Category Archives: Content Creation

6 Best Tips for Creating Evergreen Content

At some point during your research to find better ways to improve the performance of your content, whether it is for a blog, company website, or as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have likely encountered the term “evergreen content.” This is not a new term and has been used for over half a decade to describe content that stays relevant over time. The more staying power your content has in terms of relevance to searchers, the more evergreen it is.

To expand the explanation a bit more, evergreen content is engaging, useful, and topically relevant for an extended period of time. If someone uses a search engine to find information about a specific subject today and a year from now and both receive the same result, that content is evergreen. The longer your content can stay visible in search results and relevant to search queries, the more evergreen it is.

As the internet becomes increasingly saturated with a variety of content pertaining to similar topics, it becomes more important for marketers and content creators to produce content that has the most potential for long-term importance to online searchers and surfers.

Create content for beginners. You might be tempted to think that technically advanced, in-depth content would be more appropriate as a candidate for being evergreen. In reality, the opposite is true. Most of the people who use search engines to find information are relatively new to a particular subject and are expanding their knowledge. The individuals who seek out technical content usually have a source location in mind, and they often avoid search engines unless they are performing a cursory search without a specific data acquisition goal in mind. There are also far more people new to a certain subject using search engines on a regular and recurring basis than there are people who want material on advanced subject matter.

Avoid making assumptions with your phrasing and terminology. Because the majority of your readers will be those who are only now familiarizing themselves with a specific topic, you should anticipate their lack of in-depth knowledge and write accordingly. Technical jargon or industry-specific phrasing should be left out unless absolutely necessary and, if it is necessary, make sure the average reader understands what the words or phrases mean.

Use outbound links cautiously. Many writers who provide online content, especially bloggers, are often tempted to include outbound links to reference and source material. This is usually done to give the reader more information about a subject or establish more authority for facts, figures, and other data provided in the content. Problems can arise, however, when you have included links to external web pages that have shuffled off their mortal (internet) coil and been removed or disabled for one reason or another. A “page not found” error is much worse than not including a link at all.

Strive to be the only source of information for your topic. If competition exists for your content that prevents you from being the only source of information about your subject, you need to make sure your content is the definitive source. One of the key factors in creating evergreen content is that you are publishing something that people will want to read today, tomorrow, and years from now (if possible). This means your content should be the most complete, authoritative, and definitive resource for those who want to know more about the subject.

Focus on one specific subject. The more singular your subject, the more definitive your content can be in terms of delivering the most useful information to your readers. When you try to cover several subjects in one piece of content, the end result is usually a disjointed jumble of thoughts that lack a cohesive connection or strong purpose. When choosing your subject, narrow it down to as finite a point as possible. For example, rather than writing about divorce, you could write about divorce and child custody. Rather than writing about divorce and child custody, you could write about how to help children cope with the divorce and custody process. If your topic is as specific as it can be, this gives you a limited range within which you can write, which means your content will have the best opportunity to become a definitive source of material.

Avoid including information that can “date” your content. Dated content automatically creates a shelf life for the material, meaning it will expire when more updated content becomes available. This includes “top ten” lists of any information for a specific year, data relating to current trends (which are called “current” trends because they, too, have a shelf life), breaking news, future speculation that can be proven wrong, or event-specific content. Undated content remains viable and useful when the following year rolls around or the newest batch of trends makes an appearance.

Now that you know several key tips regarding what makes (or breaks) evergreen content, you may be wondering what type of content performs best in the evergreen arena. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for the type of content that will always find relevance to a significant audience regardless of the passage of time. Some content formats, however, do tend to find themselves staying relevant and useful long after their author has clicked the “publish” button. This includes:

  • Tutorials and how-to content
  • Historical information and “origin” content
  • Curated resource lists (“top ten” content with long-term relevance)
  • Informational posts or encyclopedic content (“ultimate resource” or “complete guide”)
  • Single FAQ industry-specific content (pick one frequently asked question and thoroughly answer it)

Once you have become more adept at creating content that is designed to be evergreen, you will find it easier to adjust attributes of your writing more toward longevity and relevance over time. As you move forward with the creation of evergreen content, you can even go back over old material to see if anything can be re-purposed and turned into content that can stand the test of time.

The development and growth of a portfolio filled with evergreen content only ensures that your material will continue to appear in search results, providing more traffic, visibility, and popularity for your blog or other online content.

27 SEO Strategies to Keep Your Content Competitive

Many things can be measured in terms of days, weeks, months, or even years.  The constantly evolving nature of the Internet, however, demands a more accelerated time frame, where things are measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.  What may be popular, trending, or successful right now could become a distant memory tomorrow.

This continual ebb and flow in the online world requires that online marketers and website designers perform site optimization in a way that ensures as much longevity as possible – despite the fact that all too often, the words “longevity” and “online” generally don’t complement each other very well.

For the most part, SEO has consisted of three primary methods: (1) continuing to use SEO that has worked in the past (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), (2) integrating strategies that are overlooked and underutilized in an attempt to create a fresh perspective with content that is rarely seen, and (3) leaping ahead of the herd by employing innovative techniques that have not been time-tested or vetted through other means.

With all that in mind, how do you know which SEO methods to use on your own website to drive traffic, generate interest, and cultivate a base of prospects (readers, visitors, customers, etc.) that will keep coming back?  You really don’t know, and the best way to implement SEO strategies into your website design, online marketing, content writing, or other Internet-based activity is by finding out what’s out there and giving it a try.  What works for someone else may not work for you, and what has failed miserably for another site could propel yours into an unheard of dimension of popularity and success.

Here are 27 SEO strategies and techniques for you to examine, contemplate, and integrate into your website to increase your exposure and attract more interest in what you are offering, whether it’s information, ideas, products, or services:

  1. Be creative.  Never follow someone else’s lead, because you’ll always be in second place, at best.
  2. Include ALT text for every image or graphic that is contained on your site.  Images are part of the site’s content, so a description like “Luftwanstelbadtt, Germany’s oldest castle” is much more search engine pleasing than “001_39023.JPG,” and it also lets visitors know what the image is supposed to be if they have a slower-loading internet connection or the image becomes broken for some reason.
  3. Use long-tail keywords as often as you can.  By using a more specific keyword (long-tail), you are ensuring that visitors with both general and specific search terms can find your site.  (An example of a long-tail keyword would be “living on a budget as a single mother” rather than “living on a budget” or “budget living.”)
  4. Do not use deceptive anchor text with links to your site.  Google deciphers linkage and attempts to determine if the landing page a user reached is actually the one they wanted (based on the link they clicked), and if it was not, the website can be penalized.
  5. Determine your keywords, research them thoroughly, and place them naturally.  Don’t stuff keywords, don’t use keywords that aren’t relevant to the page’s data, and don’t include them in content where they don’t seem to fit.
  6. Stay away from selling links on your site.  If you do, make sure you nofollow them.  And it’s probably just a better idea not to sell them in the first place, because Google will likely change their mind on the nofollow and make it noselling.
  7. Blog often, and promote your posts through your website, social media pages, and other online outlets.  Make sure your blogs are relevant to your industry and link to pages on your site where appropriate.
  8. Do not employ page coding strategies that prevent a user from clicking/using the BACK button.  Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has an article on this and specifically refers to performing this underhanded tactic, where an advertisement-laden page is displayed instead of the previous page the user had been viewing.
  9. Establish a valuable linkfolio (“link portfolio”) by placing links back to your site on popular, reputable, and authoritative online locations.  These can be your social media sites, industry-specific directories (not “free for all” directories), through the use of affiliate marketing, and cataloging sites.
  10. Optimize your above-the-fold content for quick loading and minimal advertising.  Site visitors want their information “right now,” and if they have to wait to see it, they’ll go somewhere else in a hurry.  This tip is especially critical for mobile versions of your website (because Google seems to think that, based on user data, mobile phones can deliver information faster than the speed of NOW).
  11. Provide high quality, in-depth content.  This is straight from the search engine’s mouth.  According to Google, users are turning to search engines more often for information on a much broader scale than before, and they are seeking bigger quantities of data.
  12. Create a sitemap.  Both users and search engines like sitemaps.
  13. Don’t embed links in JavaScript and Flash plug-ins.  Search engine crawlers cannot find these links, and embedding links into a plug-in that a user may have disabled for security reasons may prevent them from finding your content.
  14. Make sure your website’s pages load quickly and accurately.  Nothing is more frustrating than waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a page to load, and when it does – it’s only half there.
  15. Avoid faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors on mobile versions of your site.  Again, from Google, regarding misdirection of links that provide a generic or main page result rather than the intended page when a mobile user clicks a specific link.
  16. Make use of keywords that are phrased in a way that real people would use them.  Don’t use “Denver residential sanitation repurposing facility” if you are a “trash recycling business for homes in Denver.”  People search for things in the way they would be said in a spoken conversation, not in a way that uses technical jargon, buzzwords, and officious-sounding titles.
  17. Make use of page titles and Meta descriptions in ways that emphasize your specific focus (via keyword insertion).  If someone is searching for “rare cat breeds” they won’t find you if your titles and descriptions say “exotic feline genus and species.”  (This is part of the “real world phrasing of keywords” tip.)
  18. Find, read, and use as many free SEO tools and resources as you can.  While a great deal of the “expert” SEO advice out there may not truly be expert, it can still be useful.  Learn all you can about SEO and use what sounds logical.
  19. Avoid duplicate content, period.  Google’s Penguin update targeted sameness in website content, and that could be anything from copying text from another site or even duplicating your own content from page to page.  Don’t do it.  You will be punished.
  20. Develop and publish resource and information-only pages on your website about industry or niche specific data.  Create something that WANTS to be shared and linked to.  Not only can this boost your status as an expert or authority figure, it can also help generate popularity via linking.
  21. Don’t include an internal link (to another page on the site) on any page on your website unless it’s important to do so.  Just because your site has 10,000 pages doesn’t mean links to all of them have to be on every page of your site.
  22. Create content for people.  The ultimate judge, jury, and executioner for your website’s content is the person who visits it, not the search engine that crawls it.  If you hold the #1 spot on Google and your content sucks, people will visit #2 or #10 or #1,000 because they are providing what the USER wants to see.
  23. Observe what your competitors are doing and learn from them.  Whether your competitors are wildly successful or flaming failures, you can learn something from what they are doing.
  24. Develop a unique and creative branding scheme to set yourself apart from the pack.  If your brand, company, content, or site is plain Jane, who is going to remember you five seconds after they leave your site?
  25. Create hyper-local content wherever possible.  If you have a target audience that is geographically restricted, capitalize on that in every way possible.
  26. Create longer content, blog posts, articles, etc.  Longer content is ranking better on Google than shorter content on the same subjects, so write more (and make sure it’s quality stuff).
  27. Make use of social signals within your site’s content.  Google is looking more and more at how users respond to a site and are taking that into consideration when it comes time to rank a site in search results.

Search engine optimization is not some mythical concept that gets bandied about by attendees at technology conventions.  It is a method of making your website as attractive to potential visitors as possible, getting them interested in what you have to offer, engaged in your content, and coming back for more.  The secondary goal of SEO is to make Google happy.  No website will likely ever reach THAT goal.

33 Top-Notch Content Writing Tips

When it comes to writing, the content itself can span the bridge from paper to digital without much modification.  A writer is really no different than a content writer, copywriter, online writer, or any other person who puts the proverbial pen to page and creates something with words.

That being said, here are 33 content writing tips to help improve the quality or quantity of your written work:

  1. Know what you are writing about and the key points you want to make before you actually start writing.
  2. Avoid using technical jargon, industry buzzwords, and other “catchy” lingo that most people don’t really understand.  It may sound cool, but if your reader doesn’t get it, you might as well be speaking an alien language.
  3. Determine what response you want from the reader and write with achieving that response in mind.
  4. Begin your content with your conclusion first.  (“Here’s the point!”  And all the other writing is just showing how that point was reached.)
  5. KNOW how people read internet-based content.  It’s much different than reading a book; online readers skim and scan content more than they actually read it.
  6. People make decisions more on emotion than logic, so evoke emotional responses with your writing.
  7. Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and don’t include more than one central concept in each paragraph.
  8. All your writing should be directed at people – your audience.  (Google’s crawlers are NOT your audience.)  You can handle the SEO tasks separately.
  9. Add wit and humor to your writing (where appropriate).  If you can engage your readers by eliciting a response from them (i.e., a chuckle or a laugh), they are more likely to remember you.
  10. Write longer, higher quality pieces rather than short-and-sweet summaries.  Try to aim for 600 to 1,000 words for articles and up to 600 words for blog posts.
  11. Include graphics, embedded videos, and images in your content.
  12. The purpose of most content writing is to answer a question – so make sure your writing is informative and responds to a particular (unspoken) inquiry.
  13. Don’t string together sentences and paragraphs that take up half a page without a break.  Many people speed-skim and they need some kind of visual cue to pull their attention like bullets, lists, sub-headings, etc.
  14. Find YOUR voice and put it into what you’re writing.  No one remembers the writers who had the same, tired tone as a dozen others.  Be as original with your writing as you are in real life.
  15. If you are offering information that is allegedly factual, make sure it is before publishing it.  Include source links where appropriate.
  16. If it isn’t meaningful, don’t write it.  Site visitors dislike fluff as much as marketers, search engines, and analysts do.
  17. Avoid using multimedia at all unless it completely enhances your content and does not detract or distract whatsoever.
  18. Know who your competition is with regard to what you’re writing, and make sure your content is unique from theirs.
  19. Create a headline that screams “read me!”
  20. PROOFREAD YOUR WRITING!  Nothing, seriously, is more annoying to a person searching for authoritative information to come to a site and try to read through content that is littered with spelling, syntax, formatting, and grammatical errors.  How can you be recognized as an “expert” on anything if you don’t even comprehend or communicate with basic English?
  21. Never copy and paste other content, even if it is your own.  If you are borrowing from someone else’s ideas, at least have the decency to rephrase the subject matter so it isn’t an overt piece of plagiarism.
  22. Stay on topic with each piece of content.  Nothing is more frustrating than to try to read something about a particular topic only to have the writing jump all over the board (and be largely useless).
  23. Your content should deliver value and information that is relevant to your readers’ interests.  Don’t create an online brochure…create an online experience.
  24. Don’t make your writing about you, your company, your products, etc.  You are writing FOR your audience so the content should be ABOUT your audience.
  25. Put keywords out of your mind.  If you are actually writing quality content about specific subjects, the keywords will create themselves and get added where they need to be without making a job out of it.
  26. Don’t sit down and start writing unless you are ready to write.  If you are feeling lackluster about writing, it will show through in the quality (or lack thereof) of your content.
  27. If you are planning to be a niche writer, make sure you choose a niche that isn’t already over-saturated with writers of every type imaginable.
  28. Make sure your content is presented in a professional way.  This includes your blog site, website, or other online location where you publish your work.  Keep it clean and crisp, and make sure it looks like something done by someone who knows what they are doing.
  29. Don’t make people’s minds up for them with your content (i.e., telling them what is best for them).  Give examples of why something would be beneficial and let people make up their own minds if they “have” to have it or not.
  30. Write something that “needs” to be shared.
  31. Don’t use “big words” when little ones work just fine.  (This falls in line with the tip to avoid technical jargon, buzzwords, and other vague phrasing.)
  32. Avoid writing about things that you are not very knowledgeable about.  People want information from experts, not random thoughts from the Average Joe.
  33. Make it personal by including a question, scenario, or situation where your reader could insert themselves.

Writing quality web content is so much more than reading a Wikipedia page to familiarize yourself with a topic and then rephrasing it to avoid duplication.  Too many people tout themselves as “professional writers” when they actually are not, and just because someone has a blog doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about (myself included!).

43 Lead Generation Tips To Boost Conversion Rates

If you have an online marketplace, one of your biggest concerns is how to generate leads that will convert to sales.  Don’t deny it, because if you did – you’d be lying.  The existence of an online marketplace means that you’re interested in making money, and money comes from good leads that turn into good customers.

So how do you get people to visit your site, learn about what you’re selling, and buy it?  Oh, and it doesn’t matter whether you are selling information, ideas, products, or services – you are still marketing something and you still want someone to pay for it.  Generating leads isn’t as simple as creating your site or landing page and watching the dollars come rolling in.  You do have to work for it.

Here are 43 tips for online lead generation that will help you get traffic to your site:

  1. Use engaging, valuable, original, and informative content on your landing pages.
  2. Be creative and specific with your calls to action.  (“Click here” or “contact us” are SO boring; use relevant anchor text so you can boost your SEO.)
  3. Your landing page has about 5 seconds to keep your visitors’ interest.  Make those seconds count.
  4. Don’t put anything above the fold that isn’t vitally important to what you are offering (whether you are offering a product or service for sale, a newsletter to sign up for, a publication to download, or something else entirely).
  5. Give your landing pages short and high-impact headlines that snatch a visitor’s attention.
  6. Don’t ask visitors to BUY anything; tell them how what you’re offering can help them solve a problem, meet a need, or accomplish a goal.
  7. It’s not about you, it’s about your site visitors.  Keep yourself out of the equation.
  8. Prove your credibility.  (Don’t ask me how – that’s for another blog at another time!)
  9. ALWAYS have a landing page for whatever you are marketing.
  10. Avoid generalities (“it’s the best”) and be specific about why yours is better than your competitors.  Consumers already know that companies think their products and services are ‘the best’ – so you need to dig deeper and specify what, exactly, about your offering is superior to that of your competition.
  11. Provide content (articles, information, etc.) on your site that have nothing to do with selling at all.  This content should focus instead on letting people know that you are an expert in your industry or that you are the most knowledgeable about the product, service, or idea you’re marketing.
  12. If you ask people to fill out a form, give them a good reason why they should.
  13. Your landing pages should be very minimalist.  Avoid any links, information, or content that is not 100% focused on convincing the visitor that they need to take action NOW to obtain what you’re trying to give them.
  14. Do not use descriptive words for your products or services that are already overused.
  15. Do not use technical jargon or industry buzzwords.  The average person will not understand them and will therefore not understand what’s so great about what you are offering.
  16. If people fill out a form, reward them for it.  This can be with a discount, promotional offer, free newsletter, or anything of some ‘value’ that makes it worth your visitors’ time to complete your form.
  17. Locate sites that offer products or services that would enhance yours if paired together and arrange a mutually beneficial linking strategy.
  18. Do not hide your calls to action in your web page design; they are meant to stand out, so make sure they do.
  19. Less is more when it comes to landing page design.  Really.  Less is more.  Start chanting that.
  20. Monitor the ways in which people reach your site (referrals, direct URLs, search engines, etc.) and capitalize on those methods.
  21. Create landing page keywords that are extremely specific to what you are offering.  Long-tail keywords work most effectively for this strategy because they narrow down the pool of searchers to those that have a focused and specific interest in your offer.
  22. Use keywords that are designed with “real world” usage in mind.  Make sure your keywords reflect how people enter words and phrases into a search engine.  In other words, select keywords and phrases based on ‘conversational’ choices rather than ‘algorithm’ choices.
  23. Never link your calls to action to your home page.  Your CTAs need to go to very specific landing pages that contain very specific offers.
  24. Create a blog, post to it regularly, and link back to your landing pages where appropriate.
  25. Be chatty about the benefits of what you are marketing.  If your product or service has several fantastic features that totally set it apart from the competition, say so.  Be specific.  (But don’t include your greatness when it’s the same as your competitions’ greatness.)
  26. If you can do so, let your visitors know how many other people have downloaded, purchased, obtained, or contracted the products or services you are selling.  If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t they?
  27. Use your blog to increase your credibility as an authority or expert on what you’re selling.  (This builds trust and trust makes sales.)
  28. Sign up for as many quality affiliate marketing programs you can find.
  29. Create something that is the “first and only” and let people know you’ve got it and they can get it, too.  Exclusivity is a great motivator for many potential consumers.
  30. Use e-mail as a marketing method (but don’t spam!).
  31. Offer things that are exclusive, rare, or in high demand.  This ties in slightly with #29 in that exclusivity can motivate people to engage with your calls to action and/or enter your marketing funnel simply to have something that no one else does (or that everybody else wants, in the case of ‘high demand’ offerings).
  32. When you do create engagement through an online form or sign-up page, redirect the visitor to a “thank you” page and add more information on that page than just your appreciation (put more CTAs, product data, freebies, etc. on it).
  33. Make use of “free” in what you offer – free trials, free subscriptions, free newsletters, etc.
  34. To compel a more timely decision, add “limited time” to your offers.  Along with creating offers that are in high demand or exclusively available to a select few, a time limit can inspire action for some people simply because they do not want to miss out on something.
  35. Use multi-staged calls to action.  People go through different stages when they are contemplating a purchase, and if you multi-stage your CTAs, you are progressively directing their decision closer and closer toward a final YES.  This strategy can also help you overcome those indecisive consumers who fall out of a sales funnel, abandon a shopping cart, or simply choose not to make a choice until they have been pulled farther along toward the action you want them to take.
  36. Place calls to action everywhere you can (but don’t make them “used car salesman” obvious or make your web page look like a carnival freak show), and definitely put them above the fold.  For how NOT to place CTAs, visit Ling’s Cars (and prepare for bleeding eyes).
  37. Don’t use deception between what your call to action says the visitor will be seeing on the landing page and what they actually see.  This will instantly destroy your credibility.
  38. Include social sharing links so people will spread the word.  With social media playing a significant role in the online lives of many people these days, providing social sharing options allows you to obtain greater visibility and audience saturation simply through ‘word of mouth’ advertising.
  39. Don’t offer more than ONE thing on each landing page.  Restricting your landing page content to a single subject or offering will ensure that your visitor’s focus is on exactly what you want it to be on; also, if you present too many pieces of information at one time, it’s very likely that your visitors will make no choice at all.
  40. Keep your online forms short and sweet.  The more information people have to give, the less likely they are to give it.  (See #12 and #16 for more tips about online forms.)
  41. Don’t use the default SUBMIT button for forms; make it creative and make it specific to what they are going to get when they do complete the form and submit their data.
  42. Add customer testimonials and references when and where you can.  These types of information let your visitors know that other people have already taken advantage of your offering(s) and are glad they did.
  43. Test your different methods of acquiring leads frequently and discard those that aren’t working favorably.  Regular testing of your lead generation methods will help you redistribute those that work well, refine those that seem to be missing something, and either completely revamp or remove those that aren’t generating leads at all.

One of the biggest things to consider when marketing online is that your leads do not always come from the same source.  One person may come directly from a referral link on another industry-specific website while a different person may arrive at your landing page because they used certain words in a search engine query.  Make your lead generation techniques as diverse and varied as the people who will be finding you, and always – always – give them quality, information, relevancy, and appealing content FIRST.

Above or Below the Fold?

You have figured out a way to get traffic to your website or landing pages through online lead generation, now you need to find that magic formula that will provide you with through-the-roof conversion rates.  Guess what?  There is no magic formula. 

Converting visitors – even those that are highly qualified leads – is part of your overall marketing strategy that, like everything else, requires effort.

If only it were as easy as putting a particular phrase on your landing page or making a “buy now” button a certain color, and everyone who saw it would instantly be compelling to buy, buy, buy.  There are aspects of your website design that can be instantly compelling, but the results they achieve are usually in regard to instantly compelling your visitors to continue reading your content or move along to another site that is more appealing, engaging, or interesting than yours.

Statistically, when an internet surfer reaches your landing page, you have about 4 to 7 seconds to keep them on that page.  What this means in the most basic and logical sense is that your “above the fold” content has to be out-of-this-world.  If the first few pieces of content on your page don’t immediately grab their attention, your visitors will quickly lose interest.  This applies even if they are targeted prospects or qualified leads.  People using the Internet to obtain information or make purchases still make decisions that are measured in seconds, because of the immediacy that the Internet provides.

But does a call to action above the fold really make that much of a difference in conversion rates?  Some Internet bloggers and so-called experts claim that above-the-fold content has no bearing on conversion rates, while others will vehemently insist that if your important content and calls to action are not above the fold, you’re losing leads, prospects, and sales with every passing second.

In an article titled The “Above the Fold” Myth Debunked, Eugen Oprea discusses some specific examples where CTAs were placed below the fold and resulted in increased conversion rates.  He claims that the fold doesn’t matter because people know how to scroll.  Yes, and people know how to stop at stop signs, not beat their wives and children, avoid using illicit drugs, eat healthy, balance their checkbooks, flush the toilet when they’re finished going to the bathroom, wash their hands before eating, and stay below the posted speed limit when driving, but that doesn’t mean they do it.

The majority of people searching for something on the internet determine their interest in a page by what is visible on the screen when the page loads, meaning what they see “above the fold.”  Just because someone CAN scroll definitely does not mean that they WILL scroll (and more often than not, they don’t).

Eugen Oprea’s article also refers to what he calls “the cloud box,” that annoying floating advertisement that follows you down the side (or middle, even worse!) of the page when you DO decide to scroll for a second or two.  He claims this is wildly successful in terms of getting more leads and generating more interest.  In my opinion, it is wildly off-putting because it’s just more crap in the page that I have to look at while I’m trying to look at the content I came to the page for.

Eugen’s article page also displays a “sign up” window of some kind at some point during your viewing, and it is incredibly deceptive – there are no “X” boxes in the corners or a “no thanks” button or any apparent way to get rid of the window without signing up for whatever it was pitching…I didn’t bother reading it…but if you click outside the window, it goes away; good thing, too, ’cause when it appeared I was ready to “X” the entire browser tab to get rid of it.

KISSmetrics, a respected source for all things SEO and marketing related, also claims that calls to action above the fold have no bearing on conversion rates.  However, unlike Eugen Oprea, they qualify this statement by saying that placing your call to action above the fold is irrelevant IF your content is totally awesome (i.e., appealing enough to make the site visitor want to continue reading below the fold).  KISSmetrics actually claims that the fold has no bearing at all on conversions, whether CTAs are above or below it.

A study to determine fold placement for CTA success reported that long-copy content detailing the value and benefits of what is being marketed to the site visitor is actually what makes or breaks the visitor’s decision to stay on the page, keep reading below the fold, and activate a call to action at the bottom of the page.

An Unbounce study on landing page call-to-action placement determined that there are actually several different ways you can locate a CTA on your landing page and they can have varying effects on conversion depending on how you lead your site visitor to the finish line.  (They are, however, also advocates of the “people WILL scroll” school of thought, despite the fact that studies have determined that less than 20% of site visitors will scroll.)

Despite these examples that claim either that the fold doesn’t matter or that below the fold calls to action are either just as successful or more successful than above the fold CTAs, other industry and marketing analysts say otherwise.  An older article on DemandGenReport.com says that above-the-fold CTAs increase conversion rates exponentially.  A Boostability article says that a call to action is a “must have” for content above the fold to generate more leads and conversions.

There are many, many more examples of marketing articles and information that support above-the-fold calls to action as the most appropriate location to generate better leads and increase your conversion rates.  Ultimately, the choice of placement is left in your hands.  Regardless of whether you decide to go above or below the fold with your calls to action, always make sure you have high quality, original, and appealing content to attract and keep your visitors’ attention.  If you lose that, you’ve already lost the potential conversion, no matter what you are marketing.

Writing Through Constant Content (And Why I Love It)

[Author’s Note: This was originally published on my former blog some time ago.  As I re-post it here, I am also making a few modifications to the content.  The basic message, however, remains the same.]

I have been a successful freelance writer for four years.  I use the word “successful” because I no longer have a “day job,” earn all my income solely from writing, and spend a few hours a day, a few days a week doing it.  I use two online sites for my writing; one is a somewhat popular content mill that has, recently, become extremely tedious to work with due to increasingly anti-writer changes they’ve made over time.  The other site is Constant Content.

The Content Mill Site (My Introduction to Freelance Writing)

Despite my growing disenchantment with the content mill site, I’ve had a very good track record.  I have completed and sold over 4,000 pieces of content in the past four years and my rejection rate is less than two percent.  I have provided content for over 180 different clients on a variety of topics ranging from blogging to wire cloth, and a senior staff member of this content mill site informed me recently that I am perhaps the site’s most prolific and successful writer (relating to the quantity and quality of work).

The content mill site was much more enjoyable to use a few years ago, when I first began my journey into freelance writing.  The number of jobs available through the site has dwindled down from several hundred at any given time to less than a dozen, most of which are undesirable for whatever reason (pay rate, topic, length, etc.).  The writer’s forum is so over-moderated that it is a useless ghost town of outdated information, when it used to be a vibrant and engaging platform for writer discussion and creative debate.

A more significant and recent change has also made it harder for writers to actually WRITE, mandating instead that writers provide an ‘audition’ of their work before completing a full length writing assignment.  While that may sound like a good idea, there are many clients who reject the audition piece (thus not paying for the writer’s efforts) and then ask that writer to create full length content.  Some writers do so, but I do not for one simple reason…if my work was acceptable to them (and clearly it was, since the client now wants full length content), they could have at least paid for the audition piece that introduced them to my writing style and ability in the first place.

Unfortunately, I cannot explain much more about this site lest I identify it completely – and I’ve read on other blogs that those who do end up getting banned from the site for posting negative comments about it (and they allegedly disavow these writers with no warning, no explanation, and no response to inquiries about “why” it happened).  [Edit: At this point, I no longer write through, and rarely visit, the content mill site – so if I were to identify it and subsequently get banned from using it, it would be no loss to me whatsoever.  The site ceased to be a candidate for ‘loss’ about two years ago, actually.]

Getting Started on Constant Content – My Journey

When I initially started submitting content to Constant Content, I was using the “other” site as my primary source of income because it was actually quite lucrative.  I was regularly earning over $1,000 a month – from a content mill, for part-time work.  The Constant Content submissions were the infrequent rejections from the content mill, for the most part.  I gradually started creating more work specifically for inclusion in Constant Content’s catalog for three main reasons:

  • I can write about whatever I want.
  • I can choose any word count.
  • I set the price for my efforts.

Unlike the “content mill” where writers are restricted on all three points, plus many others, Constant Content allows me to write freely about any subject under the sun.  I can create my own title, format the body of the piece however I wish, make it 100 words or 10,000 words long if I want to, and when I’m done writing – I decide what it’s worth.  For example, an 800-word piece on Constant Content can sell for $50 to $100.  On the content mill, I’d be lucky to earn $10 for the same content.

The Difference Between Contract Writers & Freelance Writers

In reality, I consider the writers (including myself) who provide work through that unnamed content mill site to be “contract writers” rather than “freelance writers.”  I believe there is a big difference between the two.

Contract writers are told what to write about, how long it needs to be, when it needs to be completed, what keywords must be included and how frequently, and how much they will be paid for it.  Freelance writers, on the other hand, have no such restrictions unless they are providing content for a specific client where the details of what, when, how much, and so on have been prearranged.

Another primary difference between the two is that contract writers (especially those who write through the unnamed mill) do not have work to do until a client creates a job for them.  Freelance writers write when they want, without waiting for someone to let them know that a particular piece of content might be valuable.  This means that a “mill” writer could possibly be waiting days or weeks before a writing job is created by a client that they would be able to complete.  No work means no money.

Three Types of Writing for Constant Content

There are three main types of writing that can be done for Constant Content.  The first is private requests, which means that a particular client has asked you to write a specific piece of content for them.  They will likely choose the topic and general length, and assign a pay range for that content (which is always going to be substantially more than the same work would earn through a mill).

The second type of writing is public requests, where clients ask for writing focusing on a certain subject.  The client often restricts the word count and sets a pay range for the writing they are looking for.  Public requests are accessible to all writers on Constant Content.

The last type of writing consists of catalog submissions.  Constant Content maintains an expansive catalog of writing that covers a large variety of subjects from astronomy to zoology, which is accessible and available to anyone who is looking for a piece of content about a specific subject.

Writing done through the content mill site consists of private requests and semi-private requests.  There are no ‘public’ requests and no catalog of content through which clients can browse to find material that fits their needs.  With the content mill, private requests are direct assignments, issued to a specific writer by a client (with all the details of the content predetermined by the client).  Semi-private requests appear on an ‘open’ writing assignment list but are not visible to all writers.  Clients can set parameters for the assignment that restrict it to writers with certain subject matter expertise, a specific writer rating, a certain geographic location, and so on.  If a writer does not meet the criteria set by the client, the assignment will not be visible to the writer in the ‘open’ assignment list; thus the ‘semi-private request’ status.

All of the writing I have done through Constant Content has been catalog submissions.  I find it easier to create content on my time rather than working to a deadline, simply because I have other things going on in my life on a daily basis.  Watching the clock, in my opinion, means my work will suffer in terms of quality.  I can take a few hours, days, or weeks to create a specific piece of content; my ‘deadline’ is only what I set for myself.  On the content mill site, writers are given a deadline that typically ranges from 24 to 72 hours depending on the desired length of the content to be written.

Pre-Editing Before Client Access

Speaking of quality – the editing team, albeit outsourced, at Constant Content is perhaps one of the primary reasons why the site is so successful.  Submissions must be reviewed, edited, and approved by an editor before they will be accepted and made available for sale, and the editors are good at their job and strict in their editing.

A large chunk of the writing done through the content mill site is embarrassing, in my opinion.  Stilted use of English, awkward phrasing, terrible grammar, spelling errors, incomplete sentences… those are some of the characteristics of a lot of the writing I’ve seen come through the mill – and sell.  That’s the shocking part, that a client would actually pay for such horrid writing, or that the mill would allow such low quality work to get to a client in the first place, especially when they boldly advertise a client’s access to professional writers.  I also find it surprising that the writers themselves tout their superior skills, or at least they used to when the forum could actually be used for communicating thoughts and ideas, despite the substandard quality of their work.

While I sometimes do not agree with certain editing decisions made by Constant Content’s editors (example to follow), I appreciate their time and input.  They do catch things I didn’t when I was reviewing the content before submission; things that I’d be displeased about having included in my work.

There is a slight lack of consistency with the editing process, however, that I’ve encountered.  I recently had a submission to Constant Content “rejected” solely because it included an ampersand.  The ampersand was in the title, which is required to be included at the beginning of the content body (thus placing the ampersand in the ‘body’ of the content, even though it was in the title and not in the actual content itself).  Titular ampersands are common and accepted across all writing styles, although the Chicago Manual of Style recommends that the word ‘and’ be used for consistency’s sake.  After changing the ampersand and resubmitting, my content was accepted and placed in the catalog for sale.

In the mean time, I looked back through my previously submitted – and accepted – work and found half a dozen items with ampersands in the title.  Other writers have also submitted (and had accepted) content that included titular ampersands – MANY of them.  Be that as it may, it didn’t kill me to change an ampersand to the word “and,” even though the editing inconsistency was very mildly irksome.

Quite honestly, a lot of the work I’ve seen by other writers at the content mill would literally get killed by the Constant Content editors.  If red pens were to be used for editing notes, it’d look like a horrific mass murder had occurred on the pages.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve had very few pieces rejected by the editing team for various and very minor reasons, even though my portfolio of content isn’t very large yet.

My Sales Through the Constant Content Catalog

Constant Content states somewhere on their website that 87% of all catalog content eventually sells, with 70% of it selling within three months.  I spent a bit of time this morning reading about Celeste Stewart, who is one of the top writers through Constant Content.  At the time of this writing [previous publication date for this blog post], she is listed at #6 on the Most Prolific Writers list, with over 5,500 pieces written, and holds the same position on the Top Selling Writers list, as well (both of these writers’ lists are found here, on the same page).

Celeste Stewart states in a five-page write-up about succeeding on Constant Content that she has a 58% sale rate for catalog submissions (page 3).  Her public request sale rate was given as 74% and private request sale rate at 100%.  This prompted me to take a look at my own “track record” with Constant Content submissions.  While I’m nowhere near the caliber of Ms. Stewart in terms of being a prolific writer (with 87 submissions compared to her 5,500+), I was still able to break down my submission/sales rate to determine where I stand.

As of today, I have 87 catalog submissions on Constant Content.  Five of those have yet to be approved by the editing team.  Twenty-two of those, including the ones awaiting editing, were submitted in the past two or three weeks.  With the approval process taking nearly a week for each piece, I decided to calculate my submission/sales percentage for all content I had submitted through June 19, 2016, which totaled 65 items.  As a side note, I’ve submitted more work to Constant Content in the past year than I had altogether in the three years prior.

Out of my 65 submissions, 13 of those have not sold yet.  This leaves me with an 80% sale rate – for catalog submissions.  In other words, 8 out of every 10 articles I’ve submitted to the Constant Content catalog has sold.  (I do not do private or public request writing through Constant Content at this time.)  I would say that approximately 80% of those catalog submissions that have been purchased were sold within two weeks of being listed in the Constant Content catalog, as well.

I generally write in two main categories for Constant Content’s catalog – Business Marketing and Home Improvement.  Roughly 90% of my submissions center around those two subjects, with the content focusing on online marketing and SEO for the Business Marketing category and energy efficiency for the Home Improvement category.

Drawbacks to Constant Content?  Very Few!

There are really very few drawbacks to writing through Constant Content, in my opinion.  It may not suit everyone’s own style and personal preferences, however, and if you aren’t a very good writer don’t expect to do well at all (you probably won’t make it past the editing team, in all honesty).

While not really a drawback, the length of time it takes the editors to approve a submission has grown over the past few years.  When I first started writing through Constant Content, my submissions were always approved within 2 or 3 days, at the most.  I am now seeing approval times take at least 5 days or more.  The Constant Content website states that they generally try to get submissions approved within 3 to 5 days, and that submissions for private requests always have priority.

I have noticed that submissions for the catalog that fall under a category with a large number of existing items (such as Business Marketing) take longer – most likely due to the fact that there are more submissions for those categories than any other.

Again, not a drawback, but Constant Content takes a 35% cut of your sales price for any work you submit and sell through their site.  It is a hefty commission, to be sure, but they provide you with a platform where you can truly be a freelance writer and you get a top-notch editing team along with it.  From what I’ve read on their writer’s forum, Constant Content also does not dilly-dally around with substandard writers for long.  If you have consistent rejections by the editors, you’ll eventually lose the ability to provide content at all.

Lastly – and again (!), not a drawback really, and beyond Constant Content’s control – it may sometimes take a while for your work to sell.  If you provide content to the catalog about an obscure topic with little relevance outside a specific niche, you may have to wait a while for it to sell unless you already have a client lined up.  Material that is trending, evergreen, relevant, and popular will sell quickly.  For example, I have an article in the Constant Content catalog about banning incandescent light bulbs that has been sitting there for two and a half years.  It has been viewed 13 times, and is my oldest unsold piece. I have written other content that has sold within a couple of hours of being approved by the editing team and listed in the catalog for sale.

Edit: Constant Content is headquartered in Canada, which means that you may have to wait through one of the many Canadian holiday periods to receive payment for writing you have sold through their site.  Payment is always promptly delivered on the date promised (1st and 15th, if you have chosen a twice-monthly disbursal of your earnings), or on the following day if the payment date is a holiday (they never pay out earnings early).

Viewed 13 Times?  What Does That Mean?

When your Constant Content catalog submission has passed the scrutiny of the editing team and made it to the catalog, you can view your content list on their website.  You’ll see the title, date submitted, category, status (view/review/rejected/resubmitted/waiting), number of sales, and number of hits (or views).  The “hits” information is interesting and useful if you want to see what content is popular among your catalog portfolio items.

Approved submissions with a large number of hits are obviously popular.  Lots of people are looking at it.  If it hasn’t sold, however, then there’s something wrong with it.  Perhaps the price is too high or the content isn’t long enough (or too long).  You always have the option of editing any of your submissions (AFTER they’ve been approved) provided they haven’t been bought by anyone yet.  If you have a 500-word evergreen piece about social media marketing strategies, it’s going to be popular, but if you have it priced at $100, it probably won’t sell regardless of how amazing it is.

Constant Content provides a pricing guideline on their submission page to give you an idea of the range of prices generally considered acceptable for different word counts. The great thing to see is one hit and one sale.  That means the first person that looked at your article loved it so much they immediately bought it.  This is even better when the hit and sale occurs within a day or two of your article being accepted by the editing team.

The highest number of hits I’ve gotten on an unsold piece is 39 as of the date of this writing (an article about home winterization tips), and 38 for a sold piece before someone finally bought it (staying productive while working from home).  Most of my sales have occurred within the first 10 hits.

Conclusion

The conclusion is simple – I truly love writing through Constant Content.  I can do so on my own terms and in my own time, without deadlines or picky clients, restrictive word counts or awkward (but required) keywords and phrases, or the requirement of audition pieces, and I can put a price tag on my work that I believe represents the value of my content and my efforts, rather than getting a few pennies per word for hours of research, writing, proofreading, and re-writing.

Creating Ideal Blog Content – Is That Possible?

When it comes to publishing great content online, there are no hard and fast rules that need to be followed.  Instead, you can find a variety of guides that offer suggestions for creating content that is optimized to achieve the best search engine positioning and retain the attention of your readers as much as possible.

There are a few key qualities of ‘ideal content’ that do, however, tend to be – as much as anything can be – written in stone when it comes to what you should or should not do to churn out appealing (to search engines and searchers) content.  This article is specifically tailored toward blog content rather than online articles, white papers, reviews, or other information because blogs offer their author more latitude in terms of what, when, why, and how they can be written and published.

Some of the semi-immutable qualities of good (or great) blog posts follow commonly accepted ‘rules’ for characteristics such as:

  • content length
  • subject line
  • call to action
  • salesmanship
  • originality
  • singular subject matter

Content Length

When blogging first became popular on the internet, most blog posts were 200 to 500 words.  Anything over 500 words was considered by experts and amateurs alike to be too wordy to hold the attention of site visitors and blog readers.  Beyond that, there was no guidance provided on whether or not a ‘too short’ blog could equally detract from the appeal of your personal or professional blog content.  There still remains scant definitive information but you can put together a reasonable facsimile of what is considered ‘ideal’ based on historical content performance statistics.

Over the years, the ‘desirable length’ of blog posts increased to 500 to 800 words, and then later to 1,000 words or more.  Some content analysts and SEO experts have even recommended that the ideal blog length exceed 2,000 words.

Longer articles are typically well-researched with plenty of data to back them up. They serve as credible sources to journalists and bloggers that link back to the article as a source. Rather than a quick summary with one statistic, a long article takes the time to explain why and flesh out ideas. The credibility of the website that publishes the article mixed with the link juice given from other sites referencing it brings the post to the top of search engines.

Longer blog content does perform better in search results, especially now that search engines have become more intuitive in interpreting what the blog is about and whether or not it will be helpful to the searcher based on their input query.  Despite search engine performance, however, long content does not necessarily fare well with your audience – mostly because they lose attention quickly.

Ultimately, your readers should be the ones to whom you are writing your content, not Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Dogpile, or some other search engine.  Content that is popular among readers will eventually rise to the top based on clicks, referrals, sharing, and back links.  This means that your content should be exactly how long it needs to be in order for you to get your point across and conclude your message effectively.  If you do so in 200 words, that’s your ‘ideal’ length.  If it takes you 20,000 words, perhaps you should write a book.  Just kidding!  Write for your audience and give them everything they need to know – in 200 or 2,000 (or 20,000) words.

Subject Line

According to many experts, the subject line is the single most important piece of your blog post.  If you don’t attract attention with the subject line, you won’t draw in the readers needed to examine your useful and engaging content and then share it with others (thus adding to your popularity and appeal factor with search engines).

An important factor in creating subject lines is that they be accurate in describing what your visitors will find within the blog’s content itself.  False and misleading titles simply to get clicks will quickly find themselves lost the internet shuffle, even if the content itself might have been otherwise useful or applicable (despite the improper title).

You can find some good advice on creating blog titles that catch your audience’s attention and motivate them to click their way into your content to find out more.

Call To Action

Should a blog simply be an informational piece of content or should it also pitch a service or product?  This section ties in with the Salesmanship section below. Most blogging analysts recommend that you avoid peppering your blog with CTAs because that isn’t the purpose or point of your blog.

A blog is an informal and more personal way to educate and inform your audience.  It gives you a platform upon which you can introduce your brand, business, or personality without the stuffy ‘rules’ required of more professional means of communication.  You can develop a unique style and tone that appeals to your readers, and it helps you establish authority in your market, niche, or industry.

For those reasons (and more), you should avoid CTAs in your blog unless they are necessary or if you are using them in a way that does not employ salesmanship (other than in a very subtle way).  If the blog is a longer write-up or review of a product or service you offer, feel free to add a CTA encouraging readers to learn more on the product’s page.  Don’t, however, make your blog post look like a carnival of advertising just to try to get people to click income-producing links on your website.

Salesmanship

Salesmanship should be left out of blog posts.  Blogs are primarily to educate and inform your audience, and they won’t be educated if your blog consists of sales language and links to buy, buy, buy whatever it is you are selling.  Use your blog platform to establish yourself as an authority in your industry so people will want to buy from you.

Provide in-depth information about products or services, as well as tips or tricks for making them more effective or efficient, and entice consumers to seek you out for information and offerings.  Provide a face, voice, and style in your content that appeals to your audience and encourages them to spend more time with your blogs learning more about you and your company.  Don’t sell to them.  Online consumers are already bombarded with advertising no matter where they go on the internet – so leave it out of your blogs.

Originality

Original content is appealing content, simply because of the fact that no one has seen it yet.  The more original your content, the more appealing it will be to your target audience.  Provide them with new insights on a topic, new ways to do things, more efficient ways to think about problems or solutions to those problems.  Give them something they haven’t seen yet, and they will come back again and again to see more of your content.

If you are rehashing an old idea or modifying content that has already made the internet rounds, make sure you present it in a fresh and interesting way.  Don’t simply copy and paste other content and hope that it will impress your site visitors.  Even if you are offering a curated list of information, make sure you add your own style and unique voice to your writing.  There are many blogs online today that draw a crowd simply because the writer is appealing – not the content itself.

Singular Subject Matter

Practically all experts on blogging recommend that your blog posts focus on one specific subject (per post), rather than bouncing around from topic to topic within the content.  By writing about one topic at a time, you will be better able to provide rich and informative content to your readers that keeps their attention, keeps them reading, and brings them back to your blog in the future.

If you are struggling to come up with a subject for your content, check out a Blog Title Generator by IMPACT Branding & Design.  The top of the generator page has a ‘blog about’ line that can be refreshed to provide you with a subject for your content, then you can use the title generator to find simple and focused titles for your blog posts.  (ShoutMeLoud also offers a list of title generators and blog analyzers that you may find helpful, as well.)

When you provide blog content that does get a lot of attention and finds itself passed around quite a bit, capitalize on that and create more content around that subject.  If you have a specific audience for your blogs, spend some time finding out what they want from you – and give it to them.  One of the best ways to attract and keep your audience is to know who they are.