Archive for June, 2013

SEO Advice: Quick Tips on Keyword Placement

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Keywords are the heart of any search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. For a small business, SEO is often the responsibility of the owner—but crafting an effective strategy can be challenging. You know that your website is supposed to contain “targeted keywords” to help potential customers find you online, but what should they be, and where should you put them?

A note on choosing SEO keywords

Unless you’re occupying a highly specific niche, chances are your small business has a lot of competition. One of the best SEO keyword strategies is to choose local keywords to optimize. Since I’m based in Cincinnati, Ohio, I use terms like “Cincinnati freelance writer” for my website SEO, to help local clients find me faster.

Combining local terms with your industry’s top keywords is a great way to rank high in search engine results. You can use the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool to research the most popular search terms associated with your small business.

SEO keyword placement strategies

Once you know your target keywords, where should you place them in your website content? A lot of small businesses make the mistake of keyword stuffing—using their keywords as many times as possible on their pages, even where they don’t make sense in context. This strategy will only get your website ignored by search engines.

The most effective placement for keywords include:

  • Metadata: Your keywords should appear at least once in the Title and Meta Description for each page of your website. You can also create a Meta Keywords tag and list relevant keywords in order from the longest to the shortest phrase. Not fluent in HTML? Don’t worry—most popular website platforms, like WordPress and Blogger, offer a way to enter metadata without coding.
  • Headings and subheadings: Search engines give more weight to text that’s coded as a heading or subheading on website pages. Including keywords in these lines can boost your SEO, and also helps make your content clearer to visitors.
  • Anchor text: Anchor text, or text that is linked to another website or a different page on your site, is also given more weight by search engines. Make sure the keywords used in your anchor text are appropriate and accurately reflect the linked content.
  • First 200 words: Search engines pay more attention to the first 200 words, or “above the fold” content, on a website page. Place your target keywords here—but make sure naturally flow with the content.

Making just a few simple changes to your website content and metadata can bring big SEO improvements. Where do your target keywords appear?

Direct Mail: It’s All About Your List

Friday, June 28th, 2013

What your direct mail marketing says is important, but your mailing list can make or break your entire marketing campaign.

According to the Database Marketing Institute, not surprisingly, the recipients of your marketing materials play a huge role in the success or failure of your campaigns. Experts agree that 40% of your mailing’s success is determined by who the recipients are, 40% comes from the value of your offer, and 20% results from the design or copywriting your piece contains, according to Entrepreneur.com.

Building Your Own List

Mailing lists typically contain both internal and external names. Internal names are people you currently do business with, or have done business with in the past. According to Marketry.com, your best chance for new sales lies with your existing customers, who are familiar with your products and services. External names are prospects that may or may not be aware of your brand that you would like to do business with.

You can use documents generated by your business to assemble an internal list. Some of the internal documents that are helpful for list-building include customer records, correspondence from customers (even complaints!), warranty documents, sales and service records, lists of former customers, and any market research surveys your company may have done.

Your list can also be further segmented into specific categories, such as purchasing history, gender, demographics, industry, frequency of ordering, etc. Essential information that you should gather for your list includes names, job titles, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses.

You can also collect list information from external sources, including customer websites, Internet databases, industry trade publications, membership directories for associations in your business niche, telephone directories, surveys, business reports published in newspapers, and government or industry statistics, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Purchased Lists

Once you’ve compiled your customer list, it can serve as a tool to help you develop a customer profile and target audience for use in purchased lists. You can rent or buy a list from thousands of different sources, including list brokers, online services, Microsoft Office Publisher, or various other mailing list organizations. It is even possible to have a list created based on your specific requirements.

According to TheDirectMailMan.com, there are two sources of purchased lists: self-service providers and full-service providers. When using a self-service provider, the user sets an ID and password with an online company and chooses the relevant criteria that will help create his list. Once the list is compiled, it is available for purchase and download almost immediately.

Full-service providers are good options for those ordering a mailing list for the first time, or those who do so only occasionally. Full-service companies allow free counts to be requested via an online form, or by phone or email. Although the list isn’t usually available right away, full-service providers typically offer suggestions and allow the requestor to ask questions and get more involved in the process, which may lead to a better quality list.

Are Purchased Lists Worth the Money?

There are pros and cons to buying or renting a mailing list. Pros: A purchased mailing list will provide a business with an immediate list of potential customers and significantly reduce the time a company must spend finding their own leads. Cons: Purchased mailing lists can be costly and may not always be current, and may not always contain new leads that will be interested in the products or services offered by a particular company.

When ordering a mailing list, it is important to realize that a big list is not necessarily a better list. The goal of any marketing campaign is to generate the largest possible number of leads with the smallest possible investment. When it comes to lists, it’s definitely quality over quantity.

This guest post is from Jan Hill, a freelance journalist who covers direct marketing tips and trends for Vistaprint.com, a leading source for custom postcards and other marketing materials for small businesses across the globe.

Tips & Tricks for Using Dropbox

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Every business today uses electronic files—and, of course, you need somewhere to store them. Cloud storage solutions like Dropbox are great tools for freelance writers, small business owners, personal users, and anyone who need access to their files on the go.

Dropbox is free to use, making it ideal for budget-conscious small businesses—and it has a lot of fantastic features that go far beyond just backing up your files. Here are some ways to use Dropbox that will help you get even more functionality and flexibility from this free platform:

  • Back up files via email: Create a (free) custom email account at SendToDropbox, and then send messages with attachments from your primary email address to this account. The attachments are automatically saved to your Dropbox folder.
  • Access files offline: When you “favorite” text or image files in Dropbox through a Dropbox mobile app, you can access them anytime—even when you don’t have a connection.
  • Upload files via URL: If you want to save a linked online file or web page to Dropbox, URL Droplet lets you do it fast—just drop the link in the form, and it automatically saves to your folder. This is a great feature if you work with clients who transfer files to you online.
  • Access your Firefox settings on any device: If your browser has a lot of customized settings and favorites, you can use Dropbox to carry your settings with you. Just download Firefox Portable to your Dropbox account, and you’ll have anywhere access to your add-ons and settings.

Want to use Dropbox for your small business, but need more than the 2GB of free storage that comes with basic accounts? You can add more free space in a number of ways—you get an extra 500MB for each friend you refer (up to 16GB, or 32 friends), another 250MB for taking a tour of the site, and 125MB for each way you connect to Dropbox through social media networks.

3 Easy Ways to Revive Your Email Marketing

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

It seems like everyone’s talking about social media these days. But as a freelance writer, I see businesses consistently pushing their efforts toward email marketing—and with good reason. Email lists are still the most effective form of online promotion, with higher open/click-through rates, audience engagement, and ROI than Facebook or Twitter.

Have you been back-burnering your email marketing efforts in favor of the shiny promises of social media? Here are a few quick tips to get your all-important lists back on track.

Build a dedicated subscription page

Of course, you already know the importance of having an opt-in box for your email list on every page of your website—but you should be capturing email addresses from more than just your website visitors. With a dedicated subscribe page, you can use a single link to point people straight to your opt-in form, instead of giving detailed instructions on where to find your opt-in box and what to do when they get there.

Use your dedicated subscribe link in your email signature, on social media, and anywhere you interact with online prospects.

Send more emails

Every marketer fears the dreaded spam label, and as a result, many are overly cautious when it comes to email frequency. You need to strike a balance between too many emails and not enough—but what’s the magic number?

The surprising answer is: probably more than you think. Online data analyst Dan Zarella has observed that people are actually more likely to unsubscribe from lists that send infrequent messages, because they forget why they signed up in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to send to your list weekly, or even a few times a week, and help keep your business top-of-mind with your prospects and clients.

Offer a simple, well-written newsletter

Newsletters are great ways to engage your email list. You can add value to your subscription by offering content that’s entertaining and relevant to your target audience. The newsletter doesn’t have to be a complicated production, either. Here’s a good format for a weekly newsletter:

  • Introduction: Give readers a brief intro or reminder of who you are and what you do, along with a link to your website.
  • Value-added content: Include a feature article, or a few short pieces, with content that’s relevant and interesting to your audience. You can place the full text inside the newsletter, or just include the first paragraph with a link to your blog for the rest.
  • Resources and links: Offer a list of related websites, free ebooks, or other content that your audience might enjoy.
  • Call to action: Here’s where you talk about your latest specials, offer exclusive discounts to subscribers, promote an upcoming event, or share anything you want your readers to know about.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to create a regular newsletter, consider hiring a freelance writer to produce your content. It’s a great investment for your email marketing efforts that pays off in more list subscribers, and more conversions to customers.

 

How Can Time Management Tools Help You?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

There are a lot of time management tools available these days that can be installed on your computer, smartphone, or tablet (and synced across all devices). But there are also some offline “old school” tools that help you effectively manage your time.

Within the last couple of years, there has been an explosion of resources. When choosing a productivity tool, make sure it’s one that you’ll actually use and that integrates well with your work style.

Whenever possible, choose simple, uncomplicated tools. Avoid solutions that require you to tag each member of your team EVERY TIME. According to Laura Stack, a Denver-based trainer and author on productivity, many of these time management tools are “so complicated that 80% of the people fail.”

Resist the temptation to jump from one shiny object to the next. Before committing to any one tool, identify your weaknesses. For instance, before purchasing that online collaboration app, make sure that it has a robust reporting feature. Getting up to speed on new software takes a lot of time, so minimize the number of transitions.

Remember, the most popular tool is not always the best choice. Just because your business colleague has been raving about a particular time tracking tool doesn’t mean it’s the right option for you. Time tracking tools—or any time management tools, for that matter—have different functions, features, and special abilities. Are all of them relevant to your business? How can using this particular tool help your staff? Make a checklist of Must-Haves, and Nice-to-Haves.

For better time management, smooth integration is key. Various tools can work in conjunction with one another. If you’ve decided that a time management tool is the smartest route to take, be sure to choose one that easily integrates with your current software applications.

This is a guest post from Anthony Codispoti, the founder of GetMyTime, a web-based time and expense tracking solution for small & medium-sized businesses.

10 Freelance Writing Gurus You Should Follow

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Ideas never run out

In my last post, I wrote about why you should compile a list of the top experts for your industry and post it on your blog. Today, I’m taking my own advice and sharing my list of go-to freelance writing gurus that can serve as valuable resources for you.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips

Every freelance writer needs to produce work with impeccable grammar. For smart, in-depth explanations of grammar rules in plain English, there’s no resource better than Grammar Girl, a blog run by Mignon Fogarty. You’ll never misplace a comma again!

Blog URL: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

Copyblogger

Freelancer Brian Clark has earned his crown as king of the freelance writing bloggers, serving up valuable and informative daily posts on all aspects of the freelance world.

Blog URL: http://www.copyblogger.com/

Chris Brogan

A prolific blogger, freelance writer, and entrepreneur, Chris offers a wealth of information for small business owners, with an emphasis on solo freelancing endeavors.

Blog URL: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/

The Urban Muse

Freelance writer Susan Johnston covers a variety of writing topics, including business, writing, and careers. She also features interviews packed with advice from other successful freelancers.

Blog URL: http://www.urbanmusewriter.com/

Thursday Bram

When you’re in business for yourself, you’ve got to wear a lot of hats. Thursday tackles many of those secondary but essential roles, offering tips on taxes, overhead, health insurance, and more.

Blog URL: http://www.thursdaybram.com/

Bob Bly, Copywriter

This freelance copywriter and marketing consultant has three decades of experience in the business, and offers tips and advice on writing, advertising, PR, online marketing, branding, blogging, and more.

Blog URL: http://bly.com/blog/

The Writer Underground

Successful freelance writer Tom Chandler combines entertainment with information in his frequent posts on the business of writing, covering a broad range of topics and writing industries.

Blog URL: http://writerunderground.com/

The Well-Fed Writer Blog

From award-winning, veteran freelancer Peter Bowerman, this blog is all about “income-boosting resources for commercial writers.” Enough said.

Blog URL: http://www.wellfedwriter.com/blog/

The Anti 9-to-5 Blog

A successful freelance writer since 1992, Michelle Goodman offers insightful, actionable advice for building a flexible, prosperous freelance career.

Blog URL: http://www.anti9to5guide.com/

Freelance Writing

The About.com guide for freelancers, written and maintained by Allena Tapia, provides an incredible amount of resources, tips, and informative blog posts, including salary information—a topic that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Blog URL: http://freelancewrite.about.com/

Boost Your Freelance Blog Traffic—and Your Authority—with a Guru List

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Writer's Digest Book Shipment

Your reputation as a freelance writer is essential to your success. If you’re viewed as authoritative, knowledgeable, and professional, you’ll be able to land higher profile clients who will pay more for your skills and talents. But if you’re not already working for quality clients, how can you improve your reputation?

One way to do it is through your freelance blog. Your blog content is out there for public viewing, and (hopefully) coming up in search engine results when people look for things like “best freelance writer” or “freelance writing services.” For a reputation-building blog post, try creating a list of gurus in your field.

How to build your guru list

Every industry has its influencers—the ultra-successful people, the handful of top names that are endlessly quoted, cited, and followed. Chances are, your clients will be interested in learning more about these top freelance writing gurus who work in the same areas as you.

There are a few ways to build your list. Most freelance writers have at least a few popular industry blogs they follow and read, so you can start by listing your favorite blogs. Check out the sidebars on those popular freelance blogs, and you’ll probably find some links to similar blogs that you can include. Another option is to search for “[your topic] blogs” on Google, or on a blog search engine like Technorati.

Try to compile around 20 or so of the top influencers in your industry for your guru list. You can write a few sentences or a paragraph of description about each one—and be sure to link from your post to the gurus’ blogs. That will be important for the next step.

Strategies for getting freelance blog traffic

Once you’ve got your guru list posted, you’ll have a ready reference on your blog that will interest both your clients and the search engines, and also makes you look authoritative and smart. You should see at least a slight natural boost in traffic, thanks to all the popular sites you’ve linked to.

Another great way to generate healthy traffic with your guru list is to spread your post through social media. Tweet the link to all those mega-successful influencers you’ve written about, and post about it on Facebook with links to the gurus’ Facebook pages. They might just pass your post on to all of their fans and followers, bringing new visitors to your freelance writing blog.

 

Want to Succeed in SEO? Don’t Skip the Updates.

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Though SEO can be one of the most effective tools a business can have, it can be a challenge to keep up with constant changes. Search engines are always implementing updates to help them scan for valuable content, all with the goal of calculating a website’s ranking. Recent search engine algorithm updates have once again changed the game and raised SEO standards. With this latest update, content is squarely in the spotlight.

Search engines are looking for websites that are active and full of knowledgeable industry information. In order to find reputable, relevant websites, they look for several key factors, including:

  • Longer content
  • Inbound links and shares from quality sources
  • Good spelling and grammar
  • Video and images
  • Proper formatting
  • Outbound links to quality sources

Producing quality website content takes a lot of time and energy, which some businesses simply can’t spare. If you don’t have the resources to keep your content updated and solid, you may want to consider hiring a professional. Whether you outsource the job or = decide to do it yourself, the following tips are a great start for gathering search engine-friendly content.

Strong Internal Content

One of the best ways to generate strong internal content is through a company blog. This can save you the expense of hiring an outside resource—you can simply assign the job to team members who are already knowledgeable about your company. This keeps readers informed and also makes you look good from a search engine standpoint. You can take these blog posts one step further by developing them into a series or a white paper that could be uploaded onto your site and used as valuable content.

 Strong External Content

Another way to meet the new SEO standards is to allow other writers and experts to contribute guest posts for your site. This has the added benefits of making interesting content available to readers and showcasing your authority. You’ll need to build strong relationships to keep the guests post coming, but it’s definitely worth the investment. Guest posts can help build inbound links, establish author ranking, and strengthen branding.

Be Visual

If you want to have a website full of strong content, go beyond the written word and offer visuals, such as videos and images. This makes your website more appealing and uses different resources to provide information. Not only will this strengthen the content of your website, it will also establish credibility through other social media outlets. This is a vital move for companies that want to stay up-to-date with social media outlets.

Search engines are always coming up with new updates in order to better rank the content value—and spam risk—of websites. It’s essential for businesses to stay abreast of these updates in order to have successful SEO strategies.

This is a guest post from Lillian at gadzoo.com, a comprehensive Internet marketing provider. Her blog educates businesses in staying up to date with the latest developments in SEO and digital marketing.

7 Important Questions to Ask a Freelance Copywriter

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

More and more businesses have found that outsourcing their copywriting needs to a freelance writer can be a viable way to cut costs. A freelance copywriter who isn’t a good fit for your business can wind up doing more harm than good. Before entering into a contract with a freelance writer, be sure to ask these 7 crucial questions.

In today’s turbulent economy, retaining a full-time copywriter can be cost-prohibitive for many small- to mid-sized businesses. But if you think shelling out a regular writer’s salary will hurt your bottom line, neglecting your content altogether can have an even more detrimental impact. So, what’s the solution?

More and more businesses have found that outsourcing their copywriting needs to a freelance writer can be a viable way to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of their content. Remember, though: a copywriter who isn’t a good fit for your needs can wind up doing more harm than good for your business.

Before entering into a contract with a writer, be sure to ask these crucial questions:

  1. When can you complete the job? This is a tricky one. While you want your content to be turned around as quickly as possible, you also want your provider to take the necessary time to craft it to your specifications. Also, be wary of writers who are available right away and promise a turnaround time that seems too good to be true. A good writer will most likely have a solid client list, resulting in at least a small wait time.
  2. What are your rates? A colleague of mine once said that when evaluating bids for a project, he automatically eliminates the lowest and the highest quotes. There’s some wisdom to this. Rock-bottom prices often require a sacrifice in quality; strive for a comfortable balance between expertise and value. Also, the answer to this question should be arbitrary. A good copywriter will usually charge by the project, rather than by the word, page, or hour.
  3. What do you need from me? Be wary of the copywriter who doesn’t have questions about your project. To achieve your desired results, he or she will have to be well-attuned to your business objectives, your target audience, and what you’re trying to achieve with your writing project. Before writing a word, your provider should become an impromptu authority on the topic at hand — and that will require some legwork.
  4. Do you have a website? If the answer is no, this isn’t the writer for you. If a provider is going to help you boost your online presence and help drive more web traffic to your site, they need to have a basic familiarity with Internet marketing strategies and web writing — and without their own site, they’re lacking in those areas by default.
  5. Do you outsource? If you contract the services of a copywriter, it’s assumed that he or she will be doing the actual writing for your project. If they plan to farm out your assignment to a junior writer and take a portion of your fee for themselves, they should let you know that your project will be completed by someone else on their team.
  6. What’s your policy on revisions? It’s a rarity for a project to arrive in your inbox in perfect condition. There will almost always be at least a few changes required. Most professional copywriters include at least one or two rounds of revisions with their quote. If not, find out what they charge for change orders.
  7. Will you sign an NDA? The answer to this should always be yes. An experienced copywriter should have no problems signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which states that all work provided and purchased becomes your sole property and will not be published, sold, or copied by the writer after completion of the project.
  8. How will we communicate? There should be more than one answer to this question. In addition to email, a writer should be accessible via phone, Skype, or live chat. Obtain as many contact details as possible, and ask about the writer’s typical response times for inquiries. Ideally, your email or phone call should be returned within a 24-hour period.

These questions should get you off to a good start in evaluating whether a potential copywriter is a good fit for your content needs. Hiring a great freelance writer is a cost-effective investment in the success and profitability of your business. Choose wisely!

Should You Update Your Web Copy?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Just because you’ve seen a dip in search engine rankings doesn’t mean you need a web copy overhaul. If business and conversions haven’t suffered, a good freelance writer may tell you to refrain from fixing what’s not broken. That said, there are some valid reasons for why you may need to consider refreshing your website content.

We all know the old adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” — but there are plenty of website owners who don’t heed that sage advice. As a freelance copywriter, I regularly have clients who contact me asking to rewrite web content that’s only been up for a few weeks or months. When I ask them their reason for wanting to update it, the answers run the gamut:

“We were #7 in the Google search results last month, and now we’re #15.”

“I’m just tired of looking at it.”

“It’s been up there for six months. Seems like it should we should mix it up a bit.”

The reality is that none of these reasons is necessarily grounds for a web copy overhaul. A short plunge in organic search rankings may not have a noticeable impact on leads or conversions. And by making a change to achieve one goal (seeing your business’ name “up in lights” in Google’s Top 5) you may end up sacrificing some other key initiatives. Plus, with the well-known fickleness of search engines, Google and Yahoo may end up having less of an appetite for your new website copy as they did for the old version. And remember: just because you’re tired of your web content doesn’t mean your customers are.

Instead of gutting and replacing content that’s still earning its real estate, why not have a professional freelance writer create some keyword-rich web articles for publication in online directories? A cost-effective Google AdWords campaign can also help give your web presence — and your conversions — a boost.

Of course, there are instances when a web copy update is warranted.

Have your conversions taken a hit? If a lower percentage of your visitors are converting into customers, it may indeed be high time for a content refresh. But before you assume your website copy is the culprit, consider any other recent changes that may have impacted your users’ experience.

Have your offerings changed? If you’ve added or removed products or services, your web content should certainly reflect the change in your business’ direction.

In light of new market developments impacting your industry, new keywords have recently been popping up in your analysis reports, and you want to incorporate them into your web copy.

Whatever you decide, be sure to test as much as possible. Copy updates shouldn’t be an “all or nothing” endeavor. Tweak a little here, sneak in a Google AdWords campaign there, and test the heck out of it. Just be sure to keep a version of the old copy so you can revert back if it doesn’t work out as you’d hoped. And if writing isn’t your forte, enlist the services of a trained freelance writer to give your content a professional touch.

Just because you’ve seen a dip in search rankings doesn’t mean you need a web copy overhaul. That said, there are some valid reasons to consider hiring a freelance writer to refresh your website content.