Viewing all posts by Derek Cromwell.

How Google made me despise goats & press releases in one day

Derek Cromwell shares how he recovered from Google's press release links penaltyGoats that scream like humans are the funniest thing to me.

Excuse me… WERE the funniest.

You know the screaming goat in the Doritos commercial where its eyes went wide at the empty pantry, when all the Doritos went missing?

I did that, and it was all thanks to the latest July update from Google and their Blitzkrieg assault on press release links.

Never before have I ever had an issue with a Google update.  I practiced what I preached to my clients, so that meant that from the home page of my site to every piece of content I published I was all about my audience and delivering great content.

Are You &^%$#@ Kidding Me?

That was basically my reaction (post scream) when I got the slap from Google.  It was mid-August when I suddenly realized that my website was torn from page 1 of Google and shuffled all the way back to page 5 for my biggest money keyword.

My immediate reaction:

  • Sign out of Google and search again (didn’t help)
  • Switch browsers (didn’t change it)
  • Check from my smartphone (cried a little)
  • Checked from my laptop – page 6 (goat scream again, much louder this time)

I had the freak out that my clients have had so many times – the one where I have to calm them and tell them that it’s fixable.  It took me a few minutes to settle my nerves and try to figure out the cause.  I immediately turned to recent Google updates and that triggered it right away.

Uh-oh… My press release links.

I had done a number of press releases via PRWeb between 2010 and 2011.  When I published them they were one of the big pieces that helped push my visibility up for several keywords.  Now they were biting me in the ass.

I immediately logged into PRWeb, edited each, and stripped the anchored keywords away.  I changed nothing else and republished the releases.

Then I played the waiting game while I gingerly went about my content writing and marketing for by business.

Thankfully, as the days wore on, I began to see an immediate positive change as my site moved spot after spot up the pages – closer to page 1 each day.  I have yet to regain my original spot for most coveted keyword phrase but I’m confident that through the continued use of quality content that I will get there again.

“AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa! But What About Me?!”

That ^%$#@ got you too, didn’t it?  Here’s some advice from my firsthand experience on how to recover when Google does come knocking and demands that you pay.

Take a breath – It’s going to affect your business.  It’s scary.  But there’s nothing you can do about it right this second.  Think about what you’ve done lately in your marketing, in the past, and what kind of updates have occurred in the world of search.  Take that info, pick it apart and define how you’ll respond

Here’s hoping you had and hung onto an editorial calendar so you know what you’ve been doing down to the day.

Undo what has been done – There aren’t too many things in life where you get a do-over.  Thankfully with the search engines we can do the “I didn’t take my hand off the piece” and fix our position… most of the time.

  • Keyword anchored links in a PR?  Remove them… immediately.
  • Spammy articles distributed online taking you down? Kill the author box links
  • Buying links and getting nailed for it?  Stop buying links, and request the others get taken down (or have them point to a competitor…. no seriously take them down.)

Plan for the future – Remember that despite all the changes that Google makes to their search algorithm and how content is ranked, they will never penalize you for having quality content.  It’s what you do with that content that matters.

The fastest way to recover from any downslide in the search results is to double down your efforts at producing, publishing and sharing really great content.  I’m confident that this, coupled with pulling those anchored links from my press releases, it’s what’s giving me such a quick recovery for competitive keywords in this industry.

And no more screaming goat videos.  It’s just not funny anymore.

About the Author ~ Derek Cromwell

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the Success Works SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media.  He fancies himself as a website copywriter, peddling content marketing and copywriting to clients around the globe.  He enjoys well-deserved date nights with wife, military simulation paintball, raising his many children, and running with his rambunctious Siberian Husky, Bella.

photo thanks to PaulODonnell

Now through September 30th, save 25% off my SEO Copywriting Certification training with code SEPTEMBER


How I salvaged my failing SEO copywriting business

I know there are a lot of struggling freelancers out there trying to make enough to keep the lights on and build their business.

That’s why I counted myself lucky when Thunder Bay Media continued to perform for me.  Month after month I had inquiries through my site.  By mid 2010 I never had to go near freelance job sites because clients were breaking down my door to hire me.

That went on continuously and I burned the candle at both ends for years trying to keep up with all the work that came in, earning more than I ever had!

At least… it was great up until this last summer when my business all but imploded.

The success that I experienced was due to the fact that I did a lot of things right over the last few years.

  • I did some marketing here and there
  • I often revisited my content and focused on optimization
  • I used content marketing to build my visibility
  • Used educational content to help clients understand the value of my service (slashed my proposal/interview times and sold people on my services before ever calling me)

Now let me tell you where I went wrong and why my business collapsed beneath me abruptly:

Gas on the Candles:  I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends; I doused them in gasoline and lit them with flame throwers.  For years I worked 14+ hour days, even on weekends.  We took a trip to Disney – first family vacation ever.  I worked every day that week from the hotel room before we had family time.

The Result:  Complete and utter burn out that went on for months.  The only time I hit burnout this bad was when I was in EMS and had 6 months of nothing but patients who died in my ambulance or were already dead on scene.  This burnout made me hate writing, my clients, my office and everything about a self-made career I used to adore.

Little to No Marketing:  I know I said I did some marketing here and there – but it was nothing near the consistency we preach to clients.  I was so focused on all the work I had that I just kept pushing off my marketing.  “Do it tomorrow” went from days to weeks to months.  It didn’t help that I was so sick of writing from burn-out that I didn’t want to do anything for me.

The Result: As long-term clients finished up, orders started to trickle off.  Add to that the annual penny-pinching around September in a lot of regions coupled with tighter pockets around every presidential election and my business dried up – completely.  Two months with no new work and we were ripping through our savings quickly because my business had been fully supporting us since mid 2010.

Never Saying No: This goes right along with burnout.  Because the money was so good I never turned down a job.  Not only did this overwhelm me (hello burnout) but I took on bad clients that I never should have.  I had to devote extra time to fighting charge backs from clients who tried to steal their money back after work was completed.

The Result: I blew some deadlines which destroyed credibility with the good clients.  I had to turn down a job with one of the biggest energy suppliers in the Northeast because I was already so overbooked there was no way to squeeze them in.  Turned down an even bigger contract with Macy’s because I was overrun.  I didn’t spend enough time networking to even have an overflow of capable, trusted writers.

Operational Chaos: I prided myself on perfect book keeping for years.  Every invoice, every expense, every credit receipt, monthly P&L reports, etc.  When burn-out hit and I got overwhelmed, I lost my organization.

The Result: Some ugly money tracking issues and negative drafts on my business account.  I also completely forget one project after a deposit was made, forcing me to make a refund to a very upset client.  My projects got scrambled and I couldn’t prioritize things appropriately, resulting in some fubar’d deadlines and a lot of discounts on final invoices to make up for it.  Ultimately – money lost.

Picture me essentially sabotaging myself despite having a real head for business, referrals from every direction, and the ability to sell ice to Eskimos.  Come September I was faced with a very real problem:

I was going to have to close my business and go back to work just to make sure my family was fed and bills were paid.

I agonized and tried to figure out what went wrong for a week or so before finally deciding I should start looking for a job.  I threw my resume online and searched a bit, but it still felt wrong.  I wasn’t ready to give up yet.

I had to face harsh truths and look inward to admit what went wrong.  There’s no one else to blame.  I uncovered each of the points above and decided I wasn’t going down without a fight.

If I could save lives in the back of an ambulance doing 80 mph weaving through traffic, I could do this.

  • I immediately updated my site design to something more sleek and efficient and rewrote all the copy
  • I trimmed my services and increased my pricing (higher prices = better quality clients and you don’t work as hard to get paid as much)
  • I set limits on my work hours and stuck to it, forcing myself to schedule any new clients within available time blocks only.
  • More time with family  and hobbies to enjoy life and shake off the burn out.
  • Simplified backend operations to make it more efficient, requiring less of my time
  • Set client alerts for common red flags.  If I got an inquiry with these red flags, I would turn that client down.  No more saying “yes” to everything.
  • Marketing…  doing it.  Enough said.

The Result:  Within days of the new site design and copy I started getting flooded with orders again.  I was able to cherry pick the good clients and say no to the ones I could not or would not handle.  After two months of no orders and dire financial times where we were burning through savings, the business bounced right back to being profitable like nothing happened.

And I’ve learned some valuable lessons from it all that I was compelled to share in hopes of saving someone else from making a mistake I nearly made.

DO NOT take everything that comes your way or you risk serious burn out

DO take time not only for yourself and family, but also for marketing your business (daily if you can)

DO NOT focus on the pursuit of money – that’s the fastest route to burning out

DO become a champion for your own business, because no one else can be

DO NOT close your operation down, no matter how ugly it gets.  You can do it!

Lastly, DO invest in the courses that Heather offers.  I am in no way compensated for telling you that her SEO Copywriting Certification course and her business course will greatly reduce the chances of making grave errors in your business.  When things get ugly, what you can learn from Heather will save you.

If this post saves just one person from making the same mistakes I did, then I’m happy to have gone through hell and back.


Guest Author, Derek Cromwell

About the Author ~ Derek Cromwell

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the Success Works SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media.  He fancies himself as a professional writer, peddling website copywriting and content marketing services to businesses around the globe.  He’s still trying to convince his family that he does more than sit at a computer playing Call of Duty all day, but they’re not buying it.


photo/image thanks to Sim, youn jin

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Google’s Panda Update: how to win the war with quality content

Guest Author, Derek Cromwell

I feel for those crippled, battered or left otherwise bruised by the big fat Panda.  There’s been a lot of discussion around the recent update Google applied and just as many cringes and cries from the world of online marketing and search optimization.

Those are cringes that occur every time Google makes an update worthy of a nickname – honestly it’s like we’re naming hurricanes… and every time Google sneezes we have to scramble to assess the damage that’s been done.

With previous updates, one of the most popular cries from the marketing community has been about article marketing – someone always raises the question as to whether or not traditional article marketing (submitting content to various article directories for the purpose of links and target traffic) is in fact dead.

As I’ve been reading through update after update it’s my opinion that this latest Panda update (or farmer update) was the nail in the coffin for article marketing.

Google was tired of that content mucking up the search results and finally did something about it.

A People Divided

Not all marketers are created equally, and from my conversations with various folks in the industry I’ve found people on both sides of the fence.  Some believed without a doubt that article marketing was the best way to gain quality links and traffic – others couldn’t fathom the concept of using articles to leverage a different website while crossing their fingers in hopes the traffic would funnel to them.

The newest update left a lot of site owners reeling because “obscure” websites were now claiming better spots in the search results… and many weren’t entirely certain how to combat the issue.  Produce better quality content and try different directories?  Do they push harder with link building?

Finding a Solution to Tame the Panda

An event to note is that I actually lost some rank for my own website for one of my targeted keywords during this update.  I typically sit in spot 2 or 3 for this keyword (depending on how much Google loves me that day).  With this Panda update, I lost rank to a blog post – originating in 2010 – that came out of “nowhere.”  In examining the page in question I realized it had one incoming link from Digg.  The post was informative, had upwards or 20+ comments (all dated from last year) and over 3k retweets.

This occurrence is a testament to the fact that the Panda update is doing exactly what Google intended.  It’s giving more relevancy not only to sites with original, quality content but it’s using social sharing and social proof as a ranking factor; proof in the fact that a dated blog post (and a well written one at that) beat out one of my magnificently written landing pages that has lotsa link love.

The Alternatives to Off Site Content Marketing

There are plenty whom have relied on off-site content marketing and article distribution to keep the profit wheels turning; some for personal gain, others for clients.  That simply won’t work anymore – and if it does you won’t get near the same results.

Google wants your website to be in the top of the search results – not article directories – so it’s time to give up the old strategy and give Google what it wants.

  • Use your Blog – If you’re not leveraging your blog it’s time to start.  That regular content will become high ranking landing pages thanks to this Panda update.  You finally have a chance to make your posts appear higher in the SERPs.
  • Optimize your Blog – Make sure you’re using keywords appropriately within your titles, descriptions and within the body of your content (just make sure it flows naturally).
  • Revisit your Site Content – Go over your content and landing pages – are there ways you can improve the content to maintain relevancy post-Panda?  Is it time to beef up your content to stand apart from the competitors?  Think benefit statements and useful intel.  If you did lose some rank then aiming to improving conversions is more important than ever.
  • Post a Media Section - Leveraging the power of press releases for marketing?  Make sure you maintain a press section on your site to share your media releases.
  • Guest Post - Offer content to people within your network or market. Invite them to do the same.  For a time-strapped person (all of us, right?) guest posts keep the content flowing on your site.

Playing it Big – Create Your Own On-site Article Directory

This is what I recommend above all else and this type of content should be separate from your blog.  Create your own resource section – why should someone else or some article directory be the authority?  A perfect example of a company that dominates with onsite directories is Service Magic.  Start plugging in searches for contractors, painters and other home improvement info and they’ll likely pop up.  They have massive on-site articles and resources.

If you’re a writer or a marketer, think about all the services you offer and what you know about your biz.  You could likely populate a wiki or article directory easily with what you know.  The same could be said for your clients.

Add to that the fact that you can drive traffic to your content and share it with a variety of social plugins on your site and you’re reinforcing that content with social proof.   Just as it was (and still is) with your link profile – it’s always a popularity contest with Google.

Your website is there for a reason – it’s time to give your target audience a reason to visit and stay.

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media.  He provides optimized content development and website copywriting to anyone willing to pay for his kids’ college education and game addictions.