Tag Archives: Content Writing 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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3 Things That Blow Your Social Media Credibility (And How to Avoid Them)

Small businesses use social media for different reasons—to share content, to engage in dialogue with their customers, to boost online visibility, and to preserve their online reputation, among other things. One of the most critical reasons to be on social media is that it can give you credibility; by sharing valuable information, you can build thought leadership and earn trust.

Yet, in some instances, social media activity can have the opposite effect—actually detracting from your credibility rather than enhancing it. In this post, we’ll guide you through three of the biggest offenders, and offer some suggestions for staying on the straight and narrow.

Only Sharing Links to Branded Content

To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using social media to share company blog posts, videos, or sales pages.

The problem comes when that’s all you share—because, quite simply, it makes you come across as salesy, only interested in tooting your own horn rather than adding value to your customers’ lives.

And on top of that, the all-branded-content, all-the-time approach can make your social media presence become static and uninteresting. No matter how you slice it, it’s a bad approach.

But what can you do instead? Our suggestions:

  • Aim for a balance between branded and curated content; ideally, only about 20-30 percent of your content should be branded material.
  • For curated content, look for articles, blogs, videos, editorials, and infographics that convey meaningful information about your industry and add value to the reader’s life.
  • Focus on educating rather than just selling all the time; treat your content like a product in its own right and keep the emphasis on benefits to the end user.
  • Make sure you balance your links with other kinds of content, too—like images, polls, or posts that simply ask questions or offer tips.

Seeking Followers Through Illegitimate Means

As you may have heard, fake Twitter followers are abundant—but now, they are also being investigated by the government. Many big brands, including celebrities and politicians, are losing followers fast.

Don’t try to buy followers, no matter how tempting it may seem; it’s not going to work out in the long run, and when you lose millions of followers overnight, it will cause you to look pretty hapless.

Instead, we recommend:

  • Focus on organic growth! Don’t buy followers but earn them. Use the value-focused, balanced content marketing approach we outlined above.
  • Remember that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint—and you’re not likely to win a ton of followers all at once. Instead focus on patiently building relationships and developing credibility.
  • Finally, remember that 100 real-life customers, who might actually buy your products or recommend you to a friend, are far more desirable than a million bots.

Trying to Please Everyone

There’s nothing wrong with sharing memes or funny videos on your social media profiles—so long as they’re somehow relevant to your core business offerings.

But when funeral homes tweet out funny kitty memes, that’s obviously a little weird, to say nothing of off-brand.

Tactics like this make it look like you’re desperate to win everyone over to your brand—but remember: You don’t want everyone. You just want your targeted audience—the people you’re trying to reach with your products and services. (See your buyer personas for more!)

Use Social Media to Boost Your Credibility

With the right strategy, you can use social media to offer value, entertainment, and engagement—building your credibility in the process.

We’d love to show you how. Contact the Grammar Chic, Inc. team for a social media marketing consultation. Reach out at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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Filed under Brand Management, Content Marketing, Social Media

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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Filed under Blog Writing, Business Writing, Content Marketing, Content Writing, Social Media

Writing Content for Position Zero

Google introduced “featured snippets” in 2017—and marketers have been chasing them ever since.

If you’re not familiar with featured snippets, they represent one of the most significant elements on the Google SERP. A featured snippet provides users with a quick answer to their query, without requiring them to actually click on a hyperlink. For example, if you do a Google search for 33rd President of the U.S., Google will present you with an informational box with Harry S. Truman’s name and picture within it. You don’t have to scroll through any actual search results for your question to be answered.

It’s obvious why these quick-reference listings are helpful for search engine users—but why are they of such interest to marketers? Simple: They rank in position zero on the SERP. That is, featured snippets are displayed before the search results themselves—making this prime online real estate.

And yes, there are ways you can write content that gets your brand into position zero. It won’t be easy—but with the right strategy and the correct type of content, it’s an achievable goal.

Content That Ranks for Position Zero

Here are a few strategies for writing content that will land you in those featured snippets.

Answer Simple, Factual Questions

Featured snippets are most often used to present simple answers to factual questions. Of course, some questions are going to be way too nebulous, subjective, or complicated for any answer to fit within a small Google search box. But if you can identify those basic questions your audience is asking—something as simple as, well, who was the 33rd President of the United States?—you’re on the right track.

Of course, your users probably aren’t looking for information about former Presidents, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t basic questions you’re qualified to answer. For example, if you run an accounting firm, you might answer questions like:

  • Where do I get my income tax return forms?
  • When will my employer send my W-2?
  • What is the maximum home mortgage deduction?

Identify the questions your audience is asking, then write content that both asks and answers them—as clearly as possible.

Offer Instructions

Featured snippers don’t just answer questions. They explain how to do things. For example, recipes and step-by-step guides often find their way into position zero.

That’s definitely something you can use to your advantage. Make sure the content you create includes how-to guides and tutorials. Ensure that you format with bullet points or numbered lists. Offer your expertise to readers—because remember: Google is trying to offer its users helpful, substantive information. If you can assist with that, you may get a position zero ranking.

Define Terms

A lot of people use Google as a dictionary—and one way you can get a position zero listing is to define some complex terms, in particular terms that relate to your industry.

For example, a content marketing firm might develop an online glossary, where they define such terms as:

  • Pay-per-click ads
  • Enterprise SEO
  • Google Analytics
  • Buyer persona

This is closely related to our first tip, about answering questions—and again, the point is simply to provide users with clear, quick answers to their questions.

Make Recommendations

Many search engine users are seeking a particular product—and they want to ensure that the product they select is the best of its kind. So, offering top 10 lists and best-of recommendations can be another good way to make it into those featured snippets.

Are you a used car dealer? Write a blog post where you list your top 10 small sedans. That’s just one example of how best-of lists can help you rank for position zero.

Writing Content with SEO in Mind

Your content writing efforts should always be done with SEO in mind—and that includes ranking for position zero. That’s something our marketing pros can help with. Reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. for a consultation. Call 803-831-7444, or visit us at www.grammarchic.net.

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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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