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The Difference Between Writers Who Get Results And Those Who Don't with Jon Morrow

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January 6, 2020

ANNOUNCER: [00:00:05] Welcome to the search talk line with search engine optimization and marketing expert Robert O’Haver and Matt Weber brought to you by Pixel Cut Labs.

Matt Weber: [00:00:19] All right. We are rocking and we’re back for 2020. Robert, good to see you, man.

Robert O’Haver: [00:00:25] Good to see you too. Sorry, we’ve been off for a little bit. We had to take some a little hiatus, so to speak. But a lot of great things happening to the show. Now we are going to do for the listeners – we’re kind of, instead of doing a show every week, we’re going to back it down to once every two weeks. Which I think will give us a little more time to grab content and be just have a bunch more information, you know.

Matt Weber: [00:00:55] Yeah. And the pressure will be on our guest backlog because we’ve got quite a few people of e-mail us and want to be guests on the show.

Robert O’Haver: [00:00:59] Yeah. So, yeah. And those of you listening, you can go to Twitter and type hashtag search talk live. If you have questions for our guest, we do have a listener that e-mailed us. We’ll get to that. We’ll try and get to that later. If not, we’ll have to get to it next show.

Matt Weber: [00:01:13] Yeah, we’ve got a great guest today. So a lot of pressure. You know, being the first guest of the year. You’ve got to start big. And we’re really fortunate to have one of the greats in copywriting with us. And that’s Jon Morrow from Smart Blogger. Jon, how are you doing today?

Jon Morrow: [00:01:30] I’m doing fantastic. Thank you for having me.

Matt Weber: [00:01:33] Great to have you.

Robert O’Haver: [00:01:34] Yeah. So, Jon, if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. I’m really excited about getting into this topic because I don’t think we do enough on content.

Matt Weber: [00:01:45] We do not.

Robert O’Haver: [00:01:45] Which is – Content is king. Always will be. But, Jon, tell us about yourself.

Jon Morrow: [00:01:51] Yeah. I mean, over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to. I started out writing and then becoming an editor for copy blogger, which back in the day was huge.

Robert O’Haver: [00:02:03] Yeah.

Jon Morrow: [00:02:03] We grew that up to about three and half million pages a month. And then I went to work with Neil Patel and launched the CAS Metrics blog, which has been acquired. I think he brought that into Neil and I trained his staff over there and got that going. And then I finally left to do my own thing. Decided to stop making everyone else rich. And I actually tried making myself rich. And so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since with And now it’s become the biggest writing website in the world. So that’s cool.

Robert O’Haver: [00:02:45] Nice.

Matt Weber: [00:02:45] Jon, we should give this show some really important context. You’ve achieved some massive copywriting success despite a couple of obstacles. Can you share that with the audience?

Jon Morrow: [00:02:57] Oh, yeah. And having to talk about that so I can’t move from the neck down. I have muscular dystrophy. Very advanced muscular dystrophy. So I have full feeling all over my body. But I basically like locked down. I can’t move. And I use voice dictation. And also I have a lip-operated mouse that’s in front of me right now that I originally had custom built, and now it’s for sale and by the guy who built it in his garage and. Yeah. So that’s how I’ve done everything online and over the Internet is is just mostly through my voice.

Robert O’Haver: [00:03:43] Wow.

Matt Weber: [00:03:44] It’s amazing. And Jon, I think that people listen to the show or not only going to come away with some really good tips, but they’re going to come away with some true inspiration as well. And I’ve read your story, and I was moved significantly by your stories. So I congratulate you on everything you’ve accomplished so far.

Jon Morrow: [00:04:01] Thank you. Thank you.

Robert O’Haver: [00:04:02] Yeah, it’s amazing. And if you could later on tell me what you use for fixing grammar and stuff, because I’m not a writer.

Jon Morrow: [00:04:12] Sure.

Matt Weber: [00:04:14] Jon, you’ve got so much to contribute in terms of blogging and copy, but I want to start off from an SEO standpoint. That’s our focus here, is, you know, in your mind what is good copy. How do you measure whether something that you’ve written was successful?

Jon Morrow: [00:04:33] The biggest thing is to decide the result you want. Before you create the piece of that copy. So, I mean, over the years, I’ve kind of gotten known as the guy who knows how to scale content teams. I’ve worked with thousands of writers. And the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to very clearly define the expectations before anyone even goes to work. And that’s that’s anything from: I want to rank on page one for this keyword, to I want to go viral to I want to get 400 backlinks, to I just want to bond with my audience and nurture them and increase their likelihood of a sale. So content or a company can do any of those things. But you need to define exactly what you’re trying to accomplish before you even write the first word.

Matt Weber: [00:05:40] Great advice. And that kind of dovetail to the next question, which is probably the most frequently asked question that you get, which is how do I determine what to write about?

Jon Morrow: [00:05:54] Again, I mean, that the difficult thing, like whenever you’re talking with anyone who’s been in the industry for a while was their answer is always it depends. Right. Whenever you ask sort of any strategy question. So if you are a big site like Smartblogger, or Copyblogger, or Forbes or any big site, the answer is going to be different than if you’re a small site. It also depends if you are selling e-commerce products or you’re going to be selling information products. I think the most useful answer to that question because everything I just told you just makes you realize. I mean, this is a lot more complicated than I thought it was, is to look and find examples of other people who are succeeding at what you would like to do. And then to try to reverse engineer their strategy. And then do more of what they are doing.

Matt Weber: [00:07:01] Yeah, that’s key. I think you write quite a bit about looking at what your competitors are trying to do and deconstruct what they are. We have a lot of folks listening to the show that are owner-operators and they’re trying to kind of do this all by themselves. Can you give them some hints on deconstructing what’s on a competitor’s Web site that would give them some inspiration on what to write about?

Jon Morrow: [00:07:26] So that the first and easiest thing to do is to use a tool like AHREFS or SEM Rush to look at where they’re getting their traffic. I mean, one of the things most people don’t realize is that different spaces are dominated by different traffic sources. So, for example, the WordPress space is extremely dominated by search because no one is really going to talk with their friends and family on Facebook about WordPress themes. Right. It’s just a weird topic to talk about with your family, on the other hand. Self-improvement and health blogs, relationship blogs. They’re actually dominated by social. So they will get more traffic from Facebook. You’ll see these astronomical Facebook shares like ten thousand twenty thousand shares where you’ll never see that in the search dominated space like WordPress. So just understanding the major traffic source is a good start.

Robert O’Haver: [00:08:42] So for the listeners, I’d like to talk a little bit about differentiating content as far as, you know, versus sales content versus informational content versus authoritative. And can those be one and the same?

Jon Morrow: [00:09:03] The higher the skill level of the writer, the more the answer to that question is yes. So the best writers can write a post that ranks number one for a keyword, gets a thousand back lengths, goes viral, and creates a million dollars in sales.

Matt Weber: [00:09:25] Wow. Where is that person?

Jon Morrow: [00:09:29] You’re talking to one of them. There are maybe five to ten of those people on planet Earth. OK. And this is a general rule of thumb. The more you expect, the more goals you add to a piece of content, the higher the skill level, and the harder that person is going to be to find and the more they’re going to want in exchange for their help.

Matt Weber: [00:09:56] True.

Jon Morrow: [00:09:58] So, like in my case, because I can do all of those things, when I stopped doing freelance writing work, I was charging a bare minimum of five thousand dollars for a blog post.

Robert O’Haver: [00:10:11] Wow!

Jon Morrow: [00:10:11] And people were lining up to pay it at a six-month waiting list. Okay. And it’s because I could do all of those things. Now, there is no publication in the world that could pay me enough to write because, on average, I probably make more than half a million dollars per post over time, over a period of years.

Robert O’Haver: [00:10:37] Off of your own blog.

Jon Morrow: [00:10:39] Yeah. Off of my own blog.

Robert O’Haver: [00:10:40] Wow.

Jon Morrow: [00:10:40] So if I can write a post for my own blog and make five hundred thousand dollars, or I can be the highest-paid writer at The New York Times and get probably like three or four thousand dollars. Yeah, it’s just a no brainer that I’m going to write for my own site.

Robert O’Haver: [00:11:00] Well, Jon, let me ask you. Let’s take, for instance, a service-oriented business. Now, the content was written for, let’s say…

Matt Weber: [00:11:08] Plummers man. We love Plummers.

Robert O’Haver: [00:11:12] Is there a formula for writing content for something like that? So like if its, is it the value, the call to action? I mean, is there a formula for that?

Jon Morrow: [00:11:26] So I could. Let me make a couple of assumptions here. I mean, never having worked in the plumbing space. I would assume that I mean, number one: you’re going to be doing, you’re going to be focusing on local traffic.

Matt Weber: [00:11:45] True.

Jon Morrow: [00:11:47] So that’s one big thing. The next big thing is that I’m guessing plumbers are not, you know, out here and listening to this show. So they’re probably not very sophisticated on average with their search engine strategy. And so, therefore, they’re probably not very well optimized.

Robert O’Haver: [00:12:12] Well, let’s take let’s just take any service-oriented. There’s got to be a formula specific for service or product versus.

Matt Weber: [00:12:22] Yeah, let’s take a digital marketing agency who probably does have the sophistication to understand SEO metrics and keyword analysis.

Jon Morrow: [00:12:31] So if you’re an SEO agency, and this is why it’s kind of difficult to even talk about, because I think that’s even a different situation so, like one of my friends, Ross Hudgens, who runs and owns Siege Media. They go after international terms like how to increase website traffic. OK. So this is where it’s very difficult, whenever you’re doing search, to give a one size fits all answer. Because like what Ross is doing and what a plumber is doing, I think are extremely different. Now, if you want to look for what is the key differentiator between those two scenarios, I think the main ones are, number one, local vs. not local. And, also the level of competition. So if you are a plumber trying to rank for Austin, Texas plumbing services.

Robert O’Haver: [00:13:48] Yeah.

Jon Morrow: [00:13:51] You can probably rank for that.

[00:13:54] Well, I’m not really talking about the ranking side of things. I’m talking about, you know, when you’re when you’re placing your content. You start now with credibility. The reason you should, you know, why you should hire them, the value that you offer…that kind of thing; that breakdown.

Jon Morrow: [00:14:13] Sure. So what’s going to have the biggest impact on conversion? Proof. So this has been tested quite a bit, proof that you can take any client from whatever their point A is to what their point B is, and this is universal between the different types of really any business. So like with a plumber, it’s going to be something like testimonials from clients saying, “My pipe burst in my front yard and Bob was out in an hour to fix it.” So point A is my pipe burst and my lawn is flooding with water. Point B is Bob fixes everything and saves the day. OK? So the more testimonials Bob has and if Bob is a really sophisticated marketer, he’ll even provide a guarantee and increase his prices. But the same is even true for Ross Hudgens, who runs Siege Media. Point A is: I’m not getting much traffic. Ross’s number one piece of content is, “how to increase website traffic by like a hundred thousand visitors a month.” And he has case studies of clients that have raised their right website traffic by one hundred thousand visitors a month. That is extremely persuasive because as a prospective client, you are seeing people move from point A to point B. So in general, that is the kind of content that will have the highest conversion value.

Matt Weber: [00:16:07] Yeah, I think that’s a great point. A lot of folks don’t really validate or prove their assertions and I just came back from Las Vegas where I was talking at the West Coast Art and Framing Show, and it’s a conference for folks that are in the framing business that do art. And we were analyzing their Web sites. And they’re writing content. And a lot of their content was explaining what something is. So on their page, that’s about shadowbox construction, they discussed what it is and they didn’t take your first piece of advice, which is what’s the goal? Because if I’m searching for someone to do my shadowbox, I only understand what it is. So that first piece of content disengaged me because you didn’t connect with me. And then they didn’t offer any validation as to why them and not the other guy, which ultimately it’s got to come down to for the searcher, because the search is going to look for multiple Web sites and they’ve got to take Jon’s advice. Why go to them as a vendor and not the other guy?

Jon Morrow: [00:17:07] That’s ultimately what every customer wants. And this even goes to hamburgers. OK, if I’m selling a hamburger or if I’m buying a hamburger, I’m hungry, I have a craving for hamburgers is my point A. Point B is I’m satiated and feeling full, fat, and happy because I just eat this delicious hamburger. Right. Whoever I believe can take me from point A to point the most dependably is probably the one who is going to get my business.

Matt Weber: [00:17:44] Yeah.

Jon Morrow: [00:17:44] And that’s true for any business. Jon, I’m a big believer in, I’d rather win the battle of the headline than the war of the words. And I look at your content and, of course, you’ve got some amazingly fantastic headlines.

Jon Morrow: [00:17:59] Thank you.

Matt Weber: [00:18:00] What are some tips for writing great headlines?

Jon Morrow: [00:18:04] So the first again comes down to your goal. So, and this is a core differentiator that took me years to understand. The headline you right for search is completely different from the headline you write for social. They’re two different ball games. When I’m writing, it combines research that’s actually a fairly well-documented process. You want to have your keyword in your headline. You and I have like clickthrough rate modifiers like percentages and parentheses. And you want to try to have a benefit in your headline. You want to consider the search intent – all of those types of things. So you can design a checklist for search. And there are people who have done that, like think Brian Dean has some content about that. The, for social, it’s less than a checklist. It’s a little bit more of an art. So the only science behind this is the work of Jonah Berger, where he wrote a book called “Contagious.” And he documented the types of things that go viral.

Robert O’Haver: [00:19:19] What’s the name of the book?

Jon Morrow: [00:19:24] “Contagious.” So if you’re going viral, I mean that has to do with a lot of things, it gives us a lot of factors. Now, from my personal experience, the biggest one by far is emotion. So the more emotion you pack into a headline, the more viral it will go. So a lot of my headlines are pretty emotional and that’s the reason why, one of the reasons why the content goes viral. But with either strategy, the commonality between the two that I would say to focus on if you want to get better headlines is spending a greater percentage of your time on your headline.

Matt Weber: [00:20:15] I agree. I agree. I think people don’t spend enough time on that. And I encourage people to write out their headlines and their subheads first before they actually try to sit down and write six hundred, nine hundred words. Do you agree with that strategy?

Jon Morrow: [00:20:32] I do. And it depends on how competitive of a space you’re in and what you’re trying to achieve. So when I’m entering a very competitive space, either in search or in social. I’ll probably spend, I mean, amounts of time that would shock most people. So, for example, when I’m trying to write an article that goes viral. The average time I spend on those articles is 50 to 100 hours.

Matt Weber: [00:21:05] Wow.

Robert O’Haver: [00:21:07] OK.

Jon Morrow: [00:21:11] Let’s say it’s 100 hours just for easy math. I would say. 30 to 40 of those hours are spent on the headline. And that’s almost inconceivable to most people.

Matt Weber: [00:21:31] Yeah. I can’t afford to have anybody who works for me listen to this show.

Jon Morrow: [00:21:35] Well, so here’s the thing. Every single one of those articles that I’ve spent that amount of time on have gotten a million visitors within 12 months.

Matt Weber: [00:21:47] I get it. It’s about being a craftsman. Yeah.

Jon Morrow: [00:21:51] And it’s also about ROI. So, if I was writing an article to rank for Austin, Texas, plumbing services, I would never spend a hundred hours on a post because the ROI isn’t there and also the level of competition doesn’t require it. I’d probably write the post in ten minutes. So all of that is a factor. Now when I’m doing search, even when I’m doing search, I’ll probably brainstorm for a competitive keyword, I don’t know, two hundred headlines?

Matt Weber: [00:22:35] Nice. Yes.

Robert O’Haver: [00:22:38] Well, Jon. Hold that thought real quick. We’re going to take a break for our sponsor. We’ll be back in just a minute.

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ANNOUNCER: [00:25:53] Get your questions in on Twitter. Type #SearchTalkLive and your question. Now back to the show.

Robert O’Haver: [00:25:58] All right, Jon. Welcome back to the show, guys. It’s time for “Who influences the influencer?” And that’s sponsored by Pixel Cut Labs. Jon, we want to know who influences you. You, as an influencer yourself, who do you kind of pay attention to get your information?

Jon Morrow: [00:26:20] When it comes to search, I pay attention to Brian Dean, Matt Barby, Rand Fishkin, probably of other than normal folks that a lot of people would talk about. Now, I mean, they’re paying attention to people at Google or that are doing much more technical research-driven content. Cyrus Shepard, he would be another one. I pay attention to them and what they’re sharing, for sure, for up to date information. But for me these days, it’s mostly just watching what I’m seeing happen on the day to day basis in the search results on our site as well.

Matt Weber: [00:27:12] Well, Jon, we got to get back to that headline issue, because I think it’s one of the critical elements for writing successful copy. I was listening to an interesting blog yesterday from our friends at NPR called, “Things You Should Know,” and they had an interesting discussion of fear versus reward. And some of the newer evolving research on that. So, Jon, what’s your opinion if you’ve got to write an approach? Is it better to use a fear appeal, “Oh, my God, you’re gonna miss out on this!” Or a reward appeal? Or how do you make that judgment? Because I see in your headlines you’re a master of both.

Jon Morrow: [00:27:50] It depends on the dominant emotion for the topic. So if I am writing a piece on drunk driving, it’s probably going to be a fear-based headline. If I am writing a post about how to get into an Ivy League school? It’s probably going to be a reward-based headline. And that’s because of the dominant emotions that people feel. So my goal when I’m writing content with the headline itself isn’t to try to create a ton of emotion, it’s to tap into the emotion that’s already there.

Matt Weber: [00:28:39] Mm-hmm. Well said.

Jon Morrow: [00:28:41] So the big question to ask yourself whenever you’re considering emotion is to think about, ‘what is the dominant feeling that they will have?’ Now there are going to be all sorts of feelings but which one is the most common? And, also is the strongest amongst the type of people I want to reach. And that’s what you should do.

Matt Weber: [00:29:03] You know, that podcast had an interesting discussion that fear appeals are more effective today in 2020 than they were pre-social media because pre-social media, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Meaning we didn’t know what we were missing out on. And so now we have a greater perspective of the things that we are potentially missing out on in that whole FOMO concept has created a greater opportunity for fear appeals because we are more aware of the things that we’re missing out on. And I thought that kind of made sense. And I think you kind of see that reflected more and more and in headlines now.

Jon Morrow: [00:29:40] I think that’s true because I think fear is becoming a more dominant emotion right now.

Matt Weber: [00:29:47] Mm hmm.

Jon Morrow: [00:29:48] And I mean, for me, as an as a marketer, that makes some things easy, for me as a person I find that scary.

Matt Weber: [00:30:00] You find that scary, in what way?

Jon Morrow: [00:30:02] I find it scary that we’re transitioning toward people feeling more fear than they used to and that I think our reactions to each other and our level of thinking around any issue, it doesn’t matter what it is, it only gets worse when you’re coming from a place of fear.

Matt Weber: [00:30:32] Yeah, very true. And by the way, I read an article about you and your philosophy on fear, which was super inspiring. And I would encourage people just to Google your name. And there are quite a few great articles written about you. But there’s one, I believe, where someone wrote about the things that they’ve learned from you on that and your philosophy about fear was just amazing. But we’ve got to take a little bit of a different angle, Robert, because we know are our listeners and there are probably folks listen to the show who are going, “Hey, this is good stuff, but I’m probably not going to be the writer, but I need to hire a writer.” And you and I meet a lot of people who have gotten burned by hiring a writer. John, what tips can you give folks listening to the show who say, I’m not going to write this, but I want to hire a good writer? How can they make sure that they’re hiring a great writer?

Jon Morrow: [00:31:20] So the best thing, the most important thing to pay attention to is, have they’d been able to get the result that you’re going for in the past? And do they have the training needed to do it? So what that means in terms of search is if you are going to hire a writer, look at the content that they have already written. And ask yourself, “What’s the on-page optimization like here?” So if you’re want to read one of the articles, don’t ask yourself what the topic is, because this is one of the big lessons I’ve learned. It doesn’t actually matter if my writer knows anything about my topic. What matters is what their skill level is in on-page optimization and being able to construct an article that will dominate the competition for that keyword.

Matt Weber: [00:32:25] So that’s key. So you’re saying that a great writer should be able to master topics that they’re not familiar with? Am I listening to you correctly?

Jon Morrow: [00:32:33] Yes.

Matt Weber: [00:32:35] So you see more of the school that says a great salesperson can sell anything.

Jon Morrow: [00:32:39] And the reason why is, whenever I hand out material the writers, I always start with a content brief. And one of these sections on that brief is the three posts that are the closest competition. Their job is to beat those three posts.

Matt Weber: [00:33:02] Ok, so, by the way, you brought up something that we need to surface quickly, which is the whole concept of a content brief, creative brief, which I have to tell you, I’m guilty of skimping many times. I’m guilty of that. You know, the client wants it. You’re rushing clients, paying you for X amount of hours. You’re trying to get the most meat out of the hours are paying you for. I’m very guilty of rounding that corner. To elevate that topic for just a bit. Jon, why do you need to do a creative brief? And give us a couple of seconds cause we are getting toward the end of the show. What makes a good creative brief?

Jon Morrow: [00:33:38] That all of the hard thinking has already been done. And that all the writer has to do is write. If I had to summarize it quickly.

Robert O’Haver: [00:33:52] So what if for the listeners, what would you say would be a good tool for them to measure? Like you said, they go out and find the top articles in that particular niche and their goal is to beat that. What kind of tools do you use to find that information?

Jon Morrow: [00:34:08] Mostly AHREFS these days. And the big thing I look for, I mean, it’s difficult. I mean, one of the things you have to continue is search intent. I look for articles approaching the same search intent that are ranking higher than they should be, considering their domain authority and route domain links. Which is a very technical definition. But to me, those articles that when you strip away all the technical factors, they’re ranking higher than you think they would be. That’s a sign they’re giving Google and readers something that they really like and they need to be emulated.

Matt Weber: [00:34:59] Interesting now. A little bit controversial here. Some people say, “Write for skimmers, don’t write for readers because of the increasing proclivity for people to not want to read or digest long content.” Your take on that? “Write for skimmers or write for readers?”

Jon Morrow: [00:35:18] It depends on the goal, Which, again, you’ve probably heard me say, “it depends.” a thousand times or at least a dozen times during this interview. But if I am writing for someone who is looking for the 50 best nightclubs in Austin, Texas, that should be something they can skim. On the other hand, if I’m looking to write an article that makes them fall in love with me and my brand and remember me forever, then all of that advice is gone. If you want to be able to get people to remember you forever and following up with your brand, you have to create intense emotion. You have to give them advice they’ve never heard before. So it’s entirely unique. You also have to, in general, go longer and provide such incredible value that they can’t help sharing it with people and saving it; bookmarking it. And that usually involves writing and longer pieces. So most of my high traffic posts are over 5000 words and they have failed the Hemingway tests. And the reason why is because I’m not writing for someone who’s just skimming and who wants a quick piece of information. My writing, in that case, can make people fall in love. And I believe there’s a place for both. You just have to know which one it’s the right time for.

Jon Morrow: [00:36:56] Here’s another thing I want to add. You just said you wrote 5000 words. How do you what is your key for keeping people’s attention on a long-form content like that?

Jon Morrow: [00:37:09] It’s very difficult. It comes down to skill with a few different things. Number one, you have to be able to weave together practical advice and stories. So the stories with the emotional payoff are mostly what will keep people reading in a long post like that. And you have to be able to weave in and out of it. The other thing is something a good friend of mine called ‘sweater-knit copy.’ And the idea behind sweater-knit copy is that no sentence should be able to stand on its own. So a really great writer who’s really good at this – you will not be able to understand any sentence out of a post taken by itself. Every sentence will add to and be driven by the other sentences around it.

Robert O’Haver: [00:38:12] Wow. I like that.

Matt Weber: [00:38:12] That’s a really interesting perspective.

Robert O’Haver: [00:38:14] It keeps the reader going, you know?

Jon Morrow: [00:38:16] It does. It makes it very difficult to stop.

Robert O’Haver: [00:38:20] I like that. Wow. I’m a firm believer in long-form content because obviously it ranks really well.

Matt Weber: [00:38:27] Yeah, but you get kind of have to future-tense that question a little bit. And you, Robert, you spend as much time in analytics as I do. And, man, I got to tell you, I think this social media-oriented society that we’re in is becoming more visual-oriented, becoming more bite-size oriented. I think we’re training people indirectly to ingest small-sized pieces of content. Now, if it’s not shown up here in 2020, it’s going to show up in 2021 or 2022. But I think that’s where the trend is going.

Jon Morrow: [00:39:00] I think you’re right about the visual side. What I will say is that this isn’t a new trend. It’s been seen before. So one of the things that, because I’m a geek about all this stuff, on the history of other types of media – one of the most interesting analogs to this situation is direct mail. So the greatest direct mail writer of all time is arguably a guy most people have never heard of – Gary Bencivenga. He’s now retired, and Gary became successful by writing longer sales pitches than anyone thought would succeed. He eventually got to the point where he was mailing people 200-page books. That was his sales letter. And people said, “How do you get someone to read a 200-page book? People don’t have time to read 200-page books.” And he said, “You’re right. No one has the time to read it except the buyers. And that’s one of the key points that I think is important to take away, even when it comes to social media. The people who buy from your brand are going to be the ones who you have built the engagement necessary for them to read an 8000-word post or to watch a one hour video. If you don’t have the influence necessary to get people to consume that length of content. I believe that you do not have a powerful brand and that ultimately you’re not going to make much money.

Matt Weber: [00:40:56] Yeah, really great takeaway here comes back to the idea of value that you introduced the beginning of the show. So great content has to not be something to everybody but has to be something very special to a small group of people.

Jon Morrow: [00:41:12] Yeah, especially if you want them to convert and to buy.

Robert O’Haver: [00:41:16] And that brings me to, I know we’re running out of time, but I do want to touch on this. Over the decade, you’ve done over 200 million visitors to your blog. What are you doing to bring those people back? Are you doing some kind of a newsletter or mailing list or how do you keep those people coming back time after time?

Jon Morrow: [00:41:36] So to me, I mean, there are a few controversial things here that I’ll say. To me, my opt-In rate, the number of people that are subscribing to my email list, is a more important number than the number of visitors to my site. I believe I mean, I talk about numbers like that because they’re big and they’re impressive. But the reality is, I think traffic is a vanity metric. And I mean, you can get 200 million visitors to a cat video and it’s going to do no good whatsoever. So I actually pay more attention to the opt-in rate because that’s a measure of influence. And it’s also a way for me to follow up with people. So the first answer your question is, I actually wish very, very, very hard for opt-ins and to get people on the e-mail list, because from my research if someone comes to your website off of Google and they do not opt-in in their first session, eighty-five percent of those people never return.

Robert O’Haver: [00:42:50] That’s true.

Jon Morrow: [00:42:50] Even if your content is great. So I am willing, therefore, to annoy the hell out of every visitor who comes to my site to get their email address, because if I don’t, I lose my chance forever.

Robert O’Haver: [00:43:08] And the one last thing I want to cover because I think it’s important. You spend a lot of time on titles and stuff, but what is the – is there a magic number on how many blog posts you need to do on a monthly basis?

Jon Morrow: [00:43:26] No. I mean, so here’s the thing. I think you see examples all over the map. I do think that in today’s world, you are better off creating less content but making it truly special. Then you are cranking out a lot of non-special content.

Robert O’Haver: [00:43:52] It’s like you read my mind.

Matt Weber: [00:43:55] Yeah. Bring value.

Jon Morrow: [00:43:58] Yes. I mean, what the crazy thing is when I say that big number, 200 million visitors, just when you look at my own posts, on average I only write like one or two posts a year these days. Now, I’m the CEO of the company. I have lots of other people to write blog posts, but also I’m only going to write a blog post when I believe there’s going to be a huge payoff from doing that. I believe that in today’s world, it’s better to write one blog post a year and then spend the rest of the time promoting that post. And I have a hundred thousand people waiting for next year to read your next post. That’s where I would rather be than the guy who writes a post and you don’t really pay attention to it. When I released one.

Matt Weber: [00:44:57] Well said, Jon. Some super stuff here during the show. It is now time for one of the most popular segments of Search Talk Live. And that is, “believe it or leave it.” And we’re going to give you three statements we found on the Internet. And we’re going to ask you to tell our audience whether they should believe it or whether they should leave it. Are you ready?

Jon Morrow: [00:45:19] Let’s do it.

Matt Weber: [00:45:20] All right. Here we come. Statement number one, from an SEO standpoint, if you have limited time for content creation, you are better writing guest blogs than content for your own Web site. Believe it or leave it.

Jon Morrow: [00:45:38] Leave it. Leave it.

Matt Weber: [00:45:40] Why?

Jon Morrow: [00:45:41] I would say, again, it depends on your skill level. If you’re an extremely skilled writer, write it for your own Web site. If you’re not a skilled writer, then I believe you’re better at guest blogging.

Matt Weber: [00:45:59] I’ve never heard that take before.

Robert O’Haver: [00:46:00] All right. On to question number two. You can monetize your blog content by having a pop up with an offer for first-time visitors to your blog.

Jon Morrow: [00:46:13] Believe it.

Matt Weber: [00:46:13] Yeah, it’s funny that that came up right after you spoke so well about grabbing the people when you can because you may never get a second chance.

Jon Morrow: [00:46:21] Yeah, I mean, the number that we’ve seen across not only our sites but also student sites, is you can very predictably tell how much a blog is going to make by the size of their email list. So a good baseline rule of thumb is a dollar per e-mail subscriber per month.

Robert O’Haver: [00:46:42] Wow.

Jon Morrow: [00:46:42] So if you’re good at monetizing your e-mail list, you can get a thousand email subscribers. That’s about a thousand dollars a month. That that site can make based on that metric. Traffic, on the other hand, there is no way to baseline revenue based on traffic. Not even with CPM advertising numbers. So, yeah, email is huge if you want to make money.

Matt Weber: [00:47:13] I’m going to have to retract a thousand things that I’ve said in some of my presentations now or start a blog.

Matt Weber: [00:47:20] Okay, statement number three Jon of believe it or leave it. You should write for an audience with an eighth-grade reading level.

Jon Morrow: [00:47:30] Leave it.

Matt Weber: [00:47:31] Leave it. Now, that’s pretty popularly held opinion. Tell us more. Why do you say leave it?

Jon Morrow: [00:47:37] Yeah, I’ve had some debates with some very smart people about this.

Robert O’Haver: [00:47:42] Were they eight?

Jon Morrow: [00:47:44] No. I mean, some of the top writers and advertisers in the world would disagree with me on this one. I believe that you should create the experience that you need to for the stage that your visitor is in your marketing in order for them to move to the next step. Which is a very complicated way of saying, when they’re a beginner, I think that’s probably true. But on the other hand, if you really want to convert people, you need to get more sophisticated with your content and not dumb it down.

Robert O’Haver: [00:48:34] I think a good example is you wouldn’t write for Forbes in an eighth-grade level. Right?

Matt Weber: [00:48:38] True.

Jon Morrow: [00:48:41] Some people would say yes. I mean, I wouldn’t and I don’t personally pay any attention to the reading level. And some of my most popular content has a very high reading level. But it also designed to talk to people with a relatively high level of sophistication.

Robert O’Haver: [00:49:07] Sure. All right. Now it’s time for Search Talk Live’s tattoo sponsored by Pixel Cut Labs.

Matt Weber: [00:49:14] So, Jon, we’re looking for one piece of great advice, which is going to be tough because you’ve given a lot of great advice during the show. But if you had to distill it down to one thing and you want people to remember about your counsel provided today, what would be your Search Talk Live tattoo?

Jon Morrow: [00:49:33] Know the purpose of your content before you create it.

Matt Weber: [00:49:37] Pretty simple. A little long on the ink but I think Robert’s got an appendage that’ll make that think fit there. Yeah, I think that that’s tatooable.

Jon Morrow: [00:49:45] I was going to say, “it depends.”, but thought that might be jerky thing to say.

Robert O’Haver: [00:49:47] I have that on my shoulder already.

Matt Weber: [00:49:55] But unfortunately that was put there by your surgeon so that’s a whole different conversation.

Robert O’Haver: [00:50:01] Well, I want to thank you for being on this show. It’s been great. A lot of great content and information. If someone wants to reach you on Twitter or get a hold of you or see your Web site, how they do that?

Jon Morrow: [00:50:16] These days, it’s hard to get over me. But if you’d like more of me, you can go to “Break Through the Noise,” which is my new podcast with lots of very advanced stuff. Also, if you’d like to hire writers, you can go to where we are showcasing some of my best students over the years. And if you’d like blogging advice, go to

Robert O’Haver: [00:50:41] Nice.

Matt Weber: [00:50:42] You know, and also if I could, Jon, just direct people to you where I learned so much about you and was even more inspired than I was after reading about you initially. So I’d encourage people to take a minute and go to

Jon Morrow: [00:51:02] Thank you.

Robert O’Haver: [00:51:04] Well, guys, it’s been our first episode of the year. We have many more booked up and we are looking forward and looking for some more guests. So if you’re interested, please contact me, [email protected], or if you’re interested in a sponsorship of the show, you can also email me there. You can also hit me up on Twitter @searchtalklive. And RobertOHaver@searchtalklive Robert

Matt Weber: [00:51:32] Yeah. And subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss a single episode. Jon, thanks so much for being a great guest and getting our year off on a fantastic start.

Jon Morrow: [00:51:40] Yeah. Thank you for having me. It was fun.

Robert O’Haver: [00:51:42] All right. Thanks a lot, guys. We’ll see you next week.

Matt Weber: [00:51:45] Thanks for listening, everyone. Bye-Bye.

ANNOUNCER: [00:52:01] Search Talk Live has brought to you by Pixel Cut Labs, a 2019 search award-winning SEO agency. Welcome to page one. If you have a question about today’s show or would like to be a sponsor, E-mail [email protected] That’s [email protected].