Tag Archive | "Writers"

How Serious Writers Expand Their Audiences with Guest Blog Posts

Note: While we encourage you to explore guest posting to grow your audience, Copyblogger does not currently accept guest post…

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Finding and hiring content marketing writers

Read on for factors to consider when hiring a content marketing writer.
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How to Screen and Recruit the Best SEO Content Writers

Posted by Victor_Ijidola

It’s easy to find writers; they’re everywhere — from a one-second Google search to asking on LinkedIn.

But hiring the best ones? That’s the daunting task marketers and business owners face. And you do not just need writers, you need exceptional SEO content writers.

Mainly because that’s what Google (aka the largest traffic driver of most sites) has clearly been clamoring for since their Panda update in 2011, RankBrain in 2015, and their “Fred” update (and by the way, Gary Illyes from Google coined “Fred’ for every unnamed Google update) in March, 2017.

It’s obvious how each of these major updates communicates Google’s preference for excellent SEO writers:

If you’re a frequent Moz reader, you probably know how they work — but if not: Panda penalizes every webpage with content that adds little to no value to people online, giving more visibility to content pieces that do. On its own, the RankBrain update has made Google almost as smart as humans — when choosing the most relevant and high-quality content to rank on page #1 of search engine result pages (SERPs).

The “Fred” update further tackled sites with low-quality content that aren’t doing anything beyond providing information that’s already available on the internet. It also penalized sites that prioritized revenue above user experience.

After this update, 100+ sites saw their traffic drop by 50 percent to 90 percent.

It is evident that Google has, through these core updates, been requiring brands, publishers, and marketers to work with SEO content writers who know their onions; the ones who know how to write with on-page SEO mastery.

But how do you find these exceptional wordsmiths? Without a plan, you will have to screen tens (or even hundreds) of them to find those who are a good fit.

But let’s make it easier for you. Essentially, your ideal SEO writers should have two key traits:

  1. Good on-page SEO expertise
  2. A great eye for user experience (i.e. adding relevant images, formatting, etc.)

A writer with these two skills is a great SEO writer. But let’s dig a bit deeper into what that means.

(Note: this post is about hiring exceptional SEO content writers — i.e., wordsmiths who don’t need you monitoring them to do great work. So, things can get a bit techie as you read on. I’ll be assuming your ideal writer understands or is responsible for things like formatting, on-page SEO, and correctly uploading content into your CMS.)

1. On-page SEO knowledge

By now, you know what on-page SEO is. But if not, it’s simply the elements you put on a site or web page to let search engines understand that you have content on specific topics people are searching for.

So, how do you know if a writer has good on-page SEO knowledge?

Frankly, “Can you send me your previous writing samples?” is the ideal question to ask any writer you’re considering hiring. Once they show their samples, have them walk you through each one, and ask yourself the following questions:

Question A: Do they have ‘focus keywords’ in their previous samples?

    Several factors come into play when trying to rank any page, but your ideal writer must know how to hold things down on the keyword side of things.

    Look through their samples; see if they have optimized any content piece for a specific keyword in the past so you can know if they’ll be able to do the same for your content.

    Question B: How do they use title tags?

      Search engines use title tags to detect the headings in your content.

      You know how it works: put “SEO strategy” — for example — in a few, relevant headings on a page and search engines will understand the page is teaching SEO strategy.

      Essentially, your ideal SEO writer should understand how to use them to improve your rankings and attract clicks from your potential customers in search results.

      Are title tags really that important? They are. Ahrefs, for instance, made their title tag on a page more descriptive and this alone upped their traffic by 37.58%.

      So, look through the titles in your candidate’s samples, especially the h1 title. Here’s what you should look for when examining how a candidate uses HTML tags:

      i. Header tags should, ideally, not be more than 60 characters. This is to avoid results that look like this in SERPs:

      (three dots in front of your titles constitutes bad UX — which Google frowns at)

      ii. The subheadings should be h2 (not necessarily, but it’s a plus)

      iii. Headings under subtopics should be h3 (also not necessary, but it’s a plus)

      Look for these qualities in your candidate’s work and you’ll be able to confirm that they properly implement title tags in their content, and can do the same for you.

      But some writers may not have control over the title tags in their published works — that is, the sites they wrote for probably didn’t give them such access. In this case, request samples they published on their own site, where they actually have control over these tags.

      Question C: What do they know about internal linking?

        Orbit Media once shared how they used internal linking to shoot a blog post from position #29 up to #4.

        So, it’s important that your writers know how to contextually link to your older content pieces while writing new content. And it works for good reason; internal linking helps you:

        • Communicate the relevance and value of your pages to Google (the more links a page gets, the more authority it has in Google’s eyes)
        • Demonstrate to Google that your site contains in-depth content about any specific topic
        • Tell Google your site has easy navigation — which means it has good UX and is well-structured.

        Internal linking is a major key to search ranking, so you need writers who have internal linking in their pocketful of tools. But also ensure they do it using proper anchor texts; in a recent LinkedIn post, expert editor Rennie Sanusi hinted at two key anchor text elements to look for in your candidate’s samples:

        • [Anchor texts] should clearly explain where they’ll take your reader to
        • [Anchor texts] shouldn’t be too long

        Question D: Do they write long-form content?

        The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,800+ words long — according to research from Backlinko.

        Google has been all about in-depth content since its inception; you’re probably familiar with their mission statement:

        Every algorithm change they make is geared toward achieving this mission statement, and ranking long-form content helps them in the process as well.

        Because, to them, writing longer content means you’re putting more information that searchers are looking for into your content.

        So you need writers who can produce long-form content. Check their samples and confirm they know how to write long-form content on a regular basis.

        Question E: Have they ranked for any important keywords?

          Ultimately, you need to see examples of important keywords your ideal content writer has ranked for in the past. This is the utmost test of their ability to actually drive search traffic your way.

          That’s it for finding writers who know on-page SEO. But as you know, that’s only one part of the skills that makes a great SEO content writer.

          The other important bit is their ability to write content that engages humans. In other words, they need to know how to keep people reading a page for several minutes (or even hours), leading them to take actions that are important to your business.

          2. A great eye for user experience

          Keeping readers on a page for long durations also improves your ranking.

          In the aforementioned Backlinko study, researchers analyzed 100,000 sites and found that “websites with low average bounce rates are strongly correlated with higher rankings.”

          And you know what that means; your ideal SEO writer should not only write to rank on search engines, they must also write to attract and keep the attention of your target audience.

          So, look for the following in their samples:

          Headlines and introductions that hook readers

            You need writers who are expert enough to know the types of headlines and opening paragraphs that work.

            It’s not a hard skill to spot; look through their samples. If their titles and introductions don’t hook you, they probably won’t hook your audience. It’s really that simple.

            Explainer images and visuals

              The report also revealed that: “Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.”

              But of course, they have to be relevant images (or other visual types). And many times (if not most of the time), that means explainer images — so look out for those in their samples. And there are two examples of explainer images:

              Example #1: Explainer images with text and pointers

              This one has elements (an arrow and a text) on it, explaining how the image is relevant to the topic the content is about.

              Example #2: Explainer images without text and pointers

              Why does this image not have any text or arrows on it? It’s a self-explanatory screenshot, that’s why.

              As long as it’s used appropriately — where the “online sales of Nike products” is mentioned in the content — it gets its message across.

              In general, your ideal SEO writers need to know how to use tools like Skitch and Canva to create these images. Remember, you’re on a hunt for the exceptional ones.

              References and citing resources

                Your ideal writer should link to stats or studies that make their points stronger. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Check the links in their samples and make sure they cite genuine resources.

                Examples

                  Illustrations make understanding easier. Especially if you’re in a technical industry (and most industries have their geeky side), your ideal writer should know how to explain their points with examples.

                  Simply search their samples — using Command + F (or Ctrl F if you’re using Windows) — for “example,” “instance,” or “illustration.” This works, because writers usually mention things like “for example,” or “for instance” when providing illustrations.

                  Excellent SEO content writers = Higher search rankings

                  Getting SEO content writers who have all the skills I’ve mentioned in this article are possible to find. And hiring them means higher search rankings for your content. These writers are, again, everywhere. But here’s the thing — and you’ve probably heard it before: You get what you pay for.

                  Exceptional SEO content writers are your best bet, but they’re not cheap. They can send your search traffic through the roof, but, like you: They want to work for people who can afford the quality they provide. So, if you’re going on a hunt for them, ready your wallet.

                  But ensure you get their samples and ask the questions in this guide as you deem fit. If you’re paying for content that’ll help you rank higher on Google, then you really should get what you pay for.

                  Did you find any of my tips helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

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                  The Thing that Keeps Many Conscientious Writers from Trying Freelance Writing

                  If you’re concerned about whether or not you’d be a good service provider, there’s a good chance you’d be a…

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                  Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

                  Posted by KristinTynski

                  In my last post, I explained how using network visualization tools can help you massively improve your content marketing PR/Outreach strategy —understanding which news outlets have the largest syndication networks empowers your outreach team to prioritize high-syndication publications over lower syndication publications. The result? The content you are pitching enjoys significantly more widespread link pickups.

                  Today, I’m going to take you a little deeper — we’ll be looking at a few techniques for forming an even better understanding of the publisher syndication networks in your particular niche. I’ve broken this technique into two parts:

                  • Technique One — Leveraging Buzzsumo influencer data and twitter scraping to find the most influential journalists writing about any topic
                  • Technique Two — Leveraging the Gdelt Dataset to reveal deep story syndication networks between publishers using in-context links.

                  Why do this at all?

                  If you are interested in generating high-value links at scale, these techniques provide an undeniable competitive advantage — they help you to deeply understand how writers and news publications connect and syndicate to each other.

                  In our opinion at Fractl, data-driven content stories that have strong news hooks, finding writers and publications who would find the content compelling, and pitching them effectively is the single highest ROI SEO activity possible. Done correctly, it is entirely possible to generate dozens, sometimes even hundreds or thousands, of high-authority links with one or a handful of content campaigns.

                  Let’s dive in.

                  Using Buzzsumo to understand journalist influencer networks on any topic

                  First, you want to figure out who your topc influencers are your a topic. A very handy feature of Buzzsumo is its “influencers” tool. You can locate it on the influences tab, then follow these steps:

                  • Select only “Journalists.” This will limit the result to only the Twitter accounts of those known to be reporters and journalists of major publications. Bloggers and lower authority publishers will be excluded.
                  • Search using a topical keyword. If it is straightforward, one or two searches should be fine. If it is more complex, create a few related queries, and collate the twitter accounts that appear in all of them. Alternatively, use the Boolean “and/or” in your search to narrow your result. It is critical to be sure your search results are returning journalists that as closely match your target criteria as possible.
                  • Ideally, you want at least 100 results. More is generally better, so long as you are sure the results represent your target criteria well.
                  • Once you are happy with your search result, click export to grab a CSV.

                  The next step is to grab all of the people each of these known journalist influencers follows — the goal is to understand which of these 100 or so influencers impacts the other 100 the most. Additionally, we want to find people outside of this group that many of these 100 follow in common.

                  To do so, we leveraged Twint, a handy Twitter scraper available on Github to pull all of the people each of these journalist influencers follow. Using our scraped data, we built an edge list, which allowed us to visualize the result in  Gephi.

                  Here is an interactive version for you to explore, and here is a screenshot of what it looks like:

                  This graph shows us which nodes (influencers) have the most In-Degree links. In other words: it tells us who, of our media influencers, is most followed. 

                    These are the top 10 nodes:

                    • Maia Szalavitz (@maiasz) Neuroscience Journalist, VICE and TIME
                    • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington Post
                    • Johann Hari (@johannhari101) New York Times best-selling author
                    • David Kroll (@davidkroll) Freelance healthcare writer, Forbes Heath
                    • Max Daly (@Narcomania) Global Drugs Editor, VICE
                    • Dana Milbank (@milbank)Columnist, Washington Post
                    • Sam Quinones (@samquinones7), Author
                    • Felice Freyer (@felicejfreyer), Boston Globe Reporter, Mental health and Addiction
                    • Jeanne Whalen (@jeannewhalen) Business Reporter, Washington Post
                    • Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) New York Times best-selling author

                    Who is the most influential?

                      Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we get a rough understanding of which nodes (influencers) in the network act as hubs of information transfer. Those with the highest “Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors” of the network. These are the top 10 influencers:\

                      • Maia Szalavitz (@maiasz) Neuroscience Journalist, VICE and TIME
                      • David Kroll (@davidkroll) Freelance healthcare writer, Forbes Heath
                      • Jeanne Whalen (@jeannewhalen) Business Reporter, Washington Post
                      • Travis Lupick (@tlupick), Journalist, Author
                      • Johann Hari (@johannhari101) New York Times best-selling author
                      • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington Post
                      • Sam Quinones (@samquinones7), Author
                      • Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) New York Times best-selling author
                      • Dana Milbank (@milbank)Columnist, Washington Post
                      • Mike Riggs (@mikeriggs) Writer & Editor, Reason Mag 

                          @maiasz, @davidkroll, and @johannhari101 are standouts. There’s considerable overlap between the winners in “In-Degree” and “Betweenness Centrality” but they are still quite different. 

                            What else can we learn?

                              The middle of the visualization holds many of the largest sized nodes. The nodes in this view are sized by “In-Degree.” The large, centrally located nodes are disproportionately followed by other members of the graph and enjoy popularity across the board (from many of the other influential nodes). These are journalists commonly followed by everyone else. Sifting through these centrally located nodes will surface many journalists who behave as influencers of the group initially pulled from BuzzSumo.

                              So, if you had a campaign about a niche topic, you could consider pitching to an influencer surfaced from this data —according to our the visualization, an article shared in their network would have the most reach and potential ROI

                              Using Gdelt to find the most influential websites on a topic with in-context link analysis

                              The first example was a great way to find the best journalists in a niche to pitch to, but top journalists are often the most pitched to overall. Often times, it can be easier to get a pickup from less known writers at major publications. For this reason, understanding which major publishers are most influential, and enjoy the widest syndication on a specific theme, topic, or beat, can be majorly helpful.

                              By using Gdelt’s massive and fully comprehensive database of digital news stories, along with Google BigQuery and Gephi, it is possible to dig even deeper to yield important strategic information that will help you prioritize your content pitching.

                              We pulled all of the articles in Gdelt’s database that are known to be about a specific theme within a given timeframe. In this case (as with the previous example) we looked at “behaviour health.” For each article we found in Gdelt’s database that matches our criteria, we also grabbed links found only within the context of the article.

                              Here is how it is done:

                              • Connect to Gdelt on Google BigQuery — you can find a tutorial here.
                              • Pull data from Gdelt. You can use this command: SELECT DocumentIdentifier,V2Themes,Extras,SourceCommonName,DATE FROM [gdelt-bq:gdeltv2.gkg] where (V2Themes like ‘%Your Theme%’).
                              • Select any theme you find, here — just replace the part between the percentages.
                              • To extract the links found in each article and build an edge file. This can be done with a relatively simple python script to pull out all of the <PAGE_LINKS> from the results of the query, clean the links to only show their root domain (not the full URL) and put them into an edge file format.

                              Note: The edge file is made up of Source–>Target pairs. The Source is the article and the Target are the links found within the article. The edge list will look like this:

                              • Article 1, First link found in the article.
                              • Article 1, Second link found in the article.
                              • Article 2, First link found in the article.
                              • Article 2, Second link found in the article.
                              • Article 2, Third link found in the article.

                              From here, the edge file can be used to build a network visualization where the nodes publishers and the edges between them represent the in-context links found from our Gdelt data pull around whatever topic we desired.

                              This final visualization is a network representation of the publishers who have written stories about addiction, and where those stories link to.

                                What can we learn from this graph?

                                This tells us which nodes (Publisher websites) have the most In-Degree links. In other words: who is the most linked. We can see that the most linked-to for this topic are:

                                • tmz.com
                                • people.com
                                • cdc.gov
                                • cnn.com
                                • go.com
                                • nih.gov
                                • ap.org
                                • latimes.com
                                • jamanetwork.com
                                • nytimes.com

                                Which publisher is most influential? 

                                Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we get a rough understanding of which nodes (publishers) in the network act as hubs of information transfer. The nodes with the highest “Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors” of the network. Getting pickups from these high-betweenness centrality nodes gives a much greater likelihood of syndication for that specific topic/theme. 

                                • Dailymail.co.uk
                                • Nytimes.com
                                • People.com
                                • CNN.com
                                • Latimes.com
                                • washingtonpost.com
                                • usatoday.com
                                • cvslocal.com
                                • huffingtonpost.com
                                • sfgate.com

                                What else can we learn?

                                  Similar to the first example, the higher the betweenness centrality numbers, number of In-degree links, and the more centrally located in the graph, the more “important” that node can generally be said to be. Using this as a guide, the most important pitching targets can be easily identified. 

                                  Understanding some of the edge clusters gives additional insights into other potential opportunities. Including a few clusters specific to different regional or state local news, and a few foreign language publication clusters.

                                  Wrapping up

                                  I’ve outlined two different techniques we use at Fractl to understand the influence networks around specific topical areas, both in terms of publications and the writers at those publications. The visualization techniques described are not obvious guides, but instead, are tools for combing through large amounts of data and finding hidden information. Use these techniques to unearth new opportunities and prioritize as you get ready to find the best places to pitch the content you’ve worked so hard to create.

                                  Do you have any similar ideas or tactics to ensure you’re pitching the best writers and publishers with your content? Comment below!

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                                    Writers Can’t Fake This

                                    Deadlines can be met without stringent schedules, which are suffocating for writers. It shows in their prose. A writer needs…

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                                    Copyblogger Certification Is Open to New Writers (Limited Time)

                                    Editor’s note 9/26/18: The Certification program closed to new students on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. If you’d like to be…

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                                    How to create a style guide for your SEO content writers

                                    To get the most out of your content writers, you need to set them on the right track from the start. How to develop guidelines and reduce the required editing time.



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                                    Why the Best Writers Aren’t Always the Most Successful

                                    Have you ever noticed that the really marvelous writers — the ones who think carefully about every word, who can…

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                                    What’s the One Skill that Separates Well-Paid Freelance Writers from Those Who Struggle?

                                    Everyone loves the part of the hero’s journey where our protagonist accepts the “call to adventure” and “crosses the threshold”…

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