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SEO and content: 3 ways to improve your site today

I run a free content strategy meetup in Brisbane for anyone interested in content-related topics. Our December meetup featured Iain Calvert, Strategy Director for Reload Media discussing SEO and content. As a copywriter and content strategist, I am asked about SEO a lot. In fact it’s one of the questions in my client brief! So it was fantastic Iain shared three simple ways to improve SEO by using content. Here’s a summary of his presentation.

1.     Build useful content online

Google changes its algorithm daily, but the one thing that remains constant is the importance it places on quality, useful content. Why? Because it still gets the bulk of its revenue through advertising, and the better its search results are the more likely it can make money from the ads. In order to have better results, it needs better content.

Where do you start? Figure out what kind of content your customers/target audience would find useful and then decide the best way to deliver that content (such as a blog post, podcast, infographic, newsletter etc.). Then commit to creating great content on an ongoing basis.

2.     Get your technical SEO sorted

Make sure your keywords are used in your content, including:

  • The title tag, page header (H1) and url.
  • In the main body of the content, making sure the language is still natural and not obviously stuffed with keywords (if you do this you’ll be penalised by Google too).
  • In links to other important internal pages of your own site.

Iain also pointed out that all important content should be in HTML (so don’t bury it in PDFs) and to use Google Webmaster Tools as a way to monitor performance and known issues.

3.     Promote your content

There’s no point having fantastic content on your site if no one sees it! Use different methods to promote your content such as:

  • Writing guest posts for other relevant sites with a link back to your own site. For example, you may sell gardening products and write a guest post on the best way to care for your gardening tools for a home-handyman site.
  • Commenting on related sites, making sure you add to the conversation.
  • Emailing your existing database when launching something new, making sure they have the ability to opt-out if they want to.
  • Promoting your content on social networks.
  • Listing your business on industry sites. For example if you are chiropractor, make sure you are listed in the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia’s directory.

In summary

Iain’s presentation was a fantastic introduction to SEO and content. The points he made may seem obvious, but I still see so many businesses that don’t have these basics covered.

He also made a special point about the importance of being on Google+. I created a Goggle+ account when it was still in beta, then ended up not using it because my main email address was through Google Apps (which at the time Google+ didn’t support). But this is no longer the case, so I have merged by old Google+ account to my new one and will start making more of an effort to use the tool (it’s a bit empty at the moment while I wait for the accounts to merge). Connect with me on Google+ here or use the badge below.

Remember to add Iain to your circles too.


Business Balloon: the best speakers, the best ideas

Happy 2012!

This year is already shaping up to be another exciting one for me, with lots of great projects planned including another trip to the US in May to go to Confab. To kickstart everything I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be speaking at the next Business Balloon day which will be on 14 February 2012 at Iceworks in Paddington (Brisbane).

Business Balloon poster

Business Balloon poster

Here’s my presentation outline from the website:

“First impressions count—and poorly written, inconsistent, or unclear content will erode your brand and destroy the trust of your customers. Sally will take you through five simple ways to improve the content on your website, blog or brochure so the personality of your business shines through and your key messages are delivered. She’ll show you how to develop a tone and voice for your content as well as share common content mistakes to avoid.”

If you’re in Brisbane and would like to come along, details on how you can purchase tickets are on  the Business Balloon website.

I hope to see some of you there!

Editorial strategy and blogging

Last week I went to Melbourne for the Problogger Training Day to lead the panel on Editorial Strategy with Sonia Simone from Copyblogger and Lucy Feagins from The Design Files. Each of us had quite different experiences with editorial strategy and how it could be applied to both personal and business blogs.

Lucy, Sonia and I talking about editorial strategy

Lucy, Sonia and I talking about editorial strategy


What’s editorial strategy?

Newspapers and magazines have been using editorial strategy to plan the how, what and when of content since publications first started.

Now that we are all publishers (on the internet) editorial strategy is still an important way to ensure your blog (or website, or newsletter, or other content marketing activity) supports your business goals.

Key themes from the panel discussion

It was a great discussion and one I’m sure could have extended for another hour or two.

Key themes which came out of the panel included:

  • Know your audience and what they expect from your blog. Lucy uses an annual survey to do this, and then backs it up by monitoring metrics to see which posts are more popular than others, and (as she posts daily) which days of the week are more popular.
  • Think about post topics in advance and use an editorial calendar to keep track of what’s going to be written when. Think about holidays and celebrations, seasons, or major sporting events that may be relevant for your blog.
  • Stay flexible enough to still post about hot topics in your niche, or events you hadn’t planned for. The whole day had a strong theme of balancing blogging from the heart with blogging strategically.
  • If you have other contributors to your blog, have some editorial guidelines so the voice and personality of your blog stays true.
  • An editorial strategy can help you come up with ideas for posts by breaking larger ideas into smaller chunks of content.  It can also help with SEO as you can build a number of posts around a particular topic (or set of keywords).

An editorial strategy can be as simple or as complex as your needs. For personal bloggers, it may be a simple list of post ideas. For bigger sites it may be a more complex road map of deadlines, approvals and costings. Sonia said she used an editorial calendar plugin to map out posts at Copyblogger up to 12 weeks in advance. She also provided some fantastic insight into how editorial strategy works at Copyblogger, including how they link post topics with other products and services that are in the Copyblogger Media stable.

If you’re interested in what some of the other panels covered, Annabel Candy live blogged a number of the sessions including the one I was on.

Do you use an editorial strategy in your business?

If you don’t already have an editorial strategy for your business, why don’t you get in contact with me so I can help you write one?

Microcopy: The forgotten persuader

Tweet from my presentation on microcopy

Yes, microcopy does rock

A few weeks ago I presented at Interactive Minds on the topic ‘Optimising your web content to perform’.

While I think some people were expecting me to talk about SEO, I instead focused on what you can do to optimise your content to convert visitors to customers.

I talked about some of the techniques you can use to identify your most important content, how to tell if it’s performing or not, and what to do to help it perform better.

One of the tips I gave to help boost content performance was to improve microcopy.

What’s microcopy?

Think of all of the small pieces of in-context content which help visitors perform a task on your website.

It’s often an overlooked part of content development because it’s found on error pages, forms, buttons and other elements which may not be part of the ‘main’ content areas.

For example, if you have a shopping cart on your site you’ll most likely have microcopy to assist customers making a purchase. It may be a couple of words about which credit cards you accept, advice that shipping is a flat rate, or even tips on creating a password.

Why is microcopy important?

Good microcopy smooths the pathway to conversion. It reassures, it informs, it clarifies. It helps the user engage with the site. And an engaged user is far more likely to convert than a non-engaged one.

On the flip side, bad microcopy can confuse, frustrate and erode trust. Think of a bad shopping cart experience you’ve had. Have you ever abandoned a purchase because of something simple like not knowing if postage is included or not? I know I have.

Or, have you ever got an error message on an online registration form—but no clues as to what went wrong? Do you persist, or do you leave the site?

In both of these situations some well-written microcopy could have helped you stay on the site.

So next time you’re planning a content project, spend some time thinking about your microcopy and how it can help convert your visitors.

If you want to know more, I suggest reading Joshua Porter’s post on writing microcopy. Or, if you have a content project coming up which requires microcopy, get in touch with me so I can help.



Sales secrets from a food lover

This week I went to a pantry tour at Black Pearl Epicure. It was for Brisbane Food Bloggers, and although I don’t have a food blog I figured I really do love food and was very keen to learn more about it.

The demonstration was hosted by Black Pearl’s founder Babak Hadi, and was simply amazing.  Babak took about 30 of us through the ins and outs of extra virgin olive oil, different vinegars (including aged balsamic – yum!), salts, chocolate, saffron, vanilla, and cheese.

We all left with a full belly and a better appreciation of how these staple ingredients are made.

So what does this have to do with writing?

The stand out of the night (in my mind) was Babak’s knowledge and passion for his products. He was really interesting to listen to, was very confident in what he was saying, and had answers for a couple of curly questions that were asked.

This knowledge and passion are the foundation for successful sales.

1. Know your product

Babak explained everything from how extra virgin olive oil was made, to the fermenting process of balsamic vinegar.

You should know your business and your products that well too. Describe it in your sales pages, detail it in your customer service info – show your customers that you’ve taken the time to learn.

2. Understand how your customers will use your product

Throughout the demonstration, Babak related all information to how we would use the products ourselves. This is a great technique for selling as we all were picturing using the product in our own kitchen before any purchase had been made.

Unfortunately, this is an area where I see many businesses fail. There are a lot of business owners who are really out of touch with their customers – make sure you aren’t one of them!

3. Love using your product

Sure the foods we sampled were all top-notch, but Babak has a genuine love for using them all. When you are excited about your own products or services, it acts as a reinforcement for potential customers. The old “I’ll have what he’s having” mindset.

So after all that eating (erm, learning), what did I buy? Check it out:

Black Pearl goodies

Note: I did get some chocolate too, but it was gone before I took this picture!

Are you passionate about your products? Share your thoughts below.