Pick Her Brain!
I’d like to introduce one of our members, Jessica Foster, for our next ‘Pick His/Her Brain’ session and I want to thank her for the participation.
Jessica is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land.
In additional to being a wordsmith, she understands branding, copywriting, technical SEO, and marketing which is a rare combination.
In other words, she is a talented and gifted millennial.
If you have any questions related to copywriting and content creation that converts, you can pick her brain.
Here are the rules.
1) I’ll let the thread go on until she asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.
2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.
3) Please do not PM her and bother her. If you have a private question, ask for her permission on this thread when appropriate.
What inspires you the most?
Hmm that’s the hardesg question of all because there are many things that inspire me in different areas of my life!
I suppose I am most motivated by the goal to be financially free and independent from a restricting job so that I can have the resources to travel and contributed to causes I care most about.
How did you discover your talent for writing?
I’m been interested in and commended for my writing ever since I was a kid.
I would get A’s on all of my papers, even while taking advanced writing classes through college.
One of my degrees is in psychology which involves quite a bit of writing and it has always come easily to me.
When people started turning to me for blog post help, ghostwriting, etc. that’s when I realized that it could be turned into a marketable skill.
How many degrees do you have?
What annoys you the most about the baby boomer generation?
No comment lol I try not to be a hater.
In fact, I wrote a post on what millennials can learn from the generations before us.
How do you review a new client’s website from an on-page SEO perspective, if a content overhaul is required?
Since my background is in SEO, I have revised my existing SEO audit to focus on the on-page SEO and content of a website.
I use a variety of tools to look for the most common errors (mssing H1s, poor internal linking, etc.).
And then rely on their own data (if they have it) to see how pages/posts are performing.
The clearest sign that an overhaul is needed is if the content structure and copy is not cohesive – ie users can’t find what they need and are not coverting.
It’s pretty clear to me when content is all over the place and is not working together – both SEO-wise and user experience wise.
It’s quite an involved process but once we have a solid idea of what issues need to be addressed.
The next step is typically a keyword mapping/distribution plan to ensure all pages are targeting what they should be targeting ans are working toward a similar goal.
No spun pages or filler BS.
Do you think there is sexism in this industry? If yes, how are you dealing with it?
I have experienced sexism in this industry, especially while I was working at an agency.
We had several accounts where male clients refused to have a woman working on the account.
I can also think of a few occasions where my ideas were dismissed and I was talked over.
But rather than accepting this or becoming bitter about it, I chose to talk louder, be unapologetic, and put myself out there more.
I continue to write and talk about what I know and try not to let the off-handed comments get to me.
The biggest annoyance has been people messaging me on FB with ulterior motives but I block these people right away.
I have no time for it as I have an empire to build
What’s your greatest fear?
My biggest fear is that people will continue thinking fluff content is going to work for their business.
Should you brand a person or a company?
Why not both.
People like to hate on Neil Patel but he is a prime example of how branding can level up your notoriety even if you aren’t the #1 strategist in a given industry.
He knows the right message for his audience and what kinds of content positions him as an expert – whether he is doing the implementation or not.
I think personal branding is becoming more and more important because in this age of social media and digital marketing mumbo-jumbo.
People are more inclined to work with someone they can connect with and trust.
If you are hiding behind your business, you may still make a decent income from your services but I think you will hit a ceiling because you are limiting your opportunities for really putting yourself out there.
Who likes to hate on NP?? And why?
So many SEOs hate on him but I personally don’t.
I can recognize that while he may not be the best SEO, he is the best at what he does and has branded himself brilliantly.
Those that haven’t cracked the code like to hate on his success.
What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
Ah! Somehow I skipped this question.
That’s a hard one… Is it fair to say that I like working on my own business the best?
I like the freedom of thinking up my own content strategy.
What is your best tip for freelance content writers?
I love this question. I have a few recommendations rolled into one.
Freelance writers often get stuck in this “race to the bottom” because they are competing neck and neck with other writers that essentially do they same thing that they do.
In other words, they struggle to find anything that makes them stand out, so they continue to compete with other writers over price.
The key to make yourself invaluable to a certain market and make it clear that you are THE writer for x niche or industry.
This will help shape the copy on your own website, build a portfolio that is representative of the kinds of clients you want to work with, and justify higher prices because you can showcase results for that niche.
If a prospect is looking for a $20 blog post writer they are sure to find it – but you want clients that see the value in hiring a top-notch copywriter.
If you have a website/portfolio that has an apparent USP and helps them picture what it would be like working with you, then you can position yourself higher and charge what you are worth.
What if you have already written lot of content for a particular niche and are unintentionally beginning to write pieces of plagiarised content coz the basic process/tips/steps stays the same and this is the Nth time you are writing for that niche?
Hmm that’s a good question and fortunately I haven’t hit that place in my business. I really try to avoid conflicts of interest like that.
I understand how this could be a problem, but I would say a few things….
1) Most of the best copywriters don’t depend on copywriting alone.
With enough experience, they then position themselves as thought leaders and open up multiple streams of income.
They may start their own agency, get speaking gigs, create a course, etc.
If you reach a place where you think that you can provide that level of insight to others (rather than writing about the same topics over and over).
I would start looking for those kinds of opportunities.
2) Focus on quality over quantity. Level up your positioning and who your target market is.
Charge more and take on fewer gigs.
Then you won’t have to worry as much about churning out the same posts over and over.
You may also decide to focus on web page copy or email campaigns, or become the chosen copywriter for just a few businesses.
There are many ways to swing it.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to branding?
That they focus too much on visual branding vs the message.
Figuring out our USP and the right message for your audience will help inform everything else.
It will determine your copy, the layout of your site, your tagline, and even your logo.
Having a pretty website and great visual branding is often a bandaid to cover up poor messaging. Ultimately, it will be the messaging that sells.
Affilliate or adsense which income stream do you suggest for beginners?
I’m probably not the best person to ask about this.
Generating income through content in this way is not my forte (as my clients are mostly service-based or consultants).
But having been in the blogging and SEO sphere for a while, I can say that I have seen and heard of better results coming to those that focus on affiliate marketing.
I can’t think of a single success story in my experience that cites adsense as a big earner.
In my mind, adsense depends too heavily on the numbers whereas with affiliate marketing, you can have a smaller, more dedicated audience that keeps coming back for more, and that seems more reliable to me.
What is the future for traditional SEO?
This may not be the answer you are looking for but I have thought about this quite a bit.
I talk about branding so much because I really believe that cohesive branding for SEOs/agencies can make or break their success.
There is so much BS and shady tactics in the industry that you are hard-pressed to find new prospects that haven’t been burned by an SEO agency already.
So, finding someone they can trust is of the upmost importance. Assuming that most SEOs do they same thing, most will prospects are looking for someone they can trust.
If you are authentic, transparent, and put yourself out there, that gives you a leg up.
Otherwise you will be in the trenches with all of the other SEOs.
Neil Patel is a prime example of this.
He may not be the #1 SEO strategist, but he had positioned himself as an authority and has reached crazy success through his branding and content.
What is the best way to find someone to right content for a very dry and boring B2B niche? And where do you find these writers?
I think there’s this misconception that the copy for these niches have to be dry as well.
I have worked with plenty of businesses where the topic may be “boring”, but where interesting and engaging copy is what resonates most with their target audience.
A great copywriter will know what you need rather than simply writing about whatever topic you pitch to them.
If you just need standard blog posts every week for consistency, then you can surely find decent writers in FB groups or on Fiverr.
But if your goal is to sell, it takes an understanding of branding, CRO, and even SEO to create content that will actually work for you.
So rather than looking for a “writer”, one should look for a copywriter that understands these things.
Yes, they will be more expensive, but the goal should be a better ROI – and the difference can be wasting $20 on a blog post vs spending $150 on a blog post that actually drives conversions.
If your product/service is a B2C (like restaurants, dentals) is it still advisable to create a blog post about your brand, knowing you have a larger audience to cater?
“It depends”. A lot of those businesses will be local so SEO is usually the way to go, with some creative content marketing mixed in.
I would prioritize more attraction-based, long form content over regular blog posts.
If you really aren’t sure, look at what your competitors are doing.
But in a nutshell, no, not all businesses need to be posting blog posts.
Is there anything that you add to you copy to help make it memorable like jokes, anecdotes, or quotes, or is this something to avoid?
For my own business, jokes and memes seem to work really well.
People appreciate my sense of humor. But it all comes down to being able to read your audience.
Don’t be quirky just for the sake of being quirky – but don’t feel like you have to be dry to be “professional”.
But there is something to be said for micro engagement like including quotes and images in a post to keep people reading.
Besides content writing, what other business avenues are you planning to develop to make some $$$?
I am building a content writing agency and tying to position myself as a thought leader in the space so that I can run affiliate marketing through my site and social media.
And create a course for copywriters and SEO agencies that want to learn more about SEO copywriting.
I am also a digital nomad and may be able to monetize that social audience as well. Lots of ideas.
How do you research when you have to write for some unknown topic you don’t have much knowledge about?
If I really have no clue about a given topic then I will refer to one of my writers – and if they aren’t a good match, I won’t take on that project.
The goal is to sell and if I don’t think I can effectively cover a topic, that won’t work well for my client.
But, that is why I am working on building out and agency that focuses on the SEO and digital marketing niche.
In writing, the main problem i think is to writing without getting bored, but mostly we get bored just crossing the border of 300 words… how you manage that?
I enjoy what I do and my writers enjoy what they do so it seems as though we rarely get bored.
I work with brands that I want to work with and fit in with my style.
If the business is bland or the prospect isn’t the type of personality I like to work with.
I don’t take them on.
According to you whats the ideal number of words in a blog post that should be published on the first page ? And at what percentage can you say its not harmful in regards to plagiarism?
The ideal # depends on the topic, industry, and purpose of the piece.
Too many variables to define.
As a general rule, I say ‘enough words to thoroughly cover the topic’ but I know that isn’t particularly helpful.
But, try not to focus on word count too much. The content itself is what matters most.
As far as % for plagiarism, I’d avoid this at all costs.
You can refer to existing posts/pages for inspiration, but keep in mind that those sites may have different audiences, different goals, be addressing different pain points, etc.
The content just won’t sell unless it is written specifically for your audience and goals. Going the lazy route and spinning articles etc will get you sub par results.
What are some resources that you recommend they should utilize to incorporate those elements in their writing?
Seocopywriting.com has some great resources, including a paid course. It’s $1000 but definitely worth it.
Do you also make money with your own affiliate marketing websites?
No I haven’t started my own affiliate marketing site yet.
What advice do you have when writing a page for a high competition SERP?
Assuming your site isn’t being completely crushed by the already ranking websites (ex a small travel blog trying to compete with Trip Advisor).
My process is to always look at what keywords the top ranking pages are ranking for and try to identify any gaps.
Then, I target as many (relevant) keywords as possible, and make my content 2x better than what’s already ranking.
This can be kind of relative, so finding commonalities between the top ranking pages and at least making sure I hit those is a safe bet.
Then, figuring out how I can make it better. That doesn’t always mean longer. A lot of times, the top articles are just spinning the same content, and it’s not very engaging.
Or the images are meh.
Or the organization doesn’t make sense.
Or the article is essentially a page-long sales pitch. It’s subjective and objective at the same time.
And I always leave room for “If this doesn’t work, we can fix it”.
What tools do you use for topic research, writing itself and SEO in general?
SEMRush, Surfer SEO, Texttools, Keywords Everywhere, Hemingway App, Answer the Public, good ol’ Google.
Google Docs for drafts/formatting.
I am sure I have an article about this somewhere…