Hack Your Growth, Drive Fast Traffic: Strategies from Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Do the words “rapid results” make your heart rate pitter patter with glee?

Are you looking for a fun way to help your clients?

If you don’t know Ann Smarty, you’re in for a treat. Ann has been on the forefront of blogging and content marketing for years — plus, she knows her SEO stuff (@seosmarty is even her Twitter handle!).

Read what Ann has to say about growth hacking strategies, why building your brand assets is so important — and why you may not need a blog. Enjoy!

The topic of “growth hacking” is hot – but I run into people who don’t know what it is. Can you please define growth hacking and tell us how it differs from digital marketing?

I am not aware of any formal definition. Here’s how I understand it: Growth hacking means coming up with efficient tactics to grow your business.

Growth hacking can be part of digital marketing but while the latter is more long-term and strategic, growth hacking is usually about rapid results, lots of experiments and fun.

Moreover, while digital marketing is comprehensive (it aims at building all kinds of aspects of your business including sales, reputation, usability, etc.), growth hacking is about mostly doing whatever it takes to grow the site user base.

Growth hacking is also less about watching competitors and more about developing unique growth ideas.

I’m asking this for all those businesses out there who really don’t want to blog. Is having an on-site blog a prerequisite for digital marketing/growth hacking? Or, are there any non-blogging “hacks?”

Blogging is just one growth hack. There are many more 🙂

For examples, growth hacks in my newsletter include YouTube tricks, ways to obtain natural links that bring traffic and users, creating brand assets that generate user base of their own, etc. It’s not just about blogging, though blogging usually makes it easier!

Do you run into people who insist email marketing is dead? Is it really? Where does email marketing fit into an overall growth hacking strategy? Or does it?

The death of email marketing was a thing a few years ago when social media sites were just emerging and many people thought social media communities would eventually replace email marketing.

Well, guess what, social media platforms are mature now, they are useful for marketers but they definitely never replaced email marketing. In fact, the two are most effective when combined!

You discuss increasing Google search exposure by answering niche questions. Are there any specific ways of doing this or Q&A forums you’ve found work better than others?

The most effective way to earn traffic by answering questions is to answer them on your site and build up a resource.

One of the most efficient scenarios I’ve come up with so far is the following:

  • Any time you plan to create and publish content, use SERPstat to find related questions people tend to type into Google’s search box
  • Break those questions into generic ones (those that deserve creating a separate page to address them) and specific ones (those that should be covered inside an article)
  • Do some more digging to research search volume and competition (SERPstat can show you both) to pick the best generic questions to create content around
  • Use specific questions as subheadings as well as a clickable table of contents within each article.

Here’s a good example of the above scenario in action.

Also, make a good habit of covering each customer’s questions on your site as a FAQ question. Not only will it increase your chances to rank higher, it will also decrease the amount of customer support emails.

You’ve also discussed creating alternative web traffic sources by building brand assets. Are you saying that Google traffic isn’t enough? How can that be? 😉

Even if we forget about the (always) disturbing Google whims (manual penalties, ever-growing list of tools), depending on one source for traffic, leads and customers is never a good idea! 🙂

What are the best hacks for building these assets? And what “alternative web traffic sources” should an agency or individual consider?

I’ve discussed my favorite platforms to build brand assets here. In short, brand assets can be any page or resource that can be bring you traffic (preferably on auto-pilot).

For example, a must-build brand asset is an email list (which you can scale by using automated workflows. Here’s more info on all the ways to automate your email communications and grow engagement with GetResponse).

Social media accounts are more brand assets to consistently develop.

Creating on-site brand assets is another great idea. Think eBooks, apps, aforementioned FAQs. These will bring return traffic from bookmarks and downloads.

The sky is your limit really… Creating an online course and publishing it throughout educational platforms is one idea, for example. Or publishing an instructional download, such as a pdf. Or even maintaining an author column at a high-profile niche publication.

The more you do, the more traffic sources you build!

It sounds like writing good copy (newsletter copy, email copy, web copy) is a needed growth-hacking skill – which is great for SEO writers! Is there anything else folks should know?

Content has always been the foundation of any other marketing efforts. It’s never “build it and they will come” though (unfortunately). Creating good copy is a necessary step 1, then there come many more steps including publicizing and marketing that content using your assets (e-newsletter, social media channels) or paid placements (search and social media ads).

What’s your top growth hack tip for snagging some “low-hanging fruit” success?

My favorite growth hack won’t work for everyone but it will hopefully inspire many. I have found that re-packaging old content is an easy and absolutely awesome way to create new traffic sources.

For example, I went back to my old content, ordered voiceover on Fiver and created three premium courses on Udemy. Now they work great for bringing brand recognition and site visitors.

What’s your favorite music to listen to while you’re writing?

I am not listening to music when writing. I am a multi-tasker. I am writing, monitoring Twitter and feeding baby – all at the same time. I cannot also add background music to all of that 🙂

Want an SEO Copywriting Career? 12 Questions, Answered

FAQs

Want to be an SEO writer? Check this out!

Have you thought about dipping your toes in the SEO writing waters, but you figured it was “too technical” to learn?

Or, have you shunned SEO writing because you’ve heard it was spammy, maddening and not worth your time?

Let me calm your fears…

SEO writing has been around for a long time — close to 20 years now.

A lot has changed over those 20 years.

No longer does Google reward keyphrase-stuffed, spammy writing (woohoo!)

In fact, quality, authoritative writing is what scores a sky-high ranking. You know, the kind of writing you already love to create.

Wondering if you should add SEO writing to your services mix? Here are the 12 most common questions I hear  — and my (sometimes blunt) responses. Enjoy!

1. I have zero copywriting experience. Can I still write SEO copy?

Yes…but…

There will be a learning curve.

You don’t have to be a technical wizard who enjoys coding sites in your spare time. But you do need to understand the SEO copywriting basics.

Otherwise, you are doing your clients a huge disservice. Not understanding SEO best practices means you’ll miss important opportunities (or make mistakes) that can cost your client money.

(Fortunately, SEO copywriting skills can be picked up fairly quickly.)

You’ll also need to learn the basic copywriting ropes.

If you want to help your clients succeed (and that means helping them make sales,) it’s crucial that you understand how to create conversion-oriented copy. It will help you write better Web pages, improve your email campaigns – and even help you drive more traffic to your site.

2. I’m an established copywriter. Should I learn SEO writing, too?

Yes. SEO writing is a service you can offer established clients, increasing your profit margins.

Plus, why wouldn’t you want to help your client drive more traffic to her site? After all, if you don’t provide this service, your client may be forced to find another vendor who can.

3. Do I need to go back to school?

I don’t know of any universities that incorporate SEO copywriting into their curriculum. Some writers choose to get a certificate in ad or business writing — but it’s not required.

4. So, if I can’t go to school to learn SEO copywriting, how will I learn the ropes?

You have a few options.

Unlike some careers, don’t figure that you’ll “learn SEO copywriting” in a few months – and that’s all you’ll need to do. I’m still learning. I’m still researching. It’s a never-ending process.

If you enjoy learning in a conference environment, events like Pubcon and Search Marketing Expo run SEO copywriting panels. AWAI runs web writing workshops.

Occasionally, there are local workshops too – you can always check with an SEO copywriter you like and see if he/she is running anything in your area.

If you prefer to learn from the comfort of your comfy couch, there are online training classes, too (such as my SEO Copywriting Certification training.) Going through a training course can even help land you your first gig.

What should you avoid? Learning the ropes from message boards (where the information could be wrong) and books (where the information may be outdated.) Stick to constantly-updated resources and you’ll be fine.

5. What about working with a mentor? Can I learn that way? 

Some folks prefer a mentor/mentee relationship, where the “master” SEO copywriter reviews your work, answers your questions and helps you learn the art faster and easier.

Some mentors will work with writers for free — but that means you’ll probably be paying in other ways (such as helping your mentor with tasks.) Other people will charge money.

Although “free” is a great price, don’t reject a paid mentor relationship if you have the funds available. You’ll probably be able to work with an SEO copywriter faster (and receive more consistent feedback) if you’re able to pay.

6. I’d rather learn on the job. Will anyone hire a newbie SEO copywriter?

Yes! Although most companies prefer to hire folks with some experience, you can work as an assistant at first — and gradually work on writing projects as your skills improve.

A recent 2016 study found that the average web writer salary is $77,500 — so the income projections are excellent.

7. Won’t what I learn go out of date in just a few months?

Yes…and no. It’s true that Google keeps changing the rules. Having said that, many of the basics (like write for your reader) are the same.

It’s crucial to stay educated in this fast-moving field. If you love to learn, SEO (and SEO copywriting) is a great career choice.

8. How can I find SEO copywriting work?

That depends – do you want to work in-house or freelance? If you want to freelance, think about business owners you know (for instance, your hairdresser, a restaurant owner or a plumber.) Is there some way that you can help them?

You can also work with advertising agencies, SEO firms, copywriting agencies and even web design companies. In short, freelance SEO copywriters have lots of options.

9. How much should I charge for SEO copywriting services?

That depends on a lot of things, including your experience level, your local area (assuming that you are focusing locally,) and the types of clients you want.

If your heart is with small business owners, it makes sense to charge small business prices. If you love working with corporations — and you have some experience under your virtual belt — you can charge much more.

I know some SEO copywriters making 20K a year – and others making over 200K. It all depends on your income goals.

Here are some things to think about when you’re setting your freelance copywriting rates.

10.  Can I be a part-time SEO copywriter?

Yes. Many people when they are first starting out have a “real job” during the day – and work on SEO copywriting assignments at night. Working part-time can be a great way to build up a client base while having the security of a regular paycheck.

11. How can I get paid more money?

That’s up to you. Top notch SEO copywriters understand how the search engines work, and keep up on the latest and greatest algorithmic changes.

Plus, they’re researching topics like NLP, neuromarketing, consumer psychology — anything that will help them write better copy faster.

The more you know, the more you can get paid.

If you love learning and uncovering the latest search engine burp is fun for you, you can look at expanding your skills into content marketing, social media and even consulting and training.

Some SEO copywriters even take on full-scale SEO projects, handling everything from technical to analytics and everything in between.

If this is the route you plan to take, know that you’ll need to spend a lot of time educating yourself. As I mentioned earlier, your lack of knowledge can hurt a client,so be very honest about what you can do – and what you can’t provide.

12. The most important question of all: Is SEO copywriting a fun career choice?

Yes, SEO copywriting is a darn fun career choice.

Some folks choose to turn SEO copywriting into a lifestyle business, where they fit in copywriting gigs around family, fun, and other responsibilities.

Other people dream of having a full-fledged SEO copywriting and content marketing agency, complete with employees, downtown office, and signage.

Still others would rather work for an agency and be part of a fantastic team.

If SEO copywriting is your desired career choice, you have the freedom to create the work environment you’ve always wanted. And having that kind of freedom, combined with doing the work you want to do, is a great gig. 🙂

How To Write Meta Descriptions For SEO

Do you want more people to click on your search result — even if you’re not #1?

dog with pencil

See? Even Fido wants you to write good meta descriptions for SEO!

Masterfully-written meta descriptions have tremendous traffic-boosting powers.

In fact, Neil Patel has stated, “The meta description is the most important feature for improving click-through rate from search results pages.”

What’s more, you can write a great meta description in five minutes or less!

Here’s everything you need to know:

What’s a meta description?

The meta description is an HTML attribute summarizing the page content. In less geeky terms, the meta description proves a mini-summary of the page and describes what it’s about.

The meta description does not have an SEO benefit, although a strong meta description may entice people to click on your search listing.

(And this is where the magic happens!)

Here’s what the meta description looks like on the search engine results page:

SERP meta description

If you’re using an SEO plug-in, you’d insert your meta description in a field like this (this is from the Yoast SEO plug-in):

Post meta

 

Or, if you’re checking out the behind-the-scenes code, the meta description looks like this:

<meta name>=”description” content=”Wondering how much you should charge as a freelance copywriter? Use this guide to figure out your rate!” />

Now, here’s where things get really interesting…

Remember I mentioned the magic in meta descriptions?

Here’s why:

The meta description shows up when you share a post on social networks:

Social meta description

Plus, a masterfully-written meta description can tempt users to click on your listing over others on the search engine results page:

meta description comparison

See what’s happening here? The meta description helps “sell” the listing and encourages readers to click through.

Think of the meta description as “ad copy” rather than “back-end code,” and you can really grasp the importance.

The better your meta descriptions, the more of a chance you’ll see search and social traffic — especially when paired with a killer Title.

Plus, they’re fun (and easy) to write.

Here’s how:

5 masterful meta description-creation tips:

You’ll want to create an unique meta description for every page on your site, so it’s important to write them right.

1. Know your (character count) limits

In the past, we had about 156 characters (including spaces). Recently, Google has been testing longer descriptions — and now, you have approximately 200 characters (including spaces.) More than that, and Google will slice off your listing and show the dreaded ellipses (…)

Want to make sure you don’t push the character count limit? SEO plug-ins like Yoast’s and tools like Snippet Optimizer show you what your meta description will look like on the search engine results page.

2.  Think “clickable”

The meta description helps your listing pop off the search results page — so you’ll want to write to get the click. Use action-oriented words and a call to action to invite readers to learn more.

For instance, let’s unpack Moz’s meta description:

moz meta description

This masterful meta description for the Moz home page includes:

Social proof: “the largest community of SEOs on the planet”

Benefit statement: “Moz builds tools that make inbound marketing easy”

A call to action: “Start your free trial today!”

That’s a lot of brilliant writing within a very limited character count.

3. Clearly describe what the page is about

Yes, you want to be compelling — but you don’t want to write a cutesy, click-bait meta description that doesn’t match the page’s intent.

Think about it: people are busy. Why would your reader click on something when they weren’t 100% sure it would answer their question (or solve their problem.)

After all,

via GIPHY

Am I right? 🙂

4. Include keyphrases, but don’t keyphrase stuff

Keyphrases in your meta description won’t help your SEO. However, it could help your click-throughs. Here’s why:

  • The keyphrases will be bolded in the search listing. So, if someone searched for [blue widgets], the words “blue widgets” will show in the meta description.
  • Using keyphrases and related words reassures searchers your landing page contains the information they want.

So yes, include a keyphrase if it makes sense…but focus more on getting the click. Including…

5. Experiment with different CTA formats

Adding a CTA to your meta description can drive more eyeballs to your site — or even calls to your company.

For instance:

  • Does your business thrive on phone calls? Try including your phone number.
  • Raven Tools recommends action-oriented verbs like, “buy,” “shop”, “click.” “Read more” is a popular blogging CTA.
  • Neil Patel discusses how the meta description should “spark curiosity.” For instance, here’s a description that makes you want to learn more:

Match the CTA to the page’s intent and don’t be afraid to try different things. You never know what will spark the click and drive fantastic results!

Do you need more back-to-basics SEO writing tips? I share my best secrets in my free newsletter. Sign up now!

 

Why Incubation Time Makes You A Better Writer: Tips from Henneke Duistermaat

Henneke Have you wondered why your blog post titles are falling flat, and folks aren’t taking action?

Are you looking for a way to simplify your writing process?

If you don’t know Henneke Duistermaat, you’re in for a treat. Henneke is the owner of Enchanting Marketing and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine and Copyblogger. 

In fact, Copyblogger’s Brian Clark has said, “You should listen to Henneke’s every word!”

Learn what Henneke has to say about her streamlined writing process, what sales writing mistakes make her cringe and ways to open the curiosity gap. Enjoy!

You write books, develop courses, blog and (sometimes) take on copywriting clients. That’s a lot of writing!  What kind of productivity processes do you have in place to help you accomplish so much?

Firstly, I write over a series of days – even for smaller projects. My first stage is gathering the information required. For copywriting projects, I focus on (1) who is the customer, (2) what is the expected action on this page, (3) why would the customer care about taking this action, (4) why might the customer hesitate, and (5) why would he trust me. I leave the research for a day before I plan the content, which means arranging what content goes where. On the next day, I write a first draft. Then on the next day again, I edit. Sometimes I edit over a couple of days.

When you spread writing over several days, you take advantage of incubation time. You become more creative. Also, your editing goes faster when you look at your draft with fresh eyes. I also suffer less from procrastination when a writing task is relatively small!

For blog posts, I often use a standard structure which helps speed up writing, too. Most of my posts have an opening in which I empathize with the reader and promise how I’ll help them. Then I have a series of tips. And lastly, I have an upbeat paragraph in which I encourage readers to implement my tips.

What also helps is that I write in short bursts of time (25 to 30 minutes) and take a lot of breaks. This keeps my energy levels up. And I spend relatively little time on social media. I don’t even have a Facebook account. I focus on what I do best – which is content creation.

You are an incredible marketer and your posts can get thousands of shares! Well done! Do you have a favorite marketing technique that helped you go from “a good writer” to “a well-known influencer?”

Thank you!

What has helped me most is being focused. So rather than write about a variety of topics, I tried to establish my credentials as an expert in web writing and business blogging. I rarely write about other topics. I tend to write in-depth content, sometimes focused on ultra-specific topics like how to use adverbs, how to create smooth transitions, or how to eliminate weak words from your writing. Such in-depth posts about the nitty-gritty of writing help me stand out as an expert. I didn’t think people would be interested in such detailed posts, but my readers have encouraged me to write them.

Another often underrated skill is listening. We think of ourselves as writers, but getting to know our audience and listening to their needs helps connect with them. I often get emails from people saying that my blog post came exactly at the right time. “Was I reading their mind?” I love those emails because they show me I’m in tune with my audience’s needs.

You must see sales pages that make you cringe. What are the most common sales page errors you see? How can a writer conquer common sales writing mistakes and write some serious sales copy?

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is using generic statements like “We’re passionate about creating awesome websites” or “We’re committed to customer service excellence.”

Such generic statements don’t help persuade readers to buy because everyone says the same. Even more importantly, such statements don’t help readers visualize what you’re talking about—they don’t really tell us something. What is so special about their customer service?

As soon as you add a specific detail, the credibility of the copy is boosted. For instance, a headline like “Our world class widgets help you increase email sign-ups” is a generic statement, and while the benefit (increasing email sign-ups) is good, it lacks persuasiveness. Try for instance: “549,333 websites use our widgets to increase email sign-ups” or even: “So-and-so used our widget to increase sign ups by 79%.”

Some writers swear by sales writing formulas like PAS and AIDA. Other writers think that sales formulas are outdated and won’t work online. What’s your opinion? If you do use sales writing formulas, what’s your favorite one and why?

I find PAS and FAB the two most useful copywriting formulas.

FAB stands for Features – Advantages – Benefits.

FAB reminds us that our customers aren’t interested in features, and they aren’t interested in specifications, they don’t even care about advantages. All they want to know is what you offer to them. How do you make them happier or richer?

In my book How to Write Seductive Web Copy, I use the following example to describe the difference between features, advantages, and benefits:

Imagine you’re selling an oven. One of its special features is a fast preheat system. The advantage of this system is that the oven heats up to 400º F (200º C) in just five minutes. The benefit is that a cook doesn’t have to hang around until the oven is finally warm enough. It makes cooking less stressful and you have a much better chance to get dinner ready in time even if you’re extremely busy.

FAB tells us to always focus on customers. Specific features and specifications add credibility to your copy, but benefits sell because they connect to human emotions. You always need the combination of facts (features and specifications) and emotion (benefits).

PAS is in a way quite similar to FAB. Instead of focusing on the positive benefits of your copy, you focus on what problems you help avoid. PAS is powerful because problems can attract even more attention than benefits. People want to avoid pain, hassle, risks, glitches, and problems.

PAS stands for: Problem – Agitate – Solve. First you describe a problem, then you agitate by highlighting the emotions that go with the problem, and then you offer your solution. Once people believe you understand their problems and how they feel about it, they’re more likely to believe you have a good solution for them, too.

PAS and FAB are simple and persuasive. You can write persuasive web copy for any product or service using these two formulas.

What’s your favorite site for sales copy inspiration (and no, Apple doesn’t count!) 🙂

Haha! Apple doesn’t count? Why not?

Other copywriting examples? It depends on what you’re looking for. For simplicity, I think the UK government’s website is interesting to study. It covers a huge number of topics in a pretty clear manner. What I also like is that it reinforces the point that FAQ pages are pretty useless. You need to answer questions when they come up in people’s mind. That’s usually when they’re reading about a product or service.

For writing with personality, I like Man Crates. They write great copy for a clearly defined avatar (or ideal reader profile). If you’re interested in stories, then J Peterman is a great website to study.

One of your blog posts discusses the “curiosity gap” and its importance. Can you talk a little bit about what the curiosity gap is, and why “minding the gap” is so important during the age of content shock.

Curiosity has a bad name. We associate it with either nosiness and clickbait titles. But curiosity is a healthy human trait. Without curiosity, we wouldn’t learn and innovate.

To use curiosity in an ethical way, we appeal to people’s desire for learning about a specific topic, and then we open up a gap by pointing out there might be something they don’t know yet. This way we can write subject lines and headlines that entice people to click through.

For instance, here’s a subject line that did really well for me recently: 

A Pain-Free Copywriting Process: 5 Key Questions You Must Answer

The first part (A pain-free copywriting process) refers to something a lot of my audience desire. Copywriting is hard—who wouldn’t like to make the process pain-free? The second part (5 key questions you must answer), then opens up the curiosity gap because we get curious to know which these 5 key questions are.

You don’t have to do this in two parts. Here’s another example:

Do You Know This #1 Fiction Writing Trick For Compelling Business Content?

This subject line appeals to people’s desire for creating compelling business content; and it arouses curiosity by referring to the #1 fiction writing trick. (What’s the trick? This post is about the principle of Show. Don’t tell.)

Speaking of content shock…I don’t know how many super-long emails I receive every day. Do I read them? Usually not. What are some things writers can do to write more “snackable” emails that actually get read?

Emails tend to get wordy because people are trying to communicate too much information. You see this with companies a lot. They want you to fill in a satisfaction survey AND like them on Facebook. They want you to reply to an email AND click to read the latest post. They share three or four tips in one email when one tip is enough. Everyone is overwhelmed already, so let’s keep life a little simpler for our email recipients.

So, the key to being “snackable” is to focus on just one action per email. This action can be to click through to read your blog post, to reply to your email with a concrete answer, to click to buy a product or to fill in a questionnaire. Whatever it is, limit it to one action.

Once you decide which one action you want from the email, it becomes easier to cut out all the irrelevant parts. Often you can reduce the number of words by 50%.

If writers only remember ONE thing from this interview, what’s the big takeaway? 

Let me mention again this point about generic statements because as copywriters it can be difficult to write persuasive copy because often we don’t know enough.

To write good copy, it’s important to get as much input as possible from your clients or their customers or to do your own online research. Ask as many questions as you can and when a client gives you a generic statement, ask for an example. For instance, I remember a client telling me they had state-of-the-art facilities; and I had to probe him for quite a long time before I finally got some specific statements about his facilities. These specific statements included explanations about his machinery plus I asked him to explain why his customers would care about this machinery. So, again, each fact about the machinery was connected to a benefit for buyers.

Bonus question: What do you listen do while you’re writing? Music? Nothing? White noise?

I like silence. Music distracts me.

Want to learn more from Henneke? She’s our featured Certification training guest speaker next Wednesday, June 29th. Learn more about the SEO Copywriting Certification Training.

How to Write A Services Page That Converts Like Crazy

Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!

Want to learn how to work where you want, when you want and make the money you want to make? Discover profitable SEO writing tips, business strategies, and proven productivity hacks.

Learn how to be a rebel writer — sign up for my weekly newsletter!

 

7 Call-To-Action Techniques and Examples That Work

When it comes to your website, if you want your readers to do something, you have to ask them – but do you know how to do it the right way?

Call us

Want people to contact you? Try these tips!

If there’s a way to direct your readers to action that works better than others, do you know what it is? How do you get your audience to click, download, subscribe or purchase? What can you do to improve overall response rates?

To help answer those questions, here’s a look at seven specific call-to-action examples and strategies that work.

To boost the power of your advertising and click-throughs, try these techniques!

1. Offer Something of Value
Screen shot of Free Photo Editing call to actionWhether you offer a “Free Download,” a “20% Off Discount,” or something else, giving your audience something of value is a perfect way to get them to respond to your call to action. This sort of request speaks directly to a reader’s sense of motivation, encouraging him or her to complete a task because of what comes in return. To use this option, ask yourself what’s in it for your reader and emphasize that in your call to action.

2. Speak to Objections
Shutterfly Photo Prints call to actionYou know what your customers’ main objections will be in making a purchase, so why not head them off before they happen? Speak directly to these biggest objections by responding to them right in your call to action. If it’s worry about product satisfaction, include “Money-back Guarantee” in your link or advertising. If it’s cold feet about commitment, assure them of what they have to gain. Think through the drawbacks, from a customer’s perspective, of responding to your request, and figure out a way to alleviate those concerns.

3. Rouse Curiosity
eatreal.org call-to-action exampleThink about what makes you click an ad or respond to a call to action – isn’t it often because something in it made you curious? You wanted to find out more or learn something. Use this to your advantage: make it easy for your readers to do what you want them to by making it hard to resist. Pique their interest. Make them want to learn more. Ask a question to which they want to find the answer and you will see better responses.

4. Use Social Proof
Free Email from MailChimp cta examplePeople are much more likely to click something when they know other people have done it, too. When possible, use social proof to your advantage. Try a call to action that references the approval of other customers and fans. “See why 9 out of 10 clients choose our company!” or “Join the 5,100 readers subscribing to our newsletter!” are good examples of this sort of call to action. Show your audience that doing what you’re asking will make them part of the group.

5. Customize to Your AudienceamazonPrime cta example

Not every reader is alike, so your calls to action shouldn’t be either. Rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all strategy, think about the people you’re trying to reach. The better you know your audience, the better equipped you are to reach them. If your goal is more sales, craft your calls to action to appeal to your most common demographics. To be even more effective, create different calls to action for the different stages of the sales cycle in order to coax readers through their purchases.

6. Include a Timeline
A sense of urgency adds importance to your call to action.
When there’s a timeline on your request, readers Freshman Admission Process call to action example know they have a limited window in which to act, and that prioritizes a decision. To encourage readers to respond to your request, give them a deadline. Try an “Act now to receive our 20% discount!” or a “This deal available for 7 days only!”

7. Sweeten the Deal
Example CTA: Add $4.52 of eligible itemsThink about the famous PBS commercials where they ask viewers to increase their donations – they always offer extra incentives. The same principle works online. When you want your readers to give a little more money or buy another product or take their action one step further, use a call to action that sweetens their incentives when they do.

Your thoughts?

What is it that you want your readers to do? Follow the advice in this article, and find a strategic way to ask. By using proven tactics to ask readers to follow a step or take an action, you make it easier to improve results.

About the Author ~ Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a marketing agency providing specialized SEO, Web development, blog marketing strategy, and other online marketing services, with headquarters in Chicago. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Google Frees Up Search Results Real Estate for SEO Titles

Google Increases Page Title Character CountIt’s been an interesting week for SEO…in a good way.

As Jennifer Slegg reported last Wednesday, Google has increased the width of its main search results column. Granted, the news didn’t make for an earth-shattering headline, but Google’s redesign of its search engine results page (SERP) is huge news for anyone involved in digital marketing (including, of course, SEO copywriters!)

Let’s explore the implications…

More SERP real estate for page Titles  = SEO content opportunities

When we’re creating a page Title, we’re trying to accomplish a lot within a very limited character count. Ideally, your Titles should:

  • Include keyphrases (of course!)
  • Describe what the landing page is about in a compelling manner
  • Encourage target readers to take action.

Here’s the exciting news:

Previously, the recommendation was to keep your Title character count to 59 characters (including spaces.)  Now, we have about 11 more characters to work with for desktop listings — or approximately 70 characters including spaces (Google measures in pixels, which is why we say “approximately.”)

The additional character count feels almost decadent! There’s a lot you can do with 11-18 additional characters — like slip in one more keyphrase!

For mobile listings, Google has increased the Title space even more, to about 78 characters total.

The character count has changed for desktop search meta descriptions, too. Now, we have roughly 100 characters for each line or 200 characters total, including spaces. [Note: as of this writing, the expansion to 100 characters per line applies only to the first line of the description; Google is still only displaying 150 to 160 characters total before truncating descriptions with ellipses, although that should change soon].

Pretty cool, eh?

Will this new Title and description length “stick?” As I’ve said before, Google giveth, and Google taketh away. The character/pixel count can stay as-is, or change again (as it has in the past.) I always advise folks to not make any major changes immediately after a Google change…just in case.

But, let’s say the changes do stick. What does this change mean for your clients — and your bottom line?

Want to be an SEO copywriting hero? Suggest a content audit!

Chances are, your client (or your employer) doesn’t know about this change — and could benefit from a longer Title length.

If you’re a freelancer with a prospect that’s still not quite ready to commit, bringing this new development to her attention – and probably being the only freelance writer to do so – may mean winning your prospect’s trust and confidence. And winning the contract.

A smart first step could be a SEO content audit. Depending on what you find, one site audit may turn into more than just tweaking Titles. For instance, the content may be in need of rewriting or keyphrase editing — and that’s another way you can help!

Do you work in-house? Sharing this information can make you the in-house hero. Especially if you can conduct the content audit, find the opportunities and make the changes.

Check site analytics to determine your strategy

Because of the different Title character counts for desktop and mobile listings, you’ll want to answer an important question:

Does your client receive more desktop or mobile visitors?

If most of your visitors come from desktop search (as may be the case with B2B sites), you’ll want to follow the 70-count guideline for Titles. If the majority is from mobile, then you have more room to move.

The more likely scenario you’ll encounter is that their traffic is a mix of both desktop and mobile. So, how do you figure out a strategy when you’re straddling both worlds?

The answer: the same strategy we’ve pursued when we only had 59 characters, including spaces. Setting SEO aside for the moment, focus on putting the meaty, compelling, clickable, CTA information in the known visible part of the Title – meaning, the first 70 characters, including spaces. This way, the most critical elements appear in the desktop results.

Have fun!

The longer Title character count is good news for companies, searchers and — yes — SEO copywriters! How are you going to leverage this new opportunity? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more juicy SEO copywriting tips? Sign up for my weekly newsletter — it’s where I publish my best stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Need Cornerstone Content. Here’s How To Write It.

Are you looking for a new way to wow your readers — and Google, too?

Smart cat

This smart cat writes cornerstone content. How about you?

Consider writing cornerstone content. It’s an in-depth, authoritative piece of content that answers an important question in your industry better than anyone else does.

The advantage, according to Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat?

“These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.”

Let’s talk about how to make it happen.

What Makes Content “Cornerstone” and Why It Works

Cornerstone (or “pillar”) posts are usually about 5,000 words. They’re long enough to go into real depth on the topic but short enough to maintain focus.

Still, writing 5,000 words is no small project. — it’s like writing a short e-book or a long white paper. Plus, this isn’t the kind of piece you can just whip up off the top of your head in an hour or two. It takes a lot of research and planning — both for the construction of the post itself and for its promotion.

There are obvious SEO benefits that come with writing pillar posts. They’re a magnet for incoming links, and in terms of conversions, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting at the top of your sales funnel.

Google’s most recent Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines came out in late 2015 (with an update in March of 2016), so the emphasis on useful, authoritative, original content has never been more apparent.

Pillar posts are especially powerful in B2B content marketing because of the way the sales cycle is changing across a wide spectrum of industry verticals. A 2015 study by Forrester found that as many as 74% of B2B buyers do more than half their research online before making a major purchasing decision while a 2014 Accenture study found 83% of them specifically research supplier websites.

B2B vendors can’t afford to ignore these statistics. The majority of buyers aren’t calling vendor sales teams in the initial research stages — they’re going to vendor websites instead. This means that the top of the funnel — your content —  is your salesperson.

And it can’t just sell. Before it can get to talking benefits, your content has to do what the most effective salespeople do during the consultative sales process: build trust.

(Want more proof? In a recent interview, Mike Allton discussed the key role that authoritative, long-form content plays.)

Why Writing Cornerstone Content Isn’t as Hard as You Think

The sheer length of pillar posts is a big reason a lot of people don’t write them. The “10-times-better” benchmark can also be intimidating, even to those who know their stuff. If you do it yourself, it takes time. If you hire a professional, it won’t be cheap — and it shouldn’t be.

But there are a few things that make content creation easier.

For one thing, you don’t have to churn out a pillar post every week. Writing one a quarter can be enough, especially since writing less frequently means you can devote the time to getting it right — leading to a more effective piece in the long run.

In addition, pillar posts are a repurposing goldmine. Once you have one written, you can repurpose it for any number of content types, including:

  • Infographics;
  • Shorter blog posts on related subjects;
  • Webinars;
  • Slide decks;
  • E-books;
  • White papers;
  • Newsletter articles;
  • Interviews with prominent thought leaders.

Not to mention all the related social media and other promotional opportunities these bring with them.

Leverage it right, and a single pillar post can drive your content strategy for many months after the original piece was published. It might be a lot of work, but in the long run, it makes your future content strategy more efficient.

How to Choose the Right Topic

Of course, it’s essential to pick the right topic. It needs to be something your audience cares about. Something that keeps them up at night, that’s crucial to their job, and that’s not self-evident or easy to get right. It also should be a topic that isn’t already done to death.

Sometimes, the question or problem you need to answer is obvious. Other times,  it takes a little digging. And even if you think you know what you want to write about, it is essential to do the research.

Here are some places to get ideas for topics:

Keyphrase research. Check out Google Analytics, SEMRush, or another keyword research tool to see what terms people are searching for around the topics you’re considering. Pay particular attention to questions people ask in the search engines. Run an analysis on a typical question related to your industry, and see what other keyphrases and question phrases come up and which have the most volume – and the least competition.

Social media and forum discussions. Take a look at LinkedIn discussion groups, hashtags on Twitter, and hot topics in industry forums to see what questions seem to preoccupy people. Check out BuzzSumo to find out what content is already killing it in your industry and what topics seem to do well. BuzzSumo is also a great resource for finding influencers to target.

Other industry bloggers. It’s essential to be aware of what other people are publishing on a topic. First, you need to know what’s already heavily covered — no matter how long it is, your post isn’t likely to gain much traction if it’s already been done to death. Second, it’s crucial to look for the gaps in coverage — the questions that aren’t answered anywhere else. These are big opportunities.

Regulatory or industry changes. Are you in a heavily-regulated industry? Or one where the landscape is always changing with new technologies, platforms, and best practices, such as SEO and social media marketing? If that’s the case, you could gain a lot of traction if you’re the first to write about how your audience can solve new challenges around a recent regulatory or industry change.

Your customers. Even if you’ve spent hours researching online, it can be eye-opening to have a quick chat with an actual member of the audience you’re trying to reach. Your best source is often current customers: people who have a clear, proven need for whatever you’re ultimately promoting. Get them to tell you what topics they want to read about most, what problems keep them up at night, and what challenges you can help them solve.

You don’t necessarily have to do this over the phone, of course. You can also send out a quick survey using a service like SurveyMonkey to gauge interest in different topics, send out an email questionnaire, or ask the question on your own social media channels.

Your sales and customer service teams. With the exception of customers themselves, nobody will know more about the challenges your audience faces than the sales and customer service personnel who address them every day. If you work with a company that’s big enough to have these teams, it’s worth it to include them in the conversation when picking a topic.

How to structure cornerstone content

Plan cornerstone content

Ready to plan your cornerstone content? Let’s go!

Cornerstone content is too long and complex to write off the top of your head. It has to be properly structured, and that takes some thought and planning. You need a format that’s broad and meaty enough to merit this type of post, but short enough to provide focus. How-to and definition-type posts tend to do particularly well as formats for this type of content.

No matter which format you choose, however, you’ll have to create an outline before you write. Your outline can be simple or in-depth, but you’ll need to make sure your piece flows logically from one point to another, your thoughts are organized, and you break things up in a readable way.

Derek Halpern has a good suggestion for that: check out your existing blog categories and make a list of the four or five most important ones relevant to your topic. Use those as subhead groupings and expand on the content you’ve already written in this area. This technique not only helps you focus your thoughts and structure, but it gives you an easy template for linking your pillar posts to other posts on your blog — and that is great for SEO.

Since cornerstone content is evergreen (and, by definition, timeless,) set it up as a page on your site — not a post.

The Rules for Cornerstone Content SEO

Rule #1: Do your keyphrase research. It’s pretty trendy these days to think keyphrase research is dead. The thinking goes like this: because Google has gotten so much better at judging searchers’ intent, you don’t actually have to use keyphrases in your copy. You can just write phenomenal content around that subject, and the rankings will magically fall into place.

There’s a grain of truth to this. But mostly, it’s wrong.

Yes, it’s true that keyword stuffing is a very outdated technique. It’s even outdated to use all your keyphrases verbatim, especially when that results in stilted writing. Best practices are always to write naturally and put readability first.

However, as this recent post by Moz’s Rand Fishkin emphasizes, ignoring keyphrase research entirely amounts to shooting yourself in the foot. What you call something internally in your business and industry may not register at all with your audience. You have to know how your audience talks about these concepts in the real world, and you need to use this language in your content.

Beyond SEO, using the right keyphrases (and being findable in Google) positions you as someone who belongs in your readers’ world. If you don’t speak your readers’ language and use their terms, you’ll look out of touch — even if the information you offer is spot on. This is especially true for a B2B audience, which often uses very industry-specific, technical language and terms.

Rule #2: Leverage the questions people ask. When you did your research to pick a topic, you (hopefully) used a keyword research tool to find out what questions people are asking, the language they’re using, and the keyphrase competition. Give your on-page SEO a boost by using those question keyphrases as subheads. Using questions as subheads is also a very effective way to organize a longer post.

Rule #3: Link to other blog posts on your website. Do you have other, related posts? Link to them from your cornerstone content piece. That way, your one post becomes a stand-alone resource on your site.

Don’t Forget to Include Influencers 

Since the days of master copywriter David Ogilvy, it’s been said that the success of any content — even Talking to an influencerthe best, shiniest and most helpful content — is 20% writing and 80% promotion. Best practices for blog post promotion is a pillar post of its own. But since it’s so crucial to your post’s success, I’ve included the tactic I’ve found most helpful: when choosing a topic, give a lot of thought to its potential for influencer tie-in.

If you don’t already know who the influencers are in your industry — prominent journalists, bloggers, social media personalities, and thought leaders — find those people. Who among them has an audience most similar to yours? Who has an interest in the topics you discuss? Whose activities, services, or projects provide an interesting collaboration opportunity?

Especially if your audience isn’t already big or you’re a start-up in a market with some established competitors, getting an influencer to help promote your work can do a huge amount to build your audience and your credibility.

Sure, you can write a post and then send a quick email to a few influencers, asking them to tweet about what you’ve written. But that’s likely to fail, and miserably. You’ll get a lot more traction if you bake your influencer strategy in from the outset. That takes two steps: first, figure out an influencer tie-in strategy for the post at the topic selection and planning stage. And second, build a connection with that influencer well before you publish.

Sometimes, the most effective way to involve an influencer is to involve them directly. Ask them to do an interview or comment directly on the topic. If they’re directly cited or featured, they’ll (hopefully) share the article with their audience once it’s published — dramatically amplifying your promotional reach, and putting you on the map for a large number of new prospects.

Another way is to link to their work, discuss it in a meaningful way at some point in the article, or directly quote something they’ve written. Don’t forget to let the influencer know you cited her. Hopefully, she’ll amplify your message and share it with her audience.

As Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge shared in his interview and SEO Copywriting Certification podcast on influencer marketing, you’ll be far more effective at this if you build up a relationship with an influencer ahead of time.

No, this doesn’t mean stroking or pestering them. It means connecting with them in a meaningful way, be it through social media, blog comments or otherwise engaging with them. It might mean sending a private message that asks for nothing, but instead gives them kudos for an accomplishment or provides some information of value. The idea is to start a conversation, not ask for a favor.

Closing Cornerstone Content Thoughts

The idea of writing cornerstone content pieces can often be intimidating, even for people who blog regularly. The good news is that you don’t have to publish them on a frequent basis. Pillar posts do take careful planning that goes beyond the writing—but they bring enormous benefits that extend long after the date of publication. With the right planning and an influencer marketing, SEO, and repurposing strategy that covers all your bases, you should be able to get a lot of mileage from every one of your pillar posts.

Don’t miss out on exclusive newsletter-only tips and strategies. Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter today!

Jen Williamson is a copywriter specializing in fun, fearless copy and content for software and B2B sales. She holds certifications from the SEO Content Institute, Meclabs, and Hubspot’s Inbound Sales program. When she’s not working (ha!), she can be found immersed in a good book, teaching herself to knit, or training for her next marathon. In real life, she lives in Brooklyn. Online, you can visit her at her copywriting website, or find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo thanks: © Barbara Helgason | Dreamstime.com

© Ivelinr | Dreamstime.com – Time to Plan

 

 

Is it Time to Upgrade From Freelance Writer to LLC?

Do you need an upgrade?When I made the move from freelancer to starting a content development agency, the decision of which type of business to form was an easy one. I went from being a sole proprietor to being the co-owner of a limited liability corporation (LLC).

Why we chose to go with an LLC had a lot to do with the state where we’re based — Texas. Say what you will about the state, but Texas is one of the most small-business friendly states. Also, there’s no state income tax. And we have awesome barbecue. But I digress.

Aside from the legal and financial reasons for making that choice, creating an LLC — and in general, becoming a more formal business entity — offered other benefits directly related to our business over and above our business filing. If you think you’re ready to upgrade, an LLC may be just the thing to help you gain more credibility, more clients, and yes, more revenue.

What’s the Difference Between a Sole Proprietorship and an LLC?

If you’re a freelance writer, you’re already a sole proprietor. (You’re paying your quarterly estimated tax, right? Right?!) Although you likely didn’t have to actually file any papers or pay any fees to claim that status, sole proprietorship is recognized by the IRS. It basically means you as an individual and you as a business are one and the same, and you’ll encounter few differences to how you file your taxes, aside from possibly having more deductions.

In order to be recognized as an LLC, you will need to file paperwork and pay fees. What kind of paperwork and how much in fees will vary from state to state. But the basic paperwork required regardless of state indicates the name of your business, its location, and who the members are.

Depending on where you form your LLC, you may also have to pay an LLC tax or, in some states, what’s called a franchise tax. I know — we’re not talking about franchises, we’re talking about LLCs. You weren’t really expecting tax law to make sense, were you? C’mon.

Forming a Foreign LLC

You’ll notice I said “depending on where you file your LLC.” Sure, this is because it depends on the state you live in, but something you may not know is you can file an LLC in any state you like, whether you live there or not.

Why would anyone do this? For lots of reasons, but the two main ones are:

  • to make the filing process easier, and
  • to reduce expenses

While forming a business can be a complex process in some states, when we did it, we filled out a form, sent it to the state capital, paid a few hundred dollars, and in exactly one week, we were an LLC. Just like that. Done. It couldn’t possibly have been any easier than it was.

As for expense, if you live in California, you’ll pay a fairly high LLC tax of 8.84%, and a minimum tax of $800, and income tax to boot. If you file your LLC in Texas, you’ll pay a franchise tax of just 1%.

(While I may be just a teensy bit biased toward Texas (Go Spurs Go!), it’s not the only state that offers benefit to those forming an LLC. But seriously — barbecue. That’s all I’m saying.)

Forming an LLC in another state — a “foreign LLC” — may also require the payment of additional up-front fees. You’ll need to do your own homework here to decide not only whether you want to make the leap from sole proprietor to LLC, but then whether to file in your home state or not.

Speaking of doing homework, I’m discussing these topics based on my personal experience, and from a general, educational point of view. But remember that we’re talking about legal entities here that have certain tax responsibilities. As I’m neither a lawyer nor a tax accountant, be sure to consult one or the other or both, or at a minimum, do your own research before making any changes to your business status.

Now, how can switching from a sole proprietorship to an LLC benefit you as a business owner?

More Credibility

Let’s be honest for a minute here. As prevalent and in demand as the freelance writer is, there’s still a pervasive attitude that if you’re a freelancer, you’re not a “real” business. You just have some free time on your hands, and you figured you’d make a few bucks while your kids were at school, or on the weekends. You’re not really expecting to make a living doing that, are you? So businesses can sometimes be reluctant to pay reasonable and fair rates for freelance work.

I’ve definitely been there. In fact, when I was freelancing, I took to referring to myself as an “independent professional writer” in an effort to be taken more seriously — and to have my rates taken more seriously.

That changes when you become a registered business entity. When you put an LLC (or an Inc., or whatever official designation you establish) after your business name on your website, people perceive you differently. I’m not going to lie to you and say companies immediately open their wallets wider to pay for web content because we still have a struggle with content mills, but that’s another post.

But when you can put a business name and logo on your invoices, you can begin to change how your clients interact with you and how potential clients see you.

It may also open up other opportunities to you such as speaking engagements, offers to guest post on well-regarded blogs and even press quotes (Are you signed up with HARO?).

More Clients

Those marketing opportunities are all fantastic, but the main goal of those activities is to get clients. You also know that some clients respond to perceived scarcity (a classic marketing tactic), and to perceived value (a necessary facet of your business). How better to bolster both of those perceptions than to move from being an individual freelance writer to an LLC?

Just as your industry colleagues may view you differently once you change your status, so too will potential clients. In fact, establishing your business as an LLC (or other entity) may even passively assist you with client pre-qualification. Some potential clients may infer that once you become a small business, you’re probably more expensive than a freelancer. Whether this is true or not, it may keep the more, uh, frugal clients out of your inbox, leaving plenty of room for those who are really serious about their content, and serious about hiring you at your possibly higher rates.

More Revenue

Well, this one just naturally follows the last one if forming an LLC brings you more regard and more clients. But if you do go this route, why not raise your rates a bit? In fact, you really should.

Even if you form a single-member LLC, you’re likely going to have a few more expenses than you had as a sole proprietor. You still may not have to worry about renting office space, but you may want to step up from using your Gmail address to a domain-based address that you access via Gmail. The best option for that is Google Apps, which, while very affordable, does cost.

Then there are business cards. Again, you can find affordable options, but now that you’re a business and not a freelancer, you need cards with your logo on them that make more of an impression than most free cards you may find.

And don’t forget your LLC or franchise taxes and other fees. As a business, you have other expenses you didn’t have before. Raising your rates may not bring an immediate raise in net profit. But if your new rates cover your new expenses while keeping your income status quo (at least at first), you’re coming out ahead.

You may also find it easier later on when it comes time to raise your rates again. Some clients won’t take it well, but that’s just another way of qualifying clients. Again, a post for another time.

Joining Forces

OK, now let’s think for a moment. If you’re going to form an LLC, you’re positioning yourself for more credibility, more clients and more revenue. Well, how are you going to handle all those new clients and new marketing opportunities by yourself? Maybe you don’t have to fly solo.

I never thought I’d go into business with a partner. My experiences as an employee with less-than-stellar bosses put me in a mindset of wanting to go it completely alone. Well, things happen, things change, and I did not only get a business partner, I became one. But it’s led our business to bigger and better things.

Think about it — two times the labor force. Two times the marketing. Where I’m weak, she’s strong, and vice-versa. And now that she’s moved back to her home state of Ohio while I’m still in Texas, we’re a national company with two locations! OK, we both still work from home, but you get what I mean. She’s making all new connections up there while I’m still working in our community here.

But the best thing? Those days when being an entrepreneur is hard, when clients are making us crazy, when we wonder what the heck we were thinking — those days, it’s wonderful to be partners who keep each other grounded, who listen to each other vent and then give each other that push we need to keep going.

The point is, starting a business is hard. Keeping it going is even harder. Doing everything all by yourself, well, that’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re thinking about making your business official, you can open yourself up to a lot of benefits. But don’t let the fact that, up to this point, you’ve worked alone, be the thing that stops you.

In fact, don’t let anything stop you.

About the Author

Michelle Lowery is a freelance book editor, provides website optimization for authors and wrote the book Self-Editing for Indie Authors. Learn more about her by visiting her site at michellelowery.com.

Connect with Michelle on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Don’t miss out on any of our posts or deals! Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter now!

Photo thanks to kennymatic

23 Amazing 5-Minute SEO Copywriting Tips To Try Right Now

Five minute timer

How many SEO copywriting tasks can you do in five minutes?

Are you looking for fast, five-minute SEO copywriting fixes?

Here’s a list of 23 amazing SEO writing tips that can boost site traffic, increase conversions and help you gain great Google positions. Best of all, trying a tip will take five minutes or less. Enjoy!

Change a Title

Is a page positioning well, but people ignore it on the search engine results page? It may be time for a Title makeover. Try keeping the same keyphrase focus, but tweak your Title so it reads more like a headline. Compelling Titles see great click-through rates, so experiment with what works.

Change a meta description

So many people ignore the meta description because it’s not important for positioning. Don’t be one of them! A great meta description paired with a killer Title is like a one-two marketing punch on the SERP. Why not tweak a boring description to something that screams “click me” from the search engine results page?

Check one page’s analytics

Some people immediately overwhelm when they log into Google Analytics. If you’re one of them (or if checking analytics keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list,) try this SEO copywriting tip. Check the analytics for just one page (preferably one that’s important to your conversion flow.) Is the bounce rate too high? Should you change the Title? Make notes of what you’d change.

Brainstorm blog post ideas

The more post ideas you have in your back pocket, the better — especially for those days when you don’t know what to write. Take five minutes and brainstorm as many blog post ideas as you can. You may come up with 17 really bad ideas and three good ones. That’s OK.

Optimize an old post

Many companies started blogging long before they worried about optimizing their posts for SEO. If that’s the case for your site (or your client’s site,) spend five minutes optimizing an old post. It’s amazing how just a few optimization tweaks can make a huge difference in positioning.

Check out BuzzSumo for article ideas

I. Love. BuzzSumo. It’s a great way to discover new article ideas and see what’s getting shared. Plus, it’s a great way to see who linked to and shared a particular post. If you love geeky content data presented in a non-geeky way, you’ll love BuzzSumo.

Email an influencer

Most people contact influencers only when they want something. Instead, try writing a non-pushy note like, “Hey, I really liked your latest post/book/podcast. Thanks for taking the time to create it.” This tip won’t drive immediate site traffic, but it could be the start of a great friendship — and perhaps a site mention down the line. If nothing else, sending a nice note will make your favorite influencer’s day.

Experiment with blog post headlines

Have you ever written multiple headlines and choosing one was a challenge? Try KingSumo’s Headlines WordPress plugin. It lets you test multiple version of a headline. Once the data rolls in, the headline with the best response becomes the permanent post headline. Data-driven decisions are always way better than guessing.

Experiment with social post headlines

Are you cross-posting the same copy to Facebook and Twitter? That may not be the best move. BuzzSumo recently released a study outlining the most popular headline trigrams (three-word phrases) for Facebook and Twitter. Hint: What pulls on Facebook doesn’t work as well on Twitter. Check out the study — the data may surprise you!

Pick a post for repurposing

Did you pen a popular post? Don’t let it hide in your “archives” section. Instead, consider ways you can repurpose your post as a SlideShare PPT, tweets and more. Plus, you can increase your site visits if you link back to your original post.

Post to (or join) a new LinkedIn group

LinkedIn is fantastic (and often underutilized) for B2B marketers. If you’ve lurked in a LinkedIn group for awhile, post a question, a blog post or comment on another’s post. If LinkedIn has been off your marketing radar for awhile, log in and find a group related to your field. Sure, LinkedIn is often a long-play content marketing strategy. Yet, many people (including me) report receiving leads — and sales — attributed to LinkedIn alone.

Do some competitive sleuthing

You never want to copy your competitor’s keyphrase or content strategy. At the same time, competitive information is always nice — and may give you some ideas about how to move forward. A quick competitive analysis in SEMRush will provide lots of data you can deep-dive into later.

Follow a new thought leader

It’s easy to build an “influencer bubble” and forget to expose yourself to new experts. New, smart people are entering the industry all the time — and there may be some “old guard” folks you haven’t heard about. Pick one new person to follow on your social network of choice. You may pick up a bunch of great (and new) information!

Make a list of outstanding content tasks

What’s the biggest SEO content challenge? There’s so much to do and track. Instead of letting those to-do’s float around your head, spend five minutes and make (or update) your list. As an added benefit, you may not wake up at 3 a.m. freaking out about your content tasks any longer.

Add structured data markup to a web page

Don’t be afraid of structured data! Google makes marking up a page easy with it’s Structured Data Markup Helper. All you need to do is follow Google’s (easy) instructions — and Google will automatically generate the schema.org markup for the page.

Check for duplicate content

Many sites that have been “locally SEO’ed” have duplicate location-specific content pages. If this sounds like your site (or your client’s site,) count the number of duplicate pages and put rewriting them as a “to do” on your outstanding content task list. You’ll want to rewrite those pages as soon as possible.

Tweak an image alt tag

Is image SEO important to your site? Choose a page and see how you can make your good image alt tags even better. Remember a great image alt describes an image in a non-spammy way — so check for keyphrase stuffing and make any necessary corrections. (Thanks, Brandon John Smithwick)

Writing local content? Try this tip.

Do you write a lot of local content? Try a search using the ”(Activity) (Close to/ nearby) (Place)” formula.  For example, there are only four results for [Clubs near Mission Beach]? This tip can help you discover a lot of cool places which can, in turn, help fuel the creative process on future projects.(Thanks,  Jeremiah Malone )

Spot-check a site’s NAP

Do you help clients with local SEO? Make sure the site’s name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent throughout the site and matches the Google business listing exactly. Any discrepancies can mess with a site’s local listing, so it pays to give a site a quick check.

Spot check Search Console

When’s the last time you logged into Google’s Search Console? Search Console is a treasure-trove of SEO content marketing data. You can check out click-through rates, positions, see your most linked content and more! You can glean a lot of information in just five minutes.

Read a trade publication post

Keeping up with industry news — whether it be SEO, your professional vertical or your client’s industry — is incredibly important. It’s also overwhelming. If you struggle with finding the time to keep up, try to read at least one article a day. Work up to as much time as you can comfortably carve out of your schedule. Chances are, you’ll learn at least one actionable traffic-driving tip you can use on your site (or a client’s site.)

Comment on the post

Granted, there is no SEO benefit here, but this tip could drive traffic. First, bloggers love (sane, well thought out, intelligent) comments. But more importantly, commenting can help you build a relationship with the blogger and other readers. Maybe not right away (because that would be weird.) But over time, people will get to know your perspective — and possibly contact you for more information.

Find question-oriented search terms

People type (and speak) questions into Google all the time. A great way to figure out what people are asking is by using the research tool KeywordTool.io. Yes, you’ll see more data if you sign up for the paid subscription. But, you’ll still see a lot of tasty information if you try their “questions” tab for free.

What other 5-minute SEO copywriting tips would you add to the list? Post your comment below!

Want a handy checklist outlining all 23 tips? Fantastic — I’ve created a handy PDF guide just for you! You’ll get instant access if you sign up for my newsletter (plus, I share tips in my newsletter I don’t share anywhere else!)










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