Leveraging content relationships & social proof for conversion rate optimization

How to leverage social proof from content relationships for CROThough content marketing has only recently reached buzzword status within the search industry, guest posting has been a popular method of promoting products and services online for a long time.

It’s often cited as a great link building technique and when done well, can help your website in more ways than just search.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) has long been a technical art within digital marketing, but there are also a few ways in which you can utilise guest blogging and the relationships you build in the process to help improve conversions:

Qualified Traffic

Search is a fantastic driver of traffic for many businesses but it can also be wasteful in terms of conversions.

This is where content marketing can have more of an impact, as you’re segmenting your market before you ever set out your stall. When quality content marketing campaigns are focused around specific sets of users, they can be a powerful tool to drive qualified traffic to a website.

Social Proof

Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.”

In other words, in observing the behaviour of others the decision process is simplified, providing us a convenient mental shortcut to responding to the task in hand.

The Blueglass UK website provides a prime example of using social proof from content marketing:

SEO Social Proof - 1

As you can see above, they have chosen to highlight their relationships with outlets that have featured their content as well as with other brands using their services, leaving visitors to ask themselves, “If it’s good enough for the Guardian, it must be good enough for me right?”

Authorship

While I could talk about the benefits of Authorship (and the fabled AuthorRank) all day, suffice it to say there is a huge amount of value to be had in including your author profile within content.

As you begin to write and publish more content, your author picture will become synonymous with your writing. Use the same image across all platforms and content and searchers will recognise the visual clue as a familiar and trusted face within the search results. Not only does this lead to improved CTR but it also allows the user to personify the company, transferring their views of the individual content creator to the organisation.

Relationships and Testimonials

Once you’ve placed your content with a high profile blogger, don’t let that be the end of the relationship. There are so many more mutual benefits to be had!

One such example is Testimonials. Rand Fishkin wrote about this method for attracting links back in 2009, but I find it serves a double purpose. Not only does the content creator get a nice link back to their website, but you get a glowing reference that can be used as further proof of your credentials to potential prospects.

Distilled does this very well on their consulting pages, thanks to their close relationship with SEOMoz (now Moz):

SEOmoz Social Proof - 2

 

Custom Landing Pages

A personalised landing page can be a great tool to help create a seamless transition from your guest content onto your own website, and maintain the brand connection between the two.

This is particularly potent when looking to gather blog or whitepaper subscriptions without the user feeling like they are just being “handled”.

From these pages you have much more control over the user journey and can look to move the prospect onto a proven conversion path as soon as possible.

One great example of this is from James Agate who guest blogged for Raven Tools and used a custom landing page to squeeze users towards subscribing to his newsletter.

Simple, yet effective.

We all know that content marketing is here to stay, but as you can see there is so much more to it than meets the eye. By using the relationships we garner through our content outreach we can help further our business goals long after the article has been published.

Have you used social proof to help improve conversions? What are your thoughts on using brand relationships for CRO?

About the Author ~ Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro is a Cardiff-based SEO Strategist at Box UK, a software development consultancy, helping to run the digital marketing department. You can find him on his blog talking about digital marketing and the state of semantic search, or on Twitter: @andrew_isidoro.

Could your conversions use a boost? I can help. Check into my direct response SEO copywriting services today!

5 tips to guarantee your guest blogging pitch doesn’t suck

Want to guest blog for a great site? Here are 5 tips for your successI see a lot of guest blogging pitches. Most of them are simply ignored because most of them are really, really bad – sometimes they’re so bad they make my brain hurt.

But every once in a while, someone manages to make their pitch stand out from the cesspool that guest blogging has seemingly become. What’s their secret? They get “it”.

What is “it”, and how do you get “it” if you don’t already have “it”? Let’s find out by looking at some actual examples of emails I’ve received from people who want to write for my website.

Are You the Keymaster?

At some point, you’ve probably read a story about how editors are the “gatekeepers.” Well, I’m one of those gatekeepers.

Considering that Search Engine Watch (SEW) is the longest running site dedicated to covering the latest developments in all thing search, naturally it attracts attention from people in the search marketing industry – and sometimes from even people beyond SEM. During a week, we may see anywhere from 25 to over 100 requests from people who want to write for SEW.

Like many sites, SEW has a pretty straightforward page for people who are interested in writing for SEW, fittingly called “Write for SEW”. If you’re so inclined, you can click on that link and go read those simple rules, which aren’t there just for SEO purposes. These rules are meant to explain to potential contributors exactly what we’re looking for so we can avoid wasting each other’s time.

Still, so many people seemingly go to that page and fill out the form fields and click submit without bothering to read the guidelines, or even put much thought into their pitch.

Rather than talk in generalities, though, let’s look at a few examples of guest pitches that suck, so you can know what to avoid and increase your odds of guest blogging or becoming a regular contributor for a website you really want to write for.

1. Don’t Tell Me Where You Write, Show Me

Actual email: “I would like to see if you have an opening for a writer! As a full service digital agency, I write for [REDACTED] on SEO, UX, web development, kiosks, media production, mobile, and social.”

Why This Sucks: Too generic and not nearly enough information here to stand out from any of the 100+ pitches I’ll see this week, all from people with the same/similar skillsets (and many of them also have a “full service digital agency”).

Tip 1: Don’t tell me where you write, show meLink me to awesome posts you’ve written or at least to a bio page on another site. Trust me, gatekeepers at authoritative sites generally won’t make the time to hunt you down if you obviously haven’t spent more than two minutes on this form.

Additional (real) examples of things not to do:

“Please see my sample posts and let me know if you need anything else.” (No sample posts or links included.)
” ” (No, that’s not an error. More than one person has left the message where he/she should have included additional details, such as maybe a potential topic or links to previously published posts – or anything really!)

2. Your Pitch Isn’t About You

Actual email (excerpt): “[REDACTED] would love to expand his expertise by join SEW’s writing team. He is interesting in contributing articles that focus around SEO, social media analysis, content marketing and their relationship with new business.”

Why This Sucks: I’m instantly put off by someone who thinks that writing for my website will grow HIS expertise. (Remember: I don’t know you yet, so don’t expect me to fall in love and jump into bed with you (metaphorically speaking, of course) instantly!)

SEW wants to feature contributors who share their expertise with the greater community. SEW’s mission is to help marketers (our core audience) do their jobs better. If you need to grow your expertise by writing for us, you aren’t writing for SEW. The same will be true with other quality publications, regardless of the niche/vertical.

Tip 2: Your pitch should focus on the site you’re targeting: Show me how the post you want to write for SEW will help our readers, not you. Show me you’ve done some kind of research and we aren’t just a notch in your guest blogging bedpost.

Additional (real) examples of things not to say as your “pitch”:

“I produce a ton of good content. I’d love to become a contributor for SEW.” (You and 1,000 other people.)

“All I would ask is to be able to place 1-2 relevant do-follow links back to my client’s reputation management website.” (Asking for links is just asking to be ignored.)

“Kindly allow me to write here.” (Kindly, no.)

“I’m willing to become a regular contributor here at SearchEngineWatch.com. I have been following this platforms since many years and it would be really a good achievement for me to be a part of the platform I have been admiring.” (You may be willing, but I’m certainly not!)

“I am primarily looking to get my word out and write about something i have much passion in.” (Your word, eh?)

“I have been a reader of SEW for several years now, and would like to be a contributor on a bi-monthly basis. Thank you for your consideration. Looking forward to your response!” (But that first guy would “love” to be a contributor…you only would “like” to? ;))

“It has always been a goal of mine to write on a regular basis for a quality source of information and SEW is, in my eyes, perfect for me.” (So, are you expecting me to start singing “Call Me Maybe”? Because I just met you, and this is crazy.)

3. Grammar and Spelling Count, Big Time!

Let’s stick with the same email excerpt from the previous section for a minute.

Another Reason This Sucks: Just as typos or grammatical errors will get your resume thrown in the trash, so too will a pitch with just wording as “by join SEW’s writing team” and “He is interesting in contributing articles” get your email deleted. If you want to write for a site, you better be able to, you know, show that you are able to write.

Tip 3: If you really want to write for a website, check your spelling and grammar before you send that email or submit that form. First impressions count. If you can’t get your pitch right, I assume everything about your content will be suspect, and you definitely aren’t worth the risk.

Additional (real) examples of bad grammar that kill you dead:

“Please let me know if you can allow me writing a guest post on your blog and I will send you my article for review.” (There’s a difference between can and won’t.)

“All of the content I provide is unique and written to a high quality ” (This is a huge warning sign that your content will actually be the opposite.)

“I writes passionaly about social media in reliance on marketing tactics, technique and on my marketing education.” (Passionaly? More like painfully.)

” I’m be interested in writing for searchenginewatch…” (Work on mastering writing first, OK?)

” I would like to contribute as a write to your prestigious portal” (Funny, I want to keep it prestigious.)

4. Your Contacts Have Names

Actual email (excerpt): “Hello Admin…”

Why this Sucks: My name is not Admin.

Tip 4: Do a bit of research: Find the “About Us”, “Staff”, or “Contact Us” page on the website or blog/publication you want to write for. There, you’ll likely discover an actual name of a staff member, editor, or webmaster. Show the blog owner or editor a signal that you know who they are. Make it personal.

Additional (real) examples of things not to say as your “pitch”:

“Hi {NAME}” (Wow. Just wow.)

“Dear Sir/ma’am” (My facial hair doesn’t give away my gender?)

“I’ve been reading your blog on searchenginewatch.com since long.” (Don’t use a domain name…use the publication, website, or blog name. Not to mention don’t use terms such as “since long”.)

“I was just checking out your blog…” (Obvious way to show you don’t know the website.)

5. What Are You Going to Write About?

Some people simply link to their writing samples. While linking to published content is helpful, by itself it is useless.

Tip 5: Clearly explain what you want to write about: If you’re targeting a search marketing publication, you should have some expertise in SEO, PPC, social, analytics, local, mobile, or video. What topic do you want to write about?

Even better, pitch a headline and blurb (teaser). This will be another indicator that you’ve given some good thought to your pitch.

Even better, do a site: search and make sure the post you’re pitching hasn’t already been written about. Identifying a hole in your target site’s coverage, or perhaps offering to update/rewrite an existing article, are two quick ways to potentially get your foot in the door.

You Can’t Game a Gatekeeper

Think of gatekeepers as if they’re Google. Google’s algorithm determines a website’s ranking based on more than 200 ranking factors and signals. So when you pitch a blog post, you can’t just focus on any one of the above areas, or even other “intangibles”, and expect success.

Spammy guest blog pitches will be wiped out of inboxes in the same way Google removes spam from its index. Sending editors all the right signals won’t guarantee success for any number of reasons, but you will definitely improve the odds of getting a reply to that email you’re waiting for.

Bottom line: Don’t be selfish. Be human. Be polite. Be smart. Be specific.

 

About the AuthorDanny Goodwin

Danny Goodwin is the Editor of  Search Engine Watch, the longest running search industry publication dedicated to covering the latest search and social news and trends, as well as providing how-to guides and actionable advice for marketers and advertisers of all skill levels. You can find him on Twitter.

photo thanks to Rachael Towne (stockerre)

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SEO Copywriting Checklist: Why your site needs a newsletter. Right now.

Newsletters have several SEO benefits for site ownersGreetings! Welcome to another installment in the SEO Copywriting Checklist video series.

In today’s video, Heather addresses a content must that a lot of small business owners – and even medium- to large-sized businesses – completely forget about, and that is having an email newsletter.

This discussion came up when Heather was doing the SEO Copywriting Certification training in Phoenix last week. She was talking about how newsletters can be really good for business, and people came back with: “Why do I need to worry about a newsletter? I already have a blog. Why would I have a newsletter on top of a blog?”

Tune in to hear Heather’s response: Here’s why your site needs a newsletter. Right now…

Think A RSS Feed Is All You Need? Think Again.

The folks at the SEO Copywriting workshop had a really good question about why the need for an email newsletter as well as their blog, because a lot of site owners think “Oh, I have a blog, and people can subscribe to it through my RSS feed, so I’m good. I don’t need to worry about taking that extra step.”

But the thing is…

– Many people don’t know what RSS is or how it works.

– Weekly (or monthly) newsletters provide quite a few benefits – and are definitely worth the time and effort.

Email Newsletters Have Some Great Advantages

Some of the benefits of email newsletters are…

– They can drive traffic to your site and increase social shares.

So for example, the SEO Copywriting newsletter that I run comes out every Tuesday. Even if I couldn’t tell the day of the week in analytics, I could certainly see that spike in web traffic and know it must be a Tuesday, because of the surge in social shares and site visitors.

And what I do to encourage that with my newsletter is to include a little preview of what the blog post is about, and then a link that takes readers directly to that post on the site.

So the article isn’t printed in the newsletter, just a little snippet with a link that sends readers back to the site.

– They provide you an opportunity to “connect” with your readers. 

Newsletters are a fantastic way to keep in touch with your readers. One of the things I enjoy doing with my newsletter is to write a brief introduction that maybe talks about the theme of the newsletter, or just about what’s been going on.

Especially if you are the brand, this is a great way you can connect with your readers as well!

– They are a great way to build a loyal following.

Newsletters also can help build an incredibly loyal following. You’ll have this core group of people who are really excited to read your newsletter every week. And they’ll even email you if they didn’t receive it, and say “I didn’t get your newsletter – can you send it to me? I really look forward to reading it!”

And that’s always fun!

– Newsletters help you sell more stuff.

Finally, newsletters provide an ideal channel for selling more stuff!

If you’re writing blog posts on a daily basis, chances are those posts are not promoting your products and services – because you’re writing strong, quality, informational content.

But say you’re having a sale, or there’s something special going on that you want folks to know about? Within the body of the newsletter, you can always include a little call-to-action block letting readers know about your sale or special event.

You can even set it up so that your newsletter subscribers are the first to know about sales or other special events. That way you can have that V.I.P. “velvet rope” appeal to readers, granting them access to exclusive benefits just by signing up!

So if you don’t have a newsletter, I encourage you to get one going. Or if you do have a newsletter but you haven’t done much with it in awhile, you might want to think about kicking it back into shape – and figure out what you need to do in order to build a bigger subscriber list and get more folks visiting your site.

Because I guarantee, once things start rockin’ and rollin’, you’re going to see some huge benefits!

Thanks for joining me! As always, if you have any questions or comments please let me know – you can leave them here in the comments below, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd, or email me directly at heather@seocopywriting.com.

photo thanks to FontShop

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Freelance copywriters and IT: Can’t we all just get along?

Angry programmerGeeks. Propeller-heads. Huge obstacles to a site’s success.

When a freelance copywriter hears she’ll have to liaison with the IT department, her first reaction is often a huge groan. “Great,” she’ll say. “This is going to be a pain.”

It’s true that we’ve all had our “IT guy (or girl) from hell” story.  The know-it-all that was convinced that “Google won’t spot invisible text.” Or, the person who changed your carefully-constructed Titles to look like keyword  | keyword | keyword monstrosities.

Talk about frustrating…

IT may have their…quirks. But let’s face it – as freelance SEO copywriters, we do too. We want our copy uploaded the second we submit it. We fight for larger copy blocks, a new blog, and a crappy Title overhaul. We are as much a pain in IT’s butt as they (can be) for us.

So, can’t we all just get along?

The thing to remember is: We’re all fighting for a common goal. Both sides want a faster, more engaging and more profitable site. Our successes are their successes. And although IT may think differently than us, they are not the enemy.

IT can be the copywriter’s best friend. It’s just learning how to communicate with them more effectively. Here’s how:

– Remove the chip from your shoulder. Sure, you may have had a “bad” experience with an IT director once upon a time. Get over it. Just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean that all IT folks are inflexible, or mean, or (fill in the blank.) Forget the past and start fresh. It’s amazing how well people will treat you when they don’t sense that big chip on your shoulder.

– Know that some (gentle) education may be in order. I’ve worked with super-smart IT departments who knew SEO. And I’ve worked with folks who pulled out keywords, changed Titles and sliced 75 percent of the content. Just because someone works in IT doesn’t mean they know SEO (and they certainly may not know content.) Educating IT on what you’re doing and why will help get them on your side. Be prepared to defend your opinion with facts (such as research, articles and Google guidelines.) IT folks will respect you if you can back up what you say.

– Don’t assume that something can happen just because you want it.  Have you ever had a client say, “We need 50 pages of content by first thing tomorrow.” You may know it’s an impossible request – but your client may not. It’s the same thing when you’re working with IT.  You may know that the template doesn’t leave enough room for content – but telling the IT person to “change it” isn’t going to magically make it so.  In fact, all it will do is frustrate them – and possibly put your request on the back burner. Instead…

– Have a discussion and ask for input. If something isn’t working, tell IT why and ask to brainstorm a solution together. You may find that your desired solution can’t be implemented because of a platform issue, time constraints – or even politics. That’s OK. Together, you may discover an even better solution – one that’s perhaps even better than your original one. :) This also works when you’re trying to work out process and deadlines. The more you discuss (rather than dictate,) the better the results.

– Say “thank you.” Like you, your IT liaison is probably overworked, tired and has 500 emails waiting for a response.  Thank them for their time. Thank them for listening to your point of view. Thank them for uploading your content. A little kindness can go a long way.

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

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Make your SEO content shine in search with Schema

SEO expert Carrie Hill shows how using Schema mark-up can be a valuable SEO skill setAs an SEO content writer, you’re constantly looking for ways to expand your offerings and set yourself apart from others in your niche.

While skill and great training can set you apart from a good many, being able to offer marked up content that is search-engine friendly is going to set you apart from 99% of the others.

It is an advanced SEO skill set worth its weight in gold!

Adding Schema.org protocols to the content you write – and that of your clients – can improve ranking results and add some much needed click-through support to search engine listings.

Advising clients to mark up their existing content with address, product, and review or event markup can expand the reach of the SEO content you write and, in turn, increase your freelance copywriting rates accordingly!

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation to Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Certification students and grads about how to use Schema mark-up and its value as a prized SEO copywriting skill set. Here are some of the highlights:

What are the best Schema protocols to learn as an SEO content writer?

First, I recommend you start small.  Learn how to do one type of markup and do it well.

You can write the code for Schema.org and place the code in the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to see if it validates correctly.

Always check your validation before publishing and right after publishing.  (See the tools I like in the “Tools” section below.)

1. Location & Mobile

If your client has a location-based brick-and-mortar business, marking their address up with Schema.org/LocalBusiness markup makes a lot of sense.  It’s one of the easiest schemas to implement and it can affect not only search engine traffic, but I speculate this could help immensely with Mobile search in the future.

If you use Google Now, and are familiar with their “card’ system – you can see how data that is structured could be very useful to search engines and other local search websites.

Use this code by copying and pasting into a text editor like Notepad and replacing the generic text with your clients’ data:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>

<a itemprop=”url” href=”http://www.ClientWebsite.com”><div itemprop=”name”><strong>Client’s Company Name Here</strong></div>

</a>

<div itemprop=”description”>A short description here – maybe 1-2 sentences. You CAN leave this out, but it helps if you can use keywords and the city state in the description</div>

<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>

<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>1234 Oak Street, Suite 444</span><br>

<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Anytown, </span><span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CO </span><span itemprop=”postalCode”>55555  </span><span itemprop=”addressCountry”>USA</span><br>

<div itemprop=”telephone”>555-123-4567</div>

</div>

</div>

2. E-Commerce Product Descriptions

Many writers are contracted to write new products descriptions for their clients.  Adding the markup to outline a product with Schema.org/Product or Schema.org/Offer code can help your client’s product stand out from the pack.

To go along with product and offer schema, review schema will add the rating stars to the search engine result listing, which can have a big impact on click through rates:

Bunn Thermal Coffee Maker

 

 

 

 

3. Events

Event markup is a fairly easy process, but is done rarely, and surprisingly  – not very well.

There are a handful of event companies and directories that do it right (check out Eventful.com for a good example) and that lack of accuracy is an opportunity for you.

Are you writing content about an event your client is putting together? Creating a listing that has an enhanced look in the search engine results is a great side –benefit.

You can see from the example below how useful that would be to the viewer:

Upcoming Events:Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

Essential Tools to Use

 

Closing Thoughts

This is an opportunity for you as an SEO copywriter to set yourself apart from your competition!

Some of the implementation of the Schema.org markup may take collaboration with the clients’ website teams, but the results could definitely be worth the effort.

You may consider offering the first bit of markup as a “freebie” to show the benefits with regards to ranking and click-through, proving to the client the value behind your expertise.

However you approach it, knowing more about how to make content rank well, and achieve a larger number of clicks, can only enhance your reputation as an SEO content writer.

 

About the Author ~ Carrie Hill

Carrie Hill is the Director of Online Marketing for KeyRelevance, LLC.  She specializes in technical SEO and social media – and absolutely loves email marketing.  She is also a regular author for SEMClubhouse.com.  When not immersed in all things search, she’s a big fan of hanging with her kiddos, reading, cooking, gardening.  Find Carrie on Twitter @CarrieHill or on Google+.

image thanks to crazyseo20 (Crazy Seo)

Learn the latest SEO copywriting skills straight from top SEO experts like Carrie Hill with the SEO Copywriting Certification training program – now 20% off through June 1st with code CELEBRATE

 

 

SEO client education: It’s your most important job

Client education is an SEO professional's most important jobIt doesn’t matter if you’re an SEO consultant, SEO copywriter, content writer, or social media coordinator that reads keyword reports – if you are helping clients with SEO, client education is your most important job.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’re struggling in your business as an SEO provider, client education is the missing piece.

Client education and managing expectations go hand in hand.

What do I mean by education? It can take many different forms, but the goal is to help your client get up to speed on what you provide, why you provide it, and how they’ll benefit. It’s not a sales page or a sales call. It’s helpful information that makes them a smarter buyer.

When I’ve had a difficult client relationship in my business, nine times out of ten it’s been because of a big difference between what the client expected and what I was able to provide. For example, as a copywriter, I can’t build your backlink profile or improve your offpage SEO. But I can make it easier for search engines to understand your site – and help your site visitors get where they need to go.

Client education is important in any industry – but it’s absolutely essential with SEO. Search engine optimization is complicated – and it’s always changing. Although the core of the process is growing a bit easier and less fragmented (pick your keywords, create great content and stay social), there is still enough change from update to update and from year to year for clients to get confused.

These changes can be jumped on by less than scrupulous providers to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, when Panda and Penguin hit, questionable backlinks became the biggest problem. Unless a client has been paying someone to post backlinks to large, spammy directories there’s no reason they should be spending their time and their money on devaluing links when there aren’t many there begin with. They’d be far better off creating some great content and getting social to build genuine backlinks.

Since there are so many factors that go into SEO and some scum bags out there that are misleading their clients (either intentionally or unintentionally), your job as an educator becomes even more important.

Here’s how to do it, in three steps:

1. Always start the process with an intake call.

Do you get a lot of emails that look something like this: “Hi – I need some web copy. How much do you charge?”

Delivering a paragraph or two back with a quote isn’t going to have the impact that an official intake will. Start your relationship with a conversation so you can understand their SEO needs and determine if they need you, or another type of provider. This will also help you set the framework for how you are working together and let you explain the specific value that you provide.

2. Rather than being a service provider, think of yourself as a consultant.

It’s a subtle shift but an important one if you want to educate your client and take a more strategic role. When you’re “just a service provider” a client will expect to come to you, place an order and then get exactly what they ordered – no questions asked. These are the clients that will come to you saying “Here’s my keyword list and I want a blog article on X, Y and Z.”

But when you present yourself as a consultant, you’ll leave the door open to explain to them why jumping into blogging without a strategy is a bad idea. You can give them insight into how to make their pages better before they blog, how to create a blog strategy and how to improve their overall presence.

3. Produce lots of content – and then produce some more!

When it comes to copywriters and content, it’s often like the old story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes. If your work days are filled with work for clients, how will you find time for your own work? Make time!

If you want to provide education for your SEO clients, you need to blog, create white papers and develop newsletters. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to be there. This way, your SEO clients are prequalified and educated before they reach out. They know the difference between bad SEO and good SEO because they’ve read it on your blog.

What steps are you taking to educate your clients?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing and owner of Six Degrees Content. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

image thanks to Digital Sextant (Brendan Riley)

Smart freelance writing tips – in Haiku

Freelance writing tips in HaikuRemember when I provided some SEO copywriting tips in Haiku? Well, I thought it would be fun to give freelance writers some advice – but do things a little differently.

The result? Here are 14 life, business-building and marketing tips for freelance writers – all in Haiku. Enjoy!

 

Don’t you think it’s time

To build a business you want

Nothing’s stopping you

 

Starting your business?

Consider your unique niche

What sets you apart

 

Choose your clients well

Give them high quality work

You will see success

 

Get paid what you’re worth

Don’t settle for less money

Know your bottom line

 

Hire savvy experts

Legal, accounting, business

They will help you grow

 

Market your business

You are your biggest client

Don’t let yourself down

 

Testimonials

You need them to prove your worth

Always ask for one

 

Embrace Google+

Verify your authorship

Don’t wait. Just do it

 

Measure yourself not

By others’ accomplishments

Set your own metrics

 

There will be bad times

They happen to everyone

They will also end

 

When things feel shaky

Take a break and recover

Things will feel better

 

Take care of yourself

Exercise, eat well and rest

It will keep you sharp

 

When the cash rolls in

Set up a savings account

You’ll be glad you did

 

Don’t let other folks

Get in the way of your dream.

Just do it. Right now

Yes, you can make more money in your freelance copywriting business without working so darn hard. The Copywriting Business Bootcamp  can help! Apply today – the next session starts June 3rd.

Scared of prospect calls? 5 confidence-boosting tips for freelance copywriters

Prepare for your freelance copywriting prospect call

You’ve got this! Here’s how to prepare for your freelance copywriting prospect call!

What can be the scariest part of a freelance copywriter’s job?

Picking up the phone and talking to a prospect for the very first time.

Writing web copy? Piece of cake. Sending an email? Easy peasey. Calling a lead to make sure they’re a good client for you?

Ouch. Email seems soooo much easier.

Phone time with a prospect is important. Sure, email is easy and quick – but you often don’t get all the answers you want. A 30-minute phone chat can provide insight into the client’s personality, highlight their real needs (as opposed to what they may say their needs are) and – most importantly – help you decide if you want to work with them.

The secret to successful prospect calls is preparation. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel less nervous. You’ll sound more confident. And you’ll be able to close more sales, more quickly. Even if you have to talk on the phone.

Here’s how to do  it:

– Don’t take calls out of the blue. Set an appointment instead. It’s great when prospects call and want to talk about their site RIGHT NOW. But setting an appointment is your best bet (especially if you have a hard time switching gears between writing and talking to people!) Instead of dropping what you’re doing, email (or call) the prospect back and set a time to chat. This extra time allows you to focus, prepare and do any necessary gear-switching.

– Gather basic information via email before the call.  Whether you’re talking with the client in a few hours – or a few days – try to get some information before the call. At the very minimum, you’ll need the URL. In a perfect world, the prospect shares what pages she’ll want you to write, what her current challenges are and her budget. This doesn’t often happen, but it’s great when it does.

When I’m setting the appointment, I ask for answers for up to three questions before the call. Do I always get the interview responses? No. But I’ve found that the more motivated (read: ready to buy) clients will respond. At this phase, resist the urge to send the client a multi-page questionnaire. You run the risk of the client ignoring your questionnaire – and your scheduled call time, too.

If you’re wondering, my three typical questions are….

Who is your target audience? Do you have multiple target audiences?

What are the top three benefits of your product/service?

What sites represent your main online competition? What are their URLs?

– Review the client’s site . What SEO writing elements are screaming “fix me?”  Do you see keyphrase stuffing? Is the content benefit-statement free? Is the blog gathering dust and there hasn’t been any recent posts for awhile? Make some quick notes – all of these tidbits represent great upsell opportunities. Don’t forget to write down what you do like, too.  It’s always better to tell a prospect, “You’ll want to look at X, but the way you’re doing Y is great,” than focus 100 percent on the negative.

Review the prospect’s interview answers.  Look for red flags like, “We don’t have much of a budget” or “We want to be #1 in Google for our search terms.”  If you’re a new freelance copywriter, a small budget could be OK – but if you’ve been freelancing for awhile, you may want to discuss pricing sooner rather than later. Additionally, if your prospect has unrealistic expectations (like #1 rankings for all their key terms), be prepared to provide a (gentle) reality slap.

Important note: If you feel the prospect isn’t a good match, send them an email and let them know. There’s no reason to hold a call if you know you can’t help them. It wastes their time – and it wastes yours, too.

Write down your talking points. Do you have a testimonial from a client in a similar vertical? Have you handled a similar situation before? Write down what you want the client to know. Forgetting to bring up an important point during the call is easy to do (trust me!)

You’ve reviewed the site, made some notes and gathered all the information you can. Now, it’s time for the sales call!  I’ll provide some of my favorite “how to sell to prospects” tips next week. Stay tuned!

Get advanced SEO copywriting and business-building training – plus, receive my SEO Copywriting Certification training for free. Sign up for the in-person training May 22nd. Hurry, early bird pricing ends April 30th at midnight!

 

Finding the fun in your freelance copywriting business

Find your freelance copywriting funYesterday, during what seemed to be my 100th pushup, my trainer said something interesting…

“I know you’re beat. You don’t want to do this. It’s time to find the fun and keep going.”

My first reaction was something like &##$&#. But then I saw her point – and realized the application “find the fun” has to freelance copywriters.

You see, owning a business is hard work. I’ve discussed before how some people think it’s all puppies and rainbows when they first start out. And then reality hits.

You have to pay taxes – even if that money was earmarked for something “more important” like a new laptop.

You have to do the writing – even if you’re tired, stressed and want to zone out in front of the TV.

You have to invoice clients – even though you would rather stick a needle in your eye than open your QuickBooks file.

You have to deal with late vendors, flaky clients and other irritating things.

Not to mention, you may love your business 99.9 percent of the time. But that .01 percent? Well…working as a Walmart greeter sounds more enjoyable.

The reality is that your freelance copywriting business will never be perfect. You won’t love it all the time. But you can certainly find the fun and silly in every situation.

For instance:

Were you hit with a huge tax bill? A friend of mine likes to remind me that paying taxes is a good thing. It means you made so much money that the IRS wants some too. Celebrate your success! Heck, you could even have a “I have to pay taxes” party!

Worried about how you’re going to pay taxes next year? Turn a scary unknown into a fun challenge. Pencil out different ways you can prepare  – like setting aside 15 percent of all income into a special “taxes” account. At the same time, you can set up a fun challenge like when you save X for taxes, you’ll take a couple days off. Or buy that laptop you really need.

Hate dealing with bookkeeping? Hire a super-fun accountant or bookkeeper to help. My E.A., Eva Rosenberg, has helped me for over 14 years. Eva has the remarkable ability to make the most grueling tax conversation fun and enjoyable. I come away from our conversations feeling inspired – and that’s worth every penny I pay her.

Are you exhausted and need a break? Build in a couple hours (or a couple days) of “just for you” time. Do whatever you feel like, whether it’s reading a book, getting a manicure or enjoying lunch without your laptop nearby. Once you’ve had some fun, your writing will flow much more easily.

Do you hate to sell? Think of ways you can reward yourself for every gig you land. Maybe you can get a massage, or purchase something that makes your heart sing.

Having a bad day? Stop what you’re doing and immediately focus on the positives – even if the only positive you can think of is, “Well, I brushed my teeth today” and “My cat didn’t wake me up at 3 a.m.” Depending how deep you are in your negativity hole, it may take some time to move from cranky into happy. Stick with it. It makes a huge difference.

Some aspects of our businesses are always going to suck. There’s no way around that. What we can do is control our reaction. We can search for the silly fun hidden at the center of our serious situation. Once we master training our brains, work (and life) will seem so much easier. Really.

What about you? How can you “find the fun” in one of your current freelance copywriting challenges?

Want to learn how to make your freelance SEO copywriting business more fun (and make more money, too!) Join me in Phoenix on May 22nd! Learn more about the in-person SEO Copywriting Certification training.

 

Feel weird talking about your copywriting rates? Get over it!

How to talk about your copywriting ratesDoes your stomach tighten up when someone asks, “What are your copywriting rates?”

The initial “money talk” can be hard for some freelance copywriters (both experienced and newbies.) I’ve seen copywriters go from confidently talking about their successes to saying something like, “I charge $150 per page – is that OK with you?”

Argh.

I’ve even seen freelancers talk to a prospect for hours, send them multiple emails and start brainstorming copy ideas…all without having the rate discussion. If the gig doesn’t work out, the writer feels burned.”Why did I spend so much time trying to impress this client when this person can’t even afford me?”

Does this sound like you?

If so, it’s time to get over the money stuff. Right now.

I get it. I really do. Talking about money can feel uncomfortable and weird. Growing up, the statement “you never talk about money” was burned into my brain. That can be a hard habit to break.

Plus, you want to bond with a new prospect, learn about their needs and build a relationship. Bringing up the money question can sometimes feel tacky or greedy. I’ve even had writers tell me, “I don’t want my client to think that they’re nothing but a big dollar sign. I’d rather not bring it up.”

Here’s the problem your rate reticence is causing:

1. If your rates are outside of what your client can pay, waiting until the last minute wastes everyone’s time. Not just your time – but your prospect’s time, too.

2. When you don’t sound confident about your rates, it’s like a flashing red beacon that screams, “I may work for less if you ask.” If you constantly have prospects ask, “Are you sure that’s the lowest you can go,” it could a sign that you need to change your approach.

Here’s how boost your copywriting rates confidence:

– Give yourself a pep talk. If you’re an established copywriter, remind yourself of your client success stories. Remember that you really are all that and a bag of chips – and worth every penny!

If you’re a new copywriter, think of all the copywriting books you’ve read, videos you’ve watched and blog posts you’ve perused. You may not have success stories (yet,) but you’ve spent hours learning your craft.

– Practice giving a rate range like,”My rates are between $X and $Y per Web page.” Don’t just practice saying it in your head. Practice saying it out loud in front of a mirror until it easily rolls off your tongue. If you can bring up the rate range talk earlier rather than later, you can quickly prequalify your prospect and save everyone some time.

– Consider asking a friend to role play with you. Yes, I know it feels weird to role play. Just know that a little practice can make a huge impact.

You can even have your friend throw out different scenarios like, “Can you reduce your fees,” or “I have a lot of work down the road – can you discount your rate this one time?” The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel when the situation really happens (And it will. Trust me.)

Does talking about money feel strange? Sure. Can you get over it and learn how to do it with style and grace? You bet!

Now go out there and land those clients!

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