Tag Archives: Blogging advice

Meta Descriptions are Longer—and More Important—Than Ever

Mere weeks ago, Google announced a fairly major shake-up to the status quo. Meta descriptions, which have long been limited to 160 characters, can now be up to 320 characters—effectively doubling the size of this crucial online real estate.

What are Meta Descriptions, and Why Do They Matter?

If you’re not sure what a meta description is, conduct a Google search right now. In the search results page, you’ll see a list of 10 (or so) blue links—i.e. your search results. Beneath each link you’ll see a brief blurb, summarizing what the content is about. That, basically, is the meta description.

Your meta descriptions matter because they provide Google with a sense of what your content is about—and, they offer search engine users with a sneak peek, helping them decide whether or not they want to click on your link.

“Meta descriptions play a big role in search results,” HubSpot notes. “The end goal is to convince and persuade the searcher to click through to your website. Any words that match the search term are bolded in the description.”

What to Do with Longer Meta Descriptions

Hopefully you can see why meta descriptions are so meaningful—but the question remains: What are marketers supposed to do with all this extra space at their disposal?

Your first instinct might be to say that this is a boon for content writers and SEOs, who now have twice as much space to insert keywords, to offer a content synopsis, and to entice users to click through to their page. And that’s true, but it can also be a double-edged sword.

Consider it this way: Meta descriptions were initially developed to provide a short, snappy summary of your content, aimed at search engine users. That hasn’t changed. And while having 320 characters may help you develop a more compelling summary in some cases, there are just as many instances where less is more.

In fact, there’s an argument to be made that longer meta descriptions do more harm than good. Given that most searches now happen on mobile devices, where users aren’t as keen to do a lot of reading, brevity is generally best. Getting right to the point, with a pithy meta description, may actually be more beneficial than testing your reader’s patience with the full 320.

Meta Descriptions: A Case Study

Imagine this scenario: You’ve conducted a Google search for content writing services, and you’ve found Grammar Chic’s content writing services page. Which of the following two meta descriptions would make you more likely to click the link?

Discover the value of outsourcing your content writing needs to a company like Grammar Chic! Arrange a consultation with a content writing professional today!

OR…

Content writing services can help you keep up with the demands of regular content creation, while also freeing your time to focus on other areas of your business. Learn more about the content writing services of Grammar Chic, which include social media, blogging, press releases, website content, and more!

Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with either of these meta descriptions—but it’s hard to deny that the first one is a little punchier, a little more straight-to-the-point, a little more likely to command your attention and result in a click.

Let that be a lesson: In writing meta descriptions, you’ve now got more room to maneuver than ever before—but that doesn’t always mean you should take it.

We’d love to talk with you more about your content writing strategy—from headlines to body content to meta descriptions and beyond! For meta description writing strategies, contact Grammar Chic, Inc. at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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10 Calls to Action That Will Get People Clicking

Every page of your website should have a call to action on it—whether it’s the home page, a blog post, or a product landing page.

There are a few different reasons for this. One, it helps with the user experience; you can effectively guide your site visitors through the sales funnel and help them reach their destination. Two, it helps boost conversions. You can’t simply assume people will know to call you and schedule an appointment or click a link to buy your product; you’ve got to ask them to do it. That’s what the call to action is all about.

The Elements of a Strong Call to Action

It’s important to note, however, that not all calls to action are created equal. In most cases, a good CTA will have each of these components in place:

  • Brevity; most calls to action are just a sentence or two.
  • Strong action words; generally speaking, you’ll want your CTA to begin with a forceful verb.
  • Value proposition; explain the reasons why your reader should take the desired action. What’s in it for them?
  • Contact information; assuming you’re asking someone to call you, make sure your CTA gives them the phone number!

With that said, what are some examples of good, compelling, persuasive calls to action that you can use as models? Here are some tried and true CTAs that are worthy of emulation.

Steal These Calls to Action

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Master the Art of the CTA

A strong call to action is the perfect capstone to your online content—and when done right, it can help you move the needle and generate more and more conversions. And if you’re still not sure how a CTA fits into your content equation, don’t fret. Get the help you need writing CTAs that convert; contact Grammar Chic, Inc. at www.grammarchic.net.

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Manage Your Online Reputation with These Four Essential Assets

When’s the last time you made a major purchase without first doing a little online research? If you’re like most of us, you spend a little time online doing some due diligence before you ever commit to a high-priced product or service. And after all, why wouldn’t you? Googles makes it quick and easy to do meaningful consumer research, potentially saving yourself from a big, expensive blunder.

For consumers, online research is invaluable; for business owners, things are a little more dicey. After all, you can be certain that your consumers are using Google to vet your brand, your products, and your services before they give you any of their hard-earned money.

Your Online Reputation is One of Your Most Valuable Assets

As an exercise, you might take a minute to Google your brand, and see what comes up. If it’s all good, positive stuff, then congratulations—you have a solid online reputation, one that should encourage potential customers to buy from you in confidence.

But if your Google results are less than stellar—if they include negative reviews or unwanted news headlines, for instance—then you may actually be losing customers at a fairly high rate. We’re not exaggerating, either; online reputation can be truly make-or-break.

That’s why we recommend taking a proactive approach—something that’s not nearly as difficult as the high-dollar online reputation management firms will claim. Actually, a dedicated content marketing effort—focused on a few key assets—can help you preserve and even enhance your brand’s online image.

Online Reputation Management: A Four-Pronged Approach

Your Business Blog Provides Thought Leadership

For starters, if you want people to find positive listings when they Google your company name, it’s important that you actually create those listings. Positive content won’t write itself!

A regularly-updated business blog is helpful for a few reasons:

  1. It provides regular updates to the Google search algorithms—feeding the content monster and keeping your brand’s listings fresh.
  2. It allows you to display thought leadership—earning the trust and confidence of your customers.
  3. It provides opportunities for social media shares—another important way to generate some positive online mentions.

Press Releases Create Buzz

Getting some local news coverage is another important way to boost your positive Google listings—and that’s why we still recommend press releases for many of our content marketing clients. While this is seen as something of an old-fashioned approach, the reality is that it’s an easy and effective way to build buzz.

The important thing is to send out news releases about actually newsworthy events—such as:

  • New products or services
  • New locations
  • New hires
  • Involvement with a local charity or non-profit

Social Media is an Avenue for Customer Services

Something else you’ll want to do is maintain some active social media accounts—and not just for the obvious reasons. Yes, social media channels make it easy for you to distribute positive, brand-enhancing information—but they also provide a way for you to engage with your customers directly.

This can be either a blessing or a curse. To use social media effectively, it’s important to check in every day and respond to questions and complaints professionally—essentially viewing it as a chance to flex your customer service muscles. This can help minimize the occurrence of bad reviews or negative listings; if your customers see that you respond to their issues, they may not be as tempted to vent about you on Yelp or Foursquare.

Online Review Sites Add Luster to Your Brand

That brings us to the last of our vital assets—and that’s online review sites. To many business owners, these review sites are a scourge and a threat. Certainly, they pose a risk to your brand—but they also offer some opportunities. Here’s our advice for tangling with these site:

  • Above all, make sure you monitor your online reviews; always know what people are saying about your business.
  • If you spot some positive reviews, take a minute to say thanks.
  • If you come across negative ones, pause to offer some customer service. Coolly and calmly try to make things right.
  • Actively seek positive reviews; ask your best, most loyal clients to help you out by offering some positive feedback.

Take Your Reputation Seriously

Given the centrality of online research to the consumer experience, you can’t afford to think of online reputation as secondary, or as optional. Your brand will have a reputation, whether you like it or not; it falls to you to make sure it’s a good one.

And we can help! Reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. to discuss any and all of your content crafting needs—including blogs, social media, press releases, and beyond. Contact us at 803-831-7444 or www.grammarchic.net.

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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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3 Ways Google’s SERP Changed Last Year—And What It Means for Your Business

Google is constantly tweaking its search engine algorithms—and often, those changes are plainly evident from the search engine results page (SERP) itself.

Why is the SERP such a work in progress? Simple: Google wants to provide its users with the best product possible—that is, quick, relevant, practical answers to their search queries. And it’s constantly devising new ways to make that product just a little bit more appealing.

The downside for business owners is that there’s a lot of fluctuation to keep up with. The SEO efforts that worked in years past may not work as well today. In fact, 2017 saw a few significant changes to the SERP—and those changes all have some implications for small business marketing efforts.

PPC ads take up more of the SERP than ever before.

There was a time when the SERP was occupied mostly by organic search listings—the kind of listings you could attain through the right mix of content marketing and SEO. But today, paid ads are placed more prominently than ever before. Users have to scroll further down the SERP before they even arrive at organic listings; meanwhile, PPC ads have infiltrated parts of the SERP they never appeared previously, such as the Google Map Pack.

Does this mean SEO and content marketing are dead? Far from it. It just means that a comprehensive approach is needed. If you want to blanket as much of the SERP as possible, you can’t rely solely on organic listings or on paid ads. You really need a strategy that encompasses both, and balances them appropriately.

If you’re not already augmenting your content marketing efforts with PPC, make 2018 the year you really get a handle on ad bidding, targeting, and copywriting.

Featured snippets occupy prime SERP real estate.

Another important change? Google wants to empower users to get the answers they seek from the SERP itself—without actually having to click through to a link. One way this is evident is in the rise of featured snippets.

You’ve probably seen these before, even if you didn’t realize what they were called. Have you ever done a Google search, and had the SERP give you a direct answer, in the form of a little “answer box” appearing just above the organic search listings?

These are featured snippets, and they occupy the “zero position” on the SERP—coveted online real estate. Getting your content to rank in the zero position can be a major boost to your brand visibility.

This is a tough thing to attain, but not impossible. The best bet is to format your content in the form of a bulleted list, a table, or a Q&A—especially when it comes to more fact-based and objective subject matter. Remember, Google wants to provide quick, clear, authoritative answers to its users, and it’s in your best interests to help it do so.

More people are arriving at the SERP through voice search.

We’ve blogged before about voice search, which is quickly becoming the most popular way to search for content on Google. But as more and more search engine users arrive at the SERP via Siri or Alexa, it’s important for your content to accommodate them.

Again, a lot of it comes down to formatting—with bulleted lists and Q&A formats being especially useful. Also remember to write your content in a conversational style that reflects the way real voice searches are done. A traditional Google search might be phrased like this: Jimmy Kimmel age. But with voice search, you’re more likely to ask: How old is Jimmy Kimmel? For content to rank well for these voice-based queries, it’s important to emulate that casual style.

Making Sense of the New SERP

As you seek to get your content ranked on this new and ever-changing SERP, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. Grammar Chic, Inc. has diverse experience in content marketing, and we always have the latest SEO strategies in mind. We’d love to consult with you about your content marketing and Google search needs. Reach out at www.grammarchic.net, or 803-831-7444.

 

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5 Content Errors That Cause Your Search Rankings to Slip

Search engine rankings don’t happen by accident; everything you do, marketing-wise, either helps or hurts your search engine presence. This includes the content you write for your website. Great content can appeal to Google’s search bots and cause your rankings to climb, while poor content can have the opposite effect—either making your rankings collapse, or worse, actively incurring a Google penalty.

In other words, content errors can be truly costly from an SEO point of view. Here are five of the main ones you want to avoid.

Content That’s Poorly Optimized

There are a couple of different traps you can fall into here: Either failing to optimize at all, or being overly aggressive about it. As is so often the case, the middle ground is best.

  • Each page of Web content gives you some invaluable opportunities for keyword optimization—including in the meta description, the SEO title, in headings and subheadings, and even in the body content. Don’t squander these opportunities! Use keywords judiciously and strategically.
  • At the same time, don’t come on too strong. Remember that your content always needs to read smoothly and organically. Don’t try to shoehorn too many keywords into your content, to the point that it’s clunky or cumbersome to read.

Content That’s Poorly Organized

Remember that a lot of your readers—especially those who are reading on a mobile device, which should be more than half of your total audience—will effectively be skimming. The last thing they want is a huge, unbroken wall of text. Not only does this make your content off-putting to human readers, but it also impedes your ability to rank well within voice search queries.

Some content organization tips:

  • Write short paragraphs and short sentence whenever possible.
  • Use subheadings to break your content into digestible segments.
  • Employ bullet points and numbered lists whenever you can.
  • Use images to make your content easier on the eyes.

Content That’s Too Thin

Users go to Google for answers—and Google rewards content that provides those answers. As such, your #1 content goal should always be to offer something of substantive value to the reader.

  • Think in terms of user intent; why would someone be seeking out your content? What questions should you be answering?
  • Consider using a Q&A format to emphasize the value in your content; note that this is another good voice search strategy.
  • Don’t worry about word count so much as providing full, complete information for your readers. Make each piece of Web content a treasure trove, rich in value-adding information.
  • Include links to relevant resources. Both internal and external links are valuable.

Content That’s Not Localized

If your company has a local, brick-and-mortar presence, you’ll want to ensure that your website content is appropriately localized. Some tips:

  • Include geographically-specific keywords, as naturally as possible.
  • Include your NAP (name, address, and phone number) information on every page. Make sure it’s a phone number with local area code.
  • Augment your content marketing efforts by seeking Google and Facebook reviews from your local customers—a great way to bolster your online visibility.

Content That’s Not Made to Convert

While good content is always written to offer value, first and foremost, it should also help you move the sales needle—however subtly. Some suggestions:

  • When appropriate, include a lead-capturing form at the bottom of your content.
  • Always place a call to action at the end of your content; this is a good place to include that NAP information.
  • Look for opportunities to position your product or service as the answer to your readers’ problems; express your unique value proposition, focusing on the benefits you offer to consumers.

Write Content That Ranks AND Converts

Good content needs to accomplish much—ranking, informing, conveying authority, converting—without falling into any of these traps. We can help you develop content that does all of this and more. Call Grammar Chic’s team to schedule a consultation today. Find us at www.grammarchic.net, or 803-831-7444.

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Do These Four Things to Land More Eyeballs on Your Content

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, did it really happen? And if your brand produces the world’s greatest content but nobody reads it, will it make any impact?

We can tell you with certainty that the answer to this last question is no. Content creation is innately limited by content promotion; if you can’t get eyeballs on your blog posts and other written content, you’re not going to reap any of the benefits of improved brand recognition, consumer trust, etc.

Yet getting people to read your content is one of the true challenges of content marketing. It’s something small businesses especially struggle with. Sure, it’s easy for Fortune 500 companies to generate interest in what they do—but what can the little guy do to build buzz?

Actually, there are four practical steps you can take today to boost your content’s reach and its readership. These aren’t flashy or gimmicky strategies, but they do really work, and Grammar Chic uses each of them on our own content.

Here are those four recommendations.

Tag Industry Influencers

First and foremost, you should always be sharing your content on Twitter—but don’t stop there. Start a conversation around it. Bring in the movers and shakers within your field, inviting them to be part of the dialogue.

There are different ways to do this. If you can, cite their work in your own content—then tag them on Twitter, giving them due credit and encouraging them to share the content. Or, you could simply ping their Twitter handles and ask them to weigh in with their feedback. Whatever attention you can bring to your content is good, especially when it’s attention from industry stalwarts.

Use Facebook Ads

There’s a time and a place for Promoted Posts, but what’s even more effective is going into Ads Manager, where you can actually target the people you want to reach with your content—by demographics, by relationship to your brand, etc.

Yes, this will involve some financial investment on your part—but did you know that solid content is one of the keys to ad success? If you have a good content offer, paired with some ad dollars, that can really make waves.

Include Content in Your Newsletter

A periodic email, including links and summaries of your best content, is a great way to win a few clicks from people who might not otherwise be following along with your blog. Plus, it allows you to repurpose your content; not only does it show up on your blog, but it’s fodder for your email list, too—killing two birds with one stone.

Publish to Medium or LinkedIn Pulse

Finally, remember that you can publish on many different channels—and we’ve had great success sharing some of our best posts on Medium and Pulse. Both publishing platforms have good, built-in SEO traction that makes it so much easier for your content to be discovered, even by people who aren’t otherwise familiar with your brand.

The bottom line? There are small steps you can take to make sure your content isn’t invisible. To learn more about bringing in traffic, reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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