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Want to Write A Sizzling Services Page? Check Out These 7 Tips!

Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!

Looking for a low-cost way to learn the SEO writing ropes? Check out my SEO Writing: Step-by-Step webinar series.

 

Beyond Keywords: Understanding Semantic Analysis

Semantics ~ The meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text

semantics-hummingbirdI spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I could best offer the world of copywriting from the “technical” SEO perspective. At the end of the day? It all comes down to words and the associations they convey. So let’s deal with the singularly most important concept that comes to mind: semantics.

Going down this road is important because far too often you will run into clients that express their need to have a given group of keywords to be hammered on ad nauseam. This not only leads to some poorly constructed content, but often doesn’t leverage how search engines actually look at it.

You need some ammunition to combat this short-sighted approach, so that’s what we’re going to look at today!

No, We’re Not Talking Code

First things first, when we talk about “semantics” in this context, it’s not about the code that also bears the same name. (You know, the mark-up that is part of the world of web development and surfacing content.)

We are, in fact, talking about information retrieval and how search engines perform semantic analysis on content as they crawl and index it.

There are myriad flavours, including some you may or may not have heard of such as:

  • Latent Semantic Analysis
  • Probabilistic Latent Semantic Analysis
  • Hidden Topic Markov Model
  • Latent Dirichlet Allocation
  • Phrase Based Information Retrieval

Yes, a whole bunch of fancy names to be certain. Feel free to research those, but we’ll avoid the uber-geeky definitions for now. They’re all just variants of natural language processing that search engines may or may not be using. It’s not related to the code-based approaches known as the “semantic web”. This is about words.

Keywords are Short Sighted

Now that we’re past that, let’s get back to the problem we looked at off the top: clients that are addicted to keywords. Sadly, the SEO world has yet to fully move past this. In the modern search world we want to target “phrases” more so than singular keywords. One- and two-word searches are rare in comparison with more complex search tasks performed by the end user. This is enough for us to consider using (“long-tail”) keyphrases over keywords.

The next issue that arises is that clients will want to stuff multiple instances of said keywords in the copy and, in an attempt to feed the perceived semantic engine, synonyms. Again, this is short-sighted and doesn’t really embrace the concepts related to today’s semantic search capabilities.

You will need to educate clients to break that habit.

Identifying the Concepts

The good news is that most writers will naturally create content that satisfies the food a search engine wants to dine upon. It is often the client of the copywriter that attempts to drag them into the wrong direction.

Let’s look at this in simplistic terms with my favorite example from over the years…

Consider the search query [jaguar]:

  • A big cat
  • A car
  • A football team
  • An operating system
  • …etc…

semantic-equivalents

 

 

 

 

While crafting the content on our page we want to flesh out the concept being expressed with related words, phrases and concepts to build upon the topicality.

Singular terms and/or phrases might include:

  • Automobiles
  • Cars
  • Autos
  • Vehicle
  • Auto
  • Car

But these are mere synonyms, so we’d expand on that with other relations which might include:

  • Engine
  • Garage
  • Tires
  • Hood
  • Spark plug
  • Keys
  • High Performance

Any guesses which [jaguar] this page is about? Once more, these are singular terms — we’d also build out the core concepts with various phrases, as well as related entities.

In a very simplistic understanding, phrase-based approaches look at top ranking/performing pages for variants of related terms and phrases for scoring purposes. I would recommend reading this post on phrase-based IR (information retrieval) to get a better grip on that stuff.

This ain’t yer daddy’s keyword density myopic approach.

Query Classifications

Another area worth mention in combination with these concepts is “query classification” (more here). This looks at user intent (when searching), and it’s something we should be cognizant of when constructing concepts and terms to be included in any piece of content.

They generally break down into:

  • Informational (seeking information)
  • Transactional (performing an action)
  • Navigational (finding a known entity)

query-classification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While a given piece of content may offer multiple classification states, it is always important to understand the target, from an SEO perspective, when constructing the “semantic baskets” to be used for said piece of content. (Refer to the link above to learn more about that.)

Putting it All Together

Ok… so we want to consider phrases and terms that buff out the core targets of a given piece of content. Consider optimal occurrences of related phrases when crafting your semantic baskets for a given piece of content. What words, phrases, entities and concepts would a search engine expect to see on that page? (Don’t ever again think in terms of keyword density!)

Some things to consider, as a content manager/editor and/or as an SEO copywriter:

  • While doing the keyword research, use various tools to also create a list of “related phrases”
  • Layout content program and structural hierarchy
  • Map out terms to pages
  • Give your writers not only core/secondary target terms, but related phrases as well
  • Review and tweak pages prior to launch
  • Vary link texts when possible and remember themes/concepts as well as keyword phrases
  • Understand the relations of concepts

I like to think in terms of semantic baskets when researching and preparing any important piece of content that will be used for targeting. As stated off the top, in most cases a good copywriter will do most of this naturally.

One Final Thought…

Search engines love words. It’s what users type into it. Words are used to convey concepts and are constructed into phrases, entities and intent. This is what you want to look at when building out your pages. But we’re moving into a world where it goes beyond…. into voice search.

Back in 2013 Google announced what they called “Hummingbird”. And one of the elements within that was called “conversational search” which will treat a search task as an ongoing journey through a given search task. This consideration also drags us away from the truly limited concepts around keyword density and simple synonyms. (For more on that, have a read here.)

google-hummingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point being, copywriters need to stay on top of the ever-evolving world of search. If you’re clients haven’t? You need to educate them. They’ll thank you for it.

Oh and hey, if you’re feeling real adventurous, you can watch this session on it:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ” – Mark Twain

Connect with David on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

 

Going Beyond Shareable Content with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson

children-sharing-milkshakeToday we’re happy to share our interview with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson. As BuzzSumo is a relatively new company, we asked Steve to talk a bit about its founding before answering the seven specific questions we had for him. You’ll want to be sure to read his intriguing take on the future of social sharing. Enjoy!

When was BuzzSumo founded?

The first version of the free product was created in 2013 by James Blackwell and Henley Wing. This tool allowed people to search for the most shared content published over the past 6 months.

At the time they were employed and developing the product in their spare time. I was so impressed by the tool that I approached James and Henley about developing a paid product, creating a company and working on the product full-time.

We first met face to face in December 2013, where I agreed to invest to allow James and Henley to work full-time on developing BuzzSumo Pro as a paid product.

We established BuzzSumo as a company in March 2014, with the three of us as directors. The first paid product, BuzzSumo Pro, was launched in September 2014. The paid version includes content alerts, reports and influencer analysis. We have continued to add to the product, including our latest trending features.

What was the inspiration for its creation?

In essence it was about searching for content that was resonating with people. Google is great, but it is based on authority sites. Thus if you search for, say, e-learning, it will start with Wikipedia. We were interested in the content that was resonating, e.g., what was the most shared content during this week or that month.

We were also interested in how content gets amplified, meaning who shares and links to the content and why? Our tool will show who shared an article and who linked to it so you can understand how it is being amplified. I think promotion is a much neglected area — people should spend as much or more time on promoting content as researching and creating it.

We are a small team so we tend to cover lots of bases. I tend to focus on marketing and strategic development, and relationships with partners. We have recently done joint webinars with Cana, Hubspot, Uberflip and Wordstream. On any given day I can be doing anything from researching new feature ideas and talking to customers about what would be helpful to them, to writing articles and answering support queries.

Any milestones in BuzzSumo’s growth that you’d like to share?

We recently passed 100,000 subscribers to our free product and more importantly 1,000 paying customers.

The key to any successful SaaS (software as a service) product is minimizing churn, which is the turnover of paying customers. Thus you want to make sure you have a product that provides value and that people use as part of their daily work.

You need to track things like active daily users and your ongoing churn rate, as well as your monthly growth in revenues and users.

It is important to focus on customer service as you grow and help your customers to get the most out of the tool. They are also your greatest asset in that they can help you identify features that will be really valuable to your audience.

BuzzSumo was once described as a “fusion of human intelligence and digital intelligence”. That seems to be a good descriptor – can you talk a little about that?

I am not sure where that came from but I understand the sentiment. It is difficult to define “good content” but we can define content that is resonating with audiences as we can see people share it and link to it. We can draw insights from this data.

Thus we can see that posts with images get more shares than posts without, that infographics are well shared in some areas, that list posts get more shares than other content formats, that quizzes get well shared, etc. We can then improve our odds of producing content that resonates by understanding this data.

We have found that the best content formats depend a lot on the topic and the audience. It is important to research what works with your audience.

Tracking content trends is also important. A BuzzSumo top content search will show you the most shared content in the last month or last 24 hours so you can see what is resonating. The BuzzSumo trending section will show you today’s most shared content for any topic, providing real time insights into the content that is engaging your audience.

We are fundamentally about helping people create better content: content that resonates and gets shared. We hopefully do that by providing insights through data such as what is working in your area or for your competitors.

Many companies push out large volumes of content to “please Google.” How can big data streamline a company’s content marketing efforts and gain better results?

I think you need to start with content research and produce a content plan. I think one of the most important aspects of content marketing is being consistent. You need to consistently produce content as the benefits accrue over time. You need a schedule, whatever that is — e.g. one blog post a week — and you need to stick to it.

Data helps you to focus on creating content that works, and getting a balance of content to support the various stages of the sales funnel. Here are some examples below:

sales-funnel-content

 

 

 

 

What matters as much as the content itself is distribution and promotion, which we come to below.

Some experts believe that it’s better to write one really good piece of content a month (that’s properly promoted,) than multiple pieces of content with little or no promotion strategy. Have you seen data that supports this?

All content should be “good” and it can be better to produce one really good, well-researched article than four poor pieces of content. The key is that you are producing something of value to your audience. If you have limited resources you need to be realistic about what you can produce.

Sites like the Harvard Business Review produce good content but it doesn’t mean they only publish one blog post a week. In fact they average 50 blog posts a week. They do this through guest authors. Guest authors and curation are one way you can seek to increase the volume of content.

The key is that you promote your content. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, people will simply not find it if you don’t promote it. My view is that you need to spend as much time, if not more, promoting and amplifying content as creating it.

You need to think about this before you write your post. For example, can you involve influencers in the research or interview them? Be clear how you are going to promote the post – which social channels, how many people will share it for you, which forums are you going to submit your content to, what paid promotion you will use, etc.

From your research, how does the underlying emotion of a blog post impact its shareability? What can this mean for, say, B2B content that’s typically considered “boring?” Is there an opportunity there?

Emotion can help improve shareability. Last year we analyzed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web, and mapped each one to an emotion, such as joy, sadness, anger, amusement, laughter, etc. Here is how the breakdown of how the emotions looked:

popular-emotions

 

 

 

 

 

However, I don’t think you need to focus on emotion to get good shareability. In B2B, people are time pressed and want to do their job better and faster. Thus if you can produce content that is helpful, people will value it and share it.

So you can identify the key questions people are asking and produce good answers. The aim really is to be the best answer to the question. The top ten thousand “how to” posts this year were shared more than 19,000 times on average.

You can also experiment with list posts and picture lists. List posts provide a promise, such as “5 steps to improve your landing page”.

Posts that are well structured and skimmable also do well. Below is a good example. This post has clear numbered steps, links to further resources, good use of images to explain points, and top tips to make the post actionable.

skimmable-content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images work well because we process images much faster than text and they help us to skim articles faster. They also work well if you are taking someone through a process, telling a story or making comparisons. One post format I think will continue to do well is a picture list post, i.e., a curated series of images.

You conducted an interesting interview with SEMrush where you outlined how BuzzSumo and SEMrush go hand-in-hand for competitive intelligence efforts. Are there other tools you’d recommend for writers?

I use tools like BuzzSumo and Feedly to keep on top of new content and to generate content ideas.

On BuzzSumo, I use top content searches to find new content ideas, but what works better for me personally is setting up content alerts and custom trending feeds. I then turn each of these into RSS feeds that I pull into Feedly. I then get a constant stream of posts on specific topics such as data driven marketing.

For trending content, I will also use Hashtagify to see related trending hashtags.

Many smaller companies are direct competitors of large brands with big followings. What are some competitive intelligence steps their writers could take that could build authority faster and increase their content’s shareability?

There has never been a better time for small companies. They can move faster than larger brands and can achieve reach through web publishing combined with promotion and influencer marketing. They can really punch way above their weight.

Smaller companies can also jump on trends much faster and engage in relevant discussions.

They can build a personal voice, as well. I feel social is very much about people. I rarely follow someone unless they have a face; I don’t like to follow logos. When you think about whose articles you want to read on the web it is normally a person not a corporation.

If you peer into your crystal ball — where do you think social sharing is headed?

I think it is interesting that more people discover content now via social than via search. Social overtook search for the first time last year — in fact the volume of Google searches fell last year for the first time. A recent research project published by the American Press Institute found that young people get most of their news from social channels.

Social media’s role as a content discovery platform is only just beginning. I think people will become more sophisticated in how they build personal learning networks using social media and how they mine social data for trends.

social-and-search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn

SEO content & social media marketing synergy: 3 perspectives

Three takes on the interplay between social media and SEO content are featuredIt’s that time again, when we feature some of our best guest author content. And this time, we’re showcasing authors who have touched on social media and its role in SEO content marketing.

As we all know, SEO copywriting and content marketing don’t occur in a vacuum. Optimizing for the human reader has become paramount, and Google has made it clear that in its algorithms, content quality and source authority are key. And so in both establishing and reflecting content relevancy and credibility to readers, social media promotion and sharing have become integral to the SEO content marketing process.

Read on to learn what some of the best minds in the online marketing industry have to say about the synergy of social media and SEO content!

 

Wake up! You're in the social SEO copywriting businessWake up, you’re in the social SEO copywriting business!

Miranda Miller notes “there are literally hundreds of factors affecting your content’s search ranking, not the least of which are trust, authority, and engagement” and that “social media is hands down the best content promotion tool out there.” Indeed. She then goes on to share solid strategies to “bake” social promotion into your content “right from the planning phase.” If you missed this reader favorite on holistic marketing the first time around, be sure to read it and bookmark it for reference!

 

SEO co-citations:What they are & why they matterSEO co-citations: What they are & why they matter

Jayson DeMers explains the anatomy of SEO co-citations and why we should care about (and utilize) this strategy. With the demise of traditional link building and the end of tactics aimed at passing page rank (which of course is a good thing), co-citations are an indirect way to “share” authority with a well-established site already endowed with “Google respect.” As DeMers writes, “co-citations can be a little difficult to wrap your head around,” but he does an excellent job of explaining (and illustrating) what they are, how they work, and most importantly, why they matter in the brave new world of social SEO.

 

Leveraging content relationships & social proof for CROLeveraging content relationships & social proof for conversion rate optimization

Andrew Isidoro focuses on optimizing conversion rates by using social proof from content marketing and content relationships developed through guest blogging to drive qualified traffic to your site. Using social proof examples from Blueglass UK as well as the content relationship between Distilled and Moz, Isidoro also delves into how to use custom, personalized landing pages “to help create a seamless transition from your guest content onto your own website, and maintain the brand connection between the two.” A must-read for any serious SEO content marketer!

 

photo thanks to webtreats

 

Adapting to visual content: 3 musts for the SEO copywriter

The SEO copywriter needs to adapt to visual content marketingWith each new photo-friendly social network (and updates to existing networks to make images look even better), I cringe a little. There was a time when the best way to get your message across online was through some high quality, optimized text. As writers, we were kings and queens among content creators.

But now the tide is shifting. The web has become, for many, a primarily visual experience. Here’s some food for thought:

  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text. (Zabisco)
  • On Facebook, photos perform best for likes, comments and shares. (Dan Zarella)
  • Pinterest generated more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. (PriceGrabber)

(stats courtesy of Hubspot)

So what is the SEO content writer to do? It’s time to adapt. You can’t deny the power of images, and if you want your clients to reach their business goals through marketing you need to offer what is best.

Text is still important – but smart content writers need to make some strategic moves to stay on top of what clients (and search engines) are looking for.

Here’s how to do it:

1.   Think strategist instead of writer.

Many copywriters and content creators don’t realize that they are playing an important strategic role in their clients’ success. The writing you’re delivering isn’t just writing – it plays into your client’s ongoing success.

As content shifts heavily towards images rather than writing, put on your strategist hat. Help your clients understand how your writing is supported by images, and vice versa. Craft a strategy for them that combines your words with key images for maximum impact.

When you take this position, you’ll be able to overcome any qualms your clients might have about spending money and time with a content writing specialist.

2.   Partner with a graphic designer.

There’s never been a better time to form a strategic partnership with a graphic designer who can add beautiful images to your artwork.

Here’s an example: You write a lengthy, thought leadership blog post for  a client and the graphic artist creates a series of beautiful quote images from that article. Your client can use those images to market the piece on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more. Or you could formally offer presentation creation services so your clients can leverage SlideShare, LinkedIn and Google+ promotion opportunities.

3.   Make incredibly awesome content.

The goal of most visual marketing is to get your audience to click back to a website and take action. That’s where your role as an SEO content creator comes in.

You get to create an incredibly awesome landing page that speaks directly to your client’s audience and gets the conversions that they are looking for. Plastering the web with cat memes and dancing Picard gifs will only get you so far (it will get you really far with me…but I’m a unique case).

If your client wants to leverage visual marketing they need somewhere to send that traffic. Put effort into developing incredibly awesome content in the form of landing pages, websites and blog posts.

Is visual content here to stay? Most definitely. But that doesn’t mean that our days are numbered as web writers. We just have to adapt.

How are you incorporating visual content into your approach? I’d love to read your ideas.

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

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

photo thanks to Ron Mader (planeta)

Hurry! Only 6 days’ left to claim 25% savings on the SEO Copywriting Certification training. Use coupon code SEPTEMBER

 

 

A 3-step outreach strategy for (new) SEO content creators

Jon Ball shares a 3-step process for content promotion for new SEO copywritersPublishing content is thrilling, exciting, and a little nerve wracking. There’s a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and even perhaps, vulnerability.

Creating content can be a very revealing process – we share our thoughts, opinions, abilities and general self. At its core it’s a very unfiltered process. But content creation is no time to be shy – the goal of creating anything is ultimately to share that creation with the world.

That’s why outreach is so extremely vital to content creation, and ultimately intertwined with publication. Because if it’s worth the effort of publishing, it’s certainly worth sharing – which can be unfortunately under-emphasized when creative individuals first start creating great content.

Whether it’s a fear of asking, a certain shyness, or the belief that good content will naturally be shared, there’s a multitude of reasons creators don’t outreach to others after publication.

But I implore you – if you’re creating content, you should be spending a healthy amount of time outreaching that same content, asking for feedback, a social share, or even a link.

There are ways to outreach tactfully and respectfully, which can help you garner important industry relationships and contacts. So, to help propel you down the path of content advocate, here’s an outreach checklist after content publication.

1) Defining an Audience – Who Should You Contact?

Outreach is the antithesis of shyness. It’s better to create a large list and whittle it down, if need be, than to create but a handful of contacts.

Before you can even begin to start an outreach campaign based around soon to publish or recently published content, you need to define who your audience is, who will be interested in your content, and who will merely be receptive.

Although who you reach out to is always influenced by your content, as a general rule of thumb you should be contacting:

  • Anyone involved or participating in the content (such as an interview, for example)
  • Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content
  • Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past
  • Influencers within the industry
  • Prior relationships within your industry (the earlier the better – think feedback)
  • Anyone you wish to build a relationship with.

Creating a list based upon these factors should give you a doozy of a list for potential outreach – especially if it’s content worth sharing.

From here, it’s time to be realistic. Outreach should always be finely targeted initially to a core group of those most likely to be receptive. Targeted outreach to kick off an outreach campaign is an extremely underrated leveraging tool.

The goal is to land the most likely big name prospects to start with. If you can name drop a few influencers, experts, or general big industry names within the rest of your outreach you’ve guaranteed yourself a higher response rate.

Beyond even that, those initial successes can create a sharing circle that may well hit potential outreach targets before you do – thereby giving your outreach further credence.

If and when you’ve received a positive response from your targeted list it’s time to move on to less likely targets – those who probably aren’t as interested in your content, but might be influenced to care by industry names conveniently included in your outreach.

The priority should look something like:

influencers/experts likely to respond>prior relationships>those involved or participating>similar content associations>influencers/experts not likely to respond>anyone mentioned, associated, or affected>potential relationships.

The concept is to build as much authority as possible as you move down the list. This increases the odds that those you contact, as they become less relevant or likely to care, won’t be annoyed at the general intrudance, but in fact be grateful for being included in your outreach process since other important people were also included and responded.

Social proof should never be underestimated.

2) Creating an organized outreach list

Although ideally done before or during the content creation, if you haven’t yet formed a list of outreach contacts you’ll absolutely want to assemble one prior to starting the actual outreach, after you’ve defined your audience.

There’s a variety of tools that can help form and manage an outreach list, including:

Google documents is completely free, with Excel being free if already installed (or you have MS Office). Buzzstream and Raven both scale based upon pricing plans.

Personally, I’ve found that unless the project is fairly large I can get by with Google docs just fine. It’s simple, shareable, and easy to use and manipulate. Pretty much everything I need from an ordered list of outreach contacts. Google docs is a great place for beginners to start.

Organization of the list can boil down to personal preference – do you want a thorough list with a multitude of layers of information, or a minimalistic list to keep it easy to read and quick to navigate?

Here’s what a typical outreach list looks like when I’m building a Google doc outreach form:

First Outreach List Example

 

I started with the result, to ensure maximum visibility and scanability. After that comes the name of the contact, their email, social media, website, our relationship, and three attempts at outreach – the third switching to social media.

This should keep the list well organized as you move through your outreach, but minimalistic enough to ensure ease of use.

Note as well that I froze the first row, so that as I scrolled down through the contacts I was able to keep the identifying information on top (and bolded).

Here’s a screenshot showing how to do so:

Outreach freeze row

 

 

The result, name of contact, email, social media and relationship should all be pretty self explanatory.

Those unfamiliar with outreach might wonder why three outreach attempts. Three is important because:

  • Any more and you run the risk of becoming annoying and/or flagged as spam
  • The first should be personalized, explain the point of the email succinctly, and have a call to action.
  • The second outreach attempt should be a simple follow up, two or three sentences max, attached to the first email, with another short call to action – ie “Emailed you on (date) and wanted to check in that you saw it. Are you interested?”
  • The third outreach attempt will be a switch to social media – again a short notification and call to action.

If you’re only going to attempt a single outreach, you’re better off not wasting your time outreaching – your response rate is bound to be dismal. People are inundated with email and information overload anymore. Your goal should be to contact them in a useful, brief, informative manner without causing further annoyance.

Three is few enough to typically fall short of annoying, while maximizing the chance of them reading, engaging, and responding.

The switch to social media on the third attempt will also help with email fatigue, while offering forward the social proof of your identity (assuming your social media presence is established).

3) The Outreach Process

This has been covered brilliantly a few times, most recently by Stephany Beadell of SEER and Richard Marriott of Clambr, both of which I strongly recommend you read.

To boil down their – along with quite a few other outreach expert’s – advice, here’s what you should know:

  • Be short and to the point, focusing on your message, it’s value, and always ending with a singular call to action.
  • Be human – templates are fine, but your goal for every outreach should be to be as human as possible.
  • Make it easy to respond to – yes or no if possible – and quick to reply.
  • Make sure you’re outreaching to the right people, in a targeted order.
  • Don’t thank someone just for reading your email – although you can and should thank them when and if they do reply, share, or link.
  • Follow up as appropriate – I use a personalized first email, an extremely short follow up email two to three days after the first, and then a final switch to social media if I still haven’t received a response.
  • Don’t get dejected – the online world is fast paced, busy, and noisy. You’ll never have 100% of people respond to your outreach, which means someone important will always slip through the cracks.

Remember, we don’t live on an island. The internet is a fun, crazy, crowded place. You’ll never be noticed if you don’t make some noise yourself. So the next time you’ve created some content worth sharing, and are set to publish, don’t skimp on the outreach campaign. Because without a little elbow grease to get feedback, social shares, and even links, you’ll never get off the ground, nor build any lasting, beneficial relationships.

The internet is no place to be shy.

Recap

After (or before, if possible) publication, you should prepare to outreach by:

1. Define your audience – who’s interested in your content?

a. Anyone involved or participating in the content

b. Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content

c. Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past

d. Influencers within the industry

e. Prior relationships within your industry

f. Anyone you wish to build a relationship with

2. Create a usable, organized outreach list

a. There are a variety of tools, but beginners might want to start with Google docs

3. The outreach process

a. Be short and to the point, with a singular call to action

b. Be human and respectful

c. Begin with a targeted audience, who you can later cite as social proof

d. Follow up as appropriate, and quick to respond

e. Don’t get dejected – you’ll never get a 100% response rate

 

About the AuthorJon Ball

Jon Ball is VP of Business Development for Page One Power. Jon specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building strategies for clients across the globe. In his previous life he was a professional portrait photographer, and still passionately pursues photography. Page One Power is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy and transparency.

 

Save 25% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training through September 30th! Use coupon code SEPTEMBER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to create unique SEO content for location pages

Local search expert Mary Bowling discusses how to create unique content for location pagesYou need to show the search engines unique content on all of your website’s location pages.  Searchers who land on them must also be able to quickly decipher where you are, what you do and who you are.

They should also be able to find all of the information they may want to know about that particular place of business.  Coupled with a prominent phone number and clear calls to action, this is what’s needed to prompt prospective customers to contact the company ASAP.

This is fairly simple with just a handful of offices, stores or shops. It becomes more challenging with more locations, but is still doable for most writers up to a point. However, the more unique pages you need to devise the harder and harder it gets – until it becomes overwhelming.

As I’m sure you know, it’s difficult to write dozens – or even hundreds – of unique descriptions about what is essentially the same thing. It’s also awkward trying to make location landing pages authentic and useful to readers if you’ve never visited those places, seen what they look like and what’s around them, met the staff, toured the business or know what makes their products or services different.

Involving Your Local Operators

That’s why you need to involve the people who manage each branch of the business to help you by providing content that is specifically about their place and written in their own voice.  These are some of the types of unique content they can help you with:

  • description of their business in their own words, including anything unique or different about their products, services or processes that would appeal to readers
  • local business groups they belong to (such as the BBB or Chamber of Commerce)
  • trade associations they are affiliated with
  • awards, certifications, education or training, special licenses they or their staff may have
  • photos (cell phone photos are fine and easy to email) of their storefront, their staff, the inside of their business, some of their most popular products, happy customers in the store, employees performing services and so on
  • driving, biking, walking and public transit directions from different areas of town
  • operating hours, email address and the methods of payment they accept
  • case studies they can share or lists of present and past customers you can publish
  • testimonials they may have received via email or snail mail from happy customers
  • bios of their key staff, especially the people who will be providing skilled services
  • specials or coupons offered

Here’s an example of a location page that incorporates most of the above items without being spammy or overdone. It contains all the information a prospective customer may want to know before they pick up the phone to call.

Great Location Landing page example

 

Involving Your Web Developers

At some point, you’ll need to get the website developer involved in helping to make all of these pages easier to manage. This can be done entirely via a database or your pages can be a hybrid of static and database-driven content.

Ideally, each local operator should be able to log in to their own record and enter or upload the items listed above. Then, if staff, hours or specials change, they can be quickly updated online. If an office moves, the new address is available to web users immediately. If the store is remodeled, new photos can appear on the page within hours. You get the idea!

Having all of this information in a well-organized, accurate database also allows you to “feed” it to data providers for distribution or directly to other websites, like Yelp or Trip Advisor via APIs.

Getting all of this set up is indeed a huge undertaking. However, in the long run, it will save time, reduce frustration and, most importantly, give your enterprise the best chance of keeping the information about all of its locations accurate and update across the web.

About the Author ~ Mary Bowling

Mary Bowling has been involved in SEO and other aspects of internet marketing, with a particular emphasis on Local Search, since 2003. You can connect with Mary via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

photo thanks to Carlos Guerrera

Struggling to create unique SEO content? I can help – contact me today!

3 steps to getting your in-depth articles ranked in Google search

Do you write in-depth articles? Here's how to get them ranked in Google search results.Google has recently introduced a new rich SERP element which highlights in-depth articles towards the bottom of the search results.

For content marketers and SEOs alike, this is fantastic news. Not only does this further emphasise the need for quality content, but also that if you apply the Schema.org Article markup, your in-depth articles stand a better chance of appearing in the SERPs for your relevant keywords.

The search giant has provided some information on how to make it easier for them to crawl and index your content, which increases the chance of you appearing in this block.

Here are three steps to make this happen!

1. Mark Up Your Pages With Schema.org

Schema mark-up is essentially a series of tags used by webmasters to optimise their HTML coding, assigning page elements and content with descriptions so that it is easier for search engines to understand and index them appropriately.

In order for your content to be found by Google and considered for in-depth article rankings, they will need to be marked up with the Schema code for articles. This can be done by adding the following code to your web page HTML:

<div itemscope itemtype=http://schema.org/Article>CONTENT GOES HERE</div>

Itemscope basically determines that everything within <div>…</div> is describing a particular item.

To give the search engines even more detail, you should add microdata to your HTML. Microdata is determined by ‘itemprop’ and refers to the page elements and content more specifically.

Here are the key parts of your page elements HTML that you will benefit from adding microdata to:

Headline – the title to your post

<h1 itemprop=”headline name”>Your headline</h1>

Alternative Headline – a secondary title or subtitle

<i itemprop=”alternativeHeadline”>A sub-headline here</i>

Image – the image(s) in your post, which will need to be crawlable and indexable by attaching suitable alt tags.

<img itemprop=”image” src=”image URL” alt=”Relevant alt tag describing the image”>

Description – A short description introducing the body of the content

<p itemprop=”description”>Your name explores the chosen subject</p>

Date Published – the published date of the article

<meta itemprop=”datePublished” content=”YEAR-MONTH-DAY”>PUBLISHED DATE</p>

Article Body – The content of the article

<p itemprop=”articleBody”>The body of your article here</p>

Don’t forget to close the HTML with </div> otherwise it will be not work correctly.

Adding more specific itemprop microdata will depend on what your content is about. For the full properties (i.e. all of the itemprop definitions you can use for your given topic), check out Organization of Schemas.

2. Connect Google+ Authorship

So you have marked up your pages with the correct Schema and microdata, now it’s time to set up Authorship and implement that into your markup too.

Whenever a piece of content goes live on your site, you should add the below link to the page, preferably in your author bio.

<a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Your Name</a>

Where it says “Profile URL”, this takes us onto the next step.

If you do not already have a Google+ account, it’s time to sign up. Once you have set up an account and uploaded a headshot, add the URL of your profile page to the “profile_url” part of the rel=author tag. Then you will need to update the About page of your Google Plus profile.

Within the ‘Links’ box, you’ll see a ‘Contributor To’ section. Simply click ‘edit’ at the bottom of the ‘Links’ box, and click ‘Add custom link’. Add the URL of your article, or the blog you write for if you write multiple items.

3. Create Compelling In-Depth Content

Last but not least, you need to be creating the right kind of content. It’s all well and good adding Schema mark up, microdata and authorship, but if the body of your content is not up to scratch, you cannot compete against other articles.

For something to be “In-depth” you need to have a strong understanding of the subject matter, so make sure to do your research, and keep the information straightforward and relevant.

Getting individual articles just right will not be enough – currently the main sites appearing as “In-Depth Articles” are big brands, so reputation clearly comes into play too. This should change over time, giving lesser-known blogs and publications a chance to compete, but only if you are doing all you can to make it easy for Google to find you and your outstanding content.

About the AuthorBen Norman

Ben Norman is a leading UK SEO Expert with an extensive knowledge of search engine marketing. He regularly writes straightforward search related posts for his SEO blog. You can connect with Ben on Twitter via @Bennorman and on  Google+.

photo thanks to Steve Jurvetson

Learn the latest SEO copywriting and content marketing techniques – look into my SEO copywriting training options for yourself or your in-house team!

 

Is your home page doing its job?

Your home page should capture and covert prospects. Is it doing its job?When is the last time you really looked through your website pages?

I mean REALLY looked them over, with a critical eye?

It’s all too easy to “set and forget” them, thinking all is well. But is it?

Starting with your home page – you know, your online storefront and the one most indexed by the search engines… do you see it positioning well in the SERPs?

And more importantly, is it capturing web traffic and funneling visitors to your sites’ sales pages?

In short, is your home page doing its job?

Your home page will perform its work much better if isn’t laboring under content that’s all about you. Mission statement? No. Please.

You need to check your corporate ego at the door.

Do you find your home page languishing from too much verbage? Say, laden with wasted words to achieve some mythical ideal wordcount “for Google”? Stop it. Strive for an economy of words, always. If it can be said in 50 words rather than 500, do it. Be ruthless in your editing.

And please tell me this isn’t so – are you trying for an equally mythical keyword density in your content? Knock it off. Matt Cutts even said so – some time ago! It’s time to move past that. Let it go.

A killer home page resonates with your readers with content informed by a well-researched, sculpted customer persona. It will grab your readers’ attention and inspire them to dig deeper into your site.

Next week, we’ll talk a bit about how to optimize that content. But for now..

This week’s SEO content challenge: Make your home page the absolute best that it can be! Then try doing an A/B test to fine tune your revisions.

You may find yourself surprised at what a truly difficult assignment this is. But what a difference it will make for your site’s conversions!

Good luck, and please let me know how it goes – or how I can help!

photo thanks to nikcname

Does your website suffer from sluggish conversions? Let’s whip your SEO content into shape! Contact me today to see how I can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content Criminal Minds: Eye candy, passion & community dedication

Your content needs to be attractive, passionate, and show dedicationIn “Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU” (the first of my Content Criminal Minds series*), I introduced the stunning Derek Morgan. Yes, he’s eye candy, but he’s functional eye candy. While he adds beauty to the show, he also shows a lot of passion for his job and dedication to his community.

Content and content strategies need that same functional beauty. After all, first impressions make all the difference. If your content and website look spammy and low quality, it won’t get the attention it deserves and no one will see the value.

 

Content and Content Strategies Should Be Pretty

Whether you’re looking at an individual piece of content or all of your content as a whole, it has to look good and reflect well on your brand. (And yes, I mean it should be high quality, but it should also have visual appeal.)

For example, a piece of content should have images, video, audio and other mediums instead of just text. This will make it easy for people to read, it’ll make the page look nice, but it will also help with things like SEO, social sharing and comprehension. Your content strategy should be the same.

Including a variety of mediums in your content strategy will:

  • Keep your site (and your brand) fun and interesting.
  • Expand your reach by catching those who prefer alternative media.
  • Improve your authority and value by further exploring a topic.
  • Make your content easier to consume and share.
  • Better show the value and benefits of your products/services.

 

Use Content to Show Your Passion and Personality

Part of what makes Derek Morgan attractive and such an important member of the group is his personality and passion for what he does. And it shows in everything he does. He knows when to have fun and when to get serious. Your content and content strategy needs to do that, too.

It’s important to get down to business and get your information out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s your only option. Even if your brand is highly professional and refined, you still need to be personable and show your personality. You might even want to have a little fun.

Take Nike, for example. They’re a huge company and very, very formal and professional. Their advertising also screams quality and professionalism, but they’re not afraid to have a little fun, either. And they’re passionate, too.

If you can’t get excited about your industry, products and services, your target audience won’t be able to, either. So, get excited, show the love you have for what you do and open the window to all the benefits, value and opportunities your industry can bring. You’ll find it will get a far better response and be much more effective.

 

Be Easy to Work With and Make Sure People Know What You’re About

Derek Morgan may have the occasional disagreement with other characters on the show, but he’s easy to work with and they always know where they stand with him. There’s no beating around the bush or playing games. Your content and content strategy should be the same.

Everything you do should have a single purpose. If you add something to a page (or to your strategy) that doesn’t meet that specific purpose or goal, it doesn’t belong. This strengthens your marketing, adds clarity and strengthens your message. Visitors will be more likely to get your message and you’ll be more likely to meet your goals.

Navigation through your content and your content strategy are also important. Everything you create should be easy to find. People should be able to find what they need without digging, and most importantly, they should find it in the right order.

In other words: You need clear content funnels that move visitors from the landing page to the “goal” or “money page”. That being said, your content strategy can’t just be a stream of advertisements and product pitches.

Your content should be well rounded. It should be a well rounded strategy filled with relatable, confident and valuable content that informs or entertains. And it should all have an emphasis on serving your community (your target audience).

Derek Morgan adds good looks, passion, a fun personality and an unwavering dedication to his community. Your content and content strategy should do the same.

*The Content Criminal Minds series:

Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU

Content Criminal Minds: 11 essentials goals of a solid content strategy

Content Criminal Minds: Fast & easy ways to streamline your content strategy

 

About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

A seven-year veteran in the war against boring, crap content, copywriter Angie Nikoleychuk loves writing, but she loves content strategy even more. She’s always up for a challenge and enjoys showing others how much fun (and effective) content can be. When she’s not running Angie’s Copywriting or on Twitter, she can be found doing other weird and wonderful things like geocaching, crafting, or performing as a professional oboist.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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