Social Media

CR 25 Revisited – My SEMrush Webinar

In late May I was approached by the team at SEMrush about hosting a webinar, going into more detail about the CR 25 campaign that I ran in January. I’d already given a talk about it at BrightonSEO, but with only 20 minutes available, I left out a lot of useful information surrounding the ‘content blitz’ campaign, where we published 25 blog posts in one month (pretty much one each day during the month). I had toyed with the idea of creating a YouMoz post (and had in fact started to draft one), but when SEMrush approached me about the webinar, I thought that it would be a better way to get across all the info.

The webinar took place in early June. In addition to relying on PowerPoint slides, I jumped out of the slides, jumped into my browser (all while the audience were still watching) and quickly ran through all 25 posts as live examples. I thought that this was a good way to demonstrate the many different types of content – especially those with an interactive or particularly visual element to them (such as the custom Google Map, the 25-year timeline, the multiple-choice quiz and one post that featured an embedded tweet containing an autoplaying Vine video).

The video of the webinar is below, with a transcript below that.

Video Transcript (including slide stills)

Hi, thank you very much for the introduction. I’m Steve Morgan, @steviephil on Twitter, and today I’ll be talking you through a big campaign I ran back in January earlier this year. I actually talked about this campaign at BrightonSEO in April, but I was only given about 20 minutes to talk on-stage and I was only able to talk about a couple of examples of content we did – we had 25 blog posts in one month – and just talk about how much it all cost, so it’s great to have the opportunity… a big thank you to SEMrush for having me. And it’s great to be able to talk about the campaign in more detail and run through more examples than I did when I presented at the conference.

The webinar is split into three sections. I’m going to jump out of the slides a third of the way through and show you real examples of content, because I thought: “why bother showing you slides of examples when I can actually show you the examples on Firefox?” But before that, I’ll talk you through a bit of an introduction to the campaign and how we prepared for it. And then after I’ve shown you examples, I’ll give you some insights into what performed well, what didn’t, what worked well on certain social media networks, and talk you through how much everything cost, which – even though we had 25 posts created and we tried to avoid just having bog-standard, 400-word advice articles – we did lots of varying types of content and we tried to have interactive content as well. We managed to keep the budget very low by sourcing guest blog posts, by using free or cheap WordPress plugins – things like that really. I’ll tell you more as we go along.

First, some background for Computer Recruiter.

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20 Ways That Freelancers Can Drum Up Sales During Quieter Times

(Note: that’s not me in the pic!)

Whether you call yourself a freelancer, a solo/independent consultant, a solopreneur or maybe even something else entirely, one of the biggest challenges that we face as one-person bands is the ability to balance our workloads effectively – in particular by keeping the sales pipeline filling up while we’re busy working on other projects.

And I can speak about this from recent personal experience…

I have a confession to make…

I dropped the ball on the sales front earlier this year. After a busy Q4 in 2014 (resulting in December being my most successful month income-wise to date at the time) and a very busy January running CR 25 single-handedly, followed by two large one-off projects in Feb-Mar (which both overran), I was simply too busy to fit sales into the mix.

Big mistake.

Then in April: quiet. Well… I had enough to keep me going, but things were a lot quieter than I was used to. It was my quietest period since my first three months in business (way back in the summer of 2013) and therefore in over 18 months. Yikes.

Things have picked up rather nicely since then, but I wanted to take the time to blog about some of the ways that I went about drumming up new business during that quiet spell. And while working on this list of sales tactics for freelancers, I just kept adding more and more ideas to it and ended up with 20 different ways…! For the record though, you might not see some tactics that you’re expecting to see… For example, I don’t condone cold-calling, door-to-door sales or any other type of ‘interruptive’ marketing like that, so that won’t be in the list below. I’m also not keen on freelancer marketplace websites (e.g. PeoplePerHour) – I’m not saying that they don’t work, they’re just not for me, and I’m sure that there are other freelancers who feel the same way.

…So what else can you do?

A slight disclaimer: some of these are probably really obvious, but if fellow freelancers (SEO or otherwise) browse the list, see 2 or 3 points and think to themselves: “damn, why didn’t I think of that?” then that’ll do for me…! :-)

First things first…

1) Remove any “I’m not available” type messages from your blog/website

"Not available" message example screenshot
Taken from Formfett

If you’re in a position to network and drive leads and enquiries your way, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to put people off with a message on your site that says “I’m unavailable at the moment” or “I’m unavailable until [future date]”… It’s all well and good to have this on the site when you are full-up capacity-wise, but be sure to remove it when you aren’t and when you’re actively seeking work. While this might seem really obvious, it’s crucial that you make sure to remember to remove the message everywhere and anywhere it’s featured: is it on your Contact page / your Hire Me page / site-wide? For me, it was on this very blog’s Hire Me page and my freelance site‘s Contact page, but it could be disasterous if I only remembered to remove it off one of the pages and not the other – so be sure to remember to do it…!

As an aside… Some people swear off using these type of messages entirely, which is fair enough (after all, what if a dream enquirer sees it and it puts them off from enquiring?), but @ChrisLDyson of Triple SEO raised a good point that it usually still brings in the more serious enquiries while putting off the “can I just get a quote?” types. Besides, they might not read it anyway and just get in touch regardless.

Right, got that sorted? Good. Onto the next one…

Leveraging existing business relationships

2) Touch base with old clients

If you work with clients directly and you’ve already done work for somebody – maybe on a one-off basis – and you left things on good terms, then it makes sense to touch base and catch up on their current situation. Maybe they’re in need of more of your assistance?

I did some one-off consulting for two companies in the past year and decided to email them asking how things were going. Both of them said that my timing was perfect, that they’d be keen to reconvene things – and I’ve already been to see one of them (the other one is still keen but they’re going to leave it another month or two). Nice and easy.

Obviously this only really works in certain circumstances – for example, if you stopped working with a client because their budget ran out/got cut, or they’ve gone ahead with another supplier, or they’ve brought the service in-house instead, then you may want to give those ones a miss. But think back to all your old clients and get in touch with those who loved what you did for them and might need more of the same.

3) Touch base with your main referral partners (e.g. agencies)

Who usually passes you work? In my case, as an SEO, I get a fair bit of work from web design agencies and PR agencies. Similar to the point above, get in touch with those that you’ve worked with before and find out if any of their clients currently need help with anything.

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Interview with Max Minzer about Max Impact

It’s been a while since I did an interview on SEOno (you can see previous interviews here) – in fact, I don’t really think to do them anymore, however I really wanted to interview Max Minzer about Max Impact (#maximpact) because he’s such a humble and modest guy and I love his shows (since show #40-odd I’ve attended pretty much weekly… in fact, this was my first appearance), plus with the fact that he ran his 100th show not so long ago, the timing couldn’t be better…

Steve Morgan: Hi Max! First things first, please introduce yourself – tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.

Max Minzer photoMax Minzer: Hey Steve! Thanks for having me!

My name is Max Minzer. I am the owner of ReEngage Consulting – digital marketing consulting service specialising in local search marketing. I view it as business advising and enjoy doing what I do. I also host a weekly digital marketing show called Max Impact, moderate a Local Search community on Google+ and I like meeting and talking to people.

I’m married and have a 3-year-old boy.

Steve: If someone asked you to summarise Max Impact in 30 seconds or less (or a couple of lines!), what would you say?

Max: Max Impact is a digital marketing show where people join video call (and real-time social media discussion) to share ideas to help businesses and marketing consultants grow their business.

Steve: How did you come up with the idea for Max Impact?

Max: I saw Google+ Hangouts On Air (the video broadcast platform) being used effectively in other industries to meet new people and share news, places and ideas. There was nothing like that in the marketing industry at the time. I was using Hangouts for more private conversations already but decided to give it a try as broadcast.

Also, many of us consultants work from home and often miss human-to-human interaction (during work; not that we don’t have lives 😉 ) and the “meet new people” element. It’s incredible that technology allows us to meet people around the world.

Max Impact Hangout screenshot
An example of a Max Impact show on Google+ Hangouts On Air

Steve: Please talk us through the usual format of a show. What happens on your typical Max Impact episode?

Max: I try to invite people 10-15 minutes before I start the broadcast so we can have an off-the-record chat and – often – meet new people for the first time and get comfortable. I then start the broadcast.

I have a featured guest in most cases and start the episode by introducing and interviewing them about a selected topic. I then become a moderator and have everyone else join the discussion. I let people ask questions, comment, discuss and I also read questions we get on social media.

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Tweet To Win! 3 Lessons From Running My First Twitter Competition

I loved running CR 25 back in January. Beyond SEO, it gave me the chance to properly flex my content marketing muscles. From guest blog posts to crowdsourced content; from Google Calendar embeds to Google Map embeds; from interactive timelines to infographics; we did a little bit of everything.

We even did a bloody quiz.

We finished off CR 25 with an ‘IT Acronym Quiz’ – a 10-question multiple-choice quiz created using SlickQuiz.

CR 25 quiz screenshot
We decided to make the most of the opportunity and also gave away three £25 iTunes vouchers if people posted their results on Twitter.

It was my first attempt at a competition. It went well. Not quite how I’d hoped (as I’ll explain below) but we had a good number of entries and a good, positive response overall.

Here are the three lessons that I learnt.

1) Make sure that your competition’s terms are air-tight

As I said above, I’d never run a competition before – but I knew that you had to have some good set of terms & conditions behind it. I’m sure there are some decent templates out there, but I decided to draw inspiration from real-life examples. I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember that one of them was an iPad giveaway on The Guardian‘s website.

CR 25's competition terms (full screenshot)
(Click to enlarge)

It contained the usual suspects: participants must be UK residents over 18-years-old; it specified the closing date; in order to be eligible, they had to tweet a few particulars, including a link to the quiz and the hashtag; etc. etc. It had a total of 19 clauses.

I even thought that I was being extra-clever: I put in one clause that said that their tweet had to be live by the end of the closing date – just in case they deleted it a couple of days after tweeting it.

…And yet I missed out one (or maybe two) that was hugely important and should’ve been obvious.

A few days into the competition, a friend of mine entered. He asked: “how many times can I enter?”

Aww crap.

We didn’t have a clause that said ‘one entry per Twitter user.’ We also didn’t have a clause that said that a person could only enter once, full-stop. In other words, if someone managed more than one Twitter account, technically they could’ve entered more than once – even if we had that previous clause. It wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if we only had one prize to give away (aside from the fact that they would’ve increased their chances of winning that one prize), but we had three prizes – meaning that one person could’ve won two or all three prizes, and we couldn’t really do anything about it as our terms didn’t cover it. Whoops.

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Has Crowdsourced Content Jumped The Shark?

“We asked these 8 sharks for their opinion…”

Shark montage (a sharktage...?)
Like infographics and guest blogging before it, there are fears in the industry that crowdsourced content – where you ask multiple people to pass on their favourite tip/tool/etc. – may have jumped the shark, in that it has been done-to-death and fallen in quality, making it a less worthwhile content marketing tactic.

I was going to save blogging my thoughts on this until after I talked about CR 25 at BrightonSEO in April, as two of CR 25‘s posts were crowdsourced content (and one of them became one of the campaign’s most popular posts), but following Peep Laja’s tweet stating that if a “list has more than 5 items, it’s shitty curation,” plus the fact that: a) a lot of the replies he received agreed with him, and b) crowdsourced content in particular often contain tens or dozens of participants (or ‘items’), I wanted to give my thoughts…

Crowdsourced content is popular because it’s pure ego-baiting – people love to be asked their opinion on something. And by doing so, they’re likely to share it via social media. Oh and the more people you ask, the more content you get, resulting in a lengthy blog post in the 1,000s of words that’s likely to hit the long-tail like crazy. So if you ask 50 people to contribute to a post, you have 50 potential tweeters at the ready and a long blog post on your hands.

The ‘SEO echo chamber’ strikes again…

The problem with crowdsourced content is that it has been done-to-death… in the SEO/content marketing industry. I won’t link to any real-life examples as I don’t want to come across as a hater, plus I’m genuinely grateful when I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to them myself (e.g. I recently shared my biggest link building success story of 2014 – and hell, I even did one myself a couple of years ago!), but things tend to get a little overboard when 15 SEOs are asked for their favourite link building tip, or 43 SEOs are asked for their favourite SEO software tool, or 161 SEOs are asked their favourite colour…

But do you know the trick that we’ve been missing, which I didn’t even realise until recently, which may completely change your view on crowdsourced content? Stop asking your peers and start asking your clients/customers.

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