Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

Wake up! It’s time to take control of your SEO content

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-alarm-clock-image18561200Your conversion rates are low.

Your SEO copywriter you hired did an “OK” job…but it’s not “standout” content.

Your frustration levels are through the roof.

Isn’t it time to take control of your SEO content?

(Short answer: Yes!)

I get it. I do. You want to make changes, but you’re overwhelmed. You aren’t sure where to start. You’re losing rankings to competitors (even ones with poor content experiences.) And you’re so close to the site that you can’t see even the most obvious headsmacking SEO copy ideas.

Instead of burying your head in the virtual sand, it’s time to take action. Now.

If you’re too close to your content, find a consultant who can show you the possibilities.

If your writers suck at creating SEO content (it happens,) get them trained.

If you need an SEO copywriter to fix your content, hire one.

Being in control feels good, doesn’t it?

Do your in-house writers need SEO copywriting training? I can help! Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training and my customized training solutions. (Need testimonials? Here they are - and here are some more!)

 

 

Should you close your freelance copywriting business?

Should you close your freelance copywriting business?

Have you been thinking about closing your freelance copywriting business and working in-house instead?

Ouch. Talk about a difficult decision…

You may be thinking of closing up shop for a number of reasons:

- You aren’t hitting your financial goals, and you’re in debt (or heading that way.)

- You’re burned out and your heart isn’t in it anymore.

- You realize you could go farther, faster if you worked in-house.

- You’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity that’s too good to pass up.

I’ve gone through this myself. About 10 years ago, I was one fried woman. A number of huge life hits left me bruised and battered. I felt lonely, burned out and frustrated. Working in-house seemed like the perfect solution – it was a stable paycheck, and I could work with some great people.

(I lasted six months before I realized I made a mistake – but it was a great lesson.)

If you’re feeling this way, you are not alone. At all. I’ve talked to many freelance copywriters who dream about taking a “real job.”

But they don’t like to talk about it because they feel ashamed. Or, they may feel like they’ve failed or done something horribly wrong.

And that can’t be further from the truth.

There is no law that says you have to keep your business doors open forever. However, you’ll want to be very (very) sure that closing shop is the best thing for you.

If you’re facing this dilemma, here are some things you can do.

- Talk to someone. Don’t let this bottle up inside of you. You aren’t the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. It’s important to get this stuff OUT.

- Assess the core issue behind the urge to get a in-house copywriting job. Is it financial? Are you burned out? Are you tired of the self-employment stress?

- Be gentle with yourself. If you’re working 12-hour days, six days a week, of course you’re going to burn out.  Before you make a major leap, consider if you need a little self-care first. Once you’re stuck in burnout land, finding financial opportunities is challenging.

- Are your expectations realistic? Do you keep hearing about “six-figure copywriters” and wonder why you’re only making five figures your first year? Relax. Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous slippery slope.

- Ask yourself how you can improve the situation. Do you need business-building skills or a business mentor to help you with the financial aspects? If you’re feeling particularly stuck, chatting with someone can provide insights you may not figure out on your own.

- Consider creative solutions. Do you need a stable income? Some jobs will let you freelance part time. That way, you can keep your business, and still enjoy the security of a paycheck.

- Is the opportunity too good to pass up? Take it! Sure, you may not really want to take a “real job,” but some gigs are really cool…and ones you won’t be able to land as a freelancer.

As a side note:

Beware taking a job just for the money. No matter how many Benjamins an employer throws at you, you need to like the people, the company and what you’ll be doing. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a high-paying job you hate (and you may not be able to exit easily.) Trust me. A little company research goes a long way…

Are you burned out and need some business-building help? I can help. Check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp and learn how to increase your income without working so darn hard.

 

Stop creating ordinary SEO content!

Stand out from the crowdHave you ever heard, “I like how our competitors wrote their web copy. Let’s do something similar.”

Or, “Don’t spend a lot of time on SEO content. It’s just for Google, anyway.”

No, no, no!

Why not offer extraordinary content instead?

Great SEO content means setting the bar – not following the herd

Eric Enge talks about the importance of “standout content.” It’s not enough to put a slightly different spin on the tried and true. It’s figuring out what wows your readers, draws them in and makes them happy.

It’s going beyond ho-hum and jumping into “hell yeah!”

This week, take a hard look at  your SEO content. Does it sound the same as your competitors? Is it personality challenged?  Consider how you can create standout content that will leave your readers wanting more.

You’ll be making your readers (and your conversion rates) very happy if you do

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Your prospects don’t care what you think

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-indifferent-face-made-strawberries-image16296575“We’re the market leader.”

“Our products are life-changing.”

Yeah? So what?

Many companies focus their content around fluffy, chest-beating statements. They think the only way they can “sell” their products or services is telling their prospects how cool they are.

But that’s just not true.

After all, who would you rather trust: A company that says they’re all that?

Or, would you trust the opinion of someone who actually worked with the company and enjoyed the experience?

Instead, a much more effective technique is using social proof in your SEO content.  Things like powerful testimonials, case studies and using the bandwagon effect can make a a huge difference in a site’s conversion rate.

For instance, this site does a great job with their testimonials (as well as other SEO stuff.)

Your content challenge: Get more testimonials for your site. Display them prominently.

And watch your conversion rates rise…

 

 

 

New SEO content writer? How to conquer fear and land clients

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-transform-fear-action-concept-image29545056Starting your career as a freelance SEO content writer is scary. 

You know you’re a good writer. You may have written some web copy for friends. Heck, you may even have a client or two – or you worked in-house.

“Dabbling” as a freelance SEO content writer is one thing. You’re testing the waters and seeing if you really want to continue.

But then there comes that “jumping off” point. That point where you say, “I want to turn this into a full-time business. What should I do next?”

That’s where the fear sets in.

Unfortunately, this is when smart SEO copywriters start making not-so-smart decisions. They get scattered. They get frustrated. And sometimes, they give up – long before they should.

If you’re new to the freelance SEO content writing business, here’s what to do:

 

- Write as much SEO content as you can. This sounds like a no-brainer tip, I know. But it’s amazing how many “newbie” SEO copywriters spend so much time on “book learning” that they forget that the only way to truly improve their craft is by writing.

One of the easiest ways to start is by building a blog. Write about “stuff” you enjoy and you’re passionate about. Practice setting up an editorial calendar. Learn how to research keyphrases and develop a keyphrase strategy. Don’t worry about screwing up – this is all for practice. Your own blog allows you to try and test different approaches. Then, you can take that new-found expertise and use it to wow your new clients.

- Study your butt off.  Yes, you’ll want to write every chance you get. But remember, “book learning” is still important. I’ve spent over 20 years learning how to craft persuasive content, and I’m still learning. Plus, if you don’t know the SEO content writing “rules” you’re putting your site – and your future clients’ site – at risk. Read books, blog posts (here’s a great list,) and take courses. When you learn something new, take that knowledge back to your blog and put it into practice.

- Volunteer your time. Don’t think of this as “giving away your time.” or “working for free.” Instead, consider this an “unpaid internship.” I’m willing to bet that your local not-for-profit would love your help (and be grateful for it, too.) Plus, you can use an opportunity like this to gain your first testimonial.

- Find an SEO copywriting mentor. Sometimes, you can offer to work with a Master SEO freelance copywriter as an intern. You may be working for free, but you’ll have someone checking your work, offering guidance and letting you work with different types of clients.

I’m going to chat about how to find a mentor in a future blog post. There’s definitely a way to “pitch” a possible mentor – and things to definitely avoid. Stay tuned!

- Work with small businesses. Local, small businesses rarely have the budget for full-on copywriting help – and they are incredibly grateful for any SEO writing help.

Your best bet is starting small. Create a monthly newsletter. Rewrite a couple pages of web content. Conduct keyphrase research. Offer to work for free or at a highly discounted rate. Great experience like this can gain you even more testimonials – even case studies (which are crucial for landing new clients!)

- Know your fear is normal – but it’s time to get over it. You will be rejected. You will have dark nights of the soul when you’d rather work at Starbucks than write another word. You will feel like you’re not good enough. There will be aspects of your business that are not so fun. We all go through it. Allow yourself time (like, 10 minutes – not an entire day) to freak out, bitch, moan and fear the unknown. Then, go out there and pitch your new client.

You’ve got this. Really!

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What your readers aren’t telling you about your SEO content

Um, you’ve got some food stuck in your teeth…

Have you ever looked in the mirror and found a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth? You probably immediately picked it out and thought, “Why didn’t anyone tell me? How long has THAT been there?”

It’s the same with your website. You may have a glaring website boo-boo that you’ve never noticed. It’s right there – like that piece of spinach.

You just don’t see it.

I guarantee you – your readers notice it.  They just don’t tell you.

This week’s SEO content writing challenge is to find that piece of spinach that’s messing up your site content.

Maybe it’s a misspelling. Or a content mullet.

Find it and fix it.

Your site will look so much better for it.

Want more SEO content writing goodness? Sign up for my free SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter and receive my free “How to write for Google” whitepaper as a thank you.

Quit getting paid peanuts: 10 tips for freelance writers

Freelance writer paid peanuts

Tired of getting paid peanuts?

Do you find yourself complaining that your SEO writing clients are cheap and not paying you what you’re worth?

Here’s a reality check.

It’s not your clients’ fault that you’re getting paid peanuts.

It’s yours.

I know, I know – I’m being harsh. But I’m doing it in a loving way. When you’re a freelance SEO writer, you are responsible for your business’ success. If you find yourself begging to be paid $50 for a 500 word post, you need to change your marketing process, pronto.

Here’s how to do it:

- Quit doing what you’ve done before. If you know that marketing yourself on Elance and Odesk is going to get you low-paying gigs, quit relying on them as primary revenue sources. Chances are, the dollar amounts aren’t going to get any better. Instead, create a marketing plan and stick with it. That probably means creeping out of your comfort zone. That’s OK. It’s good for you.

- Pull yourself out of the “I’m doing this for experience” trap. Sure, it’s OK to charge super-low rates when you’re first starting out. After that, you need to do important things like eat and pay your rent. If you think your writing isn’t worth it, your prospects won’t either (and they won’t pay you the fee you want.)

- Take things off the table. Can your prospect pay for some – but not all – of your proposed deliverables? Take something away until you can reach their price point. That way, you’re not discounting your prices – and your prospect gets (almost all) of what they need.

- Find a niche and establish your expertise. Pam Foster – who specializes in pet copywriting – is a great example of someone who has found a profitable niche. She’s the recognized go-to expert within the pet industry (and she can charge for that expertise accordingly.)

- Learn to say “no.” Does a new prospect want you to do everything for 50 percent less than your stated price? Just say no. Nicely. Practice saying “no” in front of a mirror if needed. Remember, your prospect’s budget issue is not your problem.

- Gather testimonials and case studies. That way, you can prove how you’ve boosted your clients’ bottom lines. You’re selling your value and how you’ll help your clients – so the more documentation you have to back that up, the better.

- Is your niche not making money? Find another one. You may love to work with small business clients – but if they can’t pay your bills, it’s time to let them go.

- Talk to someone who “gets it.” This could be a friend, a mentor or another freelance writer. Explain why you’re raising your rates – and share all the reasons why doing so freaks you out. It’s amazing how less scary something gets when it’s out in the open.

- Learn to say “goodbye” to low-paying clients. Yes, even if you love them. It’s scary to let existing clients go (I’ve been there many times.) But sometimes, we have to let things go to make space for better things in our lives (like better paying clients!)

- Examine your own issues. If you can’t seem to tell clients you charge $300 a page (rather than $30,) figure out what’s holding you back. Do you not feel “good enough?” Do you think that writers shouldn’t charge “too much” for what they do? What’s causing the rates to get stuck in your throat? If you’re constantly undervaluing yourself, this great article by Sean D’Souza (super-smart guy and Copywriting Business Bootcamp instructor) is a must-read.

What about you? What would you add to this list?

(Special thanks to the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group for the inspiration!)

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5 SEO writing myths that cost you money

Money flying out the window

Quit letting money fly out the window. Tighten up your SEO writing campaign!

SEO writing doesn’t work. Google keeps changing their algorithm. I guess I’ll go eat worms..

(No, not really – although I couldn’t resist throwing in that childhood ditty.)

Although you may be laughing at the “eat worms” part, it’s true that many people are seriously confused about SEO writing. Instead of embracing it and seeing its potential, they pretend it’s “not important.”

The result? Potential profits fly out the window.

How sad.

Here are the most common SEO writing myths I (still) hear:

Why should I hire an SEO writer? Google “knows” what my site is about.  

Google is not a person – nor is it a mind reader (yet.) Just because it’s clear to you that you offer industrial tubing doesn’t mean that Google “gets” that. Especially if the words “industrial tubing” don’t appear on your site. I’ve seen Google rankings go from so-so to spectacular after an SEO writer rewrote the existing content (and conversions went up, too.) Why wouldn’t you want that success for your own site?

I don’t need to research keyphrases. I’m sure I’ll use the “right” words when I write the content.

Sadly, I hear this mostly from freelance copywriters who believe that “SEO writing is a myth” ::sigh::  Yes, you’ll probably naturally use some of the keyphrases while you’re writing the content. But the keyword there is “some.” Keyphrase research gives you amazing insight on how people search for your product or service. Why ignore the data when it’s right there – and it’s free?

SEO writing is too technical. I can’t learn it.

Yes, you can. Really. Sure, the SEO lingo may be overwhelming at first. But I’ve literally seen thousands of people go from, “I can’t do this,” to “Hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought.” Is there a learning curve? Yes. Can you learn it (even if you come from a print copywriting background, or you’re a stressed-out business owner?) You bet!

People won’t call me if I include “too much” information on my site. 

If you think being “mysterious” will increase your conversion rates, think again. If you want people to buy from you – or contact you for more information – the more content, the better. Plus, the more content you add, the more opportunities you have to position for even more keyphrases (which means getting found in Google more often!) Never be afraid of adding good content that answers your target audiences’ questions.

Why bother? Google is going to change the SEO writing rules anyway.

It’s true that Google has tightened up their SEO content requirements. The spammy copy that worked once upon a time is no longer effective (yippee!). However, Google is still rewarding well-written, quality content. Have there been some changes to how I approach an SEO copywriting client and write their content? Sure. Have the basic fundamentals stayed in place for over 15 years. You bet. Why let learned helplessness get in the way of great Google rankings?

Did you notice that I didn’t include keyword density on this list? That’s because – after years of talking about it – I’m sure that people know it’s a myth. Right? Right?

What other SEO writing myths would you add to this list?

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When to run away from an SEO copywriting company

Running away from an SEO copywriting firmWondering if you should hire a certain SEO copywriting company?

Maybe…depending on what questions they ask you.

Recently, I spoke with someone who had just hired an SEO content development firm.  This person really needed an SEO win – and he hoped adding content would help.

But here’s the problem.

There was no SEO content plan, other than “adding pages.”

There wasn’t a keyphrase strategy document.

Instead, they were going to “write pages” to “see if it helped in Google.”

:Insert sound of my head hitting my desk repeatedly.::

I don’t blame the client – he was doing what he could with the budget he had (and didn’t know any better.) What’s frustrating is when a SEO content company fails to address the educational basics. Sure, they made the sale – but will the pages really help the client?

Probably not – at least not without some sort of strategy and keyword focus in place.

So here’s the deal – when you’re hiring an SEO copywriting firm, it’s definitely a “buyer beware” situation. Some firms are awesome and do a great job. Some firms outsource the content to college students and have little (if any) quality control. It’s up to you to separate the good writers from the ones who merely say they’re good.

Here’s a list of questions any good SEO content firm will ask. They may ask some of these questions during the sales call – and others once you’ve signed. The point is: If the company is all that and a bag of chips, they will be asking a lot of questions.

If the prospective vendor fails to address most – if not all – of these points – run, run fast, and keep running. They won’t know enough about your company (and your content strategy) to do a good job.

-  Will we receive a keyphrase list and a per-page keyphrase strategy? (Note: If you don’t have a keyphrase list, a good company should offer to run the keyphrases for you and develop a strategy for an additional fee.)

- What’s your current content strategy and why?

-  Who is your target customer?

-  What companies represent your main online competition?

- What tone and feel (or “voice”) resonates with your target audience ? Can I see an example?

-  What’s the main conversion goal for the page? Do you have a secondary conversion goal (such as a newsletter signup page?).

- What are the main benefits of your product or service?

- What pages are currently doing well in Google now?

- What’s worked in the past? What approach hasn’t worked?

- What pages have the highest bounce rates? Why do you think that is?

- What makes your company unique? Why should people work with you?

- What information is crucial to include?

SEO copywriting is more than just putting words on a page. It’s creating a content strategy, researching keyphrases and writing content that prompts the reader to take action. If your SEO copywriting company isn’t asking some key questions, it’s time to find another provider. Fast.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

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Freelance copywriters and IT: Can’t we all just get along?

Angry programmerGeeks. Propeller-heads. Huge obstacles to a site’s success.

When a freelance copywriter hears she’ll have to liaison with the IT department, her first reaction is often a huge groan. “Great,” she’ll say. “This is going to be a pain.”

It’s true that we’ve all had our “IT guy (or girl) from hell” story.  The know-it-all that was convinced that “Google won’t spot invisible text.” Or, the person who changed your carefully-constructed Titles to look like keyword  | keyword | keyword monstrosities.

Talk about frustrating…

IT may have their…quirks. But let’s face it – as freelance SEO copywriters, we do too. We want our copy uploaded the second we submit it. We fight for larger copy blocks, a new blog, and a crappy Title overhaul. We are as much a pain in IT’s butt as they (can be) for us.

So, can’t we all just get along?

The thing to remember is: We’re all fighting for a common goal. Both sides want a faster, more engaging and more profitable site. Our successes are their successes. And although IT may think differently than us, they are not the enemy.

IT can be the copywriter’s best friend. It’s just learning how to communicate with them more effectively. Here’s how:

- Remove the chip from your shoulder. Sure, you may have had a “bad” experience with an IT director once upon a time. Get over it. Just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean that all IT folks are inflexible, or mean, or (fill in the blank.) Forget the past and start fresh. It’s amazing how well people will treat you when they don’t sense that big chip on your shoulder.

- Know that some (gentle) education may be in order. I’ve worked with super-smart IT departments who knew SEO. And I’ve worked with folks who pulled out keywords, changed Titles and sliced 75 percent of the content. Just because someone works in IT doesn’t mean they know SEO (and they certainly may not know content.) Educating IT on what you’re doing and why will help get them on your side. Be prepared to defend your opinion with facts (such as research, articles and Google guidelines.) IT folks will respect you if you can back up what you say.

- Don’t assume that something can happen just because you want it.  Have you ever had a client say, “We need 50 pages of content by first thing tomorrow.” You may know it’s an impossible request – but your client may not. It’s the same thing when you’re working with IT.  You may know that the template doesn’t leave enough room for content – but telling the IT person to “change it” isn’t going to magically make it so.  In fact, all it will do is frustrate them – and possibly put your request on the back burner. Instead…

- Have a discussion and ask for input. If something isn’t working, tell IT why and ask to brainstorm a solution together. You may find that your desired solution can’t be implemented because of a platform issue, time constraints – or even politics. That’s OK. Together, you may discover an even better solution – one that’s perhaps even better than your original one. :) This also works when you’re trying to work out process and deadlines. The more you discuss (rather than dictate,) the better the results.

- Say “thank you.” Like you, your IT liaison is probably overworked, tired and has 500 emails waiting for a response.  Thank them for their time. Thank them for listening to your point of view. Thank them for uploading your content. A little kindness can go a long way.

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

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