Case study: Fixing $5 haircuts

There’s a humorous business story about two competing barber shops that were next door to each other. One barber shop cut their prices so ridiculously low that they were sure the other shop wouldn’t stay in business much longer: They put up a sign that said “$5 hair cuts”. Not to be outdone, but not interested in competing on price, the other barber shop put up a sign that said, “We fix $5 hair cuts. $20.00”.

When businesses choose the cheapest alternative, there is a price you pay. Sure, sometimes the cheapest choice works out but many times (I would even venture to say “often”) the cheapest choice is the cheapest for a reason.

On several occasions, new clients have got in touch with me because the cheapest option didn’t work out. The most prominent examples were from back in the day when search engine optimization was based on keyword content (it’s much smarter now) and they had hired $2.00/article English-as-a-second-language writers to jam keywords into articles.

Maybe that worked in some industries, I don’t know, but I work in the financial and real estate industries and you don’t position yourself authoritatively when search engine results return nonsensical keyword-stuffed garbage.

Two clients in particular stand out as case study examples of how I helped fix their $5 content-related haircuts:

One client was a tax attorney and the first thing we did was determine that his website was in desperate need of some authoritative content. He was using low quality search engine copy to send low quality leads to a low quality website. Although we would go on to improve his offsite marketing, we started with his onsite content by creating a high quality resource site of useful, interesting, entertaining copy.

Another client was a debt collection company and the low cost content creator they had initially hired not only created low quality keyword stuffed copy, but it was completely nonsensical. It simply didn’t make a lick of sense. So we started creating offsite copy for them. We built up a bank of good copy and, combined with time (plus some active attempts to remove or replace their bad copy), we turned the tide and took control of their search results.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Content marketing, WordPress security, and content tools’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here’s a selection of stuff I’ve been reading this week:

  • The SEO’s dilemma: Link-building versus content marketing: The article itself was from a couple of weeks ago but I’m just getting to it now. What I liked about this article is that it highlighted a disparity I barely knew existed. But as soon as I read it, I realized that definitely trend toward one side versus the other. As a writer, I frequently default to the content marketing side and just assumed that there was a lot of overlap between link building and content marketing. But this article opened my eyes and helped me to realize just how strategic you need to be, and that you really should consider doing both. And I love that it really comes back to goals and metrics.
  • WordPress security tips: Marketing and PR pro Karen Swim had her website hacked a couple of months ago. I only noticed it because some links I had previously posted to her site from my blog were suddenly showing up as Not Found. I visited her site and saw a post that she was frustrated by a recent hacking. Then she linked to a list of resources she has collected to help WordPress owners keep their websites more secure. This is a good read and if you have a WordPress website, make sure you start implementing these things!
  • Content tools to boost your search performance: In this article over at the Content Marketing Institute, they share some really useful tools you can use to help you discover keywords, research your competition, optimize your content, and more. Good stuff.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Local search, press releases, and the future of content’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are some of the things I’ve been reading this week:

  • Local search ranking factors: There’s a big push back to the local market and I’ve been watching it increase in importance over the past couple of years. Well, the good folks at Moz have surveyed and analyzed the factors that influence local search ranking. There is really good stuff here and, like a lot of stuff that comes out of Moz, this should go into your to-do list for your website if you are targeting a local market.
  • Google’s new SEO rules for news releases: I’ve been relying on press releases releases for a long time — to help me build awareness and quality links for my business and my clients’ businesses. Recently, Google announced that it was changing the way it would pay attention to news releases backlinks. Jayme Soulati discussed this on her site and she also linked to a blog post at PRnewswire. If you write news releases, be sure to read them both. The best quote is: “We believe the value press releases provide is in discovery, not links.” This won’t change how I write press releases but it will change why I write press releases.
  • How to make yourself a marketing Einstein. This is a humorous article that builds off of a quote loosely attributed to Einstein. The premise is: If you invest 15 minutes a day studying something, you’ll end up a year later having spend the equivalent of a year in college. So this blogger is spending a full hour a day studying a topic (marketing). In his first post he mentions 2 excellent resources — The massive guide to getting traffic and How to increase website traffic. Great stuff at both sites… and I love the hour-a-day for a college-education-in-a-year approach!
  • The insider’s guide to the future of content: The folks over at Steamfeed wrote a great article about how content is changing and what we can expect it to be like in the future. As a writer, I’m mindful that the content I create may not always be consumed as text (I also write audio and video scripts for businesses and I’m increasingly asked to do so). Smart content creators will pay attention to these predictions and adjust their businesses accordingly.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Putting the awesome back into SEO’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

I get emails from people asking me if I would write SEO content. I get requests like that every day. And usually when they ask for SEO content, what they are really asking for is content that contains their selected keywords in a certain percentage, with which they will immediately skyrocket to the first position on Google.

This request reveals a huge disconnect between what business owners think SEO is and what SEO really is. Here is some great reading on SEO, and especially how it’s changed in the past few months and what’s coming up in the future:

  • The Last Cowboy: SEO In A Post-Penguin 2.0. World is a great overview of the past few Google Algorithm changes. This article gives a “big picture overview” and talks about Google’s underlying motivations for their algorithm updates.
  • 8 steps to build your blog into a community. SEO is important but I’ve always been somewhat critical of it because people frequently focus too much on SEO and too little on selling and the customer experience. This article at ProBlogger almost blatantly ignores the conventional understanding of SEO and focuses instead of community. (Hint: That’s not a bad thing, especially since Google made their algorithm adjustments!)
  • SEO: The future is bright; the future is linkless. Don’t let the title of this article fool you. This article doesn’t just cover the future of SEO — it’s relevant right now and it could completely change what you understand SEO to be.

How to deploy SEO in your sales funnel

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time — more than a year. I took a couple of different approaches, wasn’t happy with them, and decided to sit on it and wait. Meanwhile, Google’s algorithm changed (a couple of times?) and the web went haywire so I decided to keep waiting.

But then I saw this post at SEOmoz: The SEO Path to Becoming a Great Funnel Owner. This is one of those posts that I read and thought, “I wish I’d written that”.

It’s long. It’s data-heavy (which is awesome but also a little scary if you are looking for a quick read), and it is exactly the seo-and-sales-funnel topic I’ve been meaning to write but in a way that is refreshing and very actionable.

It is a great approach that moves well beyond the importance of keywords and instead focuses on various activities you can do to create and deploy a search engine optimized sales funnel with marketing and sales activities that truly resonate with a specific target market.

Some highlights to watch for:

  • The post introduces a sales funnel and demonstrates how SEO can fit into it in different ways.
  • You’ll read about where to put different types of key words (“head” keywords and “long-tail” keywords).
  • There are a bunch of great places to find data about your target market.
  • … and don’t miss the awesome section on building a persona.
  • There’s a great section about what prospective buyers are doing at each stage of your sales funnel and which content channels serve that part of the sales funnel the most effectively.
  • And in classic SEOmoz form, there’s a good foundation of tracking and analytics so that your decisions are always rooted in fact.

Check out their blog post today: The SEO Path to Becoming a Great Funnel Owner.