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Case studies are an effective way to add value to your brand. You can “toot your own horn” by doing what any product or service should do best: solve a problem.
If you have a website, consider adding a section dedicated to case studies. Then, populate it with the best examples of why your brand is the best at what it does. The U.S. is the largest advertising market in the world. Businesses spend an average of $253.6 billion each year on advertising and marketing. Case studies provide one of the best returns on investment of all content marketing strategies. Not all case studies are created equally. You must know the tricks of the trade to turn a case study into a lead conversion tool.
What is a case study?
Case studies are an advertising and marketing strategy businesses use as a value-added proposition. Convincing case studies meet the following criteria:
Some companies – and their marketing experts – become preoccupied with “staying on brand.” They focus too much on their brand voice or messaging matrix and forget to leverage the power of storytelling in their case studies. All they accomplish is to bore their target audience and make themselves look self-centered.
Case study advantages
Building trust in your brand is harder than it looks. Yes, having a great product or service – coupled with amazing customer support – is one of the best ways to keep people coming back for more. How do you convince someone who has never experienced your products, services, or stellar customer service to give you a try? This is where case studies provide an advantage.
Consumers have smartened up to fancy sales pitches and flashy graphics on social media. It takes more than these old tricks of the trade to convince them your brand is the solution to their problems. Ratings and reviews from previous customers carry weight, but even those are easily manipulated. Effective case studies provide tangible proof your brand does more than talk the talk.
Building brand trust is not the only advantage of an effective case study. Here are a few more worth noting:
Writing an effective case study in 5 easy steps
Now you know what a case study is and why you must include it in your content marketing strategy. Next, I will talk about the five steps involved with writing an effective case study.
Step #1: State your case
Case studies must leverage the power of storytelling, which means featuring a compelling angle. Not sure how to do that? Take a deep dive and investigate how your customers are using your products or services. Chances are, you will find someone using your brand to solve problems you never knew it could fix.
Step #2: Get relatable
Make sure whatever angle you choose for your case study is one that is relatable to most of your target audience. Think about what it is that helps you connect with a good story. On some level, you must connect with the story’s protagonist. The client featured in your case study is the protagonist. Find something about the client that makes your core audience root for his or her success with your product.
Step #3: Tell the tale
Some marketing pros insist they are telling their brand’s story. The problem is, they forget how to tell a story the right way. Think back to your high school English class. (Sorry, this is probably as painful for some of you as doing math is for me. Stick with it. I promise the payout is worth it). If you will recall, you learned that all good stories have certain components:
Step #4: Just the facts
Telling a story does not mean you rely on anecdotes to prove your case. Case study best practices encourage using cold, hard facts to back up your claims. Just because you are using storytelling techniques does not mean you should be weaving a tall tale. Make sure any data or statistics you use to support the case relate to the protagonist’s challenges.
Step #5: Support the journey
Every good story has a hero. I know what you are thinking: this is the part where my business swoops in and saves the day. Well, yes and no. Your brand is not the hero in the story. Think of yourself more along the lines of a supporting character. Your business is there to assist the real hero of the story. Humility is an incredibly effective marketing strategy. It allows for meaningful connections between your brand and its core audience and shows empathy. When you practice humility in case studies, you can increase your credibility without being obnoxious.
Case study formats that work
The final step in creating an effective case study is in the graphic design. This is where a copywriter designer is a valuable asset to have in your corner. They can craft a compelling story for your case study and design it in an eye-catching manner that gets – and keeps – your core audience’s attention.
There are no hard and fast rules for formatting your case study. From infographics and webinars to interview formats and brochure styles, your case study design should fit the content. Ready to get started with your first case study? Contact me today to get a 25 percent discount on your first order that includes content creation and graphic design for the case study of your choice.
"I used to be the fist-pounder on the table. I had to learn how to be a real mediator. It gave me a whole new perspective on dealing with my PTSD."
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects one in every 11 people in the U.S. That means you likely know someone who is struggling every day with the devastating effects of PTSD.
June is National PTSD Awareness Month. Spreading awareness about PTSD is not something I wait for other people to do. For those who do not know, one of my dearest friends is in his 17th year of living with PTSD. Together, we wrote and published Wars End With Me, the story of his ongoing battle. I met Pat Strobel in 2002 when I was working as a reporter at a daily newspaper in his hometown of Butler, Pa. When he deployed to Iraq in February 2003, my editor tasked me with chronicling Pat’s service in the pages of the newspaper. Every few weeks, as Pat had time, he would send me some photos of himself and a quick update on what it was like living – and fighting – in an active warzone.
Less than seven months after he was deployed, I received a call to tell me that he was seriously injured when his convoy came under attack in Fallujah. The physical injuries and emotional trauma Pat suffered that day forever changed him. For the last 17 years, Pat has struggled with PTSD. It has complicated his personal and professional life.
Three years have passed since we first published his story. What better way to catch up with our readers, who have joined Pat on every step of his journey? I reached out to Pat who, as always, is willing to share the most personal moments of his life in the pursuit of helping others with PTSD. What follows is a progress report and encouragement for others with PTSD to keep fighting the good fight.
Going Dutch on PTSD
Shortly after our book launched in December 2018, Pat was offered a three-year assignment as a director of maintenance. The catch: he would serve out the stint in the Netherlands, overseeing a Dutch workforce performing maintenance on U.S. Army pre-positioned stock. His new job was part of a partnership between the U.S. and Dutch governments. Pat was tasked with teaching former Dutch military personnel with mechanical backgrounds how to perform maintenance on U.S. Army equipment.
“That director of maintenance job was short-lived, because my boss was unexpectedly reassigned, and someone needed to step up,” said Pat. That someone was him. “I assumed that role, and that’s when the job became really challenging.” His new job required a little bit of finesse and a lot of political correctness. “And good communication skills to keep major political incidents from cropping up,” Pat added.
The last job Pat had in the U.S. before taking on this new assignment prepared him well. His biggest responsibilities there were contracts and negotiations. Those skills came in handy when he had to mediate between the U.S. Army and the Dutch government over a stalemate on the fine details of the working relationship.
Serving as a mediator was a new experience for Pat. He had served with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Carson, Colo. during his active enlistment. He was the guy who fixed all the equipment, to put it simply. Fixing people was never his skill set. Until now. “I used to be the fist-pounder on the table,” he said. “That kind of behavior doesn’t work with the Dutch people. They are very laid back and not easily rattled. I had to learn how to be a real mediator. It gave me a whole new perspective on dealing with my PTSD.”
Leaving his family behind for three years was the most difficult part of taking the new assignment. It was an unfortunate negative that he worked around because, as Pat puts it, he needed a reset. He made it home just twice – with an additional visit in the Netherlands from his wife – before COVID-19 hit and locked everything down. With just two months left on his current assignment, Pat said he is eager to return home for good.
One of the good things that happened with his family involves his son, Josh. For those who have read Wars End With Me, you know that Josh enlisted in the military (much to Pat’s dismay). He did not want his son to suffer the same way he had and believed the stress over his son’s decision was a trigger for his PTSD. After a few years as a Corporal in the 101st Airborne and several deployments to Africa, Josh Strobel now has a full-time position with the Iowa National Guard.
The new role removed him from active duty in the Army, which has made Pat extremely happy. “It’s one less thing for me to worry about. I don’t have to wonder where he’s at. Once I’m home, I’ll get to see him all the time. If I could have done what he’s doing, I would have. I didn’t even know that active guard existed when I joined the Army.”
A different kind of therapy
One of the downsides of his three-year stint in the Netherlands was the lack of access to his usual therapy for his PTSD. Working with the Dutch, Pat said, was an alternative form of therapy. Before his new assignment, Pat struggled a lot with angry outbursts because of his PTSD. He has mellowed out and attributes his attitude adjustment to Dutch influence. “The Dutch really have shown me that life shouldn’t be so competitive. Everybody is playing music. Everybody is happy. It’s just a different mentality.”
The Dutch do not feel pressured to perform at work the same way Americans do, Pat noted. Screaming and banging his fists on the table when things were not going as planned did not motivate them. It forced him to find a new way to lead. He discovered presenting them with metrics about their job performance compared with others doing similar work (who were more efficient at their tasks) was the best inspiration. “They taught me so much about leadership. I tried to shape my leadership style around their ethics because, at the end of the day, I was trying to extract as much talent from them as I could. Knowing what motivates workers is the key to effective leadership. That, and a lot of patience. I’m definitely learning a lot of patience,” he said, laughing.
Lessons learned, anger burned
The last three years had their fair of challenges, but Pat is thankful for the experience. “There was nothing but success stories here. That’s what I liked about this place. Getting back around maintenance – grease, oil – it was good for my morale and good for my PTSD. I was starting to doubt myself before I came here. Coming here and separating myself from all those things was almost therapeutic.”
Pat said his new attitude will help him better manage his PTSD and his job opportunities once he returns to the U.S. “I don’t know where the perfect job is or if there is such a thing. What I do know is this job I have now has taught me that I just need to shut up and color.”
Long-tail keywords are a “must-have-it” for boosting your SEO value online. If you are saying to yourself “long tail what nows?” let me explain. Keywords are what Google and other search engines use to help you find what you are looking for online. There are two kinds of keywords: core and long-tail.
Core keywords are focused on the topic of a website. If you provide a product or service, your core keywords would describe that product or service. Let’s say you are a mechanic specializing in imported automobiles. Your core keywords would be something like, “mechanic imported autos.” Anytime someone types in any combination of those core keywords into a search engine – if you have optimized your website correctly – your listing will come up as a match.
Long-tail keywords are more involved. They consist of phrases instead of a few core words relating to your business or industry. SEO copywriters understand the benefits of working long-tail keywords into everything they write for their clients. It is something many have done for years now. As a rule, there is less competition for long-tail keywords than core keywords. Let me illustrate this with an example about a local doggy doo-doo yard cleaning service. Long-tail keywords that would work well for this niche include: “Is there a business that cleans up my dog’s poop” and “cleaning up my dog’s poop from the yard.” The key to crafting a successful long-tail keyword is to think like a consumer searching online.
Long-tail keywords benefits
Now that you know what long-tail keywords are, let’s talk about how they benefit your online content. To make a long story short, if you are not including long-tail keywords as part of your SEO strategy, you are missing out on a valuable tool for directing new traffic to your sites. There are four key reasons why you must embrace long-tail keywords.
How do you choose long-tail keywords?
Now that you know why long-tail keywords are a crucial part of any SEO content strategy, how do you figure out which ones to use?
Google is one of your best tools for figuring out good long-tail keywords for your business or industry. Make sure you have the autocomplete option turned on in your search settings. Then, go to the search bar and start typing a question about your products or services. You only need to enter a few words. Google will complete the rest of the phrase with popular searches conducted by other consumers looking for the same information. It also will provide a section called “People Also Ask” that includes other long-tail search queries. It really is quite handy.
There also are long-tail keyword generators you can use to help make suggestions. One of the most popular is called Answer the Public. Simply plug in two or more words that describe the topic of your search. It automatically generates a list of questions other online searchers have asked about the same thing. There are basic and pro versions of this service.
SEMRush is another popular keyword tool used by SEO pros for identifying core and long-tail keywords for clients. It is amazing software. It also is expensive. I never recommend it for businesses unless they have an extensive online presence. Only then would the benefits of using SEMRush outweigh the costs.
Conducting dedicated keyword research if you plan to optimize your entire website is your best bet. SEO researchers and copywriters can help with this task. Working with an expert can help your online content rank better organically since they know all the tricks of the trade. Reach out today to learn how The Write Reflection can help improve your online search ranking through the power of long-tail keywords.
You want to hear a juicy secret?
This is something I have never admitted out loud before. It is something I have carried around for a while now, and it really eats away at me. I think it might be a great idea to get it off my chest. Today is as good a day as any and you are a nice bunch of people so I know you will support me. Just make sure you are sitting down. Are you sitting down? I can wait a minute until you get a chair.
OK, here we go.
*Takes a deep breath*
My name is Shari Berg, and I suck at writing headlines.
I know, right? It is utterly shocking. How could such a skilled wordsmith struggle with writing compelling headlines? Yet, I do. This horrible affliction goes all the way back to my days in journalism school. I used to break out in a cold sweat and feel nauseous every time I was tasked with coming up with an attention-grabbing headline for the student newspaper or a class assignment. I would watch all my fellow journalism students and student newspaper staffers generate awesome headlines like it was second nature. No matter how much I practiced, headline writing never got easier.
Back then, there were not many tools to help spur your creativity. Sure, you could do some good old-fashioned brainstorming with other creative folks. But then you would have to admit that you sucked at writing headlines. Nobody wants that, Amiright?
If you are a bit headline-challenged like me, headline analyzer tools are a saving grace. There are plenty of choices on the market, so I reviewed a bunch to save you the headache of wading through them.
Here are my top 3 choices. They all have their pros and cons but do share one common benefit: they are all free. That is right, my friends. Free, free, free, free, free, free, free. One of the best-sounding words in the English language.
Free does not mean inferior. Give these headline analyzers a try. I promise they will make you a better headline writer.
EMV Headline Analyzer
Of all the headline analyzers I am sharing with you, this one is my go-to for writing amazing headlines. Created by the Advanced Marketing Institute, it targets a reader’s emotional side. Research tells us the best way to get someone’s attention is by appealing to their emotions. Writers do this by using “power” words that evoke action.
When I put the headline for this blog post through EMV Headline Analyzer, it rated it at 33.33 percent with a “spiritual” classification. What does that mean, exactly? Well, according to the analysis provided with my score, words with spiritual impact make up the smallest number of words in the English language. They also have the strongest potential for influencing your readers’ emotions. I was advised to aim for headlines with scores between 30 and 40 percent if my goal is to influence others’ emotions and prompt them to act.
Capitalize My Title
This handy tool is my runner-up because it challenges me to keep tweaking until I have the right balance between readability, SEO, and sentiment. Simply enter your suggested headline into the analyzer bar and then ask the tool to either analyze or capitalize it.
Using the same headline that I generated for this blog (the one EMV Headline Analyzer loved), I earned an overall score of 64. My score was circled in green, which indicates it is sufficient for achieving my goal of getting people to read my article. How did it come to that conclusion? It averaged out my scores from the three categories it rates. Here is how it breaks down:
- Readability: 90
- SEO: 70
- Sentiment: 30
Capitalize My Title uses the Flesch-Kinkaid Readability Score. Here is how it works:
What my score tells me is that my headline is written at a reading level that makes it accessible to most people. That is a good thing. At least when you are writing news stories or informational pieces. Now, with academic writing, you would want a readability score in that 0 to 30 range. Your audience matters, so do not always aim for that 90 to 100 range.
My SEO score also performed well. I kept my word count between 5 and 7 words (Google likes that sort of thing) and used both power words (do, your) and appropriate SEO keywords.
Capitalize My Title ranked my sentiment score close to what EMV rated it, so that was nice to see the tools shared the same opinion in that category.
As previously mentioned, this headline analyzer also offers a “Capitalize” option. What does that do? It makes suggestions on capitalizing words within your title for more effectiveness based on writing styles (AP, Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA). I have never really used this option. It might come in handy if you are trying to generate titles for email campaigns.
This headline analyzer is my third choice. It does a decent job but is not as effective as my top two choices. Since it is free, I hesitate to criticize it too much. It does have value. When you plug in your suggested headline, it will generate a quality score just like the other two headline analyzers on my list. It breaks your score down into strengths and suggestions. When I fed it my title for this blog, my limited use of positive sentiments and passive language earned me a 59. That is a good thing, according to this analyzer. As they like to say in the news industry, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Unfortunately, negativity sells. At the very least, it attracts attention.
ShareThrough also gives me a list of suggestions for improving my title. With my current blog title, it recommended the following:
- Increase your headline length
- Include your brand identity
- Reference the body of the blog
- Use context words
- Try adding a celebrity
This is the part of the tool I am not keen on. Some of those suggestions – increasing headline length and brand identity – are good suggestions. The rest? They are not always appropriate depending on your topic. I also disagree that I did not reference the body of the blog. I think it is clear I am going to discuss writing crappy headlines from my title. Still, the analyzer has value, so it never hurts to plug in your title and see what it has to say about it.
Getting your money’s worth
Yes, I know. These tools are all free. (I told you I sucked at writing headlines). What I am going for here is the sentiment behind that phrase. If you are going to use these headline analyzers, make sure you use them to their fullest potential for the best results.
While EMV Headline Analyzer is my favorite, I am going to let you in on another secret today. I never just use it when crafting headlines or sub-headers. I take the time to sample my headlines in all three of these tools on my list. It gives me a different perspective and helps me create more well-rounded titles and sub-headers. Give it a try. I promise it will make you a better headline writer.
If you try out any of these headline analyzers, I would love to hear what you think about them in the comments. Have other favorites not included here? Toss those out for consideration as well. I am always looking for new tools to try to improve every aspect of my writing.
Happy headline writing everyone. Try not to suck.
Can you provide me with a source for your claim?
How many times have we all seen that challenge issued to someone online? Usually, it happens during a nasty back-and-forth between two or more parties disagreeing on a topic. Facebook is great for this. Go there right now and I will wager that within less than a minute you will witness it. News pages and community groups are rife with them.
It is exhausting feeling like you must do research for other people all the time. Why are they not capable of Googling themselves? Some people state as much when confronted with the demand for a source. Even when the other person plays along and lists a source, they are likely to be met with accusations of #fakenews.
Sometimes legitimate information is deemed fake news because the other person does not want to concede that their points in the discussion are invalid. Other times, they may be right that the source another person is using to back their claim is less than reliable. I am about to drop a truth bomb on you. Not everything you see on Google is true.
After you pick yourself up off the floor, read that again. Not everything you see on Google is true. There are entire websites that are chock full of someone’s opinion without any real evidence to support their claims. There are even so-called online “news” sites out there that post derogatory claims and twist facts to suit their narratives to garner views. They do this because they know it is darn near impossible to prove libel and defamation. Quite a bit of damage is done when people read and believe without verifying that what Google spits out in the search results comes from trustworthy sites.
You cannot blame Google for offering up choices. The search engine giant uses an algorithm and web crawlers to search websites for keywords searchers are using. Then, it generates a list of websites and online resources with any mention of those keywords. It is up to the consumer to validate the information they are reading.
This brings us to the topic of our post: how to ensure the information spit out by the all-knowing Google is from a credible source.
Yes, this means you will have to do some digging. Yes, it means you will have to be responsible. Trust me, it is worth it. Knowledge is power. Make sure yours is gained from credible sources.
Here are the top 3 ways to spot “fake news” and to validate the information you find online.
1. Consider the source
Website credibility lends a lot of weight when determining the accuracy of information. For this reason, I suggest avoiding websites and other online sources that are user-created when digging for verifiable facts. It may rile a certain segment of the population when I say this, but Wikipedia is a perfect example of a user-created online source that is less than reliable. While it may look credible because there are sources cited, oftentimes those sources are misconstrued or misrepresented by the Wikipedia authors. If you want to validate any of those sources, go to them and read them directly from where they originate. If it is a scientific study, read it. Make sure what the Wikipedia post is claiming the study or research is saying is true. YouTube videos are another source rife with misinformation. Just because a “talking head” is stating something does not make it true. Many viral hoaxes begin on YouTube. Sometimes people create them for grins and giggles, and other times they are intended to deliberately deceive. YouTube’s algorithm is a huge part of the problem.
So, how do you know when a website is legit for quoting as a source? Websites with articles, news, and even blogs that are verified by experts in the field it is representing are considered reliable. Here is a perfect example of what I mean. This website requires all materials to undergo a review by healthcare experts to verify information shared is accurate and follows best practices for the industry. If you look right underneath the headline for the article, it states who reviewed and verified the facts in the piece.
Online resources that have expert reviews and cite sources are considered safe bets as well. Healthline is great at following this protocol. Their articles come with a fact-checked guarantee (along with information on who verified the facts), plus links to cited sourced within the text of the articles.
2. Check for satire
The Onion. Babylon Bee. Sports Pickle. What do these three things have in common (besides being incredibly entertaining)? They are not real news sites. You would never know it, though, by how some people quote them online. These online publications are the first to loudly proclaim to their readers they are satire. Some people who miss the proclamations are utterly fooled by the content. I have witnessed more than one post consumed by outraged individuals convinced that articles with headlines like “CIA Replaces Waterboarding With 12-Hour Lectures On Intersectional Feminism” are even remotely factual. Even when someone else points out the article is satire, the original poster sometimes sticks by their claim that it is a valid source. I do not know what to tell you when that happens. Sometimes arguing with the ill-informed is not worth the energy.
3. Conduct an advanced search
Google has this handy setting on its search page that allows you to get specific about where you would like it to look for search results. Here is how it works. Once you enter a topic into the search bar, you will see the options for settings at the top right. Click on it and from the expanding menu select the option for advanced search. Here, you have a variety of options for streamlining your results. One I like to use is under the site or domain option. It allows you to require Google to search only sites with .edu or .gov, where information is fact-checked and verified via multiple sources. You also can head over to places like Research Gate to find peer-reviewed studies.
Just the facts, ma'am
These are just three of the ways you can make sure your sources are reputable before tossing them into the fray. Interested in learning more about spotting fake news? Check out my interview with Nour Negm, where we discuss some of the best sources online for verifying information before you post it. Happy fact-checking, everyone! And remember…there is no such thing as alternative facts.
When I was a reporter, I often found myself smiling and nodding my head while secretly wondering what in the world some of my sources were talking about. Covering education and politics can have that kind of an effect on a person. I am certain if you all think about it long enough, you will come up with a time (or several times) this has happened in your lives. You struck up a lovely conversation with another person, only to find they began talking about a subject you know nothing about. To make matters worse, they used jargon specific to the topic, which further confused matters. No matter how educated you think you are on a subject, there always is someone who knows more.
Any time I found myself struggling to understand what a source was conveying I would ask them to explain it to me like I’m 5. It was my way of indicating that while they may be an expert in their field, neither myself nor the people reading the article were as well educated on the matter. Using simple words to break down complex ideas was going to be necessary for me and for my readers. It was a method that served me well throughout my reporting career.
Flash-forward to today and this method is everywhere. If you regularly visit social media and other online platforms, you have likely encountered the “explain it to me like I’m 5” phenomenon. Sometimes it is simply conveyed with the alphabet soup ELI5. Sometimes people use it as a sort of underhanded insult to suggest another person is out of their element and should leave the conversation. Other times, they are genuine in their request to have a topic explained in simpler terms so they can grasp another person’s view on a topic or issue. When an ELI5 suggestion is made online, how well it is received depends on the parties involved in the exchange.
It is an unfortunate possibility that the listener to whom the information is being conveyed will feel the communicator is insulting their intelligence by “dumbing it down” for them. The communicator also might feel slighted if they are asked to explain something in a way that they feel does not showcase their knowledge of the subject. A third possibility is that both parties will agree ELI5 is a great idea, and an amazing exchange of information will occur.
To help increase your odds of achieving that third outcome, here are five secrets to simple communication anyone can use. Whether you are having a face-to-face conversation, giving a lecture, or writing a blog post about a topic, the ELI5 technique works well when you incorporate some (or all) of these strategies.
As a professional copywriter, one of the questions I get frequently from prospective clients is, “How long will it take you to write a blog post?” That query usually is followed up by, “How much will it cost to write a blog post?” Reputable copywriters have a process and always are happy to explain it to their clients. Where we tend to get into a conundrum is when clients come into the process with a preconceived notion of how long a project should take and what is involved in producing the work.
One of my favorite assumptions as of late is the idea that any copywriter worth their salt can write the perfect blog post in an hour. Apparently, there is a so-called expert out there claiming this, complete with instructional videos on how to create the perfect 1,500-word blog post in one hour. That sure does sound appealing. I can understand why clients would be enticed by such a claim. The problem is it is not realistic. Can you write a blog post in an hour? Sure. Is it going to be top quality? Probably not.
Let’s break down the rationale behind this “perfect blog post in an hour” promise and explore why it is not the best method for producing the kind of content search engines will adore.
Claim #1: Hit lists
Keeping a “hit list” of articles reduces writing time. The theory is that if you have a go-to list of topics that already includes relevant keywords and some subheadings for inclusion, it will save you time later.
This is not an entirely bad idea. Many copywriters who have clients in specific niches find creating such a list helpful. The downside to this is if you have several clients within the same niche, you risk repeating copy for clients. Then you get into spun content territory, which never ranks well on search engines. What is spun content? It is taking the exact same copy and reworking it just enough that it appears slightly different to search engines. It contains all the same keywords and basic ideas, just rearranged a bit. Sometimes search engines can be slow to catch on to spun content, but Google’s bots are getting better at detecting it. Google dislikes this practice, and if it catches a website egregiously using spun content, it will penalize it by ranking it poorly.
Claim #2: The guy next door
Some of these self-proclaimed writing experts suggest you can cut your research time in half by taking the “guy next door” approach in your response. Rather than do proper research, the notion is to admit you are not an expert in the subject and that you had to do some quick Googling yourself to get the answers. Then just state the information without citing your sources.
While the “I’m not an expert, I just play one on TV” approach might work sometimes, it is not appropriate for every blog post. Some clients may be experts in their fields and require content that establishes them as an authority. In fact, 95 percent of the content I write for clients falls into this category. Conducting proper research and citing sources takes time (most definitely more than an hour).
Claim #3: Earning rich snippets
Anyone can earn a rich snippet if you just follow this guide to writing the perfect blog in an hour. At least, that is the claim from some self-appointed writing gurus. Before we explain why it is harder than it looks, you are probably wondering what the heck a rich snippet is and why you need to earn one. Amiright?
A normal snippet displays the page title, the URL where it is located, and a short description of what the page is about. A rich snippet includes extra information above and beyond the norm. It can include photos and reviews or ratings from customers if it is a product or business page. Rich snippets are important because they tend to produce a higher click-through rate on websites. Consumers love search results that give them a lot of information upfront. Here is an example of what a rich snippet looks like:
The claim says to earn the coveted rich snippet, you should write your opening sentence and paragraph before you do anything else. You must write it in a question-answer format known as a response-style blog. A response-style blog poses a question (ideally in the headline or opening sentence) and then answers it within the first paragraph of the blog post. To help boost your chances of earning a rich snippet, these experts suggest bolding the answer part of your response. The thinking is bolding text will help Google’s bots know you mean business and to reward you for your efforts. While bolding text is an old SEO copywriting trick to attract Google’s attention, it is not a surefire technique.
Why can it go wrong? Well, we can think of a few reasons. The most obvious is that your content is not original. We are going to circle back to that whole idea of spun content again. If you did the “guy next door” approach to your research, chances are, there is not much new or unique about your bolded content. So, even if the bolded text initially attracts Google’s web crawlers, they still may refuse your content a rich snippet if it is just like 20 other posts on the same topic.
Claim #4: Subheads can hurt your ranking
Long-form content ranks better with search engines. Why? Thorough content has a greater chance of earning quality backlinks that can boost your rating with search engines. One of the final aspects of these so-called perfect blogs in an hour is a warning that Google can sometimes treat long-form content like puny, thin content. Why? Their rationale is the subheadings lack substance and are irrelevant to the original topic.
On this, we can agree – to a point. Copywriters who shove subheadings into a blog just to reach word count are doing their clients a disservice. If the content does not add value, Google’s web crawlers will completely discount it.
The best way to keep long-form content relevant and exciting to Google and other search engines is to turn long-tail SEO keywords into subheadings. It is a sneaky way to ensure your extra words stay on target while giving them some extra oomph.
Quality trumps quantity every time
Cranking out the perfect 1,500-word blog post in an hour is simply unrealistic. The methods that some of these writing gurus tout will not earn your blogs the ratings they promise. Like any other “get rich quick” scheme, it really is too good to be true. It will just end up causing you frustration when these methods do not produce the promised results. Quality trumps quantity every time. Any good copywriter understands this and will never agree to methods that do not promote thorough research that produces engaging and relevant content. Ready to learn more about the right way to produce unique content that adds value to your brand? Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
This is probably going to sound a bit bizarre coming from someone who makes her living writing SEO copy for clients. Here goes anyway: Do not rely on SEO keywords to rank well on Google.
You did not misread that. I did, indeed, just suggest that you should not rely on SEO keywords to rank well on Google. I told you it was going to sound insane coming from an SEO copywriter. There is a method to my madness, though.
Don’t get me wrong. SEO keywords are a valuable tool for any website. The mistake is in making them your only strategy. For years, SEO experts like myself have worked hard to raise awareness about the importance of SEO keywords in all branded content. The downside to our efforts is that some organizations have gone all-in with SEO, thinking it some miracle cure-all. There is such a thing as keyword stuffing, and the golden hand of Google can and will smack you down if you engage in it.
While it’s true that Google likes making things … challenging … for content providers, earning a page one Google ranking organically isn’t some golden chalice from which the average peasant will never drink. It is attainable when you commit to a multi-tiered approach to SEO. Here are 4 ways to kick your game into gear and get your brand noticed.
Finding an idea that works in a short film is one of the biggest challenges in independent filmmaking. Rushing to get behind the camera instead of taking things slowly to ensure the script is fully developed is a close second.
Jeff Vande Zande teaches fiction writing, screenwriting, and film production at Delta College in Michigan. More than 200 national and international film festivals have accepted his award-winning films. He is the recipient of more than 20 awards for cinematography, screenplay, and directing. From comedy to horror, his short films embrace several genres but never disappoint.
In our forthcoming Reflections Spring 2021 newsletter, we sit down with Jeff to talk about what it takes to make it as a short filmmaker. He offers up his best tips for the trade, and dishes on some of the challenges and joys he has experienced in his 12 years as an independent filmmaker.
Do not miss out on the chance to peek inside the life of a successful independent filmmaker. Worried you might forget to check back in for this amazing issue? Sign up to have our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox when it is released. You will never miss another issue again. In the meantime, you can learn more about Jeff by checking out his blog.
Figuring out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is tricky. Most businesses and organizations know they need it, even if they do not entirely understand it. Toss in terms like white hat, black hat, and gray hat SEO, and the confusion level increases. That is why you must have an SEO copywriter and web designer you can trust. SEO experts not only comprehend the differences they can explain them to their clients in a way that will make sense.
What is white hat SEO?
I may be dating myself here (but I am willing to take that risk for a good analogy). I grew up watching classic Westerns. You know, back when televisions only had 3 channels and you had to get off your duff to change them. My point is, I always knew who the good guys were in these films. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, their white hat gave them away. The good guys always wore them.
White hat SEO is a lot like those good guys from classic Westerns. They defeated the bad guys by playing by the rules. When you engage in white hat SEO, you are using ethical methods and following search engine guidelines. You never cut corners to get quicker results.
What is black hat SEO?
Going back to my Westerns analogy, the bad guys always wore black hats. No one had to tell you who was about to turn up in town and cause trouble. That hat signaled their intentions long before they engaged in any bad behavior. Black hat SEO is just like the bad guys. Talk to any SEO expert and they will tell you there is no doubt black hat SEO tactics work. They will get your brand right to the top of the Google search results in a hurry.
It can be a short-lived victory if Google catches you in the act. The search giant will issue a manual action report in Google Search Console. Webmasters and other SEO experts use Google Search Console to check your website’s indexing status and visibility online among other things. It also is how Google hands out penalties to organizations that are caught using underhanded SEO practices. If Google catches you using black hat SEO, it will put you in search engine “jail.” What it translates into is lost organic search visibility, traffic, and revenue. Your brand simply will not turn up in the search results when potential customers search for your products or services.
What is gray hat SEO?
Somewhere in the middle of white hat and black hat SEO lies a gray area. There are differing opinions among SEO experts as to what, exactly, constitutes gray hat SEO. For our purposes (and so as not to totally confuse you), we will go with a simple explanation. Gray hat SEO is a mixture of the two techniques.
Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO. Let me say that again for the people in the back. Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO.
Search engines – especially Google – interpret it as a blurred line. Search engines may or may not penalize a website using gray hat SEO practices. Their decision to punish comes down to one factor: intent. If you are using gray hat SEO with the sole purpose of helping your site soar above the competition in search rankings, you might get your wings clipped. We never recommend trying your luck with gray hat SEO for this reason. We recommend playing by the rules for the best long-term results, no matter how tempting those “quick results” promises are with black hat and gray hat SEO tactics. You will thank me later.
White Hat SEO Graphic Designed by Shari Berg, The Write Reflection.
White hat SEO techniques
White hat SEO improves search performance on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by using several proven techniques. Each of these methods falls within webmaster guidelines for Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Here are some of the most popular white hat SEO practices.
We know what you must be thinking. Isn’t black hat SEO illegal? Nope. Nada. Nuh-uh. If you fail to follow search engine guidelines, the police are not going to come a-knocking on your door. Well, they might, if you engage in nefarious black hat SEO practices like hacking. Otherwise, it is not illegal. But it sure is unethical. Here are some of the most common black hat SEO tactics that can get your organization in hot water with search engines.
What does Google say?
What does Google say about white hat vs. black hat vs. gray hat SEO? More importantly, why should we care what Google thinks? Whether you love it or hate it, it is hard to deny that Google is the king of the proverbial search engine castle. Google holds 85.86 percent of the global search market. Bing is next up, with a paltry 6.84 percent of the global market share.
Google’s search engine first launched in 1995. From day one, Google went out of its way to differentiate itself from other search engines. Search engines like Yahoo placed a lot of emphasis on paid ads. Yahoo made no secret that it prioritized its paid search service, Overture. It required folks to fork over beaucoup bucks to earn the coveted top spot in their search results. Google decided it wanted to level the playing field for all users. Its algorithm considers several factors, including page quality, backlinks, and relevance to a user’s search (this is where SEO comes in handy). That is not to say Google is above accepting cold, hard cash from advertisers to earn a better ranking. It is just not the only factor Google uses.
Google provides clear guidelines for webmasters that SEO copywriters like me use to determine what is white hat, gray hat, and black hat SEO. Reputable SEO copywriters never cross lines, risking your website and your brand. When Google catches on to underhanded SEO tactics – and trust us, they will catch on eventually – you risk having your brand banned from their search engines. That can spell sudden death when the king of internet search engines banishes you from the kingdom.
A final word on the best SEO strategies
For your own sake, never work with an SEO copywriter or agency that promises you quick results. When that happens, you can almost bank on the fact they are using gray or black hat techniques. While you might think you are getting the best bang for your buck, you could be risking your livelihood by making it harder for your brand to be found online.
We get it. Doing SEO the right way can feel painfully slow. You want new traffic and leads now. While niche businesses using SEO keyword topics with little to no competition may see results in a few weeks, the average organization can expect to wait up to six months or more for their return on investment. We promise, committing to working with SEO experts who value best practices pays off in the long run.
If you are ready to learn more about how white hat SEO copywriting can help boost your brand’s visibility online, give us a shout-out at 724-713-3254 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for over 20 years.