Bust Your Excuses for Not Maintaining a Blog

You may already know businesses with active blogs generate 67 percent more leads per month. You aren’t surprised to hear that blogging on your business website gets you found on search engines or that most consumers begin their product and company searches online. You also know blogging increases your trustworthiness in a saturated market.

You know the great reasons to maintain a business blog, so why aren’t you doing it?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you don’t blog because you don’t like to write, you think your writing sucks, or you don’t know how to write an effective blog post.

Excuse Buster #1: You hate writing.

Chances are you don’t hate writing as much as you hate the red marks that cluttered your papers and what those red marks said about you.

I used to hate math. The red marks I received in school led me to believe that I wasn’t any good at it. It only took a couple of overdraft fees to realize my ironclad definition as an arithmetic dunce was adversely affecting my life. When I began paying more attention to my checkbook register, I realized that my false self-perceptions were keeping me from doing a very simple thing.

Now, I run a freelance writing business and use math all the time. As a business owner, don’t you write letters, emails or contracts? You probably didn’t think of any of these as writing. Instead, you regard them necessary activities for success. So it is with blogging.

Excuse Buster #2: Your writing sucks.

You don’t need to be Hemingway or even a professional freelance writer to write an effective blog post any more than I need to be Isaac Newton to balance my checkbook.

Your readers are there for your expertise. Most are forgiving regarding your prose. That being said, there are some things you can do to keep subpar writing from detracting from your message.

1. Use an online grammar and spellcheck. The checks that come with your word processing program aren’t as thorough as these free online checkers.

2. Use an active voice. Active voice puts the doer at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “You wrote the effective blog post” instead of “The effective blog post was written by you.”

3. Use a conversational style. Sometimes, a blogger will consult a thesaurus and use awkward words to sound like a professional freelance writer. Readers want to get to know you, not their dictionaries.

Excuse Buster #3: You don’t know jack about writing an effective blog post.

If you know your customers, then you know how to write an effective blog post. What questions are you answering for your clients? How are you helping your clients with their struggles? How are you educating your clients when you are talking to them?

Do all those same things on your blog.

Every client or customer interaction should give you at least one good idea for an informative blog post.

A good blog brings the best of you—your knowledge, services and products—to the masses. You’re already mastering the art of interacting with clients. Bring what you learn to your blog as well.

Clearly, a blog on your website is a great, inexpensive marketing tool. What are your excuses for not maintaining your blog?


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How to Make the Most of Google Places for Business

The Internet is a great equalizer for small businesses and nowhere is this truer than Google Places for business.

Get found on Google Places

Ask your freelance writer about Google Places

Google Places will put your business on the map—literally, on Google’s map. Since most people search online for local businesses, Google Places will drive more customers to your door.

And you don’t have to be a brick and mortar business to reap results. Even home-based businesses in Grand Rapids, Michigan and elsewhere benefit from Google Places.

Best of all, it’s free. But before I tell you how to sign up, let’s talk about how to make the most of Google Places.

Feed the Data Monster. Google loves data. When you sign up for Google Places, you’ll see lots of input boxes. Make the most of them.

But feed responsibly. Keyword stuffing will hurt your Google Places listing just like it hurts your website.

Cookie Monster now says that “Cookies are a sometimes food.” Use Cookie Monster’s new-found restraint as inspiration to resist keyword-stuffing your Google Places information.

Coordinate. You may not match your shoes to your purse or your tie to your socks anymore, but do match your business name and address on your website to the information on Google Places exactly.

Yes, I mean exactly. Use “Grand Rapids, MI” or “Grand Rapids, Michigan.” Then commit to your choice.

Use a listing. Now that you know how to use Google Places for business and the importance of consistency for your business name and address, it’s time to list your business on various directories.

Google will crosscheck your business with other sites to verify your information. The more references it finds, the higher your business will rank on Google Places.

Register on directories like YellowPages.com. There are other free, high-powered directories. Local.com, Zoominfo.com and Supermedia.com all offer a free listing option.

Again, list your business name and address exactly as it appears on Google Places. Don’t forget to update your social networking sites as well.

To sign up for Google Places, simply go to the site and follow the prompts.

Google will want to verify your listing by phone or mail. Phone is the fastest. Mail will take at least a couple weeks.

Hang on to your sign-in information. Check your listing often to make sure a user (or unethical competitor) hasn’t listed your business as closed.

Google Places is great for your marketing budget. All it costs is a little time to learn how to use effectively.

Once implemented, Google Places will help you put your business in the one place you most want it to be: the forefront of your customers’ minds.


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How To Write Your Website’s Home Page

A freelance writer can help you write copy for your website's home page that sells.

You’ve created your site. It’s got a great design. The graphics look good. Your photograph ain’t bad either.

But there’s no text. Or the text that’s there isn’t getting the results you want.

And you don’t know where to begin.

Hey, I know that getting that first page of copy written is tough. What should you say? How long should it be? Will it look professional?

The uncertainty can leave you frozen and leave your readers cold.

The spring thaw and the beautiful weather makes this freelance writer think the time is right to get your website’s home page copy flowing in the right direction.

Your Readers Are There For One Reason

They have a problem, and they are looking for someone (whom you want to be you) to solve it. That’s why you start your home page copy demonstrating that you understand the reader’s problem.

You do this with an appropriately empathetic statement.

If you’re a handyman, you might start with something like “Do you have too many home projects to tackle yourself? Does your bathroom need renovating but you don’t know the first thing about tiling or plumbing? Are you looking for one professional who can do it all?”

Your opening statement needs to tell the reader that he has found a business that can help him solve his problem.

With your opening statement, you’ve told the client that you understand and can solve his problem. Now you have to prove it to him. You do this by addressing, one by one, his potential objections.

Build Your Reader’s Trust

It’s tough to know from a website who’s legit.

That’s why your company needs a face. Here is a good place to state how long you’ve been in business or your credentials.

Give your name and a little information about you. But don’t use up too much space. Remember that the bulk of your bio will go on your “About Me” page. Here is a good place to state how long you’ve been in business or your credentials.

Know What Holds Readers Back

Your industry determines your readers’ obstacles. If you are a handyman, readers may be concerned about your reputation. If you are a freelance writer, prospects want to know that you’ll take the time to learn their business. If you are a roofer, readers may want to know about your warranty.

A freelance writer can help you identify these reader objections and address them in a compelling way.

Call To Action

Your web copy ends with a call to action.

Remember that readers are still afraid to commit. Don’t write something like, “Call me to remodel your bathroom.”

They also want to know you’re confident. So don’t write, “If this sounds like something that might appeal to you, call me.”

Write a call to action that is safe, friendly and confident, like “Call me so that we can discuss all the great ways my writing can boost your sales.”

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What does your blog do for you?

There’s a lot of talk in marketing about giving the customer what they want and need. The general mantra in copywriting is “write for the customer,” as opposed to writing for the client or even yourself. Yet, before you start any project, you should ask yourself what you want to get out of it. This is especially true for blogs.

What do you want to get out of your blog? The easy answer is more sales. But asking yourself what you want from your blog is all about motivation and finding direction.

Here are some benefits to blogging:

–        Establish yourself as an expert

–        Establish rapport with your clients

–        Communicate company news

–        Educate readers about your industry

–        Create a personal “face” for your company

–        Help your site get ranked in search engines

The benefit you choose to pursue will influence the writing on your blog. If you want to establish yourself as an expert, your blog style might be more formal. If you want to establish rapport, then your posts will serve as conversation starters and you will probably devote more time to moderating comments. If you want to communicate your company’s news, then blog posts might be less frequent. To educate, your posts will be more frequent and possibly involve more research. To create personality behind your blog, your posts will be more informal. For rankings, you’ll need frequent, informative posts of varying lengths with the right keywords.

Choosing your benefit is a way to get started and stay motivated to make regular posts. It will inform you how often you should post and if you need a professional copywriter and SEO service. Deciding what you want from your blog will help you determine how much time you need to devote to it.

The benefits you seek from your blog will evolve and change. You may start with just one benefit and decide to get more from your blog in the future.

Starting your blog with your goals in mind will help you get in the groove of maintaining a blogging routine. It will also help you determine where your blog ranks in priority with your other marketing efforts. With the reasons behind your blog firmly in place, you can also allocate the appropriate resources to its development.


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Four Facebook Do’s and Don’ts

Think of Facebook as a potluck gathering.

Think of Facebook as a friendly and generous potluck gathering.

We’ve all seen inappropriate Facebook posts. Sometimes, the faux pas is blushingly obvious. Other times, a post may just make us feel uncomfortable and leave us vaguely wondering if the poster just crossed into poor netiquette. Below are four do’s and don’ts of Facebook posts.

1. Don’t be negative. Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice . . .” This tried and true etiquette advice is just as important when networking online. Whether you feel like ranting about the service at a restaurant or just complaining about your rotten morning, exercise your will and refrain from making a negative Facebook post.

Do be positive. Practicing appropriate netiquette will exercise your positive thinking muscles. When you think positively, you lower your stress hormones and people like you more. So, finding the good in every situation and posting it on Facebook will make you healthier and improve your relationships with family, friends and customers.

2. Don’t engage in Facebook fights. We all know this one—and we’ve probably all been guilty—and it can’t be said enough. Facebook fights turn nasty and sever relationships, often permanently.

Do take a stand against cyber-bullying. We all want to come to the aid of a loved one who has been attacked via Facebook. The best way to do so is to post a positive statement about that person or create a post that makes a stand against online bullying.

3. Don’t be cliquish. Think of Facebook as an ongoing potluck because there probably isn’t a more friendly gathering than a potluck. Practice the same spirit of generosity on Facebook. Don’t allude to inside jokes or ignore comments from people who aren’t in your inner circle.

Do love your Facebook neighbor. Be the type of person who always has something kind or encouraging to say. Potential customers will see you as someone pleasant to work with.

4. Don’t be salesy. In today’s marketplace, it’s more important than ever to build relationships as a means to build your business. Customers have been bombarded with impersonal service from big corporations. You’ll stand apart by putting relationships before sales.

Do crow a little. When something goes great for you or your business, write a humble Facebook post and don’t forget to thank the people who helped you along the way.

Have you noticed a recurring theme? All of these do’s and don’ts interweave your personal and professional life. Remember that anything you post online does the same. With the advent of social media, customers and employers know more about our personal lives than ever before. Your job is be authentic while putting your best self online.


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The Google Update Most Likely to Affect Your Website


Fresh content on your website will bear the most fruit for your SEO campaign.

Fresh content on your website will bear the most fruit for your SEO campaign.

 Google announced a major algorithm change that will affect 35 percent of searches. Earlier this month, Google announced that it has released an algorithm change that will impact even more sites than the infamous Panda update earlier this year. Despite the big change, this recent update hasn’t received the media attention that earned previous updates cool or snuggly names like “Caffeine” and “Panda.” All the same, chances are, this nameless algorithm can get your page to the top of results or push it to the bottom of the pile.

The update focuses on fresh content. Whether the search is for recent events, hot topics, recurring events or just information that changes frequently, websites that have fresh content will get a big boost in ratings.

What Does Google’s Recent Change Mean for You?

Whatever your product or industry, if it changes and grows, you need fresh content on your site to get Google’s attention. A blog is a great way to frequently add new content to your site. If you already have a blog that is separate from your website, consider combining the two into one site.

How Much Do You Have to Update You Blog?

While it’s hard to say yet how often you have to update your blog with quality copywriting, some experts are already saying daily. I think it mostly depends on how often information is being updated about your industry. It’s more important that ever to maintain a weekly blog update, but most blogs will likely benefit most from updates three or more times a week. As always, figure out what your competitors are doing and one-up them.

But, remember, when it comes to the Internet, your competitors are millions of other sites. Enter your primary keywords in Google search with quotes around them. Then take a look at the first page of results. Determine how often those sites are being updated and then update yours with quality copywriting more often.

Quality Copywriting Still Counts

I know it’s a lot more work to update your blog multiple times a week. Nevertheless, keep your eye on quality writing. Make sure your posts are relevant to your readers and continuously try to engage them in the conversation.

You don’t need a million bucks to market your business online, and when you do it right, you get better results than any other medium. Marketing and copywriting online is work, work, work. But when you make a plan complete with goals and a schedule, the work gets a lot easier. What are your biggest obstacles to updating a blog regularly?

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Freelance Writer vs Content Service in 10 Rounds


Writing great website and business copy isn't child's play.

When you hire a content service, you don't get the experience of a professional freelance copywriter.

 Boxing’s a big thing in our house. It seems that every Saturday the week’s recorded bouts are playing on the television. Sometimes, I hang out with my husband and watch the matches with him. Mostly, though, my mind wanders as I’m enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon. Last weekend, my wandering mind imagined a boxing match between a freelance writer and a content service. Here’s how it went.

Round One:

The match begins when you need content fast. Take out your wallet because if you are commissioning a content service, you have to prepay–without a contract–for copy that hasn’t been written yet. While some freelancer copywriters will require a down payment on services, especially if the job is big, every professional freelancer will provide a contract complete with deadlines so that you have peace of mind.

Round Two:

The content service just threw your calendar out the window. When you commission a content service, you don’t know when your copy will be written or when a writer will choose your job from a pool of hundreds. Even if a writer picks your job up, if the writer doesn’t follow through, it goes back in the pool. When you hire a freelance content writer, you get a professional who knows the value of making deadlines.

Round Three:

You’re going green, but not in a good way. You’re not saving trees or yourself headaches because writers at a content service are inexperienced. From misplaced commas to missed deadlines, amateur writers are learning at your expense. A professional writer, who knows both writing and business, will deliver excellent writing and great service.

Round Four:

Your brand is taking a beating. You don’t get to meet or even talk on the phone with the writer at the content service. The person writing the copy that will represent you and your business to the world will have no idea about you, your mission, or maybe even your business. When you hire a freelance copywriter, you’ll get to talk to a real person who can turn your passion for your business into compelling copy that converts readers into consumers.

Round Five:

You have entered the virtual void, and yeah, it’s just about as scary as the Twilight Zone. In our technological age, there is no shortage of impersonal service. Content services are no exception. When you hire a freelance writer, you get a real person whom you can count on for future projects, giving your copy a consistent voice.

Round Six:

Get out your editor’s hat. As if you don’t already wear enough hats as a small business owner, you’ll get to serve as the editor when you hire a content service. Many of these services make edits difficult. Often you have to choose between living with what you got or tossing your job back into the pool, if you have any choice at all. When you hire a professional copywriter, reasonable edits are often included in the contract. From start to finish, a professional web copy writer will work hard to give you what you want.

Round Seven:

Where in the world is [insert your business here]? Just like Waldo, you may be hard to find by those looking for your services. Copy that is optimized for getting you found on the Internet isn’t only essential, it’s an art. Google wants articles that are written for the reader, not just the algorithms. When you hire a Grand Rapids Michigan freelance writer (awkward, isn’t it?), you get copy that is optimized and readable. Because whether you are in Boise, Idaho or Grand Rapids, Michigan, a freelance writer (more graceful, wouldn’t you say?) will write copy that will get you found on the Internet without sounding like a robot’s homework assignment.

Round Eight:

You’re getting one piece of the puzzle. When you hire a content service, you’re only getting articles. What about your social media marketing efforts? Your Facebook posts and tweets have to be just as compelling and consistent as your copy. A professional freelance content writer who knows about social media marketing can handle these multiple outlets to give you the best results.

Round Nine:

Quality rises to the top, especially after Google’s recent algorithm change. It’s tough to get that kind of quality from a content service writer who needs to whip out ten articles a day to pay the bills. When you hire a freelance copywriter, you get well-researched, quality articles without a middleman’s markup.

Round Ten:

Cheap content has a hidden price. Okay, so you can get articles more cheaply from a content service. But will those articles do their job? Any money you invest in your website and other copywriting has one goal: to help you convert readers into customers. Would you rather pay less for nothing or a little more for results?

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