5 SEO Writing Clients to Avoid Like the Plague

Mullet

Is your prospect all business in the front and a party in the back?

Why am I reprinting this post? I just got off the phone with a “Taylor Swift” prospect and thought, “Yup, this is one client to stay far, far away from.” If you find yourself hiring the wrong clients (and paying in blood, sweat and lost income,) you’ll want to read this post. 

Do you instantly hit the “ignore” button when you see a certain 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 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 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 bad 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. 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 are the one who 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 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 extremely 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 client types would you add to the list?

Photo thanks to Jennifer Boyer. Love the mullet pic!

 

 

Freelance Writers: Want to Make More Money? Here’s How…

online-training

Discover 4 ways online training can land you top freelance copywriting gigs!

As a freelance writer, you know that competition for writing gigs is fierce!

You’ve all heard the dreaded “everyone’s a writer” phrase, which devalues the work of really great writers.

But wannabe professional writers aren’t your only challenge.

Websites like Elance (yes, I’ve got a profile on there, too – *hangs head in shame*), pit freelance writers against each other in a race to the bottom of the pay barrel.

So, everyone can “write” – and usually, they’re all writing for peanuts!

Wow.

But that’s not all!

The freelance writers who do command more than pay-per-peanut rates aren’t “just writers” – they’re professionally trained as SEO copywriters, content strategists, graphic artists, and more. These talented people can measure the results of their work and make tweaks to improve its performance.

Are you panicking yet? Yes? You were already panicking about it before you read this? I know, sorry, BUT here’s the reality…

While you should be able to command higher pay based on your stellar, persuasive, always-on-deadline writing alone, that’s unfortunately not the reality we live in.

Thankfully, like your writing style, you’re adaptable. There is a way to stand out above the competition, and you can do it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I’m talking about training – where you get awesome knowledge, and often an awesome badge to prove it, in exchange for your hard-earned money.

I know, you’re probably thinking: But I regularly keep up on my training for free with all of the awesome resources available.

That’s what you’re doing on this site right now.

I thought the same thing.

But I broke down and paid for a training – Heather’s SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training, to be exact. (OK, before you get all AHA! on me, I’m not being paid to write this. Hear me out.)

Turns out you get a lot more out of online training than the structured knowledge that you paid for.

Sure, paid online training goes into much more detail than the stuff the experts give out for free (naturally), so you’re advancing your skills beyond what you can learn otherwise.

That’s great. You probably knew that.

But paid online training gets you ACTUAL PAYING WRITING JOBS. Like, for real. And not always in the ways you might think.

Here are four ways that purchasing online training can help in landing you more writing gigs.

1. The expert might hire you

If you purchase someone’s online training, that someone is more likely to hire you when they have an opening to fill on their content team.

They know you have the skills to do the job because they just trained you.

That’s what happened for me after I took Heather’s training.

She happened to have a Blog Editor opening on her SuccessWorks team just as I’d finished taking her SEO copywriting training, so she thought of me to fill the spot. I also happened to have an editorial background that helped land the gig.

One of my favorite quotes sums up this scenario perfectly:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Alva Edison

For me, and probably for most of you, it’s a dream come true to work for someone you really admire and whom you consider the utmost authority on the topic you’re studying.

Not only can taking their training help you get a gig with them, having that impressive gig on your resume and those writing samples in your portfolio will land even more writing gigs.

2. The expert may recommend you

This ties in with number one.

When you take an expert’s online training, that expert may recommend you for work. That’s huge!

Why do they do that?

There are a few reasons:

  • They now have proof that you know what you’re doing.

As mentioned above, you taking their course proves to them that you have the skills necessary to rock at whatever you trained for. Now they know that you won’t embarrass them if they recommend you to colleagues.

Another bonus for them – they’re now a resource to businesses for quality writers. That adds value to their own business offerings. Recommending you actually helps them keep and generate business.

  • They want you to succeed.

Boy, that’d be super embarrassing if you offered an online training and none of your trainees succeeded in landing freelance or in-house writing work.

It benefits the instructors offering online training for potential customers to see you wildly succeed. That generates more online training business for the instructor.

  • They want to give back.

Your guru may want to give back to you for purchasing from them.

One way they do that is by sending writing jobs your way.

For instance, Heather has an email list for her SEO Copywriting Certification grads. It’s chock full of good stuff – including the occasional paid writing opportunity!

Copyblogger has a page on its site that recommends their Content Marketing Certification grads to businesses that need a content marketer. I’ve received a lot of inquiries through this site. They also occasionally include writing jobs in emails to certification grads.

3. Potential clients see evidence of your skills

Badges! Yay!

I love badges. I think everyone loves badges. Honestly, who doesn’t love badges?

Anyone considering selling online certification training shouldn’t even bother if they don’t offer a certification badge that graduates can display proudly on their site – if not on their foreheads.

More than just an ego-boost, badges are a quick way to draw attention to your skills and can help business owners and managers decide who to hire.

Otherwise, who knows if you’re credible? You’re just these guys.

If a marketing manager who knows and loves HubSpot (there are a lot of them) needs some content help, they’ll gravitate toward a writer who has that HubSpot Inbound Certification badge on their site because they know that you know the inbound methodology that they use to create content.

As you know, you really shouldn’t write anything online (except maybe your personal blog that you hope nobody finds anyway) without SEO writing skills, but it’s hard to prove those skills to potential clients without formal training. Badges offer quick proof.

4. New skills land you more clients — and higher paying jobs

So maybe this should’ve been number one — but it’s also the most obvious.

When you spend the money and take the time to keep up with your writing skills and learn new ones, you’re qualified to take on new types of work, can offer more services and can CHARGE MORE MONEY for the value you’re adding to freelance writing clients.

With advanced SEO writing training, you can prove your skills to potential clients to land more gigs and charge them more for that service. Keyword research and other SEO copywriting techniques adds a helluva lotta value to clients, especially when (don’t we know it) they’re often optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Maybe you’re an awesome blogger with mad SEO skills, but you’re missing a huge chunk of potential clients because you don’t know persuasive copywriting techniques. AWAI offers a well-known copywriting certification course. Writing copy that sells brings in big bucks for you and your clients.

Get that training and get writing – plus, a bonus!

Now that you know how purchasing online training can land new freelance writing gigs, get to it!

Do some research and find out what skills would help you the most.

Maybe you’re awesome on the writing-skills front and just need to learn how to find more clients. Well …

That leads me to my bonus way that paid online training leads to more writing gigs.

There are paid online trainings (SuccessWorks and AWAI offer two of them) that teach you how to find freelance writing clients! Instead of going it alone, you can learn how to ramp up your business faster — and make more money, more easily.

Yes, training is an investment. Yes, you will need to spend time to go through the course and complete the exercises.

Yet, the benefits are well worth it — and you’ll be able to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

Have you experienced other ways that paying for online training has helped you land writing jobs? Let’s talk about ‘em in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

Photo credit to LeanForward If | Flickr.com

Do You Speak Semantic? An Interview with Bill Slawski

knowledge-graph-by-the-seaAs the go-to expert for all things Google patents for some ten years now, Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea has made an art and science of predicting and explaining the deep water currents driving search engine results.

Lately, Bill has focused on the changes to search results brought on by Google’s “Knowledge Graph” and the Semantic Web.

You’ve likely come across these terms in your work as an SEO copywriter, but what do they mean, exactly? And why should you care?

In this interview, Bill offers a straightforward explanation of these latest forces impacting search results, and why you should have a handle on them.

What should an SEO copywriter understand about the Semantic Web (vs. Traditional SEO/Search)?

Google appears to have gone into a different mode when answering search queries, which illustrates one of the big differences between the worlds of SEO and the Semantic Web.

Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have traditionally been a list of links to resources found on the Web that respond to a specific query typed into its search box. Google finds these resources by crawling Web pages, indexing their contents, and then returning links to the user.

In doing so, Google creates snippets representing those pages, and provides these snippets as well as their corresponding URLs and page titles, in its SERPs.

A Semantic Web approach has Google crawling web pages on a search for entities (specific people, places and things), collecting information about those entities, and adding that data to a fact repository — now known as Google’s “Knowledge Graph.”

So how does the Knowledge Graph work in the Search Landscape?

The Knowledge Graph, or “knowledge panels,” is part of the search results interface that Google uses to share information about entities – again, these entities may be specific people, places and/or things.

As for “things” — it’s important to note that they may include ideas, brands, and products.

For example, when someone performs a search that includes an entity (as many searches do), a knowledge panel about that entity appears at the top of the search engine results page. This panel provides more information about that specific entity, and often includes other related topics that people usually search for when entering their initial query.

So, search results are no longer just lists of snippets pointing to pages that are ordered by information retrieval scores and PageRank. With its knowledge panels and the Semantic Web, Google has added a number of other ways to decide what it might show on its SERPs.

Given the significant changes in search results brought on by the Semantic Web and Google’s Knowledge Graph, what would you advise an SEO copywriter do? Should s/he cite entities for better SERP rankings?

If entities appear in your content — as they often do — see if you can make the mentions of them richer by fleshing them out. Remember that a named entity includes ideas, brands, and products.

Including more information about the entities within your content can help make it more interesting, more likely to be noted by others, and shared socially.

This can mean including information about related entities, as I previously referred to. Adding this relevant, related content could make your own rank well for a wider range of search queries.

What resources would you recommend for a deeper dive into the brave new world of the Semantic Web and Knowledge Graph?

I’ve been fortunate to have teamed up with Barbara Starr, who is a founder and co-organizer of the San Diego Semantic Web Meetup Group (she added me as a co-organizer.) Barbara has strong roots in the Semantic Web Technology community, and also likes to research Google’s patents.

On June 23rd, Barbara and I collaborated on a presentation for the San Diego Semantic Web group, titled Ranking in Google Since The Advent of The Knowledge Graph

I also highly recommend this recent (May 2015) Search Engine Land article from Barbara on changes to how Google handles search results via the Knowledge Graph: Structured Data and the SERPS: What Google’s Patents Tell us about Ranking in Universal Search.

In this post, Barbara describes how a Google patent titled Ranking search results based on entity metrics (https://www.google.com/patents/WO2014089776A1) might feature different knowledge panel content based upon metrics involving notability, relatedness (as in related to other entities mentioned), contribution, fame and prize.

So if you are creating content for pages and mentioning entities within that content, understanding more about these metrics can give you a sense of what might appear for entity-based content in search results, and perhaps give you some ideas of what to write about.

Going forward, what do you see happening with the Semantic web? Will it eclipse “traditional SEO”?

Many commercial businesses have been relying upon SEO on the Web to bring them traffic to their pages, and through their doors.  But searchers often want answers as quickly as they can get them, and Semantic Web approaches are geared towards sharing data as quickly as possible.

The search engines see searchers as their primary customers, but also rely upon business owners to advertise on their pages. This may mean that traditional SEO may have some life left in it.

Connect with Bill on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn

Photo credit to ©William Murphy | Flickr.com

 

 

 

5 Expert Promotion Tips to Rock Your Blog

You’ve crafted a great blog post. Now what?

If you answered “promote it” — which of course you did — then you’re absolutely right! As you know, all the time and effort you’ve poured into your creation amounts to zero if it’s not reaching your intended audience. No visibility, no engagement, no social sharing, no Web traffic, no conversions. And all that nothing can be…um…discouraging.

So we asked five of the sharpest content marketing minds out there to share their insights into how to promote your blog, via this two-part question:

Digital content writers and marketers read a lot of tips about how to promote their blog posts. In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Their candid answers are illuminating, often amusing, and rich with details. Enjoy!

 

arnie-kuenn

Arnie Kuenn (@ArnieK), CEO of Vertical Measures

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? 

It all starts with creating useful, valuable content that people would actually be willing to share and promote. Assuming you have that, the one thing I still see most bloggers miss is focusing on the actual title of their post.

Many bloggers spend hours creating this fantastic post and only minutes on the title. In today’s world, the title is everything. It typically becomes the title tag and H1 (main header) that search engines love. The title tag then becomes the text that social media displays when posting. So the title is your best chance to get the world’s attention – which is where the sharing all begins.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

In a word – Facebook. Our paid search team continues to find creative, cost-effective ways to promote content on Facebook. It almost always seems to work and sometimes there are some pretty big payoffs.

 

gabriella-sannino

Gabriella Sannino (@SEOcopy), President & Founder of Level 343

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? 

Let’s face it – most bloggers focus too much on traffic and not enough on retention — keeping visitors coming back. Traffic is only as good as visitors’ staying power, and staying power is only as good as the relationships you build.

Look for your most successful content (analytics, anyone?). Keep it updated. Repurpose it. Pay attention to the headlines and content that brought them in. Do more of that.

At the same time, look at relationship building. Build relationships with influencers and your target market. Work to earn social shares and backlinks from influencers and brand advocates.

A great outreach program is to do competitive research and work on building a tribe with them. Just because you’re competitive doesn’t mean you can’t work to gain mutual satisfaction. For example, we can only handle so many SEO projects. So what do we do when we’re overfull? We refer them to the competition. We look good, the competition looks good – it’s a win, win.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Sending out muffins to people. :)

I’d have to say that my favorite secret strategy sauce is inviting your sources to read, share, and link to your content. Sometimes it’s a blatant invite, but most of the time it’s a notice that you’ve written about them, quoted them, or otherwise brought them some exposure. It’s a “hey, I like you enough to talk about you, hope you don’t mind…”

In the process, it brings exposure to you from the people who visit to see what you said about them.

And if that doesn’t work…. there are always the muffins.

 

lee-odden

Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO of TopRank Online Marketing

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)?

One of the most important blog content promotion strategies overlooked is to consider promotion at the content planning stage, versus after the content is already created. You’d think this would be obvious, but in the case of corporate America, it’s definitely not.

This is a timely question because I just received an inquiry from a company chock full of content – original content from the content team, influencer content, user generated content amongst their community and still – the issue of content distribution and promotion was problematic. Why? Because they focused so much on content creation and on-page SEO, the importance of audience development, syndication and distribution only came as an afterthought.

Successful marketing content creators understand the value of developing channels of distribution for their content whether it’s through an email list, an active community on relevant social networks, forums and groups, or through co-creation that inspires participants to help promote the content to success. In the case of content co-creation, a significant part of content promotion is factored into the planning – from topic to publishing channels to activating the influencers involved.

However, keep in mind there’s a big difference between lazy “listicles” with famous industry pundits and actual co-creation that inspires influencers to help you promote your content.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Secrets cost money :)

It would be easy to suggest a behind-the-scenes network of mutual content promotion groups, but I still think one of the most effective blog promotion tactics is the content itself. Understand what motivates your readers and give it to them – better each time. Nothing inspires sharing of blog content like anticipation of what’s next and your content delivering as promised.

Many bloggers don’t have the patience to grow a community and subscriber base in their search of shortcuts. As a result, they overlook things that can take more work with a bigger payoff a little further out.

 

mark-traphagen

Mark Traphagen (@marktraphagen), Senior Director of Online Marketing, Stone Temple Consulting

 In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

I could share a lot of high level strategies, but your audience has probably heard most of them, so let me instead share an easy tactic that gets us a lot of traffic and extra shares of our content we might not have had otherwise.

The tip is: create “click to tweet” quotes from your content. Choose a few of the best takeaways or quotable moments from your post, and make it one-click easy for readers to tweet that quote to their followers. The easiest way to do this is with a service such as ClickToTweet (https://clicktotweet.com/). Compose the tweet quote in ClickToTweet (don’t forget to share a link back to your post!) and the tool gives you a shortlink. We usually turn the quote into a simple graphic inserted into our post, with a “Click to Tweet!” call to action included. We then make the graphic a clickable link, using the ClickToTweet-provided short link.

When a reader clicks the graphic, a Twitter composition window opens, with the prepared quote already in place. The visitor just has to click “Tweet” to publish the quote to their followers. If you included a short link back to your content when you did the setup on ClickToTweet, the quote should drive more traffic to your post.

Every time we include these in one of our posts, we get far more Tweets and traffic from Twitter than when we don’t.

 

kristi-hines

Kristi Hines (@kikolani), Freelance Writer & Blog Marketing Strategist

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

I’m not sure that a lot of others do this, but one of the things I’ve found most helpful in promoting content long term is setting up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for keywords that people would use when asking a question that my post answers.

For example, I had alerts set up for Thesis versus Genesis for a while to promote a post I had written on the differences between those two WordPress theme frameworks. That post ended up being my most successful in terms of affiliate earnings as it helped anyone asking about the two and, no matter what they chose, they would get them through my affiliate links.

So now the ball’s in your court: do you have any blog promotion strategies that have worked well for you? Please share them with us in the comments below! And thank you :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Hacks for Generating Blog Post Ideas

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Need blog post ideas? Try these tips!

Let’s face it. Magically coming up with blog post ideas is grueling. Sure, you can schedule time to brainstorm post ideas (here’s how to generate over 3,000 a year!). But what about those days when the ideas don’t come, you’re on deadline, and you feel like you’ve written it all before?

Don’t get stuck – get inspired, instead! Here are 5 ways you can generate blog post ideas.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

How could I have not written about this gem before? This tool is brought to you by the good folks at Portent, run by Ian Lurie (if you don’t follow Ian Lurie, do it now. You’re in for a snarky treat.)

Simply type in your general post idea and let the Content Idea Generator do all the work. For instance, I typed in one of the most boring topics I could dream up: screw compressors. Years ago, I used to handle the marketing for a company that made flash freezers for fishing boats. I often had to  come up with sexy press angles about screw compressors.

Yes. Pity me.

Here’s what the Idea Generator came up with:

Content Idea Generator

The verdict? Not bad. If you’re in an industry that makes, needs or sells screw compressors, you could easily come up with a list of 18 things. Well done, Content Idea Generator!

Use forums for fun and profit

Some people think forums are old school. I mean, aren’t all the cool kids hanging out on Google + now (OK, OK…I had to make that joke.) Seriously, it’s amazing how many people forget about forums as great idea generators. Plus, all you need to do is some quick Google searches to make it happen.

Simply type [forum:your topic] into Google and see what comes up. In this case, I used the search term [food cart]. Us Portlanders really love our food carts.

 

forum_food_cart_-_Google_Search

Voila! You’re rewarded with a plethora of post ideas! If this is too overwhelming, you can search inside the forums. Try using search terms like:

  • I hate it when
  • can’t find
  • need advice
  • question about
  • can anyone help me

(H/T to Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income blog for the search terms tip.)

Check out industry conference topics

Conference organizers spend hours figuring out the best session topics for their events. Why? Because they know the right session topics (read: the ones that people want to know about) will drive ticket sales. Plus, many conferences now crowdsource their session ideas and ask people to vote on their favorites – virtually guaranteeing that the topics are spot-on.

For instance, sensory deprivation float tanks are all the rage right now (heck, I was even interviewed for a piece in The Nation about float tanks!) The float industry has an annual conference held in Portland, OR for float enthusiasts, float tank center owners and people in the industry. One of the days is an intensive workshop geared towards owners:

Float_Center_Workshop

This page alone provides scads of blog post ideas, from, “how to soundproof your float tank room” to “how to use social media to promote your float business.” If you’re stuck for topic ideas, conference pages will shake loose some great ideas.

As a side note, I’ve never read any other post discussing this tip (although one may be out there.) So, by using it, you may have an inside track on your competition. You’re welcome.

Webinar Q & A sessions

Here’s another idea I’m surprised isn’t utilized more. You know how you’re tempted to boogie out of a webinar session when the Q & A kicks in? Yes, I know you have things to do, and you’ve already learned what you want to learn…

…but by walking away from the Q & A, you’re missing out on a bevy of blog post ideas.

dreamstime_14382654

Think about it. People in your target audience are asking questions. Some (if not most) of those questions could turn into a blog post idea. Heck, you could even write the title like a headline, for instance, “How can I find float tank regulations for my city?” That’s SEO copy gold, baby!

Plus, if you include the webinar presenter’s answer in your blog post, you can send them a note and let them know you cited her. BOOM, now an influencer may tweet your post to the masses.

You can use this blog post idea hack during conferences, too. While other people are filing out of the room, you can smile knowing you have enough blog post fodder to last you for a long time.

Podcasts

“I don’t have time to listen to podcasts!” I get it. I love the idea of podcasts, but I don’t always have the 10-20 minutes to listen to them. Fortunately, this tip is less about listening to a podcast (although you certainly can) and more about learning from their descriptions.

For instance, Jeff Goins includes show highlights on his site (where you can also listen to his podcast.) Just look at all these tasty topics:

How_to_Write_Fiction_for_a_Living_with_Stacy_Claflin

Look – there are 11 bullet points you could transform into a meaty blog post! What are you waiting for? You should start writing right now!

Granted, not all podcasters post their talking points on their blog. In that case, even checking out iTunes provides some good information. Do a keyword search for what you want to know more about and check out the podcasts that come back. For instance, if I search for [make money blogging], the ProBlogger Podcast pops up. Here’s a screen shot:

Podcast

If the podcast titles don’t birth a brainstorm, the podcast descriptions will. Just hover over the “information” button in iTunes to get the scoop.

Plus, this technique is a great way to find podcasting influencers you may not have heard of before. I hadn’t heard of some of the [make money blogging] podcasters that iTunes returned – but now they’re on my radar.

Blogging day in and day out can be a chore. Hopefully, these five tips will help expand your topic horizons and make the generating blog idea process a little less painful.

Inspired? Let me know in the comments! Or, feel free to post a tip. I’d love to read it!

 

5 Branding Tips for Building Your Biz: The Chicken & Egg Strategy

Your brand and audience are inextricably linked.

Your brand and audience are inextricably linked.

by Tracy Mallette

Your audience — meaning your combined readers, as well as potential and current customers — and your brand are inseparably linked.

Your audience builds your brand and your brand builds your audience.

Like the chicken and egg, it can be hard to know which came first – and which should come first when building your business.

The truth is: in the brand or audience question, neither comes first. They both feed each other.

The following five brand-building tips can also be used as five consecutive steps to building your audience.

1. Tell Your Story and Define Your Culture

Share Your Brand Story

Every brand has a story. What’s yours?

Why did you start your business? What led you on the quest to create your business? Was something missing in your life that you couldn’t find an existing solution for?

Chances are that’s the same problem your audience is having.

Help them relate to you and your brand by sharing your story with them.

Write up your story without your editor’s hat, then spruce it up with editing, and create a blog post or an “About” page that shares the story with your readers.

As I type this, my cat’s freaking out over a thunderstorm, and it reminds me that I should get her a ThunderShirt – a vest invented to help pets stay calm during storms.

It also reminds me of the ThunderShirt About page, which tells the story of the company’s founder Phil Blizzard and his dog Dosi. Dosi’s thunderstorm stress led Phil to invent the ThunderShirt.

Other pet owners can relate to that story and will likely trust his solution will probably work for their pet, as well.

Define Your Culture

Along with sharing your brand story, you should define your company culture.

Tell your audience exactly who you are, who you aren’t and what you stand for. Let them know what they can expect from your site.

The Bloggess does this really well. She has built an audience that loves her style and offers a warning to others: “If you are easily offended, you’re in the wrong place.” Her tagline is “Like Mother Teresa, only better.” You like her or you don’t. You’re a member of her tribe or you’re not. You fit in or you don’t. There’s no wondering if the site’s right for you.

Key Takeaway: Your story combined with your company culture will help build your true audience. Your audience will love you because you “get” them. You know what they’re going through and you share their beliefs and ideals.

2. Tell Your Audience How You Can Help Them

Spell Out the Benefits of Your Product or Service

If you’ve crafted your perfect story explaining how you’ve solved a problem with a solution that fills a need in the market, you expect your audience to realize that it’ll work for them, too.

Well, that’d be great if they just got the point and leapt over to your purchase page immediately. And some precious customers actually do that.

But you can’t assume they will.

Always spell out the benefits of your product or service to potential customers – even if you’ve explained all of the glorious ways your solution helped you in your brand story.

Specify Your Competitive Advantages

Not only should you list all of the benefits of your offer, but you should also detail the benefits of going with you over the competition.

If you’ve defined your culture, you can (and should) personalize your benefits and competitive advantages.

For example, there are a lot of copywriters out there. Why should someone choose your copywriting business over another?

If you’re Pam Foster, the answer is simple. She’s the pet copywriter – as in, she writes exclusively about pets; you don’t get to keep her. (Although that’d be cool. I’m sure there’s some copywriter out there who’s offering themselves up as your pet. Now that’s a unique audience!)

Anyone in the pet industry who’s looking for a copywriter and is overwhelmed with where to begin, can type “pet copywriter” into Google, and BAM, there’s Pam’s PetCopywriter.com website in first place.

Key Takeaway: Spelling out the benefits of your product or service, along with specifying your competitive advantages, further defines your audience and endears them to you. Not only does your company “get” them personally, but it also understands what they’re going through and how it can help them solve their problems.

3. Make Them Heroes

This goes along with the benefits you’ve highlighted via tip 2.

Don’t just solve their problems. Go above and beyond by telling your audience how your product or service will help them help others – and the accolades they’ll receive from their success.

Are you on the marketing team for a company that offers same-day plumbing services? Let your reader know that by hiring your company, your customer not only solved his/her leaky-kitchen-sink problem but became a hero to their family.

Can you just hear their spouse now? “Wait, we just discovered the kitchen sink’s leaking this morning and it’s already fixed? I thought we were gonna have to wash our dishes in the bathroom sink for a week! Whew, such a relief.”

Heather does this really well with her B2B SEO copywriting certification page. She opens with: “Over 69% of B2B marketers don’t have time to produce SEO content. Now you can help …”

She lets you know that you can be the hero to all of these crazy-busy B2B marketers – and that there’s a huge market for B2B content creation services.

Key Takeaway: Making your audience the heroes gives them a bonus. Your company solves their problem AND lets them feel extra good about helping others. When your audience feels that good about your product or service, they’ll come back for more and they’ll bring friends, which is an audience-building bonus for you, too!

4. Personalize Communication with Your Audience

This goes beyond just autofilling your subscribers’ first names in email messages.

When you really know your audience, you can put extra care and attention into communicating with them.

Heather creates and sends an email to all of her SEO Copywriting Certification graduates. In this email, she actually includes job opportunities, which I’ve never seen someone do in a newsletter before.

She knows that a lot of her certification grads are looking for freelance writing opportunities. She also knows that because they’ve taken her course, she can vouch for their skills to her business connections. She provides personalized value for her audience while also building trust and gratitude.

When you give your audience something extra, they want to give back to you.

Key Takeaway: Personalizing communication with your audience lets them know that you care about their success and happiness. They’re not just a sale to you. This will pay off for your brand through customer loyalty, repeat sales and brand evangelism.

5. Foster Your Community

When you build a brand, you’re building a community.

You’re like Irving Bacon in The Marriage License episode of I Love Lucy: You’re the mayor, the hotel owner, you run the gas station and the fire department, among other duties in your small town. (See 13:32 in the episode to get the idea.)

Here are some ways to build your audience and brand through nurturing your own online community.

  • Facilitate discussions with your community by starting a forum or LinkedIn group. Copyblogger offers a paid membership group with an online marketing forum called Authority.
  • Educate your community with a blog and content offers. Marketing automation platform HubSpot offers a marketing academy, a marketing library, an inbound marketing conference, a marketing blog, a sales blog, certifications and more to educate its audience.
  • Entertain your community through social media. Porch, a network connecting homeowners to home-service professionals, offers design-inspiration eye candy on its Pinterest page.

Here’s what Corey Eridon, managing editor of HubSpot’s blogs, had to say about its growth through audience education:

HubSpot’s cofounder Dharmesh Shah started blogging before there was even a piece of software to sell – educating the community about business, marketing and tech. Now, almost a decade later, HubSpot’s educational marketing blog has become almost inseparable from the HubSpot brand. While we’ve started to write about other subject matter over the years, what keeps people coming back to the blog is the marketing how-to articles – the pieces that answer marketers’ most fundamental questions about how to do their job every day. Those articles are how people discover HubSpot, and then rediscover it over and over as they grow in their marketing careers.

Key Takeaway: Become like a parent to your own online community by helping your audience learn and grow. Interact with, educate and entertain them. Encourage them when they’re feeling down or stressed. Offer a little tough love when necessary. Love them and they will love you back. This is the real community that comprises your brand.

Build Your Brand, Build Your Audience and Help Each Other Thrive

By defining your business story and culture, you attract and hold the interest of your audience.

Take that further a few steps further by telling that audience how you can help them, even making them heroes, and you can convert that audience into fiercely loyal customers who’ll share your brand with others.

From there, you take it over the top with personalized communication and building a warm and fuzzy community for your now tribe, and they will pay you back as brand evangelists, who can’t stop gushing about you on social media.

This cycle feeds itself as your brand gets stronger and your audience grows.

Enjoy it!

What do you think? What other brand-building techniques have been successful in also building your audience? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo credit to ©Raising Chickens.org

SEO via Media Relations with @SpinSucks Gini Dietrich

pr-seo-handshakeYou’ve most likely heard of Spin Sucks and the force behind it, Gini Dietrich. She entered the public relations (PR) business after graduating from college, working her way up from her initial position as an account coordinator.

True to form, Gini eventually set out on her own and started her PR business (Arment Dietrich, Inc.) in 2005. The following year, she launched Spin Sucks (she quips, “embarrassingly so”). Fast forwarding to today, Gini has authored Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age and co-authored Marketing in the Round. She is also a co-host of the podcast Inside PR, and the primary voice of the Spin Sucks blog.

We were fortunate enough to grab some of Gini’s precious time for an interview, focused around her thoughts on leveraging media relations for SEO.

Enjoy!

A few months ago, you hosted a fascinating webinar on leveraging media relations for SEO using a three-pronged approach (readers can download the free webinar on demand here). Could you summarize this three-pronged approach?

You bet! We look at earned media, as it relates to building brand awareness, increasing your search engine optimization, and generating qualified leads. If your efforts don’t do all three of those things, it’s not working for you. This gets a bit into one of your questions below, but you want to work with media outlets to write stories about you, interview you on topics of expertise, accept contributed content, or run OpEds.

In those stories—all of them—should be anchor text, as it relates to your targeted keywords, and a link to something on your website or blog. There are very few journalists who won’t do this for you. Once you have that link on a higher domain authority site than your own, you have the opportunity to track your own domain authority, your search engine optimization, the qualified leads hitting you up online, and your brand awareness.

In this webinar, you also discuss how to create content hubs around a specific keyword or phrase. What content hubs would you recommend for an in-house copywriter, versus a freelance business owner? Are there hubs that would perform better for B2Bs than B2Cs?

I hate this answer, but I’m going to use it anyway: It really depends. Your content hubs should be focused around your targeted keyword or phrase. For instance, PR metrics is a big one for us because I am focused on changing the way PR pros measure their efforts. Our content hubs are built from that. It’s less about the job you’re doing (in-house vs. freelancer) and more about the search terms you need to use. And no, B2B vs B2C does not matter. This is about content around your keyword or phrase.

Earlier this year on the Spin Sucks blog, you described how to use media relations to get on the first page of Google by demonstrating your expertise on a topic. Specifically, you talked about how to leverage media relations via guest blogging on a site with relatively high domain authority to earn a link from it. Given the amount of solicitations authority sites receive from link wheel spammers, what steps would you recommend an online writer take to successfully pitch a guest post to an authority site for an “unknown” client, or for that matter, his or her own new business?

The very best way, just like any other relationship, is to build trust. I get TONS of solicitations from the wheel spammers…and it’s gross. I also receive really bad pitches and integrated news releases from PR pros, which makes me very sad. However, if someone were to pitch me and say, “I know you’re on a mission to change the way PR pros measure their efforts. I have content that fits that perfectly. Here’s a quick outline.” That would most definitely get my attention.

There’s been a lot of SEO industry talk about making links “no follow” and avoiding keyword-rich anchor link text so as not to invite a manual penalty per Google’s Penguin. Have you encountered any issues with backlinks that use a keyword or specific website domain name? How do you deal with link fear?

Nope. I’ve never had an issue, but it’s because we approach it with a “white hat.” I can’t even speak to link fear because it’s never been an issue for us.

Returning to the question of how to establish authority in the eyes of Google: what would you recommend a “noobie” do to market her content to influencers, aside from pitching a guest post? How can a new copywriter demonstrate her credibility when trying to forge a relationship with an influencer?

I recommend you start a relationship online just like you would offline. You find something in common. You share content. You comment on their content. You scratch their back and, eventually, they’ll scratch yours. Every day we have new commenters on Spin Sucks. They’ll say things such as, “First-time commenter, long-time reader.” I love that because I can dig a little to see who they are, welcome them into the fold, and provide some context about them to our community. This always helps start the relationship.

Finally, in a recent Spin Sucks post referring to the Narrative Science genesis of news storytelling via computers – or more precisely, algorithms spawned from artificial intelligence software — you discuss how “[i]t’s a new world where algorithms and humans are working hand-in-hand to produce some of the world’s best content.” Assuming the trend towards algos and writers working together will only grow, where do you see this new world heading for content creators, SEO copywriters, and online communicators?

It scares me! I joke that a computer will win a Pulitzer before I do. But I’ve talked to the founders of lots of these companies, and they’re focused solely on creating content that humans won’t do. For instance, they’ll write stories about Little League games and the Fortune 450 company because it doesn’t make sense for the newspapers to spend resources on that type of content. It’s also impossible for an algorithm to add color, irony, or even sarcasm. So, even if you use an algorithm to pull the data and science you need for a story, you still need to do the human part of it.

Well said, Gini! Thank you for spending time with us here!

You’re welcome! :)

Connect with Gini Dietrich via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Photo credit to Garfield Anderssen | Flickr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Stupid Business Mistakes That Cost Writers Money

Are you struggling in your freelance writing business and you don’t know why?

Don't burn out. Make more money, instead.

Don’t burn out. Make more money, instead.

There’s nothing worse than working your butt off and feeling tired, burned out and poor at the end of the day. If you’re churning through clients and feeling like you’re making less than minimum wage, you know you have a problem.

Good news, if you’re in this position, you can easily fix it. Bad news, it may mean changing your process, how you spend your time – even how you communicate with clients.

Once you overcome what’s holding you back, you’ll be able to transform a business #FAIL into a fantastic (and profitable) way of life.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here are the ten most common business mistakes I see smart writers make:

Missing deadlines

Never, ever miss a deadline. Period. It makes you look flaky and puts your client in a very bad position. If you know up front that you can’t make a deadline, express your concern or don’t take the gig. I’ve seen writers get fired after missing one deadline. Don’t let this happen to you.

Oops, did I forget to invoice again?

Forgetting to invoice clients

How much would your cash flow improve if you collected everything that was owed you? It’s amazing how many solopreneurs forget to invoice their clients and end up in a cash crunch at the end of the month. Services like Paymo and FreshBooks can help, and they’re easy to use. If you need additional help (or you hate billing,) find a VA who can invoice for you. It’s that important.

P.S. Clients hate it when you send one invoice for three months of work and say, “Oops, I’m a bit behind. Please pay this immediately.” Doing this once could cause you to lose the client forever.

Asking if an invoice has been paid three days after sending it

Your personal finances are not your client’s problem. If you want your invoices to be paid up front or net 15, put that condition in your contract. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for payment like everyone else.

Besides, if you do send a “please pay me” email, it screams “I’m desperate” – and you’ll turn off your client. Certainly, you should check in if it’s been over 30 days or if the check is late. Otherwise, makes sure you always have enough money in your account to help float any receivables.

Dropping the communication ball

Your clients will love you if you send them quick status report emails and answer their emails quickly. Good customer service is so rare that this one little thing will make your service shine. Waiting days to email because “You don’t know anything yet,” will drive your client nuts and cause them to think about you in cranky ways.

Talking about leads/clients on social networking sites

One of the best business pieces of advice my father gave me was, “Keep your mouth shut.” Congratulate yourself if a big fish comes your way, but don’t talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. I have seen writers kicked out of the running (or fired) because they said a little too much. If you treat everything as confidential, you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. :)

Not having a well-optimized, compelling site

How can clients trust you to do a good job with their site if your is poorly designed, you aren’t positioning for anything, and the writing looks like an afterthought? Richard Hostler, Senior SEO copywriter from Brookstone, recommends new copywriters optimize their site for their name, as well as their other top keyphrases. When clients type your name into Google – voila – your name will pop up in the top spot, and they can read all about you.

This button says it all.

Being afraid to speak up

I’ve chatted with scads of copywriters who say, “The agency gave me a list of bad keyphrases, but I’m afraid to say anything to the client.” You know what happens after that – the page doesn’t position, and the writer gets blamed for sub-par work.

If something doesn’t work, speak your mind! Tell your client why. Back up what you say with data. Your client may choose to ignore you, and that’s their choice. If they come back to complain about their poorly performing page, you can remind them of your recommendations and see if you can steer them in the right direction.

Not keeping up-to-date with the latest SEO news because you “don’t have time.”

There is nothing more embarrassing than an informed client asking a question about the latest Google update – and you having no idea what they mean. Make sure that at least 10 percent of your day is spent educating yourself on the latest and greatest. Yes, it sounds like a lot of time. Yes, it’s that important.

Holding yourself back

Expanding your business is scary. So is taking on larger clients, asking for more money per page or taking a vacation when you know you really need it. Plan out what you want to do and do it. If you “fail” – so what? Pick yourself up and try again. This goes along with…

Not taking care of you

I’ve said it before – if you don’t take care of yourself, you put your entire business at risk. Play with different work/play schedules and see what works for your lifestyle. Laugh with your friends. Eat well. Exercise. Your energy levels will skyrocket if you do. Trust me.

What about you? What stupid business mistakes do you see new and established SEO writers make?

What to Do When It All Goes Wrong

This is an “oldie-but-a-goodie” post that originally ran in 2010. I’m re-running it today because I’ve received two emails this week from folks who are stuck in a bad business hole. If that’s where you are too, please know that things will get better soon. Really.

Enjoy the post!

Sometimes, I receive an email that’s so compelling that I need to respond right away. This is one of those times.

The note said:

“I’m a freelance online copywriter. I’m busting my butt to get clients and doing all the necessary marketing (email, networking, social media, article marketing, etc.). However, I’m still not getting the results I desire, but I see my colleagues who do the same exact thing that I do, and they are making a killing.

I don’t want to sound like, ‘Woe is me,’ because that’s not me. I’m dedicated, passionate, and a fast-learner. I guess the question is, have you experienced this kind of ‘stuckness’ when you were just starting out? If so, what did you do to get past this phase? Please note, that I’m managing social media for two clients a month as well.”

Ah, I call this phase “surviving the dark times.” And yeah, it’s tough. I distinctly remember going through this about 14 years ago and feeling so frustrated that I threw a wicker chair against a wall. I knew what I wanted. I could SEE it. I just couldn’t figure out how to make the money flow.

Obviously, I pulled out of it. That doesn’t make me smarter or better. I just had a vision, and I stubbornly held on to it – and eventually, everything worked out.

You may have seen this in your own business – whether you’re a freelance writer, a small business owner, or even a partner in a corporation. You’re working mondo hours and not seeing the money you want. You’re waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about money.

And there’s a little voice inside of you whispering, “Give it up. You can’t do this. Close down and start over.”

Are you tired of hearing the “helpful” whispers?

 

Maybe you subscribe to a few newsletters in the hopes that they get you back “on track.” But the newsletters almost make it worse. Every headline talks about how much money everyone else (except you, of course) is making. You read inspirational stories about people who make it big within six months of opening shop.

And that little voice inside of you whispers even louder, “Forget it. You’re wrong. Other people know the secret, and you’ll never succeed.”

Then you try talking to friends or to your spouse. They try to be supportive. They really do. But when they say, “Maybe this isn’t the right time…maybe you should get a real job,” it tears you up inside. You don’t want to talk to them anymore. So you close down and give up.

And that inner voice that used to be a whisper is now a full-force 3 a.m. taunt. You’re so burned out and demotivated that it’s hard to get up in the morning, much less work.

Here’s your compassionate reality check: This process is normal. It sucks, but it’s normal. And you will go through this many, many times throughout your career.

There are some great books on this topic (The Energy of Money is a great one) but here’s my take:

Running a business – like everything else – is cyclical. Some days (or months) you’re super-creative, motivated and in the flow. Other days, you wonder why the heck you decided to go into business for yourself. Some months (or years) you can’t keep up with requests for business. Sometimes, you happily talk to phone solicitors because – darn it – it was the first call you’ve received in weeks.

There is dark, and there is light. There is super-busy, and there is super-quiet. It’s all part of the process.

Your business will ebb and flow like the ocean. May as well relax and enjoy it!

Your freelance writing business will ebb and flow like the ocean. You may as well relax and enjoy it!

Plus – and this is just my opinion – most folks quit too early. They hit the dark times, and they freak out. The fear is too much. They lose too much sleep. Instead of following their passion, they do what’s “safe.”

Granted, there are times you do what you have to do to live – and there is no shame or judgment in doing that. Just know that it’s one thing to let your dream die and give up. It’s completely another to do everything you can (even if that means taking a part-time job) to keep that dream alive.

I strongly believe that we are rewarded for being passionate. When we’ve done the planning and we can see the goal on the “other side” – we will eventually get there. The trick is – and I know that this is easier said than done – stay calm, manage by facts, and take care of you.

Some positive steps that you can take right now are:

  • Take time away from your business. Seriously! It may feel like the “worst time ever” to do it, but you need the perspective. You need to be able to look at your business with fresh eyes (and a calm brain) if you want to move forward. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out and involve yourself in “busywork” that doesn’t move your business forward.
  • Take a hard, hard look at your business focus. Hindsight is always 20/20 – and for me, I know that a lack of focus can decimate my business opportunities. You may be an “online writer” – but who is your target audience? Can you picture what she/he would look like? What her hopes would be? Her fears? It’s so easy to do “anything” to get money in the door that we stray away from what we really want to do (and who we really want to work with.)
  • Spend time every day with “the end in mind.” Allow yourself to feel what it would be like to work with that company you really want to work with. Or imagine writing the check that pays off that last credit card. Or finally having enough money to take a “real” vacation. Keeping that excitement and vision alive is paramount.
  • Celebrate your successes. It’s so easy to say, “Well, yeah, I’m making money – but it’s not the money I want to make.” So what? You’re making money! Congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back. You’ll never be able to break out of your funk if you never feel “good enough” to celebrate your successes.
  • Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Although your colleagues may say that they’re “raking in the bucks,” know that it may not be true. After all, it’s very, very hard for entrepreneurs to admit that they’re losing money (in our minds, we call it “failing” – even if that’s not the case.) It’s a whole lot easier to say that things are “great” rather than admitting “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty scared.”
  • Take care of you. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, you’re all you’ve got. If you get sick from the stress, you’re going to put yourself in a worse situation. If you ignore exercise because you “don’t have time,” you’re going to feel worse and be less productive. I would watch every piece of food you put into your body and focus on high-quality meals. The better you feel physically, the better you’ll be able to handle any situation. (After typing that, I’m feeling a little guilty that I just munched the complimentary chocolate they gave me on the plane!).
  • Recognize the voices in your head. The voices telling you that you’re a failure at 3 a.m. aren’t real. It’s your fear coming back to bite you. Notice the voices. Laugh at them. Learn from them. But do not let them get to you. They are not real.
  • Know that your hard work is not in vain. At this very moment, someone may be discussing hiring you – you just don’t know it yet. Your life and financial situation can change with one phone call.
  • Get support from other entrepreneurs. My support network is comprised of search folks and local Portland business owners. I love them. I can go to them hurting and scared and frustrated and come away feeling fantastic. It helps to know that you’re not alone (and you know that you’re never alone, right?) Other people have gone through this multiple times. They survived. You will too.
  • Ignore the naysayers. They do nothing but sap your energy and make you feel bad about yourself.  If you walk away from a friend feeling drained and tired, you may want to keep that friendship “on hold” until you’re in a better spot.  You don’t have time for folks like that.
  • Finally, recognize that this is, in fact, a phase. It’s the darkness before the dawn. It’s miserable and scary and…a little bit exciting too. Once you’ve gone through this a few more times, the process does get easier. You start to recognize what’s happening and move through it a little bit faster. It doesn’t make it “fun.” Heck, I go through this phase kicking and screaming (sometimes literally!) But at least you may not take it quite so personally next time.

If you’re going through this – hang in there. Know that things will – eventually – be OK. And let me know how it’s going. We’re all in this together.

Why Your Prospects Aren’t Buying (and What You Can Do!)

Want to know a secret?

Want to overcome common sales objections? You'll need to crawl inside your prospect's brain.

Want to overcome common sales objections? You’ll need to crawl inside your prospect’s brain.

When prospective buyers visit your website, they are looking for more than just their desired product or service.

The secret is; they’re looking for reasons to NOT buy from you.

Yes, that’s right. Your prospects – no matter how motivated they are – are coming to the virtual table with a chip on their shoulder. Like the person burned by too many bad dates (you dated that person too?), they want you to prove to them how you’re not just like all the others.

But the problem is, just like in the dating example, you have no idea what the “others” did to your prospect. She’s not coming to you and saying, “Here’s what happened to me – and I’m expecting you to pull the same stuff.”

Here’s what a prospect may be thinking…

…The last PR company I worked with took my 10K and didn’t generate a dime in buzz. How can you help me?

…The last time I bought something online, the package arrived late, and the company overcharged me for shipping. Will you do the same thing?

…The last time I hired a writer, he copied an article from Wikipedia and tried to pass it off as original content. How do I know that I’ll get what I’m promised?

…These prices seem high. Are your services worth it, or are you overpriced?

Think about your buying behavior. Do you jump into a new purchase willy-nilly, buying from the first vendor in the search results? Or do you carefully compare sites, send exploratory emails and check reviews so you can work with the right company?

(As a side note, that’s why well-written persuasive content is so important, It’s more than just “getting a good ranking.” It’s providing a fantastic customer experience through the power of the written word.)

The importance of overcoming sales objections in your web writing

Now that you know that your prospects have sales objections, it’s important to overcome them within your copy. Rather than waiting for your prospect to bring up every objection they have (guess what – they won’t,) you have to face the known issues head-on, showcase your value and create an active need.

That means knowing what freaks your prospects out about working with you.

Plus, if you don’t overcome these objections immediately in your copy, you may not get a second chance.

For instance, Domino Pizza’s old campaign of “Pizza in 30 minutes or less” was perfect for thousands of hungry pizza-lovers anxious for immediate-gratification food.

The U.S. Post Office’s campaign of “Celebrating a simpler way to ship” accomplishes a couple goals. It helps promote their online services, plus, overcomes the objection of “Will I have to stand in line for hours at the Post Office?”

Or FedEx’s, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight…guaranteed” – which is important for businesses who need on-time, trackable shipping.

How do you “figure out the known issues” if you can’t crawl inside your prospect’s brain and determine what she’s thinking? Simple. Do your homework.

Talk to the sales team

Your sales team are the folks “in the trenches” who hear what’s going on – and who overcome objections every time they talk to a new prospect. Ask them what their clients are worried about and any common questions they hear.

Chat with your new customers

New customers are a fantastic source of information. Task someone with calling selected folks who sign up. This is a smart strategy for a couple reasons:

  • Your new customer will be impressed that someone has called to check in – so your company gets some great customer service bonus points.
  • During the call, you can ask your customer questions about their past experiences, why they chose your company, why they love your product or service and more. In fact, you may even be able to ask them to provide a testimonial.

Read your testimonials

Testimonials provide great (yet, often ignored) information. Companies are often so focused on posting new testimonials to the site that they forget to mine the data.

And testimonials provide yummy data.

For instance, customers will tell stories like, “When I worked with XYZ company, it took one or two days before they would answer my email. When I work with you, I get an immediate response.”

Bingo! Now you know that a fast response rate is an important benefit. A sentence like, “We’ll return your email within one business day, guaranteed” perfectly overcomes the objection.

Additionally, if there’s something your company does really well, testimonials will often reflect that fact. Maybe it’s your cutting-edge knowledge. Or your great customer service. Those testimonial themes are marketing gold!

Review competing sites

Sometimes, your competition really does get it right. Comb through their copy and see if they’ve overcome objections your site doesn’t address. Does your competition talk about how many years of experience their consultants have? Does your competition mention a “no hassle money back guarantee?” Do they include customer reviews touting their superior service?

Although it’s not a smart idea to copy your competition (after all, you can do better,) you can learn from them.

What’s the best way research the objections you should overcome?

Easy. Just start.

If you have an in-house marketing manager, he can get the ball rolling and start gathering data. Although this process isn’t hard to do, it is time-consuming – so your marketing manager will want to set aside time to do it right. Otherwise, it will sit on the back burner and never get done.

Some companies choose to work with an SEO content strategist who can do the heavy lifting for them. This tactic is especially smart if your team members are time-crunched – or if you want a fresh perspective. It’s amazing how often an outside expert can find opportunities that were missed in-house.

The important thing is to get moving, especially if your site’s conversion goals are sluggish and you’re leaving money on the table.

Once you have the data, you’ll want to rewrite the content and incorporate the messaging changes. Depending on your existing content, this could be a simple tweak – or a more major undertaking. Consider A/B testing the new copy to further refine your pages.

Just imagine: After a few hours of research and some copy tweaking, you can gently move that chip off your prospects’ shoulder and drive more sales.

It’s that simple.