Is your corporate ego messing up your SEO content?

Woman writing for ego

Is your SEO content all about you?

A common SEO content marketing mantra is “Write for your reader.”

The challenge is, many companies have no idea what the heck that means. All they know is that they “should write lots of content.” Because “writing content helps get better Google rankings.”

Sure, the ranking benefits of SEO writing are important. I can’t deny that. But let’s pull SEO off the table for a second and ask the question…

Who are you writing for? Your ego? Or the people who can actually pay you money?

Long before Google, experienced copywriters would dive deep – very deep – into the readers’ psyche. We’d figure out what made them tick, what kept them up at night and how we can help solve their problems.

(If you’ve ever watched Don Draper’s client pitches on Mad Men, that’s exactly what he does. He’s a master at knowing what buttons to push.)

But then, SEO copywriting came to town. And companies started believing that the old writing rules no longer applied. It wasn’t about the customer anymore. It was about the Big G.

If you want to create commanding SEO content (and I know you do,) you need to break free of ego-based writing.

Here’s how to tell the difference between the two mindsets.

If you’re writing SEO content for your ego…

– Your top concern is getting Google rankings. Always.
– You don’t poll your readers and ask what they want to know more about.
– You don’t tap into common questions customer service responds to every day and use those topics as blog post ideas.
– Your sales copy is full of “me me me” statements. There’s not a lot of focus on benefits.
– You aren’t reviewing what your competitors are doing and learning from them (gasp – learning from a competitor? How COULD you?) :)
– You don’t care if people engage with your writing. High bounce rates are just fine.
– You write the way you want to write, dammit! You’ve never tried altering your site’s “voice” because that’s not the way you do things.

If you’re writing for your readers…

– You look at your bounce rates and see how you can make the pages even better.
– You can easily talk about your reader profile (or profiles) and the content they like to read.
– You’ve actually asked your readers what they want to read about. And you give them what they want.
– If the site’s “voice” wasn’t working, you’d rewrite the content – even if that meant hiring an outside source and spending money to make it happen.
– Your sales copy is reader-focused, with a very helpful, benefit-oriented slant.
– Although you write with SEO content best practices in mind, your first priority is making your reader smile – not a #1 Google ranking.

It’s time for your company to check your corporate ego at the door. That means going back to the basics and doing what  works – know your readers and give them what they want to read – the way they want to read it.

Next week, I’ll be sharing a little bit more about how to make that happen. Stay tuned!

What are your biggest challenges around in-house content writing? I’d love to read your comments!

Does your company want to create great content – but you aren’t sure how? I can show you how easy it is – really! Learn more about my customized SEO copywriting training.



The SEO content revolution is here. Are you ready?

SEO content paradigm shiftDo you want Google to care about your SEO content?

It’s time for a major paradigm shift.

The writing is on the wall. It’s not enough to have “OK” content. Or even content that’s slightly better than your competitors.

Your safest bet is to create what I call “commanding SEO content.”

Why “commanding?” If you check the definition, the word means “superior” and “authoritative.” The question is no longer, “What does Google want to see,” but instead, “How do we create SEO content that truly establishes our site as the top resource for this query?”

The industry has been talking about this paradigm shift. I’ve referenced articles by Eric Enge who talks about “standout” content. Rand Fishkin discusses how to provide unique value. Experts interviewed for this Koozai post all discussed the importance of quality, customer-focused content.

So, how does this change the game for companies?

– It is no longer safe to think of content as a commodity. As Jonathan Coleman says, and I love this quote, “Generally, our content sucks because — even in an industry that proclaims “content is king!” — we only value it as a commodity to drive incremental traffic growth, not as an expression of our brand that helps our users and customers to meet their goals, solve their problems, succeed at their tasks.”

Good SEO content is more than “OK content with keyphrases sprinkled in.” It’s specifically tailored to your customer persona and meets your readers goals. Plus, content like this tends to maintain its positioning (and conversion) effectiveness through multiple Google updates. If your concern is “How can we source this for the lowest possible cost,” you’re in for a rude awakening.

– In-house marketing departments need to get with the program. Instead of whining about how “Google doesn’t like our site,” you need to get off your defensive high horse and take action. You can control the situation and create commanding SEO content. But that also means you need to work. Hard.

– You need to stay on top of the game – even if you work with an agency. I’ve untangled many SEO content messes that started because, “Our agency said it had to be this way for Google.”

If an agency creates content for you (and that includes an SEO firm,) ask them about their process, their recommendations and why they feel their content is commanding. If you get mushy answers, find another vendor for content creation. Just because they are a big, well known firm doesn’t mean they know anything about SEO content. Heck, I even talked to one agency that wanted me to create doorway pages for their client – and this happened a couple months ago.

Over the next few Thursday blog posts, I’ll be discussing how companies can create commanding SEO content in-house. Following these steps should help your team understand what your readers are looking for – and what Google wants to see.

Sharpen your pencils, friends. This will be a fun journey.

Don’t miss future updates to the “Commanding SEO Content” series. Subscribe to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter now. It’s fun, fast and free!

When to run away from an SEO copywriting company

Running away from an SEO copywriting firmWondering if you should hire a certain SEO copywriting company?

Maybe…depending on what questions they ask you.

Recently, I spoke with someone who had just hired an SEO content development firm.  This person really needed an SEO win – and he hoped adding content would help.

But here’s the problem.

There was no SEO content plan, other than “adding pages.”

There wasn’t a keyphrase strategy document.

Instead, they were going to “write pages” to “see if it helped in Google.”

:Insert sound of my head hitting my desk repeatedly.::

I don’t blame the client – he was doing what he could with the budget he had (and didn’t know any better.) What’s frustrating is when a SEO content company fails to address the educational basics. Sure, they made the sale – but will the pages really help the client?

Probably not – at least not without some sort of strategy and keyword focus in place.

So here’s the deal – when you’re hiring an SEO copywriting firm, it’s definitely a “buyer beware” situation. Some firms are awesome and do a great job. Some firms outsource the content to college students and have little (if any) quality control. It’s up to you to separate the good writers from the ones who merely say they’re good.

Here’s a list of questions any good SEO content firm will ask. They may ask some of these questions during the sales call – and others once you’ve signed. The point is: If the company is all that and a bag of chips, they will be asking a lot of questions.

If the prospective vendor fails to address most – if not all – of these points – run, run fast, and keep running. They won’t know enough about your company (and your content strategy) to do a good job.

–  Will we receive a keyphrase list and a per-page keyphrase strategy? (Note: If you don’t have a keyphrase list, a good company should offer to run the keyphrases for you and develop a strategy for an additional fee.)

– What’s your current content strategy and why?

–  Who is your target customer?

–  What companies represent your main online competition?

– What tone and feel (or “voice”) resonates with your target audience ? Can I see an example?

–  What’s the main conversion goal for the page? Do you have a secondary conversion goal (such as a newsletter signup page?).

– What are the main benefits of your product or service?

– What pages are currently doing well in Google now?

– What’s worked in the past? What approach hasn’t worked?

– What pages have the highest bounce rates? Why do you think that is?

– What makes your company unique? Why should people work with you?

– What information is crucial to include?

SEO copywriting is more than just putting words on a page. It’s creating a content strategy, researching keyphrases and writing content that prompts the reader to take action. If your SEO copywriting company isn’t asking some key questions, it’s time to find another provider. Fast.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

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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

photo thanks to FontShop

Are your conversions sluggish? Are your content efforts falling flat? I can help. Check into my low-cost SEO Content Review service today!

Scalable content generation strategy: The online marketer’s formula for success

To produce high quality content in volume, you need a scalable content strategyWhen you are a large company or an agency, generating large volumes of good content can be quite a challenge. It can get expensive pretty quickly.  It is also time-consuming.

And in the end, high quality content is not a guarantee of explosive attention and viral sharing.

In order for your content generation to be sustainable, it needs to be scalable. The formula for success is using fewer resources to generate more high quality content.

In addition, your content needs to provide an excellent user experience and convey a consistent brand message, in compliance with brand standards.

Yes, I know, it is easier said than done!

The only way you can sustain content generation without breaking the bank is by making your content strategy scalable.

Planning Your Content Strategy

Planning your content strategy can be broken down into three foundational steps: defining your target audience, doing a content audit and regular inventory, and setting your content marketing goals.

1. Audience.  You will be using your content to speak to the customers you are trying to reach.  Of course, it makes sense to learn about these people to determine what is important to them.  Why would they listen to you?

Once you know what they want and what message they respond to, you will be able to craft your brand message more effectively.

There are many ways to collect information about your website visitors.  You can run surveys, look at feedback and contact email, or talk to customer support. You can follow your tribe on social media. You can interview your most typical clients.

Once you know who your audience is, look at your website analytics. If you can, segment the data to fit your audience profile better. Trace their routes on your website and make note of what they are doing with your content.

Find out which content they like and share. Learn which content prompts them to take action and become your customer. And finally, which content does not affect them whatsoever.

Note what type of content they prefer – text, video, audio, etc. You will also notice if your audience likes to comment or they prefer sharing.

2. Content audit and inventory.  It is important to do a content inventory regularly.  Audit your content to avoid duplication and ensure accuracy and freshness.

You can combine the audit with your audience review.  The analysis will show if your content corresponds with the interests of your visitors.

When reviewing your site, mark the pages that need to be updated or expanded.  These should be popular pages that your visitors share and comment on.  Review the comments and note ideas for new pages or blog posts.

Some of the content can be re-purposed, some needs to be deleted.  Mark the pages accordingly.

3. Set goals. You know what your audience wants. You know what you have to offer.  It is time to define your content marketing goals.

Revise your business objectives and align them with your content strategy.  Use your business and branding goals to guide your marketing.

At this step, you need to craft your brand message:

  • What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
  • What is your tone?
  • What do you expect your audience to do once they receive your message?
  • Why would they care about what you have to say?
  • What is the benefit for them to know that you exist?

If you have answers to these questions, you are ready for the next step – implementation.

Implement Your Content Strategy

The only way to achieve scalable content generation is to have good processes in place.

You can start with a content schedule. Define tools and technology you will need to build work flows, help with the planning, approval, optimization, and distribution of your content.

Now you are ready for resources.  Train them. Assign specific roles for each person. Your staff needs to be held accountable for the results and, therefore, they need to own their part of the process. Outsourcing content generation is also an option.  With clear goals and processes, outsourcing can be very successful.

Create a process for generating a content pipeline. It should start with ideas. Then you can take each idea and cover different angles for a series of (un)related posts.

  • Take one idea and create content in multiple formats – video, audio, text, infographic, white paper, etc.
  • Use one idea, same content, but different delivery channels: blog, social media, email, press release, conference presentation, advertising, interview, etc.

Define types of content that match your goals.  Consider options like how to’s, tutorials, guides, checklists, or glossaries. These are usually very popular types of content.

Determine how much of each type of content you need. Create a process for generating each type of content.

Remember that content you needed to update? Go for it. Re-purpose those other pages. Put the deadlines on the content calendar.

Measure Results

Determine how you will measure success. Go back to your goals and objectives, review your content strategy, and set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and targets.

Define reports and their frequency. Who is your audience for the reports?  What are the next actions for them based on the data you are reporting?

What you measure will show you how you are doing.  Base your metrics on data that matters to achieving your goals. A high bounce rate on a blog post might be okay, if the time-on-page is high enough.  But a high bounce rate on a conversion page means that your message missed the mark.

Final Thoughts

Remember the formula to a scalable content generation strategy?

Fewer resources generating more high quality content make a scalable strategy.  Good processes will ensure that few resources are used. They will also streamline the very process of content generation.

As a result, you will receive large quantities of different types of content. Applying audience knowledge to your company message will solidify the quality.

About the Author ~ Lyena Solomon

Lyena is Director of Search at Milestone Internet Marketing. She is leading the SEO and analytics teams providing strategy, overseeing processes, facilitating and carrying out training and testing latest strategies to improve conversion and revenue.

Lyena has extensive experience in SEO, analytics, website usability and navigation. You can connect with Lyena on Twitter and Google Plus.


photo thanks to UggBoy<3UggGirl

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5 questions to ask before accepting a guest post

Guest blogger cautionGuest blogging is a hot marketing tactic right now. Blog owners love it because they get free content. Bloggers love it because it’s a way to build links and drive traffic back to their site. It seems like the perfect win/win for both parties, right?

Well, not necessarily…

Recently, especially post-Penguin, I’ve seen a lot of so-so (at best) guest posts. What do I mean by so-so? Grammatical errors, obvious sales pitches, poor writing…you name it. The overall blog may be strong, but some individual guest posts are definitely lacking.

That’s not good. The writer may “win” (they get a link, after all.) But the site owner is left holding the (stinky) bag. Now, they have content on their site that people don’t like, don’t link to, and don’t share.

What’s the answer? Vet your guest bloggers carefully. It’s like dating – you don’t have to (or want to) date everyone who asks you. Just the ones you “click” with and who meets your requirements.

Here are some ways to make sure that a blogger “clicks” with your site – and you should bring them on as a guest blogger:

How did you hear about them? 

Do you have a relationship with the blogger? Were they recommended by someone else? Or did they pitch you out of the blue? If they pitched you, how does their email read? If I find a typo or grammatical error in a guest blogging pitch, I tend to delete it immediately. Why? I figure if they can’t get their act together when they pitch me, their blog post isn’t going to be any better.

Why does this person want to blog for you? 

Guest blogging is about building relationships. I laugh every time I read a variation of, “I would like to provide you an original article in exchange for a link.” If I get an email from someone who is (obviously) more interested in what’s in it for them rather than building a relationship, I tend to be pretty unimpressed.

The pitches that I pay most attention to are from folks who take the time to say, “I noticed you had a great article about X. Have you considered a follow up article on Y? I can write that for you.” That shows me that the blogger has actually read my blog, they understand my audience, and they’ve taken the time to write a specific pitch. That’s way more impressive than just asking for a link.

What does the blogger’s site look like?

This is important stuff.  Recently, Matt Cutts released a video called, “Does Google take action on spammy guest blogging activities?” Matt says, “If your Website links to sites that we considered low quality or spammy, that can affect your site’s reputation.” Always review the blogger’s site first. Ask yourself: Would my readers be happy if they landed on this site? Does this look reputable? If the answer is “no,” pass on the blogger’s request.

What else have they done? 

Of course, the Holy Grail of guest bloggers is to land a high-profile blogger with a huge network. At the same time, “unknown” writers can churn out some really fantastic stuff. If you don’t know their work, ask to see past blogging samples. Read the samples very critically and look for things like typos, grammatical mistakes and overly long, “fluffy” writing. Ask yourself if their writing style would resonate with your audience. If the blog post doesn’t meet your requirements, pass.

How responsive are they to your email/phone calls?

So, the blogger passed the initial “smell test” and you’re interested in working with them – great!  But let’s say that you sent an email (or called them) and heard…nothing. For days. Not even a “I’m swamped, and I’ll get back to you soon” email. If you find yourself sending notes that say, “Um, did you get my last email,” you may want to reconsider working with the blogger. Why? If the blogger can’t be relied upon to get back to you via email, do you think that they’ll hit a deadline? Maybe…or maybe not. And that’s a chance that you may not want to take.

As a side tip, always have a few posts “in reserve” just in case. You may find that you need to edit a guest post much more than you planned. Or, your guest poster may send an “Oops, I can’t send the post on time” email (ah, I love it when that happens.) Having some “just in case” posts in your back pocket means that you won’t have a gaping hole in your editorial calendar (or you have to run a so-so post because you don’t have anything else.)

Have you thought about signing up for the SEO Coywriting Certification training or the Copywriting Business Bootcamp? Be sure to check the blog this Friday, November 16th. I’ll be running a very special sale…





Should your business stop blogging for SEO?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that may be a little controversial…

Not every business will benefit from a blog. In fact, I think that some businesses should stop blogging right now.

Is yours one of them? Here’s how to tell:

– You’ve asked team members to be accountable for X blog posts a month. The problem is, no-one writes their assigned post – and the blogging is sporadic and spotty.  You don’t have the cash to outsource, and it’s just not getting done internally.

– You’re a small business with no time to handle the blogging in house (nor do you have any idea what to write about.) Plus, you don’t have a budget to outsource blog post writing to a good SEO writer.

– You’ve done everything right and have been blogging for awhile. Yet, your blog posts aren’t generating traffic nor are they meeting your conversion goals.

“But Heather,” you may say. “Isn’t blogging a good thing for SEO? And isn’t blogging good for demonstrating a company’s expertise?”

Well, yes. But…

In a perfect world, every company would blog their hearts out and create high-quality content. The thing is – most companies don’t have a “perfect world” scenario going on. People are busy, budgets are tight and some industries don’t naturally lend themselves to blogging (for instance, a local roofing company.)

As I’ve mentioned before, your Website doesn’t need more SEO content. It needs the right content that connects with your readers and encourages the conversion you want. If your blog isn’t meeting those metrics, it’s time to move on and find another avenue. This doesn’t mean that you’re off the content creation hook. What it does mean is you approach your content in a slightly different way.

Here are some ideas:

If your employees aren’t blogging (but should be,) get everyone together and ask for feedback. Is it because they don’t know what to write about?  Or is writing one blog post taking hours of time (which can be typical for non-writers.) If you have a clear idea of the real problem, it’s much easier to figure out a workaround.

– If you have a blog, but you’re not sure what (if anything) is wrong with it – consider bringing in an outside expert to review it and make suggestions (I do this during my SEO Content Reviews.) It may be that a few tweaks is all you need to transform your blog from blah into bodacious. It’s amazing how much easier it is to blog when you have some specific, actionable tips to work with.

– Consider other ways to reach your readers. For instance, it’s easier to write two or three high quality articles every month than to stick to a very demanding, five days a week blogging schedule. Additionally, if you’re a B2B company, consider producing a white paper every month (or every quarter.)

– Is someone in your company a video whiz? Try video interviews and post those instead. It’s much easier to summarize a video and post that than write a blog post from scratch. Plus, video has its own SEO benefits as well. Just make sure that you don’t rely 100 percent on video posts without offering some text.

What are some of your company’s current blogging challenges? Have you thought about turning to other forms of SEO content generation? Let me know in the comments – thanks!

Wondering if there’s a way to make your blog even better? Check out my low-cost and high-value SEO Content Review.





SEO copywriting Q & A from my Writer’s Digest Webinar

pens for writing seo contentYesterday, I had the pleasure of running a Webinar for Writer’s Digest. The presentation ran ten minutes overtime, so I promised  audience members that their questions would be answered in today’s blog post.

If you were on the Webinar – thank you so much! And if you’re a freelance (or in-house) writer wondering if SEO copywriting would be a smart skill set to have, read on. You may find the answers to your questions here!

Have a question that I didn’t address? Please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help!

Q: How often does a new Google algorithm come out? Does every new algorithm mean you change your copywriting style?

Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm. Some are minor updates – and some are pretty far-reaching (such as the Panda update.) However, that doesn’t mean that you need to change your copywriting style. Focus on your readers first, and follow SEO content writing best practices.

Having said that, it’s very important that you keep up with what’s happening in the industry. You may learn that you need to handle certain situations differently (such as hyperlinking keyphrases or using synonyms in your content.) You won’t need to spend hours a day digging into the latest SEO news. But do plan to spend some time every week reading the trades.

Q: When choosing a keyphrase, as on Google keywords, is there an ideal number we should look for? How much weight should we give the “high” competitive terms? What if we need to go after those terms?

This depends on a lot of factors. For instance, an authority site that’s been up for years has a better chance of scoring a competitive keyphrase than a brand-new, small business site. Additionally, it’s always nice when you can go after the keyphrase “sweet spot” (highly trafficked keyphrases that aren’t as competitive.) For instance, the keyphrase [freelance writer] may be tough to position for. However, the phrase, [lab supply freelance writer] will be much easier.

You may want to check out the Writer’s Digest tutorial for more information about keyphrase research.

Q: How do you access the Google keyword research tool.

Easy! You can find it here.

Q: How does the SEO Certificate program work (cost, length, etc.)?

Thanks so much for asking. You can learn more the SEO Copywriting Certification training here.

Q: I’m hearing a lot of rumbling that search is changing dramatically because of mobile, and that within a couple of years Google will be moot, because everyone will be using mobile apps. True?

Ah yes. This is a variation of the “SEO is dead” conversation that happens a couple times a year. :) It’s true that mobile is changing the game – but people still use Google (and Bing) on their Android devices, iPads, iPhones, etc. And even if Google did suddenly go away (doubtful,) whatever solution would be left would still be providing answers based on content.

Search has been “changing dramatically” since I’ve been in the business. And actually, that’s one of the fun things about search. If you like working in an industry that’s ever-changing, SEO copywriting could be a great career choice for you!

Q: Does hyperlinking around two different keyphrases in a blog post help or hurt your SEO?

You should optimize for two to three keyphrases per page. Hyperlinking is fine – the key is to do it intelligently and mix up your anchor text. If you’re hyperlinking every instance of “cashmere sweaters,” that won’t help your SEO (it could actually hurt it.) Here’s an interesting article about how Google’s Penguin update impacted hyperlinking the keyphrase.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for raising your ranking for seasonal sites (like Christmas only) since they’re only seasonal, they aren’t updated as often, even though it’s formatted as a blog (santa’s elf’s blog for children).

Ideally, you’d create content year ’round. If you’re just looking for seasonal traffic, PPC (pay per click,) may be a better marketing avenue. You may also consider building a social media campaign to drive traffic (say a Facebook or Twitter campaign.)

Q: Approximately how many days/weeks, fulltime, of SEO training and beginner’s work would it take for an experienced writer/journalist to reach a level of competency to work professionally with corporate clients for $100-plus/hour?

It depends on the type of “issues” you want to deal with. If you’re a great writer and understand SEO content, you could accomplish this in a few months. If you want to work hand-in-hand with the IT department, consult on content changes and deal with more “hairy” issues, you’ll need a year (or more) of increasing experience under your belt. Having said that, one of the big issues that writers have is charging what they’re worth. Case studies and testimonials will help showcase your value (and congratulations for thinking ahead – that’s great!)

Q: Are there ways to include key phrases as hidden text?

Yes, but Google will spot it and punish you with a spam penalty. The “hidden text” trick is an old one that has been around as long as I’ve been in SEO (and that’s a really long time!) Anytime you’re thinking of “hiding” text (or including light grey text on a white background so it’s less noticeable,) you’re walking on very thin ice. It’s better to focus producing quality content instead.

Q: Is it true that Google is putting less emphasis on inbound links, and penalizing sites for having link wheels, etc.?

Google has certainly cracked down on spammy link campaigns. Gaining quality inbound links is still important – and the key word is “quality.” Submitting your content to random article sites won’t help you.

For some great advice on link building, check out Debra Mastaler’s site Alliance-Link (and sign up for her newsletter.) You’ll learn how smart link building is more about smart PR and marketing than “I’ll link to you if you link to me.”

Q: How do you find out about the algorithmic changes?

Here’s a fun way to learn more about the “weather” patterns of Google’s algorithm. You’ll also want to pay attention to the trade sites such as:

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Roundtable

Matt Cutt’s blog (Matt works for Google and is known as “Google Guy.”)

Q: My google analytics usually blocks the keywords that people have typed in to get to my site – is there any way around this, as I’d like to know how people find me.

Ah, yes. That is irritating, isn’t it?  If folks are logged into Google (and a huge number of folks are,) their keyword data won’t show in your analytics. Here’s a way around it, compliments of Jill Whalen (I would recommend signing up for her newsletter, too – it’s a good one!

Thanks to @writersdigest for inviting me to speak!

Are you looking for a fast, low-cost way to learn about your SEO content opportunities and problems? Check out my new SEO Content Site Review.



Is learned helplessness screwing over your SEO content?

Last week, I wrote a rant-filled post about an SEO firm filling up their client’s site with crappy blog posts because “that’s what Google wants.”

It was one of my most popular posts ever.

I started thinking about this from the client’s perspective. The content obviously sucked, so it’s not like the SEO could pass this off as “quality.” And I couldn’t figure out why the hell the client wouldn’t fire the SEO – or at least say that they were no longer in charge of sourcing the content.

And then, while I was doing pushups during my morning bootcamp class, it hit me.

Learned helplessless has way too many companies by the balls.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard…

…We want to write more content, but we’re afraid that we’ll do something wrong.

…We’re not sure if this is the right content, but our SEO company says it’s working – so it must be OK.

…I don’t have time to measure content effectiveness. I’d rather just pay $20 or so per page. That way, if it sucks, I’m not out a lot of money.

…We want to create more content in-house. But we don’t know what to write about or how to set up a workflow. And who has time to figure it out?

Sound familiar?

I understand. I really do. With the 1,000 other things on your plate, it’s easier to “set it and forget it” than really dig in to your SEO content plans.

But here’s the thing:  You are  leaving money on the table by NOT having a content plan in place. And if your writing doesn’t connect with your reader, it’s not doing you any good.

Unless you want things to stay where they are, you need to take action. Now. Right now. Quit screwing around and get yourself the help you need.

…If you have the capabilities to bring your content in-house, get your writers trained in SEO copy development best practices.

Yes, this has an upfront cost. But over the long run, it will literally save you thousands of dollars. Hell, even over the short run. Plus, you’ll learn how to create content that positions well and gets more social shares. You won’t piss Google off if you learn exactly what you should do.

…You should never have to settle for stinky content. If your SEO company (or SEO copywriter) is writing crap content, find someone else to write it.

There are many firms that specialize in SEO content development (mine included.) An excellent writer will ask you questions about your customer persona, your benefits, your brand “voice” and your competition – and craft what your readers want to read. Here are some questions to ask – and some red flags to avoid – if you want to hire a Google-savvy SEO copywriter.

…If you plan to dominate the world with your so-so  $20/page for 1000 words of content, get over yourself.

As I mentioned last week, your site doesn’t need more words – it needs the right words. If you need someone to write a kick-ass sales page – or research and write a blog post – that’s going to cost you more money. The good news is that it will also make you more money too. Again, if you find a firm that you love and trust, the additional fee you’ll be charge will be way worth the ROi.

…If you want to create content in house, but you’re not sure what to write about – hire a consultant.

I’m working with more companies in this capacity. I may not write a word of copy, but I do make content recommendations, set up an editorial calendar, teach the marketing team how to find topics and help measure effectiveness. With a good plan in place, those content marketing initiatives start screaming along.

It’s time for you to take control of your SEO content. You wouldn’t settle for a so-so salesperson. Or a customer service rep who didn’t perform. The same goes for your content.

The moment you stop settling is the moment that you’ll start seeing the results you really want. It will take some work and effort on your part, sure.

But it will be worth it. And you’ll be able to break free of the learned helplessness trap.

Need help setting up a workflow and editorial calendar? I can train your team in best practices, set up your editorial calendar and make sure that you’re set up for SEO content success. Contact me for details.



Your B2B site doesn’t need more freakin’ words

Hi. My name is Heather, and I’m pissed off (“Hi, Heather!”)

Here’s why.

Last week, an SEO agency called me. They represented a B2B company that was in need of content – OK, that’s fine.

And then, the prospect started talking about the gig…

“The client needs three blog posts a week, all an average of 500 words. That’s what Google wants, you know”

“The pages should have a keyphrase density of 6.7 percent.”

“We don’t want to spend much for this content – our budget is around $30/article.”

That was strike one, strike two, and strike three for me.

The client pointed me to an example page, and here’s what I found:

– The content was filled with grammatical errors

– There was no call-to-action anywhere. So, it was a content “dead-end” page that wasn’t helping with conversion rates.

– The post didn’t dovetail with anything that the client offered.

– The post drifted off and stopped making sense at about the 300 word mark. Obviously, the writer tried to “fluff it up” and added an additional 200 words because they were “supposed to.”

And who only knows how much the agency charged the B2B end client. I’m willing to bet that the $30 content “investment” turned into a $250-$300 content charge to the client.

I had a little fun with the agency person and started asking hard questions like, “So, tell me how X post is converting for the client? What’s the call to action here? Is this the right voice that works with the target audience?”

Sure, I was letting my inner bitch come out and play – but I asked nicely. And they were highly valid questions.

The agency person didn’t know what to say. He stammered and hemmed and hawed and finally said…and I bet you can say it with me…

“Well, the content is good for Google – so that’s all we care about.”

Here’s the deal:  Google doesn’t give a shit about your word count. Nor does it care how many blog posts you upload a week. And it really doesn’t care about keyword density.

What your site needs are the right freakin’ words. Not necessarily MORE words – the right ones. The ones that connect with your prospects, build trust and encourages a conversion.

Sadly, this attitude is extremely common with SEOs and agencies (not all of them – there are “good guys” out there. But the crappy ones outweigh the good ones.) They may talk a good game and say that “content is king.” And then they turn around and order cheap content that has nothing to do with the site’s conversion goals and pass it off as SEO gold.

What’s worse – the poor B2B client doesn’t know. They think that the SEO is looking after their best interests.

So, here are a few reality checks:

– If your SEO/agency is recommending daily blog posts (or any other kind of content,) ask them how that content ties into your conversion goals. If they say the content is “for Google,” – and that’s the only benefit – don’t do it. The world doesn’t need more crappy content.

– If your first concern is the content price – you’re having the wrong conversation. Good content makes you money, period. It’s like paying a higher salary to a sizzling-hot salesperson who closes big deals. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay $500 a page every time. But it means that you have to weigh the cost of the content against return on investment. The best writing firm (or writer) isn’t the cheapest writer. The best writer is the person who will make you more money.

– If your SEO/agency is pushing “more content” when your sales copy sucks, run away. You need to pay attention to where your money comes from – and that means taking a hard look at your sales and lead generation pages. I’m sure that your CEO didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Our new mission statement is to have our content +1’ed all over the place.” The name of the game is to make more freakin’ money. Shore up your sales pages first. Make sure that they are connecting with your customers and converting like crazy. THEN look at your other marketing collateral.

Sheesh…rant over. :)  But the situation did give me an idea…

I’m working on an weekly mentoring class for B2B companies that want to take back their content, see what’s really working and find proven ways to connect with their prospects. There’s no reason to pay an SEO to do this for you when you’re perfectly capable of taking care of it yourself.  Ping me if you’re struggling in-house (or struggling with your outsourced provider) and need help – I’d love your feedback and ideas. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Thanks!

Do you work in-house for a B2B company? Can you please help me by answering a few short survey questions? I promise that it won’t take more than 2-3 minutes of your time. Thank you so much!