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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