Category Archives: Blog Writing

How to Spot Online Propaganda

You can’t believe everything you read—especially online.

As content marketing professionals, this is something we’re uniquely sensitive to. We believe strongly that there’s value in companies providing good, substantive, valuable information as a way to build their brand and establish thought leadership.

And yes, the content marketing model does blur the line between information and advertisement—but it’s only effective if it’s ultimately truthful.

By contrast, a lot of the content out there is outright propaganda—designed to misinform, to mislead, and to obscure the truth.

To be a responsible online citizen, it’s important to know the difference. That’s what we’re going to look at today.

Where You’ll Spot Propaganda

The first thing to be aware of is that propaganda can come from almost any source. Some common examples:

  • Brand/company pages on Facebook. Note that Facebook doesn’t regulate these pages and doesn’t have any standard of transparency or veracity in place. Maybe one day that will change—but for now, public pages are all potential breeding grounds for propaganda.
  • Twitter accounts. We’re mostly thinking of bots here—fake accounts that usually have a highly political slant. Be careful; not every social media user is a real person!
  • A lot of the memes that come across as good-natured and funny are actually made by marketing companies and have an insidious agenda—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of!
  • News items. A lot of the links that look like real news could in fact be—we hate to say it—fake news. You can usually tell by looking at the URL; anything lacking a good, clean URL (like nytimes.com, washingtonpost.com, bbc.com, reuters.com, economist.com etc.) could potentially be a propaganda site.
  • Photo editing tools have become truly advanced and sophisticated—and sadly, you just can’t take every online photo you see seriously.

Steer Clear of Propaganda

That’s just a cross-section of some of the places you’ll find propaganda—and our point really is that you can find it anywhere. So the question is, how can you protect yourself?

Some tips:

  • Be a skeptic. Simply having a discerning mindset, and realizing that what you’re reading could be propaganda, is a good first step.
  • Google around. If you find a news story that seems hard to believe, use Google to look for other sources. If you can’t find them, it may very well be phony. One of the first things taught in journalism school is that all facts in any story should be confirmed by two reliable sources. In today’s day and age, finding two or more sources that share a story’s detail is not overly taxing. Real news stories are picked up by multiple outlets—even if a single platform breaks the story.
  • Avoid interacting with unvetted sources. Liking and commenting on a public page can suck you into the web of propaganda—unless you know the brand in question and trust them.
  • Take reviews with a grain of salt. Online reviews are sometimes fake—and you can usually tell which ones lack credibility. Fake ones won’t be very long or specific.
  • Read widely. Don’t rely on a single platform or website for your news. Try to be a curious and voracious reader.
  • Learn what fake ads look like. It’s helpful to know how you can identify paid content—and there are usually some giveaways. On social networks, as well as on Google, these ads will be labeled as “sponsored.” On Instagram specifically, sponsored posts must carry the hashtag #ad.

The bottom line: it takes some effort and some deliberation to tell which online content you can trust—but it’s worth it to not get snookered by the propaganda machine.

We’d love to tell you more about honest and authentic content creation. Reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. to learn more! Call 803-831-7444 or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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Connecting with Millennials Through Content Marketing

Among its many virtues, content marketing is ideal for reaching millennials.

The reason for this is actually pretty simple: Millennials—whatever you think of their pros and cons, their strengths and their shortcomings—are naturally adept at sniffing out bullshit. They know when they’re being coerced, duped, or talked down to, and as a result, they have very low vulnerability to traditional, prescriptive advertising.

But content marketing is different: Here, the goal isn’t to talk anyone into anything, but simply to find some helpful, engaging, Google-friendly information. And to the extent that content marketing does have ulterior motives, it’s usually pretty transparent.

All that to say, if you’re wondering how you can use content marketing to better connect with millennials, congratulations! You’re already on the right track!

With that said, there are right ways and wrong ways to connect with millennials through content marketing—and in this post, we’ll offer some tips and some solutions.

How to Connect with Millennials through Social Media

  1. Remember the mantra.

The old line about content marketing is that it’s “selling without selling.” That is, you want to earn trust and create brand awareness, but you don’t want to give a hard sell. That’s really important for getting content marketing right, but it’s especially important for reaching the millennial generation—because again: They tend to be pretty allergic to aggressive sales pitches. Focus on engaging and authoritative content, offer a gentle call to action, and trust your content to do its job.

  1. Don’t mistake millennials for dummies.

Or at least, don’t assume they’re ill-informed. Statistics show over and over that millennials tend to do a ton of online research before they buy anything. Keep that in mind when you develop content: Your millennial readers are probably well-studied, they’ve seen the competition, and they’re examined some of the same sources as you. What you offer them should be original; it should have a unique point of view; and it should exist in dialogue with other content that’s out there.

  1. Note that millennials tend to be justice-driven.

The millennial generation is often called the social justice generation—and there’s a reason for this: While they may not vote for the same political candidates or hold the same policy preferences, millennials as a whole tend to be pretty motivated by racial, economic, and environmental justice issues. One of the best ways to earn trust is to highlight the ways in which your brand stands for those same things.

  1. Leverage FOMO.

Something else that millennials as a whole have in common: Fear of missing out, or FOMO. This marketing concept is hardly new, but it’s gained new resonance as marketers have increasingly sought connections with millennials. If you can use your content to instill a sense of urgency, or cause the reader to feel like they can take advantage of a limited-time or limited-quantity offer, that can really help you reach millennials.

  1. Get visual whenever you can.

You can and should write blogs as part of your content marketing strategy, but also make sure you use plenty of visual content—including Instagram posts, Facebook and Twitter memes, and graphics embedded in your website content. Simply put, millennials tend to be pretty visual—and much as we hate to admit it, words alone probably won’t be enough!

With these pointers, you can start connecting more effectively with members of the millennial demographic—and for additional tips or content marketing resources, we hope you’ll reach out.

Chat with us today by calling 803-831-7444 or by visiting www.grammarchic.net.

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How to Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Proper keyword use is essential for content marketing—and for SEO. The keywords help reflect those search terms you’re trying to rank for; in many cases, they will also align with your chosen PPC terms. Keywords can even be valuable on a creative level, helping guide and structure your content writing.

With that said, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Keyword stuffing—the act of including so many keywords that your content is stiff, robotic, nonsensical, or simply very hard to read—can result in SEO penalties, which makes the entire endeavor moot.

So how can you avoid keyword stuffing, without flat-out avoiding keywords? Where’s the balance?

Tips to Avoid Keyword Stuffing

A few tips:

  • Know who you’re writing for. One of the most common causes of keyword stuffing is the belief that you’re writing, first and foremost, for search algorithms. Scrap that idea right now, and instead remind yourself that you’re writing for human beings. Nine times out of 10, if you simply write in a way that’s natural and that makes sense to human readers, everything else will fall into place.
  • Identify the prime spots for keywords. There are a few places where you really want to insert keywords, for maximum SEO value—heading, title tags, meta descriptions, and in the first paragraph of your body content. Once you ensure keywords in these locales, you can ease up, and just focus on writing good, natural content.
  • Use long-tail variations. You can break up your keyword monotony, and avoid any signs of keyword stuffing, by throwing in some long-tail alternates. For example, if your main keyword is Charlotte plumbers, you might mix in some references to Charlotte plumbing companies, plumbers in Charlotte, etc., all of which can help your content read more gracefully.
  • Remember: Synonyms are your friends! Along the same lines, trust in Google’s increasingly-intelligent bots to put two and two together, and to register synonyms for your main keywords. If you’re looking to rank for the term HVAC, it’s fine to also use air conditioning or heating system. Google knows what you mean, and you’re not going to lose any SEO mojo by varying things up.

It can’t be stressed enough: 90 percent of the battle is just writing good, natural, value-adding content for human readers—and if you need help with that, you’ve come to the right place. Reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. to set up a consultation with one of our SEO-trained content writing professionals. Contact us at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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5 Ways to Earn Links in 2018

When other websites or blogs link to your content, it feels really good; it’s flattering to think that one of your readers enjoyed the content enough to share it with others.

But earning links is about more than just good feelings. It’s actually an important part of effective content marketing. Consider:

  • Backlinks lend prestige and respectability to your content; they make it more likely for other readers to find and to trust
  • Backlinks also enhance your online brand. They cast you as a thought leader and an industry expert.
  • Finally, backlinks are critical SEO ranking factors. As you accrue links from authoritative websites, it helps your standings in Google.

Building backlinks should be a priority in every content marketing strategy—but it’s important to note that there are right ways and wrong ways to do it.

Black Hat and White Hat Approaches

In fact, all link building efforts can be boiled down to two basic categories—black hat and white hat.

  • Black hat tactics ignore Google’s stated guidelines; the most common black hat tactic is buying links outright. This is dishonest and can actually lead to SEO penalties.
  • White hat tactics consist of actually earning your backlinks through valuable content and real relationships. These tactics comply with Google’s stated guidelines.

As you consider link building strategies, remember that there are no short cuts—not really. Buying backlinks will cause your SEO rankings to take a dive. The best way to pursue backlinks is by earning them, fair and square. The question is how.

5 Tips for Earning Backlinks

We recommend a few simple tactics:

  1. Write content that’s worth linking to. Make sure you’re producing high-quality content that offers helpful, practical information to your audience. If the content is flimsy, irrelevant to the target reader, or overly promotional, nobody’s going to want to link to it—plain and simple.
  2. Don’t stop at written content. Written content, like blogs, is incredibly important—foundational, even. But as you create this content, spin it into infographics and video content, as well. A broader, richer content profile can help you attract more backlinks.
  3. Ensure that some of your content is evergreen. It’s fine to write about industry trends or headlines, but also make sure you’re producing some content that won’t age or become obsolete—such as glossaries, guides, and compendiums. This is the kind of content that tends to win links most readily.
  4. Engage in influencer marketing. Using social media, form relationships with some of the key influencers in your industry, including prominent bloggers or social media personalities. If you can get their attention, and in turn they share some of your content, that could be huge for your link-building efforts.
  5. Don’t forget about press releases. Sending out regular press releases helps keep your content in front of local or industry-specific publications, which can often win you the links you’re seeking.

These simple tips provide the basis of a sound link building campaign—but of course, they are easier said than done. Building the right kind of content takes time and skill, but Grammar Chic, Inc. can help. Our writers have ample expertise writing across myriad industries, and we know how to create content that’s link-worthy.

Schedule a consultation with our writing team today. Contact Grammar Chic, Inc. at 803-831-7444 or www.grammarchic.net.

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8 Ways to Write Headlines that Pack a Punch

Every piece of content you write should have a headline. That headline sets the first impression readers have—and ideally, it helps encourage people to click through or to keep reading.

Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to say that the headline is the most important part of your content. You can write the best 800-word blog post of your life, but if the headline is boring and bland, that post may never get read.

That’s why it’s important to think long and hard about your headline constructions. Today, we’re going to offer eight tried and true trips for making your headlines more impactful.

How to Write Headlines That Get Results

  1. Use numbers. The human brain automatically gravitates toward numbers—so when you have a chance to throw in some specific digits, do so. Examples: 5 Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts; 8 Content Marketing Statistics You MUST See.
  2. Focus on value. What’s in it for your readers? Why should they care about this blog post? Write headlines that let them know they’ll benefit in some way from your content. Example: Hit All Your Sales Goals with These Lead Gen Tips.
  3. Use strong verbs. Whenever possible, skip to be verbs in favor of something more compelling and specific. For example, consider these two variations: 6 Ways to Be a Better Content Marketer 6 Ways to Write Better Content. The second option is simply punchier.
  4. Mention the reader. Play into the egos of your readers; invoke them in the headline, using you and your. This is a proven way to get people’s attention. Example: Discover 6 Ways You Can Inspire Your Team.
  5. Ask a question. If you’re stuck on your headlines, try converting statements into questions. Generate some curiosity. Example: Can Better Headlines Improve Your Blog Conversions?
  6. See what your competition is doing. Spend some time researching the blogs of your competitors or industry peers, and simply make note of how they phrase their Are there any lessons you can learn from them?
  7. Draft a bunch of headlines. Spend a few minutes with an open Word doc, and jot down all the headlines and variations that come to mind. Give yourself a bunch of options to compare and choose from.
  8. Make sure your headline is accurate. Avoid the ol’ bait-and-switch routine. Make sure the headline accurately reflects the content.

Discover Headline Hacks from the Content Marketing Pros

With these tips, you’re well on your way to stronger, more effective headlines. For additional help generating quality headlines—and the content to match—reach out to the writing team at Grammar Chic, Inc. Connect with us at 803-831-7444 or www.grammarchic.net.

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Don’t Let Bad Content Ruin Your SEO Rankings

You’re probably familiar with the old SEO axiom: Content is king. That’s a little bit of an oversimplification, but there’s a lot of truth to it. If you’re trying to enact a savvy SEO campaign and achieve higher Google rankings for your business website, strong content is crucial. It’s job #1. It’s an absolute deal-breaker.

And why is that? Think about it from Google’s point of view. Like any business, Google wants to provide its customers (search engine users) with the best product possible (relevant search results). That means content that adequately answers their questions. If you want to rank well, that’s the kind of content you need to create.

But if good content can boost rankings, bad content can sink them. Unfortunately, bad content is all too plentiful. Here are a few ways in which bad content can disrupt your SEO undertaking—and not in a good way.

Bad Content Means Bad SEO

Content that’s too flimsy. While we are adamant that there’s no magic word count you need to hit, it is wise to be as thorough as you can be, completely addressing the topic at hand. Just ask yourself: Would this be satisfactory to a search engine user who wants to learn more about this topic or issue—or would a search engine user come away with more questions than answers?

Content that lacks the right keywords. When it comes to keywords, moderation is key. If you jam in so many keywords that your content feels stilted or robotic, your rankings will slip. Do include a few target keywords in strategic locations, however—titles, section subheadings, meta descriptions, and sprinkled throughout your body content.

Content that’s not localized. For retail companies or brick-and-mortar businesses, some geographically specific keywords are vital. Some examples include keywords like [City] plumbing company, [City] accountants, [City] pizza restaurant, etc.

Content that doesn’t offer a good UX. User experience is a key SEO ranking factor, so make sure that any visitor to your page feels totally welcome, and that it’s easy for users to find the content they’re after. We recommend plenty of white space; bullet points whenever appropriate; section subheadings; and, of course, a mobile-friendly layout.

Content that doesn’t offer value. There’s nothing wrong with developing content to sell your products, but remember that any content you create is meant to be informative and educational; if all you write is marketing fluff, you’re not helping Google provide its customers with a strong product.

Content that lacks internal linking. One more hallmark of strong content? It makes it easy for users to navigate to related resources. Make sure to include links to relevant resource pages or blog posts whenever you can.

Get the Help You Need Creating Strong Content

SEO can get really technical, and those technicalities are important—but they don’t mean anything if you don’t have good content to offer. That’s where we come in. Grammar Chic, Inc. is adept at content creation that delights readers while also pleasing the search algorithms. And we’d love to talk with you about your company’s content writing and SEO needs.

Schedule a consultation today: Reach out at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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How to Brainstorm Content Ideas for Your Small Business

Often, the most challenging part of content marketing is simply coming up with good ideas. Perhaps you’ve had this experience: You set aside an hour of your day to write a post for your small business blog, then stare at your computer for a good 45 minutes trying to think of a topic. By that point, of course, you hardly have enough time left to write a solid introduction, much less a full post.

Something we recommend is keeping a list of topics ready to go—so that when you have those moments of scheduled content creation, you don’t have to waste time fumbling for inspiration. Still, the question remains: How do you come up with good ideas to populate your list?

Start with Content Categories

A good place to begin the brainstorming process is not with specific topics, but simply with categories.

Think about your areas of expertise—the services your company provides, the niche it serves. Try to think of five to seven big “buckets” into which content can be placed. For example, say you own a plumbing company. Your buckets might be Commercial Plumbing, Plumbing Repair, Drain Cleaning, Bathroom Remodeling, Household Plumbing Tips and Tricks, and HVAC.

Now, for each of these content buckets, try to come up with some subcategories—further ways to classify content. For each bucket, aim for a good five subcategories. For example, under Plumbing Repair, your sub-categories might include:

  • Fixing leaks
  • Water heater maintenance
  • Removing clogs
  • Preventative maintenance
  • When to call a plumber

Once you’ve written down those big buckets and their related sub-categories, you’ve got a pretty good blueprint to work from.

Brainstorming Content Ideas

Now we come to the part of the process where you actually jot down some content ideas.

Start with any of those subcategories you wrote down, and approach it from a couple of different angles:

  • First, there is the expertise angle—wherein you’re simply trying to impart some knowledge to your customers, sharing your expertise on the topic in question. What are some things you’d like your customers to know, as relates to this topic? What are some of the most common questions you get?
  • Second, there is the offering What are you trying to sell, as relates to this topic? Generating posts with an offering angle might mean listing the perks, benefits, or pros/cons of a specific service—for example, under the Preventative Maintenance category, your topic might be The Benefits of Preventative Plumbing Maintenance, underlining the value of homeowners having routine inspections from a certified plumber.

Even if you only come up with a couple of topics for each of your subcategories—an expertise angle and an offering angle—you’ll still have a fairly large list of topics at your ready.

And there are ways to take those topics and spin them into additional ideas. For example, if you land on the perfect angle for a blog post, type your working title into the Google search bar and just see what comes up. You may find that competitors or industry experts have written related or thematically-adjacent posts that can inspire your own work.

Outsource Your Content Creation

Having a list of pre-determined topics—and periodically spending some time expanding and revising it—can make content creation much more fluid, and much less frustrating.

And if you’re serious about generating quality content, you can take the next step—outsourcing your content creation to the writers at Grammar Chic, Inc. We can provide a full spectrum of services, from topic generation to writing, proofing, editing, and formatting. To talk content strategy, reach out to our writers at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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