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Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

April 30th, 2020
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

PPC stands for pay-per-click. The abbreviation is usually used in front of the words “marketing” or “advertising” to describe digital ads for which the company pays a fee to the website where the ads are displayed (or the advertising network that is running the ads across many websites) every time a potential customer clicks on the ads.

If you’re a new marketer, you might have heard the words pay-per-click slurred together pretty quickly by experienced marketers, and not quite understood what they are saying. My favorite anecdote, sometimes I would get a transcript from a recorded interview back, and the transcriptionist (not familiar with the marketing industry) would transcribe “pay-per-click” as “paper click.”

Here’s an example of the look and feel of some PPC ads:

This example is from PPC Marketing: 3 steps to improve performance.

Words like “condition” and “part” are called out in brackets because those words would change to address different medical conditions faced by the ideal customer using different keywords (more on keywords in the PPC vs. SEO section of this blog post).

The URL is simply listed as “company.com” because we’re protecting the identity of the MECLABS Conversion Marketing Services Research Partner that engaged in this PPC experimentation (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

Performance advertising versus impressions-based advertising

Traditionally, advertising was sold based on how many people would see the ad — also known as impressions, exposure or reach. The cost is calculated as cost per thousand and abbreviated as CPM (“m” stands for “mille,” Latin for “one thousand.”)

The rise of advertising on the internet has brought with it a shift to performance-based advertising. While marketers can still buy adds based on their reach, many choose to buy based on an action like a click.

An example in the case study Small Business Social Media Advertising: Local shop conducts value proposition testing with Facebook ads shows a few of the different ways marketers can buy ads online. Consultant Metodi Iliev ran three tests with Facebook ads. For each test, he chose the Facebook ad delivery aimed at a different metric — optimized for post engagement, optimized for impressions, and finally, optimized for link clicks.

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Content Marketing: Here’s a really selfish reason to properly credit your sources (plus an altruistic one)

April 23rd, 2020
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This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

The rise of digital publishing has provided a voice to anyone with a digital device and an internet connection, anywhere in the world. For brands and businesses — both massive and solopreneurs — it means the ability to publish content marketing and get the word out about your products and services directly to the customer.

That’s a good thing. A powerful way to grow your company.

But as publishing has become democratized, now all of us are newspaper editors and book publishers — with no training.

And because of that, properly quoting your sources is a significant professional courtesy that is seriously lacking.

Quit biting my style

In any creative or artistic endeavor, there lies the temptation to copy successful inspiration. Music. Writing. Comedy. “You have a better chance of stopping a serial killer than a serial thief in comedy,” comedian David Brenner said. “If we could protect our jokes, I’d be a retired billionaire in Europe somewhere — and what I just said is original.”

Having an actual new idea is extremely difficult. As Barenaked Ladies has sung, “It’s all been done before.”

And occasionally, we’re not even aware we didn’t come up with an original idea, as this quick clip from Seinfeld so beautifully illustrates:

 

But do you see what I did in each of those instances? I gave credit where it is due. As we publish content through MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments or MECLABS Institute, I’m also surprised how often people think it’s okay to simply use our content with no permission or attribution.

And I’m not talking about content scraping. That is straight-up malicious.

But there are plenty of seemingly well-meaning content marketers who don’t credit sources just for lack of knowledge. While there are brand journalists who have actually gone to journalism college, most people publishing content marketing today have done so with little to no training. It’s just not their expertise.

So they overlook properly crediting sources. And when you don’t credit your sources, you are essentially taking credit for someone else’s idea and saying it is your own. You are copying.

I’ll give you an example. I was a guest speaker on a webinar. We did a run-through on the slides before the webinar. And I was impressed with some of the content this speaker and this company had. So after the run-through, I started asking him about it.

He was quite forthright. Didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong. “Oh, that’s just some stuff I found by Googling around.” But for anyone watching the webinar, attendees would have thought it was his content and data (unless they knew the original, in which case he would have looked like a fraud). The story has a happy ending. He was more than happy to properly source, once our team showed him how — which I’ll show in just a minute, but first, what’s in it for you?

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SBA Paycheck Protection Program Loans and the Marketing Industry: 4 tips for marketers

April 13th, 2020
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This blog post was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

If you haven’t already heard of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it is part of $350 billion in aid the U.S. Congress allocated for small businesses in its recent stimulus bill (and more is being considered).

This program, in response to the economic devastation wrought by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, is meant to keep small businesses afloat as well as ensure workers on private payrolls continue to get paid.

If you want general information about the program, you can learn more directly from the U.S. Small Business Administration. In this MarketingSherpa blog post, we’ll focus on some tips that are especially relevant to marketers.

Tip #1: Understand how your workers are classified

There has been a lot of press about the PPP and how it can help small businesses cover payroll and operating expenses. For some in the marketing industry, there may be special considerations in how they should manage their organization’s human resources.

“Many marketing agencies have a lot of 1099 contractors; those freelancers are not covered under the agency’s PPP loans. Therefore, marketing agencies would have an easier time covering those types of expenses under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance Program,” advised Taylor Gibson, COO, Optima Office, an accounting firm.

Gibson advises that the Payroll Protection Program can be a better loan option if you have W2 employees since portions can be forgiven (more info below).

“You can get two-and-a-half times the qualifying monthly wages and benefits through the Paycheck Protection Program. Plus, the PPP does not require a personal guarantee — which the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance Program does,” advised Gibson.

Tip #2: You may be a small business

Jay-Z once said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”

You may be a small business as well.

Sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed persons can apply to the PPP, according to the SBA website.

“If you own a one-person marketing agency and are a sole prop[rietor], then you likely do not have payroll costs in the same way. That being said, the loan amount that you are eligible for would still be calculated as a result of your payroll costs for the twelve months,” said Allan Givens, PR Manager, Finder.com, which offers a tutorial on How to apply for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program.

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Landing Page Optimization: 11 questions to ask about your landing pages to increase conversion

March 12th, 2020
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

While most of those questions are to a general MarketingSherpa customer service inbox, this email was sent directly to Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa). The email has been stripped of any identifying information but includes general information that will likely be helpful to many of our readers.

 

 

Dear Flint McGlaughlin: I have been watching your videos, including:

Based on these videos, I’ve been putting together a treatment on our current landing page. We did not change much design-wise, but the main points I’ve tried to address are:

  • Changing the personality of the page … i.e., toning down the direct-marketing “hype” voice on the page and presenting information more objectively
  • Communicating the value proposition in a way that hopefully is more credible
  • Using short testimonials to make specific claims instead of just bullets by an anonymous copywriter
  • Trying to increase the overall credibility of the page with more evidence spread throughout —not just in the form of testimonials but also data on the underlying science, quantitative evidence, customer satisfaction and awards.

I am wondering if you might be willing to look at it and give me your immediate feedback and perhaps refer me to anything in your videos or book which I might not be understanding or using correctly.

I am not looking for free copy editing, more just feedback whether it looks like I am applying these principles correctly or not. Obviously testing is going to help determine if we have the right value proposition and appeal.

If you have a chance to do this, I would be extremely grateful 🙂 Thank you!

 

And here is Flint’s (generalized) response, which I thought would be helpful for many marketers, especially anyone focused on conversion rate optimization or landing page optimization…

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CRO for CTAs: There is no perfect call-to-action, but these 6 checklists will help get your CTA pretty close

March 5th, 2020
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Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest remains at rest unless acted on by a net external force.

It’s a good reminder when we discuss the call-to-action. The customer’s natural state is inertia. They don’t care about our products or services without a clear, compelling reason.

The only reason they move is because the perceived value of the product (shaped by previous experiences, word of mouth, press mentions and especially your marketing) begins to pull them into motion. And usually the final piece that tips them from being at rest to in action is the aptly named call-to-action.

Which is why it’s surprising that so many calls-to-action don’t really live up to the name. CTAs like “submit” and “request a quote” give your customers very little reason to act.

Oh, let’s take a quick break for our own mid-blog post CTA:

This blog post was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

OK, we’re back. While the above call-to-action is not value-laced per se, our hope is that it’s surrounded by value. If you find this blog post helpful, and you would like to receive more helpful content like it in your email inbox, then making you aware of the email newsletter’s existence will encourage you to overcome inertia and act.

The quest for the perfect CTA

Now that we’ve talked about the bad, let’s talk about the good. We’ve been asked about the perfect CTA. What should the words say? What color should the button be? Friends, we can’t help you find the perfect call-to-action. It doesn’t exist.

Because CTAs are very context-dependent. The best thing you can do to improve your CTA is to understand your unique customers’ psychology as well as your own.

To help simplify that for you, we’ve created a nifty PDF download of checklists you and your team can go through as you seek to optimize the conversion rate of your CTAs. You can download it for free here: The Call to Action: Six quick checklists to help the busy marketer improve conversion rates.

I’ll walk through one of the checklists with you in this blog post, and you can get more background on the checklists along with a deeper understanding of how to improve your calls-to-action in 150 Experiments on the Call-to-Action: Six psychological conditions that hinder our results.

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Marketing 101: What is a sticky footer?

December 19th, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

A footer is the information at the bottom of a webpage. On a traditional website, a visitor would scroll down to see the information at the bottom of a webpage in the footer. However, with a sticky footer (sometimes known as a fixed footer) that information is always present at the bottom of the visitor’s web browser as the visitor scrolls down. They do not have to get to the bottom of the page to see it.

For example, the team at Reservation Counter discovered that having the contact center phone number prominently displayed on the website increased orders, so they included it in a sticky footer for their mobile visitors.

The below image from the article Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study: How a travel website doubled website conversion rates in one year points out the places that the phone number was included on the mobile site. The phone number at the bottom of the page is in the sticky footer.

Creative Sample #1: Mobile sticky footer with telephone number CTA

 

The Infinite Scroll: A never-ending attempt to find the footer

Another website design tactic that has gained traction over the past decade or so is the infinite scroll. An infinite scroll is when more content loads automatically at the bottom of the web browser as a visitor scrolls down a webpage.

Infinite scroll designs were adopted because they reduce the friction of having to click to the next page. This is especially true on a smartphone where it’s far easier to continue to swipe than to click on a link or button.

However, most infinite scroll designs essentially remove the footer as a website element since the visitor never gets down to the bottom of the page. Anytime they think they’ve reached the bottom, more content loads on the page, and the page just gets longer. It’s a lot like that dream where you’re eating spaghetti — the more spaghetti you eat, the more gets added to the bowl, so you never finish.

This is one use case where a sticky footer can help. By combining a sticky footer with an infinite scroll design, you can reduce friction for the users while still providing the information they would expect from a footer.

Footers add credibility to a website

At this point, you might be thinking “I like my infinite scroll design. The footer was a relic from the early days of the internet. Who needs footers anyway?”

For visitors accustomed to websites designed with footers, the footer can add credibility by providing general information about the company, such as:

  • Link to about page
  • Link to contact us form
  • Link to customer service forum
  • Link to FAQ
  • Link for press requests
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address
  • Customer service email address
  • Privacy policy
  • Name of the person or company that owns the website (usually accompanied by a copyright)
  • Link to social media accounts (Pro tip: If you’re using a template, make sure you update the icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., with links to your accounts. If customers click and get nothing, it only reduces credibility)

Now you might think “my customers never send me postal mail, so why does my mailing address matter in the footer?” Even if your customers don’t try to contact you in these ways, simply having a physical mailing address can reduce anxiety for the customer and help them understand that your company is legitimate.

The long landing page

While many marketers try to keep their landing pages as short as possible, fearing that customers simply won’t read a long landing page, long landing pages can be effective for some products. Here’s an example of a long landing page that netted 220% more leads for an addiction and mental health rehabilitation facility. And here’s a long landing page that generated 638% more leads for an insurance call center.

With a long landing page, you don’t have the same problem that you do with an infinite scrolling page. Visitors can scroll down and eventually get to the bottom to see the footer. However, if the page is long enough, they may lose patience. So you may want to test a sticky footer. It could help increase conversion by giving them the credibility information they desire. Or it could hurt conversion because it presents a distracting element on the page. The results will depend on how your unique visitors react to your unique products’ pages, and they will likely vary by industry, product type and visitor type.

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Balancing search engine optimization, conversion optimization and conversation

December 12th, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa: My question is about balancing the SEO needs with the conversation needs, an issue when driving traffic through organic rankings.

I think the issue I am struggling with is “the thing that a customer might search for is not what they want to buy.”

I know how to rank any page for anything, and through your training, I am beginning to know how to think about a page that achieves its objectives.

I think what I am struggling with is balancing the two and deciding what keywords to optimize the home page for when trying to combine the two objectives, i.e., SEO optimization versus buyer optimization, and then you have to go through the stage of the buyer’s journey as the language they use will be different at each stage.

Regards,

Adrian Tatum
Director
Effective Business Growth

 

Dear Reader: Adrian, you have hit on a deep challenge that many marketers feel. Some marketers come at it from the opposite direction. They view SEO (search engine optimization) and conversion optimization as separate. And I think this is because of the “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” effect. Too often we’re siloed within our own disciplines.

I’ve heard the theory that load time and various other SEO factors give you a better quality score and therefore must be the factors that improve conversion.

While decreasing page load time has been shown to increase conversion, a myopic focus on SEO factors can hurt conversation with your visitors on your webpages. For this reason, the factors that improve SEO are not necessarily the same factors that improve conversion. They aren’t diametrically opposed either, but they are not one and the same. In one instance, you’re optimizing for an algorithm. In the other, you’re optimizing for a human thought process.

The hammer-nail challenge faces many companies and agencies, and it’s probably a blind spot for all of us in some way. For example, a company can be so focused on SEM (search engine marketing) and traffic-driving that they overlook where they are sending that traffic. The same holds true for SEO. You don’t just want traffic, you want traffic that will take an action.

The companies we work with have come to the realization that SEO landing pages need conversion optimization, their bigger concern is they don’t want to make changes that improve conversion but then lose their traffic so they’ll ultimately be down overall. Google is the big scary wizard behind the curtain, and when a marketer has won it over, the last thing they want to do is lose that.

Essentially, you need to make conversion changes without losing SEO, add value without risking search rank.

Really, this isn’t just an SEO problem. This is the challenge of marketing as a whole. What customers need isn’t necessarily what customers think they need, what customers will actually buy isn’t always the same as what they search for.

Let’s use marketers as an example customer. A marketer may search for “how to increase email list size” or “how to increase sales” but the solution isn’t necessarily tied to an email product or a sales product. The real solution for them may be to improve the value proposition.

Here’s another example. I’m on the board for my Homeowner’s Association. We recently had an unlocked car broken into in our neighborhood. So I started searching for security cameras. Most of the websites had security cameras with similar functionality. However, one of them had this headline: “Don’t capture faces. Capture license plates. 70% of crime involves a vehicle. Police say a license plate is the best evidence to solve a crime.”

I wasn’t searching for a license plate reader. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was searching for a security camera, but I didn’t really want that either. I wanted a deterrent to crime, and I wanted a way to catch the perpetrators. A few of my neighbors had security cameras, and they were interesting because you could see the perpetrators in action. But then what? You still didn’t know who they were and didn’t have any evidence to help the police catch them and stop them from re-offending. So the license plate reader copy on that homepage tapped into my true pain point.

Adrian, you are savvier than many in that you understand this challenge. As Harvard professor Theodore Levitt has said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

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Marketing 101: What are microsites? (plus 3 successful microsite examples and 2 missteps)

November 21st, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Microsites are somewhere in between a single landing page and an entire website. They are small, special-purpose websites for a single, dedicated communication (and conversion) goal set up by companies that already have a full site. They work well for the communication of an idea or product that requires more than a single landing page, for example, an event.

Successful microsite creation requires a clear goal and focus for the microsite and should be built from the ground up optimized for achieving that goal.

Here are a few tips to help you use microsites.

Tip #1: Tightly tap into visitor motivations

Microsites can be more focused on an ideal customer subset than a company’s overall website that often must serve multiple audiences. For that reason, microsites can be used to create a more forceful prospect-level value proposition.

For example, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) was engaged in conversion marketing services for a national land and home sales organization for consumers. The company had microsites for individual communities.

In an A/B test of a community’s microsite, the control offered a community guide to prospects and used sales-oriented language like “… learn why [community name anonymized] is Paradise Found.”

 

The treatment offered a community map to prospects and a more helpful tone. The map was described as something that would help prospects. “Be prepared for your visit to …”

By better tapping into the motivations of people interested in visiting the community, the control produced a 326% increase in conversions.

Tip #2: Use microsites to target specific locations to garner local search

A large brand that sells warranty and car servicing options was performing well on keywords for the United Kingdom as a whole, but there were towns with service garages where the brand was off the top of the search rankings.

The team at agency DFY Links built three microsites for their client’s least competitive towns — Bath, Chepstow and Swindon. There was a similar technical setup to the main site, but with a heavy focus on the town, and the team went to work building links to these microsites every month. The team chose microsites because any increased effort to help the main site rank in certain areas would dilute the UK search and also reduce rankings in other local areas, according to Brett Downes, SEO Specialist, DFY Links.

“Within a year, Chepstow and Swindon sites featured in [spots] one to five on SERP (search engine results page) results for 90% of keywords we were targeting,” Downes said. “Bath was slightly different, as competition was higher and the other sites had a lot more backlinks. However, we did rank on page one for 50% of [keywords] we were targeting, with around 10-20% ranking in position one to three, especially on long-tail keywords.”

The sites also appeared in the local map pack, the listing of nearby businesses that appear under a map on the main SERP.

“The microsites were minimal in code and very simple. Having a lean site ensured we would have a very fast-loading website, as speed has become more of an important ranking factor (especially on mobile) this has given us the advantage [over] local, bloated sites,” Downes said.

The microsites were completely different sites, not subdomains or subfolders. Local businesses they were competing against usually had less than 50 referring domain links, so the team knew they could match the best competitors within six to nine months of link building.

“We could have used the extra budget and created subfolders on the [main] site and had targeted sections for different locations. This may have diluted the main site; plus with the microsite, the assumed location managed to qualify us for proximity searches,” he said.

However, your business may have a very different competitive mix and that can affect how you consider your URL structure, so read the next tip …

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Marketing 101: What is baking in?

October 3rd, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

In a recent MarketingSherpa article, ConversionXL Research Director Ben Labay says, “I think we are getting better as an industry at baking in an experimentation process and culture into our organizations.” (from Ask MarketingSherpa: Maturity of conversion rate optimization industry)

That raised the question — what exactly is meant by “baking in” in a business and marketing context?

If you click on that link and read the final article, you’ll see that we chose to include the parenthetical statement “[including as an integral part]” to clarify the term baking in.

Baking in means including, in a sense. But that misses the nuance. When you’re baking something in, you’ve considered it from the get-go. So that’s why we went with “[including as an integral part]” not just “[including.]”

Not just a cherry on top

Just like when learning a new language, understanding the nuance to a term is crucial to speaking the business lingo fluently in an industry. In this case, the nuance is meant to communicate that the thing being discussed is not just included, but included as an essential, core part from the very beginning.

I suspect the analogy comes from baking itself. You could just add icing to the top of a cake. Or a cherry on top.

But when you bake something in, it’s really part of the dessert.

Words mean what people think they mean

Language is a funny thing. As marketers, we may be trying to convey a certain denotation (literal meaning) or implying a certain connotation (the idea of feeling invoked by a word), but if our audience doesn’t get the essence of what we are trying to communicate, that communication has not happened.

So I wanted to reach out to some others and get their thoughts on the term “baking in” to see how it aligned (or diverged) with my own understanding. And perhaps with yours as well.

It’s a pretty interesting little experiment. We take this business lingo for granted. But miscommunication happens when we assume we know what the other person is talking about, and professionals (especially newer workers in a field) rarely like to admit their ignorance of an inside term.

As you read the responses below, note how we all generally tend to agree on the meaning of the term. And yet, we all add our own little nuances to the meaning. A good example of why we should always confirm that others understand what you’re talking about, especially when using insider lingo.

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Does Your Marketing Copy Have Earfeel?

September 19th, 2019
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Each line of copy on your websites and in your advertising should have a job. That job may be to help communicate the value proposition. Or it may be to reduce anxiety.

But don’t let the necessity of function blind you to the importance of form in the headline.

At the end of the day, it is communication. And so your copy needs a certain earfeel.

After all, great advertising and branding doesn’t just get a point across. It gets the earfeel just right. Whether it’s a headline (“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”), a tagline (The Ultimate Driving Machine), a credo (Truth Well Told) or an organization name (Wounded Warrior Project).

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

What is earfeel, and why is it important?

If you’ve never heard the word earfeel before, don’t feel bad. Admittedly, I just made it up. But I think it is the perfect way to express the need for marketing copy to not just be words that literally summarize a thought, but also communicate them in a way that customers will comprehend and viscerally feel them.

I got the idea from mouthfeel, which Wikipedia defines as “the physical sensations in the mouth caused by food or drink, as distinct from taste.”

As an example, the Wikipedia page has a girl enjoying a peach. Something can look like a peach, taste like a peach, and smell like a peach, but if you don’t feel the fuzzy skin when you grab it and the tender flesh when you bite in … well, it’s just not a peach.

We know that intuitively.

Yet, we sometimes build headlines by simply checking off a checklist — trying to communicate four elements of our value prop and stuff them together. But if it doesn’t have earfeel, even though all the words are there, the message is just not getting through to anyone.

Here are some examples when that happens …

The headline isn’t really a headline

Just because there are words at the top of the page doesn’t mean you have a headline. A headline with earfeel should be welcoming and begin a conversation.

Take a look at this “headline”:  Business Dedicated Services Australia (from Copywriting: 5 proven discoveries that strengthen copy).

That lacks earfeel. You would never say that to another human being in a sentence. It reminds me of the old Coneheads sketch on Saturday Night Live, where a family of aliens could speak and understand English, but while everything they said was technically correct, it lacked earfeel …

Prymaat Conehead: I am engaged in preparing your favorite meal, small starch tubes combined with lactate extract of hooved mammals.

Beldar Conehead: Ah. You mean macaroni and cheese. I’m sure we will enjoy it.

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