Danny Sullivan, You Changed My Life. Thank you.

Heather Lloyd-Martin and Jill Whalen

Me and Jill Whalen after our first SEO speaking gig — in Amsterdam!

Last week, I read the news that Danny Sullivan is shifting away from his role as Chief Content Officer of Third Door Media, and is taking an advisory role.

I was shocked.

Sure, Danny isn’t the first “first generation” search marketer to step away from the industry (I believe my first business partner, Jill Whalen, was the first.) But, he’s the biggest. He’s called the “Godfather of SEO” for a reason.

Danny’s been neck-deep in this search engine stuff since the very beginning.

And, it’s because of Danny that I got my SEO start.

Once upon a time, in the late ’90s, Jill Whalen and I published a newsletter called RankWrite. She wrote about SEO. I wrote about content. The newsletter did well, and we grew our subscriber list fairly quickly.

Back then, there were only a handful of “SEO experts.” Heck, back then, most folks didn’t know what SEO was! The old guard included Greg Boser, Bruce Clay, Disa Johnson and Shari Thurow.

And of course, Danny was included too. He had already published A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines and was reporting on the industry.

Because of Danny, my first industry speaking gig was with Jill Whalen in Amsterdam (I believe Danny’s wife was due soon, and he didn’t want to fly.) I was as green as could be, completely freaked out, and I was convinced I’d be gonged during my presentation (yes, the moderator would hit a big gong if the speaker ran overtime.)

I am so grateful the video of my presentation is no longer online. :)

That conference changed my life in so many ways. It was the first time I traveled internationally by myself and the first time I spoke to a huge crowd.

And despite my speaking glitches, my presentation gave me the confidence to know that I was on the right path. I had found my passion.

Plus, I had more to look forward to! Danny had invited Jill and me to speak at Search Engine Strategies (SES) Boston a couple of months later. Back then, SES was THE SEO event. First Amsterdam, then Boston. I was on a roll!

However, life likes to throw you a curve now and then.

Two days after I returned from Amsterdam, my husband committed suicide. I was left virtually penniless, in shock, and wondering what to do next. If it weren’t for Danny’s pre-existing invitation (and a lot of help and encouragement from Jill — thanks, Jill,) I would have passed on the Boston conference. I would have stayed home and licked my wounds.

But, I went. And I had fun. Life felt a little lighter.

Because of that event — and the opportunities that came from it — I built an income. I built a brand. I turned a crappy situation into a wonderful career.

Danny continued to invite me to SES conferences. Because of him, I was able to travel the world and talk about what I love. I met amazing people, and had incredible experiences.  The “old-guard” SEO folks –the first and second generations — are like family to me. We grew up together.

I wouldn’t have found my family — my tribe — without Danny.

(As a quick shout-out to Danny, he always invited smart, female speakers. Women like Shari Thurow and Christine Churchill rocked the house back then, and they still do today. We may have been outnumbered, but we never felt tokenized.)

Along with Disa Johnson, I even got to visit Danny when he was living in the U.K. and meet his family. I’ll always remember an early-morning trip to Stonehenge, which still ranks as of my coolest memories ever.

I have a lot of cool memories.

I have to admit: I cried when I read Danny was transitioning to an advisory position. Immediately, my brain cycled through 19 years of search memories, places and faces. I don’t know why I reacted like that. I’m happy for Danny.

But, the emotion still hit me. Hard.

I know Danny’s not going away, and he’ll excel somewhere else. If anyone deserves to take time off and to reflect, well, that’s Danny. He’s done a lot over the last 21 years.

How many other careers did Danny launch? How many people can track their success back to Danny’s help? How many times have we been frustrated with Google, and we’ve relied on Danny’s calm, in-depth take?

For many of us, Danny has been a part of our lives for over two decades.

I know it’s not goodbye –Danny’s “taking a break.” But, the news does feel like the end of an era.

Thank you, Danny, for everything.

Your help, encouragement and support changed my life.

Update: Kim Krause Berg wrote a wonderful post about Danny’s role in her life and career. You can read it here.

The Women Who Made SEO Great

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 2000 and I was invited to speak at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies conference. Back then, SES wasn’t the huge, three-day monstrosity it is today. In fact, imagine a really big room with a bunch of roundtables. Yeah, that was the conference.

I was speaking with Jill Whalen on writing for search engines – and boy, was I nervous! I have a clear memory of saying a silent prayer before we started our session. I was that stressed out! :)

Back then, I didn’t know many women in SEO (and the ones I did know about were faithful subscribers/commentators in I-Search, the main discussion list for our industry.) I remember meeting Barbara Coll during SES Dallas. I also met Shari Thurow. But it seemed like the majority of the SEO crowd back then were men.

My, how times have changed.

Today, women rock the SEO world. When I go to conferences, the gender ratio is 50/50 – and many more women are leading companies and hold some pretty nice power positions. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

This post (and there will be a follow-up, too) features the women who made SEO great. These smart females were in the trenches back at the beginning and deserve to be celebrated. They have unselfishly led discussion lists, built resources, and helped set best practices. I am proud to call many of them my close friends.

Get to know these women and definitely follow them on Twitter. They have a lot to share and teach you.

Thank you, ladies. You inspire me every day.

-Heather

Kim Krause Berg– Kim began designing websites in 1995 and within a year launched her own SEO/Usability consulting business. Her impressive client list includes Geico, USC Information Technology Program, and the Discovery Channel – Travel. Kim is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Land, creating articles from successful marketing and web design to why blending usability and SEO really matters. Follow Kim at @kim_cre8pc.

Christine Churchill  – Hands down, Christine is one of the nicest folks in SEO. As president of KeyRelevance, Christine has well over a decade of experience in the online marketing world. She has marketed cruise lines and hotels, steel foundries, schools, ecommerce sites – the list goes on!  A well-known industry speaker, Christine has appeared at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, and is a regular contributor to industry publications including SearchDay, Search Engine Guide and more. Follow Christine at @ChrisChurchill.

Barbara Coll – An early advocate of web marketing, Barbara started WebMama in 1996 because she “didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic.” From there, she quickly became a recognized leading expert in Search Engine Marketing. As the founding President and Chairperson of the Board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Barbara has helped to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide. Follow Barbara at @webmama.

Debra Mastaler – With a diverse background – including 15 years’ marketing Anheuser-Busch and operating an organic food and clothing directory – Debra transitioned to being the link goddess we know and love today. As President of Alliance-Link, Debra trains Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms on link building best practices. Among her many accolades, Debra was featured among Search Marketing Standard Magazine’s 2011 “Women of Internet Marketing” and voted one of Level 343’s Top SEO Women of 2011. Debra is also a featured guest speaker at SES conferences and SMX expo’s. She is a columnist for Search Engine Land and Search Engine Guide, and blogs at her own site, Link Spiel. Follow Debra at @debramastaler.

Susan O’Neil – As CEO and Founder of Website Publicity (later acquired by Paragon Digital Marketing,) Susan established a digital marketing agency in 1998, long before the internet marketing explosion. She also co-authored Maximize Website Traffic, one of the first books on SEO ever published. Follow Susan at @suejon.

 

Jessie Stricchiola – One of the founding board members of the esteemed Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEMPO, Jessie has been “toying around” with search engines since 1997. The Principal at Alchemist Media – which is consistently ranked by B2B Magazine as one of the Top 100 Search Marketing Companies – Jessie pioneered the charge against PPC click fraud and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and NPR.  She co-authored the book, The Art of SEO, and serves as a litigation consultant on internet related issues. Follow Jessie @ltstricchi (protected account).

Laura Thieme – A 15-year veteran of SEO, PPC, and website/keyword conversions, Laura is the CEO of  Bizwatch Search Analytics and owner of Bizresearch, which she started in 1997. She is a frequent speaker at SMX conferences, and has been featured in the New York Times, Internet Retailer, TechNewsWorld and Search Engine Watch. A http://www.bizwatchsearchanalytics.com/reporting/index.php/laura-thieme-president-a-visionaryrenowned Google Analytics guru, Laura was called as an expert witness in a case involving trademark and metatags. Follow Laura @bizwatchlaura.

Shari Thurow – Shari was the first person who made people think about “search engine friendly websites,” and has been designing sites since 1995.  Today, she’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. Shari has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wired, and PC World. Her search usability site, Omni Marketing Interactive, offers fantastic resources. Shari is the author of Search Engine Visibility and co-author of Where Search Meets Web Usability. Follow Shari at @sharithurow.

Dana Todd – Known for her creative hair color (currently a brilliant jewel tone purple), Dana has over 17 years experience in digital marketing and is appreciated for her intelligent, no-nonsense speaking style. She’s also a past chairwoman for SEMPO after serving on their board. Dana has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The StreetFollow Dana at @danatodd.

Amanda Watlington –  Amanda is one super-smart woman. Her impressive resume includes working with 3m, Sharp Electronics, Mercedes Benz and Washington Mutual. She’s also a prolific writer, and has authored scads of articles and two books including Business Blogs: A Practical Guide (co-authored with Bill Ives.) Her site, Searching for Profit, says it all – she’s helping companies build long-term profitable relationships with their clients. Follow Amanda at @amandaw.

Jill Whalen – Jill and I started our SEO conference journey together and we were business partners for quite a few years (who remembers the RankWrite newsletter?) Jill was the CEO of High Rankings and started her SEO journey 1995. Today, she’s on a new journey and is owner of the site What Did You Do With Jill?

 

There were so many smart SEO pioneers, we even came up with a part two — enjoy!

Ladies, you have my sincere gratitude for building the SEO industry, blazing the proverbial trail, and guiding the rest of us! You rock! :)

Photo thanks to Brett Jordan

Screw Resolutions. Take Action Instead!

Lately, I’ve been seeing quite a few posts discussing how SEO content marketing should be on the top of every businesses’ resolution list.

These are all great posts. But here’s the thing…

…I’ve read these “write more quality content” resolutions before. For about 21 years now.

And you know what? Very, very few companies follow through. They want to. They mean to. But then, content marketing gets pushed to the back burner. Or, even worse – someone does a half-assed job just to get it off their plate – and the results (and writing) shows it.

To me, putting something on a “resolutions” list is the same as saying, “Here’s what I’d like to have happen. But I don’t have a plan to get there.” It’s a fuzzy goal – and I can’t get invested in a fuzzy goal. As soon as the next shiny thing comes along, I’m more apt to focus on that and ignore whatever resolution I created.

But here’s what does work: Taking action. Don’t just say, “I’m going to write more content in 2019.” Get off your butt and do something.

You’ve probably heard of creating S.M.A.R.T goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The S.M.A.R.T framework gives you an easy way to bring your resolutions into reality. The next step is breaking down the goal into action steps.

For instance, maybe you want to revamp your site’s copy. You know that sales have been slow for awhile, and you suspect that the writing may not “hit the mark” anymore. Action steps could be:

  • Reviewing your analytics – what pages are doing well? Where are you losing your readers?
  • Contemplate your customer persona – is your target market the same as when the content was last written? Are the benefits still relevant?
  • Review your SEO effectiveness – are the search engines driving qualified traffic? Are you positioning for your main keyphrases?
  • Review your sales copy – does it match your customer persona? Does the copy pop, or is it flat?
  • Consider your resources – who would rewrite your content? Do you have the resources to do it in-house, or would you need to outsource?
  • Do you need to find qualified vendors? If so, how would you find them?
  • What’s your drop-dead, deadline for all content to be on the site? Make sure you give your team plenty of time to complete everything necessary. My recommendation: Figure out how many months you’d need to finish the job, and then double that amount.

See? That’s much more specific than “I resolve to revamp my site’s sales copy.”

If you’re a freelance copywriter, one of the most popular resolutions is to “make more money.” Unfortunately, that won’t magically happen without you making some business changes. For instance, some action steps could be:

  • Contact old clients and see if there’s anything that you can help with.
  • Research a new marketing technique (such as Twitter) to help get the word out.
  • Go to a local business networking meeting.
  • Expand your skills and specialize in a new niche (for instance, going through the SEO Copywriting Certification training.)
  • Raise your prices (I know it’s scary. But you need to do it.)
  • Find a mentor and get expert guidance.

The key is: all of these action steps will move you forward rather than leaving you stuck. Instead of “resolving” to do something, you’re actually doing it and making progress.  Before you know it, you’ll have a SEO content marketing plan that rocks – or a freelance career that gives you the lifestyle you want.

It’s all about taking action.

Now, what are you going to do right now to improve your business and personal life? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

Photo thanks to Acererak

18+ Ways to Tell if You’re an SEO O.G.

Are you wondering if your “SEO expert” has been around as long as he claims? Feeling like you’ve been in the business since the beginning of SEO time?

Here are 18 ways to tell if you’re an SEO O.G. (“old guard” or ‘original gansta”.) Plus, you’ll find even more tips, thanks to a little help from my SEO friends.  If you’re new to the SEO world, you’ll enjoy reading how much things have changed. And if you’re an O.G. SEO too – enjoy! Here’s your trip down memory lane.

  1. You remember when getting a Yahoo Directory listing was a big deal.
  2. You have a robot t-shirt from the original Googledance.
  3. You remember when Search Engine Strategies was so small that roundtable sessions were the norm.
  4. People didn’t know who Danny Sullivan was.
  5. One word: Looksmart
  6. You didn’t optimize for Google – because Google didn’t exist.
  7. RankWrite was the only resource that discussed SEO copywriting.
  8. You remember prospects telling you, “We won’t pay you, but we’ll give you a piece of the company. Our company is gonna be huge.”
  9. You remember the dotcom crash, the F*cked Company site and a bunch of companies going out of business.
  10. A little engine called GoTo.com launched – and you debated whether PPC was really viable.
  11. “Big Boy” reminds you of Inktomi first – then the hamburger chain.
  12. I-Search was THE email newsletter to read. Having your post featured was a big deal, too.
  13. Search Engine Strategies San Francisco was at the Fairmont – complete with a sit-down, steak lunch.
  14. “Content optimization” meant making sure that you had a 5.5% keyword density for AltaVista.
  15. You remember when Bruce Clay was featured in Wired magazine.
  16. You remember answering the question,”Commas or spaces in the meta keywords tag?”
  17. You didn’t need glasses when you first started your SEO career (after all, you were probably in your late 20’s or early 30’s!).
  18. Danny Sullivan called you a “first generation” search marketer way back in 2006.

Plus, here are some more – thanks to all of my O.G. friends who contributed!


HUGE thanks to David Burke of VisualFuture (and Sally Burke, too!) who let me post this pic from “back in the day!’ Folks pictured are David Burke, Sally Burke, Jill Whalen, Craig Paddock, me (back when I was a blonde) and Chris Sherman.

Quit Whining and Embrace Change

I am about to embark on a journey that most people dread.

I am moving (and in my world, that means both my home and my office.)

My family moved about 1,000 times when I was a kid. OK, maybe not 1,000 – but definitely over six times. There were times when I attended a different school every year. I have such a negative Pavlovian response around moving that my heart rate will increase if I even see a moving box. That’s why I’m the world’s best tenant – once I find a place that I like, I stay there for a long, long time.

This has caused some…um…discussions with my husband. I’ve been pointing out everything that I don’t like about the new place. It’s too far of a commute. It’s not walkable. I don’t know if I’ll like it. It’s in the suburbs. I’ll miss my gas range.

My dear hubby’s favorite line right now is, “Sweetie, not all change is bad.” I can’t print what my typical response is, but it’s along the lines of “&#(*^#%#.”

Finally, after two sleepless nights in a row, I had what Wayne Dyer calls a “satori” moment. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. “All will be fine. Everything is on track.”

I decided to quit whining and embrace change.

Personal change is hard – very hard. Changes within an organization can be even harder. That’s because change is usually implemented (and managed) by committee. One person is typically gung-ho (the evangelist,) while the other team members are feeling various forms of “Meh.” Instead of jumping on board and embracing change, people start nit-picking the process.

For instance, you’ve probably heard variations on these statements…

“It’s a bad time financially to make this move. Let’s put it off another quarter.”

“I like everything about this change except for X. Maybe we should shelve the project until we figure it out.”

“We’ve hired someone before and it didn’t work out. Why should we trust someone new?”

“What kind of guarantees can we get? I don’t want to do this if it may not accomplish X (typically an impossible goal.)

“Why should we change? Things are working.”

Or, if you own your own business, you may think…

“Everyone else is doing so much better than I am. Why bother marketing?”

“I’d like to start offering X service, but I don’t think I know enough.”

See, it’s a lot easier to complain about change (or postpone it) than embrace it. Change means you have to do things differently. Work with different people. Be in new surroundings. Go through unknown frustrations. Or, in my case, live in the ‘burbs.

And yeah, when you’re burned out and tired – it doesn’t seem quite worth it, somehow. We may not love our progress, but we’re comfortable with how we got here – and mixing it up seems too damn hard. Or scary. Or complex.

We’re all like that. It’s OK.

The key is to recognize when your need for comfort is screwing up your opportunity for growth. If your content marketing campaign is suffering because you don’t have a plan – quit whining about being “too busy” and hire someone. If you aren’t seeing the results you need to see, quit whining and try something else. It’s hard to catch yourself in those whiny moments and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. But if you can, you’ll feel remarkably less stuck – and it will be easier to figure out a plan B.

Granted, your plan B may not work either. And that means trying plan C and plan D. The key is to keep on going until it does work – because it will, eventually. Change is messy, but growth is always guaranteed (from both a personal and business standpoint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes to pack.

Life Lessons Learned After September 11th

This Sunday, September 11th, I’ll be heading to NYC on an American Airlines flight.

And yes, I do feel the significance of flying on that airline on that date.

I’m not much for anniversaries, but there’s something about the 10 year anniversary of September 11th that can’t be ignored.  Like so many people around the world, I was glued to the television that day as I watched the events unfold. Two months later, I was in NYC for the first time with Anthony Muller, Detlev Johnson and Jill Whalen. I still remember the lights around Ground Zero as they cleared the wreckage. And the way people were just a little bit kinder to each other.

It was a terrible and beautiful time to be in the City and it will stay with me forever. Like so many people around the world. I learned some incredible lessons that day – many of which shaped how I run my business. Here are just a few:

People are good. In today’s “you must practically disrobe before boarding a plane” mentality, it’s easy to see evil around every corner. You hear stories about businesses being ripped off by clients who won’t pay – or mortgage companies kicking folks out of their homes – and it’s easy to believe that the only person we can trust is, well, ourselves.

Once upon a time, I was on yet another American flight. My dog was dying, and I needed to make it home that night so I could spend just a little more time with her before I took her to the vet the next day. My seat was in the back of the plane – and my connection was tight. The stewardess said that I wouldn’t get off the plane in time to make my connecting flight. I was devastated until…

…A wonderful gentleman in first class heard my story and volunteered to switch seats with me (he must have been an angel, because no-one voluntarily gives up their first class seat for a middle coach one). I was the first off the plane – and the last on my connecting flight. Because of that man, I was able to spend my last hours with Corky the Corgi. I’ll never forget him.

There are incredible stories about how people are helping others. Kickstarter is a fantastic example of complete strangers coming together to help someone reach their goal. Conferences have charity parties. Churches and community groups help people every day. You can choose to focus on what you read in the paper (which is usually negative,) or focus on the light you see in people. I prefer to see the light.

Don’t judge others. Six months after September 11th, I was rudely pushed out of line as I was boarding a plane. Imagine my chagrin when the “pusher” was my seatmate – and for half the flight, I was stewing over what I saw as a personal affront. Then the man started talking. He was back in NYC for the first time after the attacks. Not only did this man lose many of his friends in the World Trade Center bombing, he told the story of holding a woman who watched her husband die. By the end of the flight, we were both bawling like babies – and I realized what I considered “rude” was just another human being trying to cope.

Consider if you find yourself judging people, and see how you can change your attitude. Do you step around the homeless man on the street with the thought “Get a job” bouncing in your brain? Do you see people who are more successful than you and think, “Well, at least I didn’t have to sell my soul to get where I am today.” Do you judge the writer who asks for too little – or too much – money? It’s amazing how much more clearly we can see others when we drop our preconceived notions and allow ourselves to see people for who they really are.

You can make a difference in someone’s life today. There doesn’t need to be a worldwide incident for you to be the change you want to see in this world. Write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your world (I just wrote one to my high school English teacher – and damn, it felt good.) Help a stranger just because you can. Donate to a wonderful cause. Be a mentor and help someone’s career. Heck, even being friendly to your local Starbucks barista (rather than being on your phone and barking your latte order) can make a huge difference.

Other ways you can help right now:

– Answer a question in Linked In or Quora.

– Speak  at your local high school or college.

– Help someone launch their business.

– Volunteer to help a non-profit.

It may not seem like much to you, but spending just a little bit of time can mean a tremendous amount to someone else.

Life is short – live it. In the two years prior to September 11th, I had lost both my father and my husband. Since then, I’ve lost two other friends – one to an accident, one to cancer. What have I learned? I tell my friends that I love them. I cherish every day and take nothing for granted. I live life on my own quirky, eccentric terms. And I hold nothing back. I would rather give whatever I’m doing my all and fail spectacularly (although there’s really no such thing as “failure,”) than do a half-assed job and hope that no-one notices me.

If you’ve been holding yourself back, it’s time to break free. Screw the fear! It does nothing but hurt you. That could mean…

– Quitting your day job and starting your own business.

– Trying your hand at public speaking.

– Raising your rates.

– Trying something new – a new sport, reading a new book. Even listening to new music can pull you out of your comfort zone.

This September 11th, let’s take the time to celebrate ourselves – and each other. After all, we are the change that we’ve been waiting for.

How I Do What I Do: Confessions of a Content Curator

Yes, I love content. Worthwhile, pithy content that I can sink my teeth into. I bookmark, curate and condense this content, and share it with you all via the SEO content marketing roundup each Wednesday on this blog.

I’m often asked how I go about it.

I feel a bit abashed in saying that I have no system per se, no formula to offer. But I can tell you this: I know “quality” stuff when I see it, immediately. And you’ll often see it in my Twitter stream, or liked, or recommended, or Google Plus’ed.  But to date, I cannot honestly delineate a rhyme or reason, method to my madness, anything that might help you all out. Sorry!

Call it a journalist’s hunch or just plain common sense or some sort of intuition.  Or not.  But for what it’s worth, here is what I do when curating content:

1.  Check the most credible sites and news sources

My daily diet of blogs and news includes: Top Rank Marketing, Content Marketing Institute, Conversation Marketing, Level 343, Copyblogger, Seth Godin, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and then a ton of other Search Engine, SEO, and Social Media authorities and paper.li’s (yes, I find great value in paper.li’s from certain sources). And this list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive, or representing “site endorsements.”  I follow many other blogs and news sources. Just offering up my triage.

2.  Check my email inbox

I also make a point of tracking alternative sources of content, search, social and SEO blog posts and news.

I can only do so much internet research in a week – or day – so for instance: although social media marketing is not my primary passion, I keep in touch via email subscriptions with a number of social media sources.  As well as content, search, and SEO.  My inbox is intimidating.

I fillet my way through it ruthlessly.

3.  Keep my mind and digital ears open

I am always checking the Twitter stream (sorry, Google+) for news and links relevant to the industry.  For me, Twitter provides absolute web gems from sites and sources far and wide, in real time.

No voice or source of substantive content is neglected on its face. But again, it really is a matter of time and energy. Quite often, I’ve happened upon a thread that seeds the theme of my roundup from a brand spanking new source. The Twitter stream proves time and again to be a serendipitous source of inspiration for me.

So what say you?

That all said, I am wide open for your suggestions as to what you would like to see in the Wednesday SEO Content Marketing Roundup, or who you would like to hear from in the Tuesday guest posts.

Til then,

Laura Crest

Twitter: @ljcrest

Are You Writing Afraid?

Ask yourself: Are you so afraid of the worst possible outcome happening that you’re holding yourself (and your SEO writing) back?

I started thinking about this after reading a Fast Company article about LeBron James and the Miami Heat. After a grueling loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat teammates held a players-only meeting. Brian Windhorst, who covers the team for ESPN, was quoted as saying, “Guys were telling each other to stop playing afraid.”

Wow. That’s powerful stuff.

It made me think of all the ways that we, as freelance or in-house SEO copywriters, “write afraid.” We’re scared to death of being criticized, so we don’t write what we really feel. We don’t expand our businesses or career the way we could. Our fear causes us to “miss” some content opportunities (like repurposing content,) because we’re just too stressed out to notice them. Plus, we’re exhausted at the end of the day – heck, all of that fear takes a lot of energy.

If this sounds like you, here are some thing to try:

  • Take more breaks. A friend suggested this and I thought she was out of her mind (um, sorry Doti.) Turns out, research supports her theory – a recent study says that “the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time.” I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique for this and it’s transformed how and when I write. Less stress. More focus. Awesome.
  • Take stuff off your to-do list. It’s really hard to focus when you’re thinking, “I’ve got way too much to do today. How can I get it all done?” Guess what? YOU are the master of your workday (even if it feels like your boss, clients and coworkers take precedence.) Start deleting some tasks and see how many better you feel.
  • Take a day off from writing and focus on the big picture. Did the thought of taking a day off from writing make you feel a little nervous? Good. That means you definitely need some time away! If we’re in creative mode all the time, it’s hard to focus on big picture “what do I want to accomplish this quarter” thoughts. You’re stuck on the fear hamster wheel of create, create, create – without time to figure out what it’s all for. This may be harder to implement if you’re working in-house, but see what you can negotiate. I’ve just started this myself, and noticed a really interesting side effect – my body and mind doesn’t feel trashed out by Friday. Cool!
  • If you’re feeling really messed up, get away from it all. The recession had an interesting effect on people’s psyches. Two years ago, people were scared to death. Today, people seem like they’re making up for lost time – so they’re working crazy hours. If you’re feeling chained to the computer because “an email may come in” or “you just have to finish this one thing,” you’re not working in the flow – you’re working afraid. A long weekend far, far away from your computer can help put life back into perspective. Which brings up…
  • Talk to someone if you need it. If you find yourself constantly writing afraid, it could be that you have to untangle some thoughts that are keeping you from moving ahead. The recession scared a lot of people, and getting yourself out of “the sky is falling” mentality can be hard to do by yourself. You can talk to a counselor, a coach, or a trusted friend or mentor. The key is having someone in your life who can act as a sounding board.
  • Get out of your comfort zone at least once a day. Post something edgy (c’mon – you know you want to!). Answer a question on Quora or LinkedIn. Consider running local seminars. The best way to kick fear’s butt is by showing it that you’re not afraid.  Flooding yourself with new experiences will give you a greater sense of mastery that will flow into your writing – and move you from “writing afraid” to “writing in the flow.”

What about you? What techniques do you use to move away from fear and into the flow?

Update:  For another great take, check out Seth Godin’s latest post, “Who is making you uncomfortable?” (Thanks to @ljcrest for bringing it to my attention!)

Should You Kill Your Blog?

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

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

Here’s why.

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

Well, not always.

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

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

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

How a Personal Crisis Shaped My Business

I don’t typically write about personal “stuff” on the SEO copywriting blog. Marty
shape-businessWeintraub’s post, “Manage Like You’re Dying: A Humbled Entrepreneur’s Reflections” inspired me. Thank you, Marty, for sharing your story so others can do the same.

I’m going to tell you a story not many people know.

Eleven years ago, my then-husband committed suicide. Saying that I was “devastated” doesn’t come close to describing how I was feeling. I don’t remember much about that time. That’s probably a blessing.

At the time, SuccessWorks was barely two years old. SEO copywriting was a brand new concept. I was still very much in start up, with less than two nickels to rub together. Suddenly, I found myself grieving, damn near psychologically comatose and in an incredible amount of personal debt. But if I wanted to stay afloat, I had to suck it up and keep my business running.

That dreadful experience shaped my business more than any book, conversation, or mentor. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Life is short – enjoy what you do. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few buyout offers and job opportunities. I would be a much richer woman had I taken advantage of even one of those opportunities. I couldn’t – and didn’t – because I wouldn’t love what I did anymore. I wouldn’t have my self-employed freedom.  If you’re in a job you hate – or working with clients that make you twitch every time they call – consider if it’s really worth it. The answer: Probably not.
  • Believe in your vision – even if others can’t see it. There were times that I wanted to roll up in a fetal position and stay there. I’d look at the debt and the bank balance and wonder WTF I was thinking. At the same time, I was blessed with incredible focus. I choose to not think about the “bad stuff” and turned my attention to what was working. That minor attitude shift made all the difference.
  • Asking “why me” does nothing but zap your energy. If you’re going through crisis, by all means, grieve. Rant. Cry. But know that it’s not personal. You were not singled out for this experience. We all have dark nights of the soul. It’s part of the experience.
  • Treat your supporters like gold. I learned who my friends really were during that time, and I love them with all my heart. Today, I’m blessed with a number of cool confidants who let me be my weird, neurotic self and don’t judge me. They help keep me sane, and I would do anything for them. At the same time, I also learned to…
  • Cut loose anything that emotionally drains you. There are “emotional vampires” who suck your energy. Let them go. Others may be nice to your face, and drive the knife in the second your back is turned. Be kind and be compassionate, but don’t engage. Still others face draining situations or jobs. Determine how to find peace, or learn to walk away. It makes life much happier.
  • Trust your instincts. I found myself “managing by my gut” when I had no other frame of reference. If it felt good – I’d do it. If it didn’t – I wouldn’t. That’s helped me steer clear of some mighty bad business situations – and succeed in situations others thought I was insane to try.
  • Be clear about what’s fear-based behavior, and what’s real. If you’re in crisis mode, everything and everyone feels like a threat. You start to contract. Suddenly, you’re afraid to do things (expand your business, try public speaking, work with bigger clients) because you’re “not ready.” Examine your real motivations and take many calculated risks.
  • Believe in your abilities. Always. My experience 11 years ago helped me psychologically survive the worst of the recession and keep kicking. I may not have been in the best mood some days (major understatement.) But I’m still here and stronger for it.
  • Give back. Always. It blows me away to remember how many people have helped me throughout my life and career. Back in the dark days, complete strangers donated money so I could go on a mini-cruise with my friends. My mechanic worked on my car for free. It was incredible. Because of that experience, I make it a point to give back to my friends, my community and my industry. Everything and everyone is connected. It’s the least I can do.

Life has certainly changed since then. In fact, today is my two-year anniversary with my wonderful husband. SuccessWorks weathered the recession, survived and thrived. And, because of that experience 11 years ago,  I have a perspective that I never would have had.  In the words of Winston Churchill (one of my personal heroes,) “Never, never, never give up.”

Those are wonderful words to live by.