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outsource content writing

Your Guide on How to Outsource Content Writing & Survive [Write Podcast Audio: An Outsourcing Story]

When it comes to outsourcing content writing, it seems like everyone has a horror story to tell.

On the client side:

“They took my money and didn’t complete the work.”

“The content read horribly.”

CTA-EW-02

“They spelled my client’s business name wrong and linked to a competitor. I lost my client.”

On the flip side, content writers often have horror stories, too.

“He wants 600 articles and has a budget of $600.”

“A big, national brand just ripped me off on the last payment owed.”

These stories can chill you to the bone. They’re that bad.

All in all, on both sides of it (client and writer), there are negative experiences that have sent a giant black cloud hovering over the word “outsource.”

A stigma, of sorts.

Here’s the truth.

The reality of what happens when you outsource content writing to a perfect-fit creator is pure magic. 

You save time. You get high-quality, beautifully written copy that reflects your business.

The creator gets paid for doing what he or she loves. 

This is a magical thing!

I’m excited to say that today, content creation is now the top activity outsourced by B2B marketers this year. The impact of content marketing means that marketers must publish high-quality and long-form content consistently.

So, why the stigma?

There are still a few “buts” that stop many business owners from experiencing success with outsourcing content writing.

“But I can do it all myself.”

I was there once, too. At the beginning. You really can’t, if you want to scale.

Or…

“But content writing is cheaper at [insert platform name].”

Instead of focusing on numbers, ask yourself why services like Upwork, Fiverr and the rest are so much cheaper.

Anyone can call themselves an expert content writer, but that doesn’t make it true.

When outsourcing to an agency, the vetting process is taken care of. At Express Writers, it takes an average of 100 candidates for us to find one great writer. We’ve designed a hiring process that can take up to two weeks in order to properly evaluate, test, review and talk one-on-one with applicants.

“How can I successfully outsource content writing?”

Outsourcing doesn’t have to be a scary process. A clear strategy on what to look for and what to avoid will lead you to your perfect fit.

Today’s guide is here to bust through the stigma, and add clarity to the fuzzy areas of “outsourcing writing”.

First up: my husband and I narrate a short Outsourcing Tale on the Write Podcast. (This one’s fun!) Secondly: a guide on the pitfalls to avoid, and the steps to take when you choose to outsource content writing for the first time.

I’d love to hear your #outsourcingstory on Twitter – use the hashtag and share! Then, let me know in the comments what you thought of today’s blog/podcast story format!

outsourcing content writing

Treating the Symptoms: Knowing When It’s Time (or Past Time) to Outsource Content Writing

Tell us your symptoms.

  • Fear of miscommunication
  • Clenching tightly to your wallet
  • General distrust
  • Obsessive compulsive control over all of your content

You’re hitting all of the marks. But hey, it’s totally fine. We get patients like you all the time.

According to my findings, it seems you may be suffering from PTOD. It’s a condition we refer to as Post Traumatic Outsourcing Disorder.

outsourcing content writing treatment

It’s more common than you think.

Outsourcing content writing can keep your business on track with a profitable content strategy.

However, without a proper plan, you’re at risk for PTOD.

ptod outsourcing

Back to you.

Have you had any traumatic experiences outsourcing before?

You discussed your content strategy and sent payment… but never received any content back?

Okay, you also ran your content through Copyscape and it was 100% plagiarized? We’ve never seen that before. Even the name?

Right. You published a piece on your site that had an excess of, how many? Nine-hundred spelling and grammatical errors? You say this piece was only a 500-word blog post?

Youch.

The good news is, you’re going to be okay. You will survive and heal. Post traumatic outsourcing disorder effects countless companies and business owners worldwide but it can be beat.

Let’s take a look at your treatment plan.

Preventative Care for Outsourcing Content Writing

The best approach to overcoming your fears about outsourcing content is to prevent any nightmare situations.

To ensure the best outsourcing experience, I advise that you steer clear of websites offering fast, cheap and high quality content.

Cheap and high quality are two terms that should never be in the same sentence.

Have you ever heard anyone boast about how cheap their Chanel purse is?

I don’t think so.

When it comes to content services, high quality should be at the top of your checklist.

Now, some freelance writers may try to trick you by offering inexpensive services and making claims like that they work with clients “across every major vertical services.”

Sure they can cover vertical services but what about the horizontal? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

Also, count the grammar and spelling mistakes in their post. Professional content writers should also know how to edit.

When looking at their pricing model, consider why they omitted the first “a” in the word “standard.”

Is this a ruse to convince you of their inventiveness? Are they that good? Is standard even spelled with two a’s?

Fiverr-Pricing-Example

Try not to succumb to the tactics of such content writing freelancers.

Refer to the Oxford English Dictionary to double-check how words are spelled. Run potential applicants’ resumes and posts through spell check and even ask for help from that one friend that’s constantly correcting you to look for grammatical errors.

Think of posts and applicant responses as a preview of the content you’ll be provided with.

Have some standards.

3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Outsourcing Content Writing

If you wear shorts in a blizzard, you’re going to catch a cold. The same goes for outsourcing content writing. Being aware of these common outsourcing pitfalls will result in a more effective and enjoyable hiring process.

1. Going into the Process Without a Strategy

The content you receive will mirror the quality of your application process.

All of this can be prevented if you wade out into the content writer pool with a clear content strategy in mind. Try answering these questions:

  • What type of content do you need?
  • What is the voice of your brand?
  • Who is your targeted audience?
  • What are your goals with content marketing?
  • How do you like to communicate?

2. Hiring an Outsourced Content Writer Too Quickly

Your hiring process should reflect your goals. Outsourcing the right content writer is a process that should not be rushed.

Think of the ideal content writer for your business and then look for those qualities in potential candidates.

Try to be a little more specific than this:

The potential candidate responding to this ad will be about as smart as you imagine them to be.

3. Negotiating the Cheapest Option

When it comes to outsourcing a content writer, the best deal doesn’t always mean the best content.

There is a reason that prices vary for freelancers and writing agencies. When adding to your team, keep your budget in mind but don’t let it be your deciding factor. Quality comes first.

Here’s a former PTOD patient who put more effort into their hiring post. They outlined what they wanted with specifics, and spelled almost every word correctly.

The downfall came in requesting the content writer’s “wholesale price.”

This isn’t Costco.

Bargain shopping for written content will get you bargain-quality.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Bargain shopping for written #content will get you bargain-quality, says @JuliaEMcCoy” quote=”Bargain shopping for written #content will get you bargain-quality, says @JuliaEMcCoy”]

Top 2 Treatment Options to Successfully Outsource Content Writing

Overcoming a traumatic outsourcing experience will take time. Each case is different. Depending on your unique situation, you can decide what treatment options are best for you.

1. Seek out a (Great) Content Writer

If you’re thinking…

You’ve gone down this road before. You’re having flashbacks of unedited blogs and unanswered emails.

Hiring a freelance writer is risky mostly and only if you don’t specify what you need from them upfront. This is a working relationship, and for successful outsourcing, communication is key.

When outsourcing a content writer on your own you must communicate a clear content strategy, define your budget, set deadlines and vet the writers before hiring them.

Don’t make the mistake of our friend looking for a “smart person.”

Great content writers = experienced content writers.

Evaluate your writers based on prior writing samples and test their skills.

There are no specific qualifications for someone to work as a freelance writer other than their word. They can and should prove their skills with examples.

We advise you not to bend your standards for the inexperienced.

See our Sample Library in action!

2. Hire a Content Writing Agency

Agencies can provide a level of professionalism, experience and flexibility that freelancers cannot always adhere to.

At Express Writers, the vetting process is already taken care of for you. Our testing process rules out 99% of applicants whose writing cannot match the quality content we provide.

We also have three writing service options: General, Expert and Authority to help you determine your content needs. The transparent pricing breaks down why our services cost more than Fiverr. There are no wholesale prices here.

Our content is focused on quality. Every piece of content is evaluated and edited by our Quality Assistants before being sent back to you.

Of course, we’re NOT perfect (we’re humans), so we guarantee if there are errors that we’ll fix them for free, if you tell us.

The goal is to provide you with impactful, authoritative content that completely erases any past traumatic outsourcing experiences.

A Life Without Fear of Outsourcing Content

You too can live a life free from the shackles of post traumatic outsourcing disorder.

There are marketers that carry on every day, and enjoy their work lives with outsourced employees.

Whether you hire a freelance writer or use an agency, these outsourcing treatment options can provide consistent, relevant and engaging content when used properly.

Side Effects May Include:

  • An increase in free time
  • Money in the bank
  • Content exceeding your expectations
  • An encouraging pat on the back from your boss
  • A boost in organic traffic to your website
  • Consistent high quality and engaging content
  • Comments from readers that aren’t immediately filed as spam
  • Higher ranking in search engines
  • A non-sarcastic head nod of approval from your rival co-worker, Dan
  • Rapid growth of your business

Outsourcing written content should be closely monitored by a marketing specialist. Be sure to consult your marketing team before starting treatment.

Ending the Stigma: #OutsourcingStory

For those of you writers among the audience, take heart.

Now is the perfect time to become a content creator and find the gems among the weeds to work with. Content marketing is about to be worth $313 billion as an industry. And creators are getting a big piece of that pie.

The difficult clients, the stigma, still exists… but if we band together, serve awesome clients well, and never let our ethics drop once (for a low-paying gig or for low quality output), we can END that stigma.

Have an outsourcing story to share that defies the stigma? I’d love to retweet it! Share on Twitter using the hashtag #outsourcingstory.

how to write an about page

How to Write an Amazing About Page

Ah, the dreaded About Page.

You know you need one…

But few people know how to create one that actually accomplishes anything for their business.

Here’s a good question.

What is a “good About Page” really supposed to accomplish?

Copyblogger says that it should answer three questions for your visitor:

  • What’s in this for me?
  • Am I in the right place?
  • Can this person help me with my problem?

The first thing that you should notice here is that, while your About Page is about your business, it needs to be catered to your visitors.

You don’t want to turn your reader off by talking about yourself too much. Make them interested in a natural conversation with you.

To answer these three questions and get your readers to pull up a chair and stay a while, there are a few steps that you will need to follow through on.

Let’s take a look at what they are.

company bio page

How to Write an Amazing About Page: Focus on Your Reader

As you go through each step, the importance of focusing on the reader cannot be overstated.

While your initial thought may be that your About Page should be about you, the fact of the matter is that your readers aren’t there for you. They’re there for them.

By understanding that your reader should be your main focus you can avoid producing an information-littered About Page that doesn’t accomplish anything for your business.

Go ahead and tell your story. Just don’t get so lost in telling it that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.

Step #1 – Tell Your Story With Your Customers in Mind

There are thousands of examples of stale About Pages that tell weakly put together stories about the history of a company and what they offer to customers.

The thing is, people already know most of these things. They’ve made it to your page because they feel you might have the potential to solve their problems.

As Entrepreneur contributor Aaron Agius is quick to point out, “So many companies focus on business specifics in their About Page content, such as types of services and products offered.”

Agius wants you to look away from this boring strategy.

His recommendation is that, “Your About Page should illustrate your business’s humble beginnings and highlight the positive attributes of your team that helped you get where you are today.”

Here’s a good overview of the elements of a compelling B2B story:

True-Film-30-Second-Story-for-Companies-Infographic

All six elements outlined above play an integral role in ensuring that businesses see you as someone that they’d like to work with.

Make your About Page about your customers. Relate to them. Be memorable. Give them a reason to trust you.

Do these things and you’re well on your way to making a strong first impression with the people who matter.

Step #2 – Utilize Visuals to Strengthen

Visuals are a necessary part of any great About Page. And they’re especially effective when you’re attempting to tell your brand’s unique story.

This visual, showing why infographics are a great business tool, gives you a sense as to why. It grabs you, doesn’t it?

infographics-for-seo

Now, we’re certainly not saying that your About Page needs an infographic.

What we are saying, however, is that, if 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, your page needs more than just words.

Visuals can include anything from images and videos to infographics and photographs.

MailChimp is one of many B2B companies that effectively utilizes photographs on their About Page.

Mail Chimp staff 1

When you see this photo, you immediately think of community. This isn’t a coincidence.

As you scroll down their page, they have a section about Community Investment and how they’re helping cities like Atlanta become, “better, weirder, and more human.”

They also feature a visual-rich section on their employees that looks like this:

Mail Chimp staff 2

When you see these photos, the word “fun” comes to mind. Now we know, without even reading a single word, that MailChimp identifies themselves as a fun, community-driven company.

They’ve told their story through photos and use words to supplement it. This is the power of visuals.

And it’s why they need to be implemented, and featured, on your About Page.

Video content is an excellent choice to consider for your About Page. Here’s how we did it on our About Page (our video story was filmed professionally and told by our founder, Julia McCoy):

express writers about us video

And if you scroll down, you’ll learn about each of the creators that make up a core portion of our team:

express writers about us

Step #3 – Use Social Proof

The power of social proof in the marketing world is astounding.

And while there are dozens of examples of how social proof can help you market effectively, it can also be leveraged on your About Page to build a strong first impression about your reputation.

But with so many different ways to show that others trust your brand, which one works best for your About Page?

This infographic shows eight ways you can use social proof on your website:

types of social proof

The type that will work best for your brand is, plain and simply, the one that will be seen as most powerful to your customers.

Gummisig, a freelance web designer, identified that listing popular clients that he’s worked with proved most effective.

gummisig

Ikea is a Fortune 500 company. Showing potential customers that a company like that has trusted his services provides immediate, and incredibly effective, social proof.

But maybe you haven’t had the pleasure of working with a client with that type of name recognition.

No problem. Use the customers you do have.

Providing quotes from testimonials is a powerful way to generate effective social proof. Including actual data about what you’ve accomplished for your clients can also work incredibly well.

Use what you have to provide social proof that your unique readers will understand and appreciate.

Step #4 – Give Readers a Next Step

If they like what they see, what are they supposed to do next?

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of creating a strong B2B About Page. After all, isn’t the objective of your entire website to convert users?

To answer the question of what you want them to do next, your focus should be on what stage of awareness the reader is in when they get to your About Page.

Eugene Schwartz lays out five potential stages of awareness. They include:

Stages of Awareness

Since they’re attempting to learn more about your business, your potential customer is likely already in the product or brand aware stage.

They understand their problem, know that there are solutions, and are now on your brand’s page because they see you as a potential solution.

The goal of any copywriter is to get customers to the most aware stage and convert them when they get there.

So, in order to convert them, you need to think like a copywriter.

When customers are on your About Page, and they’re intrigued by your story and the social proof that you’ve provided, they’re only steps away from being most aware.

Take advantage of this by implementing a call-to-action at the bottom of your page that provokes them to take the next step NOW.

Digital strategy firm Nerdery provides a great example of how to do this.

Their CTA is simple:

Nerdery CTA

Their goal is to start a conversation with potential customers so they can eventually follow through and bring them on as a client.

And they’ve made it easy for readers of their About Page to start that conversation.

Find out what you want readers to do next and ask them to do it. It’s really that simple.

Conclusion

In the end, there are a lot of elements that go into creating an amazing About Page.

You want to tell your unique story and use visuals to tell it in a more compelling manner.

You also want to show readers, through social proof, why they should trust you over the dozens of other brands that offer what you offer.

What you don’t want to do, however, is get so caught up in doing these things that you lose sight of the fact that your About Page is about your reader, and what they’re looking to get out of it.

And while the line between telling your story and focusing on the reader is a fine one, it’s one that I’m confident you can overcome by using the steps above.

If you’d like some assistance in walking this line, we have a great team of experts that can help you create an amazing About Page.

engagement cta

creative copywriter

My Journey as a Creative Copywriter

The fall of 2014 seems like such a long time ago.

It had only been a few months since we made the move to the Dallas area, and for the life of me I could not find my place in the land ‘o heat. Aside from my in-laws, I knew no one. I was looking for a job, something that would allow me to stay home and be available to our 3 boys, but finding something with that kind of flexibility was difficult.

And then I ran across a blog titled “Stay-at-Home-Moms: Could Freelance Writing Be the Income You Need?” from Red and Honey. The blogger gave a short blurb about Express Writers, one of her recommendations that she described as “very active…with lots of work.”

Take a writing test? I thought. Easy. They assign jobs to you? I can handle that.

So I leapt. I filled out the application, took the writing assessment, and lo and behold—I was a writer!

Well, kind of.

Over the next 7 months or so, I spent my days churning out blog posts, web content, and trying to hone my skills as a creative copywriter. Let me tell you, it was a rough beginning—and I’m not talking about the workload.

Thankfully, they have been patient with me.

marcie's journey as a copywriter

A Day in the Life of a Creative Copywriter

I have always wanted to be a writer. From the days of third grade, when I won a Young Author’s award for my story about the fisherman who kept his catch as a friend rather than as food, all the way through my days of journal-keeping in college, something in me has always wanted to put pen to paper and create.

marcie 1

After getting married and having 3 kids in 3½ years, not to mention a decade’s work with my husband as a non-profit administrator, writing took a backseat. I was faced with the task of a regular speaking schedule, which meant I put together manuscripts for delivery, but it was not the creative copywriting I knew could be developed in myself.

And then our move to Texas changed everything.

I went on to write for EW until the summer of 2015, when I began working for a local non-profit. While I loved serving the impoverished and homeless, a leadership change in the organization was my cue to exit that position.

So there I was again, earlier this year, without a job and once again unable to find my place in the land ‘o heat (funny how things come back around). So I sent an email to Express Writers, asking if they had any open positions.

What is a Creative Copywriter?

After I meet someone new, the next question is usually, “And what do you do?”, and after I answer, they usually come back with, “So, you have a blog?”.

Not exactly.

Although a creative copywriter’s job may sound simple and mundane, every day does not look the same. Here are some highlights of my workload in the past few weeks:

  • Social media management: One of my favorite tasks!
  • Blog posts: A couple of 1,000 word posts with a keyword emphasis that required research and finding authoritative voices to back it up.
  • Video transcription: I summarized the key points made in a media presentation.
  • Encyclopedia-like content articles: Rather than present content in a blog format, I took a third-person approach and wrote more encyclopedic content.

A creative copywriter takes on a variety of roles, depending on the needs of the client and their industry. The approach is always changing, and in order for the content to be effective, there must be thought and creativity behind the writing process during every step of the process.

What is a Creative Copywriter Made Of?

I have the advantage of working from home, which always includes a full pot of coffee and a variety of comfortable yoga pants (my husband is not convinced that these are considered a business expense).

marcie 2

When I first started with EW, I was looking to earn a supplemental income for my family and be available when they needed me. This second time around has been much different, and I think it’s because I’ve realized that a creative content writer can’t be as impactful if he or she sees the process as “just a job”.

While I do love the flexibility (and the work attire), I have also seen growth in myself as a writer. I have learned that to be effective in this industry, there a few characteristics that must be present:

1. Research

No content creator comes up with authoritative content on a whim. Even the experts have sources on whom they rely for accurate information and statistics. Content without research holds little power for the audience.

To the non-writer, coming up with 500 words may sound like an easy task. In reality, it depends on the topic at hand. If I am creating content for a long-term client for whom I have written in the past, it probably won’t take long to develop a post or article. However, if it’s a brand new client in an unfamiliar industry, the research will be more in-depth.

2. Creativity

Every week, I sit down and picture myself as one of the followers of the social media pages I manage and think about what I would like to see in my newsfeed. I create images, find interesting articles and posts, and present them to specific audiences for their sharing and retweeting pleasure.

Creativity means getting outside of yourself and into the mind of the reader. It’s always about taking a unique approach and drawing others into the story.

3. Focus

Sometimes, the topics that our Content Manager sends me can feel drier than the Texas heat. I have to admit that there are times I have had to dig very deep in order to make an extraordinarily boring topic sound exciting.

Focusing on the topic at hand might mean an extra cup of coffee or a walk around the block in order to reset your mind. This is especially true if the words start to jumble together and you find yourself running out of something meaningful to say.

4. Growth

If I’m being honest, there are times that I couldn’t care less about the subject I am working on. And there are times I don’t always give my best (hello, revisions) and I know my work isn’t as good as it could be. That is where a team of editors and directors, aka accountability, becomes invaluable.

The willingness to change and accept critique makes up a big part of being on a team of writers. One of the reasons I love EW is because I know I will receive honest feedback, which helps me develop as a content creator.

A Journey of Discovery and Meta Tags

I have no idea how many thousands of words I’ve written in my lifetime. Between school and work and raising a family, there has been little time to reflect on just how far I’ve come.

Through these past two years, the countless hours spent writing, rereading, revising, and analyzing have taught me so much about myself and my ability to put thoughts down on paper. I confess that I still don’t quite understand all of the lingo that goes along with being a content developer, and I wish someone would make a Meta Tags for Dummies cheat sheet.

Remember That Life’s a Great Balancing Act

Dr. Seuss reminds us in his classic book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go that “it’s opener out there, in the wide, open air.”

The journey of a writer is just that—a journey. There are obstacles and open doors, as well as times of defeat and times of victory.

No one stops learning, and no one has ever “arrived”, especially in the ever-changing world of content development.

And with the right tools and the right team, we are made that much better while we travel.

marcie cs lewis quote

Marcie is a consistently high-rated copywriter at Express Writers. Want her to write your content? Order through the Content Shop or Talk to Sales and request her on your copy!

E03 Write Podcast Website Cover Featured Image

The Write Podcast Episode 3: From Black Hat Spammer Raking In $50k a Month to Inbound Marketer- Jeff Deutsch’s Story

Ever since I read Confessions of a Google Spammer on Inbound.org, a viral story with over 275K reads, I knew Jeff Deutsch was the kind of marketer I’d like. And I was right. We’ve collaborated quite a bit; he’s done a blog interview for me, and he was a featured guest expert on one of our first #ContentWritingChat sessions. And I was very pleased when he said “yes” to being my FIRST Write Podcast guest expert!

If you’re invested in online marketing at all, you will absolutely love this episode – Jeff shares all kinds of golden SEO and online content creation nuggets, with all the expertise of a crazily diverse marketing background. This guy went from raking over $150,000 gross/$50,000 net per month doing black hat SEO, to becoming an inbound marketer for a startup in Beijing, something more stable for him as he focused on fatherhood. I have nothing but respect for Jeff – and as he said himself, we basically agree on everything. 

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I had fun recording it with Jeff! Remember to leave an iTunes review if you loved it; I’d greatly appreciate it!

jeff deutsch inbound marketer episode

In Episode 3 of The Write Podcast, guest expert Jeff Deutsch reveals:

  • How Jeff entirely quit blackhat SEO after a “spanking” from Matt Cutts
  • What a stable marketing career means to him as a father today
  • What content looked like in the “black hat” days
  • What great content looks like today & how storytelling plays a huge part
  • The WORST SEO practices to never, ever do
  • How authentic online content is more about connections than just keywords
  • …& more!

Full Transcription of The Write Podcast, E03: From Black Hat Spammer Raking In $50k a Month to Inbound Marketer- Jeff Deutsch’s Story

Julia: I’m here today with Jeff Deutsch, an SEO professional and the VP of marketing at PTEngine. He’s best known for his story that went viral around the Internet in 2015, Confessions Of A Google Spammer.

Jeff it’s so great to have you here today.

Jeff: Hi Julia, how’s it going?

Julia: Good, so I wanted to I ask for a nutshell of the story that you wrote on inbound.org. I know its gone viral around the web, it had so many shares and views by now and pretty much I can make my entire podcast about your story which is a really cool story.

Jeff: Sure, it’s about my journey from being a black hat spammer for SEO to becoming an inbound marketer, and it’s got a message which is basically, don’t follow my path. But it’s a lot about my life’s story. How kinda going down that black hat rabbit hole affected my life and a lot of crazy things that happened during that time which was from around 2010 and 2012 especially.

Julia: So what was your turning point, whenever you switched mindsets from black hat over to the light side?

Jeff: Yeah, basically I mean it was just that I was getting a spanking from Matt Cutts basically and Matt Cutts was like one of the first employees at Google, he was the head of the web spam team and he’s basically like the dark overlord for black hat SEO guy. He’s kind of like the antithesis of who we were.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘I stopped doing bad SEO when I got a spanking from @mattcutts, the dark overlord.’ @jgdeutsch #quote” quote=”How I stopped doing black hat SEO: I was getting a spanking from Matt Cutts basically and he’s basically like the dark overlord for black hat SEO guy. “]

Because his job is to hunt out the spammers who were getting their spamming content to the top of the Google search engine results pages, and to eliminate them from the search engine results.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Google sniffed out our network and we went from making $150,000 gross a month to nothing. [email protected]” quote=”So yeah, basically they sniffed out our network that we had built, which was a very advanced and very effective SEO network before they found us, and destroyed us. I could basically get anything I wanted on the first page of Google in like five minutes just waiting on a maximum of about a week. It just went from overnight from having an SEO business that was making like $150,000 {gross} a month to having nothing.”]

Julia: That’s crazy.

Jeff: So yeah, I wish I could say it was like I had a turn of conscience but no, I just got spanked.

Julia: [LAUGH] That’s good you’re being real.

Jeff: [LAUGH] Yeah, the turn of conscience came later, and it was more about wanting to build something that was sustainable: which I think inbound marketing is. It’s the slow and steady approach and I think that had a lot to do also with being a father because I have a young son and you want something sustainable because there’s enough uncertainty when you have a kid, and you’re trying to raise him. You know marketing is a much more stable career.

Julia: That’s so true. I have a toddler so I totally relate to that you know just finding a stable income. Making sure your kids have something to rely on.

Going from black hat to where you are today, it would be really interesting just to get your perspective on content, and how important it is to the Internet and how to do content marketing right, since you kind of know how to do it wrong: SEO wrong, to say.

Jeff: The content that we were producing back then was completely written by robots. I wrote a script basically that could scrape the web for any key wording, create content that Google considered high quality. But Google has gotten way better at detecting spam since then. I don’t think that they necessarily can use a robot that can tell the difference between what’s really quality, and what’s not but they have their fingers in all the user, interaction data and engagement data.

Now because I mean Google Analytics, Google Webmaster’s in almost every website at least like 60% of the top million websites have Google Analytics. So they know what’s going on landing pages. So I think that content you can write it for Google if you want to, but the users are gonna come and they’ll be able to smell the difference.

And if they don’t like the content they’re gonna bounce and if you’re bounce rate is high Google’s not gonna rank you high. It’s your engagement and on the article is well then it’s the same thing.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Write for search engines, but at the end of the day you have to write for people. @jgdeutsch #quote” quote=”So yeah I mean you can write through search engines all you want, but at the end of the day you have to write for people, you have to get people to share your content, and engage in it, read it and really consume it or it’s never gonna rank long term.”]

Julia: That’s so true and you used those principles when you wrote your Inbound.org story. Which I thought was really great, it was really engaging, and you were really authentic about your black hat practices, and then your switch over and where you are today.

And going back to that is a form of a story, and you and I always talk about how important storytelling is. How do you see that fitting into content marketing and SEO?

Jeff: Something I’m really into now and I know you are too, is just using emotional persuasion to grab people’s interests. Because the data and like the attention span of the average web user is just scary. It’s like if your page doesn’t load within 4 seconds it’s like 25% of people will bounce it.

And web users have like an 8 seconds attention span, which is down from 12 seconds in 2010 or 2012 when the study was done before. So it’s just basically people don’t have time. They have so many options and so many alternatives, other stuff that they could be doing or reading, so maybe you have to grip them somehow and you have to use.

Basically use emotional triggers to keep them engaged with what you are writing. And it’s something that you are really good at, something that you definitely know to a deep degree. And I mean storytelling influences people to a really deeper degree and it really cuts through like that.

I think you call it like a hockey, 1950-style marketing of selling and fakeness and stuff. Content writers should be authentic and real and especially personal and share personal details in their content. It does something to draw the reader in and kind of just emotionally get them involved in the content and most decisions are made with emotions. We use our emotions to make decisions, we use our brains to rationalize afterwards and that includes, am I gonna invest like the two or three minutes it’s gonna take for me to read this article or buy after ten minutes.

It’s like long form storytelling so to say.

Julia: I also wanted to go into some things to avoid since you came from that black hat background and you’ve done things that Google’s smacked you down for: so what are some of the worst maybe outdated SEO practices that marketers could be doing that should be avoided today?

Jeff: Any kind of link dealing where the content is bad.

If the content’s crappy or if you don’t have control of the page’s linked to you, because the worst case scenario is you do some link building and then you have no ability to take the link down so you can’t remove the links and then disembowel them which is the only way that you’re gonna get out of the penalty.

So if you have to, you don’t have to black hat spam, but if you have to, make sure that at least you’re in control of it so that when, not if, but when you get a penalty, you can remove the links yourself, but why bother? If it’s only a short-term thing, you’re gonna be on a treadmill where you’re gonna be constantly having to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild.

Why not build something sustainable?

Julia: I’m absolutely on the side with why bother because for the last four years that’s all we’ve been doing is good practices. I don’t even like to say white hat, because we write blogs, we put out content and then we try to do it better each time and that’s been 98% of our lead generation of our visitors.

Just putting out really good content, whether it’s like an infographic or a really good blog post that’s really in depth, so yeah I’m totally on the side of why you can bother.

Jeff: Yeah and it’s not like other benefits from writing your own content and getting legitimate, actual real people to follow you and care about you, because relationships and networks, personal networks, are algorithm proof.

Julia: Mm-hm.

Jeff: Google is never going to like have a penalty where you suddenly lose all your friends, so [LAUGH] so people who read your stuff and get engaged with that and are like Julia, she’s really switched on, she really knows what she’s talking about.

That’s going to last beyond any algorithm so even if one day Google, I don’t know search engines, become a thing of the past, you’ll still have your network.

We had like 3,000 customers are at our peak with my SEO company. I mean I don’t talk to any other people anymore because it was all about, next time let’s get our money in and let’s spend our money and let’s move on to the next bigger thing and that’s one of my biggest regrets was that at least I could have spent more time connecting with those people, but I was just watching the money roll in to my PayPal and just like okay cool I won, I don’t have to work anymore, I can just like sit back and just be lazy and go like party all the time do whatever I have to like to fulfill whatever fantasy I was trying to fulfill.

If I had those connections it would be worth a lot more than the money I made.

Julia: That’s a really good point. Today it’s really all about connections whenever you create your content and like for example I don’t even think of keywords anymore when I create a blog I think about the audience and where is this post going, what level is the audience at resonating is what my content is all about whenever I create, that’s a really great point.

Jeff: Yeah I mean it used to be you’ll start with the keyword and you’ll be like, okay let’s research the key word and figure out what do people talk about and they talk about and whatever. And now somebody gives me an assignment I’m like, okay who am I writing it for? What’s their emotional state? What do they want? Because if you know those things about it, if you could build a persona of the person that you’re trying to engage. Makes it so much easier.

It’s so much easier to get them to engage because they’re just gonna do it naturally. Like I said, they smell the difference. They know when it’s real and when it’s fake.

Julia: Absolutely and we’re facing millenniums, I should say millennials, and that’s an audience that really, they are in the know-how of tech, they’re gonna be able to stiff out a cold sale quicker than anyone else and it’s not coincidence.

Jeff: Yeah was that you who in your article you were talking about millennials how they value authenticity over content?

Julia: Yeah. That was me.

Jeff: Yeah. That’s true I mean because in contrast to all the noise of being constantly sold to and being so fed up with that. I mean its like having a real authentic thing from a personal point of view that’s vulnerable and it really cuts through.

Because Americans I remember this quote from few years ago, I don’t who said it but like Americans we love to buy stuff but we hate being sold to.

Julia: [LAUGH]

Jeff: We just hate it, you know what I mean? It’s so true, it’s so true. So yeah we just wanna have like the excuse to be able to buy without feeling like we are being taken advantage of, because it is, it’s fun buying things it’s fun, we want to.

We go into every blog post, we click the link like we are out there ready to do something, just don’t turn us off with your fake BS.

Julia: [LAUGH] That’s a good way to sum it up.

So, Jeff just to wrap this up, I want to get your perspective as an SEO marketer on maybe specifically blogging how do you see that tying into concept marketing and just today and maybe the future concept marketing?

Jeff: You mean blogging on your own blog or like guest blogging on someone else’s blog or?

Julia: Let’s go for the wide sphere, so just blogging whether your guest blog, blog for yourself, wherever you do it.

Jeff: Yeah I think that now what’s happening and this has been happening since probably around like 2010, 2011 is that now we’re kind of moving away from brands and more to like people. People aren’t more into personas that they aren’t into like things like the brand, you know what I mean? Conversion XL is a famous brand, they have their own followings that they bring to it. Crazy Egg, who is a competitor of ours, and I probably shouldn’t have said that, but screw it, has like Neil Patel, and Henshaw, and Hubspot has Dharmesh, and these personalities are actually I would say when it comes to buying like when it comes to actually the conversion part of where readers are reading a blog again and again and then like actually goes to convert, I think that the persona of that person is more clear in the buyers mind than the brand itself. You know when Dharmesh, for example like can go into it like a different marketing company and still build and bring all of his trust with him.

And I don’t think that was necessary like as strong of a thing five or ten years ago. It’s become this type of personality thing with blogging where like you are developing through your series of this posts, it’s almost like how you get attracted to characters like in a TV series and you like you work for that.

You saw this in Game of Thrones 2 where people are more into the characters than they’re into the show itself where they’ll be like I’m not watching anymore, I can’t believe you killed this character. So I think it really is the same thing that blogging, it’s a cult of personality thing where people want to make a connection with the person not just with the corporate brand.

So then you said like there used to be brand loyalty for like for your favorite brand of cigarette, or your favorite like brand of car—like I only smoke Marlboro, I only buy Hondas I don’t think that those statements will be ever be said by the same person, but you know what I mean.

Now it’s a commitment to the people who personalized the brand, put a face on it, and that’s something I’ll be completely honest and something that for us for PTEngine like my startup I’m trying to do because there are other key map and analytics apps out there, and there’s other people who talk about CRL and everything but like if people start to feel a connection to me and they don’t feel better about using our product and I don’t think that it works as much now where it’s like, oh I love this product, let me get to know everything about the person who made it.

I think it works much more the way like they get drawn in through blogging through the personality of the person and then they are like ah sure I’ll give your product a try why not you know.

Julia: I bet that ties into the really attention span too.

Jeff: Yeah exactly because there’s nothing more emotional than connection to another person you know. I mean there’s plenty of data I just read some them like a version of blog about this too.

About like royalty to brands it’s not really a shocker, but it’s not anywhere near the I’m not a royalty like a friend or a personal recommendation by a person, who you know and trust.

Julia: I think so. Jeff thank you so much for being here and sharing your thoughts it was really insightful thanks for joining me.

Jeff: Yeah you’re welcome and it was awesome I mean we basically agree on everything anyway.

Thanks for joining today’s Write Podcast! For more online content tips and strategies, visit expresswriters.com/blog, and now here’s your host Julia McCoy with a final message.

Julia: Jeff’s story is inspiring. I think it’s amazing he left a black hat SEO world where he was making $50,000 a month to become an inbound marketer for a start up. You can read his entire story by searching Google for Confessions Of A Google Spammer, it’s on inbound.org. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @JGDeutsch.

If you haven’t joined my twitter chat yet, be sure to check it out and join the community as we share content writing and marketing tips and tricks. Join us with the #contentwritingchat every Tuesday at 10 AM CST. Also I’m writing a book: So You Think You Can Write: The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing. In this book I discuss everything you need to know to write great content online, both as an ultimate guide for freelance writing career, and for the business owner. It’ll be available to buy on Amazon by the end of this March.

Thanks for joining today’s episode of The Write Podcast! For more episodes go to expresswriters.com/write-podcast.