How to write for Google’s over-optimization penalty

Greetings and welcome back! Today, Heather addresses a collective, anxious concern about writing SEO copy given Google’s latest Panda slap, the “over-optimization” penalty:  Help! Is my Web content over-optimized?

While it is true that Google has made a lot of changes and is cracking down on content, the upshot is: don’t freak out! It will be okay, if you follow the three basic guidelines laid out for you in today’s SEO copywriting video post.

It’s unfortunate that this latest Panda update has DIY Web writers afraid of the “Big G,” and wary of optimizing their Web content. Either you’re worried about what you may be doing wrong now, or that Google will tweak yet something else and what’s okay today may not be tomorrow, then your current ranking will plummet, etc., ad nauseum. So you freeze and do nothing, which is not helping your conversions.

In an effort to calm your fears and help you relax, Heather brings some perspective to Google’s over-optimization penalty. Tune in as she discusses the three “over-optimization” questions to ask yourself if you’re concerned that you may have crossed the line…

Over-Optimization Question #1:  Have I used “too many” keyphrases?

There are three things to look at when considering this question:

  1. How does the copy sound when you read it out loud?
  2. Did you try to match a (mythical) keyphrase density?
  3. Did you write 1,000 words of content “for Google”?

First, how does the copy sound when you read it out loud

As Heather has discussed in previous posts, one of the easiest ways to figure out if you’ve used too many keyphrases in your Web content it to simply print off the page and read it aloud.

If you hear yourself tripping over a keyphrase every third word or so, then yeah – you’ve probably pushed that optimization envelope a little bit too far. Time to scale back your keyphrase use until it sounds easy and natural to the ear.

Second, did you try to match a (mythical) keyphrase density?

Again, as Heather has pointed out before (as well as Google’s spam-master, Matt Cutts) there is no such thing as “the (perfect or magical) keyphrase density for Google.” Period.

If you’ve been trying for such a mythical goal, then you most likely have pushed the optimization envelope too far with overuse of keyphrases in your Web content. Repeat the exercise, above.

Third, did you write 1,000 words of content “for Google”?

If you have a super-long Web page where you wrote on for 1,000 words – and you really didn’t need that many – be honest with yourself: did you extend your copy beyond its usefulness thinking that’s what Google wants in terms of word count or page length? Think again.

The simple solution? Dial it back.

Slicing the word count and tightening your message will not only serve your conversions better, but it will also save you from the Google Panda slap. Get in there and try to figure out if the copy you wrote is targeted to your readers: is it what they would want to know? Or have you added some keyphrase-laden fluff that detracts from the user experience?

Over-Optimization Question #2:  Is my bolding and linking out of control?

This occurs a lot on small business sites, where the DIY site owner thinks: “Okay, so if I bold all of my keyphrases and link to everything I can possibly think of, that will help me with Google.”

And it really doesn’t.

Here are three things to keep in mind when using bold font and links:

  1. Hyperlinking to related pages = good.
  2. Bolding headlines/subheadlines = good.
  3. Linking or bolding every third word = bad.

If your linking or bolding is really overdone – and your reader is confronted with links all over the place and all this copy bolded that really doesn’t need to be – it’s not helping her or your Google ranking.

  • Ask yourself: What makes sense to your reader?

Forget about Google for a minute…strictly from the reader perspective, is copy riddled with bold font and links inserted in every other sentence really going to help her convert?

No. Just like the previous example of having too many keyphrases stuffed in your Web content, you want to focus on what makes for a good reader experience.

  • If you keep your reader’s needs in mind, then the way you bold copy in your text and the way you hyperlink to other pages will be much more natural.

Over-Optimization Question #3:  Are my Titles written for readers? Or Google?

As we know, page Titles are those clickable links on the search engine results page. It follows that your page Title should be written like a compelling headline.

  1. Remember that the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion.
  2. Shoving every keyphrase you can think of in the Title tag won’t help you.

A solid, optimized page Title should have keyphrases, of course. But it should not read like a string of keyphrases separated by commas.

Outside of the fact that a page Title of “keyphrase, keyphrase, keyphrase” (or “keyphrase|keyphrase|keyphrase”) is pretty spammy, it is not going to help you with that first, crucial conversion. If someone encounters that listing on the search engine results page, chances are they’re going to click on another Title.

As with the previous two questions to consider when judging if you’ve over-optimized your Web content, if you focus your efforts on the reader – in this instance by asking yourself “what will make the reader click on my listing over the nine others?” – then you will be on the right track with both your readers and Google.

Thanks for joining us for this week’s SEO copywriting video how-to! Do you have an SEO copywriting question or topic suggestion for Heather? Love it! Send it on over to her [at] heather@seocopywriting.com or tweet her [at] @heatherlloyd. See you next Monday!

 

Perk alert! Sign up for either the daily or weekly SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter and receive a free download of Heather Lloyd-Martin’s white paper, How to write for Google!

And psssst – a head’s up! If you’ve been thinking about becoming certified in SEO Copywriting best practices, you have until May 15th to register for Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Certification training at its original price! Sign up now and save $170!

 

photo thanks to me’nthedogs (Mark Robinson)

What Dr. Seuss can teach you about copywriting

Confession time: I love Dr. Seuss.

The words to One Fish, Two Fish are stuck in my brain. I have a Dr. Seuss watch. I have Dr. Seuss books on my iPad. I watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” ever year. I even have a limited edition print hanging in my bedroom.

Why? The words that Theodor Geisel (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss) wrote had an impact on me. Yes, his books taught me how to read (and they always bring back fond memories of my mother reading them to me.) But it’s more than that.

His books taught me that reading (and writing) is fun. And engaging. And interesting.

(I’m guessing that many readers feel the exact same way.)

What makes Dr. Seuss so great? Back in the day of Dick and Jane, he rejected the “normal” children’s book style and blazed his very own path. Heck, Geisel even made up words that are part of our every day vocabulary. Ever wonder where the word “nerd” comes from? The first reported usage is in the 1950 story “If I Ran The Zoo.” 

What’s more, his writing is spot on – 50+ years later. And that’s pretty cool.

Here are five things that his books can teach you about copywriting.

Good writing celebrates the written word. Feeling bogged-down by corporate-speak? Why not have fun with your writing instead?  I love the 37 signals site because the writing is lighthearted and personal. They don’t stuff their keywords. They don’t use buzzwords. It’s good writing that actually makes project management sound fun.

Good writing “speaks” to the reader. Geisel was challenged by William Ellsworth Spaulding, the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin to write a book that first graders couldn’t put down. The result? The Cat in the Hat. Prior to that, kids were reading about Dick, Jane and Spot… which was not as fun (nor as creative) as a talking cat with a striped hat. The lesson? Think out of the box and try a different “voice” (and yes, that applies even if you’re a B2B company.) You may not be able to work Thing One and Thing Two into your copy – but you usually do something creative that grabs your readers’ attention.

Good writing is tight – not fluffy. Did you know that Green Eggs and Ham contains just 50 different words? The Cat in the Hat has 225 words – and that’s a much shorter word count than the average blog post or sales page. Think about how this relates to your own writing. If you find yourself adding extra words for some stupid “we think Google wants 500 word blog posts,” reason – stop it. Be like Dr. Seuss and write tight. Fluffy is only good for, well, green eggs.

Good writing is compelling.  Geisel was a master of getting a message across in a very low-key and powerful way. The Sneetches is a fun book – but it also talks about respecting folks who are “different” than you. The Lorax is thought to be Geisel’s take on environmentalism. Think about your audience, and consider how you can approach your topic just a little bit differently. Compelling writing is what gets shared, liked and cited. Boring stuff that you’ll find on every other site is just…boring.

Good writing is memorable.  How many of us can still remember Dr. Seuss’ Hinkle Horn Honking Club? Or can finish the sentence, “Look what I found in the dark…in the park…?” Good writing burrows into our brain and takes root. Think about the best book that you’ve ever read. Sure, the story was compelling. But it’s the writing that really brings it home. If your website copy sounds like Dick and Jane (that is, boring) why not try rewriting some pages? You may be surprised at how much people will want to read your content (and yes, even buy from you, too!)

I’ll leave you from a quote from The Lorax that perfectly applies to copywriting (especially SEO copywriting.)

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

If you write crappy content, your readers won’t care, Google won’t care and your conversions won’t get better.

It’s time to care a whole awful lot.

 

6 steps to a smart (sane) Google+ strategy

Another social network? What’s a brand to do!

There’s no denying it – Google+ is going to be an important part of social media and search from now on. Its enormous growth in the past seven months has gotten the attention of the search industry, competing social networks and marketers alike. Google+ has more than 90 million users – nearly as much as LinkedIn, but not even close to Facebook’s 800 million.

Even though the Google+ numbers pale in comparison to Facebook (for now), its “Search Plus Your World” (SPYW) integration in Google search results opens up Google+ content to the billions of worldwide Google users.

With the introduction of SPYW, Google+ social content is becoming part of Google search engine results. If you’re logged into Google while doing a search, you’ll see Google+ pages from related users and brands. You’ll see pages that people in your circles have given a “+1” and you’ll also see images under individual search results of users who have shared that particular page. In addition, sites that have been “+1’ed” are pushed higher in search engine results.

Even if you aren’t logged into Google while doing a search, your search results are still being affected by Google+. A search for the term “SEO” displays two user profiles related to the term:

Imagine your brand or personal profile getting this kind of exposure in regular search results! Clearly, Google+ deserves more of your time.

With the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – how does your company find time to embrace Google+? With so many social networks on your plate, adding another can seem like a major challenge.

Here are six steps that you can use to embrace Google+ and get all of its benefits without losing your mind.

1. Claim Your Page and Manage Your Circles

If you don’t have a Google+ brand page, it’s time to get started. You can create a Google+ business page from a personal Google+ account, which in turn requires a Gmail account.

If you’re a larger organization, you’ll need to decide which person in your company will create and manage the page. (This is one feature that has sparked some criticism of Google – if that employee or manager leaves, what becomes of the company’s Google+ page?)

There are dozens of guides out there that detail how to circle other users and optimize your profile. I’m not going to delve into that here, but keep in mind these two points:

  • You can promote your Google+ business page on your personal profile in order to encourage more users to migrate to your business page.
  • You can also circle users via your business profile in order to get them to circle you back.

Focus on developing circles for specific purposes. You’ll get a lot more leverage from your sharing if it is targeted to user groups.

For instance, you can create circles for current customers and prospects, and then additional circles for competitors so you can see what they are up to on the social network.

2. Focus on Becoming a Topic Expert 

With its strong SEO capabilities, it’s possible to make a big splash in your niche industry with Google+. Since the platform is relatively new, there’s still ample time to stake your claim as a top provider of small business financial advice, cloud-based communications apps, or gourmet chocolate gift baskets.

Optimize your business profile for your niche keyword terms and then make a habit of sharing related news. Pretty soon, your company will be well known for your topic specialty.

Remember to select a topic that is related to your product and/or service and supports what your ideal customers are interested in. Users are more likely to take interest in “Tips for Great Road Trips” then “Come See How Awesome Our Tires Are.”

3. Share Content Regularly

There’s nothing worse than sharing content on social media and then disappearing for an indefinite amount of time. No matter what your marketing schedule looks like, pick a frequency and commit to it for at least 8 weeks.

After that time, you can look back at your results and decide whether less or more sharing would be best for you.

As well as sharing your own posts and content from other sources, you can also make use of Google+’s longer post length. You can post entire articles on the platform rather than having to direct users to a different location.

In addition to sharing regularly, be sure to participate in the community. The same rules for Twitter and Facebook apply here – respond to comments, comment on other shared content, and engage with your audience.

4. Use Photos More Often

Google+ is a beautiful platform for photos and they really stand out in the stream. Unlike Facebook,  where users can upload photos in albums, Google+ images are loaded as individual posts. This feature gives your photos much more prominence.

Make it a point to use photos as part of your regular updates. You can add images from your company, charts and slides from presentations, infographics, and more to enhance your presence on the platform.

5. Share Your Posts Directly With Your Circles

With just an extra step you can “push” special posts and updates directly to your circle members. While you shouldn’t use this feature all of the time, it’s helpful for promoting your most important blog posts or company announcements.

When you post an update, you can hover over the name of a circle with your mouse. A box will pop up listing a few of the members of the circle and asking if you want to notify the users of the post.

Your circle members will then get an email about the post (if they’ve opted to receive notifications from Google+).

It’s a good way to highlight important content and make sure it’s being read by your relevant audience – just don’t abuse this feature and alienate your target readers.

6. Analyze Your Results and Plan Accordingly 

Like other forms of marketing, analysis and planning are going to be the key to success with Google+.

However, with Google+ the process is a little different.

Unfortunately, due to Google’s encryption, it’s impossible to analyze the visits you’re receiving from the Google+ platform in any meaningful way.

So, the best way to monitor your Google+ results is to take note of how many responses you’re getting, which topics are being reshared and whether or not your profile (or business profile) is showing up in the search engines.

Once you’ve gathered your results, look at how you can improve your performance:

  • Do you need to actively circle more users?
  • Do you find that your photo updates are getting more comments and shares than other updates?
  • How are you doing in the search engine rankings: Do you need to optimize your profile and updates to include important niche related keywords?

With these steps, you can make sense of Google+ and leverage it for your business. I’d love to hear how you’ve adopted Google+ and how it’s working. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

For further reading:

  • SEOmoz: Why Every Marketer Now Needs a Google+ Strategy
  • iMedia Connection: 6 Reasons Why Adding Google+ to Your Web Presence & SEO Strategy is a Good Idea
  • Marketing Land: Seeing Long-Form Post Success On Google+, Facebook Raises Character Limit By 1100%
  • SEO Copywriting: Google Circles and the future of SEO Copywriting

 

About the Author – Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program, and CEO of Six Degrees Content. She is passionate about helping small businesses compete with the big boys with skilled SEO copywriting and content marketing. You can connect with Courtney at her brand’s Google Plus page, Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @CourtneyRamirez.

 

Want to dramatically increase your income as a freelance copywriter? Consider getting your certification in SEO Copywriting, taught by the widely-recognized pioneer of the SEO industry, Heather Lloyd-Martin. Her training is the only online SEO Copywriting Training Program independently endorsed by SEOPros.org. Check into it and make 2012 the year you turn your biz around!

 

photo thanks to Bruce Clay, Inc. 

How to tell if your sales copy sucks

Greetings! In today’s Web-writing video, Heather discusses how to check your sales copy to detect common and costly mistakes – those she has witnessed time and again in her long SEO copywriting career.

It’s true, writing sales copy is really difficult if you’ve never done it before. There are several ways you can inadvertently go wrong, and many DIY folks don’t know how to go about checking their sales copy to see if they’ve done it right.

So without your knowledge, much less your intention, your sales copy might suck!

Don’t despair. Tune in as Heather addresses the most common sales copywriting mistakes, and how to check your sales copy to ensure you’re not making them…

Your writing focuses on the product/service – not the reader.

  • How many times did you include your company name and the words “we” and “our”?
  • Readers want to know what’s in it for them.

http://www.futurenowinc.com/wewe.htm

When you’re brand new to sales writing – or even when you’re experienced, but things just aren’t clicking when you sit down to write – it’s all too easy to focus your copy on your company, and/or your product or service. You’ll use the words “we” and “our” a lot, and mention your company name over and over.

  • What you want to do is change the focus of the sales content from features to benefits, telling your readers how your product/service helps them.

One of the things you can do when double-checking the focus of your sales copy is to go through and count how many times you’ve used the words “we” and “our,” as well as your company name.

  • Or, you can try this cute little tool called the “wewe” monitor. Simply put your sales page URL into the “wewe” tool and it will give you a score that reflects how many times you have focused on the company rather than on the reader. It’s a fun tool worth checking out!

You’re repeating yourself. Repeatedly.

  • Repeating yourself = sloppy writing.
  • Tighten up the copy and delete any repetitive content.

Repetitive copy is not a mistake reserved for brand new sales writers – it can mar the content of experienced writers who just haven’t quite got the flow of a new writing project yet.

With repetitive copy, the writer might mention a concept or a benefit statement in one paragraph, and then again in the next paragraph – maybe in a slightly different way – and yet again further down the page…

  • That is sloppy writing, because it stretches the sales page out longer than it needs to be. Also, repeating a benefit statement may preempt the inclusion of another – possibly even more powerful – benefit statement while cluttering your copy.

So check your sales copy for repetition, tightening it up and deleting any repetitive content.

  • If you’re having difficulty seeing where that repetitive content is, then it might be a good idea to give your sales page to an editor, or a trusted someone who can check your work and give you honest feedback.

Your copy is TDL (too damn long)

  • Long-form sales letters/Web pages work – if you know what you’re doing.
  • Don’t make your readers scroll through useless information.
  • Try splitting your information up on multiple pages instead.

Often, a sales page will run too long if the person is new to sales writing, or if they’re experienced but haven’t quite gotten into the flow of the project.

In either case, the writer is throwing everything s/he can think of into the sales page to see what sticks. Besides ending up with a really long sales page, chances are the copy has repetitive content.

  • You want your sales page to be as long as it needs to be to convey the information you want it to convey.

While there’s no hard and fast rule for sales page length, the “sweet spot” is usually around 250 to 500 words…BUT that depends completely on your target audience!

You want to avoid writing a long-form sales letter unless you really know what you’re doing. People who know how to write lengthy sales copy online have tested a lot of approaches – it’s what they do, they’re experts. Anybody else who tries it is not likely to see the same results.

What most likely will happen is you’ll end up with 10 pages of copy that your readers will have to scroll through to find out how to take action. You don’t want to do that.

  • If you find that your page is getting TDL, but you have so much that you want to say and it’s important information that you what on your site somewhere, try splitting the content up on multiple pages. That way, your readers won’t be overwhelmed with this long, 15,000-word essay!

Thanks for joining us for this week’s SEO copywriting how-to video! If you have a question for Heather, you can tweet it to her @heatherlloyd or email  heather@seocopywriting.com. And be sure to check back next Monday for another hot Web-writing tip – it may well answer your question. See you then!

Want to learn more about sales writing and SEO? Check out SuccessWorks’  SEO copywriting training options to see what program suits you best!

photo credit to josef.stuefer

 

A 9-step guide to creating & marketing your own video content – for free!

Guest Author, Andy Havard

All too often, bloggers and small businesses miss out on great content marketing opportunities due to budgetary constraints. Does that resonate with you?

Did you know that online video couldn’t be a more cost-effective and convenient marketing approach for any product, brand or service?

And you must know that online video is the hot and growing – and most likely indefinite – trend for content marketing?

Here, I’m going to tell you exactly how you can master this medium with 9 steps to creating and marketing your own videos from home, for free!

1. Location Is Everything (Yet Nothing at All!)

A common misconception about creating video content to market on the web is that you need to hire out lavish studios or rent out a space in which to film. In fact, all you really need is a room in your apartment or house that has a wall or a space you can stand in front of comfortably. (You could even use a bit of garage space for that matter).

Once you’ve found a space, you need to make your background as tailored to your niche and style as possible.

For instance, if your brand is quite personable and informal you might find the natural look of your room suits your video perfectly.  Or if you’re looking for that Apple-esque, Google-ish white sheen, there are a few simple ways to create that effect:. use a white wall, white papered walls, or a white sheet to cover the wall to form your sleek white background.

You can boost the brightness and overall look of this background with your lighting and post-production editing.

2. Set Up Your Camera

More than likely, you already have a variety of cameras in your possession – for instance your mobile phone, tablet, computer, and obviously your camcorder or digital camera. If you don’t have access to any such equipment, then alas! You’ll need to purchase or borrow a means of recording video.

You’ll want to steady and stabilize your camera to make your footage as good (i.e., professional and non-wobbly) as possible. This can easily be accomplished using a desk, chair, or even a bookshelf – anything that serves to keep your camera level and still during filming.

You’d be surprised at what household furniture you can use to do the same job as a $100 tripod!

3. Set Up Your Lights

Understandably, hanging a sheet on your living room wall might not fill you with a lot of confidence or optimism. The slick , professional background look you (may) want to achieve starts to take shape when you add your lighting.

Your choice of lighting can range from industry-standard fluorescent lights to three strong standing lamps.

You’ll need to position two of these lights on either side of your backdrop (one to the left, the other to the right of your subject). Then place a third light near your camera at a 30-degree, downward angle to your on-screen subject. This set-up will help to illuminate your backdrop and make it look crisp and bright.

As with your makeshift tripod, you can use household lamps to do the job of studio-grade lighting. To maximize your light level, try to shoot in an area that is naturally light, but not over-exposed to sunlight. You can then use household lamps to smooth out the lighting in your shot. Try to make sure that no shadows are being cast on your subject or background.

4. Record Your Sound

You’ll probably find your digital camera has a built-in microphone that provides a good sound quality for your video. Failing that, your computer or phone more than likely will, which you can sync up later on.

If for some reason there’s no microphone present in any of your devices, you will have to invest in an inexpensive external microphone to capture your audio.

When you’re recording your sound, try to keep audio levels consistent as changes in volume could cause the sound to distort. Try to allow time for a sound recording test before you record your final audio.

5. Edit Your Video

If you’re feeling a little discouraged or cynical about the bedsheet stuck to your wall, your computer camera, living room lamps and make-shift tripod, take heart: your editing process is where the magic happens. You really can make your online video the exciting, engaging piece of online content that you envisioned!

You can get download free, easy-to-use editing software for a PC (Windows) or Mac, such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, both of which are more than sufficient for your video editing needs.

By altering your contrast/brightness you will be able to boost your backdrop and improve the lighting of your shot, creating that studio-quality background. You’ll also be able to use your software to edit your video into a short, sharp, essential piece of online content.

6. Upload Your Video To The Web

There is a wide array of free video-sharing sites to which you can upload your video content, such as Vimeo, Viddler, DailymotionFlickr, Tumblr, and of course, YouTube.

Considering that YouTube  is the worlds’ #2 search engine and the most popular video-sharing platform, it’s the obvious choice as an upload point for any web video. But if you have the time, it’s worth uploading your video to as many platforms as possible.

After you’ve uploaded your masterpiece, you can then link from the video-sharing platform to an embed on your own website or blog, giving you some link-love while ensuring you reach your target market.

7. Optimize Your Video For Search Engines

When you upload your content to free hosting sites be sure you’ve optimized it for the search engines. You may have guessed that Google’s YouTube content is especially visible in Google’s search engine results - if properly optimized.  And as a platform, YouTube offers a considerable array of video SEO tools.

By using titles, descriptions, tags, and closed captions that feature the keywords and phrases relevant to your brand and video content, you can be sure that your video is ticking all of the SEO boxes.

8. Market Your Online Video with Social Sharing

The video-hosting sites (in Step 6) offer some fantastic marketing avenues. The majority of them readily integrate with Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, allowing you to post your content in Pages, Groups, Discussions, Wall Posts and Statuses.

You can also explore features such as YouTube’s Video Response, where you can use your online video content to comment on other users’content. By making use of the tools free hosting sites offer, you can market your content easily and cost-effectively to a staggeringly wide audience.

9. Track Your Online Video with Analytics

Tracking the analytics of your video is the most effective way to ensure it is achieving the goals you’ve set out to accomplish.

Google Analytics, YouTube Analytics and Facebook Insight are all great free tools for measuring conversion rates, social media growth and viewership. By tracking your video through these three tools you can measure the success of your video on every level.

It’s always advisable to check your video data frequently in order to keep an eye on its progress. If it’s failing to achieve your goals, you can alter your current strategy to better optimize your content and improve the numbers.

This is the year of content marketing with video, and it is a “trend” that’s here to stay. Don’t be left in the dust – follow these steps and take full advantage of this truly awesome opportunity to grow your business and readership with video content!

About The Author: Andy Havard

Andy Havard is a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based Internet video production company. You can connect with Andy via his company’s Facebook page, or directly via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Would you like to upgrade your copywriting skills and income? Learn the latest SEO copywriting content marketing skills and techniques through SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training and make 2012 your best year ever!

 

 

5 keys to easy small business content marketing

Guest Author, Courtney Ramirez

Publishing quality content can help your small business get new leads, develop a bigger presence online and convert more prospects into clients. But the process of planning, creating and distributing content can be a tall order for many small businesses who have limited resources.

An outstanding content marketing plan doesn’t have to be out of your reach! By following these keys you can put content marketing to work for your small business.

1. Get clear on your content budget.

There are literally dozens of different content pieces that you can use to market your business online – and that doesn’t count all of the distribution methods you can use to get your content out there. It’s a bit like going shopping at Costco. Before you know it, you’ve turned a short trip for ice, bulk candy bars and a new Magnum flashlight set into a $200 excursion.

Setting a clear budget for content will help you spend your marketing budget wisely and narrow in on the techniques that will be most effective for your business.

How much should you spend on content marketing? According to a recent survey from the Content Marketing Institute, 27% percent of businesses spent 15 to 30% of their marketing budget on content development. Small business marketing budgets are typically 8% of revenue. So for a small business with yearly revenue of $250,000, a monthly content marketing budget would be around $550.

Of course you may need to invest more initially for new content marketing plans and development. But having a clear figure in mind before you start developing content in house or looking to outside providers can help you stay focused and spend wisely.

2. Know your customer.

Your content marketing has to be customer-centered to be effective. Content marketing isn’t a promotional brochure. It’s a way to connect with your audience and help them solve problems with information. You can’t create content that is all about you and you alone.

Your job with content is to provide the information that your customers are looking for in a way that is attractive to them. For example, your customer does a search for “fax machines” and you have a high ranking article titled “5 Things to Look For in New Fax Machines.” They read your article and are impressed with your small office supply store’s insight into buying a fax machine. They explore the rest of your site and sign up for your weekly newsletter with more informative articles and regular deals. Then they become a customer.

Apply the same strategy to your own business. Figure out what your customers need to know and create content that responds to those needs.

3. Repurpose wherever you can.

One of the biggest challenges that small businesses face in content development is time. They don’t have enough time to actively create multiple content pieces each month. An effective content marketing strategy requires consistency – but repurposing can help you bridge the gap between what you should be publishing and what you can spend on content development.

Repurposing isn’t about copying someone else or repeating yourself endlessly. With repurposing, you can take one piece of content and make it stretch. Just like you’d make spaghetti sauce and then use it with several different meals, you can create an ebook and then draw several blog posts out of the content. You can then turn those blog posts into fodder for your email newsletter and use tips from the blog posts for your social media updates.  It’s less work for you and you’ll get more content to keep your marketing machine going.

4. Don’t be afraid to curate!

Although it’s important to create your own content for your small business, you can also supplement your marketing with strategic curation. Curation is sharing helpful content created by other people.

Curation can be as simple as highlighting blog posts from other companies on social media or as complex as creating a blog post or white paper that reviews content from others. Not only does curation help round out your content schedule but it helps “spread the love” around. If you’re sharing content from related companies, they’ll be more likely to share your content with their fans and followers.

There are several different tools and platforms that can help you become a content curator. Google Alerts is a good way to start. Once you’ve started to see what is out there, you can use more sophisticated tools like Paper.li, Scoop.It or Storify to easily capture and share relevant content.

5. Support content with social media.

If a great article is published online and nobody read it, is it really that great? Content marketing and social media go hand in hand. You need to support your content marketing plan with regular social media usage.

Develop a following on Twitter and Facebook, at a minimum (LinkedIn if it’s appropriate) and then update your fans and followers when you post new content. Look for opportunities to post your content on additional sites or guest post with related businesses.

Small business content marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you follow these five keys. Take time to map out your content budget, get clear on what your customer wants to know and then use repurposing, curation and sharing to make content marketing work for you.

Courtney Ramirez is a certified SEO copywriter and content marketing consultant. As a student of search engine marketing, web usability and social media, she’s been able to craft a writing style that is both inviting to readers and ranking factors. After dabbling in print journalism, she’s written exclusively online since 2005 and manages a small team of excellent writers at Six Degrees Content.

Ramp up your SEO copywriting career! Sign up for the SuccessWorks’ Content Into Cash Business Bootcamp to learn everything you need to know to run a profitable copywriting business.

Does your Website copy suck the life out of your conversions?

What’s scarier than zombies, witches and vampires combined?

Bad sales copy that sucks the life out of your conversions.

You may say, “Well, our sales copy is performing OK – I check our analytics.” And that’s good. But I want to teach you how to transform your “good” sale copy into “great” – and turn your sales up to a Spinal Tap 11.

And all it’s going to take is a little bit of time.

It’s easy to develop a blind spot around our Websites. Although we may see it every day, we probably aren’t looking at it very closely. Spending some time reviewing your site can uncover a huge list of opportunities – and help you decide what to tweak.

So let’s get started!

For the purposes of this initial review, focus on your top sales pages first. Then, you can repeat the exercise around other site sections (for instance, your blog or resource pages.)

First, you’ll want to read your copy as if you were a prospect.  Ask yourself:

  • Does the copy adequately explain what you do? If you were talking to someone in person, would you provide the same information in the same way?
  • Is it so stuffed with keyphrases that it detracts from the flow?
  • What if your prospects have questions? Is it easy for them to contact you?
  • Does the content address common prospect questions (Note: If you keep hearing the same questions from prospects after they’ve read the content, the answer to this would be “no.”)
  • Does the copy pop off the page? Or is it so-so?
  • Is your sales copy the same as other sites (this is especially important if you’ve been using content provided by the manufacturer.
  • Are the benefits still important to your prospects? Or, are your prospects responding to different benefit statements now?
  • Does your content even have benefit statements? ;)

Next, you’ll want to go through the ordering process as if you were a prospect. Here are some things to consider:

  • How easy is it to take the next conversion step (usually making a purchase, or contacting someone for more information?) Do you have to hunt for a “contact us” or “order now” button?
  • When you place an order or make contact, is there a confirmation email or page? What does it say? Does it manage expectations (when the order will ship and/or when you will contact the prospect.)
  • Does your follow-up information help or hurt your brand? Is it written well, or was the copy quickly thrown together?  (Here’s more information on why your marketing collateral is so important.)

Finally, it’s time to look at your page from an SEO perspective:

  • Is the content optimized for keyphrases? Or was it written without them?
  • If your copy does include keyphrases, when is the last time you conducted keyphrase research? A keyphrase focus that was applicable one or two years ago may not be applicable today.
  • Does the copy read like it was overoptimized? If you’re not sure, try reading your copy out loud. If it sounds like “keyphrase, keyphrase, keyphrase,” your answer is “yes.”
  • How are your pages ranking in Google currently?
  • Do your pages have original, keyphrase-rich Titles? Consider if you need to rewrite them for better positions and click-through.
  • How are your meta descriptions (this is a HUGE opportunity for many sites.) Consider if you need to rewrite them for Google’s new sitelinks format.

If you’re feeling stuck, see if another team member can review your content and make suggestions. Or, if your internal team is “too close” to the content, consider hiring an expert consultant to help. An SEO content consultant can quickly point out your successes and challenges – and then your team can make all the necessary tweaks. It may cost your company a little bit of cash, but the results (and the improved sales) will be well, well worth it!

 

 

Photo gratitude goes to mollystevens

 

3 cash-free ways to market your local business online

Welcome back! Today’s SEO copywriting tip is in response to a question from the SEO Copywriting Facebook grouphow do you market a (local) business online when you don’t have any money?

This can be tricky, because ideally if you’re launching a new business, you usually have a marketing budget, however small. At the same time, Heather has worked with local companies that invested all they had just to get their business up and running – only to find themselves scrambling to figure out how to get the word out.

Tune in as Heather shares three ideas for marketing online when you have no cash, and under the conditions that it’s possible to do so:

It’s possible…but under certain conditions:

It is possible to market your business online with no budget, but only for the short term, and under certain conditions.

  • The owner has time to educate him/herself in online marketing.
  • The owner makes marketing his/her business a priority and can dedicate a couple of hours (or more) a day to getting the word out.
  • Know that this is a stop-gap measure. In most cases, businesses will benefit from having an actual site.

Marketing Idea #1 – Twitter

  • Twitter can be a great way to “meet” new local people.
  • It’s important to know how and what to tweet. Too much self promotion will turn prospective clients off.
  • Be a good community member. Don’t forget to RT (retweet), thank people for their RT’s, etc.

Marketing Idea #2 – Facebook

  • Facebook can provide your company a “home” until your site is launched.
  • Spend time building a good Facebook page that encourages community and sparks conversation.
  • Check on your Facebook page throughout the day and comment/add new wall posts.

Marketing Idea #3 – Local Publications

It’s easy to forget that not all marketing has to be done online (and that print often has an online component).

  • Does your local newspaper have a monthly “new business” interview or column? Pitch your business and ask to be interviewed. Don’t forget local business journals, too.
  • Make note of local influential bloggers in your community. How can you connect with them?
  • Whenever possible, try to meet people in person.

Thanks for joining us for today’s SEO copywriting tip!  Do you have a question for Heather? Zip it over to her at askheather@seocopywriting.com and you may very well see it answered here! See you then.

 

Interview with Ken Lyons of Measured SEM

Ken Lyons, Measured SEM

Ken Lyons has been in Internet marketing for more than seven years and is co-founder of Measured SEM, an inbound marketing agency in Boston, Ma. He’s an avid blogger and has been featured in Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and Website Magazine. He also writes a monthly Web strategies column for Allbusiness.com.

So tell us a bit about how you came to establish Measured SEM

In 2009, I started working at WordStream, a venture-backed startup in Boston that provides search marketing software. That’s where I met my current business partner, Tom Demers. Tom and I headed the SEO and inbound marketing efforts for WordStream. We worked really well together and in one year were able to grow site traffic at WordStream.com from 2,000 monthly visits to 200,000, which was no small feat considering we were slugging it out in hyper-competitive, organic search verticals dominated by some of the top SEOs and SEO agencies on the planet.

Ultimately, Tom and I decided to launch our own boutique inbound marketing agency, Measured SEM, which we did this past February. With Measured SEM, we knew that we could apply the same strategies and tactics that transformed WordStream.com into a traffic and lead generation machine to other companies in other niches and see similar results. So far, so good :)

What is the make-up of your clientele?

Currently, we have a roster of 30 clients that range from smaller mom and pop shops, who want local SEO/geo-targeting traction, to larger SMBs software vendors where we manage their online marketing campaigns from end-to-end, to ecommerce clients where we develop and execute content-based link marketing campaigns.

So how did you determine your niche market?

Starting an inbound marketing agency that would grow site traffic and online lead generation for companies seemed like a logical extension of our experience, skill sets and passion. What’s more, despite the economic slowdown, the search marketing space continues to thrive each year. So it made sense to continue working in an industry that’s enjoying rapid growth and still relatively young with a lot of upside.

What kind of SEO services do you provide?

Our SEO services include technical site audits, SEO strategy, keyword research, on-page optimization and SEO copywriting. We also offer a range of content marketing and link building packages, that include everything from infographic creation and promotion, to group interviews with industry thought leaders, to our popular guest blog posting service.

The overriding goal of our services is to provide exponential value to our clients. So for example, if you spend $X amount with us per month we want you to see $2X worth in return.

How big a role does copywriting play in the services you provide?

Copywriting is pervasive in almost everything we do at Measured SEM. Think about it: good copy touches so many aspects of traditional SEO–from crafting clickable title tags, to persuasive meta descriptions, to compelling page titles. In addition, we produce search-driven content for clients, which includes informational content (blog posts, expert articles, authoritative industry reports) and transactional content (SEO landing pages that are designed to convert).

Great copy also plays a major role in our content marketing campaigns, where we not only research and generate the content/linkable assets, but we also promote the content via outreach, which in itself involves writing a very persuasive pitch letter to compel the recipient to not only look at your content but to share it with their audience as well.

Any advice for those considering starting up their own SEO copywriting business?

There’s a lot of competition out there, from cost-effective content shops, like Text Broker, to higher-quality resources like Level343, so you really need to distinguish yourself and provide a strong value prop. The best way to set yourself above the pack is to over-deliver on every project. This is especially true if you’re just starting out. Make the client feel like they’re getting more than they’re paying for and you’ll minimize churn, create a loyal customer base and get tons of referrals.

Tell us about your most difficult challenge as an SEO business.  How did you resolve/deal with it?

Setting client expectations is the most challenging aspects of what we do, but it’s vital to the health of every project. You need to set realistic, achievable expectations for clients right out of the gate so everyone is on the same page. Then, you over-deliver :)

Do you recommend keeping SEO copywriting in-house, or outsourcing as a new biz?

For new businesses, it probably makes the most sense to outsource for a few reasons:

  • Copywriting is one of those tasks you can outsource and not suffer on quality.
  • Given the uncertainty of success for a new biz, its one less fixed expense. It’s a lot easier to dial back your commitment to a consultant than to lay off an employee if your business hits a rough patch.

However, once you start to gain momentum and generate consistent revenue growth, I think there are advantages to having a copywriter on-staff. Anyone who’s embedded in your company is going to acquire valuable institutional knowledge and have a much better understanding of your space, your industry and your business. For the in-house copywriter, that means knowing how best to speak to and connect with your target audience.

 

5 post-Panda strategies for optimizing your e-commerce site

Welcome back! In this third post of her Q & A video blog series, Heather addresses the oft-asked question:  How can I make my e-commerce site better for the search engines? Many smaller to mid-sized e-commerce companies are now striving to make their sites as good as they can possibly be, after suffering the fallout of Google’s Mayday and Panda/Farmer updates.

Over the past financially-stressed year, many e-commerce companies simply lacked the resources needed to produce high-quality, original content.  So they’ve been hurt by Google’s Mayday and Panda/Farmer updates.  But there is a shiny silver lining to this setback, as Heather explains:

Common E-Commerce Issues:

  • Mayday Update: Many SMB’s without the financial resources to invest in content generation were “downgraded” by Google because they simply duplicated the product descriptions from the original manufacturers of the goods offered.
  • Farmer/Panda Update: Those businesses without the money for content creation were also hurt due to “thin” and/or “low-quality” content.  These folks may have tried to build out keyphrase-laden pages to drive traffic, or were stuck with the same old products pages with no fresh or original copy.

Whatever the circumstance, these smaller e-commerce companies are at a huge disadvantage right now.  But the silver lining is that this setback presents a fantastic opportunity for these businesses to give their e-commerce site a complete “make-over.”

So here’s what to do (over) if you find your e-commerce site hurting from Google’s algorithm changes:

1) Figure out what’s working, and what’s not: Seize this opportunity to delve deep into your analytics and look at things like bounce and conversion rates. The information you glean can provide you with a road map as to what to do next.  For instance…

2) Are you using the right keyphrases? Upon entering the e-commerce world, you may not have completely understood what keyphrases were or how to work with them. Or your original keyphrases may have brought in traffic at the start, but may be not the best, qualified traffic. Again, this is a great opportunity to go back to the beginning and re-evaluate.  You may well discover other keyphrases to focus on and leverage for SEO.

3) MessagingDo you address your prospect’s primary question of what’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Revisit your benefit statements: do they explicitly tell your reader what’s in it for them? Are the tone and feel of your site targeted to your perfect customer? Are you bringing out the best benefit statements that you can? This is a golden opportunity to make your site as tight and wired to your customer as possible.

4) What else can you “tweak?” Consider what other elements could be improved to help make you money.  For instance:

  • Do you need to change your page Titles? Probably. See what you can tweak to increase both your ranking and conversions.
  • Could you add customer reviews? This is a great way to build out original content on your products pages.
  • Can you build out different types of content (video, podcasts, other types of descriptive content)? Ideally, your product page content should be unique – not just a reiteration of the original manufacturers’ copy.
  • How can you leverage your blog to help you with sales? Your blog presents an ideal venue to “soft sell” and link to your site’s product pages.  It doesn’t have to be “sales-y,” and in fact shouldn’t be. Written deftly, your blog content can go a long way towards supporting sales.

5) Checking your analytics, determine what your top-performing pages are and start re-writing those first. Look at the top 20-percent of your site’s highest-performing pages, and begin your copywriting do-over with these.

Yes, this website “do-over” does mean an investment of time and money, but the silver lining is that once you’ve gone through the process — taking the time to do it right — then everything else will fall into place:  your site will be well-optimized for the search engines, will better serve your customers, and you’ll see a greater return on your investment!

Thanks for joining us! Do you have a SEO copywriting or content marketing question? Zip it on over to Heather at: askheather@seocopywriting.com, and she may well answer it with next Monday’s video post!