Google Algorithm Change Rocks Content Websites

Image via CrunchBase

Last week, the biggest search engine on the internet at the moment announced a change to the algorithm it uses to rank articles when responding to search criteria. The change was meant to help to weed out duplicate and low ranking articles on content websites, sometimes referred to as ‘content farms’. The idea is that more relevant content will be brought to the top of a search listing which should help to reward more useful articles and blogs.

This caused speculation as to which of the content websites are being targeted in this way. Suite101 and Hubpages, which are both revenue-share models, are two websites which have seen some of their articles fall from grace, although whether this is due to the implementation of the algorithm, who can tell? On the other hand, Ehow articles seem to have benefitted from the changes.

Demand Media owns Ehow and is considered by some commentators to be a content farm although it pays for articles upfront. The company has responded that it is not being singled out for this treatment and that of the articles it has, some are benefitting while others are suffering. The company suggests that it will pay more heed to what consumers want in the future.

In the early days of internet marketing, web marketers threw up websites with a little content and a lot of adverts. These websites were of little informational value; they were unashamedly there to encourage visitors to click on the ads and no more. Now consumers demand more of their websites: they use the internet regularly for information and expect the results returned by their searches to be of good quality and useful. The search engine could argue that it is responding to consumer demand and trying to crack down on low quality websites.

I think that this will even out in time. The results will show an initial dip and the companies affected will have to take steps to protect their page rankings and ensure that the content that they produce is of a good enough quality to count as useful information. However, Google has a symbiotic relationship with these websites. They use its adverts as part of their revenue share model and to destroy them completely would not be in the search engine’s best interests. It is therefore probably more likely to be a warning shot to the companies to encourage the production of well-written information rather than lazy, badly constructed content. This can only improve the internet for everyone concerned.

For more reading, check out this article.

 

 

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The Bitsy Website for Small Businesses

I have long been a fan of Enterprise Nation, the UK website devoted to helping small businesses. Recently Enterprise Nation added another website to its stable: Bitsy.

Enterprise Nation was always good for regular Twitter chat and had really helpful forums. Bitsy has take that community one step further and created a way of listing your business as well as joining a lively community and chatting about all kinds of issues whether business-related or not.

It is free to join the Bitsy community and as it is such a great resource, I highly recommend that you do so. The access to experts across the full business spectrum is amazing considering how long the website has been going. If you want to be listed as a seller, it currently costs £5 + VAT or you can choose to become a premium seller for £8 + VAT and list numerous ventures.

The website is growing all the time. It will be holding monthly web chats for members and there is Twitter chat daily on Monday to Friday. For the solo business person working from home alone, it offers a great sense of community.

If you want to link up with me through Bitsy, please feel free to do so. Let me know that you came from my website.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter and editor available for writing gigs large and small. She is listed on Bitsy, but if you want to contact her through this website, then do use the Contact Me form.

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Organising Your Writing

Sometimes you have a large amount of information which you need to get in a document. It can feel overwhelming and be difficult to know where to begin. Spend a little while organising your thoughts which can help you sort it all out.

Organising your writing
stack by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr CC

Sketch Out an Overview of Your Report

Start with a piece of paper and a pen or a blank document on the computer and begin to write down the aims of your work. What do you want to get out of it? Who is your document aimed at? Why are you writing it? Is it for a blog or an article? Is it a white paper or report? Then think about what kind of information you will want to include.

Make a rough list of the information that you consider essential to include in your work in the form of rough headings. If you have a lot of information, then you may wish to divide it up into parts and schedule regular releases of your work as a series of blog posts or reports. If it is to be one long document then divide it up into chapters and start each chapter on a fresh page.

Write Out Your Information under the Sub-Headings

Now you have a choice. If you are happy with your headings and ready to write, then write up your information under each heading. If you are going to insert photos, then you can show this with an asterisk for the time being. If you are still organising your thoughts and your information is scattered throughout your notes, then you can continue to write rough notes before writing up the information properly.

This may take two or three days depending on how much information you have to write up and how easy you find it to write. Some people are able to write easily and it flows, others find it much more difficult to think in writing. Take your time, be methodical and check that you have the information that you require.

Check Spelling and Grammar in Your Document

If any work is due for publication either on the web or in a document, then you will want it looking as professional as possible. Use your spellchecker and read your document out loud which will help you identify awkward sentences. You can also ask a colleague to look it over to check for glaring errors.

Once you are satisfied with your work, then it is time to publish. If you are using your work for blog posts, then schedule the posts, remembering to add tags, media such as photos or video and links. Apart from checking that the schedule goes ahead, your work here is done – apart from promoting the posts on blogs and forums with useful comments.

You might publish your work as a PDF or print it out as a report. If you are printing it out, make sure that you are certain as you can be that every error has been corrected. There is nothing worse than checking out your newly printed document and spotting an error on the first page!

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter and expert in organising other people’s thoughts. If you would like to find out how she can help you with your blog project, then contact her through the form on the Contact Me page.

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SEO Basics – Choosing Your Keyword Phrases

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Keyword phrases help to define your blog and explain to the search engines what your blog is all about. If you want to lift your blog above others in the same subject, then it is important to get your keyword phrases right so that when customers search for a subject, then your blog is the one they find.

There are two aspects to choosing the correct keywords for your blog: the frequency of the search and the competition for the keyword. You can easily use the Google Adwords tool to search for your keyword phrase. Google Adwords will show you the volume of searches, based in your country for your keyword phrase. It will also give you an idea of the competition for the keyword, grading it as high, medium or low. It is a good idea to write down the information in a spreadsheet so that you will know which keywords will be the best for you.

Checking Out Keyword Competition and Volume

The competition tells you how many other people are trying to rank for that keyword in the search engines. It is generally best to look for medium-ranked keywords which a reasonable search volume. This is not an exact science, however and it is possible for low ranked keywords to have a high conversion rate despite reasonably low searches. It may be best to leave such experiments until you are more familiar with the process.

Once you have a list of keyword phrases that you would like to rank for, then try and work out a list of potential articles that could include one or more of your keyword phrases. I tend to do them in groups of ten. You can use forums, internet questions and the phrases themselves to help you work out a list of articles.

Write  a Natural Article Around Your Keyword Phrase

When writing an article, keep your chosen keywords in mind, but don’t overuse them. Write naturally, in a readable style about the subject, including useful information, bullet points and sub-headings. Once you have finished writing, then go back and check over your work. You are looking for an easy to read style with the words you are aiming for used four or five times over the work. The writing should be between 400 – 600 words. You can use your keyword phrases in the sub-headings and picture captions as well as in the body of the text. It should be obvious what the article is about, just not unnaturally stuffed with the words that you are trying to rank for.

Write Frequently

If you are able to write two or three posts, so much the better. A website will rank better in the search engines if content is added frequently and regularly. This blog is updated three times a week. Other blog owners prefer to post every day. You should at least aim for once a week, but bear in mind the more frequently you post, the more likely it is that your website will rise in the search engines.

Check Your Stats

Keep an eye on your website statistics and check regularly on the search engines to see how you are doing. You may have to adjust your keyword phrases if they do not seem to be working for you. Expect this to take a little time. The older the website, the more likely the search engines are to trust it.

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Keep Your Clients Happy and Your Business Booming

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Finding good clients and customers is can be difficult. Small business owners have to work intensively for their leads and to gain new clients. The most important thing to do to make sure that all your hard work does not go to waste is to cultivate a relationship with your client and keep them for a long time.

This is not a hard thing to do, but it can take a little forethought and planning. Looking after your clients is a way of looking after your business so here are some ways to help you keep your clients.

Be Polite

The way you treat other people says a lot about you. Treat people nicely – all the time, not just when they are potential clients. Try not to get pushy about sales, chill out and relax and make sure that you maintain the same easy tone when writing emails as well as on the phone. It is incredibly easy to be misunderstood on email, so make sure that your emails send out the information that you want them to, professionally and with courtesy.

Return Calls Promptly

There is nothing worse than sending an email or leaving a phone message and being left hanging. This is especially important if someone is waiting for important information. Try and get back to clients promptly with information as soon as possible. This can be difficult if you are waiting for a third party to come back to you. Even so, you should keep your client informed as to what is going on and do your best to press your person to get back to you asap. Keeping communications open keeps your clients happy.

Establish Project Parameters

Know exactly what it is your client wants. This applies particularly to businesses that offer a service such as copywriting and web design. Some business people ask clients to fill in a questionnaire to help explore their needs for the project.

Deliver Products and Services Promptly and on Time

This is one of the most important things that you can do related to customer service. If you can consistently deliver your work on time, or deliver your products quickly, then you will get a great reputation and recommendations from other people. When estimating service times you should include extra time to make sure the work is done.

Ask for Customer Feedback

If something went wrong, then you need to know about it. Encourage your customers to talk to you about your services and products. Hopefully you’ll pick up some nice comments and references. If something went wrong, then make sure you put it right.

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Defining the Words You Use 2

Photo on Flickr by akqp 2

Words are the tools of a writer’s trade. It can sometimes be helpful to know more about your trade in order to improve your work.

CLAUSE – a group of words which make sense and contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB. A simple sentence is a CLAUSE, but a more complex sentence may contain more than one CLAUSE.

E.g. The dog ran.

This is a CLAUSE. It can stand on its own without further explanation, so it can also be called an INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

If we make the sentence longer:

The dog ran because Billy scared it.

The second part of the sentence is known as a DEPENDENT CLAUSE because it could not stand on its own and be understood.

‘because Billy scared it’ – does not make sense.

However sentences are not always that simple or they would be boring. We prefer longer, more descriptive sentences to enable us to keep the reader’s flow going. Short jerky sentences can break up the text too much.

To enable the sentence to be more descriptive, we can use ADJECTIVE CLAUSES or ADVERB CLAUSES.

An ADJECTIVE CLAUSE gives us more information about the SUBJECT in the sentence. Remember, the SUBJECT is the NOUN that the sentence is about.

James is a great magician and he can make his assistant disappear.

This sentence tells you more about James, but it reads in a rather stilted way.

Try this:

James, who is a great magician, can make his assistant disappear.

The words in bold italics have been changed so that they modify the noun they describe in a neater way. The sentence still maintains its sense, but it reads so much better.

This ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will not stand on its own – it only makes sense in the context of the sentence. It is a CLAUSE rather than a PHRASE because it still contains a NOUN and VERB.

Usually an ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will start with one of three RELATIVE PRONOUNS:

WHO – always refers to people

WHICH – always refers to objects

THAT – can refer to people or objects

Find the ADJECTIVE CLAUSES in these sentences:

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress.

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother.

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross.

Answers

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress. (No ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

Punctuation

When do you use commas in ADJECTIVE CLAUSES?

You do not use a COMMA when THAT is used in a sentence:

E.g. The race that was abandoned was rescheduled for Thursday.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is essential to the sentence then you do not need a COMMA.

E.g. Children who have mud on their legs will need a shower.

Balls which have gone soft will be put in the bin.

Not all balls are to be put in the bin – just those that have gone soft. Equally not all children require a shower – just those with mud on their legs.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, then use a COMMA:

The dogs, who had been washed and brushed, were going to a pet show.

The boys, who couldn’t stop laughing, were sent to detention.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by akqp

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SEO Basics: Adding Content to Your Blog

Photo on Flickr by klepas

Adding fresh relevant content to your blog is one of the important rules of search engine optimisation (or SEO). It has been said by someone, somewhere that content is king. The search engines adore new content added regularly to a blog. It is therefore a given when starting a blog that adding to it regularly will be necessary to help it to rise in the search engines.

Writing a blog is fun at first: the freshness of the new challenge, the start of a new venture and the joy of how good it looks. Soon enough, the delight of it all begins to wear off. You have to find enough topics to blog about at least once a week, but preferably two, three or five times. You don’t want to plagarise someone else’s content, but it seems that all the topics have been written about. You need some help. You need to find some more blog content.

Searching for Blog Content

With the World Wide Web at your fingertips, finding new content for your blog is not as hard as all that. Search for forums in your chosen niche. Now go looking among the topics. See what questions that you can find that are related to your topic. If they are questions that you can answer, then make a note of them to write a blog post about.

How about using one of the search engines themselves to find questions? There are facilities such as Yahoo Answers among others that exist so that users may ask questions. Again, you may find some ideas for blog posts. You may get comments on your website that you are able to write about.

I normally try and get about ten fresh ideas when searching for new topics. Not all may be used, but many will be and with a little research will soon be ready for publication. Have a folder where you can keep your ideas and cross them off as you use them. It enables you to keep organised with your blogging.

Finding Time to Blog

If you find difficulty in finding time each day or every other day to sit and blog, why not set aside some time and do a weeks’ blog posts in one? Write them all together and then schedule them on your blog so that they will be published at the right time. This means that you will only need to find one chunk of time to sort out your blog instead of lots of different chunks of time. It means that it is a job that you can cross off your ‘To Do’ list and you will find it easier to be more disciplined about writing your blog posts.

Hire a Blogger

If you really find it difficult to write your blog posts, then perhaps you can hire a blogger to write your posts for you. A blogger will write your posts under your name for payment. There are a lot of different prices out there, but you will want someone to write about 400-600 words, including key phrases for SEO regularly. Expect to pay a decent amount for a good blogger. Good writers do not sell themselves short but expect a good wage for a good job. It will however be one less job that you will have to do!

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by klepas

Sarah Charmley is available for blogging, web content writing, copywriting – in fact pretty much any kind of writing you can think of. Contact me today with your writing requirements.

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Style Guide – How to write an Outstanding Headline

The 13 March 1986 edition of The Sun, with the...
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Headlines are designed to grab the reader and entice them to read further. Some are clever, some are funny while others are perfect. How do you write the perfect headline?

I often start with a working headline which names the document that I am working on. This is often not the eventual headline, but just a starting place. As I write the article, then further headlines suggest themselves to me and I might make a note of them. Once the article is finished, then read the ideas for headlines back to yourself and decide which is best.

If the article is for the internet and to be used for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation purposes, then choosing the right headline is even more critical. You can use a Google search to type in your suggested headline as a search. The search box automatically produces more suggestions for searches. Do any of these match your article more closely? You can also use a free adwords tool to check which yields the biggest search, but for one article, I prefer just to know that other people are searching for that keyword.

Your headline should reflect what your article is about. It should describe it rather than be too clever and obtuse about it. Save clever puns for the tabloids who can describe more fully what the article is about.

The style of your headline can be bold, to make it stand out. Some people choose to make it bigger than the rest of the text: but this depends on what your style on the rest of the site is. To make your heading stand out, capitalise the main words of the headline, but any unimportant or smaller words are left normal.

For example:

How to Write an Outstanding Headline

For further SEO purposes, you might like to check your article to see whether you can insert sub-headings as well. These can also be bold, or just on a new line. They follow the same style as the heading: capitalise important words, but leave the unimportant filler words as normal. Choose the words for a heading and sub-heading carefully to ensure that the words fit in with the keywords that you have chosen.

If you also use the same style to caption photos or graphics, not only have you given your website a professional finish by aligning all the headline and caption styles, but you have also given your website a boost in terms of SEO. Hopefully you have also induced your reader to read on, which will justify your hard work.

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How to Define the Words You Use

Photo on Flickr by Dr Stephen Dann

Each word that you use as a writer has a function. They all have a part to play in communicating your message through your writing. Here are some of the names of words that writers use every day and their function in a sentence.

NOUN – a name – dog, cat, person, girl, boy

PROPER NOUN – someone’s actual name: Jane, Susan, Jack, Frank

VERB – describes an action – run, jump, walk, ride, write, curtsey

Also includes words such as ‘is’, ‘was’ and ‘are’

ADJECTIVE – describes a noun. Includes colours.

E.g. small table, black sideboard, little girl, tall woman

ADVERB – describes a verb. Tells you how something is done.

E.g. He ran quickly. She walked slowly.

SENTENCE – a group of words which together make sense. It contains both a SUBJECT and a VERB.

The horse jumped the hedge.

SUBJECT: horse

VERB: jumped

SUBJECT – the main thing that the SENTENCE is about. It is usually a NOUN or a PROPER NOUN.

E.g. The dog ran over the hill.

The dog is the SUB JECT because it was doing the running.

Susan poured the flour into a mixing bowl.

Susan is the SUBJECT.

OBJECT – is involved in the sentence but is usually having something happen or done to it. So in the above examples, both ‘hill’ and ‘mixing bowl’ are OBJECTS.

PHRASE – a group of words that do make sense (are not just random words) but do not contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Dr. Stephen Dann

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Getting Feedback on Your Business

Photo on Flickr by Tambako the Jaguar

It can be good to talk to people about their opinions on how your business is doing. When we deal with customers, it is important to know that we are doing a good job and that our customers are happy with what they are receiving for their money. When you are first starting out, it is important to get feedback from a trusted source: someone in the same line of business, perhaps with more experience. This is valuable feedback that can help inform your business and what you decide to do.

Feedback from Peers

When we seek feedback, the response is usually thoughtful and helpful. However we can be given unsought feedback from peers and friends which seems to be more like unhelpful criticism.

Although your first response might be to get angry and be rude back, it is best to sit back and take stock of what has been said. You may need to separate the words from the manner in which they were delivered and consider them both separately. Some people do not come across well when delivering feedback. They feel awkward and struggle to find the right words to say. If this has been the case, then you know at least that the feedback has come from the heart and perhaps the words should be considered carefully. You can ask other people about the issues to try and confirm whether the first comments were correct or not.

However, occasionally you feel that the feedback can have ulterior motives: that the speaker wants to put you down for some reason. You might feel that they are jealous because you have a job that you can do from home, or your business is doing better than theirs – whatever the reason, the possibility is that the criticism stemmed from a desire to bring you down rather than build you up.

Answering Criticism

Hard as this can be to take, the correct response is to do nothing that will reveal how cross you are. You will need to calm down before responding to the criticism and then answer in a measured way. Don’t feel the need to justify yourself, but if you must answer their comments, then do it calmly and don’t let them know how much they have upset you. If possible, allow time to go by before responding. The best way to answer criticism is to allow time to prove them wrong and for you to be even more successful than you were before.

Feedback from Customers

Feedback from customers on how your company is doing is a positive thing and should be sought out wherever possible. Ask customers for references; provide feedback forms on your website and encourage them to use them. Post glowing praise on your website for other customers to see – with their permission of course!

You can use your company Facebook fan page to ask customers to give you feedback or you can pick up comments through Twitter. Some bigger companies are now monitoring Twitter chat so that they can improve bad experiences of customer service. However you do it, encourage your customers to engage with you and tell you their experiences good or bad. You need to know how your company is doing and your customers are the best-placed people to tell you.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Tambako the Jaguar

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