Advice for better writing and marketing

Archive for the ‘Pro vs Amateur’ 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.


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.


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.”

Word Blunders: Effect or Affect?

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The battle for grammatically correct content seems to be never ending. Words we use in every day conversations stump us when we type them out for the screen.

The effect of these common blunders affect the character of our message.

Words that carry the same linguistic properties can stump even the most seasoned professional. In some instances, the meanings are quite close. Affect and effect are a perfect example, since their meanings are intertwined.

Affect: This word means to have an effect on something. Yes, really. No wonder we have trouble keeping these two straight. However, I can give you some help.

Affect can be used as a noun or a verb, but it usually involves emotion or some sort of change.

She was deeply affected by his eloquent poem.”

In the context of that sentence, affect clearly refers to an emotional stir. Affect can also refer to an influence or impact.

Roses affect her allergies.”

In this context, affect is implying the influence that the roses will have to someone with an allergy to them.

Effect: This word is most frequently describing a consequence. It’s the end result of some other action.

His reckless actions at the track had a big effect on his family.”

In the above example, it’s easy to see that effect is not referring to emotion, but the consequence of the deed.

The proposed changes are scheduled to take effect next month.”

In this case, effect is used to describe the anticipated result and its potential occurrence. Again, note the lack of emotional context. Effect usually has a sense of being solid or absolute, more factual than emotional.

Memory Aids

It’s all good and well to read and understand how each word is used. But when you’re on the spot, it can be tough to remember which one you need. Here’s a little help.

Affect = Affection. Affect is most commonly used in terms of emotion and influence. Since affection is an emotion, it’s a good word association to help clear your thoughts and bring you to the correct spelling.

Effect = End Result. An effect is usually something final. The end result or anticipated end result. When you are looking at your use of the word in writing, think about “special effects” used in movies to help you remember the spelling. A special effect is used to create a final onscreen result.

If all else fails…

If you still find yourself stuck for which word to use, by all means, use a synonym.

She was deeply moved by his eloquent poem.”

Roses aggravate her allergies.”

His reckless actions at the track had a big impact on his family.”

The proposed changes are scheduled to take place next month.”

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.

A Word or Two About Wordiness

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When it comes to writing, less is more. Always. Whether you’re writing a novel, an article or a blog post, wordiness can quickly take over and aggravate the flow.

Websites in particular tend to be victims of excessive word use. It’s a danger zone. The average internet reader only skims the content anyway. There’s no need to create long rambling sentences. They only serve to lose the reader’s attention.

How to Cut Down on Wordiness

Edit! Edit! Edit! The first two or three words of almost every sentence can be cut. Seriously. Try it. For example:

“If you have a sentence that starts like this…”

“A sentence that starts like this…”

you should Keep your writing as clean and concise as possible. Avoid using two words, when one will do the job if you can. Try to Resist adding words that don’t increase the value of the sentence.

Editing can be a daunting task. It takes practice to spot which words are not creating any value. However, removing excess words from your webpage will definitely give it a professional edge. It also makes it easier to keep the reader engaged as they skim your pages.

As a test, take a look at your own blog or webpage content and find 5 sentences that demonstrate the examples above. Putting on your editorial glasses will give you a renewed sense of objectivity, and increase the journalistic standard. You may need to rephrase some sentences for coherence, so don’t be afraid to click the thesaurus button.

Don’t stress. It’s not as tough as high priced editors would have you believe. Happy cutting.


Written by doubledawnwriting

March 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

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.


Your Guide to Quality Outsourcing

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The internet is a vast resource for finding skilled workers to perform smaller tasks for your business. Bookkeeping, administrative tasks and marketing campaigns are great examples of work that can be outsourced. Outsourcing reduces your payroll expenses as well as saving you time and paperwork.

Unfortunately, for every high level, professional service provider, there are about a hundred sub-standard ones. When it comes to running a business, you can’t afford to waste money on someone who doesn’t deliver exactly what you need. 

Volume Versus Value 

There are two ways to make money. One is to provide a product or service at an extremely low price, and pump out enough volume to make a profit.

Walmart is a perfect example of a volume retailer. Sure, the buttons pop off the shirts after one wash, the kid’s shoes will never survive to become a hand-me-down and the best before dates are quite short. Nevertheless, Walmart packs in the customers who are willing to sacrifice quality for the lowest price tag. This retail giant makes it’s money off volume, not mark up.

Sears, on the other hand, has built a solid reputation for quality and service. Online, by catalogue or shopping in person, the consumer naturally expects to pay more when shopping at Sears. This retailer has never engaged in the price slashing practices of other department stores, but instead focused on brand names and customer service. 

While Sears doesn’t have the volume that Walmart has, they have a reputation for quality merchandise, and offer price points that reflect this. Sears makes their money by making a tangible profit off each item sold, so they don’t need the same volume that Walmart does. 

Volume and Value in Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a business like any other. Freelancers who offer their services will either work on volume, pushing out as many assignments as possible for a low price, or value. Value providers set their prices to allow them to offer higher quality. 

The fact is: you will get what you pay for. If you’re only willing to pay $5 for a service, there is a good chance you will find yourself disappointed in the results. That’s not to say you won’t happen across some grade A service, but it’s a time consuming process to weed through the providers to select a good one. 

Elance and Odesk are popular outsourcing sites, but there are no quality standards for service providers. Anyone who wishes to bid on a job may do so. As a buyer, you are left to sift through the bids, most of which are inferior, to find a suitable provider. Again, another time consuming task which can frustrate the process. 

As a business, you need to look at your outsourcing needs objectively and weigh the cost of the task against your time and the quality you are looking for. There are indeed outsourcing sites that cater to business needs, by only offering higher quality service providers that have been adequately screened.

TaskArmy is a perfect example of a high value, professional outsourcing resource. It’s a smaller site, with a handful of service providers. Each provider submits a service they are offering, which is screened by the site before submission.

The prices are set by the freelancers, and reflect the time and effort that will be put into your job. You won’t likely find any $5 jobs, instead, the pricing indicates the level of professional service you will be provided with.

TaskArmy uses an escrow service for payment, so your business is protected. The 20% fee per task is taken from the provider’s end, so the purchaser has no additional costs to worry about.

In the end, choosing an outsourcing company will depend on the goals of your business and the budget. You might start out with low quality providers until you reach a level where you can afford to pay more.

However, if quality is integral to your professional image, outsourcing through professional providers and freelancers is cost effective. Even if you pay a higher price per project, it’s still less expensive than adding professionals to your payroll.   

Written by doubledawnwriting

March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

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