Tag Archives: writing tips

5 Ways to Make Your Written Content More SEO-Friendly

Whether you’re writing content for your company website or dashing off the latest company blog post, you want it to be something good—something that offers value to your reader, and reflects well on your brand. At the same time, you want it to be something that’s search engine optimized. After all, great content isn’t very useful if nobody can find it.

This is a little bit of a false dichotomy, perhaps. Generally speaking, writing good, valuable content is the single best way to optimize it, and all the SEO tricks and gimmicks in the world can’t compete with the raw power of quality writing.

With that said, there is certainly a need to ensure that your content is as palatable for search algorithms as it is for human readers, and simply writing a good article is only the first step. As you seek to maximize your content’s SEO potential, here are five simple principles to keep in mind.

Improve Your On-Site SEO

Originality is Imperative

First and foremost, make sure that what you are writing stands on its own. Google doesn’t see any value in duplicate content, and as such it tends to penalize it. Regurgitating the exact same copy for each product page on your website, for instance, or simply copying text from the website to the company blog, will lead to diminished rankings. Take the time to ensure that every piece of content you write is phrased uniquely. Tools like Copyscape can help you ensure that you’re not plagiarizing yourself or others.

Readability Matters, Too

Google’s bots are more likely to favor articles that are readable to wide audiences—and that means using short sentences and paragraphs, limiting your ten-dollar words, and abstaining from the passive voice. Good, concise, punchy content—written in a way that makes it easy to read—will only help you as far as SEO rankings go.

Your Title Should Be Optimized

Writing a catchy headline is key. So is keeping the title to a Google-friendly length of 55-60 characters max. Finally make sure your URL matches the title and contents of the page; a URL that’s just random numbers hampers your SEO efforts.

Be Structured

Your content should have a structure that makes it easy for readers—and search bots—to follow along and get the basic gist of what you’re saying, even just by skimming. The best way to do this is to structure your article with H1, H2, and H3 tags to break up different sections of content. Bullet points and numbered lists can also be helpful, when applicable.

Use Keywords—Judiciously

Though you want to avoid keyword stuffing, and shouldn’t sacrifice quality for keyword count, keywords can certainly be useful in demonstrating what your content is ultimately about. We’ve blogged about the importance of judicious keyword strategy before.

Write Content That Gets Discovered

With the right approach, you can write content that pleases people and search bots alike—no easy feat, but worth it in the long run. Or, you can hire our team to write it for you. Contact Grammar Chic today to ask us about our SEO-friendly content writing services. Reach out at 803-831-7444, or www.grammarchic.net.

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What to Ask Your Web Content Writing Company

The written content you include on your company website is of paramount importance. After all, most new or potential customers will head straight to your website to learn more about what your company does. The content they find there will establish their first impression of your brand. It’s in your best interest to provide content that is well-written, easy to follow, substantive, and informative; ideally, it should instill trust while also encouraging the reader to pick up the phone and call you for more information, or even to buy a product from you straight away.

That’s a tall order, which is why a lot of business owners outsource their Web content writing services to an outside firm—like Grammar Chic. This is the best way to tell the story of your company in a way that is compelling, and persuades the user of the value you can offer.

Evaluating a Web Content Writing Company

As you meet with a Web content writing company for the first time, it is important to establish clear lines of communication; in particular, we recommend asking a few key questions, to ensure that you understand the process and that you are truly comfortable with the company you’re meeting with.

Here are a few of the key questions you should ask:

What’s your experience in Web content writing? Learn more about the track record of the company you’re working with. Inquire about how long they’ve been writing websites, and ask to see examples of their past work.

How will you capture my voice? You may not be the one writing the content, but your voice should still come through. Ask the writer how this will be achieved.

What’s your research process? The content writers will need to gain an understanding of your company and of your industry, through interviews, independent research, or some combination of the two. Make sure you get a good sense of what this process entails.

What do you expect from me? Your Web content writer may need you to furnish some information, and it’s important that you do so as promptly as possible.

What are the SEO considerations being made with this site? Your Web content writing company may not be an SEO firm per se, and that’s fine—but hopefully there will be some attention paid to the best practices for search engine optimization. You might especially ask about keyword inclusion, meta descriptions, and meta tags.

Will there be calls to action on the website? The answer should be yes!

How will the page be formatted? Ask about section subheadings and bulleted lists, and be sure to voice any of your own preferences.

What about revisions/rewriting? Even a great Web content writer may miss a few things on the first pass. This is usually a process, and it’s good to clarify whether revisions and rewriting are included in the company’s services.

Ask Your Questions Today

Get your questions asked and answered by the Web content writing team at Grammar Chic. Contact us today to set up a consultation: 803-831-7444, or www.grammarchic.net.

 

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10 Questions for Your Web Developer

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Your company’s website is sort of like its virtual storefront—so when your website gets a facelift, it can almost feel like you’re moving into new digs, or at the very least getting a major renovation. That’s something you obviously want to approach strategically, and doing so means communicating your vision to the designer, while also making sure you have the right expectations about the finished product.

If you don’t have much experience talking to Web designers, you may be unsure of what to ask. Allow us to recommend a few basic, important questions to get you started.

What Should You Ask Your Web Designer?

  1. What’s my role in the process? Your designer will need to solicit your opinion or obtain information from you at various points, and if there is any delay in your response, it could stall the whole project. Make sure you have a good sense of what’s expected of you.
  2. What are the most common hold-ups in the process? Along the same lines, you might ask your designer where projects usually stall, and how you can avoid that happening.
  3. What resources can I provide up front? Most designers will be happy to receive marketing materials, brochures, links to old websites, etc. to get some sense of your style and your branding choices.
  4. What’s the process for adding new content to the site? What do you do when you have another part of the page that you need to add, and how much will it cost you?
  5. Will the site be hard-coded? What you’re asking here, basically, is whether the site will be done in old-school HTML format. Be warned: If the answer is yes, you will have to depend on the designer to make site updates for you!
  6. How can I update the site? Make sure the designer shows you around the CMS dashboard, allowing you to easily make small tweaks or additions to the site as needed.
  7. Will the website be responsive? A responsive website is vital for mobile friendliness. Make sure you confirm this with your designer.
  8. What are all of the costs associated with this site? You’ll want to know up-front the costs associated with the domain, hosting, etc., all of which may be in addition to the fee charged by the designer.
  9. How will we discuss revisions? You may have some tweaks you want to make to the designer’s initial mock-up, so clarify how that will go down—how you’ll communicate, how promptly you can expect those changes to be implemented, etc.
  10. What are the content needs? Your designer will probably need you to provide written content for each page—but how much? And are there any SEO requirements for your content to meet?

Have Your Content Handled by the Pros

Speaking of content creation, that happens to be our forte—and we would love to help you develop the written collateral for your new site. Ask us about our process today. Contact Grammar Chic at www.grammarchic.net or 803-831-7444.

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This is How to Write a Compelling Email Subject Line—and Boost Your Open Rates

email-marketing

Report after report and study after study suggests that email is the most effective digital marketing tool.

So if you’re not seeing much of a benefit from your email marketing program, you’ve gotta wonder why.

Maybe the reason people aren’t responding to your emails is because they aren’t even opening them in the first place. Obviously, that’s a problem. A low open rate means your email marketing strategy is dead in the water.

Your open rate is even more significant than your total subscriber number. Think about it this way: Having 1,000 subscribers who all open your emails means much more exposure for your brand than having 6,000 subscribers but only a 2 percent open rate.

No question: You’ve got to get your emails opened. And the best way to do that is to tweak your subject lines—but how?

Tip #1: Make your subject lines longer.

Both the conventional wisdom and the natural instinct is to make your subject lines short and snappy. We’ve offered that very advice in the past. But one new study suggests that maybe longer—like, 60-70 characters, if not more—is the way to go.

Perhaps the rationale is simply this: When you’re working with just a couple of words, it’s hard to offer more than salesy platitudes and generalities. But if you give yourself more space, you can actually convey value and specificity to your readers.

So maybe it’s worth trying long subject lines for a while, just to see how they work.

Tip #2: Write in all lower case letters.

All caps screams of desperation, and can be pretty annoying. Mixing upper and lower case—you know, like you would in normal, everyday writing—is fine. But consider: a lot of the emails you get from your friends and family members probably come with all lower case subject lines.

Writing an all lower case subject line can convey intimacy and familiarity, then—and that’s not such a bad thing for your brand!

Tip #3: Provide value—but don’t give everything away.

As for the actual content of your subject lines, something we recommend is focusing on the value you offer—the benefits your email will provide—without getting into the specifics.

Show your readers what’s in it for them to open your email, but not necessarily how they’ll get it.

Example: Try a subject line that promises something like this: “Drive traffic to your website… and turn it into paying customers!”

You’re showing your readers exactly what they stand to gain from reading the email—but to learn how they’re going to gain it… through SEO, email marketing, or whatever else… they’ve got to open the email and read it.

Try some of these tips in your own email marketing—and see how your open rates improve. Talk with us about it by calling 803-831-7444, or visiting www.grammarchic.net.

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5 Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Writing Company

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More and more small business owners are outsourcing their content writing needs to the pros—which is smart and sensible, but also potentially dangerous. There are multiple writing companies out there but not all are created equal. It’s important to know some of the signs of a less-than-reputable writing company so that you can avoid getting burned.

To some extent, of course, these things will be obvious: A company with a real office and a full staff of salaried writers—like Grammar Chic!—is going to come with a bit more prestige, professionalism, and reliability than a lone guy who operates a freelance company out of his mom’s basement. (With no offense intended to anyone who writes in his mom’s basement.)

Beyond that, consider some of the telltale signs that the writing company you have hired is less than legitimate.

#1. There’s no consultation.

Our basic philosophy at Grammar Chic: We probably know more about writing than you do, and you probably know more about your business than we do. To facilitate a strong working relationship, we need to spend some time talking with you, learning your story and your values so that we can put them into words and make your content shine.

A writing company that thinks this step is somehow unnecessary, or that the entire process can be done over a couple of bare-bones e-mails, is frankly delusional. Great, value-adding written content takes some perspective and some depth, and a consultation is non-negotiable.

#2. There is a one-size-fits-all mentality.

All businesses are different and have different needs with their written content. Your content should reflect your goals. If the writing company tries to put you into a box—a standard-issue word count, structure, or aesthetic approach—without hearing what you’re looking to accomplish, well, that’s trouble. You’re just not going to get a very effective piece of writing from a company like that.

#3. Revisions are not included in your balance.

Even great writers may need a second or third attempt to get the content exactly the way the client wants it. A writing company that makes you pay for revisions is cheating you, plain and simple.

#4. You’re not offered a proposal.

It’s amazing how many writers seem averse to writing out their proposal—but as with any professional service, your writers should offer you a full, written account of the work they propose to do: Basic word count ranges, turnaround dates, revision policies, consultation policies, and, of course, charges and fees.

#5. You’ve never actually seen their writing.

What’s the one thing that all professional writers do? They write—but how are you supposed to know your writing company can deliver the goods unless you’ve seen some of their written work? Reputable writing companies should have their own blogs and they should also be willing to furnish you with some written samples, upon request.

Learn more about what a reputable writing company looks like by calling the Grammar Chic team today at 803-831-7444; or, by visiting us online at www.grammarchic.net.

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5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

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As a writer, you might sometimes feel like you’re on top of the world—like you’ve just authored something that’s genuinely good, worth being proud of. Most days, you’re probably going to feel a lot less confident, a lot less secure. The writing life exists between those two extremes, and so long as you don’t spend too much time at either end of the spectrum, you’ll likely be alright.

No matter how good you think you are—or how bad—there’s always room for improvement, always an opportunity to get better. Whether you’re working on a full book manuscript or simply some company blog posts, it’s worth taking some time to hone your writing craft, to become more skilled at conveying your point and shaping your words.

And the good news is, you don’t have to enroll in a creative writing course to do so. Here are a few quick exercises that will boost your writing acumen and perhaps even build your confidence:

  1. Read a lot. This is the #1 piece of advice that writing instructors tend to give, and not without reason. The more you read, the more natural and intuitive you’ll become as a writer, and the better able to conjure evocative words and sentences while mastering the mechanics of sentence construction. Read voraciously—books, blogs, magazines, whatever interests you today.
  2. Impose some limitations on yourself. Force yourself to write in certain forms or to adopt certain restrictions. Write a few tweets; practice some 100-word short stories; try your hand at a long-form blog, maybe 1,000 words or so; do something very formal, than tackle the same topic informally.
  3. Write in specifics. Writing about abstract concepts can be a dead end; instead, write about some specific stories or people in your life. Master the art of concrete details.
  4. Write in different settings. If the only way you ever write is sitting in your office at the laptop, don’t be surprised when you find yourself feeling a little stagnant. Avoid this by taking your notepad to the park or to the coffee shop. Write in different environments to stimulate creativity.
  5. Work with an editor. Working with an experienced, professional editor will provide you with a fresh perspective and some specific ways in which you can improve your writing—things you might not think of on your own.

Pursue mastery of your craft each day; you may never reach the point where you have that top-of-the-world feeling every day, but you can rest assured that you will get better over time!

To speak to one of Grammar Chic’s editors, call us at 803-831-7444, or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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Professional Writing Advice: When to Say “No” to a Client

Grammar Chic Writer's Block Blog Post

No matter if you are starting out as a writer or if you are a seasoned professional, the need to satisfy clients and retain their business never goes away.  Writing, as a profession, is hard work; it is often time consuming and research intensive.  Rewards are definitely there for professional writers who do it right, and indeed, the majority of the time, you are looking to please the people who pay you by saying “yes” to their requests.  However, there are times when “no” is the only correct answer that you can give to a client or a prospective client. Follow these tips to identify situations where you could be taken advantage of as a professional writer.

Professional Writing Client Red Flags:

  1. Demanding availability via phone, Skype or IM all day, every day.  I realize there are times when my client needs to get in touch with me, and I am happy to oblige.  However, it is also completely unfair for a client to think that just because they are paying me to complete work for them that they own me and, therefore, can interrupt me just because they see me on Skype.  As such, it is fair and completely reasonable to set boundaries from day one. As both a professional writer and business owner, I am very frank about when I am available.  This comes down to telling clients that if they need to talk to me it is best to set an appointment.  Realize I am not trying to put anyone off; rather, I am working to ensure that a client has my full and undivided attention and that I am also able to honor my daily deadlines.  If I know that you need to talk to me about revisions or edits, it is much more productive to say, “Amanda, I really need about 30 minutes of your time,” and allow me to schedule it accordingly.  On our office line, I have even gone as far to have the message state that we do not have a full-time receptionist and that the caller should leave a message.  It is important for clients and prospective clients to realize that a writer’s focus is essential.  When I am in the zone I can’t answer a call, because if I lose concentration it impacts the quality of my work.  At the same time, for every person who calls, their message is returned.  State your terms regarding communication from the get-go and set your boundaries. Remember, there is no need for a client to have unlimited access to you as a writer.  The only thing they are looking to satisfy is their own need to control you as they would an employee.
  2. Requesting a rush job without paying extra.  It is necessary to tell a client “no” if they call you up and request that they need something by the end of the day, but don’t want to pay extra for the rush service.  Remember, as a writer sometimes you need to demand respect and it’s not fair to your other clients if you push their work and ignore their deadlines simply to let someone cut in line without paying more.  Your options here are to say, “No, I can’t get your project done by the end of the day because of my current deadlines” or “Sure, I can do that. The rush fee is $X.”  At that point, they can choose either option A or option B, or they can negotiate a different deadline with you.  Remember, lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on your part.
  3. Requesting you provide fresh sample writing to “determine a fit.”  You should never provide free sample work with terms dictated by a potential client. This is oftentimes a ploy to receive free content.  Remember, the moment you send anything out you lose all control.  If a prospective client asks for sample work, provide that person something from your portfolio; do not create anything new if they are not willing to pay for your time.  Moreover, don’t be afraid to say no to this request.  This is a huge red flag that they are not willing to pay you for your efforts and do not respect your skills or your craft.
  4. Refusing to provide a deposit on the work they request.  At Grammar Chic, we regularly ask for a 50 percent deposit upon project commencement with the balance payable upon project delivery.  This is not a crazy request, as I expect my clients to have some “skin in the game” if they want my team to dedicate time and effort.  Of course, for long-term clients, we are happy to work out payment plans, invoicing systems, etc.; but this comes after trust has been established.  Again, this follows the belief that “once you send out work product, you lose all control.”  If you don’t request a payment up front you run the risk of not getting paid at all.  If a client refuses to pay a deposit, pass on the project.  Anyone who respects your ability as a writer is going to be fine with a deposit.   Or, if the client worries about paying first without seeing the work, ask that the project funds be escrowed (freelance sites like Guru.com provide this).  Remember, much of the relationship between a client and a professional writer is built on trust and mutual respect.  Make sure you can deliver what you promise in order to make your client happy and come back, but also make sure that your interests are protected.
  5. Asking for major project changes without considering modifications in compensation.  Consider this scenario: someone calls you after a project has been completed per their specifications and suddenly says, “My boss just looked at the newsletter you created and said that he actually wants to focus on X topic now.”  Ultimately, if X topic wasn’t discussed when the project was originally contracted, then new charges are going to apply.  At Grammar Chic, we regularly have extensive conversations with our clients on project terms.  We record conversations (with client permission) and make sure we are well aware of what is required for the project to be considered complete.  We send confirmation emails stating what the project scope is and ask for confirmation prior to beginning the project.  If we do all of the work that is required, and then have the client come back and decide they want something different because of a change in direction, internal miscommunication on their end or some other issue, it is in our right to tell them, “No, we can’t do that without extra charges.”  I am willing to work with anyone to make sure that they get what they want and if it is my error or I misunderstood something then, of course, I make it right without charge.  However, if I was provided the wrong information, I won’t be penalized.  Remember, your time as a writer is valuable and it is fair to enforce these rules.  However, to make sure that you are in the right, insist upon a set of checks and a confirmation process prior to beginning a project.  It’s very hard for a client to argue with you on additional charges if they have signed off or offered written confirmation on the original terms.  As a writer you are no doubt good at what you do, but none of us have a crystal ball (I wish!).

At the end of the day, you are in business for yourself, and regardless if it’s just you or you have a team of writers to direct, you need to make sure your efforts are not taken advantage of or exploited.  The choice is yours.  However, it is the savvy writer and business owner who will make sure they have the terms and conditions in place that protect their interests and their business in the long run.

The team at Grammar Chic specializes in a variety of professional writing and editing services. For more information about how we can help you, visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc for the latest in writing and editing tips and to give a “like” to our Facebook page. Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.

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