Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

10+ ways your freelance writing site sucks (and what you can do about it.)

Sad dog

Does your site copy make you sad?

Does your freelance writing site have some…sucky… elements?

If you’re a freelance writer, there’s a good chance your answer is “yes.” You may be able to transform your clients’ content into marketing gold. But your own site…not so much.

Writing copy for your own site is hard (really!). I’ve seen super-talented writers make major blunders on their site – mistakes they’d never make with a client.  Unfortunately, those blunders are probably costing them money.

Wondering if your site suffers from the same problem? Here are some ways your freelance writing site may suck:

- You don’t have a site.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to write for online clients, having your own site is a must. It helps with lead generation; it’s a place to showcase your clips and testimonials – plus, clients simply expect it. If you don’t have a site, you need to make it happen. Right now. Otherwise, people will not take you seriously as an “experienced web writer.”

sad t-rex

Nooooo! Not “welcome to my site!”

- Your headline reads, “Welcome to my site.”

This is wrong for so many reasons. From a copywriting perspective, your headline is valuable real estate. Instead of wasting it on a “welcome” statement, you’re better served with a hard-hitting benefit statement. From a prospect’s perspective, saying “welcome” won’t make you stand out from the crowd. I will hit the back button on any site where I see “welcome” as the headline.

- Your home page preaches to the choir.

Your home page is not the place to explain why your prospect needs an experienced copywriter. They know this already. That’s why they’re on your site. Instead, you want to grab your prospects’ attention and compel them to click deeper into your site. That’s where they’ll find the information they need.

- You designed your site yourself. And it shows.

There’s nothing that screams “amateur” like broken links, an ancient design and bad stock photos. I know site design can be pricey. I get it. But this is one place where spending a little extra will go a long way. A professionally designed site will show your prospects you’re a serious business person. Besides, who has time to design their own site? You should be hustling for business instead.

- You talk about yourself way too much.

Words

Quit. Talking. About. Yourself.

Many freelance writers go on about the classes they’ve taken, the seminars they’ve attended and the newsletters they subscribe to.  Unfortunately, your prospects don’t care. What they do care about is what’s in it for them. Sure, you can address some of this stuff on your “about” page. Just focus your services pages around how your can help your prospects overcome a problem and make more money.

- Your blog hasn’t been updated in a long, long time.

You don’t have to publish a new blog post five times a week. What you do need to do is stick to a blog publication schedule. Maybe that’s once a week. Maybe that’s once a month. The key is consistency and writing the best possible post you can. If you prospect notices a neglected blog, she may wonder if you’ll neglect her copy the same way.

- Your copy doesn’t connect with your target audience.

To paraphrase an old Diana Ross song, “Do you know who you’re writing for?” You want your target reader to know that you “get” her, you understand her pain points and you want to help. That means the tone and feel, what you write – even the information you put on the page – is laser-focused on your reader. If you’re writing general copy, you’re going to get general (read: so-so) results.

- You don’t practice what you preach.

If you are an SEO writer, you better make darn sure that your site is optimized. That means a clickable Title, fantastic content and well-researched keyphrases. Prospects will judge you if your site isn’t up to SEO-snuff.

- All your text is below the fold.

Where's the content?

Where’s the content?

You may have fallen in love with the WordPress template with the fancy sliders and big images. But if your text is all the way below the fold, your prospects may not scroll down to see it. They may get hit with your slider and immediately surf away. Remember, you’re a writer. Text sells. Not fancy sliders. (Thank you +Chris Simmance!)

- Making your copy all about Google – not your reader.

Concerned about your rankings? You may think that writing content “for Google” (read: stuffing it full of keyphrases) is a smart move. But it’s not. Not by a long shot. Not only is this considered spam, but it’s really bad for your readers. Don’t do it.

Want more tips? You can follow along with the Google+ discussion.

If you’ve put off working on your site because you’re “too busy” or it’s “not important right now” – it’s time to get to it. Fixing these extremely common issues will help you land more clients, command more money and generate leads more easily.

In short, it’s worth the time.  Now, don’t you have some site tweaks to make? ;)

Need a second opinion on your writing. The SEO Copywriting Certification training now offers content reviews and feedback. Learn more about the training.

Image credit:

©  | Dreamstime.com

How to get prospects to say yes faster

Even this sloth was motivated by these tips

Slow prospect? Get clients to move faster with these tips!

We’ve all been there.

You had a great phone call with your prospect.  You laughed. You bonded. You explored ways to work together. At the end of the call, the prospect said, “This sounds good. Can you shoot me a proposal outlining what we talked about?”

You hang up the phone, write up a fantastic proposal and email it over. Then … nothing.

No email.

No phone call.

No contract.

It’s like your proposal has fallen into a black hole.

You may hear from your prospect in a few weeks. Or not at all. And you’re left wondering what you did wrong.

So … what DID go wrong?

A number of things could have harshed your prospect’s initial buzz and caused the problem.

1. Your prospect could have gotten slammed with a bunch of work and they haven’t had time to read your proposal.

2. Your prospect is not the final decision maker. Your proposal is sitting in their boss’ inbox.

3. You didn’t talk about price and now your client is experiencing sticker shock.

4. Your prospect found someone else after you talked – and they don’t want to tell you.

5. Your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency about signing with you.

The longer your proposal is “out there,” the less likely you’ll see a signed contract. Sure, there are exceptions to this. But the key is to try to control these situations as much as you can.

Here’s how:

If your prospect is slammed with a bunch of work 

Unfortunately, your prospect isn’t waiting for your proposal to pop into her inbox (ah, if only.) One way you can deal with this situation is by asking a simple question during your sales call:

“I can have this proposal to you by Thursday. When are you available to chat for 30 minutes so we can go through the proposal together and I can answer your questions?”

No, you’re not being pushy. Setting an appointment allows you to talk through the proposal and answer any questions. Plus, at the end of the conversation, you can ask for the sale (saying something like, “We can start on this project next week. Shall I send out an agreement?” tends to work well.)

Plus, this is good for your prospect, too. Scheduling a time to chat keeps the ball rolling. After all, you know how stressful it is to have something hanging out in your inbox for days (or weeks.) Your prospects feel the same way.

If your prospect isn’t the final decision maker

Your prospect may be gathering information for his boss. So, although he loves your energy and wants to work with you, he’s not the one cutting the checks.

Ask your prospect who the final decision maker is during your initial sales call. If he says “my boss,” try to loop his supervisor into the conversation somehow. One way is to ask that the supervisor attend the “let’s talk about the proposal” call.  That way, the decision maker can hear directly from you – and make a faster decision.

As a side note, you always want to connect with the decision maker as much as possible. Otherwise, you’re trusting someone – someone you don’t really know – to “sell” your services to them. That can often be a fast track to a “Sorry, but I can’t get funding for this” response.

If you didn’t talk about price and your prospect is experiencing sticker shock

Forgot to talk about price? Shame on you! If you’re overpriced for that particular client, you’re wasting their time (and yours) if you hold calls and create a proposal only to find that the client needs it for 50% less.

I know it’s hard to talk about money – but it’s something to get over. An easy, low-stress way to do this is mention during the initial client contact, “Our engagements start at $2,500″ (or whatever your minimum fee is.) Some people even put this on their contact form. That way, prospects with smaller budgets know to look elsewhere for services.

If your prospect decided to work with someone else – and they don’t want to tell you

Has it been a looonnnngggg time since you’ve heard anything? At all?  Are your friendly check-in emails getting ignored? It’s tempting to send a nastygram and say something like, “I’ve been trying to reach you for two months. You said you needed the proposal immediately. What gives?”

Relax and take a chill pill.

If it’s been a long time and you haven’t heard anything, let the prospect off the hook by saying, “I’d still love to work with you. I’ll continue to check in with you from time to time. Otherwise, I’ll assume that your priorities shifted and the project is on the back burner for now.” That way, you keep things friendly (after all, they may come back) and let them know that you’re open to other projects.

However, sometimes the problem isn’t because the client found someone else to work with. Sometimes, the issue is because they aren’t motivated to sign fast. If that’s the case ….

If your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency

This is where a little psychology comes into play. If you want a prospect to sign fast, you may have to instill a sense of urgency. This can be done a couple ways:

1. Tell the client that you only have room for one more client – and other contracts are pending (many writers legitimately have this “problem.”) That way, the client knows that they have to act fast. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait to work with you.

2. I learned this trick from Ammon Johns (thank you, Ammon!). Provide clients a “fast-signing discount.” After all, it takes a lot of your time to chase down prospects, check in with them, etc. Why not incentivize them to act quickly? Plus, people always love to save money!

The more you can minimize the time to “yes,” the more clients you can work with – and the more money you can make. It may mean going through an extra step (for instance, holding a call to talk about the proposal.) Or pre-qualifying the client a little better. But, once you have your process tight and wired, you should be experiencing fewer “black hole proposals” – and many more signed contracts.

Top photo thanks to Dave Gingrich (handshakes)

Hey freelance writers! Want to learn how to make more money, faster? You can save almost $100 on the Copywriting Business Bootcamp through April 13th, 2014. Use coupon code BOOTCAMP.

Diversify or die

DiversifyImagine what would happen if your biggest client left you for another vendor.

Would you be OK and simply move on to another client?

Or would you be out of business in less than two months?

You may think, “Hey, my clients are awesome. This will never happen to me.”

Yeah, I used to think that, too.

But here’s the scary thing…

Companies go out of business.

Companies have cash flow problems and slow-pay their vendors.

Your contact could quit or get fired – and your new contact may want to work with someone else.

Companies can (and will) break their retainer agreements with you.

If you don’t have other clients to take up the slack, you will be up a very stinky creek without a paddle.

I’ve seen this happen many times.

One woman worked with a client for over five years. When a new marketing manager came on board and wanted to “change directions,” her firm was fired – and the owner was suddenly scrambling for a full-time job.

Another person had to shut down his business and get a “real job” until he could build things back up again. It took him five years.

This can happen to you too. If you let it.

Here’s how to prevent an irritating situation from turning into one that crashes your business.

- Diversify your client base (or die.) Ever hear that you’re supposed to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for maximum health? It’s the same with your client base. Rather than relying on just one (or two) main clients, have a number of client gigs going at once – plus, more prospects in the pipeline. That way, it won’t hurt if a client (even a big client) goes away. You can even build out a product or write a book. Those “extras” can mean some stable money.

- Build an emergency account. Freelance writers (and business owners in general) don’t often think about a business emergency account – but it is VERY important. Try to have at least three months’ expenses socked away. If a client flakes out, you’ll know you can still pay your bills. One way you can do this is to transfer a percentage of every sale to a savings account. That way, you’re always feeding your savings account in a low-stress, easy way.

- Always keep selling. Always. Don’t figure that you can sit back and rest on your laurels, because you can’t. I’ve made this mistake before. Take sales calls even if you’re busy. Send out proposals during your “I’m so swamped I can barely move” times. Otherwise, you may wake up one day and realize you have no work to do – and no income coming in.

- Consider any “big money” client extra cash. Don’t rely on it, don’t get used to it and for heaven’s sake – don’t spend all of it. In a perfect world, you bank a considerable part of that cash in your retirement or “just in case” fund.

The more you learn how to protect your business, the more you’ll be ready for those inevitable “lean times” that come your way. Then, you can find the perfect client to replace one that has left – rather than scrambling for whoever you can get.

And that’s a wonderful thing.

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Photo credit: Lola1960

What’s the ‘best’ word count for Google?

Dog with questionOnce upon a time, SEO consultants recommended that every page have at least 250 words of content (although that was always a rule of thumb.)

Today, it’s an entirely different story. Today, 250 words is almost considered thin content. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast answer to the “how many words is right for Google” question.

For instance:

One recent case study reports that longer blog posts (over 1,500 words) position better in Google.

Another article discusses that we’re in the “age of skimming” and people won’t read a longer article. Anything too long will get stuck in the tl;dr trap (too long; didn’t read.)

What’s an SEO writer to do?

Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.

That means:

- Throw your assumptions out the window. Many writers think long-form sales copy doesn’t work in today’s overstimulated world. Yet, some studies show the opposite. Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.

It’s easy to say “people don’t read online.” But perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “people won’t read content that doesn’t meet their needs.” As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”

- Poll your readers. A simple way to learn what your readers want to read is to ask them (amazing, I know!) You may find that many of their suggested topics would make great in-depth-article fodder or quickie “tips” posts. Free software like Survey Monkey makes running reader surveys a snap.

- Learn from analytics and testing. What posts do people love? What posts fall flat? Are longer posts getting shared more than shorter ones? What are your post bounce rates? Carefully review your analytics, test your content and see what’s clicking with your readers.

- Tighten up your writing.  Godin may write a 150-word post one day and a 1,500 word post the next. And that’s OK. Either way, his word count represents how long it takes to get his point across – and no more. Don’t “fluff up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement. 

Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy: Have I said everything I could? Have I overcome all objections? Have I showcased the product or service? Is the keyphrase usage seamless? Does the copy encourage the next conversion step? Have I connected with my reader?

If your answer is “yes,” you’ve done your job.

It’s really as simple as that.

(Note: This post originally ran in 2008, and I completely updated it for today’s brave new Google world. I hope you enjoyed it!)

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If you’re so smart, why do you feel so insecure?

Soul tattoo“There’s no way I can take this job. I don’t know enough.”

“I can’t pitch a big brand. All those people are smarter than I am.”

“Yeah, I know they’re making tons of money. But that’s not me. I’m not at their level.”

To this, I say poppycock (and how many times do you get to say “poppycock” in today’s world?).

You are good enough, smart enough – and dammit, people like you! Plus, you know you can do the work and do it well.

The only person holding you back is you.

Many freelance writers have a huge insecurity complex. Instead of thinking, “Yeah, I can do that,” they tell themselves why they can’t. They pass on jobs because they’re “not ready.”

They roll themselves up into a teeny-tiny insecure ball and only take gigs that are the “C-word” (comfortable.)

But here’s a secret…

Every high-powered speaker, consultant, business owner and CEO has lightening-bolt blasts of insecurity. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

– They worry that they’re going to blow it on stage (and sometimes, they do – but life does go on.)

– They worry that they made the wrong business call and it will cost people their jobs.

– They worry about the numbers and how this quarter’s revenue will shake out.

– They worry … just like you.

The difference? People who have risen up the ranks have learned to feel the fear and go for it anyway. They don’t let their insecurities get in the way of their life. Instead, they see fear as a helpful (but somewhat annoying) friend who offers unsolicited advice.

Instead of buying into what your internal voices are saying, consider trying something different. Listen to the voices and respond, “Sure, I may fail. Sure, this could be the wrong call. But I’m doing the best job I can with the information I have.”

And then go for it.

If this post resonates with you, it’s time to expand your horizons.

– Stop sabotaging yourself (I’ll talk about this in a future blog post.)

– Say “yes” even if your stomach tightens up in knots and you’re scared to death.

– Be at peace with “failure” – because screwing up is sometimes how we learn our best lessons.

– And give yourself permission to be more than you are now. That may mean landing a better writing job. Or going after bigger clients. Or charging more.

Your insecurity is normal. Now it’s time to get over it.

As my friend’s tattoo in the picture says, “Your soul is rooting for you.”

Isn’t it time to listen?

Are you feeling like you “can’t” do something? Did something wonderful happen because you overcame your fear? Let me know in the comments below!

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It’s not a mindless waste! Writing lessons from TV

Television doesn’t have to be a time-waster.

It’s amazing how much we can learn about copywriting from our favorite TV shows. These 7 posts demonstrate that TV doesn’t have to be mindless entertainment. It can help us write better SEO content, too. Enjoy!

Mr.SpockMr. Spock’s guide to out-of-this-world SEO copywriting

Heather unleashes her inner Trekkie to relate Spock’s wisdom to your SEO copywriting needs.

What does “What you want is irrelevant, what you have chosen is at hand,” have to do with SEO copywriting?

Beam into this post to find out!

 

 

What you can learn from informercialsSo how well does your copywriting convert?

In this video post, Heather shows how infomercials create copy that sells.

For one, the scripts are carefully written and designed to build excitement and convert.

But wait, there’s more! (In the post)

 

 

Mad Men guide to online writingWhat Mad Men can teach you about online writing

We can learn a lot from the TV show Mad Men.

“Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”-Don Draper

Just think about it. Deeply. Then read this post.

 

rp_Stuck-220x180.jpgWhat Girls can teach you about your soul-crushing corporate job

Are you starting to feel like Hannah from the TV show Girls in your own corporate gig?

You’re not alone – and there’s something you can do about it!

Heather offers a plan of escape in this post.

 

A solid content strategy will organize & track content

Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU

This is the first in a three-part series by SEO Copywriting guest author Angie Nikoleychuk on how Criminal Minds can improve your content.

In this post, Angie shows you how to set up a Behavioral Analysis Unit for your content based on her behavior-breakdown of the characters.

Investigate this post for more.

 

 

 

Live long and prosper, my friends!

What other tips have you gleaned from your favorite TV shows?

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What Girls can teach you about your soul-crushing corporate job

Does your in-house job leave you feeling a little...stuck?

Does your in-house job leave you feeling a little … stuck?

Do you feel stuck in your corporate job?

Yes, you’re happy to even have a job. Your paycheck arrives like clockwork. You have benefits. Heck, you may even have a creative job like marketing communications, design or SEO writing.

Yet, you feel like your corporate job is sucking away at your soul.

You dream of casting off the chains, hanging out your freelance writing shingle and being your own boss. Picking your own clients. Writing about what you feel passionate about – not creating spec sheets for industrial machinery (or whatever your current job has you doing.)

In a recent episode of Girls, Hannah’s new job is writing advertorials for GQ magazine. She starts out feeling excited – she’s got some great ideas, she makes a new friend and she discovers the joy of free snacks.

Then, reality kicks in. Hannah realizes her coworkers are published writers – yet, they haven’t pursued their writing for a long time. They let their dreams die while enjoying the benefits a corporate job brings.  After an initial freak-out, Hannah vows that will never happen to her.

If you’ve been feeling stuck, consider this Girls episode your wake-up call.

You can have it all – a full-time gig and a creative business. You just have to want it bad enough. Maybe you only have an hour a day to work on your side gig. Maybe you spend your lunch hours working on creative projects. But you can do it.

Here’s how to make it happen:

- Assess your landscape. What do you need to help your dream take shape? $10K in the bank? Pay off your debts? Refine your copywriting skills? Make a list of what you’ll need to make it happen. Don’t censor yourself or think, “There is no way in hell I can do this.” Quiet that voice. You CAN do it.

- Set SMART goals. This isn’t a sprint. It’s a baby-step process. Figure out your top three goals and break down the individual tasks. It may take you months to accomplish one goal. That’s OK.

- Stay disciplined. Set aside time to work your butt off. If you’re too tired after work, get up an hour early and work on your dreams before work. Find chunks of time during your day. A little bit of progress is better than none at all. Do NOT let “I don’t have time” creep into your vocabulary.

- Allow yourself some slack-off time. You can’t work like a fiend 24/7. Take at least one day off a week and do something fun. Burnout and overwhelm will slow you down.

- Create a cheering section. There will be days you’ll think you’ll never escape from your real job. Life will test you and cause you to question your goals and progress. Your cheering section will remind you how far you’ve come and keep your eye on the prize

- Finally, celebrate your successes. Did you launch your new website? Publish an article? Land a new client? Take time out to celebrate. It may take you a couple years to pull away from your “real job,” but you have a plan. You’ve made progress.  And that’s a huge success.

What about you? Did you escape from your corporate job? Are you planning to? Share your story in the comments below.

Want to hang out your freelance shingle and make more money, faster? The Copywriting Business Bootcamp is just $180 when you purchase it at the same time as the SEO Copywriting Certification training. Get started today!

Photo credit:   | Dreamstime.com

Freelance writers: How to tame the client from hell

Is this your freelance writing client?

Is this your freelance writing client?

Your client schedules meetings one hour before the start time.

When you tell her a job takes two weeks, she’s demanding her deliverable two days after you start.

Your client doesn’t show up for meetings (even if she scheduled them.) Sometimes she has a (poor) excuse as to why she didn’t show up. Other times, she completely blows you off without any explanation.

It’s easy to call this person the “client from hell.” She has unrealistic expectations, doesn’t respect your time and expects your best work for free. At the end of the workday, you’re cranky and filled with complaints. “I’m a professional. Why does she keep doing this to me?”

Here is your reality check. Your “client from hell” isn’t causing your unhappiness. You are – by letting it happen.

It’s tempting to put up with the behavior because, hey, it’s a client – and who wants to lose money? The issue is: setting boundaries with clients is extremely important. If you haven’t been 100% crystal clear with a client, it’s time to put your big girl (or boy) pants on and deal with the situation head-on.

Here’s how to change the situation:

- Know it’s OK to say “no”

Just because a client wants to meet right now doesn’t mean you have to accommodate them. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m afraid that I have other obligations at that time. I do have availability tomorrow at X or Y time.” If they want a deliverable earlier than promised, simply reiterate your expected delivery date. Being friendly yet firm can go a long way.

- Yes, you can charge for meeting time

This will change your life. Clients will respect your time much more if they know they’re paying for it. Just make sure that this is in your contract (and yes, you really do need a contract.)

- It’s OK to charge for missed meeting times

I’ll stay on the line for 15 minutes. If the client doesn’t show, I’ll bill them for the time. (I’ll waive the fee if there was an emergency and that’s why the client couldn’t make it.)

- Rush jobs = more money

Many freelance writers charge a 20-50% premium when the client needs a fast turnaround. That way, your time is covered (especially since you’ll have to move your schedule around to accommodate your client,) and your client gets what she needs.

- Out of scope = additional charges

It’s great when a client wants more work. It’s not so great when they don’t expect to pay for it. If the client requests something out of the original project scope, send them an email asking them to authorize the additional charge. Wait until you receive their approval before you start.

Will your client from hell kick back? Maybe. But if they do – and your client is truly driving you nuts – it’s OK to let them go. You’ll find another client to replace them soon.

Here’s what typically happens instead: Meetings are more streamlined. Rush jobs may still happen, but the client is prepared to pay for them. Your “client from hell” transforms into one of your favorite clients.

That’s a wonderful win/win for both parties.

What else would you suggest? How have you handled your own clients from hell (we’ve all had at least one …)

(Special thank you to the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group for the post inspiration!).

Are you looking for ways to make more money as a freelance writer without working so darn hard? Check out the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. 12 experts share how you can increase your income and live a better life.

 

 

Freelance writers: Here’s your secret to landing great clients

Why not stand out from the  rest of the freelance writing crowd?

Why not stand out from the rest of the freelance writing crowd?

Want to know the secret to closing more deals and landing more clients?

It’s all in your pitch.

What do you say when you talk to prospects (or chat with them on the phone?)

Do you say something like, “I’m a freelance writer with over four years experience. I write B2B copy and I specialize in web pages and blog posts.”?

Or do you say, “I transform existing B2B content into top-positioned and high-converting copy. My clients typically see a 25-60% increase in leads after my rewrites. I can work with your team as an outsourced partner or develop the content strategy for you.”

See the difference? One version pops with beefy benefit statements while the other version just … fizzles.

Many freelance writers are experts at creating USPs (unique selling propositions) for their clients. They can easily pinpoint exactly what makes their clients cool and what sets them apart.

However, these same super-smart writers get stuck when it comes to their own USPs. This is a huge disconnect. After all, there are thousands of other writers out there. You want to focus on what makes you unique. What you bring to the table. What makes you so good.

What makes you the writing expert that the client should hire? Right now.

The secret to wowing prospects and converting them into clients is to have a refined, sharp and snappy USP.  You’ve created them for your clients. Now it’s time to create one for yourself. A really good one.

Want to stand out? Here are some things to think about:

1. What past successes have you had? How have you increased your past clients’ conversion rates?

2. What specialized training do you have? Can you offer a service (such as copy testing) that other writers don’t offer?

3. Who is your target customer? What are their pain points and how can you help them go away?

4. What makes you different than all the other writers out there. Hint: It’s not “excellent customer service” or “attention to details.” All writers can and will say that. Think outside the box.

5.  Do you have a deep expertise in a certain subject matter? This is a big deal, especially in regulated industries.

6.  Do you package your services in a way that would be beneficial to your customers?

Feeling stuck? Ask another writer to help. Chances are she/he can pick your brain and develop a brilliant USP statement for you.

(And yes, you still need a USP, even if you’re brand new to the business. You may not be able to break out the beefy benefits yet, but you can certainly come up with something.)

Try tweaking your USP and see how it resonates with your prospects. Chances are, you’ll soon be closing more deals and making more money.

It’s all in the pitch. :)

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Spammy guest blogging is dead? Well duh.

spam car fliers are like spammy blog postsI’m amazed at how many people have their knickers in a knot after Matt Cutts’ latest announcement. In case you missed it, Matt’s latest post contained this interesting quote:

In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

In a word: duh.

I know, I know. People loved the magical link juice guest posting provided. That’s why blog owners receive emails saying, “I’ll write for you in exchange for a backlink.” It was never about connecting with their audience. It was all about getting the link.

Sadly, many site owners turned a blind eye and said, “OK.” They put an unknown writer – a writer they had no prior relationship with – in front of their readers. Why? To fill editorial holes. Because it was “free” content. Because they didn’t know any better.

(Note: I’m not talking about the site owners who researched their writers, carefully reviewed their submissions and insisted on quality writing. And neither is Matt – he makes that very clear in his post. There are a lot of great editors/sites out there that accept quality posts from smart writers. And there are a lot of excellent guest bloggers. They are doing it right. I’m talking about those other folks.) :)

This type of spammy guest blogging reminds me of the “article submissions and spinning” tactics from back in the day. Instead of focusing on quality writing (and quality submissions) people spread their articles around like a virulent word virus. And yeah. We all know how that turned out.

Spammy guest blogging is not marketing. It’s a stupid and short-sighted tactic like putting flyers on every car in a parking lot.  After all, when you use the “spray and pray” marketing method, you’re not really targeting your audience, are you?

Is it any wonder that Matt said, “Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”

So here are some things to think about:

If you publish a blog, you are a PUBLISHER. And that means you have a responsibility to give your readers the best possible content. If you are accepting blog posts from anyone without doing some due diligence,  you are putting your reputation (and now your rankings) at risk. It is far better to run fewer posts than it is to run a bunch of crappy ones. Econsultancy has a great post on how they are looking at this from the publishers’ perspective.

If you are a (quality) guest poster, think “does my audience read this publication” rather than “ooh, this would be another tasty link back to my site.” Write a post that’s laser-focused on that publication, the audience and their needs. Think of guest posting as a marketing play – not an SEO/link building play. After all, isn’t reaching a new audience better than just a link? As Ann Smarty said, “Do marketing AS IF Google didn’t exist.”

And if you’re a (spammy) guest poster, please give up now. Publishers are now on notice that your content will do nothing but get them in trouble. Save yourself (and everyone else) some time and quit sending your, “I will write an original and quality 500-word post in exchange for your back link” emails. Thank you.

Will my blog still accept guest posts? Sure. At the same time, Tracy, my editor, handpicks many of our guest posters. We don’t accept unsolicited posts.

Will I continue to guest blog? Yes. If it makes sense.

Is guest blogging dead? Not necessarily. But doing it just for the SEO play is dead.

Finally.

I’m so glad.

Photo thanks to Quinn Dombrowski (fliers on cars, taken too far)

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