Tag Archive | "Techniques"

These 4 Copywriting Techniques Work Really Well … Right Up Until They Don’t

Search on Google and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of pages devoted to copywriting secrets, tips, tricks, and techniques. Go…

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5 Writing Techniques that Stir Your Audience to Action

"You’ve got to stir something in them before they’ll do something." – Brian Clark

We all want a positive response to the content we work so hard to create. Not all positive responses, however, are created equal.

I’m reminded of this David Ogilvy quote from Ogilvy on Advertising:

“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’”

In other words, if you’re looking for something more than “Great post!” comments, then you’ve got to prompt action. And that means you’ve got to stir something in the audience before they’ll do something.

Now, before we get to that, one easy way to get someone to do something is to simply ask. I’m assuming you’re already using calls to action, but if not, click that last link to read about those first.

Otherwise, let’s focus on what must happen before the ask. What we’re trying to stir is an emotional response.

It’s emotion that moves us to act. In fact, the Latin root for the word emotion means “to move,” because emotions motivate what we do. We don’t necessarily want to make them seethe with anger or burst into tears, though.

The goal is not necessarily to get someone to feel, but rather to want — and to act on that want. Here are several ways to accomplish that.

1. Vivid storytelling

Emotional responses come when we experience a message that corresponds with our existing beliefs. Appealing to the core values of your audience, how they view the world, and their expectations for the future is incredibly powerful — if you truly create an experience.

Dating back to the time of Aristotle, skilled persuaders understood the power of a detailed narrative. The key is that the story must be so vivid that it prompts a vicarious experience in which they can see the outcome of the story happening to them.

Here’s the beginning of a story that fueled a $ 2 billion(!) subscription promotion for The Wall Street Journal:

“On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both — as young college graduates are — were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these two men returned to college for their 25th reunion.”

Do you see the setting in your mind’s eye? Click here to read how the story progresses and see why it succeeded so wildly.

2. Ramp it up

Sometimes when we’re eager to prompt action, we’re tempted to come out of the gate swinging. High energy, high emotion — that’s what will cause the audience to latch on to our contagious enthusiasm and take action, right?

Not necessarily.

Skilled presenters, ranging from politicians to stand-up comics, know that it’s better to start low-key and build momentum as you go.

Persuasive content and copy are often referred to as a slippery slide. The goal of each and every sentence of your message is to keep people engaged the whole way down, gaining momentum along the way to the call to action.

And although the context is different, there might be no better example than Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963:

The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of oration scholars. More importantly, it inspired the huge crowd at The March on Washington to the point that the Kennedy administration felt compelled to advance its civil rights legislation in Congress.

3. Hold a unity rally

We all belong to various groups, ranging from nationality, to college alma mater, to favorite NBA team. Appealing to the tribal nature of an audience that’s part of your group naturally invokes emotion, while you also benefit from the powerful influence principle of unity.

Unity goes beyond simple similarities and liking, and instead reaches the point of shared identities. It’s inherently an “us against them” scenario, and if you want to mobilize the choir instead of just preach to it, you’ve got to communicate how “the others” present a problem.

It could be about how a competitor has chosen not to serve the needs of your group. Or how outsiders are belittling your tribe in a way that inspires action. It doesn’t have to be ugly, but it does have to motivate the group to stand together and move.

Sometimes, you can even use unity to inspire others to join the group. This happens because of another powerful, fundamental influence: social proof.

For example, one of our core values is that we believe that building your business or content marketing engine on someone else’s virtual property is unacceptably risky. When we rail against digital sharecropping, website owners flock to the comments to agree — providing powerful social proof for others to get on board with owning their own platform.

4. Be like Mike

Group identity is powerful thanks to our strong need to belong. Emulation works on the same emotional level when you position yourself as a role model to your audience.

Now, that might sound a bit arrogant, and it certainly can be. But if you’ve done the hard work of becoming a likable expert, your audience will naturally choose to emulate you in certain ways, or even desire to be like you.

Think of the whole “personal branding” movement. Everywhere you look, people are becoming micro-celebrities hoping to charge you money so you can be like them — and in many cases, it works.

That’s a little bit too on the nose for me. A smarter approach is to inspire your audience to do something with you, such as join a cause, contribute to a charity, or act in some other way that deepens the broader influence factors of unity, authority, liking, commitment and consistency, and social proof.

5. Show, don’t tell

This last technique is more of a “what not to do” tip that relates to the other four. It comes down to one of the oldest bits of writing advice around, which is to refrain from “telling” them why they should do what you want them to do while making your case, and instead letting the audience experience the realization themselves.

  • The story should be so vivid that they see themselves achieving the outcome.
  • The “ramp up” should spark the emotional response without explicit direction.
  • The realization that “they’re wrong, we’re right” should come from the group.
  • The audience should decide that they’ll emulate you before you ask.

On a related note, never telegraph the emotional response you’re seeking up front, or a natural psychological defense mechanism may arise.

Emotions are best triggered without revealing an upfront expectation.

It’s dangerous to proclaim a joke as hilarious before telling it, and it’s likewise bad form to lead with “Boy, is this going to tick you off.” In other words, don’t tell people you’re going to go on a rant, just begin and build to the rant.

Stir the win-win

None of these techniques are going to make anyone do something they don’t want to do. In fact, more often than not the desired action has to be in their best interest first and foremost, and yours secondarily.

In other cases, you may get some action thanks to the previously unmentioned principle of influence — reciprocity. If you selflessly and unconditionally give away something useful, perhaps they’ll do a favor for you in return.

You know, like sharing this article on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you! :-)

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3 Lesser-Known Copywriting Techniques that Keep Readers Glued to Your Content

keep their eyes on your content

Let me ask you this …

Roughly how many articles do you think you’ve read about writing better headlines, subheads, or even opening sentences, for that matter?

A ton of ’em, I bet. After all, smart marketers know those are all valuable lessons.

But here’s the thing:

Don’t assume that copywriting techniques can only improve your content by helping you grab people’s attention.

There’s a smorgasbord of content-writing tips that can be borrowed from sales copywriting that go beyond crafting headlines and subheads.

Here are three lesser-known copywriting tactics designed to not only snatch your audience’s attention, but to also keep them gobbling up your every word.

1. Qualify your readers (they’ll love you for it)

I bet you’ve heard this adage before:

“If you’re marketing to everyone, you’re marketing to no one.”

Yet, a lot of bloggers — especially those writing for multiple personas — don’t always qualify their readers for specific types of content.

By that, I mean:

Make it clear who your content is for — and who it is not for.

Why’s it important to do this?

Two reasons:

  1. You’ll create a stronger bond with your target audience. People will be more likely to keep reading if they feel confident that what you have to say is tailored to folks just like them. We’re naturally more inclined to consume content that is highly relevant to our situation or how we see ourselves.
  2. You won’t frustrate readers who aren’t interested. Readers may feel misled if they read 500 words only to realize the post doesn’t apply to them.

It’s pretty easy to qualify your audience, too.

Copywriters use “ideal for” statements to let prospects know they’ve got an offer that’s perfect for them, and they work just as well in content.

Don’t be shy about pinpointing who will benefit most from your content.

2. Agitate your reader’s pain — in a good way

As copywriting legend Dan Kennedy put it:

“… people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain.”

That’s why the copywriting formula Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) is so powerful:

  1. Problem: Identify the reader’s problem.
  2. Agitate: Stir up all the painful emotions connected with the problem.
  3. Solve: Give them a solution.

It gives you a surefire way to craft targeted, emotional copy that pulls in the right audience.

Now, a lot of content marketers are great at bringing up the problem and delivering the solution. But it’s the agitating part that’s often overlooked.

So, how do you “agitate?”

Rather than jumping right into the solution, first paint a picture that shows the full consequences of your reader’s problem. Make ’em feel it on a raw, visceral level.

That way, they’ll fully understand why they must keep reading your content. And that’s good for them and for you.

Now, the trick is figuring out how much to agitate the problem.

You may be able to make the reader’s pain feel visceral with a sentence or two. Or, sometimes it could take more time to ensure the audience really understands the scope of their struggle — but once they do, you’ll have their unwavering attention when you trot out the solution in your content.

3. Plant “seeds” to keep the pace

This one’s fantastic if you write long-form content.

Every writer is bound to have a few slow spots in their content where the reader’s attention might wane a little. Why’s that a problem?

Because the moment that your pace “lets up” in your writing, there’s a risk that your reader will get distracted and abandon your post. Probably forever. But there’s a simple way to fix this.

By using what copywriting legend Joe Sugarman calls “seeds of curiosity,” you’re able to give readers an incentive to keep going.

Here’s how it works:

Add a short line at the end of a paragraph that entices the reader to continue on to the next paragraph.

You can be very explicit with your “seed” by using phrases like:

Let me explain.

Stay with me here.

Read on to find out.

… or you can take a more subtle approach instead.

A few ideas:

End with a question

I planted a “seed” in the second paragraph of this section by asking: “Why’s that a problem?”

This encourages folks to keep reading because when we see a question, our brains naturally want to know the answer. It works particularly well when you want to transition into an explanation.

Here are some more examples:

Why do I say this?

What does this mean for you?

Why should you care?

Hint at a benefit or solution

Folks will keep reading if they know there’s a payoff coming.

For example, I set up a problem at the beginning of this section and then hinted at a solution with the line: “But there’s a simple way to fix this.”

You can also try these:

It’s easier than you think.

Here’s the secret:

But there is a solution.

Warn of a threat

The human brain is hardwired to respond to threats. Even the slightest hint of danger snatches our attention.

You could write:

A word of caution:

And it gets worse.

But there’s a problem with this.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started.

The important thing to remember when using this technique is that your “seeds” should always feel natural — never forced. Their job is to quietly transition the reader from one sentence to the next.

The intersection of copywriting and content marketing

There are loads of other direct response copywriting tactics that’ll keep your readers glued to your content.

But no matter which techniques you use — whether you’re writing a blog post, sales page, or an ebook — you first need to understand your target audience.

Know their problems. Their fears. Their dreams.

That rule is essential for both content marketing and copywriting.

Which copywriting techniques do you use when writing content? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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Prove It! 6 Persuasive Techniques for Making the Sale

simple tips to convince skeptical buyers

A few months ago, I was struggling with writing a sales page for an upcoming program launch, so I showed my draft to my copywriting mentor and asked his advice.

He scanned the page for about 20 seconds, then said:

“You need more proof. This page should be full of stories and case studies about how your approach works. You need to show the real results people get from using this product.”

I argued that adding more case studies would take up a lot of room on the page. He laughed.

“When I write my own sales pages, highlighting the proof is the most important part,” he said. “If I can show people I can get results, the rest of the copy is almost superfluous.”

I know his advice was a bit of an oversimplification — other elements of copywriting still matter, of course — but now I see better conversions on my sales pages because I implement my mentor’s advice on a regular basis.

In today’s post, I’ll share six persuasive techniques for showing proof the next time you need to convince a prospect that you can get results.

1. Case studies

Case studies (also known as customer success stories) tell a brief story about a customer or client who has gotten great results from your product or service.

For example, you might write, “Alexander Manuel used my system and saw a 50 percent increase in email sign ups within one month.”

When you use case studies in sales copy, it’s best to keep them short and concise. Focus on measurable results whenever you can. Numbers are often the most persuasive aspect of case studies for prospects.

If your product helped your customer reduce 300 hours of his workload last year, state that. If your client increased profits when she started using your services, state how much extra revenue she brought in.

2. Testimonials

Testimonials are written statements from your customers or clients, extolling the virtues of your product or service. Typically, they are quotes from people who have hired you or bought from you in the past.

The best testimonials go beyond just singing your praises and talking about how awesome you are — they explain details about why your client endorses you.

Testimonials, like case studies, are most powerful when they include numbers and/or quantitative results.

Check out these six questions from Sean D’Souza that help you draw out detailed and persuasive testimonials from your clients.

3. Press coverage

Have you recently received praise from a media outlet? Add it to your copy if it’s relevant and helps support your claims.

If you’re going to include press coverage, though, make sure the quote is from a well-known source.

While praise from a small-town newspaper might not do much for your credibility, a few words from a highly trusted magazine might be compelling and persuasive.

When deciding whether or not to include press coverage as part of your copywriting proof, ask yourself if your prospects recognize, like, and respect the source.

4. Social shares

In certain situations, it might make sense to use social media sharing results in your copy.

If you’re a freelance writer, for instance, and you have a track record of writing blog posts that get thousands of Facebook or Twitter shares, you could present those social sharing numbers when you pitch your services to new clients.

5. Research studies

If research studies clearly show the effectiveness of your product, you can use that data in your copy.

The key to using this type of proof is making sure you deliver the information clearly and concisely in layman’s terms.

6. Visual representations of results

Images are powerful. You can use before-and-after photos, charts, screenshots, and other visuals to prove that your product or service works and is worth the investment.

Label visuals with captions if they need explanations, and don’t let charts or other snazzy images overpower your copy. In most cases, visual representations will complement the main part of your copy.

Proof: one of the most important elements in your copywriting toolbox

When you write copy, proof is incredibly important. That’s why it’s one of the 5 Ps of writing great copy: Premise, Promise, Picture, Proof, and Push.

Learn more about the 5 Ps in Copyblogger’s free ebook, The 5 P Approach to Copy that Crushes It.

As you face your next copywriting assignment — for your own business or for one of your clients — don’t forget to include convincing proof. It will help you create compelling copy that brings in more registrations, opt-ins, and sales.

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3 Eye-Opening Techniques to Wake Up Your Readers with Your First Sentence

grab attention from the start

“I was only four years old when I saw my mother load up a washing machine for the very first time in her life …”

That is global health and data expert Hans Rosling’s opening line of a 2010 TED Talk, as he stands on stage with a bundle of laundry and a washing machine. Rosling does what the best presenters in the world excel at; in a matter of seconds, they get and keep your attention.

When you write content, your job is similar to someone standing on stage. Your readers are distracted and you have mere seconds to get their attention.

To grab and keep your audience’s attention, it’s best to use at least one attention-grabbing method that yanks your readers into your articles by creating intense curiosity.

Want to know three methods I recommend? Keep reading …

3 ways to hook your readers

In this article, I’ll present the following three attention-grabbing techniques, with examples of how they can be used in your content:

  • Method #1: Story of a demonstration
  • Method #2: Case study
  • Method #3: Opposing stance

Method #1: Story of a demonstration

Notice how this article started with a description of Hans Rosling standing on stage.

And what was he doing on stage? He was holding a bundle of laundry while standing next to a washing machine. He then proceeds to talk about the process of washing clothes. While he goes about the demonstration, your eyes are riveted to what he’s going to do next.

Rosling is lucky — he’s on stage and can do a physical demonstration. But when you write an article, you have to tell a story about a demonstration instead.

To do this, roll out your story as if the audience were watching and listening to find out what happens next. When you use a “demonstration” to start an article, the most mundane actions come to life.

Let’s say I wrote:

“Have you ever tried to peel a clove of garlic before? If you’ve done it the old-fashioned way, you’ve probably taken five minutes or more to separate the cloves, cut each clove in half, and peel off the skin. But what if you could peel the garlic in 10 seconds? Here’s what to do: Hit the garlic with the base of your palm so the cloves separate. Then take the separated cloves, put them in a container and cover it with another container. Then shake the heck out of the garlic and — like magic — the garlic is peeled.”

In the example above, you followed along, didn’t you?

Not only did you follow along, you wanted to know what came next.

When you use a story that involves a demonstration, you pull the reader through your content. Then once you’ve gotten to the end of your story, you simply connect it to the rest of your article.

Rosling’s washing machine demonstration may seem like a mundane example, but when placed at the start of an article, it forces you to follow along to find out what happens next.

A demonstration is only one way to get your readers’ attention. The second is a case study.

Method #2: Case study

Did you know Airbnb was suffering as a company until Barry Manilow’s drummer became a customer?

Sound interesting? Case studies — whether historical or current — attract readers because they want to know what happens next and why things unfolded the way they did.

Why was Airbnb in trouble in the first place? What’s the weird connection between Airbnb and Barry Manilow’s drummer? And how does all of this connect to the rest of the article?

As the Airbnb story goes, the founders were keen to offer accommodations similar to bed and breakfasts. That required the owner to be around when a guest arrived and stay in the house or apartment as well. But Barry Manilow’s drummer didn’t want just a room; he wanted an entire apartment.

That was a pivotal moment for Airbnb. And here’s the connection to the rest of the article:

We often formulate our own ideas when clients have much better suggestions for how we can run our businesses. By listening to their real customers, Airbnb found a way to offer lodging that has broad appeal.

See how the story got your attention? Remember how the washing machine demonstration kept you riveted?

Well, there’s one more method. It’s called the “opposing stance.”

Method #3: Opposing stance

An opposing stance is when you present an argument that seems to conflict with your own headline.

Let’s say you’re writing an article on “how to learn quickly.” In the first paragraph, you would offer a point of opposition.

You could deride “speed reading” and talk about how reading faster merely exposes you to more information, rather than creating a lasting understanding of the topic you’re reading about.

You’ll then explain that while slowing down and taking notes may seem time-consuming, it’s the most efficient way to retain what you’ve learned.

You teach your audience “how to learn quickly” — it’s just different from what they might be expecting to hear, so it wakes them up and gets them to focus on your content.

Keep your audience fascinated

Hans Rosling speaks about global health and data. They’re complex topics that audiences might have trouble connecting to, but Rosling’s speeches are adored by the public. And there’s a good reason why — he’ll use demonstrations, case studies, and even the power of opposition in a single speech.

He’ll start off with one concept, then move his way through the information and bring up the other elements — forcing you to pay rapt attention.

Great speakers know that the audience is restless. They know the previous speaker may have bored them out of their minds with graphs and endless facts and figures. That’s why they use stories, case studies, and opposition.

So, when you write, take a cue from a great speaker to keep your readers absorbed as you take them through the rest of your article.

Which attention-grabbing techniques do you use in your writing?

Share in the comments below.

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6 Techniques to Dramatically Upgrade the Quality of Your Presentation

Posted by randfish

Presentations are so much better when your audience isn’t bored — when they’re engaged with what you’re saying, and attentive, and wowed. But what’s the secret formula to giving a great talk? Where do you start? In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand will help you boost your presentations to the next level with six tips that have spelled success for him.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about presentation creation and presentation delivery. Why? Well, because so many of us, as marketers, need to go and make pitches to our teams, to our clients, to our companies, and externally.

My experience has been that an overwhelming majority of marketers have some interest in being able to give great public talks, and so I want to help you do that today. I want to help you feel less uncomfortable. Look, these are techniques that I’ve used to, generally speaking, upgrade and do well with my presentations. I think you’ll find a lot of these apply to you as well.

#1: Eliminate or race through well-known or highly obvious information.

The first one is really important. So this is, basically, when I deliver information here on Whiteboard Friday, one of the things that you might notice is that I try deliberately not to present stuff that is super obvious and already well-known throughout the industry. My goal is really to say, “Hey, what is something that less than 20% of the audience who’s going to be watching Whiteboard Friday is already aware of? Now let me try and present that information.” Because it’s really not interesting if the tips that I gave you today, for example, were things like work on your disfluency so that you don’t stutter and say “um.” Make sure you practice the night before. Make sure that your font is at least 30 point type. You should turn off this video.

It’s not that it’s bad advice. It’s fine advice. It’s even good advice. But you already know it, and so it’s annoying to have to listen to it again and again. This is true in your presentations as well.

So many folks, when they’re asked to give a talk about something in the web marketing space, start with the fundamentals and the basics, the things that everybody already knows or that are so intuitive that they’re just not that helpful.

Let’s say this is a conversion rate optimization presentation. So my little friend over here, Bob the Not-So-Good-Presenter, is giving a talk, and he’s got this slide called “Make Clear Calls-to-Action.” Then he shows an ugly thing where you can’t really see what the call-to-action is and one that’s a very clear call-to-action. Super obvious advice, advice that anyone who has done any degree of optimization around conversion rates knows and learned years ago. This presentation, unless it is to someone who has no experience with web marketing, is probably going to put you to sleep or drive you to get on your phone or go out of the room.

On the other hand — this is something I caught today from Joanna Wiebe on Copy Hackers — “Test text link calls to action versus buttons on your mobile sites in particular.” Oh, really? Text link calls to action? I would think a button would convert better, but it turns out there’s some data out there that suggests that, in some cases, it looks like the text link works better. You better try it. Maybe that’s something to add to your testing repertoire in the future. Aha, that is new information. I did not know that before.

So this obvious information turns people off. It makes you disconnect from the presentation. This new information, new, non-obvious — it’s awesome. It’s heaven. That’s what we’re all looking for when we try and get content. This is not just true, by the way, for presentations. It’s particularly powerful for presentations, but this is true of virtually any content you create that is designed to be educational or informative.

#2: Never show multiple elements of info on a slide before you talk about them.

Second, never show multiple elements of information on a slide before you talk about them. Unfortunately, I can’t do that with Whiteboard Friday. So Whiteboard Friday, all the information’s already up there. You could read ahead. I’m going to count on you not to.

But in a presentation, this gets so, so annoying, and it really distracts from a speaker when they put up a slide like this: “Here are the different public relations channels that you should test,” and they’ve got them listed out. The person, Bob, my bad presenter, is talking about number one. But what are we all doing? We’re all reading number four. We’re all reading ahead. We’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bob, we already know. You put up the slide, so we’ve read ahead. We don’t care what you have to say about one through four. We’re disconnecting.”

Instead, Bob could do one of two things. Either he could show only one and not show two, three and four and then animate in two, three and four. Like, “Here, I’m going to talk about this one. Now we’re done talking about that, and, look, here’s number two. Now, we’re going to start talking about that one.”

Or — and I like this way better because you just get so much more room to be visual and to present something well — you can say, “Hey, we’re going to talk about four public relations channels you should test.” Slide one shows off number one. Maybe I can call it out specifically. I’m going to show you product hunt, and I’m going to show you how submission works. I’m going to show you how the voting systems work and how people try to game it and it doesn’t work, and da da da. That is a great way to go.

Now I go to slide two. That shows the next piece of information. I can’t tell you the percentage of presenters who screw this up and show a list of bullet points, God forbid, or even just this visual system where they put all the information that they’re going to talk about for five minutes on one slide. It just kills it. It kills it. Makes us all read ahead and destroys the drama and the attention.

#3: Customize your examples to be relevant to your audience, geography, or shared passions.

Third one. If you possibly can, when you’re speaking to an audience, try to customize your example specifically to them rather than saying, “Hey, I’m just going to take a broad approach.” I know this is tough. I struggle with this myself because I give presentations over and over again.

But what I’m generally urging you to do is to find intersections of one of three things. Things that are highly relevant to your audience that could be relevant in terms of it’s relevant to their professional work or to the website or the organization they work with.

It could be relevant to their geography. I find that this works tremendously well when I go places and I have examples that are specific to their geography. I was speaking in Raleigh recently, Raleigh, North Carolina, which is near Duke University in Durham, and they have the Duke Lemur Center. I actually went and visited the Lemur Center. I got to see lots of awesome lemurs jumping around. Very cool. So I talked about this in my presentation in Raleigh, which got people like, “Wow, cool.” They were tweeting about it, and it was great.

Or shared passions, things that you know you share in common. We have a collective love of grilling steak, and so I am going to talk about grilling steak because I think that’s an example that could be relevant and speaks to many people — apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends out there.

These examples can be done in a bunch of ways. You can do them with your search queries that you might show off. You can do them with good versus bad practices that you might be showing off. You can do it just as a pure visual tool. If you have geographic stuff that is relevant to the area you’re in and you need visuals for your presentation, that’s a good way to go. Social accounts that you’re doing, content examples that you’re doing, whatever it is, you can make it relevant to that audience. Make it feel like there’s some resonance. Make it feel like you cared enough to change up or to customize your presentation to speak to them specifically.

Just one caveat on this. Don’t pander. Be very cautious against pandering or against assuming that you understand something. So if I’m going to a foreign country and I know very little about it, I don’t assume. I just say, “Hey, I looked up things to do in Milan or in Venice, and I found this particular art show. So I went there, and here is my experience around it.” Rather than saying, “Oh well, I know you Italians love pasta and so . . .” Don’t assume, don’t pander. Be careful about getting generic or racist.

#4: Create a conflict in your story with a villain, hero, and struggle.

In your presentations, try to create conflict. I know a lot of us have conflict avoidance. But what you want to do is you want to create a storyline, a storyline people can pay attention to, that they care about, that they’re interested in. That means if you can craft your story, or even some part of your presentation, to have a villain, a hero, and a struggle between them. These can be metaphorical heroes and villains. We don’t literally need Darth Vader and Luke. From there, we can follow that classic story arc where we introduce the characters, we talk about the conflict and introduce that. We make the case of why the hero is winning or should win against the villain or what the hero can do or what the hero did do, and then we suggest action or close out with some recommendation around our presentation to help make it actionable.

Villains can be a lot of things. Villains can be a lack of data. It could be poor communication. Villains could be unmotivated people on a team or people who don’t care about your problem. They could be a crap strategy or a literal villain, like a competitor or a market behemoth in your field, all those kinds of things.

Heroes could be tools. They could be your team or you yourself. They could be a new process. A hero could be an organization or hopefully something that people can cheer for, that they want to be like, “Oh man, I want to see the Duke Lemur Center have lots of success because lemurs are adorable and they’re endangered.” Nobody doesn’t cheer for lemurs. Lemur, good hero, bad villain, FYI.

#5: Give actionable takeaways. Avoid broad, generic advice.

Number five is give actionable takeaways. If you can, avoid broad, generic advice. I see presenters do this in virtually every field. They get up on stage and they talk about, “Hey, here is this problem.” Maybe they even do a great job with creating that conflict, and they talk about it. Then they get to their suggestions section, their takeaways and it is, “Better communication is good. You should work on better communication.” What are you telling me? How does that help me? Versus, I saw this great piece a couple of days ago on Twitter. It was a talk that was given, at First Round Capital or OpenView Venture Partners, about radical candor. What was great about it was that the woman who was giving it had drawn a diagram of how when you combine caring personally about the people on your team with challenging them directly, you get this radical candor. It’s both empathetic and very transparent, and that improves communication.

So now you’ve not told me to do this. You’ve told me how to do it, and you’ve shown me the terrible ways not to do it, like don’t not care personally, but do challenge directly. That’s just obnoxious, aggressive behavior. Don’t just care personally, but not challenge directly, that’s ruinous empathy. Great examples all across here.

I like this format. If you can fill in these blanks, I think you’re going to have success here. “You used to do X, but after I share Y, you’ll switch to doing Z and get better results. You’ll use Y to do Z and get better results than what you were getting with X.” If you can answer this sentence, you’re going to be in great shape.

#6: Assume knowledge and ask folks to raise their hand if they don’t understand.

Last one here. I try to always assume knowledge rather than assuming that people don’t know something. One of the things that I found is that, as I’m giving a presentation, if I start to explain the deep technical aspects of something without just assuming that my audience knows it or that they can get by without it, that it gets boring. It gets boring fast, and the presentation moves slowly. It’s just not fun to listen to. It’s annoying.

So what I’ve started doing over the last few years is essentially assuming that knowledge, but then calling it out specifically. So let’s say I’m presenting a slide like this, talking about how pogo-sticking, long clicks versus short clicks and that kind of stuff, could be hurting your site on SEO, and then I’ll say, “Is anyone in the audience not familiar or hasn’t heard of pogo-sticking before? Just raise your hand.” Look around. If there are a few hands that go up, I’ll say, “Oh, okay. Great. Let me give a brief explanation.”

Even when I am speaking to an audience where I’m confident, highly confident that 90% or 70% of the audience has never heard of pogo-sticking, because they’re not deep into SEO or whatever, I still do this. The reason is that that 30% who does know what it is, they are way more understanding, way more empathetic, way more welcoming of a discussion that takes two or three minutes for me about what pogo-sticking is after I’ve called it out like, “Hey, are there people who don’t know?” Then they see fellow audience members, and they’re like, “Oh, good. Well, it’s good that he’s explaining it to everyone, and I appreciate that.” As opposed to like, “Oh, God, he’s going to drone on about this thing that I’ve already heard 10 times and I totally know what it is. Why is he wasting my time?”

It’s about creating that relationship with the audience and between the audience members to draw on that empathy and to keep that presentation flowing.

All right, gang. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed these, and I actually have a list of a bunch more for you in another blog post that I’m going to share at the end of this Whiteboard Friday. So you can check that out. It has some of my presentation acts for getting better scores. And we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Further reading:

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3 Subtle Content Techniques That Make Your Offer Addictive

guinea pig eating a piece of red chicory

Leading up to my wedding, I indulged in one of the most lavish things.

No, I didn’t order doves to be released after the ceremony or commission an intricate ice sculpture.

I hypnotically worked my way through half a tube of $ 45 lip gloss in just two weeks.

How did it happen?

Simple, subtle, persuasive content.

The power of instruction

I’m not a big makeup person, but before my wedding someone recommended a lip gloss for the big day.

I followed the recommendation, and the instructions that came with the cosmetic stated that in addition to using it as a lip gloss, you could also:

Use morning and night for 15 days for an intensive lip treatment.

With the heady excitement of a bride-to-be, I followed the instructions and then later realized that I was consuming the product much faster than I normally would because I had been told how to use it to get the best results.

Here’s what happened:

  • I loved it.
  • I wanted to use it more often.
  • I raved about it to my friends.

While some might say the instructions are just a cheap ploy to get people to use a product more frequently than they normally would, I disagree.

If you’ve got a quality product, it’s in your best interest — and your customers’ best interests — to get people to try it and experience positive results.

Content marketing can help you do just that.

Since the lip gloss consumption of 2012, I’ve seen other businesses, from cereal brands to online marketing powerhouses, employ similar, subtle types of content that get you hooked on their offers.

Here are three content techniques you can use as well.

1. Content that tempts your readers

Native advertising can be a subtle sidestep away from promoting a product outright. When done properly, you offer valuable information and a clear call to action.

For example, Guinness’s famous adverts teach the reader about cheese and oysters in ways that paint delicious pictures.

The brand tempts you to partner your favorite nibble with Ireland’s famous tipple, and the information is helpful even if you choose not to drink Guinness.

Let’s also look at temptations you can put in place on your own digital media platform.

KISSmetrics provides analytics software for businesses. Many software providers point prospects directly towards a free trial, and the KISSmetrics home page does the same.

However, their smart content marketing strategy includes offering free guides that visitors can use even if they’re not ready to buy or start a free trial.

The guides are targeted towards the pain points of an ideal customer and also dovetail the features offered by the services they provide.

They have tips on color psychology to increase website conversions, how to know what metrics to track in your marketing, conversion optimization case studies, and more.

Each one deals with a specific challenge and shows prospects how to solve them — without making any purchase.

However, KISSmetrics knows that if it can help businesses tackle analytics problems, they can tempt a prospect with the promise of bigger results if the prospect signs up.

Once that temptation is there, promoting a trial or sales conversation is going to be much easier. It’s a clever way of using a low-resistance opt-in to start (and continue) a relationship with a prospect.

2. Content that makes readers hungry for more

We know that it’s easier and more cost-effective to get a current customer to buy again than it is to acquire new customers.

In the UK, the breakfast cereal brand Shredded Wheat had a long-running advertising campaign during the ’70s and ’80s that encouraged customers to eat more of the cereal than they typically would.

The advertising suggested that the cereal was so nourishing, it was impossible to eat three, full-size servings (a standard bowl contained two).

The company displayed celebrity athletes known for their fitness and endurance who were unable to finish a third serving of Shredded Wheat.

As a result, people felt dared to eat three bowls rather than the usual two.

But, of course, your methods have to be ethical. Using more of your product has to actually benefit your customers.

For example, Canva lets you make simple, cost-effective (often free) graphics you can use in your blog posts, presentations, or documents. I love using it for blog illustrations and, because I’m not a designer, I love their tips even more.

Occasionally they’ll send emails telling me how to do new and nifty designs with graphics and text.

The result? I’m encouraged to use the service more regularly, which means I’m more likely to purchase their images for my illustrations.

What’s great about Canva’s content is that their free tutorials are bite-size, specific, and easy to implement.

Instead of providing a tutorial that says “how to get the best from Canva,” they provide niche subjects, such as “how to make pictures look retro” or “how to use text and images effectively.”

You can quickly evaluate whether or not a tutorial is relevant to your needs.

If you can teach your customer specific ways to use your product, you will make them hungry for more information and more inclined to spend money with you.

3. Content that provides upfront results for your readers

With content marketing, people who consume your content should be able to get value and experience some results without having to purchase anything.

This can make certain businesses nervous because they feel customers will just use the free content without making a purchase. In my experience, that doesn’t tend to happen.

Yes, you will encounter people who consume your content and never make a purchase, but you will also attract more people who use your content, experience results, and subsequently:

  • Trust you.
  • View you as an authority.
  • Become more interested in your paid offerings.

Copyblogger is a trendsetter for giving away free content that helps readers get results. The blog built an audience and then turned hundreds of thousands of readers into more than 115,000 unique customers.

Today, consumers demand more proof up front before they buy, and one way you can stand out and provide value is to give them content that produces results they can actually see.

Karen Knowler is another example. She’s one of the UK’s leading raw food coaches, and her free gift is a guide for trying a raw lifestyle for just for 24 hours.

But she also provides a content checklist for readers to assess how they feel before they try her menus and recipes. Then she suggests they fill out the same assessment after 24 hours.

When a potential customer experiences an improvement in how she feels, these concrete notes make a compelling case for sampling more menus and books.

Is there a way you can include a checklist or assessment for your readers that highlights the benefits of your free content?

Wouldn’t that be a persuasive way to encourage people to try your product or hire you?

Over to you …

How do you engage your audience with subtle content techniques?

Are you already using some of these tactics to attract, tempt, and delight your readers?

Do you think one type works better than the others for your specific niche?

Let’s continue the discussion over on LinkedIn.

Editor’s note: If you found this post useful, we recommend you also read Henneke Duistermaat’s article Focus on These 4 Steps to Harness the Addictive Power of Email (And Turn Your Traffic Into Business).

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Giulia van Pelt.

About the Author: Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content trainer. She provides workshops for businesses that need to write captivating content. She’s the host of AmyTV, an irreverent look at writing better content. As a Copyblogger reader, click here to get your free sales page and content writing gifts.

The post 3 Subtle Content Techniques That Make Your Offer Addictive appeared first on Copyblogger.


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5 Selling Techniques to Steal from Infomercials (Without Trashing Your Reputation)

image of patent medicine advertisement

There’s an interesting fitness guy I follow on Facebook.

He’s very smart about health. Every day he posts quite long, thoughtful discussions about avoiding health fads. (Actually, I wish he’d read our post about making your content more reader-friendly. A few subheads and line breaks wouldn’t kill you, man.)

He’s sane. He’s calm. He’s kinda spiritual, even.

And when he’s doing a product launch, he turns into PSYCHO HIGHLIGHTER SIX PACK ABS SALES PAGE DUDE.

Which takes all that thoughtful, careful content he shares the other 340 days a year and, to some degree, tosses it in the trash.

The first time I saw it, I literally thought his account had been hacked. The same guy counseling against listening to hypey, “magic bullet” gurus had turned himself into a hypey magic bullet guru. Why? Because, I’m sure, he’s been told, “Well that’s what works.”

A truly authoritative, thoughtful online presence takes time to build.

But you can tarnish it in no time at all.

Today, let’s talk about how you can do better — how you can use the copywriting techniques that are effective, without turning into a lame informercial version of yourself.

Let’s talk about infomercials

When most of us think of the infomercial, we think of overly aggressive, high-hype sales messages.

Why? Because infomercials are a classic, distilled harpoon sales environment.

Infomercials are expensive to produce and to air. So they need to make as many sales as they can with a single “shot.”

That means they trot out every conversion technique in the book, and they press them hard.

Most of the time, there’s no real reputation to protect. No one minds if their ShamWow was sold with hype that would have made P.T. Barnum proud. If it does a good job cleaning up spills, then no harm is done.

A typical infomercial is a pure sales message, with the only goal being to sell enough widgets to make a good profit.

You don’t live in that world

Infomercials aren’t bad. It’s a bad thing if they sell a defective or dangerous product, but in and of themselves there’s nothing “wrong” or “right” about them.

But they do call on some of the sharpest minds in direct response copywriting. The traditional “harpoon” copywriters are very much in demand, with the best getting a royalty on how much product is sold. It’s a terribly difficult style to master … get it even slightly wrong, and the audience simply flicks their attention elsewhere.

Undiluted selling also paints a business with a certain reputation. We don’t use the word “ShamWow” to mean a very effective or popular product. We use it to mean a pitchfest.

When you combine this level of aggression with the thoughtful, steady material that makes for a good content marketing program, you set up a Jekyll-and-Hyde feeling. It’s a bit like when an acquaintance becomes suddenly very friendly and invites you to a party at his home — that turns out to be a MLM event. All of the overtures of friendship become suspect, and your trust is entirely compromised.

Yes, you can sell without having a split personality

The key to using effective persuasion techniques (like the ones they use on infomercials) is to make sure they’re in alignment with your marketing communication as a whole.

Your tone and message need to feel consistent across all of your channels. So if you’re breezy and laid back in your daily content, don’t get intense and overly dramatic (which will read as hype) in your sales material.

If you’re positioning yourself against “quick fix” gurus in your daily content … don’t use words like “instant” or “immediate” in your sales copy.

A strong content marketing program begins by defining who you are, what you stand for, and whom you serve. Once you’ve spent the time to think that through (and write it down), you’ll be much less tempted to go off the rails just because it’s time to close the deal.

When you know yourself, you can use these five “informercial selling principles” in a way that’s completely integrated with your core message, instead of fighting it.

1. Testimonials and case studies

These are the cornerstone of a great informercial for one reason: It’s much more convincing to show a prospect that “this can work for someone like me” than to just tell them.

Testimonials and case studies let the prospect envision what life would be like if she used your product or service. And they can be used to overcome objections and illustrate benefits and features — in a story-focused way that hooks the prospect in like little else can.

For more specifics about what goes into a great testimonial, check out Sean d’Souza’s 6 Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials.

To stay out of Cheeseland: Keep most of your testimonials firmly within the realm of what normal, real customers experience. We all want to highlight that one customer who went insanely above and beyond what anyone could have expected. It’s cool to have that person, but be sure you represent plenty of your more “typical results” as well.

Not only is this more ethical (and better for avoiding legal problems), it’s actually more convincing. If all the testimonials I see are from superstars, I’m going to think that I need to be a superstar to use your product or service.

2. Agitate the problem

The time-honored copywriting principle of “Problem – Agitate – Solve” can be used to great effect.

If your business solves a serious problem for your prospects, don’t be afraid to dig into that problem. Really uncover where the problem leads if it’s not resolved. Ideally, you’ll have some testimonials that show people with an advanced case of your customer problem.

Fully exploring your prospect pain gives you the opportunity to empathize, to relate, and ultimately … to solve their problem and get them back where they want to be.

To stay out of Cheeseland: Don’t take it this far.

3. Repetition

One thing informercials aren’t afraid to do is hammer the message home with repetition.

Too many content marketers, who devote so much time and attention to our content, imagine that our audiences are glued to our every word.

Alas, no.

Don’t be afraid to repeat your key messages, both in your daily content and your sales material. If it’s important enough to say once, it’s important enough to repeat.

To stay out of Cheeseland: Some repetition is important, because people have other things to do besides reading your marketing content. But that doesn’t mean that if a little is good, a lot is better. Respect people’s time.

The best way to repeat yourself is to re-frame your message from a different angle. You can repeat the same themes over and over, as long as you come up with a new analogy, story, or metaphor to do it with.

4. Legitimate scarcity

You could have a product that granted immortality, robust health, unlimited wealth, and a lifetime of great hair … and people would still put off adding it to their carts.

No matter how excellent your product or service, there needs to be a serious reason for prospects to buy it today, rather than tomorrow or the next day. Scarcity is the persuasion principle of limiting what you have to offer — either limiting the total number of items available, the time that prospects have to act, or both.

Of course, respect your audience’s intelligence. One legendary marketing teacher offered a “scratch and dent” sale on damaged CD and video packages, but also extended it to ebooks. Because he was known for his chutzpah and dry sense of humor, he got away with it. Without those elements of his overall message, the promotion wouldn’t fly.

To stay out of Cheeseland: Don’t lie about scarcity. If you’re only offering 500 spots, don’t keep “finding” more available spaces. Fake scarcity shows that you don’t respect your own word. It also lets people know that they can pick up your “killer offer” whenever they feel like it — which usually will translate to “never.”

5. Clear call to action

This is the one that will make you feel like you’re an infomercial when you’re doing it, but to your audience it will seem entirely natural and normal.

When you want your audience to take a particular action (like calling you, signing up for your list, or clicking the Add to Cart button), tell them exactly what to do.

It’s worth paying attention to how infomercials handle this. Normally the message is “Call 1-800-CHEESE-ME” which is emphasized with repetition (see above). You’ll often find that at the end of the infomercial, you can repeat the phone number yourself by heart, it’s been so clearly and frequently re-stated.

Subtlety is a lousy quality in a call to action. Make it unmistakably clear, make it prominent, and don’t be scared to repeat it.

To stay out of Cheeseland: Don’t. The call to action is an easy place to wimp out and start selling from your heels.

If you’re not a natural salesperson, it might feel a little awkward or even pushy, but this is the place to exercise your courage. If the rest of your marketing message is respectful, consistent, and resonates with your audience, a clear call to action won’t bother them a bit.

Next, do this

If you want much more comprehensive advice about how to use copywriting and persuasion techniques without being utterly lame, join us inside MyCopyblogger. We have a comprehensive content marketing library for you, as well as an extended course by email on how to master internet marketing the smart way. It’s all free, so drop your email address here and we can get started.

How about you?

Ever see a technique on an infomercial that you wished you could snag, but it just seemed too cheesy? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see if we can de-cheese that for you.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Value Proposition: 3 techniques for standing out in a highly competitive market

Marketing in highly competitive environments can be difficult as pressure mounts to stand out amongst fierce competitors in a constantly shrinking market space. Read further for three ways you can use value propositions to differentiate your marketing in a crowded marketplace.
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Robot Access & Indexation Restriction Techniques: Avoiding Conflicts

Posted by Lindsay

As you’ve probably learned, you can’t always rely on search engine spiders to do an effective job when they visit and index your website. Left to their own devices bots can generate duplicate content, perceive important pages as junk, index content that shouldn’t serve as a user entry point, and many other issues. There are a number of tools at our disposal that allow us to make the most of bot activity on a website such as the meta robots tag, robots.txt, x-robots-tag, canonical tag and others.

robot rodents

Today, I’m covering robot control technique conflicts. In an effort to REALLY get their point across, webmasters will sometimes implement more than one robot control technique to keep the search engines away from a page. Unfortunately, these techniques can sometimes contradict each other: One technique hides the instruction of the other or link juice is lost. 

 
What happens when a page is disallowed in the robots.txt file and has a noindex meta tag in place? How about a noindex tag and a canonical tag?
 

Quick Refresher

Before we get into the conflicts, let’s go over each of the main robot access restriction techniques as a refresher.
 

Meta Robots Tag

The Meta robots tag creates page-level instructions for search engine bots. The Meta robots tag should be included in the head section of the HTML document and might look like this:
 
<html>
<head>
<title>Article Print Page</title>
<meta name=”ROBOTS” content=”NOINDEX” />
</head>

Below is a table of the generally supported commands along with a description of their purpose.

Command
Description
NOINDEX
Prevents the page from being included in the index
NOFOLLOW
Prevents bots from following the links on a page
NOARCHIVE
Prevents a cached copy of the page from being available in the search results
NOSNIPPET
Prevents a description from appearing below the page link in the search results AND prevents caching of the page
NOODP
Prevents the Open Directory Project (DMOZ.org) description of the page from being displayed in the search results
NODIR
Prevents Yahoo! Directory titles and descriptions for the page from being displayed in the search results
 
Canonical Tag
 
The canonical tag is a page level meta tag that is placed in the HTML header of a webpage. It tells the search engines which URL is the canonical version of the page being displayed. Its purpose is to keep duplicate content out of the search engine index while consolidating your pages strength into one ‘canonical’ page.
 
The code looks like this:
 
<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/quality-wrenches.htm"/>
 
X-Robots-Tag
 
Since 2007 Google and other search engines have supported the X-Robots-Tag as a way to inform the bots about crawling and indexing preferences in the HTTP Header used to serve the file. The X-Robots-Tag is very useful for controlling indexation of non-HTML media types such as PDF documents.
As an example, if a page is to be excluded from the search index the directive would look like this:
 
X-Robots-Tag: noindex
 
Robots.txt
 
Robots.txt allows for some control of search engine robot access to a site, however it does not guarantee a page won’t be crawled and indexed. It should be employed only when necessary, and no robots should be blocked from crawling an area of the site unless there are solid business and SEO reasons to do so. I almost always recommend using the Meta tag “noindex” for keeping pages out of the index instead.
 
 

Avoiding Conflicts

It is a bad idea to use any two of the following robot access control methods at once.
  • Meta Robots ‘noindex’
  • Canonical Tag (when pointing to a different URL)
  • Robots.txt Disallow
  • X-Robots-Tag

In spite of your strong desire to really keep a page out of the search results, one solution is always better than two. Let’s take a look at what happens when you have various combinations of robot access control techniques in place for a single URL.

 
Meta Robots ‘noindex’ & Canonical Tag
 
If your goal is to consolidate one URL’s link strength into another URL and you don’t have any better solutions at your disposal, go with the canonical tag alone. Do not shoot yourself in the foot by also using the meta robots ‘noindex’ tag. If you use both bot herding techniques, it is probable that the search engines won’t find your canonical tag at all. You’ll miss out on the link strength reassignment benefit of a canonical tag because the meta robots ‘noindex’ tag has ensured that he canonical tag won’t be seen! Oops.

Meta Robots ‘noindex’ & X-Robots-Tag ‘noindex’
 
These tags are redundant. I can’t see any way that having both in place for the same page would directly cause damage to your SEO. If you can alter the head of a document to implement at meta robots ‘noindex’, you shouldn’t be using the x-robots-tag anyway.
 
Robots.txt Disallow & Meta Robots ‘noindex’
 
This is the most common conflict I see.
 
The reason I love the meta robots ‘noindex’ tag is that it is effective at keeping pages out of the index, yet it can still pass value from the no-indexed page to deeper content that is linked from it. This is a win-win and no link love is lost.
 
The robots.txt disallow entry restricts the search engines from looking at anything on the page (including potentially valuable internal links) but does not keep the page’s URL out of the index. What is the good in that? I once wrote a post on this topic alone.
 
If both protocols are in place, the robots.txt ensures that the meta robots ‘noindex’ is never seen. You’ll get the effect of a robots.txt disallow entry and miss out on all the meta robots ‘noindex’ goodness.
 
Below I’ll take you through a simple example of what happens when these two protocols are implemented together.
 
Here is a screenshot from the Google SERP for a page that is disallowed in the robots.txt and also has a meta robots ‘noindex’ in place. The fact that it is in Google’s index at all is your first clue of a problem.
 
SERP Example
   
Source: Google SERP
 
Here you can see the meta robots ‘noindex’ page. Too bad the search engines can’t see it.
 
source code showing noindex
 
 
Here you can see that the entire subdomain is disallowed in the robots.txt, ensuring that useful meta robots ‘noindex’ tags are never seen.
 
robots.txt disallowing all content
  
 
Assuming mail2web.com is sincere in it’s desire to keep everything out of the search engines, they’d be better off using the meta robots ‘noindex’ exclusively.
 
Canonical Tag & X-Robots-Tag ‘noindex’
 
If you can alter the <head> of a document, the x-robots-tag likely isn’t your best route for restricting access in the first place. The x-robots-tag works better if you reserve it for non-html file types like PDF and JPEG. If you have both of these in place, I’d imagine that the search engines would ignore the canonical tag and fail to reassign link value as hoped.
 
If you are able to add a canonical tag to a page, you shouldn’t be using an x-robots-tag.
 
Canonical Tag & Robots.txt Disallow
 
If you have a robots.txt disallow in place for a page, the canonical tag will never be seen. No link juice passed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $ 200. Sorry.
 
X-Robots-Tag ‘noindex’ & Robots.txt Disallow
 
Because the x-robots tag exists in the HTTP Response Header, it is possible that these two implementations could intermingle and both be seen by the search engines. However, the statements would be redundant and the robots.txt entry would ensure that no links within the page would be discovered. Once again, we have a bad idea on our hands.
 
———————————
 
Bonus Points!
 
I searched high and low for a live example to share here. I wanted to find a PDF that was both robots.txt disallowed AND noindexed with the x-robots-tag. Sadly, I came up empty handed. I’d have dug around all night, but this post had to go live at some point! Please, I beg you, beat me at my own game.
 
My process was as follows:
1.       Use this handy search query to identify robots.txt files that call out PDF directories or files.
2.       Start up your HTTP reader. I use HTTPfox.
3.       Call up the robots.txt disallowed PDF file and check the Response Header for the X-Robots-Tag noindex entry.
 
Good luck! Let me know when you find one!
 
———————————-

 

The concept I’ve been driving at here is fairly straight-forward. Don’t go over-board with your robot control techniques. Choose the best method for the scenario and back away from the machine. You’ll be much better off.

Happy Optimizing!

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