Saturday, August 31, 2013

Been too, too long...
But this lil' ol' blog is still here. Just like the ongoing work as an SEO copywriter, if you are looking for it. Clients are still there, but the effect of SEO copywriting is perhaps a little more strange than it was in the past - a bit more uncertain. I don't think this has anything to do with the crafting of solid SEO copywriting, more that Google has shifted gears a ton in the past year, so what they are doing is kind of trumping what anyone does in a page.

Hear that correctly now, 'cause I am not saying SEO copywriting is any less valuable to SEO than it ever was, or ever will be. Google hates SEOs though, so the extra descriptor on the act of writing something may see some editing. Who knows. Schlemeezle, schlemazzle.

Organic results are disappearing though, intentionally if you are paying attention, and sites are getting penalized more than they ever did before.The combination leaves fewer sites dominating the shrinking available organic space, and with these shifts come wider steps away from the minute, independent nature that drove the web's information to where it is. Big business took over, so to see it in any lesser way is to be naiive and to launch yourself toward #epicfail.

I am proud to be an SEO, especially as it gets harder to do. Got more for me to consider with each effort? Good - bring it on...I'll accept that challenge, as I always have.
But Google does not like SEOs and never has...despite the smiles and promises, no matter what they tell or told you. The very nature of SEO work is something beyond Google's control, so Google allows less and less of it to matter.
Unfortunately, it is taking with it a lot of what made the web and Google a fun place to be for so many years: the promise of relevant depth and variety. Independent publishers are having a much harder time surviving as Google takes small measure after small measure to restrict any Google-is-not-in-the-middle-of-it activity or information from being available.
They are a business, and can do and display what they want - but we all suffer, because they have such a dominant blanket over sorting and displaying the world's information, and they are scrubbing and tilting it toward their own agenda, not everyones. They have alternatives, we don't - and yet their decisions will affect just about everyone, whether or not they are aware of it.
And that is really just a shame, because it could have been better.

I am not as despondent as this sounds - far from it, in fact. I still love the gig, still sliding down the dinosaur at night with a big smile...even bigger than it has been in years past for sure, too. I just can't help but be rather trepidatious at the idea of things getting better in regards to how queries are answered with relevant, and diverse results in the world's biggest search engine.

Google may hate SEOs, but I don't hate them back...I simply don't trust them at all because they have a very solid track record of serving themselves while saying it is otherwise. The past year has seen this in the most dramatic, and disappointing changes I have ever seen in the results displays -increasingly less space, filled with more and more Google properties every month. And more and more of a distance from what I used them for to begin with - they simply fail to grasp I am not shopping every time I am online, actually the opposite is very true for me. That disconnect has me moving away from a search engine whose results used to be on-point and fun to explore - now they have become a chore of endless ads and incorrect answers to be sorted and sidestepped. God forbid I accidentally click on the wrong thing in there.
In using a blanket and hammer when penalizing optimized sites, Google is now pretty dramatically suffocating its (our) information...because so many site histories had a skeleton or two in a closet that was actually already painted over.
Discounting these over-zealous efforts is the logical move, but penalizing them has made it a different world - and those who can't figure it out fast enough are scrambling to Google to pay for traffic they used to get for free, and this is the point, isn't it?

Like I said before, this has nothing much to do with any specific kind or direction of SEO copywriting, but more a little look at what may be in store as efforts continue to diminish the value of an SEO because the "o" means optimizing organic, and without organic, there may be dawning a brand new way to look at what we do...because as they go, so too goes a really huge and unforgiving part of the trade.

So I use this as a call to action: if there are going to be less spots that are harder to get, the true value of SEO copywriting is really just beginning to get reshaped and redefined by the market demands and rewards, again, as it has before. Always. I am not going to hang up my SEO roots, not now nor ever. I am very proud of what I do, and I don't take it lightly. Google doesn't have to like it - they never have.
As my fave basher Nick Lowe would say, "And So It Goes." :)

Back to work...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fear Not Google Changes

2012 is definitely going to be a year of note for those of us close to Google for whatever reason. In my case, I work in an industry dominated by them, and have spent the greater part of the last decade on there every day for hours and hours, figuring out stuff and using it myself. But this year, the changes they are rolling out are more drastic than any I remember seeing -or at least the most dramatic shifts happening for about 4 years or so. But as these changes boil and roll around causing panic, it should be a good thing for you as an SEO copywriter out there slinging it.

Change, especially in search, is inevitable. How you roll with it, and bounce back from dramatic shifts is what defines the type of business person you are. In SEO writing, it is the same thing: the going gets tough, and we keep on writing. Actually, in most cases it means more work, because people panic, and can't figure out the right things to do any more...they need expert help to ride it out.

SEO work is getting to be pretty complicated, so if you are a writing-focused SEO, it may be a good time to determine which way your expertise should go. Some are going to be better off going to more writing-specific gigs, while some of us like the SEO challenges, and will accept these new rules much the same way we accepted all the ones before them.  But as it gets tougher, it will pay to be focused on a specialty so you can rise above the rest of them.

If you do stay in the SEO side of things, don't give in to fear, uncertainty and doubt - FUD will cause more grief and delay than the majority of the changes that actually happen. Stick to tests, and rely on your data. Study hard, and look at the importance of the query.

So change is gonna come - oh yes it will. Bank on it, whenever possible. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is It Really Almost Over?

This has been a tremendous year for my business. I almost hate to see it end, if it weren't for the promise of what is still coming 'round the bend. Looking at what is making this swell happen, I come back again and again to what Google is doing to small businesses. As they turn the screws and make it harder for smaller businesses to compete, more of these smaller businesses come to people like me for assistance.
So go, Google, go. Add more filters, make it harder and harder. Regardless of the quality of the SERPs these days, the appeal to be in them is only intensifying, making my work in demand, again.
I know people argue about whether or not Content is King or not, and I think that is silly. Well supported content is the undeniable king of online marketing - always has been. The only argument is typically that links are more powerful - and I have seen that links are indeed very powerful. But if you are linking to soft cat crap content, you are going to do less than you could.
As the economy goes all over the place, I have found that it is pretty easy to stay busy writing as much as you want for a living. I have great clients, so I do well - but finding new clients is not going to be difficult as long as the SERPs remain elusive and complicated. So this year may be screaming to a halt, but the fun is far from over.   

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing for Real People

If you are a freelance seo writer, you are going to spend a lot of time figuring out how to write things to successfully appear in the search engine result pages. But what if it were easier than that - what if you could simply write good material and have it work? I am going to encourage you to try this tactic.

One thing I have seen in my ten plus years on the interwebs, is that more and more people pile in to the game every year. They are all trying hard to make the search engines pay attention, so they are trying different ideas - links, anchor text, keyword density, whatever else is the flavor of the month - to find that something extra.

I would think that at this point of the web's development, manipulating your content like this is a bit passe - it is thin, it is obvious, and it doesn't really work too well for too long. So one way to get your content to stand out from the crowd, is to ignore most SEO tactics completely. Not all of them, mind you, just most of them, and those you do approach, you should do so with a reason.

Thin out your keywords, and bring up the meaning and depth. Illustrate with concrete examples, and let the thin, effervescent stuff of 2006 fall into the trash bin. Write with heart - and you might be amazed to see that it is still very possible to attract an audience the old fashioned way.

So if you want your work to float above the rest, write it for real people. The search engines will find you too, I promise. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Charging for Freelance SEO Writing

I get asked about my rates a lot - both by writers and by prospective clients. So what does an SEO writer charge these days?

Sorry-there is no blanket answer here. Even with a single provider, in my experience it is going to vary a bit depending on the project you are doing and who it is for. So as the provider, you have to be aware of what your skills are worth, and why. For example, if you have a couple years of dedicated experience in code, it can translate into something billable to augment what you write - you might write something and then render it for the client using html, php, asp, or a specific language compatible with their website. You may be able to find and add images to your posts/work, and have an extra to present to the client. The point is, it is not always simply SEO copywriting for me, and so it gets harder to pull this out as a single service. Not that I can't; just that most of my clients hire me for a wider range of services than just the writing part - so the cost of the writing is affected by the project scope.

Most often, the cost of seo-driven writing will be dictated by the expected returns. If it is a simple link campaign where you are article or blogpost-spewing, the cost will typically be in line with the targeted sites. This means if it a place where anyone can post, you can pay anything at all to post there - there is almost no bottom to the market cost if you shop for labor worldwide. Pennies spent, but the writing is usually commensurate with what you pay.

If you are targeting better sites for the work (say in guest posts or something like that), the cost for the writing to get there is also going to scale. Unlike the cheap efforts, there is going to be a market price here, and right now, I see it at around $40-80 for a solidly written post somewhere with a bit of strategy and thought behind it. This is on the lower cost side, and would normally be tied into a bulk pricing...but not always. I think most people could spend this on a piece of written collateral (like a keyword-specific blog post or article) and be happy with it.

To get more than that as an seo writer, you typically have to be bringing something stronger to the bargaining experts quoted, a following (you bring your audience with you), a spin unique to the niche, audience built-in somewhere to be tapped, viral support, social media or something like that. Not that a strong piece on its own merits can't fetch a stronger price tag - just that today's buyers have more competitive options than in years past, so the expectations and demand for work that WORKS in a tangible way is becoming much more common.

If you are a specialist in some field, it can mean a better fee. Generalist copywriters will tend to think more about hourly rates - maybe setting fees on how much they can do in a given day. Once you have more experience in different methods of writing, you'll know that there are different fees that are going to apply, because there are different levels of thought and mechanical application involved in everything you do.

Personally, I use a sliding scale. I have fee ranges for the different types of stuff I do - and a couple of hourly-with-retainer rates, based mostly on the time a client has been with me and the type of work they usually need. I haven't taken on too many new clients since about the middle of last year, because my roster is pretty full with the great folks I my "normal" rates are affected a lot by the discounts I give to repeat clients.

Charging a competitive, yet affordable rate for the seo writing services you offer is a big part of staying alive as an seo copywriter. Base it on your experiences, pro-rating it on the types of work you have done in the past and the successes you have claimed. The more you can point to something that has been proven effective, and say "I did that" the more you can usually charge (be careful!) to do it again for someone else. Like I said at the start of this, there is no blanket to crawl under here, and make all your pricing dreams come true. But if you (as a copywriter offering seo) are aware of how your skills can be used effectively in a larger project, it will help you to set realistic price points where you are compensated for your time, your talents, and related prior experiences.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's in Your Portfolio?

Had a couple new writers asking me some things about how to best present themselves to potential new clients. In these cases, much like in the past, I tend to say the same thing: Work begets work. You need SAMPLES!

So how do you get samples if there is no one knocking at the door?
Simple answer: you start knocking yourself.

I tend not to wait for clients to come to me - I find people whose work or ideas I respect, and I find ways I can make myself attractive to them. I am pitching me, but it is not about me - it is about what I can do for them.

Because I have been doing this freelance seo writing thing for so long, I can usually convince clients (or leads) in a quick conversation that I do know what I am talking about, and that I have done this before. But a new writer doesn't have this luxury - they really do have to earn it in the boardroom every time they enter.

So one way to do this well, is by carefully selecting samples of work that represent what the client is trying to achieve. If you are pitching to do a sales letter, you want to show something similar. Bringing in an ad you worked on is maybe OK for showing off your tone or ability to be concise or something - but it is a different medium, a different approach entirely than a long-form sales letter.

Blending the two ideas then, pick someone you'd like to work for, and create a piece of work that is an example of the type of work you'd like to be doing. If your power is blog posts, write a few for a blog you admire, and see if you can get them published as a guest post. If you are all about ad copy, create a few mock-ups, and show how you would spin a campaign.  Even if the client you target is not interested, you may create a workable piece of collateral that can be "reconditioned" somewhere else and still put to good use.

Ultimately, go back to this simple mantra: Work begets work.
If you want to work as a freelance seo writer and are brand new and don't know where to begin, just start writing and don't stop. Everything else will usually follow accordingly.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Which Avatar Would Jesus Use?

It's a hypothetical question of course, but it does make me wonder.
I can't see Jesus using anything obscure or clever as his avatar. It would be something simple, but beautiful. Something that made you appreciate seeing it and not just because it meant you were reading a comment by Jesus.
He definitely wouldn't have a product or anything - it would seem wrong to endorse. I don't think he'd use a headshot either, because he never struck me as being that ego-centric. But maybe a nice shot of him in a field, or healing someone. I could see Jesus using a shot of himself, if he is downplayed in it. Or maybe a picture of him skiing, or on vacation somewhere.
For a while, I wondered if Jesus would use a picture of a dog, or a kitten as his avatar. It doesn't seem likely though, as he probably thinks all the animals are pretty awesome, and wouldn't know how to pick out one.
Maybe Jesus would change his avatar a whole bunch, so you never really knew what to expect. Every day, you'd go online and look forward to seeing what Jesus decided it would be. He'd surprise and delight you with his choices no doubt. Or better still, maybe because he's Jesus, his avatar looks different to everyone who sees it. It works like a prism, and refracts something it pulls out of your own personality and amplifies it back to you through the avatar of Jesus. That would be pretty cool - and he could do it, too - he is Jesus.

I know I should be working, but I couldn't help wondering.