TOOLS + RESOURCES

Is Fresh Copy On Your New Year’s Resolution List?


Is Fresh Copy On Your New Year's Resolution List?

I’ve had my nose so buried in client work lately and getting things tied up for the end of the year, that I almost forgot I have a blog of my own! I didn’t really forget about it but, as you online biz owners can probably relate, my own blog often gets the least of my attention.

It’s still here, I promise, and I am currently booking for next year. If you are a natural beauty brand or retailer and fresh copy for your site is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, let’s get you penciled in and start setting up a plan for your project.

Not sure exactly what your project looks like or if you need help at all? We can set up a Free Discovery Session for your site and see what may need to be brushed up.

Some things that you may need help with in the copy department:

FTC compliance — Did you know FTC advertising regulations apply to your product descriptions, information pages, ebooks, etc? You can learn more about FTC regulations and how to comply here, or feel free to shoot me a message for more info.

Product descriptions — You retailers aren’t using the brand description on your site, are you? And you product creators, do your descriptions share the full experience? If not, it’s time to get some super juicy product descriptions rolling on your site.

Standard Pages — Did you know this is one of the first places your visitors go when they get to your site? Whether you have decent About and Commitment pages that need a brush up, or haven’t gotten around to those yet, I can help. For now, feel free to use my Ingredients to Avoid page. All I ask is that you give me credit with a link back to my site.

Let’s get one thing checked off your to do list for next year and set up a time to talk more about your copy needs. Send me a message to get things started.

 

Image via Haute Stock Photography

How To Avoid the Writing Errors That Put Gwyneth Paltrow Under Investigation

How To Avoid the Writing Errors That Put Gwyneth Paltrow Under Investigation

Uh-oh. Looks like Gwyneth Paltrow is getting some public flogging over her health and wellness website, Goop, once again. She’s taken flack over the sometimes silly-seeming products she promotes, but this time it’s not coming from consumers and bloggers. Or even Martha Stewart.

It looks like Goop may be in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Those of us who are beauty bloggers recognize these guys as the ones who make us put up those disclaimers telling our audience things like “this post is sponsored by …” or “there are affiliate links in this post from which I receive a small compensation”. Yep, if you’ve ever wondered why we bother with those obtrusive disclaimers, it’s the FTC.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs cosmetic labeling, the FTC regulates advertising claims. This includes product descriptions on brand websites.

As a beauty copywriter I am very familiar with FTC regulations. Basically, when marketing a cosmetic product for sale you cannot describe the product as altering or affecting the structure or function of a human body, or curing or preventing disease or health issues. In the eyes of the FDA, drugs do those things, cosmetics do not.

Even if I absolutely swear a client product has done something amazing to my skin, like made it firmer or erased a wrinkle, I can’t say that in the product description I write for them. It has to be all about making the skin look and feel more attractive. That’s the law.

But it looks like the copywriting team at Goop missed the memo. I love to read the health articles at Goop and Jean Godfrey-June has long been my beauty editor idol. The problem isn’t with the articles recommending products or remedies, it’s when health claims are used to market the products, as in product descriptions on sales pages.

For example, one of the products in question is a flower essence blend that can be used on the skin for “trauma repair”. The trouble spot is “this formula helps clear, stabilize and soothe emotional trauma.” They could have said “this formula lends a feeling of clarity, stability, and soothing to emotional trauma.” (I’m also a fan of the Oxford comma 😉) or “designed to offer a clear, stabilized, and soothing feeling to mind and body.” Either of those would have worked with FTC law but making health claims is the no-no.

Another example is a moisturizer on the site that is said to “work throughout the day to firm and rejuvenate the skin.” It can “give the feeling of firmer, rejuvenated skin” or “increase the appearance of firmer, rejuvenated skin” under FTC law, but it cannot claim to physically alter the skin.

If all of this is a bit too word nerd for you, the main issue is this. If you read any cosmetic product advertising that claims to improve your health or the actual structure of your skin, it is in violation of FTC laws. Authentic natural beauty brands know this and product descriptions that follow FTC regulations are proof you are dealing with a pro.

If you are a natural beauty brand or shop owner who would like help coming up with product descriptions that won’t get you in trouble with the FTC, contact me. It can be tricky to work within these guidelines and not repeat the same words and phrases over and over. I’m well versed in FTC laws and would love to help you put together fresh product descriptions that are as creative as they are legal. Let’s talk!

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Shop Talk :: Product Descriptions That Make Shoppers Want to BUY

Product Descriptions That Make Shoppers Want to BUY

Shop Talk is a series on helping organic beauty professionals get their products into the hands of people who will love them, and share their message with the world.

I look at organic beauty websites. Like, a lot.

Not only because I am way into organic beauty, which I am, but because I write about organic beauty five days a week. Ok, sometimes six.

There are certain sites I go to constantly. Others I check in with once in a while. And then those that I want to like, but…don’t.

Why? It’s not the products they sell or the way the site looks (pretty beauty sites are a must!). It’s the words. Or lack of.

When you are looking at beauty products online, the experience is dramatically different than when you are shopping in real life. Duh, right? Hear me out here.

Beauty products are used on your face, your body, your hair…You want to know what it feels like, what it smells like, how it makes your skin (hair, nails…) look. Who doesn’t open up a sealed bottle in store if there is no tester? I’ll totally cop to that on the reg.

So, the only way you can know what the product is like, how it feels, looks, and smells IRL, is through the words that are on the website. No words? Disappointment to the max.

And sometimes the words themselves are disappointing. A too generic or just plain blah product description is not, well, descriptive. C’mon, we want the deets, here.

So, what I am urging you shop owners and product creators to do is get some super ripe and juicy product descriptions on your site, pronto. Customers want to know if a product is floral or herbal, or citrusy, or even unscented. Is it lightweight or ultra rich? Does it feel velvety or quenching? Does it smell like a single crisp, chilled rose or like a walk through the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden on a freakin’ 90 degree day in June?? They want to know. And, most often, they want to know before they’ll buy.

When I write product descriptions for brands or shop owners, I request samples of select products. Not the entire product line-up but certain items to get the feel of the range, so I can tell visitors what the product is all about. Not just what it will do for their skin or hair, but what the experience is like.

So, do your customers and yourself a favor. Can the standard (read: boring) product descriptions and get to know the products you sell, then tell the world about them. And, I promise, I’ll visit your site.

Have trouble putting those mouth watering words together? Have the words but no time to get them down? Lucky for you, words are my thang and I’d absolutely love to help you with some fresh, juicy, super shop-able product descriptions. Get in touch!

Image :: William Iven at Unsplash.com

Shop Talk: Why It’s Important for Online Beauty Stores to Be Pretty

Why It's Important for Online Beauty Stores to Be Pretty

Shop Talk is a series on helping organic beauty professionals get their products into the hands of people who will love them, and share their message with the world.

Know why it’s important for online beauty store to be pretty? Other than the obvi, which is that a pretty shop is more fun to look at than a less attractive site.

Shows effort, yes. But what else?

The experience!

Ah yeah, we gals and guys who are into beauty love the feel of walking into a pretty little beauty shop. It is not just about the products stocked (thought that is why customers keep coming back!) it’s about the energy, the vibe, the whole package.

I recently wrote a story for EcoSalon on shopping organic brick + mortars in NYC. And most of the comments I received were centered around the gorgeousness of the shops.

Remember, when people shop online there are certain elements they miss out on. They can’t touch, apply, or smell the products. That’s where great descriptions and messaging come in, more on that in a minute. They also don’t get to experience the overall fun factor of physically being in a super cute shop.

The great news? This is so totally fixable. There’s no shortage of web designers out there creating beautiful sites. There are even templates designed just for women biz owners.

Like what you see here? I use Bluchic template Isabelle on OBS and had my header designed by How Sweet Designs. Very affordable and the look conveys exactly what I was going for…fresh + clean with a bit of glitz. If OBS were a store IRL, it would be all white with touches of gold and blushy pink, packed with the best organic beauty and tons of vivid information to help shoppers make their decisions. For reals, it might be a library or book shop since I’m more into the writing aspect, but for the sake of the theme here…

Now back to that messaging we touched on earlier. Sharing your products and message with people who come to your site is key. And it has to be done right. No clue where to begin? Check out these 3 things to keep in mind when crafting product descriptions.

Now you see why a pretty online shop is pretty important. Let me know if I can help. xxoo

Chemical Free Cosmetics :: Not All Bad

Chemical Free Cosmetics :: Not All Bad

I’ve seen a few articles lately and fielded some questions on the  whole chemical free cosmetics labeling issue. Following is my opinion on the subject. Feel free to love or hate.

Some green beauty experts feel labeling a cosmetic as “chemical free” is misleading because all ingredients, natural or synthetic, are chemicals.

Oh gosh. This reminds me of the kid in class who always (always!) had to pipe up when someone called white or black a color, and expound at length on why these two are not technically colors. We all already knew that, had heard it plenty of times, but still called white and black colors. Why? Because who says My new black dress is the perfect absence of light to go with my new shoes or I’m having trouble choosing the best shade of light for my bathroom.

Answer? No one.

Here’s the deal. We have to call them something. While I prefer the term “toxic” over “chemical” as a means to relay the harmfulness of certain cosmetic ingredients, I also get that people relate to the term “chemical”, so I use it often when I write about harmful ingredients. And toxic can be just as questionable. What constitutes a toxic cosmetic ingredient? Are all cosmetic ingredients on the avoid list toxic? … you get the picture.

Same with the term “natural.” Does it carry any true weight in terms of a safe product? Not really, but it is a term we use in the green (there’s another one) beauty industry. Natural Perfumes for Summer or Natural Makeup for Summer are better headlines than Synthetic Free Makeup for Summer. That last one is not going to get many hits and this means less good synthetic free beauty advice in front of eyes looking for healthy information.

We organic beauty experts have been making lists for over a decade now titled “Chemical Ingredients to Avoid”. Yes, we could easily begin calling them “Toxic Ingredients to Avoid” or “Toxins to Avoid in Cosmetics” or even “Unhealthy Cosmetic Ingredients.” That’d be fine with me.

But the real problem here is under regulation of cosmetics and personal care. We are on our own here, as consumers, and doing our best to protect ourselves from unhealthy junk, and purchase what’s best for us and our families.

Shooing shoppers away from products labeled “chemical free” entirely? I get the good behind this strategy and the desire to educate, but it is too soon for this. There are good, safe, high quality brands creating products they choose to call chemical free because it speaks to consumers. Is it sometimes misleading labeling used by less than safe companies? Yes. Always? No!

The best way to protect yourself from ingredients you wish to avoid is to familiarize yourself with potentially harmful ingredients and read ingredient listings.

Awareness surrounding toxic ingredients in cosmetics is much huger than it was a decade ago. This is good stuff. But, at least for now, I feel that shunning all cosmetics labeled “chemical free” is not only misleading to shoppers in general, but sort of like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Yes, right now words like chemical, green, natural, and even organic are tossed around without a whole lot of street cred. This not only makes it harder for shoppers to know they are getting a safe product (remember: never trust the front label!), but difficult for truly safe brands to market their healthy products.

We are on the right path. Read labels, follow brands you trust, and ask questions.

Image :: Neill Kumar at Unsplash

Shop Talk :: The One Thing Your Customers Really Want

Shop Talk :: The One Thing Your Customers Need

Shop Talk is a series on helping organic beauty professionals get their products into the hands of people who will love them, and share their message with the world.

You neeeed vibe word flow.

Know why? It’s how you sell your stuff.

If you were a blogger or shop owner around 6- 10 years ago, you probably remember online marketing in a very different way. Back then it was all about the pretty ads. Flashing, sparkling, bright ads. Plastered everywhere.

Sure, people are still paying big bucks for ads on highly visible sites. But do you know what gets customer attention these days? It is not that big flashy ad. It is words. Solid, honest, super transparent information.

We’ve upped our online game along the way. And thank goodness! Now we go to someone’s site, read up on what we want to know, and decide if we’d like to request more info or make a purchase. The way it should be.

Hey, if you walk into a shop and start looking at, say…juicers. You are thinking the cheap one looks good price-wise. But will it burn up the third time you use it? Is the more expensive model the best way to go? What do you do? Look at the huge banner telling you to purchase the expensive model and do that, just because the banner said so?

Heck no!

You ask the person working in the store. That is why they are there, right? To give you more information that will aid in your buying decision. And how much does the giant, brightly colored banner with the eye-catching font do for you? Not a whole lot.

Same deal with your web content. Your words tell your customers what they want to know and answer their questions. This is what helps them decide what to buy. Not the crazy ad.

No clue where to begin? I’ve created a little crib sheet for you, including three important things to keep in mind when sharing your products with your customers.

3 Important Things to Share With Your Customers

1. Who is this product for? Most often, when people shop beauty they are shopping for a solution. Fix their acne. Tone down their redness. Diminish their wrinkles. Tell them exactly who the product is designed for and what problem it solves.

2. Look, smell, feel. Since we are talking online stores here, customers can’t get their hands on your sweet products. Let them know what the product feels like to the touch. How does it smell? Is it a creamy, dreamy violet-hued red lipstick or a striking matte tangerine lipstick? Be as descriptive as possible.

3. Give up the ingredients. We know this is important. Consumers are savvy these days and look for full ingredient listings. So don’t beat around the bush, copy and paste those suckers onto each and every description page.

If, on the other hand, you do not have a love of writing, think your writing stinks, or simply do not have the time (you are running an online biz, after all), I can help with that. Organic beauty/wellness writing is my thang and I’d be more than happy to help you out.

Find out what my services will do for you, and fill out the Content Stylist form with the specs on your writing wants and needs. Or if you are less wordy, don’t know what you really want or need, or would like to talk about retaining my writing services on an as needed basis, please give me a shout through my good ol’ contact form. Questions welcome.

Would love to hear from you organic beauty + wellness professionals…what are your biggest hurdles in running an online biz? Setting up time for blogging, social media, or emails? Getting to know your customers? Finding new and exciting products? I’d love to know, so please share in the comments.

Shop Talk :: When Your Creativity Gives You Lemons…

Shop Talk :: When Your Creativity Gives You Lemons…

So you’ve got yourself a blog. You have been doing a fair job of updating it regularly. You’ve set aside a day/night/wee hour of the morning each week to write up a post. And now you are blank.

If you’ve ever wondered What the heck am I going to put up on the blog this week?, first; you are not alone, second; you have options.

Yes, all of us dry up on creativity at some point. Even those who appear to have creative mojo dripping from their pores. You have two options here. Either get your juices pumping which, yes, takes energy and often time. May I suggest a run, shower, quick nap on the couch?

Or you can fake it. This is the easy way out, but it can also be a thing of beauty.

The following is a list of post ideas for any organic beauty or wellness blog. These are fast and easy to come up with, will help you out in a pinch, and fun for your readers too. You’ll be slinging these babies out like hotcakes and having a great time doing it. I’m calling it…

Blog Post 911

Product post :: Product reviews can get old. Not only for you, but for your readers. Rather than writing up 300+ words on what is so great about your latest addition, try a sentence or two on a handful of similar use products, seasonal items, or those you are simply loving right now. A pretty pic never hurts either and can even do most of the talking for you.

Wishlist post :: You know you have one. Don’t we all? That running list in your iPhone, notebook, head of pretties you are dying to get your hands on? Share them with your readers and encourage them to do the same in the comments. Have a shop? Put up items you’d like to try and match them up with similar “until I get to this” items you carry.

Who Do You Love post :: The super model, actress, writer, painter, product creator, blogger that you admire so much? Tell others about her. Share her with your world. Your followers like to know what you like and your crush may even take note. Nothing like a little reciprocal love.

How To post :: Do your readers ask you certain questions again and again? Friends and acquaintances always wondering what lip gloss or scent you are wearing? Tell them, already! As in “I always get asked…”. A good ol’ how to post is always a hit, too.

How They post :: I have heard so many women comment on the JLo Glow. I always thought Luminizer, duh. Well, let them know! How did Salma get that winged out liner on that Allure cover? How does Gwen get her red lipstick to stay put? Have the answer? Enquiring minds want to know.

Each of these can be whipped out in an hour or less. Promise.

Did this help? If you’d like to read more blog post ideas or have other questions on content for your site or blog, let me know.

What You’re Doing This Weekend

These are Working for Your Weekend

Have some free time this weekend? Feel like doing some reading/learning? Boy, do I have stuff you are going to love!

Do you love to read as much as I do? If I could figure out how to make a living off of reading or taking online courses…life made.

Since I have not yet figured that out, I do so in my spare time. And I’ve got a hunch you do too. So I want to let you in on some super good stuff you can check out over the weekend.

Big Magic :: Ok, if you did not get your sweaty little hands on a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book yet, Do. So. Pronto. Big Magic is a quick, enlightening read that’ll have you kicking if onlys and what ifs to the curb, and calling up your inspo like the creative beast you are. Gilbert (in her talking-to-your-bestie-over-coffee manner) not only gives you permission to take time to do the things you love, but absolutely insists on it as a means to a meaningful existence. You are soooo ready for this.

James Patterson Teaches Writing :: You know. The #1 New York Times Best Selling, award winning, American author of books for children, teens, and adults? Yeah, that guy. James has a fiction writing course on Masterclass.com, called James Patterson Teaches Writing, that’s gonna knock the socks off your writer’s block. He offers up 22 lessons on everything from creating characters and plot line, to firing up your passion for writing and marketing your work. I bought this baby yesterday and cannot wait to get started. Want to do it with me? It’s only $90 and just the videos of this cute, funny, relatable author are worth the price alone. Another reason I know it will be good? A personal recommendation by my copywriting hero, Ash Ambirge.

Anything Ash :: Speaking of… if you are a copywriter of anything and think you need help with your business, writing, whatever (and even if you believe you have the whole thing handled), look at Ash’s offerings. I’ve taken two of her courses, (both unbelievably helpful and I will share more details on soon) and purchased her products. Get on over there now and gift yourself some help with writing, marketing, graphics, or just some handy sentences to help you out with daily life stuff.

There you go. Now have a bitchin’ weekend!

Image :: Marie-Sophie Tékian at Unsplash.com

Ingredient Listings Decoded (A Handy Cheat Sheet)

Ingredient Listings Decoded (A Handy Cheat Sheet)

A couple weeks ago in Shop Talk we covered why complete ingredient listings are the most important words on any decent organic beauty shop’s site. Finding out exactly what is in a product is the only way to truly know if it is safe before you buy.

You know how you’ll go to an online shop who is doing a great job of making themselves and the products they carry look green? No this, no that, all natural … Then you go to the page of an interesting looking product. Sounds good, looks good, let’s take a peek at what’s in this pretty little beauty.

And there it is. Or shall we say, there it isn’t. No ingredient listing to be found. Or maybe it has one of those key ingredient listings. You know, where they list all of the natural-ish ingredients in the product but don’t give up a full ingredient listing.

Guess why they may be doing this? It usually is not in the name of being more concise. Both of these scenarios are red flags. Even the one that lists those wholesome sounding key ingredients.

You’ve been around the block enough times now to know that just because a product contains a few natural ingredients, doesn’t mean it is free from toxic ingredients. And the good old none-of-this-or-that-disclosure you see on sites? Forget those and get straight to the nitty gritty, the ever important ingredient listing.

Ok, so you shop places that list everything in every product they carry. Yay! Dazed and confused once you are faced with deciphering this mess of words? Even some natural ingredients sound not so natural?

I’m going to arm you with a powerful tool. An ingredient decoding cheat sheet. This will help you to differentiate healthy ingredients from nasty ones on the fly.

Ingredient List Decoder

1 :: Check the first 5 ingredients. These ingredients make up the majority of the product. Like food, cosmetic product ingredients are listed in order of concentration, from greatest to least. So if a product is comprised mostly of water, it will be the first ingredient on the list, and so on. Synthetic emollients and harsh foaming agents hang out here. Use my Ingredients to Avoid list for help.

2 :: Check the last 5 ingredients. These may be used in lesser amounts but the end of an ingredient listing is where you will usually find fragrance and preservatives.

3 :: If you’ve made it this far, fairly safe to say you have a safe product. Now scan those ingredients in the middle of the listing, if there are any, to see if anything comes up dirty.

4 :: Not sure on an ingredient name? Many brands follow the European INCI ingredient listings, using Latin names for ingredients. Check the INCI listing here.

5 :: Wondering whether or not the ingredients are organic? Organic ingredients are often marked with an asterisk. “100% Organic” means a product contains only organically produced ingredients, “Certified Organic” means the product is made of at least 95% organically produced ingredients, “Made with Organic Ingredients” means the product contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

So there’s some help in decoding those pesky ingredient listings. Have more questions? Ask away!

Shop Talk :: Image Improvement

Shop Talk :: Image Bonanza

So you’ve written up a sweet little post for your blog. It is chock full o’ helpful info and juicy knowledge. You’ve linked to other useful articles, resources, and products. Now all you need to finish this baby up and make it completely irresistible is … the dreaded image.

You’ve heard images are supposed to be highly focused, tell a bit about your post, and entice readers to click, right? And for good reason. The perfect image is not only good looking, it is the lead in to your article. So, why are you having so much trouble getting the hang of this whole picture thing?

Don’t worry. Any blogger who is not a photographer has had image issues. You have to make sure you are using those with a sharable license so you won’t get into any copyright trouble, but also want them to look great and make sense with your posts.

This can be tricky. There have been times when it’s taken me longer to find the appropriate image than it did to write the post. Many times. For a while there I even resorted to creating my own text “images” to avoid the whole hunt. Nasty example can be viewed here.

Bottom line is, if you are taking the time to write a worthwhile post it must be accompanied by a worthwhile image. Anything less is like wearing a brand new, beautiful outfit with old, doggy shoes from high school.

You have a couple of options here. Either use images from royalty free image sites or take your own. And I promise, you definitely do not need to be a pro photog to take great pics. I finally did some investigating prior to launching my latest blog design and it was well worth the time.

ImageSetUp

Here’s how I take the images I use on my blog. I use two white poster boards for a blank background and to reflect light, and set it up right by a window for natural light. I set up by my back door because all of the windows in my home are paned, and that makes for some funky shots. Natural light always looks so much better than artificial, even on a cloudy day. You can always brighten your image up with a filter. That info coming up next.

GoldStuffOriginal

What camera am I using? My iPhone. I have a big fancy Nikon and like the pictures my phone takes better for the blog. Plus, it is so much easier to use. Once I have a pic I like, I run it through a filter app. Pic Tap Go is super easy and I think only cost me a few bucks. I use Lights On filter because I like my images bright. You can see that my shot was not very bright before I ran it through the filter app. For quick and simple online editing, try PicMonkey.com.

An important note: We are talking about blog photos. Product shots for online shops should be taken by a professional or ask for high res shots from the brand.

I also use images from free image sites from time to time. My faves are Unsplash.com and Morguefile.com for gorgeous photography that really shouldn’t be free. When going this route be sure you credit the photographer and site you grabbed the pic from at the bottom of your post.

That’s it. Not hard or scary at all. Added bonus is, you can use these pics on your Instagram too. No excuse not to have a picture perfect blog.