Posts tagged writing
The New New Thing

Are you guys familiar with the Technological Singularity? The basic premise is that machine super-intelligence is an inevitability - that computers will become more and more intelligent until a point at which they surpass us by many leagues. Right now you may be saying to yourself, "Self, what does the Technological Singularity have to do with search engine marketing?" Well, Self, the answer is kind of a lot.

The algorithms and processes used by Google and other search engines are only getting more advanced. "More advanced" is of course a hopelessly general term. But let’s look at the effects it’s already having on the world of content writing.

In the beginning you could stuff your meta data full of keywords and get the undivided attention of the adolescent search engine. Later you could simply optimize your meta data and write thousands of meaningless sentences to draw their juice. More recently, you could still write thousand upon thousands of careful, sensical sentences with careful keyword ratios and internal linking to get attention. But those days are gone.

Content has always been king, but now that the search engines are smarter and more aware than ever, you cannot cheat. You have to write real content that is actually useful - that people would actually like and benefit from reading. Sounds hard doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

At Delegator we’ve always insisted on writing content in the best way we can. But now even we need to start making some changes. The days of 10,000 word orders are fading, and the days of the perfect 300 word product description are at hand. Now you have to be more than present - you have to shine.

The Top Ten Ways to Optimize Your Wordpress Blog and Make It More Powerful Than Ever - Part I

1. Top Ten Lists

You see what we did there? Top ten lists are enduringly popular. They present a lot of information in quick, easy to read bits, they give the reader a reason to keep reading, they show off expertise and a depth of knowledge, and they create arguments. And that’s what blogging is all about. Not many people know this, but the Ten Commandments are considered to be the very first blog post.

2. Infographics

In an increasingly visual society infographics are a fantastic way to draw the eye, impart information, and get your blog linked. A lot. Make it good, make it useful, make it colorful (literally and figuratively) and put it out there to get noticed.

3. Keyword-Rich, Compelling, Unique Headlines

This is an SEO recommendation combined with an interest-grabbing tactic. Most people read blogs in compressions (think Google Reader, RSS, etc.) and the headline is often the only chance you have to get them to read what you wrote. Moreover, headlines are a great way to get the attention of the google-bots crawling the internet looking for relevant, useful content. Make your headlines attention grabbers, but also fill them with keywords. For instance, “Optimize Wordpress Blog.” See what we did there?

4. Unique Content

For SEO purposes this is absolutely essential. Never take content from another source and present it as your own (unless you’re quoting), and don’t repeat yourself. The bots don’t like it. And you won’t like the bots when they’re angry. Besides, who wants to spend their time reading an un-orginal blog?

5. Reader Participation

Blogs need communities of readers to really thrive. And the best way to build that community is to engage with them. That doesn’t just mean good content, headlines and graphics. That means literally inviting them in, listening to their thoughts and airing their opinions. Keep and cultivate a vibrant comments section (don’t let it get abusive), post reader polls, ask questions, and post worthy thoughts on your main pages as blogs. Involve your readers and they’ll keep you in their life.

Check back in with us in the next few weeks, when we'll reveal the rest of the top 10 list. We want to give you some time to start working on the first five. See you then!

Top Six Ways to Write More, Yes Even More Content

Okay, so you’ve spent months writing content for your new site. You’ve written about every little detail of every product or service you offer, filled in every bit of background information you can think of, and generally driven yourself crazy trying to fill as many pages as you can. But you’re still not quite where you want to be; you need more content. How do you do it? How do you dig down deep and come up with meaningful, useful content when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope? Let this long-time content writer show you the way with my personal Top Six content fixes.

1. Top Five, Top Ten, Top 15, even Top 27 Lists

One of the easiest and most fun ways to bulk up your on-page content is what you’re reading right now - a top (whatever number you choose) list. Come up with something that’s interesting to your readers, and then rank or list them - there’s nothing more compelling to a reader than a numbered list with a juicy headline. Just look at the magazine stands during football or Oscar season and you’ll see what we mean. Because lists are so popular with readers, they are excellent link bait. If you’ve got a great list with a compelling title, you’re sure to generate some interest from other sites and aggregators.

2. Q&A’s

Post question and answer interviews on your site. Talk to the people who started your business, the movers and shakers in your particular sphere of influence, or people who produce the things you sell (if you’re an e-retailer). If you run an appliance business, for example, you might want to send a few emails to the designers and manufacturers of the things you sell and then publish the resulting interview on your site. Make sure these are informative, interesting, and relevant to your site.

3. Transcripts

Transcripts of speeches, videos, or promotional material are a great way to add content to any site. If you work in the real estate business, a transcript from a realtor’s speech or promotional video is a great way to get keyword-rich text on your site. Just make sure the transcript mentions keywords you’re interested in ranking for on Google, Yahoo and Bing (and that you have the rights to publish the material!)

4. FAQ’s

The Frequently Asked Questions section is a great place to serve the readers and the search engines in equal measure. You can create an FAQ on any of your landing pages by collecting real questions from readers/buyers/users, as well as some of your own, to create compelling and helpful content. Make sure to mention the keywords you want to invest in by name, and make sure the answers to the questions are honest, helpful, and easy to understand. Some of the most popular search queries are in the form of questions. How many times have you typed in “How do I...” or “How to...” into a search bar? With well written and thoughtful FAQs, you can make it easier for these users to find your site. FAQs benefit all three parties involved in SEO - the search engines, the users, and you.

5. Compare and Contrast

This is when you take the product you sell, or a particular feature of your site, and compare it to a similar product or feature somewhere else (in a favorable light, of course). You might compare the quality of your product to that of another, or the advances your product has made in reference to an older or more well known model. Just make sure you pick products, services or specialties that make you look better than your competitors, and that the content is sharp and informative.

6. Product Reviews

Similar to Compare and Contrast, except you don’t give your competition any exposure and you get more control over your message. There are plenty of companies who will do independent reviews like this (Delegator is one of them) and still work in plenty of SEO-goodness with keyword-rich content. On page reviews are also a proven reader and link magnet, with users of all stripes wanting to get a little inside information when it comes to buying your product or service. Product Reviews are where you can sell your products, utilize SEO and provide a great service for your customers all at the same time.

These are just my proven techniques. If you know any other great strategies for writing more and more content, let us know in the comments! No matter what strategies you use, just remember that Black Hat SEO is never worth it. Do things the right way, and always create unique, keyword-driven content. You don't want to be on notice, do you?

Longtail Geo-Targeting Your Content and Keywords or, Why It’s Good to Be “Chattanooga SEO Experts” instead of “SEO Experts.”

Many of our clients came to us at first because they had become frustrated trying to do their own SEO copywriting. The big terms they wanted to rank for, like “personal injury lawyer” or “office furniture” just weren’t seeing much traction on the Google results page, no matter how hard they tried and no matter how much content they wrote. They came to Delegator wanting to know why - and, if we were so smart, how could we fix it? For a large percentage of these clients, the answer was very simple. They were going after keywords that were much too competitive for their budget. For instance, the term “personal injury lawyer” gets 368,000 searches per month and a competition ranking of “High,” according to Google, which has over 12 million indexed pages for that single term. For small to medium sized law firms that can be a tall mountain to climb with a limited budget. In cases like this we often recommend that our clients employ geo-targeted long tail keywords. Which is a fancy way of saying, “Put the name of your city, state or region in front of the term you want to rank for.”

Geo Targeting Keywords

“Personal injury lawyer” then becomes “Tennessee personal injury lawyer.” The second term, as you might imagine, gets fewer searches per month than the first (1,600). However, because there are fewer searches, and often less competition, there is more opportunity for small to mid-sized businesses and firms. Yes, you will be fishing in a smaller pond with less fish - but because you won’t be competing with 12 million other fisherman, you’ll be more likely to bring in a great catch.

But that’s not the only advantage of geo-targeted long tails. Not only is there less competition, the people who are performing searches for your new keyword are more likely to click and convert. Why? Because the use of a longer, more specific keyword has filtered your results. Instead of getting calls from Montana and Ottawa, where you might not be willing or able to do business, you’re only going to get hits from local, interested searchers who have self-selected for their viability and availability as clients.

Less work and administrative headaches, more interested and viable searchers, and a higher ranking--that’s the beauty of a geo-targeted longtail keyword. You can trust us - we’re “Chattanooga SEO Experts!”

How to Run Your Own Blog

And lo, journeyed into the wilderness of the 156 million public blogs on the Internet, and returned to the people with commandments; and these commandments numbered 10.

I. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

The most important thing any blogger can do is to keep blogging. At first, you might get very little reader response. You might even (gasp) get none at all. But that’s no reason to panic! The only way you can create an engaged and communicative readership is by regularly updating your blog. People don’t congregate at or return to blogs that are infrequently or indifferently updated. It may be the last thing on your to do list, but it’s absolutely essential that you get it done. You might be talking to yourself at first, but if you keep talking and you actually have something to say, people will start to listen. Trust us.

II. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

This is by far the most important commandment. Brand it upon your brain.

III. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

We are willing to alienate and annoy you to ensure that you do not forget this commandment.

IV. Write what you know.

This is one of those true cliches about professional writing. As important as it is to novelists, journalists and script writers, it’s doubly important for bloggers. Bloggers don’t have to be single issue, but if they seek to gain a larger readership they need to be focused and expert. If you don’t understand a concept, link to it - don’t write about it. Your readers are coming to you for answers and/or entertainment, so write about things you know inside and out. Otherwise you risk losing credibility, respect for you or your companies ability, and worst of all, readers.

V. When readers have a strong response to a post, keep mining that vein of interest - hold their attention.

It’s in the best interest of a blog writer to be responsive to his or her readers. If you get a big response from a post of yours (even if you didn’t think it was that big a deal) listen to your readers. Keep posting about that same subject or in that same style (not exclusively, just regularly). The goal of a blog is to build readerships, transmit information, and connect with potential clients. When you touch a nerve, don’t be shy about pressing it.

VI. Create an editorial voice, and maintain it.

Even if your blog posts are being written by several different people and cover a few different areas of interest, keeping a clear editorial voice is important. It helps readers to feel they have a personal connection to the blog, and it makes your site distinctive and personal. Those are good things because they invite visits, correspondence, and a welcome sense of familiarity.

VII. Every once in a while, go off the cuff.

Having an editorial voice doesn’t mean you should speak in monotone. It’s good to give readers a few breaks from the serious work of digesting your thoughts and evaluating your advice. One of the most popular blogs on the internet, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, posts more than 300 times a week. But many of those posts are funny or moving pictures, silly videos, and palate cleansers like a daily “Mental Health Break.” You should think about fun ways to engage with your audience that don’t always include teaching them something. Your blog doesn’t need to look like it was designed by Martha Stewart, but it is important to give it a professional, cared-for appearance. If it’s sloppy, ugly, or too plain, savvy readers pick up on it and take their jaded eyeballs elsewhere.

IX. Spellcheck is your best friend.

Try not to get caught making mistakes in the realm of spelling, fact-checking, and grammar. It takes away credibility, and makes you look small-time.

X. Link to sources, and make sure to be up front about where you got information.

Nothing gets you worse press in the blogosphere than not attributing your sources of information on your blog. Do right by them and they’ll do right by you. Do otherwise, and you could get in real trouble (of the punitive kind, if not the legal).

High Quality Video

The modern media market is saturated with video. Videos on websites, video ads before the websites even load, commercials on television, at gas station pumps and in the backs of cabs. Videos on corporate retreats, in job training sessions, anywhere and everywhere. And, of course there’s YouTube. YouTube is not only the largest collection of video on the internet - YouTube is the second most popular search engine (my italics) on the internet. Bigger than Yahoo, bigger than Bing!, bigger than everything except almighty Google. That should tell you two things: 1) Video is becoming the most important communication medium in the 21st century.

2) The average online customer has watched thousands and thousands of videos in their lifetime.

So business people who want to get their message out online or on television face a real challenge. How do you get the attention of a consumer base immune to the novelty factor in video? And how do you keep their attention when they have literally a million other options just a mouse click away?

The answer is so obvious it seems like a cop-out: Quality.

The only way to distinguish yourself in a crowded market is to be excellent. And the only way to keep people from changing the channel, or clicking the mouse, or simply ignoring you, is to look great delivering that quality content.

There are two main factors that come into play when we talk about true quality video. The first is simple - the video has to look great. That means using the best HD cameras available. That means using lighting schemes intelligently and professionally, taking a lot of time to set up and frame each and every shot, and using advanced microphones and sound recording equipment to achieve a natural sound.

Because modern viewers have so much video, good and bad, they’ve all become experts and critics. They can spot low-quality video a mile away, and that’s the kiss of death when it comes to communication with them - they turn off to your message immediately.

The second factor is much more complex. How do you make the actual content of your video match the quality of the look and sound?

It’s hard to say. But one of the best things you can do is delegate that responsibility to creative people with experience. At Delegator we work with professional videographers and a creative writer (with a B.A. in Film) to come up with compelling concepts, and we write detailed scripts for our clients (or actors) to perform on camera.

With today’s media-savvy public, making a low-quality video is like trying to pass off a forgery to a room full of art critics. It’s not worth the trouble. If you’re thinking of making a video for your business (and you should be), don’t compromise or scrimp. Commit your resources to making the  best video you possibly can.

Content, Content, Content

In our initial meetings with clients, one of the questions we hear the most is “How much content do I need?” Businesses want their websites and products and services to be picked up by search engines like Google and Yahoo! and Bing, and they know that content is the best and most practical way to do that organically. So the natural question becomes, how much is enough? But first, a caveat: Volume is not the only consideration when you’re talking about adding articles and information to your site. If that were so, it would be easy for big companies to dominate the market. What Delegator offers is high-quality, well researched and relevant content. We take the time to learn about your business or your site, and what we write is tailored specifically to your needs and the needs of your customers. It’s not good enough to merely rank high; the written content on your site must be valuable to visitors.

The easy answer to “How much?” is, snappily, “However much it takes to get you the ranking you want.” Because the number of words needed to get ranked is different for every website, client and keyword, it’s impossible for us to say exactly how much you need to push your website to the very top of the rankings. For some sites, getting to the number one ranking might be a pipe dream anyway, as harsh as that sounds. So the easy answer is “However much it takes,” but the responsible answer is “Wait and see.”

Google and Search Engine Optimization

For every client who orders content from us, we always recommend starting with a base of content, rather than an arbitrary large amount. For most search engines, unique keyword-targeted content isn’t taken seriously unless it’s at least 500 words long per page. That’s the minimum amount per page, or per topic or per product, that we recommend content-wise. For most clients, we advise going over that minimum; we’ve found that starting with between 1,000 and 2,000 words is a good base layer. After that we watch for the search engine positions of the optimized keywords to change. Soon, the search engines pick up the content and decide how they’ll rank it. For some, that means a meteoric rise into the top ten, or the first page. For others, it means that the content ranks in double digits for the first time (meaning it’s in the first ten pages). Either way, that’s the information that really tells us how much content you’re going to need.

So the easy answer is “However much it takes.” The responsible answer is “Wait and see.” But the correct answer usually is “A lot.” After the initial content tells us exactly where a site and its content ranks in the eyes of search engines, we recommend aggressive doses of content to get them where they need to be. For some clients we’ve written over 100,000 words on various products and product pages. For others, the “base” content was enough. But in general, if you’re really serious about getting ranked as high as possible, you’ve got to load your plate with keyword-rich unique content that draws eyeballs, dollars, and clicks. If this long-term (and sometimes large investment) option isn’t for you, then a good alternative is AdWords. AdWords, is Google’s pay-per-click advertising platform, and it provides an easier way to get traffic to your site in the short to medium term.

Unlike Google AdWords, which is paid advertising, content writing is a long term investment in your website. The fruits of the investment are higher organic rankings and greater organic growth. Your readers will have more information at their fingertips to help them make decisions and clarify issues, and search engines will know who you are. Adding quality content adds value, and in the eyes of search engines, prestige, which can translate into a higher ranking.

If your website needs quality, relevant content, please contact us or visit our SEO page for more information.

Writing AdWords Ad Copy: Principles, Not Rules

Not rules, principles McKee says. A rule says you must do it this way. A principle says this works and has through all remembered time.-Donald Kaufman, Adaptation

Whenever you search for something in Google, you probably notice the highlighted ads that populate the very top of the page, as well as the right side. These are ads that companies pay Google to display there whenever a searcher enters in a certain keyword - it’s called AdWords, and it's a bit of a specialty for us.

One of the fundamentals of an AdWords strategy is obviously, the ad. After all, it is the ad that a potential customer sees, and it is the ad copy that convinces said person to click through to your website. So, what would make someone do this? What makes for an eye-catching, enticing ad?

It turns out there aren’t hard and fast rules that answer those questions. But, just as screenwriting guru Robert McKee would say about screenplays, there are principles. Let's start with three:

1. Be Different

This sounds straightforward enough: be different from the competition. But this is not being different just for the sake of being different. After all, Google will only display your ad if it is relevant to the user’s query, so it won’t pay to write about [purple monkeys] when someone is searching for [Corvettes].

What this principle means is you need to take a little creative license to craft your ad against those of your competitors. Of course this will mean taking the time to perform a few test searches to see what kind of stuff the other guys are writing. If the competitor ads are specific, be general. If their ads are general, be specific. If you have a unique offer like a discount or “Free Shipping” that sets you apart, put it in the ad. These are the things that make the difference between an ordinary ad and a clickable one.

2. Let The Users Decide

The most important, and foolproof, principle is to let your users tell you which ads are best. That is, write 2-3 ads for each ad group and tell Google to rotate the ads evenly (in your Campaign Settings). After all of the ads have accumulated enough impressions, you will be able to tell which ads have the highest CTR (click-through rate).

This is the data-driven approach that we place a lot faith in here at Delegator. You can sit around and argue about which headline grabs the most attention, or which wording of a phrase is preferable, but until you actually see how they perform, you’re only dealing in hypotheticals. At the end of the day, when we are measuring our own results with AdWords, or the results of a client, we fall back on the stats. [NB: when comparing CTR data of ads, we use a simple statistical significance calculation]

3. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

No, you won’t need shampoo for this last guideline. You will, however, need some creativity and some patience. The process of writing and rewriting ads is a sometimes tedious, yet always necessary exercise in AdWords. Tedious because it comes down to a science after a certain point, and necessary because it keeps you ahead of your competition.

If you aren’t trimming the underperforming ads and replacing them with new, well-written ones, you are falling behind the competition. For a good AdWords manager, every couple of weeks should involve an analysis of the performance of the ads in a given account (Principle #2). After the analysis, you should trim the ads that aren’t working and write new ones in their place. This is what keeps your ads relevant, your quality scores up, and your costs down.

These principles should be a nice start, but stay tuned for more tips on ad writing and other AdWords areas. If you have any questions about this or any of our AdWords services, just drop us a line.