Lead Content Marketing Trainer, 10+ Years of Content Marketing Expertise, Content Marketing Trainer
March 16th, 2016
Here at IMPACT, we often talk with businesses that are struggling to get their content marketing efforts off of the ground. Some of them come to us fresh, ready to begin their journey from scratch, while others have tried their hand at digital marketing with little or no results.
The first group often have no content or blog articles on their website and need basic blogging tips -- to know which articles to write first to get early results with search engines and website traffic.
With the second group, we often find that, while they may have been writing articles for quite some time, many of their articles are either not written well, or simply aren’t the types of articles that get results.
In both cases, one of the first things we ask them to do is write cost articles on all of the services and products they provide.
Of course, many businesses worry about producing cost articles because they feel as if they’ll be giving away the secrets of their business to other competitors, or they worry they can’t outright answer “how much does X service cost,” because the answer is more complicated than being able to give a definitive price to potential customers.
These businesses often say, “we can’t write an article on how much X service costs, because there’s a lot of factors that influence the final price, and each customer’s actual price will vary.”
But as we’ve stressed hundreds of times, you don’t have to include a final concrete figure in these types of articles, you merely have to explain those factors that impact cost, and give a fair range based on what past clients have paid before.
And while a lot of businesses are willing to come around to this line of thinking, we’ve still seen many of them struggle with writing cost articles that are comprehensive, fair, unbiased, and produce results (both in terms of SEO and visitor conversion).
What we have found is that there’s a pretty simple solution for writing perfect cost articles. In fact, it’s more like a formula. One we’re going to share with you now.
How to Create the Perfect Cost Article
Find your topic and consider all questions that need to be addressed
For cost articles, we already have our topic. We’re going to talk about the cost of something we offer.
Think of the various services and products you provide, select the ones customers are purchasing the most, and set out to answer all of the cost questions they may have about that topic (later, you’ll write the rest of them too).
List out the various factors that influence the price.
If it’s a product, these factors may include:
Base rates for the product
Accessories, features, and add-ons
Labor included to build/manufacture/create the product
Cost of installation (if requesting that service)
Cost to ship the product (by weight, volume, units, etc.)
Whether the price goes up or down if it’s a package deal with other products
Any other factors that influence the cost of your particular products (take some time to make sure you include as much information as possible).
If it’s a service, these factors may include:
Type of service
Time to complete service
Cost of materials
Cost of labor
Additional rates, fees, taxes
Once you have the topic clearly fleshed out, and the points you wish to make, you’re ready to start writing your first cost article.
How to write a title for a cost article
Again, with cost articles this is pretty easy. You will want to Google search various keyword phrases to use, or try a keyword tool like SEMrush or Google AdWords to help you find the most common way the question is asked.
When doing keyword research, alternate between using words like cost, price, rates along with the service/product you provide.
Your title could end up as simple as:
“How Much Does [SERVICE X] Cost? A Breakdown of Common Prices and Plans”
You have to consider how people will search, and what they'll want to find.
The reason you should title articles this way is because this will be how most people type the cost inquiry into a Google search bar.
Some people may vary their search terms, but most of the time, if someone wants to know the cost of a product, they’re going to enter: “How much Does [Product X] Cost?”
In the second part of the title, we want to consider two things: other ways they may phrase their search, and what they'd like to see.
We do this because we have up to 70 characters we can use for a title before it gets cutoff on a results page. With this extra space, we can target a few other synonymous keywords that both indicate to search engines and searchers alike that your content covers those topics as well.
Once we have our title crafted, we will create two other important elements before diving into the body of the article.
How to create unique article URL’s
Creating your own custom URL rather than letting your COS system is a best practice as it’s also something search engines will look for when determining the validity of your article.
URL’s are important because they’re the actual addresses that the articles will live at. Therefore it’s important to craft the address you want, rather than let your website tool create one for you.
For most URL’s you will write out your title, but with hyphens separating each word. You can also create longer URL’s by adding a few more keywords you’d like to target. But for the most part, we’re going to write the words of our title for our URL.
You’ll end up with something like: www.yourwebsite.com/blog/how-much-does-service-x-cost-prices-rates-fees
For some titles we may want to remove additional, unnecessary words. Prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions can often be taken out for brevity, without impacting the SEO negatively.
If you noticed in the above two pictures, the actual title of this article is different than the URL. All expendable words were removed leaving only those that are of top importance. This makes for a cleaner, customized, and SEO friendly URL. This article (while not a cost article) shows just how many words can be removed while maintaining the most important aspects.
How to create unique meta descriptions
Once again, we want to have control over what appears on a search engine results page rather than leave it up to your blog tool.
A lot of businesses neglect to create unique meta descriptions because they don’t have the SEO impact that other elements of an article have.
However, what meta descriptions lack in SEO, they more than make up for in search click-through rates.
On a search engine results page, only a small handful of items are displayed: title, date published, URL, meta description, and maybe a video or picture icon.
Meta descriptions really help searchers get a precursory glimpse at the content of your article, and help them determine which of the results may be the best to click on.
We’ve found through many trials that there’s a pretty easy way to create meta descriptions that improve click-through rates.
At IMPACT, we practice (and preach) using a simple question and answer format.
You start with a question that aligns with the inquiry a searcher is asking themselves, and you follow up with a snippet of an answer.
Let’s talk briefly about both parts of the meta description for better clarity.
When you rephrase the question, you’re going to want to use your keywords here. For starters, the keywords they used to search will appear in bold in the meta description. This is more confirmation to them that your article has the information they’re after. Secondly, we put the keywords in the front of the meta description to make them more prominent to the searcher.
With the second part of the meta description, you want to tease the answer. You don’t want to give it away entirely (if somehow you could) because then there would be no reason for them to click into your article; they would have gotten the answer without ever landing on your page, and might never interact with you.
Part of the magic of the tease comes from the limitation of characters you can use in a meta description. You’re allowed 150 characters before Google cuts you off using ellipses (the ...) to end your meta description. Knowing we have 150 characters gives us an advantage, because we can anticipate it and use our own ellpises to make it look like we were about to give the answer, but unfortunately, we were cut off from doing so.
So how does this look?
Here is an example of an effective meta description for a cost article:
“Are you looking for answers on how much service X costs? In this article we discuss the various factors that influence price of service X such as...”
If you counted, that title is 148 characters. Just below the allowed number before automatic cutoff. We rephrased the question, included our keywords, mentioned what the article will discuss, and made it seem as if they almost got the answer, but they’re now going to have to click on our article to get the full explanation.
How to write an opening paragraph
Now that we have our title, URL, and meta description taken care of, it’s time to start laying out the actual contents of the content. We’re going to want to start with a strong opening paragraph that draws the reader in and affirms for them that they came to the right place.
There’s no exact science to writing an opening paragraph, but there are three critical elements to include that will help lower the guard of any reader and lead them to realize that you are the expert in your field.
You want your opening paragraph to establish expertise, empathy, and neutrality.
They want to know that you’re an expert, they want to know that you care, and they want to know that there isn’t going to be any hard selling on your part.
If the article starts to look like an advertisement for your business, they might backtrack to the results page and select another article.
Take a look at the following opening paragraph for an article about the cost of MRI machines from our friends at Block Imaging:
So how did that article hit on the three elements discussed? They may not have popped out at you because they were included in a very carful, subtle manner.
Expertise can be found in the very first sentence without the author stating he’s an expert. It’s simply implied. “Every day people ask me...”
If this person wasn’t an expert on MRI machines, why would he receive so many questions about them?
Examples of empathy and neutrality can be found in the bolded paragraph. The author is saying that he wants to help the reader get what the reader wants, and he sets the reader up to be asking questions of their own. He uses a lot of you statements to show that this article is about helping the reader, and is not about Block Imaging.
The analogy about car shopping helps simplify why the costs need to be explained, and adds another level of empathy as that decision is one we’ve all been through.
In less than one hundred words, anybody looking for an MRI machine will most likely continue reading the article.
How to write blog sub-headers and sub-sections
Sub-headers and sub-sections serve four major functions:
They help break up your text to make it easier to digest.
Visitors can find sections of interest to them quickly.
They give structure and flow to your article.
They are opportunities to rank for other keywords related to the topic.
Sub-headers help breakup the body of your article into sub-sections. They are often large, colored, bolded text that indicate the following paragraphs are all related. Breaking up your articles this way makes it easier for readers to find what interests them most. It also helps them scan your article quickly to make sure you have enough answers to get them to read more.
Sub-headers are also important for SEO purposes. In the same way they signal to readers what the subsections) contain, they tell search engines what can be found in your article.
Whenever possible, utilize sub-headers to target secondary keywords.
Sub-sections are the body of your content. They’re the meat of the article where you explain in detail the factors that influence the cost. You answer the “Why” questions people have, or the “what if I get with/do it with/use it with” questions. Not only will you talk about the various factors that influence cost, but you can also discuss what the reader will see in the marketplace. You can explain what others in the same industry may be charging, and go into detail as to why those companies may charge differently. If your own company has its own set of special circumstances that makes them different from the rest, you can include that here.
For example, at The Sales Lion, we are a different kind of content marketing consulting agency than others out there. Many of these other agencies write the content and manage the marketing strategies for their clients. We on the other hand, teach companies how to take control of, and write, their own content.
Take a look at Alaska Sleep’s article “How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?”
When people ask about how much a sleep study costs, the most important factors to consider are the types of sleep study they would require.
The article is broken up into sections describing what each type of test is and who would need that type of test.
The sub-headers target cost associated keywords for each individual type of study.
If you were to Google, “how much does a sleep study cost,” you will find this article at the top of the first page. It’s the title of the article and the main keywords targeted, so it makes sense that this article could rank that high for that specific phrasing.
But if you also Google, “how much does CPAP titration cost,” or any of the other sub-header topics from this article, you will still find them on the first result page, if not the top position.
And if you did Google “how much does a sleep study cost,” you may have noticed that the second article (also written by Alaska Sleep) deals with insurance, and is titled “Does Insurance Cover Sleep Studies.” It doesn’t even contain the keywords. So why would it pop up second?
There are four main reasons:
Google recognizes synonyms and closely related terms. Insurance and cost, while not synonyms, are often tied together. You can even Google “price of a sleep study” and get to the same article.
Both articles have internal links pointing to each other.
The article uses the phrase “cost of a sleep study” in the article and in the meta description.
Most importantly, nobody else had written on the topic before. At least not well.
How to end a cost article
At this point, we’ve given the reader detailed, easy to sort through information on all the factors that influence the costs of our products/services. Throughout the article we’ve remained pretty unbiased as we want them to feel as if the information they’re getting is from a teacher rather than a sales person. We might have mentioned ourselves a little here and there, but for the most part, we’ve been pretty neutral throughout.
One mistake companies make is to end the article on this same note. However, now that we’ve been fair in assessing the factors of cost, it’s okay to talk a little about ourselves. We do want them to know that we offer those services, and that we hope that by being helpful they’d like to choose us to provide those services.
You set out early, in the first paragraphs and throughout the body, to establish yourself as a thought leader on the subject. Now, in your last paragraph you want to remind them that you can further help them with their problems.
There are three things you want to include when ending a cost article:
Give them what they’ve been after: the cost. We spent time talking about factors and influences, now they should get some kind of number from you. If an exact figure can’t be reached (which is in most cases), give them a fair range that can be expected. Say things like, “we’ve seen customers pay as little as X, and as much as Y. However, many customers fall between ranges of X-Y.” This section can be bulleted or bolded to help the numbers jump off the page for those simply scanning the article first for a figure, before actually reading the factors.
We want to let them know that we can be of continued value to them. Point them to other related articles that can influence their buying decision. Let them know they can contact you for further questions.
Add a Call-to-Action (CTA) button at the very end. The CTA should lead to a landing page containing a relevant offer to what they’ve just read. For a cost article, it could be offering them to download a price sheet, or receive a free quote, or even schedule a consultation. On the landing page, you’ll be able to capture some more of their information, which will help you cater to them with emails containing information relevant to them. Think of your CTA as a “next action.” Once they’ve finished your article, what should they do next? Without a CTA, they might think they’ve gotten all of the value out of you they can, and go off in search for more information elsewhere. We want to keep them engaged with us, so we want to show them we have the next step they’re looking for.
I hope this article has been enlightening for you, and by using the lessons taught here you will be able to create perfect cost article lessons that drive traffic to your website and helps you build your database of new leads and customers.