March 27th, 2012 — blogging
A common dilemma: You run a business, your employees are super-busy selling, developing product, managing the office, etc. And you’re being told (truthfully) that if you want to compete successfully on the Internet, you need content, content and more content. But where, when and how are you going to do that?? Help!…
Is outsourcing your online content creation an OK approach? Yup, if you can afford it. (And please focus on quality, not just dollars; for example, offshoring can be uber-cheap and the results the same.) At the very least, you should pay someone to do research, writing and linking for your corporate blog and/or online articles.
At one time, the concept of “ghost” blogging - having someone else write with the CEO/VP’s name on it as the blog author - was considered something of a no-no as it pertains to transparency and all.
However, the push towards content on the web has gotten more and more intense - having become a fundamental requirement of successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You literally cannot get on Page 1 in organic Google search results today without having original, regularly added content.
Executives are not in their jobs because they can write well and quickly, as well as find suitable links, images and know how to optimize them all for search!
That’s where the “ghost” writer/blogger comes in. If transparency is key to your business (and why not) then consider using the approach of the CENTURY 21 Canada blog, which disclaimed that posts in its national blog that show the president and CEO as the author, were “supported by” another person. OK, not full disclosure, but close to it.
Your disclosure that someone is helping your blog authors (VP, Director, etc.) write their posts does not take away from the value of that original, fresh content going up on your site. Not for Google, nor likely to readers.
If you need the help, strive to find a ghost blogger who is not only a gifted, trained writer, but also understands how to SEO. And, if you require a second person, you should look for someone to create and optimize content specifically for other social media (besides your blog) - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other sites relevant to your business. If you can get it all in one supplier, all the better.
March 24th, 2012 — design
I’m always in love with content (that’s why I become a journalist and then a marketer) but my newest passion is the infographic - a powerful merging of image and information that drives home your message.
See the infographic I recently wrote about, Building an Authority Machine; and this one here really pops when it comes to an analogy about online content: the heart of it, the reach of it, etc. depicted in a human body. Clever! As much as I am a devoted wordsmith (and not a talented graphic artist), I really get the value of images. We can all relate to pictures, and they seem faster to process in our brains than mere words.
March 15th, 2012 — advertising
As part of my consulting work at a marketing communications and advertising agency, I had the responsibility of training a marketing coordinator in the task of SEO copywriting. That’s because there is sometimes too much work for me to handle all their clients’ needs for SEO writing - clients such as CIBA Vision, Nissan, BASF and others.
I have written both PPC (pay per click) ad copy for them (Google AdWords) as well as organic SEO for their new websites and optimized landing pages.
I gave my trainee her first assignment: To gather up client information that pertains to this particular new campaign, as fodder for the page she is going to write about one of their products.
It is a straight landing page for a Google AdWords campaign, so all the best practices in Conversion Optimization apply:
- Using the keywords selected for the AdWords campaign in the main headline, and secondary headline if at all possible (H1 and H2)
- Using those keywords, and related phrases, in the body text - including keywords in the anchor text for the first hyperlink shown (in first couple of paragraphs)
- Messaging consistent with that of the Google ads
- Graphic design and layout that follows eye tracking patterns
- Optimum placement of an Offer or other Call to Action (CTA) items - e.g. Sign Up Here
- Value-add apparent above the fold
There is a lot to keep in mind when 1) researching keywords 2) using these keywords to write effective ads and 3) using keywords and call to action on the landing page that the person who clicks on the ad goes to. But to do all three aspects well, and in alignment, is the only way to get good or great conversion rates for your ads.
How is the conversion rate of your ads?
March 4th, 2012 — strategy
Who doesn’t want to be an “authority” on the Internet? Your company certainly does, and strategy is the way to get there.
I was thrilled to come across a terrific infographic by Vertical Measures that shows the key parts of the “machinery” you need to run today to be an online authority, focusing on:
1. Content - encompassing blogs, videos, webinars, infographics, whitepapers, ebooks, presentations, press releases
2. Social Media - such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Digg
3. Link Building - which includes sitelinks, powerhouse links such as .gov and .edu, etc.
In my opinion, the third pillar is too often overlooked these days, living as it does in the shadow of the newer, sexier siblings, social media and online content. But gaining credible links into your site, as well as strategically linking out to relevant and authoritative sites - is a key aspect of being a winner on the Internet.
Click on the image below for a full view of this amazing infographic!
What do you think? Sound like too much work to build authority for your website, or are you all the way in? Leave your comments here.
January 22nd, 2012 — Twitter
Move over, Alice Munro - there’s a new short story genre in town - and some gent named Sean Hill is leading the brigade.
Sean has Tweeted more than 300 teeny tiny ’stories’ - and also hosts them all on his site, Very-Short-Story.com.
Here are three of my favourite “very short stories” aka Tweets:
We’ve lost him.” said the doctor, “He was disconnected too long.” His family sobbed. The Twitter outage death toll climbed higher.
I’d given up, resigned to be eating by the cannibals. They
spit out the first bite, I was too tough and chewy. The gym had paid off.
It’s refreshing as heck to see good writing on Twitter - instead of the tedious thought-burps, incomplete sentences, hashtag and RT@ jibberish I often see there.
But I admit, I find it a little depressing to see yet another indication of how Tweeting (microblogging) is fast moving in to replace full-out blogging.
Don’t Sacrifice Blogging for the Tweet-Phenom
Who cares, you say? Twitter is faster, more suitable for non-writers, spreads wider and faster than regular blogging, right? And we’re all lazy.. um, I mean, busy.
If you’re a business you really should care about trading in blogging for Tweeting. Here’s why:
Every new blog post you put up on your corporate site will boost your page rankings, moving you up to that golden Page 1 spot in Google’s search results!
Tweets can’t do that as swiftly and easily. Sure your Twitter profile page can show up on Page 1 if your business name is Googled, since your business name is in your Twitter profile.
Only blogging within your corporate site gives you that added benefit (and it’s a big one) - on top of all the good stuff found in social media: 2-way conversations, instant customer service, online reputation management, etc.
December 22nd, 2009 — blogging
I blog at Talk21, the national blog of CENTURY 21 Canada - posting at least 3 blogs each week for the past year. And as busy as I get, I always take the time to add SEO-friendly components to each post that goes up.
SEO-friendly blogging includes:
- Keywords in the headline (e.g. “Wind Energy” if that is what the post is about). You’d be surprised the number of blog posts I see that have a headline that does not relate at all to the content of the blog post!
- Suitable “anchor text” - aka the words that are hyperlinked in the blog post’s content. If you are linking to a page about alternative renewable energies, the anchor text for that link should read: “alternative renewable energies.” Logical - yes! And logic what Google-bots understand best. But not everyone gets that; hence the nasty proliferation of “click here” as anchor text.
- An image in every post - and that can be a photo, or illustration or graph, embedded video, etc. Not only will it catch the eye of readers and keep them engaged, images are another chance to add keyword-rich metadata behind the post. In our techie world, it’s known as “alt-tag” for images, and it’s simple as pie to add using today’s blog open-source software (such as WordPress used behind my own blog here).
- Tags: You should add tags to every blog post - no limit to the number of tags, as long as they are very relevant to the post’s content. So to use that example above, “renewable energy” “energy alternatives” “energy efficiency” etc.
- Add each blog post to only ONE category. (You should set up categories to group together related posts; see my Category list in the right-hand navigation rail on this page.) If you add a post to more than 1 category, the Google-bots could consider that ‘content duplication’ and slap you down for it, i.e. drop your page ranking or worse (de-index… gasp!)
- If you have the ability in your blog dashboard to write your own Title Tag, be sure to do so using the keywords that pertain to that post.
Doing these best practices every time you put a blog post up will stand you in very good stead and you should care - that is, if you’d like your blog posts to appear on page 1 of the search results served up by Google and the other major search engines!
August 16th, 2009 — jobs
“SEO as a Career - Where Technology, Design, Copy and Marketing Meet” - that’s the title of an online article recently posted that interviews 6 “successful, famous and established SEO professionals” in 5 nations, including.. yours truly!
I was contacted by journalist Naveen Bala for an interview about how I got into the biz, tips for others and my typical day. My esteemed colleagues - including well-known SEO trainer Aaron Wall and author of industry bible, SEOBook - were all asked the same questions.
Some of my favourite responses (beside my own, natch) include the following:
“Cost. Ability. Past projects. Backlink proposal.” - Kevin Gillett, American SEO.
(The Question: If you were hiring an SEO expert, what would you look for?”)
“Managing and tasking my virtual team; Going over clients accounts in my Webmaster tool, Analytics and the MCC dashboards; 1 hour of self business marketing (PPC, articles, social media, etc.)” - Israeli SEO, David Ratovitch
(The Question: What do you do in a typical day?)
“SEO content has moved on from the days of simple key word stuffing and now goes hand in hand with good original copy.” - Gary Cottam, UK SEO leader
(The Question: Advice for beginners?)
“For me its in-house corporate jobs.. the strategies and techniques that we can use for in house cannot be put on marketing agencies nor in freelancing as they are limited to particular slot of work and activities.” - Nisha Garg of India
(The Question: What do you think is the best career path - freelance, marketing agencies, or in-house corporate jobs?)
“I was 1 of only 2 matches in the Yahoo! Search database for the misspelled version of an online casino back when online gaming was legal… Search engines are much more aggressive with spell correction tools so that opportunity is no longer as strong, but new opportunities open as old ones close.” - Aaron Wall
(The Question: “Any interesting/funny experiences regarding search engines you can share?”)
June 13th, 2009 — writing
Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS): the not-so-subtle way of reminding us to write in an uncomplicated, non-flowery style.
Great advice, for web writing in particular and most types of writing in general (maybe outside of journals).
But sometimes it can be the KISS of death. Case in point:
I was in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo recently (as a Frank Lloyd Wright aficianado I sought a mausoleum designed by the master) when I saw the humble tombstone pictured.
The statement of action here (”died”), in my estimation, is presumed by the inclusion of said Mr. Taggert in a cemetery! But what is missing is the how, what, when, why and where of his story.
Keep it Simple, Stupid all fine and dandy IF there is enough detail to make the story compelling. In this case, I am left wanting.
The SEO Story Behind KISS
As a long-time journalist, my writing instincts go nuts here: EVERYTHING is a story - every life, every building, every process…
And as a SEO, I shudder at insufficient content: the cardinal rule of minimum 400 words (at a pinch, 250 but that should really only apply to a blog post) hasn’t changed as Google knows more is better re: delivering contextual searches.
If content is king (and it is), then the quantity of (appropriate, interesting) words is the royal scepter - consider them the jewels.
If only the relatives of William Taggert knew that. (OK, so I realize stonecutters probably charged by the letter, so family fortune might have been a factor in the deficit of wording.)
May 8th, 2009 — writing
[Full disclosure: I am a graduate of journalism school and a 20-year veteran of print journalism as a writer and editor.]
I attended a presentation by marketing speaker David Merman Scott in Florida last week and to my surprise (and delight) he urged the audience to all go out and hire a journalist for their online content needs.
It was an audience of real estate brokers/owners - top performers invited to the annual Chairman’s Circle held by CENTURY 21 Canada. (Full disclosure: I blog for CENTURY 21).
Who’s Writing the Content?!
These busy brokers - professionals trained in selling properties, working with mortgages, home inspectors and like - are NOT editors or writers. Naturally, they related to a business pain expressed by Meerman Scott not only in person, but in his blog WebInkNow:
“…how can we actually create all this content you’re talking about: e-books, white papers, blogs and the like? We have a small marketing department and very little budget.”
The comments left at this blog post were as interesting as the post. For example, David Leland wrote:
Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives
Obviously, as a seasoned journalist, I know the value of hiring someone with excellent writing skills - not only accurate and error-free but writing quickly and effectively in language exactly targeted to the readers.
BUT… what about those great, experienced journalists who are “digital immigrants” -i.e. they:
- Aren’t savvy to the styles of web writing (and how that differs from magazine or newspaper)
- Don’t know how to write with SEO to get the content found online and ranked high by Google
- Aren’t up to speed on using social media to disseminate their writing?
OK, so no problem, you think - I’ll go hire a “digital native” journalist…
Oops, now you’re facing a new set of limitations: Namely, a deficiency of proper grammar, sloppy English, spelling mistakes and a general depth of knowledge that they bring to the writing.
What to do?? As what I suggested to some of the brokers who asked my advice in Florida last week, consider hiring TWO people - part-time or contract should suffice for many businesses:
- Digital Immigrant but Seasoned Journalist: To write Case Studies, E-books, White Papers to go on your website. These are powerful ways to spread value-add content through the Internet/blogosphere. Invest in some basic web writing training for this hire so he/she can help write the company blog, too.
- Digital Native: To set up accounts at social media sites (YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), to upload digital assets to these profiles and maintain them.) You likely have a Gen-Y employee who is a rabid fan and user of social media - tap into that passion, which might be lacking in your older employees.
Look Beyond Print Journalists
Experienced writers, reporters and editors of magazines and newspapers are a great bet for generating online content for your company… but don’t rule out other types of journalists.
Radio and TV journalists (not the talking heads who wear lots of makeup as anchors behind desks) are great at getting the right quote, fleshing out a story, digging for details, and pulling it altogether as a cohesive, compelling story.
(I’d stay away from new grads from J-schools and definitely away from self-taught writers!)
Anyway you slice it, hiring a professionally trained and experienced journalist makes great sense at a time when Content is Online and King.
April 14th, 2009 — writing
I really think I am going to scream the next time I hear “at the end of the day…” in another interview.
My country’s public broadcaster has always been my choice for radio listening as I have no patience for commercials and, generally, the quality of content is high.
BUT every time someone is quoted in a news story, or interviewed about ANY subject, inevitably the phrase, “at the end of the day” works its way in. And I am NOT exaggerating. I started tracking it, but got too depressed to continue.
This is not new; the overuse of this meaningless cliche has been going on in CBC Radio circles for years. I only didn’t mention it before because I didn’t want to be petty.
Now I want to be petty.
Don’t get me wrong; cliches worm their way into my life too, despite my snobbish outlook on language. (Words have been, like, my whole life.)
I read Leslie Savan’s book, “Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in your Life, the Media, Business, Politics and, Like, Whatever” (OK, I couldn’t finish it, due to risk of choking.)
Nowhere in the book did I come across “at the end of the day.” That could be due to a cultural difference; I’ve heard that this cliche is uniquely British/Canadian. Lucky us.
What about other decent cliches that mean the same thing as “at the end of the day”?
How about saying: “When all is said and done”? Or, “The long and the short of it…”?
Some diversity in expression, pleeeease!!
Because, at the end of the day…. it’s evening.