Writers’ Workshop: Chapbook 101 | Putting Your Manuscript Together

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This January, spend a Saturday afternoon working on your chapbook or collection of poems, essays, or short stories with Richard Krawiec, Danny Krawiec, and Melissa Hassard of Jacar Press and Sable Books.

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5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Content for SEO

Improve your website’s traffic and establish your expertise.

Editing your content/blog for SEO means thinking in terms of how you want your clients and potential clients to find you.  It’s a matter of asking the right questions and making sure you answer them.

1.  Include whole phrases and questions that your clients or potential clients may be searching for.  “How do I get rid of ants?”  or “New York pizza restaurant,” if they are part of your services and of crucial concern to your clients and would likely be typed in as a keyword search, they should most definitely be included.  What are the questions your client wants answered?  What is their pain?

2.  Spelling and grammatical errors.  This is probably a no-brainer.  And Google will even give you a hand, anticipating your audience’s own misspellings.  But let’s not make it harder than it has to be to get your business found.

3.  Brevity.  “Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.” ― Louise Brooks.  Edit your content for clarity and length.  This is both helpful for SEO as well as your clients.  Long blog posts run the same risks as long Youtube videos —  you could lose your audience if you can’t say what you need to say in a concise way.  Bonus tip:  If you have a lot to say on a subject, consider breaking it up into several posts.

4.  Keep it Simple.  Along those same lines, remember that you are speaking to others that may or may not have your level of expertise.  Speak in lay terms whenever possible.

5.  Use images within your content but make sure the images are named with Google and search engines in mind.

True story:  A client when he came to me, had a beautiful, image-rich site to showcase his beautiful furniture.  Also on his site was a new story about his charity work that had been printed in a local paper.  It was a decent site until we took a look at his Google analytics, and then we were in for a shock:  Google had interpreted his site’s content as exclusively and specifically related to his charity and the news article  — and  not as a furniture retailer.
Content marketing is not a mystery, and is increasingly growing important for your Google rankings.  With a few easy steps and a long-term vision for your company and online presence, you will be found.  But the time to start is now, if you haven’t already.  And if you don’t have the time to write your own articles, consider hiring writers and/or editors to assist you in your efforts.

content_writing_penBlogging/content marketing for business is a long-term approach to establishing your presence with search engines.  Integrating with your social media is imperative as well, and we’ll talk about why that is in my next article.  

I write and edit for my clients every day.  As always, I welcome your feedback and comments, either here on my blog or directly at melissa@melissahassard.com.

Content and Blogging for Business

The word “blog” seems to still conjure up, in some, images of family vacations or meals on the table.  It’s a dated term.

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But content writing/blogging for business has never been more important.  Because of the way SEO works, Google, Bing and Yahoo all rank sites according to the content on your site.  And now, more than ever, it’s important to get yourself found.

Fresh content + more content = Higher Search Engine Ranking

People find businesses differently now.  Instead of opening up the Yellow Pages and finding an attractive ad, or even searching and finding an attractive website, your potential customers are doing their due diligence.  They are searching.  They check you out and then they check out your social media.  They might check Yelp.  In other words, they have a look around.
You (or someone you hire) should be writing for your website at least once a week, and editing for SEO.  (My article on editing for SEO is coming soon.)  Fresh content is going to constantly send Google the message that you are consistently adding to your site —  and give your social media followers something to look at.

Watch your analytics for search engine phrases that your audience wants to know.

You have expertise.  You could talk for hours upon hours about your widgets, about where they were made and why that factory uses a superior process or alloy, and how over time the degradation of competitors widgets is all too common.  Your potential clients want to know, instead, which widget works best in the kitchen and which one is better for travel and are Googling such.  Don’t fight it.  Bring your vast knowledge into your articles — but by all means answer their questions.

One client of mine and I realized that almost 80% of his traffic was coming in on countless variations of the same question.  Turns out, it’s an important question and key to being found early for his consulting practice and area of expertise.  So we’re embracing this need for information with countless other means of information and media.

Graphics and Images:  Potential Destroyer of SEO

Not kidding.  And another story.
When Joe and I first started working together, he came to me with a beautiful, image-rich site to showcase the gorgeous furniture he sells.  Also on his site at that time was a local news story in which his local charity work was featured.  Not only was he THE source for furniture but a great guy as well.  Who wouldn’t buy furniture from him?
But very little traffic was coming on to his site.  His Google Adwords weren’t working.  So what was the problem?
One look at his analytics told us the answer.  Because there were a lot of graphics and very little content, Google believed his site to be about his favorite charity as it was unable to read anything of the gorgeous images he’d chosen.
Are there ways to use graphics in a way that Google understands?  Of course.  Does everyone do this?  Apparently not.
Writing your site and keeping the content fresh is the best way to make sure you get and keep Google’s attention.  Building your social is important, too, and shouldn’t be forgotten, but content first.  Show the world your expertise.  Put it out there or let me help you do it.
Stay tuned.  We’re just getting started.  🙂
/melissa

On Writing and Self-Publishing Your Book

If you think writing the book was hard, wait til you take on publishing.  Here are points to consider carefully whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose:

1.  Editing.  In my opinion, hiring an editor is absolutely required before publication.  Even if you are publishing yourself, you should hire an editor to go through your manuscript with you and make suggestions.  It will be worth it.

Choose your editor wisely.  There are different kinds of editors out there, from basic checking of spelling and grammar to  editing for flow, or for direction and impact of your writing.  As diverse as they are in skill and depth, they are in price as well.  Preset your budget and determine what you need in advance or you will be slogging through this decision.  Ask area writers for their recommendations, too.

2.  Book cover.   Remember what your mother said about first impressions?  She also said that books shouldn’t be judged by their cover.  But a book cover is such a creative opportunity for you to express a piece or theme of your book in a visual way to create a response.  Take your time and make this meaningful.  Or fun.  Or whatever fits for your book to reach your audience.  You’ll need a cover whether you are publishing hardcopies of your book or if your book is solely digital.

3.  Marketing:  The fact of the matter is there is no quick way to build your social media presence.  It takes time, meaningful content, and honest engagement with your audience.  Different platforms appeal to different users and for the best results, choose how and why you post and where.  Marketing your book via social media and in person will be featured in several upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned.

Edited and updated June 19, 2013

melissa_hassard-blogContact me for publishing, marketing, SEO and Social Media strategy.  

Melissa I. Hassard
melissa@melissahassard.com
336-937-5319

WordPress: Categories vs. Tags — A User Guide

Many bloggers have asked me to explain in depth about using WordPress Categories and Tags, and the difference between the two.

First, let’s take a look at the definitions as they are explained in WordPress’ own documentation:

Categories provide a helpful way to group related posts together, and to quickly tell readers what a post is about. Categories also make it easier for people to find your content. Categories are similar to, but broader than, tags. For more information on the differences between categories and tags please check out this support doc.
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Tags provide a useful way to group related posts together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about. Tags also make it easier for people to find your content. Tags are similar to, but more specific than, categories. The use of tags is completely optional.
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Here’s a 101 Level  “How To” on tagging and categorizing your post, by iThemes.

If you read the WordPress documentation on using categories and tags, you’ll notice that in both definitions you’ll find the following: “also make it easier for people to find your content” and “tell readers what your post is about.”

The same verbiage written into both definitions.  Confusing.  So what’s the deal?

Categories are a useful way we organize our sites for ourselves and our readers. Think in broad terms like navigation.

Tags are essentially the keywords in your article or post. Keywords means the most important topics you are covering. Perhaps a nuanced detail that often gets overlooked but is important. Basically, it is a handful of words that are significant or relevant to what you are trying to say.

Search engines like Google are constantly improving their algorithms (the formulaic way they send their spiders to analyze and catalog every site) to ignore and demote blatant attempts to overshadow other sites by using false tags, unrelated links, and other sketchy means. As a result, tagging your blog and tagging it correctly is essential.

Further in the description of tags, WordPress says this:

“The use of tags is completely optional.”

Tags are optional only in the sense that you don’t have to tag in order to write and publish a post.  But tags are absolutely essential to be found by the search engines and your customers and potential customers.

More from WordPress documentation that on tagging, and this is important stuff, too:

Topic Listings
Your posts will appear in the topic listings of any tags or categories you use. Therefore, assigning tags and categories to your post increases the chance that other WordPress.com users will see your content.

However, you don’t want irrelevant content showing up on the topic listings or search, and neither do we. That’s why we limit the number of tags and categories that can be used on a public tag listing. Five to 15 tags (or categories, or a combination of the two) is a good number to add to each of your posts. The more categories you use, the less likely it is that your post will be selected for inclusion in the topic listings.
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Did you get that? No extraneous categories and tags because it is deemed “too many” and likely “irrelevant” and will limit your audience.

To grow your audience, make sure you are tagging your content with the appropriate amount of accuracy and aggressiveness. If you haven’t thought of tags as a way to increase your site traffic, it’s time to start. If you are over-tagging to appeal to a wider audience, stop this practice, and write more content specifically targeted to the audience you are trying to reach.

I hope this brief how-to answers a few questions for you.  And as always, if you want to know more, you are always invited and encouraged to contact me.

 

melissa_hassard-blog
Contact me for marketing, publishing, content writing and editing for SEO and social media strategy.  I am about your success.  Period.
Melissa I. Hassard

 

Helpful Link:

Simple (Honest!) SEO Tips for Small Business

First and foremost, your website needs to promote your business in a clear, concise way to attract clients.  But how do they find you?  There is a lot of confusion out there about what makes for great SEO and what doesn’t, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Keep your website clean, keep it simple, and keep your clients’ needs at the forefront.  Your website’s contents should be of value.

Here are a few simple ways to increase your company’s SEO rankings.

    1. Unfortunately, a picture ISN’T worth a thousand words.  At least not with Google and Bing.  Image-rich sites may look incredibly beautiful but the search engine spiders won’t know how to process them or what to make of them.  Keep the images if you like them but please, please caption them well.
    2. Blogging  If you can write a blog about your business to inform your client or offer helpful tips, please do.  Having a blog gives Google, Bing, and Yahoo an extra little nudge each time you post.   Write.  Share content.  Your clients will thank you for it, too.  If you need someone to help you with this task, let me know.
    3. Web videos  Google owns YouTube, so it should be pretty clear why this would be a great idea.  Put together content that best expresses your brand, who you are as a company, and what you offer.  
    4. Maps  Your company address (or addresses), along with a Google map (or Bing, or other) to your location(s) embedded in your site is generally standard practice with most web designers these days.  It moves your rankings up, at least near your physical location(s).  If you are trying to reach a regional or national audience, consider adjusting your web content accordingly with blog posts and videos directed to specific markets that you reach.

Contact me for advertising, marketing, SEO and Social Media strategy.  Located in the Triad but with clients all over the world, we offer services ranging from complete SEO packages and Social Media management to custom-tailored programs to suit your needs.

Melissa I. Hassard
336-937-5319

Your success.  Our driving factor.

 

The difference between SEO and Social Media and why you need both

Basic guerrilla advice for building web presence, online marketing.

Q:  How do I get “found” by Google, Bing, and the search engines?

To explain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to my friends and clients whom are small business owners, I use the metaphor of a large pond to describe the Internet.  Okay, a really large pond.  Give yourself a moment to think of how you would get found, should you find yourself sitting in this large pond along with others just like yourself.  Splash.  Kick.  Skip stones.

Blog posts, Youtube videos, and web content are all ways of creating those ripples.  Over time, steady contribution creates larger and larger ripples.  More ripples means more likelihood of Google and Bing and the other search engines finding you.  What are the stones you keep in your pocket?

Q:  I’m very active on Facebook.  Won’t this get results?

Yes and no.  Social media is not SEO and shouldn’t be touted as such.  You can Facebook your fingers off and it will not change your SEO results.  Your website is the best tool you have to find new customers and explain your company to them.

Your Facebook is perfect for reinforcing your brand and also a way to keep your brand at top of mind.  What do your customers and potential customers find when they look at your social media?  Take stock of your offerings.

There are loads of options in Social Media to consider beyond Facebook and Twitter.  LinkedIn.  Pinterest.  Tumblr.  Instagram.  The list goes on and new ones seem to pop up overnight.  We can help you sort through which pieces work for promoting your business.

Contact me for advertising, media buying, SEO work, or help with building your social media platform.  336-937-5319 — Melissa