Time to get some perspective

Shift your perspective to see the hidden image.

Shift your perspective to see the hidden image.

Do you remember those Magic Eye pictures? They were all the rage in the 1990s. (There was even an appearance in a Seinfeld episode … but, I digress.)

The point of these pictures was to stare at it until you saw the hidden 3-D image within the picture. Some people saw the image right away, others took some time, and some people never saw the picture (although they claimed they did).

Those pictures used to drive me crazy because I was never sure how – exactly – I had shifted my perspective to make the image show. All I know is it eventually shifted and the image was revealed.

Your content marketing may be filled with hidden images

You may not realize it, but you may have hidden gems in your content marketing. I’m not saying that if you stare at your website long enough a new website will pop up. No, I mean there may be opportunities there that you can’t see unless you shift your perspective.

You and your in-house marketing team may be too close to your content and online marketing to see obvious blind spots. If you don’t find a way to shift your perspective, you may be losing sales and other conversion opportunities.

Find ways to shift your perspective

Your product or service may be the best thing since sliced bread, but if you aren’t marketing it correctly, no one may ever know about it. The trick is to change your focus from what you think the top selling points of your products and services are, and shift it to what your client (and prospective clients) think is important.

Last week, Heather discussed shifting her focus from free content to monetized content. If you read the post, you will see that this wasn’t something Heather just came up with on a whim. She had been told many times that she was “giving away too many secrets” on her blog. At first, she didn’t listen because she liked educating people and her blog generated leads. However, the more she heard comments about hurting her business with all of the free content, the more she began to listen.

I’m not advocating jumping on the bandwagon for a passing fad. But, I do think you need to listen to third parties. A powerful way to shift your focus is to listen to third-party feedback. Your company may be stuck in a “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset. You need to pay attention to people who aren’t as married to your content and way of doing things as you are.

Easy ways to get third-party perspective are:

  • Asking your current client base what they like and don’t like about your products, services and marketing efforts.
  • Hiring a marketing consultant or editor to look at your content with fresh eyes.
  • Polling your social media followers for fresh ideas.

These are just a few ways you can get a new perspective. How does your company make sure your content marketing efforts are working at their peak performance? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Need a content consultation? Heather offers an SEO content review! Check it out!

Photo credit: Magic Eye 3D Picture #36

FREE is powerful, but dangerous

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-free-message-image22936345“Free” is a very effective power word. It grabs your reader’s attention and may even convince him to take that next conversion step.

However, if you use “free” incorrectly, it could cost you.

Does “free” remove value?

I recently witnessed the following scene.

A 15-year-old boy uses color ink to print the informational page for a PC that he wants to buy (Let’s not kid ourselves – that he wants his mother to buy). The printed description has a picture of the computer, so the printer definitely uses some color ink.

His mom sees the printout and says, “Next time, could you print something like that in grayscale so we can save the color ink?”

The son replies, “But it’s the free ink that came with the printer. It didn’t cost us anything.”

The discussion continued and it consisted mostly of his mom asking him to conserve ink and he kept stating that it was free. (It was quite fun to watch as a third party, but I digress.)

Although most of us are probably not trying to reach a 15-year-old demographic, the point is that he saw the ink as something that had no value because it was free.

Put a price tag on “free” products and services

It’s great to offer a free content marketing evaluation or to entice website visitors with a free product sample. However, be sure to include the value of the free product or service.

If you don’t include something as simple as “$200 value” or whatever the true cost of the product or service would be, why would your clients think it is valuable?

Including a waived price/value to the free item or service can:

  • Increase conversions because potential clients understand the deal they are getting
  • Keep clients from insisting you give them similar products or services for free
  • Give a glimpse into your prices and (hopefully) minimize the number of inquiries you receive from people who cannot afford your services or products – saving your time to focus on those who can.

Make sure it’s not always free

In addition to giving your service or product a value, be sure to limit your offer. If something is always free, it loses whatever value you assign to it.

Utilize the principle of scarcity to further entice your audience. By telling your website visitors that your free offer is only for a limited time, you are adding additional value to it – and encouraging an action sooner rather than later.

Keep “free” in your arsenal

Don’t remove “free” from your list of power words. By taking a few precautions and using it correctly, you can increase your conversions.

Speaking of deals, save nearly $200 on the SEO Copywriting Certification training if you sign up before April 30! Use coupon code UPDATE.

Photo credit: ID 22936345 ©  | Dreamstime.com

Who cares about Passover? Holiday marketing examined

holiday marketing examinedAt sundown tonight, Pesach, known in English as Passover, will begin. According to Judaism 101, Passover “is one of the most commonly observed Jewish holidays, even by otherwise non-observant Jews” with 67% of Jews routinely attending a Passover seder, while only 46% belong to a synagogue.

Easter is more than a week away (celebrated April 20th this year) and you have most likely noticed Easter advertisements everywhere.

Looking at the numbers

In San Diego County, there are around 3 million people, with a Jewish population of about 89,000 (2005 numbers). So really that’s just a little less than 3 percent of the county’s population, so maybe it is not worth targeting this group.

Hmm, let’s think about this a little more.

3 percent seems low, but that’s 89,000 people. If you’re a local business, do you want to ignore 89,000?

Think about it, if every business but yours ignored those 89,000 people, you would have found a goldmine of customers. You could build loyalty and increase your customer base.

Let’s talk about food

Yes, there is a secular, and very commercial, component of Easter that Passover does not have, but both holidays share a common bond: sharing of a meal.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a shared seder meal is a large component of the celebration of Passover.

Many families have a special Easter dinner.

So who are the grocery stores marketing to?

I live in San Diego, and there are several grocery store chains. I decided to take a look at the ways the stores are marketing both Passover and Easter. I am writing this blog the week before Passover, so there is still a weekend to shop before Passover … and more than a week and another wave of advertising until Easter.

For most of the grocery stores, their websites either didn’t mention anything about either holiday or only mentioned Easter, so I am going to focus mainly on the flyers/circulars that are mailed and posted online.

What Passover?

There were two stores that completely ignored Passover in their flyers.

The first was a major chain in the area: Vons.

VonsEasterOnly
As you can see, Vons only focuses on Easter … and oddly ignores the components of the meal part of the holiday. Instead, the focus is solely on the commercialization of the holiday (and The Hobbit for some reason).

The other offender is technically not a grocery store, but is a place where more people are getting their groceries: Walmart.

Yes, it makes sense for Walmart to focus on the toys, candy and even kids’ Easter outfits, which they do.

WalmartEaster4 WalmartEaster3

However, Walmart also touts its offerings for your Easter dinner – on not one page, but two.

WalmartEaster1 WalmartEaster2

But there isn’t one mention of Passover in the flyer.

Will these stores close down by ignoring Passover? No. However, they aren’t accumulating any brownie points or building loyalty with the Jewish community.

We love selling Easter … and we respect Passover

Ralphs, another grocery chain in Southern California, dedicates three pages to Easter.

RalphsEaster3 RalphsEaster2 RalphsEaster1

But, they only have about a third of a page dedicated to Passover. (I almost missed it the first time I looked through the flyer.)

RalphsPass

They are focusing more on the majority (as noted above), but they still make sure to include Passover. And, although it is smaller, they seem more sincere (if that’s possible in advertising) in their Passover ads.

Look a bit closer. The Easter promos are just selling. I may have missed it, but I didn’t even see a “Happy Easter.” However, the Passover section – even though it’s small – states,

“Ralphs wishes you a Passover full of happiness, peace and prosperity!”

Ralphs is not only marketing to the 3 percent, it is showing respect for the celebration.

There’s no top billing here

Two of the local supermarket chains decided to give Passover equal billing with Easter – at least until after Passover (which makes sense).

Albertsons did not dedicate a lot of space in its flyer to the holidays, but it gave both holidays equal space. The chain gets extra points for listing Passover first, including Hebrew, and wishing patrons to “Have a joyous Passover.”

Albertsons

Whole Foods is too good for a flyer – at least not one I could find. :-) However, the upscale grocer has an active blog on its website. On April 10th, there was a post about creating lovable Easter baskets.

WholeFoodsEasterBlog

However, two days earlier, the chain posted about kosher Passover selections at the store. The post even entices the reader with a minor “What’s in it for me?” moment. The first line of the blog reads, “Looking to add a little variety to your Passover meals this year?” The blog also lets readers know in the post title that foods that will be discussed are kosher.

WholeFoodsPassoverBlog

These two stores recognize the importance of not overshadowing Passover with Easter promotions. A smart move, since they will still have another week of advertising before Easter.

Keep this in mind before winter sets in

Most of the country is still waiting to see signs of spring, but this marketing lesson will apply to your winter holiday marketing.

Don’t put all of your focus on Christmas this December. Just because you are looking at a smaller population, you should still include some marketing and acknowledgement of the other winter holidays, including Hanukkah?, Kwanzaa?, New Year’s Eve (and Day), and Winter Solstice. If you are feeling even more ambitious, there are many more holidays to acknowledge throughout the year.

 

Photo credit: Matza for passover celebration ID 23812197 © Grafnata | Dreamstime.com

Need some help with your holiday or other SEO copy? Check out our SEO copywriting services. Hurry – we can only take a few more clients!

What's in it for me?

CarlAs I have mentioned before, I am a fan of 1980s pop culture. One of my favorite teen angst movies from the 80s is The Breakfast Club. However, I don’t want to talk about any of the main characters or pivotal scenes.

No, I want to talk about a few lines muttered by Carl, the janitor.

In one scene, Carl catches Richard Vernon (the school administrator) snooping through the personal files of the other teachers. Vernon wants Carl to not mention it to anyone and Carl asks,

“What’s in it for me, man?”

Turns out, he’ll keep quiet for “50 bucks.”

Carl is your client

Sure your potential clients may not want $50.00 (or they might), but they do want to know “What’s in it for me?”

Tell them!

Who cares how wonderful you are?

You may be the best in the business, but if all you tell prospective clients is how wonderful you are – and NOT how your wonderfulness will help them, they will not care.

Don’t just write a list of all of your business’s attributes. Transform those features into customer benefits. You may be surprised by the increase in your conversion rates.

Wondering if you talk too much about yourself? Look at your copy. How often do you use your company’s name or the word “we” compared to the number of times you use the word “you”?

If you talk about yourself more, you may be hurting your business. Turn the focus around and tell your customers what you can give them – make sure it’s something that they want … even if it is $50.

B2B copywriting isn’t always directed towards “stuff suits.” Sometimes you write for Richard Vernons, sometimes it is for Carls. Master the art of B2B SEO copywriting with the B2B SEO Copywriting Certification training. There’s a special price  – so sign up now

Photo credit: DarkSarcasm on FanPop

Many writers, one voice – it IS possible

Group of people working with laptops in officeYour in-house marketing team may consist of several copywriters … or at least numerous team members who contribute content.

Your website may include:

  • Product pages written by your creative team
  • How-to pages written by your tech team
  • About pages written by upper management
  • Blog posts written by members of various departments

So how can you ensure your content marketing has a consistent voice?

Share who you are writing for

Your customers want you to tell them, “What’s in it for me?”

But how do you highlight what they need if you don’t know who they are?

You can’t … at least not very well.

Your writers – whoever they may be – need to know who they are speaking to. In order to do this, you need to create a customer persona. Once this persona is produced, clearly share it with your team.

The more detailed you can get, the better your writers can find a way to relate. Be sure to provide your team with a clear picture of whom they are writing for.

Set a guiding voice

Once your writers know who they are writing for, they still need more guidance. You need to create a content marketing guide.

Your guide should include:

  • Integral components of the company’s voice and branding
  • A clear explanation of your USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Style guide with preferred use of grammar rules and sentence structure

Don’t let them have the final word

You should have an editor or editorial team that reviews each web page, blog post, and online campaign before it posts. The editing process should not only include grammar and spelling, but also review of voice, tone and message.

What tips can you add for writing with multiple writers?

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Are your complimentary services free? Understanding word choice

ComplimentaryFREE2During some recent holiday travel, I saw this sign in the San Diego airport. I had to take a picture of it because I wondered how many people asked. “How much does it cost?” before they added the handwritten sign “free.”

Who are you trying to reach?

A 2012 report indicated that the average reading level of the books taught in U.S. high schools (grades 9 through 12) was just over a fifth-grade level.

Using the readability index calculator, I tested two very similar sentences. Here are the results.

“We offer a complimentary breakfast.” Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 15. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: -1. (The higher number for the reading-ease score, the easier the text is to read. Comics usually score around 90. Legal documents usually score below a 10.)

“We offer a free breakfast.” Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 5. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 66.

One word makes a BIG difference!

Are you trying to reach the average U.S. adult, or are you hoping to reach adults with a higher level of education? If you aren’t sure, take a step back and create a profile of your ideal customer.

Refined or powerful?

Yes, “complimentary” sounds more refined than “free,” but “free” is more powerful!

“Free” is one of many power words – words that get your readers excited about your product or service. You can grab your readers’ attention by mentioning they can get something for free.

What are they searching for?

People don’t typically search for complimentary items; they search for free items.

Let’s take a look at the hotel industry. The term “hotels with free breakfast” is searched for 3.5 times more often than the term “hotels with complimentary breakfast” (although “complimentary breakfast” was a term that had been used for some time in the industry).

By focusing on what your audience is searching for, you can increase the traffic to your website.

What are the big boys doing?

Let’s take a look at the hotel industry again. In the world of complimentary breakfasts and free Wi-Fi access, what words are being used?

I did some perusing of hotel websites. In most cases, the hotel chains touted “free” breakfast and Wi-Fi, although some companies hedged their bets by still including “complimentary” on the page. Check out these examples.

Wyndham offers free breakfast and made sure you knew there was free Wi-Fi included in your free breakfast.

WyndhamFree

 

Comfort Inn also stuck with a free hot breakfast and free high-speed Internet access.

ComfortInnFree

 

Hampton Inn makes sure you know that a hot breakfast and Wi-Fi are both free with your stay.

HamptonFree

 

Residence Inn lets you know about several free offerings: breakfast, grocery delivery and Wi-Fi.

ResidenceInnFree

 

Embassy Suites touts free cooked-to-order breakfast, but offered complimentary drinks.

EmbassyBoth

 

Holiday Inn makes sure you see that breakfast is both free and complimentary.

HolidayInnBoth

Country Inns & Suites by Carlton bucked the system with a complimentary breakfast, but it still mentions free high-speed Internet access.

 CountryInnBoth

Whichever word you choose, be sure to highlight value

Be cautious when publicizing free services (no matter how you phrase it). When highlighting something that is free, be sure you let your audience know what the monetary value of the product or service is. Otherwise, it is very easy for them to diminish the worth and significance of this bonus.

What’s your take? Do you offer something for free or is it complimentary?

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Step away from the thesaurus!

LurkingAlthough it’s true that synonyms are an SEO copywriter’s friend, not every word in your thesaurus is created equal.

Don’t turn to a thesaurus unless you know how to use it.

Make sure the words you choose really convey the proper message.

It’s a lurking marketing nightmare

A few years ago, I walked past a sign for a youth camp which read, “Where Adventure Lurks.”

Lurks? Really?

Do you really want to send your kids to a camp with things lurking?

According to Dictionary.com, lurk means:

“To lie or wait in concealment, as a person in ambush; remain in or around a place secretly or furtively.”

Not quite the image I would want to have in my head – especially since this banner was up shortly after the tragic deaths of two young local girls (Amber Dubois and Chelsea King) had dominated the news. (The predator that killed these girls – in at least one of the two cases – had hidden in bushes and ambushed the girl.)

Walk away before choosing the wrong word

I get it. We’ve all gotten stuck when writing. You may have already used a word and need a synonym. Sometimes it is frustrating and you just want to find a word that works.

Don’t be too hasty. When you can’t find the right word, you can:

  • Make a note, move on, and return to the word later
  • Take a break and look at it with fresh eyes
  • Throw in a word, but make sure you get someone to proof it for you.

It can save you and your client from a marketing failure.

What questionable words have you found in marketing?

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Write for Humans and Robots for Best Search Results

Write for robots, too.

Robots write for us. We can write for them, too!

I’m not an SEO expert. I don’t even play one on TV.

But I am a communications expert and, as part of my job, I’ve been writing my entire career.

In 2008, when social media began to take a hold, many of us had to quickly figure out how to use content to build our brands.

And, as part of that brand-building exercise, came learning how to write for both readers and robots.

In fact, I didn’t realize there was an entire technical side of writing until well into my blogging journey. I was just writing what I thought people would like to read and using our social networks to expand our readership. And it worked.

As it turns out, though, if you are smart and strategic about also writing for robots, you can extend your readership much more quickly than writing just for humans.

Before you get out the tar and feathers, I’m not advocating keyword-stuffed content. The first priority is always to your readers. But there are a few things you can do to help grow your audience.

Plan

Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios has a template he likes to use when he sets out to write a blog post.

It includes the headline, the target SEO keyword or phrase, the meta description, the permalink, and the images you plan to use.

This is where you plan your work.

Think about the competition already on the web for the topic.

Think about the amount of searches around the keyword or phrase you want to use.

Consider the images – are they original? Did you buy them? Or are they Creative Commons?

Will your meta description motivate people to click on the link when they come across your blog post in a search?

Does your permalink have your keyword or phrase in it?

It’s important to consider all of these things as you plan your content.

Do Your Research

Now it’s time to do your keyword research.

Take a look at the word or phrase you chose. Does it have a lot of competition? How many monthly searches does it have?

Let’s say it has 100 monthly searches and there isn’t a lot of competition. That’s a word or phrase worth using.

But if it has 20,000 monthly searches and you’re going to compete with big brands, you’ll want to tweak the word or phrase.

Once you determine the right fit, you’ll use that in your meta description, permalink and title.

Adjust those things, as necessary, from your planning phase.

Write

You can finally get to writing!

A few things to consider:

  • Blog posts should be 400-700 words to get the most Google juice.
  • Use headers, subheads and bullets to break up your content to make it easier to read.
  • Make sure you use your target keyword or phrase in at least one header … and I’d recommend three to five times in the copy.
  • Include approximately one link for every 100 words.
  • Provide a call-to-action, which can very easily be an invitation for comments.

The best kind of content written for humans includes active voice, short sentences and a reason to keep readers engaged. You can write in first or third person. Don’t make it too hard on yourself. Do what’s most comfortable for you.

Publish

Now it’s time to publish.

Most marketing and social media gurus aren’t very keen on Google+, but I love it because it helps with your search results. Google owns it and they want you to use it, so they’ll reward you if you do.

When you post the link to your newest content in Google+, use the keyword or phrase you’ve chosen for the piece.

Do this on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well. It’s less important on Facebook and Pinterest, but do try to customize your updates with the word or phrase in it.

Make it easy for your readers to share your content on the social networks by providing social share buttons on every page of your website or blog.

There is almost nothing more frustrating than wanting to share content and having to manually share it. Make it easy for your readers and they will reward you in turn.

So there you have it. It sounds like a lot, but the more you write, the easier it becomes.

About the Author

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is due out on March 10.

Photo thanks to Brett Jordan (Roboscribe)

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Take your content marketing to the Super Bowl

footballIf you follow the NFL, you know that the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are in the Super Bowl. And, you most likely know who is not in the Super Bowl: the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots.

For this post, I want to focus on the Broncos and the Patriots; the two teams who played each other for the AFC Championship and the chance to go to the Super Bowl.

New England was playing without one of their key offensive players: Rob Gronkowski. How key was Gronkowski? Let’s look at how the Patriots ranked in the league this past season:

  • Scoring in the Red Zone (within the 20-yard line): with him: 4th; without him: 30th
  • Passing yards: with him: 3rd; without him: 19th
  • Gaining first downs: with him: 2nd; without him: 16th

Not having him on the field definitely affects the team’s effectiveness … and may have cost the team their shot at the Super Bowl. Although there was an entire team, one player made such an impact.

Speaking of one player making an impact, you don’t have to watch football to know who Peyton Manning is. The quarterback for the Broncos is definitely an impact player. In fact, when he was the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts when he was injured for a season, the entire team seemed to fall apart.

The Colts learned the hard way that you couldn’t put all of your hopes in one player. The Denver Broncos built a team around Manning, but they made sure they had a solid team with other diverse and strong players.

You need more than one strong player

When it comes to your content marketing, don’t put all of your efforts in one place. If you want to take your marketing “to the big game,” you need a solid team.

As you have seen, Google is constantly updating its algorithm. If you’re thinking, “But Amy, Google likes X,” stop it! There are a lot of things that Google once “loved,” but now the search engine actually penalizes you for. Remember:

Those tactics worked great for a while, but companies who relied on one of these ended up paying the price when Google updated its algorithm – plus they were probably already losing conversions thanks to bad copy.

Build a diverse team for your content marketing

Even if you have a solid player, like customer-focused quality content, you need to have a full content marketing team. I’m not talking about people; I’m talking about strategies.

You can stop worrying about Google updates if – in addition to superior content that targets your specific audience – you have a:

With a strong team and just not one star, you can take your content to Super Bowl levels.

 

Photo credit:  American Football ©  | Dreamstime.com

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Spammy guest blogging is dead? Well duh.

spam car fliers are like spammy blog postsI’m amazed at how many people have their knickers in a knot after Matt Cutts’ latest announcement. In case you missed it, Matt’s latest post contained this interesting quote:

In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

In a word: duh.

I know, I know. People loved the magical link juice guest posting provided. That’s why blog owners receive emails saying, “I’ll write for you in exchange for a backlink.” It was never about connecting with their audience. It was all about getting the link.

Sadly, many site owners turned a blind eye and said, “OK.” They put an unknown writer – a writer they had no prior relationship with – in front of their readers. Why? To fill editorial holes. Because it was “free” content. Because they didn’t know any better.

(Note: I’m not talking about the site owners who researched their writers, carefully reviewed their submissions and insisted on quality writing. And neither is Matt – he makes that very clear in his post. There are a lot of great editors/sites out there that accept quality posts from smart writers. And there are a lot of excellent guest bloggers. They are doing it right. I’m talking about those other folks.) :)

This type of spammy guest blogging reminds me of the “article submissions and spinning” tactics from back in the day. Instead of focusing on quality writing (and quality submissions) people spread their articles around like a virulent word virus. And yeah. We all know how that turned out.

Spammy guest blogging is not marketing. It’s a stupid and short-sighted tactic like putting flyers on every car in a parking lot.  After all, when you use the “spray and pray” marketing method, you’re not really targeting your audience, are you?

Is it any wonder that Matt said, “Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”

So here are some things to think about:

If you publish a blog, you are a PUBLISHER. And that means you have a responsibility to give your readers the best possible content. If you are accepting blog posts from anyone without doing some due diligence,  you are putting your reputation (and now your rankings) at risk. It is far better to run fewer posts than it is to run a bunch of crappy ones. Econsultancy has a great post on how they are looking at this from the publishers’ perspective.

If you are a (quality) guest poster, think “does my audience read this publication” rather than “ooh, this would be another tasty link back to my site.” Write a post that’s laser-focused on that publication, the audience and their needs. Think of guest posting as a marketing play – not an SEO/link building play. After all, isn’t reaching a new audience better than just a link? As Ann Smarty said, “Do marketing AS IF Google didn’t exist.”

And if you’re a (spammy) guest poster, please give up now. Publishers are now on notice that your content will do nothing but get them in trouble. Save yourself (and everyone else) some time and quit sending your, “I will write an original and quality 500-word post in exchange for your back link” emails. Thank you.

Will my blog still accept guest posts? Sure. At the same time, Tracy, my editor, handpicks many of our guest posters. We don’t accept unsolicited posts.

Will I continue to guest blog? Yes. If it makes sense.

Is guest blogging dead? Not necessarily. But doing it just for the SEO play is dead.

Finally.

I’m so glad.

Photo thanks to Quinn Dombrowski (fliers on cars, taken too far)

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