How to Boost Your Conversions — Easily!

Have you ever wanted to purchase a product or service, but the price made you pause?

Sure, you think you’d love the purchase. But it’s expensive. And you’re not sure. And you don’t want to make a mistake and be out all that money.

It’s time to profile yet another company doing it right. 

Last week, my hot-sleeping husband sent over a link to Buffy. Buffy specializes in comforters and sheets for toasty sleepers. Since my husband is like a human furnace at night (and sleeps horribly because of it,) it’s no wonder he was checking out the sheets. 

I mean, check out this benefit statement. Wow.

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I was totally on board until I saw the price. A queen sheet set is $199. The comforter is $219. That’s over $400 just for bedding. Owie.

(Obviously, I am the tightwad in the family. I admit it.)

Granted, sleep is important. I will throw money at a problem if it improves my quality of life (or, in this case, my husband’s.) I am not so cheap that I’d ignore something that could be helpful.

But, the purchase price gave me pause. A lot of pause.

Then I read this:

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The company understands that they’re asking you to take a leap of faith. People who purchase “cooling sheets” may have previously spent hundreds of dollars trying to find the right ones. (I’m looking significantly at my husband as I type this.)

And it’s not like most stores are going to take back a set of sweaty sheets because “they didn’t work as advertised.”

But Buffy will.

You have seven nights to make up your mind before they charge your card. That’s impressive.

Have I purchased the sheets yet? No. (I always look for a discount first.) Will I? Most likely. Buffy overcame the “what if these don’t work” objection perfectly.

Well played, Buffy. Well played.

What can you learn from Buffy?

So. Much.

Seeing trial offers is extremely common, especially with SaaS products. You can typically get free access for a limited time and take the software for a test drive. For instance, keyphrase research tools market seven-day free trials all the time.

You can do this too.

If you’re selling a book, you could give away away the first chapter. Or, allow people to access the first video of a training series. Or, watch a free webinar.

Plus, there’s always the famous “money back guarantee.” Sure, you have to pay for the product or service. But, you have an “out” if you don’t like it and can get your money back.

All of these are helpful to overcome the “what if this isn’t for me” objection.

What if you can’t give away a free trial — and offering a money back guarantee is scary?

Some prospects ask for a “free sample page.” They give you a topic and you write it.

For free.

As you can probably tell, I’m not down with this technique. Some people have seen success, especially if they are brand-new writers with no samples. But, if someone asked me for free work, I’d lovingly tell them my favorite word from last week.

No.

Plus, in the SEO world, you can’t guarantee positions (ever!), so offering a money-back guarantee wouldn’t work. Google controls the top-10 spots. Not you.

But here’s what you can do…

Start small.

Instead of going for ALL the work in your proposal, offer to work on a small part of the site first. Something manageable and with a tinier price tag. 

You may not be able to see immediate SEO success, especially if you are working on just a few pages.  However, your client gets to see what it’s like working with you — and you can decide if you love the client enough to keep them.

Another option is to do some work now, and then credit the work towards future services. For instance, if a client wants a content audit for $1,500, you could credit back $400 if your client asks you to do the work.

It’s all about overcoming the objections and making it easy for your client to say “yes.”

Because, let’s face it…we all need a little more easy in our lives right now. Anyone who can make my life easier gets two thumbs up from me.

Your clients probably feel the same way.

What do you think?

How can you make it even easier for clients to buy from you? Leave a comment and let me know.

Should Writers Care About Voice Search?

Do you feel like voice search is a fad, and people will eventually tire of their Alexas, Siris and Google Homes?

Admittedly, I’ll typically type a search query before saying it — even if Alexa and Siri are right there. Old habits die hard.

At the same time, I know this tide is quickly turning. Every day, more folks are turning to voice assistants to find the information they need. Heck, even my husband uses voice search (and he’s not an “early adopter” of technology.) :)

In fact, according to Google, 20% of mobile queries were via voice search — and that was in 2016. ComScore says voice search will make up 50% of queries by 2020.

So, what does voice search have to do with how you write content?

A lot.

First, let’s talk about what’s not going to work.

If you (or your company) is writing content like it’s 2011, you are going to get left in the dust.

I’ve talked about how “SEO articles” and posts that exact match the keyphrase every single time are bad for SEO and bad for readers.

Let’s face it — people expect more now.

Plus, here’s a surprising thing that may not work as well for some voice searches.

And that “thing” is longer, in-depth content pieces.

You know, the long-form content that’s all the rage right now.

Why? Because when someone asks a question like, “How do I hard boil an egg?” she’s not looking for the history of eggs, the many uses of eggs, and how eggs are stored around the world.

She just wants to know how to boil an egg. :)

I’m not saying stay away from long content. But, I am wondering how Google is going to handle question-focused content in the future — especially after reading this post that implies longer content isn’t always better. In fact, short copy is totally OK.

What will work? Being human.

Gone are the days when we felt like SEO writing was robotic, stiff and dull.

If that’s how you feel about your writing, you’re doing it wrong (which is probably a wonderful thing to read.) Yes, you still need SEO writing skills, but you can finally take back your natural voice.

Content written in a conversational tone — especially content that answers frequently asked questions — will do well in mobile search (again, check out the article I referenced above for more information.)

That means delete the corporate-speak and “talk” to your customers on your site like you’d speak to them on the phone.

But, wait. Isn’t it too early to strategize for voice search?

Well, yes. And no.

Let me explain.

For all of the stats saying “voice search is growing,” there are others that discuss how frustrated users are with voice search. You’ve probably experienced this yourself if you try to ask Alexa a question she’s not prepared to answer. If you’re like me, you end up swearing at Alexa and typing your question into good old Google.

In many cases, the technology isn’t quite there for voice search.

In fact, a 2017 study by Seer Interactive found that just 8 percent of users searched the internet daily via voice search.

Seer Interactive voice search statistics

Their recommendation was to “watch and wait.” Which makes sense. I wouldn’t create an entire SEO content strategy around possible voice search implications. That wouldn’t have the desired ROI.

Yet, the opportunist in me think voice search is going to be huge. Siri will be less annoying and more our gateway to instant answers.

Why not get your mind right for when the time comes (as the Seer Interactive article suggests) and prepare for our new voice-enabled overlords?

What are some of the opportunities?

If you’re a freelancer, this is your time.

Think about it: how many companies have websites written in a conversational, friendly tone? How many companies have done a good job creating content that answers common long-tail questions?

(Yeah, not many.)

And, how many sites still show “old school” SEO writing where the main search term is exact-matched multiple times at the expense of synonyms and related words?

You can help those companies find their conversational brand voice AND optimize the copy. You could even develop a strategy for fixing their old, bad content.

How cool is that?

In-house writers have opportunities, too. Make a list of your customers’ common questions and ask Alexa/Siri/Google Home for their answer. You may not get an answer for some queries —  yet. The important thing is to watch the trends and learn from the data.

(And, if you haven’t already, create blog posts or FAQ pages that answers those common questions. Writing these kind of pages is always a smart strategy.)

Knowing how to write for Google’s Answer Box is also key. This post by BrightLocal discusses how optimizing for voice search can also help you gain the coveted “position zero.”  There’s nothing like being on the very top of the search results… :)

fun things to do in portland at night

What do you think?

Is your company tackling voice search? Are you looking forward to writing content for our new voice search overlords? Share your thoughts in the comments!

SEO Editing vs. Copywriting for SEO

Should you create original SEO content? Or, should you optimize an existing page (in other words, add keyphrases without rewriting the copy?).

Freelance and in-house writers ask this question all the time. I receive emails saying, “My boss (or client) wants me to add keyphrases to this existing page. The problem is, the page isn’t very good. Will the keyphrases help? Or is better to rewrite it?”

That’s an excellent question that I address in the video  — or, you can read the modified transcript, below.

SEO copywriting and SEO editing — what’s the difference?

First, let’s go over the differences between SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing.

Keyphrase editing is also known as “on-page optimization,” “optimizing the text,” or “SEO copyediting.” The technique is to add keywords — either derived from the writer’s keyphrase research or received from an SEO — to existing text.

When a page is optimized (or edited,) the content is not rewritten. The writer may edit the page Title and meta description, but for the most part, she’s working with the existing content.

SEO copywriting usually refers to creating original content. The writer still conducts keyphrase research (or receives the keyphrases from an SEO.) However, rather than editing the existing content, she would write brand-new content and include the keyphrases (along with synonyms and related words.)

So you see, SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing are very different: one is working with existing text, and the other is throwing away the existing text and starting fresh.

Should you optimize your site? Or rewrite your pages?

So, when is a better strategy to edit existing pages rather than rewrite them?

It’s best to optimize a page (keyphase editing) when:

  • You (and your readers) already love the content
  • The page isn’t crucial to the sales process
  • The bounce rate isn’t too high

If you have content on your site you (and your readers) already love and it’s performing well, but it wasn’t written with keyphrases the first time around, the page may be a good candidate for keyphrase editing.

It’s also OK to edit the page when it isn’t crucial to the sales process. For example, I’ve worked with companies that have edited old blog posts and saw a great bump in search positions as a result. Editing FAQ pages and articles can offer the same benefit.

Finally, optimizing the page is OK when the time on page (or bounce rate) isn’t too high. You know that people are sticking around and reading the page once they’ve landed on it, so adding in some strategic keyphrases here and there is typically fine for that page.

An SEO content editor or an SEO copywriter usually handles the keyphrase editing. He may be someone you employ in-house, or a freelancer.

There are also certain times when it’s better to write original content, such as:

  • When the page is crucial to the sales process
  • When the page is a duplicate
  • When page conversions or time on page is low

If a page is crucial to the sales process, or is somehow intended to make money — like the home page, and subcategory pages such as products and services — it’s better to rewrite it.

You also want to rewrite the page if it’s a duplicate. This is common with  local landing pages, where two (or more) pages may be basically the same (outside of the city name.)

Also, when you know that the page isn’t working — you’re not getting conversions, the time on page is low, and people are bouncing out quickly —  rewrite it. Readers are telling you they don’t like the page by leaving as soon as they can.

Sure, you can edit the keyphrases into a poorly performing page and sure, hypothetically that page might position a little better, but it won’t help boost conversions.

Either a freelancer or an experienced in-house SEO copywriter can rewrite your pages. Also, an SEO content strategist could do the keyphrase research for you, as well as dovetail her research with the rest of your SEO plan.

Make sense? There’s clearly a difference between when you would write original content and when you can work with the existing content — and it’s smart to know those differences before you proceed.

(Editors note: I originally wrote this post in 2011. A lot has changed since then, so I updated the video and the transcript. I hope you enjoyed the post!)

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How to Transform One Video Into 12 Pieces of Content

Do you feel like you’re on a content creation hamster wheel, and there’s no end in sight?

I hear you.

What if you could create one big piece of content — and repurpose it into multiple mini-segments that could be distributed through different platforms?

Cool, eh?

Jay Baer talks about this tactic, called “content atomization” (first coined by Todd Defen) in a Convince and Convert blog post. Baer creates a short, six-minute video discussing a word of mouth case study. From that six-minute video, he’s able to create 12 pieces of content, including:

  • A podcast
  • LinkedIn video post
  • Instagram teaser
  • Blog posts

Granted, some pieces of content are small (for instance, a tweet.) Some take more time — such as creating blog posts based on the video. 

But, by focusing on a single piece of awesome content, he’s able to get more traction (and see more reach) than if he was to write multiple blog posts.

Jay Baer’s quote, which I love, is:

“Don’t continue to reinvent the wheel. Just make more versions of the wheel you already own. Take your key pieces of content and re-package tweaked versions to fill out your content calendar.”

Nice, eh?

Content creators tend to work hard — but they don’t optimize their efforts.

We’re so busy pumping out blog posts “for Google” that we forget that cranking out multiple blog posts isn’t the real name of the game.

We optimize sites for a living, but we don’t optimize our time.

After all, our main goal is to be everywhere our target audience “lives” — and to do that in the easiest, most time-effective way.

Here’s another quote from Jay Baer that illustrates this point:

“You need to give your audience a chance to find your content in their preferred channel and format and deliver it them in a steady stream over a period of time. You can’t simply post an article and expect leads to contact you.”

(Ah, for the good old days when posting an article could immediately drive leads. Sadly, those days are long gone.)

So, what does this mean to you?

How can YOU atomize your content?

Sure, you may already tweet about your latest blog posts and do some repurposing…

…but how can you turn this up to a Spinal Tap 11 and maximize the reach of every piece of content you write?

That’s going to mean three things:

  • Getting super-strategic about your content generation. That may mean publishing less so you can write bigger and better content assets — assets that can be repurposed (or atomized) in various ways,
  • Learning where your target audience hangs out, and,
  • Deciding how to slice and dice your content and where to post.
  • Need ideas? This article outlines 49 tactics you can use to atomize your content marketing. Enjoy!

Does this change how you look at your content marketing strategy?

It changes how I look at mine.

After all, most of my blogging habits are 10+ years old. I’m used to publishing certain types of content on a certain day. Shaking things up and blasting my content into tiny bits could drive amazing results.

I’ll have to try and see.

How about you?

Here’s your content repurposing challenge…

Think about how you can atomize content for your own site (or your company’s site.) Check out the list of 49 tactics and choose some that could work for you. After all, you never know — a “just for the heck of it” experiment could drive some qualified leads your way!

What do you think? 

What’s your favorite content repurposing tactic? Leave a comment and let me know!

How to Find Easy SEO Copywriting Opportunities

Did you grow up hearing, “If it’s easy, there must be something wrong with it”?

Yeah. Me too.

Instead of looking for the easy way out, we often look for the most challenging, brutal way to do things. We work harder. We work longer hours. If we’re not suffering, we aren’t trying.

It’s all about the hustle.

Granted, this mentality helps us to a certain extent. Busting out of our comfort zones is important. Sometimes, we have to go through some pain to see some gain (for instance, starting a new workout routine.)

But, what does this mean to our content marketing strategy? Should we always push the content marketing envelope? Are we doomed to live a hamster wheel life, grinding out new content all the time while we suffer in silence?

Many content marketers are grinding it out

If you fall into the “hamster wheel” camp, you’re not alone. In a 2016 study from the Content Marketing Institute, 60 percent said their top challenge was “producing engaging content.”

 

It’s not just B2B companies that are suffering. In-house B2C teams and publishing companies are facing the same levels of content burnout. Often, these teams are required to produce more writing with fewer resources, so creating quality content in an efficient manner is even more important.

Now, instead of telling my in-house SEO copywriting training clients they should write longer blog posts, jump on the latest content marketing bandwagon, or develop yet another brand new content asset, my advice boils down to three words…

Look for easy.

Here’s why…

Easy has a huge benefit.

A parallel I like to make is around exercise.

I love high-intensity exercise. It’s the only thing that makes my brain turn off.

But, it’s hard.

The only way I can do it is to build in rest days. I go to yoga. Or I take a walk. I’ve even thought about Zumba (don’t laugh.) If I push myself too much, I burn out, get sick and have zero energy.

Now, think of this in terms of your content marketing campaign.

Constantly writing (and researching, and promoting) detailed long-form posts is hard.

Publishing daily (or even weekly) for some companies may be the equivalent of engaging in high-intensity exercise without a break.

Balancing search and social without a sustainable plan can cause burnout — fast.

The result? The post quality goes down. The writers (you!) burn out. Sales go down.

You’re pushing so hard towards your goal, you don’t realize you don’t have to push so darn hard all the time.

That’s where finding easy ideas come in. You don’t have to reinvent the content wheel all the time. Nor, do you have to publish 100 percent, brand-new content.

Repurposing is OK. Finding the workarounds is OK. Developing an easy content marketing schedule (as opposed to doing a bunch of things you feel you “should” do for SEO) is OK.

Ready to make your SEO copywriting life a little easier?

Here are some ideas:

  • Repurpose old blog posts and turn them into an email series.
  • Re-optimize old blog posts that have so-so positions.
  • Send social traffic to old posts (hey, those old posts need love too.)
  • Build links to your existing content assets.
  • If a task has been challenging in the past (say, getting subject matter experts to blog,) work around it (for example, interview the experts instead and post the transcripts.)
  • Slice your publication schedule (it’s OK. Really!) Steve Rayson just wrote a great post about why this works.
  • Update an old blog post.
  • Instead of focusing on writing long-form posts every week, consider publishing shorter posts more often.

(Speaking of updating an old blog post…I updated my post on how to conduct a content audit – please check it out and share it with your friends.)

Short on time?

It happens to the best of us. There are some days (or weeks, or months) when making major changes is impossible. Instead, focus on what you can do in the short amount of time you have. Need inspiration? Here’s a list of 23 SEO copywriting tips you can accomplish in five minutes or less.

If you’ve been hitting roadblocks, find the easy workarounds rather than beating your head against the wall.

You’ll be happier. Your content will be better for it.

And yes, you still want to stretch yourself and try new things. Challenging yourself to try something new is a good thing  (I’m challenging myself to hold more webinars this year.)

(If you need more content growth-hacking ideas, check out this great interview with Ann Smarty.)

But, you still need those “rest days.” You still need the easy to balance out the hard.

What did you think?

How are you going to integrate “easy” into your content strategy? Let me know by posting a comment below!

Do you have questions about SEO copywriting or need expert tips? I answer your questions (and more!) in my weekly newsletter. I’d love it if you signed up — here’s the link!

Why Informational Content Is Crucial for E-Commerce Sites

Every once in a while, an article makes me throw my hands up in the air and say, “Yes!”

The latest SEO writing news is sweet, my friends.

Here’s the scoop.

The Search Engine Land headline — Case Study: The true value of informational content for e-commerce SEO — isn’t very sexy.

But the data is smokin’ hot.

The author, Eoghan Henn from searchVIU, showed how informational content (think how-to articles, blog posts and guides) contributes to a site’s overall SEO performance.

Henn discussed working with an e-commerce site that had 60,000 product pages, 80 category pages and 25 informational pages.

Because of an internal business decision, the company pulled all 25 informational pages from their site. (You can read the full story here.) The pages were redirected to the home page, so the content was essentially…gone.

Here’s where things get interesting…

You’d think that redirecting 25 pages wouldn’t be a big deal, especially when the site had over 60,000 product pages.

You’d be wrong.

The site lost one-third of its overall visibility. Positions for their home page and product pages plummeted.

Ouch.

But that’s not all…

Seeing the drastic visibility drop, the company did something interesting…

…they put the content back. They wanted to see if it made a difference “for the sake of SEO science.” (Side note: I. Love. This!)

Guess what happened?

The site’s visibility completely recovered after three weeks.

Yes, that fast.

Informational content rules.

So, what can we learn from this?

Informational content is important for e-commerce sites. Period.

Having said that, I know there are people who disagree with me. I’ve chatted with them many times. They say things like:

“The purpose of an e-commerce site is to sell products. We are not publishers.”

“Creating informational content is too expensive and doesn’t drive sales.” (This is often true — in the case study example, the site’s informational content generated slightly over two percent of sales.)

“Our product pages should position on their own.”

(You’ve probably heard excuses like that too.)

But here’s the thing. You know what informational pages are good for?

Search positions. And links. And providing answers to common questions your prospects have every day.

They. Are. So. Valuable.

In fact, there are many cases where a product page won’t position for a desired keyphrase — but, a well-written informational page will.

When I train my clients, I often tell them to create informational pages, especially if the search intent for their desired keyphrase shows informational results instead of product pages.

Informational pages give companies the best of both worlds. The sales landing pages can do what they were designed to do — sell products. The informational pages provide useful information the reader needs to know and conveniently link to the appropriate product pages.

All the bases are covered.

Plus, let’s face it — it’s way easier to promote a long-form “how to do X” guide than to promote (and get links to) a product page. Those helpful guides and in-depth posts showcase a site’s E-A-T — expertise, authority and trust.

Yet again, informational content rules.

What does this mean to you?

Are you responsible for an e-commerce site? Take a peek at competing sites and see how your informational content stacks up. Are you missing out on positions because you don’t have the content? Could you create additional blog posts, guides and articles?

If the answer is yes, develop a strategy (or hire someone to help) and make it happen. Yes, this will cost money and time. It will be worth it.

And for goodness sake, don’t delete or redirect informational pages unless you know what you’re doing. Please. Even if “your gut” tells you “they aren’t working.”

Are you a freelance SEO content writer? Creating informational content and setting the SEO content strategy for e-commerce sites is a huge opportunity.

Yes, it means a deep-dive into a company’s keyphrase opportunities, their customer persona, and what their readers want to know more about. Yes, the opportunity requires you to have slightly more advanced SEO writing skills.

But, if this sounds like fun, you can help create top-positioned content that gives great value…and also links to important product pages.

That’s pretty cool.

What do you think?
Are you going to send this newsletter to your client/boss who doesn’t “get” the value of well-written, informational content? How can you leverage this cool opportunity? Leave a comment and let me know!

Are You Ignoring This?

Between you and me, are you ignoring “the olds?”

No, I’m not referring to your OK Boomer and Gen X readers — or anyone over 25 that may be considered “too old” to get it.

I’m referring to your old blog content that may be ignored, unappreciated and un-promoted — even if it’s still accurate and well-written.

You know, the content that makes up the majority of your blog (or, maybe even your site.)

I ask, because most content marketing articles you read talk about how to write and promote NEW content.

If I randomly check Twitter right now, I’m sure I would see at least a couple, “Hey, I just wrote this post — check it out” tweets.

But, I probably won’t see anything like, “Hey, I wrote this post 10 years ago, but it’s still accurate and good and helpful. Read it!”

Why?

Because we often downplay the value of our old content and focus on new, shiny posts with more recent date stamps.

And that’s sad.

Here’s the thing…

Not all of your old content is worthy of new promotional efforts.

The article may be out of date. You may currently focus on slightly different topics, so republishing an old post would feel off-brand. Or, your old writing style makes you cringe a little inside.

(Hey, we’ve all been there.)

Having said that, most site owners have some old content that they could polish  up and make shine.

And really, it (normally) doesn’t take that much time. Maybe 10 minutes a post.

Here’s my process…

To make things easy, I have a huge Google Sheets document that outlines every post I’ve written since 2009, if I’ve updated the article, and when I’ve published it on social media.

I’ll quick-scan my list, pick an “old” post, and make some standard changes:

  • Replace the header image
  • Check all the links
  • Review the information — is it still accurate? 
  • Make any necessary format changes
  • Push “update”

A “last updated” date stamp appears below the original, showing readers that I’ve made some changes since the original publication date.

Done! From there, I freely promote my “old” posts — yes, even posts that are 10 years old — on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  

In fact, some of my older video posts are some of my most popular — and many of them are from nine years ago.

Granted, some posts take more updating — such as my big authoritative posts like this. Others need slightly more than 10 minutes to make them shine. That’s OK.

But, the majority, like my 23 amazing tips post and this one about spicing up B2B content, took virtually no time at all.

Nice.

Why else is this important?

Because it’s just darn wasteful to spend time and money creating fantastic content — and then toss it aside because it’s perceived as “too old.”

Let’s face it: even if your followers are glued to your social media feed, they aren’t going to read everything you post. Nor remember every post you publish.

Republishing old posts helps your posts get seen (and shared) by more people — and, it’s one of the easiest ways to increase your content’s return on investment. Especially posts that don’t perform in Google, but do pull well on social.

Can you help your clients with this?

You bet!

Chances are, your client doesn’t remember (or recognize) that her “olds” content is still hot. Instead of leveraging her “deep cut” content, she may focus all her promotional time on writing and promoting new posts.

Just imagine how she’ll feel when you tell her that her old content can drive new traffic. This saves your client time (she doesn’t have to keep creating new content) and money.

Pretty cool, eh?

What do you think?

Is your “olds” content gathering dust? Or, do you update it, promote it, and give it a new life? Leave a comment and let me know!

Is Google Out to Get You?

A few times a year, every year, I receive a panicked “What should I do?” email.

The emails read something like this…

“We used to be position three for our main keyphrase. Now, we’ve dropped to the second page. Our other keyphrases aren’t positioning as well as they had been, either. I think Google penalized our site and now we’re losing leads every day…”

Ouch.

I totally understand why someone would freak out about lost positions. Hey, even I get cranky when I see the occasional dip. For many sites, losing positions directly translates into lost revenue — so seeing a positions drop can mean an income drop, as well. 

But, is that drop because Google is out to get the site, and the powers-that-be slapped them with a manual penalty?

Or, is it a normal algorithmic fluctuation — meaning other sites are now positioning because Google “decided” those other sites deserve a top position?

Let’s break this down…

Just because your positions have dropped (even severely) doesn’t mean that your site has been “penalized” by Google. 

Kristine Schachinger, in a recent Search Engine Journal article, clearly defines what a penalty is…and isn’t. Her quote:

“The only true penalty (officially) is a “manual action” from Google.

A manual action is when a Google human reviewer has looked at your website and dampened your visibility in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for violating the Webmaster Quality Guidelines in some manner.”

If your site (or your client’s site) wasn’t hiding text, participating in link schemes, or doing other things on Google’s bad list, it’s probably not a manual penalty.

Which is good news — and bad news.

The good news is, you haven’t annoyed Big G, causing them to slap you with a manual penalty.

The bad news is, it means that Google finds other sites more relevant for your desired keyphrases. It’s called “algorithmic devaluation.”

That’s like hearing your baby is ugly.

Sometimes, getting positions back is easy. It means looking at your existing content and determining how to add more value. I’ve tweaked some pages that had dropped in position, and they bounced right back up.

But…

Sometimes, the process is much harder. Getting those positions back may require you to change your content, to tweak some technical aspects, and to revise your existing process. This can take a long time and may require multiple experts.

Especially if Google changed the game and you were hit with a big algorithmic update (for instance, health and medical sites got hit this year.)

Fortunately, in cases like this, we have Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to help us understand what Google considers high-authority content. Yes, it’s a long, boring document — but it provides so much insight. 

I’d recommend reading it, even if your site isn’t in trouble. It’s a great way to peek inside Google’s brain and to figure out what it really wants. 

How can you tell if you were hit be a penalty — or an algorithmic burp?

This one is easy. You won’t have to guess — in fact, Google tells you when you’ve been bad (assuming you have Search Console set up on your site.)

This is valuable for an older site that may have had multiple SEOs providing “expert” advice. A site owner may not know that a past employee set up a spammy link campaign — or pages with hidden text. Fortunately, Google will pinpoint the issue, provide helpful resources, and give you the opportunity to make it right. 

Once you’ve made the necessary fixes, you can submit your site for a reconsideration request. Google will either determine that you’ve changed your spammy ways and will remove the penalty (yay,) — or it will let you know there’s more work to do.

You’ll know either way.

What do you think?

Have you heard, “Google keeps penalizing me”? Is Search Console set up on your site — or your client’s sites? (If not, this resource will help.) Leave your comment below!

Did Your Client Ghost You? Here’s What To Do

Has this ever happened to you? 

You sweat and you slave and you stress over a writing job. Triumphantly, you turn in your content and wait to see the “I love it” feedback flood your email.

And you wait…

And you wait…

And you hear…crickets. 

You send a “Hey, checking in” email and hear…nothing.

You send your client a text that you know they read…but you still don’t hear a peep.

You’re being ghosted.

It’s hard to not search for subtext when you get no response. If you’re like me, your brain takes you into 100 different directions, none of them happy ones.

You wonder if your client hates your copy and just doesn’t want to tell you.

You wonder if ghosting is your client’s way of saying, “You’re fired.”

You wonder if you should send your client a, “Did I make you mad?” email.

You wonder if you’re going to get paid.

Should you be concerned if a client ghosts you? Yes. Should you panic? Not yet. Are there ways to protect yourself? You bet.

Here are some things to consider…

Most of the time, it’s not you — it’s them. Your client may be putting out fires, juggling 100 things, and reprioritizing as they go. Your content may have been a top priority last week, but now it’s #11 on the list.

This is normal — especially if your client is a small business owner or works in an agency.

If a week (or two) goes by without a response, it’s still probably nothing to worry about. You can certainly check in and see what’s up — but know that you may not hear back until your client’s life slows down.

But…

Although a client’s ghosting behavior may be nothing to worry about, it may have a huge impact on your business.

You may not be able to send an invoice before your client officially approves the copy — so you’re sitting around, not getting paid.

You may have lined up other jobs, so not getting approval means your entire schedule gets thrown out of wack. After all, you don’t know when your client will come back and say, “I’m back — and I need all these edits by tomorrow.”

I know of one coaching client who was afraid to take on other jobs because his client’s response time was so wacky. The client would drop out of sight, pop back weeks later, then want all their changes RIGHT NOW, no matter what.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here’s what you can do instead…

There are things you can do from a contract and client management perspective to protect yourself — and to set clear boundaries for your client.

Here’s what I do:

  • My contract states that clients have five business days to approve the content. If I don’t hear back from them within five days, the copy is considered “approved” and edits will cost additional money. It’s amazing how quickly clients will turn around content if they feel they’ll have to pay more if they don’t.
  • My payment schedule is based on dates — not deliverables. That way, I’m not waiting for final approval before I’m paid — or hear, “Bob hasn’t checked this out yet. Can you wait just a little bit longer before you invoice?”
  • I also warn my clients that they’re welcome to push their deliverable schedule — but, I may not be able to immediately fit them back into my work schedule when they’re ready. In most cases, this is just a 1-2 week wait — so it’s not a big deal. But, it saves me from having to scramble and switch gears after a client finally resurfaces.
  • I’ve learned how to let go of my preferred timeline and be more flexible. This one is hard — especially when I’m feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Just because my awesome copy is a big priority in my world doesn’t mean my client feels the same. 
  • Finally, my contract states that the initial retainer is non-refundable. Why? Have you ever had a client pay you, ghost you, and then say, “Hey, we don’t have time for this after all. I want my money back”? I have. It wasn’t fun — especially after I turned down other gigs so I could take on the work. 

(And, of COURSE you get a retainer before you start writing…right?)

Here’s what not to do…

  • Email the client and ask, “Are you mad at me?” You’ll sound needy — and, chances are, the client is just busy.
  • Complain how their ghosting you is holding you back from other gigs or costing you money.
  • Email the client every. single. day. asking for a status report. It won’t help, and it will make you look way too high-maintenance, needy and annoying. 

What if you never hear back?

Oddly, it happens. Maybe your client was fired. Maybe there was a big internal crisis and everything that wasn’t mission-critical got put on hold. Maybe your client is just a flake, and this is the normal way she operates.

If your time is paid up, you’re good. You can send one, last, “Hey, checking in — I’m here when you need me” note. But know you may continue to hear crickets.

If you are still owed money, send an invoice for the work you’ve done along with a “I’m here when you’re ready to finish the project” note. In most cases I’ve seen, the writer eventually got paid even if the project was cancelled. She may have had to make a couple calls — or send a couple emails — but she was compensated for her time.

Eventually.

What do you think?

How do you handle it when a client ghosts you? Have you ever lost money because of it? Leave a comment and let me know!

3 Ways SEO Can Ruin Content

Do you think keyphrase usage destroys well-written content?

Well, you’re right. Up to a point.

Way back in 2011, Lee Odden wrote “Content Strategy and the Dirty Lie About SEO.” At the end of the post, he posed the question – the question that’s been debated ever since “writing for search engines” started:

Do you think SEO ruins content?

My first reaction was, “Of course not. Good SEO writing is good writing — period.”

I still feel the same way.

But…the haters have a point.

Six years later, there’s still a bunch of SEO writing B.S. floating around:

  • Focus on one keyphrase per page, and repeat it at least X times.
  • Focus on X keyword density (why won’t keyword density die?)
  • Include a keyword every X words.
  • Exact-match your keyphrase at least X times in your copy.

Maybe you believe some of this B.S., too (it’s OK. This is a judgement-free zone.)

This B.S. is why some SEO copy is horrible.  Is it any wonder why some folks think SEO ruins everything?

So, here’s the real deal:

Yes, SEO can completely decimate content — if you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s how:

When the content is written/optimized by someone who has no idea what they’re doing

Most keyphrase-stuffed content I read comes from folks operating on incorrect information.

They do what their clients tell them (for instance, focus on one keyphrase per page) without knowing it’s wrong. These writers don’t know there’s a better way, so they keep doing the same (incorrect) things. Over and over and over.

The result is stuffed, stilted-sounding content that has no conversion flow. The page doesn’t position. The page doesn’t convert. It’s sad.

via GIPHY

Sadly, many writers think ALL SEO writing is poorly-written content. So, here’s a news flash:

Folks, if you ever think, “This post sounds bad. I had to work hard to add all those keyphrases,” you’re doing it wrong.

When the content is written “for Google,” without readers in mind

Raise your hand if you’ve been asked to write “1,000 words for Google.”

Yeah, me too.

SEO writing isn't "writing for Google"

Sadly, some folks believe that following a strict writing formula will help them magically position. These folks don’t care about the content’s readability. They only care about the keyphrase usage.

They may even come right out and say, “I don’t care if anyone reads this. I just want the page to position.”

Ouch.

This magical SEO copywriting formula may include things like:

  • Specific word counts because “all posts should be X words for Google.”
  • Exact matching a nonsensical long-tail keyphrase multiple times (for instance, [portland relocation real estate oregon].
  • Bolding or italicizing words that shouldn’t be bolded or italicized.
  • Repeating all keyphrases X times in the first paragraph.

If you find yourself following a weird writing formula that makes the content read like gibberish, know it’s not true SEO writing. What’s more, following a writing formula won’t help you position. The best bet is to learn the right way to do things and throw those useless old rules out the window.

Don’t believe me? Check out Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines and see how Google defines low-quality content.

When the Titles are filled with keyphrases, with no conversion focus

This is a pet peeve of mine.

Get rid of Title pipes

I’ve discussed before how overly-optimized Titles are an inefficient branding method. The search results page is your first conversion opportunity. A Title that’s chock-full of keyphrases isn’t as persuasive as one that’s benefit-rich:

Which listing would get YOUR click?

GEICO’s “you could save $500+” is a fantastic benefit statement, and blow’s Progressive’s keyword-focused Title out of the water. Esurance is a runner-up since they include the benefit “fast” — but the Title could still be better.

Need more “good” and “bad” Title examples? Here’s a great post from Search Engine Watch.

SEO doesn’t ruin content. It’s “stupid” SEO that messes things up

Smart SEO doesn’t ruin good content. It enhances it – making it easier to be found in search engines and shared via social media. If you’ve mastered the art of online writing for both engines and people, you have a very valuable skill set.

On the flip side, yes, stupid SEO will ruin content. And your conversions, too. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” – and repeating a keyword incessantly will not suddenly transform the page into “quality content.”

It reminds me of what some folks say about sales copy being too “sales-y.” There’s a way to include a call-to-action that gently leads someone to the next action step. And there’s a (wrong) way to do it that beats them over the head with hyped language, bold and italics (Hmm. now that I think about it, what IS it about bolded and italicized text?).

What do you think? Is SEO the death of good writing?