Why Do Keyphrase-Stuffed Pages Position?

In a perfect world, our well-written content always positions top-10.

In reality, well, weird things happen.

Sometimes, a keyphrase-stuffed page makes it to the top of Google’s search results. And stays there.

How can that be?

Did someone pay Google for that listing? (No.)

Is repeating the keyphrase over and over a viable SEO writing tactic again? (Thankfully, no.)

Or, is there something else going on? (Yup.)

Here’s your answer…

We all know that keyword stuffing is bad, m’kay? 

Google advises against keyphrase stuffing. It’s old-school, spammy SEO.

Plus, from a conversion aspect, your readers don’t enjoy it, either. People don’t like to read keyphrase-stuffed pages. People don’t like to buy from sites that keyword-stuff their copy.

It’s not a good tactic.

Yet, last week on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller said that keyword stuffing, “shouldn’t result in removal from the index.”

In fact, some keyword-stuffed pages may still position because there is “enough value to be found elsewhere.” 

Here’s the Search Engine Roundtable post sharing the news.

Um, what? 

So, what does this really mean?

This doesn’t mean that Google is giving keyword stuffing a pass. It’s still bad, and Google still calls it out as spammy.

What it does mean is Google is smart enough to ignore repeated keywords and look at other factors. Maybe the keyword-stuffed page has a lot of good information, despite the bad SEO. Or, the page has some quality links pointing to it.

Is this a mixed message? You bet. When Google says, “thou shall not keyword stuff,” we expect there to be consequences if a site does stuff.

Maybe not total removal from the index….but spammy pages shouldn’t position. 

So yes. This is frustrating.

On the flip side, this is Google’s circus and Google’s monkeys. We can’t control what Google does. We can only control what we do…so…

Here’s what I would recommend…

I wouldn’t try stuffing just to “see what happens.” Best-case scenario, it DOES work…and new visitors read your spammy copy and immediately surf away. Remember, Google doesn’t buy from you — your readers do. Poorly-written copy reflects poorly on your brand.

Period.

Now, what if you have a spammy legacy page that’s still positioning?

That’s a different story.

If we extrapolate what John Mueller said, and Google can “strip away” excess keyphrase use when evaluating page, that means the page should stand on its own.

Which means that it should be fine to rewrite it, dial back the keyphrase usage, and see what happens.

Notice the word “should” in there. I even italicized it twice. There’s a chance your page position drops after fixing the spam, despite what Google says. 

Annoying, isn’t it?

Is it worth it? I would argue yes. At the same time, I’d check the page analytics to see if people are taking action on the spammy versus non-spammy version.

Let the data be your guide. You may find fewer people visit the rewritten page, but they are taking action. Or staying on your page/site longer. Or even making a purchase from you.

After all, there’s no reason to celebrate a top-10 position if you find people are immediately leaving the page when they land on it.

What do you think?

Have you encountered a keyphrase-stuffed page, and wondered, “why is Google letting this fly?” Have you had to patiently explain to your boss why you shouldn’t repeat [b2b blue widget] 50 times in 250 words…even if your top competitor is positioning with the same tactic?

Sigh. I hear you. Share your tale of woe in the comments!

Did someone steal your content? Here's what to do

Did Someone Steal Your Content? Here’s What to Do

Imagine this…

You’re checking positions for a page you wrote, and you see something that stops you in your tracks…

Another site has taken your content and has claimed it as their own. There’s no link, no byline, nothing. They copied your page and pasted it into their site.

What’s worse, the page is positioning for the keyphrases you targeted.

AHHHHHH!

Unfortunately, content theft happens all the time — even to smaller sites.

Sometimes, it’s because the offender is totally clueless and thinks it’s OK to post your content on their site.

Sometimes, it’s because the site owner paid for “original” content and an unscrupulous writer copied your post and sold it as their own.

Sometimes, it’s because someone wants to steal your content (and traffic) because they are too lazy to do things the right way. I had a large SEO agency do this to me.

And sometimes (fortunately, not as often,) someone is doing it to target your site specifically and to hurt your rankings.

Fortunately, you DO have recourse — and there are things you can do.

Here’s how to handle content theft (ugh)…

Best case scenario, all it takes is an email to the site owner that says, “The article originally appeared on my site. You need to take it down.” 

The site owner may email you back and beg for forgiveness. Or, you may not hear a peep out of them — but the post magically disappears. 

When the above SEO company swiped my article, it took a couple emails to the CEO to set things right again. But, I got it taken down. (Oddly, the CEO kept insisting he wrote the article, and he only took it down after “agreeing to disagree.” That still irks me to this day.)

So, what happens if your “hey, take it down” email goes into a deep, dark hole and nobody responds? 

Fortunately, you have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on your side. This means you can do two things:

You can file a signed DMCA notice with the offending site’s web host. This site helps you track down the host and has an easy-to-use DMCA notice generator. Some hosts may require you to mail this information, while others have an online form.

You can go straight to Google and file a complaintGoogle is typically very responsive and will sometimes respond to DMCA notices the same day (at least, that’s what happened when I’ve had to do it.)

Here’s what the form looks like — and you have the option of choosing, “I have found content that may violate my content” on another page:

How to remove content from Google

If you’re short on time, there are also companies that will handle this for you. You can Google [DMCA takedown companies] for a list. 

Know this process can be extremely time-consuming. It takes a long time to research URLs, to make a list of offending pages, and to submit notices.

Plus, the process is like playing wack-a-mole. You may “beat” one content thief, just to have another pop up in its place.

That’s why some people choose not to bother with it unless the stolen content is out-positioning theirs. 

Sigh.

The good news is, it’s extremely fun to see stolen content disappear from Google’s search index. And oh-so-satisfying when it’s gone.

What about you?

Have you had someone steal your content? What did you do? Is it still there? Hit “reply” and let me know!

Why Answering Questions Is a Powerful Content Play

How many of you get stuck in the “what should I write about” trap?

::raising my hand::

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to create highly useful content that’s great for your readers.

Plus, Google LOVES this kind of content, and it even gives it special billing in the search results.

What’s the secret?

Answer common questions your readers ask every day. 

Why is answering questions such a powerful content play?

Easy. Because your readers have questions. Shouldn’t your company be the one that answers them?

Think about it. How many times have you signed up for a newsletter after reading a particularly helpful blog post? Or, downloaded a white paper for more information? You may have even made a purchase.

Strong, question-oriented content can cause conversions.

For instance, let’s say you were planning a trip to San Diego with your family.

You’d probably start typing in question-oriented queries like: 

[best time to visit San Diego]

[average San Diego temperature January]

[things to do in San Diego with kids]

You may not know exactly when you’d visit, what you’d do or where you’d stay. You’d just type your questions and explore the opportunities. 

Now, imagine finding a San Diego hotel website with a great, “Explore San Diego with your kids” guide.

After reading the guide, wouldn’t you examine that hotel property more closely — even if you’ve never heard of it before?

You bet. You may even book a stay, too. 

Providing helpful content wins the game. 

(And yes, this is the same for B2B companies. Writing content that answers your prospects’ common questions is a smart move — and your prospects will appreciate it!) 

What about Google’s stance?

Remember my blog post on voice search? I gave folks a heads up that question-oriented queries written in a conversational tone is a smart move. 

In fact, Google pulls out popular questions and features them at the top of the search results page. Clicking a question provides the “best” answer (as decided by Google) with a link to the source page.

For instance, like this:

search results for what is seo copywriting

What’s more, those featured snippet answers may turn into voice search responses, too.

How cool would it be if YOUR content was read back to you by Alexa, Google or Siri? 

I don’t know about you, but I get gleeful goosebumps even thinking about it.

(Want to learn more about featured snippets? Check out this recent study by SEMrush. It even breaks down the average paragraph length for featured snippet content.)

How can you find question-oriented queries?

Easy!

Check out KeywordTool.io and Answer the Public. Both tools offer great, free data (and the dude on the Answer the Public home page always make me laugh.)

Reddit, Quora and specialized forums are chock-full of questions.

Many paid tools have a “questions” feature.

And don’t forget to ask the folks in the trenches  — the people who answer customer/prospect questions every day. These people may include: 

 – Receptionists and administrative assistants

 – Customer service team members

 – The company’s owner, especially if the owner is also handling sales

 – The inbound and outbound sales team 

Ready? Go forth and start answering questions — and please let me know how it goes!

Do you have questions about answering questions?

Or, is there something else on your mind? Post your reply in the comments!

10 must-read resources for SEO writers

10 Must-Read Resources For SEO Writers

Let’s talk about a big SEO secret.

Once upon a time, I was sitting around a table with a bunch of other SEO experts. At one point, someone said, “Do you have a hard time keeping up with all the SEO news?”

As I looked around the table, I saw everyone was nodding. And, yes, I was nodding too. Because, once upon a time, I could keep up with all the SEO news. I could read every article, check out every newsletter and stay extremely informed.

That conference was 17 years ago. This was before blogging blew up and before social media ruled our lives…

Is it any wonder we have problems keeping up with the latest and greatest?

In fact, one of my SEO Copywriting Certification students asked for my “must read” short list. Why? Because he was feeling overwhelmed and needed a way to focus his efforts.

I get it.

His question prompted me to brainstorm my short-list resources I keep up with no matter what. Do I read and follow others? Heck yes. But, I find myself returning to these resources when time is tight.

Here’s my short list of 10 must-follow resources:

The SEM PostJennifer Slegg, the publisher, is a long-standing SEO expert, speaker and fantastic journalist. Her posts, like “How Google Handles Rankings for Identical Products on a Site,” can be a tad on the geeky side — but, they are worth the read. Plus, she can get guys from Google to talk to her on record. I cite her blog posts in my Certification class all the time.

Search Engine Land. This site was founded by search marketing’s O.G. Danny Sullivan (did you hear he works at Google now?) and Chris Sherman, who programs the SMX conferences. SEL is a great all-around source covering SEO, SEM, local search and more. Their news editor, Barry Schwartz (who also runs the slightly more technical Search Engine Roundtable), has been reporting on the industry for years.

Stonetemple’s Digital Marketing Excellence BlogEric Enge and Mark Traphagen, the dynamic duo behind the blog, are two smart guys. When they’re not running studies to determine what SEO technique really works, they will get down and dirty with in-depth posts like, “The Three Marks of Great Content.” Check out their videos, too — they’re delightfully geeky.

Neuromarketing, by Roger DooleyLearning about neuromarketing will turn your copywriting knowledge up to a Spinal Tap 11. Roger Dooley takes an extremely geeky subject and makes it accessible and fun. Plus, he understands the SEO side of the street and has presented at search marketing conferences. You will learn a lot. Trust me.

Anything by Larry Kim. Larry. Is. Brilliant. He dives into the data and serves you up a hot helping of “wow, I never thought of that.” He frequently publishes on his Medium account, with viral post titles, like “13 Easy LinkedIn Hacks That Will Boost Your Profile Views” and “Five Facebook Power Tips That Will Make You Shout For Joy.” You’re going to dig Larry. I just know it.

The BuzzSumo blog. I’ve said before that I’m a Steve Rayson fangirl (he’s the Director of BuzzSumo.) He combs through big data, pulls out the tasty bits and serves them up in extremely detailed (but not too geeky to read) blog posts. If you want to know the top words to include in headlines or how to amplify content, you must read this blog.

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday. OK, the entire Moz blog is good — let’s get that out of the way first. But, Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays are off-the-hook awesome. In his funny, mustachioed way, Rand answers questions (some of them, highly technical) in an easy-to-understand style. Plus, for those of us who hate sitting through videos, there’s a nicely formatted transcript for us to read. Enjoy! Rand has since moved on to another company, but the Moz team has kept Whiteboard Fridays alive.

Content Marketing InstituteThe CMI site has everything an SEO content marketing strategist needs. Do you need content marketing stats for management buy-in? Check. Looking for writing tips? Yup, you’ll find them. You’ll also find a wealth of other information, too, like training courses and case studies. When I’m training clients, I always have at least one slide listing CMI as a resource.

Marketing ProfsThis site, like the CMI site, has it all. Salary surveys, marketing tips from expert authors, original research and more. Ann Handley, the chief content officer, is a marketing genius. If you get a chance to see her live, go! She’s great!

What about you?

What are your must-read blogs and folks to follow? Let me know in the comments!

What Nike Can Teach You About Bullet Points

Answer me this…

Why do copywriters create boring bullet points?

You know what I mean. Many product and service pages (maybe even on your site) highlight statements, like:

  • Imported
  • Washable and stain resistant
  • Comes in green, blue or black

YAWN. Are you still awake?

Me neither.

Here’s the problem:

In a perfect world, bullet points pop off the page and are quick-scan gold. Writing them right can boost conversion rates.

The problem is, most writers write lazy, feature-filled bullet points.

Sometimes, they’ll even make the features sound super-technical to “impress the reader.”

But, that’s going about things the wrong way.

After all, your reader doesn’t care about your “washable” blouse.

She does want an easy-to-care-for blouse that’s wrinkle-free and great for travel.

Features don’t sell. Benefits do.

It’s time to kick feature-oriented bullet points to the curb and write smart benefit-focused bullet points, instead.

Here’s how…

Just do it like Nike

I love to give copywriting credit where credit is due — and Nike has mastered bulleted benefit statements. Their sales copy is fun to read.

Why?

Hardcore runners KNOW their shoe specs. These ultra-athletes care about the latest advances designed to help them run faster, better and with less stress.

So, it would be easy for Nike to geek out in their sales copy and write things like:

  • Contoured Lunarlon insole
  • Laser-cut outsole

Those features sound pretty cool – right?

But, Nike doesn’t take the easy way out. They don’t write lazy bullet points. Instead, they take it one step further and promote the benefit — not the feature.

In this example, they write slightly more copy so they can weave in the features and what’s in it for the customer. When you’re running 30+ miles a week, these are BIG benefits.

Here’s another example of how Nike uses benefit-filled bullet points and subheadlines. Even if you quick-scan the page and barely glance at the content, the benefit statements still pop — even the tiny bullet points under “more details”:

great example of bullet points

 

Nice, eh? Nike is doing it right.

Of course, I have one suggestion…

You can often skillfully weave a keyphrase or synonym into a benefit-rich bullet point. Sometimes, you can even find a long-tail search term you can slide into the bullet point copy.

It wouldn’t work all the time. But, if it made sense for the occasional subheadline or bullet point — cool.

Check your keyphrase research and play with the possibilities!

Here’s one more copywriting tip…

How to build a bullet point sandwich

What’s a bullet point sandwich? I’m glad you asked…

Based on research, folks have found there’s an optimal bullet point order:

  • Most important thing
  • Another good thing, but not the most important
  • Necessary thing(s) to mention (in the middle)
  • Second most important thing.

See how it works? In a bullet point sandwich, your less flashy (but still important) benefits are the filling.

Your BIG benefits – the ones folks will notice first — are the slices of bread (mmmm….carbs) holding everything together.

Tasty, eh?

What do you think?

Does writing bullet points and subheadlines bore you — or do you have fun fleshing out the benefits? What sites offer your favorite copywriting examples? Let me know in the comments!

Why Writers Should Look for “Easy” Content Wins

Did you grow up hearing, “If it’s easy, there must be something wrong with it”?

Yeah. Me too.

Instead of looking for the easy way out, we often look for the most challenging, brutal way to do things. We work harder. We work longer hours. If we’re not suffering, we aren’t trying.

It’s all about the hustle.

Granted, this mentality helps us to a certain extent. Busting out of our comfort zones is important. Sometimes, we have to go through some pain to see some gain (for instance, starting a new workout routine.)

But, what does this mean to our content marketing strategy? Should we always push the content marketing envelope?

My answer: Nope.

Here’s why…

Easy has a huge benefit.

A parallel I like to make is around exercise.

I love high-intensity exercise. It’s the only thing that makes my brain turn off.

But, it’s hard.

The only way I can do it is to build in rest days. I go to yoga. Or I take a walk. I’ve even thought about Zumba (don’t laugh.) If I push myself too much, I burn out, get sick and have zero energy.

Now, think of this in terms of your content marketing campaign.

Constantly writing (and researching, and promoting) detailed long-form posts is hard.

Publishing daily (or even weekly) for some companies may be the equivalent of engaging in high-intensity exercise without a break.

Balancing search and social without a sustainable plan can cause burnout — fast.

The result? The post quality goes down. The writers (you!) burn out. Sales go down.

You’re pushing so hard towards your goal, you don’t realize you don’t have to push so darn hard all the time.

So, what can you do instead?

Look for easy.

Here are some ideas:

  • Repurpose old blog posts and turn them into an email series.
  • Re-optimize old blog posts that have so-so positions.
  • Send social traffic to old posts (hey, those old posts need love too.)
  • Revise older posts and republish them as new.
  • If a task has been challenging in the past (say, getting subject matter experts to blog,) work around it (for example, interview the experts instead and post the transcripts.)
  • Slice your publication schedule (it’s OK. Really!)

If you’ve been hitting roadblocks, find the easy workarounds rather than beating your head against the wall.

You’ll be happier. Your content will be better for it.

And yes, you still want to stretch yourself and try new things. Challenging yourself to try something new is a good thing  (I’m challenging myself to hold more webinars this year.)

But, you still need those “rest days.” You still need the easy to balance out the hard.

(Need a place to start? I updated my post on how to conduct a content audit – please check it out and share it with your friends.)

What do YOU think?

Are you feeling like you’re on a never-ending content creation hamster wheel? Does it feel like “easy” isn’t good enough? What are you doing to simplify your SEO content creation efforts? Leave your feedback below — I’d love to hear from you!

7 Tough Love Tips to Boost Your Freelance Income

Freelance writers receive a lot of happy-crappy “how to increase your income” advice.

There are thousands of  blog posts online outlining tips like:

“Charge more money.”

“Find your niche.”

“Package your services.”

It’s not that the advice is wrong (heck, I’ve discussed those tips, too.) It’s that the advice only goes so far.

“Charging more money” doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know your numbers. And there are a lot of writers out there making six figures without a niche.

So, how do freelance copywriters boost their income?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve learned a lot of hard business lessons the hard way. Sometimes, I was warned about a course of action, and I stupidly did it anyway. Why? Because I’m stubborn. Did it work out? No.

So please consider this my tough love writing advice to you. If you want to increase your income, you have to get your business process tight and wired.

Here’s what to do.

Fire the clients who no longer serve you.

It may be the client who pays you late every single month. Or the client who sends you work Friday at 4:30 and expects it to be finished by Monday. Or the client that likes to call and “check in.” A lot.

Or, sadly, this can be your very first client. You outgrew them years ago, and they pay you far below your normal rate – but you have a hard time letting them go.

Let them go. It’s time.

Your clients may not bring you joy every single day, but you should at least enjoy working with them and feel respected. If you keep clients on who drive you nuts and suck up your available bandwidth, you won’t have time to help future clients you’ll love.

Here’s some more information on how to fire a writing client.

Ruthlessly budget the time you’ll spend on a project.

How many times have you calculated your hourly wage after completing a project and realized you could have made more working at McDonalds?

Yeah. We’ve all been there.

Yes, it’s OK to spend a little extra time polishing a project. But if you find yourself spending hours more than you originally budgeted, you have one of two problems:

– Your client is demanding additional work than what was originally contracted for (and you’re not kicking back as you should.)

– You need to stop being a perfectionist and get work out the door faster.

Remember, you cost yourself money every time you spend too much time on a project. It could be a few dollars. Or a few hundred. Either way, this is something you’re doing to yourself.

If your client wants something that’s out of scope, tell them that it’s an additional charge and ask if they still want to proceed. Easy. Here’s the difference between “out of scope” and a revision.

If you’re taking too long to write something, it’s time to tighten down your process. Remember, your copy is never going to be perfect. No matter how many times you tweak it. Really.

Know your numbers and stick to them.

Quick: How much money do you need to make to cover your monthly bills, including your insurance costs, vacation time and taxes? How many pages do you need to write every month to make that happen?

If you can’t immediately answer that question, that’s a huge red flag.

A huge mistake freelancers make is pulling pricing numbers out of the air without thinking about their hard monetary needs. Sure, you can charge $15 a blog post. But if your monthly expenses are $1,000, you’ll have to write an average of 17 articles a week just to break even.

The purpose of owning a business is to make money. If you’re constantly stressed about cash flow, your life will be a very unhappy place.

Remember, as a freelancer, you are responsible for everything – your own retirement, your own vacation, your own salary and your own health care. If you set your hourly rate at what you used to earn as a full-time employee, you’ll come up short every month. Carol Tice outlined the expenses you’ll need to cover in her pricing-savvy blog post.

Think out of the box

You don’t have to offer the same services as every other writer. One competitive intelligence secret top writers use is to talk to people in their target market (yes, on the phone) and ask them what their main challenges are. A quick 15-minute conversation can provide you a wealth of insider information you can use to craft future service offerings.

Need other ideas? Here are four ways you can increase your freelance income – fast.

Focus on your business first.

How many hours a week do you spend on your business? Not just administrative stuff like paying bills – but profit-driving things like setting up your marketing plan, connecting with influencers, planning new services and making your website shine.

For many writers, the answer is, “I don’t market my business.”

And that’s a huge mistake.

Your most important client is you. Period. That means you need to set aside time every week to strategize and plan (you know, just like you do for your clients.) You can set aside a half day to make it happen (Fridays tend to be good days.) Or, you can spend 30 minutes a day on business planning.

Do this. Do this now. Even if you think”you don’t have the time.” If you go out of business because you didn’t plan correctly, you’ll have plenty of time on your hands. But that’s not really what you want, is it?

Are you so overwhelmed with must-do tasks that you can’t figure out how you’d even find 30 minutes a day for marketing? The next tip is for you…

Let go of your need to control.

As freelance writers, it’s easy to believe that we have to do it all. We write the content. We research the keyphrases. We handle the back end of our businesses, like marketing, bill paying and invoice-wrangling.

Is it any wonder that balls get dropped?

Give yourself permission to think about tasks you could delegate to someone else. For instance:

  • You can bring on another writer and supervise their work. This strategy works to your advantage. You can make more money for much less work.
  • You can outsource tasks you don’t enjoy (like bookkeeping or keyphrase research) to someone else.
  • You can hire someone to post on social media for you (and yes, you can approve the posts first, you control freak you!)
  • Do you hate sales? Consider bringing on a commissioned sales person.
  • Is client communication driving you nuts and eating into your time? Bring on a part-time project manager.
  • Is your day taken up by administrative tasks? Hire a VA for a few hours a week.

The most successful freelancers I know work with a team of smart, talented people. Bringing on team members is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the complete opposite – you are so laser-focused on your strengths, you recognize there are things you shouldn’t handle yourself. Yes, this is money that’s out the door. But you will make more money – and have more free time – if you bring on the right people to help. Trust me.

Think bigger

When I first started my SEO copywriting career, I’d look at the SEO cool kids like Danny Sullivan, Detlev Johnson and Shari Thurow and want to be just like them. They were speaking at conferences. They were working with major clients. They had some major SEO street cred.

My goal back then was to push myself out of my comfort level and speak on the national circuit. And yes, I made it happen!

Am I happy where I am today? Yes. Do I think I can do even more? You bet. I just set a big business goal for myself today – one that, yet again, pushes me squarely out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure how I’ll make it happen yet. And I have a feeling I’ll need to find help. But hey, that’s part of the fun!

Consider how you can take your business one step beyond. Maybe you want to make 50% more this year. Maybe you want to double your newsletter subscribers. Or maybe, you want to work your tail off ten months out of the year so you can vacation for the other two. Don’t let yourself think, “This sounds fun…but…” No excuses. Your mind (and your intentions) are much more powerful than you think.

Now get out there and start making some of that Internet money (thank you, South Park!).

5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs

Do you instantly hit the “ignore” button when you see a “special” client’s name come up on caller ID?

Do you write “please shoot me” notes during client calls?

Choosing the wrong clients is a slow, sure path to insanity. Fortunately, these folks throw up some pretty obvious red flags during the sales process. The key to business success is noticing those red flags in the moment — and not deluding yourself into thinking you can “fix” the client (yeah, right!)

Here are five common SEO writing client types to avoid at all costs:

– The “Taylor Swift” client

“All of my past SEO providers did me wrong, and I want to tell the world!”

If a prospect is outlining her grievances about every SEO writing firm she’s worked with — and this is your first phone call — you may want to steer clear. It’s true that people can make lousy SEO-provider decisions. And it’s true that there are bad SEO companies out there, and you may need to repair some legitimate damage. At the same time, you’ll want to proceed with caution when you notice that blinking neon chip on her shoulder. Especially if the prospect is ranting about her SEO exes instead of discussing the project.

With a “Taylor Swift” client, the real problem may not be “bad” SEO companies. Instead, the client may have some … issues. Just know you will never be her SEO knight in shining armor. No matter how well you perform, you too will “do her wrong” eventually – and she’ll add your story to the mix.

Do you really want to get involved with that hot mess?

– The mullet master

“I know a lot about SEO writing. I need doorway pages and article spinning.”

Does your prospect’s site scream 1999? Are they talking to you about doorway pages, keyphrase density and submitting to article directories? Your client could be so stuck in the SEO past that educating them will be a full-time job.

Assuming they listen to you.

Justin Timberlake may be able to bring sexy back, but you won’t be able to bring keyphrase density back. In a perfect world, you’re able to educate your prospect — and she actually listens to you and takes your advice. Unfortunately, many SEO prospects who are stuck in the past stay that way. They like it there. And they’ll keep calling providers until they reach someone who says, “Article directories? I love it! Yes, I can help!”

The “Yeah … but” prospect

“Yeah … but are you really sure that will work? My mother’s uncle’s cousin said I should try something else.”

Feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall? Do you have tiny bald patches from ripping out your hair? You’re talking to the “Yeah … but” prospect.  This person will shoot down any idea you have, even if they called you for help.

Unfortunately, this prospect is so pessimistic that making a decision is impossible. You’ll send proposal after proposal, but none of them will be “right.” Follow-up calls won’t help. Client education won’t help. This prospect is stuck in a deep hole of indecision, and there’s no way to dig them out. Nor will you probably ever sign a gig with them. Walking away is the safest thing you can do for your sanity (and your bottom line.)

– The “Wimpy” client

“I don’t pay deposits. I’ll pay you the entire invoice when the job is complete.”

This is the client who would gladly pay you Tuesday for SEO writing work you do today.  When asked about paying a retainer, their flat answer is “no.” Maybe it’s because they’ve been “burned by a bad SEO provider” (see my earlier point above.) Perhaps it’s not “how accounts payable does things.” That puts you in an uncomfortable situation. If you want the gig, you have to trust that the client will pay you. And pay you on time.

Your response to this type of client should be something along the lines of “No freakin’ way.” Paying a deposit is a standard practice that shouldn’t freak out a possible client. If it does freak them out, that’s a huge red flag. Essentially, the client is asking you to extend them credit and take on all the risk. If things like paying rent and eating are important to you, always get a deposit up front.

The “shiny objects” client

“I need help with my SEO copywri … Look! A squirrel!”

One day, your prospect is pumped about Pinterest. The next, she’s talking about adding new blog content. The following week, she’s changed her strategy entirely and feels it’s time for a redesign. In the meantime, you find yourself sending multiple proposals and spending hours chatting about your prospect’s “cool idea.”

On the positive side, these prospects are incredibly excited about the SEO and marketing opportunities. On the negative side, they often want to implement them all. Right now. And then change their minds.

Shiny-objects clients are notoriously difficult to help. Sometimes, you can pin them down and get them to sign a contract. Just be prepared for lots of forwarded emails promising to “submit your site to 1,000 directories” or “help your guest posts get more exposure.” If something new catches their eye, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

What other SEO writing client types would you add to the list?

Are Two Sites Better Than One?

Every once in awhile, someone will call me with this great, “guaranteed not to fail” idea.

The conversation goes something like this.

“Why don’t we build out another site, write a whole bunch of new, optimized content and target the same keyphrases. That way, BOTH sites can position in Google, and we can dominate the search listings. Cool idea, eh?”

Unfortunately, I tend to be the cold, dreary rain on their SEO parade.

This strategy can be a cool idea — for the right reasons.

But, if you’re doing this purely for SEO, splitting your site will be a major hassle for little return.

Here’s why…

Twice the sites can mean triple the efforts

Think about your current site (or your clients’ sites.) How much content do you produce a month? How are you promoting it on social media? How long does everything take — and how much does it cost?

Building a brand-new site just for Google means tripling your efforts, costs and output. It means a new wireframe, a new design, and new technology to manage.

Plus, it takes a long time for new sites to position, even if there’s a solid content strategy in place. Assuming the site does position.

Many times, the ROI never pencils out.

What does Google say?

The SEM Post reported how Google’s John Mueller had this to say during a Twitter chat:

“If you split a site into two sites, each site will have to rank on its own. That can result in the 2 sites not being as visible in search (or as much traffic) as the single old site (eg, very simplified: 2x page 2 probably gets fewer visits than 1x page 1).”

So, if you’re splitting out your existing site — or creating a new site “just for Google,” you may be creating more trouble than it’s worth.

You have been warned. :)

But (because there’s always a but…)

Some companies create multiple sites because it makes sense for their customers. For instance, a company may have separate sites for B2B and B2C customers.

Or, a company may offer a new service/product that’s completely unrelated to their main target audience — so, a new site makes sense. For instance, my coaching site will be a brand-new site. It won’t have anything to do with SEO writing.

Or, a company may have another, technical reason. My SEO Content Institute site is where my products (and training back-end) live. It used to be all under my SEO Copywriting domain, but selling products AND services AND the training/technical back-end caused things to be confusing. And break. A lot.

As you may have noticed, I am the queen of multiple sites — but, I do it because it makes business sense. Not for Google.

And yes, it’s a pain to manage multiple sites. :)

What do you think?

When I first talked about multiple sites in my newsletter, many subscribers emailed me saying, “Yes, our company has multiple sites, and its a nightmare.” Sometimes, the multiple site strategy was for SEO. Sometimes, the powers-that-be thought it was a “good idea” to build something new.

In almost all cases, unless there was a compelling business purpose, the ROI wasn’t there.

But, what do YOU think? What do you see? Leave a comment below and let me know what’s on your mind. I’d love to get your take.

“SEO Content Marketing Is Too Expensive.” Now What?

How many times have you heard, “We can’t rewrite the web content right now. It’s too expensive”?

Or…

“Revising the SEO content is going to take a lot of manpower. We have other priorities.”

Yeah, I’ve heard it too.

Sure, the content may be horrible. But, the thought of changing it (and paying for it) is too overwhelming.

Even if it’s holding a business back from SEO (and sales) success.

The disconnect between expectations and reality

Many prospects (and in-house teams) are surprised at how hard it is to create good SEO content. In their heads, it will take just a few weeks and cost less than $2,500 for the entire site. They won’t need to allocate manpower to it, or have to pay for “extras” like competitive intelligence or keyphrase research.

The content will just…happen.

When they get the inevitable reality slap of “yes, this costs time and money,” it’s easy for the prospect (or manager) to back away, reprioritize, and choose to do something different.

Sure, they know their current SEO content is underperforming. But, the thought of change is too overwhelming. Too expensive. Too….everything.

If you get kickback, or hear “not now” from the powers-that-be, the first reaction is often to get angry or feel discouraged. After all, it’s easy to go down a path where you can feel like, “they don’t care,” or “they’re just trying to lowball my pricing.”

Instead, take a deep breath…

Here’s what you can do

Remind your prospect/boss that content marketing is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

A marathon you can eventually win, even if you take baby steps.

Is it ideal to comb through all the content at once and switch it out? Sure. But most teams can’t accommodate that workload (and the up-front price tag for outsourcing would be hefty.)

Instead, look at what you can realistically do every month. For instance, maybe the first month is checking out the competition, reviewing the keyphrase data, and creating the editorial calendar.

Month two, you could rewrite a couple important “money” pages (the ones that drive the most revenue) and track performance.

And go from there…

You’re still getting everything done — and the client is still paying the same amount — but it’s all happening in baby steps. You can take your time, see what’s working, and adjust accordingly.

The baby step approach is often much less overwhelming to the prospect (or boss.) She can budget X hours (or dollars) every month to get to the goal.

Plus, a baby step strategy allows everyone to see some nice wins along the way. The wins may not happen quite as quickly as doing everything at once, but they do happen.

Will you still get some kickback, even with a suggested baby step approach? Possibly. If so, put your curiosity hat on and ask the client, “how much is it costing to not improve these pages?”

Or…

“How many leads could you generate if these pages were performing?”

This helps shift the prospect’s attention from, “oh, crap, this is expensive,” to “oh yeah, it’s costing us more to NOT do it.”

This shift doesn’t guarantee your boss will say, “You’re right. Let’s start today!” You may still get a “not now” response. That’s OK. At least you’ve helped her think about the situation in a new, realistic, and less scary way.