Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

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.

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 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

 

 

Authorship: Google giveth and Google taketh away

Looks like Google’s taking away something else…

Bottom line: Should you continue producing content now that Google Authorship markup is dead? Is blogging and guest posting still worth it, even if you won’t see your shining face next to the search results page?

The answer: Yes.

Many writers freaked out when they heard the Google Authorship news. These folks wrote great content, went through Google’s somewhat confusing Authorship instructions and built a nice author platform on Google+. Heck, some writers wouldn’t have even joined Google+ if it wasn’t for the Authorship benefits.

Now these folks feel scammed – especially writers who were riding the Authorship wave. One person said the announcement was “devastating” to web writers.

To that I say “Hogwash” (and how often does one get to say “hogwash?”)

If you’re freaking out about Authorship, relax. I know it’s frustrating that it’s suddenly gone (although we did have some warning.) But that doesn’t mean that you stop creating commanding content. Besides, although Google may not support Authorship anymore, Author Rank is not dead (as Danny Sullivan explains in this post.)

To those new to the web writing world, know that Google (and content marketing) existed long before Authorship. People have always written articles to establish themselves as subject matter experts. In the old days before Google, we wrote for print trade publications to establish expertise. Before Authorship, we still blogged, created ebooks and wrote white papers. The byline is still alive and well.

To paraphrase the Talking Heads, today’s content marketing world is the “same as it ever was.”

The reality is, Google giveth and Google taketh away. We used to have keyword search data and now we don’t. Authorship markup was in our lives for a short time – and then it disappeared. The only constant in SEO is that the field (and the rules) are constantly changing.

Despite what Google is doing this month, the important thing is to keep writing. Build your author platform. Get your name out there. Build your brand.

Because although Authorship may have gone away, good content never goes out of style.

Get out of your own head and work with a freelance writing coach instead! Pay by the month or by the minute. Learn more!)

Are Your Online Sales Slipping? This Could Be Why …

Women on slip-and-slide

Don’t let your customers slip away!

It’s never easy to lose thousands of dollars every month to your competitors.

The company (let’s call it Company X) used to be at the top of their game. Product sales were brisk. Their testimonials were excellent. They dominated Google search results for their main keyphrases.

Then, things started to slow. “It’s seasonal,” thought the CMO. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

Two years and many seasons later, business was down by 50%. The product quality hadn’t changed. In fact, nothing internally had changed.

And that was the problem.

Externally, the marketplace had changed – a lot. There were new competitors. Some trends had shifted. The target audience was looking for slightly different benefits presented in a slightly different way.

People were still buying. But not from Company X. The fantastic reviews, great testimonials and top search rankings weren’t enough.

What happened?

Many companies look at outside causes when sales slow down. It’s the economy. It’s a seasonal slowdown. Times are tough “everywhere.”

Yet, the problem can often lie with something completely controllable.

The site copy.

If your sales are slowing and you don’t know why, it’s time to take a hard look at your site content. Here are some steps to take:

Pay close attention to new competitors. What is their unique positioning statement and how does it compare to yours? How well do they discuss their benefit statements? Are they using a tone and feel that resonates better with the target audience? You don’t want to copy a competitor’s strategy. But you can learn from them.

Consider how the marketplace has changed. A major benefit two years ago may get a “meh” response from prospects today. Survey (or preferably, chat with) current customers and learn what’s important to them now. The information you learn can help you A/B test different benefit statements and see what resonates with your audience.

Review your keyphrase research. When’s the last time you reviewed your keyphrase research? Phrases that worked great a few years ago may be too limiting today. See if you can capitalize on new keyphrases, especially ones that target prospects at an earlier phase of the buy cycle.

Review all of your marketing collateral. ALL of it. This means your autoresponders, your site copy, your LinkedIn profile – everything. Chances are, you’ll find some cringe-worthy blog posts, some typos and some messaging that’s outdated and stale. Figure out a plan for addressing your copywriting blind spots and fix them.  If you think your site sounds stale, just imagine what your readers think.

Get an outsider’s opinion. It’s easy to let our egos get in the way of smart sales copy. We may love our writing. But our readers may not. Your copy may be perceived as “too overwhelming.” You may not be providing enough information. Or, your content could be so filled with marketing speak that your reader doesn’t really know what you’re selling. Hiring a consultant (or even asking a trusted colleague to help) can often uncover some quick, easy fixes you can make.

Does this mean you may have to revamp all of your site content? Perhaps. Or, you may be able to make some strategic SEO and content tweaks that can have a huge impact. The key is to immediately develop a strategic plan and start doing something.  After all, there’s no reason to let your so-so content result in lost sales opportunities.

Like this post? Well, I like you! And I’d love it if you subscribed to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter. You’ll learn the latest SEO writing tips, how to thrive as a freelance and in-house copywriter and more!

Creative Commons licensed photo thanks to Jeffrey Smith.

5 Ways to Spice Up Your B2B Content

SpicesNews flash: B2B content doesn’t have to be boring.

I know, I know. Writing for B2B sites isn’t easy. Products like lanyards and construction helmets aren’t necessarily sexy. Your competitors’ sites are probably just as boring. And the powers-that-be may feel more comfortable with “just the facts” feature-filled content.

Yet, for many (most) B2B sites, there’s room for so much improvement. By adding just a little bit of spice, you can connect with your readers and boost your conversion rates.

Here’s how to do it:

Use the word “you” in your copy

You are not selling to robots. Nor are you selling to a “company.” You are selling to people. And people (otherwise known as your target readers) respond to the word “you.”  Using the word personalizes your message and makes your content more compelling. For a great example, check out Basecamp’s homepage. Their line, “Our job is to help you do your job better” is a fantastic mission statement. It’s punchy, personal and implies a pretty big benefit. Plus, it makes you want to look more closely at their services – so the content is definitely doing it’s job.

Shorten your sentences

Many B2B companies are guilty of zombie run-on sentences. You read one endless sentence and BOOM you see another one. They’re everywhere. And they suck the life out of the content.  Guess what? Nobody wants to read your 35+ word sentences.  If you find yourself writing long, paragraph-like sentences, mix up your sentence structure, stat! Write one longer sentence and then follow it up with a shorter one. Experiment. Your copy will be much punchier as a result.

Get inside your readers’ heads

What is your reader really thinking? It’s not, “Hey, I’m going to purchase these firefighting helmets for our team.” It’s probably something like, “I need to find the safest, most comfortable helmets for the best possible cost.” You shouldn’t start writing until you have fleshed out what your unique sales proposition is, what’s driving your reader to make a purchase and what motivates them. If companies in your industry are known for poor customer service, play up the fact that you have staff on call 24/7. If your solution is high value (and more expensive,) overcome any price objections within your copy and show how paying more is a great investment. The more you know what your reader is thinking when he or she reaches your landing page, the more persuasive your content.

Boost your benefit statements

Have you ever wanted to scream “HOW DOES THIS PRODUCT HELP ME?!” Yeah. Me too. Features are nice but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s one thing to sell a hard hat. It’s another to discuss how your hard hat won’t slip off, is ultra comfortable and won’t cause headaches. Statements like that will cause your target reader to sit up and take notice.

Dare to be different

I am so tired of people saying that their content has to be boring. Why? It’s “industry standard.” If they write it any differently, their target market may respond negatively. Look at companies like AppSumo. Their content for their Piktochart product not only tells a story, it tells a funny story – plus weaves in some impressive benefit statements. They even use the words “you” and “your.”  Their sales copy shows being different works and can truly differentiate your product line. Sure, I’m sure they’ve tested their results to confirm that the tone and feel is spot on. But at least they took a chance rather than following the herd.

Instead of making excuses, why not go out on a limb? Try one (or more) of these spicy techniques and see what sticks. Rewrite a landing page. Test new approaches via social media.

You may be surprised at the results. And you may make more money, too.

Photo thanks to Clyde Robinson. 

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New to SEO writing? 5 Essential Things You Need to Know

Are you new to SEO writing and wondering if it’s right for you?

You may fear that SEO writing is too technical. Or it’s too unnatural to write “how Google wants.”

Relax. SEO writing is much easier than you think.

If you’re looking to build a new skill set, here are the essential things you need to know.

- You need to be a good writer. Period.  

Can you tell a compelling story? Can you keep readers on the edge of their seats, salivating for more information? Good. SEO writing is more than “giving Google what it wants.” It’s being a good writer – period.  That means years of writing, practice and good old fashioned trial and error. Understanding Google’s “rules” doesn’t mean a thing if your site copy sucks.

- What you think is SEO writing may not be accurate

I’ve talked with many writers who say, “SEO writing is so unnatural. I don’t want to worry about keyphrases, meta descriptions and search engine stuff.” I get it. I do. At the same time, the definition of good SEO writing has changed over time. It’s no longer about sticking as many keyphrases into the content as you can. It’s about writing tremendous content and making it easy for people to find it. Once you learn the “rules” of SEO writing, you’ll see that they aren’t as restrictive as you thought!

-  Geek speak? No problem. You’ve got this.

HTML. Meta descriptions. rel=author. SEOs’ alphabet-soupy terminology can be scary – especially if you’re a new writer. After hearing the terminology, some writers decide right then to never learn SEO. After all, SEO is what “geeky people do.”

Although the terminology is a bit propeller-head geeky, it’s actually easy to figure out. Yes, there’s a learning curve. No, you won’t understand everything in a day. But you will understand it. It just takes practice.

- You really do need to learn this stuff.

If you write in-house, mastering SEO writing will give you the skills to really shine. The content you write will be sharable, seen by the right people and drive lots of yummy traffic. That means great job security (and more opportunities) for you. If you’re freelancing, offering SEO writing services to your clients gives you another profit center. After all, if you don’t offer it as a service – your competition will.

- No matter what, it will help your career.

Are you selling a book? Understanding SEO will help you reach more people, build your authority and create a killer author platform. Starting a side business? Why pay an SEO consultant to drive traffic when you can do the work yourself? Want to get a better writing job? Companies love working with experienced writers with proven track records. A few hours of learning time could result in a huge income jump. That’s some pretty powerful ROI.

I love teaching people how to be better writers! If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll learn about the latest blog posts, be first in line for exclusive sales and more. Join me!

 

Photo thanks to © Edwardsamuel | Dreamstime.com

9 (more) questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Would being an SEO copywriter make you smile?

Wondering if you’d be happy as an SEO copywriter?

In a previous blog post, I discussed 9 common questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. But what about SEO copywriting as a career choice? If you’ve wondered how you could find a job as an SEO copywriter – or how you can start a freelance shop – this post is for you.

I originally wrote this post in 2012 and I’ve updated it to reflect other questions I answer every day. Enjoy!

I’m a print copywriter.  Are you sure that I can learn this? Or can an old dog really learn new tricks?

Yes, this is a skill that you can learn and master (check out Lynda Goldman’s interview for a real-life success story.)  Online writing is much different than print copywriting – so there will be a learning curve. At the same time, if you know how to write and connect with your audience, that’s half the battle. The main challenge I see with print copywriters is that they think that SEO copywriting is too “technical” to learn. Here’s how I answer that question …

I’m not a really technical person. Can I still do this?

Yes, you can. It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills. Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

There seems to be a lot of SEO copywriters online. Is the market too saturated?

Nope. Granted, if you want business, you’ll have to learn how to market yourself – and ideally, you’ll choose a niche. But there are still many opportunities to make money.

But I’ve heard that SEO copywriting is dead. Is that true?

Nope. Certainly, the SEO writing “rules” have changed. And it’s more important than ever to keep up. But companies (and clients) are still begging for smart SEO writers who can help make them money.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

All types of companies, including B2B, B2C and publishing companies. If you’re looking to work in-house, think about sites that produce a large amount of content every month – and consider those companies possible employment targets. For instance, ecommerce sites are constantly updating their product pages and blogs. A publishing company may require you to write SEO-optimized articles. Some in-house writers may also create newsletters, emails and white papers. Others focus just on SEO copy. It depends on the employer.

I’ve seen job titles like “Web content writer,” or “SEO content writer.” Is that the same thing?

Yup. There are quite a few different job titles for SEO copywriters. The main thing is choosing a job that fits your skill set. For instance, if you love blogging – but sales pages aren’t fun for you – you’ll want to choose a job that’s more social media related. If you can write high-converting sales pages, you may want to look at jobs that allow you to write landing pages, product pages and service pages.

Can I find a job that can teach me this stuff?

Yes, but don’t expect to get paid a lot. Many companies are looking to turn this over to an “internal expert” – so you’ll make more money if you have training, experience and fantastic clips. Having said that, starting out as a “copywriting assistant,” can fast-track your knowledge. Some of the best copywriters I know had someone helping them expand their skills. The pay may be lower, but the experience will be fantastic!

How can I find clients (or someone who would hire me full time?)

If you’re looking for an in-house job, you can certainly check out online job boards and see what’s out there. However, I recommend getting out there and actively networking – especially within your local community. Many writing jobs are “insider hires” that aren’t posted. The more you can connect with people, the more you’ll learn about secret opportunities and can position yourself as the perfect candidate!

Networking (whether it’s local or on social media) is also important if you want to freelance. In a perfect world, most of your clients come from referrals and you have a steady stream of business. Many freelancers love LinkedIn for copywriting leads. Pam Foster has said that LinkedIn “has been more fruitful … by far, than any other marketing method.” Why not give it a shot?

I want to be my own boss and work as a freelance SEO copywriter instead. How do I do that?

Read my “Ultimate Guide for Beginners.” it will tell you everything that you want to know.

I’ve heard that SEO writing is a low-paying gig. Tell me why I’d want to do this.

It’s true that some companies pay a paltry $5 per blog post. Having said that, some companies pay $250 or more per post – especially if the writer is truly top notch. I know many SEO writers who are happily writing content and making a fantastic living. You won’t make 100K starting out (whether you freelance or work full time.) But you can find clients (and employers) who value great writing. As your skills improve and you can demonstrate results, you can make more money over time. That’s pretty cool.

Wow, I’m sold! I want to quit my job tomorrow and freelance full time. What do you think?

Um, don’t do this. Not unless you have a pretty flush savings account, have clients already lined up, or have other income coming in. No matter how “hot” SEO copywriting is as an opportunity, it takes time to get your business off the ground. Having said that, learning everything you can about running a successful copywriting business will help you make more money, faster. For instance, check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp classes for all of the topics that you’ll need to master.

Are there other ways I can use my SEO writing skills?

Heck yes. If you ever want to launch a side business, your SEO skills give you a competitive advantage. You’ll know how to drive more traffic and convert it into paying customers. Want to help out a friend who owns a business? Yes, you can do that, too. I’ve even heard of SEO writers bartering their skills for Pilates lessons, haircuts, landscaping … you name it. Plus, if you ever write a book, you can easily build an author platform with your SEO know-how.

Are you sure this is fun?

Oh yeah. It’s really fun. If you enjoy a fast-paced career – and you love working in an ever-changing industry – you’ll love SEO copywriting. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t have been doing this for the last 16 years. :)

Want step-by-step SEO-writing training and personalized help? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training!

Climb out of your comfort zone!

I'm the one in the blue, hanging on for dear life. And yes, I was VERY scared!

I’m the one in the blue, hanging on for dear life. And yes, I was VERY scared!

I have an incredible fear of heights.

Bouldering makes every muscle I have tighten up with anxiety.

And I don’t do heat well. If it’s over 75 degrees, I feel like I’m melting.

So of course I spent 16 days rafting the Grand Canyon – the land of sheer drops, lots of bouldering and 105+ degree temperatures.

Why?

Because catapulting myself out of my comfort zone provides me incredible clarity.

Some backstory: About a year and a half ago, my husband won a river rafting permit for the Grand Canyon. Some people wait a lifetime to win a permit. My husband has won two. If only he could use his superpowers to win the lottery, but I digress …

Mind you, Ron (my husband) and I are the Odd Couple of marriage. I love the city. He prefers living in the suburbs away from people. He’s quiet. I am … not. He loves camping. I would prefer a spa with daily massages. We make it work.

So when this trip became real, I knew I’d have to push myself. I’d rafted the Canyon before and I knew all the ways I’d be pushed:

– I’d have to take about three weeks off work – with no access to anything electronic.

– I’d be dealing with searing (and shadeless) heat for hours every day.

– I’d be around my fellow group members almost ALL THE TIME. For someone who is used to having hours of alone time, the social obligations were daunting.

– I would not be able to enjoy five minutes of my “normal” home routine – from what time I got up, when I would go to bed, what I would eat and how I would spend my time.

– I’d have to be careful all the time. I found a scorpion in my pants on day three. I almost broke my toe day 12. Not to mention the other bumps, bruises and general klutziness I experienced.

– And oh yeah. I could die. Or another member of my trip could die. There were two deaths within the 3-week period I was there.

Did I lose it during the trip? Yes (day three, 11 and 13.) Did I secretly wish I had stayed home and enjoyed my air conditioning? Yes.

Despite the pain (and yes, there was pain,) the experience was worth it.  Jumping out of my comfort zone provided me some incredible gifts I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

Although I’m awfully good at providing well-meaning advice, I get stuck. And scared. And confused. I go on autopilot when I can’t think of what else to do. Instead of feeling energetic, my energy sits there and stagnates.

Maybe that’s something you go through, too.

Once I was back home and settled, I realized I could think more clearly. It wasn’t a case of “Heather finally took a real vacation.” It was more “Heather pushed herself and realized the benefits.”

– Things that seemed “impossible” before seem challenging now … but doable.

– I’m more able to let go of the things that don’t serve me (clients, busywork, emotions.)

– I feel less fearful and more confident. Heck, I crawled down a 25-foot rock wall. After that, I feel like I can do anything.

Plus, I feel like I can finally start making some pretty major changes. They don’t seem as daunting anymore. If anything, not making these changes seems like a scary alternative.

I’m sharing this with you because you may also need to jump out of your comfort zone and hang out on a virtual ledge. Instead of trusting your fears, you’ll need to “trust your feet” (as I heard over and over) and know that they’ll lead you where you need to go.

Granted, that’s harder to do when you’re home. You probably have set times you write, when you spend with family and when you work out (because you do exercise – right?) You may eat the same thing for breakfast because it’s easy. You may rely on your routine because it’s safe.

(I do the same thing.)

My challenge to you is to do something a little different every day. Work at a different cafe. Take a new route home. Write copy for a new vertical.

Then, see how you can really push yourself. If you’ve never run before, start running and sign up for a 5K. Jump out of an airplane. Take a few days off and refuse to check anything electronic.

The more you push yourself, the more you’ll learn. Sure, it will be scary. And you’ll kick back a number of times.

But the experience will be well worth it.

Where do I go from here? I’m still percolating on my options. There are times when I want to make a drastic change. Other times, I realize that I can make a bunch of little changes and see some big results.

All I know is, I’m ready to climb off that comfort-zone ledge.

C’mon. Why don’t you climb down with me? It will be fun. :)

Have you been wanting to start your own copywriting business? It’s time to take the leap! (With help.) Sign up for Heather’s Copywriting Business Boot Camp course today and finally experience the freedom you’ve been looking for.

How to charge for freelance copywriting services

Probably the most common question that freelance copywriters ask me is “How much should I charge?”

I know what these folks are really asking. They want me to gaze into a crystal ball and reply, “You should charge $X per page. If you charge that rate, clients will love you and you’ll make lots of money. Now go forth and write.”

If it was only that simple.

Pricing for copywriting services will always be a challenge. When you’re just starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know – so it’s very easy to undercharge (or price yourself too high.)

When you’ve been in business for a few years, raising your rates can be a very scary experience. You’re afraid of losing the clients you already have (or not being able to land new ones.)

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to stay in business if you’re never able to raise your rates…so you’ll constantly be facing this dilemma.

Then, there’s always figuring out the best way to charge the client. Per page? Per project? Come up with a magical number and hope the client goes for it (yes, we’ve all been there!) ;)

If you’re stuck in the “how should I charge for services” quandary, here are some guidelines to get you through.

First, you’ll want to start by asking yourself four questions. These questions are applicable if you’re brand new to freelancing, or if you have an established business. In fact, you may want to revisit these questions every six months or so and confirm that you’re still on track.

Question #1: What are your income goals?

This is an incredibly important point that many freelancers ignore. I’ve seen freelancers charge $10 a page just to get business in the door – without realizing the long-term impact of that decision. Think about it: If you have a $750/month rent payment, that means that you need to write 75 articles a month just to make your rent. That’s not counting food, electricity, gas, taxes…you get the picture.

Do you really see yourself writing 150 articles a month just to make $1,500? Nope. I didn’t think so.

To come up with an income goal, you’ll first want to determine what your monthly expenses are (both business and personal.) Then, increase that number by 35% (which represents what you’ll want to set aside for taxes.) This is the base amount you’ll need to make just to keep your doors open.

I would recommend adding another 10% to that number, too. That way, you can put money aside for a new computer, travel, or any other business expense that may pop up. Better to put that money aside now than put a purchase on a credit card later.

Question #2: Who is your target market?

Is your heart with small, local businesses? That’s fantastic! Just know that small businesses have smaller budgets  – and if you’re expecting mom and pop businesses to pay you $300 per page – or $250 an hour –  you’ll need to adjust your expectations. However, if you’re working within a specialty niche market, it’s possible to charge much more money.

Question #3: What’s your experience level?

Here’s a reality check: If you are new to copywriting, your rates will need to reflect that. You are not going to start out making $500 a page, no matter how many books promise “huge profits” in your first few months.  Once you can show results (happy client testimonials, rankings, case studies, etc.,) you’ll be able to charge your target audience more money.

Experienced copywriters can (and should) charge more. Have you gone through specialized training (such as the SEO Copywriting Certification training?). Have you written a book? Are you the recognized copywriting expert in a certain niche? Are you a recognized speaker and trainer? These feathers in your cap can (and should) translate into a higher per-page rate.

Question #4: What are other writers charging?

This one is trickier. Some writers will share their pricing information. Others consider it competitive information.  Chris Marlow developed a copywriting pricing guide that provides some guidelines. And sometimes, clients are very open about what other writers have charged in the past. Just remember – just because a writer is charging X doesn’t mean that you should charge the same thing.

So, now that you hopefully have a better idea of how to charge, let’s consider the various ways you can work with clients.

Hourly pricing:

Some freelancers love hourly pricing. On the surface, it looks like a great way to make sure that you’re getting paid for all of your research and writing time. However, this approach can backfire in a number of ways.

First, it works against you as a writer. When you first start out, it may take you five hours to write one page. A year later, it may only take half of that. That means that the better and faster you write, the less money you’ll actually make. You can compensate for this by raising your hourly rate, but the other challenge is…

…hourly pricing doesn’t showcase the value of what you offer. Since clients don’t know how much work goes into writing a page, they’ll often ask you to “only spend an hour” or “just a few minutes” to save time (and money.) That means you’ll be turning in sub-standard work and making less money. No fun.

Per-page pricing:

Most freelancers I know operate on a per-page basis. This structure is easy for clients to understand – they know that every web page you write is going to cost X.  It also allows freelancers to charge for the value of their work. After all, if you spend 10 minutes writing a page – and that page results in $10,000 worth of sales – charging $300 is a pretty solid investment.

The challenge with per-page pricing is that you need to have very clear boundaries. If your client asks you to “make just a few extra tweaks” (that weren’t originally in the scope of the agreement,) – you’ll “lose” money. Your contract should include information about how many revisions are included, how long you’ll spend on the phone with their team and what work is considered in and out of scope.  Be warned – a client who needs to chat with you 30 minutes a day to “make sure we’re on the same page,” will eat up your budget quickly – so make sure that you set expectations up front.

Project-based pricing:

This is also a popular way of pricing client projects. Rather than outlining your services and how much they cost, you’d quote a price for the entire project.  This can be an excellent pricing method if you’re afraid that the client will slice something out of the quote that you’ll need to do your job well (such as cutting out keyphrase research in order to save a few bucks. Yes. it happens.)

The challenge with project-based pricing is you may underestimate the time you’ll need to spend – so what you think will take you 10 hours may take you 25.  Sometimes, you can go back to the client and ask for more money…but usually only if you’re already addressed this in your agreement. Otherwise, it looks like a bait-and-switch.

Like per-page pricing, you’ll have to set some really clear boundaries. If this is your preferred pricing method, just make sure that the client understands what’s included – and what may trigger an additional fee (with the client’s approval, of course.) That way, you’re protected – and the client knows exactly what they’re paying for.

One final warning…

My final piece of advice? Don’t sell yourself short.  It’s tempting to charge a rock-bottom rate just to get business in the door – or be too afraid to raise your rates. As my father used to tell me, “If nobody is complaining that your prices are too high, you’re not charging enough.”

That’s excellent advice.

What about you? What pricing advice would you add?

 

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Photo thanks goes to 401K.