Is Your Content Really Failing?

FailDoes your content receive eight shares or less?

If so, your content is “failing,” according to a recent industry study.

I discussed BuzzSumo’s study during last week’s SEO Copywriting Certification training call. The author of the study, Steve Rayson, analyzed over one million posts and noticed a surprising trend. Popular, branded sites such as HubSpot saw a sharp decline in social shares. In fact, 50% of the content saw fewer than eight social shares.

The reason? “Content shock” — the demand for content has gone flat while the amount of content has exploded. The result? Less engagement.

(As a side note, some believe content shock is a myth. Whatever you believe, I think we can all agree that we’re bombarded by new content every. single. day.)

Many writers and marketers (maybe even you) panicked when they read the study. “EIGHT SHARES” they screamed. “Our company is lucky if a post gets retweeted a couple times.”

Sure, some of your content may enjoy a sharing explosion. But I’m guessing some of your content may not. Maybe even the majority of your content.

Does that mean that your content is “failing?”

Maybe. But let’s look a little deeper.

Social sharing is one measurement of content effectiveness. Things that are important (some would say more important,) are:

— Is the content driving conversions or otherwise making you money?

— Are people reading your content? Or are they immediately bouncing off the page?

— Did you match the content to where the customer is in the sales cycle? For instance, do you have high-quality content that helps prospects when they’re in the “research” phase?

— Do you hear, “Hey, I really like your content” from people in your target audience? For instance, I have a client who receives very few social shares (he’s in an industry that doesn’t share content much,) but he receives many “I faithfully read your content every week,” messages.  That’s more important to him than a retweet any day.

— Does the content position? You may have written a fantastic guide that gets some social love initially, but then fades into the background. If it’s still positioning in Google — and prospects are finding you through the content — do you care that you’re not receiving more social shares?

(As a side note, I find it funny that BuzzSumo’s initial Facebook post about the study has only received one share. Would that mean their content was “failing?”)

The reality is: Not all of your content is going to go viral. If you want 100% viral, all the time, specialize in cute cat videos. 

However, being the Steve Rayson fangirl I am, I think he still makes some excellent points. Although I may disagree with the “failing” moniker, I would agree with his other tips:

– Content research is crucial. Research time is a non-negotiable in today’s brave new Google world.  If you’re an end client, know that your writer may need to spend several hours researching your blog post topic. She isn’t padding her time. And yes, this is necessary (and billable.) You can give your writer a great head start by providing her trusted sources, white papers and anything else that will help her write the page.

– Post promotion is almost as important (some would say more so) as post creation (I talked about this in last week’s SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter) Targeting influencers in a nice, non-pushy way is still important. Just know that influencers are being hit by 100 other bloggers asking them to promote their content, so approach them with care.

– It’s smart to leverage trends and be nimble. If you’re writing about a hot topic that happened two weeks ago, you’ve probably already lost the viral battle.

I would add my own tip to this, which is…

– You still need to optimize posts. “Write naturally” is a myth. If your posts aren’t positioning, there is a big disconnect you need to fix.

So, is the issue truly “content shock?” Or are people naturally tuning out content that’s poorly-written, poorly-researched and poorly-timed?

What’s the takeaway?

Whatever you believe around the “content shock” idea, consider this study a wake-up call. No, your content may not be “failing” if it receives eight shares or less. But that doesn’t mean that it’s working, either. If your content isn’t making you money somehow, it’s time for an overhaul.

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What to Know About Local SEO: Interview with Andrew Shotland

Local searchSteeped in Local SEO and search for some 13 years, Andrew Shotland is a leading expert in this highly competitive space. He is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, an SEO and SEM consultancy (and blog) he founded nine years ago. Andrew has also authored Search Engine Land’s monthly local search column since 2009.

Before launching his own business, Andrew headed up business and product development for Insider Pages, a local search startup. As its Chief SEO Officer, he developed an SEO program that attracted over 3 million unique visitors/month to the site.

Here, Andrew answers questions about Local SEO best practices and search trends, as well as the challenges faced by brands competing on a local level. Enjoy!

Could you briefly summarize the essential ways that Local SEO differs from the SEO for big national brands? 

Google, Bing & Yahoo typically show separate local business listings for queries they deem to have significant local intent. The methodologies to compete for rankings in these “local packs” are somewhat different than those you would apply to non-local SEO.

Local SEO also includes appearing well in local-specific search services such as Apple Maps, Facebook Local, Yelp, the Yellow Pages sites and various vertical search engines. It’s a huge, complex space to play in.

If you were to list Local SEO best practices, what would be the top 3? Why?

The Top 3 Local SEO Best Practices in no particular order:

  1. Compete for relevant queries where you have a physical location. It’s hard to show up in the local results without a physical location in the searched city.
  2. Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) and top local search site business profiles (e.g. Yelp,, etc.) are claimed, up to date and consistent with your N.A.P. (Name, Address & Phone Number) that appears in text on your website.
  3. Don’t ignore the non-Local pack results. These can generate significant traffic. So do all of the typical SEO things to your site to help it rank well: Ensure Googlebot accessibility, use smart keyword/content targeting and get links from other sites.

Last week, Mike Blumenthal (and other local SEO experts) reported that Google had dropped businesses’ G+ pages from its “Places” search results, instead returning URLs from its “Maps” API. Do you think this is just part of Google’s mobile agenda, or is it, as Blumenthal suggested, another indication of the impending “divorce” of local search from G+? What would you say are the implications?

I don’t think this is that big a deal. Google is trying to untangle all of its services from Google+. Google+ for businesses was pretty confusing so perhaps this might end up making Google My Business easier to deal with. I don’t think this changes how we approach Google Local at all. Perhaps this will screw up some services that relied on the API for data, but that’s about it.

In your monthly Search Engine Land (SEL) column, you frequently cite how a well-optimized Google My Business (GMB) page can boost local businesses’ rankings. What specific things would you recommend a Webmaster (or site owner) do to fully leverage their GMB page?

There are a few things you can do to leverage your GMB page:

  • Make sure all of the info is up to date
  • Make sure your business categorization is correct
  • Make sure it links to the most relevant URL on your site (this one is huge)

(Editor’s note: You can view Andrew’s Local SEO Guide GMB page here)

What are some challenges brands face with Local SEO?

Multi-location brands have some of the biggest problems with Local SEO, but some of the biggest opportunities, too. On the problems side, dealing with the data issues involving tens, hundreds and even thousands of locations can be a huge task.

In particular, managing their Google My Business issues requires a lot of well-honed processes to do it at scale. Unfortunately you can’t just use a cookie-cutter approach because the problems you encounter change every day.

On the plus side, when you have scale, you can use that to your advantage once you get the basics right, in terms of content, links, etc. We typically see multi-location brands able to rank for their target queries en masse much easier than single locations, all things being equal.

Given all the Google updates to its Local SEO algo over the past two years that you recently summarized in your September SEL column, what do you see trending for Local SEO and search?

We think two big opportunities at the moment are Facebook Local and iOS Search/Apple Maps. Both of these local search systems are generating huge traffic right now but it seems like most of the Local SEO world is ignoring them. That’s great for our clients :)

Any parting words about Local SEO and/or Google’s local algo updates? 

It’s a great business because it’s always changing and it’s one of the biggest markets there is. It’s very satisfying to be able to help both large and small businesses navigate their ways through this ridiculous stuff. Sometimes I have to laugh that this is what I do for a living. It’s certainly fun.

Connect with Andrew on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

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Interview with Ian Lurie: “Weird, Useful, & Significant” World Building

planet earthAs an online writer and/or digital marketer, at some point you are sure to come across Portent’s CEO of 20 years, Ian Lurie (if you haven’t already). His wicked sense of humor is matched only by his expertise in all things content and internet marketing.

Here, Ian addresses questions about content visibility beyond the blog, world-building (he loathes the term “content marketing”), and creating “entry points into our world: weird, useful, and significant.”

Hope you enjoy Ian’s interview as much as we did!

In your recent ConfluenceCon presentation you covered a lot of digital marketing ground. One of your main points was about making great content visible beyond the on-site blog.

Specifically, you mentioned using the Open Graph (OG) Protocol and Twitter Cards for social visibility. Could you translate what those are in non-techie speak?

Twitter cards and OGP markup improve the way your content is represented out in the world. In terms of world building, they make the entry points more attractive, and make it more likely that customers will take the first step towards interacting with you.

In practical terms, Open Graph Protocol is something Facebook uses when you embed a link in your newsfeed. Sometimes, when you embed a link, the result includes an image, a site name, etc. The site owner can provide that information to the Facebook crawler using Open Graph Protocol. The more information they provide, the more Facebook can enhance the listing.

In nerdier terms, Open Graph Protocol is a markup standard. It’s code you can embed in a web page that provides additional information, just like meta tags. With it, you can define the page’s topic, title, author, a thumbnail image you’d like displayed when the page is cited and a bunch of other information.

There are also specific OGP attributes you can define for music, videos, products and such.

Twitter cards are similar to OGP. They let you specify images, videos and such that can attach to a tweet of a specific web page. You can link to direct download/install of mobile apps, embed videos, audio, images and thumbnails and set properties like titles, descriptions and the linked site.

You also addressed off-site content marketing, citing SlideShare and free Kindle e-books. What are some general tips for content creators to best leverage these platforms?

It’s all about audience. Use the platform that gives you entry into the biggest, most relevant potential audience. That’s the whole reason for doing it. I know – duh. But when you’re leveraging third party sites, you want to be very, very deliberate about it:

  1. Make a really good case to yourself for using this or that site
  2. Understand the upside if your content is super-successful
  3. Understand what super-successful means on each site

Here are a few examples:

Most people visit the SlideShare for business information. If you want to get visual content in front of millions of business professionals, it’s the place to be. If you don’t have visual content, look elsewhere.

On SlideShare, it’s all about being selected “SlideShare of the Day”. That gets you home page placement, mentions on Twitter by @slideshare and all sorts of other publicity.

LinkedIn owns SlideShare. So success on SlideShare may transfer over to LinkedIn because users can easily share your presentations with their connections.

If that happens, you’ll get lots of visibility. But SlideShare also lets you place lead generation forms in those presentations. I’ve seen that generate leads in the past. Finally, you can let readers download your presentation. That puts your content in a person’s hands, which is great – it’s a permanent invitation to spend more time with you.

SlideShare delivers a very strong, clear invitation to enter your world.

You might write for Medium because you have long-form text content. Medium has a huge audience who come to the site expecting to see great writing in longer format. Medium recommends content to users – play your cards right and you can build real visibility.

There’s no direct business benefit, but Medium is niche-independent. I can make a case for using Medium if I have a unique topic, a non-business topic or a long-form piece in mind and no need for direct lead generation. Medium is the place to make a low-key, sincere invitation to the audience to enter your world and look around on their own.

Finally, look at Kindle e-books. Millions of people monitor Amazon for new free e-books. If you can crack any of the top lists, those people will notice. They can download your e-book and read through it. I’ll use Kindle if I have something text-based in long form and want to create a really lasting impression. Kindle is the rulebook – the detailed map for your audience to enter your world, start learning and really dive deep.

An intriguing part of your presentation is how each marketing campaign is a “little community”, and that we create many “entry points into our world: weird, useful, and significant.” How does a content writer find their “weird” and connect those dots?

You might find “weird” purely instinctively: For instance, I’m a cyclist. I know most cyclists are technology nerds. So I might write something about smartwatches, or the best cell phone cameras (for cyclists who want to take snapshots of that long climb they just did).

You can also find “weird” using tools that dig up random affinities: Ideas, likes and wants linked only by the fact that some people like both. That’s all about collaborative filtering tools.

For example, I love using Amazon’s “people who bought also bought” tool. Did you know people who buy cookbooks are really into de-cluttering (ironic)? Sounds obvious now, but I wouldn’t have thought of it. Or that people who buy diet books also read survival stories and books about direct selling?

And, of course, I hit Facebook a lot. You can use their ads tool to test interest categories and see what Facebook suggests. Before I knew Van Diesel played Dungeons and Dragons, I did a search on D&D and his name popped up. That’s pretty random (by the way, my lifetime ambition is to run a game for him). Also, did you know tennis fans like boxing? I wouldn’t have made that connection.

Collaborative filters aren’t always right. Sometimes they’re hilariously wrong. But they’re a great tool for mining the weird.

In regard to content marketing (“whatever that is”, as you said): what content opportunities are you most excited about right now? Why?

Hmmm. As a writer, I tend to always be excited about content J. No matter what the delivery device, it’s about our ability to effectively communicate. I love it.

But you’re going to ask me again, I bet. So… I’m very excited about this ongoing democratization: Sites like Medium and Netflix delivering their own series and increasingly sophisticated social platforms mean we can engage in some really interesting world building.

Real-time information delivery like Google Now is really exciting, too. I can see some real potential for ‘ambient’ content that provides a great user experience. Imagine being able to stand in a location and ask your phone, “What happened here in 1850?” As a history nerd, I find that pretty exciting because we can curate our environments. That may sound creepy, and chances are marketers will completely trash the concept, but a guy can dream.

So how would you define “content marketing”? Do you have a more accurate definition of what we actually do?

I hate the phrase “content marketing” because it’s become a cliché that refers to cranking out dozens of crappy blog posts. I’ve avoided it because the meaning’s been twisted and over-simplified.

What do we actually do? OK, get ready for some seriously trippy metaphysics:

People are surrounded by content. We’re steeped in it, with clumps and clusters of related content forming worlds around, say, our favorite football team, or the car we want to buy, or childcare advice.

Usually, those worlds are pretty random. We see an article here, a social media post there, a blog post in another place, and then we link them together in our minds.

Content marketing – or whatever you call it – deliberately creates worlds around products or ideas. It creates new content and links it to old, or vice versa, or one or the other. Then it creates points of entry – advertising – to bring people into those worlds. It’s intentional, and it’s immensely powerful.

That’s content marketing. Or, as I call it, world building. I don’t expect that term to ever catch on. It’s too geeky. But I like it. So there.

Connect with Ian on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

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4 B2B Content Marketing Experts Share Their LinkedIn Strategies

LinkedIn logosAre you cultivating relationships with colleagues and potential clients?

Have you built a solid company page?

Are you actively participating and posting your content in key LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry’s vertical?

Have you considered establishing your own LinkedIn group?

If not, you really should: LinkedIn is an ideal platform for B2B content marketing, as well as for boosting your brand’s visibility, forging valuable connections, and generating leads.

Still not convinced? Then read what four expert B2B content marketers have to say about leveraging LinkedIn, in response to this question:

 What’s your favorite way to use LinkedIn for B2B content marketing?

 Miranda Miller

 Miranda Miller (@MirandaM_EComm), Founder of MEDIAau

As a content marketing agency, our clients are other business people, marketers and executives, so LinkedIn is an important tool for us. I syndicate content published on our blog, as well as columns we publish in industry publications, to my personal LinkedIn.

Each of your connections and subscribers receive a notification from LinkedIn letting them know you published a new post, so it’s far more effective than organic Facebook in exposing your content to the people with whom you’ve already connected. It’s also dead simple to use, with easy image uploading and very few formatting options. If you aren’t publishing on LinkedIn, you’re missing out!


Tom Pick

Tom Pick (@TomPick), Founder of Webbiquity

The first step to optimizing B2B content marketing efforts on LinkedIn is to build a great company page. LinkedIn actually provides some helpful guidance and resources around best practices for creating an effective company page.

Once you’ve created a great page, promote it and encourage people to follow it from your website, blog, email newsletter, at live events, and any other opportunities that arise. This won’t make your company awesome at B2B content marketing on LinkedIn by itself, but it’s an essential first step.

Next, find, join, and utilize LinkedIn Groups. Precisely “how” this is done is a moving target, as LinkedIn has made significant changes to how groups work over the past 18 months, and it continues to do so.

Just as Google has made changes to its algorithm to minimize spam in search results, so LinkedIn continues to evolve groups to eliminate unwanted, low-value posts.

While groups have traditionally been an excellent place to share content, abuse by some members (e.g., trying to pass off promotion for their upcoming webinar as “news”) has led LinkedIn to clamp down on discussion items’ submissions and exposure.

What’s most important to remember when contributing to groups, or using features like publishing on LinkedIn or integrating SlideShare with your LinkedIn profile, is to focus on adding value. Increasingly, thinly veiled promotion posts will be punished on LinkedIn, while adding value — helping others in your network and groups to do their jobs more effectively — will be rewarded.


Steve Rayson

Steve Rayson (@steverayson), Co-Director of Buzzsumo

I find LinkedIn is a great place to build relationships. My tip is to share content from people you respect and make a point of commenting on their posts. It is good relationship building, but I also really enjoy the debate and learn a lot this way. LinkedIn groups also have great potential for discussion but in my view, they work best as small private communities. There is little engagement in many large groups.

In terms of content, I find my LinkedIn audience is very interested in industry news, trends and current issues. In every industry there are points of debate or controversy that generate a lot of engagement. Thus I try to keep many of my posts focused on these issues. Overall I find my posts appear to have greater visibility on LinkedIn. I may have a smaller audience, but I get a lot more engagement on LinkedIn than on other networks.


Steve Slaunwhite

Steve Slaunwhite (@steveslaunwhite), Founder of Copywriting Training Center

My favorite way is posting strategically written, highly targeted articles. It’s competitive (there are thousands of articles posted on LinkedIn each day), but pays off big when done right.

An article on LinkedIn can get read by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of new prospects — some of whom will subsequently visit your profile or website. In addition, a well-crafted, optimized article can be repurposed in numerous ways: email newsletter, blog post, printed piece (as a handout), part of an ebook, etc. It’s a winning strategy no matter how you look at it.

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[Updated] 42 questions to ask your new copywriting client

I’ve had a number of people ask me, “What questions should I ask a new copywriting client” — and I’ve been pointing them to this post.

But then, I realized that I could add even more questions! So, I updated the post and clarified a few points. Enjoy!

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions….

Why? Because that’s how I learn. Whether I’m chatting with a new friend or a new client, I ask a bunch of questions. Then, I shut up and let them answer (yes, I know, this is more easily said than done!).

When you’re working with a new copywriting client, asking lots of question is the key to success. Sure, that means that you’ll be spending an hour (or more) on the phone. But just as you wouldn’t enter a marriage without a pretty solid “getting to know you” process, you shouldn’t start writing without a solid customer interview under your belt.

After all, how can you write specific, action-oriented content if you don’t have any specific information?

Here are 42 of my favorite questions to ask a new copywriting client – enjoy!

Important: Ask these questions after your client has signed on the bottom line. Although you may touch on some of these topics during the sales phase, it’s best to save the “meat” of your questions for the kick-off client call.

Reporting/set-up questions

  1. Can I review your analytics?
  2. Do you have any customer persona documents? Can I see them?
  3. Do you have a style guide?
  4. Can I see reports outlining your SEO/content marketing success, to date?
  5. How do we measure success? Conversions? Page positions? Social media love?
  6. Can I review your per-page keyphrase strategy?
  7. How did you arrive at your keyphrase choices?
  8. Do you need me to create the strategy and research the keyphrases?
  9. How important is it for you to position for a particular keyphrase? If it is a competitive keyphrase, are you prepared to spend the time (and budget) to make this happen?

Marketing questions

  1. Who is your online competition? Why would you consider them “competition?”
  2. What is your unique sales proposition?
  3. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  4. What are your company benefit statements?
  5. What content approach has worked in the past?
  6. What has not worked?
  7. Do you like your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds.)
  8. If not, what’s an example of what you would prefer?
  9. How do you follow up with prospects?
  10. How do you follow up with current clients?
  11. Can I see your other marketing materials (autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)
  12. Are there any keyphrases that you’re not currently positioning for, and you want to gain a stronger position?
  13. How do you currently promote new content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  14. Who is your “perfect customer (s)”?
  15. What benefit statements are important to those customers?
  16. What customer profile would not be a good fit for your business?
  17. Can I review your customer testimonials (or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?).
  18. Has your company won any awards? Can I see the documentation?
  19. What are the most common questions that customer service answers? How do they answer them?
  20. Can I talk to your best salesperson to get his/her perspective?
  21. What are the most common objections to overcome?
  22. Has your product/service been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, etc.
  23. What primary action do you want readers to take?
  24. Is there a secondary CTA?
  25. What is your biggest sales “sticking point” right now?
  26. How will the content be promoted?

Process/procedure questions

  1. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company.)
  2. Who is my main point of contact?
  3. Who will review the content?
  4. How long will it take to approve the content?
  5. How would you like me to send you the content? For instance, in a Word document?
  6. How often would you like to receive project updates?
  7. How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?

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4 Time-Saving Productivity Hacks to Keep You Sane

Try these 4 productivity hacks to beat the writing clock!

Try these 4 productivity hacks to beat the writing clock!

As an online writer, you’re probably familiar with at least one of these scenarios: Oh no (or expletive of choice)! I only have 30 minutes to get this blog post written… or, I need to come up with at least 10 blog topics for this month’s editorial calendar, but my brain is drained… or, I want to get to my own writing project, but I have no time… or, I am stuck in writer’s block hell

Whether you’re a “newbie” or veteran copywriter, you’ll face a few of these challenges in your career, and likely more than once. With that in mind, here are four productivity hacks from Heather to help you meet your deadlines, make progress with your own writing projects, conjure creative blog ideas, save precious time…and keep your sanity!

5 Weird Writing Productivity Hacks That Work


Heather starts out by asking: “Do you feel burned out and brain dead after a full day of writing?”

Drawing on her own experience, she then shares five time- and sanity-saving tips that are “a little weird” to help you recoup your writing mojo:

  1. Chart your writing rhythms
  2. Limit your writing time
  3. The five minute brainstorm technique
  4. Wear different hats (literally)
  5. The two minute trick

Do you have any of your own weird ways of keeping the creative writing juices flowing? Please share them with us!

How to Generate 3,640 Blog Post Ideas in 12 Months

Sounds over the top, doesn’t it? But it really isn’t.

Heather writes that she borrowed the idea from James Altrucher, who recommends writers to exercise their “idea muscle” each day by selecting a topic and then jotting down ten (or more) ideas – whether good or mediocre, no matter. The goal is to simply get them written down.

She confides: “This tip changed my life.”

It can change yours, too! Heather shares her step-by-step process for capturing blog post ideas that fleshes out her editorial calendar, and shares her favorite tools for assistance when it’s needed.

How to Write a Killer Blog Post in 30 Minutes or Less

Need to write up a quick and dirty blog post?

Heather writes that while she’s not a fan of super-fast writing, there are times (i.e., imminent deadlines) when it’s required. And while it won’t be your best work, it will suffice.

The process she shares covers what to do before you begin, after you start writing, and when you finish.

Some key takeaways include:

  • As a bare-minimum guide, give yourself at least five minutes to plan and outline your post, 20 minutes to write it and five minutes to proof and tweak.
  • Keep your inner Web writing editor at bay.
  • Always proof your work. Always.

Achieve Your Writing Dream in Just 25 Minutes A Day

Heather begins by asking: “What’s your writing dream?”

Perhaps it’s a book in your back pocket that you can’t seem to get around to actually writing? Or perhaps an idea for an online course that takes a back seat to work priorities? Or maybe you’re just too overwhelmed to write “just for fun”.

She then shares her experience about wanting to write a book about SEO copywriting in the mid-2000’s that she was excited about, but found herself stuck.

Through much trial and error – “either working too hard and burning out, or procrastinating and feeling guilty” — she found how to get her writing groove back! She outlines her simple 2-step process and discusses the reasons why she thinks it works.

What say you? Any productivity hacks you’d like to share? Please do in the comments below!





Why I’m Recycling My Old Content (And You Should Too!).

Have you ever pulled out an old pair of pants from your closet, and found money stashed inside?

It doesn’t matter if you found $1 or $100, the reaction is always the same. You get a little thrill from the experience. Your heartbeat quickens.

And a thought pops into your head like, “Woohoo! Found money! Score!”

I’ve been feeling the same way about my old blog posts. Here’s why.

I’ve talked before about the importance of performing an SEO content audit. There are many SEO advantages to doing so — for instance, you can find and fix posts with bad Titles, get rid of “thin” posts and change any bad links.

But there’s also another huge advantage that will give you a “woohoo” moment.

Chances are, you have a bunch of old posts (maybe 20…maybe 100 or more) you can tweak, update and repost as new content.

And it’s easy, too!

This idea hit me square in the noggin when I was running my own content audit. I constantly run reader surveys, so I know my readers are looking for SEO copywriting 101 tips, freelance business tips and how to increase leads with SEO content.

I’ve blogged about these topics many times before. So many times that I forgot about some of my old posts from seven or eight years back. They may occasionally receive some social media love — and many of them position well — but they are basically “forgotten.”

That’s when I had my brainstorm.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing brand new posts, why not make my existing posts better?


Here are the steps I’m taking:

– I’m combing through every post on my site. Yes, every page. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming. Every couple days or so, I find a winning post I completely forgot about. A post that makes me think, “Ooh, you are like finding money in an old pair of jeans!”

– I note the URL in the “pending” section of my editorial calendar. I know that I’ll be sprucing the post up eventually — I just have to decide when.

– A week before I make an old post new again, I review the post and look for new writing opportunities. What are “new writing opportunities,” you ask? It depends on the post. They include:

  • Updating out-of-date information. This process can take a few minutes — or much more time. For instance, an SEO copywriting 101-type post can require a lot of editing. A general tips post may take an hour or less.
  • Checking the links to make sure they’re still live and relevant.
  • Adding (or heavily editing) the introduction. For instance, I may have an experience that is relevant to the post and be good to add. I did this for the post 5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs.
  • Adding or deleting graphics.
  • Including a quote, tweet or other relevant information.
  • Linking to new resources.
  • Rewriting bits of the content. My inner editor always kicks in and forces me to rewrite something — even if it’s just a paragraph or two.
  • Changing (or adding) a call-to-action. For instance, I can add a CTA for my Copywriting Business Bootcamp to many of my freelance business posts (and no, I have no idea why I didn’t do it before.) Adding a CTA obviously helps me from a sales perspective and also lets my readers know other ways I can help them.
  • Revising or testing headlines. Seven years ago, I didn’t have access to KingSumo Headlines, which lets you test different headlines. Now I do, and I LOVE trying new headlines. Side note: I like to make a bet with myself and guess which headline will pull better. The results are often very surprising.

Once the post is ready for prime-time (again), I set the post to publish. To do this, simply change the “Publish” settings in WordPress.Change publication date


If I wanted to revise this post, I’d change the publication date and click “OK.” Voila! That’s all there is to it!

Here are the most common questions I receive about repurposing old blog posts:

Wait — isn’t this cheating? Shouldn’t I write a brand-new post?

You certainly can, especially if you feel like writing a new post would be more valuable to your readers. However, if you already have a super post, and you can make it even better, why reinvent the wheel?

When is recycling an old post NOT a good idea?

If the post was “thin” or poorly written in the first place, the revisions would probably take too much work.

But what about SEO? Won’t this change the post’s rankings?

Possibly, but just be smart about it. You’ll want to see how the post is currently positioning and how (or if) it’s driving traffic. In fact, if your revisions are extensive enough, it’s possible that your “new” post will position even better than the original one. This is especially true if you ignored keyphrase research the first time around.

Won’t people notice?

Maybe. But if you’re offering great value — who cares. Besides, you’ll still be writing new content in addition to repurposing your old stuff. Right? :)

Do I have to disclose “this is a recycled post?”

You could. There may be a story behind why you’re recycling the post, and sharing the story would add to the post. But you don’t have to.

How often can I get away with this?

There’s no rule of thumb that I’m aware of — and it also depends on your publication schedule. I feel OK recycling one old blog post a month.

Ready to get started with your blog? Go for it! And let me know how it goes. Feel free to leave a comment (or ask a question.)

Now it’s time to check out some other old blog posts…after all, my next woohoo moment may be right around the corner.

Photo credit: © CrailsheimStudio |

6 Ways to Handle It When A Client Changes Your Copywriting

Frustrated woman

Talk about frustrating.

You thought what you wrote showcased your best work ever. You expertly followed your client’s content marketing strategy. You chose good keyphrases.

You did everything right.

When you finished writing your SEO copywriting masterpiece, you could almost hear the harp music softly playing and feel the warm sunshine on your face. Your copy didn’t just sound good. It sung.

A week later, you see what the client actually uploaded. All of your tricky turn-of-phrases were gone. Your Title was changed from a compelling statement to a list of keyphrases. And your headline…you can’t even look at what they did to your headline.

You aren’t just mad.  You’re hurt. How could they destroy your copywriting baby like that?

Rule #1 of working with clients. They will change your writing, no matter how good you thought it was.

You’ve got to get over it.

At the same time, sometimes, clients make really bad copywriting decisions. Maybe it’s because the legal department got involved and sliced half of the copy. Or maybe, your client passed your copy along to five different people — and all of them had their own idea of how the content should read.

Should you cry? Rant? Keep your mouth shut? The challenge is — if you say nothing and the copy flops, the client may think the poorly-performing content is your fault. So you have to say something…but you have to do it the right way.

Here’s how to handle it.

– Leave your ego at the door.

Sure, it’s easy to get miffed when a client tweaks your SEO copywriting genius. But take a big step back before you send that nastygram. Did the changes mess with anything important (like the keyphrase usage.) Is the tone and feel consistent? Does the edited copy stick out like a sore thumb?

If there’s no real damage to your conversion strategy, keyphrase strategy or Title, it’s probably not a big deal (except, of course, to you.)

–  Check-in with the client. 

It’s tempting to write your client a “WTF did you DO?” email. Very tempting. Don’t do it.

And don’t send any email until you are calm, cool and collected.

Once it’s safe to ping your client, try an approach like, “I noticed that you changed the Title. Can you help me understand why?” After all, there may have been a good reason your client did what she did (no matter how much their changes make you die a little inside.) If there wasn’t a good reason, and your client is shooting herself in the SEO (and/or copywriting) foot, it’s time to…

 – …Put your education hat on. 

Educating the client helps them make more informed decisions — and can often help them see the “SEO copywriting light.”

If your client added a bunch of nonsense paragraphs because their SEO told them to, point out exactly how the new copy could hinder conversions. If your Title was totally tweaked, help your client understand how Titles need to be keyphrase-rich, yes – but also compelling and clear.

Don’t forget to add links to articles and blog posts that echo your sentiments. That way, the client sees that multiple experts feel the same way you do — and it adds credence to your position.

If you’re not feeling 100% confident about educating your client, know that SEO Copywriting Certification students can get writing feedback and ask questions about client situations. Sometimes, it’s nice to have an expert in your back pocket.

 – Offer a compromise.

Can you see areas you could improve? Depending on the scope of work, it’s sometimes worthwhile to tweak the copy one more time, and merge the client’s changes with your original text. Sometimes, a little copy-massaging can go a long way — and the client will (hopefully) see the difference between their edits and your shining final product.  Or, if nothing else, you’ve made the page just a little bit better.

 – Try testing.

If a client is sold on their 1,000-word sales page — and your version is 200 words — see if the client is open to copy testing. An A/B split test will provide irrefutable data about what really works (rather than what she thinks will work.)

Be warned that you may find that your client was right, and you were wrong. That’s OK. It will be a kick in the ego, but it’s OK. It’s better to be wrong than (inadvertently) cost the client cash.

 – Let it go.

At the end of the day, your client is the “decider” – not you.  If you’ve emailed your thoughts, backed them up with evidence and discussed the SEO ramifications – there’s not much else you can do.

Give it some time and see if you can revisit some options at a later date (like A/B testing, or tweaking the copy.) A few months of so-so results may help the client be more open to your expert advice – and you can finally start showing them what good SEO copywriting can do.

Photo credit: © |

5 Experts Share How They Create Killer Headlines

As an online writer, you’ve surely come across many a post about how to create a stellar headline. And you’ve likely found that it’s not as easy to do as prescribed.

Should you go for the sexy headline that invites clicks? Or for the one that is sure to position in the search engines with optimization? Or perhaps the one that is choice for social sharing?

But…what if you could accomplish all of the above with one headline?

We called on five copywriting wizards to share their strategies for writing an amazing headline, posing this question:

Obviously, a “good” headline should clearly convey to readers what they can expect from a post and serve their interests. Given that, what is your strategy for writing a headline that captures clicks, leverages SEO and invites social sharing?

Their illuminating responses are as brilliant as their headlines…


Larry Kim (@larrykim), Founder & CTO of WordStream, Inc.

 I optimize for insanely high social sharing that in turn, generates the links that will make this asset rank very highly. Months later, after the links have been acquired, I can revisit the content and do some on-page SEO tweaks. Take this recent article about working mothers, for example:


This thing got 23 thousand shares in just a few days – why? Child rearing is an INSANELY powerful emotional trigger. You can bet that every mom that saw this thing wanted to confirm or defend their life choices by sharing this thing. You really do only get milliseconds to grab a reader’s attention and convince them to share or click through and read the rest of your article.

Do your research. It’s totally pointless to spend an hour or more writing something and then slap whatever title you came up with off the top of your head on it. I do the opposite: I use BuzzSumo to see what else is most popular right now and research a topic that I know will do well. From there, I just fill in the article. Meaning, the title comes first, not last.

Leave a “knowledge gap” to pique the curiosity of your readers; this is why those crazy “You Won’t Believe What Happens…” titles work. You need to find your hook — that unusual, different, original take on it that makes your content really awesome — but then don’t forget to highlight that in your title.

Of course, you want to use relevant keywords, but watch the length, too. Keep it short and punchy. If there are any unnecessary words, cut them out. Resist the urge to be too descriptive; you don’t want to give away the whole article in the title. Most importantly though, make sure your content delivers on the promise of your title so you can keep that engagement and sharing high.

Take a look at this tweet that leverages the curiosity gap idea and got over a thousand retweets, which then generated hundreds of thousands of pageviews:



See how that works? Boom!



Ian Lurie (@portentint), CEO of Portent

Here’s my shot:

  • I start by writing a headline that’s fully descriptive. It has to tell the reader exactly what they’ll see when they start reading.
  • Then I work to provide a ‘hook.’ That may mean including one of the basic power words: What/how/win/lose etc.
  • Then I think about my audience. This sounds backwards, I know, and I don’t mean that I ignore my audience at step 1. I mean I look for inside jokes, hot buttons, pet peeves, etc. that might help me connect more directly with them.

That’s it. I try to keep things simple. But I do quite a bit of work tweaking and changing. I believe the content matters a lot, but the headline is the entry point into the larger piece, so I really want to get it right.


Brian Massey (@bmassey), Founder of Conversion Sciences

 Headlines are hard because they are burdened with great responsibility. We think a great conversion-oriented headline must do the following:

1. Keep the promise. Whatever was promised in the ad, link, email or social share should be reiterated in the headline. If the page is receiving organic traffic, the keyword is the promise. Be sure your headline contains the right words for searchers.
2. Chase away the wrong visitors. Writing a great headline means knowing who you want to draw in to the page. By definition, this means letting go of almost everyone else.
3. Include the phone number. If you want visitors to call, including the phone number in the headline is a great way to entice that.
4. Test and retest. You will be surprised by what works for you.



Glenn Murray (@divinewrite), Founder of Divine Write

 Headlines are a creative thing for me. So it’s hard to describe how I craft them. I don’t follow rules or even have a conscious strategy. That’s not to say I don’t have a strategy at all; I’ve just never tried to articulate it. Indeed, I wasn’t even able to answer this question without deconstructing some of my old blog headlines. You may as well see that deconstruction…

Here’s a collection of some headlines I’ve written that seemed to drive traffic and prompt people to comment on the headline itself. Along with each, I’ve written a quick description of why I think it was successful.

  • Why I prefer ass – This would be confronting for a lot of people. And it’s completely unexpected in a copywriting context. Some people will click on it because they want to see what it’s really about. And some will click because they’re hoping against hope it’s sexual.
  • The second-most important copywriting rule – Everyone talks about the number 1 rule for things. Rarely about the number 2. So that’s kinda unexpected. It also suggests that the post will be understated (people get sick of overselling and sensationalism).
  • For 13 years my website was missing one critical ingredient. Is yours missing it too? – Even after running my copywriting business for 14 years, I still make mistakes. Some of them quite big. And I’m more than happy to admit it when I do. People are engaged by self-effacing headlines or headlines that expose your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It draws people closer. Plus readers might worry they could be making the same mistake themselves.
  • I’m no Don Draper. So am I still a copywriter? – I think every copywriter has wondered this. I just voiced their insecurity. So they’d be curious to hear my answer. And again, they could be drawn closer by my vulnerability.
  • Some writing that’s so good it made me cry – All copywriters love good writing. So curiosity will get the better of a lot of people here. And again, there’s the vulnerability thing.
  • Kate Toon & Belinda Weaver asked what my copywriting fetish is. Bet you can’t guess the answer… – Like the ‘ass’ headline, this one is sexually suggestive. Especially if you know Kate and Belinda. Some people will be drawn to it for that reason alone (that often works on me!). Others will be curious to get an insight into a copywriter they see as an old dog of the industry.
  • If working with your copywriter was a breeze, you just wasted your money – This is counter-intuitive, which will intrigue readers.
  • Get off your high-horse. You only hate clickbait headlines ‘cos you wish you wrote ’em – Confrontational. Many copywriters have a thing against clickbait headlines, and I insulted them for it. They’ll click through to see how I could possibly justify that insult and maybe even argue with me (if only in their heads).
  • Dead scribe a-thinkin’: How Missy Elliot’s hips cured my writer’s block – The incongruent elements here are a bit surprising (intriguing). How could Missy Elliot’s hips even be relevant to copywriting, much less cure writer’s block? Also the sexual innuendo will get a few people curious.

So if distill the summaries above, here’s what I end up with:

  • confronting
  • unexpected
  • sexual innuendo
  • unusual headline approach
  • understated
  • self-effacing
  • expose your weaknesses / vulnerabilities / insecurities / private personality
  • imply the reader might have the same weaknesses as you
  • curiosity
  • counter-intuitive
  • confrontational / invite argument
  • incongruence

Obviously you can’t just treat this list as a recipe. It has to be appropriate for your audience (even if confronting) and it has to match your personality. Perhaps a good litmus test is to ask yourself if you’d say it at a party with friends and kinda-friends (for me, that’s a party with the other parents from my kids’ school). You have to be able to shock / intrigue / engage without sounding like that sleazy bloke who always snickers about boobs and threesomes.


Kate Toon (@katetooncopy), Founder of Kate Toon Copywriter

I firmly believe a click-worthy headline beats an SEO-optimised headline every time.

Many readers will share a post simply based on its headline, and many won’t have read the rest of the article. Ogilvy had it right when he said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

Of course, we all want to please the Google gods. But it’s people who truly drive the Internet, so if we can suck them in with a winning headline then Google will most definitely follow.

I like to use a mix of slightly odd, quirky headlines and more straightforward no-nonsense approaches.

So one week I might try:

“How my vagina helps me write better copy”

And the next:

“How to write a copy deck in five easy steps”

I follow up the headline with a sub-header. If the headline is quirky, the sub will be more focused. And if the headline is practical, the sub-header will be more conversational.

But whatever headline I choose, I always make sure my article delivers on that headline quickly and comprehensively. Because I don’t just want readers to click. I want them to read, like, comment, share and link, link, link!












Under the Influence? Eric Enge Talks Influencer Marketing

How do you influence an influencer?

How do you influence an influencer?

Today we’re happy to feature Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. As a recognized, wicked-smart digital marketing and SEO expert, he brings a lot to any table. He’s served up many delightful and insightful dishes to our readers over the years, and his latest spread concerns influencer marketing.

Feast on his insights into this latest online marketing buzz!

There’s a lot of online chatter about “Influencer marketing” of late, as you well know. In your recent Stone Temple blog post, you outline a “script” with 7 steps for building a relationship with an influencer. Of these, which would you consider paramount, and why?

Focus on building a relationship. You need to view this as a give and take situation. Think of it as you are approaching them for purposes of benefiting them. Once you get this part right, the rest of what you need to do becomes much easier!

Most copywriters – both in-house and freelance — likely approach influencers either for their company or on behalf of their clients. As an influencer yourself, you’re likely inundated with requests to connect, help with something, or help promote something. So what makes you take notice of a request, as opposed to filing it in the “I don’t have time” pile?

In keeping with the prior answer, do some hard work up front. Read lots of their content. Read lots of their social posts. Find out what makes them tick. Then add value and engage them in a way that interests them.

Then, start slow. Don’t stalk them, don’t send them 10 messages in 2 weeks, or anything like that. Just take it a step at a time. Retweet their Tweets. +1 their blog posts. Add comments to their posts, these types of things.

Wait to you start to get some acknowledgement of your activity. Then when the time is right take another step forward in the relationship. Whatever you do, don’t ever ask them to share your stuff or link to you. That’s just plain offensive. Take your time with it, and let it develop, just like you would any other relationship.

This is essential. It’s not about you (at all). It starts, begins, and ends with them. Once you learn to approach people this way, they will start taking some of their energy and making it about you.

That’s how you create that magic win-win that you are looking for.

Related to the previous question: in your experience what is a completely original approach that worked really well? And what is your “horror story” of an approach that failed miserably?

The positive:  I left a Red Sox game one day, and noticed a famed baseball writer standing on a street corner, as he had just left the game as well.

I went up to him and the first thing I said was “Has anyone ever done what Koji Uehara almost did today?” (which was strike out the site in the 9th inning of a game to clinch a playoff series).

He warmed right up to me and we spent 15 minutes talking baseball like little kids. All the while, lots of other people were coming up and fawning all over him, and he more or less ignored them, while he and I just kept talking about the game.

Now this was not a content marketing based reason for my approaching him, I did it just for fun, but it still illustrates the point of how it’s done.

The negative: For a long time, people would simply generate mailing lists of people and blast messages out to them. Gradually, they got more sophisticated and cut down the volume, and added a very basic level of personalization. However, this still doesn’t work.

I know of one case where someone built a list of targets and robotically went through the process of getting emails sent out. They didn’t notice that one of the email addresses was The site owner submitted to a variety of services for tracking spam email accounts, and got their email account blacklisted. Ouch!

About a year ago, Barry Feldman (Feldman Creative) posted “30 Action Items to Get Serious About Influencer Marketing”. One of the items he emphasized is to “make LinkedIn your social center.” Do you agree with that? Or is there another social hub you’d recommend?

I don’t think that LinkedIn is necessarily the right social center for everyone. Yes, it’s a powerful network, and it has ways to contact people, and tons of people have LinkedIn accounts.

But, I think the right hub for you is probably where you have the largest audience related to your products. If you are into photography for example, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ would probably be better picks than LinkedIn.

All of these approaches assume that an influencer will eventually contact and build a relationship with you. However, what about those influencers who won’t give you the time of day? Maybe they’re too busy. Maybe you’re not part of their “in” crowd. Maybe they just don’t care to build a relationship. When do you walk away and figure it’s not going to happen?

You can’t force it. Some people won’t want to connect, no matter how hard you try. But, it’s not about connecting with everyone on day one. You should have multiple people you are trying to build a relationship with. Do the hard work, do your best.

If you approach five, and you start to make a connection with one, then great! Move on with the others. And, as I noted below, with each one, take it slow, and let the relationships develop naturally.

To play Devil’s Advocate here…what would you say to people who think “influencer marketing” is one-sided — that is, someone is trying to ride on an influencer’s coattails/get help from them, and that’s the only reason they’re approaching that person? After all, don’t influencers have better things to do than help everyone who asks?

This pretty much feeds into everything else I said. Don’t let it be one-sided. If you are looking for someone to use, then influencer marketing is not for you. If you are looking to form real bonds and establish mutually beneficial relationships … now we’re talking.

How much time do you personally spend on influencer marketing? How much time would you recommend people spend on it?

Honestly, I am not quite sure. It starts with my deciding that someone is of great interest to me, not just because they have influence, but because they see things in a way that’s very similar to how I see them, and I think we could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Then I start reading their stuff, both in terms of articles/posts and social media posts. I will start interacting with them. I might be working on a few of these at a time. Or I might only be pursuing one at that moment. If I had to guess, it’s anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour per day for me.

If you are just getting started on this, then you might want to spend a bit more time on it. But probably not too much more. You need to spend some time on producing your own great, original content and doing your regular work as well!

Connect with Eric on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn 

Photo credit to Ryan McFarland |