16 Dec 2014

25 Subtly-Crafted Marketing Questions To Get B2B Clients Results

You know when you get notified of a new 'list post' publication, you get that blanket of dread envelope you? Especially a post about marketing that purports 'new ideas'?

Well, when Mr Jingles rang for this post from Jay Baer on Google+, I felt that familiar "oh, no, not another 'pointing out the bloody obvious' post" ghost settle around my shoulders.

I should have known better.

Jay's meteoric rise to the very summit of social media mountain hasn't happened by regurgitating crap and simply putting his name, his brand on it.

Like the below Listly list of questions marketing agencies should ask their B2B clients, Jay's knowledge fills a gap. A gap, to be fair, that few acknowledged even existed.

If they did, they kept that insight closer to their chests than a prile of threes.

Not so with Jay's new social marketing steamroller of a concept.

Marketing Budget has to be a consideration

In an ideal world, it would be grand to take on board every aspect of this savvy marketing strategy. But let's be realistic: to accomplish all these tasks, you'd need a dedicated team working your content marketing 24/7. Adopting all of these tactics on a tight budget isn't an option, no matter how much automation your throw at it.

Just last week, we were trying to talk one of our clients around to adapting content curation as part of our service. As it stands, he firmly believes in broadcasting his companies' messages based on what he believes is suitable content. It's old school and, in our opinion, doesn't deliver best bang for his buck. But he's adamant.

With little room for engaging left over once our social bookmarking template has been implemented, we're between a rock and a hard place when it comes to recording results. Analytics only give you a part of the picture. It doesn't show the gratitude or human interaction that analytics cannot unearth.

On the thread on G+, I've asked Jay what he does when faced with budgeting restrictions. As a marketer, we instinctively know what's good for brand building. Heck, we've done our own and know the pitfalls.

How do you 'convince and convert' naysayers or those on tight budgets?

What we cannot do is hold a shotgun to our clients' heads and tell them not to expect results if they don't implement strategies a, b and c. They are the paymaster and sometimes no amount of persuasion will break their habits.

Take a good look at this list of questions Jay asks his clients, as much to get an idea of where they are as where he and his team want them to be. Then ask yourself how you'd convince a client that they need to spend accordingly to reap the benefits of social media marketing done right. It's a tough ask, but I'd love to hear what you've got to say.

Are you writing for the click-thru or organic search?

There are two very different motivators for clicking through to read a piece of content. On social, you have to draw the audience in with a clickable headline. For organic search, it's subtly different.

Trustflow is a major factor for ranking your website. And it's a two way street. When Google renders your page in SERPs, it's put to the test:

  • How many click-thrus are there compared to impressions?
  • Do people bounce from your page because the title/meta-description doesn't quite hit the mark?
  • Do they go on and share your content? What reaction does that get?

Jay references two tools to check whether you're content is hitting the mark with your audience:

  1. Inbound Writer - you can request a demo;
  2. Atomic Reach - this is the link to the web app, but you can pay for your own software.

Both give you an idea of how on target your copywriting is, in its structure, clarity and focus. We use similar programs, but our focus is on organic search.

Given the semantic web's fast-evolving reality, we use Alchemy API. This shows the concepts, taxonomy, keywords and sentiment of your document.

It also shows relations - this is an area many copywriters overlook. But in a world where Google is joining the dots, making sure Google knows how one entity relates to another is imperative for organic reach.

We also use a clarity - or NLP - app. It's called Hemingway and is the cornerstone of making your content crystal clear. There's a web app, but for $7, it's well worth downloading to your desktop.

You can see how we put these to use in our Semantic X-Ray Slideshare. It's fascinating to see how making your content fluff-free and focused can make a huge difference to what Googlebot understands about your content. Let us know how you get on? Awesome!

image credit: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Dec 2014

Bing Image Search replaces Clip Art - oh, the potential!

Today, I felt a pang. Right deep down in the Memorabilia Pit of my stomach. Microsoft is ditching Clip Art from Office! Wow, we've had that library since the Commodore 64 morphed into a PC almost overnight. Or at least Windows 95.

And even though loading Clip Art would cause our 256 MB Ram PC to freeze - often - we still loved it to death. Posters, certificates, D-I-Y marketing flyers - we used those sidebar images for just about everything.

But, lo! (in festive voice), the library has closed down. Or at least it has in the US. I've just gone to Insert ► Online Pictures on my Desktop and Clip Art is still there.

Insert Clip Art, Microsoft Word

But, yes. You can source an image for your Word document on desktop, royalty-free and served by Bing's image search.

As the screenshot prompts, Bing/Office is very clear in the action you must take next.

Do check that the image is in the Public Domain if you're going to use it online. Don't just assume that it is okay, just because it's in the results. Yep, a pain. But better safe than sorry.

Bing search for CC2.0 images in MS Word

Did Google's Announcement of Advanced Pixelation Detection Force the Issue?

I suppose it had to follow, though. Only last month, Google Research reported huge strides in image recognition by pixelation, only.

The upshot is that 'alt text' may (big may) at some point become redundant. What's alt text? It's the textual description of an image copywriters and webmasters use in a web page's HTML code.

It tells the page indexer and users with impaired vision what the picture is about. Here's my main domain Blavatar, as an example:

Featured image selections in WordPress
Search engines may otherwise use alt text as a way to confirm their algorithms' pixelated assessment of a digital image. This, in my opinion, would make more sense.

The guys and gals at the research lab will keep plugging away. Results aren't perfect, yet - but they're getting there.

But until Google is confident in the new tool, what an opportunity we have, though, eh?

Image Search - so underutilised

So. What do we know about Bing Image Search that we can use?

Microsoft Office will rely on CC1.0 Universal images gathered by Bing to replace its Clip Library. That's a massive data gathering tool, collecting images from the web.

Those images will then be displayed for MS Office users to add into their documents. Straight forward, right?

So, what if we could get images from our sites beamed into the offices of millions of, mm, Office users around the world!? There's no reason whatsoever why we can't, in theory.

Including an accurate description of your image is even more important following Microsoft's announcement. But even before this news, people were lax in alt text implementation and undervalued image search as traffic resource.

Am I just making all of this up? I am so not. Here's why.

This is a snapshot of stats for a WordPress blog post, a site to which I've not posted anything new in a year, or more. It gets regular trickles of traffic, all the same. And it's always the same source: image search drawing a huge proportion of the page's on-page views:

Screenshot showing traffic referrers, visits and target image of bikini wax

Okay - you can make up your own mind about what users are searching for. I've obfuscated it here, but it is clearer on the original web page. Swiftly moving on…

So, how do you include 'alt text' and a CC1.0 license in your HTML Markup?

I'm everso glad you asked. It's not obvious, because there seems no way to pull it off in HTML5 [citation needed]. But there is a way in RDFa.

There's a full and detailed guide on the Creative Commons Labs website, but this is all you need to know for now.

The rel= markup in HTML tells a web crawler the relationship between the entity you're wrapping in code to an off-site source. We want to tell Bing's crawler that our image is CC1.0 so that it can display the images on our site in Office, right? Darn tootin'!

To make sure their crawler knows what your image is and that they can use it, we need to insert two snippets of code into the HTML:
  1. rel="license" + URL of where the license lives;
  2. alt="description", which is the description of the image;
  3. width="XXX", set to the width of your template or narrower if wrapping image in text;
  4. and, of course, you have to link to the image source, be it on your CMS' server or online elsewhere.
First of all, the license information wraps around the image information. That's very important! Next, decide which license you want (and find its CC URL) and create an appropriate title for your image.

Next, get the URL of the image. If it's online, right-click the image and click "Copy Image URL".

You must ensure that you can redistribute this image and use the appropriate CC license! Or, if you're uploading via the dashboard, do so and pop into the HTML editor of your page.

You can then start building your code.

If you don't write code in any way, Creative Commons provides a tool that will create an embeddable Public Domain image HTML code.

If you are comfortable with HTML, at least a little, your code will look something like this:

screenshot of creative commons license in HTML image markup

That's the code in this post that I entered for the 'Stats/Bikini Wax' image, above. The wrapper is on the top line and finishes with </a> (end anchor).

The source of the URL, its alt text and width are in there, too. And, yes - you can put a separate 'title' in, too. And, Bing-go! It works.

Toolbox Tip: There is, of course, a pay off. If you're marking your images as in the Public Domain, you can't moan when other people use them.

That said, the image search feature in MS Word does allow users to filter images by license. If you don't want to waive all rights to your pictures, opt for CC2.0.

The odds are, images in the public domain will be generic. They'll not be a close enough representation of what the user wants if they want to look professional. That's great from a competition view for us, not so good for the user.

They may well then choose to search images by CC2.0 license, instead. This means they must attribute the image they use. If you'd prefer your images showing up in this search instead, in the markup, point the href to the Creative Commons CC2.0 URL, instead.

How do different CMS platforms handle images?

Screenshot - insert image, Blogger
If you're using Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr, each has their own way of allowing you to upload your picture.

You can add a picture via an online URL* or upload from your desktop or Google Drive (in the case of Blogger, left).

Each CMS will then prompt you for the alt text, or 'title', of the image.

In WordPress, they also offer the chance to choose a featured image, with a lengthier description for it. This is perfect for inclusion in the new Bing clip library. See my Blavatar of zebedeerox above for those details.

Screenshot insert image into Tumblr photo post*On Tumblr, it will depend upon the type of post you're creating - image, text, quote, etc.

One type will let you upload an image from your desktop. Others will let you include an image from a URL - that's using their image upload facility in the dashboard.

If you choose a Tumblr photo post, you have the choice of upload, URL or even taking a webcam shot to load into the post.

Of the three, I find Tumblr's visual editor the least user friendly to work with, so always write my posts in HTML.

Toolbox Tip: You can also set the "e-mail posts" facility to HTML by default in settings.

Do not see this as an opportunity to SPAM the search engines

One word of caution, though. Don't try to use this additional description space as a way to fit spammy keywords in. They've not said so yet, but if I know Google, they're planning something extra with the new pixelation technology.

You and I both know that Google wants its customers to have the best search experience, right? That covers all mediums - web, video, news and images. If you're trying to game search by cramming in keywords or using an inaccurate description of your image you will get punished!

Oh - and a secondary word of caution. As you've guessed, image search is becoming a lot more accurate. Owners of images and marketers and copyright standards can and do scan the web for illegal use of someone else's copyright.

As the Microsoft Office blog post warns us, always check the Creative Commons license on an image before you use it. Whilst Bing no doubt does everything it can to ensure it only serves Public Domain images, there will be oversights.

The onus is on you as the publisher of the content to give credit where it's due for any images you use. Now that Clip Art has hung up its brushes, don't try and pull any strokes, right?

all image credits: Jason Darrell/The Flying Feck

15 Aug 2014

How much does a freelance writer charge for quality copy?

My first answer to the oft-asked question "How much do you charge as a freelance writer?" is always: not enough. That's subjective, according to your standpoint, of course.

However, one look at the EFA Table of Editorial Rates is often enough to convince a client that I'm not over-charging them.

The problem is, every market has its parameters: the maximum it, or a client's budget, will bear. Likewise its troughs, low points when you should walk away. Or should you?

That's what we're going to look at, today. Are there times when you should take a job, even if the rate falls below a perceived "minimum wage" that you, the industry or acceptable society has set?

Writing as a pastime is not the same as freelance writing full time

Whilst we dream of being the next Stephen King or J K Rowling, the truth is we have to be sensible about the rate we charge.

Okay. Let's disappoint the aspiring freelance writer yet further. Their rate, at least as a fledgling writer without portfolio and few contacts, is rarely up to them at all.

Many would-be writers happen upon the craft not in a moment of divine vocation, but as a way to make a little extra whilst holding down a full time job. Or when they're between jobs and every little extra helps.

pink sunglasses

When copywriting isn't the sole financier of your standard of living, it can lead to rosy-coloured-glass syndrome.

As a bit of pocket money, you perhaps don't mind earning less than your employed hourly rate. But, Be Warned!

That mindset can cast a hue over what your writing's worth, at least compared to the perceived value a full time writer places on their copy.

If you're earning a full time wage, winning a job on a freelance site (or getting a recommendation by your aunt to write a piece in the parish newsletter) is all well and good.

There's often plenty of time to complete the task. The pay isn't always great so clients don't (always) harass you for the finished product. And when payday comes, your fees get added to the holiday fund or put towards 'that treat'. Everyone's a winner.

The game-changer is when you begin writing in a professional capacity. It's your only income and your clients have deadlines.

The upping in tempo, the pressure of the deadline and the realisation that you've got to write otherwise there's no Becks in the fridge this summer drains the pinkiness from those glasses.

With the rose-frosted hue melted, you see the world of freelance writing in its own garish, naked light for the first time.

Look away now if you're easily frightened.

Global freelance sites are tremendously good value - for the client

There's no subtle way of pointing it:

Unless you get lucky, you must build up a #credible portfolio (work and happy clients) before commanding a liveable #wage as a #writer. At least if the global freelance sites are where you're hoping to earn your living..

Fortunate may be shining upon you and your client finds you in the right place at the right time. I put myself in this category, although my good lady insists I positioned myself to be so fortuitous.

Alternatively, you may have graduated with a degree that opens doors. This could be to an established magazine, journal or other recognised publishing house.

It's usual for blue chip companies to demand at least some letters after the names of their authors. Not debtors, as is the case with some lower end publications.

The truth, though, for most writers is that they have to bid on jobs as a freelancer to secure their first projects.

If you can land plumb on your feet at a magazine, you may command the princely sum of £5.00/100 words. The higher-end the publication, the better prospects you have of pushing that to £10.00 or £12.50/100 words.

As a fledgling freelancer, that's living in the lap of luxury. Now compare that to the cut-throat global freelancing sites where you're up against freelancers from countries whose cost of living is only fractions of that in the UK.

Sit down and grab something stiff to drink if you've not yet seen the delights on offer on global freelance sites like oDesk, freelancer.com, People Per Hour, Fiverr and Elance.

shocked emotiguy

Many clients - the freelancers’ paymaster - offer set prices for the jobs they offer. Whilst not globally the case, jobs regularly appear on digital freelance sites at a rate of $1 or $2 per 500 words.

It’s worth pointing out that the majority of such global sites operate with the US dollar as their one and only currency. Take away the agency's fees and the forex rate and you're taking even less home.

So, yes, you’ve read that correctly: $0.40/100 words is often the going rate. And that's before deductions.

Use your proposal - add value to up your rate

So, let's break down what it takes to create a semantically sound article in today's world of search. And remember, we're talking about writing for clients who you may want to come back and order from you again. The easiest, most cost-effective way to grow your business is from your existing customer base, right? Darn tootin'!

For a start, someone offering to pay $2/500 words doesn't even understand the #concepts behind quality #content. At least not in a way that will help Google rank a web page. You know when we said walk away? This is the bottom of the trough.

A unique, quality, 700-word article can take up to an hour alone to:

  • absorb the raw data;
  • re-draft the piece in your head;
  • extract the bullet points you'll use as headers;
  • re-write and repurpose the content into a legible article that adds value;
  • let it rest before you go back to edit it.

If you're anything like me, the editing process will involve data extraction. If you're hoping to rank a client's content, why wouldn't you be interested in seeing your assignment through the eyes of a search engine? Yes, it adds time, thus cost.

But you want to be paid more. The client wants great value. Explain your process to them in your proposal, justify your rate and you see if they don't snap your hand off!

Hang on; I feel an incoming soapbox moment: too many websites that talk about copy and blogging are telling people to write for the click-thru. Make your headline emotive.

I just want to temper that - not pish it! altogether. If you're writing for the social click-thru then, yes, you do want your headline to stand out from the crowd. But what about SERPs?

Think about this for a minute. When you search Google, the main traffic source for any quality website, what type of headlines do you see? Do you see headlines that tug at your heart strings? Or do you see headlines that answer your question?

I'll leave that thought with you, for the next time you're beating yourself up over a headline. If you want the social click-thru, make it dramatic. If you're good enough to write for organic search, write a headline that both describes your article succinctly and the question you're looking to answer.

[gets down off soapbox]

Should I accept low-paying jobs?

You can see in an instant that the life of a freelance writer begins far from the six- and seven-figure sums that best-sellers command for one small book. Or even renowned copywriters themselves earn in a year. But that doesn't mean you won't or can't get there.

There will be contracts on freelance sites that are worth doing. Some of the more technical writing projects, niche markets, white and academic papers and articles for professional services can offer the aforementioned magazine rates and more.

The harsh reality is that without a portfolio to back up your job proposal, you’ll be lucky to even get a response from the client.

You have to decide whether to accept a few lower paying jobs to lay the platform from which you launch your career. If you do, don't make a habit of it. Explain up front why you're offering to complete their project at such a competitive rate. Otherwise, they'll expect that rate forever.

Or, you could sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the higher paying jobs to come. Target your proposals to each of the higher paying jobs and hope they're willing to take a chance.

There is no right or wrong answer. Some people will harangue me for that, but they've just forgot what it's like to be sat there waiting for responses with no 'credits' left to bid on more jobs.

What to do next

My advice to anyone looking to start a career in freelance writing is get some experience before ditching the day job. But try to charge the rate you'd expect if writing was your only source of income!

uncertain future for man

If that snippet of genius has come too late and you're sat there waiting for responses from clients, get writing. Today.

Start your own blog. Start timing your words/per hour output. Not just writing, but editing it, too.

Step out of your comfort zone. Not every project will be on a topic in which you're authoritative. Or even familiar. However, do write down those subjects in which you are savvy. By knowing and practising them, you can tailor your job search and subsequent proposals to match your specialities.

In a semantic world, with authority counting for so much, "Write what you know" can't be overstated enough.

But also, be prepared. It can be demeaning, working ten, twelve hours a day for little more than a take-away meal and a six-pack if that's the way you go. But boy, you'll have earned it, if that's what you choose to spend your wages on.

Your reputation will grow. You will become faster and more adept at creating and editing articles. That lifestyle you always hoped writing could deliver is achievable and worth the sacrifice at the outset.

But you have to start. Somewhere. Every journey begins with a single step. Just decide if it's a small step you want to take or stride out like John Cleese!

Once you get to the professional stage, the whole thing flips. Rather than clients tell you what they're willing to pay, you can choose the best-paying jobs or tell the client what you're willing to work for.

It's not easy. It does require talent, doggedness and a very thick skin. But learning perseverance, adopting a willingness to learn and practising consistency will get you there.

As the Internet becomes more dependent on quality content, the need for capable writers is only going to increase. So I ask you this: "How much can freelance writers earn?"

The answer is very much down to your attitude. Good luck.

image credits, all from freedigitalphotos[dot]net:
> "Pink Sunglasses" by Teeratas,
> "Shocked Emotiguy" by farconville
> "Future Unknown Represents Unclear Uncertainty And Man" by Stuart Miles

18 Jul 2014

What makes for a good copywriter in 2014?

So, you've made your mind up - you're going to be a copywriter. You're handy with a keyboard and know your way around the dictionary and Thesaurus. Go, you!

What's more, you've heard that setting up a blog takes mere minutes. You've identified a subject in which you're confident (enough) to impart authority, add value and answer queries. Awesome! What next?
quill, letter and inkwell in sepia

Before you carry that authority to #1 in every SERPs (hint: that's not gonna happen, no matter what the ads tell you), there's more to being a copywriter than writing.

For sure, go scribble monologues to your heart's content. Release that angst in digital ink. But unless your parents conceived you on a four-leaved clover whilst holding a rabbit's foot apiece, no one is going to find you online. Not today.

Posting your musings or diarytribe was, once upon a time, sufficient to ensure discovery. If you published on a regular basis and repeated [insert keyword here] often enough in your copy, you'd turn up in Search. After a fashion. Today, it's not so simple.

What do clients expect of a copywriter at this semantic dawn?

The task of writing quality, authoritative content for clients is yet more demanding. You're a copywriter first, but content marketer second.

Make no mistake, the client isn't paying you out of allegiance or pity. Those 700 words you scribe constitute only a tiny part of their marketing strategy. Integral, yes. But not the be all and end all.

I digress. You know your trade, fair enough. But the client expects you to know theirs, too. As wrong an assumption as that may be, it's more often than not the case. That's why you must learn the importance of becoming not only a copywriter, but a niche expert. More on that in a later post.

Back to your client. They sell goldfish bowls. Go on then, Smart Alec. Create diverse content about 12" glass globes twice a week for a year. Not so easy, is it? And there are far more diverse and tech-savvy dependent niches than goldfish bowls.

The point is, as a freelancer, you must spend time honing your craft. Underestimate this element at your peril.

The demands of the digital market change on a whim, often led by changes in Google's ranking algorithms. The Catch 22 is that time spent ensuring you remain ahead of your competition leaves less time to become expert in other fields.

Murder, She Wrote; Misery; Castle; Writers take the lead

The old saying "Write what you know" has cemented its place in editors' lore for a reason. It's even more pertinent in 2014 and beyond. Search engines rely on authority, extracted from various sources, to rank content. Proven expertise may even trump links as a ranking factor in the not-too-distant future.

Therefore, producing an unformatted 500-word article in MS Word targeting your (client's) topic is not enough. A client expects you to:
  • understand keyword density, structure and/or research;
  • have a Copyscape (or similar) plagiarism checker account;
  • produce content that not only conveys their message, but ranks in search and attracts social engagement;
  • create an article that fits hand-in-glove into their content marketing strategy.
In short, niche-savvy content marketers are a much more sought-after commodity than a plain old wordsmith. The times, they are a-changing.

Practise perfection before you pitch potential clients

Wouldn't it be awesome to land a job writing about writing or digital marketing. Why? Because learning your craft and then writing about it negates having to specialise in other areas. The problem is, the competition's hot (damn hot!). Established copywriters already tenure the majority of those roles.
Asian lady poised to write in notebook

Given that you're not yet ready to dethrone the experts, grab a pencil and jot down topics about which you could write from multiple angles. Conveying opinion is one thing; providing reasoned, unbiased argument elevates your writing (and authority) to dizzying heights.

Try these for size. What jobs have you held, to date? What are you passionate about outside of work? What specialist knowledge have you trained for/acquired? To which industry sectors could your content add value?

Before launching yourself on the unsuspecting blogosphere, research the different topics you identified in the above exercise. If you're still at a loss, Hubspot published a great article about identifying content topics. Get a leg up there and I'll be back soon with an article talking about coaxing the muse.

Photo credits (both FreeDigitalPhotos[dot]net):
Quill and Inkwell: Simon Howden
Poised Asian Lady: Feelart

15 Jul 2014

Extract Data From Influencers To Grow Google+ Engagement

Here’s a useful video by +Susan Finch to help us with Google+ circle management. At 4:50 minutes, it’s a must-see that will bolster your engagement in even less time than that*.

The short video teaches us how to extract data about people we follow on Google+ using a simple tool built into +Circloscope. We can then utilise that data to garner targeted, quicker engagement on Google+ (with just a little help from MS Excel).

Exporting circles data needn’t be complicated

The video shows Susan ripping Google+ IDs into a .csv file, all whom had engaged on a recent hangout she’d hosted. Everything is available in one export tool in Circloscope, no fancy configuring required.

Next, Susan opens a new Excel worksheet and goes to the ‘DATA’ command tab. Using ‘From Text’, Susan imports that extracted .csv file info as text*. The final step is to delimit that data with the import wizard.

The final task is to paste the +Mention info into a new G+ post to thank her engagers in public. Google+ is clever enough to translate the plain text (+ sign prefixed to 21-character unique G+ ID number) into a Plus-Mention.

In the example for this blog post, I’ll share with you the screenshots for my project. It’s detailed below, but you’ll see the relevance.

Step 1: import circle data (mine shows 51 as me and my page are in there, too):

Step 2: select properties to export from Circloscope and export* (only ID is needed for my project):

Step 3: import .csv data "From Text"**

Step 4: use import wizard to delimit columns:

It may sound complicated; if so, sorry. It’s much easier to spend the five minutes watching the video, which proves even a numpty like me can use it. In any case, your machine, either in Circloscope or on your desktop, prompts you at every turn.

*Tip: just make a mental note of where your default download location is before you import from Circloscope.

**Tip: don’t open the .csv that you export from Circloscope. It will run amok with the long 21-digit ID/+Mention data. Yes, that’s a tip from me based on first-hand experience - D’oh!

It took takes less than two minutes to import and create such a database. I’ve just done something similar for another project, more of which below.

There is, however, a proviso. To achieve the import process in such quick fashion, you must already have a Circloscope account, with your circles pre-loaded. Depending on how many people you follow will determine how long they take to load.

Tip: it’s not that quick!

And, yes - this particular “Select All” feature does work on the freemium version of Circloscope. Awesome stuff!

What you can do with the Circloscope tool - an example

The possibilities are immense, from all manner of marketing angles. You can keep track on engagers of a specific event, as Susan did. This is a great way to build relationships.

You can also import people alongside the circles into which you’ve placed them. This enables you to see at-a-glance if you need to distribute people to other circles, or delete them completely.

You can keep track on competition, see what they’re posting. Need to research a topic? Search G+ for your hashtag(s), stick those who post about it in a circle, then rip their data.

But here’s what I’m gonna do with it. I’ve created a Drive Sheet that lists my top 49 Google Plus influencers. It came about because:

"I do so love it when Mr Jingles tells me there are 99+ notifications awaiting inspection. I click that bell and immediately check them all.”

Said no one ever.

Above is my "Google Plus 49ers" circle, the circle formerly known as G+ on Steroids.

In the same way Susan extracted her engagers into a spreadsheet, I extracted this circle’s membership.

After cross-examining each of these individuals (not!), I lovingly loaded them, by hand, into a sheet of the workbook entitled “Top 50”. I pasted the info into a ‘Defined Name’ area in a second sheet in the workbook.

Why? Well, I can change these people often; the main page will only ever mirror the names in that area. Those changes could be based on relevance in G+ » People or just on a whim. However, it was updating the column to reflect the circle changes that used to be a pain!

I should have paid attention to +Mark Vang’s posts with more urgency! This post/video would have saved much of this labour, and some!

Monitor your industry, influencers and competition

Anywho, to the main sheet (and purpose) of the workbook. It’s a Weekly Schedule, designed to ensure I get around to each of my Top 50 G+ influencers. Or, should I say, “the 49ers”?

Yes, I’m in there, too, hence Top 50. Yes, the inclusion may play to my vanity, but not so much that I share my own posts (“For the evening crowd”, my eye!).

By extracting the data from Circloscope as Susan demonstrated, I copy and paste the Names and ID information into the “Top 50” sheet. They go into the named reference in Excel, so it’s important that membership numbers stay the same.

The front sheet, “Schedule”, pulls that name information through into a check-list (seen on the right beside the calendar, above). I then concatenate both a +Mention column each 49er's G+ profile URL using the ID number and simple =CONCATENATE formulae. Both are simple enough to achieve importing only the ID number from Circloscope.

I can then click through to each member's profile to see what they've been up to right from the sheet. If I want to h/t them in a post - if I’m sharing through Hootsuite, say - the +Mention info’s to hand, too.

I’ve found this list handy when curating content from outside G+ via Hootsuite. Having an influencer’s +ID to hand saves loading G+ if I want to *Ping!* them about specific content.

Anyway, back to the weekly routine. Once I’ve found and shared an influencer’s post, I enter their name into the “Schedule” from the drop-down list.

Once their name appears in the weekly calendar, it’s no longer highlighted in the adjacent check-list. This helps highlight whose content I’ve got left to share for the rest of the week.


Many people (I've learned) fear Microsoft Excel more than The Grim Reaper himself. If that's you, here's a video from Circloscope that demonstrates how to import the data as a .txt file right from within the tool itself:

Leverage influencers to help become known for [niche]

But the usefulness of this spreadsheet doesn’t stop there. Talking of ‘known for’ topics, how can we keep a record of the subjects about which we’re creating or curating content?

Why is it that people are following us? What do they expect from us as their half of the bargain? Because that’s what it is. When people circle us, they allow us to populate their stream with our content. Can we live up to our own billing?

And what about when we don’t know why people are following us? This could account for many followers, but who checks (or cares)?

We could have posted one Caturday image that attracted a significant number of new followers. But can we class those as relevant to our identity or goals?

Be ‘known for’ relevant topics

To help stay focused, I’ve created ten topics in which I’d like to become expert. Or at least ‘known for’. I’ve created the list in the “Top 50” tab, given the area a ‘defined name’ and it now facilitates the “Topic” dropdown list in the “Schedule”.

You may want to create less topics and focus on specific niches. But I’d question aiming for more than ten. If you’re intent on covering a diverse range of topics, perhaps consider brand pages for a selection of them?

I’m not saying we can make arguments for every single person who follows us. Rather, by concentrating our content curation topics, we’ll ensure that new followers are relevant.

So, beneath the author whose post I’ve shared, I allocate a topic from a second drop-down list, too. A counter beneath the calendar tots up how many posts I’ve shared from any given niche. Again, this helps focus on a rounded week.

There’s a progressive data-bar to help us identify what topics we’ve shared week-to-date at-a-glance.

As you populate the Schedule, the data-bars will represent the given topic as a percentage of everything you’ve shared.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. I could just break down the circle into seven smaller ones and name them Sun-thru-Sat. However, that would mean breaking up the main circle into seven, compromising my UX. That sort of defeats the object of the spreadsheet.

Also, allocating set days would mean best-guessing when each influencer would publish a shareable post. Could I guarantee that by pegging each to a specific day they’d come up trumps for me? You know the Law of the Sod, right?

What is a good idea, if you don’t mind separating your main circle into two, is this:

  1. Load up your main 49-ers circle at the start of the week in G+;
  2. pick the seven most relevant stories you want to share for day one;
  3. as you share, remove the person from the main circle into a ‘done’ circle;
  4. when next you load the 49-ers circle, only people whose stories you’ve not shared will appear listed;
  5. to save you having to move everyone back at the start of the next week, just work in reverse.

Why go to such length to share other people’s content?

That’s a fair question. When you’re struggling to promote your own content, why engage on other people’s posts?

First, this is a great way to confirm whether you’ve got a relevant following. If you’re seeing little engagement, you need to begin ‘social listening’. Find and engage with those who’ll help spread your message further and vice versa.

In addition to keeping tabs on a Plusser’s profile and topics, I also record the time. Overall, this gives us the ability to test our G+ marketing strategy, by qualifying:

  • whose posts are resonating most with your followers;
  • which topic does engagement suggest you’re most known for;
  • what time is best to post for maximum engagement and when G+, for you, becomes the ghost town about which we hear so much.

And that’s what G+ is all about: relevant engagement. It’s not about sucking up. It’s not about screaming for attention. I stopped that last month. No, this exercise is about:

  • crafting a circle and system that prevents (me and) my posts being too 1-dimensional;
  • keeps me up-to-date with each of the industry topics in which I’m interested;
  • introduces my influencers to a new audience (my 20,500+ following);
  • and (touch wood) keeps my followers in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.

If there are ways I can improve this process, I’m all ears. Please do drop your comments and questions in the applicable space, below.

As an aside, I ripped the template straight from those proffered in MS Word. I then modified it to cover the actual week, not the working one. As a freelancer, they are one and the same.

If you want to modify a copy for your own schedule, here's an embedded version of the spreadsheet that also has a download link:

To make that spreadsheet work for you:

  1. make a circle on G+ with your top 49 influencers;
  2. install Circloscope (free) if you don't already have it;
  3. load up the people you follow on Google+ into Circloscope (automatic, but may take a while);
  4. rip and import the ID info from the circle (like in Susan's video, but "ID" and "Name" properties only);
  5. paste the Names into Column A (below A1 [Plusser]) of the Top 50 tab in your downloaded spreadsheet;
  6. paste the 21-digit numerical reference in Column B adjacent to the plusser's reciprocal Name;
    • I've copied "relevance" from Circloscope, too; this is in Column D in the downloadable spreadsheet.

      If you want this information, too, choose the "relevance" tag in Circloscope as per Step 2, above, then paste into Column D, again in the same row as your Plusser;

  7. overwrite my ten topics with those you want to follow/be known (Column F [Topic]);
  8. do NOT type anything into Columns C, E, G or H as these contain the formulae for profile URL and +Mentions;
  9. save the spreadsheet as a template then start curating!

Remember, the intention is to share 7 posts across 7 days, one from each of your influencers. Build a relevant following by becoming expert in targeted areas. Your followers, Google and perhaps one day your bank manager will thank you for your diligence.

9 Jul 2014

How to leverage Hangouts On Air for Brand Recognition

How to leverage Hangouts On Air for Brand Recognition

Of all the tools that Google+ gives us for free, #HangoutsOnAir are the most direct way to reach an audience.

Whether you're:

  • hoping to build your brand;
  • connect with influencers or potential customers;
  • bring a specific issue/offer/service (delete as applicable) to light;
  • or, in private, hold a team meeting,

Hangouts can facilitate you. However, as with all things Google+, there's a learning curve.

Don't get me wrong, there are many individuals giving their time for free to help those new to the platform understand its many nuances. The problem, half the time, is finding those people and brands.

Connecting new Google+ users to influencers

As well as these helpful soles, many of whom are moderators in Google+ Communities, brands engage the platform, too. And not only marketers, cited often by social media 'experts' as the reason they're not active on there.

In the following interview with Ronnie Bincer, we learn what inspired him to set the industry pace with Hangouts. Moreover, using the insight he offers, how you can adopt the tool to take your content marketing to the next level.

Rich Brooks, who conducts the interview, brings Ronnie out of the green room and directly into the spotlight. As well as getting to meet the man behind control-deck, we also learn how to:

  1. use Hangouts as a networking and communications tool;
  2. bring a guest into a Hangout who's not on Google+;
  3. to find, engage and entice an audience to watch your HOA on YouTube;
    • (this is ideal if someone you want on the show has expressed a Jeeplusaphobia!)
  4. use Hangouts to build personal and professional relationships

The G+ Community Vibe - it's a Solid Bond!

To underpin the notion that there are helpers abound, this post (embedded below) was originally shared into the Google Plus for Small Business community. The long skyscraper image to the left highlights the community's popular categories and shows the current membership volume, too. It's an active community!

It's free-to-join and is owned, moderated and maintained by a selection of Google+ power-users (for whom I can personally vouch). Between them, there's nothing you can ask about Small biz or G+ that they won't have an answer for. If they're unsure, they'll often dig deep and do the donkey work. They are that darned good!

It's a great community to begin your G+ journey on a sound footing. Once you're in there, go that one step further: spread your wings and indulge in a HOA airing, too.

If you have any comments or questions yourself, do drop them in below. I look forward to seeing you in there or on air!

7 Jul 2014

All-in-one blogging resource via Mike Allton on G+

For A Copywriter's Toolbox' inaugural post, I'm delighted to share a collection of online blogging guides put together by Mike Allton. He's written plenty on the subject over time (as well as, you know, doing it for real) for The Social Media Hat.

Now, he's done a superb job of indexing those articles for us in one Google+ post, from which the inspiration for this article came. To add context and value here, I've added a few Toolbox Tips! along the way, too.

Now, your first question may be: are all the articles still relevant, given the changes Google has made this year?

Well, if your priority has always been to give the user the best experience, any changes to Google's ranking algorithms shouldn't have affected you. If you have been slapped by a Google penalty, these articles will indirectly help you see where you've gone wrong.

Knowing Mike as I do, the content contained herein is evergreen, his advice succinct and secure. The list itself may have been updated, but the articles are rock solid and full of marketing insights and expert blogging tips.

Some of the topics Mike covers are:

  • How often should you be writing?
  • How you can find the time to write, even on a tight schedule;
  • How to use your blog (and social) to drive traffic;
  • How to generate ideas for a vibrant, relevant blog;
  • How to get the word out about your content to drive engagement…

…and much more.

All the bullet-points below are direct hyperlinks that you can bookmark and peruse at your leisure. Or if any strike a chord, do head straight over.

Go on then; what's stopping you? Here's Mike »

Take your Blogging to the Next Level - UPDATED

Many individuals and businesses aspire to become better bloggers. Perhaps you're looking to add an additional revenue stream, or perhaps you're hoping to use your blog to establish your expertise and authority in your field. Whatever the reason, you're on the right track! Your blog can do all those things and more for you, but it will take time and hard work.

That’s where I can help.

Here are a number of articles I’ve published which you can spend some time reviewing and learn several key techniques and aspects of blogging that will help you.


Toolbox Tip!:

Timing your content's distribution is crucial. Two reasons. First, you want notifications to appear in the streams of those who'll benefit at a time when said beneficiaries are apt to be on social. But second, and perhaps more important, you need to address post volume.

If you're not posting useful content often enough, you'll struggle to gain/retain your following. If you post too often, relevant or not, people will get peeved that you're taking over their stream. Worst case scenario, they report you as a spammer. It can and does happen, especially in Google+ Communities.

There's no better way to test what the ideal editorial calendar for your blog will be than to actually, you know, post an article. Yes, this does mean you placing blind faith in your audience and your gut. But it's a barrier that has to be breached, end of.

When I was in the brick 'n' mortar world, we had an old saying (about profit margins): "push it 'til it breaks". There's an argument for similar advice here, too.

Don't start out all guns blazing. Graduate your activity in small increments. Try one or two articles per week (which in itself may not be as easy to produce as you imagined!). Then, track the engagement on those live posts. Or check the open rates if you're using e-mail marketing and decipher where the tipping point is for your audience.

Enough from me; here's Mike with his list of articles covering 'When' and 'How' to write engaging blog posts:


Toolbox Tip!:

'Write What You Know' is an adage that's stood the test of time. One reason is because, as an expert in your field, finding new aspects or angles should never leave you short of base material.

Begin by checking what information already exists online about the service you provide. If there's little, great: fill that gap! If there seems quite a lot already published, you need a fresh approach.

Write down bullet points of the specifics you want your article to communicate. Then, take the most relevant elements of that existing online content, meld into your own inimitable style and trump what's out there already.

Another reason: with niche authority comes respect and, in time, a loyal following. Conversely, if you're bluffing your way through content, you'll soon get found out.

Either your audience/customers or genuine figureheads in your industry will call and catch you out. Any reputation and trust you've built will be washed away in an instant.

On that note, and before Mike's 'What' list, here's a quick tip from me: if you're stuck for a new idea, go back to your archive. Not got an archive? See who's written what about the information you want to convey.

Make sure the content is 'evergreen' and repurpose it for a new platform or medium. Podcast, video, infographic or even the same content rewritten in a style to suit the audience on a different social platform. Problem? Solved. Possibilities? Endless!


Toolbox Tip!:

With so many authors trying to connect to a finite audience, you must be where your audience is. The old 'Build it and they will come' motto is so 20th Century. And inaccurate, given that consumers carry the Internet in their pocket, wherever they go.

Today, we live on diverse and multiple social media platforms. To confound matters, each platform has its own type of follower with differing levels of expectation. There are even bespoke rules of netiquette per network.

If your audience is not coming to you, you must go to them. So first, learn the channel's (often unwritten) rules. How? By engaging, through 'social listening', before expecting people to interact with your content. You must speak their language. Find a relevant topic/article, edit it to the site's accepted style and only then share.

But that's not your 'job done'. It's only the beginning. Your true work starts after you've hit publish, when people begin engaging YOU in conversation! Work hard, work regular and it will happen.

That's about it from me. I thank you for reading and look forward to seeing you again soon. In the meantime, here's Mike's last list of articles from his Google+ post. These cover that all important element: distribution. In other words, how you get your content in front of a targeted, engaged audience. I'll leave you with Mike to wrap it up:

Finally, be sure to view the recordings from The Second Annual Virtual Bloggers Conference, where you’ll find 11 sessions with top experts talking about HOAs, Google+, Instagram, Hootsuite, Evernote, Branding, Podcasts and more.

If you haven’t already, I would recommend subscribing to my Blog Notification Circle. If you’re interested in getting a notification each time I share a new article on social media, blogging and marketing, just let me know. New posts come out no more than once or twice a day. For more information on how you can use this technique yourself, click here.

Best of luck with your blog!

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