Searchfest 2009 Interview: Heather Lloyd-Martin
Heather will be speaking about “Blogging” at Searchfest 2009 which will be held March 10th in Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets now.
1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
It’s amazing to think that I’ve spent over 20 years as a copywriter, with 10 of those years focused solely on SEO copywriting. Before SEO, I freelanced for various advertising agencies, businesses and publications (Entrepreneur Magazine was one of my clients.) Back then, I was cutting my teeth writing Website copy…but having a Website wasn’t a major marketing “must-do” like it is today. This is before way, way before Google and back when it felt like 20 people in the world knew what SEO was. I remember talking to people who would say, “I don’t know if this Website stuff is worth it, but I built one just in case.” Now, it’s weird to learn of a business that doesn’t have a Website. My first thought is always, “But, why not…?”
Today, I am 100% SEO copywriting focused, all the time. My company, SuccessWorks, has been offering SEO copywriting services since 1998. Since then, the marketplace has certainly changed…SEO copywriting training is a big thing now, and I’ve created a DVD series for freelance writers who want to learn how to turn it into a profit center. Corporations are begging for more in-house training, with less emphasis on outsourcing (although that’s certainly a big element.) Most of what I do now focuses on education, such as speaking at SearchFest, DMA events and working on-site with clients. Although I’m on a plane a lot, I still write copy for clients and keep my fingers in the craft. I enjoy writing – and I think it’s important to continue practicing the art.
2) How can a business owner determine the level of quality of a prospective “SEO Copywriter?”
I’ve written a lot about this topic at SEOcopywriting.com and outlined when hiring a “newbie” SEO copywriter is appropriate, versus someone who is at a more intermediate level. Where a lot of smart businesses get stupid is they hire “cheap” over “experienced” – and the writing reflects that.
The copywriting is so important – not just from a SEO perspective, but from a brand-building and conversion perspective. SEO copywriting is more than just shoving words into content. It’s about folding proven direct-marketing principals into a Web page and creating compelling copy that makes the reader want to take action. If you’re trying to sell a product or service – and your SEO copywriter doesn’t have a direct response copywriting background – you’re hobbling your chances for success. It’s like hiring someone to head up your sales department who has no experience in sales. J At the same time, if your SEO copywriter doesn’t understand search, they may not “see” all the on-page SEO opportunities.
So, how can you tell if a copywriter would be good for you?
1. Determine what kind of work you need done, and how much time you have for supervision. Less experienced writers can be good to work with – but they tend to need more supervision. If you don’t have time to supervise and tweak their writing, find someone who has more experience.
2. Ask for samples from the SEO copywriter who will be writing your copy (not general samples from the agency that could have been written by anyone.) Does the writing look keyphrase-stuffed? Does the copy sparkle with well-placed benefit statements, or is the writing represent a laundry list of corporate features. If the writing doesn’t resonate with you, ask to work with another writer (or work with another firm.) Remember, that clip represents the writer’s best work, so if you don’t like it…don’t expect that you’ll like what the writer does for you. And also remember – just because the writer works for a big agency doesn’t mean that they are more experienced, or they are better than freelance writers who aren’t employed by a big agency. Some of the best copywriters are freelancers.
3. Talk to the writer and ask about their experience. Are they a copywriter with direct response or journalism experience? Or are they a customer service rep who writes copy because clients demand it? Do they write full-time, or do they have other duties? How much do they understand SEO copywriting best practices?
4. And finally…after you’ve done your due diligence (checking samples, checking references, etc.) – go with your gut. It don’t know how many times I worked with companies who said, “You know, I was nervous about hiring X, but I thought it would be OK.” Listen to your instincts and explore other options.
3) Please give me some examples of some of your SEO Copywriting engagements and their measurable outcomes.
A “major publisher” has seen a huge increase in page views after implementing a SEO copywriting campaign. Page views are important to a publisher, as it’s how they show the strength of the publication – and more page views translates into higher advertising revenue. SuccessWorks edited their pages for keyphrases (what some firms call “on-page optimization’) That is, their writers would create the copy, and then we’d do the keyphrase research and optimize the body copy (and often the headline) for those keyphrases.
Their SEO manager presented a SEO copywriting case study during SES NYC. We had worked on some pages around November 2007 – and the presentation was in March 2008. During that time, one page (which was their “Economy overview” page) saw a 1, 150 percent increase in page views. Another page saw a 405 percent increase. The client was happy, and I was thrilled. BusinessWeek even conducts regular SEO training for their content team, which is incredibly smart (and progressive.)
One fun client I’m working with now is LusterForever. This is a smaller, mom-and-pop jewelry site targeted towards fashion-forward women from 18-35. These guys are a great example of a small business baby-stepping their SEO content and seeing some great rewards come out of that. Not only did we completely retool the tone and feel, but we’re also gradually working on their home, subcategory and product pages. Our latest success was a nice increase in conversions (over 300 percent), an increase in average order volume (almost 100 percent) and a top-ten ranking for a number of keyphrases. Not bad for a highly competitive jewelry site!