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5 simple steps to sourcing SEO copywriting services

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Sourcing SEO copywriters as simple as collecting leaves

Leslie Poston explains how sourcing SEO copywriting services is almost as easy as collecting leaves in the fall. (With better spelling, too!)

Let’s face it, consistently creating excellent, SEO-friendly content for your B2B company can be a daunting task. The person in charge of creating content in-house may not be a great writer or may not understand SEO. Your in-house writing team may not know the best way to reach your niche market online, or it may simply be cost-prohibitive for your in-house team to work on SEO copywriting. You may have written content in the past that talked past your intended B2B audience, instead of with them.

Whatever the reason, it’s completely normal to need to seek outside help with your B2B SEO copywriting. The challenge becomes how to source the best writer for your needs. It helps to have a clear digital marketing plan, clear KPIs, structured campaigns and goals that you set with your analytics teams, and relevant tie-in to other departments, such as sales, to track your content back to your bottom line.

1. Clarity

Once you have a budget in mind (be prepared to adjust your number – quality writing may cost more than you expect), you’re going to need to create a content plan that your SEO copywriter can work from, as well as goals, market segments, keyword and keyphrase lists and more. A great SEO copywriter who really knows your niche can assist with these elements, but the more clarity you have regarding what you want your copy to achieve, the better the results your copywriter can create for you.

2. Research

Take some time to research your potential SEO copywriter. These days, you don’t have to ask for samples of a person’s writing! Their online footprint, website and blog should clearly showcase their expertise. They should have references, samples online, an active blog and – if applicable for your niche – visible certifications relevant to your industry. A simple search should tell you everything you need to know about your potential shortlist of SEO copywriters.

If you don’t have a short list to pull from, you can seek out help on sites like Elance. However, be forewarned that you will need to double check language fluency and competence. Happily, writer-for-hire sites do some of the due diligence for you. Make sure you do your own as well, however.

3. Budget

The old adage “You get what you pay for” absolutely holds true for creative work. SEO copywriting that is obviously SEO driven and is difficult to read or shallow in content relevance sticks out like a sore thumb. Great SEO copywriting is fluid, focused, deeply niche driven, relevant to the CMO- and CEO-level B2B clients you want to connect with, and current. The SEO aspect of the content should never be obvious. If you use a site like NewsCred to find writers, you can expect to pay from $500 on up for articles and blog posts. Individual copywriters and SEO firms may charge more (or less) depending on experience and location.

4. Test

Continuously test for quality before and during your SEO copywriting campaign. First, test your SEO copywriter’s knowledge of your niche before you even hire them. After hiring, test their content. Have them write with A/B testing in mind, which will allow you to maximize results as you get analytics results in. As the results come in, test again. Look to see what pieces of content are actually converting, which are generating actions and which are sitting dormant, not performing. Be prepared to adjust on the fly.

5. Reporting

The final piece in your successful SEO copywriting outsourcing puzzle is reporting. Reporting should be a two-way street! Most SEO copywriting contracts are long term. You want the writer to report to you at least bi-weekly, touching base with metrics related to your content plan. At the same time, your SEO copywriter needs reporting from you on how their content is performing. This will allow them to adjust their content to get the best results for you.

If all of this seems like a gargantuan task, don’t panic. The hardest part of this process will be finding someone who is well-versed in your niche market. This experience and knowledge is essential in reaching the decision-makers with authoritative, interesting content that helps them through the discovery and purchase process. Great SEO content converts, converts, converts!

Leslie Poston

About the Author

Author Leslie Poston wrote Social Media Metrics for Dummies, co-authored Twitter for Dummies, and has been writing for hire and leading content marketing initiatives as a consultant since the ’90s. She is Senior Social Media Editor for McKinsey & Company and also runs a content marketing consultancy. She’s an avid Twitter user, so be sure to say hello on Twitter: @leslie

Photo thanks to Christopher (Take Em If You Want Em)

Why do some freelance copywriters rake in the bucks while others struggle to make ends meet? Hint: It’s all about tightening up the back end of your business. Learn how to make more money, faster with the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. Save 10% until 11/13/13 with coupon code SECRETS.

Where have all the keywords gone? It’s your (not provided) John Wayne

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These keys are as diverse as the keywords that are now (not provided)I can’t tell ya where all the cowboys have gone, Paula Cole, but I’ve come to your keyword rescue with this week’s (not provided) post!

For SEOs, Google’s (not provided) keyword practice is nothing new. It all began in 2011, when the search goliath moved to protect the privacy of secure searchers.

Google’s recent shift to 100% (not provided) for more privacy protection – so it claims – has webmasters looking for new ways to analyze search traffic and SEO copywriters seeking the right keyphrases for optimized copy.

Never fear, my friends! I’ve wrangled the most helpful posts from the search arena to save you from keyphrase catastrophe!

Search Engine Land‘s Matt McGee gives us “Google’s [Not Provided] At 87% Of Google Search Traffic To Major News Sites [Report]”.

Sonia Simone and Sean Jackson write “Why You Don’t Need to Freak Out over Google’s (Not Provided)” over on Copyblogger.

Koozai‘s Emma North shares “Using Google Webmaster Tools To Reclaim Organic Keywords & Rankings”.

The fabulous Laura Crest posts “Has Google Gone Evil or Is It Just Wicked Smart?” over at Level 343.

Search Engine Watch shares “Google Keyword ‘(Not Provided)’: How to Move Forward” by Ray “Catfish” Comstock.

Crispin Sheridan writes “Google & Not Provided Keywords: Forcing Marketers to Innovate Since 2013” for ClickZ.

Search Engine Land‘s Matt McGee writes “Google’s [Not Provided] At 87% Of Google Search Traffic To Major News Sites [Report]”.

Jonathan Rose gives us “Google Not Provided: Goodbye Organic Keyword Data, Hello Onsite Behaviour Tracking” on Business 2 Community.

Brafton Editorial gives us “More data not provided? New Google Analytics reports” on the Brafton.

Carrie Hill writes “Gathering New Keyword Insights In A (Not Provided) World” for Search Engine Land.

Michael King gives us “Why I Don’t Care About (Not Provided)” on SlideShare.

iAcquire‘s Devin Asaro writes “(Not Provided) Sets You Free”.

Robert Ramirez posts “The Importance of Site Structure in the Absence of Keyword Data” on Bruce Clay Inc.

Avinash Kaushik writes “Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future” on Occam’s Razor.

Search Engine Watch‘s Ben Goodsell writes “How to Use PPC Data to Guide SEO Strategy in a ‘(Not Provided)’ World”.

Higher Education Marketing gives us “3 Other Ways to Get Visitor Keyword Info, Now That It’s ‘Not Provided’ in Google Analytics” by Scott Duncan.

Rebecca Bredhold writes “Three Rules for Effective (Not Provided) Brand Content” on Vocus.

Photo thanks to CileSuns92 (Keys)

Why do some freelance copywriters rake in the bucks while others struggle to make ends meet? Hint: It’s all about tightening up the back end of your business. Learn how to make more money, faster with the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. Save 10% until 11/13/13 with coupon code SECRETS.

TF-IDF Killed The Copywriting Spam

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TF-IDF score goes down as documents containing phrase go upNote: If you want to play with TF-IDF, download this spreadsheet. The first tab is a simple TF-IDF calculator. Enter the occurrences of a word, the words in each document, total documents and the number of documents containing the phrase. It does the rest. The second tab demonstrates falling TF-IDF as documents containing a phrase goes up.

Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF) proves that, in the modern SEO game, quality trumps quantity.

TF-IDF is a text-mining algorithm …

Wait! Don’t run! I’m not here to teach you the math behind TF-IDF. Truth is, I barely understand it myself. But Term Frequency, Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF – a great phrase for the next SEO cocktail party you attend) contains some crucial lessons for us copywriters.

Here’s a very brief description of TF-IDF and how it works (a little fancy math involved):

TF = Term Frequency

We all know this one:

If our key phrase is “flibbergibbet,” and it occurs 4 times in a document that’s 400 words in length, then the TF for “flibbergibbet” is:

4 / 400 = 1%

Some folks call this keyword density. But we’re past that now.

Inverse Document Frequency

Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) is the inverse of the number of documents in which a phrase occurs. That’s a terrible description – I know that because the mathematicians I know all punched me in the arm after I said it. But it’ll work for our purposes.

In case you want to know:

IDF = log(total documents/number of documents with phrase)

So, if “flibbergibbet” appears in 250 out of 1000 documents, the IDF is:

log(1000/250) = .6

TF-IDF

TF-IDF is the Term Frequency times the Inverse Document Frequency, or TF*IDF.

Here’s the thing about IDF that you must understand: As the number of documents containing a phrase goes up, the TF-IDF score goes down. Have a look at this graph — document frequency goes up as you move to the right:

tf-idf goes down as doc occurences go up!!

Yikes. So, the more times you mention a phrase, the less important that phrase appears on a specific page.

What It All Means

We don’t know for certain if the search engines use TF-IDF to determine the importance of a word on a page. But it’s likely they use it or something very like it.

Say you want your website to rank well for our favorite word. You include the word at least 3 times on every single page of your site. That actually reduces the TF-IDF score of each page for “flibbergibbet.”

Of course, there are many, many other ranking factors. Thousands. If your site is 150 pages of fantastic content, and it:

  1. Has a unique, fully descriptive title tag for every page
  2. Has a unique structure for every page
  3. Doesn’t spin or duplicate content
  4. Uses fully-descriptive ALT attributes, etc. etc.

… then TF-IDF probably doesn’t hurt you at all. A visiting search engine can use other signals to determine page relevance.

But content farmers, beware. If you crank out 999 pages of total crap, using your key phrase 5-10 times per page, all you’ve done is made it harder for a search engine to figure out which page is most important for that phrase.

If I were a search engine (and I’m not), I’d take that as a signal of a poorly-organized site.

Wouldn’t you?

The Lesson

In the past, site owners created page after page expounding on a specific key phrase, repeating it time after time in articles that were barely different, poorly written and poorly structured. That’s still a standard “SEO copywriting” tactic. I use quotes because it’s not SEO copywriting at all.

TF-IDF explains why that tactic has lost its power. It also shows why the cliche “If you want to rank, write good stuff,” really is the right strategy. TF-IDF means more isn’t necessarily better. So, write good stuff!

About Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent Interactive, an Internet marketing company he started in 1995. Ian started practicing SEO in 1997, and has been addicted ever since. For more of Ian Lurie’s smarts, raves and rants, check out his Conversation Marketing blog.  He’s also published several reader-friendly, no-nonsense ebooks on SEO copywriting, including The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting and Fat Free Guide to Google Analytics. Follow him on Twitter: @portentint.

SEO Copy Manager Richard Hostler talks in-house SEO copywriting

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SEO Copy Manager Richard Hostler answers in-house SEO copywriting questions.Brookstone SEO Copy Manager and Ironman (he completed the triathlon in July), Richard Hostler takes time out of his work, and workout, schedule to answer our in-house SEO copywriting questions.

Brookstone has such a great “voice” for product descriptions. How was this style developed, and what do you recommend to other in-house copy teams who are trying to determine their company voice?

We’ve come a long way from our early days of selling specialty tools via mail order. Back then, it was much simpler to communicate with customers in a single voice. As our product lines and business evolved, so too did our voice. Now we interact with customers across the country through our stores, catalogs, and email programs, and around the world via our website. Maintaining a single voice across all these channels can be tricky. We strive to keep all our copy informative and engaging, but most of all, fun. After all, we sell fun stuff. Our copy should reflect that.

Brookstone does SEO copywriting right. Do you have a formula down for creating your site content or tips for other copywriters to improve their style and technique?

One point I like to emphasize whenever I talk about SEO copywriting is that it has to be good copywriting first and foremost. Sure, you have to choose the right keywords and employ best practices in your site architecture, but that’s just loading the bases. If you want to score points with your customers or clients, you have to write interesting, informative and engaging content.

Since you aren’t the only one writing the copy, how do you convey the Brookstone style to your writers?

I encourage all writers to keep it simple. Advertising copywriters and SEO copywriters often overthink and overwrite their copy. Our writers need to find whatever is fun and unique about the product at hand and write around that. We have to get to the point quickly to catch the eyes of shoppers who are browsing online, but also tell an engaging enough story to keep the interest of customers who read all the way to the end. Once new writers understand how to keep their copy fun while writing short and long at the same time, they’ve pretty much got the Brookstone style.

What do you look for when hiring an SEO copywriter?

I look for three things. First, I look for a strong writer. This is by far the most critical trait. SEO is something that can be taught. Good writing isn’t. Second, I look for someone who understands the dual nature of SEO copywriting. We are writing for both the spiders and our human readers. Some people get tripped up here and have trouble communicating with both audiences fluently. Finally, I look for someone who really wants the position. I have interviewed dozens of writers over the years who haven’t researched me, my company or our products. If they won’t take the time to prepare for an interview, I have to question whether or not they will put in the research time necessary to be an effective SEO copywriter.

What advice do you have for writers (SEO or otherwise) looking for an in-house copywriting gig?

If a company has an in-house writing team, it will also have plenty of copy for you to check out. Whether this is print ads, catalogs, articles, retail signage, instruction manuals, technical pieces, emails, or any kind of web content, you can use it for two important purposes. First, you can decide if the company’s product set and/or style are a good fit for you. It’s very difficult to write engaging copy day in and day out about something that doesn’t interest you. Second, and this goes back to my answer to the last question, you can use the published copy to better prepare for your interview.

So, you asked me this question during my Brookstone interview. Now, here it is back atcha! What ís the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t take others’ criticism and editing personally. I had real trouble with this when I was getting started in my writing career. I would pour myself into a piece of ad copy or spend days on an article only to have it torn apart by someone higher up the food chain. It’s hard not to take that kind of beatdown personally, but that’s exactly what you have to do. Clients and in-house partners are often unclear when giving instructions for a project. I find that it requires a completed first draft before clear direction is given. Accept the perspective and criticism of others and don’t get defensive about your copy. After all, there’s plenty more (or at least there should be plenty more) where that came from.

Who is your writing inspiration?

My own special odd couple: Dr. Seuss and David Ogilvy. Dr. Seuss twisted, shaped, deconstructed and invented language to create stories that were fun to read and listen to but also touched on some pretty serious subjects. SEO copywriters do the same thing to some extent. We have to come up with creative ways to write around sometimes awkward keywords without offending our readers. David Ogilvy, on the other hand, was the father of advertising as we know it. He worked with big-time clients and wrote many iconic headlines. I have a Divid Ogilvy quote hanging on my office wall to remind me that I am a copywriter first and an SEO copywriter second.

What are the biggest challenges faced by in-house SEO copywriters and how do you overcome, or work around, them?

In-house work brings with it a measure of security and daily routine that can be equal parts benefit and stumbling block. It’s easy to settle in and lose touch with the latest SEO developments. It’s important to keep yourself informed and to constantly hone your SEO copywriting edge. SEO has a short and rapidly evolving history. It’s easy to fall behind.

Is there anything you want to add that our copywriting readers should know?

We have seen some major changes from Google over the past few weeks: all queries switching to “not provided” and the hummingbird update. As with most shakeups from Google, a certain amount of uncertainty has surfaced in the blogosphere. I, however, don’t believe this is a time to panic. In fact, I think it’s a great time to be an SEO copywriter. More than ever, Google is making content king when it comes to search. We may not have the same metrics we’ve relied on for years, but the nature of SEO is the same. Sites need rich, engaging content that feeds the increasingly important knowledge graph. As SEO copywriters, we are the ones who will write this content and help drive the future of search.

About Richard Hostler

Richard Hostler writes engaging copy that generates sales. He is currently the SEO Copy Manager at Brookstone, where he connects online customers with the best gadgets and gifts. When he’s not writing, Richard can be found training for and racing triathlons around New England. You can follow him through his website, LinkedIn or twitter.

 

A 3-step outreach strategy for (new) SEO content creators

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Jon Ball shares a 3-step process for content promotion for new SEO copywritersPublishing content is thrilling, exciting, and a little nerve wracking. There’s a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and even perhaps, vulnerability.

Creating content can be a very revealing process – we share our thoughts, opinions, abilities and general self. At its core it’s a very unfiltered process. But content creation is no time to be shy – the goal of creating anything is ultimately to share that creation with the world.

That’s why outreach is so extremely vital to content creation, and ultimately intertwined with publication. Because if it’s worth the effort of publishing, it’s certainly worth sharing – which can be unfortunately under-emphasized when creative individuals first start creating great content.

Whether it’s a fear of asking, a certain shyness, or the belief that good content will naturally be shared, there’s a multitude of reasons creators don’t outreach to others after publication.

But I implore you – if you’re creating content, you should be spending a healthy amount of time outreaching that same content, asking for feedback, a social share, or even a link.

There are ways to outreach tactfully and respectfully, which can help you garner important industry relationships and contacts. So, to help propel you down the path of content advocate, here’s an outreach checklist after content publication.

1) Defining an Audience – Who Should You Contact?

Outreach is the antithesis of shyness. It’s better to create a large list and whittle it down, if need be, than to create but a handful of contacts.

Before you can even begin to start an outreach campaign based around soon to publish or recently published content, you need to define who your audience is, who will be interested in your content, and who will merely be receptive.

Although who you reach out to is always influenced by your content, as a general rule of thumb you should be contacting:

  • Anyone involved or participating in the content (such as an interview, for example)
  • Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content
  • Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past
  • Influencers within the industry
  • Prior relationships within your industry (the earlier the better – think feedback)
  • Anyone you wish to build a relationship with.

Creating a list based upon these factors should give you a doozy of a list for potential outreach – especially if it’s content worth sharing.

From here, it’s time to be realistic. Outreach should always be finely targeted initially to a core group of those most likely to be receptive. Targeted outreach to kick off an outreach campaign is an extremely underrated leveraging tool.

The goal is to land the most likely big name prospects to start with. If you can name drop a few influencers, experts, or general big industry names within the rest of your outreach you’ve guaranteed yourself a higher response rate.

Beyond even that, those initial successes can create a sharing circle that may well hit potential outreach targets before you do – thereby giving your outreach further credence.

If and when you’ve received a positive response from your targeted list it’s time to move on to less likely targets – those who probably aren’t as interested in your content, but might be influenced to care by industry names conveniently included in your outreach.

The priority should look something like:

influencers/experts likely to respond>prior relationships>those involved or participating>similar content associations>influencers/experts not likely to respond>anyone mentioned, associated, or affected>potential relationships.

The concept is to build as much authority as possible as you move down the list. This increases the odds that those you contact, as they become less relevant or likely to care, won’t be annoyed at the general intrudance, but in fact be grateful for being included in your outreach process since other important people were also included and responded.

Social proof should never be underestimated.

2) Creating an organized outreach list

Although ideally done before or during the content creation, if you haven’t yet formed a list of outreach contacts you’ll absolutely want to assemble one prior to starting the actual outreach, after you’ve defined your audience.

There’s a variety of tools that can help form and manage an outreach list, including:

Google documents is completely free, with Excel being free if already installed (or you have MS Office). Buzzstream and Raven both scale based upon pricing plans.

Personally, I’ve found that unless the project is fairly large I can get by with Google docs just fine. It’s simple, shareable, and easy to use and manipulate. Pretty much everything I need from an ordered list of outreach contacts. Google docs is a great place for beginners to start.

Organization of the list can boil down to personal preference – do you want a thorough list with a multitude of layers of information, or a minimalistic list to keep it easy to read and quick to navigate?

Here’s what a typical outreach list looks like when I’m building a Google doc outreach form:

First Outreach List Example

 

I started with the result, to ensure maximum visibility and scanability. After that comes the name of the contact, their email, social media, website, our relationship, and three attempts at outreach – the third switching to social media.

This should keep the list well organized as you move through your outreach, but minimalistic enough to ensure ease of use.

Note as well that I froze the first row, so that as I scrolled down through the contacts I was able to keep the identifying information on top (and bolded).

Here’s a screenshot showing how to do so:

Outreach freeze row

 

 

The result, name of contact, email, social media and relationship should all be pretty self explanatory.

Those unfamiliar with outreach might wonder why three outreach attempts. Three is important because:

  • Any more and you run the risk of becoming annoying and/or flagged as spam
  • The first should be personalized, explain the point of the email succinctly, and have a call to action.
  • The second outreach attempt should be a simple follow up, two or three sentences max, attached to the first email, with another short call to action – ie “Emailed you on (date) and wanted to check in that you saw it. Are you interested?”
  • The third outreach attempt will be a switch to social media – again a short notification and call to action.

If you’re only going to attempt a single outreach, you’re better off not wasting your time outreaching – your response rate is bound to be dismal. People are inundated with email and information overload anymore. Your goal should be to contact them in a useful, brief, informative manner without causing further annoyance.

Three is few enough to typically fall short of annoying, while maximizing the chance of them reading, engaging, and responding.

The switch to social media on the third attempt will also help with email fatigue, while offering forward the social proof of your identity (assuming your social media presence is established).

3) The Outreach Process

This has been covered brilliantly a few times, most recently by Stephany Beadell of SEER and Richard Marriott of Clambr, both of which I strongly recommend you read.

To boil down their – along with quite a few other outreach expert’s – advice, here’s what you should know:

  • Be short and to the point, focusing on your message, it’s value, and always ending with a singular call to action.
  • Be human – templates are fine, but your goal for every outreach should be to be as human as possible.
  • Make it easy to respond to – yes or no if possible – and quick to reply.
  • Make sure you’re outreaching to the right people, in a targeted order.
  • Don’t thank someone just for reading your email – although you can and should thank them when and if they do reply, share, or link.
  • Follow up as appropriate – I use a personalized first email, an extremely short follow up email two to three days after the first, and then a final switch to social media if I still haven’t received a response.
  • Don’t get dejected – the online world is fast paced, busy, and noisy. You’ll never have 100% of people respond to your outreach, which means someone important will always slip through the cracks.

Remember, we don’t live on an island. The internet is a fun, crazy, crowded place. You’ll never be noticed if you don’t make some noise yourself. So the next time you’ve created some content worth sharing, and are set to publish, don’t skimp on the outreach campaign. Because without a little elbow grease to get feedback, social shares, and even links, you’ll never get off the ground, nor build any lasting, beneficial relationships.

The internet is no place to be shy.

Recap

After (or before, if possible) publication, you should prepare to outreach by:

1. Define your audience – who’s interested in your content?

a. Anyone involved or participating in the content

b. Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content

c. Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past

d. Influencers within the industry

e. Prior relationships within your industry

f. Anyone you wish to build a relationship with

2. Create a usable, organized outreach list

a. There are a variety of tools, but beginners might want to start with Google docs

3. The outreach process

a. Be short and to the point, with a singular call to action

b. Be human and respectful

c. Begin with a targeted audience, who you can later cite as social proof

d. Follow up as appropriate, and quick to respond

e. Don’t get dejected – you’ll never get a 100% response rate

 

About the AuthorJon Ball

Jon Ball is VP of Business Development for Page One Power. Jon specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building strategies for clients across the globe. In his previous life he was a professional portrait photographer, and still passionately pursues photography. Page One Power is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy and transparency.

 

Save 25% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training through September 30th! Use coupon code SEPTEMBER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Google made me despise goats & press releases in one day

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Derek Cromwell shares how he recovered from Google's press release links penaltyGoats that scream like humans are the funniest thing to me.

Excuse me… WERE the funniest.

You know the screaming goat in the Doritos commercial where its eyes went wide at the empty pantry, when all the Doritos went missing?

I did that, and it was all thanks to the latest July update from Google and their Blitzkrieg assault on press release links.

Never before have I ever had an issue with a Google update.  I practiced what I preached to my clients, so that meant that from the home page of my site to every piece of content I published I was all about my audience and delivering great content.

Are You &^%$#@ Kidding Me?

That was basically my reaction (post scream) when I got the slap from Google.  It was mid-August when I suddenly realized that my website was torn from page 1 of Google and shuffled all the way back to page 5 for my biggest money keyword.

My immediate reaction:

  • Sign out of Google and search again (didn’t help)
  • Switch browsers (didn’t change it)
  • Check from my smartphone (cried a little)
  • Checked from my laptop – page 6 (goat scream again, much louder this time)

I had the freak out that my clients have had so many times – the one where I have to calm them and tell them that it’s fixable.  It took me a few minutes to settle my nerves and try to figure out the cause.  I immediately turned to recent Google updates and that triggered it right away.

Uh-oh… My press release links.

I had done a number of press releases via PRWeb between 2010 and 2011.  When I published them they were one of the big pieces that helped push my visibility up for several keywords.  Now they were biting me in the ass.

I immediately logged into PRWeb, edited each, and stripped the anchored keywords away.  I changed nothing else and republished the releases.

Then I played the waiting game while I gingerly went about my content writing and marketing for by business.

Thankfully, as the days wore on, I began to see an immediate positive change as my site moved spot after spot up the pages – closer to page 1 each day.  I have yet to regain my original spot for most coveted keyword phrase but I’m confident that through the continued use of quality content that I will get there again.

“AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa! But What About Me?!”

That ^%$#@ got you too, didn’t it?  Here’s some advice from my firsthand experience on how to recover when Google does come knocking and demands that you pay.

Take a breath – It’s going to affect your business.  It’s scary.  But there’s nothing you can do about it right this second.  Think about what you’ve done lately in your marketing, in the past, and what kind of updates have occurred in the world of search.  Take that info, pick it apart and define how you’ll respond

Here’s hoping you had and hung onto an editorial calendar so you know what you’ve been doing down to the day.

Undo what has been done – There aren’t too many things in life where you get a do-over.  Thankfully with the search engines we can do the “I didn’t take my hand off the piece” and fix our position… most of the time.

  • Keyword anchored links in a PR?  Remove them… immediately.
  • Spammy articles distributed online taking you down? Kill the author box links
  • Buying links and getting nailed for it?  Stop buying links, and request the others get taken down (or have them point to a competitor…. no seriously take them down.)

Plan for the future – Remember that despite all the changes that Google makes to their search algorithm and how content is ranked, they will never penalize you for having quality content.  It’s what you do with that content that matters.

The fastest way to recover from any downslide in the search results is to double down your efforts at producing, publishing and sharing really great content.  I’m confident that this, coupled with pulling those anchored links from my press releases, it’s what’s giving me such a quick recovery for competitive keywords in this industry.

And no more screaming goat videos.  It’s just not funny anymore.

About the Author ~ Derek Cromwell

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the Success Works SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of TBMedia.net.  He fancies himself as a website copywriter, peddling content marketing and copywriting to clients around the globe.  He enjoys well-deserved date nights with wife, military simulation paintball, raising his many children, and running with his rambunctious Siberian Husky, Bella.

photo thanks to PaulODonnell

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Conversions optimization: Does your sales copy sing?

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This week's SEO content challenge is conversions optimization with sales contentLast week, we discussed whether your home page was doing its job. If it is, then your site visitors are clicking through to your sales pages.

So today the question is: how are your sales pages performing? Are you seeing the conversions you want?

If you’re selling products, how do your product descriptions read? Are they targeted to your market with the appropriate tone and feel? Are they highly descriptive? Or are they generic, abbreviated blurbs?

Neglecting to flesh out your product descriptions could be costing you customers.

Beyond product and service descriptions, how does your sales copy read overall? Is it so laden with keyphrases that it’s difficult to read? Are your keyphrases still relevant?

Is your call to action prominently displayed?

Does your sales content sing with specific benefits? Or does it simply list your product or service features?

This week’s SEO content challenge: Review your sales pages. Check your analytics, and look at bounce rates.

Then seek out every opportunity to improve your sales copy, and watch your conversions take off!

image thanks to Cea

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

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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

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5 things your SEO copywriter needs to create powerful content

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For targeted, conversions-driving content, your SEO copywriter needs to know these 5 thingsSending a list of keywords to your SEO copywriter is a good start for your new web project, but it’s not everything he or she needs to turn your pages into gold.

Your writer needs to have a solid understanding of you, your products/services and your audience. Here are five key pieces of information to send their way so you can maximize your investment.

1.   A detailed ideal client profile.

Your web copy pages should be written for your client – not for your industry peers. The pages should be written as if your company is speaking directly to your customers.

Think about it this way: you’d have a much different style of speech planned if you were presenting to the residents of a local senior center instead of fellow business executives.

Your writer needs to know who they are speaking to. They’ll use this information to do some research about who your ideal clients are, how they speak and how they like to be spoken to.

2.   A tone or approach for your brand.

The way your ideal clients communicate isn’t the only thing that your SEO copywriter needs in terms of voice. The tone or approach for your company is essential information for your writer. They need to speak in the voice of your company.

Is your company a trusted advisor who is formal and informative? Is it the best friend who is giddy and excited to share? Is it the gentle coach who is encouraging and helpful?

If you’re not sure, now is the time to decide. Getting down your tone and feel is important for your SEO copywriting project – and for conversions!

3.   A short list of competitors.

Your direct competitors represent the environment in which you’re making your digital pitch. Your SEO copywriter needs to know who you’re up against, and how your competitors are approaching the same topics that you’ll need to cover.

A review of competitor websites can help tweak a headline or perfect a call to action that will make sure that website visitors convert on your site instead of heading back to the search engine results.

4.   The per page call to action.

Speaking of conversions, your SEO copywriting webpage plan needs to outline the call to action per page.

If this is going to be part of the web design, let your writer know. If they need to use a specific phrase or call to action that will be repeated throughout the site, make that clear. Or if you need a new idea for a site-wide call to action, now is the time to establish that.

5.   An hour interview with your top products/services expert.

Handing off the reins via email or project management system is a good start, but your SEO copywriter will greatly benefit from an exploratory call. Having an exploratory call has become standard operating procedure at Endurance Marketing because we get so much from the experience – and that reflects in the copywriting.

Even if you have thousands of pages of research material, getting on the phone with your top sales person or VP of marketing can help your SEO copywriter sharpen his or her focus and determine where to start first.

Make the effort – and the time – to give your SEO copywriter these key pieces. You’ll see better results in engagement, search engine rankings, conversions and general satisfaction. And who doesn’t want that?

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 Tomas Sobek

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SEO experts weigh in: Authorship, social SEO, link building & Schema

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Four guest posts by SEO copywriting experts are featuredFrom time to time we like to feature some of our best guest author content – and you’ll be glad to know that today is just such a time!

Beginning with Eric Enge’s post on what Google’s authorship markup means for SEO, we’ve also included Dana Lookadoo on optimizing content for social sharing, Carrie Hill on how to use Schema markup to stand out in search, and Jon Hall on why link building in the real world requires the work of sales.

So here are they are…Savor, bookmark…enjoy!

 

What Google's authorship markup means for SEOWhat Google’s authorship markup means for SEO

Eric Enge has been tracking Google’s authorship markup since the search giant announced its support for it back in June of 2011. In this article, he discusses why authorship will become a ranking signal, and shares three takeaways for SEO content marketers.

 

 

 

 

Send the right search signals with social content optimizationSend the right search signals with social content optimization

Dana Lookadoo expands on her presentation to Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Certification members, delving into how to structure content so it is more likely to be shared. She also explains Open Graph protocol and how to track social shares in Google Analytics.

 

 

Make your SEO content shine in search with SchemaMake your SEO content shine in search with Schema

Carrie Hill shares her expertise on how to use Schema.org mark-up to improve search positions. She discusses the three best Schema protocols to learn as an SEO content writer, and emphasizes how acquiring this skill set can set you apart from 99% of other SEO copywriters.

 

 

 

Real link building requires salesReal link building requires sales

Jon Ball shares his considerable real-world experience in link building to highlight what a post-Penguin strategy requires: sales. He discusses how SEOs have become afraid to pursue links, instead passively relying on “inbound marketing.” He then outlines steps to successful link building in the real world.

 

 

image thanks to winnifredxoxo

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