Does keyword-rich content help you improve your SEO?

“SEO content” is still a buzzword among content writers and content creators. What does it exactly mean? Ideally it means your content should help you improve your search engine rankings so you should write it in a manner that the search engines like Google find it easier to index and rank for your chosen keywords. Nothing wrong in that, but some people take it way too seriously. But it’s not their fault, many of the tactics being considered obsolete these days definitely worked a year or so ago. For instance, using your target keywords in your content was a definite yes-yes while writing webpages, blog posts and articles. Plugins and add-ons like Scribe SEO still recommend placing a certain number of your relevant keywords at strategic places. For instance, if I’m writing about my professional content writing services then this expression plus its various combinations must appear on the link and this is logical. Otherwise how would you tell the search engine to even consider your webpage for these terms?

Google still uses keywords these days but more than focusing on the exact keywords its algorithm uses something called Latent Semantic Indexing. The expression sounds ominous, but what it means is, if I write something on the topic of business content writing services and if it ranks well, it should also automatically rank well for professional content writing services because the algorithm may find identical patterns between the two words: professional and business. It is the way we use language in the normal world. There are many words who may be similar or identical and more or less convey the same meaning. The method is used to extract the meaning of the text you have written rather than simply analysing the words you have used.

So what about using keywords in your title, headlines, bulleted lists and other places? There is no reason why you shouldn’t use them, especially in titles and headlines, but there should be no compulsion also. Don’t use them unnecessarily. Create your title in such a manner that it conveys the core message of your content and prompts people to come to your website but you don’t need to stuff it with your keywords.

SEO content in the new context is more about creating meaningful, useful content. In fact I have written this multiple times on my website as well as my blog that when you are creating good, useful content you are actually creating SEO content. Focus on the quality, stick to a routine, use the language your target audience uses and make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your content and most of your SEO job is done.

How many headlines do you write?

The headline of your article, blog post or webpage is as important as the rest of the copy and many would claim, even more important. In fact, according to David Ogilvy,

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

It is the headline that draws people to your link because it is the headline that often appears as the highlighted hyperlink on search results, social networking websites and other online places. It is your headline that gives an idea what your content contains. The words that you use in your headline can make or break your content marketing campaign.

Some of my clients insist on getting multiple headlines from me and I don’t mind. It is a challenging task. They say, “Send me 10 headline options for this blog post” and then they choose what they like the best. The same goes for an email subject line (just as your headline prompts people to read your webpage, your email subject line prompts people to open your message). Of course they pay me accordingly and that’s not the point, the point is when you create multiple headlines you cannot only test them out, you also have a better grip of what is the most compelling way of making your offer.

How to get more customers and keep the old ones coming back, with content writing

Getting new customers with content writing

Every business depends on customers and clients. Even if you’re not a business but a non-profit organisation or a not-for-profit business, you need funds and donations and for that you need the maximum number of people feeling a connection with your cause. Having a for-profit business is no different. Content writing can help you establish a connection between the audience that you seek and the audience that seeks you.

Why content writing keeps the old customers coming back to you

This is how constant content writing keeps your old customers coming back and doing business with you

  • They remember how helpful your website was the first time:
    First impression is normally the lasting impression. If they have a good experience when they come to your website for the first time, if they find all the information they need written in an understandable language, they will keep this in mind.
  • Content writing provides them all the answers: Whenever they seek an answer they can find it on your website because you’re constantly creating new content for your website. I assume that when you write content for your website you are actually creating knowledge base rather than simply creating gibberish. If you just want to create nonsensical text to improve your search engine rankings than this blog post is not for you.
  • People eagerly subscribe to your updates: When they find well-written content on your website they eagerly subscribe to your email updates. They would like to know what new offers you have, how well you are describing your new products and services and just in case you have something they need.
  • They closely follow your social media updates: Everybody uses social media these days (or social networking websites). You will hardly come across someone these days who isn’t on Facebook or Twitter (or both). Through well-targeted content writing you can encourage your existing customers to follow you wherever you post your content, whether on social media websites or social networking websites.
  • Quality content writing encourages your existing customers to promote your content: They promote your content for the goodness of it. Why do people promote content? Why do people share links on their social networking timelines? They want to share something interesting, something useful to their friends and followers. If what you give them is interesting and useful, they will automatically share it.
  • They feel you understand their problems: Constantly writing content for your website makes your existing customers feel like you understand their problems and you want to provide them solutions. You’re constantly talking to them through your content writing.

Why content writing gets you more new customers

  • They are immediately hooked to your website content: It’s very easy to bring people to your website and very difficult to keep them there. If you don’t write quality content for your website on a regular basis, if you don’t pay heed to the copy of your homepage and your important landing pages, you won’t be able to keep people on your website for more than a couple of seconds. In order to make sales you HAVE to keep people on your website for as long as it takes and the best way of doing this is, giving them awesome content.
  • They can make informed decisions by reading your content: You shouldn’t be shoving your own decisions down their throats. Provide them the information they seek. Provide this information through writing informative content. Then let them decide. Empower them with decision-making and give them all the tools they need right there on your website.
  • They find all the answers you’re looking for:
    Indecision can be bad for your business. Confusion can be distracting. The moment your customers feel they cannot find the answers they are looking for, they’re going to move elsewhere. Even if they don’t intend to, just to find the answer they want, they will leave your website and even if they don’t find the answer at the other place, there is a remote chance that they will come back to your website even if initially they had intended to do business with you. So if you’re constantly writing content in order to provide them the answers they seek, you will make sure they stay on your website.
  • They come across your content when it is shared by your existing customers: Writing interesting content, as already mentioned above, encourages your existing customers to share it on their social networking and social media timelines. This highlights your content in front of people who have never come to your website, consequently, bringing you new visitors.
  • Content writing improves your search engine rankings: Better search engine rankings don’t mean more sales since once people are on your website what matters is the quality of the content you have written, but they do help in getting you new visitors because after all, it’s these visitors that eventually turn into customers. When you’re constantly writing quality content for your website it begins to have a positive impact on your search engine rankings (because you end up covering important stuff that the search engines may feel, is important).
  • They consider you an authority on your subject: People prefer to do business with people they consider having an authority on the concerned subject. This might not be true for an e-commerce website because they are not based on individual branding but if you are selling something like books as an author or your services (for instance I am a content writer and hence sell my content writing services) it helps you tremendously if you can establish yourself as an authority figure through regular, authoritative content writing.

 

5 ways to creating credible content people can trust

writing-credible-content

Writing and publishing content is all about credibility. Why do you publish content on your website or blog? You are not just simply giving vent to your innermost feelings. You want to share your knowledge. You want to tell your prospective customers and clients that you know what you’re talking about. You want to convey that you have their best interest in your heart. You achieve this by creating credible content. It is content people can trust, can relate to and base their decisions on. They’re going to spend money on your website and in order to be able to do that they need to trust you. They need to have the confidence that they’re not being hoodwinked into purchasing something that they don’t require. Listed below are 5 ways to creating credible content people can really trust and base their purchasing decisions on.

  1. Focus more on the benefits and less on the features: No doubt features are important. You need to prominently display the features of your product or service. But they shouldn’t be the main focus. The main focus should be the benefit your customer is going to derive out of the product or service he or she is going to purchase. It is the benefit that compels the person to buy something. I don’t want to buy a phone simply because it has got a quad core processor (it’s extremely fast at the time of writing this but it might be totally obsolete by the time you’re reading this). I want to buy that phone so that I can run resource-intensive applications without jamming my device. I want to be able to run 20 applications at the same time and the phone still feels like the day I purchased it. I should be able to install many successive versions of the operating system on the very same phone. This is the benefit I’m looking for whether it can be provided by this processor or that processor, doesn’t bother me much.
  2. Write your content from the perspective of your readers: Who cares what you think about your business? OK, maybe you and your mom. Your customers and clients want to know what’s in there for them. If they pay you money, what they’re going to get and even after they have paid the money and have gotten what they want, are you going to be around when they need your help? How reliable are you? How deeply do you understand their problem? For instance, when I provide my content writing services, and if your business is looking for my content writing services, can I empathise with your customers and clients? This is what you should be looking for in my service, not how great a writer I am and not for how many clients I have previously written (these things matter, but eventually what matters is, how much business I bring you).
  3. Write content regularly: Doing business on the Internet (well, actually everywhere) is all about visibility. Are you providing woollen socks? Well, there might be thousands of others who are providing the same sort of socks. It’s all about whether people are able to find you when they’re looking for you and it’s easier to find you if your content is easily available, and your content is easily available when there is lots of it. Quality, yes (we’re coming to that), it matters, but it needs to be backed by quantity. One quality article or blog post is great, but 10 quality articles or blog posts can do wonders to your findability.
  4. Never compromise on quality:5 high-quality articles can outperform 50 mediocre articles and in fact, 50 mediocre articles can cause you damage rather than benefit you. Never waste money creating cheap content simply because it can increase your search engine rankings because by the end of the day, you don’t want higher search engine rankings, you want people buying from you, and they won’t buy from you after reading your cheap, badly-written content.
  5. Provide individual help sometimes:
    Nothing works better than providing individual help. This is how people remember you. Everybody can create generic articles and blog posts, but it is the content targeting particular individuals that gains the most traction. How does it work? Suppose one of your customers is having some problem figuring out how to use a particular feature of your product. You can create a unique article or a blog post referring to that customer (after taking his or her permission), mentioning the question and then providing the answer. This way even those to whom you are not directly addressing will be impressed.

The sole purpose of creating content for your website and blog is to increase your credibility in front of your present and prospective customers and clients. It’s no use writing content to increase your search engine visibility while having inferior content on your website because eventually people make buying decisions when your content succeeds in convincing them, that they should trust you.

7 ways to supercharge your ecommerce sales with well-written product descriptions

Good product description example from Dell

Are you neglecting to create compelling product descriptions for your ecommerce website at a heavy cost? If your sales funnel isn’t giving you the results you think it should give it is high time you went through your online inventory and checked out how you have described your individual products.

Ecommerce is a $ 250 billion industry just in the USA (source) and many experts believe that we are at a nascent stage. Markets of gargantuan proportions still remain untapped in the fast-emerging Asian countries like India, China, Brazil, Argentina and a horde of other countries in South America and Africa. As it becomes easier and more secure to purchase products and services online via computers and mobiles how you create and maintain your online presence matters a lot.

What do you think helps you sell your product through your ecommerce website? Putting aside your branding and customer’s comfort level with your previous products the following play a big role:

  • Visual representation of your product
  • The headline or title of your product
  • The description of your product

The visual representation of your product gives your customer an idea of how the product looks in terms of shape, color and texture. The headline or the title normally consists of the name of the product (iPad Air 32 GB White). The description contains vital information such as what are the various features of your product, how these features help you improve your experience, what are the technical specifications and what are the physical attributes. The importance of visual representation and the appropriate headline/title is well understood by everybody; it’s the description part that people often end up ignoring because to be frank, for an average seller, this is the part where one needs to use language skills convincingly as well as efficiently.

Whether you have your own ecommerce website or you are selling your product from eBay (for example) your description needs to appeal to the customer in a convincing manner. In the virtual world personal contact is missing. You cannot directly talk to your customer and convince him or her into buying your product. This job is done by the three elements mentioned above. Give a complete visual representation of your product. Then give a precise headline that fully represents your product. Then describe your product. Your ecommerce website fully relies on these elements when your customer is browsing through your shopping cart.

Why it matters you create the right product descriptions for your ecommerce website?

  • You exude professionalism: Writing crappy product descriptions means you do not take your product listing seriously, and if you don’t take your product listing seriously, why should your customer?
  • You entice the right customers: Clearly-articulated and well-structured product descriptions attract the right customers – customers who are actually seeking information included within you description. There are no ambiguities and there is no miscommunication gap. They find in your description exactly what they need.
  • You increase your sales: When the right customers read the apt description, they are more prone to buying from you. Quality product descriptions can increase your sales.
  • You encourage social sharing: Lots of information is exchanged between prospective customers through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. If you have product descriptions that are very user-friendly people can straightaway use them to recommend your products rather than having to write on their own.

How to create compelling product descriptions for your e-commerce website

When someone comes to your website she is very unsure whether she should buy from you or not. For instance, if I’m looking for a new HTC phone, why should I buy from you and not from another seller? There might be many factors – price, choice of colors, assurance of after-sales service, quick delivery and quick redress in case of some problem, proximity to the physical store, and so on – but the most important factor is, how you describe your product. You can either simply list the technical specifications and features, or you can actually have a conversation with your customer. When multiple vendors are selling practically the same thing, it’s your description that gives you the advantage. Here are a few things that can supercharge your ecommerce product descriptions:

  1. Associate benefits and advantages with features and specifications: Simply saying that your phone comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core CPUs might not mean a lot to many, but if you can add that this means exceptional image capturing (even when you’re trying to click small kids and animals) and image manipulation, unparalleled 3-D gaming and one of the fastest processing chips in contemporary phones (which may mean you can install and uninstall apps basically indiscriminately without making your phone feel sluggish), it can help the customer decide whether she wants this particular device or not. The basic idea is, create a description your customer can relate to rather than bombard her with geeky jargon. I have taken example from technology, but this can be applied to any field.
  2. Keep the most important things at the top: Although people prefer to read the descriptions of expensive products carefully, initially they normally browse. They don’t go through the entire thing. This is why it’s important that you mention all the things that may impact your customer’s decision in the first sentence of your product description.
  3. Don’t repeat text: When the same sort of words appear in the descriptions of various products, their importance diminishes. Keep your content unique. If your ecommerce website lists scores of products and your customer often has to use the search feature, having similar-sounding descriptions may end up confusing her.
  4. Follow a consistent pattern: Whether you have longer descriptions, or shorter, maintain a consistent pattern. If you normally have descriptions of say, 80-90 words, stick to that pattern unless it’s absolutely necessary to create a 200-word product description.
  5. Use the language of your customer: It doesn’t mean you need to use every colloquial language in the world; use simple language your average customer can easily understand. Remember that you don’t intend to prove your literary potential when you’re creating descriptions. Yes, you can be imaginative and creative, but not at the cost of sales. Carefully go through all the words and expressions you are using in your product description and chuck out every bit of detail you think your customer won’t be able to understand or relate to.
  6. Make an emotional connection: Purchasing expensive products is always an emotional decision for an average customer. When you’re going to purchase a $600 phone the phone is going to remain with you for a long time. You will get attached to it. You will store lots of your personal information on that phone. You will carry out professional and personal interactions via this phone. It may be the last thing you see before going to bed and the first thing to see when you wake up. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and then write accordingly.
  7. Focus on the “you” part: Make everything about the customer because she is the one who is going to make the ultimate buying decision. Why should she buy your product? What sort of experience is she going to get out of it? What has been her history (suppose she is starting a new, ambitious business venture and needs a new mobile phone for that)? Talk to your customer as much as possible.

Creating compelling, unique and well-written product descriptions for an ecommerce website often takes a backseat because normally there are scores of products (I’m talking about a small-and medium-sized business) and it seems like an uphill task involving lots of effort and financial investment. But this is a strategic mistake because most of the buying decisions depend on the way you have gotten your product descriptions written.

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.