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SEO During A Recession (Does It Still Work?)

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SEO During A Recession (Does It Still Work?)

It doesn’t take a professional economist to predict the global markets are headed for a downturn.

In the past year, inflation rates in the United States have hovered around 7%, with the IMF predicting the worst is yet to come. People everywhere feel the crunch of high gas prices and rising food costs.

And as expenses rise, many businesses are preparing to tighten their belts, cut unnecessary spending and ride out the storm until the global markets turn back around.

As you’re looking to cut the fat in your own company, it can be very tempting to slash your advertising and marketing budget.

This is a huge mistake.

By eliminating or even scaling down your marketing efforts, you’re hurting the growth and maintenance of your customer base. New customers will be harder to reach while existing customers will be unaware of new products, services, and deals.

Remember, marketing is an investment – not an expense. And in an age dominated by the internet, this is especially true of search engine optimization.

So, if you are considering cutting your SEO budget, DON’T DO IT.

Seriously. Don’t even think about it.

SEO can continue to move the needle for your business, even when other growth initiatives are coming up short.

In this piece, we’ll look at why that happens and show why SEO should be an important part of your marketing plan, no matter the economic conditions.

Why Does SEO Do Well In Economic Downturns?

When times are tough, you need to find a better value for your dollar. Your money needs to stretch further and work harder.

In marketing, few channels work harder than search for most products and services.

How do we know this? Because economies are cyclical, and this isn’t our first recession rodeo.

In the SEO era (i.e., since roughly 1991), we’ve had three significant recessions. During these times, it’s been discovered that SEO still performs. This can be attributed to a few reasons, namely:

  • It’s flexible: Even if you’re a small fish competing with an industry-dominating competitor, SEO gives you the flexibility to attract new customers. Long-tail keywords help you target highly specific searches. Local search helps people in your area find you, and a regularly updated website lets visitors know that you’re thriving (or at least maintaining), despite the larger economic environment.
  • It’s integrated: SEO fits in with your Facebook, Snapchat, or any other to help your business appear in search results. This creates an inbound marketing funnel just by taking an optimal approach to things you’re probably already doing.
  • It’s budget-friendly: Aside from your computer/internet/electricity costs – all of which you’re already paying for – SEO is primarily a time investment. Even if you’re outsourcing your search engine optimization, you’re paying for your expert’s time and not hard costs like billboards, paid digital ads, and television commercials (all of which also require a labor investment).

To reap the benefits of SEO, you don’t need to buy anything; you only need to do your homework, create great content, and optimize your site for web crawlers.

Now that we’ve established that SEO can work in times of economic uncertainty, let’s look at what you need to do to make it work for you.

How To Prepare For SEO In A Bad Economy

Whether you are a freelancer, an agency, or an in-house SEO, there are things you need to do to prepare your decision-makers for an economic downturn.

If you skip this, there’s a good chance you’ll get cut with the rest of the marketing budget.

When the economy takes a turn for the worse, the key to keeping decision-makers on board with search marketing efforts comes down to effective tracking and communication about the value it provides.

The first step is to ensure that you and your client are up to date on how the campaign is performing.

If you don’t already know your customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs, now is the time to figure them out. This will give you a metric to keep in mind when calculating the value of your SEO work.

You need to adopt attribution modeling if you are still looking at last-click metrics for search.

Your goal is to make your work irreplaceable. This means communicating your value early and often.

You also need to let decision-makers know that even if someone comes in offering to do the job cheaper (and they will), your results will more than makeup for any additional costs of hiring you.

But to do that, you need to be on the same page with the decision-maker.

To be on the same page, you must agree on the results.

Goals Are The Key To Reducing Churn During Downtimes

Once you agree on the results, you can start setting smart goals for what the results will be.

Set the goal and get the decision-maker to agree to it. This helps you set yourself up for long-term success.

And get it in writing (either on paper or digitally), if possible, with both parties signing off.

This establishes in no uncertain terms that the relationship will continue if the goals are met.

It’s definitely a risk if you don’t hit the goals, so don’t set a goal you don’t think you can hit.

If the decision-maker wants to set an unrealistic goal, you need to push back.

Suggest making the unrealistic goal a “stretch goal” and setting a more realistic actual goal.

Don’t get pressured into agreeing to something you can’t deliver.

And make sure your plans are tailored to your specific situation, whether that’s as a freelancer, SEO agency, or B2B marketer.

As A Freelancer: Diversify And Focus On Core Competencies

For people who make a living by selling their services and expertise to businesses, recessions can be scary.

And it’s not just about an inability to find new clients – it could be existing clients who decide to reduce their costs by taking SEO in-house or even old clients who suddenly don’t have the money to pay you.

There’s no guaranteed way to keep your clients, and unfortunately, attrition is part of the game. That said, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for continued success.

The first thing you should do is diversify your client base. Certain industries are going to be hit harder by recessions than others.

While this can be great if your clients are largely unaffected, it can be downright disastrous if they’re struggling in an industry. And it can be hard to predict which fields will struggle and which will thrive.

You must also find measurable ways to prove your value and expand your core competencies. That means clearly defining your goals (see above section). It also means changing the queries you’re targeting to reflect economy-driven changes in customer behavior.

For more information, we have an excellent article from the COVID-19 recession in which SEO experts gave us their tips for keeping SEO clients when things are rough.

As An Agency: Manage Relationships With Existing Clients

If you’ve been at a digital agency during a recession, you already know marketing budgets are usually one of the first things to get cut. And that makes good client management absolutely vital.

Communication and personal touch can go a long way to demonstrating your commitment to your clients. Of course, getting measurable results doesn’t hurt either.

You should use the recession as a chance to find new opportunity areas. What has changed about the client’s target customer’s behavior because of financial strain? How can you help the client position themselves as the perfect solution?

Focus on enhancing your relationships, offer timely advice, and, when in doubt, over-communicate. These are surefire ways to stay in your clients’ good graces.

You also need to understand where your agency is at risk. If you’re afraid you’ll lose clients, identify specific actions you can take to mitigate that risk.

Review your software subscriptions and other tools to see if you can afford to cut one or more if need be.

Because everyone is worried about their business, it can also be a good time to renegotiate with vendors.

And don’t forget about your team. Your employees are going to be just as stressed as everyone else. Have a tangible plan for keeping them motivated and productive.

For more ideas about how to sustain your SEO agency during a recession, be sure to read this piece.

As A B2B: Prioritize The Right Marketing Strategy And Platform

In a shaky economy, business-to-business (B2B) marketing needs to work harder and do more. And search engine optimization is a key area where you can outwork your competition without stretching your budget.

While you may be tempted to switch all your resources to areas offering short-term results like sales promotions or performance marketing, abandoning your SEO strategy is a big mistake.

For one thing, you’re forsaking all the hard work you’ve already done to get your site to rank on Google, which allows your competitors to swoop in and steal those clicks from right under you.

Not to mention, you risk being forgotten once the recession ends.

Instead of panicking, reevaluate your SEO strategy.

How were you performing before the recession? What keywords were you strong in, and which were you weak in? Are there any related queries you can start targeting that will bring in visitors others in your field may be overlooking?

Give potential customers or clients confidence in your offerings by prominently featuring reviews, testimonials, and case studies on your website. These tend to use the vernacular of your industry, which helps your ranking too.

You should also rethink what platforms you’re using. Obviously, your SEO strategy is going to be primarily focused on Google, adhering to the latest best practices to increase your search engine ranking. Still, it’s also important not to neglect your social media presence.

These are an often-forgotten way to rank in search results for specific keywords, often without much extra work. This is one of the few exceptions where it’s okay to use duplicate content for SEO purposes.

For example, you can share your recent blog post to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and generate traffic, all with just a single piece of content.

Be sure to take a close look at your integrated campaigns and how they’re performing.

Are you on the same platform your audience uses? And are you positioned correctly on each one?

For example, if you’re selling scrap metal to industrial companies, posting a video of your employees doing a viral dance to TikTok probably isn’t doing you a bit of good.

For more information on developing a sustainable B2B digital marketing plan, be sure to read this article.

The Bottom Line Is The Bottom Line

Business is all about revenue – and hopefully profit. But in lean times, you can’t adopt the same tactics that you used in the salad days.

You need to make smarter decisions allowing you to operate more efficiently without sacrificing quality. And this is especially true of your SEO strategy.

Just remember, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. No recession will last forever, and neither will any boom period.

That’s why it’s important to consistently find new ways to add value with search engine optimization. Set your goals, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t lose heart.

If you can do these things, you’ll be set to come out of the looming recession even stronger than you went in.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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WordPress Admin Interface Is “Simply Bad”

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WordPress Admin Interface Is "Simply Bad"

Yoast SEO plugin founder, Joost de Valk, published a critical appraisal of the WordPress user interface (UI), saying that it makes it  “harder to use” and may be a reason that contributes to WordPress losing market share to companies like Wix and Shopify.

The official WordPress design philosophy states that they want to make WordPress easier to use with every new version published.

They write that it’s their goal that the “non-technically minded” user is the one they design for so that they can be set up within five minutes with a fully functional website.

However the reality of how easy WordPress is to use falls far short of their philosophy statement.

Even the developer of WordPress itself, Matt Mullenweg, said that designing in Wix is faster than doing the same thing in WordPress.

WordPress User Interface Design

Joost points the finger at the current WordPress admin user interface as a contributing factor to why WordPress is confusing to use.

He called attention to the fact that WordPress has three different user interfaces, forcing users to learn how to use each interface and complicating the experience of using WordPress.

To make things worse, themes and plugins introduce their own user interface elements, which again forces users to learn an entirely different way to navigate and user the software.

An ideal user interface (UI) offers a consistent workspace so that a user doesn’t have to stop and rethink where all the buttons and links are.

Interacting with the interface should be similar across every screen, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish.

Joost wrote:

“The current state is simply bad: WordPress core basically has 3 designs now.

The edit post page I’m typing this in looks nothing like the Posts overview page, which looks nothing like the Site Health page.

And then you go into plugins and each has their own UI there too. This makes WordPress as a whole harder to use.”

WordPress is Old Fashioned and Losing Market Share

Aside from the UI being inconsistent, Joost also pointed out that competitors like Wix have a consistent UI throughout their content management systems.

So while the rest of the world is moving on with best practices WordPress is stuck with the same inconsistent interface it’s had for years.

Yoast insisted that the poor user interface is contributing to the exodus of users from WordPress to competitors.

“This is how we lose CMS market share to companies like Wix and Shopify (who each do have their own design system).”

Is WordPress Hard to Use?

A major feature that makes a closed source CMS like Wix attractive is that it’s easy to use. One of the reasons it’s easy to use is a consistent design system.

PC Magazine gave Wix an Editors Choice Best of the Year Award in 2022, writing:

“If you want to build a website online with minimal effort and maximum creative freedom, look no further than Wix.”

WordPress received no such award. However, in PC Magazine’s overview of WordPress, the authors remarked that it wasn’t “particularly difficult.”

But the authors of the PC Magazine overview also acknowledged the learning curve to using WordPress:

“…people who aren’t familiar with the process may need a guiding hand.”

WordPress theme website ThemeIsle writes:

“While WordPress does not require any coding knowledge, customizing your theme is often not that straightforward.

By default, you don’t get quite the same visual editing experience as you would with Squarespace or Wix, although the new Block Editor is evolving in that direction…Some poorly coded themes might also be a pain to adjust unless you’re an advanced user.”

One of the goals of WordPress is to be easy for users to build with.

So it’s puzzling that WordPress is acknowledged as difficult to use, particularly in comparison to closed source alternatives like Wix, Shopify and Duda.

Joost de Valk puts his finger on the outdated admin UI as one reason why WordPress is so hard to use.

He practically pleads for the leadership at WordPress to prioritize designing a consistent user interface.

“WordPress needs a design system and it needs it fast…”

Response from Twitter WordPress Community

The response to Joost’s article was overwhelmingly positive, with many from the WordPress community thanking Joost for calling attention to the topic.

@learnwithmattc tweeted:

“Excellent write-up, summary, recommendations, tips, resources. It’s not often you get this much valuable info in one blog post.

WP Product Devs, pay attention! Settings UIs matter, whether you like the route Yoast took or not, I think it’s worth paying attention to.”

@Shock9699 tweeted thanks for the article, calling attention to the mismatched menus within the WordPress admin interface.

“Totally agree. WordPress now looks like a 10/15 year old CMS. Especially with the advent of the new FSE where the internal menus are different from those of the normal dashboard.”

@mnowak_eth tweeted agreement with the opinions about the state of the WordPress admin UI:

“…Wordpress panel is starting to look like ancient enterprise software (you know the names). With the whole SaaS movement constantly educating the Internet society on good and bad UX and ergonomics, wp panel was overlooked.”

A standardized design that is shared by plugins and themes would create a seamless and coherent admin interface. @wpsecurityuser tweeted an appeal for a standardized design system.

“Please stop plugins implementing their UI systems, update the wordpress admin UI and standerdize everything, let’s get modern.”

@bitartem called attention to the value of having a design system in place so that the WordPress ecosystem can know ahead of time what to expect.

“Another problem is that WordPress is in a transitional phase, I mean Block Editor, and Full Site Editing, and new features are added almost every day, so if there’s a Design System, we need to know what WordPress will become in near future.”

WordPress Admin User Interface Needs Improvement

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that WordPress is in trouble when the person who created it says that it’s faster to get things done in a closed source competitor than it is with WordPress.

Joost’s article focuses on the outdated state of the WordPress admin interface and calls attention to the need for a coherent design statement that plugin and theme developers could adopt in order to create an easier to use end product.

Read Joost de Valk’s Blog Post

WordPress’ admin UI needs to be better



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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

Examining YouTube’s list of the top trending videos and top Shorts of 2022, as well as the YouTube Ads Leaderboard: 2022 year-end-wrap-up can teach content marketers, content creators, and digital advertisers some important lessons that they can apply in 2023.

But, it helps if you have a secret decoder ring to decipher why there are three lists – and why each one uses a different methodology to come up with the rankings.

YouTube unveiled its first list of the 10 most-watched YouTube videos back in December 2010. Unfortunately, that list taught many marketers that “view count” was the only metric that mattered.

But, I got my secret decoder ring back in October 2012, when YouTube started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search results to reward engaging videos that kept viewers watching.

In other words, YouTube replaced “view count” with “watch time.”

This was a significant shift, because “watch time” gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch, as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon.

In December 2012, YouTube shifted from unveiling its 10 “most-watched” videos of the year to unveiling its “top trending videos,” based on time spent watching, sharing, commenting, liking, and other factors.

In other words, “watch time” and “engagements” were now the metrics that mattered.

Today, YouTube’s algorithm rewards “viewer satisfaction.”

In other words, YouTube doesn’t pay attention to videos; it pays attention to viewers.

So, rather than trying to make videos that’ll make an algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy.

This brings us to YouTube’s lists of “trending videos” and “top Shorts” for 2022.

To learn important lessons that can be applied in 2023, we need to realize that YouTube’s discovery system uses both absolute and relative watch time as signals when deciding audience engagement.

Ultimately, YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed, so relative watch time is more important for short videos, and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.

Top 7 Trending Videos Of 2022

1. “So Long Nerds“ By Technoblade (6:32 long, 88.3 million Views, 10.2 million engagements)

In this moving tribute, the father of beloved Minecraft creator Technoblade reads a farewell letter from his son.

The gamer lost his battle with cancer in June, but his legacy remains on YouTube.

2. “Watch The Uncensored Moment Will Smith Smacks Chris Rock On Stage At The Oscars, Drops F-bomb” By Guardian News (1:24 long, 104 million Views, and 1.8 million engagements)

It was the smack heard ‘round the world: Academy Award winner Will Smith went off-script and slapped Chris Rock, live on-stage, at the film industry’s most prestigious event.

3. “Hi, I’m Dream” By Dream (5:42 long, 48.5 million Views, and 4.7 million engagements)

Dream’s ingenuity within Minecraft has led him to become a top creator with a devoted fanbase.

But no one knew what he looked like IRL, until now.

4. “ Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar & 50 Cent Full Pepsi Sb Lvi Halftime Show” By NFL (14:41 long, 146 million Views, and 3.5 million engagements)

Lose yourself in this epic Super Bowl halftime show packed with some of the biggest artists in hip-hop history: Dr. Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lama, and 50 Cent.

5. “I Built Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!” By Mrbeast (17:01 long, 132 million Views, and 5.1 million engagements)

In a “Willy Wonka” inspired warehouse, MrBeast challenges contestants to traverse a chocolate river, climb a candy wall, compete in confection-themed games, and indulge in their sweetest fantasies.

6. “Pranks Destroy Scam Callers- Glitterbomb Payback” By Mark Rober (26:41 long, 55.9 million Views, and 2.2 million engagements).

Engineer Mark Rober exacts dazzling revenge on a scam call center in the latest version of his glitterbomb series.

7. “Being Not Straight” By Jaiden Animations (15:22 long, 17.8 million Views, and 1.7 million engagements)

In this coming-out video, Jaiden Animations depicts a personal journey from adolescence to adulthood, sharing how they discovered their sexual identity along the way.

Top 7 Shorts Of 2022

1. “Diver Cracks Egg At 45 Ft Deep #Shorts” By Shangerdanger (0:56 long, 251 million Views, and 12.3 million engagements)

The ocean floor is a mysterious place. It’s full of unknown sea creatures, strange plants, and…chicken eggs?!

Join Shangerdanger as he cracks up the internet and dives egg-first into the blue depths.

2. “Sarah Trust Challenges” By Hingaflips (0:31 long, 142 million Views, and 6.5 million engagements)

Better than parkour? This is Trampwall: an epic sport where acrobats defy gravity and leap off a wall, onto a trampoline, to pull off mind-blowing aerial stunts.

3. “Come With Me To Shave My Fluffy Dog! #Doggrooming #Grooming #Goldendoodle” By Brodie That Dood (0:52 long, 108 million Views, and 6.8 million engagements)

For years, his long fluffy fur has made Brodie one of the most iconic dogs on YouTube. So, the heartbreak was real when it was decided that he needed a close trim.

4. “Dave and Busters Bet Me 1000 Tickets I Couldn’t Do This…” By Chris Ivan (0:59 long, 83.6 million Views, and 6.3 million engagements).

No one does trick shots like creator Chris Ivan. In this Short, he attempts to land a plunger on a Dave & Buster’s sign.

The prize? 1,000 tickets … if he can pull it off.

5. “That Gap Between Your Car Seat and Center Console” By Jay & Sharon (0:58 long, 182 million Views, and 6.4 million engagements)

We’ve all lost something in the dreaded gap between the car seat and the center console.

In this comedic sketch, creators Jay & Sharon show us what’s really going on down there.

6. “Welcome To The Stomach #Shorts” By Adrian Bliss (0:34 long, 118 million Views, and 7.0 million engagements)

In this bite-sized skit, witty creator Adrian Bliss brings to life all the characters trying to gain entrance – and party in – his space-limited stomach.

7. “This Magic Trick Explained (America’s Got Talent)” By Zack D. Films (0:34 long, 97.4 million Views, and 5.6 million engagements).

How did he do it? The judges of “America’s Got Talent” were confounded by this magic trick.

But not internet-sleuth Zack D., who unveils its clever secret.

Top 7 YouTube Ads Of 2022

Meanwhile, YouTube uses an entirely different methodology to determine the top YouTube ad for its 2022 year-end wrap-up Leaderboard. This makes sense.

The top ads are generally the ones with the biggest budgets, which drive up view counts, but not always engagements.

1. “Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader” By Amazon (1:31 long, 69.7 million Views, and 25,700 engagements)

The creative agency for this ad was Lucky Generals and the media agency was IPG – Rufus.

The ad’s description asks, “Is Alexa reading minds a good idea? No. No, it is not.”

2. “Welcome To Clan Capital! Clash Of Clans New Update!” By Clash Of Clans (1:20 long, 52.9 million Views, and 212,000 engagements)

The creative agency was Psyop, and the media agency was in-house.

The ad’s description says,

“Welcome to the ultimate clan destination! A place where you and your clan can BUILD and BATTLE together! A place called CLAN CAPITAL!”

3. “Goal Of The Century X BTS | Yet To Come (Hyundai Ver.) Official Music Video” By Hyundaiworldwide (4:08 long, 40.5 million Views, and 886,000 engagements)

The ad’s description says,

“Our ‘Goal of the Century’ can’t be achieved by one individual alone, but we can achieve it if we all join forces and unite.

Just like football players come together as a team to score goals, we aim to use the power of football to go forward together in pursuit of the greatest goal – ‘A united world for sustainability.’”

4. “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts | Official Trailer | HBO Max” By HBO Max (1:58 long, 27.3 million Views, and 739,000 engagements)

The creative agency was in-house, and the media agency was Hearts & Science.

The ad’s description says,

“Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts invites fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time as it reunites Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and other esteemed cast members and filmmakers across all eight Harry Potter films for the first time to celebrate the anniversary of the franchise’s first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

5. “Introducing iPhone 14 Pro | Apple” by Apple (4:20 long, 23.8 million views, and 571,000 engagements)

The ad’s description asks, “What lies beyond a traditional smartphone? Let’s find out. This is iPhone 14 Pro.”

6. All of Us Are Dead | Official Trailer | Netflix” by Netflix (2:35 long, 22.6 million views, and 518,000 engagements)

The creative agency was The Refinery, and the media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“All of us will die. There is no hope.” The school turned into a bloody battleground and our friends into worst enemies. Who will make it out alive?”

7. Sally’s Seashells (Extended) | Big Game Commercial 2022“ by Squarespace (1:07 long, 21.6 million views, and 67,600 engagements)

The media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“See everything that Sally sells in this extended cut of our 2022 Big Game commercial. Starring Zendaya as Sally and narrated by andré 3000.”

Most Important Lesson That Marketers Can Apply In 2023

Looking back at YouTube’s lists of top trending videos, top Shorts, and top ads for 2022, there is a meta-lesson that marketers can learn: one size does not fit all.

Different metrics matter when measuring different types of video, and different types of ads are better for different marketing objectives.

Or, as the British say, “There are horses for courses.”

Now, that’s a lesson that all of us can apply in 2023, and beyond.

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8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

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8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

The digital market is volatile and ever-changing.

Everyone is competing for popular keywords, and artificial intelligence is changing content creation.

It can be a bit daunting, especially if you’re new to content writing.

So, how can you cut through the noise and write more effective content in 2023?

We’ve asked 17 industry professionals to share the wisdom they’ve learned over the years, their advice to those trying to find their way into content marketing, and their favorite tools for writing and optimization.

Julia McCoy, VP of Marketing at Content at Scale, would have told her younger self to realize the opportunity.

“It was hard to see it back then since I was at ground zero,” recalls McCoy.

“But the industry of content marketing itself had ballooned by billions of dollars since when I started. This would have given me more hope and excitement that what I did truly mattered to building not just income, but a legacy.”

Without further ado, here are their top tips:

1. Focus On Your Audience

Jamie Press, Digital Marketing Specialist At Eurisko

The best tip I can give a copywriter is to think “audience first.” This advice is straight from Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger.

Sometimes, we go straight for the keyword tools when we’re brainstorming a piece of content; however, if we don’t know who we’re writing for, our copy won’t resonate with the reader.

Dialing into our target audience and their pain points (specific problems our audience needs solving) is the first step.


Carlijn Postma, Brand Strategist, Speaker, and Author of “Binge Marketing”

Carlijn Postma, Brand Strategist, Speaker, and Author of

One: Start bingeing.

Really? Yes. The first educational go-to database is your streaming service.

The best writers and content creators are the creators of films and series. They know how to attract and retain an audience by creating a compelling story.

And bring your notebook.

Two: Know the difference between a target group and an audience.

In content marketing, your goal is to communicate through text, video, or audio. Therefore, you need readers, viewers, and listeners. That is an audience.

There is a huge difference between a target group and an audience.

A target group is pointed out by you as the sender of the content (whether this target group likes it or not).

An audience decides for itself if it wants to be your audience. I prefer to reach and engage an audience over a target group.

Focusing on an audience will make you a better writer.

infographic about target group vs. audienceImage credit: Carlijn Postma, January 2023

Three: Always create content in series.

Now, if your goal is to attract and retain a loyal audience, you have to start creating content in series.

With only one episode, one piece of content, you just won’t be able to build an audience.

And if you are creating a series, learn from the masters: use cliffhangers at the end, and recaps at the start of an episode.

Ask yourself: “What does my audience need to know about what I wrote in previous episodes to understand this one?” This signals your audience to consume the other episodes, too.


Linda Pophal, Founder At Strategic Communications, LLC

Linda Pophal, Founder At Strategic Communications, LLC

Focus on your audience and their needs and interests – that’s all that really matters.

If you write for your audience and work to address the questions they might have, you will automatically create SEO-friendly content, because that’s what SEO is all about.

Even when my clients have specific SEO requirements, I first write the copy as I had always written it, long before SEO existed – to meet my audiences’ needs.

Then I’ll go back and “retrofit” the keywords that clients have requested; often, they’re already there and may just need to be tweaked or added to a bit.


2. Choose Quality Over Optimization

Steph Andrusjak, SEO Consultant

Steph Andrusjak, SEO Consultant

Always write with the user in mind, even when optimizing for search engines.

You can optimize an article by using keyword tools, like KeywordTool.io or AlsoAsked, to find what queries people are searching to help you mold your article – but don’t let the quest for optimization undo the quality of your writing.

If you’re writing content to sell something, then embrace copywriting formulas to create compelling statements.

If you’re writing articles of interest, then write in a way that the end user can relate to and explain the subject as fully as possible.

Most of all, write for your audience.

If your end users are teenagers, write in a style that will appeal to them without sacrificing the image you want to present.

If the website’s main customers are business owners, then opt for a more professional, formal tone.

Making sure your content is search engine optimized doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write thousands of words.

The key is that it needs to be as long as required for you to explain your point clearly and comprehensively. This means that content can be just as effective by writing concisely.


3. Build Out Your Content With Search Intent In Mind

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

When you are just beginning your career in SEO writing, don’t forget that you write for both Google and the people who use it.

Keep these two equally important audiences in mind to maximize visibility and reach.

Quality content is essential, and Google knows this. It is pushing your content out to the world through its platform.

The better content that Google provides its users, the more likely people will use Google when they have a question.

It is essential to understand the keywords you are writing for and be able to talk about them dynamically.

You want your writing to be engaging, informative, and relevant for the reader.


Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

I would definitely urge my former self to write for humans, not robots!

I’ve learned that it’s important to take the time to craft meaningful sentences that are interesting and engaging to readers.

This means writing with more details and facts to provide context, as well as aiming for greater semantic richness.

For example, instead of simply stating a fact or opinion, try elaborating on why it’s true, or how others may feel about it, to draw readers in.

By taking this approach, I found that readers were more likely to connect with my content and leave feeling enriched by the experience.


Joe Karasin, CMO At CircleIt And Head Of Growth Marketing At DigitalWill.com

Joe Karasin, CMO At CircleIt And Head Of Growth Marketing At DigitalWill.com

One: Don’t let the new focus on AI-driven content deter you.

AI content may get technical points and be produced more quickly, but creating compelling content is something that is still a human endeavor.

At the end of the day, the search intent of most users will favor the content that holds interest, which as of right now, AI hasn’t shown it can do.

Two: Balance is key.

You might be able to craft a beautiful story with your content, but if it isn’t written with SEO in mind, it won’t rank.

However, if you write a bunch of SEO-friendly content that is boring, no one will want to read it, and it won’t rank.

Being focused on the balance is the way you will gain readers and traction in your career.

Three: Write about what people want to read.

If you are writing content for a company, you want to look at the real-life applications of the company’s products and services.

By putting the customer or reader in the central piece of your narrative, you will get others to read it and identify with the “hero” of your story.

For example, if you have created a new technology, don’t just write a post about the features. Talk about the users and how the features you want to write about are improving their lives.


Sherry Bonelli, Owner Of Early Bird Digital Marketing

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

If you are just starting in the writing industry, I first recommend following Ann Handley and getting a copy of her “Everybody Writes” book.

Ann is an amazing writer that gives you writing tips that you can use whether you’re tasked with writing blog posts, website content, email newsletters, social media posts, ads – or anything in between. Plus, she has a great sense of humor – so she’ll make you laugh as you learn to be a better writer!

Now, when I began my writing career, I was very lucky to have a solid SEO foundation under my belt.

But looking back, I focused too much on writing for individual keywords when I should’ve spent more time writing about the topics people were searching for.

As a writer, create content about the topics people are searching for and then do more extensive keyword research about the questions people ask about the topic (and subtopics) you’re writing about.

Make sure you answer those questions thoroughly in your content. That’s the way to make your readers – and Google – happy!


4. Consider Using AI Writing Tools, But Use Them Wisely

Julia McCoy, VP Of Marketing At Content At Scale

Julia McCoy, VP Of Marketing At Content At Scale

We live in a completely new era versus the one I started in.

Today, the baseline of human content production can be assisted, if not nearly replaced, by AI tools built on top of OpenAI’s game-changing GPT language releases to write and create content.

With GPT4 on the horizon and about to launch, human content production will shift forever into an AI-assisted one.

That said, if you’re considering a writing career, don’t think there’s no need for the human. There’s a huge need for your writing skills.

It will just look different than when I started – when it was solely human-based.

My tips for you: Learn how to incorporate AI writing tools into your process. Learn how to edit, cut the fluff, and make the content that AI produces better. Learn strategy.

These skills will put you in a place where you cannot be replaced by AI.


Cai Ellis, SEO Manager At ToolTester

Cai Ellis, SEO Manager At ToolTester 

Now is not the time to completely move over to AI writing tools.

Although Google hasn’t come out and said that AI content is bad, we know that it prefers content that’s written by people for people.

With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to optimize AI content so that it’s a skill you can call on as and when needed.

We will likely see this as something that’s specifically needed from marketers in no time.

You could have a trial run of ChatGPT at home, focusing on the creation of content that’s helpful and user-first using the tool’s text as a starting point.

Other than that, the number one lesson for any new writer would have to be not to put themselves under too much pressure.

It takes time to learn how to craft the types of content that will engage and persuade.

It’s advisable to keep writing as a side hustle until you’re confident of meeting and exceeding client expectations.


Shubham Bajaj, Founder And SEO Scientist At Netsurge Technologies

Shubham Bajaj, Founder And SEO Scientist At Netsurge Technologies

With the onset of various AI writing tools and ChatGPT, it’s important for content writers who are just getting started to be able to write in a way that differentiates them from machines.

Adding your personality and character to your write-up and telling engaging stories that can keep the reader hooked are important aspects.

It is also important to note that, while it’s good to be quirky and conversational, make sure you have an NLP-friendly section that defines or provides an exact answer for the query in a format that Google or other search engines can directly use to display as a snippet.

5. Practice Writing Regularly

Jason Hennessey, Founder And CEO At Hennessey Digital

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

Read widely and often to develop your writing skills and understand the various styles and forms of writing.

Then write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to improve your writing discipline and practice your craft.

Lastly, seek feedback on your writing from others, and be open to constructive criticism.


Alex Valencia, President At We Do Web Content

Alex Valencia

If I could give my past self a piece of advice, it’d be to brush up on grammar and style rules.

For style, there’s nothing better than reading works by your favorite authors. How do they describe everyday things and situations? How do they craft sentences? What about their storytelling that hooks you in?

Then, practice, practice, practice.


Sam Hollingsworth, SEO Director At Moving Traffic Media

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

Write more often and be less scared.

Like so many other things, we get better at writing the more that we do it (and reading).

It allows us to learn new things, experiment with new processes, and expand our skills for everything from creativity to accuracy and even speed and efficiency.


Dvir Ben-Aroya, Co-Founder And CEO At Spike

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

For those just getting started in their writing careers, reading widely can help you develop a strong writing style.

By reading various authors and genres, you can learn about different writing techniques and styles and find inspiration for your own writing.

Practicing regularly is also important, as it allows you to improve your skills and become more proficient in your craft.

Networking with other writers can also be beneficial, as it can help you learn about the industry, find potential collaborators or mentors, and stay informed about new opportunities.

And it’s also important to be open to constructive criticism because it helps improve your writing.


Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

If I could go back to the beginning of my writing career, I would tell myself that I need to spend more time reading and practicing different types of writing.

Even if you only write one specific style of writing, practicing different styles and formats of writing will strengthen your primary style by association.

It is a great mental exercise to sharpen and use the other “tools” in your writing toolbox.

For example, if you only write B2B long-form keyword-rich blog content, practicing creative writing every so often might be useful.

By doing so, you can combat writer’s block, gain additional perspectives, and have more engaging and dynamic content.


6. Find Your Rhythm And Style That Sparks Joy

Alex Valencia, President At We Do Web Content

Alex Valencia

When starting a career as a writer, it’s critical to uncover the type of writing that brings you joy.

The topics you cover should excite you, and crafting pieces should feel like a privilege.

It shows in your work when you have passion for the things you’re writing about. The energy is relaxed and confident.


Jason Hennessey, Founder And CEO At Hennessey Digital

Jason Hennessey

Focus on developing your own unique voice and style.

Writing is a highly personal and subjective endeavor, and it’s important to find your own way of expressing yourself and telling stories.

This will set your work apart and make it more likely to resonate with readers.


Sam Hollingsworth, SEO Director At Moving Traffic Media

Sam Hollingsworth

Never forget that writing is (seemingly) one of the most basic ways for humans to communicate.

Of course, like most everything in life, there are good and bad examples of it.

Be mindful of the foundational guidelines we’ve been told most of our lives but also do not lose out on creativity to do so.

I often think back to something one of my favorite journalism professors taught me (and of which he claimed one of his favorite professors taught him as a budding journalist): “Write like jazz.”

It should have rhythm, but also irregularities and improvisation that allow it to stand out. It should be enjoyable and digested with ease.


7. Learn To Overcome Setbacks And Imposter Syndrome

Kaitie Frank, Digital Marketing Copywriter At Page One Power

Kaitie Frank

Imposter syndrome is real. Kick it out the door and have confidence in your writing!

Read examples of great work, then put your spin on it.

Also, triple edit:

  • Edit on-screen.
  • Print it out and edit.
  • Have another set of eyes look at it.

Don’t let people bully you into submission. I spent too much time at a job where I was told I wasn’t good enough, and that made me lose confidence in my writing.

Instead, find a place where mentors help you grow and develop your skills, not knock you down because you don’t write exactly like them.


Dvir Ben-Aroya, Co-Founder And CEO At Spike

Dvir Ben-Aroya

If I could go back to the beginning of my writing career, I would advise myself to be more persistent.

Writing is a challenging and competitive field, and it can take a lot of time and effort to succeed.

It’s important not to give up too easily and to keep working towards your goals, even when faced with rejection or setbacks.


8. Grow Your Network And Portfolio

Monika Nozinic, Copywriter at Async Labs

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

My advice to those who are just getting started in their writing careers would be:

  • Read and study as much as you can. Look at the work of famous copywriters and see what you can learn from them.
  • Write every day to develop your skills and build a writing routine. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.
  • Get feedback. Show your work to other people and see what they think.
  • Learn SEO. Understanding SEO will help you to write copy that ranks well in search engines.
  • Network with other writers and industry professionals.
  • Know your audience. Understand who you’re writing for and what they need.
  • Be adaptable. Copywriting constantly evolves, so be prepared to learn new things and adapt to new trends.
  • Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing and experimenting until you find your voice and style.
  • Learn about the industry you’re writing for. This way, you’ll be able to understand their language and speak to their pain points and goals.
  • Be passionate. Copywriting is a creative field, so bring your passion for working, and it will shine through in your writing.

The advice I would now give myself at the start of my career would be to connect with other copywriters and content creators. Ask them to be my mentor for a week or two.

Also, I would tell myself to develop thicker skin and persistence, as rejection and criticism are a normal part of the writing process, which I learned, sometimes the hard way, along the way.


Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

Take time to build your portfolio.

You’ll want to start collecting samples of your work as soon as possible; these will be invaluable when applying for jobs or searching for opportunities.

Make sure each piece is polished and showcases your best writing ability.


Experts’ Favorite Tools For Content Writing And Optimization

Grammarly And Hemmingway

Alex Valencia’s top writing tool is Grammarly, and he says that “every professional should use it (#notanad).”

“It’s taught me a lot about my writing style and how to improve it. For keyword research, I use Semrush,” Valencia shares.

Shubham Bajaj suggests Grammarly and Hemingway “for avoiding grammatical errors and ensuring that your content is structured properly, especially when starting and you have a low to zero budget to spend on tools.”

“Once you have some budget to spend, consider subscribing to advanced tools like ProWritingAid,” Bajaj recommends.

Surfer SEO

“When it comes to writing tools, there are oodles of SEO tools out there that have content tools built in. (Some are definitely better than others.) One of my favorite tools for optimizing content is Surfer SEO,” says Sherry Bonelli.

“Surfer SEO takes the keyword you’re trying to optimize your content for and analyzes your content against the top-ranking webpages.

Then it shows All words and Natural Language Process (NLP) words so you can see if you’re overusing some words – or not using words that you perhaps should use. (Like maybe you didn’t even think about including a word or topic in what you were writing!)

Surfer SEO can really take your writing optimization to the next level. I’d highly recommend you play around with it.”

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023Screenshot from Surfer SEO, modified by author, January 2023

“Don’t be afraid to use tools to your advantage,” advises Rudy Mawer.

“You are writing search engine-centric content; the internet has many resources and tools to help make your job easier and your writing more effective.”

Mawer loves using Surfer SEO as well. “Its content editor gives you a real-time score of your content’s strength for the keyword you are trying to rank for, NLP keyword suggestions, and a competitor analysis.”

Yoast SEO

Dvir Ben-Aroya’s favorite tools for content writing and optimization include Grammarly, Hemingway, Yoast SEO, and Google Analytics.

“Grammarly and Hemingway are writing tools that can help you improve your grammar, style, and readability.

Yoast SEO is a plugin that can help you optimize your content for search engines, and Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to track the performance of your content, including pageviews, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

These tools are very helpful in making your content more effective and engaging for your target audience,” explains Ben-Aroya.

Content At Scale

Julia McCoy saves up to seven hours per piece by using Content at Scale, “a long-form AI content writer that does everything for you – even SEO research and optimization.”

“It’s utterly insane to realize we’re here in an era where AI can replace hours and hours of grunt work at a fraction of the cost,” McCoy notes.

She also loves KWFinder for easy, simple, enjoyable keyword research and enjoys having ChatGPT for writing email outlines, topic ideas, and lists.

Otter.ai

Linda Pophal does a lot of interviews with subject matter experts and sources, and Otter.ai helps her accomplish the task.

“Otter.ai is great for recording and transcribing these interviews automatically so I can focus on what the sources are saying without worrying about missing anything,” says Pophal.

“I also like Grammarly, Hemingway App, and AP Styleguide online, and have begun experimenting a bit with ChatGPT, not to actually write my content but to help with outlining and getting a head start in fleshing out ideas,” she adds.

Reddit

Cai Ellis finds Answerthepublic and Reddit great for content inspiration.

“If you’re writing on a niche topic, diving into that Subreddit is the best way to get authentic and unique insight quickly,” Ellis recommends.

Joe Karasin also uses Reddit and Quora for topic research and to learn what people are talking about surrounding your topics.

“There are probably questions your audience has that you haven’t even considered. Write about those topics, and you’ll experience success,” Karasin advises.

Google Search And Suite

Jamie Press goes for a simple Google Doc for writing and collaborating with colleagues and clients.

Kaitie Frank uses good ol’ Google for research and optimization.

She believes that the “SERPs (search engine results pages) will tell you all you need to know about which headers to use and which information to include.”

Sam Hollingsworth shares a similar outlook.

“Like many old-school journalists, I don’t rely too heavily on many tools to help me optimize content or even come up with ideas to write about, but it’s nice to have them when needed.

It’s amazing how much direction and ideas we can get from free resources like Google Keyword Planner, as well as traditional Google Search.”

“For help optimizing content, MarketMuse and Frase are great tools to have available in your efforts,” Hollingsworth adds.

Editor’s note: All interviews have been lightly edited for clarity, brevity, and adherence to our Editorial Guidelines. The views expressed by the interviewees in this column are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Search Engine Journal.

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Featured Image: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock



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