February 26, 2014

Google SERP Snippet Previews

Want more traffic? No, no, not the four-wheeled highway-clogging kind — the come-to-my-website kind. Getting your site, or specific pages on your site, to show up high on the first page of organic search engine results for your top keywords is arguably the best and most cost-effective way to attract those clicks. A conversation today with my friendly local SEO expert, Janet Chiu, got me thinking about my own site optimization. And that led me to learn more about 'snippets'.

Snippets are those little descriptions Google (and other search engines) show beneath each search result on their pages. The description explains what that site or page of content offers. If the website publisher fails to provide a search description, or provides a lousy one in Google's eyes, Google et al. fills it in with whatever text it deems appropriate from that page.

That means you and I have a choice: create the best possible snippet, or...let Google do it. OK, so Google is hands-down way smarter than me. I mean, they have driverless cars roaming the planet taking photos of our houses and whatever else they feel like. But when it comes to crafting a snippet for my site, I'd much rather be in the driver's seat.

A snippet is not mere window dressing. It's really a little sales message that (hopefully) persuades a visitor to click-through to your site. Making sure it says what you want gives you a better chance of connecting with a visitor.

After I tweaked the snippet for each of my sites, I realized — frustratingly — that a number of days could pass before Google finally displayed the new version. Bummer. Luckily, thanks to a great SEO tutorial at Raventools.com, I found a handy site that previews your draft snippet for you as it would look on a Google search results page: http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html.

I gained a new appreciation for just how complex SEO is while talking with Janet. If you really want to get it right...hire her! Meanwhile, I hope you find this tiny tip useful.

January 10, 2014

Welcome, EFA-DC Members

Thanks to all who attended the Saturday, Jan. 11 meeting on the 'business of freelance writing'. For those who didn't get a chance to download the hand-out, just contact me so I can email it to you.

December 9, 2013

Ann Bevans Q&A: The Power of Stories

Ann Bevans
As a follow-up to my October 2013 post on Selling with Stories: How to Attract Your Ideal Client with Words and Pictures, by Ann Bevans, I asked Ann some questions so we can drill a little deeper on the role storytelling plays in business, as well as on her experience of writing the book.

Mark: Did anything about storytelling — or how businesses use it — surprise you as you wrote the book?

Ann: Sure! What surprised me most is how natural it is for humans to tell stories. My six year old spins fantastic tales about dragons and robots and superheroes quite spontaneously. We only run into trouble when we become self-conscious in our storytelling, which is the problem most entrepreneurs face. Self-consciousness takes many forms. It sounds like “I'm a bad writer” or “what if people judge me?” or “what story could I possibly tell?” I wrote Selling with Stories to provide business owners and marketers with a process that would help them rediscover what they already know how to do.

November 29, 2013

Headline Happiness

Image source: jeffbullas.com
Thanks to Janet Chiu at Cyberturf Strategic Media for inviting me to write about the power of effective headlines recently (Please Your Readers with Clickable Headlines).

In these days of hand-wringing over how to write search engine-optimized copy, Janet wisely and refreshingly knows that the search engines favor quality content written for real people. A good headline is key to attracting the eyeballs you seek.

After you read my post on Janet's site, here's an interesting article on the topic of headlines by Margaret Pincus on JeffBullas.com — which is also the source of the 'canine headline' image above.

Drop me a comment: What's your own take on effective headlines?

October 22, 2013

Stoking the Idea Factory

You know how you feel during the grand finale at a July 4th fireworks extravaganza, when they're shooting up everything they've got left — boom, boom, kablam — all at once? That was pretty much how I felt all day yesterday during a six-hour seminar featuring David Hobby.

October 10, 2013

Selling with Stories

"The very best stories rewire our brains."

That line — from the introduction to Selling with Stories: How to Attract Your Ideal Client with Words and Pictures by Ann Bevans — made me stop and think.

Ever since Og the caveman discovered he could get his children to pay attention, go to bed on time, and quit throwing rocks at dangerous animals by telling them vivid stories around the fire at night, that rewiring process has continued unabated in human minds.