It’s been about the month since Google made the switch to SSL search for users signed into their Google accounts. With this change came the loss of receiving keyword data from organic search which now shows in your Google Analytics under Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic as (not provided) keywords.
Initially, Matt Cutts said webmasters would only see (not provided) keywords in single-digit percentages which made it sound like it would be something that would be hardly noticeable. Maybe what Google didn’t factor in was how many people would be staying logged in to their Google accounts thanks to Google+, but regardless of whether it is a single-digit percentage or not, it is noticeable.
After a month, I decided to take a look at my own analytics. Compared to the keyword data you are still getting using an Advanced Segment for (not provided) traffic vs. all visits, it doesn’t look so bad and is as promised, a single digit percentage of 4.59%.
What bothers me is this…
The fact that (not provided) is now my top referring keyword. That’s 1,129 visitors in the last 30 days that I cannot analyze correctly. That’s 1,129 keywords whose bounce rate averages out to 83.97% that I won’t be able to work on.
Is it really about privacy?
Another thing that gets me is that this doesn’t really seem to be about user privacy. For one thing, if I was paying for Google AdWords, I would still get to see the keywords that users searched which led to paid search results. So if I was paying for it, I’d get it.
Then there’s the fact that Google is still logging your search activity. Sure it’s just for your own “personal” web history, but I’m sure whether or not you turn this setting on or off, they are still keeping tabs on your organic searches.
According to the Google’s document on Web History and Privacy…
“Over time, the service may also use additional information about your activity on Google or other information you provide us in order to deliver a more personalized experience.”
To see your web history since you first logged in to your Google account, click on this link when logged in. This is where you can “pause” and remove all web history items if you so choose to.
Of course, if you read further into the Privacy FAQ…
“You can choose to stop storing your web activity in Web History either temporarily or permanently, or remove items, as described in Web History Help. If you remove items, they will be removed from the service and will not be used to improve your search experience. As is common practice in the industry, Google also maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users. For example, we use this information to audit our ads systems, understand which features are most popular to users, improve the quality of our search results, and help us combat vulnerabilities such as denial of service attacks.”
Want see more real not provided numbers in Google Analytics?
The following are additional articles with real Google Analytics numbers related to the (not provided) keyword.
- How Much Data Will Your Site Lose With Google Encrypted Search Default? – Analysis after less than a week of this change going live shows how even .97% can equal the loss of keyword data for 195K searches.
- Quantifying the Impact of Google’s Keyword Referral Data Shutdown – shows a visualization of 60 sites’ analytics data plus SEOmoz’s own missing keyword data.
How has the new SSL search for logged in Google account users affected your Google Analytics? Do you believe privacy is the real motivator? Please share your thoughts on not provided in the comments!
When someone takes the time to subscribe to your blog, it’s a pretty clear indication that they’re interested in what you have to say. What’s great about having people who are interested in what you’re writing is not only are they ideal future leads, but they can also do marketing for you.
If you look at some of the biggest blogs across multiple niches, you’ll discover that many were able to reach the top because of their passionate audiences. While there’s only so much one blogger can do, a blogger with an audience of readers who are constantly telling other people to go to that blog has a much bigger reach.
Although just about every blogger wants this type of situation, many believe that it’s never going to be possible for them. Since they don’t even have a few dozen subscribers, they can’t imagine having tens of thousands. If this is how you feel, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to make this huge jump overnight. Instead, the success of most blogs comes from gradual momentum that builds over time. As a blog’s audience slowly gets larger, it eventually grows to that ideal point where the audience starts acting as marketers for the blog.
Since it doesn’t take tons of subscribers to see a noticeable improvement, your goal should be to maximize the number of new visitors you convert into subscribers. Here are some of the keys to accomplishing this goal:
It’s Not Just RSS: A big reason why many bloggers are unhappy with the number of subscribers they have is because the only subscription option they have on their blog is an orange RSS button. While this is fine for people who use RSS readers, if you’re in a niche that’s outside of technology, most of your audience probably doesn’t use RSS. Even if they have a vague understanding of what that term means, it doesn’t mean they have an active RSS reader.
Instead, they use email. As a result, you want to make sure that you set up an email subscription for your blog. Once you do, that’s the option you will want to promote throughout your blog.
Consider a Free Giveaway: Many bloggers have found that they can significantly increase signups by offering visitors a free piece of content. Whether it’s a report or an interview, the key is coming up with something that’s going to provide value to visitors. *Read Derek Blandford’s reply in the comments below for a great suggestion about how to come with the ideal type of content to give away.
If you decide that you do want to give away a piece of content, you can put it together and then create a nice signup box that makes it easy for visitors to claim what you’re giving away.
Where to Put Your Signup Box: Don’t limit your signup box to the sidebar. Two areas where bloggers have reported increases in signups is below their posts and on their resource pages. For example, if you have a great About page, you can capture interested visitors by putting a signup box near the bottom of it. You can see an example of this on the About page of Social Triggers:
What makes you want to subscribe to a blog?
Just about anyone who’s anyone in the world of business is on LinkedIn. The site has grown exponentially to become the largest social networking site for professionals. Its widespread popularity can be largely attributed to the variety of ways in which users can connect with others and market themselves as well as their businesses.
There is a long list of ways that you can use LinkedIn to promote your website and at the same time help you build the authority of your site. You can’t go wrong with the basics, however. The following list will outline the most effective ways in which you can use LinkedIn for these dual purposes.
Personal & Professional Profile
When creating your personal profile, be sure to customize the three spaces provided for links to your website, blog and personal site. Don’t just leave the default text that reads “Blog.” Instead, plug a relevant keyword to describe your website instead! “Inbound Marketing Blog” is a much better choice than simply “Blog”. A few other tips for your profile from this post about optimizing your social profiles:
- Make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image – LinkedIn sets it as the alt tag.
- Job titles are H3s, so be sure to optimize them as much as you can.
- Add targeted keywords to your headline, summary, specialties and skills sections as well.
Secondly, set up your company profile. Fill out all the available fields for your company, including your URL, in order to use LinkedIn to promote your website.
Use LinkedIn Answers
Build your credibility and authority by answering LinkedIn questions that relate to your industry. This one is simple: search for questions within your field of knowledge and share your expertise. The result? An instant increase in your brand credibility, which leads to more clicks through to your website and an opportunity to drop a link when appropriate.
Don’t Forget Your Status Messages
Update your status messages occasionally. While it’s important not to overuse this feature, you should do your best to avoid under using it as well! Posting occasional updates about your latest projects is a great way to increase your site visitors and spark interest for your company and website.
Ask For Recommendations
If you have some strong relationships through your contacts on LinkedIn, getting a professional recommendation can be another great way to boost your business and promote your website. Recommendations work in much the same way as testimonials, with the added bonus of visibility across the site! During this process take the time to also ask those individuals to link to your site from theirs, or ask to use recommendations on your own website as testimonials.
While there are several more ways to use LinkedIn to promote your website, this list offers a great start. Just one of the many factors involved in building your websites influence, using LinkedIn can help whether you’re a B2B or B2C company. Check out the other ways to build authority in the Infographic located below!
How do you use LinkedIn to build your sites authority and promote your website?
Link building is an essential part of any successful SEO campaign; there’s no arguing about that. In order to rank for any given keyword, we need backlinks – and lots of them.
However, not all links are created equal.
The reason it’s important to know how valuable your links are is very simple: the higher the quality, the fewer links you need to get ranked.
The following 10 qualities are the ones I always look for in a perfect link.
#1. High PR of the domain
High PR can be equated to more domain authority in the eyes of Google. The more authority a site has, the higher quality the links coming from that domain will be.
My ideal homepage PR is 4+.
Of course, it’s a whole lot better to have a link on an inner page that has high PR of its own.
#2. Keyword-Rich Anchor Text
Google uses anchor text pointing to a page to determine what that page is about.
If I start building links to this post with “Ana Hoffman” as anchor text (like a lot of blog commentators would do), then Google might find that this post is more relevant to that keyword than to such keywords as “link building” or “backlinks“.
It’s best if you try to rank each page of your site for one specific keyword or variations of it, but of course, this is not a must – just works better that way.
Also, try to have at least 70-80% of exact match anchor text. The other 20-30% could be naked URLs, long-tail variations of the keyword, or even a few “click here” links.
#3. Long-term Link
This is the kind of link that won’t be removed in a few days.
Forum links are one such example. You create a new profile, sprinkle it with some links, place some comments on a few threads just to learn a week later that the forum moderators decided to remove all your links.
Here’s a better way to create forum profiles (thanks to Gerald for teaching me this link building trick): create your profiles without any links in them, wait for a week or two for the moderators to check it out, and THEN go back and add your links.
The chances of them sticking are much higher this way.
#4. Page is Indexed by Google
It only makes sense to add your links to pages that Google already knows about, right?
However, there are plenty of times when it’ll be up to you to make sure that the page your links are added to is indexed, like in article marketing for instance.
I strongly suggest that you keep track of all the URLs where your new content is placed and make sure all those pages are indexed by pinging them, linking to them in a few comments – just to name a couple of ways of doing it.
#5. Link Building Consistency
This is where most sites get in trouble.
The webmasters fail to maintain link velocity, i.e. to build links on a regular basis.
So what happens is a few hundred or even thousand of links come in within a span of a couple of days and then… nothing.
Very obvious one way link building pattern that can land you in Google sandbox.
#6. No Bad-Neighborhood Links
I would never add a link to a page that already has links to sites like porn, pharmaceuticals, etc. – you don’t want your site to be associated with bad neighborhood sites in any way.
#7. Active Sites
An active site with fresh content posted frequently, with lots of signs of reader engagement, like comments, social media shares, etc. is much more likely to be crawled often, which means your links will be quickly discovered and indexed.
The following 3 qualities might raise some eyebrows; let’s talk about it in comments if you disagree.
#8. Not Sidebar/Footer Links
It sounds like a great deal to be listed by another site in their blogroll.
However, aside from branding and potential traffic generation, those links might not be worth as much, since it’s not that difficult to obtain them.
#9. Relevancy is Overrated
There’s a lot of talks about getting links from niche-specific sites only.
I haven’t seen any conclusive testing that’s been done on that.
On the other hand, I’ve heard of plenty of link builders who ranked their sites on page 1 with nothing but “irrelevant” links.
#10. Authority Outbound Links
Yet another debatable point.
However, I, among many other SEO’s, believe that it helps to have your links on a page that links out to authority sites relevant to the topic in hand.
Here’s a good example of this train of thought:
And yet another one:
- Link Intelligence: What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Linking Out (Traffic Generation Cafe)
And there you have it.
Boxing gloves on?
Comment to show me that you’re alive!
Are you ready to start making your own luck 11-11-11 ? Then take action with these tips on productivity, blogging, digital marketing, organization, social media, and more.
1. Give people options to subscribe to you.
If you have a blog or website, you probably want people to subscribe in a specific way. Maybe you are trying to build your mailing list or your RSS feed subscriber numbers. But if you want everyone to follow, then you need to give everyone options they will like.
One thing I have noticed is that certain people follow me in only one place. There are some people who will not interact with my posts (or possibly even read it) if I don’t share them on Facebook. There are other people who will not interact with my posts if I don’t share them on Google+.
There are people I know will only see my content if I share it on a particular network which means they are not following me closely elsewhere.
Hence, there are people you will lose out on as followers if you don’t give them options to follow you on the networks they prefer. So if you only have one or two subscription options on your website, now is the time to change that. Be sure that you offer RSS (by feed and by email), Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and a mailing list. Then you will have at least one option that everyone will want to use to keep up with you!
2. Start a mailing list.
If you saw mailing list above and thought “I don’t need a mailing list,” then you need to re-evaluate that thought. Some people might be so overwhelmed by their social networks and their RSS reader that they will miss your updates. Others might want more than what you share with the public.
This is where you mailing list comes into play. It will give you the chance to get right your subscriber’s inbox with your message. Mailing lists are not just for businesses, Internet marketers, or affiliate marketers. They are for everyone. You can recap your latest posts on your site, share your work on other sites, get visitor feedback, give special subscriber-only tips, and much more with your mailing list.
What’s most important is making that connection with your readers and visitors. Get them to take the next step in connecting with you, and then take the initiative to remind them about your personal or professional brand often using that connection.
You don’t even need a freebie to entice people to opt-in. Just put the form on your site and let the opt-ins casually roll in. You’ll be glad a year from now when you have new online goals and a built-in list of people to share them with.
3. Stop obsessing about stats.
If you check your stats multiple times a day, I want you to time yourself. How long does it take to check your analytics, Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, AdSense earnings, or whatever other things you are looking at over and over again?
Now take that same amount of time every day and do something that will actually help those numbers increase like engaging with your followers or creating new content for your website. Then check those numbers every week instead of every day. You’ll then start seeing real results.
4. Quit using the swipe files.
If you are an affiliate marketer and wonder why you aren’t making any money with your affiliate products, ask yourself if you are providing valuable information about a product or if you are just using the standard template that the product owner sends you. The issue with swipe files is that you are not the only person who has them.
If I’m subscribed to three people promoting a product and two of them have the same copy in their email, but the third person has something unique about their experience with the product, then guess who I’m more likely to buy from? I don’t want to read a sales pitch – I want to read real, hands-on experience and the benefits gained from the product. Give your audience that, and you will make a sale!
5. Add share buttons to your content.
Go look at a page on your website or blog that you wish everyone would tweet about. Do you have a Twitter button on it? If not, then that is the reason you’re not getting tweets.
People like for things to be easy. They don’t to Bit.ly your link, search for your Twitter handle, then tweet your page. They want to click on a button that has all of that information in it and then click send. They don’t want to copy & paste your link into Facebook and then edit the information. They want to click “Like.”
6. Get to inbox zero.
Do you have a hard time replying to emails? Do you miss important ones and end up smacking yourself in the head later for missing them? Chances are, you just have a little too much clutter. I find that when my inbox is under twenty emails, I’m more likely to reply to them all compared to when there are hundreds.
So how is it done? Depending on how much email you have collected, you might have to spend several hours at the initial cleanup. The goals are to:
- Answer anything you have been stalling on answering. You can either do it, like it, help with it, or turn it down. Whatever you decide, it will make things better to at least decide, respond, and archive.
- Unsubscribe from anything you don’t read. Don’t feel guilty just because it is someone you know – think of it as doing them a favor because now they won’t have to pay for you as a subscriber (if they use Aweber or similar services) when you’re not reading their info anyway.
- Filter emails that you read but do not require a response. Create folders for specific people, newsletters, brands, social notifications, comment notifications, and so forth. Then create filters to sort incoming emails into those specific folders. Gmail is really good about this because you can even filter incoming emails to appear in your inbox but already be labeled to go into another folder once it has been read which makes organization that much simpler.
Once you get down to inbox zero, then you will start feeling good about answering each email that comes in and only seeing the few things that you need to take action on.
7. Check your Twitter direct messages.
I know, I know – you probably think they are only full of spam. But you might be surprised if you just monitor them daily how you will find more than just spam.
I still kick myself when I remember missing out on the opportunity to chat with someone I’d been dying to talk to in the industry simply because he sent me a direct message and I didn’t find it until a few months later. By that point, he didn’t remember what he wanted to talk to me about.
Since then, I’ve had inquires about my eBook, my services, and general questions. I’ve probably earned a good bit of income simply by monitoring and answering direct messages.
8. Optimize your social profiles for search.
If you missed my wildly popular entry to the Bad Ass SEO Contest, how to optimize 7 popular social media profiles for search, or you didn’t take action on those tips when you read them, I suggest you revisit the post and implement the advice. You’ll be glad you did!
Having the right information in your profiles will lead to better positioning in search, whether it is just for your name, on Google, or just within the social network itself. Then you’ll start getting the kinds of followers interested in your content and you will be on your way to accomplishing your online goals.
9. Help someone out.
Sometimes answering a simple question with a detailed, informative response goes a long way. This could be in your email, your Twitter direct messages (see #7 again), your comments, or anywhere else that people can connect with you online. A few of my freelance writing gigs have been the result of answering questions about how blogs find writers.
10. Organize your thoughts.
I used to have issues with writer’s block, and I never understood why because I felt like I was always coming up with great ideas. Then I realized that those great ideas were on post-its, in emails, in notebooks, on random receipts, and everywhere else.
I compiled them into one spreadsheet, organized them by topic, and boom – I now have almost 100 topic ideas in a variety of categories to write about. So now, on a rainy day when I have writer’s block, I can refer to one source for great ideas.
This one I decided to leave up to you the reader. What is one additional tip you can think of that will help you change your online marketing luck for the better on 11-11-11?
2011 has been a challenging year for many website owners. As Panda has continued to make clear, Google is serious about delivering quality content to its searchers. While it’s easy to spend a lot of time debating what is and isn’t quality content, there are some clear indications of what Google generally prefers.
Length is one factor that seems to be quite significant. In August, serpIQ ran an analysis of their database of 20,000+ keywords and front page results. As you can see from the screenshot below, the average content length for a Top 10 result is at least 2,000 words.
Although this is obviously a cause of correlation and not causation, it does bring up an interesting question:
Why would Google favor longer content?
In general, longer content is going to be more comprehensive. If one website has 1,000 words about a topic and another website has 2,000 words about the topic, the latter is going to be able to cover more information than the former.
So, if your homepage is short on content, does this mean you just need to start writing whatever comes to your mind? Of course not! There’s a big difference between beefing up your content and filling it with fluff. Adding a bunch of nonsense to take up space isn’t going to help any visitors who are actually reading it.
While beefing up your content may seem like a really difficult task, there’s another reason you should be motivated to do it. Most conversion tests show that long copy converts better than short copy. This has been true since the glory days of direct mail, and it continues to be the case.
Since beefing up your content can help your rankings and your conversions, here are some tips for doing it the right way:
Start Answering Questions: Open a blank document and start typing out all the questions a visitor might have when they come to a specific page of your website. Although it may take a bit to get warmed up, once you get rolling, you’ll find that you can generate a lot of good questions.
Once you have your list of questions, answer them. You can then add this useful information to the page you’re expanding.
Display New Posts: Just because your homepage is a landing page doesn’t mean you can’t showcase your latest posts. If you look at Copyblogger, you’ll see that the top of their site is devoted to their products. Then when you scroll down the page, they have a section for their posts.
If you’re using WordPress, this is very easy to do by creating a Sticky Post on your main page.
Address Multiple Point of Views: If you’re expanding an informational page, consider getting opinions and insights from multiple experts instead of just one.
If you’re working on a product page, talk about your competitors. Although some companies are afraid to even mention their competitors, if you can show visitors why you’re better than your competitors, you will be able to convert more of them into your customers.
Has the impact of Panda changed your content strategy?
There are so many marketing options available for brands that it’s especially hard during the holidays to decide where your efforts should go. After reading a blog post on B2B marketing on Foursquare I thought about options for any brands that might be looking to use Foursquare this holiday season. With a bit of creativity there are many things you try out this holiday season.
Offer a Special
Increased foot traffic in malls or shopping plazas can mean more people near your business. By offering a special on Foursquare you stand a chance of having someone within range of your business visit your location, check in, share their location with friends, and of course possibly purchasing something to get the discount.
It’s surprising to see that so many businesses offer specials to their customers through varies medias but don’t put that same exact special on Foursquare. During this time of year especially, specials and discounts can get more traffic into your doors. It doesn’t take much to set up on Foursquare and to let your staff know about the special.
Make One-On-One Connections
If someone is checking into your business shouldn’t you say thank you? Having someone on staff monitor check-ins at your location during the holidays can help give an added personal feel to the experience at your business for a customer. Try welcoming them while at the store, offering assistance, or asking how their experience was.
Don’t Forget the Mayor
Have a few regular customers battling it out to become mayor of your establishment? Continue the battle across multiple platforms and create a contest over the holidays on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook. This can help spark others to get in on the game, coming back to your establishment often. Have a leader board posted at your location and keep tally. Aren’t in the mood for a game? Simply offer a discount to the mayor and thank them for their patronage – few businesses do it.
Craft and art fairs, bizarres, and holiday markets are all great places to sell your wares during the holidays. Monitoring the users who check into the event and directing them to your booth is easy to do through the use of Foursquare and other social media platforms. But why stop there? Try connecting with people before they go to the event by setting up a search on Twitter, or connecting with them afterwards too. Use this opportunity to help build your client base to take you through the new year.
Offer After-Holiday Discounts
By setting up a Twitter search of all the mentions of your brand name or store on Twitter, you can be notified when someone checks into your store or mentions your brand (even if they aren’t using Foursquare). Not only should you thank them for checking in but offer them a discount code (via DM) for the next time they stop in. You have the possibility of turning that one time sale or one time visit into more. Don’t forget – it’s not just about Black Friday deals. Customers are likely to appreciate a non-black Friday deal too, so get them to come back into your store after the holiday rush.
Discussed in the post I mentioned previously, B2B marketing can be done using Foursquare quite easily. Most of the suggestions offered will require businesses to allow their employees to use social media. Limiting employee social media usage is a trend that has been decreasing over recent years. A recent “Robert Half Technology” study shows social media permitted in the workplace for business purposes becoming more common. If you happen to be in a B2B market and allow your employees to use social media try out this suggestion to use Foursquare to market your brand.
Events - Foursquare can help you promote holiday and company events, and pre-buzz through other social channels can help as well. Igniting conversation about your brands activities, involvement in the community, or camaraderie can sometimes boost sales. If you are hosting a holiday party set up an event and have your staff tweet, Facebook, and check-in on Foursquare. Encourage them to take pictures too.
These are just a few of the ways you can use Foursquare this holiday season. Have more to add? Feel free – in the comments below!
Andy at SmartBlogs.com wrote a great post about how to use Foursquare for word-of-mouth campaigns. Check it out!
When Google comes up with a new algorithm change, all the webmasters hold their breath trying to figure out if this is the one that would send their site into the neverland of the search engine rankings.
I bet it wasn’t any different with the last week’s update that focused on pushing the freshest results to the top of the search engine pages.
Google tried to make us feel warm and fuzzy, as they announced their new update:
“Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.” Source
“Relevant and recent”.
Not sure what happened to the “relevancy” part (after all, relevancy is supposed to be the cornerstone of how Google works), but we all noticed the “recency” factor.
So how would this latest update affect you and your site?
Should you start posting every day now? Are you expected to compete with websites that have full-time writers constantly churning out fresh content?
The answer is a definite NO.
Although this update will affect about 35% of all searches, its scope is quite narrow, in my opinion.
It zooms in on the following information streams:
1. Current events or hot topics:
It only makes sense that when you search for “occupy Wall Street protest”, you expect to find the latest information on the topic immediately.
2. Topics in need of frequent updates:
A good example of this type of information would be products constantly coming up with new models.
If you are on the market for the latest Volvo XC-90, you are not interested in reviews of 2010 models, right?
3. Regularly occurring events:
Conferences, political elections, sports, etc. – all these events fall under “if I am searching for them, I am looking to find the info on the latest one” category.
“Different searches have different freshness needs. This algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness you need, and make sure you get the most up to the minute answers.”
Reactions Around the Web
Barry Schwartz of SearchEngineLand.com talks about the potential problems this update might create, referring to them as “freshness spam“:
“There are potential downsides. Sometimes you do want to reward fresh content. But what’s fresh? If someone simply makes a small change to a page, does that give it a fresh boost? If someone reposts exactly the same content on a new page a day or two after initially posting it, is that fresh? Is when the page was first found define freshness, or is the first modified date used?
Does this open Google up to an even worse situation than can already happen with Google News now, where publishers file and refile stories in an effort to win the freshness race there, since the latest versions of stories often get top billing.”
Ben Wills of MarketingPilgrim.com doesn’t just talk about it, but offers 7 suggestions to rank higher in Google’s new fresh results:
- Cover Your Bases by Getting into Google News
- Use Proper Time-stamps in Your Content
- Add Forums
- Add Question and Answers Section
- Add Your Own Social Network
- Add Your Own Social News section
If you think your site might be affected by Google Fresh changes, I strongly recommend you check out his post. Even if you don’t, still take a look at it: Bill mentions a good number of tools to help you implement his suggestions above.
Well, that’s it, folks.
As it’s always the case, we’ll talk about Google Fresh for another week or two, then the topic won’t be fresh any longer and we’ll get back to business as usual.
Until then, let’s try to milk the news for all it’s worth; who knows, maybe your site will show up under “Google Fresh” search tomorrow?
A few months back I had what I consider to be a divine revelation. See, leading up to this point, I was slowly realizing that I was reaching the breaking point as far as the workload I could take on. When I first started out in the SEO copywriting business, I only had a few jobs here and there, leaving me begging for more work. Now I had built a loyal (albeit still small compared to others) customer base, work kept coming in without me having to really look for it. My main client had quadrupled my work load.
And suddenly those deadlines were starting to choke me out. Not too unlike one of those way-too-masculine ‘roided up UFC guys putting a triangle choke hold on their weakened opponent.
Anyway, that’s when it hit me. Find more writers.
As the lights from the heavens beamed down and the angelic choir sang, I began imagining the possibilities. What if I could actually work on the projects I enjoyed and pay someone else to write the stuff that was just “paying the bills” so to speak?
Not only would my love for SEO copywriting grow stringer, but I’d be able to take on more work. Instead of having to turn down jobs or tell a client “yeah but I can’t get it to you for X amount of weeks,” I’d now be able to enthusiastically reply, “BRING IT ON!” Not only that, but I could start searching for more work—you know, sending out sales letters and what not.
Sure I’d probably take a hit at the beginning, having to turn over a small yet still hefty portion of my profits to the contractors. But this would be a mere short term set back.
My Experience Getting My Feet Wet with Contracting Out Work
It didn’t take much thought for me to decide to jump in head first. I began by asking all my friends if they knew anyone interested in making a little money writing on the side. This attracted a few prospects. However, I learned pretty quickly that mixing friends and business didn’t work out. Not one of these prospects ended up being reliable.
Then I turned to Craigslist. After all, I’d picked up a few jobs there along the way. Why couldn’t I find some decent writers? However, first I had a big decision to make—how much money would I offer? Well, the plan was to contract out a bit of the recurring SEO article writing I had to do, which meant 500 word articles. At this point, I had no idea what the average article writer charged. I knew what I was making, but obviously I had to pay significantly less if I wanted to turn a profit.
After pondering this for awhile, I decided to run a test. I made a series of “Wanted: SEO article writer” postings, each listed at a different price point. One was a bit more than I wanted to pay, one about what I considered reasonable, and one I totally low-balled.
Here’s what I discovered. At the low-ball price, I got one of two things. Either I got really crappy writing and had to redo the articles myself…or I got a decent writer who was flaky and would always be late with some reason why they couldn’t finish.
At the middle price point I got a mixture of bad writers and pretty good writers. I sorted through it all and ended up sticking with a few.
The high price point was especially interesting. I assumed I would pull in some better-than-usual writers through this posting. However, what I discovered is all the same writers that applied for the middle price contacted me for this job too. Interesting…
So the conclusion? Obviously I chose middle ground payment.
How to outsource or Manage Contractors?
Once I settled on a few writers, I got rolling. I started sending out article jobs left and right. But as you can imagine, I ran into all sorts of unexpected issues. First of all, how was I to keep all the jobs straight? And what about the bookkeeping? Furthermore, how did I decide which jobs to send to whom?
Want the answers? Ahhh…but I can’t unveil them just yet. Yes, I know it’s frustrating, but this is a subject for my next guest post. Until then, let me know your experience with contracting out work!
If you are an entrepreneur who has been in business for more than a few years, you’ve likely encountered a situation where a client made the payment process painfully slow or didn’t pay at all.
Although this has only happened to me a couple of times during the last six years, a recent experience made it clear that this issue is still a big problem.
Before I give my perspective, I want to share opinions and insights from some of my good friends who are also entrepreneurs. Their specialties range from SEO to web design to copywriting:
If They Want You, They Should Pay Upfront
“I have had various clients throughout my 6-year career but honestly I have never had anyone fail to pay. In the majority of cases, I charge upfront. This way I am 100% secured. Sometimes I do allow paying for the completed order — but only when if I know the client personally, have good recommendations or have worked for them for some time already to build some trust.??It’s not that I am being too cautious. Most clients find me and want me to work for them (not vice versa), so they are glad to pay upfront.??However I can imagine the situation when the client won’t pay (for any reasons). It may depend on the project size but in most cases, I’d let it go, I think. It’s not my style to threaten or beg. I know it may be wrong but that’s how I work!”
from MyBlogGuest (a guest blogging community)
Get the Details in Writing
- “A detailed breakdown of exactly what each party will be contributing to the project?
- Deadlines by which things will be completed?
- Signatures from both of you with the date??
Also, in the contract make sure to put a clause stating where jurisdiction will fall if the client fails to pay for the completed work. You ideally want the jurisdiction to fall in the city and state where you are personally located, so the client will have to come to you if there is a problem or dispute over money and being paid.”
from Simple Weight Loss
You Deserve to Get Paid, So Be Persistent
“1. Have clients make 3 payments (50%, 25%, and the final payment). Getting them to pay more frequently helps you with your cash flow and it helps the client re-commit half way through the project. If they decide not to pay after you have collected 75% of the project it’s much better than not getting paid at all.
2. Bill clients in full if the project is less than a minimum that you set for yourself and your clients. For example if a project is less than $1,000 we like to have the project paid in full if the client agrees to it.
3. If they won’t pay… Be a pest. Call them, email them, show up at their office. Stalk them if you have to… Be annoying until they have to go borrow the money or get a part-time job to pay you… just don’t give up and let them get over on you.
4. Never, never, never, turn over finalized files to a client before they pay you in full.”
from Raxa Design
Avoid Troublesome Clients By Going with Your Gut
“Don’t let yourself be wooed by empty promises and big dollar signs, and always trust your instincts. I once had a client who was routinely very late on making payments, but every time I tried to end our relationship, he promised that it’d never happen again and he’d entice me by offering to pay more for my services. Of course, I had to keep chasing him down for payments every time, and I finally realized that I should have trusted my gut from the beginning and let him go as a client long ago. I would have saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress.”
A Smaller Payment is Better than $0
“In my experience, I always try to charge upfront, however that is not always possible, especially with larger organizations that have to submit invoices to an account department. So another option is to get a 1 months deposit upfront, so in case they don’t pay on-time, you can lean on that deposit to cover the internal costs for performing the work.
Another idea, that I am not particularly fond of but know of my companies that do this, is removing all of the on-page optimization that was done on the site. This will get your clients attention and realize that you are serious about timely payments.”
Tip from Smashing Magazine
I also think this tip from Smashing Magazine is quite interesting for web designers:
“Another route that some freelance Web developers opt for when they design websites for clients is to install a kind of CSS fail-safe, in order to have leverage if payment disputes come up. CSS Killswitch is a freelance coder’s dream come true. By simply linking to an external CSS style sheet, which can be activated with the simple click of a button, you can black out a website if the client refuses to pay — even if they have changed the password and locked you out of the back end, which is the only circumstance under which this should be done.”
I protect myself in two ways. First, I normally wait for payment in full before I start any work. Second, because I charge a setup and monthly fee, I’m usually paid a month in advance.
If this type of billing isn’t possible for you, try to get a full or partial payment in advance. Never start any work on a project if all you’re getting is “the check is in the mail” promise!
What to Do When You Don’t Get Your Payment in Full and the Client is Either Late or Refusing to Pay
First, let the client know you aren’t going to just forget about their bill and that you fully intend to collect. They may be avoiding payment as a test to see if they can get away with it. Solving the problem may be as simple as you letting them know you’re not going to forget about their bill.
Unfortunately, it’s not always going to be this easy, so you may have to take a few extra steps. In addition to calls and emails, you can use a service like Fresh Books to send them an invoice by snail mail, email or both. Because receiving an invoice in the mail makes it more tangible, this can be the nudge a client needs to make their payment.
Get a Contract in Writing
No matter what, the most important thing you can do is to have a signed contract in place. There may be times when you feel comfortable with someone and think, “Oh, I know Joe and he’s a reliable guy.” Unfortunately, this thought isn’t going to help you when Joe keeps “forgetting” about paying you. If a job is for more money than you are willing to not collect on, you need a written contract.
If you have your agreement in writing, you can always take legal or collection action against the client if it’s enough money to warrant the time and hassle. If the amount is less than $5000, it only costs around $50 to file a small claims lawsuit Hopefully, after the client sees you are not simply going to forget about their bill, they will do the right thing and pay up.
And now in the spirit of this post, a short clip from the classic movie Goodfellas…
Note:This video is NSFW and contains four letters words.
Have you ever had a client not pay on time or completely refuse to pay? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments!