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Category Archive: Copywriting

  1. How to Use Content to Earn More Conversions

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    Conversions are your path to making more money online. Get more conversions, and you’ll earn more revenue. It’s that simple. There are a handful of ways to increase your conversion rates, from using paid advertising to featuring your products on external eCommerce platforms, but for me, there’s no better tool for achieving conversions than content.

    “Conversions” are often loosely defined, and you’ll encounter some writers who will say a conversion has taken place when someone clicks through a different article, or socially shares your piece of content. For the purposes of this guide, however, we’ll focus on harder, more measurably valuable conversions—usually either securing a purchase or donation, or collecting some meaningful bits of personal information from a user. This guide’s intention is to teach you how to use content to get more of these hardline conversions for your site.

    Content vs. Copywriting

    First, I need to acknowledge an important distinction between content writing and copywriting. Though similar, copywriting is typically short-form, and focused on persuading an audience to take a specific action. You’ll find this type of writing in advertisements frequently. See Trello’s ad as an example:

    Trello

    (Image Source: Trello)

    Here, you have a catchy headline, a short description, and a CTA button. This is a fine example of copywriting, but it doesn’t have enough meat to be qualified as “content” in this sense. We’ll touch on elements of copywriting when we get to the section on in-content calls-to-action, but for the most part, everything in this guide will focus on actual content marketing.

    The 3 Pillars of Content-Conversion Relationships

    There are three main areas where content can affect your conversion rates, and I’m going to explore each of them in turn:

    • Acquisition.First, there’s content’s capacity to earn you more visitors. Increased traffic, with a steady conversion rate, is going to result in a higher total number of conversions. Our goals here will be writing, publishing, and syndicating content across multiple channels to secure the greatest volume and relevance of traffic to your site or landing page.
    • Exchange. Content may also be used as an element of exchange, particularly when it comes to B2B conversions that only ask for personal information as a conversion event. This content must be equal to or greater in value than the information you’re requesting.
    • Immediate conversion. There’s also the opportunity to leverage your content as a platform for immediate conversion. Here, you’ll be injecting CTAs into the body of your content in an effort to secure a completed conversion event.

    Without further ado, let’s find out exactly how content can secure you the conversion rates you’ve always wanted.

    Content as Acquisition

    Let’s assume that you have a steady conversion rate. You’re happy with it, but you need more inbound traffic to scale your total number of conversions to a desirable level. The best thing to do here is focus on generating traffic—and even if your conversion rate leaves something to be desired, more traffic is going to help you eventually, so you might as well get started here.

    Content is your greatest tool for long-term traffic generation, because it can be used in three interrelated ways.

    Onsite Content and SEO

    Understand that every new piece of content you create on your site is another page for Google to crawl and another opportunity for an average searcher to encounter your brand. My quick search for “SEO news” turned up three articles before even getting to the organic results, and this certainly isn’t the only way to get more search visibility.

    SEO News Search Results

    Writing more content gives your site more text for Google to crawl, giving it a better understanding of your site. Each new piece is also an opportunity to rank for a relevant user query. Accordingly, all your pieces should be:

    • Highly specific. General topics, like “SEO,” are already done to death by major brands you probably can’t afford to compete with—plus Google’s Knowledge Graph may supply searchers with this general information before they ever encounter you. Choosing very specific topics will help you navigate around these competitive challenges, and secure you greater per-piece visibility.
    • Desirable. Obviously, your content can only be found if people are actually searching for it. You’ll want to delve into some keyword research, competitive research, and into your current client base with surveys to ensure you’re selecting topics that people actually want to read. Generally, the more practical they are, the better.
    • Targeted. Your inbound traffic is only going to convert if they’re comprised of your target demographics in a mid- to late-stage of the buying cycle. Write your content accordingly. Dig deep into your market research, and try to supply information for the types of people who are most likely to convert once on your site.
    • Optimized. I won’t get into the specifics of SEO in this article, but know that your articles will have to meet certain SEO protocols to maximize their chances of being featured in SERPs. For example, title tags, header tags, a meta description, and visual elements should all be included.

    Be aware that it takes time to develop your domain authority to the point where your content earns a substantial rank.

    Offsite Content

    Offsite content has two main purposes. The first is for SEO and organic visibility. Google sees inbound links as a form of third-party approval of a site; a link from a high-authority domain will “pass” authority to its intended destination, increasing its authority by proxy. This occurs on both a domain and page level, and is necessary if you want to earn any ranking momentum.

    The second is for referral traffic. Any link you build using an offsite piece of content will be clickable, and if the content is good enough, it will generate a substantial stream of traffic to your site.

    You can take advantage of both these benefits as long as you have a solid offsite content marketing campaign. Typically, this involves getting your content featured on sources of increasing authority, from local news sites and forums to major national publishers. Again, I’ll stay out of the weeds on this, but I’ll leave you with a handful of important takeaways on how offsite content can best increase traffic ready to convert:

    • Write stellar content. If you’re just stuffing links into mediocre material, you’ll lose referral traffic, and you might not even get accepted by external publishers in the first place.
    • Know your audiences. Don’t write for a publisher whose audience is far outside your target demographics.
    • Link to your key conversion opportunities. If you have specific landing pages or product pages, link to them frequently to boost their page authority. If your homepage doubles as a conversion opportunity, that makes the process even simpler:

    Wave Apps

    (Image Source: WaveApps)

    Social Syndication

    You can also use your content as the “meat” for your social media campaign. Rather than constantly trying to goad your followers into visiting your site or buying your products, you’ll supply them with a near-constant stream of valuable content, which they can use to inform their decisions and build trust in your brand. Click-through rates on content are higher than for sales (typically), so use your content as a bridge to get your social users to your site, and sell them once they’ve crossed that bridge.

    Of course, you’ll also have to work on building up your social audiences—the more dedicated, active followers you have, the higher impact your content syndication will have on your bottom line. Remember to engage with your users, leverage the power of influencers to tap new markets, and remain as personal and active as possible.

    Content as an Exchange

    Conversions are always an opportunity of exchange; in conventional B2C settings, this involves a customer handing over money in exchange for a physical product. The more valuable this product is, the more likely it is that the consumer will partake in the exchange, giving you a critical opportunity to secure more conversions.

    There are two scenarios in which content may be used as the “other half” of this exchange as a standalone value. The first is in a B2B setting, where your company is only after personal information of potential leads. Personal information is valuable, if only mildly, and people won’t part with it unless they know they’re getting something out of the deal. Content, a digital good with infinite replicability, serves the role of exchange here quite well.

    Take HubSpot’s usual eBook offer as an example:

    hubspot optin form design

    (Image Source: Hubspot)

    The other scenario is one in which content is offered as the product in exchange for money, though an even higher standard of quality is demanded here. Still, both scenarios share much in common and can be used to the same ends.

    Key Values

    There are a handful of “must have” features for content you’re using as an exchange for conversion value:

    • Originality. It was true for your onsite and offsite content, but here it’s even more important. Why would someone give you their personal information for an eBook that they can basically read elsewhere on the Internet for free? Original research and new data is imperative here to seal the deal.
    • Practical value. Most people are willing to pay more (or give up more) for something that has a practical value than something that has a passing, or entertainment value. Give them something that could be qualified as an investment; teach them a new skill, or improve their lives in some meaningful way.
    • Exclusivity. You can’t offer an eBook in exchange for personal information, then distribute that same eBook for free to your social media followers. Your content should be an exclusive offer for anyone willing to convert. It’s a way of introducing scarcity value and simultaneously making sure people feel like they got their money’s worth (or in this case, information’s worth).
    • Length. Your eBook or whitepaper can’t be 1,000 words. Don’t stuff your content with fluff, either. Give your audience a long, detailed, yet still-concise piece.
    • Authority. If you want people to follow through with the conversion before reading your piece, you need to convince them that it’s all you say it is. This means showcasing your authority, or otherwise proving that you have the qualifications to make this piece of content worth your visitors’ time. Referencing past works, noting your industry affiliations, and offering up reviews and testimonials are all good ideas here.

    Balancing the Exchange

    This is a tough consideration, since you won’t be dealing with any absolute values, but it’s an important one. Remember, a conversion is all about exchange, so you need to know how valuable each side of the exchange is to maximize the potential payoff.

    For example, if you spent a year of your life doing the research and living the experiences that led you to write this eBook, asking for just a first name and an email address, or asking for $0.99 isn’t going to justify your work. On the other hand, if you invested a minimum in your original research, it isn’t fair to ask your customers for pages of personal information or $29.99.

    There are two good ways to do this. The first is through research—take a look at your competition and see what they’re offering, and what they’re asking for in exchange. Use this comparatively to settle on the value of your own offers and requests.

    The second is through experience. Experiment with different price levels and forms of content to see which prices and offers “stick.”

    Previewing the Content

    Most users won’t be satisfied with your promise that the content they’re about to receive is good enough to make the exchange. They need some kind of proof, or preview. At the same time, you don’t want to give away the secret sauce.

    The solution is to give your users a tease—tell them what types of things they’re going to find in the body of your content, but don’t tell them the exact things they’re going to find. Take a look at how HubSpot handles this, identifying some of the quote contributors without giving away the actual quotes:

    101 Awesome Marketing Quotes

    (Image Source: HubSpot)

    In-Content Calls-to-Action

    The third pillar of content-conversion relationships is probably the most important, as it directly affects your conversion rate in any context, rather than affecting only your inbound traffic figures or being limited to one application. The goal here is to include CTAs within the body of your onsite content, which is already doubling as a means of increasing search visibility and generating inbound traffic.

    In some ways, these CTAs are like any other; they need to be short, compelling, accurate, and persuasive. However, if you want to retain the value and appeal of your content as is, you can’t go the traditional advertising approach in total.

    Take Crazy Egg’s traditional advertisement as an example:

    crazy egg ad

    (Image Source: Crazy Egg/Wordstream)

    This is a good example of an effective CTA, but it’s still an advertisement. This makes the CTA almost confrontational—pinning a user down with a pitch, and forcing them to either convert or depart. Instead, content-based CTAs are softer, and hinge on trust that you’ve already built with the quality and usefulness of your material.

    Topic Selection

    The first hurdle to overcome in maximizing the conversion potential of your content is to choose the right topics. At a glance, this means selecting content topics within your area of expertise that your target market would find useful. For example, if you sell skateboards, it wouldn’t make sense to write content about the best types of office furniture for a startup. It would instead cater to individuals who might be in the market for a new skateboard, covering topics like “how to repair a broken axle” or the even-more-blunt, “how to choose your next skateboard.”

    Try not to make your topics too sales-y, or it will turn people away. Buyer’s guides and product comparison articles are helpful, but if that’s all you put out, people will gradually feel alienated from you. Provide helpful, original material that a prospective buyer might read. Know your sales cycle inside and out, and target people at multiple stages to nurture them to a conversion.

    Three Main Approaches

    Once you’ve properly identified the right types of topics, you’re essentially halfway done with the battle. You’ll have a stream of optimal customer candidates reading your content. Now, your job is to guide them to a successful conversion. You can’t just stick a CTA in the middle of your article, so you have to use a subtler, more tactical approach.

    There are three main approaches to in-content CTAs.

    • The redirect. The redirect encourages users to head to a different section of the site. It doesn’t contain any pitch by itself, but instead compels a reader to discover content that does the “pitching” on another section of the site. For example, let’s say you’re an HR consultant, and you have a dedicated landing page that explains what you do and asks users for personal information. In the body of one of your articles, you may include a reference to something like “this is just one of the many services an HR consultant can offer you,” with a link to your full list of services. Or you might be more direct with a straightforward request like, “for more information, check out my contact page.” This is advantageous because it keeps the primary focus on the value of your content, rather than on the sales pitch, but disadvantageous because it delays the customer’s point of conversion.
    • The casual mention. The casual mention is a discreet way to offer up one of your products or services in the body of your article. For example, if you sell clothing and you’re writing about this year’s biggest fashion trends, you can mention some of your top selling products, along with prices, as a kind of mini-sales-pitch. The same can work for B2B companies; for example, you can write something like, “link building is essential for SEO success, but you may need to hire an agency like AudienceBloom to execute the work professionally.” This is a harder sell, but it still doesn’t deviate far from the core of the article.
    • The sales pitch. The sales pitch is essentially a mini advertisement, usually at the end of the article, that only loosely connects to the body of the article and instead focuses on getting the customer to a point of conversion. For example, at the end of an article on “X common skateboard repairs,” you could have a section with text like, “When you skate, you want the best. Our company offers top-of-the-line skateboards in al styles to make sure you perform your best.” Its weakness is that it deviates from the central value of your content, but it also makes a harder sell.

    Since each of these approaches has distinct advantages and disadvantages, I encourage you to use all three of them in rotation to maximize your potential payoff. If you notice one style outperforming the others, don’t be afraid to switch. Remember, your main priority here is to provide excellent content—if you have a great CTA embedded in an iffy, poorly written article, it isn’t going to land.

    Similarly, you can’t just post a link and hope people will click. Your wording needs to be sharp, concise, compelling, and accurate—like any CTA—if you want your readers to convert.

    Optimization and Improvement

    You don’t have to be satisfied with your traffic, or your conversion rates. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that your first-draft strategy isn’t going to earn you the best possible results. The only way to improve your campaign is to take careful measurements of your most important metrics, make iterative changes, and then evaluate to see whether or not your changes were effective. Just be careful how you measure and report the differences—you never know how your biases may be affecting how you perceive the results.

    One of the best ways to do this is through ongoing A/B testing. The basic premise of an A/B test is to create nearly identical scenarios, with one small difference between them, to see if one scenario outperforms the other. For example, you might write two highly similar articles with very different CTAs to see if one CTA performs better than the other. You can use this information to maximize the return on your future pieces.

    AB Testing

    (Image Source: VWO)

    You can change virtually anything and see a potential difference, but here’s a short list of ideas for your variables:

    • Content topics, lengths, and target audience. The nature of your content will have a huge bearing on the type of audience who reads your material and their disposition by the time they get to your CTA. Don’t rule out the possibility of targeting a different audience altogether, and look to your competition to get inspiration for new content angles.
    • Syndication channels and framing. There are hundreds of possible channels for you to distribute your content, each with different audience segments and different advantages and disadvantages. Get to know them, and experiment with different channels and angles to maximize your inbound content value.
    • Content previews. This is exclusively for using content as a basis for exchange, but experiment with providing different previews for your offered material.
    • Types of calls-to-action used. Rotate between redirects, casual mentions, and full-blown pitches. You may find that different angles work better for different applications, or that one in particular is ideal for your niche.
    • Wording of calls-to-action used. Of course, you should also experiment with the copy you use in the body of your content to call out your products and services. Tiny differences, sometimes only a word or two, can make the difference. It also pays to change up the language so regular readers don’t get tired of the same message at the end of every piece.

    Think of your content-based conversion strategy as a constant, revolving experiment. The more ways you tinker with it, the more you’ll learn, and the better performance rate you’ll eventually earn.

    Conclusion

    The two variables that affect your total number of conversions are your total inbound traffic and your overall conversion rate. Content, if you know how to wield it, has the potential to influence both. By leveraging the power of content for SEO, offsite reputation building, and social syndication, you’ll maximize your inbound traffic streams. Offering content as part of the conversion exchange can aid your conversion rates on landing pages and specific callouts, while in-content CTAs are your best bet in other applications. In any case, the more you invest in your strategy with quality, focus, research, and ongoing development, the better your content can support your overall conversion goals.

  2. How to Write Clearer, Simpler, and Faster in Any Niche

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    No matter what industry you’re in or who your target demographics are, a powerful writing style will take your brand to the next level. For most modern online brands, this means using a combination of strong copy on your website and traditional ads as well as developing an ongoing content marketing strategy with a blog and peripheral content materials. As general advice goes, the better the content strategy, the happier your customers will be.

    There are dozens of ways to make your content strategy better, including doing better research, knowing your demographics more intimately, and including more multimedia content in your strategy; these would all serve as interesting, separate topics. Today I want to focus on three critical writing skills that apply to everyone, in any niche: clarity, simplicity, and efficiency.

    Clearer, Simpler, and Faster

    Why these three specific qualities of writing? Let’s break this down.

    The effectiveness of your content strategy is going to depend on dozens of interrelated factors. But what does it mean to be effective? It means communicating your message in a way that makes sense for your audience, and earning a positive ROI while doing so. Choosing the right audience and choosing the right message are both important, but they don’t have much to do with your writing style, or the literal process of writing.

    When it comes to the actual writing process, much depends on the industry and format—for example, a BuzzFeed-style post in the news industry might require different techniques than menu descriptions for a local donut shop. Based on this fact and the eliminative process I used above, I can think of three main categories of factors that influence the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of your approach.

    • Writing clearer is about getting your message across as completely as possible. This means diminishing the opportunities for misinterpretation and leaving “no stone unturned” when it comes to the thoroughness of your work.
    • Writing simpler is about conciseness. With decreasing attention spans and increasing competition for content, the winning articles tend to be those who pack the most amount of punch in the smallest amount of space.
    • Writing faster is about producing more, higher quality work in a shorter amount of time and with a smaller degree of effort. Over time, this will result in fewer expenditures (both time and money) and earn you a higher ROI overall.

    Tailoring Advice to Your Niche

    The advice I dispense throughout this article will apply, in principle, to any business’s content marketing strategy in any niche. Taken at face value, they’ll be applicable to straightforward forms of content (such as blogs, whitepapers, and eBooks), and much of it can be applied to other forms of content, such as personal emails, social media posts, or even web copy.

    However, it’s important for you to realize that every business and every niche is different, and that you may need to make some adjustments to make this work for your brand. For example, if your brand voice is casual and informal, striving for too much conciseness could make you come across as stuffy or unapproachable. Similarly, while clarity is always a good thing, the type of clarity you need may depend on your audience—for example, if your demographics are expressly familiar with your industry, you’ll need to explain fewer terms and get to your main points faster.

    With those caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at the ways you can make your writing better all-around.

    Clarity

    Clear writing is writing that communicates all of your intentions with as few ambiguities and as many details as possible. It’s not a new phenomenon; companies have been striving for better clarity for decades, and it’s always been a part of academia.

    Clear Writing

    (Image Source: Hubspot)

    You could just strive to “write clearer,” but that isn’t a specific or actionable strategy. Instead, let’s take a look at specific ways you can increase the clarity of your writing.

    Front-Loading

    Front-loading is the process of including more relevant information earlier on in your writing. It’s important for several reasons, and manifests in multiple different ways. For example, you can front-load an entire article by putting your most relevant information in the headline of your piece, or you can front-load a single sentence by leveraging the most useful and/or necessary information in your first few words. Why do this?

    • Attention. Your readers’ attention spans are short, valuable, and fragile. Many of them will only skim over your article, but almost all of them will catch the earliest information in your headline, intro, paragraphs, and sentences. Front-loading takes advantage of this, and gets your message to the greatest possible number of people.
    • Context. Writing is a process of introduction and clarification; just as this sentence illustrates, your job is to introduce a topic and then explain how or why it’s relevant. Introducing your main point earlier gives readers a grounding of context before they move on to your examples.
    • Memory. Introducing your valuable information earlier on gives you a chance to strengthen the overall memorability of your message, especially if you repeat that message tastefully in the rest of your work.

    The most important opportunities for front-loading exist in your headlines, sub-headers, and topic sentences.

    Organization

    The organization of your article is also necessary to communicate your points clearly. Again, there are a number of reasons for this.

    A casual reader or skimmer will be able to browse the article from a distance and pick out precisely the information he/she needs with minimal effort. In-depth readers will appreciate the logical flow of one idea to the next. During the writing process, it can even help you flesh out some of your most important ideas. Take a look at how the simple topic breakdown of the Wikipedia page for the Beatles immediately makes the long, complex page more decipherable and approachable:

    Wikipedia

    (Image Source: Wikipedia)

    This should be your goal, though you don’t need to have a strict table of contents like this. Throughout your article, you’ll want to hit on the main points of organization quality:

    • Logical transitions. Don’t include points randomly, and don’t use non-sequiturs to jump from one topic to another. Even a casual reader should be able to identify why your sections exist as they do, and feel comfortable shifting from one to the other.
    • Deliberate order. If you can rearrange the list of sub-topics you present in your article, you’ve probably done something wrong. There should be a meaningful and deliberate order to your sub-sections, even if that just means including your most valuable points at the end of the article.
    • Framing. Your introduction and conclusion are the most powerful parts of your article; use them wisely.

    This should be one of the first things you accomplish for your article, since you can do it during the outline process and it basically dictates everything else in your piece.

    Formatting

    The formatting of your article can also lend some serious clarity to your piece overall. Though some elements of formatting and organization are somewhat interchangeable, there is a truly significant distinction; organization refers to your choice and order of broad topics, while formatting refers to how you present those topics in a visual format.

    For example, breaking up your content into paragraphs of related, short sentences is far better than leaving your audience exhausted with long, rambling blocks of text. Similarly, bulleted and numbered lists offer concise, punctuated items that represent or verify your arguments, and using bold and italics can help you make certain elements of your sentences stand out.

    Formatting serves two important functions; it gives skimmers a chance to get the gist of your article, and gives other readers a “recap” that helps them return to and better understand a given section. With this in mind, your biggest job in formatting is making sure you select the best parts of your content to emphasize.

    Specificity

    Even topics that offer well-organized subtopics and decent formatting can fall victim to ambiguity if you don’t offer enough specific information to your readers. “Specific” here can mean a few different things, so I’ll explore them.

    First, specific means deliberate. Your word choices have a powerful effect on how your content is interpreted, so be choosy and only use the words that communicate your ideas best. A perfect example of this is the difference between passive voice, which uses indirect references, and active voice, which uses direct references:

    passive and active voices

    (Image Source: Writing Commons)

    Notice how all the passive phrases sound clunky and awkward, and how most of them make you think, if even for an extra second, to fully understand the phrase. The active phrase counterparts are much more straightforward and accessible.

    Second, specific means precise. Don’t use vague words or generalities when you can substitute highly targeted words and phrases for them. For example, don’t say “a lot of companies” when you could substitute something like “80 percent of companies.” Even if you don’t have access to this data, you can use more specific terms like “the majority of companies I’ve worked with” or “most B2B companies.” Leave no room for misinterpretation.

    Illustrations

    The human mind is programmed for abstract thought; it’s easier for us to think in metaphors, illustrations, comparisons, and ideas than it is to think in words and numbers. While improving the specificity of your writing is important, it only appeals to the “words and numbers” part of the brain. If you want to make your ideas as clear as possible, you need to appeal to that intuitive, abstract part as well.

    The best way to do this is with illustrations. You can take this literally and include things like charts and diagrams in the body of your work, but don’t underestimate the value of a good metaphor. For example, Einstein’s theory of general relativity is mathematically complex and almost inaccessible to the average person, but as soon as you liken the curvature of spacetime in the presence of massive objects to a bowling ball warping a taut rubber sheet, it starts to make sense.

    Don’t worry about the details here; your illustrations are not meant to be taken literally, nor are they going to be the only means your audience has of understanding your ideas. Instead, think of them as a complementary service, like condiments at a hot dog stand.

    Simplicity

    Next, we move onto simplicity. There’s significant overlap between clarity and simplicity, since the clearest writing is often simple by default. However, these are independent ideas, and if you want your content to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to simplify your message drastically.

    Take a look at this ad from Dove:

    Dove Ad

    (Image Source: Coull)

    This ad actually sacrifices some clarity by refusing to elaborate on the details of its intentions. Instead, a simple pairing of words is enough to convey the powerful idea behind this campaign—and that makes it all the more effective.

    Just as long, rambling jokes often fail to be as clever as basic one-liners, simple content outperforms weighty content almost every time. How can you accomplish this for your own writing?

    Focus

    First, make sure your focus is in the right place. You should have a clear goal for your article, even if it’s a “general” topic, or one that wanders to several different areas. Do this: try and reduce your entire article to a single sentence, or a single point that you’re trying to make. If you can’t do it, your article might be too broad, or you might need to find a way to make an argument, rather than just blindly stating facts.

    Once you have this, consider it your “keystone.” Theoretically, every word of your article should in some way point back to this keystone statement. Every sentence should either present, illustrate, or confirm a point that eventually leads back to your overall argument—if it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

    You can also create “keystones” for each of your sub-sections, or even each of your paragraphs. Doing so will help you stay focused and avoid deviating from the most important parts of your content.

    Strong Words

    There are over one million words in the English language. If you’re spewing thoughts from the top of your head, chances are you’re not coming up with the best possible choices and combinations. You don’t have to agonize over every word in your article, but making even a handful of simple swaps can make your content simpler and more elegant.

    For example, which is more appealing to you as a reader: “The CEO’s mistake was an especially bad one, and because he made it, there were a number of serious consequences for the company” or “The CEO’s egregious mistake was devastating for the company.” Most would select the latter as being simpler and more effective, partially due to using stronger descriptive words, and partially due to cutting out the fluff (which I’ll touch on momentarily). Don’t be afraid to consult a thesaurus, as long as you double check to ensure you’re using each new word appropriately.

    Moving On

    With the knowledge that long-form content tends to attract more shares and links than their shot-form counterparts, many businesses have exhausted themselves trying to beef up every section of their content. However, you don’t need to do this—and you probably shouldn’t.

    When you expand the individual sections of your article, your goal should be completing your point fully and efficiently. As soon as you’ve reached a definitive conclusion, it’s time to move on to the next section. This will prevent you from providing too many examples (yes, it is a thing), rambling for too long, or obscuring your original point with unnecessary additions.

    There’s no easy way to tell when your section is complete, other than by judging your content compared to your original point. Have you given your readers everything they need to get your main takeaway? If so, leave it at that.

    Cutting the Fluff

    Everyone writes fluff, whether they realize it or not. It’s a natural human tendency; our word selection processes aren’t perfect, and even if they were, we’d still often write or speak too fast for our perfectionistic selection processes to keep up. As a result, we write filler words, filler sentences, and include unnecessary modifiers in our work.

    These aren’t inherently damaging, since they aren’t detracting from your main point. However, they can obscure your main point by making it harder to find (a “diamond in the rough” effect), and if you include enough of them, they’ll bring the value per word of your content down, possibly reducing your readers’ perceptions of your content value overall.

    This effect manifests in a handful of ways. Redundancy is one of the most common offenders (using synonyms or repeating your meaning in other words), and while it won’t kill your meaning, it will make your work seem sloppy and unpolished:

    Repetitive Words

    (Image Source: Writing Commons)

    Other forms of “fluff” include meaningless modifiers like “a lot,” or “very,” and extended definitions of concepts that require only a concise description.

    Again, we all write fluff, so it’s hard to simply stop writing it. Instead of avoiding it, let it come out naturally and try not to overthink it. Then, when your draft is finished, you can go back and edit your material. Look at your work on a sentence-by-sentence level and ask yourself, “is this a necessary phrase? Is this a necessary word?” You’ll find more fluff than you bargained for, but over time you’ll naturally become a more concise writer.

    Efficiency

    While clarity and simplicity are about making sure your writing is effective in delivering a message, efficiency is about making sure your writing is worth the effort you put into it. To put it bluntly, the less time you spend on a knockout piece, the more return on your investment (ROI) it’s going to yield.

    The massive caveat to this is that your content must be high-quality. Never sacrifice the quality of your content to save time or money.

    With that out of the way, there are general “efficiency” strategies you can use to make yourself a more productive person in general, or “hack” your mind to becoming more focused and more alert. For example, you can turn off your message notifications to zero in on your most important work.

    Email Icon iPhone

    (Image Source: Specialmompreneurs)

    I’m not going to get into these strategies. There are plenty of articles on the subject, including ones I’ve written (linked above). Instead, I want to focus on strategies that will exclusively help you become a better, more efficient writer—helping you produce more work in less time without sacrificing any of your quality.

    Collecting a Team

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, good marketing is a team sport. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, get a few of your coworkers to chip in a few topic ideas. If you have lots of ideas, but can’t pick a good one, ask your coworkers for feedback. Fill your staff with other writers and marketers who know your demographics and know your brand—they’ll be able to help you come up with new directions and perfect your approaches. Even five minutes of someone’s time is often enough to help you break through a plateau you’ve encountered on your own.

    Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach outside your company. Talk to peers, influencers, partners, and mentors within your industry and those who share similar content goals. Mingling like this will help you avoid “stale” ideas, and will give you enough inspiration to keep moving through even the toughest episodes of writer’s block.

    Setting Up a Research Stream

    Most content marketers will tell you that the vast majority of their work comes in the research and planning phase; once they’ve collected all the information they need to create a good post, the actual writing process is somewhat simple. Therefore, reducing the amount of time it takes to research will definitively reduce the total time to write any given article.

    How can you do this without just decreasing the amount of research you do?

    Create ongoing streams of research and habits that keep your reading list full and your mind topped off with potential ideas. For starters, sign up for a blog reader app like Feedly, and select publishers and industries that are relevant to your brand. You’ll get top headlines to read every morning, which you can turn into an ongoing research habit. Take notes on topics that interest you and set them aside if you want to develop them in the future; it only takes a few minutes per day, but soon you’ll end up with more ready-to-go research than you know what to do with.

    You can also create research streams on social media, with your coworkers (see previous section), or in your company’s research department—the key is to start getting these topics and data automatically, so you can spare yourself the trouble of seeking it out manually.

    Always Be Writing

    Don’t think of writing as something you sit down to do for X number of hours, to stop only once the article is complete. Instead, try adapting your mind to write on a constant basis. Think through your spoken sentences as if you were drafting them, self-editing for clarity and simplicity, and when you’re stuck in traffic, or you’re out for a walk, let your mind brainstorm about possible topics.

    This open brainstorming will help you find better ways of communicating, and will help you explore new ideas at a leisurely pace, rather than trying to forcefully extract them all at once in a single session. Plus, you’ll get the perks of better communication in other areas of your life.

    Developing a Routine

    While writing is an area where new experiences and new perspectives can introduce new ideas and angles to your work, it also pays to develop a routine. Every day, you should start by reviewing some news and research, and every time you start a new article, you should have a repeatable process for how to do so effectively. This won’t happen all at once; you’ll encounter strategies that consistently work and strategies that consistently fail. Only by adjusting them and building a better overall process will you be able to consistently produce better material at a faster pace.

    The Assembly Line

    This is one example of a routine, or repeatable process you can use to write faster. It doesn’t work for everybody, nor is it guaranteed to help you write faster or better, but it does make the process more streamlined when you start managing lots of pieces at once.

    There are many stages of the content development process; research, outlining, drafting, polishing, publishing, and syndicating. Rather than following this sequence for every available piece, try to operate as an assembly line for greater efficiency; do all the research for all your posts, then all the outlining, then all the drafting, and so on. You could even delegate certain stages of this process to individuals of your team who excel at them, divvying up the process like a real assembly line.

    Bringing It All Together

    If you start implementing all (or most) of the strategies I’ve covered in this guide, I guarantee your writing will become clearer, simpler, and faster—I just can’t guarantee that it will come all at once. Like with the development of any skill, writing improvement takes time, and you’ll run into some obstacles along the way. Try to think of these recommendations as a loose guide for development, rather than a rigid checklist or dogmatic list of rules. Through trial and error, you’ll learn to apply them to your niche and your own personal style in a way that maximizes your efficiency, and at the end of it, you’ll walk away with more powerful pieces of content in every form you publish.

  3. How to Hire and Manage Freelancers for Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    keyboard

    If you’ve decided to move into content marketing, one of the facts that you quickly learn is that it requires hard work – a lot of it. Doing the background research, developing your content calendar, writing or producing the content, optimizing it for publication, getting it published, disseminating it, engaging with your readers, and measuring your results is no small feat.

    Many businesses use freelancers to accelerate some or all parts of these processes. I’ve worked with freelancers throughout my career for various projects, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are my top tips for ensuring you hire the right people for the job, building your relationships with your freelance team, and getting the most value out of these relationships

    Crafting the Job Advertisement

    For purposes of this article, I’ll use the example of hiring and working with a freelance writer. Everything outlined in the attached is applicable to any freelancer you’ll work with. The first place to get started is with defining the role and articulating those needs in your job description. If you need more ideas on the kinds of writing required for a content marketing strategy, I recommend reading “How To Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy.”

    There’s a wide variety of writers on the market. Skills range from beginner to advanced, as do price ranges and professionalism. The best way to vet your pool of candidates is to start by being very thoughtful in terms of how you structure your job ad.

    Start by sketching out a list of the deliverables that this person will handle: blog posts, guest posts, and articles, for example. How long do they need to be, and how frequently do you need them written? Different candidates will be drawn to one five hundred word post per week versus and two fifteen hundred word posts per day, for example. The more clear you are about your needs, the more candidates will self-select during the application process based on quality, pace, and topics required.

    Next, think about the kind of voice or function you want these pieces to have for your business. Are you looking for a journalistic voice that can help you educate readers about your space, or someone that can make the hard sell and move people toward a purchase right away? There’s no right answer, but it’s important that you consider the voice you’d like to use for your business. Versatile writers can often communicate in multiple voices, but specific candidates are also likely to have strengths.

    Finally, consider the work style that you’re most comfortable with. Do you need someone that’s very independent, who is comfortable developing and pitching topics? Are you looking for someone to deliver finished products that you can just publish? Or are you looking for a collaborative writer that can breathe life into your ideas, that is willing to conform to a strict style guide, and can run with your article titles or outlines? Once you’ve gotten clear on these points, you’re ready to draft the job description.

    Here are a few tips to take into account when writing the job description:

    1. Be very clear about your required experience: Can anyone smart and willing to research write these pieces, or does it require a certain level of area expertise or writing finesse?
    2. Use clear criteria to define the way that you’ll measure that experience: For example, if you’re hiring someone to write guest posts that you hope to publish on high-end tech blogs, one reasonable measure would be to ask for published examples from blogs such as Mashable, VentureBeat, or other well-known publications with strict quality guidelines for guest authors. If your goal is to write white papers and other content geared toward ethanol engineers, ask to see writing samples that demonstrate their expertise in that field.
    3. Always ask for examples: Whenever possible, ask to see at least five samples of someone’s work. If you’re hiring a less experienced person, it’s possible they won’t have a strong portfolio yet. However, seeing five samples of solid work on different topics or from different clients or publications can confirm that this is a person that can deliver a quality product that doesn’t require excessive editing.
    4. Request some background information: When you’re hiring a writer or creative, it’s unlikely that you need a detailed resume (but you should request one if it makes you feel more comfortable). What you do want to understand is their general background, the basis of their expertise or interest in your field, and what kind of writing career that they’ve had to date.

    Once you’ve written the job description, test it with three trusted colleagues, advisors, or friends. Ask them to give you feedback on clarity. Can they describe the role? Is the profile of person you’re trying to hire clear? The combined feedback of a few people should ensure that what you’re putting out there is attracting the right kind of candidate.

    Managing the Publishing Process

    Once the job description is written, it’s ready to be posted. There are a number of places on which you can post freelance work. Here’s a quick look at different options and their pros and cons.

    Bidding sites, like Elance or Guru: Sites like Elance allow you to post jobs in a variety of niches and get bids from vendors around the globe. The advantages are simple:

    • access to a pool of professionals;
    • a single interface to hire and manage projects and payment;
    • access to past performance data of each freelancer to help make your decisions.

    The downsides typically relate to quality: these sites are often a stepping stone for professionals that are building their careers. The most accomplished individuals usually look elsewhere for work.

    Your own networks: Don’t overlook the power of reaching out to your own networks. If you’re hiring, post a link to the job description on your social media networks or email it to trusted colleagues. Many times, someone you know has a person that they use for this specific service or a contact that’s seeking new clients. Pay extra attention to candidates that come your way via referrals.

    Specialty sites: Depending on which niche you’re hiring for, there are likely to be specific sites where you can connect with freelancers. For example, if you’re hiring writers you’d likely consider sites like JournalismJobs, ProBlogger, and Freelancewritinggigs. Hiring coders? Sites like Dice.com and Sologigs are the right places to start. Find a few of the top sites in the niche where you’re looking for talent and evaluate the quality of ads there. It may cost you a bit more in the beginning but you’re more likely to get responses from a highly qualified customer base.

    How to Vet Freelance Writers

    Once you’ve developed your pool of likely suspects, do a paid test article. There are three ways to approach this: none will always going to be the right approach, but each will give you slightly different insight to your candidates.

    Pitching: Ask your candidates to get to know your business a bit, and then have them pitch topics that would be good fits for your company, audience, and marketing goals. This approach gives you an instant understanding of how well they really get your company’s unique positioning, your audience, and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content. It’ll also allow you to take a deeper look at the content they produce and their overall writing ability.

    Assigning the same article to different writers: To do more of an apples to apples comparison, take a specific topic (e.g. “The Top Things Entrepreneurs Should Know about Google Analytics”) and assign that to each of the finalists from your applicant pool. Seeing how the writers each tackle their assigned subjects will give you an excellent perspective on whose work resonates the most with your voice and style.

    Assign specific but different content pieces to your writers: There’s a good chance that you’ve got a looming pile of content ideas that need to be written. This audition could be a practical way to identify your new writer and make a dent in what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content marketing strategy.

    Ongoing Communication and Management

    Once you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to put your communication and management plan in place. Every entrepreneur-writer relationship is different. Your ongoing communication and management should reflect a work style that keeps you informed and on track and syncs with what your writer needs to accomplish the most for your business. Here are a few recommendations that work for me or that my colleagues have mentioned as best practices that help them collaborate with freelance writers:

    Use a content calendar: Use a weekly content calendar that shows your specific campaign milestones and the writer’s deliverables. For a guest posting campaign, for example, you might list each specific venue and due date in a Google Calendar or Basecamp format. Having this guideline will keep your writers writing and allow you to gain steady traction over time.

    Monday pitch letters: Whether your writers are pitching topics or whether you’re assigning specific titles based on keyword research, consider using a Monday check-in letter as the basis of that week’s communication. Whoever is in charge of outlining titles should do so, along with publication targets and deadlines if appropriate. If you’re just beginning to work with a writer, consider asking for a title and a two to three sentence blurb that fleshes out each idea. You can then offer feedback and adjustments that meet your goals.

    Quarterly big trends and goals updates: Content marketing is only effective if it serves your business. In today’s environment, the reality is that a company’s needs and goals often shift frequently. Keeping your writers focused on your top yearly, quarterly, and even monthly goals will help them craft more effective content for your campaigns. For example, in a specific month, your goal might be to get articles published on as many new publishers as possible, or it might be to educate a specific demographic about your company. Whatever the objective, the more you communicate, the better the results you’ll achieve.

    Share periodic feedback: For many entrepreneurs, the idea of doing detailed line edits and sharing that feedback is daunting. Your role isn’t to be your writer’s managing editor (although it can be if that’s your approach). However, sharing periodic feedback is absolutely critical. Are certain topics or types of content getting real traction? Let the writer know. Are you seeing more success when you feature your links in a specific way? Send a quick note to share these insights. Did you really have to cut into a piece to make it fit your voice? In that instance, sharing detailed edits and asking the writer to review the changes can save you time down the road.

    Show appreciation: Last but not least, if you find a writer that gets your business and makes your content marketing job easier, take the time to let them know. Whether they get your voice better than other writers you’ve worked with or make it easier to hit your deadlines, sharing occasional praise will make you a valued client. Writers, especially freelance ones, work in a highly transactional context. Client request, write, rinse, and repeat. Taking the time to recognize their contribution will help ensure that they want to do their best to help you reach your goals.

    For more tips on hiring, see my article 10 Lessons That I Learned from Launching a Startup.

    Conclusion

    Identifying the gaps in your own ability or in your existing company’s talent base can help you create a roadmap for hiring freelance talent. Freelancers – whether we’re talking writers, coders, designers, or process consultants – can help you reach your business goals effectively and with less stress. Do you have tips for hiring and managing freelancers? Let me know in the comments below.

  4. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google 😉

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

  5. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google 😉

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

  6. How to Properly Include Links and Penguin-Safe Anchor Text in Your Guest Blogs

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    In today’s post-Penguin SEO world, one of the clearest signals of attempted search engine ranking manipulation is the improper use of anchor text within blog posts. The problem stems from the fact that SEO professionals know that anchor text is a hint to the search engines of the topic or relevance of the destination URL (ie, the URL to which the link points). Furthermore, it’s well-known that the quantity and quality of inbound links play a major role in the ranking algorithm.

    Because of this, SEO professionals developed a habit of using “keyword-rich” anchor text for all their links in an attempt to extract as much value as possible from each link. This “over-optimization” of anchor text is what ultimately led to Google’s Penguin algorithm, which sought to identify manipulation based on calculating and analyzing the anchor text distribution of each website’s overall inbound link profile.

    While keyword-rich anchor text used to be taught as a best practice, it’s now a risky practice at best. So, in today’s post-penguin world, what’s the proper way to include SEO-optimized links that will escape the wrath of Google’s Penguin algorithm, stand the test of time, and provide value for readers? Read on.

    The Two Elements of a Link

    Before beginning a discussion about anchor text, it’s important to first understand what “anchor text” means. Luckily, it’s quite simple. Anchor text is the clickable text of a link. For example, notice the link above, in the second paragraph that says “calculating and analyzing the anchor text distribution”. The anchor text of that link is “calculating and analyzing the anchor text distribution”.

    link segments

    (Image source: http://www.seomoz.org/learn-seo/anchor-text)

    There are two elements of any link:

    1. The anchor text
    2. The destination URL

    The destination URL is the URL to which you’ll be taken when you click the link; it’s the destination that the link points to.

    It’s very important that the anchor text and destination URL are properly paired together. For instance, it wouldn’t make any sense for the anchor text to say “beach balls” if the destination URL linked to a page about polar bears.

    Types of Anchor Text

    There are different types of anchor text; here’s a brief overview of each.

    • Naked URL

    A naked URL is simply anchor text that is, itself, the destination URL. Here’s an example of a naked URL:

    You can learn lots of great information about SEO and social media from our blog at http://www.audiencebloom.com/blog

    Notice how the clickable portion of the link is actually the destination URL itself. This is why it’s called “naked” – it’s not dressed up.

    • Branded

    A branded anchor is when the anchor text is the brand name of the company or website. Here’s an example:

    At AudienceBloom, we offer SEO and social media marketing services.

    • Branded-hybrid

    A branded-hybrid anchor is when the anchor text includes the brand name as well as a keyword (or keyword fragment) associated with that brand. Here’s an example:

    If you’re looking to improve your online visibility and website traffic, AudienceBloom’s SEO services are top-knotch.

    • Exact-match (keyword-rich)

    An exact-match (or keyword-rich) anchor is when the anchor text is exactly the keyword for which you want a page to rank in the search engines. For example, if I wanted AudienceBloom’s “guest blogging services” page to rank well for the keyword “guest blogging services,” here’s what I would do:

    AudienceBloom offers unparalleled guest blogging services for its clients.

    • LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)

    LSI stands for “latent semantic indexing” and is really just a super fancy way of saying “related keywords.” For example, a related keyword for “guest blogging services” might be “guest post service,” which could have an anchor that looks like this:

    If you’re looking for a great guest post service, check out AudienceBloom.

    • Sentence fragment

    A sentence fragment anchor is one that flows naturally within the text and is NOT one of the other types of anchors. This type of anchor is the most trustworthy, credible, and safe type of anchor, and should be used often. Here are a few examples, shown as images (the orange text is the anchor text of the link):

    sentence fragment anchor text

    sentence fragment anchor text

    sentence fragment anchor text

    Notice how each link flows with the text and does not fit any of the other categories of anchors.

    • Junk

    Junk anchors consist of anchors such as “click here,” “visit this website,” “here,” etc. Here are a few examples:

    To learn more about AudienceBloom, click here.
    If you’re looking for a great SEO company, visit this website.
    To learn more about SEO and what it can do for your business, click here.
    Ready to learn how to build an effective SEO strategy? Learn more.

    Now that you’re familiar with the different types of anchor text, you’re probably wondering which type you should be using. There’s no easy answer to that question, as different situations call for different solutions.

    However, try to stick with just “branded” and “sentence fragments”, as these types of anchors should be sufficient for almost all text copy, and will be safe from Penguin updates.

    Goals of Anchor Text

    There are several possible goals of including links within articles; one of those goals should NOT be to get a link to improve search engine rankings. The right goals can be broken down as:

    • Provide more information about a particular topic, website, thing, person, or place.

    For example, my link in the second paragraph of this article is meant to provide more information about analyzing anchor text distribution.

    • Anticipate and answer a reader’s question.

    As you read your article, try to anticipate questions your readers will have. Let’s take a look at an example:

    “We’ve moved from directories to guest blogging and other new approaches, so it’s discouraging to observe some SEO people who still pursue many of the old tactics.”

    In the example above, “other new approaches” links to an article that describes what those other new approaches are. This anticipates the reader’s question “what are the other new approaches?” and links to a resource that answers it.

    • Cite the source of referenced information.

    As you write your article, you’ll reference sources of information. Here are a couple examples of how to properly reference sources:

    “Although Pinterest didn’t receive all that much attention a few years ago, it’s seen steady growth and currently has over 500 million users.”

    “According to statistics by Quantcast, the majority of Pinterest users have earned either a bachelor’s degree or completed grad school.

    Notice in the first example how the source is referenced using a sentence fragment anchor. In the second example, the source is referenced as a branded anchor. Either is completely acceptable.

    Proper Destination URLs

    Destination URLs are extremely important and should be considered carefully. Links to homepage URLs are risky in today’s post-Penguin environment; avoid linking to homepages and instead link only to internal pages within a website.

    Linking to commercial websites (ie, websites that sell products or services) is more risky than linking to resource websites. Instead, try to link to authoritative, credible, trustworthy websites like Wikipedia, Youtube, Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes, etc.

    Articles that link to your website in addition to an authority website will associate your website with the authority website by means of co-citation. This will have the effect of increased search engine rankings for your website.

    Note: See that “co-citation” link above? I anticipated that you, as a reader, may not know what co-citation is, so I linked to an article I wrote that describes it in detail.

    When NOT to Link:

    To maintain proper article formatting, don’t include links in subheaders or as part of a bulleted list (unless you include a link in each and every bullet point).

    Conclusion

    Proper link insertion should augment your article; it should achieve one of the three goals listed above. If it doesn’t, then you shouldn’t include it. When you do include a link, it should almost always be a sentence fragment or a branded anchor. There are very few exceptions to this; other types of anchors are often spammy and risky, and could end up doing more harm than good.

  7. What’s the True SEO Power of Press Releases?

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    For a long time, SEO professionals regarded press releases as little golden nuggets that could be added into pretty much any SEO campaign for a boost.

    However, back in December, Matt Cutts threw a not-so-beautiful egg into that basket, saying he wouldn’t “Expect links from press releases to benefit your rankings”… and the industry went up in arms.

    Was he right? Was he simply misunderstood? Was he just being misleading on purpose?

    Ever since, SEO professionals have been scrambling to determine the truth of the matter. Do press releases still offer the same amount of value as they once did, or did that get squashed under big Penguin feet? As with everything in SEO, there will probably never be a 100% iron-clad guarantee that it works or it doesn’t. But let’s explore the matter.

    Why would Google devalue press releases?

    If you’re a business owner, you may regard press releases simply as they “should” be seen: They’re something you carefully craft, or pay good money to have crafted for you, in order to gain publicity for your news. Right? Right.

    Wrong. Kinda. I know… bear with me here.

    Yes, some people and businesses use press releases for the right reasons, as described above. But there are other people who use them solely for the sake of SEO. This is where they start to swim in troubled water.

    Low-quality sites, SPAM sites, and even scam sites were using press release syndication to create lots of backlinks. Since backlinks are a vital part of the ranking algorithm, it worked well for a while. Press release syndication sites and services popped up in droves, offering to spread your press release all over the web—often for free, or at very low rates.

    We aren’t talking about the true PR professionals and big companies that have been doing this for many, many years. Naturally, Google noticed the game eventually and realized they had to do something about it.

    The “Test”

    After Cutts made the above statement, a well-known person in the industry decided to give it a test. He released a very poorly put-together press release to try and rank Cutts’s blog for a silly, seemingly made-up word.

    And it worked. It showed that some kind of weight is still awarded for links from press releases. While that may make you think it’s still easy-peasy to use PR syndication to get better search results, you have to look at this another way too. If there’s nothing, or not much, to be found online about that word he used, then of course it would be easy to rank something for it. What else would they show?

    So does that mean you shouldn’t waste your time on press releases? Would you be treading on dangerous ground if you released one online? Can it help your rankings or not?

    Should you use online press releases?

    The short answer is yes. The medium answer is yes, but not merely for backlinks and SEO. The long answer? There are several factors you need to keep in mind if you’re going to post press releases.

    First of all, it needs to be a good press release written about something that deserves having a PR circulated about it.

    Finding a worthy topic

    Believe it or not, you probably have some amazing topics to base a PR around, even when you think you got nothin’. You could focus a PR on plenty of things, but here are just a few ideas:

    • New products/services
    • New employees
    • Upcoming events
    • Charities or organizations that you’ve sponsored
    • Milestones (e.g., 5th year in business, or record-breaking revenues)
    • Promotions or awards within or for the company

    If there truly just isn’t a thing going on or coming up, don’t fret. Put on your thinking cap and get creative. There are many ways you could devise something strategic that would serve as the basis for a rockin’ press release.

    Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

    • Identify a charity or nonprofit you like and sponsor it
    • Take this even further and host a fundraiser for them
    • Offer to volunteer your time to help out the organization with something
    • Create an infographic, ebook, or white paper about something in your industry or area of expertise

    Once your release is completed, what do you do with it?

    First let me tell you not to do with it. Don’t give it to someone who says they’ll publish your PR to 300 different sites for $10. Don’t go plaster it everywhere and anywhere you can.

    You want to stick with the bigger, well-respected PR authority sites. Yes, you’re going to pay more. But it’s worth it.

    Getting blogged …

    One of the best things that can happen is to have your PR get noticed by respected bloggers who write about and link to it. How do you do that? Your PR not only has to be well written and deserving of the attention, but it has to get noticed in the first place.

    PR tips

    • Include images and video in your press release
    • Include social media links and make it easy to share
    • Write for your audience, not search engines
    • Create a few different versions of your PR to use with different (respected) syndication services

    Something to think about: targeted traffic from a PR itself

    The other day, I spent a couple of hours looking at press releases and who’s using them, and tried to assess what’s happening right now in general. What trend do I see? Using the authority of PR sites and ranking your PR highly, instead of the traditional (SEO-minded) focus of ranking your site.

    I’ve seen it being talked about on forums and I’ve seen it in action. Here are just a couple of examples. Keep in mind, though, that I only found this happening with “long tail” keywords.

    long tail keywords

    long tail keywords

    Remember that a good, well-written PR that’s crafted correctly, newsworthy, and geared toward your audience will always get the best results. Don’t write one solely to try and rank for a keyword. It should capture the heart and mind of the blogger, customer, or journalist that runs across it.

    It should trigger an emotion of some sort. Keep these things in mind and your PRs will attract attention, as well as more business.

  8. 10 Steps to SEO-Optimizing Your Blog Articles

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    blogging best practicesSEO copywriting is, essentially, writing copy that resonates with users, moving them to share and link to your content, and be moved to take action. In this article, we’ll explore the elements that makes online copy SEO-optimized.

    1. Perform Keyword Research

    Use keyword research tools to help you find keywords that have

    1) low competition and;

    2) a good amount of search volume.

    There are many free and paid keyword research tools, but all you really need is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Google’s own keyword research tool lets you find keywords that have low, medium and high competition, as well as local and global search volume. For detailed instructions on how to use this tool, please see this post.

    2. Write for Skimmers

    I bet lots of readers now are just skimming through this very blog post. That’s how most people normally consume online content, and why it’s important that when you write copy, you first create an outline of your points so that readers can easily scan through it and still get the point.

    3. The Killer Headline

    After you have an outline of your article, you need a magnetic headline. One that that attracts links, retweets, and social shares. Some great powerful and magnetic headlines include:

    • A number (ie, “Top 7 Ways to…”)
    • A “How To” (ie, “How to Grow Your Business by Guest Blogging”)
    • A one-stop-shop (ie, “The Definitive Guide to…” or “The Ultimate Guide to…”)
    • Help for beginners (ie, “A Step-by-Step Guide to…” or “7 Steps to…” or “Onsite SEO 101: A Basic Guide for Beginners”)
    • The mythbuster (ie, “7 Myths about SEO”)
    • The bold or shocking claim (ie, “5 Things Your SEO Company is Lying to you About”)

    The targeted keyword should be included within the headline, which is usually tagged with the H1 tag.

    4. Sub Headlines

    Subheaders usually come after the main headline and before every major section of the copy. They should summarize important points of the copy (remember the scanners?).

    5. Highlight, Bold, Underline and Italicize

    When you highlight, bold, underline and italicize a key point, you add emphasis to the main points. This helps readers (especially the scanners), and has the same effect on search engine crawlers.

    Emphasizing the keywords by underlining or bolding them sends a signal to the robots what the content is about, and what the most important elements of it are.

    6. Drive the Point Home with Bullets

    The important or “listable” sections of your copy could also be emphasized with bullet points. Distilling your points into smaller chunks also makes your copy easier to read and more engaging.

    7. KISS – Keep it Short and Sweet

    The first line of every paragraph should be the most important, followed by a couple sentences to expand on those important points. Keep your paragraphs short for optimal readability and scannability.

    8. Include Primary and LSI Keywords

    While writing your article, your primary goal should be on delivering extreme value. However, if your keywords aren’t included in the body copy, it’ll be very difficult for it to rank well. Be sure to identify LSI keywords and include them within the copy to boost the relevancy of your article for all keywords related to your primary topic.

    9. Include Images

    Images provide several distinct benefits:

    • They visually support concepts or ideas in your article, adding to the readers’ understanding
    • They provide an opportunity to gain search visibility in Google Image Search
    • They cause your post to have visual appeal when the link is shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social channels
    • They create an opportunity for your post to be pinned on Pinterest, creating inbound links and maximizing the reach of your post

    Always ensure your image filenames are named properly. For instance, if your image is of a red Ferarri, then the image filename should be “redferrari.jpg.” Similarly, it should have an alt tag that describes the image (ie, “Red Ferrari). These clues will help search engines properly index the image and understand what the image portrays. If your blog post is about a red Ferarri, then including an image of one will provide extra value to readers; search engines will reward this value-add with a higher relevancy and quality score for your post, resulting in better rankings.

    10. Ask for Feedback

    The end of your article should ask for feedback from your readers to generate and spark discussion. Comments will improve the SEO-value of your article, so ask for them! Readers who feel compelled to comment on articles are also more likely to share them, leading to rank and brand-boosting social signals.

    Conclusion

    Whether you’re writing onsite content or guest blogging, I hope these tips help you write amazing articles. Do you have any other tips I missed? Let me know in the comments!

  9. Assessing Your Content before Publishing

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    Do you know how to ensure that your content is great enough before you release it into the open?

    If you find that your content is not delivering the traffic and conversions you had hoped, then there must be something wrong with the way you create it.

    To guarantee that your content delivers exactly what you expected, the following is a simple list of assessments you need to conduct before you publish your next content.

    Check for grammatical errors

    articleimage612Check for grammatical errors

    Nothing will turn off your regular readers and first-time visitors more than simple errors in grammar and spelling that should have been eliminated prior to publication. Even if you feel confident that your content doesn’t have any errors, it doesn’t hurt to check a second time. In fact, triple check it.

    Errors in grammar are liable to make your readers think you don’t care that much about the message you’re posting; after all, you didn’t take very much trouble with it, did you? Worse, the readers may believe you don’t value them, either.

    What your readers expect to find is output from a trustworthy content publisher. Grammatical errors signal to readers that you may simply lack sufficient professionalism to be worth their attention.

    That’s why making sure to check for errors in grammar and spelling is critical if you hope to gain trust and loyalty from your readers.

    Is your content great enough?

    articleimage612 Is your content great enough

    Honestly, is your content good enough to be worth sharing? Does it hold your readers’ interest the way you expect it to? Does it help your readers ease their pain and increase their pleasure? Does it entertain them? Does it solve their problems?

    If your content doesn’t accomplish any of these goals, then you may need to do more research to identify what your target audience is really looking for.

    Great content is share-worthy content; it ultimately helps readers handle their most pressing concerns.

    Is the content useful to your target audience?

    Make every word, sentence, and paragraph of your content count. Make your entire copy useful.

    Before setting out to write content, pinpoint the goals you wish to achieve. Who is your content for, precisely? What problem/s do you wish to address? What do you personally hope to derive from the publication of your content? Is it increased traffic? Sales?

    If you don’t know to whom you are marketing, your website content will fail miserably because it won’t be useful enough to connect with its proper readers.

    And if you don’t know the true objective of your content, your copy will lack substance. It’ll be a waste of everyone’s time.

    If you’re selling through your copy, do you emphasize the benefits?

    A great copy that aims to sell something addresses the concern “What’s in it for me?”

    Unless you can accurately and honestly show the true value and benefits of your content, you will fail to keep your readers’ attention long enough to close the deal.

    By focusing on a product’s features, for example, you will sound as though you are hard selling. Nobody cares about what you think of your product. What people care about is how your product will solve their problems.

    When you start to shift your focus to the benefits of your product, your readers will see that you understand them and are helping them.

    Check for readability

    articleimage612 Check for readability

    Be sure to check your content not only for errors in grammar and spelling, but also for readability. Precisely phrased and correctly spelled copy can still come across as stiff or cold. Your content should be easy to read; it should flow well. This encourages your readers to remain longer on your site.

    How do you make your content readable? Consider the following tactics:

    • Include lots of headers, especially at the start of each important section.
    • Break paragraphs into bullets to make it easy for your readers to scan through your content.
    • Use bold fonts to emphasize important points.

    When you are fully satisfied that you’ve adequately covered all the aspects described above, the odds are your audience should be satisfied as well.

    Conclusion

    The next time you create your content, have this guideline handy for reference. And if you need help in creating an effective content strategy for your business, contact us to find out more about your options.

  10. How Automated Content Generation and Recycling is Bad for Business

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    Creating high-quality content on an ongoing basis is one of the most important aspects of running an online business. For one thing, creating specific content caters to a specific audience. And populating your site with fresh content regularly is crucial for raising your site’s ranking in search.

    But let’s be honest. The steady composition of new content can take a toll on your resources, especially if you are running a solo online enterprise.

    Because writing marketing posts is indeed an exhausting activity, some online marketers have opted to use software that automates the process of churning out content for their sites. It sounds like a great idea — one that helps businesses save on their precious time and resources.

    But is it really smart to entrust content production to software?

    Before we can address that question, we need to delve into an issue that is at the heart of web content production.

    To plagiarize or spin?

    Spinning an article has become a popular tactic among many content marketers. It has become much more acceptable to spin an article than copy or plagiarize an entire article without attributing the content to the proper source.

    Article-spinning software aims to create a unique piece of content out of an already published article in such a way that it it will pass duplicate tests administered by the search engines.

    What an article-spinning software does is to mechanically create a new version of an essay or review by using synonyms to replace certain terms, or rephrasing entire sentences and paragraphs to make the piece look and read differently from the original.

    How spinning crashed

    Spinning articles worked for a while … at least during the early stages of search engine optimization. Automating content production certainly helped online marketers to free up their time and save on resources. This approach allowed many marketers to focus on other tasks that were also important to their business.

    The need to automate the content-writing process arose when it took a toll on the marketer’s time. As many of you can undoubtedly recognize, even some of the simplest forms of writing require a level of critical thinking that no software has thus far been able to match. Despite the advances in technology, no software is capable of writing in a way an average human does. At least not currently.

    As search engines have gotten smarter, they have become better able to determine which content has been spun and which has not. We are now at the point where spinning an article using automated software no longer works.

    Search engines are currently capable of determining how an article should read; i.e., that it should flow smoothly and naturally. We humans are also readily able to tell whether an article has been spun or not. Spun articles tend to be difficult to read; the sentence structures are convoluted. That’s why most of us human web browsers tend to discard content at the first hint that it has been spun robotically.

    The death of content duplication

    Before the age of Google Panda, authors were free to distribute a single article to as many different article directories as they could find. However, when Google released an update that penalizes duplicate content, the tradition of submitting a single content to multiple directories was effectively outlawed. Google and other search engines became hell-bent on implementing measures to provide nothing but quality information for users.

    If you are actively promoting articles and other forms of content to increase your business’ exposure and your ranking, be careful not to damage the search engines’ trust, especially Google’s. The search engines are now disqualifying sites that use various forms of content duplication. As you know, Google is not very forgiving about that.

    Conclusion

    Quality will always be at the top of the agenda for Google and other search engines. It should be on yours too. Always strive to write content of unique and excellent quality. The search engines will approve — but more importantly, your target human audience will, too.

    If you would like to know how we can help you with your content marketing strategies, contact us to find out more about the opportunities.

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