Is Your About Us Page a Real Yawner?

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Yawn

Does your about us page make your readers yawn?

Well-written about us pages can increase conversion rates.

So why do they often suck so bad? Instead of making a connection, they sound as dry as Ben Stein’s delivery in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Yawn.

Is this the impression you want to give your prospects? Nope. I didn’t think so.

Your SEO content marketing challenge: Show some personality

Why be boring when you can let your corporate freak flag fly? Review your about us page and check out these tips. Then, consider how you can actually connect with your readers – not just give the bare-bones company information. Would pictures help? Video? Think out of the box.

After all, if it was a real-life conversation, you’d share your company story. You’d discuss how you’ve helped other customers. You’d focus on the connection – not the corporate talking points.

Just a few changes can transform your sucky page into a stupendous one.

Need to outsource your SEO content to a company that gets it right the first time? Let me help. Learn more about my SEO copywriting services today.

 

 

 

The Veg-O-Matic approach to SEO copy development

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Earlier this month, I was honored to speak at SMX West. I was originally going to chat about how content strategies have changed over the last year. Then, Chris Sherman (one of the conference organizers) said, “I really like your Tweets and how your firm repurposes content. Can you talk about that?”

Sure thing!

My slides were based on this 2011 blog post. When I originally wrote this, Google+ wasn’t even on the radar. Now, it’s yet another platform that marketers have to use and measure.

Feeling overwhelmed? Relax. Take a peek at my slides, and then read how the Veg-O-Matic approach to SEO copywriting can make your life easier than before.  Really!

 

One of the areas where many site owners get “stuck” is content creation. There are more SEO copy opportunities than ever before, including:

  • Tweets
  • Facebook posts
  • Product/service pages – new pages, as well as updates to existing pages
  • Case studies
  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Videos
  • Webinars

(I’m sure you could add more to the list.)

The challenge with “content overload” is that nothing gets done. Planning an editorial calendar seems impossible. There’s too much to write in too little time.

That’s when you bring in the SEO content Veg-O-Matic to slice and dice your content into little bits.

For those not familiar with Ron Popeil’s Veg-O-Matic, it was a hand held appliance that made slicing and dicing vegetables easy. You could cut a carrot into small pieces. You could shred it. You could even create thin julienne slices. Cutting it up was effortless – and one carrot could take many different final forms.

You can do the same thing when you plan your SEO content. Rather than thinking, “Oh, man. I have a month’s worth of tweets to plan,” think of how you can “slice and dice” existing content many different ways. Here’s what I mean:

Say that your company creates one white paper a month. Once the white paper is complete, you could:

  • Pull out tasty 140 character tidbits and use them as tweets
  • Transform some of the main topics into 500 word blog posts. Each week, send out an email newsletter featuring the posts.
  • Create a video based on a white paper topic (I’ve been creating YouTube SEO copywriting video tips, and they’re pulling in great traffic.)

You see? You’re taking existing content and working backwards. You’re doing what you can with what you already have. Granted, you’ll still want to plan bigger projects (like another white paper or a product page revamp.) But, finding time for big projects is much easier when you’re not reinventing the content wheel every time.

Instead of looking at your editorial calendar and thinking, “It’s mid-March, what do I write/tweet/blog about for the next 30 days,”it shifts to, “We just completed a blog post/case study/video. In what ways can we slice and dice it into tasty content tidbits?”

Once you’ve figured out how to leverage what you have, the content creation process seems much more effortless.

You can accomplish the same goal even if you don’t have one “big” content piece a month. For instance, say that your company blogs five times a week. You could probably pull a couple – maybe more – good tweets out of every post. You could track popular blog topics and develop a Webinar (which could even be an additional profit center.) Heck you could even produce a monthly “Twitter tips” list that you could offer as a downloadable .pdf. The possibilities are endless.

You don’t need to solely focus on existing Web content, either. Do you have an old how-to guide that you could dust off and transform into blog posts or tweets? Did you write an article years ago that you could repurpose? Have you written a book? As long as the content is updated and valid, looking to “old” content sources is a smart idea. Recycling is good for the environment, and it’s great for your content, too!

Consider taking a cue from Ron Pompeil and see how you can Veg-O-Matic your content. You may find that you’re releasing more quality content than ever before – and creating your monthly editorial calendar is easier than ever before.

Content Criminal Minds: Why Your Content Needs a BAU

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I love the show Criminal Minds. I realize this just adds to my nerdy image, but I can’t help it. The show is usually well written. It has a fantastic group of characters, and does a great job of combining science (psychology) with entertainment. (I wouldn’t kick Reid out of bed for spouting statistics, either. Just saying.)

The Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) uses someone’s behaviors and character traits to predict their actions. And like the show’s characters, I’ve made a career out of analyzing and using people’s behaviour. I just use it to influence their actions rather than arrest them.

Introducing Your Personal Content BAU

You may be the only content person in your business, but your content still needs a range of characteristics to be successful. Leave one out and the quality of your content will fall. How you integrate these characteristics and what you do with them will depend on the behavior of your target audiences. (That’s another book…er… post on its own.)

Ready to meet your content BAU?

Management, Organization, and Focus

AhotchAaron Hotchner, the BAU’s exalted leader, is a straight-to-the-point kind of guy. And like Hotchner, your content and content strategy need a leader with the same traits. You need to keep everything organized, keep track of your to-do list (generating customers, getting attention from related businesses, building authority and trust, etc.), and monitor the results of your efforts.

Successful content creation requires a no-nonsense leader, too. Each piece you create has to be complete (introductions, summaries, META data, call-to-action phrases, etc.), and gone over by a ruthless editor.

Formatting, Confidence, and Community Dedication

DmorganCMDerek Morgan is the eye candy. He’s pleasing to look at (read: downright yummy), outgoing, confident, and devoted to his community. Don’t you wish your content strategy had these traits? It should.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, your content strategy should “be pretty” (contain a mix of text, images, and videos and have a balanced layout).

Your content should be pretty, too. Everything should be easy to navigate, easy to read, and include whitespace and images. It should be relatable and confident.

And don’t forget: Successful content is rarely self-serving. It should enrich the lives of your readers by providing them with information, entertainment, and solutions, not just advertise and push concepts.

Promotion and Communication

JjareauJennifer Jareau (JJ) is the team’s PR person. She deals with the media and acts as a liaison between the BAU, the families, and local law enforcement.

To add JJ to your content BAU, dedicate time to reputation management, audience interaction, and outreach programs. Make sure your message gets to the right people in the right way and always presents the right image for your business.

 

Facts and Information

SreidSpencer Reid is an eclectic genius who has all the facts, formulas, history, details, and information you could ever need on a subject. (Hey, some girls like bad boys. I just happen to like the ones best described as “a little odd” or “geeky”. We all have our addictions.) And guess what? Spencer is the Criminal Minds equivalent to the facts, links, and details you inject into your content.

While Spencer can often go a bit overboard (you might want to avoid that), his facts are irrefutable and usually pivotal to solving the case. By adding a little (or a lot) of Reid to your content and content strategy, you can have the same reputation. Fact check, fact check, fact check!

Lastly, Reid would never waste time on things that have no value, so why should you? Make sure each marketing effort is earning you some kind of ROI.

Fun, Balance, and Standing Out

Kirsten_VangsnessPenelope Garcia is the fun, outrageous, shocking computer genius in the BAU. She’s perfect for balancing out the dark topics and relieving the emotion strain. Your copy and content strategy needs that, too.

It’s ok to provide serious content like news items and informational/instructional content, but you also need to have fun and show some personality. The stronger and more unique your personality is, the more you’ll stick out, which means you’ll get noticed and be remembered.

Passion and Class

Joe_MantegnaDavid Rossi is notable for his old-world class, handsome charm, and Italian passion. He seems a bit more rough around the edges than the other characters, but he’s dedicated and smart, tactful and insightful. Rossi is key to the team and he should be key to your content strategy, too.

When you’re passionate about something, it shows no matter how hard you try to hide it. Passion will keep your readers enthralled and make sure you’re always doing your best. Rossi’s class, charm, and insightfulness will reflect well on your business and encourage readers to see you as the expert you are.

Who will be part of your content Behavioral Analysis Unit? And the important question: Who is your favorite Criminal Minds character?

About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

Angie Nikoleychuk is the senior copywriter, consultant & strategist at Angie’s Copywriting Services. She specializes in link bait creation, content strategies, and content optimization. Like to learn more about creating effective link bait? Check out her book entitled Copywriting Master Class: Creating Successful Link Bait.

Criminal Minds images courtesy of Wikimedia

photo thanks to California Cthulu (Will Hart)

Is your content in need of a BAU? Or some fine-tuning? Check into my SEO Content Review service for a low-cost, high-value assessment!

 

 

Write a (Good) Blog Post in 1 Hour — Here’s How!

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Are you short on time and need to write a quality blog post – fast?

Sounds like it’s time for a quickie (blog post, that is!)

A quickie blog post is still high quality, informative and fun to read. The difference is, you’re writing your blog post fast and furious (and in one hour or less.).

Is it the ideal way to write? No. In a perfect world, you have hours to write, revise, and tweak. However, there are those times when carving out 60 minutes is the best you can do – and you need to write something engaging, intelligent and useful.

Here are some blog writing tips to consider:

– Write about something you enjoy. If you love your topic, it’s easier to write better blog posts – faster. I write motivational posts when time gets tight. They are fun to write, they come straight from the heart – and my fingers tend to fly over the computer keys.

– Narrow down your topic. This is not the time to write a highly-detailed 1,500 word post. Figure that you have between 300-500 words to work with – so choose your topic accordingly. Mini how-to articles or blog posts listing helpful tips are typically good for a blog post quickie.

– Gather everything you need in one place. Searching your desk for paperwork, surfing for source material and checking email wastes time you don’t have. Gather everything you’ll need to write your blog post before you start writing. This step alone will save you tons of time.

– Turn off distractions. There is nothing that will will break your flow faster than an email notification, a text coming through, or the phone ringing. Turn everything off while you write. If you have to, close down email and any browser tabs you don’t need. (I forgot to close my browser tabs, and Facebook is now notifying me that I have two messages. It’s taking me every ounce of willpower I have not to check them!)

– Spend 25 minutes (or so) writing your first draft. Get everything you can out on paper (or on the screen.) Don’t worry about editing. Don’t worry about tweaking that one sentence that’s not quite right. Just write. You can edit later.

(As a side note, I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique, and working in 25-minute chunks. It’s made me a more efficient writer, and it’s nice to know that I get a built-in break every half hour.)

– Get away from the computer. You wrote your blog post in less than 25 minutes? Awesome. Now put it down and take a break. You’ll be able to see your mistakes (and see writing opportunities) faster if you come back fresh.

– Edit your blog post multiple times. This is the time to quickly flesh out what didn’t quite “click” the first time and fix any typos. I will edit a document at least three times, with a break between each edit. When I think it’s almost there, I’ll print out the post one more time, make any final edits, and then schedule the post.

– Ask someone to proof the post before it goes live. Writing fast often means you’ll make some inadvertent boo-boos. A quick proof by another person can free your post from typos and save your bacon. That no-big-deal typo you didn’t see may be a big deal to your readers – and can possibly even lose you business.

What about you? What tips would you add to this list?

OMG! How NOT to Write Business Web Content

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

The article begins with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

About the Author ~ Gini Dietrich

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

 

photo thanks to proudcanadianeh

 

 

Is Your Brand Burning Bridges?

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Be careful how you treat your customers….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W. T. F.?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the lessons that businesses can learn from this?

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

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

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

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

 

How to Protect Your Brand Online

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

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

  • Your Brand

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

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

  • Monitoring Your Brand

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

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

No publicity is bad publicity….”

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

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

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

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

Information turns into discussion

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

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

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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

1.   The Good

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

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

2.   The Bad

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

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

3.   The Ugly

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author ~ Sadie Sherran

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

 

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

 

photo thanks to Picture Taker 2

3 (More) Business Blogging Tips for Beginners

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

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

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

Original 3 business blogging tips: a recap

Last week, Heather discussed these three business blogging tips:

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

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

Tip #1: Be realistic

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

  • How much time do you have to blog?

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

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

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

  • Think quality over quantity.

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

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

  • Can other people help you?

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

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

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

Tip #2: Schedule your blog posts

This tip addresses time management, and the editorial calendar.

  • Set deadlines and put them in your calendar.

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

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

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

  • Give yourself a lot of writing time.

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

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

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

  • Be faithful to your blogging schedule.

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

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

This final tip concerns the writing itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: mrbill (Bill Bradford)

Don’t Assume Your Clients Need You

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Guest Author, Amy C. Teeple

You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Don’t assume because it makes an ass out of you and me.” When it comes to your business, assuming certain things can mostly just make an ass out of you … and send your clients elsewhere.

Tis the season

The holiday season is often a busy time for many product-based businesses. Even in this down economy, people still spend a bit extra on their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping – a bonus for retailers.

Many service providers see a jump in projects after the first of the year when new budgets go into effect. (Some even see an end-of-the-year jump as the budget for the current year needs to be completely used to ensure a similar budget next year.)

However, just because you had an influx of customers last year, don’t assume those customers will return automatically.

They sell milk across the street too

Having customers is not the same as keeping customers.

If you do not provide your clients with the products and services that they need and the level of service that they expect, there is a good chance they will look elsewhere.

For example, earlier this year I spent a long weekend at a timeshare in Big Bear, California. A short distance from the condo there was a Vons (one of the Safeway supermarket chains), which we went to buy food for our stay. When we arrived at the store, there were only a couple of open cashier lanes (all with long lines), the store was in disarray, the shelves were not well stocked, and the employees were irritable.

As I walked through the aisles, I heard many customers complain to each other and watched several leave the store without groceries – some just abandoning their full carts. Where were they headed? They simply went across the street to the Stater Bros. Market (part of a smaller grocery chain, but still a full-sized supermarket).

Vons may have been the better-known chain where customers went to first, but poor service and low inventory sent people across the street to its competitor. There is a good chance that they lost customers not only for the day, but also for return trips. Personally, I gave the Vons poor reviews on Foursquare and Yelp and, when I needed more groceries, I went to Stater Bros, where the staff was friendly and the shelves were stocked.

Is your business Vons or Stater Bros.?

Where does your business fall? Do you think your customers need you more than you need them? (Guess what, they typically don’t.)

As you hit your “busy time” of the year, don’t let the excess business cause you to lose sight of what brought your customers to you. “I’m too busy” is no excuse for poor service. Make the time to serve your customers now or you may find yourself with too much free time when unhappy clients look elsewhere.

If you are an online business, staying on your game is just as important – if not more so – as it is for brick-and-mortar stores. If customers left a grocery store mid-shopping because they were unhappy with their experience, you can bet that shoppers in a virtual store will leave too. Online customers are more likely to abandon a shopping cart or to hit the back button to find something better when they do not see what they want.

Banish assumptions and hedge your bets

Although it may be too late to change your behavior from your last “busy season,” you can still court those customers. Even happy customers may need a reminder about your business. Take the time to:

  • Send an email blast with a holiday greeting or a newsletter letting customers know what specials you are running or other important information.
  • Call those big clients (when feasible) with whom you haven’t touched base recently.
  • Send a coupon (electronically or using the postal service) for an item or service related to their past purchases.
  • Keep your website up-to-date and relevant
  • Stay current with your PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO campaigns – new and old customers should be able to easily find you.

You also need to make sure that when potential customers visit your website or brick-and-mortar location, they find what they need. Don’t give your customers a reason to leave.

In this down economy, you don’t have to be the cheapest option to get the sale, but you do need to be the best value.

When potential clients reach your website and/or contact you, be sure that they find:

  • Guaranteed products and services.
  • Amazing customer service.
  • An intuitive, easy-to-navigate website.
  • Information that applies to them and addresses their pain points and needs.
  • A referral service if you are unable to meet their needs – you’d be amazed how far a good referral can go. It’s better to have a happily referred person than an unhappy customer.

Eat, drink, and be merry

Keeping your clients happy will make your holiday season (or other busy season) a joyous occasion – especially when you see the boost to your bottom line. Remember, pass on the assumptions this year and just wow your customers.

May you all have happy and safe holidays and a very profitable busy season!

Amy C. Teeple is a proud graduate of Heather’s SEO copywriting certification program. A Jersey girl living in Southern California, Amy is also a dedicated 3-Day for the Cure walker and a sports lover.

Quit Whining and Embrace Change

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I am about to embark on a journey that most people dread.

I am moving (and in my world, that means both my home and my office.)

My family moved about 1,000 times when I was a kid. OK, maybe not 1,000 – but definitely over six times. There were times when I attended a different school every year. I have such a negative Pavlovian response around moving that my heart rate will increase if I even see a moving box. That’s why I’m the world’s best tenant – once I find a place that I like, I stay there for a long, long time.

This has caused some…um…discussions with my husband. I’ve been pointing out everything that I don’t like about the new place. It’s too far of a commute. It’s not walkable. I don’t know if I’ll like it. It’s in the suburbs. I’ll miss my gas range.

My dear hubby’s favorite line right now is, “Sweetie, not all change is bad.” I can’t print what my typical response is, but it’s along the lines of “&#(*^#%#.”

Finally, after two sleepless nights in a row, I had what Wayne Dyer calls a “satori” moment. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. “All will be fine. Everything is on track.”

I decided to quit whining and embrace change.

Personal change is hard – very hard. Changes within an organization can be even harder. That’s because change is usually implemented (and managed) by committee. One person is typically gung-ho (the evangelist,) while the other team members are feeling various forms of “Meh.” Instead of jumping on board and embracing change, people start nit-picking the process.

For instance, you’ve probably heard variations on these statements…

“It’s a bad time financially to make this move. Let’s put it off another quarter.”

“I like everything about this change except for X. Maybe we should shelve the project until we figure it out.”

“We’ve hired someone before and it didn’t work out. Why should we trust someone new?”

“What kind of guarantees can we get? I don’t want to do this if it may not accomplish X (typically an impossible goal.)

“Why should we change? Things are working.”

Or, if you own your own business, you may think…

“Everyone else is doing so much better than I am. Why bother marketing?”

“I’d like to start offering X service, but I don’t think I know enough.”

See, it’s a lot easier to complain about change (or postpone it) than embrace it. Change means you have to do things differently. Work with different people. Be in new surroundings. Go through unknown frustrations. Or, in my case, live in the ‘burbs.

And yeah, when you’re burned out and tired – it doesn’t seem quite worth it, somehow. We may not love our progress, but we’re comfortable with how we got here – and mixing it up seems too damn hard. Or scary. Or complex.

We’re all like that. It’s OK.

The key is to recognize when your need for comfort is screwing up your opportunity for growth. If your content marketing campaign is suffering because you don’t have a plan – quit whining about being “too busy” and hire someone. If you aren’t seeing the results you need to see, quit whining and try something else. It’s hard to catch yourself in those whiny moments and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. But if you can, you’ll feel remarkably less stuck – and it will be easier to figure out a plan B.

Granted, your plan B may not work either. And that means trying plan C and plan D. The key is to keep on going until it does work – because it will, eventually. Change is messy, but growth is always guaranteed (from both a personal and business standpoint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes to pack.