying.

With education, an unanswered question is a barrier to learning. Education is persuasion (and vice versa) when you realize this fundamental truth.

Step #3: Write the headline and subheads

With your goal in mind and the questions you must answer identified, now you start to put things down on virtual paper.

Some people open a word processor during Step #2; I do everything up until now in my head. Do what works for you.

What promise are you making to your audience with this piece of content? What will you teach them? And why should they care? That’s your working headline.

Then, each of the major questions you must answer to achieve your mission (and the promise your headline makes) becomes a subhead. Your subheads don’t ultimately have to be phrased as questions, but this technique helps you compose a focused draft.

Take some time to decide if a particular question is its own subhead or part of the content below a subhead. It’s simply outlining at this point.

Step #4: Fill in the blanks

Want to write lean copy?

Answer the questions designated by each subhead, and answer only that question.

Do not digress. Do not go off on a tangent.

Just answer the question. Do it as simply and clearly as possible.

Step #5: Now … edit

If you’ve followed these steps, you’re not likely suffering from fluff.

Rather, you might find that you need to add more details or rephrase for clarity.

This is also the time to refine your language. Experienced writers can often pull the perfect turn of phrase in some places of a first draft, while in other places there are opportunities for better, more precise word choices.

Finally, review how the piece of content turned out:

  • Does your working headline still reflect the fulfilled promise?
  • Does your opening keep the momentum going?
  • Can you revise the headline, opening, and subheads so that they are even more compelling?

Over to you …

Everyone’s approach to the writing process is different. This process works for me, and I wrote this article fairly quickly using the process as a demonstration.

What works for you?

Any tips you can pass along that might help your fellow content marketers?

Let us know in the comments.

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

We open our Certified Content Marketer training to new students periodically. Click the button below to find out more.

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Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on October 6, 2011.

The post The 5-Step Process that Solves 3 Painful Writing Problems appeared first on Copyblogger.


The $100,000 Challenge: March Update

march update

We finally finished the last month of the $100,000 challenge. March was an awesome month for Nutrition Secrets. Not only did the traffic grow to 218,811 visitors, but revenue did too-it went up to $121,492.65.

It wasn’t hard to hit the revenue goals as we had enough fish oil in stock, plus we started to generate money from affiliate sales.

So let’s dive right in…


Compared to February, the traffic went up to 218,811 visitors and 269,814 pageviews. The increase was only 18,102, which isn’t much.

But considering that the popularity of nutrition and fitness sites is cyclical (January and February are most popular) and that Mike didn’t blog much on in March, it wasn’t too bad.

Overall, Mike has slowed down on the blogging front. Over the next few months, he wants to try a few fun content formats such as infographics and wants to see what happens if we were to dump a few hundred grand into the blog. It won’t be much of an experiment at that point, but we are just curious to see if we can get the blog to a million visitors a month.

traffic sources

Nonetheless, the traffic isn’t performing too badly. Even in April, the traffic has been on an upward trend while little to no effort has been put into the blog since the challenge has been over.


The revenue is a bit more complicated to breakdown as it is coming from two sources now: Amazon and affiliates.

In March, revenue from Amazon hit $112,573.30.

amazon revenue

There are a few key elements to growing Amazon sales:

  1. Reviews – the more people you can get to leave a review, the better off you are. Most people don’t even read the reviews, but if they are high in ratings and you have tons in quantity, you are in good shape. If you have a blog that’s driving sales, a great way to get more reviews is through marketing automation. You can promote the product to your email list, and then after a few weeks of promoting your product to those people, you would send an automated email asking them to leave a review. You won’t really know who bought the product, but you would still put the review email-applicable to a portion of your list-in your sequence.
  2. Keywords – with Amazon, you can add keywords. Most people add basic ones like “fish oil,” but as you know, it is all about the long tail. Amazon opened it up so you can stuff hundreds of keywords now, and with the use of Google Keyword Planner, you can come up with popular variations. You’ll then start ranking for tons of keywords on Amazon.
  3. Combating negative Amazon reviews – similarly to what happens when people employ negative SEO, competitors sabotage your Amazon listing by taking up your front page with terrible reviews. They do this to tank your sales so they can generate more income. You fight this by building up your email list on your blog and continually blasting out to your list when you have bad reviews, asking your readers to up-vote the positive ones.
  4. Ads – Amazon allows ads on its platform. Whether it is profitable or not, ads help you generate more sales. And if you can increase your sales velocity, you’ll find that your listing climbs up higher and starts to stick-it stays up there even after your ads stop showing. Sure, other people can do the same thing, but most don’t.

As for affiliate income, we started to push stuff by the Truth About Abs guys. We started doing email blasts to our list in order to generate the sales, and it has been working out well. The copy isn’t too bad, but there are two reasons it’s working out well.


  1. We collect a lot more emails – we are generating 300 to 400 email sign-ups a day. It’s much larger than our previous numbers for one reason: we turned off double opt-in. Aweber usually requires double opt-in when you use third-party software to collect emails, but Mike called Aweber and got them to disable double opt-ins.
  2. Good copy – our copy converts well. You can see an example email below. And we have many more emails like this in the sequence. So, we continually send you affiliate offers over time, which helps.

Here is the email copy we have been testing:

Email – This plant food HARMS your metabolism & heart

Hi {!firstname_fix}

Sometimes it’s not the enemy you know that’s the problem, but the friend you think you know.

In this case, I’m talking about nutrition in foods. It’s common knowledge that stuff like sugary drinks are just plain bad for you. The best you can say is that your body can absorb the bad effects if you only have them occasionally.

But what about foods you thought weren’t bad, and you heard were actually good for you?

I have some bad news, and some good news. The bad: some so-called “healthy” foods may be the cause of why you work so hard to eat healthy and haven’t seen the results you expected. The good news: There’s a solution I read about from best selling author Mike Geary.  Read on… (removed affiliate link)

Email – 2 Simple steps to REMOVE visceral belly fat (the DEADLIEST type)

Hi {!firstname_fix}

People often refer to past times as “the good old days” with a nostalgic tone. At least when it comes to many nutritional and health practices, I think of them more like the “bad old days.”

For example, people thought the wonders of science had delivered new, healthy products called “trans fats” that were featured in margarine, to replace that nasty butter. We now know that trans fats are about the worst thing you can coat your innards with.

People also thought they could do “spot reducing” of unattractive belly fat by using those jiggling-belt machines, or some other gimmick.

Well, belly fat certainly is still unattractive, and research says it’s also a danger sign. But research has also identified more-effective ways of getting rid of that spare tire. Here’s how. (removed affiliate link)

Email – 7 “fatty” foods for a flat stomach

Hi {!firstname_fix}

I spend full time on nutrition- and health-related activities. That’s the business I’m in.

I’m also an improvement junkie, always looking for the latest, best information. So you can imagine that I’ve pretty much seen it all: Every product, every supplement, every type of exercise.

Most of them are underwhelming. Yawn.

I’m writing you today because I recently came across something that made me sit up and pay attention. It’s a short-term blueprint for eating the right foods to burn substantial fat, and it’s all explained here… (removed affiliate link)

You can find high converting offers on sites such as Clickbank. They even sort the offers by popularity. I need to get a screenshot of our Clickbank revenue and our other affiliate income sources from Mike as he created the accounts and has the logins. Once I do, I will update the post with a screenshot (we use three networks).

The total affiliate revenue was $8,919.35.


As for monthly profit, it was high…but for a different reason than you might think. When you sell tangible products, you buy tons of inventory and then sell it over the following few months. We didn’t want to be out for our last month, so we spent a good chunk of money in the previous month, and, of course, we bought more in March.

Here is a breakdown of the expenses:

  • Fish oil – $68,492.52 (including Amazon fees, shipping to Amazon for Prime, coupon-related expenses, and producing more inventory)
  • Aweber – $149
  • Designer – $375 (continually tweaking the site)
  • Hosting – $249
  • Mike – free (Mike doesn’t get paid, but he owns a percentage of the blog)
  • Accounting – $290 (we are now paying a bookkeeper to help out with the books)

Total expenses came out to $69,555.52.

That brings the total profit to $51,937.13.

Of course, to maintain the growth, we would have to keep buying fish oil, but after awhile, we would cap out on sales, and our margins should be a healthy 30% plus. As for March, I didn’t spend much on buying tons more inventory as I wanted to show that selling supplements can be profitable.


Overall, the $100,000 challenge was fun, but I wouldn’t do it again. It’s just too much work with everything I have going on.

It was still a good learning experience. One thing I realized is how much harder it is to rank on Google today compared to 5 years ago. Almost all of my sites are old, so it is much easier for them to rank.

And although generated good traffic, if it were 5 years ago, the blog would have been at a million visitors a month with the same amount of effort.

So, what do you think of the $100,000 challenge?

Cornerstone Content Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what is cornerstone content?

Cornerstone content is vital for both seasoned bloggers and anyone launching a brand-new website because it can help you accomplish many of your content marketing goals.

Goals like:

  • Getting links to your website
  • Finding new readers
  • Attracting subscribers
  • Ranking in search engines for competitive keywords
  • Highlighting archived material

But what exactly is cornerstone content?

Watch our short video for cornerstone content

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s our video for the definition of cornerstone content:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

Online, cornerstone content is the basic, essential, and indispensable information on your website that answers common questions, solves problems, entertains, educates, or all of the above.

The key is creating compelling content that’s worth linking to and then finding ways to get the word out. A page hosting cornerstone content helps readers by pulling all of your content about a specific topic together in one place.

You’ll often link to your cornerstone pages in your everyday content because they help define common topics you talk about on your website.

Each cornerstone content page is a home for related content. It groups basic, essential, and indispensable information onto one page.

Cornerstone pages let you highlight your most important archived content. They also help you attract links, get subscribers, and increase traffic.

And that’s the goal of every profitable website.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Additional cornerstone content resources

More in-depth cornerstone content education can be found in these articles:

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the other videos soon, but if you don’t want to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if you have any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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The 4 Steps to Keyword Analysis: How to Prioritize Your Resources


Don’t you love that feeling that comes with keyword research?

You’re left with hundreds, often thousands, of opportunities you can target to grow your business.

If you do your keyword research well, you can even identify several relatively easy keywords to go after.

I know you’re excited.

But there’s a problem…

Which one do you go after first?

Which one do you go after second?

For the vast majority of blogs and business websites, you’ll be able to create only a few really great pieces of content a month.

That means you’ll never get to every single keyword you dug up in your research.

In fact, you may never get past 10% (but you can still be incredibly successful). So, what do you do?

You prioritize.

Some keywords are better than others to go after for your business.

I’m going to show you a 4-step process you can follow to analyze the keywords you came up with and decide which keywords to pursue. 

Step 1: Organization is key

Keyword research and analysis is not something that can just be thrown together.

You can’t randomly input keywords into tools and sporadically analyze them-it’s impossible when you have potentially thousands to go through.

That’s why organization is critical. Take the time upfront to get all your keyword research into one area.

In this case, I recommend using a spreadsheet. Once you have a list of keywords to consider, put them in a single column.

Next, get the search volumes for each keyword if you haven’t already. Just copy and paste them into the Keyword Planner if you have to.

This step isn’t hard, but it could take some time.

By the end, you should have a spreadsheet like this, with all your keywords:


Step 2: It’s time to take stock

Before you even look at your keywords, you need to decide what you’re willing to invest to go after them.

For example, if you have a $500 monthly budget, you cannot target highly competitive terms such as “home insurance” because you’ll get zero traffic. Instead, it’s better to target more realistic terms and get a steady trickle of traffic.

Since keyword research is usually tied to SEO at least a bit, you need to give yourself a fighting chance at ranking #1-3 for each keyword you target.

But put aside the competition aspect for now, and make sure you know exactly how much of the following three factors you have available.

Factor #1 – budget. To target a keyword, you’ll need two things: content and promotion (mainly backlinks).

Many businesses hire someone (or a small team) to produce content and do the promotion.

Right here, you need to be able to answer these questions:

  • Do you even want to spend money on targeting keywords?
  • Alternatively, do you have to spend money to do it (because no one on your team has the skills or time to)?
  • If so, how much can you reliably afford to commit on a long term basis (at least 6 months)?

To get the most out of your content, you need to think long term. It takes months of consistent, high quality work before traffic starts to pick up.

That’s why it’s not enough to invest a lot upfront and then pull funding when the results aren’t amazing immediately.

If you are going to employ that approach, divide that upfront money into at least six portions, and plan your content and promotion accordingly in the future.

Factor #2 – manpower. If you don’t want to spend money to hire people to produce content and promote it, you need to do it yourself (or assign it to an employee).

Or you might want a mixture of the two options.

Either way, determine right now the maximum amount of time you, or someone on your team, can commit to working on a specific keyword.

Again, this needs to be an amount of time specifically carved out for this work. You need consistency.

Factor #3 – expectations. When I refer to expectations, I mean answering this question: How well do you need to rank in order to be happy?

Or a better question might be: How much traffic do you need if you spend a certain level of resources on your marketing and SEO?

If you’re starting from scratch, getting just 100 organic visits a day might justify the work you’re going to put in, at least for now.

But if you’re heading up this work at a large website, getting an extra 100 visits a day might be only 1% more traffic, which isn’t good enough.

The point here is to see if there’s any misalignment between the first two factors and your goals.

If you’re expecting big things with a small budget, you’re doomed before you even started. At this point, you need to revisit your budget and manpower available-or tone down your expectations.

Alternatively, if you’re expecting to get an extra few thousand visitors a month after 6 months of work with a budget of a few thousand dollars a month, that’s achievable, and you can move on to the next step.

Step 3: Competition will dictate desirability

All right, now we can get back to your list of keywords.

This step is about one thing: determining the level of competition for each keyword.

This competition level refers to how hard it will be to rank in the top 3 listings for that keyword in Google.

That being said, if you have another distribution channel (social media, forum, etc.) that you know you can get a ton of traffic from for content on a specific keyword, classify that as easy.

Essentially, we’re looking for an overall measure of how easy it will be to get a reasonable amount of traffic from each keyword.

Option #1 – assign each keyword a competition value manually: Create a column on your spreadsheet to assign a competition value in either of two ways:

  • General categories – competition isn’t an exact science. You may opt to simply label each keyword with something like: easy, relatively easy, average, hard, very hard, etc.
  • Specific numbers – you can also use a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, where low numbers indicate low competition and high numbers are the toughest.

I recommend the second way because we’ll be using it later on.

Here comes the hard part: figuring out the competition level for each keyword. This can take a lot of time, especially if you’re doing it all yourself.

Basically, you need to get the top 3 results (or more) for each keyword, and then look at the following factors:

  • How relevant is the content? (i.e., is it clearly optimized for the keyword?)
  • How impressive is the content? (can you make something significantly better?)
  • How many backlinks point to the page? (only count high quality ones)
  • How authoritative is the site? (e.g., Forbes is highly authoritative, is not)

You could also look at factors such as mobile-friendliness and page load speed, but you’ll never be able to analyze all your keywords if you include too many factors.

This doesn’t need to be a perfect analysis, but it should be at least a good estimate of what you’re up against.

Put all those together to come up with an overall competition score.

Option #2 – use a tool to gauge competition: I know I don’t have time to do the above for thousands of keywords.

The good news is that many signals can be checked automatically with tools. You can find a bunch of options in the keyword competition section of this guide.

These tools look at the above factors and then use a formula to calculate an overall competition value (usually out of 10 or 100).


This can take this step down from several hours to just minutes, which is obviously a great thing.

The one thing you sacrifice is control.

You have to trust that the minds behind the tool are weighing the factors correctly and generating a relatively good competition estimate.

I suggest trying out a tool and then manually going through a dozen keywords to see whether the tool’s competition assessment matches yours.

Step 4: It’s time to turn to math

“Oh crap, I don’t remember calculus…”

Don’t worry, you’ll need only very basic math here.

This is the final step of our analysis, where we create a score that will tell us which keywords to prioritize.

Let’s recap what we’ve done so far and, more importantly, what we’re looking for in a great keyword.


  • We want keywords with low competition.
  • We want to get a lot of traffic if we rank highly for it (more is better).
  • It must be realistic-if a keyword has competition that clearly exceeds your budget, it should automatically be the lowest priority.
  • We need a minimum amount of traffic to make it worth your time.

Part #1 – filter and eliminate: Those last two points are the easiest to start with. If a keyword doesn’t meet those conditions, it should be assigned low priority and removed from consideration.

Start with the minimum traffic level.

You’ve already decided the minimum return you need, and we’ll use that here.

If your minimum was 100 visitors per day, or 3,000 per month, a keyword with a monthly search volume of 50 will not be worth it.

Your cutoff will probably be 500-1,000 for that example. With 7-15 pieces of content, you could hit your goal, which is reasonable for most. Keep in mind that you will get only about 30% of the monthly search volume as #1 these days.


Filter out all the keywords below that monthly search volume.

Next, based on your predetermined budget and manpower, along with SEO experience, determine what competition is too high.

If you have a small budget with very little manpower or SEO experience, eliminate all keywords that are above average in difficulty.

You’ll have to judge this for yourself.

Part #2 – calculate a priority score: Now you’re left with a list of keywords that would be both good and realistic to rank for.

They should all be keywords you would target if you had enough time.

This is where the math comes in.

We’ll use the following formula:

(A*Traffic) / (B*Competition) = Priority Score

A and B are both constants that we’ll figure out in a second. Traffic and competition both come from your earlier numbers.

A high priority score is a good thing. The higher the score, the sooner you should target it.

The constants can be anything, but they mainly depend on two things:

  • Risk tolerance – if you’re willing to take a risk and go for high volume keywords (that require more resources to target) make “A” larger. If you want more reliable results (small wins), make “B” larger.
  • Skill level – if you’re an expert SEO, you can decrease “B” because competition isn’t as scary. If you’re not as experienced, make “B” larger.

Before you do this, I’d advise to normalize your traffic numbers. You should do this since competition is already normalized from 1 to 10 (or to 5).

To do so, take the logarithm of each number. For example:

  • log(1,000)=3
  • log(50)=1.69

Then, multiply each of these numbers by a scaling factor that is equal to 10 (or 5) divided by the largest number you have. If you only had the two examples above, the scaling factor would be equal to 3.33 (10 divided by 3).

Now all your traffic numbers are out of 10, and you’ll get a more reasonable set of priority scores.

Sort your list and get to work: You’ve done all the hard work. The last step is to sort your final list by the priority score, highest to lowest.

Now, plan your content and promotion schedule according to this list. Start at the keyword with the highest priority score, and work your way down.


As you can see, keyword analysis isn’t incredibly difficult, but it takes a lot of work.

While you may want to take shortcuts, don’t.

Getting your analysis right will save you from chasing the wrong keywords and wasting hundreds of hours, and it will help you target keywords that will give you the quickest results.

If you have any questions about keyword analysis, just leave me a comment below.

Sugar – I Had No Idea

1fae7__64162-620-282 I’m writing this to tell you about beliefs, and how dangerous it can be to believe something. I’m not writing this to tell you to make any kind of changes in your eating habits. I want you to know this because I love sugar, things made with sugar, and I love all the fake sugars out there, too. No, friend. This is about belief. Oh, and I’m not selling anything. This is just a story.

Sugar – I Had No Idea

My buddy and business partner Rob Hatch recently did his first run through the Whole 30 diet and lost like 25 pounds in a month. Being that I needed to re-jumpstart my weight loss efforts (depression gave me back 50 pounds absolutely free!), I was motivated to give it a try.

Continue Reading

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How to Write Subheads that Hook (and Re-hook) Your Readers

lead your readers with smart subheads

Have you heard about RADD?

(I doubt it, because I just invented it.)

RADD refers to a purely made-up syndrome called Reader Attention Deficit Disorder, and almost every adult I know suffers from it.

The symptoms of RADD are:

  • Inability to read one page of a book or magazine without the urge to “look something up real quick” on a digital device
  • Extreme fidgeting whenever several pages of text must be read in one sitting
  • Aversion to fully reading and absorbing any content longer than 500 words

RADD is a result, I believe, of the excessive time we spend reading on screens and devices. Even though RADD is a made-up syndrome, the struggle to read better online is real.

As content creators, we can help make online reading easier. And one of the most powerful tools of our trade is the humble subhead.

Subheads: big results from a little line of text

In the grand scheme of your piece of content, a single subhead might not seem very important. After all, it represents a tiny percentage of your overall word count.

But I like to think of subheads as signposts.

When you’re on a long road trip, it’s comforting to see signs along the way that confirm you’re driving in the right direction.

Subheads do this for your reader. They draw them down the page and through your content, letting them know they’re moving toward a conclusion.

If you’re not currently using subheads in your online content, it’s time to start adding these signposts that will help make your content easier to read.

There’s more – subheads actually have three jobs to do at the same time. Read on to learn how to make them work for you.

1. Subheads invite skimmers to read your content

Readers suffering from RADD appreciate well-crafted subheads because they help them decide whether they should commit their precious attention to reading your information.

To get distracted online skimmers to engage, write subheads that shamelessly promote your piece of content.

For example, let’s say you’re writing an article about how to design a perennial garden.


Instead of this subhead:

There are thousands of perennial plants available today


Write this subhead:

How to save money and choose the right perennials for your garden plot


And instead of this subhead:

Available colors for perennial flowers


Write this subhead:

3 tips to easily pick the perfect perennial color scheme


In the examples above, the second subheads promote the content better because they explain how the reader will benefit from consuming it.

If the distracted skimmer is about to start a perennial garden and she’s looking for help, these subheads will convince her that this content will deliver the information she needs right now.

2. Subheads that “sell” each section keep readers engaged

Congratulations: you’ve hooked a reader on your piece of content.

Now use compelling subheads to “re-hook” them all the way down the page they’re reading.

It’s no wonder readers feel distracted while reading online. Between links that invite them to click away and read something else, to ads, notifications, and invitations to check out another part of a website, readers have to force themselves to stay on track all the way down the page and through your content.

Well-written subheads can help.

If you write them carefully, your subheads will “sell” the section they’re sitting above. They serve as “ads” for each section that convince the reader to consume it.

To write subheads that invite your reader to consume each section of your content, remember to:

  • Highlight the benefit of the knowledge offered in each section.
  • Use your best headline writing skills to craft compelling subheads that inform and intrigue.
  • Focus your reader’s attention on how she’ll use the information that follows.

There’s one more thing to remember about subheads – an extra layer of information to consider.

Read on to discover how to write subheads that become their own standalone content.

3. Subheads that tell a story make non-readers want to share

Let’s face the ugly truth: sometimes trying to get RADD-afflicted readers to consume your entire piece of content is a losing battle.

Some readers simply won’t read all the way through your content, despite all your best efforts to make it easy to read and to write subheads that pull them down the page.

But all is not lost. Even non-readers are valuable.

You see, even non-readers share your content. And compelling subheads that tell a story all by themselves will help convince those non-readers to spread your content to others who will read it and act on it.

The key here is to have established natural authority with your content. If these non-readers trust your site and perceive it as a reliable resource, they will share your content without even consuming it themselves.

After you’ve written your subheads, go back through and look at them again. Ask yourself:

If I only read the subheads, would I think this content is valuable?

If you can’t answer “yes” to that question, edit your subheads until you can.

Eradicate RADD with subheads that hook your readers

If you’re interested in improving your subhead-writing skills, you’re in the right place.

We have a wealth of information here on Copyblogger that will help you polish your subheads until they hook those distracted readers and encourage them to read, consume, and share your content.

Here are my favorites:

What’s your favorite subhead advice?

What’s the best advice you’ve heard about writing compelling subheads? Enrich the information on this page by sharing your best subhead-writing techniques below.

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3 Surprising Stages of Successful Landing Pages

cover your bases and make your landing pages work

Landing pages support content marketing.

The tricky thing is … landing pages are not home pages. They’re not blog posts, cornerstone content, white papers, case studies, product description pages, or even sales pages.

And you can’t treat them like they are.

High-converting landing pages consist of three action-driving stages: before, during, and after.

Tragically, when many content marketers build landing pages, they focus on just one stage: during.

But if you don’t invest effort into what happens before and after you present your landing page, it doesn’t stand a chance of achieving the results you want.

1. The “before” of landing pages

While landing pages are not about you – your company, your product, or your service – the “before” stage is because you first have to establish your goal.

As Demian Farnworth said:

“[Landing pages] force readers to focus on one thing – and one thing only.”

Determining that one thing is the only time you get to be self-centered in this process. The best way to set your goal is to complete this sentence:

I want my visitor to …

Naturally, there are plenty of other actions that might be the goal of your landing page. Whatever you select, your goal should be singular: the one desired action will guide everything else.

For example, let’s look at InvestorCarrot’s landing page for their SEO Keyword Bible.

The crucial thing to notice isn’t what’s on the page, but what’s left off the page.

There’s no header navigation, no footer, no social media icons, and even their logo in the top left corner isn’t clickable.

Essentially, there are two roads out from this landing page: “Get My Free Report Now” or “No thanks, I’ll pass on this opportunity.”


InvestorCarrot knows exactly what they want their visitor to do and they eliminate every other navigation option.

The result of this singularity – along with other factors I’ll address in the next two stages – is a whopping 45.89 percent conversion rate.

Take heed: when it comes to planning your landing page – the before stage – select one goal. Remove anything that doesn’t support that goal.

2. The “during” of landing pages

The “during” stage of your landing page consists of five on-page elements.

1. Headline

The headline of your landing page is arguably the most crucial on-page element. Why?

Because while 8 out of 10 people read the headline, only 2 out of 10 will read the content that follows.

So, how do you create a headline that grabs, compels, and drives action?

Easy. You don’t.

Instead of trying to create the perfect headline, steal it.

First, steal the heart of your headline by building it around your audience’s own keywords.

Whether you drive visitors to your landing page with paid advertising (PPC) or organic search, your headline must include the words your audience uses.

This is precisely what makes our previous example so compelling. Instead of including vague keywords about SEO, the headline targets a specific audience: Simple SEO ‘Hacks’ To Help Real Estate Investors Get More Traffic & Leads.

Next, steal successful headline templates.

Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines ebook is a great place to start.

You can also steal from my own 25 heaven-and-hell-themed headline formulas or go even more in depth by diagnosing your audience’s “state of awareness” and then systematically crafting breakthrough headlines from inside your market’s mind.

For instance, Yoobly’s webinar landing page – “The $100K Case Study: How to Generate New Rockstar Prospects & Explode Your Downline Without Selling Friends & Family” – leverages a host of proven headline ingredients:


The landing page:

  • States the big benefit (“$100k Case Study”)
  • Appeals to those who want to learn (“How to”)
  • Offers useful information enlivened by verbs (“Generate” and “Explode”)
  • Uses direct language (“Your”)
  • Makes contrasting statements against common approaches (“Without Selling Friends & Family”)

2. Subheads

With all the information that bombards us on a daily basis, most of us scan content.

Enter the subhead.

The subheads on your landing page should not only structurally guide your reader through your major points, they should stand alone and relentlessly focus on the benefits of your call to action.

Remember that what the headline does for the page itself, subheads do for each section.

This means making your subheads enticing, bite-sized nuggets of “I just gotta keep reading” copy.

A fantastic strategy for building compelling subheads is to make a list of all your product or service’s features … and then transform those features into audience-centered benefits.

Henneke’s A Simple Trick to Turn Features Into Benefits (and Seduce Readers to Buy!) makes this transformation process easy by asking one question, “So what?”

“The oven preheats quickly.

So what?

It’s quickly ready to start cooking your lasagna.

So what?

Your food is on the table sooner.

So what?

Life is less stressful. There’s less hanging around the kitchen waiting for the oven to get ready. And you don’t have to worry you might forget to preheat your oven.”

3. Body copy

Just like every other on-page element of your landing page, effective body copy does not come from you … it comes from your visitor.

Your aim should be to unearth the very words your audience already uses when they talk about your product or service.

How? By digging into user-generated content from:

  • Amazon reviews
  • Comments on blog posts
  • Customer FAQs
  • Email responses
  • Social media posts
  • Forum sites
  • Question and answer sites
  • Qualitative surveys

4. Proof

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “People buy with their hearts, then justify it with their heads.”

So while you must speak to the heart of your visitor, you also need to provide proof for their heads.

Testimonials are the primary way you provide that proof. Unfortunately, testimonials are often too general and fail at providing proof in one of two ways:

  1. They aren’t framed in a problem-then-solution format.
  2. They don’t highlight measurable results.

A shining example of the problem-then-solution format is Chris Brogan’s testimonial for the Rainmaker Platform:


Brogan’s testimonial nails exactly what’s wrong with most content management systems – the problem – and then explains exactly how the Rainmaker Platform addresses those deficiencies for him – the solution.

How do you generate your own proof-producing testimonials?

Ask for details.

Instead of just soliciting bland reviews (or waiting for them to roll in), reach out to your customers and clients and ask them to tell you about:

  • The problem they were facing
  • How you helped them find a solution
  • The results (real data) that back up that win

5. Call to action

The call to action (CTA) is copy that asks your visitor to take your desired action. CTAs will commonly appear throughout your landing pages and at the very end.

To write your CTA buttons, you can follow Joanna Wiebe’s masterful advice.

Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, and your call to action button should state how they’d finish the following sentence:

I want to _____.

That little trick is how we design buttons that say unique phrases like “Find Out How to Ride a Bike” and “Make Sense of My Finances Fast.”

3. The “after” of landing pages

So far, we’ve covered quite a bit of ground. However, we’re not done yet.


Because even if you create a high-converting landing page with all the right on-page elements relentlessly driven by your own all-consuming and singular goal … and even if people are actually taking the action you want them to take, the job of your landing page isn’t finished.

In fact, if you stop there, all your work could be for nothing.

The most neglected element of every landing page ironically isn’t even on your landing page itself.

It’s what comes next – the “after.”

When standard “Thanks for signing up” pages and “Click here to confirm” emails are off-putting, they squander the momentum you’ve worked so hard to create.

What should your follow-up look like? Here are two examples.

Let’s look at InvestorCarrot’s landing page again. After signing up for the SEO Keyword Bible, the new lead is redirected to the page featured below, which offers immediate access to the report itself.


Immediate access is vital to keep the landing page’s momentum rolling.

In addition to offering immediate access, the page also presents the user with two videos about the report as well as the opportunity to deepen her relationship with InvestorCarrot by signing up for a live webinar.

Your own follow-up doesn’t need to have as many options.

Whenever someone signs up for my Content Creation Checklist, I send him this conversational follow-up that includes tons of white space, one link to click, and ends with a question.


Whichever method you adopt for your own follow-up:

  1. Give your visitors immediate access to whatever they’ve just asked for.
  2. Write to them like one human communicating to another.

Don’t ignore these two landing-page stages

When you build landing pages with these three stages, they are hinges that transform visitors into actual leads: real people with real problems in search of real solutions.

Don’t make the mistake of just focusing on what’s on the page: the during.

Start by selecting one goal and one goal alone: the before.

Then, don’t drop the ball after all your hard work. Customize your follow-up and keep it rolling: the after.

Oh, and be sure to share in the comments if you’ve got a tip or landing page of your own you’d love for me to check out. However, be careful … I just might actually take a look.

The post 3 Surprising Stages of Successful Landing Pages appeared first on Copyblogger.