Posts

Discount Your Copywriting Rates? No Way! Try This Instead.

copywriting rate discount

Is discounting your freelance copywriting rates ever a good idea. Really?

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”

Ouch.

Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better-paying jobs.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority — and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could slice a page from the agreement, or reduce the consultation time. This strategy brings down the cost without having to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

Photo thanks: © Get4net| Dreamstime.com

4 Ways Training Can Land You More Freelance Writing Gigs

online-training

Discover 4 ways online training can land you top freelance copywriting gigs!

As a freelance writer, you know that competition for writing gigs is fierce!

You’ve all heard the dreaded “everyone’s a writer” phrase, which devalues the work of really great writers.

But wannabe professional writers aren’t your only challenge.

Websites like Elance (yes, I’ve got a profile on there, too – *hangs head in shame*), pit freelance writers against each other in a race to the bottom of the pay barrel.

So, everyone can “write” – and usually, they’re all writing for peanuts!

Wow.

But that’s not all!

The freelance writers who do command more than pay-per-peanut rates aren’t “just writers” – they’re professionally trained as SEO copywriters, content strategists, graphic artists, and more. These talented people can measure the results of their work and make tweaks to improve its performance.

Are you panicking yet? Yes? You were already panicking about it before you read this? I know, sorry, BUT here’s the reality…

While you should be able to command higher pay based on your stellar, persuasive, always-on-deadline writing alone, that’s unfortunately not the reality we live in.

Thankfully, like your writing style, you’re adaptable. There is a way to stand out above the competition, and you can do it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I’m talking about training – where you get awesome knowledge, and often an awesome badge to prove it, in exchange for your hard-earned money.

I know, you’re probably thinking: But I regularly keep up on my training for free with all of the awesome resources available.

That’s what you’re doing on this site right now.

I thought the same thing.

But I broke down and paid for a training – Heather’s SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training, to be exact. (OK, before you get all AHA! on me, I’m not being paid to write this. Hear me out.)

Turns out you get a lot more out of online training than the structured knowledge that you paid for.

Sure, paid online training goes into much more detail than the stuff the experts give out for free (naturally), so you’re advancing your skills beyond what you can learn otherwise.

That’s great. You probably knew that.

But paid online training gets you ACTUAL PAYING WRITING JOBS. Like, for real. And not always in the ways you might think.

Here are four ways that purchasing online training can help in landing you more writing gigs.

1. The expert might hire you

If you purchase someone’s online training, that someone is more likely to hire you when they have an opening to fill on their content team.

They know you have the skills to do the job because they just trained you.

That’s what happened for me after I took Heather’s training.

She happened to have a Blog Editor opening on her SuccessWorks team just as I’d finished taking her SEO copywriting training, so she thought of me to fill the spot. I also happened to have an editorial background that helped land the gig.

One of my favorite quotes sums up this scenario perfectly:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Alva Edison

For me, and probably for most of you, it’s a dream come true to work for someone you really admire and whom you consider the utmost authority on the topic you’re studying.

Not only can taking their training help you get a gig with them, having that impressive gig on your resume and those writing samples in your portfolio will land even more writing gigs.

2. The expert may recommend you

This ties in with number one.

When you take an expert’s online training, that expert may recommend you for work. That’s huge!

Why do they do that?

There are a few reasons:

  • They now have proof that you know what you’re doing.

As mentioned above, you taking their course proves to them that you have the skills necessary to rock at whatever you trained for. Now they know that you won’t embarrass them if they recommend you to colleagues.

Another bonus for them – they’re now a resource to businesses for quality writers. That adds value to their own business offerings. Recommending you actually helps them keep and generate business.

  • They want you to succeed.

Boy, that’d be super embarrassing if you offered an online training and none of your trainees succeeded in landing freelance or in-house writing work.

It benefits the instructors offering online training for potential customers to see you wildly succeed. That generates more online training business for the instructor.

  • They want to give back.

Your guru may want to give back to you for purchasing from them.

One way they do that is by sending writing jobs your way.

For instance, Heather has an email list for her SEO Copywriting Certification grads. It’s chock full of good stuff – including the occasional paid writing opportunity!

Copyblogger has a page on its site that recommends their Content Marketing Certification grads to businesses that need a content marketer. I’ve received a lot of inquiries through this site. They also occasionally include writing jobs in emails to certification grads.

3. Potential clients see evidence of your skills

Badges! Yay!

I love badges. I think everyone loves badges. Honestly, who doesn’t love badges?

Anyone considering selling online certification training shouldn’t even bother if they don’t offer a certification badge that graduates can display proudly on their site – if not on their foreheads.

More than just an ego-boost, badges are a quick way to draw attention to your skills and can help business owners and managers decide who to hire.

Otherwise, who knows if you’re credible? You’re just these guys.

If a marketing manager who knows and loves HubSpot (there are a lot of them) needs some content help, they’ll gravitate toward a writer who has that HubSpot Inbound Certification badge on their site because they know that you know the inbound methodology that they use to create content.

As you know, you really shouldn’t write anything online (except maybe your personal blog that you hope nobody finds anyway) without SEO writing skills, but it’s hard to prove those skills to potential clients without formal training. Badges offer quick proof.

4. New skills land you more clients — and higher paying jobs

So maybe this should’ve been number one — but it’s also the most obvious.

When you spend the money and take the time to keep up with your writing skills and learn new ones, you’re qualified to take on new types of work, can offer more services and can CHARGE MORE MONEY for the value you’re adding to freelance writing clients.

With advanced SEO writing training, you can prove your skills to potential clients to land more gigs and charge them more for that service. Keyword research and other SEO copywriting techniques adds a helluva lotta value to clients, especially when (don’t we know it) they’re often optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Maybe you’re an awesome blogger with mad SEO skills, but you’re missing a huge chunk of potential clients because you don’t know persuasive copywriting techniques. AWAI offers a well-known copywriting certification course. Writing copy that sells brings in big bucks for you and your clients.

Get that training and get writing – plus, a bonus!

Now that you know how purchasing online training can land new freelance writing gigs, get to it!

Do some research and find out what skills would help you the most.

Maybe you’re awesome on the writing-skills front and just need to learn how to find more clients. Well …

That leads me to my bonus way that paid online training leads to more writing gigs.

There are paid online trainings (SuccessWorks and AWAI offer two of them) that teach you how to find freelance writing clients! Instead of going it alone, you can learn how to ramp up your business faster — and make more money, more easily.

Yes, training is an investment. Yes, you will need to spend time to go through the course and complete the exercises.

Yet, the benefits are well worth it — and you’ll be able to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

Have you experienced other ways that paying for online training has helped you land writing jobs? Let’s talk about ‘em in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

Photo credit to LeanForward If | Flickr.com

How to Survive the Business Dark Times

 

Sometimes, I receive an email that’s so compelling that I need to respond right away. This is one of those times.

The note said:

“I’m a freelance online copywriter. I’m busting my butt to get clients and doing all the necessary marketing (email, networking, social media, article marketing, etc.). However, I’m still not getting the results I desire, but I see my colleagues who do the same exact thing that I do, and they are making a killing.

I don’t want to sound like, ‘Woe is me,’ because that’s not me. I’m dedicated, passionate, and a fast-learner. I guess the question is, have you experienced this kind of ‘stuckness’ when you were just starting out? If so, what did you do to get past this phase? Please note, that I’m managing social media for two clients a month as well.”

Ah, I call this phase “surviving the dark times.” And yeah, it’s tough. I distinctly remember going through this about 14 years ago and feeling so frustrated that I threw a wicker chair against a wall. I knew what I wanted. I could SEE it. I just couldn’t figure out how to make the money flow.

Obviously, I pulled out of it. That doesn’t make me smarter or better. I just had a vision, and I stubbornly held on to it – and eventually, everything worked out.

You may have seen this in your own business – whether you’re a freelance writer, a small business owner, or even a partner in a corporation. You’re working mondo hours and not seeing the money you want. You’re waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about money.

And there’s a little voice inside of you whispering, “Give it up. You can’t do this. Close down and start over.”

Are you tired of hearing the “helpful” whispers?

 

Maybe you subscribe to a few newsletters in the hopes that they get you back “on track.” But the newsletters almost make it worse. Every headline talks about how much money everyone else (except you, of course) is making. You read inspirational stories about people who make it big within six months of opening shop.

And that little voice inside of you whispers even louder, “Forget it. You’re wrong. Other people know the secret, and you’ll never succeed.”

Then you try talking to friends or to your spouse. They try to be supportive. They really do. But when they say, “Maybe this isn’t the right time…maybe you should get a real job,” it tears you up inside. You don’t want to talk to them anymore. So you close down and give up.

And that inner voice that used to be a whisper is now a full-force 3 a.m. taunt. You’re so burned out and demotivated that it’s hard to get up in the morning, much less work.

Here’s your compassionate reality check: This process is normal. It sucks, but it’s normal. And you will go through this many, many times throughout your career.

There are some great books on this topic (The Energy of Money is a great one) but here’s my take:

Running a business – like everything else – is cyclical. Some days (or months) you’re super-creative, motivated and in the flow. Other days, you wonder why the heck you decided to go into business for yourself. Some months (or years) you can’t keep up with requests for business. Sometimes, you happily talk to phone solicitors because – darn it – it was the first call you’ve received in weeks.

There is dark, and there is light. There is super-busy, and there is super-quiet. It’s all part of the process.

Your freelance writing business will ebb and flow like the ocean. You may as well relax and enjoy it!

Plus – and this is just my opinion – most folks quit too early. They hit the dark times, and they freak out. The fear is too much. They lose too much sleep. Instead of following their passion, they do what’s “safe.”

Granted, there are times you do what you have to do to live – and there is no shame or judgment in doing that. Just know that it’s one thing to let your dream die and give up. It’s completely another to do everything you can (even if that means taking a part-time job) to keep that dream alive.

I strongly believe that we are rewarded for being passionate. When we’ve done the planning and we can see the goal on the “other side” – we will eventually get there. The trick is – and I know that this is easier said than done – stay calm, manage by facts, and take care of you.

Some positive steps that you can take right now are:

  • Take time away from your business. Seriously! It may feel like the “worst time ever” to do it, but you need the perspective. You need to be able to look at your business with fresh eyes (and a calm brain) if you want to move forward. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out and involve yourself in “busywork” that doesn’t move your business forward.
  • Take a hard, hard look at your business focus. Hindsight is always 20/20 – and for me, I know that a lack of focus can decimate my business opportunities. You may be an “online writer” – but who is your target audience? Can you picture what she/he would look like? What her hopes would be? Her fears? It’s so easy to do “anything” to get money in the door that we stray away from what we really want to do (and who we really want to work with.)
  • Spend time every day with “the end in mind.” Allow yourself to feel what it would be like to work with that company you really want to work with. Or imagine writing the check that pays off that last credit card. Or finally having enough money to take a “real” vacation. Keeping that excitement and vision alive is paramount.
  • Celebrate your successes. It’s so easy to say, “Well, yeah, I’m making money – but it’s not the money I want to make.” So what? You’re making money! Congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back. You’ll never be able to break out of your funk if you never feel “good enough” to celebrate your successes.
  • Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Although your colleagues may say that they’re “raking in the bucks,” know that it may not be true. After all, it’s very, very hard for entrepreneurs to admit that they’re losing money (in our minds, we call it “failing” – even if that’s not the case.) It’s a whole lot easier to say that things are “great” rather than admitting “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty scared.”
  • Take care of you. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, you’re all you’ve got. If you get sick from the stress, you’re going to put yourself in a worse situation. If you ignore exercise because you “don’t have time,” you’re going to feel worse and be less productive. I would watch every piece of food you put into your body and focus on high-quality meals. The better you feel physically, the better you’ll be able to handle any situation. (After typing that, I’m feeling a little guilty that I just munched the complimentary chocolate they gave me on the plane!).
  • Recognize the voices in your head. The voices telling you that you’re a failure at 3 a.m. aren’t real. It’s your fear coming back to bite you. Notice the voices. Laugh at them. Learn from them. But do not let them get to you. They are not real.
  • Know that your hard work is not in vain. At this very moment, someone may be discussing hiring you – you just don’t know it yet. Your life and financial situation can change with one phone call.
  • Get support from other entrepreneurs. My support network is comprised of search folks and local Portland business owners. I love them. I can go to them hurting and scared and frustrated and come away feeling fantastic. It helps to know that you’re not alone (and you know that you’re never alone, right?) Other people have gone through this multiple times. They survived. You will too.
  • Ignore the naysayers. They do nothing but sap your energy and make you feel bad about yourself.  If you walk away from a friend feeling drained and tired, you may want to keep that friendship “on hold” until you’re in a better spot.  You don’t have time for folks like that.
  • Finally, recognize that this is, in fact, a phase. It’s the darkness before the dawn. It’s miserable and scary and…a little bit exciting too. Once you’ve gone through this a few more times, the process does get easier. You start to recognize what’s happening and move through it a little bit faster. It doesn’t make it “fun.” Heck, I go through this phase kicking and screaming (sometimes literally!) But at least you may not take it quite so personally next time.

If you’re going through this – hang in there. Know that things will – eventually – be OK. And let me know how it’s going. We’re all in this together.

9 (more) questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Would being an SEO copywriter make you smile?

Wondering if you’d be happy as an SEO copywriter?

In a previous blog post, I discussed 9 common questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. But what about SEO copywriting as a career choice? If you’ve wondered how you could find a job as an SEO copywriter – or how you can start a freelance shop – this post is for you.

I originally wrote this post in 2012 and I’ve updated it to reflect other questions I answer every day. Enjoy!

I’m a print copywriter.  Are you sure that I can learn this? Or can an old dog really learn new tricks?

Yes, this is a skill that you can learn and master (check out Lynda Goldman’s interview for a real-life success story.)  Online writing is much different than print copywriting – so there will be a learning curve. At the same time, if you know how to write and connect with your audience, that’s half the battle. The main challenge I see with print copywriters is that they think that SEO copywriting is too “technical” to learn. Here’s how I answer that question …

I’m not a really technical person. Can I still do this?

Yes, you can. It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills. Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

There seems to be a lot of SEO copywriters online. Is the market too saturated?

Nope. Granted, if you want business, you’ll have to learn how to market yourself – and ideally, you’ll choose a niche. But there are still many opportunities to make money.

But I’ve heard that SEO copywriting is dead. Is that true?

Nope. Certainly, the SEO writing “rules” have changed. And it’s more important than ever to keep up. But companies (and clients) are still begging for smart SEO writers who can help make them money.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

All types of companies, including B2B, B2C and publishing companies. If you’re looking to work in-house, think about sites that produce a large amount of content every month – and consider those companies possible employment targets. For instance, ecommerce sites are constantly updating their product pages and blogs. A publishing company may require you to write SEO-optimized articles. Some in-house writers may also create newsletters, emails and white papers. Others focus just on SEO copy. It depends on the employer.

I’ve seen job titles like “Web content writer,” or “SEO content writer.” Is that the same thing?

Yup. There are quite a few different job titles for SEO copywriters. The main thing is choosing a job that fits your skill set. For instance, if you love blogging – but sales pages aren’t fun for you – you’ll want to choose a job that’s more social media related. If you can write high-converting sales pages, you may want to look at jobs that allow you to write landing pages, product pages and service pages.

Can I find a job that can teach me this stuff?

Yes, but don’t expect to get paid a lot. Many companies are looking to turn this over to an “internal expert” – so you’ll make more money if you have training, experience and fantastic clips. Having said that, starting out as a “copywriting assistant,” can fast-track your knowledge. Some of the best copywriters I know had someone helping them expand their skills. The pay may be lower, but the experience will be fantastic!

How can I find clients (or someone who would hire me full time?)

If you’re looking for an in-house job, you can certainly check out online job boards and see what’s out there. However, I recommend getting out there and actively networking – especially within your local community. Many writing jobs are “insider hires” that aren’t posted. The more you can connect with people, the more you’ll learn about secret opportunities and can position yourself as the perfect candidate!

Networking (whether it’s local or on social media) is also important if you want to freelance. In a perfect world, most of your clients come from referrals and you have a steady stream of business. Many freelancers love LinkedIn for copywriting leads. Pam Foster has said that LinkedIn “has been more fruitful … by far, than any other marketing method.” Why not give it a shot?

I want to be my own boss and work as a freelance SEO copywriter instead. How do I do that?

Read my “Ultimate Guide for Beginners.” it will tell you everything that you want to know.

I’ve heard that SEO writing is a low-paying gig. Tell me why I’d want to do this.

It’s true that some companies pay a paltry $5 per blog post. Having said that, some companies pay $250 or more per post – especially if the writer is truly top notch. I know many SEO writers who are happily writing content and making a fantastic living. You won’t make 100K starting out (whether you freelance or work full time.) But you can find clients (and employers) who value great writing. As your skills improve and you can demonstrate results, you can make more money over time. That’s pretty cool.

Wow, I’m sold! I want to quit my job tomorrow and freelance full time. What do you think?

Um, don’t do this. Not unless you have a pretty flush savings account, have clients already lined up, or have other income coming in. No matter how “hot” SEO copywriting is as an opportunity, it takes time to get your business off the ground. Having said that, learning everything you can about running a successful copywriting business will help you make more money, faster. For instance, check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp classes for all of the topics that you’ll need to master.

Are there other ways I can use my SEO writing skills?

Heck yes. If you ever want to launch a side business, your SEO skills give you a competitive advantage. You’ll know how to drive more traffic and convert it into paying customers. Want to help out a friend who owns a business? Yes, you can do that, too. I’ve even heard of SEO writers bartering their skills for Pilates lessons, haircuts, landscaping … you name it. Plus, if you ever write a book, you can easily build an author platform with your SEO know-how.

Are you sure this is fun?

Oh yeah. It’s really fun. If you enjoy a fast-paced career – and you love working in an ever-changing industry – you’ll love SEO copywriting. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t have been doing this for the last 16 years. 🙂

Want step-by-step SEO-writing training and personalized help? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training!

Handling your copywriting client’s feedback: 5 do’s & don’ts

Dealing with client feedback can be difficult, but you can minimize the painYou’ve done your homework. You’ve interviewed your client. You’ve painstakingly put together the first draft for some new web copy. And then comes the waiting game.

Sometimes you get feedback right away. Sometimes it takes a few days or even weeks. But when that email or copy review call comes around, it’s a critical moment in your relationship with your client and your reputation as a copywriter.

If you want to keep clients happy and maintain your integrity as a writer, you have to strike a balance. Here’s how.

1. Do research thoroughly.

You can avoid a lot of problems with feedback and reduce the rounds of edits by doing as much research as possible up front. Using a standard copywriting questionnaire for the start of each project can help, but be sure to review and reach out to the client if there are any misunderstandings.

Case in point, I received a questionnaire back from a client once and at first glance, everything looked okay. It wasn’t until later when I was working on the web copy that I realized they’d skipped several questions on their target audience. Without this, it was difficult for me to frame their benefits in the right light. Fortunately, there was still plenty of time in my project timeline to have a short call about their audience.

2. Don’t let the client squeeze out more rounds of edits.

The reason for having a questionnaire and documented process from the start is so the client knows what to expect during the project. Two rounds of edits and a final proofreading is the standard clause in all of our engagement letters, and you may want to adopt the same policy.  This way the clients know this from the start, and understand that anything above and beyond these two rounds of edits will be priced at a separate rate.

3. Do be respectful and listen to their feedback.

As difficult as it may be, the client is allowed to come back and say “This sucks.” You have the option of pushing back (see below), but if you handle this moment wrong, you could lose your reputation and possibly future work from this client.

If the client says that they don’t like it, get specific detailed feedback on which areas are not working for them. The first round of edits is going to be more intensive, so expect that. If they aren’t, push for feedback. It’s better to get it during the first round of edits then be hit with lots of feedback later on in the process that undoes all of your hard work.

4. Don’t be afraid to push back on specific portions of the copy.

Even though you should be respectful and listen (or read) feedback, don’t be afraid to push back on some of the edits if they aren’t making sense. Sometimes clients may have a big difference of opinion on what their web copy should say. In my experience, it’s normally of a matter of them wanting to focus on what they do (the features) instead of what they can do for clients (the benefits).

This is where your detailed web copy questionnaire can come in handy again. You can refer back to it and explain that your choices in writing were based on the information they provided: their target audience, their position in the market, their competitors. If this information is incomplete, you need to ask them to fill in the gaps for the next round of copy but stand by what you wrote based on the information provided.

5. Do develop a gut feeling for your style of great copy.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a web copywriter is that there are some things I am great at writing about and there are others that I really suck at. No matter how hard I’ve tried to write web copy for life coaches – it ends up being terrible. Those clients were never happy, and neither was I.

Don’t be afraid to turn down a project or refer it out to someone else if it doesn’t feel right. When you develop a good gut feeling for your own writing style and capabilities, you reduce the criticism of your work. You can take a look at a writing opportunity and instantly know whether or not you’ll be able to deliver your best.

What are your do’s and don’ts for the feedback part of the process? How have you learned to develop a thicker skin?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

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

photo thanks to Rodger McCutcheon (Auckland Photo News)

Learn how to write SEO content your clients (and Google) will love – check into my SEO Copywriting Certification training today!

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

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

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

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

Here are three steps to make this happen!

1. Mark Up Your Pages With Schema.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headline – the title to your post

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

Alternative Headline – a secondary title or subtitle

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

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

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

Description – A short description introducing the body of the content

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

Date Published – the published date of the article

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

Article Body – The content of the article

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

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

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

2. Connect Google+ Authorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Create Compelling In-Depth Content

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

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

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

About the AuthorBen Norman

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

photo thanks to Steve Jurvetson

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

 

The do’s & don’ts of partnering with other web content providers

Thinking of partnering up with another web content provider? Consider these tips from the trenches.I took a big step this week for my company – I closed its virtual doors.

But I’m far from being out of business. I’ve decided to focus on content marketing clients who are also working with a marketing company for complementary services like social media and inbound marketing strategy.

Working with partners – whether formal or informal – has helped me reach new levels in my business. And it can do the same thing for yours too. But you need to be careful you aren’t compromising yourself, your ethics, or your sanity when you strike up a partnership.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that I wish I’d had when I first started working with partners.

DO look for complimentary partners for your SEO copywriting services.

Fortunately, we’re working in a time where the demand for copywriting and content marketing is at an all time high. Anyone involved with providing web marketing services to clients – from web designers to social media consultants – needs to know great content creators. If they don’t have one they trust an email away, they are doing their clients a big disservice.

Start your search by finding complimentary providers on LinkedIn, exploring small business sites, or looking for freelancing blogs where similar, but not competing, providers might be hanging out.

DO learn about the different ways of partnering with other providers.

Partnership doesn’t have to mean going into business together.

You can work with other providers under a referral agreement or set up a deal where you provide a service as part of their company – but still retain your own clients. It all depends on what you and your potential partner decide to do.

Consider where you want to take your SEO copywriting business and then pick an option that works best for you.

DON’T jump into a partnership too soon.

Finding a good partnership is a lot like dating. You’re not going to run off to Vegas to get married the first night you go out. And if you do, you’re going to end up getting the partnership version of an annulment.

Network with other providers, but take things one project at a time until you get a good feel for how you work together. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contractual relationship with someone whose business practices you don’t respect.

DO evaluate your potential partner’s target market and marketing approach.

There are dozens of opportunities out there for working with another provider – so you can afford to be choosy.

Pay close attention to your potential partner’s own marketing. Who are they working with and speaking to? This is important for two reasons. Finding a provider that works with your own target audience will make it easy for you to create client content – and easy for you to create content for the fellow provider. Everyone needs blog posts and website copy, so chances are your partner will be looking to use your content services at some point. It helps to be familiar with their target audience and know who you’re writing to.

DON’T work without a contract.

No matter how friendly you may be with another provider, you’ll want to treat them just like any other client.

There needs to be contracts in place for each project or – depending on the nature of your partnership – for the length of time you’re working together. Even if you’re working with a fellow business owner it doesn’t mean that they have your best interests in mind.

DO pay close attention to their business practices.

Finding a good fit with another provider goes beyond the leads or projects you can bring one another.

Are you truly on the same page when it comes to growing your businesses? Case in point, after a single project with a particular SEO provider I came to realize his opinion of clients (that they were stupid and deserved to be duped) didn’t jive with the way that I want to do business. This isn’t always apparent based on their website, marketing and social media usage – so keep things low on commitment until you know more about their business practices.

DON’T explore partnership unless you’re sure you can handle it.

If you’re someone who prefers to work on your own, partnership probably isn’t for you.

For me, I found the life of a solo copywriter to be sort of lonely. I always found myself conferring with SEO providers, web designers, and social media marketers so I decided to make it official. Do some soul searching and figure out what you want your business to look like in the future.

Have you worked with referral partners or other partners? What was your experience like?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

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

photo thanks to buddawiggi

Need a partner to help your web copy sizzle in search and convert like crazy? Check into my SEO content services today!

 

Leveraging content relationships & social proof for conversion rate optimization

How to leverage social proof from content relationships for CROThough content marketing has only recently reached buzzword status within the search industry, guest posting has been a popular method of promoting products and services online for a long time.

It’s often cited as a great link building technique and when done well, can help your website in more ways than just search.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) has long been a technical art within digital marketing, but there are also a few ways in which you can utilise guest blogging and the relationships you build in the process to help improve conversions:

Qualified Traffic

Search is a fantastic driver of traffic for many businesses but it can also be wasteful in terms of conversions.

This is where content marketing can have more of an impact, as you’re segmenting your market before you ever set out your stall. When quality content marketing campaigns are focused around specific sets of users, they can be a powerful tool to drive qualified traffic to a website.

Social Proof

Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.”

In other words, in observing the behaviour of others the decision process is simplified, providing us a convenient mental shortcut to responding to the task in hand.

The Blueglass UK website provides a prime example of using social proof from content marketing:

SEO Social Proof - 1

As you can see above, they have chosen to highlight their relationships with outlets that have featured their content as well as with other brands using their services, leaving visitors to ask themselves, “If it’s good enough for the Guardian, it must be good enough for me right?”

Authorship

While I could talk about the benefits of Authorship (and the fabled AuthorRank) all day, suffice it to say there is a huge amount of value to be had in including your author profile within content.

As you begin to write and publish more content, your author picture will become synonymous with your writing. Use the same image across all platforms and content and searchers will recognise the visual clue as a familiar and trusted face within the search results. Not only does this lead to improved CTR but it also allows the user to personify the company, transferring their views of the individual content creator to the organisation.

Relationships and Testimonials

Once you’ve placed your content with a high profile blogger, don’t let that be the end of the relationship. There are so many more mutual benefits to be had!

One such example is Testimonials. Rand Fishkin wrote about this method for attracting links back in 2009, but I find it serves a double purpose. Not only does the content creator get a nice link back to their website, but you get a glowing reference that can be used as further proof of your credentials to potential prospects.

Distilled does this very well on their consulting pages, thanks to their close relationship with SEOMoz (now Moz):

SEOmoz Social Proof - 2

 

Custom Landing Pages

A personalised landing page can be a great tool to help create a seamless transition from your guest content onto your own website, and maintain the brand connection between the two.

This is particularly potent when looking to gather blog or whitepaper subscriptions without the user feeling like they are just being “handled”.

From these pages you have much more control over the user journey and can look to move the prospect onto a proven conversion path as soon as possible.

One great example of this is from James Agate who guest blogged for Raven Tools and used a custom landing page to squeeze users towards subscribing to his newsletter.

Simple, yet effective.

We all know that content marketing is here to stay, but as you can see there is so much more to it than meets the eye. By using the relationships we garner through our content outreach we can help further our business goals long after the article has been published.

Have you used social proof to help improve conversions? What are your thoughts on using brand relationships for CRO?

About the Author ~ Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro is a Cardiff-based SEO Strategist at Box UK, a software development consultancy, helping to run the digital marketing department. You can find him on his blog talking about digital marketing and the state of semantic search, or on Twitter: @andrew_isidoro.

Could your conversions use a boost? I can help. Check into my direct response SEO copywriting services today!

SEO client education: It’s your most important job

Client education is an SEO professional's most important jobIt doesn’t matter if you’re an SEO consultant, SEO copywriter, content writer, or social media coordinator that reads keyword reports – if you are helping clients with SEO, client education is your most important job.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’re struggling in your business as an SEO provider, client education is the missing piece.

Client education and managing expectations go hand in hand.

What do I mean by education? It can take many different forms, but the goal is to help your client get up to speed on what you provide, why you provide it, and how they’ll benefit. It’s not a sales page or a sales call. It’s helpful information that makes them a smarter buyer.

When I’ve had a difficult client relationship in my business, nine times out of ten it’s been because of a big difference between what the client expected and what I was able to provide. For example, as a copywriter, I can’t build your backlink profile or improve your offpage SEO. But I can make it easier for search engines to understand your site – and help your site visitors get where they need to go.

Client education is important in any industry – but it’s absolutely essential with SEO. Search engine optimization is complicated – and it’s always changing. Although the core of the process is growing a bit easier and less fragmented (pick your keywords, create great content and stay social), there is still enough change from update to update and from year to year for clients to get confused.

These changes can be jumped on by less than scrupulous providers to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, when Panda and Penguin hit, questionable backlinks became the biggest problem. Unless a client has been paying someone to post backlinks to large, spammy directories there’s no reason they should be spending their time and their money on devaluing links when there aren’t many there begin with. They’d be far better off creating some great content and getting social to build genuine backlinks.

Since there are so many factors that go into SEO and some scum bags out there that are misleading their clients (either intentionally or unintentionally), your job as an educator becomes even more important.

Here’s how to do it, in three steps:

1. Always start the process with an intake call.

Do you get a lot of emails that look something like this: “Hi – I need some web copy. How much do you charge?”

Delivering a paragraph or two back with a quote isn’t going to have the impact that an official intake will. Start your relationship with a conversation so you can understand their SEO needs and determine if they need you, or another type of provider. This will also help you set the framework for how you are working together and let you explain the specific value that you provide.

2. Rather than being a service provider, think of yourself as a consultant.

It’s a subtle shift but an important one if you want to educate your client and take a more strategic role. When you’re “just a service provider” a client will expect to come to you, place an order and then get exactly what they ordered – no questions asked. These are the clients that will come to you saying “Here’s my keyword list and I want a blog article on X, Y and Z.”

But when you present yourself as a consultant, you’ll leave the door open to explain to them why jumping into blogging without a strategy is a bad idea. You can give them insight into how to make their pages better before they blog, how to create a blog strategy and how to improve their overall presence.

3. Produce lots of content – and then produce some more!

When it comes to copywriters and content, it’s often like the old story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes. If your work days are filled with work for clients, how will you find time for your own work? Make time!

If you want to provide education for your SEO clients, you need to blog, create white papers and develop newsletters. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to be there. This way, your SEO clients are prequalified and educated before they reach out. They know the difference between bad SEO and good SEO because they’ve read it on your blog.

What steps are you taking to educate your clients?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

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

image thanks to Digital Sextant (Brendan Riley)

Scared of Prospect Calls? 5 Confidence-Boosting Tips for Freelance Copywriters

Picking up the phone

You’ve got this! Here’s how to prepare for your freelance copywriting prospect call!

What can be the scariest part of a freelance copywriter’s job?

Picking up the phone and talking to a prospect for the very first time.

Writing web copy? Piece of cake. Sending an email? Easy peasy. Calling a lead to make sure they’re a good client for you?

Ouch. Email seems so much easier.

Phone time with a prospect is important. Sure, email is easy and quick – but you often don’t get all the answers you want. A 30-minute phone chat can provide insight into the client’s personality, highlight their real needs (as opposed to what they may say their needs are) and – most importantly – help you decide if you want to work with them.

The secret to successful prospect calls is preparation. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel less nervous. You’ll sound more confident. And you’ll be able to close more sales, more quickly. Here’s how to do  it:

– Don’t take calls out of the blue. Set an appointment instead. It’s great when prospects call and want to talk about their site RIGHT NOW. But setting an appointment is your best bet (especially if you have a hard time switching gears between writing and talking to people!). Instead of dropping what you’re doing, email (or call) the prospect back and set a time to chat. This extra time allows you to focus, prepare and do any necessary gear-switching.

– Gather basic information via email before the call.  Whether you’re talking with the client in a few hours – or a few days – try to get some basic information before the first call. At the very minimum, you’ll need the URL. In a perfect world, the prospect shares what pages she’ll want you to write, what her current challenges are and her budget. This doesn’t often happen, but it’s great when it does.

I ask three standard questions prior to setting up a call. Does the prospect always answer them? No. But I’ve found that the more motivated (read: ready to buy) clients will respond. At this phase, resist the urge to send the client a multi-page questionnaire. You run the risk of the client ignoring your questionnaire – and your scheduled call time, too.

If you’re wondering, my three typical questions are….

Who is your target audience? Do you have multiple target audiences?

What are the top three benefits of your product/service?

What sites represent your main online competition? What are their URLs?

– Review the client’s site . What SEO writing elements are screaming “fix me?”  Do you see keyphrase stuffing? Is the content benefit-statement free? Is the blog gathering dust and there hasn’t been any recent posts for awhile? Make some quick notes – all of these tidbits represent great upsell opportunities. Don’t forget to write down what you do like, too.  It’s always better to tell a prospect, “You’ll want to look at X, but the way you’re doing Y is great,” than focus 100 percent on the negative.

Review the prospect’s interview answers.  Look for red flags like, “We don’t have much of a budget” or “We want to be #1 in Google for our search terms.”  If you’re a new freelance copywriter, a small budget could be OK – but if you’ve been freelancing for awhile, you may want to discuss pricing sooner rather than later. Additionally, if your prospect has unrealistic expectations (like #1 rankings for all their key terms), be prepared to provide a (gentle) reality slap.

Important note: If you feel the prospect isn’t a good match, send them an email and let them know. There’s no reason to hold a call if you know you can’t help them. It wastes their time – and it wastes yours, too.

Write down your talking points. Do you have a testimonial from a client in a similar vertical? Have you handled a similar situation before? Write down what you want the client to know. Forgetting to bring up an important point during the call is easy to do (trust me!)

What would you add to this list? Write your answer in the comments!