Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

6 Things to Check Before Turning In Your Final Draft

Don’t submit your SEO copy until you check these 6 things!

Have you ever thought, “Wow, that headline could be better” after you turned in your final draft?

Or worse, your boss (or client) redlined your copy–and she sent you a nastygram to let you know?

Ouch.

I’ve reviewed a lot of SEO writing over the years and there is one big constant: so-so copy happens. Maybe it’s a headline that falls flat. Or maybe the writer missed some keyphrase opportunities.

Although the mistakes may be minor, they’re a red flag to your boss (or client) that you’re “working sloppy.”

That’s never good.

Make sure your content hits the mark the first time. Ready to evaluate your writing? Here are six things to check:

- How is your keyphrase usage?

Some people were trained that you have to include the keyphrases X times each on the page. I feel sorry for those people. They end up hating SEO writing because they were given incorrect information. Or, if a someone is new to SEO writing, they’ll often go nuts with their keyphrases and put them everywhere. Why? Because they think that they “have to do it this way.”

News flash: You don’t have to do it this way (whew!).

Yes, include keyphrases. However, focus your attention more on “how will my reader enjoy this,” instead of, “how many times should I repeat this keyphrase?”

Remember, Google is looking for informative pages that are centered around a theme, not how many times you repeat some words. It’s OK to use synonyms. It’s OK to not exact match your keyphrase every time. And it’s OK to write like a human rather than feeling you have to serve Google (in fact, this kind of writing is rewarded!).

- How are your headlines?

Ideally, your headlines and subheadlines should grab your readers attention and entice them to keep reading. Using your keyphrase as a headline (for instance, “Louisville, KY hotel,”) is just plain boring. Sure, the keyphrase is in there. But you’re missing out on an opportunity to make your content compelling.

Your readers quick-scan headlines and subheadlines before they dig into your body copy. The more oomph your headlines have, the more you encourage your readers to keep reading.

In a perfect world, your headline and subheadlines are benefit-rich and include a keyphrase. If you can’t make a keyphrase “fit,” focus on writing a compelling statement instead. Your goal is to make people want to read more. Not showcase the keyphrases you’re targeting.

Here’s a great post by Danny Goodwin about how to write killer headlines your readers will love.

- Can you turn a long paragraph into multiple shorter ones?

You know what’s overwhelming? A solid copy block without paragraph breaks.

I do one of two things when I see content like this. I either scroll to the bottom and look for a summary. Or, I back out of the site and find another resource. Too-long paragraphs make my eyes bleed. I don’t like it when my eyes bleed.

Review your content and see how you can divide your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Yes, one-to-three sentence paragraphs are OK if you do it right. Just remember that mobile readers may be viewing your content on tiny screens, so the easier you can make your copy to read, the better.

- Does your copy have any scary-long sentences?

Scary-long sentences are a personal pet peeve of mine–and it’s a big writers’ blind spot.

Sometimes, it’s because the writer is tired. Sometimes, it’s because they’re writing too fast. And sometimes, they come from an academic or legal background where long sentences are the norm. No matter what the reason, long sentences are clunky and hard to read.

If you feel your copy is so-so, splitting up your sentence length instantly spices up your content. Your copy is easier to read. You can get your point across more effectively. And it’s a great way to keep your reader engaged. Try it and see.

- Can you add any textural words?

As Roger Dooley says, “Use vivid, sensory, emotional adjectives to engage the brain.” Research has proven that textual words (like smooth, slimy or gritty) cause our brains to react in unique ways. That’s because your brain can picture what “gritty” feels like–and your brain actually lights up as if you were experiencing that sensation.

Slipping textural words into your copy is a great way to make your lukewarm writing sizzle (see what I did there?)  Here’s more information on how you can make it happen.

Did you use the wrong form of a word?

Ah, Microsoft Word, why can’t you save us from ourselves? There are times we meant to type “there” and instead type “they’re.” Other times, we use the wrong word–yet Word doesn’t flag it. Word just makes us suffer.

Don’t rely on the red “typo line” to let you know if there’s a mistake. Check and double-check that everything is A-OK.  As a funny side note, I had originally typed, “just because you don’t see a read line” before I caught my mistake. Oops!

Turning in a clean and compelling final draft will make your editors love you, plus you’ll be seen as more professional.

What do you doublecheck before turning in your final draft?

 

Photo thanks: © Mpavlov | Dreamstime.com – Green Check Box Photo 

 

 

9 SEO Copywriting Experts Share Their Top Tips

Want to peek inside the busy brain of an expert SEO copywriter?

Last week, I asked a number of well-known writers to share their favorite SEO writing tip  (you can see the original post here.) Many people generously responded with resources, articles and words of advice.

Make sure that you follow these writers on social media and read everything they write. The education you’ll gain will be well worth your time. Trust me.

(And big thanks to the eight copywriters who submitted their tips. You guys rock!)

Kate Toon, Kate Toon Copywriter

Don’t get hung up on exact match keywords: Mix it up a little with related search terms. I use tools like keyword.io and ubersuggest.org to help me find alternate keyword choices. Using synonyms not only pleases the Google god, but it makes your content richer, more engaging and more enjoyable to read.

Jessie Wojdylo, Wojdylo Social Media

Break up your content in subsections with headers. Use the html code to make the subsections drop downs from a table of contents at the top of the article such as this…

Stoney deGeyter, Pole Position Marketing

Make the content readable! Don’t force keywords that don’t work. Add images throughout. Use headings and sub-headings to break up content. Add bullet points where possible. Readable font size. Easy to understand concepts. Short paragraphs. Etc. Etc. Great content still fails if you don’t make it easy for people to read, skim and scan for key points.

Glenn Murray, Divine Write

Assuming someone else has done the keyword research, and the site structure has been informed by that research, my no.1 tip is to not think about SEO at all, until after the client has approved the copy. It’s the ‘copy’ part of ‘SEO copy’ that’s hard. Get that right, and the SEO pass is child’s play. Almost.

Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting

My favorite tip is to give your writers a suggested article title or article focus, and then let them write. Don’t burden them with keywords (beyond the title) to focus on. Just let them do their thing.If they know their field, they will naturally create semantically rich content. If you feel a need to tweak it once you have seen what they deliver, not problem! But, don’t let artificial constraints stand between them and creating great content.

Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger

I’m with +Eric Enge. I like to grab an idea, close my eyes, and storm the gates.

Larry Kim, WordStream

Elisa Gabbert (WordStream’s content marketing manager) wrote “3 Super-Actionable Keyword Research Tips to Try Right Now” earlier this year.

Heather Mueller, Mueller Writing

Good question! My answer is probably the simplest: Write for readers FIRST, then see where keyphrases fit naturally. And remember the whole purpose of keyword research is to see what your actual readers are typing into Google to discover what you’re writing about. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get hung up on trying to force verbiage that won’t make sense to your target audience.

Michelle Lowery, Passion Fruit Creative Group

Keep the focus on the topic and the reader–not yourself. Your bio section is where you list your credentials. Don’t waste valuable post space trying to convince the reader you know what you’re talking about because you have this, that and the other experience. Don’t make it about you, a personal blog post being the exception. Giving the reader something of value means something they can use, that will benefit them–not your résumé, or your “humble brags” about your achievements.

What about you? What tip would you add to the list?

Photo credit: © Coramax | Dreamstime.com – Brain Photo

14 Must-Read SEO Copywriting Tips

Read all about it! Lots of SEO writing tips here!

Read all about it! Lots of SEO writing tips here!

If you’re an SEO writer, you’re probably doing more than “just putting keyphrases into the content.”

You’re creating persuasive headlines. You’re setting strategy. You’re transforming boring benefit statements into copy that converts like crazy. You may even manage an in-house or freelance team.

In short, you wear a lot of different hats. All the time.

Below are 14 of my favorite SEO copywriting tips and strategies. They span from how to create an in-house team to how to write great copy, fast. You can put these tips into action right now, whether you’re an in-house or a freelance copywriter.

Enjoy!

Is your content all business in the front and a party in the back? You’re suffering from content mullet syndrome…but fortunately, there’s a cure! Let’s face it – mullets aren’t a good look (and makes people think that you’re stuck in 1986 or so.) Content mullets aren’t much better. If you haven’t updated your site for awhile, check out this post. 

Is content writing becoming an overwhelming task? Rather than writing new content, consider if some of your old content can be repurposed into tweets, blog posts or SlideShare videos. It’s a much saner way to flesh out your content marketing campaign. Trust me.

Headlines can make or break your blog post. The right one will score lots of targeted traffic. And the wrong one, well…let’s just say that you won’t see the results you want. Danny Goodwin wrote a great post about how to write brilliant headlines for SEO, social and your readers. Read it. Read it now. I’ll wait.

Outsourcing your SEO copywriting can be a smart idea for many companies. However, outsourcing to the wrong vendor can mean lots of headaches, poor writing quality and possibly a Google penalty. If you’re wondering if you should run away from a possible SEO copy vendor, read this first. 

The “write naturally for Google” movement worries me. It’s not because I think posts should be keyphrase stuffed (I don’t.) At the same time, if you don’t have some SEO writing knowledge, you’re leaving money (and rankings) on the table. Here’s proof.

Are you a print copywriter who spits on the term “SEO copywriting?” I understand your frustration. At the same time, learning the SEO copy ropes may not be as painful (and as spammy) as you think. Here’s what print copywriters need to know.

You know you’re supposed to focus on features – not benefits. But how do you do this? And does it really matter (hint: yes it does.) Here are some ways you can transform your dirt-dull features into benefit statements that convert like crazy.

Speaking of dirt-dull writing…when’s the last time you checked out your “About us” page? I know, I know. You’ve spent all of your time focusing on your sales pages and blogs. Yet, reworking your about us page can have some pretty cool benefits – and even increase your conversion rates. Check out these tips for an about us page re-do.

You know what makes me cringe? Overoptimized SEO content. Unfortunately, it still exists. What’s worse, I recently learned that some SEO writers are being taught that over optimization is “how you write for Google.” Argh! If you’re wondering if your content is pushing the optimization a bit too much, check out this post. Quickly. Please.

Sometimes, outsourcing your content just doesn’t make sense (especially if you already have a crack writing team.) Instead, consider keeping your SEO copywriting in-house. Challenging? Yes. But it’s entirely possible. Here are some tips around building an internal content team.

Quick! You have one hour to write a blog post! Sound impossible? Nope, this is entirely doable – it just means some careful planning and a whole lot of focus. Here’s how to do it. 

Pay attention to the masters. You may laugh at informercials, but you can learn some fantastic copywriting tricks from paying attention to the ads. You can also learn from Abraham Maslow, Stephen King and even Dr. Seuss.  Check out this post for the details.

Hummingbird, Hummingbird, Hummingbird. This time last year, Google’s algorithmic switcheroo was THE hot topic. If you’re wondering what Google’s Hummingbird algorithm means to SEO content creators, check out this post. 

Finally, remember you are more than “just a writer.” If you’re reading this, you’re a smart SEO writer. If you need a little motivation, check out the SEO Writers’ Manifesto. Yes, you really ARE all that and a bag of chips!

 

Photo credit: © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com – Surprising News Shocking Unbelievable Headlines Ripped Torn News Photo

What Match.com Taught Me About First Email Impressions

Did I just send an email with a major typo?

Did I just send an email with a major typo?

I had one rule when I was on Match.com.

If I saw misspellings, typos or the wrong form of a word (like “they’re” when he meant to type “there,”) that person was no longer a candidate.

Harsh? Yes. But here’s my theory. First impressions count. If a person can’t spend two minutes proofing their email, they weren’t overly invested in meeting me in the first place.

I thought of my “Match rule” after receiving an email from a possible vendor. I was searching for solutions and had asked some pretty specific questions.

When I finally received an email, I noticed a number of typos:

– The customer service representative had misspelled the company name. YES. THE COMPANY NAME!

– He would Randomly capitalize words That didn’t need Capitalization.

– On the flip side, some words that should have been capitalized were not.

My response was an immediate “I’m not impressed.” If a company couldn’t be bothered to spell their company name correctly, how could I trust them as a vendor?

I immediately went from being hot to trot about this company to throwing them in the “undatable” pile.

Companies need to realize that good copywriting means more than having great SEO copy. It also means that all auto responder copy is top notch. All newsletters are proofed. And yes, all customer service emails are free from major typos, they’re easy-to-read and they address the recipients’ needs.

Otherwise, your company may also be considered “undatable” – and you’ll lose the sale.

Don’t let this happen to you! Here are some copywriting tips to consider:

- Comb through all of your auto responder content. Do you see any typos or grammatical errors? Can you see ways to make a good email even better? This is a task you can do in house, or you can hire a copywriter to help. An outside person can often see opportunities and mistakes you may not notice anymore. Like the Febreeze commercial that talks about being “nose-blind,” it’s easy to be “content-blind” when it comes to your own copy.

- Review your sales teams’ email correspondence. There are some folks out there who are great talkers, but their emails are full of mistakes. It could be because they’re writing fast and they need to take some additional email time. Or, it could be that they just aren’t good writers. In that case, you may want to consider other avenues (pre-written templates, hiring an email editor, pairing them with another sales person) to make sure the job is done right.

- Are you a business owner? If you know that email writing isn’t your strong suit, don’t take chances. Hire an assistant who can write your emails for you (as well as take on other duties.) It may seem like a luxury. It’s not. You’ll free up time and know that everything is written correctly.

What about you? What do you think when you see an email typo from a vendor? Are you forgiving? Or does it depend on the situation?

 

Photo thanks to © Spaxia | Dreamstime.com – Oh Boss That Are You Doing? Photo

Do you suck at marketing your own site?

Does your marketing make you think "yuck?" You're not alone...

Does your marketing make you think “yuck?” You’re not alone…

During client meetings, your smart marketing ideas fly around like popping popcorn. ::POP::  There’s another brilliant idea!

Your clients’ files, marketing calendars and upcoming posts are organized, color-coded and scheduled.

You are a marketing ninja when it comes to your clients.

Your own site…not so much.

It’s funny how we neglect our own sites. We know how to help our clients. We can instantly see new opportunities and break down exactly how to make the necessary changes.

Yet, our own marketing goes untouched. There’s nothing in the sales pipeline. Our marketing collateral is outdated. And bigger projects – like performing a content audit on our own site – seem insurmountable.

If you’ve been beating yourself up about not marketing your business properly, know that you’re not alone.

And also know that it’s time to snap out of it and get to work.

Here are some common challenges freelance copywriters face – and how to fix them.

If your problem is…

You’re trying to be Superman (Or Superwoman.)

You’re handling all your bookkeeping, administrative and web duties yourself. Installing a WordPress plug-in can suck up half a day. Invoices aren’t getting sent because you don’t have time. You keep meaning to blog, but there are templates to update, client work to complete and emails to answer.

Your solution…

Hire a virtual assistant, fast. No, it’s not a luxury. It’s a business necessity. Hiring a VA can take the busywork off your plate and let you focus on more important things. You know, like completing client work and making money.

You’re stuck.

You know your marketing isn’t “right,” but you’re not sure how or why. What you do know is you don’t like your site, you’re not thrilled with your web copy and your messaging is across the board. You don’t have a niche. You don’t have an unified message. You’re in your own head all the time and you can’t figure out next steps.

Your solution…

If you’re in this space (and yes, I’ve been there,) It’s time to shake up your thinking and do something different.

Here’s a reality check: If you are this stuck, you won’t be able to figure out a solution by yourself. Your brain is officially tapped out.  Instead, you’re going to need some outside intervention. Talk to another freelance writer and see how she can help. Work with a marketing consultant or take a training that offers group coaching.

It’s amazing how another person can instantly pinpoint what’s wrong with your marketing and come up with fast solutions. You know, just like how you help your clients. :)

You don’t have a plan.

You’re kicking out your marketing in spurts, but nothing about it feels cohesive. You haven’t researched your keyphrases in ages, you’re never sure what to blog about and you have no guest blogging ideas. You have fantastic marketing brainstorms, but they never get past the idea stage.

Your solution…

It’s time to get anal about your time management techniques. It’s important to get those ideas out of your head and on paper. Try setting aside non-negotiable planning time. My favorite technique is to hang out at a favorite cafe one day a month and map out my marketing. Plus, it almost feels like a “day off” – which is a huge bonus.

Resist the temptation to reschedule your marketing appointment because “something came up.” Something is always going to come up. Take the time anyway. Besides, the break will do you good.

You don’t set aside implementation time.

You’ve got a marketing plan – great! But the implementation is what’s difficult. Client work sucks up your available time. And, wow, the email – it’s like you can spend the entire day just responding to messages.

Your solution…

You know how you schedule client work in your calendar? Good. Do the same thing with your projects. You may dedicate one hour every day to your marketing. Or, one day a week (and no, don’t work on client work that day.) Remember that you are your most valuable client. If you get in the habit of handling your marketing from 12-1 every day, you’ll always get something done and will see some fun financial rewards.

You need accountability.

You’ve tried scheduling. It hasn’t worked. Now, you’re behind, you feel guilty and you think you’re worst freelance copywriter in the world. You have no problems hitting deadlines for your clients. Why can’t you hit them for yourself?

Your solution…

Find an accountabilibuddy. It could be a coach, a friend, your partner or another writer. Write down all of your marketing tasks (including the deadlines) and send them an email outlining your progress. If you don’t hit your deadlines, give them permission to call you on it.

Studies have shown that accountability, commitment and writing down goals will make you more successful, more often. And besides, it’s nice to have someone in your corner who cheers on your success.

What about you? What techniques to do you use to keep yourself on track?

 

 

 

Tired of hearing “You’re too expensive?”

Where are all the fat cat clients

Where are all the fat cat SEO writing clients?

“We’d love to work with you, but your prices are just too far out of our budget. Everyone else we’ve talked to charges much less.”

Yeah, that’s always a fun email to receive first thing in the morning.

What’s your first reaction when you read something like this? Anger? Shock? Denial?

Or do you just shrug, shut down your computer and feel depressed the rest of the day?

Emails like this would grate on my psyche. I would put a lot of work into landing clients. I’d excitedly talk with the prospect on the phone (sometimes, multiple times) and make sure I could help. I’d even soft-launch some budget figures to prevent sticker shock. Then, I’d carefully craft a proposal and wait. And wait.

“I have exactly the skills they’re looking for,” I’d think. “They’d be stupid to go with anyone else.”

To learn that they hired someone else based on price felt like a slap in the face. Sure, I understand budget constraints. But hiring someone for way less money (with way less experience,) was an insult.

Which was my first mistake – I shouldn’t have let my ego get in the way. But sometimes, that’s hard (as you may know.)

But let’s look at it from the client’s side.

Unless you are giving your client something to think about, you’re going to be treated like a commodity. And that means they will look at your prices compared to your competitions’.

– They won’t care that you are a better writer. Let’s face it. Most clients don’t really know what “good writing” is.

– They won’t care (much) about your awards, reputation or outside factors.

If your prices are higher, you will lose. It’s as simple as that.

The key is to stop treating yourself like a commodity and sell your value instead. Here are four ways you can make that happen:

– Take a hard look at your site. Do you have testimonials, case studies and other forms of third-party proof? If not, make it happen.

– Consider your process when you talk to prices. Do you respond to emails that read, “We need a copywriter. How much do you charge?” If so – WHY? Would you ever say that to a doctor? Or an attorney? Heck no. You want to hire someone with the best expertise. Not the cheapest.

– Think about how well you know your target market. Not necessarily the vertical characteristics (I work with mid-size dental offices who want to increase their local exposure.) What I mean is, do you know the stuff that makes them tick? What keeps them up at night? What would make them happy? What would they need to hear from you that would make price not an issue?

– Record yourself during a prospect call and listen to what you say. Do you explain all the steps you take before you start crafting copy? Do you discuss how you differentiate against your copywriting competition? Are you asking questions? Or are you spending most of your time trying to hustle a deal?

Remember, there will always be those prospects who make their decision solely on price. You don’t want them (or need them in your portfolio.) Conversely, there are the people who will hire you, no matter what. Those are cool clients to have.

However, there are a whole lot of people who need more convincing. They need to see more value. They need to “get” how you can specifically make their lives easier. They may want to work with you. They just need be sure before they sign on the dotted line.

The good news is, you can influence their decision (ethically,) if you focus on your value. Once you have your prospect’s attention, she won’t care that you’re more expensive. The only thing she’ll care about is how soon you can start.

Now go out there and make some money!

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Clients ignore your advice? Here’s what to do

Feel like your clients are saying, "la la la la" while you're giving them advice?

Feel like your clients are saying, “la la la la” while you’re giving them advice?

After I read my client’s email, I had to hold myself back from beating my head against my laptop.

“Heather, we agree with what you’re saying. But I think we’re going to go in a different direction and try something else first.”

AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

Whether you work in-house or freelance, you’ve probably had moments like this. You spent hours carefully crafting a strategy, web page or idea. You have reams of paperwork supporting your recommendations.

And then the client goes in another direction. What? If they always planned on doing their own thing, why the hell did they hire you in the first place?

Yeah. It’s frustrating.

And there’s (generally) nothing you can do about it.

The good news is: Your client’s decision is typically not about you. They reached their decision based on a host of other factors.

Here’s why your client may be ignoring your advice:

– The boss believes that his/her strategy decision is the better one  (whether or not that reasoning is correct is irrelevant.) There is nothing you can say to change his or her mind. The decision has been made.

– Internal politics (that you typically know nothing about) are what’s driving the final strategy decision.

– The internal team is already overloaded. Instead of doing what’s hard (and more effective,) they prefer to do something easy and more within their control.

– The powers-that-be don’t trust your strategy because you’re an existing team member. Having said that, if they were to hire an outside consultant who said the same thing, your boss would implement those recommendations immediately.

– The internal team is arrogant, pure and simple. No matter what you say or do, they will always have a “better solution.” I highly recommend firing clients like this as soon as you possibly can.

– Your client is working with an SEO who is telling them something completely different. In some cases, the advice may be completely incorrect. This situation is extremely frustrating.

Your smart recommendations just got dissed. Now what?

– Resist the urge to call or send an email saying, “Why should I bother doing everything I’ve done for you if you’re just planning to blow off my advice.” Punch a pillow instead. Scream at your television. Hand write a nasty letter and rip it up. But for goodness sakes, do not let on that you’re frustrated, mad or feel slighted. If you do, the situation will not end well.

– While you’re punching your pillow, try to remember that their decision isn’t about you. They aren’t judging your expertise and finding it lacking. Their decision is all about them.

– When you’re calm – and preferably the next day – send an email outlining your suggested changes  and ask why your client decided to take a different direction. You need to do this (in writing) for a couple reasons. The first reason is a fact-finding one. If your client has other “things” going on – and they are willing to share – you can possibly adjust your recommendations accordingly.  The other reason is purely CYA. If your client’s “great” idea blows up, you don’t want to get blamed for it. And yes, this happens. A lot.

– Ask yourself if this is an ongoing pattern, or a one-off. If it’s a one-off, it’s typically no big deal and you can go back to business as usual. If your client always ignores your advice, ask yourself how you feel about that. Some people are able to shrug it off and merrily go on with life. Other people get frustrated, hurt and angry – no matter what the reason. If you fall into the frustrated camp, you may want to consider firing your client (or finding another job.) Things aren’t going to get any better. Believe me.

Unfortunately, this situation will rear its ugly head no matter where you work (or who you work with.) The key is to be as emotionless as you can about the situation. You can’t force a client to implement your recommendation, even if they’re paying you. Nor should you get offended when they don’t.

When things get tough and screaming into your pillow doesn’t work, just remember four wise words:

“You can’t fix stupid.”

It won’t make the pain go away completely, but it may make you feel a little bit better.

What about you? What do you do when a client ignores your recommendations?

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Photo thanks to © Creatista | Dreamstime.com

Want to DIY Your SEO? Here’s Your Reality Check

What's really realistic when it comes to your SEO?

Can you handle your SEO writing in-house? Yes…but…

I walked away from the conversation shaking my head.

“SEO services are too expensive. We can’t afford to hire someone.”

“I’m smart. I should be able to figure this SEO stuff out myself.”

“My team is top-notch. No, they don’t have any formal SEO training, but I’m sure they’ll get it. Maybe I’ll send them to a conference…”

Stop it. Just. Stop. It.

Why do I sound so frustrated? Because I’ve chatted with large and small companies that have all said some variation of the “We can handle this in-house excuse.” Granted, their intentions are good. They really do plan on tackling their own SEO. They don’t mean to blow it off.

But they do. Time and time again.

Yes, some companies expertly take on their own SEO (and SEO writing.) These companies put time, money and effort into making it happen, too. They don’t expect the Google gods to magically hand them rankings. They don’t expect to learn by osmosis. They just do it.

But then, there are the other companies. The ones that fall into a “wishful thinking” trap.

They want to learn more, but they “don’t have time.” They watch competitors outrank them and feel guilty. The guilt turns into avoidance. One day, they wake up and say, “Today is the day I master SEO.” But then an email pops up, an employee crisis happens or something else takes precedence.

And nothing gets done.

I understand the dilemma. I do. But there comes a time when you have to buckle down and make a choice. And that means you tackle your SEO issues head on and refuse to make any more excuses.

Here’s how to do it:

1.  If you are a solopreneur/work for a small business, you have to be very honest with yourself. Do you really have time to learn the ins and outs of SEO? Some people consider it a fun challenge and master it fairly quickly. Some folks never “get it.” If you’ve been promising yourself that you’ll learn how to SEO your site over the past few months – and you haven’t done so – it’s time to give it up. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It means that you’re a busy person and you have other priorities. Like running your business.

2. If you work for a medium/large size business, your site is probably larger and has more complex issues. Handling everything may be daunting (and dangerous,) especially if your staff doesn’t have any experience. What many companies do is work with a consultant to unravel any existing technical SEO issues. Then, they work with another firm (or sometimes the same firm) and get training in SEO writing, social media and the other SEO bits and pieces. This one-two punch helps move the SEO ball along fairly quickly. The marketing team can rewrite/edit the existing content and they have the benefit of an outside consultant watchdogging their work.

Yes, SEO services cost money. Yes, good providers are expensive (beware the $100/month SEO “expert” trap.)

But if getting help means that you’ll make more money, faster – why not go for it? Right now.

Because for every moment you delude yourself into thinking you can do it yourself, you’re giving up market share to your competitors.

And that’s just sad.

Did you like this post? Well, I like you! And I’d love it if you subscribed to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter. It’s delivered hot and fresh to your inbox every Tuesday. Why not subscribe right now?

 Photo thanks to © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com

Need Marketing Clarity? Get Out Of Your Head

How could clarity help you?

How could clarity help you?

I just got off the phone with my accountant.

For some people, chatting with their accountant is a super-stressful event. But not for me. My accountant (Eva Rosenberg, in case you’re wondering,) is fantastic. I. Love. Her.

Why? She can take the most complex situation, break it down into bite-sized chunks and show me how to proceed. It may be about how to structure my finances. Or how to handle a tax situation. We even discuss new business ideas (which is what we talked about today.) If I’m confused, stressed out or overwhelmed, chatting with Eva always helps.

It’s because she gives me clarity.

How would a little marketing clarity help you?

I say this not to geek out about my accountant, but to show how having a second opinion can bring you a lot of mental freedom. For instance…

– Do you know that your site needs optimization help, but you’re not sure what to do next?

– Are you faced with a sticky business situation and you’re not sure how to proceed?

– Do you feel like your site isn’t quite clicking with your customers and you’re wondering what needs to be changed?

– Is your company completely overwhelmed with Google’s latest changes?

It’s easy for us to get bogged down by 1,000 details and not take action. We worry about Google. We worry about business. We think about our landing pages and our optimization. Yet, we do nothing to fix them.

Why? It’s because we’re overwhelmed. We’re in our own heads all the time. We handle non-essential tasks like answering email and zone out in front of the television at night.

(There’s no judgement here. I’m the same way. I’ve thrown myself into watching old Sopranos episodes rather than think about my problems.)

We don’t realize that we can’t come up with the answer by ourselves. We’re too close to it. We’re stuck. That’s why good companies can make extremely bad SEO mistakes (like having the same Title on every page.) It’s not that the answer isn’t staring us in the face. It’s just that we don’t see it.

In fact, I just received an email that said this:

“We are now fearful with the acceleration of search engines and changes they make, most of [the information we know] is probably obsolete. Is this a correct assumption? We are getting minimal traffic to our site and trying to decide if we just give up or devote the time necessary to turn it into something of substance.”

Ouch. Not only do you want to feel sorry for this person, you want to shake them and say, “Don’t give up. Do something! It’s not too late.”

But when you’re overwhelmed, it’s hard to have that clarity. Very hard.

Need clarity? Don’t overwhelm. Do this instead.

If you’re in this position, the first step is acceptance. Yes, you’re smart. Yes, you’re good. Yes, you work with a fantastic team of people who are experts at what they do. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to come up with all of the answers all of the time. It just means that you’ll be able to recognize good advice and act on it faster than most.

What does help is reaching out and talking to an expert. That means being completely transparent, sharing your situation and asking them for advice. “Advice” may mean some quick tips. Or it may mean an ongoing relationship to keep you accountable. The key is bringing in an outsider and asking him/her for help.

“But Heather,”  you may say. “That costs money and we don’t have the budget for something like that.”

I get that reaction. I do. Even big companies are stingy with their budgets. They figure they already have a bunch of smart people working there, so why should they get an outside opinion?

It all boils down to clarity. If you can pay a little bit of money and know that your business would be transformed – why wouldn’t you take that leap?

If you’re still concerned about cost, break it down by ROI. Say you spend $2,500 to fix your site’s visibility issues and drive more traffic to your site.

If your average sale is $200, that means you’ll just need to drive 12.5 new sales. That’s it.

Suddenly, the price for clarity seems extremely inexpensive. And that doesn’t even factor in the amount of mental energy you’ll have back. Heck, you may even sleep better at night!

Isn’t it time to get out of your head and give yourself the clarity you deserve? You can put that mental energy into other things that deserve it. Like finding out what happens to Tony Soprano in season three…

Feeling like you need a little marketing clarity? Let me know. I’ve helped hundreds of businesses over 16 years and I can help you too.

Photo thanks: ID 23357559 © Kantapat | Dreamstime.com

SEO writing: Are you making this dangerous mistake?

What SEO mistakes are you making?

Once upon a time, there was a sad and lonely website.

Its owners were recognized experts in their fields. They had written books. They blogged. They spoke all over the world.

From a marketing standpoint, they were doing everything right.

Yet, their site wasn’t positioning for any important keyphrases. None. Zip.

This made the site owners quite unhappy, so they found a consultant to help.

The consultant noticed quite a few “old school” SEO errors:

–  There were very few keyphrases on the page

–  There were no keyphrase-rich headlines (H1)

–  The Titles were keyphrase-free and most of the pages didn’t have meta descriptions.

Once these errors were fixed, the site started positioning within three days. Rankings are still building for the super competitive phrases, but even those are coming along nicely.

Conducting some basic optimization on the site unlocked its potential.

I tell this story because there are (still) dissenters who believe that you can just “write naturally” and Google will “get” what your site is about. Meaning – you can skip all the foundational SEO steps and still do well.

That’s a pretty dangerous mistake.

In fact, the site owners had “written their site naturally.” You would think that an internationally-known consultant could write high positioning content just because.

But that wasn’t the case.

I bring this up after reading the latest SearchMetrics 2014 rankings factors report (you can read a great summary of the report here.)

The takeaways? Quality content matters. Keyphrases in the Titles, H1, description and body copy matters.  

You know. The stuff that smart SEO writers have been discussing since the beginning of SEO time.

If my story is hitting home with you (that is, you know your site copy wasn’t written with SEO in mind,) know that you can fix your situation. It will take some time. And it will take some budget. But there are things you can do.  For instance:

– You can add keyphrases to old blog posts to help snag better search positions.

– You can rewrite pages to make them more reader-centered (and yes, so you can add keyphrases too!). This is an especially smart tactic if you can’t add keyphrases to your existing content without it sounding unnatural (which is often the case with short content.)

– You can tweak your Titles so they are unique to the page and better for Google – and more importantly, better for your readers.

– You can improve upon your meta descriptions. Especially if your descriptions are the same on every page.

So here’s a reality check:

“Writing naturally” without at least an inkling of solid SEO writing knowledge can hurt you. It’s cool if you want to write your own content. Just know that someone will need to add some SEO sizzle when you’re done.

If your in-house writers aren’t trained in SEO writing, you are doing your site (and your revenues) a disservice. Without some SEO knowledge, the more your writers write, the more that will need to be fixed later.

If you are a freelance writer selling “web writing services” – and you aren’t versed in SEO writing – you are doing yourself (and your clients) a HUGE disservice. Not to mention, you’re missing out on a nice profit center.

Sure, hearing “you need to go back to the basics” isn’t sexy.

But what is sexy is more traffic. Higher sales. A more qualified readership.

And your site will no longer feel sad and lonely.

Want more tasty SEO writing information? Why not sign up for my free weekly newsletter? It’s fluff-free, fun and provides fantastic info!

Photo credit: © Scott Griessel | Dreamstime.com