doubledawnwriting

Advice for better writing and marketing

Archive for the ‘Building a Brand’ Category

Finding a Really Great Marketing Company

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For every bad marketer, there is also a good one. The good ones don’t advertise as heavily, because quite frankly, they don’t need to. Word of mouth and referrals drive the business, so don’t be afraid to ask around.

Much like the mechanic that never fixes his own car, don’t dismiss a marketing company because it doesn’t have a flashy website. Instead, ask for references, links to client pages and a detailing of the work they will perform. Be specific. Ask if they use paid traffic services. Ask how they do keyword research. Read the content on the reference pages they have supplied.

Be Careful What You Wish For

As in any endeavour, view all promises with a healthy dose of skepticism. By the same token, keep expectations realistic. I’ve known too many people who’ve been duped by underhanded marketers, simply because legitimate marketing companies could not meet their demands.

Never demand that you must have the number one search engine ranking. Never act like you’re doing the company a favour by bringing them business. Never act like seo marketing is easy, painless and really no big deal. Never set unreasonable targets and deadlines. Never try to dangle the carrot on the stick.

Why?

You will offend the legitimate marketers, and they will turn down your business. Honest and trustworthy marketing companies put effort and time into the jobs they do, and should be treated with respect. When you hire a professional, treat them with professionalism.

Legitimate marketing companies will have a strategy, timeline and will work with you for the overall goals of your website. They will discuss different elements of your website, offer suggestions to improve the quality and possibly the design. They will help you market your business itself, not just the website.

Marketing your business is the key that separates the good from the bad. The fact is, being at the height of search rankings doesn’t guarantee sales increases. The value of a company is based on how much revenue it can generate, not how well it ranks in search engines.

A good marketing company will improve ranking, but it will also improve the customer experience and sales conversion. Social media presence, interactive contests, newsletters and other engaging activities are a large part of promoting your business and improving your profits. Marketing is not about Google, it’s about making money.

What it comes down to is this: if your marketing efforts haven’t improved your bottom line, then it’s time to look for a better marketing and seo company. Results matter.

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3 Red Flag Practices of Marketing Scammers

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It often surprises me how focused people become on earning the number one page rank results on search engines. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for page rank, but the obsessive desire to be number one often opens the door for predators and unscrupulous practices.

When to Walk Away from a Marketer

It’s easy to get lulled into promises of high traffic and high ranking. The fact is, most of these companies may actually deliver on what they promise. The trouble comes from a consumer who doesn’t really understand what type of service is actually being provided.

Obscure Keywords:

Less than professional marketing or seo companies will offer to give you first page ranking with a particular keyword. Take a close look at this keyword. While it’s true, you can do a search of that keyword and discover your website popping up on the first page, you must ask yourself a simple question. “Will my potential customers be using this keyword?”

Using obscure keywords lowers competition on that phrase and makes it much simpler for a marketer to improve a page’s ranking. However, there is no value in being number one on a search term that nobody uses. It’s a deliberate attempt to mislead the client. In other words, it’s a swindle. Take a little time to look up the proposed keyword and decide if it’s really going to help your seo efforts.

Paid Traffic:

Traffic takes time and dedication to build. Be wary of a sudden surge in comments and traffic, especially if the sales volume isn’t there. Websites like myLot and micro job sites allow marketers to post simple penny jobs to force traffic or comments to a site. They may offer a couple cents per comment, they may offer a few pennies to sign up with an individual email address, or maybe just to like or tweet something.

The website owner usually has no idea the increased traffic or comments are actually bought and paid for. They are hoaxed into believing the miracle marketer is driving traffic to the site. Reports showing individual (and completely valid) email addresses or ip addresses are used to confirm the so-called results.

Plagiarized Content:

Never, ever publish content without proofreading it first. There are some very basic indicators that the content is not original. You don’t even need copyscape to check it. Try typing the first sentence into a search bar and see what pops up.

When you see unusual words that interrupt the flow of the reading, it could be a duplicate. Article spinners randomly adjust various word within a page. For example, child might be changed to youth, minor or juvenile. If enough of these word are changed, the content will likely pass copyscape. That does not make it original.

Plagiarism is not just the actual words, but the intention. Changing a few words around and replacing others is still infringing on copyright. While many articles may use the same research or ideas, the structure should have a sense of uniqueness. Duplicated content may take a while to be discovered by search engines, but once it’s flagged, not only could your website be banned from search engines, you could find yourself in legal troubles.

In the end, it’s your money and your reputation on the line. The old adage rings out loud and clear when it comes to marketing and seo companies and the promises they make. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Making Videos Go Viral

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I was watching the Celebrity Apprentice the other night, and the task was to create a viral video. The entire concept of creating something with the intention of turning it into an internet phenomenon suggests it’s a daily business practice.

Yes, social marketing includes YouTube. Yes, many a marketing plan tries to lull in potential clients with the use of video. But can you really create a viral video? Is there a secret mix of creativity and clever distribution that can drive millions of views to a single broadcast?

Neither the men or the women on Celebrity Apprentice really seemed to nail the concept. I will say, good efforts were brought forth by both teams. No blame can be appointed, because it’s a tricky task. We rarely see commercialized product endorsements on the top 10 list of global viral videos.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It means marketing companies often fall short, but not for lack of effort. It’s the nature of the beast. They are simply too focused on endorsing a product. After all, that’s what they’re paid for.

Two Key Elements of Viral Videos

  1. Emotional Connection:   Viral videos are passed around by internet users who happen upon them and are compelled to click that share button. It’s an absolute, 100%, genuine, emotional response. Videos that trigger this reaction have touched the viewer in some way.

   It might be laughter, it might invoke our sense of outrage, it might make us feel sentimental. It might remind us of our past, or inspire us about the future. There are a few well orchestrated exceptions, but most viral videos are not created by a marketing firm. They are amateur. They are imperfect and sometimes barely in focus.

  1. Utter Lack of a Large Target Audience:    Marketing companies focus on brand imaging and target markets. Converting viewers into buyers is the name of the game. While they have some success within the intended audience, the true nature of viral videos crosses all the demographical lines.The videos that take the internet by storm, also take the owners of the clip by surprise. They were never intended to be online sensations. It was just a little something to share with friends, relatives or school chums. It’s daily life. It’s misadventures. It’s social awareness.Whether the video breaks your heart, makes you laugh until you cry or leaves you numb with horror, the call to action comes when you are instantly moved to share it with others.

How to Make a Viral Video

If you really want to make a viral video, brand promotion needs to be an afterthought. The most important element is to reach people. Touch them on an emotional level.

Go ahead and make the commercially branded, polished video to uphold your professional image. But when you’re done, take a close look at the cutting room floor. The instructional video about how to properly paint a ceiling is a great accent to a website. Yet the clips showing the paint tray flying off the scaffolding and splattering the walls and crew are a lot more entertaining to the masses.

Clever videos have been created using a series of bloopers and spontaneous moments that have drawn huge numbers of views. Adding a soundtrack just adds to the entertainment value (and saves you from bleeping any curse words).

Get Real and Get Inspired

Creating a viral video is not about thinking outside the box. It’s about thinking inside human nature. We can all relate to the mishaps and fallacies of life. Which little anecdotes do you share with friends and family? What are the classic, “I-can’t-believe-that-happened” tales that have been passed around for years?

Need some inspiration? Take a look at Urlesque’s list of 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos. Take note of the relevance, the emotional impact, the use of music and the play on pop culture. If you want to be a millionaire, take advice from millionaires. If you want to be an internet icon, study those who are already there.

The #1 Must-Follow Rule for Online Content

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I recently googled the term “business writer” (or it could have been freelance business writer), and took a look at the top search result. What I found was a woman charging about $130 USD for a 500 word article. Curious about the quality and context of her material, I just had to take a peek at her portfolio.

The first sample I clicked on led me to a website for a client. In the first paragraph I found a glaring spelling error. Well, technically, I suppose it was a phonetic error. Instead of using the word past it was incorrectly written as passed.

The shock. The horror. But then again, the client published it and didn’t even notice. At least I assume the client didn’t notice. Which brings me to proofreading.

We’ve all been there. Myself included. Skimming a page too quickly and missing obvious mistakes. A writer friend of mine was honoured to have his article praised (and reposted) by a national organization. When he read the review along with his piece, he was horrified at the number of spelling mistakes.

Image is Everything

Well written copy separates the pros from the amateurs. Would you trust your finances to a banker that called you buddy or dude? Would you be comfortable with a doctor who smacked bubble gum loudly and wore pants that showed his underwear? Not likely.

The fact is, we have expectations of professionals. We expect them to conduct themselves to a higher standard. They should dress better, speak better and behave better than the average joe.

Translating this sense of authority and professionalism online starts with your content. Don’t let a silly spelling error lower the opinion of potential clients. Proofread!

How to Proofread Properly

  • Do Not rely on spell checker software. Personally, I never use it. I correct mistakes as I write and once again when I proofread. If you do use it, don’t assume everything is perfect. You still must read what you have written.
  • Do read your content on a large screen. Slowly. This can be tough, especially if you have spent a great deal of time and have the writing almost committed to memory. Unfortunately, if you skim your content too quickly, your eyes will glide right over the mistakes.
  • Do Not post it and forget it. Always, always, always read your content once it has been posted to your webpage. The change of perspective will make mistakes jump out at you.
  • Do read out loud if you can. Our minds work too quickly. It’s a fact. Reading out loud slows down the thinking pattern and forces the mind to accept or reject what we are seeing. Again, you might be surprised how easily you spot mistakes such as to/too, they’re/there/their and so on when you read out loud. Even though they all sound the same, your mind will find the error.

If you’ve hired a content writer, you still need to proofread the work. Silly mistakes, like the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, can easily be corrected. Professional doesn’t always mean perfect, so if need be, find a fresh set of eyes to do your proofreading for you.

The Best Way to Handle Critical Comments Posted Online

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A blog is a useful tool to keep the lines of communication open with consumers. However, if it’s not properly managed, it can create a poor reputation for your business.

Your company blog is a forum to offer advice, links to useful sites and keep your client base updated on changes in your company. It also allows your business to gain valuable insight into your market. Consumers who offer feedback and comments will give your company a comprehensive look into the perspective of the purchasing public.

How Do You Handle Critical Comments?

Deleting spam from your blog commentary is perfectly acceptable. However, deleting critical comments is detrimental. It gives the consumer a sense that your business is arrogant and doesn’t actually have concerns about building good customer relations.

Seeing a nasty or unfavourable comment from a consumer can invoke an angry reaction. (Anger tends to attract anger). Hastily posting an angry response diminishes your professionalism and actually offers validity to the customer’s upset.

A better reaction: validate the customers feelings and encourage a solution.

Take some time to really think about what the comment is saying. Most of the time, an angry customer just wants to be heard and validated. Unfortunately, many companies seem to have implemented an anti-apology policy. The fear of admitting any type of wrong-doing has taken over as the new mantra, replacing “the customer is always right”.

Taking the attitude that the company is never wrong sends an inappropriate message (even when you are 100% in the right). It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about changing how the customer feels.

Apologize for the Upset Without Apologizing for the Policy:

Don’t run from the apology. In fact, you will garner respect from every consumer who reads your response if you acknowledge the customers feelings. A good response to a customer complaint is to first and foremost, humble yourself with an apology.

That doesn’t mean admitting defeat. It doesn’t mean breaking the rules. It does, however, mean acknowledging the customers feelings. “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience” are two perfect examples of your sincere dedication to making the customer happy.

Encourage In-Depth Communication:

Take the bull by the horns when it comes to a disgruntled customer. You certainly don’t have to settle the entire issue in the comments section. Follow your apology with a olive branch. “I would like to hear more details, can you please call 1-800-456-XXXX and ask for Jane.”

Not only does this move the conversation offline, but it gives the rest of the consumers reading the comments a chance to see what type of company you actually are. Rather than brush off the customer, you have validated the concern and offered them the opportunity to tell their story. Furthermore, once you have the person on the phone, it’s easier to neutralize the anger and resolve the misunderstanding.

The Worst Responses:

Never reply to anger with anger. Be the professional. Once you’ve posted a comment on the internet, it’s there forever. Take a few minutes to gain perspective and don’t take angry critiques personally. Responses sent in haste can haunt your business for years to come. Before you put anything in writing ask yourself – what if this goes viral?

Never blindly recite company policy. It’s cold and impersonal and will only aggravate the situation. Again, it’s like saying the company is never wrong. If you can speak with the customer on the phone, you can explain the reasons behind the decision. The verbatim “this-is-the-policy” response never works.

Last, and probably most importantly, be willing to listen. By listen, I mean don’t interrupt, interject or try to defend your company’s position. Wait for the customer to tell their entire story. It can be harsh listening to a complaint, but allow the customer to fully vent their frustrations. Take the high road and don’t get pulled into an argument.

Not only does active listening show respect, but it brings you 80% of the way to solving the problem. More often than not, the customer just wants to tell their story. Even if you don’t have a solution or can’t fix the problem, listening, being respectful and valuing the person’s business are often all it takes to resolve a customer’s unhappiness.

 

Why Company Bios are a Must

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Do you have a bio on your webpage? Most businesses have a page that explains the company history, or the standard “about us” page, yet they fail to include a biography.

A bio is an essential element to add prestige and professionalism to your business. Unlike the other pages on your site, a bio’s explicit function is to showcase your experience and accolades. It’s similar to a resume in the sense that it highlights all your company’s best features.

You may add several biographies to your website. Fortune 500 companies always post bios for top executives and key team members. Just because your business is a little smaller, doesn’t mean you should forgo this feature.

If you are the sole operator and employee of your business, a personal biography can include professional as well as personal attributes. Include your working experience, the year you started your business, acquired education and a little personal insight. This might be volunteer work, family life or interesting hobbies.

If you have several key employees, a short biography on each of them to promote and support their role in the company will enhance their expertise and increase consumer confidence. This is particularly important if an employee has achieved a field designation, university degree or other credentials and experience that shows their qualifications.

Bios that Inspire Confidence

Some bios are strictly business. Others infuse a sense of personal connection with the audience. Still others emote a sense of passion for the company. Bios may include as many or as few personal nuances as you wish.

If you’re looking for inspiration to write a bio, start browsing the backs of book covers for the author bios. You can stroll through the home page of almost any national conglomerate, and find links to biographies of personnel.

Whether you create individual bios or one for the whole company, this is the area that inspires confidence and demonstrates your capabilities. Your bio is all about you, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine.

Tips to Write a Bio

Professional bios are written about you, but not by you. Therefore make sure you are writing in third-person, rather than using I or we. Include important dates or milestones, such as the year of graduation, length of experience in a particular field, or the date your business was started.

A good bio also includes past experience. You’ll notice on most executive bios, past employers are included. “John Doe was the Human Resource Manager at ABC Enterprises for 7 years before joining XYZ Corporation in 2008”.

Keeping a chronology in your biography helps solidify your expertise. “After graduating in 1987, Sara started working overseas at Japanese 123 Inc. There she discovered her passion for teaching, and went on to become the ESL coordinator for global executives and their families.”

Your company biography is a tool that tells potential clients and customers why they should choose you and not your competitor. Neglecting this opportunity to showcase your talents is like going to a job interview and not stating why you’re qualified. Furthermore, a good biography helps define your business, giving you the professional edge to move to the top.

Cheap or Inexpensive? How Keywords Impact Your Image

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Choosing keywords and phrases that will increase your page ranking is a daunting task. One one hand, you want keywords that will be related to search terms the average consumer is using in the search bar. On the other hand, you don’t want to devalue the professionalism of your website. Can you do both?

In a word, yes. Catering to popular keywords without compromising the integrity of your image is entirely possible. It does, however, take a little finesse.

Using words like cheap instead of inexpensive doesn’t need to downgrade your business. As long as you fill your content with related words such as affordable, good value or price sensitive, interspersing the occasional cheap is perfectly acceptable.

For example, you can use a word like cheap to increase the perceived value of your products. Think of a line like this: “Tired of using cheap laundry soap that doesn’t get your clothing clean? We offer affordable laundry detergents at no-name prices that remove stains as well as those expensive national brands.”

Used carefully and in conjunction with associated words, secondary keywords will actually increase your probability of a higher page ranking on certain search terms. The search engines engage in latent semantic indexing (LSI) to properly determine the content of a web page.

In laymen’s terms: search engines look at at all the related words to see if they apply to the search term.

The other side of the scenario caters to popular searches. A consumer who searches the phrase “cheap laundry soap” won’t be discouraged or disappointed to discover that’s exactly what you are selling.

Using the coveted search phrase will bring potential buyers to your page, no question. Once there, you must utilize value enhancing words to emphasize the attributes and better quality of the laundry soap compared to competing brands. Showing the consumer that you offer an excellent product at a bargain price is what will convince them to buy your laundry soap.

A final thought to bear in mind, a customer may search for ‘cheap laundry soap’, but what they are actually looking for is ‘cheap laundry soap that works’. Focus your content on getting the sale, not just getting the visitor.

 

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