It’s not Google’s fault that your business entirely depends on the search engine

Don't depend just on Google

When people feel bad about their rankings suddenly changing due to erratic algorithmic changes at Google it is understandable because businesses incur losses. Something that might be inane and simple organizational restructuring for the search giant might be a matter of life and death for a particular business. I have personally experienced total disappearance of my website from the search engine listings around three years ago (April-end 2011 to be precise) and I can totally relate to what must people feel when their links suddenly disappear from the first page or the second page for no fault of theirs.

First, Google never advises people to base their businesses solely on the search engine. The search engine is a good way of getting qualified traffic but it is a search engine after all run by a private company that is only going to worry about its own bottom line. People at Google will never make changes that bring them losses. In fact search engineers and information architects at Google must be working round-the-clock trying to figure out how to maximize the company’s profits. If in the pursuit of this maximization someone’s business is ruined, well, too bad.

But you know what? Google is not a natural phenomenon. It’s not that your business was hit by an earthquake or a flash flood or a lightning and you couldn’t do anything about it. Yes, if it is a major source of traffic you might be hit initially but if you have already been trying to build other resources for qualified traffic then there is no reason to worry. The problem is, sometimes we focus just on a single thing, like put all the eggs in a single basket and if you’re doing that, then even if your business does not depend on Internet traffic, it is operating on shaky ground because you never know when circumstances change.

Take for instance guest blogging. In a recent blog post I explained how to pitch for a guest blogging assignment and I also mentioned how guest blogging is being frowned upon by the search experts at Google for obvious reasons. There is a thriving community called MyBlogGuest for guest bloggers and suddenly Google has decided to penalize not just the website but also all the participants. And this is exactly the sort of response from Ann Smarty, the founder of MyBlogGuest, that should instil confidence among those who don’t want to allow Google to arm twist them into following its every single guideline. The people who are complaining are mostly the ones who had completely left it up to Google to decide how much traffic they should get.

Why is Google penalizing every method of getting back links from other websites? Guest blogging after all is a perfectly legitimate way of getting qualified links to your website or blog. You write for another blog and as a gesture of appreciation, they include a small bio of yours that contains your link; what’s wrong in that? There is nothing wrong in that. You need to remember that Google’s revenue comes from AdWords – it’s a PPC (pay per click) program. If you’re not good at improving your search engine rankings and if you have money to spend on marketing, this is a good way of getting immediate traffic. So naturally, if you don’t have other sources of traffic, you need to depend on Google, and if Google doesn’t allow you to naturally get those links from other websites, the only option left for you is to invest in its AdWords program. Obviously it is going to penalize those businesses that try to get traffic from other links.

Attaching the search engine rankings to the way you get links is just a ruse. Google cannot directly tell you that don’t get links from other websites because the only way to get links is through AdWords. It does that through downgrading your natural search engine rankings, something every business aspires for. So either improve your natural search engine rankings by strictly following Google’s recommendations and guidelines, or invest in the AdWords program if the only thing that matters to you is traffic from Google.

What can be other options? Of course I don’t advise you to go against Google’s guidelines because you can generate massive traffic once you have cracked the ranking problem and gotten your website to the first page or even the second page on Google. This is something that works for me:

  • When it comes to creating content, make your own website or blog the priority. Create as much high-quality content for your own website or blog as possible. The more high-quality content you have, the better are your prospects at improving your search engine rankings naturally.
  • When you get links from other websites (and you don’t want those links to adversely affect your Google search engine rankings) request the owners of that website to use the rel=”nofollow” tag (this tells Google that you are not using the link to improve your search engine rankings). Google does not penalize you for incoming links if these links have this tag. It also doesn’t penalize your ranking if these links are coming from well-reputed websites like New York Times, Washington Post or the Huffington Post whether the use the “nofollow” tag or not.
  • Focus on networking, equally. As a small business word of mouth matters. Getting random traffic from search engines may give you a psychological boost, but it isn’t necessary that it will translate into good business. On the other hand if you establish personal contacts with different people it will fetch you more business. Establish a good presence over LinkedIn, Twitter and if possible, also Facebook. In the past year 20% of my business has come from LinkedIn and Facebook (strangely, there have been queries from Twitter, but so far, no project).
  • Spend some money on marketing. A great number of things on the Internet are available for free, and this has given rise to a negative mentality that you can do well without spending much money. Invest money getting a good website and hiring a good content writer – regarding hiring a good content writer, I’m not just saying this because I’m a professional content writer, the way you express yourself on your website really makes a big difference. Even PPC programs like AdWords can give you the much-needed initial push. I’m not saying start spending money senselessly, I’m just saying get out of that mentality that on the Internet you don’t need to spend money and everything can be achieved pretty much free of cost. It’s an illusion. Even people promoting open source software applications make money by providing support for those applications.
  • Develop your own mailing list. Email still rules the roost when it comes to promoting your services although spammers throughout the world have totally tarnished its image. But it really works. These days, aside from providing professional content, I have also started writing for a few news publications and for that I started a new mailing list for people who would like to get notified whenever I publish a new article. The click rate is 16-20%. This is very impressive. It means if I have 100 subscribers, 16 people are reading my articles from that mailing list and if I have 1000 subscribers – on the Internet this is not a stretch – then 160 are reading my articles straight out of that mailing list. 16-20% is not easily achievable, but even if you can achieve 4-5% you no longer have to depend on Google traffic.

I may have not covered everything above, but what I’m trying to say is, don’t just solely depend on Google because this strategy is dangerous in any environment. Work on building multiple streams even if you feel that you are diluting your effort.

Optimizing your content for search engines? Where do you draw the line?

Robin Williams

The world was recently shocked at Robin Williams’ sudden death. As the news spread over the web everybody was searching for it. People wanted to know more about the actor, his depression, all his work and actually what led him to commit suicide, if at all he committed suicide. There was news of his daughter Zelda Williams quitting Twitter and Instagram because of the horrible treatment meted out to her by the notorious Internet trolls. Web-based newspapers and blogs were vying for the top search engine positions for terms like “Robin Williams dead at 63″. One of the news editors at New York Daily actually sent advisory to its writers and editors on which words and expressions to use in the headlines and when to scale up and scale down these words and expressions like “Robin Williams”, “dead”, “suicide”, etc. Here is how the internal email goes (the link above is the source):

From: Everett, Cristina

Date: August 12, 2014 at 5:33:00 PM EDT

To: WebEditors

Subject: ENTERTAINMENT handoff!

NOTES ON ROBIN WILLIAMS STORIES/HEDES!!

Thank you to everyone who did a great story [sic] with keeping our stories SEO strong with the * Robin Williams dead at 63 * header for the first 24 hours. Starting tomorrow morning, we can scale back on the robot talk (meaning no death header) just as long as the stories continue to *start* with his full name and include buzzy search words like *death, dead, suicide, etc.*

If you look at the comment thread in the above-linked short blog entry, you will get some interesting perspectives. Some people are cynical, and some say, well, what’s the choice? Aren’t people searching for these terms? If a renowned celebrity dies, and people are going to search about his or her death, the circumstances and other such bits of information and if you want to be found for such information, why not optimize your titles and content accordingly? What if your entire business model depends on such optimization?

Providing optimized content is my business. If one of my clients were running such an online news portal, would I indulge in such “tactics”? Yes I will. Of course I won’t advise my client to use SEO spam and create scores of meaningless pages talking on and on about the same thing (why Robin Williams committed suicide, for instance), but if a major news is breaking and if it matters that this news be found on the search engines, and considering the fact that many people are going to use “tactics” to make sure that their webpages and blog posts appear at the top, if expressions like “Robin Williams” and “suicide” are relevant to my story, I won’t shy away from using them. Yes, a death has occurred, yes, it is a terrible tragedy, but if covering that tragedy is my business, I need to SEO my content accordingly, too bad. Someone gives a nice example in the comments section that it’s like accusing a coffin seller of making a profit if lots of people suddenly die. What’s the attitude behind the above-mentioned advisory? Nobody knows, and that’s a different issue.

If content creators and publishers have to use SEO “tactics” like these, there is some problem in the way search engine rankings work and people who create truly high-quality content often worry about this. Content that truly deserves to get higher rankings never shows up on the first page just because the people who can follow the “tactics” have an edge even while creating lousy content.

How to pitch for a guest blogging assignment

Pitching for a guest blog post

Guest blogging is a great way to not just increase traffic to your website but also get visibility on other blogs and websites. Back in the early 2000′s when nobody knew anything about blogging I started my web design business backed by scores of articles that I had written for other websites. They were mostly about web design and web development telling people how to achieve various things with HTML, JavaScript, and sometimes PHP. I got lots of traffic. Those days competition wasn’t much so I also got decent traffic to my website that in turn, gave me decent business. I must confess that when I started my content writing business I lost my mojo for writing for other websites and even when blogging entered the scene rarely did I write for other blogs. Although I help my clients guest blog for other blogs and even advocate this aspect of content marketing, I myself haven’t really been into it for a long time.

Benefits of guest blogging

There was a time when people used to guest blog mainly for SEO purposes. The people who write Google ranking algorithms started frowning upon external links that people obtained just for the sake of obtaining external links. Page rank also mattered – what is the authority of the page that has your link? Search engines like Google also started penalizing websites that would just put links from other websites in lieu of money or link exchange. The only alternative left was, guest blog on other websites so that when they published your blog, they would also include a small bio that would include a link to your website. If you did that with high-ranking websites, the effort was worth it. Your website or blog immediately showed improvement.

Then again things began to change. In this blog post the Chief Search Engineer Matt Cutts at Google declared that:

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.

The statement made sense; people were actually using guest blogging to boost their search engine rankings which, in itself is not bad thing to do, but the quality begins to be compromized when the sole purpose is improving your rankings. You know what happens when people simply start sending you email messages to promote their products and services.

Are you wondering why I’m talking about this while I’m trying to tell you how to pitch for a guest blogging assignment? If it doesn’t help you, if it doesn’t improve your search engine rankings and if search engineers at Google frown upon it, why should you indulge in it?

First, many of the advisories broadcast by Google engineers don’t normally work in the real world. There are still SEO benefits of guest blogging because links from quality websites do matter. What Matt Cutts said was guest blogging shouldn’t be done just for the sake of improving your search engine rankings. He talked about low quality links coming to your website that can anyway get your website penalized whether you get those links via guest blogging, link exchanging, or simply by buying the space. If you stick to the quality guidelines, if you provide value to the readers of the blog post or the website where you are publishing your guest blog post, there should be nothing to stop you. Here are the benefits of publishing a guest blog post:

  • You get exposure to new audiences
  • By giving expert advise you build credibility in your niche (for example I should be writing more and more guest blogs on content writing and content marketing just to show how much I know of it)
  • It strengthens your brand across the Internet when your presence is seen on various websites and blogs
  • It makes you a subject-authority
  • It lessens your reliance on search engines for traffic (high-traffic websites and blogs can send you tons of direct traffic)
  • It improves your SEO, yes.

So how do you pitch for a guest blogging assignment?

  • Thoroughly study the blog: It will be very odd to pitch for a blogging assignment for my blog (that is on content writing and content marketing) that talks about how to dominate the real estate market even during the times of depression, unless of course, you intend to do it with the strength of content marketing. Spend some time reading the blog where you want to pitch. Understand the tone. Get a grasp of the audience. Is it a light-hearted blog? Do they have very serious blog posts? Are they always looking for a great headline? Do they normally publish lists? Only when you have thoroughly understood the nature of the blog you think about guest blogging for it.
  • Start interacting with the publisher on a regular basis: If you simply one day shoot an email pitching for a blogging assignment there is a great chance your email will be ignored. Not that the publisher doesn’t care about you, it’s just that being a successful blogger, he or she might be receiving 100s of such pitches every day and he or she would rather respond to people he or she is familiar with rather than someone totally strange. So start finding your favorite publishers on Twitter and Facebook and establish a contact with them. Engage them in meaningful discussions without nagging them or wasting your time. They should be able to respect you and remember you on the basis of your interactions. Interact with them for at least a couple of months before pitching your guest blog, preferably, although this differs from situation to situation.
  • Start interacting with authors of multi-author blogs: There are many blogs and websites where multiple authors write. On such blogs it’s very difficult to elicit response from the editor or the owner and one can only write for such blogs if he or she already knows someone who has access to the editorial team. If you want to pitch for a guest blogging assignment to such a blog, start following their main writers and start engaging them on a regular basis. Then, someday, you can ask them to refer you to the editorial department where you can submit your article or blog post.
  • Write to serve the audience of that particular blog: Remember that you are not guest blogging to promote your own business (at least not directly). You are adding value to that blog. You are offering something valuable to the audience of that blog. They may have never heard of you so they’re not interested in knowing what a great person you are, or what a great product or service you have got. They are used to a particular format of content on that particular blog. So stick to that format.
  • Don’t treat the guest blogging assignment as a stepchild project: You may wonder why you should invest enough time on your guest blogging assignment when it is being published on another blog rather than on your own blog. It should be the opposite. Since you are writing on another blog you should put in more effort (not that you shouldn’t put in enough effort for writing for your own blog) because one, someone is providing you a ready-made platform, a platform that he or she must have built with lots of hard work and dedication and two, since it is a branding exercise you don’t want to give a wrong impression by getting average or ordinary content published to serve such a big audience.
  • Use a convincing subject line while sending your pitching email: Even if the editor or the editorial team isn’t aware of your existence you can sometimes send emails pitching your guest blogging assignment. Use a convincing subject line that clearly states that you want to guest blog. Most of the blogs have a separate section used for accepting guest blog posts. Use that section instead of sending to a random email ID so that when they receive your message, they know that it’s a guest blog post pitch. Clearly mention in the email body what you intend to convey to the audience of the blog and why you think it is an important topic and also why you think it hasn’t already been covered on that blog.

As you must have noticed I have focused less on sending email pitches and more on preparing the ground for sending such pitches. Although I haven’t been guest blogging much (I should), what I have experienced is, sending random pitches rarely elicits responses. If you randomly approach people then it becomes a game of numbers, something like, if you send 50 emails then maybe 5 will respond. If you want to do that, go ahead, there is no problem in that. But if you want to optimize your time, rather than sending 50 emails and then hoping that 5 people will respond, I would rather start interacting with people who can actually help me get through. So more focus should be on networking rather than the number of pitches that you send.

How to boost your B2B business with content writing

B2B Content Writing

First, some statistics: (these represent North America but the analogy is applicable to anywhere in the world) according to this research by Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Brightcove combined, 93% B2B marketers use content marketing one way or another. 42% of them say they are quite effective at it, this means they have a clue of what they are doing and they are getting positive results. $ 16.6 billion are being invested annually by B2B companies creating and publishing content. That’s a lot of money.

Content is needed everywhere, whether you get it written, videod, drawn or photographed. This is what people see, acknowledge, grasp and then base their decisions upon. It is the experience that they have on your website or blog. They wouldn’t bother checking out your online presence unless something draws them to it and what draws them to your website? Right, your content. You may think that it’s your product or service that is drawing them, but exactly what represents your product or service. If you’re selling mobile phones, you can’t put mobile phones on your website, can you? You need to put photographs. You need to publish their descriptions. If possible you also need to submit reviews. Then there are specifications, model details, et cetera. Whatever you put on your website, it’s content.

Why do B2B customers look for content, especially written content?

Take the mobile phones example. If you’re just a normal customer (and not a B2B customer) not much is at stake. At the most you may buy one or two mobile phones.

But what about the bulk buyer? He or she is your B2B customer. Maybe he or she is buying in bulk in order to sell the phones on his or her e-commerce website or even a normal retail store. Not only is he or she spending lots of money buying from you, he or she is also making a critical business decision. Wouldn’t he or she like to know more about your mobile phones? Wooden he or she like to know more about you as a reliable supplier of the product that he or she intends to sell? What are the prospects of selling these mobile phones? Primarily for what features would people buy these mobile phones? How many people are already buying these phones? If more people are buying these phones, why? What do the existing users have to say about these phones? Your B2B customer would like to know as much as possible about the product before investing so much money.

B2B customers do lots of research, and study. Otherwise they may end up losing lots of money. This is why they consume as much content as possible before making a decision in your favor.

Boosting your B2B business with content writing

So how does content writing help your B2B business (actually it sounds strange, “B2B business” means “business to business business)?

You need to convince your B2B customers that you are giving them a profitable deal. Profitable deal doesn’t just entail selling your product or service as cheap as possible, the more important thing is, you are reliable, trustworthy and above all, you have full knowledge of your field. If you are selling mobile phones of a particular brand at a particular time, you know the inside out of that mobile phone. You not only know the technical specifications, you also know exactly why people are buying that particular model and why your B2B customers should buy this phone in order to do further business. How can you achieve that? How can you instil such confidence among your B2B customers?

By constantly engaging them with your content. You need to satiate their desire to know more and more. Remember that when they come to your website they already have a plethora of apprehensions, and naturally. After all they are going to make a business investment. They’re going to spend lots of money on you. So they need to know more about your business, about you, and the product that they are about to purchase, in bulk, by paying you lots of money. They need to feel confident. They need to feel at ease. The best way to instil confidence in them is to make them familiar to you, your presence and your product as much as possible. This can be done by writing content regularly. Useful content. Content that helps them make a decision.

Now, the decision doesn’t necessarily have to be in your favor – your primary motive for publishing content is helping people make a better decision for themselves (even if they don’t buy from you, the others will). Of course you have to draw a line. It’s no use publishing “helpful content” if all you are achieving is sending customers to your competitors.

When creating content for your business, have a passion for helping people

Content writing that helps

Nothing exudes passion like the passion for helping people and this can help you a lot when you are creating content for your business. Otherwise, why would people access your content? Why would they react? They are not going to access and promote your content as a goodwill gesture, will they? You need to give something to them, something useful, something helpful, something that helps them solve their nagging problem.

People come to your website looking for a solution. You probably have that solution, or you don’t have it. If you don’t have that solution, well, then there is nothing to talk about (unless you want to direct them to another source that has what they’re looking for). If you have that solution how do you convince people that your solution is better compared to the other sneaky guy who is always trying to outsell you? Rather than offering your product or service, you help them by offering a solution. Convince them that you are here to solve their problem. Empathize with them. Understand that they are going through a difficulty, you can relate to that difficulty, you yourself have gone through a similar difficulty and maybe that’s why you started this business in the first place, and now you would like to solve their difficulty.

You cannot pretend to be passionate unless you are a world-class writer on your way to getting the Booker prize. The passion has to come from within. You should actually feel like helping people. Help people and the commercial side of your business gets taken care of on its own. After all, people would like to do business with a person who is passionate about helping them.

So when you create your content, don’t just create content to improve your search engine rankings or just in order to convince people. Create and write content to help people. Solve their problems and they will eagerly do business with you.

Why you should create evergreen content and how to create it

Evergreen content

Evergreen content is just like an evergreen movie or an evergreen song – something that you can experience and enjoy irrespective of when you watch it or listen to it. Evergreen content never goes stale. It’s like the immortal wisdom of great philosophers; it is timeless, it is fundamental, it can be applied in any age. No one says about evergreen content that it is out of date or irrelevant.

Why should you create evergreen content when it is always recommended you create topical and contemporary content? Both have its value but the benefit of creating evergreen content is that it is always useful. A blog post that you write in 2014 will provide the same value to a person who reads it in 2018. Maybe the examples that you use won’t be relevant, but the inherent message will still be.

A good example of evergreen content would be, writing a blog post on the importance of headlines. Catchy and compelling headlines will never go out of fashion. They were used to grab attention back in the 1700s and they’re still being used to grab attention these days. Their fundamentals never change.

Similarly, writing something about nutrition can be evergreen (they are just examples, you may have your own example coming from your own industry, realm or subject). Can eating nutritious food be ever irrelevant (unless there is no need to have food and we can simply swallow a capsule or tablet or even use a one-time shot to do away with the need for food, forever)?

Why publish evergreen content on your website or blog?

  • To keep your content relevant for a very long time
  • To make your content appropriate for long-term content curation
  • To encourage people to link to your content without worrying about it becoming irrelevant after a while
  • To enable your content to generate revenue for a long time rather than for a short time
  • To encourage people to share your content with each other without worrying about irrelevancy and outdatedness
  • To focus on quality rather than quantity and timeliness – when you prepare evergreen content you are in a more relaxed frame of mind and you are able to focus on the quality rather than worrying about missing the deadline
  • To create a portal of knowledge – with more and more evergreen content on your website or blog comes to be known as a portal of knowledge for your particular niche
  • To improve your long-term SEO – evergreen content not just enjoys good search engine rankings, but lasting rankings. This is because as people share your evergreen content more and more the relevancy of your content for the search engines keeps on increasing

How to create and publish evergreen content?

  • Mind your niche: First of all your content needs to be niche-specific. There is no sense creating evergreen content for a dating website that talks about how to survive in the Sahara (unless of course there is a connection). So make a list of topics that you think will draw people to your website in relation to your business rather than as a random occurrence simply because at that particular time they happen to be looking for how to survive in the Sahara.
  • Pack as much information as possible: Long form content fares better in search engines compared to shorter articles and blog posts. People tend to curate comprehensive, detailed content because it contains the information they need, in detail. Don’t be so detailed that one piece of content goes on and on. Use your own judgment. Try to think from the perspective of your reader. Don’t assume he or she knows what you know.
  • Lists are better compared to unformatted paragraphs: Take for instance “15 things that make your content go viral”; it is better than “How your content goes viral” or “How to make your content go viral”, followed by long streams of text. People want to know exactly how much they are going to learn.
  • Write about occasions and seasons: You may feel that writing about Christmas, Diwali, Ramadan or the Valentine’s Day are once-in-a-year of occurrences and hence might not be evergreen. But they definitely attract yearly traffic if you have written something like, “20 ways to avoid post-Christmas depression” because people need such articles every season. Similarly you can write “50 items to stock in order to survive a long power cut during winter”. Or something like “5 things you should immediately do during an earthquake”.
  • Create a “Regularly Updated” section: This is a section that, as the title suggests, you update regularly and since you update it regularly it is constantly having fresh content and hence you can call it evergreen. In order to seek fresh, useful content, people are going to visit that section on an ongoing basis. Your business blog can be one example.
  • Create an FAQs section: When people use your product or service they constantly need to know about it. Sometimes they have technical questions, sometimes they have existential dilemmas, whatever, whenever they have a doubt, they head to your FAQs section.
  • Create an online forum: Having an online forum is a great way of creating evergreen content because people are constantly posting questions and answers. If you notice, even posts and answers created in 2004 may appear in search results sometimes.

This is no way a comprehensive list because every business need is unique but this list gives you a basic idea of how to create evergreen content for your business that generates ongoing traffic for a long time.

The apps that I’m using for productivity these days

Wunderlist

In order to be productive (there are different definitions of productivity for different people and different situations) it is very important to track what is being accomplished and what is being delayed, and if you need to perform multiple tasks, it is very difficult to manage without making lists and without being able to mark their completion or postponement. If nothing else, marking a task as completed gives you a sense of accomplishment and you don’t feel lost by the end of the day wondering what exactly you have been doing.

Another benefit of using a calendar or a tasks list is that during the day when you feel lost and your energies seem to have been sapped, you can revisit the things that you need to do and get the focus back.

For a couple of months I used Google Calendar. In terms of looks and features it’s a minimalistic application but I could access it on my PC as well as my tablet, so it was quite convenient. Everyday at night, before switching off my computer, I would quickly enter all the things that I needed to do the next day. My only problem with Google Calendar was that my schedule is not time-based. It is tasks-based. There is nothing wrong in assigning various activities to various time zones of the day, but if – call me obsessive-compulsive – I have marked an event for 10:30 AM and if I cannot work on that event at 10:30 AM it gets on my nerves. You can create tasks in Google Calendar but they look very ugly.

Wunderlist is something that I had tried I think, a year ago, but then got distracted to something else. These days I’m using it with great regularity and in fact I’m also encouraging my daughter to prepare her tasks lists using it on her new iPad Air – solving 3 estimation problems, practicing 5-digit subtractions sums, practice singing – and she’s quite excited when she marks the tasks as done. I tried my hand at Any.do, but something is missing or I’m not comfortable with the way the tasks are managed. Although I’m not fully satisfied with Wunderlist, and

maybe I require my own app, but for the time being I’m using it everyday to create the list of tasks that I need to achieve, and it is helping me a lot to remain focused or get re-focused.

Along with Wunderlist I’m also using ToDoist, not to manage my tasks, but to manage lists, or steps. For instance, I have to work on 15 blog posts of a client. I create a new project by the name of that client and add all the titles of the blog posts to that project. Then, while working on a blog post, I mark it as light blue. So even if I’m working multiple days on a single blog post, I know on which blog post I’m working, for which client. Once the blog post is finished, the client has reviewed it and accepted it, I mark it as dark blue (this feature is present in the interface). So I know which blog posts, webpages and articles are work-in-progress for which clients, and which ones are already completed. I could have used a single application for that, either Wunderlist or ToDoist but both these apps arrange information differently, visually, so I’m using them for different objectives.

Recently I have also switched over to Word Online (One Drive) from Google Docs. I have also started using online Outlook instead of Google’s default Gmail interface to manage my email although I don’t know whether it is a progress or regress. I like the new interface and maybe I was looking for some change. Also, formatting is a bit easier in the One Drive applications with almost the same number of functions available in Google Docs.

Basically, these are the tools that I’m using these days for writing and managing my tasks.

How to find the killer content writer for your website or blog

Killer content writer

Once you have decided to create quality content for your website or blog it is very important that you find a killer content writer for the job. I know I’m using a clichéd phrase, but what I mean is, you need a person who understands your business, understands your audience, knows what language to use, and then communicates your message convincingly, preferably, repeatedly, using the appropriate language, to your audience. I know, a long sentence, but you get the point, right?

So how do you find such a content writer?

You first have to decide whether you want to hire someone full-time, part-time or you would rather outsource the content writing job. Since I am a content writer, I’m going to write this from the perspective of someone who is looking to outsource the job. So with this settled, how do you find a content writer who can really deliver with a punch and build you a formidable business asset? Here are a few things you can do

Recognize, acknowledge and accept the importance of content writing for your business

What the heck does that mean? you must be wondering. Aren’t you looking for a content writer because you know that your website needs content writing? Many business owners think that way but still they don’t understand content writing and therefore, they expect their content writer to charge as low as $ 5 (just a ballpark figure to explain the trend) for “quality” webpage content or blog post. Just as you have to pay a premium for a quality computer, quality smart phone, quality software, quality web design, quality food in a quality restaurant, and a quality four-wheeler, you also have to pay good money for a quality content writer. If you don’t think that, you’re either not serious about getting content written for your website, or you have a different perception of the real world.

Acknowledge that the content writer you’re planning to hire is running a serious business just like you

Considering the amount of money some people want to pay to their content writer (for example, $ 5) they think that the content writer is just a good-for-nothing, out-of-job fellow who has somehow gotten hold of a computer and an Internet connection and is now trying to make a living off the Internet without having spent any money. I’m not saying such people don’t exist, but if you want to hobnob with such people, then maybe you also have the same sort of attitude and running the same sort of business in your basement, mostly surviving on freebies abundantly available on the Internet.

If you’re doing serious business, then you have to collaborate with a serious person. If you need business class services, then you need to get a person who is running a business. If you want professional content for your website or blog, you need a professional content writer who provides his or her services as a business rather than as a hobby or an in-between-jobs activity.

But how do you know that the content writer you’re contemplating working with is a serious business owner or at least a professional content provider? Here are a few things to consider:

  • He (or she) has a website with all relevant sections (homepage, services, about section, FAQs, contact form, etc.)
  • His website shouldn’t look as if it was designed back in 2003
  • He has clearly and convincingly described how he works and what procedures he follows in order to deliver effective content
  • He has good command over the language (the language in which the content is to be written)
  • He has a visible presence on the web – since there is a great possibility that you will be looking for a content writer on the Internet, you should be easily able to find him.
  • He should have a blog that is regularly updated. Being a content writer he should have lots of content on his own website so that you can get a fair idea of how he communicates
  • His fees and rates should be there on the website
  • He shouldn’t be one of those “professionals” who would go to any length vis-à-vis the pricing in order to get your work. If he is too eager to please you it’s an indication that he is not very confident and if he is not confident he won’t be able to apply his skills with confidence to your writing too.
  • He should reply to your email messages or phone calls or Skype messages within a decent time span. It doesn’t mean his replies should reach you within minutes because he is supposed to be working and not constantly monitoring the messages people send him, but a time gap of, let us say if it is not very urgent, should be at least eight hours.

Remember that these are basic traits and there might be many more characteristics that you may look for in order to find the right content writer for your business.

Have a clearly laid out plan for your content marketing campaign

There is a reason it is called “content marketing”. Hiring a content writer doesn’t mean your job is done and now it is up to him to do your content marketing. Have a plan. You should know what you’re trying to achieve by getting content written for your website or blog. You should know what topics need to be covered and why and what sort of effect they should have on your traffic as well as the people who decide to stick around your website for awhile. Remember that you are the one running your business. You know it’s nitty-gritty. You know more about your customers and clients than the content writer. You know there are various triggers (if you don’t, you need to do your research you need to hire someone who can do it for you) that motivate your customers and clients.

Once you have a plan you will know exactly what your content writer needs to do.

Decide what you want: a content writer, a content marketer, or both

A perfect solution would be a content writer who knows a bit or two about marketing too. This is because effective content writing has less to do with impeccable writing and more to do with convincing writing. How do you convince people? If you can market your idea in a compelling language. Remember that it shouldn’t be perfect language. It should be able to persuade people into doing business with you. A knack for marketing makes your content writer confident and lucid. He knows how to communicate the strengths of what you’re offering in an effective manner (to streamline your sales funnel).

Be ready to let your content writer do what he does best

In order to let the killer content writer create killer content for your website or blog, you will have to let him do his job the way he likes to do it (as long as he is delivering something that helps you grow your business). Once you’re convinced that he understands your audience and he is able to create content accordingly, don’t meddle too much. Don’t force him into writing something he is uncomfortable with. Don’t impose your ideas about how to write because it’s he who is in the business of writing content and not you. You might be a legal eagle but writing is not your calling (unless you are John Grisham, of course), so stick to your expertise and let the content writer do his job.

I sometimes prefer that my client has already worked with another content writer

“Dear Amrit, the content writer that I hired before contacting you totally botched up the project and I haven’t just ended up with lousy content my website launch has also been delayed by a full month because my web designer was waiting for the content writer to complete his job. I so wish I had found your website before hiring this content writer. By merely going through a few pages of your website I’m damn sure you are the content writer I need, and should have sought.”

It may seem like a self-boast, but I actually got this message recently from a new client and this is not a new phenomena. I mean, not all emails are so praising, but the message is more or less the same, that they have had a very bad experience with the previous content writer, they’re looking for a new content writer and they hope I can undo the damage to some extent.

I prefer such clients. I don’t mean to say that I cherish the fact that they have been shortchanged, that they have lost time, that someone did a lousy job, no, what I like is, by the time they come to me, they’re pretty sure what they want and what they don’t want and since they have already had a bad experience with their choice, they are more open to my suggestions. It makes easier for me to work on their projects. This doesn’t happen with great regularity, but I get at least 5-6 projects like these in a year.