Great content starts with research

Why high quality content is so important to your SEO

Once upon a time…

…arguably, like humans ourselves and the parts of the world we can lay claim to having created; the internet was a kind of easier place. In its very being both alien and robotic, we had preconceived ideas about the way it worked, and in its infancy, we could program these ideas in its memory.

High quality fibre optics

Endless fibre optic content of cyberspace

Search engines, those newly born sponges they were at the time, were easy to fool with the ‘art’ of SEO. Back then, it was hardly an art; stuffing keywords into content, which was barely legible and certainly not entertaining, but it didn’t really matter. No-one read it anyway, apart from the machines. Which we’d created.

In many ways SEO was a game: the quicker content was released, the more swollen with target phrases, words and repetition, the easier it was to win. We were writing for robots and we were winning. But remember; the internet itself was a robot: a mysterious collection of wires that somehow connected us to parts of the world we’d only read about in books.

A cold, alien space many of us could not comprehend; like all new landscapes a terra incognita, a myth.

With the passing of time, we created social networks, and established digital marketing, optimised branding and organic results. We’ve turned the internet from a frigid hinterland into a fresh and friendlier place. Google rolled out responses, which have levered the cumulative effect of ridding that barren landscape, dominated by machines; of the manipulative practices of game players. Like our closest friends, Google is intuitive to our search wants and needs.

The internet evolved to be less alien and, rather like R2D2 from Star Wars once was and Jibo, the friendly robot, today; it has won its place in our hearts and as part of the family. Along with this has come brand friendliness too. So SEO, naturally, has matured into a friendlier, more human orientated art form.  Creating and maintaining friendships, relationships and trust by aligning content with your audience’s intentions. And being in it for the long haul.

Ultimately, what this means is that success can only be merited when you try to achieve your goals through meeting your clients’ needs. And herein lies the ancient art form of storytelling. Better know, in trendier circles as #contentmarketing. Like all good robots, Google wants to mimic its masters. It does this by tracing your online behaviours and using the gathered data to create a kind of customer prototype.

SEO is a game

If content is king, then research is queen

Your branding needs identity. Your identity must reflect that of a typical member of your audience. If content is king (and these days, it really is), then research is queen. By creating an ideal customer, you can build an idea of where they hang out, which channels of communication they use and what their daily obstacles are. And how your content can help them overcome them.

Just as you do in a real friendship, understanding this prototype, this ideal buyer; their desires, their needs, their questions; and supplying gripping, well researched and high value content will create meaningful relationships.

Just as robots are a serendipitous by-product of evolution, an anthropomorphic creation; the ramifications of this process are that you will naturally build up the keywords and phrases that improve your organic search ranking.

Moving on Up

Setting up a company demands determination, plus the coordination of many different skills. Being an entrepreneurial person, at the earliest phase, you’ll be occupied with the business all of the time: roadmapping, advertising, organising, collaborating and documenting accounts. This article covers the crucial time period of shifting from a startup to an SME. Your revenue growth ought to be an indication of when this organic period has arrived. However, despite there being an organic time to transitioning, ultimately you are the boss and you govern whether to develop your company, or perhaps preserve its existing steady rate. The time must be right for you

#1 Be in the growth zone

You personally need to be prepared for the growth yourself. What this means is understanding that you can no longer manage everything yourself, and relinquishing responsibility over some areas. If you’ve grown rapidly, you may have become overwhelmed. Prior to making the transition, you need to first understand how things are going to change and prepare for the new challenges that will inevitably arise.

#2 Outsource or employ?

Growth will ultimately lead to you needing some help! Don’t try to go it alone. Seek opportunities to try outsourcing. Many companies offer freelance accounting or freelance content management, social media management or even PA services. You may wish to expand and take someone on for a permanent role, but in the interim transition period, the wealth of excellent freelancers available on the internet is really worth tapping into.

Platforms such as People Per Hour can offer cost effective solutions to finding people, whilst twitter groups such as Bizitalk really help you to connect with other small businesses and establish relationships that way.

Ultimately, this person is going to help make your schedule easier. Of course, it makes sense here to play to your strengths. I previously mentioned that my Dad does my accounts for me because I am stereotypically a writer who has trouble with numbers. I often get asked to write for numbers people who don’t get on so well with words. So choose someone to help with what you can’t do, before getting help with what you can!

#3 Stick to your guns

Usually, at the very beginning you’ll kind of want to do anything to build up a portfolio and reputation, in the hope that referrals will lead to other business. And whilst endorsements from others are the best form of advertising, you will need to make sure you can cover your overheads.

Once you initiate the transformation that’ll develop your company, you must keep tabs on which customers are working out better for you. No business can sustain being employed for free,and you must stick to what you know is the right price. It’s better to have one genuine customer who appreciates the quality of your work, over time; than 3 who are underpaying you and possibly even taking advantage.

That said, number 5 on this list is really important too. Always weigh up what’s working and what’s not and make tweaks to perfect it.

#4 Focus

Set yourself attainable goals and evaluate your progress towards them on a regular basis. Be dedicated to these aims, as opposed to expansion: growth is a by-product of your effective organisation. Expanding to become an SME should never compromise your business ideals: these are what makes you, you. Or what makes your brand unique and ultimately what led your customers to you in the first place. Get your focus right: managing your business how you want it to be managed and you will acquire the clients you deserve.

#5 Innovate

Being the boss is pretty cool because it means that if you think of a great new idea; you can innovate without checking with someone else! If you’ve seen a risky strategy that you’re sure you can govern: do it! If you’re heart’s set on sending each client a chocolate lolly with their service order: send it! It’s your time to experiment and move with the times. Taking risks is what led you to startup in the first place. don’t be afraid to continue into SME ship!

Right now, self employment is 40% higher than ever before and seemingly rising. It’s a great time to be transitioning, as many companies seek expansion in the final quarter of the year. 57% say they foresee growth in the next few months. Join them, by ensuring that you get the help you need and stay focused on what makes you unique.

Why your small business needs a writer who believes in you

When I say small businesses are bankrupting me, I know it comes across as a negative. The majority of my clients are small, independent businesses and they’re who I love working with. And they’re certainly not bankrupting me because they drive a hard bargain or aren’t finding me enough work. Things are busy at Palaver Towers and they’ll soon be getting a lot busier. But I’ll tell you about that nearer to the time. (Wouldn’t want to jinx it!)

So no; it’s not a negative.

What I mean is that you guys (SMEs) are so good at what you do that you make me spend loads of my hard earned cash on your products and services.

How does that happen?

Particularly when you send me briefs which make me research around your business; what you do day to day. And what you do, the products you make: I already love them. I’ll only work with clients whose work I believe in. This is because I know it makes my writing better. So you’re bankrupting me because once I’ve given your words a spin through the storymaker (my own head); ultimately we’ve created something beautiful together and the power of it makes me convert. So I often end up buying your product or investing in your service.

How do people hear about it?

I’m a social media addict, so I spend much of my time craving clever creations people are offering on twitter or padding through pictures on pinterest. Sometimes for work and sometimes for play. Essentially, these tools help you to get your carefully crafted stories out there.  I can guarantee that if your products are written up with enough finesse and your About Us uses storytelling, many other people landing on your site will feel just like me and be motivated to get a slice of that!

Impassioned

Hiring a writer who loves your stuff as much as you do will show through in their passion. Please spend a moment looking through previous projects and my excitement is tangible. This is exactly what then drives me to want to make a purchase! And if it works on me; it’ll work on other people too.

Many clients know so much about their products that it can be difficult to describe them creatively. Many of you are too busy with the other stuff that hogs the hours in a heavy day and you haven’t hewn a space for writing. As algorithms change and content gets ever-refined, driving its purity; spending a little on content marketing will pay dividends when it comes to encouraging customers to have an emotional attachment to your company. This is the stuff that increases sales an, therefore, ultimately profits too.

To discuss an idea for any written project: print or digital; long or short: please contact me today. It makes words work for you.

 

Press Release photos: the great debate

Often when writing your own press release, you’ll seek advice and follow guidance you find online, which can produce great results. I mean, that’s one of the great things about the internet, isn’t it?! However, conventions are different across the globe and in the UK press journalists will not wish to open emails with attachments, since a) it’s more time consuming and b) they can contain viruses.

So begins the great debate about images in your press release.

Indubitably, you should always include an image with text. It helps to break text up; shows your brand identity; is usually more eye catching than simply words on a page; and is often the very first point of contact between you and your prospects.

So what are the rules for including images and how do you go about getting this right?

Plain and simple

Despite creating a beautiful press release with your logo at the top and all of the stylistic conventions recommended for writing a good press release, the actual email you send to your press list should be simple. This means it should contain no html, no embedded images and no attachments. It will look plain, but it will also bypass any filters those clever editors, journalists and bloggers have put on to minimise the risk of spam.

So how can you get your images to journalists?

#1 set up a dropbox for press images

Dropbox provides a free and easy place to store the relevant images to accompany your press release. Highlight the link to this at the beginning or within the actual pitch of the email, to ensure your readers know they are easily accessible.

#2 include a pictures section of your website

Creating a section of your website that contains a selection of relevant images means that any interested parties can simply access (and preferably download) images to accompany any text they may decide to run on you. Keeping things nice and easy will increase your chances of being published, so include a high resolution image in an easy access format, such as JPG.

#3 have a supply of pictures ready to send to journalists

The truth is that if the story itself is newsworthy enough and the article well written, the journalists for the most specific publications will write to ask you for pictures. Be sure to have them stored neatly, named aptly and in JPG format and this way they’ll be ready to go. It’s also important to respond as quickly as possible. Many journalists work to tight deadlines and really appreciate swift responses.

#4 Submit your story to a PR site or blog

If there is an online version of your news story available, journalists may collect the images from this site if they wish. This makes the process easier, whilst also contributing to your site’s SEO. My Cision news page means your images can be accessed immediately and downloaded.

For advice or assistance with creating a perfect press release or any written task for your business, please use the contact form to email me or feel free to call for a chat any time. My number is 07729 263818

Website content

Confessions of an accidental business woman #1

I say accidental because I naively envisaged sitting behind my computer all day typing creative articles and being paid for it.  For a time this was an accurate depiction of life as an original creative copywriter. But to sustain it, I have had to learn about databases, marketing, PR, SEO, web design and many other cogs in the smooth(ening) running of my pepperetically* (well oiled would be a lie) oiled machine. This was not always the plan. And I say businesswoman, which still makes me laugh, as it does with so many of my clients from SMBs and sole trading ventures. I’m still little me sitting in my office tapping away at the keyboard and trying to juggle all sorts of additional tasks.

I’ve decided to launch Confessions of an accidental businesswoman as an aside to the regular blog, which will feature once a week and tell readers about my mistakes in business, so you can avoid making them yourself!

My Confession

I confess that when I first started I didn’t really know who my target audience were. I didn’t have my invented character sitting beside me to ‘chat through things’ and the posts were clunkier with no real direction. Being a professional writer is one thing and being a businesswoman is another.

Avoid doing the same thing

Having a strategy in place will ensure you avoid making the same mistake. Get to know who your target audience are and build content tailored to them. My top tip for a solution to this problem is outlined below. I make mistakes, so you don’t have to.

The Solution: Invent a character

No, not as in who you should be. You should be you. I’m not a fan of impossible statistics but you should 110% be you, as this is who your prospects and customers want to buy from. But you should invent a character who is your consumer. They need to fit the demographic and be a friend; a confidant and a sounding board.  Imagine that everything you write is essentially having a conversation with that person. This achieves two things: you build a relationship with the character in quite the same way as you would with a ‘real’ person. You show your thoughts and feelings and speak in a language that is easy to understand. Symbiotically, whilst you are revealing your true self to them, they will believe in you; which is more likely to convert them into a customer.

Of course, with all the best will in the world, we all make mistakes and every person in a small business will have their own confessions to make. I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below if you have some words of wisdom to impart for other people in SMEs and SMBs.

*my own portmanteau of peppered and sporadically. Meaning my machine could be oiled more frequently. It’s s sort of a homonym of peripatetic which has left my mind with images of a lazy, migratory pepper pot!

 

6 tips for captivating Content Marketing

OK. So you’re not a top-notch copywriter but you love a challenge and you’ve read somewhere that marketing through good content can help raise your business profile. An experienced creative, with the conceptual capacity to deliver cut-through campaigns will hold a grasp of grammar that would make Garcia Marquez proud. If you’re not convinced you measure up: fear not.

Bring passion, bring enthusiasm and your thorough in-depth knowledge of your product, service or offer and you will be on the right path. An excellent writer knows their audience and how to keep that person reading.

#1 Gen up on grammar

OK, so I’ve kind of covered this above, but you understand what I’m saying. If you’re still getting your ‘then’ and ‘than’ confused or are using misplaces apostrophes on your copy, the secret will be out that a professional’s eyes have not glided over your copy. The internet boasts many resources such as dictionaries and grammar checkers that if you’re not entirely sure if ‘its’ or ‘it’s’ is correct: have a look!

#2 Vary your sentences

When I was a teacher, this was the number one exercise to reinforce to students. Always. Using sentences of different length can create impact. Sometimes a one word sentence has a subtext of many more words than a lengthy explanation. Be concise occasionally. Rearranging the word order can also create a more interesting starter. (e.g. The cat sat on the mat becomes As it approached the mat, the cat stretched and sat on it.) Words create pictures.

#3 Be personal

You are writing this to be read by humans, and as well as good advice; humans really like a good story. It’s OK to inject a bit of personality into even the most ‘dry’ of subject areas. It shows you’re human. Of course, nobody is likely to want an entire life story, but some personal details such as your teams in the work World Cup syndicate give a little bit of yourself away in your copy.

#4 Avoid jargon

Again, you’re writing for people. You do want to create an authority voice, so prospective clients will see your expertise shine through. However, overcomplicating posts with too much technical jargon will cause readers to switch off and then you’ve lost a lead. Again, as a teacher my advise to learners is imagine explaining it to a friend/ your grandmother. It helps to visualise a reader.

#5 Don’t be too sales-y

Ideally every single time somebody visited your website: be it a blog entry, an accidental stumbling or a sought out through a directory; they would make a purchase or file your details for future purchases. However, it can take time to build up a relationship with visitors and ultimately people prefer to be in conrol of their own decisions. So, being pushy and constantly referring to sales and packages could put people off.

#6 Add credible sources

But the main focus is to make you seem an expert, right? Yes and no! Of course, you want to demonstrate your knowledge and professionalism, but using a credible source only backs this up further. For example: ‘duck eggs reduce cancer’ could be a statement from anywhere. Whereas ‘Fantastic for fighting cancer, duck eggs are alkaline, which means they leave the body alkaline after consumption.’ adds a link to a credible source. It shows that you have done your research.

For help with creating content packages or to discuss your content strategy, please give me a call 07729263818.

Why Google’s algorithm change means you should use small PR companies

Those with their fingers on the algorithmic pulse ought to have been aware of Google’s latest changes in the form of Panda 4.0. But what will it mean for your business?

Google is renowned for being a smart company. As it strives to provide rich content for searchers, changes have happened to the way in which ranking works yet again. Focused on a developing the most efficient form of search, Google has and will continue to make changes to where results are placed within its ranks. Designed to weed out sites with flimsy keyword loaded drivel in the content pages, as writer I wholeheartedly endorse these changes because they mean more sites will be providing quality content.

In terms of blog posts and regular articles, ensure that your content is being updated regularly and with real information. It’s pleasing to see that many SMBs and SMEs are following this trend; providing solutions to industry specific questions and building relationships with clients.

An article I read yesterday forecasts a bleak future for large PR wires who prefer the tactic of spamming writers with many press releases, bursting with flimsy links but no real content. The great thing about using a small company to write your press release is knowing that it has been created by someone who cares about their company, so won’t rush the release just to make up numbers.

More importantly, a smaller company has a reputation to consider;and as such is less likely to risk spamming journalists. It’s better to take time building specific lists tailored to a journalist’s own preference. I always put a copy of the release onto my Cision news page and promote this using social media as well as sending to relevant journalists, which ensures the release is gaining exposure. This method of distribution takes time and effort to constantly evolve and respond to changes, but that’s how Google are working and more widely how all technology is adapting and small businesses should adapt with it.

It’s a recommended form of distributing to take time to build a targeted list, maintaining relationships by phone call rather than just emails. Effectively, the more penalties incurred by automated press release sites;, the higher benefit there will be to real PR services who genuinely wish to support clients, rather than being overly spammy.

Google is big brother: they are watching you, they know what you’re going to do next and this latest development is ensuring press release distribution companies are taking their jobs seriously and contacting the right people with the right information.

For free, no obligation advice on press release or any other content, please call or email for a chat and I will do my best to help you.

 

7 ways a press release will help your business

In an ever more digitalised world, the face of marketing is constantly changing. With a reported 4.3 million people working from home in 2014, many small and medium businesses and enterprises are managing everything from their own home offices. But there does come a time when each small business has to seek help elsewhere.

I, for example, am a words person. When it comes to numbers I’m all fingers and thumbs. I’ve been known to end up with a calculator shaped dent in my forehead after doing my accounts. Thankfully my Dad takes care of those now;  he used to be an accountant at Island Records. (Well, allegedly this was his title, but seemingly getting high with Aswad was ‘part of the job’!) Similarly with behind-the-scenes website maintenance, I have sought the help of WordPress guru Paul Sandford.

So, if you’re thinking of getting help with press release submission, these are my ideas about how it will help your business.

#1 Press Releases give you more exposure

Whatever your business or trade, we can all do with more exposure. Finding ways to le the maximum number of people know about your great products or services is one of the most important things for new or small businesses. When I write press releases I build a bespoke list. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, depending on how niche the area of your press release is. For example, I recently wrote a press release for a chocolate company who wished for it to be submitted to wholesale press organisations. The pick up rate of this piece was through the roof. It was very niche.

That said, I wrote a release for a company in the construction industry recently who got an average pick up rate of 5 publications but also gained custom through a journalist forwarding the email to her parents.

#2 A Press Release increases your social media followers

As part of what I do, I like to help promote clients’ services and businesses as much as possible. By using relevant hashtags, linking to the article about the service and interacting with other social media users, this furthers your exposure online by gaining interest in your social media.

#3 A Press Release will boost your SEO

By using SEO savvy linking in your press release and encouraging online publishers to link directly to your site, a press release will be good for your SEO ranking. The use of keywords will enrich your content, links will strengthen your position and also the mentions to your site using hashtags on social media will enhance your web presence.

#4 A Press Release gives you an authority voice

Within a well written press release there should be quotes from the spokesperson for the company. This is usually the CEO or Managing Director. These quotes are valuable because journalists can’t change them. Any other information used in a press release can be modified. Getting an important message across in an authority voice will give prospects confidence in you and your business.

#5 You can make some great contacts through a Press Release

Whether it’s journalists who will prefer to deal with you direct or bloggers willing to review your product or services, you will make some valuable contacts through sending out a press release. As always, be courteous and these relationships will strengthen as time goes on. Similarly, the journalist receiving your press release will always have your details on file (in their email). Even if they don’t immediately contact you, they may need an opinion or information about your product or service at a later date.

#6 A Press Release will improve hits to your website

Many journalists will click the link in the press release to see what your company is about. This of course will add more page views to your site; therefore increasing its statistics page.

#7 You will own a first class piece of copy about your site

So long as you or your writer put some effort and research into it, you will end up with some razor sharp copy and insightful statistics about and around your company. You can put it on your site, you can add it to a newsletter, you can even have it printed on a t-shirt! Whether you see it appear in any nationals or not, your press release will keep working for you long after you have submitted it.

If you want an expert to create and distribute a first class press release for you, please order one from me. You can call me on 07729 263818 to chat about your requirements or send a message over to laura@palavermaven.co.uk