8 tips for writing content that sticks

The web is filled with mushrooming content, with no real score of what is worth our time to read. What most people do is scan and skim through pages of articles with fast mouse-clicks, only to actually spend time to read cornerstone content. In this article, we will talk about eight tips to writing cornerstone content. But before anything else, let’s define what it is.

What is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content is one that is composed with powerful data, outstanding facts, creative out-of-the-box opinions, and true advice that leave great emotional impact on readers, and/or impart a strong and positive sense of your brand’s identity.

With more and more of these cornerstone content pieces produced on your site, you will notice that the number of likes, shares, re-tweets, and plus-one’s will increase via both social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

How to Write Cornerstone Content

1. Follow best practices of grammar.

Remember when your high school English teachers keep on reiterating the correct subject-verb agreement?

Now is the time that you should pay extra attention to your tenses, your sentence buildup, correct usage of words, formation of phrases in relation to the topic and the like. If you have a good topic but your reader gets frustrated and sick of your wrong grammar, every writing effort will be a waste.

2. Write to a specific audience.

When you have a niche or specific topic, you should write with a conversational tone speaking directly to one target audience.

For example, if you are writing about the cures for a medical disease, don’t write in medical jargon – relate to your readers with a personal tone. You need to express your ideas with an energetic voice that strikes a balance between seriousness and wit for them to remain focused.

3. Do your homework.

By “homework,” this means research.

Readers are impressed by – and will stay “hooked” to – your content if it contains useful and informative information. These are people who trust that your content can give them the answers to their burning questions.

To achieve this without sounding like you’re trying too hard, write on subjects that you’re most knowledgeable, familiar, and comfortable with. First-hand knowledge is never second best, and research data only comes second. You can get a plus when you have interviewed experts in the chosen field and share the lessons and insights learned as part of your content.

4. Be clear on the objective.

Let your readers know that the article is well-planned and well-structured – and one that attains a clear, specified goal in the end.

You should begin to capture your audience through your introduction, telling them what the article is about and what the intent is. The details fall in the body, following through on the main intent and pointing out the solutions to tackle and solve the issue at hand.

You should provide a clear explanation as to how you end up with your conclusions, thereby matching your objective as determined in the first paragraph.

5. Stay inspired.

Reading fuels your mind—particularly, your creativity.

Look for interesting articles with similar cornerstone content, and try to model them to improve your own work. Also, delve into places that can spark inspiration. Travelling to experience new adventures, communicating with strangers, and eating exotic food might be good ways to start.

The key is to not write the same things repeatedly. Strive for the inspiration to offer fresh and exciting content every time.

6. Inject interaction.

Don’t fill your content with dry facts from beginning to end.

This type of writing is too formal and should be left to newscasters, “hard copy” journalists, technical writers, etc. If you’re blogging or promoting something on your site, you should try to look for ways to call your readers’ attention to action. You can do this by asking questions in the middle or at the end.

For example, if your topic is about shopping, ask your readers about their shopping strategies and make them feel free to respond by leaving their comments below. You can also assure them that you’ll reply to their e-mailed queries.

7. Be original.

Make use of Google Trends, Adwords, and other traffic searching tools to see how many hits a keyword gets.

Search for the keywords you intend to use and see how many original posts this niche has. Many content on the web are just copycats, rephrased time and again. Your writing efforts will pay off when you set a different angle and perspective to it. Give it a different spin, weave the story and make it more interesting than the rest. In this way, readers will be more likely to like your content than others’, though you have the same topics.

8. Make sections.

There’s nothing more boring than reading a text chockfull of unending paragraphs.

If you don’t want to be scanned and ignored, follow the golden rule: break your article into sections. Usually, readers know about two-thirds of the information or message you’re conveying already. What they want out of your article is the gist and the distinct juices that they can squeeze out of it.

So it’s important to break your text into manageable and readable chunks (e.g. bullet-point form or numbered list) to highlight the main points and let them see immediately what they came looking for. This article is an example!

Concluding Thoughts

Writing cornerstone content is largely about presenting your thoughts differently from the other thousands of existing pieces of content on the web with the same idea. By applying these tips, you can watch your content (and “space”) soar in traffic and popularity. Start and end with a bang and you’ll stick your brand, ideas and content to their minds like gum sticking to their hair…but far more pleasantly so.

 

About the Author ~ Celina Conner

Celina Conner is a Yoga Instructor, an alumna of Marketing Management at Martin College Australia and a mother of a beautiful daughter, Krizia. She has a passion in cooking and formulating vegan recipes.Follow her adventures on Twitter.

 

photo thanks to teamstickergiant (John Fischer)

 

You’re invited! Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 22nd, Heather will be holding an open Q & A at noon Pacific / 3pm Eastern. Email our Heather G. for call-in information: vip@seocopywriting.com. Look forward to “seeing” you there!

 

 

5 things that make me stop reading a blog post

I have been a blogger and a net reader for a long time. I am not always the most focused reader because I have clients, multiple email accounts, Twitter, Facebook and my work at SEJ (Search Engine Journal) that I maintain all day. When I read an article I need something that keeps my brain interested and stimulated from the beginning. As the managing editor of SEJ I have to keep up with the SEO world and also read incoming articles from our writers. So I know what holds my interest and what loses it.

With Twitter I am clicking on links to articles all day long. I will be honest and say I give very little time to a good number of posts and I am going to tell you 5 reasons why:

1) The Font is Too Small and/or Too Hard to Read

I know some people like their fancy, little fonts and their “super-clean” designs and that is fine, but if the reader has to struggle to read they will leave long before you want them to. I need to read fast and anything that stops me from doing so loses my interest quickly.

It is important to remember that not everyone is using a 20-24 inch screen. Some are using an 11-13 inch laptop and your little, fancy font might make reading a nightmare. Who reads a nightmare? Make sure whatever font you choose is easy to read for everyone on every screen size and every browser. Use A/B testing if you feel you must use a unique font and really determine which font keeps visitors the longest.

2) There Are No Headlines

I am a scanner as soon as the page loads. If there are no headlines and lots of paragraphs I am instantly irritated. I personally need headlines and graphics to break up the text. Headlines can instantly indicate that the article is worth staying for and valuable data will be given throughout. If there are no headlines I often leave. The only time I don’t is when I know that someone really important wrote it and I have to force myself to read it. Yes, I said force and you know what happens when someone does something they really don’t want to? They are not as focused as they should be and important items are missed.

3) Headlines That Are Not Supportive

Headlines need to support the subject of your article. If I click on a link about Google+ and I see headlines not about Google+ why would I stay? Sometimes writers get creative with headlines and have personal feelings in their headlines, quotes, or funny sayings. I read to get facts and information I can use. As I said before, I scan to determine if your posts will give me the data I need. If all I see is your feelings or humor I am gone. If your feelings include something about Google+ then I would get it, but only then.

If the subject of your post is about you and your feelings than headlines with feelings would make sense. If your post is about a particular subject make sure your headlines support that subject.

4) An Unfocused Article

I think it was in midde school that they taught us the basic 5-paragraph writing strategy:

Beginning paragraph – explain what you will write about.

Have 3 supporting paragraphs – Paragraph one would explain a subject or issue. Paragraph two would have a different topic, but would build on paragraph one. Paragraph three would introduce another concept but would support one and two.

Ending paragraph – summarize paragraph one through three and come up with a conclusion.

That strategy is pretty basic, but it makes sense because there is a clear direction for the reader and writer. There needs to be a sense of direction in every post, from beginning to end. A reader should not be confused on the direction or they will give up and leave. Don’t make it hard for your reader to understand where you are going with your post. Keep it focused and give them something to remember. You want the reader to come back, so you have to make them believe you have good information to give.

Another tip – read through your post and delete any words/sentences that do not directly support your focus.

5). Font to Background Contrast

There are some that think that a light gray background looks nice with text that is a slightly darker gray. Nope. If the background and font are too similar I leave. I need the text to stand out and be easy to read quickly. I don’t need to strain my eyes to read and your visitors don’t either.

Please have some contrast that will make reading easy on mobile devices, all computers and all the browsers people use.

Concluding Thoughts

I will admit that I am unique in a way, in that I am in a rush all of the time. I have a lot to do quickly and I don’t have time to waste. Others may be calmer than I and have all the time in the world to read, but I know there are many like me. Your website and/or blog has to target multiple audiences. People like me can be the most supportive audience you have, so it is important that you visually please those that decide quickly if they are going to stay or go.

 

Melissa Fach is the Managing Editor of Search Engine Journal and the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. She has been in the Internet marketing business and blogging world for the last 7 years. She is a self-proclaimed Star Wars need and geek extraordinaire. She also takes great pride in being a big cat volunteer. You can find her on Twitter – SEO Aware.

 

photo thanks to DonkeyHotey

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

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!

 

 

 

Should you kill your blog?

I know this will sound weird coming from the SEO content chick. But I’m going to say it anyway.

Some companies should give up on blog writing and kill their blog.

Here’s why.

SEO content marketers (myself included) agree that blogging for B2B and B2C companies is a smart SEO and customer engagement move.  Blogs are great for marketing and lead generation. Google and Bing reward strong resource sites. Sounds like a win/win – right?

Well, not always.

We’re pushing the blog, blog, blog mantra so much that we forget a rarely talked-about fact: Not every company should blog. In fact, blog writing could be taking budget and time away from things that drive more revenue. Here are five times when folks should back away slowly from their blog – and never look back.

  • The “no time, no budget” scenario. Too busy to blog? It’s easy to say “outsource it” except for one little thing – outsourcing costs money. If you can’t find a quality writer for your budget and your team doesn’t have time, put blog writing on the back burner.  It’s better to have a top-quality blog that you’re proud of than a crappy blog that doesn’t help you (and you’re ashamed to show people.)
  • The “hate to write, no budget” scenario. Some folks can’t stand to write. And it shows. If this is you – and you honestly have no other available resources – please do yourself a favor and let your blog go. Instead, focus your energies somewhere else. For instance, I know a few ex-bloggers who love sending tweets. There’s not as much pressure to write the “right” thing when you only have 140 characters to work with.
  • PR insists that the blog should always promote your product or service. Blog writing is different than sales writing. You’ll allowed to be a little more casual and a whole lot less sales-y. If PR (or someone else high up on the food chain) insists that all posts should push your product or service, it’s time to reconsider your blogging fantasies. Yes, blogs can certainly help soft-sell what you offer. Sure, you can throw in the occasional sales message. But your main blog writing goal should be to engage your readers and keep them coming back for more. Not hitting them over the head with another sales message.
  • A blog doesn’t support your conversion goals. If you’ve built a sales or lead generation-oriented microsite, a blog would actually detract from your conversion goal (getting people to buy from or contact you.) Blogs are great for folks in the “research” phase of the sales cycle. If you’re only focusing on folks who want to take action now, stick to writing conversion-oriented copy.
  • You’ve tried – you really have. But you aren’t seeing a ROI. There are scads of articles about what to do if people don’t like your blog content. By all means, see if you can “fix” your blog – an outside perspective can provide some fantastic ideas.  But if you’ve given it a solid shot and it’s still not meeting your goals (and yes, that means that you have to set marketing goals for your blog) consider saying “buh-bye” to your blog. Especially if other marketing channels are making you more money.

Are there any other times when a company should walk away from their blog? What would you add?

Are you asking the wrong question first?

I cringe every time I hear this question before anything else is discussed. Maybe you do too.

“How will (insert SEO copy idea here – usually a bad one) help with the search engines?”

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like such a bad first question to ask. After all, “SEO copywriting” stands for “search engine optimization copywriting.” Good writing = higher rankings has been a common mantra since the beginning of SEO time. It makes sense that folks would be considering the search engine implications.

But it also ignores a major part of the equation.

Aggressive SEO copy techniques don’t mean a thing if your audience isn’t buying from you – or taking whatever action step you want them to take. If your online content isn’t resonating with your audience, it’s failing your company – even if it has a top ranking.

Instead of focusing on search engines, there’s another question to consider: How does this content (or SEO copy technique) serve your customers? When that piece of the puzzle is solved, then you discuss how to maximize the SEO opportunities in a way that doesn’t detract from the message.

Not the other way around.

See how this changes the discussion? When you’re asking, “How does this serve our reader,” certain spammy SEO copywriting techniques don’t make any sense. You don’t think about bolding and hyperlinking every keyword (and making sure that keyword is on the page 20 times or more.) Writing a keyphrase-slammed post sounds like a stupid idea.

Because you know that wouldn’t work for the reader. Even if you could get those pages to rank, you couldn’t make the readers buy. Or read. Or even stay on your site.

Plus, focusing on your readers first provides a good reality check for other SEO content ideas. You may think that Twitter is fun and a fantastic free marketing idea. But if your customers aren’t on Twitter – and your carefully-worded tweets aren’t getting read –  it may not be the best marketing channel for you.

So consider your target audience the next time you’re examining a SEO content technique. Ask yourself if your idea serves any purpose other than possible search engine juice. If the answer is “no,” reexamine your technique.

Your readers will thank you.

SEO copywriting vs. social media writing: What’s the difference?

It’s not often that something leaves me speechless.

I was chatting with someone who said, “SEO copywriting is so 10 years ago. Now it’s all about social media writing.”

Uh, what?

That’s when I realized that some people believe that SEO copywriting and social media writing are two different skill sets.

Back in the day (around 2001,) “SEO copywriting” was more commonly referred to as “writing for search engines.” It encompassed any keyword-based online writing, including directory listings (I remember when getting a Yahoo directory listing was a big deal,) articles, PPC ads and sales-oriented pages.

The term “SEO copywriting” came about to differentiate the unique direct response writing style that grew out of this new niche.  Copywriters were forced to satisfy two “target audiences”: The automated, soulless search engines (making sure the right keywords were in the right places the right way,) and prospects (using proven direct-response techniques to encourage the sale.)  As far as I know, it’s the first time that copywriters were “forced” to include certain words in the text just to make sure that their target audiences could find the page in the first place.

Granted, us “writing to sell” copywriters were still creating articles, white papers and other types of “non-sales” writing. We just lumped any keyword writing service under the SEO copywriting umbrella.

Now, we have blogs, Twitter and Facebook. We’re communicating with folks in real-time, breaking down the stuffy corporate Website walls and humanizing our companies. We write linkbait posts to drive traffic, send targeted Tweets about our companies (knowing that tweets appear in Google and Bing search results, too,) and pray that people Stumble and Sphinn our latest musings.

From where I sit, social media writing is just SEO copywriting in a different wrapper. Social media writers need to understand keyphrase research (like SEO copywriters.) They need to understand the audience and write incredibly engaging content (like SEO copywriters.) They are writing content to meet a specific goal: More subscribers, more search engine traffic, more referrals from Twitter, more interest in a product or service.

In short, the same thing a SEO copywriter typically does – just with a more trendy name. 🙂

Having said that, there are some important differences.

  • Not all social media writers know how to write to sell. Direct response copywriting is a very unique skill set that’s based in neuropsychology, psychology and years of testing. A general blogger (who doesn’t usually write sales copy) may not write copy that converts as highly as a dedicated copywriter. To paraphrase Austin Powers, direct-response writing, “may not be their bag, baby.”
  • By the same token, some copywriters can’t shake the sales out of their writing no matter how hard they try. They try to write an informative blog post and make it sound like a squeeze page. The immediacy of Twitter, (“What do you mean I can’t edit my Tweet once I’ve hit send. What if I think of another way to say it?”) freaks them out. Sales copy keeps them happy. Anything else…not so much.

What do you think? Are there any other major differences between SEO content writers and social media writers? What do you call what you do for a living (or what your in-house copywriters do?). Copywriter or social media writer?

Can sexy linkbait blog titles backfire?

Let’s face it: Sexy blog titles get clicks.

But is there a time when a blog title’s sexy tease makes us feel a little…misled…when the post doesn’t come through on it’s promise? Perhaps.

This came to mind after reading a really great article with a sexy linkbait title. The article was called, ““Warning! SEO Copy Bubble Bursting” from the Content Marketing Institute.

To give the headline its due – hey, it got me to click. The headline did its job. But then I read the post…

I was expecting the article to be a typical “SEO copywriting is dead” post – and for the first couple paragraphs, that’s where it was heading (for instance, read the line about “hucksters and self-proclaimed experts” in SEO). However, just four paragraphs into it, the author is discussing the importance of content marketing – and then defining some SEO writing techniques to use (hey, wait, I thought the SEO copy bubble had burst.)

It’s obvious once you finish the article that the writer is a SEO copywriting advocate. If anything, she’s talking about content mills – not smart SEO copywriting. She just chose a sexy linkbait blog headline – one that implied a completely different viewpoint – to get the click.

It’s an interesting strategy. But something to think about is:  It’s one thing to drive clicks. It’s another when the information you promise (via the headline) isn’t really what the article is about. This headline “bait and switch” – if it’s done incorrectly – could frustrate readers rather than drawing them into the story.  As an example, one of the comments was that the reader felt “mislead” by the headline:

So tell me. What do you think of this headline strategy? Is it too “bait and switch” for your tastes? Or do you think the author is a smart marketer – and her sexy headline is a fantastic traffic-driving idea?

3 ways SEO can ruin content

Last December, Lee Odden from Online Marketing Blog wrote a post called,“Content Strategy and the Dirty Lie About SEO.” At the end of the post, he posed the question – the question that’s been debated ever since “writing for search engines” has existed:

Do you think SEO ruins content?

I had to think about that, as my first reaction is not just “No” but “Hell no – SEO doesn’t ruin the content.”‘

But the more that I thought about it, the more I thought, “Well, sometimes it does…under very certain circumstances.” Here’s when that is:

  • When the content was written by an inexperienced SEO copywriter. Most “keyphrase-stuffed” content I read comes from folks who think that SEO copywriting really is a bunch of keywords separated by commas. Their clients tell them that they need a 500 word article, and the keyword needs to be in the copy at least 30 times…so that’s exactly what the writer provides. In this case, the writer doesn’t know enough to educate the client about best practices – and they end up writing keyphrase-stuffed drivel. Writing generated from content mills often falls into this category.
  • When the article/blog post/FAQ was only written for search engines, and the site owner/SEO doesn’t care if anyone really reads the article. I’ll see this technique used by companies who want to position for a competitive term, so they write tightly-focused articles around one keyphrase. Unlike the article written by an inexperienced SEO copywriter that attempts to make sense, these articles are stuffed with grammatical errors and are darn near incoherant (sometimes this is because the site owner had non-English speakers create the copy.) You’ve seen these types of articles all over the Web…but you’ve probably never read one. Why would you? There’s nothing of substance to read.
  • When the company hosting the article decides to bold every keyword, include a long list of “related keywords” at the end of every post. The various (and random) bold and italicized keywords renders the page impossible to read.

So, what’s perhaps more accurate to say is: Smart SEO doesn’t ruin good content. It enhances it, in fact – making it easier to be found in search engines and shared via social media. If you’ve mastered the art of online writing for both engines and people, you have a very valuable skill set.

On the flip side, yes, stupid SEO will ruin content. And your conversions, too. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” – and repeating a keyword incessantly will not suddenly transform the page into “quality content.”

It reminds me of what some folks say about sales copy being too “sales-y.” There’s a way to include a call-to-action that gently leads someone to the next action step. And there’s a (wrong) way to do it that beats them over the head with hyped language, bold and italics (Hmm. now that I think about it, what IS it about bolded and italicized text?).

What do you think? Is SEO the death of good writing?

Blog about it! A smart content marketing strategy

Greetings!  Today we’re picking up our discussion of content strategy, specifically, how to develop and leverage our content by writing blogs.  As you’ve surely noticed, blogging is big and is only getting bigger, and with good reason:  besides helping to build search rankings and an online brand, blogs present a fantastic content marketing venue!  And because they’re relatively simple to set up and publish, blogs lend themselves well to providing new content on a regular basis.

As covered in some detail in the previous two posts (“Are you leveraging these content strategy opportunities?” and “Content Strategy: building out your content with articles”), the smart SEO content strategy seeks to capture prospects while they are actively searching for information and resources on our product or service.  This research phase of the buying cycle is where we meet them with fresh, useful content that (hopefully) leads them back to our site.  Blogs are an excellent platform for doing just!  So let’s look at building out and leveraging our content with blogs.

Blogs:  Pros, Cons, and Community

Blog Pros:

  • Blogs are highly malleable, allowing you to write about any subject you choose in as many words as you choose.  You’re not beholden to a word count – whether less than 100 or over 1,000 words, the only “rule” that applies is what works best for your target audience.
  • If you have an inflexible site template that doesn’t lend itself to adding new content, such as an e-commerce site, a blog gives you a forum to do so.  Similarly, if you’re dealing with a site that feels a bit “uptight” or you find yourself bored with its “corporate” tone, a blog allows you to unleash your personality and express your bad self!
  • Blogs allow you a rapport with your readers, and real-time feedback via comments: good, bad, and spammy.  Your community of loyal readers can help you with your business; their comments can guide you in making product or service decisions, and provide insight into what your target market is interested in.  As for spam, it can be deleted.  And negative comments can also enlighten you: even if it stings, it’s better to receive such comments directly than have them circulating beyond your radar.  You can at least deal with them when they’re right in front of you.

Blog Cons:

  • Blogs require consistency and commitment.  And they are work, make no mistake.  Writing a blog can feel especially burdensome when you’re crazy-busy, but it’s critical you stick to your editorial calendar and publish your blog regularly.  It doesn’t have to be daily, but then again, if you’re only posting once a week, you need to be sure that it is substantive:  it has to count!
  • Blogs require monitoring and attention.  You need to be responsive to your readers’ comments; it’s bad practice to publish then forget it.  It’s a certain blog-killer when your readers find their thoughtful, well-considered comments ignored.

Voice and Community:

  • If you plan to delegate your blog-writing to another, you need to provide a very clear outline of your editorial guidelines:  what’s okay, what is not, and what specifically is expected of them.  Not to advocate smothering their creativity, just underscoring the importance of being reasonably clear and ensuring consistency with your “voice.”
  • Whether it’s you or your delegated blog-writer, networking with other bloggers within your “circle” is an integral part of effective blogging.  Blogging is about community, and while simply blogging for the sake of it is okay, sharing your input with others via guest blogs, commentary on other blogs, linking out, and mentions will encourage others to help you with the same: linking out to your content, mentioning your work, promoting your offerings, etc.  You have to earn your blogger love!

How to Structure a Blog Post

Structuring a blog post is much like structuring an article.  You can check out Twitter and Google Insights to see what folks are discussing, as well as what they want to know.  As with articles, you’ll want to use the same keyphrase and linking strategy:  use your main keyphrase in your headline, and whenever it is possible and makes sense, hyperlink the keyphrases.  Smart blogging will also link seamlessly to your site’s product or service pages – again, when it makes sense to do so.

There, the similarities end.  There are several ways blogs differ from articles, notably:

  • Unlike the monologue of an article, a blog post encourages discussion and seeks to build a rapport with a community of readers.  It provides an ideal venue for soliciting feedback, running interviews, and offering your (informed) opinion.
  • Blog writing is personal, real-time, and spontaneous.  And a great way to measure your blog-writing success is by the number of people commenting on your posts.  Ideally, you want to get folks discussing and sharing your post with others in their network.  It follows that if you’re looking at having to run every word by the corporate legal department or are otherwise stymied, a blog is not going to work for you.
  • As opposed to articles, it’s perfectly okay to write short, snappy blog posts interspersed with longer, in-depth ones.  (This actually can be a highly effective strategy, as evidenced by Seth Godin’s success with this style).  Another perk of this kind of flexibility is that you can give yourself a break every once in a while!  It’s not easy to conjure 500 words about such-and-such topic every day; grinding them out regardless of your muse invites a slow and painful burnout.  Here’s where the editorial calendar comes in to save your sanity:  setting it up around your schedule, going easy on the blog posts on your busiest days, is a great strategy.

Well, folks, that’s a wrap for today.  Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to leave a comment 🙂 Next week, we’ll discuss the art of writing news releases in our ongoing series on savvy content marketing strategy.  See you then!