SEO copywriting advice from search guru Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz answers SEO Copywriting questions.Search guru Barry Schwartz makes time in his super-structured schedule to answer our SEO copywriting, Google algorithm, business ownership and time management questions.

Wow, you’re CEO of RustyBrick, founder of Search Engine Roundtable, News Editor for Search Engine Land – and more! How do you find the time for everything and still do an awesome job?

When it comes to managing my time, I am very into having a structured routine and I do my very best not to break from it. I am typically in my office, which is about a 15-minute drive from my home, at 7 a.m.

But before 7 a.m., I normally send out the story assignments to the Search Engine Land editors by 6 a.m. Then, when I get to the office, I spend about an hour researching the community discussion forums and then another hour writing at Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land.

After 9 a.m., I try to focus on RustyBrick-related items. That ranges from acquiring new business to paying the phone bill. But as we grow, now we are about 20 full-time developers and designers, we try to automate more so it takes less, not more, of my time.

I normally check in throughout the day on search topics, maybe write an additional story or two when time allows. Then I send out the “SearchCap” at around 5 p.m. After that, I clean up things for the day and I try to leave around 6 to 6:30 p.m. to see my kids before they go to sleep.

Of course, then I work the rest of the night at home.

I stick to this routine because it helps me stay focused and on-target.

What advice do you have for in-house copywriters looking to start their own freelance business?

Start small. It is a great business to start while working full time or part time for someone else. You can scale back your in-house job slowly as you acquire new clients. Copywriting is one of those word-of-mouth businesses and the more work you do, the more happy clients you have, the busier you’ll get. So take it slow, let it grow organically and when you are ready, take it to the next step. But keep in mind, starting your own business gives you less time to focus on what you love – writing copy – and gives you more things to do such as payroll, administrative tasks and so on.

I see you’re an advisor to Google. Sooo … are you to blame for (not provided) and Hummingbird?

I’ve been called in to advise Google, for free, on various topics from ads to analytics. I am not on a board or get paid by Google for my advice.

I was not consulted when it comes to Hummingbird or any of the Google animals. But trust me, I get blamed enough for Google algorithm changes and updates. Thankfully, I can’t take credit for them.

Of course, algorithm updates like Penguin and overhauls like Hummingbird ultimately improve search results, rewarding quality-content creators and the business owners who hire them. What advice do you have for SEO copywriters trying to keep up with the changes?

The best advice, don’t follow the changes. Just focus on writing the best content for your clients and their businesses. Write expert content that is hard to replicate. Don’t become experts in the Google algorithms, become experts in the content that you have to write about. So if you are writing about plumbing, make sure you know it better than most or don’t write it. Google wants the most authoritative content to rank the best and the best way to do that is to become an authority based on being an authority in your niche.

What do you suggest SEO copywriters do to understand the search terms that visitors use to get to their, or their clients’, sites in the absence of organic search terms from Google?

In the [not provided] world, you need to look other places for what people are searching for to get to their sites. Here are some places to look:

  1. Google Webmaster Tools provides query data.
  2. Add a search box to your site and use that query data.
  3. Check your landing pages and which are the most popular ones.
  4. Use keyword tools to expand your keyword lists.

Penguin 2.1 has some site owners worried about link-building strategy and guest blogging. What’s your advice for link building and guest-author outreach?

I never ask for a link on any sites I own, being my search sites or my business site, RustyBrick. Instead, I write content that I think helps people and it tends to work – people link to it. It is a bit harder on RustyBrick, since we are a web software company, so there, instead of just writing content, we build cool software. Most recently, we built a Google Glass app that created a tremendous amount of buzz and earned us a lot of natural links. I didn’t even send out a press release or ask for a single link.

In short, do what you are good at – show it on your website and try to get people to notice it.

How can SEO copywriters help businesses recover if Hummingbird or Penguin hit them hard?

Well, Hummingbird should not have hit anyone’s site. Google said it should have had very little to no impact on a site’s ranking. But if Penguin hit your site, then you need to look at the links pointing to your site. Penguin is about the links to your site and if you were hit by it, it means Google doesn’t like much of your link profile. Panda, well, that is more about your content – so hire a copywriter to fix it.

What do you see coming in the near future of search that freelance and in-house SEO copywriters alike should prepare for now? How about long term?

I think the future of search is predictive search. Think how Google Now works. It knows when you are going to head to work and shows you traffic. It knows what you might want to search, minutes before you search it.

I think content owners need to know what data, content and information they have that very few people have access to. Then how to use that data to give their users helpful information minutes or hours before they ask for it.

Think predictive – it might not be big in 2014 but it is the future of search.

How do you overcome writers block when crafting blog posts?

Heh – I often am concerned on how am I supposed to write between five and ten new stories a day on search. But somehow, I manage to find five to ten topics to write about in search every day – Monday through Friday.

I never really have writers block. I have sources and techniques to find new topics to write about and again, I am very strict in my process for discovering these topics. I have set up tons of RSS subscriptions and bookmarks and I have a way of looking for the needle in the haystack, I guess.

What do you recommend to SEO copywriters for building authority?

Become the expert! I know, easy for me to say but it is true.

About Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is the CEO of New York website-software company RustyBrick, offering custom content management systems, social networking sites, CRM applications, custom web-based business software, iPhone applications and more. Barry founded Search Engine Roundtable, is News Editor for Search Engine Land, hosts Israel’s Search Marketing Expo, and advises Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other Internet companies. Barry is available for site consultations. You can follow him on Twitter @rustybrick, on Google + and read his personal blog at http://www.cartoonbarry.com/.

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