Why you can’t fly solo as a freelance copywriter

Even superman can't run a freelance copywriting business aloneAre you a freelance copywriter? Do you consider yourself a solepreneur? Are you the only one working on your projects?

Knock it off!

You’re not Superman (or Superwoman).

Yes, you may be the only official employee in your business, but that doesn’t mean that you need to go at it alone. In fact, you shouldn’t try to be a one-woman (or man) show.

You don’t know everything

Sometimes it is hard to admit, but you don’t know everything. There are many legal aspects to owning your own business and, unless you have a business degree, you should consult with an attorney or other legal expert when dealing with the business side of freelance copywriting.

Also, you will need to have a contract for each copywriting gig – yes, even the “quickie” jobs. A copywriting contract protects you and your client, and is a must.

When it comes to tasks like accounting or administrative work, you most likely have the necessary skills to complete these tasks, but are they worth your time? You may find that you save money by paying someone else. Use your time for projects that allow you to charge your higher hourly rate.

Mistakes happen

When it comes to writing, you may be an expert, but you are fallible. Sometimes you are too close to your writing to see errors. Typos and creative spelling could slip by your spell check, but will catch the attention of your client or your readers.

How can you fix that? Find someone you trust to edit (or at least read through) your content before you send it to a client or post it to your website. It could save you headaches … and your reputation.

Who is keeping you motivated?

When you work for yourself, you might lose your focus or motivation – especially when you have to write for yourself. Keep yourself going strong with the help of an accountabilabuddy.

You can also find support and feedback from your colleagues. Be sure to network and to join in the conversations on virtual groups – like the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group.

Your job this week is to examine your business and see where you can enlist help.

Do you go at it alone or do you get help? Share what works for your business.

Photo by J F Willis (Flickr: Up Up and away) via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of not flying solo, let Heather help you with your B2B or B2C content strategy. She has a few client spots open, so check out her direct response SEO copywriting services today!

The 4 C’s of a smokin’ hot YouTube marketing strategy

A powerful YouTube marketing strategy is distilled into four elementsWith over 100 hours of video uploaded every minute and over one BILLION people across the world accessing the site every month, YouTube is no longer just a destination for one hit, viral videos.

In fact, with Channel partners such as the Warner Music Group and Machinima, its video content rivals that of popular streaming services Netflix and Hulu.

It’s no wonder that an astounding 87% of online marketers use YouTube video content in their marketing mix. In addition, YouTube is the number 2 search engine on the planet, making it a fantastic platform to grow your audience.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the four C’s you need in your online video strategy to successfully drive traffic and sales from YouTube:

– Captivation

– Consistency

– Conversion

– Community

Captivation

Simply put, you need to hook your viewer from the start and continue to engage them throughout the video. This is especially important since YouTube has changed its algorithm to give more weight to average watch time than number of view counts.

Also, videos that retain viewers throughout the entire video rank higher in YouTube search and are more visible in YouTube’s related videos algorithm (suggested videos at the end of each video and related videos on the right sidebar).

But how do you go about captivating your audience? Here are 3 easy steps that you can implement today:

1. Compelling Content Comes First

Many viewers decide whether they are going to keep watching your video within the first few seconds. Attention spans are short, and viewers are just one click away from abandoning your video.

Having an animated intro is a great way to instantly captivate your audience. You can find some great templates over at VideoHive or get a custom one at SmartShoot.

It’s even more important to have an animated intro if your video only uses one camera angle (such as a webcam) or is a talking head video.

If you are creating a “how-to” video, consider showing the final outcome first then show the instructional steps. Hooking the viewer from the onset will keep them engaged through your video.

2. Vary the Camera Angle

There’s no hard and fast rule to how long you can stay on one angle, but I would recommend that you keep it at about 30 seconds and no longer than 1 minute.

Think about a trailer to your favorite movie. There are multiple cuts to different scenes and no scene receives longer than 15 seconds of airtime.

If you’re doing a talking head video, consider varying the angles or background for the different sections of your topic.

3. Add Transitions, Overlays, and Graphics

Caution: adding a transition does NOT mean inserting a “page over” effect on your video.

Transitions can be as simple as a single frame that introduces a new section or topic of a video.

An excellent example of adding a simple transition to break up different sections can be found in this video by CopyHackers’ Joanna Wiebe.

Remember, it does NOT need to be complicated.

Consistency

“Consistent audience requires consistent content!” – Freddie W., Top YouTuber.

We all understand the importance of consistency when it comes to growing a blog.

And although creating a video can be more time consuming, the same principle of creating consistent content should be applied to marketing on YouTube.

By creating regular content on YouTube, you will keep your channel feed active, increase your reach, and build more subscribers. While there’s no hard and fast rule for how often you should produce content, YouTube suggests a minimum of one video per week.

However, the right amount of content depends on your audience and your goals.

A quick and easy way to create more frequent content is to do a Google+ Hangout interview with an expert in your industry. You can then use this material for your YouTube channel and blog.

Here’s an example of a video SmartShoot created from a Google+ Hangout expert interview, outlining the process that goes into creating an animated explainer video.

Conversion

While conversions are always top of mind on your website, they somehow become an afterthought on YouTube.

Remember, online video is an interactive experience and prompting your viewers to take action will help you build engagement and a larger audience.

Depending on your message, you can use the middle or end of the video to prompt your viewers to take action.

Here’s a sampling of a few actions that you can use on your videos:

  • Subscribe: Give viewers a reason to subscribe by highlighting how often you’ll produce new videos. If you’re a host or personality, you could also end your videos asking for viewers to subscribe.
  • Like / Add to Favorites / Share: Simply asking your viewers to Like, Favorite, and Share within your video can yield some amazing results. The more you can get from your viewers the more likely the video appears in more places across YouTube.
  • Comments: Encourage your audience to participate by asking a specific question or a topic that they’d like you to cover in an upcoming video.
  • Video Graphics: Create a video “end slate” that appears at the end of the video to direct viewers to your website. Give them a lead magnet to increase email subscribers.
  • Link to your website: Within the first 2 lines of the YouTube description, make sure that you include a link back to your website. Be sure to include the “http://”, otherwise YouTube will not make the link clickable.

Here’s a great example from the Nerdist channel using Conan O’Brien to ask viewers to subscribe to their channel:

Nerdist Conan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community

While YouTube is a massive online video platform, don’t forget that it’s also one of the biggest social networks.

People are drawn to online video because unlike regular broadcast television, they can interact with their favorite channels and YouTubers. From video responses to parodies to musical covers, YouTube is an engaged community of viewers and creators.

So, listen to your audience and speak to them in a way that grows your following and empowers them to become your biggest ambassadors.

3 Easy Ways to Build Your Community on YouTube:

1. Ask the Viewers

Ask viewers for their opinions, ideas, or feedback on videos by leaving a comment. Ask them if they have any specific questions that they’d like you to cover.

Rather than asking general questions, ask specific questions. This will lead to more responses and a more engaged community.

For example, rather than saying “what would you like me to cover in my next video?” instead say “would you like me to cover a) Facebook marketing; b) Twitter marketing; or c) YouTube marketing?”

2. Feature the Community

Once you have feedback from your viewers, feature them and their content in your video. The goal is to make your community feel as if this is their channel by highlighting their comments and/or user-submitted content.

Consider doing a Google Hangout Q&A with a few of your most loyal fans. Seeing other viewers within your videos will not only build a loyal following, but also encourage passive viewers to become more active on your channel.

3. Reward Your Super Fans

Beyond the typical mention in your videos, look for ways to reward your super fans (both on and off YouTube).

Simple things such as a discount code, free month to your service or even a t-shirt can go a long ways to building an engaged and loyal following on YouTube.

Concluding Thoughts

While online video in general is still a confusing medium to most businesses, it does provide a fantastic platform for businesses looking to grow their audience beyond their blog.

Remember, Blendtec, a company that some may say sells a boring product (blenders), has over half a million subscribers on YouTube and is proof that when done correctly, YouTube is a powerful social network to attract new customers!

About the Author ~  Steve P. Young

Steve P. Young is the Director of Product Marketing for SmartShoot where marketers go to get stunning photos and video from the best local photographers and filmmakers. Connect with Steve on Twitter or LinkedIn.

image thanks to Maurits Knook (mauritsonline)

Learn the latest SEO copywriting and content marketing strategies with SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting training!

 

 

 

SEO Copywriting Checklist: Why your site needs a newsletter. Right now.

Newsletters have several SEO benefits for site ownersGreetings! Welcome to another installment in the SEO Copywriting Checklist video series.

In today’s video, Heather addresses a content must that a lot of small business owners – and even medium- to large-sized businesses – completely forget about, and that is having an email newsletter.

This discussion came up when Heather was doing the SEO Copywriting Certification training in Phoenix last week. She was talking about how newsletters can be really good for business, and people came back with: “Why do I need to worry about a newsletter? I already have a blog. Why would I have a newsletter on top of a blog?”

Tune in to hear Heather’s response: Here’s why your site needs a newsletter. Right now…

Think A RSS Feed Is All You Need? Think Again.

The folks at the SEO Copywriting workshop had a really good question about why the need for an email newsletter as well as their blog, because a lot of site owners think “Oh, I have a blog, and people can subscribe to it through my RSS feed, so I’m good. I don’t need to worry about taking that extra step.”

But the thing is…

– Many people don’t know what RSS is or how it works.

– Weekly (or monthly) newsletters provide quite a few benefits – and are definitely worth the time and effort.

Email Newsletters Have Some Great Advantages

Some of the benefits of email newsletters are…

– They can drive traffic to your site and increase social shares.

So for example, the SEO Copywriting newsletter that I run comes out every Tuesday. Even if I couldn’t tell the day of the week in analytics, I could certainly see that spike in web traffic and know it must be a Tuesday, because of the surge in social shares and site visitors.

And what I do to encourage that with my newsletter is to include a little preview of what the blog post is about, and then a link that takes readers directly to that post on the site.

So the article isn’t printed in the newsletter, just a little snippet with a link that sends readers back to the site.

– They provide you an opportunity to “connect” with your readers. 

Newsletters are a fantastic way to keep in touch with your readers. One of the things I enjoy doing with my newsletter is to write a brief introduction that maybe talks about the theme of the newsletter, or just about what’s been going on.

Especially if you are the brand, this is a great way you can connect with your readers as well!

– They are a great way to build a loyal following.

Newsletters also can help build an incredibly loyal following. You’ll have this core group of people who are really excited to read your newsletter every week. And they’ll even email you if they didn’t receive it, and say “I didn’t get your newsletter – can you send it to me? I really look forward to reading it!”

And that’s always fun!

– Newsletters help you sell more stuff.

Finally, newsletters provide an ideal channel for selling more stuff!

If you’re writing blog posts on a daily basis, chances are those posts are not promoting your products and services – because you’re writing strong, quality, informational content.

But say you’re having a sale, or there’s something special going on that you want folks to know about? Within the body of the newsletter, you can always include a little call-to-action block letting readers know about your sale or special event.

You can even set it up so that your newsletter subscribers are the first to know about sales or other special events. That way you can have that V.I.P. “velvet rope” appeal to readers, granting them access to exclusive benefits just by signing up!

So if you don’t have a newsletter, I encourage you to get one going. Or if you do have a newsletter but you haven’t done much with it in awhile, you might want to think about kicking it back into shape – and figure out what you need to do in order to build a bigger subscriber list and get more folks visiting your site.

Because I guarantee, once things start rockin’ and rollin’, you’re going to see some huge benefits!

Thanks for joining me! As always, if you have any questions or comments please let me know – you can leave them here in the comments below, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd, or email me directly at [email protected].

photo thanks to FontShop

Are your conversions sluggish? Are your content efforts falling flat? I can help. Check into my low-cost SEO Content Review service today!

Matt McGee on SEO & Small Business Search Marketing

Today, Matt McGee honors us with an interview on how he came to be the Executive News Editor of Search Engine Land and its sister site, Marketing Land, as well as his motivation for starting his own blog, Small Business Search Engine Marketing.

Matt also shares what small business site owners should focus on now, and what Google’s Panda and Penguin updates mean for them in the current search engine marketing environment.

Enjoy these insights from one of the industry’s most respected and authoritative individuals!

You’re well known as the Executive News Editor for Search Engine Land and its sister site, Marketing Land. Would you share a bit about how you came to be so?

Basically, no one else wanted the job, and I was feeling sorry for Danny (Sullivan) and the crew, so….

No, just kidding!

I was one of the columnists for the “Small Is Beautiful” column on Search Engine Land while I was simultaneously working for a big local marketing company called Marchex.

At around the same time that Marchex decided it didn’t want to do SEO anymore, Third Door Media – the company that owns Search Engine Land and Marketing Land – was also looking to add more writers. Since I was already writing regularly, and since they knew that I spent the first seven years or so of my post-college life in the journalism business, it was a natural fit.

I think my first title was Assignment Editor, and as we added more people and expanded into two editorial sites, I took on some new, additional responsibilities and got the fancy Executive News Editor title.

I love what I’m doing, couldn’t be happier, and get to work every day with some of the smartest and most fun people in the industry.

You also own the blog “Small Business Search Engine Marketing”: what was your motivation in starting up your own small business search marketing blog?

That blog started in 2006, when I was still doing web design and SEO for a small company here in my hometown.

It was becoming pretty obvious that blogging was the key to growth and advancement in the SEO industry, and I got a really amazing pep talk from Todd Malicoat that finally convinced me to start my own blog.

I chose the small business angle because there wasn’t much being written on SEO blogs and websites geared toward the low-budget audience. There was Search Engine Guide and maybe a couple others that I knew about. But everything else seemed like it was geared toward big clients (and trying to land big clients).

So, my motivation was not only to help small business owners, but also to help advance in the industry.

If there were one message you would convey to the small business owner online, what would that be?

Be patient. Think long-term.

Most of the snake-oil and low-budget stuff that scammy SEO companies peddle to small business owners are based on false promises of quick fixes and rapid improvements.

There’s no overnight success when it comes to SEO and online marketing; building trust and building a successful online presence takes time.

What are the important search industry developments that the small business owner should be aware of now?

I think it’s the same idea.

SEO in 2012 and going forward is more about quality than it’s ever been. Google has really gone hard after low-quality content and low-level link building with the Panda and Penguin updates.

The quick and easy stuff isn’t going to work. Focus on quality and do stuff that will last for the long haul.

Small business owners need to build their own brand. They need to become a company that people care about and talk about – a company that Google needs in its search results.

There are all kinds of content on the web and all kinds of noise on social networks. Quick-and-easy isn’t gonna help you cut through that.

Quality and hard work, along with patience and persistence, give you a shot.

What would you recommend as the most valuable online resources for the small business owner (besides your Small Business Search Engine Marketing site, of course!)?

You’re too kind – thanks!

For small businesses that target local customers, Mike Blumenthal’s blog is a must-read, and once a year David Mihm publishes the Local Search Ranking Factors, a vital read!

There are also a few great daily newsletters I’d suggest for the way they cover a variety of online marketing, from SEO to analytics to email marketing and social media: The Search Cap from Search Engine Land and Marketing Day from Marketing Land.

And then once a month on my own blog, I publish a roundup of the best online marketing articles that I’ve found during the month. It usually posts on the last day of each month.

I’m involved in all of these recaps, so apologies for the self-promotion, but I do think they’re all very valuable resources for small business owners!

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!

You’re so welcome, Laura! Thanks to you and Heather for the opportunity to be featured on the SEO Copywriting blog!

 

More about Matt McGee

Besides being Executive Editor of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, Matt McGee has a passion for helping businesses of all sizes succeed online since the late 1990s, with a specialty in SEO, local search marketing, and blogging/social media. (In other words, if you need help with your PPC campaigns, he’s not your guy.) You can find Matt on Twitter via @mattmcgee and on LinkedIn.

 

On SEO, social media & small business…

…An interview with SugarSpun Marketing‘s Jennifer Evans Cario 

Today we feature our interview with Jennifer Evans Cario, founder of SugarSpun Marketing and among “The Women Who Rock SEO – the second wave.” Jennifer talks about her career in internet marketing and SEO, her passion for helping smaller businesses with cost-effective social media marketing strategies, and her upcoming book, Pinterest: An Hour a Day.

 

As one of the most notable women who rock SEO, you’ve been in and around the industry for about what, 11 years now? Would you share a bit about how you got started in SEO?

Eleven years sounds about right, though I’ve been in online marketing since ’96. I worked my way through college developing web sites and then quickly moved into working as a site manager for a few start-ups.

In 2001, I found myself working for a mid-size chemical company, handling their web site and online marketing. That’s when I stumbled across JimWorld’s Search Engine Forums and started soaking up everything I could about SEO.

When it became apparent that my bosses not only “didn’t get it,” but also didn’t want to get it, I turned in my resignation. A stint as the Web Search Guide at About.com and some private consulting followed, and by 2003, I was running Search Engine Guide, working on my own projects, and speaking at most of the major search related conferences.

 

You changed course at some part in your career to focus on small business social media marketing. When and why the change in direction?

While SEO fascinated me on many levels, it lacked the creative strategy and the connections with people that have always driven me. When the marketing community started looking at blogging as a marketing channel, I made the shift to that side of the business and haven’t really looked back since.

Because Search Engine Guide focused on the small business audience, and because most of the speakers at industry shows were always interested in focusing on big business, I sort of naturally fell into the role of trying to share budget and time friendly techniques for leveraging social media channels. As a consultant, I’ve always worked with companies of all sizes, but as a speaker and writer, it was really important to me to make sure that the small business audience was addressed.

My grandfather was a small business owner and I always admired him for the work he put in to building his business and for the way he treated his customers.  Maybe it’s my way of honoring his memory, or maybe it’s just my love of the Internet’s ability to open the doors to anyone with a great idea and determination…either way, I LOVE making sure the small business audience is getting taken care of.

 

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of discussion about the merger of search/SEO and social: what’s your take on this?

I think it was something we all saw coming from the first time we noticed a forum post or a blog post show up in a search query. For as long as I’ve been teaching online marketing, I’ve always told people about what I call “The Pinocchio Effect.” You see search engines, like the famous character, want nothing more than to be a “real boy.”

If you look at every algorithmic change we’ve seen get introduced by search engines over the years, pretty much all of them have been designed to replicate human judgment. The goal is to allow a computer (which can “think” way faster than we can) to value a piece of web content like a human being can. So whether you’re looking at keywords, domain age, the social graph or the number of retweets, it’s all designed to determine how valuable a piece of content is in the eyes of a human being.

The massive development of the web into a place defined by social connections makes for an absolute perfect intersect with search. The great news for me…someone who left SEO because I disliked the technical nature of It…is that the work I do on the social media front helps businesses to position themselves to benefit from any future algorithmic shifts that rely on the various types of social graph data to influence placement.

 

The social media marketing platform has ballooned and keeps growing with new venues such as Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest: where do you see the best social media marketing opportunities for the small business owner?

The best new social media marketing opportunities are wherever your customers are. That’s really what it boils down to.

I can’t think of a single social media channel outside of blogging that holds clear-cut value for every single company. A high end B2B engineering consultancy isn’t going to pull much value from Facebook. Likewise, an organic menu planning service for stay-at-home moms probably won’t be too successful trying to leverage LinkedIn.

I feel it’s the responsibility of every company (and strategist) to look closely at the business goals of the company, spend time researching the target audience and where they are online, and then craft an outreach plan accordingly. Let your goals and tactics define your venue instead of trying to find a way to make it work on the latest buzz site.

That said, services like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr have all made enough noise and progress over the course of 2012 to warrant serious consideration as a potential venue. I still think Google+ is close to worthless as a social media channel, but its impact on SEO makes it a venue that most companies still have to give consideration to.

 

We’ve seen less of you at conferences lately and a lot more of you online. What have you been up to on the training front this year?

As with most of the industry that has been in the game since the early days, I was getting burnt out with all the time on the road. In 2009 and 2010, I was a single mom with two pre-schoolers who was on the road no less than 85 days a year. That’s a rough schedule to keep when you have kids so young.

When my good friends Michael Stebbins and John Marshall asked me to come on board as faculty at MarketMotive.com, I was blessed to be able to continue doing what I loved without having to spend so much time away from my family. Rutgers University followed suit and brought me on board to teach their web based social media courses early last year as well.

After two years of constantly being on the go, I took a nice break in 2011. I think I spent a total of six days on the road for work. I also moved to a new state and got married that year, which never hurts in terms of motivating you to keep your feet planted a bit more firmly in one place.

Now that life has settled in again, I’ve been hitting the road a bit more frequently. I’ll make the rounds to four or five shows a year now…but for the most part, I like keeping my training gigs online.

 

You’ve got a new book coming out soon, can you tell us about it?

Absolutely! I’ve been wanting to write a book for several years now, but the challenge in social media was finding something new to say.

I had no desire to write yet another book that mimicked what everyone else was already writing.  Add in all that time on the road and taking care of my family while running my company and I couldn’t even fathom how I would have fit it all in.

Then last year rolled around, and I found myself married to an amazingly wonderful and supportive man, and a friend introduced me to Pinterest. This was months and months before the marketing community started obsessing over it and I found myself wondering if this might be one of the next big wins in the social media realm.

Through a combination of great timing and circumstances, I had the chance to pitch the idea to Wiley right as the firestorm was starting to brew in the media. With my husband’s support to pitch in to help with the kids and some of my workload to free up time for me to write, we got a plan in place. I started writing Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day last April. I’m wrapping up the last chapter of the book this week and it should hit the bookshelves in either January or February of 2013.

 

Finally, where do you see social media marketing going? Do you think it’ll ever surpass or usurp search engine marketing?

Social media marketing will continue to simply become “marketing.” When that term was coined, it was still a completely new idea for companies to take to the web to actually get involved in conversation with their customers.  It was something entirely new. As time continues to pass, we’re seeing a paradigm shift in how companies and customers relate to each other. Social media has opened the door to a new way of doing business and I don’t expect to see that ever go away at this point.

I think over time, we’ll hear less about “social media” marketing and more about just plain marketing.

As for whether it will ever surpass search engine marketing? I don’t think there’s a yes or no answer possible there. It’s not a zero sum game. People won’t choose one or the other because they serve different purposes. Social media will always be part of search engine marketing and good SEO will always be incorporated into social media. For a good integrated marketing strategy, the two will help drive each other to boost the overall brand.

 

More About Jennifer Evans Cario – President, SugarSpun Marketing

With more than a decade of experience in online marketing, Jennifer has made a career out of helping small to mid-size companies find unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Recognized as an industry leader in small business social media strategies, she is known for using real language and a common sense approach that delivers solid results while still allowing her clients to fully understand and participate in the process. Along with founding SugarSpun Marketing in 2009, Jennifer serves as the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive.com and as adjunct faculty for Rutger’s University. Cario is also the author of the upcoming Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day.  You can find Jennifer on Twitter via @JenniferCario.

 

 

photo thanks to Mike Baird

Would you like to learn how to rock SEO? Check out SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training – the only online SEO copywriting training that offers certification, and independently endorsed by Top Rank, seoPROS.org, and AWAI (American Writers & Artists, Inc.).

How to write for Google’s over-optimization penalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The simple solution? Dial it back.

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

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

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

And it really doesn’t.

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

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

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

  • Ask yourself: What makes sense to your reader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

photo thanks to me’nthedogs (Mark Robinson)

6 Steps to a Smart (Sane) Google+ Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Claim Your Page and Manage Your Circles

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Focus on Becoming a Topic Expert 

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

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

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

3. Share Content Regularly

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

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

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

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

4. Use Photos More Often

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

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

5. Share Your Posts Directly With Your Circles

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

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

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

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

6. Analyze Your Results and Plan Accordingly 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further reading:

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

About the Author – Courtney Ramirez

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

photo thanks to Bruce Clay, Inc. 

A 9-Step Guide to Creating & Marketing Your Own Video Content – for Free!

Guest Author, Andy Havard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Set Up Your Camera

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

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

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

3. Set Up Your Lights

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

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

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

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

4. Record Your Sound

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

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

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

5. Edit Your Video

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

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

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

6. Upload Your Video To The Web

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

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

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

7. Optimize Your Video For Search Engines

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

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

8. Market Your Online Video with Social Sharing

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

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

9. Track Your Online Video with Analytics

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

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

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

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

About The Author: Andy Havard

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

5 Keys to Easy Small Business Content Marketing

Guest Author, Courtney Ramirez

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

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

1. Get clear on your content budget.

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

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

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

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

2. Know your customer.

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

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

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

3. Repurpose wherever you can.

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

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

4. Don’t be afraid to curate!

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

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

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

5. Support content with social media.

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

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

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

Courtney Ramirez is a certified SEO copywriter and content marketing consultant. As a student of search engine marketing, web usability and social media, she’s been able to craft a writing style that is both inviting to readers and ranking factors.

Overwhelmed? Go Back to the Marketing Basics

Feeling like you’re suffering from marketing ADD?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and get back to basics.

Marketers are slammed with all sorts of shiny online marketing options. Ooh…there’s Instagram. And Twitter. And Facebook.  It’s not enough to just have a site. Now, companies are “supposed” to add all sorts of other bells and whistles to their online marketing mix.

The challenge comes when marketers try to jump on the latest online marketing bandwagon without shoring up their marketing foundation. Some folks chase latest and greatest opportunity and ignore the half-assed campaigns they started a long time ago (how many deserted Facebook pages have you seen?). Or, new opportunities are put into the “yet another thing that I should be doing” category. Chris Brogan talks about social marketing fatigue – and I think that’s a real phenomena.  Many site owners are so overwhelmed with options, they choose to do nothing.

Both scenarios are bad for business. So here’s what to do.

Rather than chasing the next big shiny social media thing, why not shore up your current marketing foundation? That way, you know that the basics are covered – and then you can check out new opportunities. For instance:

  1. When is the last time you reviewed your company’s autoresponder copy (or your other marketing collateral?). Is it up to date? Are there typos? Are there ways you can use your autoresponders to drive more leads or sales?
  2. When is the last time you checked your site’s analytics (c’mon – be honest!). Are there pages with high bounce rates that you can revamp and relaunch? The best social media campaign can’t help you if your site sucks.
  3. If you’re a local business, have you considered advertising in local publications (display advertising – although a tad bruised – is still alive and well.) Would it make sense to pitch an article idea to a local publication to see if you can drive traffic? Are there free or low-cost marketing alternatives?
  4. Did you start a social media campaign (such as a Facebook page,) only to leave it half-done (perhaps to go chase the next shiny social media thing..) :) Either fix it up and measure it – or let it go and decide to focus on other things.
  5. When’s the last time you revised your company’s features and benefits list? A lot has changed over the last few years – and what was a benefit statement 2 years ago may not be as powerful today.
  6. How often do you follow up with your existing customers, especially your “big fish”evangelists? If you don’t have a follow-up procedure in place, set one up. It’s always less expensive to upsell to an existing customer than acquire a new one.
  7. How often do you poll your clients/readers and ask them what products/services/features they’d like to see? You have all the market research capabilities you need – you just have to ask the questions.
  8. Are there a bunch of low-hanging SEO fruit opportunities that you can leverage? This list of headsmacking SEO copywriting opportunities may spark some ideas.
  9. Consider if your customer persona (s) has changed. Or, if you haven’t created your customer persona documents, now is an excellent time to start. After all, if your customers aren’t on Facebook, you can probably stop worrying about a Facebook campaign – and focus your efforts on getting the biggest bank for the buck

What “marketing foundation” steps would you add to this list? Please “like” the post and let me know your thoughts – thanks!

Photo credit gratitude to garryknight