3 Things to Consider Before a Site Launch

In today’s SEO copywriting how-to, Heather discusses the value of developing quality content and keyphrase research before launching your site. She highlights the perils of not consulting an SEO expert and the disappointment of overemphasizing site design versus quality content.

Check it here:

3 Things to Consider Before a Site Launch

Many companies forget to talk to an SEO expert prior to launching a site, especially an SEO expert who understands content.

Companies that neglect to consult an SEO expert often produce a great looking site, but the site performs poorly on Google. Content may be beautifully written, yet it may not be easily found.

Here are the 3 things to consider before a site launch:

1. How much room will be available for the content?

  • Some site templates allow for only 75 words of content
  • Consider the length of your content
  • It is easier to have more room for content than not enough room

2. What is your keyphrase universe?

  • Some companies write their content before conducting any keyphrase research
  • This requires content to be edited after it has been created … which takes a lot of time
  • Research before you launch and set up a per page strategy. If you are constrained by time or expertise, you can always hire a contractor to help

3. What content needs to be “live” before a site launches?

  • Some companies overemphasize site design and completely forget about content
  • This often results in poorly worded “placeholder” content to be modified later
  • Content is sometimes imported from the older site … and you didn’t like that content!
  • Make sure you have your quality content completed before you launch

It’s simply a matter of “pay me now, or pay me later” when you launch a site. A beautifully designed site with little or no quality content will remain that: a beautifully designed site. And it will stay beautiful because it will have very few visitors to trample upon it!

Instead, focus on quality content and keyphrase research prior to developing and launching your site. Help Google help you!

Photo thanks to dan.montesi

OMG! How NOT to Write Business Web Content

In today’s text, Twitter, social media world, people are getting more and more lazy about their grammar and spelling, according to This Embarrasses You and I*, an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The article begins with:

When Caren Berg told colleagues at a recent staff meeting, “There’s new people you should meet,” her boss Don Silver broke in. “I cringe every time I hear” people misuse “is” for “are,” Mr. Silver says. He also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with “like.” For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. “I am losing the battle,” he says.

And it’s not just Mr. Silver who is losing the battle. Companies across the country are fighting the same and it’s becoming an epidemic.

Schools have stopped teaching cursive handwriting. That makes sense, of course, as many of us no longer write longhand. But, along with it comes shorthand acronyms – LOL, WTH*$, 2nite, <3, AISI, IMO, OMG – and they’re all reaching corporate world communications.

Heck, they had to create an entire dictionary on the lingo so those of us who didn’t grow up in the text world know how to understand what’s being said.

But it’s not just affecting the business world. According to BBC News, students are turning in homework completely written in text.

My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it’s a gr8 plc.

It’s fairly easy to figure out this person went to NY to see her brother and his family during summer break, but it certainly takes more energy and thought to figure out what message is being delivered.

If this is how your customers and prospects are being communicated to/with, do you think they’re going to want to do business with you?

But it’s not just text speak that is bringing down the corporate world of writing and communications. Most don’t know the difference between their, they’re, and there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following are six tips for better business writing. And, if you’re so inclined, for better Facebook status updates, too.

  1. Always use spell check. Internet browsers, content management systems, Pages, Word, and most software have spell check built in. Use it!
  2. Cut down on text slang. We all use LOL or OMG or WTH with the best of them, but when writing, spell out your acronyms. You don’t say LOL when you speak. Don’t write it, either.
  3. Know the difference between your and you’re. Your is possessive, as in “your car” or “your business.” You’re is short for you are. Know which you’re trying to say.
  4. Same for its and it’s. It’s is short for it is. Read your sentence out loud. If you can say “it is” without it sounding goofy, it’s is the proper use. If it sounds ridiculous, you can use its.
  5. The word “that” is rarely necessary. If you can write the sentence without the word “that,” remove it. It’s very rare it’s a necessity.
  6. Stop using the word “like.” Just like Don Silver in the example like above, like too many people like use the word like.

If you want to get serious about your writing, check out the Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, or Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

 

About the Author ~ Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of the PR and marketing blog Spin Sucks and co-author (with Geoff Livingston) of the book, Marketing in the Round. You can find her on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook.

 

photo thanks to proudcanadianeh

 

 

Is Your Brand Burning Bridges?

Be careful how you treat your customers….

Quick: Name a company that you will never, ever work with again.

When I asked my husband this question, he immediately responded with “24 Hour Fitness.” Once upon a time, they continued to charge his credit card after he cancelled his membership. It took him months to straighten it out.

Oh, and did I mention that this happened 20 years ago?

Having a bad brand experience is like eating bad seafood at a restaurant. Whenever you think of the brand, your brain immediately goes back to how horrible you felt the last time you were there (or the last time you worked with the company.) Sure, you know that your experience could be “unique.” You know that the company may have even cleaned up their act. That doesn’t make any difference – you still remember the pain you endured.

I thought about this when I was trying to cancel my Vonage service. I used Vonage for over seven years with (virtually) no complaints. Then, the service got so horrible that people couldn’t hear me, the call would drop – you name it, it happened. After 20 minutes with their customer service rep (with me repeating the phrase, “No, I want to cancel my service” at least 20 times,) I was assured that my service was, in fact, cancelled – effective immediately.

Then, I received an email with the subject line, “Confirmation to continue Vonage services.” The email read, in part:

“We’re delighted that you’ve chosen to stay with Vonage.

We’re writing to confirm the terms you discussed with our Account Management representative on 7/3/2012 to continue your service…”

W. T. F.?

At the very bottom of the email, I read this line:

If you have any questions or believe this information does not accurately reflect what you agreed to, please let us know that within seven (7) days. You may do so by accessing this link…

When I clicked the link, it took me to a page that gave me two radio button choices: Cancel my service, or continue it. So, even though I called to cancel my service – and was assured that it was cancelled – Vonage used this sneaky tactic. Had I not paid attention, my service would have continued.

The result? I will never, ever use Vonage again. And I will tell everyone I can about their sneaky bait-and-switch tactics.

In today’s social media world, burning customer bridges is just plain stupid. If you piss off the wrong person with a huge Twitter following, their opinion of your company will go viral in moments.  Case in point:

(This is a true story. A representative from PayPal’s “escalation department” disputed the anti-SEO stance the first rep mentioned, and said that they could help if I was classified as a “training company.” Having said that, the “escalation rep” is no longer returning my calls – and no-one else from PayPal has offered to help.)

So, what happened here? The post got retweeted, and people wrote blog posts about my experience. I’m sure PayPal’s profits aren’t in danger – but I will tell everyone I know about how I was treated.

What are the lessons that businesses can learn from this?

– Treat your customers fairly. I feel that the Vonage “Confirmation to continue Vonage services” email was completely unethical. Same with how 24 Hour Fitness back in the day kept charging some people’s credit cards long after they cancelled. If people want out of your program – and they are within their contractual rights to do so – let them out. Make it easy for them. The customer may come back if they were treated well. They won’t come back if you made their life a temporary hell.

– Follow through if there is a problem. Mistakes happen. People give out incorrect information. What’s not OK is to tell a cranky customer “I’m on it” and then drop the ball. Because you know what that customer is going to remember? How you said that you’d call them back – and then you didn’t. That’s what they will tell their friends and family (and social networks, too.)  Comcast has certainly won some points with their @comcastcares Twitter handle – prior to that, talking to Comcast was a painful experience. They may not be perfect, but they’re trying. It’s something.

– Reputation management won’t help you if you suck. If you continue to ignore customer issues, do sneaky things and don’t value your customers, it will come back and bite you in the butt. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday. And that can cost your company a significant amount of cash. Here’s more information about reputation management from guest author @seobelle.

That’s my rant…how about yours? What companies have left you feeling less than happy about how they treated you?

 

How to Protect Your Brand Online

Your content strategy should be a great representation of your brand, and this is easy to control when you are writing and editing it for yourself. But what do you do when other people start to write about you?

SEO copywriting on your own site can help get you recognised, get traffic and get noticed, but with that level of exposure you do sometimes end up in the firing line.

  • Your Brand

Your brand could be your business, your website, or your personal brand, and as such you need to represent your brand effectively and protect it. By having a blog or any kind of social media presence you open yourself and your brand up to conversations and sometimes criticism.

It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are an international blue chip organisation or an individual with a blog, you have a reputation to protect – and if there is a chance that someone else is writing about you, then you need to know about it.

  • Monitoring Your Brand

You can easily use social network tools such as Sprout Social and even Google Alerts to keep an eye on your brand and website mentions. You can also use more advanced packages that include sentiment tracking, but for most people the free or cheaper options are enough.

Although you may be in a competitive vertical, particular keywords such as ‘brand name’ scam can be very easy to rank well for and ‘Google bomb’ your own site. Keeping an eye on your mentions is just as important as focusing on your own SEO and content writing.

No publicity is bad publicity….”

The old saying of ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ no longer applies: it used to be that nobody cared what people were writing about them, as long as they were getting enough column inches.

Now we do care about what people are saying…why?

Traditional media was disposable. An article would be written, read and discarded, while your other brilliant work some would be archived in some library to collect dust. So it was no wonder people didn’t care as much about reputation management.

If you read a bad piece in a newspaper, you may remember the brand but the details are a bit fuzzy, therefore the brand became more recognisable:  the next time you come across them, be sure to note the operative writer that you remember them, and this time may be a more favourable situation.

Information turns into discussion

The other aspect of digital media compared to traditional media is the social element: we now read something, share it, tweet, discuss through comments, and even blog about it. Therefore one bad comment may turn into pages and pages of search engine results about the subject with various opinions.

If something is shared in a newspaper or another form of print, then you can guarantee it will be recorded with pictures, digital copies and social media.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You can categorise blogs or articles about your brand in 3 different ways:

1.   The Good

These are the best types of blogs about your brand: some lovely person speaking favourably about your brand. These are just as important to keep an eye on as negative brand discussion, as these are a great opportunity to share.

You can also reach out to the writer and get a link back to your site from the blog, or even get valuable content from them to quote in your own copywriting strategy.

2.   The Bad

Bad reviews and blogs about your brand are very damaging to your brand, but they may also provide you with some legitimate feedback on your product or services. Don’t shy away from bad articles – instead, embrace them and see if you can resolve the issue and turn it around.

The quicker this is dealt with the better, so make sure you are monitoring your brand closely in the search engines and on social media.

3.   The Ugly

Ugly content is content that is often badly written – typically an emotional response, or defamatory in nature. These are more difficult to handle and can often be very hurtful to you. It is very important not to take this content to heart and remain detached when dealing with it.

Unfortunately this ugly kind of content style is often shared quickly. This is because it appeals to people on a more emotional level, is often sensationalist, and can cut very close to the bone.

This needs to be handled sensitively. If you can reason with the original author then do – and try to offer assistance to change their opinion. If they are the type of writer that does this for fun they may not be easy to reason with. In this case you may need to try other methods to protect your brand.

At SEO Creative, we have produced a simple flow chart to help you deal with content discussing your brand:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author ~ Sadie Sherran

Sadie Sherran is the owner of Media Pro UK Ltd, holding company of SEO Creative, a digital agency in the UK. Sadie is head of online marketing and specialises in SEO, SEM, CRO and Reputation Management.  Sadie is a big fan of pie and chips, spends a lot of time on Twitter(@seobelle) and is often found getting tips from the SEO Copywriting blog.

 

Hurry! There’s just a few days left to apply for the Copywriting Business Bootcamp that starts on July 16th. Sure, it’s an investment – but if you follow the program, you’ll be able to make your investment back in three months or less. Here’s how to get started…

 

photo thanks to Picture Taker 2

Yes, You Should Blog. Here’s How to Make Blogging Easier

Greetings! Today we’re featuring Heather’s highly popular “how-to” business blogging video posts, as well as a third written post that asks “are you too busy to blog?” Good question, no?

No matter the size of your business, from enterprise to soloprenuer, a business blog is a fundamental part of any smart content marketing strategy in this highly competitive world of savvy, informed and content-hungry consumers.

Starting a business blog is much like having a baby. Since many of us are not familiar with business blogging, Heather offers tips for beginners as well as for those of us who may be a bit <ahem> rusty. Then, going beyond the launch of your blog, Heather addresses the less romantic, daily realities facing the business blogger.

And finally, we’re asked to consider if we are too busy to blog? What are the options? Enjoy this 3-part pocketbook guide of biz blogging tips!

3 Business Blogging Tips For Beginners

Were you among the many business owners who resolved to either start blogging or do more of it this year?  Given the overwhelming stat’s showing how blogging can increase leads, boost conversions, and drive more traffic to your site – of course you want a piece of that!

And while that’s a wonderful goal, it can be a challenging one for beginners. Tune in as Heather shows you the ropes and shares tips to help reduce the “frustration factor” of getting started…

3 (More) Business Blogging Tips For Beginners

In this follow-up business blogging video post, Heather goes beyond the launch of your blog and focuses on the nitty-gritty realities of business blogging: Do you have the time, resources, support, and practical wherewithall to keep your blog on track, consistently?

And do you know the critical distinction between sales writing and blog writing?

Are you too busy to blog?

It could be said that “no time to blog” isn’t a reasonable excuse. That’s because blogging drives traffic and helps establish you as an expert. It could be that you’ve found alternative content marketing strategies that work for you.

That said, if you’ve tried blogging and it worked for your company – even as a short-term experiment – you owe it to your bottom line to better manage your time or seek outside help to create the content that your readers crave.

 

 

photo credit to SweetGirl©

 

 

 

 

Does Your Site Suffer from “Content Mullet” Syndrome?

Remember the mullet? That late 70’s – 80’ish hairstyle that all allegedly cool dudes (and hot chicks) once sported? You know,`a la those hair-tossing rock ‘n roll bands and tough leathered chicks of the time (circa Styx, Journey, Pat Benatar, etc.)?

Well, in this week’s Web-writing video, Heather takes the notorious mullet into another dimension altogether, asking: does your site suffer from “content mullet” syndrome?

Beginning with what a “content mullet” is, Heather walks us through recognizing the signs and symptoms of content mullet syndrome, easy and organic remedies for the malady, and a preventative prescription to guard against relapse…

The content may have looked great…once upon a time…

So what is a “content mullet”?

It’s much like the mullet hairstyle: it might have looked great once upon a time, in its time – meaning it was in, it was fashionable, it was hip – but when you look at it now, it looks a little dated (in the kindest words).

Translating that to your website, your content mullet might have worked very well for you once upon a time, but now it’s marked by:

  • Outdated articles
  • Outdated sales pages
  • Conference/event pages that haven’t been updated
  • Press pages and links that haven’t been updated

These all represent great opportunities for content marketing, and they are all very important to the conversions process.

It may not seem like a big deal…but it sends a message…

You may be inclined to shrug off this out-dated content warning, thinking yeah, yeah, I’ll do something about such-and-so page eventually…but keep in mind that:

  • People notice and wonder what’s going on.
  • This is especially true if your competition is kicking out new, fresh content.

If your website appears to be out-of-touch and its content neglected, your prospect is liable to click back to one of your competitors’ sites – you know, the one with the newest and most relevant information beckoning her and thereby underscoring its relative credibility. (Not to mention that your competitors’ sites are most likely out-ranking yours’ on the SERPs, with Google’s preference for sites with fresh content.)

The key is to take care of business – fast!

Again, this presents an opportunity for you to at once revitalize your site and market your content. And it is something that is relatively easy to evaluate and fix.

All you need to do is:

  • Comb through your site and make a list of outdated pages.

This is going to take a little bit of time if you have a larger site. But check things like your blog posts, press release and conference pages, and any articles to see what the opportunities are. Go through that list and then:

Tip: If one of the outdated pages on your list is a sales page, you probably will want to prioritize it because it will help you make money! Then you can work on the other pages as you go along.

  • Consider if you need to develop a new process.

For example, it is so common for companies to send out press releases and then forget to upload them to their site. If that sounds like something that’s afflicting your business, then make it a point of the process that once the press release is sent out, it goes online as well.

Tip: Just inserting such key points into your content marketing process is a simple way to keep everyone involved informed of when to automatically update any given web page.

  • Moving forward, review your content once a quarter.

Now you’ve ditched the mullet for a far more trendy and attractive  look, make it a policy to review your content at least once a quarter.

An ongoing, quarterly inventory of your content is a smart way to keep on top of the newest content creation and marketing opportunities that will keep your website competitive.

Besides that, it ensures that you regularly discover new ways to tweak your content, update pages, and do anything else that will keep your website fresh and new, and give your readers the best possible content you can deliver!

Thanks for tuning in! Do you have a question for Heather? Great! Zip it on over to her [at] [email protected] or tweet it to her @heatherlloyd. And be sure to check back next week, as your question may well be answered. See you then!

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photo credit to IndiePics!/Valarie Apperson/Talamantes

3 (More) Business Blogging Tips for Beginners

Greetings! As you might have guessed, today’s how-to video builds on last week’s “3 business blogging tips for beginners.”

While thinking about that post, Heather realized that there were definitely more than just those three blogging tips to share, and so she created three more to do with the realities of time management and scheduling, as well as the question of sales vs. blog writing.

So if you are one of those folks who resolved to do more blogging for their business this year, tune in as Heather shares three more business blogging tips for beginners (and for those who may be a tad rusty)…

Original 3 business blogging tips: a recap

Last week, Heather discussed these three business blogging tips:

  • Brainstorm a list of possible topics
  • Loosen up!
  • Work with an editor

This week’s video focuses on the gritty realities of business blogging, starting with…

Tip #1: Be realistic

This first tip is focused around the time that you have to blog – realistically.

  • How much time do you have to blog?

A lot of people start off with the goal of writing a blog post every single work day, or maybe even churning out a couple of posts a day. They may think I have a lot in my head that I want to say…so yeah, that’s reasonable…

  • The challenge is that life gets in the way – and business gets in the way – of these ambitious blogging goals.

While you might have all these great ideas swirling about in your head, by the time that you’re able to actually sit down and write, you may well find that you really don’t have that much time to create a quality blog post… So think about how much time you really have to blog.

  • Think quality over quantity.

If it turns out that you can only create one blog post a week right now, that’s okay!

One really good, quality blog post a week is far better than five so-so blog posts a week, cranked out at the 11th hour just for the sake of creating something. Think quality over quantity.

  • Can other people help you?

Another thing to consider is if there are other folks within your company that can help you with writing blog posts.

This one can be tricky – because these other folks would need to be accountable for their blog posts, making blog writing an additional part of their normal responsibilities.

But if you have other people available within your business that could be good writers and have topic ideas, definitely see if you can bring them on board to help!

Tip #2: Schedule your blog posts

This tip addresses time management, and the editorial calendar.

  • Set deadlines and put them in your calendar.

This means: know exactly what you’re going to write, when.

Last week, we discussed brainstorming ideas for possible blog post topics – this is where you put those ideas on paper and say, “Okay, I’m blogging twice a week, and for Wednesday’s posts I’m going to talk about X.”

In the writing world, we call this an editorial calendar. It is a visual tool that allows you to look at a given week and know exactly what you’re going to be writing, and know exactly when you need to publish the post online.

  • Give yourself a lot of writing time.

If you’re just getting into blogging, be gentle with yourself: it may take a long time to write a blog post and again, that’s okay!  Even for professional writers, it can take a very long time to write a quality blog post.

  • So make sure you give yourself that gift of time. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself by thinking, “I have 30 minutes…I can kick out the post really fast.” Even an experienced writer might choke in such a situation.

Prevent that last-minute deadline stress and give yourself a lot of writing time before the deadline.

  • Be faithful to your blogging schedule.

Consider your blog post schedule and deadlines with the same weighty level of seriousness you’d give to your clients’ deadlines, or those of the IRS. Make a commitment to keep to your blogging schedule and honor your editorial calendar.

Tip #3: It’s OK to link to your products/services – just don’t overdo it.

This final tip concerns the writing itself.

  • Blog writing and sales writing are different – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some soft promotion.

Rather than thinking of your blog post as a sales medium – where you talk about all the wonderful things you can do or provide for the reader – instead come up with a general, informational article.  Think of a topic that would address customer questions, or would otherwise be useful to your readers.

  • If it makes sense to link to a product/service in your post – go for it.

You can easily direct traffic into your website’s inner product/service pages with links from your blog post, if it flows naturally and makes sense to do so. Such soft promotion is okay – just don’t overdo it.

  • You can always put a sales “blurb” at the bottom of every post, too.

You don’t have to get heavy-handed with the sales writing. You can simply place a sales “blurb” at the end of each informational blog post, such as: “Would you like to learn more about our emergency plumbing services? Feel free to contact us at X.”

  • Using a sales blurb provides you an opportunity to include a little bit of call-to-action, while ensuring that the integrity of your blog post stays intact.

photo credit: mrbill (Bill Bradford)

3 Business Blogging Tips for Beginners

Welcome back! Today’s video offers three actionable business blogging tips for beginners, as well as for those of you who may be a bit “rusty.”’

Heather thought business blogging would be a timely topic, as many business owners resolved to either start blogging or do more of it this New Year. They’ve seen the stat’s showing how blogging can increase leads, boost conversions, and drive more traffic to their site – and they want a piece of that!

And while that’s a wonderful goal, it can be a challenging one for beginners. So tune in as Heather shows you the ropes and shares bonus tips to help reduce the “frustration factor” of getting started…

Tip #1: Make a list of possible blog topic ideas

One of the big mistakes all online writers make – even those who are experienced bloggers – is to assume that the blog topic will come to them once they sit down to write.

Unfortunately, the blogging muse rarely strikes so spontaneously.

It’s easy to feel pulled in a million different directions, so what happens is the deadline you’ve set creeps closer and closer and you panic – realizing you have no idea what to write about.

Here are some starting points to help you plan your topics and avoid the blog deadline panic:

  • What questions do customers ask?
  • Can you offer any DIY (do-it-yourself) tips?
  • What are some “hot topics” in your industry?
  • Research other blogs in your space. What are they talking about?
  • Looking for local customers? Can you tie a local issue back to your business?
  • Is there a list of blog posts/sites that you love?

These are just brainstorming ideas. You don’t have to worry about creating a formal framework or outline at this point – just put your ideas down on paper.

  • Tip: Don’t copy posts from another blog. Link to it instead – and discuss why you think the blog post is a good one.

Besides the obvious copyright violation issue, copying from another blog doesn’t showcase your expertise. So if there is a blog post that you really love, link to it and tell your readers why they should check it out.

Discussing and linking to another post is a far more valuable strategy for positioning you as an expert, as opposed to randomly pulling resources from other sites and having no original content of your own.

Tip #2: Loosen up!

If you’re new to blogging and online writing, it can feel really weird to start. You may flash back to high school or college, conjuring teachers and professors and that red pen inking up your work. You may second-guess every word you write.

  • You’re not in high school English class anymore.

Relax. You’re not writing some sort of “paper” for grading. Try to write as you would talk – it will help the copy flow more easily and naturally.

  • Write with personality! A good writing style can make the most technical subjects approachable and fun to read about.

This is especially true when writing about a technical subject. Your writing doesn’t have to be dry and boring, even if the topic may seem so. Infuse it with personality and it will be far more readable and enjoyable!

Tip #3: Work with an editor

This is a really important tip for everyone, no matter how experienced they may be.

  • Typos happen.

Have an editor to check your writing for typos, grammatical errors, and to ensure that your message is coming through as you intended.

It’s so easy for all of us to get too close to our own stuff that we miss these nitty things. So if you start uploading unedited blog posts to your site, with typos, bad grammar, or rambling, unfocused copy, it just makes your company look bad. And you don’t want to do that.

Also, having an editor is one of the easiest ways you can reduce the stress of writing – just knowing you have a second set of eyes that will catch those common writing errors.

  • If your editor also knows SEO copywriting, he/she can help your post get better search rankings.

A bonus is to have an editor trained in SEO copywriting best practices. Then you have an ally who can not only edit your copy, but also optimize it for search engines to achieve better rankings and drive more traffic to your blog.

photo thanks to Jhayne: Foxtongue

Ann Smarty Shares 8 Steps to Landing Guest Posts

Guest Author, Ann Smarty

Ah, guest posting. While blogs were once a fringe activity similar to writing a journal, they now represent a great bulk of much of the average freelance writer’s work. If you own a blog yourself you have probably written guest posts before, or written them for someone else. If you are a writer you will probably regularly look for chances to expand your visibility by searching out chances to get involved with various high-profile sites.

But if your application process is specifically aimed at getting approved for a post you are doing it wrong! Your focus is not in the right place and it might be costing you your chances. Instead, use these eight tips to help you land the spot every time.

Tip #1 – Focus On What THEY Need, Not What YOU Want

You have a great idea for a post about how iPhone apps can be used to increase market visibility, and you know just the blog to pitch the piece to. Having read their blog many times before, you remember a similar piece done just a few weeks ago. So you eagerly shoot off an email along with the headline idea, confident that this post you want to write will be well received. A few days later you get a big, fat no.

What happened?

Really, it should be obvious: a similar piece was already written on the topic a short time before. Therefore, it is not needed. However much you wanted to write it they have no demand, and so you won’t land the spot. You should have taken that into account before offering your services, and shown that you were aware of what they needed.

Not only will it give them a chance at using something they require during that time, but it will show that you are a regular reader. It will also put off a professional and competent air, and that means everything in a business where any blogger is taking a chance when they hire a guest poster. Add that to the fact that you come off as considerate and you have a recipe for a good working relationship.

Tip #2 – Watch Your Tone

I have lost track of the times when I had read a pitch that sounded like the person was doing me a favor. “I am an excellent writer, highly skilled, and I have this post idea I know you and your readers will love! Let me know when it is up, please.” This is a line taken directly from a pitch I received just a few days ago. I saved it in order to show you an example of a quick way to be turned down.

Not only was he talking himself up immediately, but he assumed that I was just going to put it up on my blog. He didn’t ask, he didn’t give me a chance to read it first, he just made the aggressive move of telling me to let him know when it was published. What a jerk! Would you go to a job interview and end it by asking your potential boss when you start?

He may have thought he sounded confident, but he just came off as arrogant. Plus, the post wasn’t anywhere near the quality I demand of my guest posters.

On the other hand, sounding too submissive is also a turn off. I have gotten emails from people begging to write for me, or asking for links. It is annoying and I tend to just ignore them outright.

Tip #3 – Don’t Be Intimidated…You Are Equal

When dealing with one of the “Blogerati” and celebrity writers that have taken over the Internet with their popular sites, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. These are successful people who have gained actual status in cyberspace, which is not that easy to do. With such a huge wash of blogs out there, they managed to claw their way to the top. They are the Perez Hilton’s and Jason Chen’s, and you might feel intimidated.

But remember, they were just like you once. They are regular people who are running a business and know what it is like to just start out. They had to work to get there, and they are usually pretty nice people. Remain friendly and natural, and acknowledge their success without fawning over it. These are writers, not rock stars.

Tip #4 – Have a Good Sense of Humor

I go through endless guest blog requests a month. So many that they tend to swim in front of my eyes and leave my brain the moment I read them. It takes something special to really catch my attention, and humor is a big factor. If you can make me laugh then I will remember your email forever. You will also be much more likely to get on my list of published bloggers, because it shows me you can add that humor to your writing.

That doesn’t mean you should make everything into a joke. But show me you can turn a couple of things into that direction and you are golden.

Tip #5 – Research, Research, Research

One of the most aggravating things I see is someone applying to guest post without any knowledge of my blog. Honestly, you would think that they would take a little bit of time to get to know me and what it is I do. Maybe read a few posts, check the FAQ page, read updates on projects. Anything. But so many completely ignore this part and instead offer unrelated posts or at times when the last thing I need is more content.

Before you shoot off that eager email, take some time to study the site. Look at what it is all about and what has been going on recently. Check posts to see what kind of topics get the most response. See if there is anything from the past you could properly update that got a lot of attention but hasn’t been covered in awhile. Research the blog, not just the post!

Tip #6 – Introduce Yourself Without Writing a Biography

Of course the blogger want to know a little bit about you: where are you from, what are you interested in, what do you do? Basic questions that any survey would probably ask, mainly to get an idea of who you are and what you will be able to write about.

But notice how I said a little bit. No one wants to read a biography about you, not an introductory email. Offer up a few small facts about yourself and leave it at that. Anything else should be specifically about your work experience, and even then only a few choice bits you are especially proud of.

Tip #7 – Show What You Got

When I was first starting up I would always offer a small list of three links that showed off online work I was really proud of. These were my “samples”, and it was usually on those samples alone that I got work. They showed that I could write well and covered a broad range of topics.

Remember when you are linking your own samples not to do too many. Three is usually any ideal amount, as it is enough to show consistency. You should also try and link to at least one related to the topic you are applying to post about. Though that isn’t actually mandatory.

Tip #8 – Drop a Few Names

Yeah, it sound like a cheesy move. But dropping the names of a couple of blogs along with your pitch can really help to show that reliable sources have published you in the past. Of course, you don’t want to do too many of these. Just name off two or three places that have hired you in the past. You can attach those to links for your samples as well.

Land The Post Every Time!

See, it isn’t that hard. These are some common sense rules that are nevertheless violated on an alarmingly regular basis. If you keep these tips in mind you will be sure to greatly improve your chances to getting that guest post of your dreams.

Ann Smarty is the SEO consultant and professional blogger at SEOsmarty.com. She is also the owner of MyBlogGuest.com, the free community designed to connect guest authors to blog owners. If you are serious about your guest blogging strategy, join us for free!

 

Does your 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 sites. 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.)

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