Beyond SEO: The content marketing power of the blog

In my opinion, your company blog is the second most valuable piece of online real estate your company has, next to the company website of course.

Blogs and other content marketing platforms are essential for long term SEO success. The saying “content is King” has been around for a long time simply because it’s true. Great content gets shared and linked to, which makes it more valuable in the eyes of the search engines, which in turn helps your site perform better in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Each blog post can rank individually in the search engines, helping expand your overall online brand presence and giving you the opportunity to target various keywords as well as different segments of your target audience.

However, even with nearly 7 years of posts backing me up, I’m fairly confident that most visitors don’t find my company blogs by searching for “SEO blog.” There are too many high-powered industry blogs for me to compete effectively for that search term.

The same is true in most industries. Unless your company is a major player, chances are there are a few industry blogs that are always going to outperform yours. They’ll get more social shares, more RSS subscribers, more inbound links and more readers every day, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make big progress with your own company blog and help build your business online.

Become the go-to resource: Write to help your clients

I know and accept the fact that most of the content I write isn’t going to outrank some of the big names in the SEO industry, but I also know that it doesn’t matter. I’m not writing to rank well; I’m writing to help my clients.

I want to become a trusted source of information for my readers (no matter how many or how few that may be) so that if they ever are in need of SEO help they think to come to my site and blogs first. Some SEO blogs are geared towards other SEO professionals or more advanced site owners, but I focus on helping my target audience—small to mid-sized businesses, website owners and marketing professionals. Those are the people I want to connect with and build relationships with, so I create content that speaks to their unique needs.

I know that not every blog post is going to be a huge hit with every reader and go viral, but I also know that every post has that potential. You can’t force something to go viral, but as long as you are publishing great content you’ll succeed in the long run. When you focus on producing great content for the reader, as opposed to content that exists solely to help your SEO, you usually end up producing much more interesting and useful content.

Interesting and useful content gets shared, generic and boring (no matter how SEO friendly) does not.

Become savvy in your vertical: Write to fine tune your own skills

By adopting a content marketing schedule and sticking to it you actually help improve your own skills, along with providing valuable information to your target audience.

Think about it, in order to become and stay a trusted resource your readers need to know that you know what’s going on in your industry. You need to be aware of trends and how they impact your business and the business of your clients. What’s coming down the pipeline? What are people looking for more information on?

In order to give people the knowledge they need (and in a way that makes sense) you need to do your own research. Activities like reading other blogs, attending local conferences or signing up for a webinar help keep you on your toes and fuel your own content marketing strategy. The tips and tricks you learn can be spun for new posts for your own blog or company newsletter.

You don’t always need to be ahead of the curve but you should at least be keeping pace with the pack.

Content marketing is incredibly valuable for long term SEO success, but that isn’t the only reason website owners should invest in a company blog and other content marketing platforms. Writing content that speaks to your audience is going to pay off in the long run, both for SEO and your long term business success.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of the Boston-based full service SEO agency, Brick Marketing.  With 13 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

You can find Nick on Twitter [at] @brickmarketing, and contact him directly [at] nick@brickmarketing.com

Looking for low-cost SEO copywriting training? Learn more about the SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification Program, designed for in-house marketing professionals, agencies, SEO shops and copywriters.

photo/image thanks to Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

A 3-part pocketbook guide to business blogging

Greetings! Today we’re featuring Heather’s highly popular “how-to” business blogging video posts, as well as a third written post that asks “are you too busy to blog?” Good question, no?

No matter the size of your business, from enterprise to soloprenuer, a business blog is a fundamental part of any smart content marketing strategy in this highly competitive world of savvy, informed and content-hungry consumers.

Starting a business blog is much like having a baby. Since many of us are not familiar with business blogging, Heather offers tips for beginners as well as for those of us who may be a bit <ahem> rusty. Then, going beyond the launch of your blog, Heather addresses the less romantic, daily realities facing the business blogger.

And finally, we’re asked to consider if we are too busy to blog? What are the options? Enjoy this 3-part pocketbook guide of biz blogging tips!

 

3 Business Blogging Tips For Beginners

Were you among the many business owners who resolved to either start blogging or do more of it this year?  Given the overwhelming stat’s showing how blogging can increase leads, boost conversions, and drive more traffic to your site – of course you want a piece of that!

And while that’s a wonderful goal, it can be a challenging one for beginners. Tune in as Heather shows you the ropes and shares tips to help reduce the “frustration factor” of getting started…

 

3 (More) Business Blogging Tips For Beginners

In this follow-up business blogging video post, Heather goes beyond the launch of your blog and focuses on the nitty-gritty realities of business blogging: Do you have the time, resources, support, and practical wherewithall to keep your blog on track, consistently?

And do you know the critical distinction between sales writing and blog writing?

 

Are you too busy to blog?

It could be said that “no time to blog” isn’t a reasonable excuse. That’s because blogging drives traffic and helps establish you as an expert. It could be that you’ve found alternative content marketing strategies that work for you.

That said, if you’ve tried blogging and it worked for your company – even as a short-term experiment – you owe it to your bottom line to better manage your time or seek outside help to create the content that your readers crave.


Want to make more money with your online copywriting business? Check out SuccessWork’s Content Into Cash Business Boot Camp and make 2012 your most profitable year ever!

 

photo credit to SweetGirl©

 

 

 

 

3 (more) business blogging tips for beginners

Greetings! As you might have guessed, today’s how-to video builds on last week’s “3 business blogging tips for beginners.”

While thinking about that post, Heather realized that there were definitely more than just those three blogging tips to share, and so she created three more to do with the realities of time management and scheduling, as well as the question of sales vs. blog writing.

So if you are one of those folks who resolved to do more blogging for their business this year, tune in as Heather shares three more business blogging tips for beginners (and for those who may be a tad rusty)…

Original 3 business blogging tips: a recap

Last week, Heather discussed these three business blogging tips:

  • Brainstorm a list of possible topics
  • Loosen up!
  • Work with an editor

This week’s video focuses on the gritty realities of business blogging, starting with…

Tip #1: Be realistic

This first tip is focused around the time that you have to blog – realistically.

  • How much time do you have to blog?

A lot of people start off with the goal of writing a blog post every single work day, or maybe even churning out a couple of posts a day. They may think I have a lot in my head that I want to say…so yeah, that’s reasonable…

  • The challenge is that life gets in the way – and business gets in the way – of these ambitious blogging goals.

While you might have all these great ideas swirling about in your head, by the time that you’re able to actually sit down and write, you may well find that you really don’t have that much time to create a quality blog post… So think about how much time you really have to blog.

  • Think quality over quantity.

If it turns out that you can only create one blog post a week right now, that’s okay!

One really good, quality blog post a week is far better than five so-so blog posts a week, cranked out at the 11th hour just for the sake of creating something. Think quality over quantity.

  • Can other people help you?

Another thing to consider is if there are other folks within your company that can help you with writing blog posts.

This one can be tricky – because these other folks would need to be accountable for their blog posts, making blog writing an additional part of their normal responsibilities.

But if you have other people available within your business that could be good writers and have topic ideas, definitely see if you can bring them on board to help!

Tip #2: Schedule your blog posts

This tip addresses time management, and the editorial calendar.

  • Set deadlines and put them in your calendar.

This means: know exactly what you’re going to write, when.

Last week, we discussed brainstorming ideas for possible blog post topics – this is where you put those ideas on paper and say, “Okay, I’m blogging twice a week, and for Wednesday’s posts I’m going to talk about X.”

In the writing world, we call this an editorial calendar. It is a visual tool that allows you to look at a given week and know exactly what you’re going to be writing, and know exactly when you need to publish the post online.

  • Give yourself a lot of writing time.

If you’re just getting into blogging, be gentle with yourself: it may take a long time to write a blog post and again, that’s okay!  Even for professional writers, it can take a very long time to write a quality blog post.

  • So make sure you give yourself that gift of time. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself by thinking, “I have 30 minutes…I can kick out the post really fast.” Even an experienced writer might choke in such a situation.

Prevent that last-minute deadline stress and give yourself a lot of writing time before the deadline.

  • Be faithful to your blogging schedule.

Consider your blog post schedule and deadlines with the same weighty level of seriousness you’d give to your clients’ deadlines, or those of the IRS. Make a commitment to keep to your blogging schedule and honor your editorial calendar.

Tip #3: It’s OK to link to your products/services – just don’t overdo it.

This final tip concerns the writing itself.

  • Blog writing and sales writing are different – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some soft promotion.

Rather than thinking of your blog post as a sales medium – where you talk about all the wonderful things you can do or provide for the reader – instead come up with a general, informational article.  Think of a topic that would address customer questions, or would otherwise be useful to your readers.

  • If it makes sense to link to a product/service in your post – go for it.

You can easily direct traffic into your website’s inner product/service pages with links from your blog post, if it flows naturally and makes sense to do so. Such soft promotion is okay – just don’t overdo it.

  • You can always put a sales “blurb” at the bottom of every post, too.

You don’t have to get heavy-handed with the sales writing. You can simply place a sales “blurb” at the end of each informational blog post, such as: “Would you like to learn more about our emergency plumbing services? Feel free to contact us at X.”

  • Using a sales blurb provides you an opportunity to include a little bit of call-to-action, while ensuring that the integrity of your blog post stays intact.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting video! If you have a question for Heather, you can tweet it to her @heatherlloyd or email  heather@seocopywriting.com. And be sure to check back next Monday for another hot Web-writing tip – it may well answer your question. See you then!

Just getting by with your copywriting business? Ramp it up this year: check into SuccessWorks’ Content Into Cash Business Boot Camp and make 2012 your best ever!

 

photo credit: mrbill (Bill Bradford)

3 business blogging tips for beginners

Welcome back! Today’s video offers three actionable business blogging tips for beginners, as well as for those of you who may be a bit “rusty.”’

Heather thought business blogging would be a timely topic, as many business owners resolved to either start blogging or do more of it this New Year. They’ve seen the stat’s showing how blogging can increase leads, boost conversions, and drive more traffic to their site – and they want a piece of that!

And while that’s a wonderful goal, it can be a challenging one for beginners. So tune in as Heather shows you the ropes and shares bonus tips to help reduce the “frustration factor” of getting started…

Tip #1: Make a list of possible blog topic ideas

One of the big mistakes all online writers make – even those who are experienced bloggers – is to assume that the blog topic will come to them once they sit down to write.

Unfortunately, the blogging muse rarely strikes so spontaneously.

It’s easy to feel pulled in a million different directions, so what happens is the deadline you’ve set creeps closer and closer and you panic – realizing you have no idea what to write about.

Here are some starting points to help you plan your topics and avoid the blog deadline panic:

  • What questions do customers ask?
  • Can you offer any DIY (do-it-yourself) tips?
  • What are some “hot topics” in your industry?
  • Research other blogs in your space. What are they talking about?
  • Looking for local customers? Can you tie a local issue back to your business?
  • Is there a list of blog posts/sites that you love?

These are just brainstorming ideas. You don’t have to worry about creating a formal framework or outline at this point – just put your ideas down on paper.

  • Tip: Don’t copy posts from another blog. Link to it instead – and discuss why you think the blog post is a good one.

Besides the obvious copyright violation issue, copying from another blog doesn’t showcase your expertise. So if there is a blog post that you really love, link to it and tell your readers why they should check it out.

Discussing and linking to another post is a far more valuable strategy for positioning you as an expert, as opposed to randomly pulling resources from other sites and having no original content of your own.

Tip #2: Loosen up!

If you’re new to blogging and online writing, it can feel really weird to start. You may flash back to high school or college, conjuring teachers and professors and that red pen inking up your work. You may second-guess every word you write.

  • You’re not in high school English class anymore.

Relax. You’re not writing some sort of “paper” for grading. Try to write as you would talk – it will help the copy flow more easily and naturally.

  • Write with personality! A good writing style can make the most technical subjects approachable and fun to read about.

This is especially true when writing about a technical subject. Your writing doesn’t have to be dry and boring, even if the topic may seem so. Infuse it with personality and it will be far more readable and enjoyable!

Tip #3: Work with an editor

This is a really important tip for everyone, no matter how experienced they may be.

  • Typos happen.

Have an editor to check your writing for typos, grammatical errors, and to ensure that your message is coming through as you intended.

It’s so easy for all of us to get too close to our own stuff that we miss these nitty things. So if you start uploading unedited blog posts to your site, with typos, bad grammar, or rambling, unfocused copy, it just makes your company look bad. And you don’t want to do that.

Also, having an editor is one of the easiest ways you can reduce the stress of writing – just knowing you have a second set of eyes that will catch those common writing errors.

  • If your editor also knows SEO copywriting, he/she can help your post get better search rankings.

A bonus is to have an editor trained in SEO copywriting best practices. Then you have an ally who can not only edit your copy, but also optimize it for search engines to achieve better rankings and drive more traffic to your blog.

Did you resolve to earn more money this year? Good news! Heather is offering a 30% discount on her SEO Copywriting Certification training. Use coupon code SEOCOPY-30 to save almost $180!

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting video! If you have a question for Heather, you can tweet it to her @heatherlloyd or email  heather@seocopywriting.com. And be sure to check back next Monday for another hot Web-writing tip – it may well answer your question. See you then!

 

photo thanks to Jhayne: Foxtongue

Ann Smarty shares 8 steps to landing guest posts

Guest Author, Ann Smarty

Ah, guest posting. While blogs were once a fringe activity similar to writing a journal, they now represent a great bulk of much of the average freelance writer’s work. If you own a blog yourself you have probably written guest posts before, or written them for someone else. If you are a writer you will probably regularly look for chances to expand your visibility by searching out chances to get involved with various high-profile sites.

But if your application process is specifically aimed at getting approved for a post you are doing it wrong! Your focus is not in the right place and it might be costing you your chances. Instead, use these eight tips to help you land the spot every time.

Tip #1 – Focus On What THEY Need, Not What YOU Want

You have a great idea for a post about how iPhone apps can be used to increase market visibility, and you know just the blog to pitch the piece to. Having read their blog many times before, you remember a similar piece done just a few weeks ago. So you eagerly shoot off an email along with the headline idea, confident that this post you want to write will be well received. A few days later you get a big, fat no.

What happened?

Really, it should be obvious: a similar piece was already written on the topic a short time before. Therefore, it is not needed. However much you wanted to write it they have no demand, and so you won’t land the spot. You should have taken that into account before offering your services, and shown that you were aware of what they needed.

Not only will it give them a chance at using something they require during that time, but it will show that you are a regular reader. It will also put off a professional and competent air, and that means everything in a business where any blogger is taking a chance when they hire a guest poster. Add that to the fact that you come off as considerate and you have a recipe for a good working relationship.

Tip #2 – Watch Your Tone

I have lost track of the times when I had read a pitch that sounded like the person was doing me a favor. “I am an excellent writer, highly skilled, and I have this post idea I know you and your readers will love! Let me know when it is up, please.” This is a line taken directly from a pitch I received just a few days ago. I saved it in order to show you an example of a quick way to be turned down.

Not only was he talking himself up immediately, but he assumed that I was just going to put it up on my blog. He didn’t ask, he didn’t give me a chance to read it first, he just made the aggressive move of telling me to let him know when it was published. What a jerk! Would you go to a job interview and end it by asking your potential boss when you start?

He may have thought he sounded confident, but he just came off as arrogant. Plus, the post wasn’t anywhere near the quality I demand of my guest posters.

On the other hand, sounding too submissive is also a turn off. I have gotten emails from people begging to write for me, or asking for links. It is annoying and I tend to just ignore them outright.

Tip #3 – Don’t Be Intimidated…You Are Equal

When dealing with one of the “Blogerati” and celebrity writers that have taken over the Internet with their popular sites, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. These are successful people who have gained actual status in cyberspace, which is not that easy to do. With such a huge wash of blogs out there, they managed to claw their way to the top. They are the Perez Hilton’s and Jason Chen’s, and you might feel intimidated.

But remember, they were just like you once. They are regular people who are running a business and know what it is like to just start out. They had to work to get there, and they are usually pretty nice people. Remain friendly and natural, and acknowledge their success without fawning over it. These are writers, not rock stars.

Tip #4 – Have a Good Sense of Humor

I go through endless guest blog requests a month. So many that they tend to swim in front of my eyes and leave my brain the moment I read them. It takes something special to really catch my attention, and humor is a big factor. If you can make me laugh then I will remember your email forever. You will also be much more likely to get on my list of published bloggers, because it shows me you can add that humor to your writing.

That doesn’t mean you should make everything into a joke. But show me you can turn a couple of things into that direction and you are golden.

Tip #5 – Research, Research, Research

One of the most aggravating things I see is someone applying to guest post without any knowledge of my blog. Honestly, you would think that they would take a little bit of time to get to know me and what it is I do. Maybe read a few posts, check the FAQ page, read updates on projects. Anything. But so many completely ignore this part and instead offer unrelated posts or at times when the last thing I need is more content.

Before you shoot off that eager email, take some time to study the site. Look at what it is all about and what has been going on recently. Check posts to see what kind of topics get the most response. See if there is anything from the past you could properly update that got a lot of attention but hasn’t been covered in awhile. Research the blog, not just the post!

Tip #6 – Introduce Yourself Without Writing a Biography

Of course the blogger want to know a little bit about you: where are you from, what are you interested in, what do you do? Basic questions that any survey would probably ask, mainly to get an idea of who you are and what you will be able to write about.

But notice how I said a little bit. No one wants to read a biography about you, not an introductory email. Offer up a few small facts about yourself and leave it at that. Anything else should be specifically about your work experience, and even then only a few choice bits you are especially proud of.

Tip #7 – Show What You Got

When I was first starting up I would always offer a small list of three links that showed off online work I was really proud of. These were my “samples”, and it was usually on those samples alone that I got work. They showed that I could write well and covered a broad range of topics.

Remember when you are linking your own samples not to do too many. Three is usually any ideal amount, as it is enough to show consistency. You should also try and link to at least one related to the topic you are applying to post about. Though that isn’t actually mandatory.

Tip #8 – Drop a Few Names

Yeah, it sound like a cheesy move. But dropping the names of a couple of blogs along with your pitch can really help to show that reliable sources have published you in the past. Of course, you don’t want to do too many of these. Just name off two or three places that have hired you in the past. You can attach those to links for your samples as well.

Land The Post Every Time!

See, it isn’t that hard. These are some common sense rules that are nevertheless violated on an alarmingly regular basis. If you keep these tips in mind you will be sure to greatly improve your chances to getting that guest post of your dreams.

Ann Smarty is the SEO consultant and professional blogger at SEOsmarty.com. She is also the owner of MyBlogGuest.com, the free community designed to connect guest authors to blog owners. If you are serious about your guest blogging strategy, join us for free!

Boost your copywriting income! Check into the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program for a prosperous 2012!

Blogger’s block? Time crunch? 5 easy ways to reuse your blog posts

Crunched for time? Uninspired? Suffering blogger’s block?

Or maybe you just need to take a break already, maybe even – dare you say it – a vacation?

You’re not alone, by any means.  A lot of bloggers struggle with the occupational hazard of being chained to creating exceptional content on a regular basis – even if their muse, time, and sanity are suffering. So in today’s video blog, Heather shares five easy – note, easy – ways you can reuse your hard-labored, older blog posts to produce new, fresh content!

Interested? Thought so. Tune in as Heather delineates five specific ways you can repurpose your older blog posts, so you can take some well-deserved time off and recharge your blogging mojo!

Heather was inspired by a recent post by Chris Brogan on just this topic, in which he discussed how recycling blog posts wasn’t only good for you, but also good for your readers in that they appreciate seeing older blog posts presented in a new way.

So here are five ideas to help you make that happen:

1. Group Similar Content Together in a Guide-Like Format

  • The advantage? You’ve created a fantastic resource, and the post is easy to write!

The example that Chris Brogan used was that he could include all of his blog posts on Google+ and voila – have a complete guide to Google+ : it would do very well in the blogosphere and be easy for him to pull together.  All he’d have to do is write the introduction, include the links, and he’d be good to go!

  • Create a download-ready PDF: As an aside, you can also do the same thing –but rather than putting it online as a guide, you could create a PDF for your readers to download as a way of lead generation.

So there are a lot of ways you can play with grouping content together, if you have the type of content that lends itself to a guide-like, themed format.

2. Look at Your Analytics

  • Share your top 5 or 10 most popular blog posts

When you’re just stuck, look at your analytics and consider writing a blog post around the five or ten most popular posts of the quarter or year.  You see these types of posts a lot near year’s end.

3. Look for Similarities Among Your Posts

  • List the posts with the most comments, the most controversial, or even the most “under appreciated”…

You might not be looking at a guide necessarily, but you can play with ways that your posts may lend themselves to grouping, and you can have a lot of fun with it!

4. Look for Differences: Do You Have a New Perspective?

  • Include snippets from your “old” blog post and discuss your new opinion

If you work in an industry that’s moving quickly, chances are that your mind has blown a number of times!  So the perspective you shared a couple of years ago – or, in some industries, even six months ago – may have shifted somewhat.

This is a great opportunity to share with your readers your new take on a given subject from your older post.  You can include snippets from your older blog post and then indicate your change in thinking about the topic.

This would make for a more personal post, and one your readers most likely would appreciate.

5. Use Past Blog Posts to Inspire Video Content

  • Ask yourself:  “Can I take something from an older blog post and create a video around it?”

Chances are, you most certainly can! This is something a lot of folks forget to consider. It is so, so easy to think that you need to hammer out a new, exceptional and wonderful blog post every day/week/what have you, when you can repurpose content from an older post into a video post.

So instead of looking at how much you need to write, consider recycling an older blog post into a video. You can use your past blog posts to inspire video content!  You can simply take a snippet from just one point of a blog post then use that to create brand new video content.

You can still have a blog post wrapper around the video, of course. But also consider that video reaches people in a different way, and it’s yet another way for folks to find you via the search engines!

Thanks for tuning in to this Monday’s Video SEO Copywriting how-to!  Do you have a question for Heather? Great! Send it on over to her at heather@seocopywriting.com and check in for her video reply, next Monday. See you then!

photo courtesy flickr: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a bad guest blogger?

Who doesn’t love guest blogging? You get to write about what you love. You can reach brand-spankin’ new readers. The exposure can’t be beat. :) Not to mention, being asked to guest blog is an incredible honor. Someone is telling you, “I love your stuff so much that I want to share it with my readers.” What a huge compliment!

But you know how some folks take a compliment and throw it back in your face? There are some “bad bloggers” who (perhaps inadvertently) do the same thing. Because of their blogging missteps, they make themselves look bad, drive editors insane and cause all sorts of extra work (assuming the post runs at all.)

Here are 5 of the most common “bad guest blogger” types…

    1. The “My Muse took me in a different direction” guest blogger. It’s true that a writer’s Muse can be extremely fickle. One second, a post idea will sound absolutely fabulous. The next minute – not so much. It’s OK to be Muse-driven – but it’s not OK to switch gears and turn in a whole ‘nother post than what you discussed with the editor. Once you’ve decided on a post topic, you need to stick with that decision. Going in a different direction may seem like you’re “writing in the flow,” but the blog editor will see it as “changing your mind and messing up her editorial calendar.”
    2. The “nobody’s perfect” guest blogger.  Sure, we all make mistakes. Typos happen. But “making a mistake” doesn’t mean “turning in a blog post full of grammatical errors, disconnected thoughts and funky typos, costing the editor one hour of her life cleaning it up.” Just because you’re blogging for exposure doesn’t mean that you can turn in so-so work. If you know that your writing style can be a tad..challenging…hire an editor to check your work before you send it out. Or if you don’t have time to write a really good guest post, wait until you have the ability to focus and do it right. Besides, what would happen if the editor posted your article –  uncorrected –  just to teach you a lesson.  I wouldn’t take that chance…
    3. The “look at me” guest blogger. Don’t be too sexy for your own blog post. Like the slimy guy at the singles bar, every word this blogger writes is geared to gain attention…to his own stuff. There’s rarely a shred of useful information. Instead, it’s all about him – how smart he is. Who he knows. Other fantastic posts he’s written. The sad thing is that nobody really cares – and pushing a “look at me” post screams “I don’t have anything worth reading.” Here’s a tip – if your bio is longer than your blog post, you’re a “look at me” guest blogger. Dial it down, dude.
    4. The “share the love” guest blogger. This person thinks, “I’ve written such a fantastic blog post. Why shouldn’t I syndicate it everywhere I can, as soon as I can.” Yeah, that’s a bad idea. According to the super-smart Ann Smarty in her article, What Guest Posting Is Not: Getting It Right, “DON’T do it. You’ll just screw the relationships with powerful bloggers and influencers in your niche and achieve nothing.”
    5. The “deadline, what deadline” guest blogger.  This is the scariest type of blogger. This person promises “Yes, I’ll have your post by noon on Friday.” When noon on Friday rolls around, this same blogger is surprised that the blog editor is upset that there’s no post – and a big hole in her editorial calendar. If you’ve promised a blog post by X, treat it like you would treat a client gig and don’t miss the deadline. Remember, the industry is small – and people do talk. Missing deadlines is a sure way to mess up a valuable connection.

It’s easy to be a great guest blogger. Turn in your blog posts on time (or early, if you really want to impress an editor.) Slice the self-promotion. Write a fantastic article. With just a little work, I guarantee that you’ll have more guest posts that you can handle – and editors will love working with you.

How to turn your creativity up to 11

I’m often asked, “Heather, how do you write so much content without burning out?”

Um, good question. I could talk about how I’ve spent almost half of my life studying copywriting (ack, that’s scary to type.) Or how I force myself to write online copy, even when I don’t feel like writing. Or how I’m just plain stubborn.

But what’s the real secret of my success?

I force myself to take breaks – long, soul-renewing breaks – and let my creative juices do their thing.

I wasn’t always like this. Up until a year ago, I was working, working, working all the time. My day would start at 7 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. I’d finish one task and immediately move to the next one. I wasn’t taking vacations or many breaks during the day. Or if I was “taking a break,” I was playing on my phone or surfing on my iPad. Which, yeah, isn’t really a break.

I was intense.

During this time, I wasn’t really digging what I was writing. Sure, it was OK – but I wasn’t having those brilliant flashes of creativity that makes a writer’s life worthwhile. I wasn’t looking at my sentence structure thinking, “Damn, that’s goooood.” Was I feeling burnt out? Hell yeah. But I pushed through (sound familiar?).

In short, I wasn’t writing in the flow anymore – and that bugged me.

Then one day, I had to write a blog post after an acupuncture appointment. I thought I was “too relaxed” to write, but I sat down and did it anyway – part of that stubborn streak I have. What flowed (and yes, it flowed) was my “SEO copywriting tips in Haiku” post – and it remains as one of my most popular posts.

Aha! I made the connection. A more relaxed Heather means better writing.  When I’m feeling good, I can turn my creativity up to a Spinal Tap 11. Got it.

Turns out other folks are making the same connection. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wrote an article about the benefits of soul-crushing boredom (props to @acteeple for the great link). The Huffington Post had a post today that discussed how “cyberloafing” at work can actually boost productivity. There’s even a National Relaxation Day on August 15th (Did you miss it and work instead? Yeah, me too.)

Plus, many writers report having their best ideas when they’re doing something else – taking a bath, enjoying a walk, or even just spacing out. Think about this in your own life. After all, have you ever had a brilliant flash of insight after working a 12-hour day?

Nope, didn’t think so.

Taking breaks actually encourages (and protects) your creativity. If you’re a freelance copywriter, Web designer, or do anything that’s more creative in nature, you NEED to chill out. You NEED to protect your creativity like a surgeon protects her hands.

Without our creativity, we’re lost.

If you’re feeling scrunched from all sides, building in some downtime could be just the ticket.  You may not be able to plan a 2-week cruise right now – but you can at least take steps to regain some work/life balance. For instance:

  • If you finish a task, take a 15 minute break away from the computer before moving to the next one.
  • Rather than fiddling with your phone when you’re bored, put it away and enjoy the moment. Even if it’s a boring moment.
  • Take time to do something “nonproductive” like walking, cooking or just staring off into space.
  • Spend at least one day a week away from your computer, iPad, iPod – you know, all those technological toys that we “can’t live without.” Guess what? You’ll be able to live without them.
  • Try something completely new. I love climbing into sensory deprivation float tanks and enjoying total darkness for 90 minutes. It sounds weird and scary – but damn, it’s been transformative.

This blog post lists other ways to step away from the screen give yourself a break.

Taking a chill pill doesn’t mean that you’re being lazy (I can hear my father’s voice telling me to “Get up and do something” every time I take a break!). Nor does it mean that you’re stupid or you’re not working “hard enough” (whatever that means.)

It means that you’re taking care of your creativity.

And you’ll find that your creativity has been cranked way, way up to  11. Who can beat that?

Next year, I’ll be taking over 2 weeks off to raft the Grand Canyon. There will be no phone. There will be no laptop or television. It’s freakin’ scary to know that I’ll be that unplugged, but I’m also looking forward to the experiment. Who knows where my creativity will take me – or how life-changing unplugging will be. I may go nuts the first couple days, but I know the experience will be well worth it.

Now isn’t it time to step away from the computer and take a break?  But before you go, post a comment on your fave ways to “chill out” and rejuvenate yourself. You may spark an idea for someone else.

Are you writing dead end conversion pages?

I’m one of those people who have a…challenged…sense of direction. (Case in point: My husband’s latest gift to me was a GPS.) It’s actually amazing how I can head towards my location, sure that I know where I’m going…

…and somehow end up at a dead end.

And what do you do at a dead end? You turn yourself around and get the heck out of there.

I was thinking today about all the websites that have “dead end” copy that doesn’t go anywhere. I typically see it on FAQ pages – although I’ve certainly seen it in blog posts and articles too. Here’s what I mean.

Here’s a clip from the STOTT Pilates FAQ page:

The copy blurb is trying to differentiate STOTT equipment from lower price consumer models. It’s true that quality equipment is a big deal – if you’re serious about your workout, you probably want professional home equipment.

The challenge is, it doesn’t tell the reader what they should do next (a bad sales mistake.) The copy doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t link to their equipment page and encourage the click. From a conversion perspective, it’s a dead end.

Here’s another example from SodaStream:

If you’re a sparkling water addict like I am, these machines are awesome! You may have even gotten excited while reading the copy, thinking, “I want to check out the price right now.”

But you can’t – not without clicking on the nav. There’s no hyperlink leading you to the next conversion step.

The copy is a dead end.

How do you fix dead end pages?

It’s so simple. Whenever applicable, add a call to action link to your copy. Here’s all it would take in the SodaStream example:

“Find the home soda maker that’s perfect for you.” (link to product page.)

The STOTT Pilates FAQ blurb could end with, “Check out our Pilates equipment catalog” and link to the equipment page. If they ran a sale, I’d mention the sale in the link, “STOTT equipment for up to 40% off.”

It’s really as easy as that. You don’t need to beat the reader over the head. Just a simple link will do.

Wait! These aren’t sales pages. Why should I care?

Because you should always care. :)

Granted, articles and FAQ pages are geared towards folks in the “research” phase of the buy cycle. These people aren’t quite ready to buy – but they are checking out options. Adding a non-obtrusive call to action may move them along the conversion path a tad faster. The prospect could go from “interested browser” to “customer” – and all it took was the addition of one quick hyperlink.

So, consider going through your articles and blog posts and see if they’re feeling the dead end blues. As my father used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” – and you always want to ask for the sale.

5 steps to great content for readers and search engines

Kristi Hines

One thing that has become evident in the post-Google Panda world is that if you want to ensure that your site doesn’t lose rankings, you will need great content!

Not simply search engine optimized content, but content that both search engines AND visitors will enjoy alike.

Everyone’s content development process is a little different.  Today I’d like to share mine with you, particularly when it comes to writing.

1.  Figure out your target keywords

Sure, most people know a few keywords that define their site.  But chances are, they are not enough keywords to generate writing topics around.  In some cases, your keywords might be general enough that you can narrow them down into more specific topics of focus.  In other cases, your keywords may be so specific that you need to broaden your horizons in order to find topics to write about.

Keyword suggest tools are the best way to go for finding keyword phrases that people search for often. When you start typing in a keyword on Google, for example, it will start suggesting related search terms:

Google isn’t the only suggest tool out there though – be sure to check out Bing, Yahoo, Blekko, Topsy, Wefollow, Delicious, and YouTube for additional keyword ideas.

The best part about the latter four is Topsy and Wefollow will tell you what keywords are popular on Twitter, Delicious will tell you what is popular in articles that are frequently bookmarked, and YouTube, of course, will tell you what is popular in video content.

2. Generate some content ideas based on those keywords that people will want to read

Once you have a great list of keywords, the next step is to create headlines that will appeal to readers.  The best way to generate some great content ideas is to use proven headline formulas, such as those given in the free guide, 102 Headline Formulas by Chris Garrett of Authority Blogger, and plug those keywords into the headlines in which they fit best.

For even more ideas, don’t miss Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines, which is an 11 part series on writing better headlines in no time.

3. Forget the SEO and write your content

Here’s what I consider the fun part.  This is where you forget about SEO for a while and just write your content.  Instead of thinking about optimization, think about the content – articles, blog posts, magazine pieces, etc. – that you have really enjoyed reading and write your content in that manner. Make it enjoyable, valuable, and exciting for readers!

I would also suggest during this writing spree to hold off on the editing as this can slow down your writing process. Let the ideas flow from your mind to your keyboard, then take the editorial run through to check for spelling and grammatical issues.

4. After your article is written, then you can work on the search optimization.

Now that you have a great piece of content that people will love to read, you should go back through and add the optimization features that will make the content easily searchable and targeted for your keyword phrase.  This includes the title tag and meta description, header tags (H2’s and H3’s especially), and optimization of your images (including the  ALT description), and a proper file name with keywords.

5. Get out and promote it!

Last, but not least, once that awesome piece of content is written, optimized, and published online, you will need to go out and promote it.  Content is not something where you create it and your audience will just naturally flock to it (unless you’re Mashable and already have a monster audience).

You will need to promote your content through social media, your mailing list (for those especially awesome pieces), instant messenger, forums, blog comments, and any other form of getting the word out in which you can participate.  Only then will your content be a success!

I hope these steps help you balance the fine line between SEO friendly and reader friendly content development when it comes to your blog posts, articles, and page content.  What additional tips would you like to give writers who have to develop content for both worlds?

Kristi Hines is a blogging and social media enthusiast.  She has also written an extensive guide on blog post promotion which will help you increase the traffic, social shares, and comments you receive for every article you write!