Should You Bleed On The Page?

James Altucher does it. Rand Fishkin does it. Ben Huh does it. So does Neil Patel and Chris Brogan.

They all write extremely personal posts outlining their successes, their processes and their failures.

In short, they open up a vein and bleed on the page.

As writers and marketers, it’s easy for us to put a wall between us and our readers. When we write a blog post–even if it’s a more “personal” post, we try to put our best foot forward and not get too personal. After all:

Someone may judge us.

We don’t talk about “things” like that with strangers.

We think that writing about our failures isn’t an appropriate topic.

We think nobody wants to hear the real story.

We’re embarrassed.

Can we write about our successes? Sure. Can we pen an impersonal essay on Google’s latest algorithm, or how to be more productive, or how to do X? You bet.

But writing about facing a class action lawsuit, not being able to make payroll, feeling suicidal or the process of leaving an industry and transforming ourselves? Well, that takes guts (or another body part that’s lower down.)

I’m one of those people who writes behind a wall. Sure, I’ve written some more personal posts. I’ve alluded to stuff that’s gone on in my life.

But there’s still a wall. I can feel it. And I’m wondering if I need to get over it.

My more personal posts get the most comments (even if many of those comments are behind the scenes.) They touch more people. I’ve built online friendships by disclosing how my ex-husband committed suicide, how I was hanging off a 25 foot rock ledge and how I’ve felt totally and incredibly overwhelmed.

This got me thinking: Should bloggers (and brands) be even more transparent? Sometimes, that may mean showcasing our successes. And other times, it may mean talking about our failures. Our insecurities. How getting up in the morning some days seems…hard.

Because those types of visceral posts build connections. They get people talking. They help people realize, “Hey, I’m not the only one who feels like things are f-ed up.”

From a business blogging perspective, it’s true that not all posts can (or should) be “Here’s an accounting of all the minutia happening behind the scenes.” People don’t care about the minutia. But the overarching lessons? Yes.

Chris Brogan talked about this in a recent newsletter. He said: “The best wave of media making is upon us: personal media. And it’s not a small-vs-big company story. It’s about people who care about connecting with their buyers and the community they serve. It’s about people who understand that lazy robot marketing and business practices don’t work. And it’s about you.”

I see this as more than, “Write in a personal voice that resonates with your audience.” It’s digging deeper and writing content that truly touches your audience. And yes, this occasionally means bleeding on the page. You don’t have to bleed every time. Just enough that people know that there’s a human being behind the brand.

I know that many businesses will kick back when they read about this. “Bleeding on the page” may feel like “Telling the competition about their failures.” They may feel like writing about internal struggles (whether those struggles are personal or corporate,) is “too much” information.

And certain industries (for instance, regulated industries) may not have the freedom to bleed. After all, they barely have the freedom to write a word without a legal team looking over their shoulder.

But for the rest of us, consider if writing on a more personal level could help connect you with your customers.

Here are some great examples:

James Altucher Confidential: Not only does James list some fantastic tips, the way he writes will make you bleed along with him (but in the good way.)

Rand’s Blog:  If you’ve ever dealt with depression, you’ll connect with this post. Rand Fishkin (the author) is the founder of Moz.

WhatDidYouDoWithJill: From SEO expert to personal transformation expert, Jill chronicles her insights, successes and setbacks.

BenHuh!com: Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezeburger, discusses his suicidal thoughts – and how he broke free.

What I learned from fighting a 12-month long lawsuit:  Neil Patel bares it all and talks about his very expensive (and stressful) year.

Climb out of your comfort zone: My experience on taking time off, conquering my fears and feeling stuck beyond belief.

What about you? Would you write a more personal post? Or do you feel that bleeding on the page has no part in personal or business branding?

And do you think I should dig deeper and bleed on the page more often?

Your thoughts?

 Photo credit: © Ainteractive | – Red Heart Bleeding On Note Photo

6 Things to Check Before Turning In Your Final Draft

Don’t submit your SEO copy until you check these 6 things!

Have you ever thought, “Wow, that headline could be better” after you turned in your final draft?

Or worse, your boss (or client) redlined your copy–and she sent you a nastygram to let you know?


I’ve reviewed a lot of SEO writing over the years and there is one big constant: so-so copy happens. Maybe it’s a headline that falls flat. Or maybe the writer missed some keyphrase opportunities.

Although the mistakes may be minor, they’re a red flag to your boss (or client) that you’re “working sloppy.”

That’s never good.

Make sure your content hits the mark the first time. Ready to evaluate your writing? Here are six things to check:

– How is your keyphrase usage?

Some people were trained that you have to include the keyphrases X times each on the page. I feel sorry for those people. They end up hating SEO writing because they were given incorrect information. Or, if a someone is new to SEO writing, they’ll often go nuts with their keyphrases and put them everywhere. Why? Because they think that they “have to do it this way.”

News flash: You don’t have to do it this way (whew!).

Yes, include keyphrases. However, focus your attention more on “how will my reader enjoy this,” instead of, “how many times should I repeat this keyphrase?”

Remember, Google is looking for informative pages that are centered around a theme, not how many times you repeat some words. It’s OK to use synonyms. It’s OK to not exact match your keyphrase every time. And it’s OK to write like a human rather than feeling you have to serve Google (in fact, this kind of writing is rewarded!).

– How are your headlines?

Ideally, your headlines and subheadlines should grab your readers attention and entice them to keep reading. Using your keyphrase as a headline (for instance, “Louisville, KY hotel,”) is just plain boring. Sure, the keyphrase is in there. But you’re missing out on an opportunity to make your content compelling.

Your readers quick-scan headlines and subheadlines before they dig into your body copy. The more oomph your headlines have, the more you encourage your readers to keep reading.

In a perfect world, your headline and subheadlines are benefit-rich and include a keyphrase. If you can’t make a keyphrase “fit,” focus on writing a compelling statement instead. Your goal is to make people want to read more. Not showcase the keyphrases you’re targeting.

Here’s a great post by Danny Goodwin about how to write killer headlines your readers will love.

– Can you turn a long paragraph into multiple shorter ones?

You know what’s overwhelming? A solid copy block without paragraph breaks.

I do one of two things when I see content like this. I either scroll to the bottom and look for a summary. Or, I back out of the site and find another resource. Too-long paragraphs make my eyes bleed. I don’t like it when my eyes bleed.

Review your content and see how you can divide your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Yes, one-to-three sentence paragraphs are OK if you do it right. Just remember that mobile readers may be viewing your content on tiny screens, so the easier you can make your copy to read, the better.

– Does your copy have any scary-long sentences?

Scary-long sentences are a personal pet peeve of mine–and it’s a big writers’ blind spot.

Sometimes, it’s because the writer is tired. Sometimes, it’s because they’re writing too fast. And sometimes, they come from an academic or legal background where long sentences are the norm. No matter what the reason, long sentences are clunky and hard to read.

If you feel your copy is so-so, splitting up your sentence length instantly spices up your content. Your copy is easier to read. You can get your point across more effectively. And it’s a great way to keep your reader engaged. Try it and see.

– Can you add any textural words?

As Roger Dooley says, “Use vivid, sensory, emotional adjectives to engage the brain.” Research has proven that textual words (like smooth, slimy or gritty) cause our brains to react in unique ways. That’s because your brain can picture what “gritty” feels like–and your brain actually lights up as if you were experiencing that sensation.

Slipping textural words into your copy is a great way to make your lukewarm writing sizzle (see what I did there?)  Here’s more information on how you can make it happen.

Did you use the wrong form of a word?

Ah, Microsoft Word, why can’t you save us from ourselves? There are times we meant to type “there” and instead type “they’re.” Other times, we use the wrong word–yet Word doesn’t flag it. Word just makes us suffer.

Don’t rely on the red “typo line” to let you know if there’s a mistake. Check and double-check that everything is A-OK.  As a funny side note, I had originally typed, “just because you don’t see a read line” before I caught my mistake. Oops!

Turning in a clean and compelling final draft will make your editors love you, plus you’ll be seen as more professional.

What do you doublecheck before turning in your final draft?

Photo thanks: © Mpavlov | – Green Check Box Photo 

9 SEO Copywriting Experts Share Their Top Tips

Want to peek inside the busy brain of an expert SEO copywriter?

Last week, I asked a number of well-known writers to share their favorite SEO writing tip  (you can see the original post here.) Many people generously responded with resources, articles and words of advice.

Make sure that you follow these writers on social media and read everything they write. The education you’ll gain will be well worth your time. Trust me.

(And big thanks to the eight copywriters who submitted their tips. You guys rock!)

Kate Toon, Kate Toon Copywriter

Don’t get hung up on exact match keywords: Mix it up a little with related search terms. I use tools like and to help me find alternate keyword choices. Using synonyms not only pleases the Google god, but it makes your content richer, more engaging and more enjoyable to read.

Jessie Wojdylo, Wojdylo Social Media

Break up your content in subsections with headers. Use the html code to make the subsections drop downs from a table of contents at the top of the article such as this…

Stoney deGeyter, Pole Position Marketing

Make the content readable! Don’t force keywords that don’t work. Add images throughout. Use headings and sub-headings to break up content. Add bullet points where possible. Readable font size. Easy to understand concepts. Short paragraphs. Etc. Etc. Great content still fails if you don’t make it easy for people to read, skim and scan for key points.

Glenn Murray, Divine Write

Assuming someone else has done the keyword research, and the site structure has been informed by that research, my no.1 tip is to not think about SEO at all, until after the client has approved the copy. It’s the ‘copy’ part of ‘SEO copy’ that’s hard. Get that right, and the SEO pass is child’s play. Almost.

Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting

My favorite tip is to give your writers a suggested article title or article focus, and then let them write. Don’t burden them with keywords (beyond the title) to focus on. Just let them do their thing.If they know their field, they will naturally create semantically rich content. If you feel a need to tweak it once you have seen what they deliver, not problem! But, don’t let artificial constraints stand between them and creating great content.

Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger

I’m with +Eric Enge. I like to grab an idea, close my eyes, and storm the gates.

Larry Kim, WordStream

Elisa Gabbert (WordStream’s content marketing manager) wrote “3 Super-Actionable Keyword Research Tips to Try Right Now” earlier this year.

Heather Mueller, Mueller Writing

Good question! My answer is probably the simplest: Write for readers FIRST, then see where keyphrases fit naturally. And remember the whole purpose of keyword research is to see what your actual readers are typing into Google to discover what you’re writing about. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get hung up on trying to force verbiage that won’t make sense to your target audience.

Michelle Lowery, Passion Fruit Creative Group

Keep the focus on the topic and the reader–not yourself. Your bio section is where you list your credentials. Don’t waste valuable post space trying to convince the reader you know what you’re talking about because you have this, that and the other experience. Don’t make it about you, a personal blog post being the exception. Giving the reader something of value means something they can use, that will benefit them–not your résumé, or your “humble brags” about your achievements.

What about you? What tip would you add to the list?

Photo credit: © Coramax | – Brain Photo

14 Must-Read SEO Copywriting Tips

Read all about it! Lots of SEO writing tips here!

Read all about it! Lots of SEO writing tips here!

If you’re an SEO writer, you’re probably doing more than “just putting keyphrases into the content.”

You’re creating persuasive headlines. You’re setting strategy. You’re transforming boring benefit statements into copy that converts like crazy. You may even manage an in-house or freelance team.

In short, you wear a lot of different hats. All the time.

Below are 14 of my favorite SEO copywriting tips and strategies. They span from how to create an in-house team to how to write great copy, fast. You can put these tips into action right now, whether you’re an in-house or a freelance copywriter.


Is your content all business in the front and a party in the back? You’re suffering from content mullet syndrome…but fortunately, there’s a cure! Let’s face it – mullets aren’t a good look (and makes people think that you’re stuck in 1986 or so.) Content mullets aren’t much better. If you haven’t updated your site for awhile, check out this post. 

Is content writing becoming an overwhelming task? Rather than writing new content, consider if some of your old content can be repurposed into tweets, blog posts or SlideShare videos. It’s a much saner way to flesh out your content marketing campaign. Trust me.

Headlines can make or break your blog post. The right one will score lots of targeted traffic. And the wrong one, well…let’s just say that you won’t see the results you want. Danny Goodwin wrote a great post about how to write brilliant headlines for SEO, social and your readers. Read it. Read it now. I’ll wait.

Outsourcing your SEO copywriting can be a smart idea for many companies. However, outsourcing to the wrong vendor can mean lots of headaches, poor writing quality and possibly a Google penalty. If you’re wondering if you should run away from a possible SEO copy vendor, read this first. 

The “write naturally for Google” movement worries me. It’s not because I think posts should be keyphrase stuffed (I don’t.) At the same time, if you don’t have some SEO writing knowledge, you’re leaving money (and rankings) on the table. Here’s proof.

Are you a print copywriter who spits on the term “SEO copywriting?” I understand your frustration. At the same time, learning the SEO copy ropes may not be as painful (and as spammy) as you think. Here’s what print copywriters need to know.

You know you’re supposed to focus on features – not benefits. But how do you do this? And does it really matter (hint: yes it does.) Here are some ways you can transform your dirt-dull features into benefit statements that convert like crazy.

Speaking of dirt-dull writing…when’s the last time you checked out your “About us” page? I know, I know. You’ve spent all of your time focusing on your sales pages and blogs. Yet, reworking your about us page can have some pretty cool benefits – and even increase your conversion rates. Check out these tips for an about us page re-do.

You know what makes me cringe? Overoptimized SEO content. Unfortunately, it still exists. What’s worse, I recently learned that some SEO writers are being taught that over optimization is “how you write for Google.” Argh! If you’re wondering if your content is pushing the optimization a bit too much, check out this post. Quickly. Please.

Sometimes, outsourcing your content just doesn’t make sense (especially if you already have a crack writing team.) Instead, consider keeping your SEO copywriting in-house. Challenging? Yes. But it’s entirely possible. Here are some tips around building an internal content team.

Quick! You have one hour to write a blog post! Sound impossible? Nope, this is entirely doable – it just means some careful planning and a whole lot of focus. Here’s how to do it. 

Pay attention to the masters. You may laugh at informercials, but you can learn some fantastic copywriting tricks from paying attention to the ads. You can also learn from Abraham Maslow, Stephen King and even Dr. Seuss.  Check out this post for the details.

Hummingbird, Hummingbird, Hummingbird. This time last year, Google’s algorithmic switcheroo was THE hot topic. If you’re wondering what Google’s Hummingbird algorithm means to SEO content creators, check out this post. 

Finally, remember you are more than “just a writer.” If you’re reading this, you’re a smart SEO writer. If you need a little motivation, check out the SEO Writers’ Manifesto. Yes, you really ARE all that and a bag of chips!


Photo credit: © Iqoncept | – Surprising News Shocking Unbelievable Headlines Ripped Torn News Photo

Tired of hearing "You're too expensive?"

Where are all the fat cat clients

Where are all the fat cat SEO writing clients?

“We’d love to work with you, but your prices are just too far out of our budget. Everyone else we’ve talked to charges much less.”

Yeah, that’s always a fun email to receive first thing in the morning.

What’s your first reaction when you read something like this? Anger? Shock? Denial?

Or do you just shrug, shut down your computer and feel depressed the rest of the day?

Emails like this would grate on my psyche. I would put a lot of work into landing clients. I’d excitedly talk with the prospect on the phone (sometimes, multiple times) and make sure I could help. I’d even soft-launch some budget figures to prevent sticker shock. Then, I’d carefully craft a proposal and wait. And wait.

“I have exactly the skills they’re looking for,” I’d think. “They’d be stupid to go with anyone else.”

To learn that they hired someone else based on price felt like a slap in the face. Sure, I understand budget constraints. But hiring someone for way less money (with way less experience,) was an insult.

Which was my first mistake – I shouldn’t have let my ego get in the way. But sometimes, that’s hard (as you may know.)

But let’s look at it from the client’s side.

Unless you are giving your client something to think about, you’re going to be treated like a commodity. And that means they will look at your prices compared to your competitions’.

– They won’t care that you are a better writer. Let’s face it. Most clients don’t really know what “good writing” is.

– They won’t care (much) about your awards, reputation or outside factors.

If your prices are higher, you will lose. It’s as simple as that.

The key is to stop treating yourself like a commodity and sell your value instead. Here are four ways you can make that happen:

– Take a hard look at your site. Do you have testimonials, case studies and other forms of third-party proof? If not, make it happen.

– Consider your process when you talk to prices. Do you respond to emails that read, “We need a copywriter. How much do you charge?” If so – WHY? Would you ever say that to a doctor? Or an attorney? Heck no. You want to hire someone with the best expertise. Not the cheapest.

– Think about how well you know your target market. Not necessarily the vertical characteristics (I work with mid-size dental offices who want to increase their local exposure.) What I mean is, do you know the stuff that makes them tick? What keeps them up at night? What would make them happy? What would they need to hear from you that would make price not an issue?

– Record yourself during a prospect call and listen to what you say. Do you explain all the steps you take before you start crafting copy? Do you discuss how you differentiate against your copywriting competition? Are you asking questions? Or are you spending most of your time trying to hustle a deal?

Remember, there will always be those prospects who make their decision solely on price. You don’t want them (or need them in your portfolio.) Conversely, there are the people who will hire you, no matter what. Those are cool clients to have.

However, there are a whole lot of people who need more convincing. They need to see more value. They need to “get” how you can specifically make their lives easier. They may want to work with you. They just need be sure before they sign on the dotted line.

The good news is, you can influence their decision (ethically,) if you focus on your value. Once you have your prospect’s attention, she won’t care that you’re more expensive. The only thing she’ll care about is how soon you can start.

Now go out there and make some money!

Did you enjoy this post? My weekly newsletter is chock-full of actionable tips for freelance and in-house SEO writers. Why not sign up right now and see?


Clients ignore your advice? Here’s what to do

Feel like your clients are saying, "la la la la" while you're giving them advice?

Feel like your clients are saying, “la la la la” while you’re giving them advice?

After I read my client’s email, I had to hold myself back from beating my head against my laptop.

“Heather, we agree with what you’re saying. But I think we’re going to go in a different direction and try something else first.”


Whether you work in-house or freelance, you’ve probably had moments like this. You spent hours carefully crafting a strategy, web page or idea. You have reams of paperwork supporting your recommendations.

And then the client goes in another direction. What? If they always planned on doing their own thing, why the hell did they hire you in the first place?

Yeah. It’s frustrating.

And there’s (generally) nothing you can do about it.

The good news is: Your client’s decision is typically not about you. They reached their decision based on a host of other factors.

Here’s why your client may be ignoring your advice:

– The boss believes that his/her strategy decision is the better one  (whether or not that reasoning is correct is irrelevant.) There is nothing you can say to change his or her mind. The decision has been made.

– Internal politics (that you typically know nothing about) are what’s driving the final strategy decision.

– The internal team is already overloaded. Instead of doing what’s hard (and more effective,) they prefer to do something easy and more within their control.

– The powers-that-be don’t trust your strategy because you’re an existing team member. Having said that, if they were to hire an outside consultant who said the same thing, your boss would implement those recommendations immediately.

– The internal team is arrogant, pure and simple. No matter what you say or do, they will always have a “better solution.” I highly recommend firing clients like this as soon as you possibly can.

– Your client is working with an SEO who is telling them something completely different. In some cases, the advice may be completely incorrect. This situation is extremely frustrating.

Your smart recommendations just got dissed. Now what?

– Resist the urge to call or send an email saying, “Why should I bother doing everything I’ve done for you if you’re just planning to blow off my advice.” Punch a pillow instead. Scream at your television. Hand write a nasty letter and rip it up. But for goodness sakes, do not let on that you’re frustrated, mad or feel slighted. If you do, the situation will not end well.

– While you’re punching your pillow, try to remember that their decision isn’t about you. They aren’t judging your expertise and finding it lacking. Their decision is all about them.

– When you’re calm – and preferably the next day – send an email outlining your suggested changes  and ask why your client decided to take a different direction. You need to do this (in writing) for a couple reasons. The first reason is a fact-finding one. If your client has other “things” going on – and they are willing to share – you can possibly adjust your recommendations accordingly.  The other reason is purely CYA. If your client’s “great” idea blows up, you don’t want to get blamed for it. And yes, this happens. A lot.

– Ask yourself if this is an ongoing pattern, or a one-off. If it’s a one-off, it’s typically no big deal and you can go back to business as usual. If your client always ignores your advice, ask yourself how you feel about that. Some people are able to shrug it off and merrily go on with life. Other people get frustrated, hurt and angry – no matter what the reason. If you fall into the frustrated camp, you may want to consider firing your client (or finding another job.) Things aren’t going to get any better. Believe me.

Unfortunately, this situation will rear its ugly head no matter where you work (or who you work with.) The key is to be as emotionless as you can about the situation. You can’t force a client to implement your recommendation, even if they’re paying you. Nor should you get offended when they don’t.

When things get tough and screaming into your pillow doesn’t work, just remember four wise words:

“You can’t fix stupid.”

It won’t make the pain go away completely, but it may make you feel a little bit better.

What about you? What do you do when a client ignores your recommendations?

Like this post? Why not subscribe to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter? It’s the SEO writing info you need as a freelance or in-house writer.

Photo thanks to © Creatista |

Want to DIY Your SEO? Here's Your Reality Check

What's really realistic when it comes to your SEO?

Can you handle your SEO writing in-house? Yes…but…

I walked away from the conversation shaking my head.

“SEO services are too expensive. We can’t afford to hire someone.”

“I’m smart. I should be able to figure this SEO stuff out myself.”

“My team is top-notch. No, they don’t have any formal SEO training, but I’m sure they’ll get it. Maybe I’ll send them to a conference…”

Stop it. Just. Stop. It.

Why do I sound so frustrated? Because I’ve chatted with large and small companies that have all said some variation of the “We can handle this in-house excuse.” Granted, their intentions are good. They really do plan on tackling their own SEO. They don’t mean to blow it off.

But they do. Time and time again.

Yes, some companies expertly take on their own SEO (and SEO writing.) These companies put time, money and effort into making it happen, too. They don’t expect the Google gods to magically hand them rankings. They don’t expect to learn by osmosis. They just do it.

But then, there are the other companies. The ones that fall into a “wishful thinking” trap.

They want to learn more, but they “don’t have time.” They watch competitors outrank them and feel guilty. The guilt turns into avoidance. One day, they wake up and say, “Today is the day I master SEO.” But then an email pops up, an employee crisis happens or something else takes precedence.

And nothing gets done.

I understand the dilemma. I do. But there comes a time when you have to buckle down and make a choice. And that means you tackle your SEO issues head on and refuse to make any more excuses.

Here’s how to do it:

1.  If you are a solopreneur/work for a small business, you have to be very honest with yourself. Do you really have time to learn the ins and outs of SEO? Some people consider it a fun challenge and master it fairly quickly. Some folks never “get it.” If you’ve been promising yourself that you’ll learn how to SEO your site over the past few months – and you haven’t done so – it’s time to give it up. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It means that you’re a busy person and you have other priorities. Like running your business.

2. If you work for a medium/large size business, your site is probably larger and has more complex issues. Handling everything may be daunting (and dangerous,) especially if your staff doesn’t have any experience. What many companies do is work with a consultant to unravel any existing technical SEO issues. Then, they work with another firm (or sometimes the same firm) and get training in SEO writing, social media and the other SEO bits and pieces. This one-two punch helps move the SEO ball along fairly quickly. The marketing team can rewrite/edit the existing content and they have the benefit of an outside consultant watchdogging their work.

Yes, SEO services cost money. Yes, good providers are expensive (beware the $100/month SEO “expert” trap.)

But if getting help means that you’ll make more money, faster – why not go for it? Right now.

Because for every moment you delude yourself into thinking you can do it yourself, you’re giving up market share to your competitors.

And that’s just sad.

Did you like this post? Well, I like you! And I’d love it if you subscribed to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter. It’s delivered hot and fresh to your inbox every Tuesday. Why not subscribe right now?

 Photo thanks to © Iqoncept |

Need Marketing Clarity? Get Out Of Your Head

How could clarity help you?

How could clarity help you?

I just got off the phone with my accountant.

For some people, chatting with their accountant is a super-stressful event. But not for me. My accountant (Eva Rosenberg, in case you’re wondering,) is fantastic. I. Love. Her.

Why? She can take the most complex situation, break it down into bite-sized chunks and show me how to proceed. It may be about how to structure my finances. Or how to handle a tax situation. We even discuss new business ideas (which is what we talked about today.) If I’m confused, stressed out or overwhelmed, chatting with Eva always helps.

It’s because she gives me clarity.

How would a little marketing clarity help you?

I say this not to geek out about my accountant, but to show how having a second opinion can bring you a lot of mental freedom. For instance…

– Do you know that your site needs optimization help, but you’re not sure what to do next?

– Are you faced with a sticky business situation and you’re not sure how to proceed?

– Do you feel like your site isn’t quite clicking with your customers and you’re wondering what needs to be changed?

– Is your company completely overwhelmed with Google’s latest changes?

It’s easy for us to get bogged down by 1,000 details and not take action. We worry about Google. We worry about business. We think about our landing pages and our optimization. Yet, we do nothing to fix them.

Why? It’s because we’re overwhelmed. We’re in our own heads all the time. We handle non-essential tasks like answering email and zone out in front of the television at night.

(There’s no judgement here. I’m the same way. I’ve thrown myself into watching old Sopranos episodes rather than think about my problems.)

We don’t realize that we can’t come up with the answer by ourselves. We’re too close to it. We’re stuck. That’s why good companies can make extremely bad SEO mistakes (like having the same Title on every page.) It’s not that the answer isn’t staring us in the face. It’s just that we don’t see it.

In fact, I just received an email that said this:

“We are now fearful with the acceleration of search engines and changes they make, most of [the information we know] is probably obsolete. Is this a correct assumption? We are getting minimal traffic to our site and trying to decide if we just give up or devote the time necessary to turn it into something of substance.”

Ouch. Not only do you want to feel sorry for this person, you want to shake them and say, “Don’t give up. Do something! It’s not too late.”

But when you’re overwhelmed, it’s hard to have that clarity. Very hard.

Need clarity? Don’t overwhelm. Do this instead.

If you’re in this position, the first step is acceptance. Yes, you’re smart. Yes, you’re good. Yes, you work with a fantastic team of people who are experts at what they do. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to come up with all of the answers all of the time. It just means that you’ll be able to recognize good advice and act on it faster than most.

What does help is reaching out and talking to an expert. That means being completely transparent, sharing your situation and asking them for advice. “Advice” may mean some quick tips. Or it may mean an ongoing relationship to keep you accountable. The key is bringing in an outsider and asking him/her for help.

“But Heather,”  you may say. “That costs money and we don’t have the budget for something like that.”

I get that reaction. I do. Even big companies are stingy with their budgets. They figure they already have a bunch of smart people working there, so why should they get an outside opinion?

It all boils down to clarity. If you can pay a little bit of money and know that your business would be transformed – why wouldn’t you take that leap?

If you’re still concerned about cost, break it down by ROI. Say you spend $2,500 to fix your site’s visibility issues and drive more traffic to your site.

If your average sale is $200, that means you’ll just need to drive 12.5 new sales. That’s it.

Suddenly, the price for clarity seems extremely inexpensive. And that doesn’t even factor in the amount of mental energy you’ll have back. Heck, you may even sleep better at night!

Isn’t it time to get out of your head and give yourself the clarity you deserve? You can put that mental energy into other things that deserve it. Like finding out what happens to Tony Soprano in season three…

Feeling like you need a little marketing clarity? Let me know. I’ve helped hundreds of businesses over 16 years and I can help you too.

Photo thanks: ID 23357559 © Kantapat |

SEO writing: Are you making this dangerous mistake?

What SEO mistakes are you making?

Once upon a time, there was a sad and lonely website.

Its owners were recognized experts in their fields. They had written books. They blogged. They spoke all over the world.

From a marketing standpoint, they were doing everything right.

Yet, their site wasn’t positioning for any important keyphrases. None. Zip.

This made the site owners quite unhappy, so they found a consultant to help.

The consultant noticed quite a few “old school” SEO errors:

–  There were very few keyphrases on the page

–  There were no keyphrase-rich headlines (H1)

–  The Titles were keyphrase-free and most of the pages didn’t have meta descriptions.

Once these errors were fixed, the site started positioning within three days. Rankings are still building for the super competitive phrases, but even those are coming along nicely.

Conducting some basic optimization on the site unlocked its potential.

I tell this story because there are (still) dissenters who believe that you can just “write naturally” and Google will “get” what your site is about. Meaning – you can skip all the foundational SEO steps and still do well.

That’s a pretty dangerous mistake.

In fact, the site owners had “written their site naturally.” You would think that an internationally-known consultant could write high positioning content just because.

But that wasn’t the case.

I bring this up after reading the latest SearchMetrics 2014 rankings factors report (you can read a great summary of the report here.)

The takeaways? Quality content matters. Keyphrases in the Titles, H1, description and body copy matters.  

You know. The stuff that smart SEO writers have been discussing since the beginning of SEO time.

If my story is hitting home with you (that is, you know your site copy wasn’t written with SEO in mind,) know that you can fix your situation. It will take some time. And it will take some budget. But there are things you can do.  For instance:

– You can add keyphrases to old blog posts to help snag better search positions.

– You can rewrite pages to make them more reader-centered (and yes, so you can add keyphrases too!). This is an especially smart tactic if you can’t add keyphrases to your existing content without it sounding unnatural (which is often the case with short content.)

– You can tweak your Titles so they are unique to the page and better for Google – and more importantly, better for your readers.

– You can improve upon your meta descriptions. Especially if your descriptions are the same on every page.

So here’s a reality check:

“Writing naturally” without at least an inkling of solid SEO writing knowledge can hurt you. It’s cool if you want to write your own content. Just know that someone will need to add some SEO sizzle when you’re done.

If your in-house writers aren’t trained in SEO writing, you are doing your site (and your revenues) a disservice. Without some SEO knowledge, the more your writers write, the more that will need to be fixed later.

If you are a freelance writer selling “web writing services” – and you aren’t versed in SEO writing – you are doing yourself (and your clients) a HUGE disservice. Not to mention, you’re missing out on a nice profit center.

Sure, hearing “you need to go back to the basics” isn’t sexy.

But what is sexy is more traffic. Higher sales. A more qualified readership.

And your site will no longer feel sad and lonely.

Want more tasty SEO writing information? Why not sign up for my free weekly newsletter? It’s fluff-free, fun and provides fantastic info!

Photo credit: © Scott Griessel |

Introduction to Keyword Mapping for Content Managers

keyword-mappingHaving a website means almost nothing if no one is able to find it. Content managers know this; it’s why SEO has become so critical and why keywords have taken precedence in terms of marketing strategies and content creation. However, understanding how they work and creating a process that utilizes them to their highest potential isn’t always as simple.

When keywords first arrived on the scene, a simple strategy took over: use certain search terms as frequently as possible to get attention and to drive rankings. That was great, for a little while at least. Today, it’s much less effective. With constant Google algorithm changes and updates that fine-tune the search process, strategies must be more elaborate and developed to be effective. This is where keyword mapping comes into play; it is the answer and anecdote to outdated processes that do little in terms of results.

What Is Keyword Mapping?

Keyword mapping is simply the process of using specific keywords on different pages inside a given website to create a map that allows users – and search engine crawlers – to find the information they’re actually looking for in a timely, less-frustrating manner.

If you implement a keyword mapping strategy on your site, the result should ideally be:

  • Structured content funnels that guide navigation naturally
  • A keyword strategy that helps pull together your site map with topics and subtopics that are clear and easy to follow
  • Easy to navigate page systems that clearly connect pages associated with specific keywords

Keyword maps are helpful, not only for rankings, but for creating meaningful content strategies that do more than push information on a regular basis. They allow content calendars to be created that actually make an impact on SEO strategies, meaning they’re critical for content managers.

Ready to get started and to use keyword mapping inside of your site and content strategy? Keep reading to learn more.

Identify Your Keywords

Using the keyword planner from Google Adwords or another free option, start to put together a list of keywords that you’d like your site to be associated with. Your keywords should relate directly to your business or brand – meaning that if someone would search for a term and find your site, he or she would be able to find answers or relevant information. A brand like Garmin – which sells GPS tools for runners – might be able to gain more traffic by creating content relating to running shoes, but it probably wouldn’t be beneficial traffic that leads to conversions, regardless of how closely related the terms sound. Identifying relevant keywords is an excellent starting point.

If you have an existing keyword strategy that doesn’t necessarily include a map, you have a good starting point to work from. Look at the phrases and search queries that you’re currently working with; which have higher bounce rates? Could these be modified? Are there related search terms that may perform better?

Branch Out

Once you’ve identified your target keywords, branch out a bit. Look deeper at each keyword and at search volumes associated with each term. Look for related keywords that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Looking at overall popularity and conversion rates will give you an idea of whether or not you are heading in the right direction.

Set Priorities

Once you’ve created an expanded keyword list, it’s time to start prioritizing. Think about which keywords are most relevant and have the highest chance at success: these are your starting points. These are the keywords that will remain fairly constant and will be tracked most extensively to determine the success or failure of specific campaigns.

Start Categorizing

Keywords should naturally fall into a set of categories. These categories closely relate to your business and should become your blog’s categories or tags. You need to regularly maintain your categories and especially your tags in order to ensure that they are still relevant and the best possible ways to categorize your content. I recently completed a keyword map for 12 Keys, a treatment center in Florida, and made sure that every blog post fell into a relevant set of tags. For example, this post containing an infographic about potential lifetimes lost to substance abuse falls into the “addiction” and “infographic” tags. Older posts especially were not well-categorized, because more relevant categories and tags had been added to the blog since their publication.

Set Preferred Landing Pages

Part of a successful keyword mapping strategy relates to landing pages. By “linking” priority keywords and categories to specific pages, your site will be more optimized for going forward. Certain pages may be relevant to only one keyword, or to many more than that.

Try to optimize each landing page for a specific keyword. Do everything you can on the back end – tags, titles, image titles and so on – to be sure that page, and the categories and tags it is linked with work together to create a fully optimized experience that helps with improving rankings and overall visitor experiences.

Start Writing

It’s amazing how much can go into a content strategy before content becomes a part of the picture. This is especially true with keyword mapping.

Once your landing pages are optimized and your priority keywords and categories are set, it’s time to fill it in with content. Look for ways to include keywords naturally in the content your brand creates. As always, make sure your content is relevant and actionable – search engines are becoming smart enough to know when content is just fluff.

Create a content calendar that touches on each keyword on a rotating basis to be sure the site remains fully optimized for each priority word and that your content has some variety. Structure is key for any successful content strategy.

In addition to keywords, engagement must remain a focus. Your goal is to increase time spent on each page, to decrease bounce rates and to encourage visitors to visit additional pages on the site. Use calls to action, internal linking and other strategies to keep conversations flowing – when possible – and to direct visitors toward conversions.

Measure and Refine

Like any other SEO initiative or endeavor, keyword mapping is not a once and done activity. Take the time to measure your results on a monthly basis. Look for keywords that are underperforming, eliminate them and replace them to try something new. For keywords that are performing above your expectations, find ways to keep utilizing them, perhaps through more frequent posts.

Keyword mapping can serve as an excellent foundation for any SEO strategy and, as such, should be a top priority for content managers. Whether you’re looking to redo a website, to increase your search visibility or to start from scratch, keyword mapping is a solid starting point. Learn more about the process and put it into action today.

About the Author

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer, designer and marketer. She loves dissecting strategies to see what makes them work. To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her design blog, Design Roast.

Get more SEO strategy tips by signing up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter!

Creative Commons licensed photo thanks to Annie Mole.