Tag Archives: copywriting

Where Did You Get That Stat? The Nebulous Vortex of Sourcing Online Statistics

30 Mar

online researchOne recent morning, a client contacted me and asked me to find a widely cited statistic that supported the use of behavioral job interview techniques.

The client needed to show that behavioral interviews resulted in lower overall hiring costs, lower turnover rates or increased productivity. They needed the statistic within two hours for use in an important piece of long form content.

I didn’t have access to any paid research resources like JSTOR or a real library. I just had the internet. Sounds easy right?

Wrong.

One hour later I had located about twenty different human resources and hiring blogs all citing the same figure. Yet not one of these blogs or websites provided the source for this statistic:

Behavioral interviewing is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.

This is exactly the kind of statistic that the client wanted. But without a citation, this information was completely unfounded and useless. The closest I eventually got to locating a source for this statistic was a citation I found buried in a document from Google Scholar search:

1997 by Salgado, J.F. in “Personnel Selection Methods” – in C.L. Cooper and I.T. Robinson, International Review of Industrial Organizational Psychology New York: Wiley – it was shown that behavioral interviewing can increase by nearly 50 percent your chances of hiring the right employee.

Even the above citation does not help to ground the initial statistic in reality, especially because the citation was related to a 50 percent improvement in hire quality, while the other widely used but un-cited statistic claimed a 55 percent increase in hire quality. I also could not find this exact publication anywhere online. Ultimately, I came up empty-handed and recommended the client include a generalized statement such as, “Leading human resource experts believe behavioral interviewing may increase hire quality by more than 50 percent,” or avoid using a statistic altogether.

As a content marketer, I am always backing up my white papers, ebooks and blogs with powerful statistics and research that tell a story.  I’ve spent many hours combing through a network of poorly cited website and blog statistics hunting for the original source. However, this was the first  time I was completely unable to find a well-cited data point.

The Marketing Takeaways

Even from this negative experience, where I was unable to find a statistic, I learned something new about content marketing: the value of well-cited data online. Below are some content marketing takeaways that explain more about how businesses can use statistics and the absence of online citation to improve SEO and increase sales:

1. Create an online landing page filled with properly cited statistics for your industry or area of expertise.

Here is an example of a software provider in the hiring and background check industry with a static page sharing facts and statistics. In conducting research for this industry, I’ve used this page to find original sources and have seen countless other human resources and hiring blogs cite, copy, link to and borrow stats from this page. Using SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer, you can see that this page has a total of 725 backlinks pointing to it, which is a huge SEO signal to Google that this page is authoritative and relevant for key hiring and human resources topics and keywords.

2. Better yet, make your list of facts tweetable or easy to share.

HubSpot frequently posts blogs like this one, “The Ultimate List of 2012 Email Marketing Stats.”  Not only does HubSpot share stats and cite the sources, it also provides “Tweet This Stat” links that allow readers to instantly share the stat with their followers. This sharing functionality provides amazing word-of-mouth for HubSpot and generates social signals like Tweets and Retweets pointing back to HubSpot. (SEOs believe that Google is now factoring social signals into search results). Below is a screenshot of the tweet generated when you click “Tweet This Stat” on HubSpot’s blog:

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 12.56.16 PM

The Marketing Benefits of  A Citation Heavy, Fact-Filled Landing Page

1. More Backlinks for SEO

A landing page full of cited facts and statistics can  help your business to generate more inbound backlinks. Other bloggers and website owners will link back to your page as a resource or as a source for their own writing.

2. Increased Conversions

With the right statistics, you can even tell a story that helps to convert more website visitors into leads or customers. For example, a plumbing company website could post a page full of statistics showing how much a homeowner can save on utility bills with a tankless water heater or low-flow toilet. A list of persuasive statistics  may convince a greater number of website visitors to call the plumbing company and get those money-saving fixtures installed.

Even though I did not find the stat I was looking for, this experience helped to identify an easy-to-implement SEO and marketing tactic for businesses. Now I have to work on posting my own “fast facts” page about how blogging and content marketing can increase leads and revenue for businesses! Stay tuned!

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan

4 Quick Writing Tips to Improve Your Quality and Speed

20 Mar

ImageWhether you are working on a blog, business plan, or website copy, you may find the experience of writing alternately inspiring and frustrating.

Why is writing so exhilarating and yet so challenging?  It’s because you can always become a better writer.

Even the most seasoned writers must turn on their inner editors and practice self-criticism to train their prose into a publishable form.  So how can you improve the quality of your writing? Here are some of my personal writing tips below:

1. Outline First
Good writing will lead the reader through a logical structure. Before you dive into writing, think about the high-level structure of what you need to communicate.  Outline the key paragraphs and for each paragraph list the ideas, research, or arguments you are going to mention in each paragraph.  A thoughtful outline ensures that the writing to follow will be logical and coherent.

2. Let It Fly
When you begin to write, it’s tempting to strive for perfection with every word you type. Yet getting bogged down at the sentence level right away is actually counter-productive. Consider your first pass at any writing project as a free-write. Focus on getting your ideas down. After you have completed a paragraph or two, then go back and check that what you wrote relates back to your outline. Save word choice, grammar and sentence structure editing for the end of your process.

3. Don’t Abuse $10 Dollar Words
Eschew obfuscation is a favorite tongue-in-cheek idiom among editors for a reason. Writers commonly make the mistake of sprinkling their writing with multi-syllabic vocabulary words in an effort to sound more intelligent or authoritative. The problem is, most readers will have last seen these words when they were 16 and studying for the verbal portion of the SAT. When you edit your own writing, keep an eye out for complicated language and phrasing and always try to find the most direct path to your meaning.

4. Vary Your Style
Every writer has crutches in terms of word choice and sentence structure.  Take note of the phrases and words that you tend to repeat. While editing, look at the grammatical construction of each sentence, including how it starts. See  if you repeat that same type of sentence throughout your work.  Embed a Thesaurus search widget on your desktop or in your web browser so that you can more easily vary repeated words throughout your writing.

What’s your biggest writing challenge? Please share any of your own writing struggles and tips in the comments below!

Photo via stevendepolo.

Anatomy of a “Sponsored Post”

11 Aug

Screenshot from Gawker.com.

Embarrassing Disclaimer: In order to write this blog post, I have to admit that I occasionally read Gawker.

In magazines, publishers put “Special Advertising Section” across the tops of the sponsored content.  I guess my online eye is a little less trained to recognize sponsored materials, because today on Gawker I was tricked into reading a sponsored post!

Being in the online marketing realm myself, I have to admit that the sponsored post on Gawker was well executed for the following four reasons:

1. The Headline: “You Need a New Profile Picture.”
Why it Works: The headline leads with the word “you,” which is always a good thing. It plays on mine and other reader’s insecurities about online personas.  It doesn’t sound like an ad.

2. The Image: An egotistical dude in a suit taking his own picture.
Why it Works: I instantly don’t like this jerk with long hair, wearing a suit and taking himself too seriously. Reading about him and why he is an idiot will make me feel better about myself so I am drawn in.

3. The Body Copy: “That over-exposed, half-faced, self portrait is not even Top Eight-worthy. It’s time for you to get over 2005 and get a new damn photo of yourself.”
Why it Works: This post leads with interesting copy that does not mention the sponsor right away. The copy sounds like other Gawker posts.

4. The Offer:  Take a survey and enter to win a camera.
Why it Works: Fuji, the advertiser, stands to learn something about its audience and the survey participant gets a chance to win a camera. That’s a win-win. Fuji isn’t just counting clicks or impressions here. Instead, they are doing market research with a survey and at the same time generating interest in their products. Now that I know I can win a Fuji camera, I become more interested in the Fuji brand and its products in general.

The Downsides: There are two big areas where this sponsored post misses the mark.

  • The survey link takes you to an off-site, unbranded survey page which doesn’t exactly scream “TRUST ME! I AM SECURE!  YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE!”
  • In order to enter to win the camera, survey participants must send a separate email to Gawker where they cut and paste the last question of the survey. This low-tech and time consuming step will definitely lower response rates.

Have you seen any shining examples of sponsored content or in-conversation marketing? What do you think of this ad?

How White Paper Writers Can Conduct Better Interviews

7 Jul

On her site, White Paper Results, Apryl Parcher interviews “That White Paper Guy” – Gordon Graham about his strategies for getting the most out of a phone interview. This is the third interview in a series of posts. In parts one and two Apryl interviews John White- a marketing communications writer and Jonathan Kantor- a white paper expert.

This Q&A series will be helpful to any journalist or business writer who deals with interviewing clients and subjects for stories, case studies and yes – white papers too!

Check it out here.

Photo via Flickr user Leo Roubos.