Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

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.


I’m so glad.

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

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The SEO content writers’ manifesto

SEO Writers' ManifestoI am more than “just a writer.”

I am a profit driver. A matchmaker. A storyteller.

A content marketing dream-fulfiller.

My SEO writing helps companies reach more people, do more good and make more money.

It doesn’t matter if I’m writing about industrial machinery, hotels or software.

Or if I’m blogging, tweeting or writing sales pages.

I entice my readers. I entertain them. And I empower them to make a buying decision.

I know that I have a responsibility to learn more, write more, research more.

The more I learn, the more my writing can touch one more person. Drive one more sale. Do more good.

Sitting on my laurels and refusing to expand my knowledge goes against everything I am.

I take classes. I read books. I study and network with other writers.

Sometimes, I’m even a copywriting rebel – because “following the rules” may not make sense 100% of the time.

I’m not afraid of Google.

I embrace new social networks, new algorithmic updates and new online opportunities.

Because I know I can master anything new that’s thrown my way.

And I know good writing never goes out of style.

I know my writing ability is a gift and I treat it like the precious thing it is.

I charge accordingly for my time, set good boundaries and work when I’m fresh.

When I feel burned out or blasé, I know taking a break will restore my focus and heighten my abilities.

This helps me write commanding SEO content that stands out, gets shared and boosts conversion rates.

I take care of myself physically and mentally.

And my writing inspires people to take action, calms peoples’ fears and gives them hope.

That’s pretty powerful.

Over the years, I will drive thousands (maybe millions) in profit for my clients.

I will change lives.

I will provide hope.

I will succeed.

I am an SEO content writer.

And I love what I do.

UPDATE: My designer, Erin Kistner, transformed this post into a beautiful graphic. Please feel free to share it. :) I’ll also have a downloadable PDF soon!

SEO Writers' Manifesto

Want a PDF of the SEO Writers’ Manifesto? Just sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you the manifesto as a thank you! It’s perfect for those days when you need a little inspiration. Sign up now!


Freelance writers: Are you making this costly mistake?

Wow. This freelance writer is really frustrated. Been there. Done that.

You answer emails within five minutes of them hitting your inbox.

You race to pick up the phone by the third ring, no matter what you’re doing (or writing.)

A client emails you Saturday night at 10:45 and you immediately return their note. Even if that means taking time away from your family.

And you’re always exhausted and wondering how you can work an 11-hour day with nothing to show for it.

Sound familiar? If so, quit it! You’re hurting your productivity by being so available (and hurting your business, too.)

Here’s why:

If you don’t value your time, why should your client?

Have you ever experienced the Friday “drop and go?” This is when a client emails you late on a Friday and writes, “I’m heading out for the weekend, but I need this first thing on Monday.

Ouch.  Suddenly, you realize that your weekend plans are now on hold until you can get the client stuff squared away.

No fun.

I’ve gone through this before. I actually had a prospect demand a proposal on Christmas Eve (really!). Did I do it? Yes. And the client didn’t look at the proposal until mid-January. Yeah. I learned my lesson.

The truth is, we train our clients how to treat us. If we’re always available and accommodating, it’s not the client’s fault for thinking we could handle a weekend project. Or a rush job. Or we’d drop everything so we could complete “just this one thing.”

That’s why setting client boundaries is so important. Yes, be available within reason. And yes, there may be those times when you do work a weekend to take care of a good client. But it shouldn’t be an expectation.

Being overly available kills your productivity

“I can’t get everything done” is a common freelance writer frustration. If this is a frustration of yours, here’s a reality check:

If you’re bouncing from email to client project to phone calls, you’ll never have enough time. It will take you ten times longer to finish a fast project. You’re doing it to yourself – even if it feels like it’s being done to you. You’re multitasking yourself into an unproductive frenzy. 

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Train yourself to NOT respond every time you hear the phone ring or your email ding. Turn off the ringer. Mute the notifications. Close the door. Do everything you can to give yourself some uninterrupted work time. It’s OK. People will leave a message. You can call/email them back.

2. Tell your clients when you are available.  Most clients don’t require (or expect) an instant response. They just want to know that you’ll get back to them within a reasonable amount of time. It’s even OK to write, “I received this and I’ll look into it later today,” so they know you’re on it.

3. Practice saying, “I’m happy to do this. There will be a rush fee of X.” It’s amazing how clients will suddenly value your time much more when they know there’s an extra cost involved. :) Plus, if you do work a rush job, you know you’ll be well compensated for your time.

Try implementing these strategies. I guarantee you’ll feel more centered, energetic and focused during the day. Plus, you’ll probably see a nice productivity spike – which could mean more money in your pocket. Bonus!

What do you do to keep yourself on track? Please leave a comment with your favorite boundary-setting strategies!

Special sale – save 20% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training with coupon code HAPPY 2014. Get started today!

2013’s 11 hottest SEO copywriting posts

Spinal TapAnd, like that, 2013 is almost over.


Last year, I recapped 10 of the most popular posts 0f 2013. Many of those posts were of the “back-to-basics” variety – people were (finally) beginning to wake up to the concept of “quality content” and needed some trusted pointers.

This year, I decided to turn it up to a Spinal Tap eleven.

What did I learn from this year’s favorites? Folks are a little more content-savvy. The most popular posts included higher-level, actionable tips (this definitely surprised me – especially after last year’s favorites!)

As always, the motivational posts did well. Many writers lead fairly isolated lives and are hiding behind their laptop. A little motivation can go a long way. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

This is our last post of 2013. We’ll spend the rest of the year preparing for 2014 and enjoying time with family and friends. And maybe … just maybe … spending some quality “away from the computer” time, too. :)

Thank you so much for reading my blog, sharing posts with your colleagues and writing your comments. There are quite a few SEO/writing blogs out there, and I’m honored that you choose to spend your valuable time reading mine. I appreciate it!

Here’s to a fantastic 2014! Just let me know how I can help.

Happy New Year!


(P.S. – If you’ve been thinking about taking the Certification training, watch your inbox on New Years’ Eve ::hint, hint:: Deciding to be a better writer is one of the best gifts you can give yourself in the new year!)

#11: Quit getting paid peanuts. 10 tips for freelance writers

One of the most comment complaints I hear is, “My clients are cheap. They don’t pay me enough money to do this.” Here’s a reality check: It’s not them, it’s you. In this post, I give freelance writers a firm (but gentle) reality slap. You can control your income, but that means learning to value your worth. This is a smart read for new and established freelance copywriters.

#10: Wooing the Googlebot: 5 tips to an irresistible XML site map

How do I love thee, Googlebot? Let me count the ways. If the thought of “XML site maps” causes you to get a brain cramp, pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and read this post. Guest poster Chris Simmance does a great job breaking down why site maps are important, plus he provides some easy-to-follow best-practice formatting tips.

#9: Why you can’t fly solo as a freelance copywriter

Sure, you may feel like Superman (or Superwoman.) You may believe you don’t need any help. But know this: the most successful freelance copywriters understand the value of professional help. The next time you find yourself thinking, “I’ll try to tweak this contract myself. How bad can it be, right?” step AWAY from the email and read this post instead. You’ll be thanking Amy Teeple, the writer, for her sage advice. Trust me.

#8: How to build an internal content team: Do this, not that

Want to build an awesome content team by leveraging your existing resources? Yes, you can make this happen – if you follow some very important rules. If “how do I create a strong writing team?” is keeping you up at night, this blog post will help put your mind at ease. You’ll learn what steps to take (yes, do this!) and what will virtually guarantee failure.

#7: Yes, failure is an option!

Are you feeling bad because you “failed?” You may have lost a client, a job – maybe even a relationship. Don’t dwell in your failure. Learn from it! This post was inspired by a fantastic LinkedIn discussion – and hopefully, it will inspire you, too. Don’t forget to watch the cute corgi video at the end!

#6: 5 Easy-to-give SEO gifts that will make you a better writer in 2014

Question: What is an SEO copywriter without a web presence? Answer: Hard to find. Ready to up your game in 2014? Richard Hostler from Brookstone shares how you can improve your writing skills and rock the new year. Make sure you check out the comments. The questions (and answers) are excellent!

#5: How to thrive post-Hummingbird. A guide for SEO content creators

Is SEO writing dead? Heck no. But Google’s Hummingbird algorithm did change the game. This great roundup post by Tracy Mallette shares some great advice from industry experts.

#4: 2013 recap for SEO copywriters. What’s cool, what sucked

2013 was certainly an … interesting … year. There were lots of great changes – and some change we could have lived without. My recap explains 2013’s big changes and how SEO copywriters can thrive in today’s post-Hummingbird world. My big piece of advice to SEO writers: Get educated or get out.

#3: SEO copywriting advice from search guru Barry Schwartz

The big takeaway: “Become the expert.” I’ve known Barry for years and he is one super-smart guy (and nice, too!) This interview with Barry discusses how to handle [not provided] keyword data, how copywriters can prepare for the future of search and his incredible time management skills. This is a great article for in-house and freelance writers.

#2: 7 Call-to-action techniques and examples that work

Yes, including a call-to-action in your sales content is crucial. But how do you do it the right way – the way that gains maximum conversion rates? This great post by Shanna Mallon explains how to use trusted techniques like social proof, overcoming objections and  “sweetening the deal” to boost conversions.

#1: How Google attempts to understand what a page or query is about based upon word relationships

“The future of rankings of search results may rely upon Google building a concept-based knowledge base that understands the relationship between words, as well as probabilities that a certain relationship was intended when words are used on a page.” Wow! Powerful stuff – and so different than Google’s “shove the keyphrases into the content” days. This guest post by Bill Slawski is a must-read for anyone writing online content.

2013 recap for SEO copywriters: What’s cool, what sucked

Be different2013 was a big year for SEO copywriters.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was railing against content farms and spammy search results. This year, Google has made some major strides that changed the game and improved the SERPs. Heck, Google’s search results have gotten good enough that Jill Whalen left the industry. And that’s saying something.

Let’s talk about what happened this year – and what it means for SEO copywriters:

What’s cool

Google is definitely tightening the content quality noose. Techniques that used to work, such as “stitching” articles and spammy anchor text links in press releases are no longer considered OK (for more about press releases, here’s a great explanation from the Bruce Clay blog.)

Plus, the Hummingbird algorithm reinforces that writers don’t have to shovel keywords into the content. Yes, know your keyphrases. Understand the reader’s intent. But focus your writing on the reader – not on what you think Google “needs to see” for a top search ranking.

Does this mean that SEO copywriting is dead? Or dying? Or it’s so easy now that anyone can do it?  No. As AJ Kohn said in a Google+ post, “The ‘write naturally’ movement misses the fact that most people don’t write well.” True dat.

What it does mean is Google is finally going back to basics. Old-school print copywriters knew that every word they wrote needed to be laser-focused on the reader. We never wrote an additional 200 words of brochure copy because we thought we “needed to.” We wrote what we needed to write to tell the story.

Yes, storytelling is a big deal. Learn it. Do it. 

The key here is “telling the story” – and telling it in a unique and compelling way. In past blog posts, I discussed the importance of “commanding SEO content.” Content that’s so unique, compelling and powerful that it deserves a top spot.  As Seth Godin says, “The only reason to build a website is to change someone.”  If you’re just going through the paces and writing stuff because you’re trying to make Google happy, you’re doing it wrong.

Google doesn’t buy from you. Your customers do.

I see these changes as a good thing. I’m not nervous about the future. I’m excited. Because – finally – the conversation is starting to change. It’s not “how many words can we write for Google?” It’s “how can we create content that’s truly powerful and tells the story?”

What sucked

Google’s new Keyword Tool is pretty miserable for keyphrase research. There may be a writer who loves using it – but I haven’t talked to him or her yet. My recommendation is that Google is good for “training wheels” keyphrase research. But if you want to really turn your research up to 11, it means working with a more robust keyphrase research tool.

That means writers need to invest in something like Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery or their other favorite tool of choice (which is something they should be doing anyway.)

Of course, Google’s decision to list all organic keyphrases as [not provided] was a major kick in the teeth. Once upon a time, it was easy to see the keyphrases that were driving the most traffic. Now, things are a little more tricky. Can it be done? Sure. But you need to know how to do it. Tracy Mallette’s [not provided] roundup provides a great overview on what this means and what to do.

What SEO copywriters need to do in 2014

First, you need to be prepared to up your writing game. If you’re an OK writer, it’s time to put the time in to get really, really good. Now is not the time to sit back and figure your writing is “good enough.”

Good enough just won’t cut it anymore.

Ann Handley wrote a fantastic article about how 2014 is the year of good writing.  One of my favorite quotes from her article is:

Next—in 2014 and beyond—comes the notion that good writing is the foundation of all good content, whether that content is a 140-character tweet or the product pages of your website or your content marketing infographic.

I. Love. This.

Second, if you want to truly succeed as an SEO copywriter – whether you work in-house or freelance – you need to keep up with the latest information. It’s scary how many smart SEO copywriters don’t know what rel=author is. I mention and I can see their eyes glaze over. When I mention Hummingbird, they don’t understand what it means and how it’s important.

And that’s sad.

You have a responsibility to your clients, your company and yourself to stay informed. That doesn’t mean you need to be an SEO expert. But you do need to keep your head in the game. Yes, improve your writing skills. But know what’s happening out in the wide world of Google. For every thing you don’t know, you’re missing opportunities. You’re leaving money on the table. You’re falling behind.

In short: get educated or get out.

There are a host of resources (free and paid) that can help you. Use them. Learn from them. Consider them business expenses that are just as important as your phone, your laptop and your software. Because they are.

Like Ann, I see 2014 as a very exciting year for SEO copywriters. I see lots of opportunity – and lots of revenue for smart SEO copywriters.

I’m ready. Are you?

Let’s rock it. Together.

Ready to learn some advanced B2B writing skills? Check out the B2B SEO Copywriting Certificate courses – all taught by industry experts.


Do you love ‘em and leave ‘em online?

Imagine this…

You’ve finally gotten a date with the girl (or guy) of your dreams. He or she wines you, dines you and treats you like royalty. You’re enamored. You’re blown away. You’re willing to do anything to keep the good vibrations going.

Then, the relationship reaches the … um … conversion phase. You’re on cloud nine …

… until the person never calls you again.

If you’ve had this happen to you, you know how it feels. You go from telling your friends that you’re majorly “in like” with the person to disclosing, “Yeah, now I feel like an idiot. They dropped me as soon as they got what they wanted. I knew it was too good to be true.”

This scenario happens online all the time. 

In fact, it’s true confession time. This recently happened to me.

I just ordered a Vitamix online. This is no blender. This is a freakin’ blending powerhouse. I had received their emails, read their sales copy and let them seduce me with their bad-ass blending stories.

I held out for months, but I finally gave in. I pulled the trigger on a highly expensive blender purchase.

And ::poof:: like that, it was like I never existed. Days later, I have no idea if my product shipped. There’s been no communication. And now I’m thinking, “Wow, the least they could do is send me a ‘we’re working on your shipment’ note.”

After calling the company, I learned that it could take 8 to 15 days before they ship the product. This would have been nice to know prior to pulling the trigger.

I actually regretted the purchase. I went from “Yay, a Vitamix” to “Wow, what a pain.”

Sadly, this “love ‘em and leave ‘em” scenario is pretty common online. For instance:

– Companies that offer huge discounts to acquire customers – yet they don’t extend comparable discounts to existing clients (Ahem, Comcast.)

– Companies that take days (sometimes weeks) to respond to a customer’s questions via email (I’m looking at you, Citibank.)

– Companies that put you through phone tree hell and shift you around to different representatives before you get a real answer (Hello, CenturyLink.)

The common denominator? Things are all hunky dory until you convert. Once you’re a current customer, there’s no sense of urgency.

Although I’m naming larger companies, I’ve seen the “small guys” do this, too. It’s typically not done out of maliciousness or spite.

They are just so busy focusing on customer acquisition that they forget to take care of their current clients.

Fortunately, there are some ways to shift this thinking. And smart copywriting can help!

– Send a note to your clients a couple weeks after their purchase. Ask if they have any questions or if there’s a way you can help (and yes, this can be automated.)

– Did you get an email? Follow-up that business day (or the next business day.) Don’t leave people hanging and wondering, “Did they get my message?” A quick note saying, “I’ll get back to you shortly” makes all the difference.

– Offer cool discounts or incentives to current good customers. There is nothing that makes someone happier than an unexpected gift. Treat them well.

– Send current clients a note expressing how grateful you are for their business. Because you ARE grateful. If it wasn’t for your existing client base, you wouldn’t be able to pay your staff, keep the lights on or draw a salary.

– Did you mess up? It happens. Own it and write a personal note to your clients. They’ll appreciate the effort.

The more you take care of your current clients, the more they’ll purchase from you in the long term. Plus, they’ll say wonderful things about you (rather than writing snarky blog posts/tweets about your “customer service.”) :)

After all, wouldn’t you rather have a long-term online relationship than an unsatisfying one-night stand?

Are you a B2B writer? Check out the new B2B SEO Copywriting Certificate classes – all taught by recognized experts. Sign up now for a very special price!


Happy Thanksgiving!

ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving!

I’m grateful for so many things this year. Here is a partial list…

– I love what I do and I have fun doing it.

– I have fantastic friends who love me, despite my eccentricities. :)

– I have an incredible husband.

– And I’m grateful for you!  Thank you for reading my blog, writing your comments and sharing my posts with your friends and colleagues. I appreciate it more than you know.

May you enjoy a wonderful day filled with fun, family, friends and lots of yummy food!

Have a wonderful holiday!  “Talk” to you next week.

Gobble, gobble –

– Heather

Yes, failure is an option!

Yes! It's OK to fail!When’s the last time you’ve blown it big time?

Maybe you passed up a great job opportunity.

Or you screwed up with a client and they fired you.

Or you started a new business that lost more money than it made.

Or you divorced who you thought was your soul mate.

People tend to believe there’s something shameful in “failing.” They don’t talk about their screw-ups. They don’t think about them. Instead, the failure weighs them down like a huge boulder. Every time they go to do something different – get in a new relationship, start a new business or land another client – the failure boulder crushes their spirit.

“Are you crazy,” it says. “You remember what happened before. Why are you even THINKING about this?”

So, you contract. You pass on opportunities. Life gets smaller and more scary.

My response to that: Screw failure!

Here’s a secret: You know that person you admire? The person who has the “perfect life” with the “perfect income?”

They’ve messed up time and time again. They’ve just learned to deal with it.

I was brought up in a “failure is not an option” household. If I got solid “A’s” on my report card, my father wanted to know why I didn’t get A+’s. If I was #2, there was a huge discussion about why I wasn’t #1.

Maybe you got the same message.

I learned – gradually – to fail. Sometimes, I didn’t land the client I wanted. Sometimes, my relationships didn’t work out. Sometimes, my business took turns I didn’t want it to take.

Oddly enough, there was always an upside to failure. My next relationship was always better. I eventually landed a cool new client. And the weird business twists and turns always worked out.

Slowly, I realized that failure was an option.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had the crap kicked out of me. I’ve gone through extreme business and personal failures that knocked me on my butt. I was depressed, scared and I isolated myself. For months.

Yet, now I can look back and say, “Thank goodness for that situation.” Because the failure taught me things. I learned I was strong. I was resilient. And I always land on my feet … even though it seems like it’s a long, long way down before I land.

If not for my various failures …

– I wouldn’t have met my wonderful husband

– I wouldn’t be in the best shape of my life (and even studying to be a personal trainer!)

– I wouldn’t have the compassion I have for people going through various health and financial difficulties.

– I wouldn’t have created the exact kind of business that fits my personality and work habits.

– I would be facing various health problems as a result of my lifestyle.

Derek Cromwell had a great line in the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group (and his note is the inspiration for this blog post.) He said:

I’ve grown to the point where when I see that fall coming I put my arms in the air and scream “weeeeeeeeeee!” on the way down.

I love this! What a visual!

So go ahead. Make mistakes. Screw up. Embrace your failures and learn from them. Put yourself out there. Live your dream. If you mess up – so what. We ALL mess up.

Just scream “weeeeeee!” on the way down. :) Just like Buddy the Corgi on the twisty slide:

Life is much sweeter when you take a few risks along the way. Why not go for it?

Do you want to launch an SEO copywriting business in 2014, but you don’t know how to begin? Contact me today! I can help!

How to build an internal content team: Do this, not that

PuzzleYes, you can source low-cost, quality content by leveraging your internal resources (I talked about this last week.)

If you follow some basic guidelines.

The key to a strong internal team is putting the right puzzle pieces together the right way. I’ve helped a number of companies tap into their teams and uncover some fantastic “diamond-in-the-rough” SEO writers.

For some companies, the process has gone smoothly. Others faced a rough road, full of missed deadlines, resentful employees and a failed content effort.

Here’s what separates the smart companies from the rest:

Yes! Do this!

- Hire an editor. The editor can be an employee or a vendor who double-checks the content. This role is extremely important, so choose wisely. You need someone who can develop and assign topic ideas, has worked with writers before and knows how to provide smart feedback. Plus, your editor needs to be super-knowledgeable about SEO. He’ll often be researching the keyphrases and optimizing the content – so he needs to know what he’s doing.

- Tell your team why their contribution is important and give them frequent kudos. If you say, “You need to start writing blog posts,” you will face resentment. Instead, share why you’re turning to them for blogging help, watch their progress and reward their successes (such as a top Google ranking or lots of social shares.) The more invested your writer is in the process, the better content she’ll create.

- Train your writers. This is important even if an editor is inserting keyphrases and writing the title and meta description. More knowledge means your writer can create a better work product – one that your editor won’t have to red-line, rewrite and tear her hair out over. Your subject matter experts don’t need to be SEO whiz kids. But they should know the SEO content basics.

- Create an SEO content style guide (or hire a firm to create this for you.) Outline the general blog post format, the reading audience, how headlines and subheads are used and how many words you expect per post. If you have a list of things that can’t be mentioned (for instance, if you’re in a highly regulated industry,) outline these expectations and make them clear. A style guide gets everyone on the same page and helps standardize the content’s look and feel.

Need more direction? Here’s a great post by Ian Lurie that discusses how to create a style guide.

Want to virtually guarantee failure?  Don’t even think about doing this!

- Send your team to an SEO conference with the task of “learn how to do SEO copywriting and come back and teach the rest of us.” Most conferences don’t delve deeply enough into SEO content writing fundamentals to really provide any actionable knowledge (especially for newbies.) After all, what can your team realistically learn in a one-hour session?

- Assign blog posts without providing a deadline. Your team members are already busy with 1,000 things on their plate. If you don’t tell them when something is due, it’s going to get pushed to the back burner.

- Bring someone on who isn’t a good writer and/or hates writing.  Just because you’re an enthusiastic blogger doesn’t mean everyone else is too. Some people would rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard than write a blog post. Do not have these people write your web copy. It will not go well.

- Assign unrealistic deadlines. If you tell someone their newly-assigned blog post is “due tomorrow,” her head will probably explode.  Sure, you may only need 400 words. But know that it can take a lot of time to write 400 words – especially for non-writers. Give them time and space. The end product will be much better (and the writer will feel better about it, too.)

- Take the post without editing it first. Yes, you need to focus on making sure the right keyphrases are in the right spots. But you’ll also need someone to check grammar, spelling and general flow. If the post quality is low, don’t post it – even if you are on deadline. The only thing worse than no blog posts is a bunch of crappy ones.

- Let other priorities get in the way. Many companies outsource their content because they know it will actually get done. Internal teams may shift the content priority from, “This is highly important,” to “Well, we have a trade show next week. Let’s skip all blogging until we’re back.” Keep calm and keep blogging on – no matter what’s swirling around you. The momentum alone will help support your success.

Does your team need writing examples, SEO copywriting training and some hands-on help? I can customize a solution that transforms writers from “meh” into “marvelous.” Contact me with your requirements.