5 essential business survival lessons for the freelance SEO content writer

Five of Heather Lloyd-Martin's top posts on the business of freelance SEO copyritingFrom time to time, Heather takes some time off. Yes. And we all need to do that now and then, right? If Heather has taught us anything, it’s that taking a writing break is good for us and for our freelance copywriting business.

The last time Heather took anything resembling a “real” break, I assembled a collection of her posts directed at freelance SEO copywriters. They were personal and served to encourage, inspire, and motivate. (You may recall “Write, play, live…”).

Today, I’ve selected another handful of Heather’s posts from the archives that I’m sure you’ll find every bit as helpful as when you first read them. (And if you haven’t been following Heather’s posts for very long, then you will want to go back and read even more of her stuff!)

The tenor of these posts has more to do with the business realities facing the freelance SEO content writer. Having walked that road for many a mile and back, Heather has a lot to offer in lessons, counsel, and plain business smart talk.

So take a moment to learn from one savvy freelance SEO copywriter and successful businesswoman, Heather Lloyd-Martin!


Are you putting your freelance biz at risk?Are you putting your freelance copywriting business at risk?

You may be the most brilliant writer on the planet, but if you don’t have a “head for business” your chances of succeeding as a freelance copywriter aren’t so good.

In this toughish-love post, Heather gives freelance copywriters this reality check: “If you don’t have the business side of your business tight and wired, you will fail.” And then lists some of the financial woes you will most likely face, before finally failing altogether.

Not a pretty picture – but here is where Heather shines, in giving freelance writers the “reality bites” information they need to know. Read up on 11 things to consider if you’re serious about running a freelance copywriting business.


When to walk awayWhen to walk away

Ouch. It looks like it may be time to end a client relationship. This is hard, even painful – especially if this is an original client, a client you’ve developed a friendship with, or a long-term client (and likely all three in one big owie).

How do you know if you’re doing the right thing, both for you and for your client? Heather outlines ten scenarios when it may be time to walk away – and an 11th scenario that may mean turning away a prospect (*gasp!*).


http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-salted-peanuts-falling-out-blue-bowl-image12910883Quit getting paid peanuts: 10 tips for freelance writers

Find yourself scrambling to make those proverbial ends meet, and complaining about your “cheap” clients? If you’re burning the candle at both ends and simply not making enough money, then this is a wake-up call.

As Heather explains it in this other toughish-love post, it is not the fault of your freelance copywriting clients that you’re getting paid peanuts. It’s yours. No one is going to offer to pay you more than you ask – and it is up to you to show your value and charge accordingly.

Check out these 10 tips to reconcile your value with your paycheck! It really is up to you.


10 stupid business mistakes smart writers make10 stupid business mistakes smart writers make

Heather starts it off with “Are you fearful of a business #FAIL?”

Then she discusses 10 common business mistakes even the smartest of writers make, from missing deadlines to spacing out client invoices. Any of these seemingly minor mistakes can erode your chance of succeeding in the highly competitive freelance copywriting industry.

Although written in April of 2011, these freelance copywriting business mistakes are still happening all too frequently. Am I wrong? Check out the list and see which applies to you (be honest, now!) and figure out how to prevent it/them from sabotaging your business in the future!


http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-transform-fear-action-concept-image29545056New SEO content writer? How to conquer fear and land clients

Lest we forget the brand spanking new SEO copywriter, here’s a giant “you got this!” booster – provided you can set aside fear and take some suggestions.

Heather lists six things the new freelance SEO content writer can do to get started and gather experience plus a portfolio. If you’re willing to follow her guidelines, then yes, you got this! (I know, cause I did) :)

I’m sure there are about 10 or more additional posts by Heather that I could have included in this collection, but I’m also sure I’ll find another occasion to gather them for you. In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend and we’ll see you Monday morning!

photo thanks to Paul Inkles

Learn how you can make more money as a freelance writer without working so darn hard! Look into the Freelance Copywriting Business Boot Camp – today!

On SEO & guest blogging: A smart talk with Ann Smarty

SEO ninja Ann Smarty discusses SEO and guest bloggingToday we’re pleased to share our chat with Ann Smarty, founder of MyBlogGuest and veteran SEO and internet marketing expert.

Here Ann discusses how MyBlogGuest works, her current passion for reviving Threadwatch, and her take on guest blogging for links.

You’re well known as the founder of MyBlogGuest. Could you share a bit as to how it works for freelance writers and blog owners?

MyBlogGuest.com was started as a simple forum with the only aim to connect people with one interest: guest blogging. I never intended to monetize it. It was just a fun idea quickly wrapped together with no budget behind it.

What happened next was a fun time of building the community, collecting the feedback and implementing it. In an effort to cover development costs we had to monetize it but the gist remained the same: We wanted people to meet and build relationships

Currently our features include:

  • Articles Gallery: A writer can upload his/her original guest article there for blog owners to come, preview and suggest their site to be its home. I think it’s a good tool for any blogger: Whenever they have too little time, leave on vacation, get a new job, etc., the Articles Gallery can be their source to support the blog. The Articles Gallery is 100% free from any money offers: We want the blog owners to only use the content if they love it! There should be no other incentive.
  • Infographics Gallery: The similar tool for infographics designers to find blog homes for their work. Together with the infographics we require an original text description to go with it. (My case study is here).
  • Articles Requests: A blog owner can leave a “request” for some specific guest article topic and authors can pitch ideas. The unique part of this feature is that ALL articles here are pre-moderated, so the blog owner gets an essentially edited piece of original content based on his/her specific requirements and topic. (Here’s a quick video).
  • Verified authorship: We comply with Google trends and encourage authors to verify the authorship of their guest posts (and thus digitally sign them). Blog owners may visit that section of “verified” content and allow established authors to guest post.

#1 Authorship example:Ann Smarty





#2 Authorship example:Ann Smarty







There are lots of other features including link tracking (for authors to be able to use a guest post elsewhere if the blog, for example ceased to exist), free Copyscape checks (to make sure all content is original), 24/7 moderation and support (thanks to our awesome team), follow-up reminders, free hand-picked and monthly updated “featured” requests lists, etc.

We still can’t stress the value of relationships enough!

Even with PRO membership I have always been saying: Pay for a couple of months, build some contacts with a bunch of bloggers and move on! Don’t use it as your only or main source of guest post opportunities. Go out and reach out to more bloggers, use MBG-powered connections to expand to “friends of your friends” circles, etc.

Lately there’s been some concern expressed by SEOs regarding Google’s warning about guest blogging for links. What’s your take on all this? Should this be a concern?

My main concern is the SEO community – people are too distracted and confused. SEOs just keep looking in the wrong direction!

I’ve said this before: Guest blogging for links has always been doomed. It’s simply not the way it should be used to work!

Instead of picking up to Googler’s work and inventing “red flags”, SEOs just need to grow up and make it work the right way, i.e., build a linkable asset (tool, whitepaper, great article, etc) and use guest blogging and social media to get an initial attention to it.

If you are doing your job right, you won’t have to keep writing guest posts just for the sake of gaining links: Links will start coming on their own!

If that’s how you are guest blogging, you will always be good! :)

You’re also very involved with the Threadwatch community. What is Threadwatch about?

Threadwatch is one of the oldest SEO communities. It’s been around since 2004! Then it was inactive for a while and Jim Boykin decided to revive it in January of this year. I happen to be Internet Marketing Ninjas’ community manager, so I was the one to oversee and manage the revival.

In my revival submission, I covered all the Google updates and news we had missed.

Since the re-birth we have redesigned it and added a couple of innovative features. One of the recently added is the “Marketing Conferences” page which enables users to mark conferences as “I am going to” and it will then be reflected in the calendar (as well as your user profile and on the conference page as well). Basically, it’s like a community-driven personal conference manager.

We are still undergoing the “beta” phase though: Looking for the “core” active members and editors who will create the “ultimate” voice of the resource and define its actual style.

Time will show but I would love to see Threadwatch to be the major resource of what is important in SEO and social. I don’t want it to be yet another list of “top lists”, you know. I want it to be the ultimate hub of in-depth SEO discussions: “Less noise, more signal” :)

But time will show… The community is organic in nature; you can’t always control it, so we’ll see where it goes!

You’ve been in the SEO and internet marketing profession for a considerable time now. What is your overall impression of the state of the SEO industry today?

I stopped counting years in SEO, to be honest. I’ve been involved long enough to understand that nothing essentially changes: Google is trying (and often failing) to find really quality content and SEOs are trying to “fake” it instead of actually trying to *build* it.

In the process, Google is getting more aggressive and SEOs are getting more sophisticated (instead of putting the same amount of energy into actually *building* it). Luckily, the SEO community is slowly but surely growing up and it’s been awesome to be part of that process!

About Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is founder of MyBlogGuest, Branding and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, co-founder of ViralContentBuzz and regular contributor to a number of top marketing resources. You can follow Ann on Twitter (@annsmarty and/or @seosmarty) and on Google+.

photo thanks to chrishusein

Do your in-house writers need SEO copywriting training? I can help! Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training and my customized training solutions.

Should you close your freelance copywriting business?

Should you close your freelance copywriting business?

Have you been thinking about closing your freelance copywriting business and working in-house instead?

Ouch. Talk about a difficult decision…

You may be thinking of closing up shop for a number of reasons:

– You aren’t hitting your financial goals, and you’re in debt (or heading that way.)

– You’re burned out and your heart isn’t in it anymore.

– You realize you could go farther, faster if you worked in-house.

– You’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity that’s too good to pass up.

I’ve gone through this myself. About 10 years ago, I was one fried woman. A number of huge life hits left me bruised and battered. I felt lonely, burned out and frustrated. Working in-house seemed like the perfect solution – it was a stable paycheck, and I could work with some great people.

(I lasted six months before I realized I made a mistake – but it was a great lesson.)

If you’re feeling this way, you are not alone. At all. I’ve talked to many freelance copywriters who dream about taking a “real job.”

But they don’t like to talk about it because they feel ashamed. Or, they may feel like they’ve failed or done something horribly wrong.

And that can’t be further from the truth.

There is no law that says you have to keep your business doors open forever. However, you’ll want to be very (very) sure that closing shop is the best thing for you.

If you’re facing this dilemma, here are some things you can do.

– Talk to someone. Don’t let this bottle up inside of you. You aren’t the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. It’s important to get this stuff OUT.

– Assess the core issue behind the urge to get a in-house copywriting job. Is it financial? Are you burned out? Are you tired of the self-employment stress?

– Be gentle with yourself. If you’re working 12-hour days, six days a week, of course you’re going to burn out.  Before you make a major leap, consider if you need a little self-care first. Once you’re stuck in burnout land, finding financial opportunities is challenging.

– Are your expectations realistic? Do you keep hearing about “six-figure copywriters” and wonder why you’re only making five figures your first year? Relax. Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous slippery slope.

– Ask yourself how you can improve the situation. Do you need business-building skills or a business mentor to help you with the financial aspects? If you’re feeling particularly stuck, chatting with someone can provide insights you may not figure out on your own.

– Consider creative solutions. Do you need a stable income? Some jobs will let you freelance part time. That way, you can keep your business, and still enjoy the security of a paycheck.

– Is the opportunity too good to pass up? Take it! Sure, you may not really want to take a “real job,” but some gigs are really cool…and ones you won’t be able to land as a freelancer.

As a side note:

Beware taking a job just for the money. No matter how many Benjamins an employer throws at you, you need to like the people, the company and what you’ll be doing. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a high-paying job you hate (and you may not be able to exit easily.) Trust me. A little company research goes a long way…

Are you burned out and need some business-building help? I can help. Check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp and learn how to increase your income without working so darn hard.


New SEO content writer? How to conquer fear and land clients

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-transform-fear-action-concept-image29545056Starting your career as a freelance SEO content writer is scary. 

You know you’re a good writer. You may have written some web copy for friends. Heck, you may even have a client or two – or you worked in-house.

“Dabbling” as a freelance SEO content writer is one thing. You’re testing the waters and seeing if you really want to continue.

But then there comes that “jumping off” point. That point where you say, “I want to turn this into a full-time business. What should I do next?”

That’s where the fear sets in.

Unfortunately, this is when smart SEO copywriters start making not-so-smart decisions. They get scattered. They get frustrated. And sometimes, they give up – long before they should.

If you’re new to the freelance SEO content writing business, here’s what to do:


– Write as much SEO content as you can. This sounds like a no-brainer tip, I know. But it’s amazing how many “newbie” SEO copywriters spend so much time on “book learning” that they forget that the only way to truly improve their craft is by writing.

One of the easiest ways to start is by building a blog. Write about “stuff” you enjoy and you’re passionate about. Practice setting up an editorial calendar. Learn how to research keyphrases and develop a keyphrase strategy. Don’t worry about screwing up – this is all for practice. Your own blog allows you to try and test different approaches. Then, you can take that new-found expertise and use it to wow your new clients.

– Study your butt off.  Yes, you’ll want to write every chance you get. But remember, “book learning” is still important. I’ve spent over 20 years learning how to craft persuasive content, and I’m still learning. Plus, if you don’t know the SEO content writing “rules” you’re putting your site – and your future clients’ site – at risk. Read books, blog posts (here’s a great list,) and take courses. When you learn something new, take that knowledge back to your blog and put it into practice.

– Volunteer your time. Don’t think of this as “giving away your time.” or “working for free.” Instead, consider this an “unpaid internship.” I’m willing to bet that your local not-for-profit would love your help (and be grateful for it, too.) Plus, you can use an opportunity like this to gain your first testimonial.

– Find an SEO copywriting mentor. Sometimes, you can offer to work with a Master SEO freelance copywriter as an intern. You may be working for free, but you’ll have someone checking your work, offering guidance and letting you work with different types of clients.

I’m going to chat about how to find a mentor in a future blog post. There’s definitely a way to “pitch” a possible mentor – and things to definitely avoid. Stay tuned!

– Work with small businesses. Local, small businesses rarely have the budget for full-on copywriting help – and they are incredibly grateful for any SEO writing help.

Your best bet is starting small. Create a monthly newsletter. Rewrite a couple pages of web content. Conduct keyphrase research. Offer to work for free or at a highly discounted rate. Great experience like this can gain you even more testimonials – even case studies (which are crucial for landing new clients!)

– Know your fear is normal – but it’s time to get over it. You will be rejected. You will have dark nights of the soul when you’d rather work at Starbucks than write another word. You will feel like you’re not good enough. There will be aspects of your business that are not so fun. We all go through it. Allow yourself time (like, 10 minutes – not an entire day) to freak out, bitch, moan and fear the unknown. Then, go out there and pitch your new client.

You’ve got this. Really!

Did you enjoy this post? Why not sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter (you’ll get a free writing guide if you do!) Thank you!

The do’s & don’ts of partnering with other web content providers

Thinking of partnering up with another web content provider? Consider these tips from the trenches.I took a big step this week for my company – I closed its virtual doors.

But I’m far from being out of business. I’ve decided to focus on content marketing clients who are also working with a marketing company for complementary services like social media and inbound marketing strategy.

Working with partners – whether formal or informal – has helped me reach new levels in my business. And it can do the same thing for yours too. But you need to be careful you aren’t compromising yourself, your ethics, or your sanity when you strike up a partnership.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that I wish I’d had when I first started working with partners.

DO look for complimentary partners for your SEO copywriting services.

Fortunately, we’re working in a time where the demand for copywriting and content marketing is at an all time high. Anyone involved with providing web marketing services to clients – from web designers to social media consultants – needs to know great content creators. If they don’t have one they trust an email away, they are doing their clients a big disservice.

Start your search by finding complimentary providers on LinkedIn, exploring small business sites, or looking for freelancing blogs where similar, but not competing, providers might be hanging out.

DO learn about the different ways of partnering with other providers.

Partnership doesn’t have to mean going into business together.

You can work with other providers under a referral agreement or set up a deal where you provide a service as part of their company – but still retain your own clients. It all depends on what you and your potential partner decide to do.

Consider where you want to take your SEO copywriting business and then pick an option that works best for you.

DON’T jump into a partnership too soon.

Finding a good partnership is a lot like dating. You’re not going to run off to Vegas to get married the first night you go out. And if you do, you’re going to end up getting the partnership version of an annulment.

Network with other providers, but take things one project at a time until you get a good feel for how you work together. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contractual relationship with someone whose business practices you don’t respect.

DO evaluate your potential partner’s target market and marketing approach.

There are dozens of opportunities out there for working with another provider – so you can afford to be choosy.

Pay close attention to your potential partner’s own marketing. Who are they working with and speaking to? This is important for two reasons. Finding a provider that works with your own target audience will make it easy for you to create client content – and easy for you to create content for the fellow provider. Everyone needs blog posts and website copy, so chances are your partner will be looking to use your content services at some point. It helps to be familiar with their target audience and know who you’re writing to.

DON’T work without a contract.

No matter how friendly you may be with another provider, you’ll want to treat them just like any other client.

There needs to be contracts in place for each project or – depending on the nature of your partnership – for the length of time you’re working together. Even if you’re working with a fellow business owner it doesn’t mean that they have your best interests in mind.

DO pay close attention to their business practices.

Finding a good fit with another provider goes beyond the leads or projects you can bring one another.

Are you truly on the same page when it comes to growing your businesses? Case in point, after a single project with a particular SEO provider I came to realize his opinion of clients (that they were stupid and deserved to be duped) didn’t jive with the way that I want to do business. This isn’t always apparent based on their website, marketing and social media usage – so keep things low on commitment until you know more about their business practices.

DON’T explore partnership unless you’re sure you can handle it.

If you’re someone who prefers to work on your own, partnership probably isn’t for you.

For me, I found the life of a solo copywriter to be sort of lonely. I always found myself conferring with SEO providers, web designers, and social media marketers so I decided to make it official. Do some soul searching and figure out what you want your business to look like in the future.

Have you worked with referral partners or other partners? What was your experience like?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. 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.

photo thanks to buddawiggi

Need a partner to help your web copy sizzle in search and convert like crazy? Check into my SEO content services today!


Quit getting paid peanuts: 10 tips for freelance writers

Freelance writer paid peanuts

Tired of getting paid peanuts?

Do you find yourself complaining that your SEO writing clients are cheap and not paying you what you’re worth?

Here’s a reality check.

It’s not your clients’ fault that you’re getting paid peanuts.

It’s yours.

I know, I know – I’m being harsh. But I’m doing it in a loving way. When you’re a freelance SEO writer, you are responsible for your business’ success. If you find yourself begging to be paid $50 for a 500 word post, you need to change your marketing process, pronto.

Here’s how to do it:

– Quit doing what you’ve done before. If you know that marketing yourself on Elance and Odesk is going to get you low-paying gigs, quit relying on them as primary revenue sources. Chances are, the dollar amounts aren’t going to get any better. Instead, create a marketing plan and stick with it. That probably means creeping out of your comfort zone. That’s OK. It’s good for you.

– Pull yourself out of the “I’m doing this for experience” trap. Sure, it’s OK to charge super-low rates when you’re first starting out. After that, you need to do important things like eat and pay your rent. If you think your writing isn’t worth it, your prospects won’t either (and they won’t pay you the fee you want.)

– Take things off the table. Can your prospect pay for some – but not all – of your proposed deliverables? Take something away until you can reach their price point. That way, you’re not discounting your prices – and your prospect gets (almost all) of what they need.

– Find a niche and establish your expertise. Pam Foster – who specializes in pet copywriting – is a great example of someone who has found a profitable niche. She’s the recognized go-to expert within the pet industry (and she can charge for that expertise accordingly.)

– Learn to say “no.” Does a new prospect want you to do everything for 50 percent less than your stated price? Just say no. Nicely. Practice saying “no” in front of a mirror if needed. Remember, your prospect’s budget issue is not your problem.

– Gather testimonials and case studies. That way, you can prove how you’ve boosted your clients’ bottom lines. You’re selling your value and how you’ll help your clients – so the more documentation you have to back that up, the better.

– Is your niche not making money? Find another one. You may love to work with small business clients – but if they can’t pay your bills, it’s time to let them go.

– Talk to someone who “gets it.” This could be a friend, a mentor or another freelance writer. Explain why you’re raising your rates – and share all the reasons why doing so freaks you out. It’s amazing how less scary something gets when it’s out in the open.

– Learn to say “goodbye” to low-paying clients. Yes, even if you love them. It’s scary to let existing clients go (I’ve been there many times.) But sometimes, we have to let things go to make space for better things in our lives (like better paying clients!)

– Examine your own issues. If you can’t seem to tell clients you charge $300 a page (rather than $30,) figure out what’s holding you back. Do you not feel “good enough?” Do you think that writers shouldn’t charge “too much” for what they do? What’s causing the rates to get stuck in your throat? If you’re constantly undervaluing yourself, this great article by Sean D’Souza (super-smart guy and Copywriting Business Bootcamp instructor) is a must-read.

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

(Special thanks to the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group for the inspiration!)

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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?”


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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