Viewing all posts by Courtney Jones.

Attention: You’re Now a Storyteller – Get Used to It

Become a storyteller

Attract and engage customers with a compelling story.

My oldest daughter is about to turn nine (or may have already if you’re reading this after January). I have a hard time reconciling the spectacled, Minecraft-obsessed girl whose head reaches my collar bone with the 21-inch baby I delivered in a tub so many years ago. She is so different in so many ways – which is completely understandable. But there are a few things that are still the same. She still has trouble going to sleep. She still sways to Bob Marley’s “3 Little Birds.” She still loves avocados.

If you’re an SEO copywriter, or creating content in any form for the web, you’ve had just as much change in the last nine years. Some things are still the same. You still need to understand your audience. You still need a plan. You still need to publish consistently.

But some things are vastly different. Thanks to ongoing Google updates, the introduction of social media and increased consumer familiarity with the web, you’re probably experiencing the same kind of spinning feeling I experience when I look at my nine-year-old. “Where has the time gone? And how do I handle things now?”

Unlike the early days of SEO copywriting, you can’t keyword stuff and get great results. You can’t even rely on customers to visit your website before they make a decision about company.  They are connecting with you on Facebook, following you on Twitter or reading a landing page.

You have to go above and beyond your keyword list to get a reaction. There has to be a general theme – or story – that runs through the entirety of your marketing. People are getting the story in pieces from different platforms so it has to be consistent.

You’re a storyteller now – whether you like it or not. The nature of the web, how consumers use it and how your information is presented in search engines and social media demands it.

Here’s how to develop a story that speaks to your audience no matter where they are finding you or how you are interacting.

Stand for something.

There are multiple competitors for your ideal customers’ attention and money (and if there aren’t, you really shouldn’t be in business). You have to stand for something in order to stick out. It’s one of the things that first drew me to this very site years ago. Heather’s site was well optimized (as it should be) so naturally it showed up first when I searched for “seo copywriting” – but the story of her company, her approach and her clients, results were what drew me in. She stands for ethical, simple and effective SEO copy and it comes through in her site and her resources.

Paint pictures with your words.

The “just the facts” approach to your website may cover all of the bullet points you need covered, but it’s not engaging enough to keep people around. Your audience has multiple sources to rely on for the same information you’re delivering. You need to take steps to make your story resonate with your audience.

Every SEO content company has written an article about why it’s so important to know your audience – but Amy Teeple’s recent post on singing the right song to your customers goes the extra mile. It provides the facts but manages to paint a memorable picture.

Give examples, use customer testimonials, or even relate some personal details. When you paint pictures with your words you can cover the facts but also draw in your readers so you make a lasting impression.

Engage and encourage.

Your role is to sell your products or services – but in order to do that you have to engage and encourage your audience. Your content can’t read like you’re in it for the sale. Your job is to be an advocate for your audience. You’re there to help. Learn how to engage on each platform you’re using for marketing, and then be present as a helpful, encouraging voice to guide your audience to the right decision.

What do you stand for? What pictures are you painting for your audience? Are you encouraging them? When you can answer these questions with no hesitation, you’ve fully made the leap from keyword copy to brand storytelling.

A lot has changed in the past nine years – but a lot hasn’t. People still want to find useful and helpful information, and buy from companies that they know, like and trust. By embracing your role as a storyteller, you can get there.

About the Author

Courtney Jones is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

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Photo thanks to Zhao ! (Storytelling @ Thurdays)

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5 Ways to Capture Attention with Your Blog Content

Grab attention with your blog content

Read this post to find out how to write attention-grabbing blog content.

It’s that time of the year when everyone’s energies are scattered – including your readers’. Keeping them involved in your business blog and coming back for more can be a challenge any time of year, but you face a special set of circumstances when it comes to the holiday season. Attention spans are at an all-time low – but your blog still needs traffic and you still need to create content that speaks to your audience.

In addition, your blog content will be on your website long term. Creating content with an eye for capturing attention can serve you well during this busy time of year, and help you develop assets that can pull in readers and leads for months to come.

From topic selection to formatting choices, here are five ways to create a business blog that will keep people hooked through the holidays and beyond.

1. Plan a series of posts.

Individual blog posts – like this one – can spark interest, but if you want to hook your readers in long term, try a series of blog posts. A monthly column on one subject or a four- to six-part series published over several weeks can help you hook your audience. It also gives you the opportunity to dive in-depth into a subject.

For example, if you’re a test-prep provider who works with schools to help prepare students for the SAT or ACT, you could put together a multi-post series on all aspects of the standardized tests. This would help hook your audience and give them important information that they need.

2. Concentrate on your title.

No matter whether you’re writing one article or a series of six, your title is the first exposure that most people will have to your post. Creating a compelling title will help you capture attention, get more click-throughs from social media and drive more interest from search engine results. If you change nothing else in the next six weeks, changing your titles can have a huge impact.

3. Get controversial.

It’s well known that ruffling a few feathers can get you some attention – and this time of year might be a good fit for that. Is there a hot-button issue or big controversy in your industry this year? Are there some trends on the horizon that you can take a stand on?

This is a good time of year to stake your claim on an important topic. Don’t be afraid to get controversial! It could be just what your brand needs to stand out from the competition.

4. Make your posts scannable.

Your topic is important for capturing attention, but if you deliver that topic in long paragraph, your audience is going to click away. Formatting is essential for keeping attention. Break your posts into actionable steps, numbered lists or concepts with subheads. This makes it easier for your audience to take a quick scan of your content and decide whether or not they want to dive in deeper for the entire article. You can also use bullets, bold and italicized formatting to add variety.

Look back at posts that have received the most comments on your blog in the past. How are they formatted? In most cases, you’ll probably see that the posts that get the most response are formatted in a scannable and interesting way.

5. Take a visual approach.

Using a visual format can capture attention and help you break out of the box. Writing is awesome – I love it. It’s what I do for a living. But you can’t deny the power of images. With images now more prominent in social media, it might be a good time of year to experiment with an infographic, create an image-based post or put together a presentation blog post.

Which techniques are you going to use to capture attention from readers this year – and into the next?

About the Author

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

Photo thanks to John Holm (fascination)

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Three Essential Tools to Research, Curate and Build Authority

Content curation and research toolsWe’re living in the age of information overload. As a content creator, curator or copywriter your job is to cut through the clutter and find what is most relevant to your audience. Whether you are writing original content, curating information for social media or just need to keep an eye on your entire industry, you need tools to help you.

Unfortunately, finding the right tools can be just as overwhelming as trying to find the information in the first place. There are dozens of RSS readers, social search tools and curation platforms that all beg for your attention.

If you want to build authority, you need to provide top quality information – whether you’re simply sharing it or using it to create original pieces. I keep tabs on several industries – including the content marketing field as a whole – so it was important for me to find something that did a little more than the standard RSS reader. I use Feedly Pro as my go-to subscription platform, but for more insight, new sources and industry overviews, here are my essential tools.

Zite

Zite is a neat little app that I discovered a week ago – and I find I open it on my phone far more than my mobile Feedly. Zite curates and finds information in your top areas. You can add topics based on their suggestions or search for your own.

I like Zite because of its interface and its sources. Just within a week, I’ve found new authority blogs that I trust to share from and to learn from. I can easily share to social sites directly – although I wish there was a one-click integration with Pocket or Buffer.

BottleNose Lite

BottleNose is like a social search engine on steroids. As much as Google has tried to integrate social activity into its search results, it just doesn’t compare to this tool. The full version offers some pretty advanced social campaign and analytics tools – but for research purposes, lite works just fine.

BottleNose connects with your social accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) and shows you which topics and sources are most popular. You can also use the Sonar feature to find out which keyword phrases are most popular in your social circles. Right now, my Twitter community is interested in social media, Netflix, Halloween and #contentmarketing. You can dive deep into those topics, which can spark ideas and lead you to new sources for content.

ScoopIT

I went back and forth on whether to list this source or PearlTrees as the third tool in my trifecta. But ScoopIT edges PearlTrees out just slightly. ScoopIT is a curation tool, but it can also be used for discovery.

There’s a better quality-to-noise ratio on ScoopIT compared to other sites because the topic boards are personally curated by experts. They take the time to find the best articles on ACT test prep, content security or small business accounting (or any other topic I might be researching for clients). That means the research time is a lot less than it would be if I were trying to research these topics on my own. It’s also a social network within itself – you can follow other curators and engage with their content within the ScoopIT platform.

These are my top three picks for staying on top of things – how about you? 

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski (Librarian)

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Adapting to visual content: 3 musts for the SEO copywriter

The SEO copywriter needs to adapt to visual content marketingWith each new photo-friendly social network (and updates to existing networks to make images look even better), I cringe a little. There was a time when the best way to get your message across online was through some high quality, optimized text. As writers, we were kings and queens among content creators.

But now the tide is shifting. The web has become, for many, a primarily visual experience. Here’s some food for thought:

  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text. (Zabisco)
  • On Facebook, photos perform best for likes, comments and shares. (Dan Zarella)
  • Pinterest generated more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. (PriceGrabber)

(stats courtesy of Hubspot)

So what is the SEO content writer to do? It’s time to adapt. You can’t deny the power of images, and if you want your clients to reach their business goals through marketing you need to offer what is best.

Text is still important – but smart content writers need to make some strategic moves to stay on top of what clients (and search engines) are looking for.

Here’s how to do it:

1.   Think strategist instead of writer.

Many copywriters and content creators don’t realize that they are playing an important strategic role in their clients’ success. The writing you’re delivering isn’t just writing – it plays into your client’s ongoing success.

As content shifts heavily towards images rather than writing, put on your strategist hat. Help your clients understand how your writing is supported by images, and vice versa. Craft a strategy for them that combines your words with key images for maximum impact.

When you take this position, you’ll be able to overcome any qualms your clients might have about spending money and time with a content writing specialist.

2.   Partner with a graphic designer.

There’s never been a better time to form a strategic partnership with a graphic designer who can add beautiful images to your artwork.

Here’s an example: You write a lengthy, thought leadership blog post for  a client and the graphic artist creates a series of beautiful quote images from that article. Your client can use those images to market the piece on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more. Or you could formally offer presentation creation services so your clients can leverage SlideShare, LinkedIn and Google+ promotion opportunities.

3.   Make incredibly awesome content.

The goal of most visual marketing is to get your audience to click back to a website and take action. That’s where your role as an SEO content creator comes in.

You get to create an incredibly awesome landing page that speaks directly to your client’s audience and gets the conversions that they are looking for. Plastering the web with cat memes and dancing Picard gifs will only get you so far (it will get you really far with me…but I’m a unique case).

If your client wants to leverage visual marketing they need somewhere to send that traffic. Put effort into developing incredibly awesome content in the form of landing pages, websites and blog posts.

Is visual content here to stay? Most definitely. But that doesn’t mean that our days are numbered as web writers. We just have to adapt.

How are you incorporating visual content into your approach? I’d love to read your ideas.

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

photo thanks to Ron Mader (planeta)

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Handling your copywriting client’s feedback: 5 do’s & don’ts

Dealing with client feedback can be difficult, but you can minimize the painYou’ve done your homework. You’ve interviewed your client. You’ve painstakingly put together the first draft for some new web copy. And then comes the waiting game.

Sometimes you get feedback right away. Sometimes it takes a few days or even weeks. But when that email or copy review call comes around, it’s a critical moment in your relationship with your client and your reputation as a copywriter.

If you want to keep clients happy and maintain your integrity as a writer, you have to strike a balance. Here’s how.

1. Do research thoroughly.

You can avoid a lot of problems with feedback and reduce the rounds of edits by doing as much research as possible up front. Using a standard copywriting questionnaire for the start of each project can help, but be sure to review and reach out to the client if there are any misunderstandings.

Case in point, I received a questionnaire back from a client once and at first glance, everything looked okay. It wasn’t until later when I was working on the web copy that I realized they’d skipped several questions on their target audience. Without this, it was difficult for me to frame their benefits in the right light. Fortunately, there was still plenty of time in my project timeline to have a short call about their audience.

2. Don’t let the client squeeze out more rounds of edits.

The reason for having a questionnaire and documented process from the start is so the client knows what to expect during the project. Two rounds of edits and a final proofreading is the standard clause in all of our engagement letters, and you may want to adopt the same policy.  This way the clients know this from the start, and understand that anything above and beyond these two rounds of edits will be priced at a separate rate.

3. Do be respectful and listen to their feedback.

As difficult as it may be, the client is allowed to come back and say “This sucks.” You have the option of pushing back (see below), but if you handle this moment wrong, you could lose your reputation and possibly future work from this client.

If the client says that they don’t like it, get specific detailed feedback on which areas are not working for them. The first round of edits is going to be more intensive, so expect that. If they aren’t, push for feedback. It’s better to get it during the first round of edits then be hit with lots of feedback later on in the process that undoes all of your hard work.

4. Don’t be afraid to push back on specific portions of the copy.

Even though you should be respectful and listen (or read) feedback, don’t be afraid to push back on some of the edits if they aren’t making sense. Sometimes clients may have a big difference of opinion on what their web copy should say. In my experience, it’s normally of a matter of them wanting to focus on what they do (the features) instead of what they can do for clients (the benefits).

This is where your detailed web copy questionnaire can come in handy again. You can refer back to it and explain that your choices in writing were based on the information they provided: their target audience, their position in the market, their competitors. If this information is incomplete, you need to ask them to fill in the gaps for the next round of copy but stand by what you wrote based on the information provided.

5. Do develop a gut feeling for your style of great copy.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a web copywriter is that there are some things I am great at writing about and there are others that I really suck at. No matter how hard I’ve tried to write web copy for life coaches – it ends up being terrible. Those clients were never happy, and neither was I.

Don’t be afraid to turn down a project or refer it out to someone else if it doesn’t feel right. When you develop a good gut feeling for your own writing style and capabilities, you reduce the criticism of your work. You can take a look at a writing opportunity and instantly know whether or not you’ll be able to deliver your best.

What are your do’s and don’ts for the feedback part of the process? How have you learned to develop a thicker skin?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

photo thanks to Rodger McCutcheon (Auckland Photo News)

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5 things your SEO copywriter needs to create powerful content

For targeted, conversions-driving content, your SEO copywriter needs to know these 5 thingsSending a list of keywords to your SEO copywriter is a good start for your new web project, but it’s not everything he or she needs to turn your pages into gold.

Your writer needs to have a solid understanding of you, your products/services and your audience. Here are five key pieces of information to send their way so you can maximize your investment.

1.   A detailed ideal client profile.

Your web copy pages should be written for your client – not for your industry peers. The pages should be written as if your company is speaking directly to your customers.

Think about it this way: you’d have a much different style of speech planned if you were presenting to the residents of a local senior center instead of fellow business executives.

Your writer needs to know who they are speaking to. They’ll use this information to do some research about who your ideal clients are, how they speak and how they like to be spoken to.

2.   A tone or approach for your brand.

The way your ideal clients communicate isn’t the only thing that your SEO copywriter needs in terms of voice. The tone or approach for your company is essential information for your writer. They need to speak in the voice of your company.

Is your company a trusted advisor who is formal and informative? Is it the best friend who is giddy and excited to share? Is it the gentle coach who is encouraging and helpful?

If you’re not sure, now is the time to decide. Getting down your tone and feel is important for your SEO copywriting project – and for conversions!

3.   A short list of competitors.

Your direct competitors represent the environment in which you’re making your digital pitch. Your SEO copywriter needs to know who you’re up against, and how your competitors are approaching the same topics that you’ll need to cover.

A review of competitor websites can help tweak a headline or perfect a call to action that will make sure that website visitors convert on your site instead of heading back to the search engine results.

4.   The per page call to action.

Speaking of conversions, your SEO copywriting webpage plan needs to outline the call to action per page.

If this is going to be part of the web design, let your writer know. If they need to use a specific phrase or call to action that will be repeated throughout the site, make that clear. Or if you need a new idea for a site-wide call to action, now is the time to establish that.

5.   An hour interview with your top products/services expert.

Handing off the reins via email or project management system is a good start, but your SEO copywriter will greatly benefit from an exploratory call. Having an exploratory call has become standard operating procedure at Endurance Marketing because we get so much from the experience – and that reflects in the copywriting.

Even if you have thousands of pages of research material, getting on the phone with your top sales person or VP of marketing can help your SEO copywriter sharpen his or her focus and determine where to start first.

Make the effort – and the time – to give your SEO copywriter these key pieces. You’ll see better results in engagement, search engine rankings, conversions and general satisfaction. And who doesn’t want that?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

photo thanks to Tomas Sobek

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The do’s & don’ts of partnering with other web content providers

Thinking of partnering up with another web content provider? Consider these tips from the trenches.I took a big step this week for my company – I closed its virtual doors.

But I’m far from being out of business. I’ve decided to focus on content marketing clients who are also working with a marketing company for complementary services like social media and inbound marketing strategy.

Working with partners – whether formal or informal – has helped me reach new levels in my business. And it can do the same thing for yours too. But you need to be careful you aren’t compromising yourself, your ethics, or your sanity when you strike up a partnership.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that I wish I’d had when I first started working with partners.

DO look for complimentary partners for your SEO copywriting services.

Fortunately, we’re working in a time where the demand for copywriting and content marketing is at an all time high. Anyone involved with providing web marketing services to clients – from web designers to social media consultants – needs to know great content creators. If they don’t have one they trust an email away, they are doing their clients a big disservice.

Start your search by finding complimentary providers on LinkedIn, exploring small business sites, or looking for freelancing blogs where similar, but not competing, providers might be hanging out.

DO learn about the different ways of partnering with other providers.

Partnership doesn’t have to mean going into business together.

You can work with other providers under a referral agreement or set up a deal where you provide a service as part of their company – but still retain your own clients. It all depends on what you and your potential partner decide to do.

Consider where you want to take your SEO copywriting business and then pick an option that works best for you.

DON’T jump into a partnership too soon.

Finding a good partnership is a lot like dating. You’re not going to run off to Vegas to get married the first night you go out. And if you do, you’re going to end up getting the partnership version of an annulment.

Network with other providers, but take things one project at a time until you get a good feel for how you work together. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contractual relationship with someone whose business practices you don’t respect.

DO evaluate your potential partner’s target market and marketing approach.

There are dozens of opportunities out there for working with another provider – so you can afford to be choosy.

Pay close attention to your potential partner’s own marketing. Who are they working with and speaking to? This is important for two reasons. Finding a provider that works with your own target audience will make it easy for you to create client content – and easy for you to create content for the fellow provider. Everyone needs blog posts and website copy, so chances are your partner will be looking to use your content services at some point. It helps to be familiar with their target audience and know who you’re writing to.

DON’T work without a contract.

No matter how friendly you may be with another provider, you’ll want to treat them just like any other client.

There needs to be contracts in place for each project or – depending on the nature of your partnership – for the length of time you’re working together. Even if you’re working with a fellow business owner it doesn’t mean that they have your best interests in mind.

DO pay close attention to their business practices.

Finding a good fit with another provider goes beyond the leads or projects you can bring one another.

Are you truly on the same page when it comes to growing your businesses? Case in point, after a single project with a particular SEO provider I came to realize his opinion of clients (that they were stupid and deserved to be duped) didn’t jive with the way that I want to do business. This isn’t always apparent based on their website, marketing and social media usage – so keep things low on commitment until you know more about their business practices.

DON’T explore partnership unless you’re sure you can handle it.

If you’re someone who prefers to work on your own, partnership probably isn’t for you.

For me, I found the life of a solo copywriter to be sort of lonely. I always found myself conferring with SEO providers, web designers, and social media marketers so I decided to make it official. Do some soul searching and figure out what you want your business to look like in the future.

Have you worked with referral partners or other partners? What was your experience like?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

photo thanks to buddawiggi

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SEO client education: It’s your most important job

Client education is an SEO professional's most important jobIt doesn’t matter if you’re an SEO consultant, SEO copywriter, content writer, or social media coordinator that reads keyword reports – if you are helping clients with SEO, client education is your most important job.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’re struggling in your business as an SEO provider, client education is the missing piece.

Client education and managing expectations go hand in hand.

What do I mean by education? It can take many different forms, but the goal is to help your client get up to speed on what you provide, why you provide it, and how they’ll benefit. It’s not a sales page or a sales call. It’s helpful information that makes them a smarter buyer.

When I’ve had a difficult client relationship in my business, nine times out of ten it’s been because of a big difference between what the client expected and what I was able to provide. For example, as a copywriter, I can’t build your backlink profile or improve your offpage SEO. But I can make it easier for search engines to understand your site – and help your site visitors get where they need to go.

Client education is important in any industry – but it’s absolutely essential with SEO. Search engine optimization is complicated – and it’s always changing. Although the core of the process is growing a bit easier and less fragmented (pick your keywords, create great content and stay social), there is still enough change from update to update and from year to year for clients to get confused.

These changes can be jumped on by less than scrupulous providers to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, when Panda and Penguin hit, questionable backlinks became the biggest problem. Unless a client has been paying someone to post backlinks to large, spammy directories there’s no reason they should be spending their time and their money on devaluing links when there aren’t many there begin with. They’d be far better off creating some great content and getting social to build genuine backlinks.

Since there are so many factors that go into SEO and some scum bags out there that are misleading their clients (either intentionally or unintentionally), your job as an educator becomes even more important.

Here’s how to do it, in three steps:

1. Always start the process with an intake call.

Do you get a lot of emails that look something like this: “Hi – I need some web copy. How much do you charge?”

Delivering a paragraph or two back with a quote isn’t going to have the impact that an official intake will. Start your relationship with a conversation so you can understand their SEO needs and determine if they need you, or another type of provider. This will also help you set the framework for how you are working together and let you explain the specific value that you provide.

2. Rather than being a service provider, think of yourself as a consultant.

It’s a subtle shift but an important one if you want to educate your client and take a more strategic role. When you’re “just a service provider” a client will expect to come to you, place an order and then get exactly what they ordered – no questions asked. These are the clients that will come to you saying “Here’s my keyword list and I want a blog article on X, Y and Z.”

But when you present yourself as a consultant, you’ll leave the door open to explain to them why jumping into blogging without a strategy is a bad idea. You can give them insight into how to make their pages better before they blog, how to create a blog strategy and how to improve their overall presence.

3. Produce lots of content – and then produce some more!

When it comes to copywriters and content, it’s often like the old story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes. If your work days are filled with work for clients, how will you find time for your own work? Make time!

If you want to provide education for your SEO clients, you need to blog, create white papers and develop newsletters. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to be there. This way, your SEO clients are prequalified and educated before they reach out. They know the difference between bad SEO and good SEO because they’ve read it on your blog.

What steps are you taking to educate your clients?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing and owner of Six Degrees Content. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

image thanks to Digital Sextant (Brendan Riley)

Keeping it real: using news in your SEO content strategy

Using the news in your content marketing mixThe rules of SEO have fundamentally changed – and I welcome it! Long gone are the days where a client will ask me to optimize a page to a certain percentage of density. Hooray! I can’t tell you how hard and frustrating that was. Now that quality is the cornerstone of online marketing and SEO, I’m having a lot more fun – and my clients are getting better results.

But I’m not going to pull a Pollyanna. Creating quality content – and lots of it – is not without its obstacles.

The biggest challenge for the new rules of SEO is producing enough content at a high enough quality to keep your ideal customers and search engines happy. It’s gotten even more complicated now that your brand has to be socially active in order to rank well.

You’re tasked with being interesting, helpful and shareable along with covering the topics that your clients might be looking for. With each Google update, we’ve gotten hints that social activity is important to search engine results – and Google Plus authorship is a further indication that you need social response to your content to rank well.

So there are two major content publishing challenges your brand is looking at if it wants to rank well – frequency of content and interest to your audience. Without these bases covered, SEO is going to become harder from here on out.

What’s the solution? It’s news.

By using news articles as part of your SEO content strategy, you can build authority with search engines, maintain your production schedule and create social conversations.

Why News?

News-based content marketing helps you position yourself right where your target marketing is looking. 78 percent of Internet users use the web as a source for finding and reading news – and 137 million Internet users get news online at least three times per week. You can bet that your target audience is part of that number.

By developing a news component to your existing website or integrating news-based articles into your existing blog, you can develop content rapidly without sacrificing quality. Research has shown that consumers love brands that they associate with the news – and search engines do too.

When you publish industry news on your website you:

  • Continually update your website with fresh, SEO-optimized content.
  • Keep your readers coming back to your website – or RSS feed.
  • Create a large pool of content to share on social sites.
  • Increase the chances of spreading your brand name (and awesome content) across social sites.
  • Create multiple inbound links to your site from other sources.

And best of all – you can do it without having a full-time journalist on board.

How to Create News Content for SEO

So now that you know the benefits – how do you get started? It begins with keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry. If you haven’t already, set up a listening board for your target audience. Subscribe to blogs that they are likely to read and create a “swipe file” of great resources that you can rely on. I use a combination of Feedly (to prep for Google Reader’s exit), email newsletters sent directly to Evernote, and Google Alerts.

Then I look for something eye-catching, news-worthy and super timely. For example, the recent LinkedIn algorithm change would make a great news-based article for a marketing company. If you’re working on this strategy for a client, you’ll need to spend some time determining what would be considered news worthy and interesting for their target market. I have a short swipe file of what makes great news for my clients (also in Evernote).

Once you spot a worthy news article, put your spin on it – but make sure you keep it news focused and not like a standard blog post. For example, if I were writing a standard blog post for a client on the LinkedIn algorithm change, I’d come up with some tips or ways to apply the new tool for the best results. The algorithm would be an aside to the article.

But with a news article, your approach is a little different. It’s “just the facts” – you need to cover the who, what, where, when and why of the story. Read a few separate articles on the news piece and then create an original piece based on your research (always making sure to cite your sources).

Work in your important keywords naturally, just like you’d do with a web copy page, then publish your content on your site and on social media. That’s it! Listening, summarizing, optimizing and publishing are all you need to do to make use of news content marketing for SEO.

In addition to the SEO benefits, you’ll also be able to keep your regular blog post idea file growing strong. Since you’re keeping a closer eye on industry news, you’ll run across ideas and angles that others might not be considering.  In the case of that LinkedIn example, I’d probably create both for the client – the news piece and then the longer, in-depth “how to” article to maximize the topic completely.

Are you going to make news a part of your SEO content strategy? Or have you already?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content for Endurance Marketing and owner of Six Degrees Content. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google Plus, LinkedIn or Twitter.

6 steps to a smart (sane) Google+ strategy

Another social network? What’s a brand to do!

There’s no denying it – Google+ is going to be an important part of social media and search from now on. Its enormous growth in the past seven months has gotten the attention of the search industry, competing social networks and marketers alike. Google+ has more than 90 million users – nearly as much as LinkedIn, but not even close to Facebook’s 800 million.

Even though the Google+ numbers pale in comparison to Facebook (for now), its “Search Plus Your World” (SPYW) integration in Google search results opens up Google+ content to the billions of worldwide Google users.

With the introduction of SPYW, Google+ social content is becoming part of Google search engine results. If you’re logged into Google while doing a search, you’ll see Google+ pages from related users and brands. You’ll see pages that people in your circles have given a “+1” and you’ll also see images under individual search results of users who have shared that particular page. In addition, sites that have been “+1’ed” are pushed higher in search engine results.

Even if you aren’t logged into Google while doing a search, your search results are still being affected by Google+. A search for the term “SEO” displays two user profiles related to the term:

Imagine your brand or personal profile getting this kind of exposure in regular search results! Clearly, Google+ deserves more of your time.

With the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – how does your company find time to embrace Google+? With so many social networks on your plate, adding another can seem like a major challenge.

Here are six steps that you can use to embrace Google+ and get all of its benefits without losing your mind.

1. Claim Your Page and Manage Your Circles

If you don’t have a Google+ brand page, it’s time to get started. You can create a Google+ business page from a personal Google+ account, which in turn requires a Gmail account.

If you’re a larger organization, you’ll need to decide which person in your company will create and manage the page. (This is one feature that has sparked some criticism of Google – if that employee or manager leaves, what becomes of the company’s Google+ page?)

There are dozens of guides out there that detail how to circle other users and optimize your profile. I’m not going to delve into that here, but keep in mind these two points:

  • You can promote your Google+ business page on your personal profile in order to encourage more users to migrate to your business page.
  • You can also circle users via your business profile in order to get them to circle you back.

Focus on developing circles for specific purposes. You’ll get a lot more leverage from your sharing if it is targeted to user groups.

For instance, you can create circles for current customers and prospects, and then additional circles for competitors so you can see what they are up to on the social network.

2. Focus on Becoming a Topic Expert 

With its strong SEO capabilities, it’s possible to make a big splash in your niche industry with Google+. Since the platform is relatively new, there’s still ample time to stake your claim as a top provider of small business financial advice, cloud-based communications apps, or gourmet chocolate gift baskets.

Optimize your business profile for your niche keyword terms and then make a habit of sharing related news. Pretty soon, your company will be well known for your topic specialty.

Remember to select a topic that is related to your product and/or service and supports what your ideal customers are interested in. Users are more likely to take interest in “Tips for Great Road Trips” then “Come See How Awesome Our Tires Are.”

3. Share Content Regularly

There’s nothing worse than sharing content on social media and then disappearing for an indefinite amount of time. No matter what your marketing schedule looks like, pick a frequency and commit to it for at least 8 weeks.

After that time, you can look back at your results and decide whether less or more sharing would be best for you.

As well as sharing your own posts and content from other sources, you can also make use of Google+’s longer post length. You can post entire articles on the platform rather than having to direct users to a different location.

In addition to sharing regularly, be sure to participate in the community. The same rules for Twitter and Facebook apply here – respond to comments, comment on other shared content, and engage with your audience.

4. Use Photos More Often

Google+ is a beautiful platform for photos and they really stand out in the stream. Unlike Facebook,  where users can upload photos in albums, Google+ images are loaded as individual posts. This feature gives your photos much more prominence.

Make it a point to use photos as part of your regular updates. You can add images from your company, charts and slides from presentations, infographics, and more to enhance your presence on the platform.

5. Share Your Posts Directly With Your Circles

With just an extra step you can “push” special posts and updates directly to your circle members. While you shouldn’t use this feature all of the time, it’s helpful for promoting your most important blog posts or company announcements.

When you post an update, you can hover over the name of a circle with your mouse. A box will pop up listing a few of the members of the circle and asking if you want to notify the users of the post.

Your circle members will then get an email about the post (if they’ve opted to receive notifications from Google+).

It’s a good way to highlight important content and make sure it’s being read by your relevant audience – just don’t abuse this feature and alienate your target readers.

6. Analyze Your Results and Plan Accordingly 

Like other forms of marketing, analysis and planning are going to be the key to success with Google+.

However, with Google+ the process is a little different.

Unfortunately, due to Google’s encryption, it’s impossible to analyze the visits you’re receiving from the Google+ platform in any meaningful way.

So, the best way to monitor your Google+ results is to take note of how many responses you’re getting, which topics are being reshared and whether or not your profile (or business profile) is showing up in the search engines.

Once you’ve gathered your results, look at how you can improve your performance:

  • Do you need to actively circle more users?
  • Do you find that your photo updates are getting more comments and shares than other updates?
  • How are you doing in the search engine rankings: Do you need to optimize your profile and updates to include important niche related keywords?

With these steps, you can make sense of Google+ and leverage it for your business. I’d love to hear how you’ve adopted Google+ and how it’s working. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

For further reading:

  • SEOmoz: Why Every Marketer Now Needs a Google+ Strategy
  • iMedia Connection: 6 Reasons Why Adding Google+ to Your Web Presence & SEO Strategy is a Good Idea
  • Marketing Land: Seeing Long-Form Post Success On Google+, Facebook Raises Character Limit By 1100%
  • SEO Copywriting: Google Circles and the future of SEO Copywriting

 

About the Author – Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program, and CEO of Six Degrees Content. She is passionate about helping small businesses compete with the big boys with skilled SEO copywriting and content marketing. You can connect with Courtney at her brand’s Google Plus page, Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @CourtneyRamirez.

 

Want to dramatically increase your income as a freelance copywriter? Consider getting your certification in SEO Copywriting, taught by the widely-recognized pioneer of the SEO industry, Heather Lloyd-Martin. Her training is the only online SEO Copywriting Training Program independently endorsed by SEOPros.org. Check into it and make 2012 the year you turn your biz around!

 

photo thanks to Bruce Clay, Inc.