Wednesday, December 2, 2009

See My Charlotte Observer Columns Online Now

You can now see my Charlotte Observer columns online.  Please feel free to comment! I know the link is crazy long, but it's actually a search on my name, so you can go to the page that lists all the articles I've done.*&sf_meta_site=CharlotteObserver2&

Happy Holidays & Charlotte SEMCLT Group Meets Tomorrow!

Happy Holidays to everyone! I apologize that this blog has been largely ignored throughout the month of November.  I, like everyone else, tend to get completely, maddeningly busy during the holidays.  And since being laid off in June from a full time copywriting job and now having exhausted my unemployment, I have picked up extra hours as a part-time retail manager at Southpark mall's Janie & Jack store (owned by Gymboree).  And you know how the retail world is during the holiday season--a lot of crazy hours. 

I am still interviewing for full time copywritng/content manager roles and am hopeful (and very prayerful) that something will soon work out so that I can have a more normal schedule again.  With two small kids, I definitely need it!

All that said, I am very excited about tomorrow evening's Search Engine Marketing of Charlotte group's holiday party.  It's currently booked full (so glad I RSVP'ed early), but if you want to see the agenda, check out  The evening's topic will be about social media with several area leaders on a discussion panel.  Should be good stuff--I'll update my next post with key highlights.  And the group usually has streaming video and a video podcast available for those unable to attend. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

4 Reasons You'll Never Get Me off Twitter

Let's face it:  Twitter is still an unknown entity to a lot of folks.  They don't see the point of it, don't understand it and don't care to.  But those people who have invested the time to learn how to use Twitter (one common and legitimate complaint is that Twitter is not intuitive) realize the benefits of this popular social medium. 

As a freelance copywriter, I've experienced firsthand the benefits of Twitter, and here are four reasons, you'll never get me off Twitter:

1.  I'm able to have a presence and keep my face, quite literally, in front of the industry professionals with whom I want to work.  My updates, which are a mix of personal and professional, let my contacts know what I'm up to and that I'm a real person with real interests aside from marketing, SEO and even copywriting.  So, the next time they need a copywriter, I'm hopefully fresh in their minds.

2.  By keeping a regular Twitter presence, I'm also able to distinguish myself as an industry leader, as someone who can point others to useful information and offer fresh insights on marketing and Web development issues.  I want to be viewed an an industry expert, and by keeping myself in front of the people who can recommend me, I'm gaining a leg up on my competitors who don't understand the value of Twitter.

3.  I also love the variety of people that I'm connected to on Twitter.  There are people I follow just so I can see what kind of cool information they'll have for me today; I like to stay abreast of what's going on in the copywriting and Web development industries, and it's absolutely fantastic to be pointed towards the latest news by industry leaders in real time.

4.  And finally, I can cross promote my business with others; I work with a lot of local SEOs, so it's great to be connected through them.  Moreover, I can ask for help or suggestions and literally get a response within seconds.  I can even find work on Twitter.  And let's face it:  that alone makes Twitter pretty darned worth it.

What are your reasons for loving Twitter??? Got a success story?

Monday, September 28, 2009

You Better Treat Me Right...Or Twitter, Here I Come!

Social media is undoubtedly growing--Facebook has grown almost 200 percent in the last year, and Twitter has grown by nearly 2,000 percent in the last year.  So, the social media reach is clearly starting to expand in leaps and bounds, and many savvy businesses are jumping on the bandwagon to manage their on-line images, assist in customer service and even generate new business. 

At the same time, average, everyday folks are realizing that they have newfound power over those with whom they do business.  No longer can the phone company put us on hour-long holds.  No longer can the cable company tell us they'll come on Monday and not show up till Thursday, because we'll tell everybody and their mother all about it on our Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages.  And if our complaint particularly moves our audience, it's bound to find an even wider audience when it goes viral.

From a customer advocacy standpoint, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  We've all had those experiences where we ended up in a call center maze, sometimes being transferred back to the person we originally spoke with.  And we've had rude customer service people tell us to "have a day."  Before the on-line social media craze, we had minimal respite.  We could essentially take it or leave it.

So, yes, it's good that we can hold companies publicly accountable.  But let's also consider this from the  standpoint of companies.  What if a loon calls up and wants something ridiculous, like six months of free cable because of a $5 billing error? And what if the complaintant is a serial complainer, someone who could find fault with service God Himself provides? Aren't they essentially blackmailing companies, saying "Do what I ask, or this will be all over Twitter and Facebook before you even have time to talk to your manager"?

And would we want the tables reversed? Do we want the phone company to be able to to Tweet out a list of those who are more than 60 days behind on their payments? Or do we want department stores to publicize their list of frequent returners?

Social media really has the potential to be great, but it can also be used for malevolent purposes, since it's in the hands of, well, everybody.  It's a burgeoning area; even the experts have only been social media experts for about a year or two. 

Because the social media landscape is so new, there aren't really any rules on how you can use it.  But when I'm reading anything on-line, I use the same rules I use for evaluating statements I see in conventional mediums, like blogs or newspapers. I ask myself, "Who is the source?" I get to the root of who is saying something before I retweet.  I sure as heck don't want to help someone promote an unfair negative campaign against a company because he/she holds a personal grudge. 

I also ask myself when making any kind of disparaging complaint, "How will you feel if the company defends itself on-line? Will they present a side of the story you'd rather not have publicized?" I may want to gripe that a store wouldn't take my return even with the receipt.  But I may not want the store to mention that the clothes I tried to return were covered in dog hair and appeared to have been worn several times. 

This is a big subject, ripe with ethical and common sense dillemmas galore.  I'd be interested in hearing my readers' thoughts, so please comment.

Monday, September 21, 2009

September Update: My Whereabouts

Hello all! I so appreciate my blog visitors and especially those who contribute to the discussions with their own comments.  I like to maintain weekly posts, but unfortunately, that's been difficult this month.  My father, who lives in Illinois--a long way from Charlotte--was hospitalized with pneumonia over Labor Day weekend.  He was in the hospital for six days, and I stayed for another week after that just to be a "mother hen." :) Blessedly, Dad is now getting back to his old self!

I also stayed a little longer for another reason:  While I was in Illinois, my great Aunt Grace, who was 90,  passed away.  It wasn't entirely unexpected, as she had had several close calls throughout the summer, but she was a fantastic lady who is dearly missed. 

Well, between all that and a sinus infection, a severely bruised foot and sore muscles from all the yard work I did while in Illinois, I haven't had a chance to update the blog!  I've got a couple cool topics, though, that I'll be posting on this week, so please check back.  I'm also attending the two-day Social Media Marketing class with Corey Creed this week.  So, everything is just about back to normal!!!

Have a wonderful, blessed week!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Will Write Copy--5 Cents Per 500-1000 Word Article

Is there anything at all unusual about that headline? I mean besides the fact that I'm willing to put in a minimum of 1-2 hours of brainstorming, researching and writing work for 5 cents. 

The answer to my question, as a lot of us seasoned copywriters have found, is no.  We're now in competition with overseas copy shops  that can turn out mass copy for pennies on the dollar; English may not be these folks' native tongue--that's generally obvious from the content produced--but that doesn't stop them from pumping out the copy.

Likewise, with the current economy, many folks stateside are looking for new ways to make money from home; one way is writing.  All you is a keyboard and time, right?

The most disheartening part of this new trend towards budget copy is that people like me who have put years of time and money into increasing our education and learning not just about the craft of writing, but also about sales and marketing--the fundamentals of making money--are left out in the cold.  Who wouldn't buy a Nordstrom's quality purse at Wal-Mart prices? The problem, though, is that better than 95 percent of the time, "copy deals" are anything but. 

Consider this:  Would you outsource your company's accounting, IT security or business planning to the lowest bidder? Probably not.  Your business is important; it's your livelihood.  You can't afford a mistake in your books or a network vulnerability.  So, you look for quality service providers, get recommendations from friends and colleagues and choose whom you'll work with based on a variety of factors, including the provider's reputation, ability to deliver and their professionalism.  Essentially, you refuse to put your business into the hands of just anyone.

Now consider that copywriting (writing to sell), blog writing and content creation, at a time when people thirst for constant information, is the lifeblood of a marketing campaign.  Without copy, people don't know what you do, how well you do it or why they should be calling you for XYZ needs.  You're anonymous, a nobody until carefully crafted words get you noticed and make people think, "I need to find out more about YOUR NAME HERE."

Most usually, those 5 cent articles are driven by volume; the people doing them aren't concerned over your return; they just want the money.  And if you're not happy, no big deal.  There are thousands more like you who want the world and more for that nickel.  So, they'll gladly take your place on the "writing" schedule.

How I and the other professional copywriters I know differ is that we're not working on volume; we're accepting a set number of clients to whom we can offer high quality marketing advice and then translate that into copywriting that sells.  We care if an article we write or post is not drawing in a  return on your investment, because we know that your livelihood (and ours) depends on how successfully we can help you convert casual information perusers into customers. 

Now, as a business owner, if that's not important to you, you perhaps are best advised to find a "writer" who is in it for the nickel.  You'll get your money's worth. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charlotte Social Fresh Attendees, What Was Your Best Take-Away?

Social Fresh attendees in Charlotte learned from social media experts this week (Check out today's Charlotte Observer to see why Jeff Elder thinks social media are like sex).

If you were in attendance, please share some of what you learned with those of us who didn't go. Include a link to your own Web site or blog, and let us know by posting a comment, "What was your best take-away?" What golden nugget are you glad you now know because of Social Fresh?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three "Sales" Pitches We Can Live Without

Ever heard the term "white noise?" It's sort of like when Charlie Brown's parents spoke to him: it was just a "wa, wa, wa, wa" sound. Charlie Brown didn't hear what his parents were specifically telling him, just this muffled...noise.

The same thing can be said for certain "marketing" terms and catchphrases that are still--to my surprise--widely popular.

Three "Sales" Pitches We Can Live Without

1. "Earn Your Business" has to be one of the most over-used phrases in marketing history. Yet, how many products or services still cling to this phrase, as though it really means anything? "Earn Your Business" has definitely become a white noise phrase; people have heard it so much that when you say it, it's like yelling into the wind. It's lost its punch, its significance, and any meaning it once held because of overuse.

Sadly, as with everything, a few bad apples ruin it for everyone. Those folks who used the "Let us earn your business" tagline and then acted in a way directly opposite of their said slogan, have made us distrustful of anyone using it.

2. "Get it now for the low, low price of $X," is another phrase marketers could forever bury, and it wouldn't be missed. In my opinion, this phrase is equivalent to the "It's the last one on the lot," or "The offer's only good for the next 30 minutes" type campaigns associated with sleazy marketing. It's a high pressure phrase that insinuates that if you don't buy now for this "low, low price," you'll have to pay a high, high price later.

3. Be a rockstar at savings. Get a rockstar deal. If I never again hear the term "rockstar" used to describe anything other than Ozzy Osbourne and his colleagues, it will be too soon. The term "rockstar" now applies to BUSINESS! How can that be? It's a pop culture reference at best, but you hear very high level executives regularly use the term. Because it's transcended the teeny boppers and now become so mainstream, it' guessed it...lost its power. Nowadays, we're all rockstars at something. I'm a rockstar mom, a rockstar copywriter, a rockstar cook...

These marketing terms (and I'm sure there are others I've missed) are useless because they appeal to base needs and wants: the desire to be valued, to save money, to be highly regarded. But today's customers are more savvy, more sophisticated and require marketing campaigns that are creative, but genuine. We know marketing initiatives are launched with the bottom line of bringing in money. But we don't want to feel like marketers are underestimating our intelligence when a product or service is pitched on us.

So my advice to marketing professionals: Just give me a sales pitch I can live with.

SEMCLT Sept. 3. Meetup Details Released This Week

Sept. 3, SEMCLT meetup details

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 5 Types of "Friends" We All Have on Facebook

If social media hasn't changed the meaning of friendship, nothing has. Facebook especially has done its due diligence in redefining what a "friend" is; it's highly common to get "friend" requests on Facebook from not just real, honest to goodness friends, but also from people you may have met once at a networking event, concert, wedding, the scene of an accident, etc.

Because the meaning of "friend" is clearly changing in light of social media's growing influence, I've compiled a list of the 5 Types of "Friends" each of us has on Facebook. Here goes...

1. The Real Friend. This is a genuine friend or relative, someone you know and like and with whom you want to share your latest goings-on. You use social media as another means of connecting with a real friend, but you may also communicate with a real friend on the phone, via email and in person.

2. The Acquaintance. The Acquaintance is someone you know professionally or only mildly. This could be someone you met at a networking event, a co-worker or a parent of another child in your daughter's classroom. With acquaintances, we want to keep an open line of communication, but we typically have a more distant relationship than we do with real friends.

3. Professional/Co-Worker/Boss. The great thing about social media is that it breaks down barriers that have previously existed; office culture, for example, is very hierarchical. So, you may not have told your boss about your skydiving hobby or your weekend in the mountains before. But by giving our bosses access to our Facebook profiles, we give them permission to read all about the interesting people we are away from the office. We reveal ourselves in a different light--no longer are we just the suit and tie wearing accountant in the cubicle by the door. We're real people with families, friends and exciting lives.

4. The Looky-Loo. These are the people whom we accept as "friends," but know they're just keeping tabs on us. They could be people we knew from Cub Scouts, freshman year, etc. They want to know what we're up to (and perhaps vice-versa--on Facebook, you can't be a Looky-Loo without giving someone else permission to view your page).

5. The Enemy. OK, admittedly this sounds way more dramatic than it actually is. But who among us hasn't received a friend request from someone we were certain hated us? The Enemy (or former Enemy) may have grown up, matured and simply want to see how we're doing. Or the Enemy could still be evil and filled with animosity and just want to keep tabs on us. If we're doing well, we'll generally be happy to let them.

What we must remember is that each of our "friends" has access to our posts; while social media brings us all closer together and essentially tears down privacy walls, it can also bring information to the attention of others we'd rather them not know. So, when making updates, ask yourself, "Am I comfortable sharing this with a real friend? A professional associate? An enemy?"

You may be fine with your best friends seeing pictures of last Friday night's drunken escapades, but you may not want your boss or pastor to see them. It's best to live by this rule when partaking in social media: Only post updates or pictures you're comfortable having anyone see, because once it's "out there" on-line, there's a good chance that anyone could see what you've posted.

In effect, the variety of folks that find us on social media platforms is a testament to how widespread social media really is. We just have to keep in mind that everything we post is up for public judgment among "friends."

AUG 12 SEMCLT Presentation on SEO & Usability

Last Tuesday evening's SEMCLT presentation on SEO & Usability was very informative, especially for me, since I'm a copywriter and not typically as involved with the visual and graphic elements of Web design. Ben Ullman, who designs Web interfaces for Bank of America, was the presenter. You can see his detailed slideshow at BUDesigns. Very nice gentleman & great info! Hope you'll check it out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SEMCLT Meetup Tonight in Charlotte

I'm looking forward to tonight's SEMCLT meetup. The topic is SEO & Usability, and one of the guest speakers is a senior visual designer at Bank of America. Plus, these events always draw in some very informational comments and questions from the audience (fellow search engine and marketing professionals). If you're in the Charlotte area, I encourage you to to stop by.

Registration information for SEMCLT

Monday, August 10, 2009

How Much Copywriting is SEO Copywriting?

In a recent interview, I casually mentioned that I've been finding a great deal of my copywriting projects are now SEO copywriting. The SEO expert with whom I was speaking immediately stopped and asked, "What makes SEO copywriting different than regular copywriting?"

I was a little surprised by his question, mostly because I started my career in a newsroom where print publication was still king. In the central Illinois town were I lived, people still loved having something tangible to hold onto. My first taste of writing for a public audience was writing for a print audience.

In the 15 years since then, the world has changed. Most young people will never care that the newspaper arrived at 5:30 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. They don't have any interest in combing through huge pages of newsprint and coming away with black ink on their hands just to find out where Justin Timberlake performed last night.

In fact, they probably already know. The Internet is reknowned for putting information at our fingertips, usually the second it's happening. Search engines have replaced indexes and tables of contents.

And you have approximately three seconds to capture a Web user's attention before he hits the back button and resumes a new Google search. It's not like the old days when people had already bought the newspaper or magazine, so they were your audience whether or not they cared what a headline said or how a "teaser" caption read.

SEO copywriting has to take into consideration today's user's short, very short attention span. It has to get to the meat and potatoes of a call to action, sometimes in the headline. And most importantly, it has to be findable. One of the key ways this is possible is through keyword density, but even that has its complexities.

As a writer, I have the power to make an article so awkward that it puts off an audience. Words that appear too often, so often that it looks as if they were intentionally placed there, lead to clumsy articles. And it only takes a second for a reader to click away; that's the key to SEO copywriting, what makes it different than traditional copywriting. It only takes a second for a reader to click away.

Copywriting today is about reaching a whole different type of audience; it's not just low, low prices or catchy tag lines that engage readers. It's creating worthwhile content that sells, but also informs, and in a way that compels readers to start at word one and end at word 500.

Even the best of us can have difficulty doing that with an audience that has been hard wired to be attention-deficient when using the Internet. That's where SEO copywriting comes in--it's a lot more manipulated, targeted and strategized than perhaps any traditional copywriting before it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Social Media Evens the Playing Field

Ever been at a networking event and felt like you shouldn't approach someone because you knew he held a C-level position?

Ever felt jittery about offering an opinion when you knew the other people involved in the conversation had decades of industry experience?

You're not alone. Most of us who network have, at one time or another, felt intimidated about throwing in our two cents when we knew the others involved in the debate were particularly well-respected and connected.

The worst part of succombing to these nerves, though, is that you fail to make a good connection that could tremendously benefit you. We realize the value of strong connections, which is why I think social media has taken off in such a flurry. Consider this: Social media has paved the way for everyone to communicate with one another in a more neutral zone.

Social media has brought down some of the hierarchical barriers that plague traditional business etiquette; on social media platforms, a CEO and a college student can engage in information sharing or friendly debate. A stay at home mom and a corporate executive can trade business knowledge. No longer is there a mentality of “I’m up here, and you’re down there, so I talk and you listen.”

Of course, as with any communication, you're best advised to keep your comments polite and non-combative (it's OK to disagree as long as you are articulate enough to do it respectfully--remember, while someone may "get" a sarcastic comment in person, reading it on the Web, it may land differently, and you could come across as an ass--it's still possible to develop a negative on-line reputation!).

Overall, though, I think it's a positive that social media has evened the playing field. I love the fact that I can start out the day talking with another copywriter on Twitter, then jump into a conversation about SEO on my blog and end up closing work because of an on-line conversation with a CEO, whom I was introduced to via a LinkedIn contact.

Look how social I've become!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Defining the "Search Engine Mill"

Ever heard of a search engine mill? If you've looked into any type of search engine marketing, odds are that at least one search engine company has told you it can get you submitted to 500, maybe even 1000, search engines.

Save your money. Real SEOs are more concerned with legitimate link building and submitting you to a few high quality search engines like Yahoo and Google, than getting you hundreds of links on junk search engines. Real SEOs are also concerned that you have a wholistic search engine marketing campaign that takes into consideration all your marketing efforts. It's highly targeted and executed.

Many Web design firms, though, are now realizing the profitable opportunity search engine optimization services offer and jumping on the SEO bandwagon. Unfortunately, many of them don't also employ hardcore SEOs, folks who have an enthusiasm and passion for all the intricacies of SEO.

At this point, you might well be wondering, "How does she know?" Well, I worked at a place that I would classify as a search engine mill (at least of sorts). Web design was the primary focus of the business, but because SEO had the potential to generate high revenues, the firm eagerly hopped on the proverbial SEO bandwagon. The resident SEO specialist attended one conference on SEO and did programming and defacto project management work the rest of the time.

So, you have to be careful. The bottom line: Avoid any "SEO" that promises to get you links on hundreds of sites. That's the first sign that it's a search engine mill. These folks are more interested in getting your money that getting your Web site high search engine rankings.

To learn more about reputable SEOs, read The 8 Questions You Must Ask Your SEO.

Are Some Businesses Immune to Social Media Marketing?

Hosptial administrators never have to worry that the ER will be short of "customers." And if you're a brain surgeon who specializes in operating on rare tumors, your "customers" will find you. In fact, when I was recently speaking with a long time OBGYN, she told me that she had never heard the term "search engine optimization."

Unfortunately, most of us aren't so specialized that people will do business with us regardless of our networking and advertising efforts. That's not saying we aren't great at what we do; it has always been my goal to be at the top of the copywriting industry. But I also know I'm competing against junior copywriters who are willing to charge less to get a foot in the door, folks in India who charge pennies on the dollar for their SEO writing and potential clients' friends and neighbors who kind of, sort of write a little.

I truly think some industries, including emergency and specialized healthcare, will still be very lucrative even without advertising of any sort (much less social media marketing). Any professional or company that is so highly specialized with a service or product that people have to have will do good business. The inner networking in such industries insures that "go-to" professionals or companies are very well known and recommended by key players (ex. other doctors, high level industry professionals, etc.).

But, by and large, most of us have to distinguish ourselves in an ever-growing pool of competition. The competition doesn't necessarily have to be better than you, but if your competitors advertise, network or create a better public image than you, they may be honing in on business that could be yours.

My advice is that unless you are in one of these highly specialized fields, you should take the time to get acquainted with social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Just having a general knowledge of these mediums will allow you to have intelligent conversations with others at networking opportunities. You don't have to become an expert is all things Facebook or Twitter, but you should understand the significance of social media in business today. It's not going away; in fact, its reach is only expanding, and I'm certain that new "social media" will crop up in future days, as well.

I encourage you not to be frightened of diving into the social media pool; it's easy to get started and well worth your time. So quit waiting around for this social media craze to die off.

Unless you're an ER nurse or neurosurgeon.

Update for Aug. 12 Charlotte Search Engine Marketing Meeting

Keith Schilling updated Charlotte SEM members this week with details about the August 12, meeting:

SEO & Usability - August 12th

Les Porter along with our special guest for August, Ben Ullman, will be presenting on SEO & Usability. Ben Ullman is the Senior Visual Designer at Bank of America and currently focuses on User Experience design for online banking and e-commerce. This includes branding and standards governance, interaction design, user interface design and production, identity and icon design, information design, and presentations.

A few topics that will be discussed are:

- Customizing the User Experience
- Learn how to minimize distractions
- "You are not the user"
- Web Standards
- Good Markup for Good SEO
- Anticipate User Flow

We'll discuss how usability plays an important role in SEO and what you can do to improve yours.

You can find more details about the Charlotte SEM group at

What Can Twitter Do for Your Business?

I have recently become a serious Twitter addict; I started using Twitter heavily out of an interest in connecting with potential employers and developing an understanding of how Twitter works, so I can more effectively advise my B2B clients.

There are so many myths surrounding Twitter--that it's a time waster, that people only talk about mundane things like what they ate for lunch or how their afternoon dentist appointment went. While Twitter is a free communications vehicle open to everyone (so, yes, you do see conversations like that), businesses have also jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and are using it as an effective public relations, advertising and customer service tool.

Read What Twitter Can Do for Your Business (great article for those unfamiliar with how Twitter can benefit them!).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Twitter in a Nutshell

I'm sorry there has been such a delay in getting these up. I have blessedly been busy on interviews, so my poor little blog got put on the back burner! Anyway...

Here's how I'll do this: I'll post "just the facts," a summary of what was discussed in yesterday's Twitter presentation (by Keith Schilling of On Top Results) and then develop some of my own thoughts in subsequent posts.

What is Twitter?
It's a free micro blogging service with a 140 character maximum (so you have to be brief whether or not you want to be!). It's a forum for short, bite-sized updates. The benefit is that Twitter allows people to show us a more personal, light-hearted side of people. It humanizes them and adds the social factor to the term "social" media.

For example, a high level exec might blog all day about financial and business news, but then at the end of the day, post a message on Twitter that says, "Rough day. I need a cold one..." These types of posts show us the human being behind the executive fascade. Twitter, in effect, humanizes companies.

Twitter Lingo
Tweet-These are the 140 character updates, the bite-sized posts.

Hashtag-A word or phrase with a # sign in front of it (you can place a hashtag anywhere in a tweet). A way of tracking what is said about certain topics. For instance, if I want to monitor what is said about me on Twitter, I might create a hashtag by typing in: #timina.

Hashtags also put a collective group together. The meetup hashtag is #ceoclt. So, if you search on this hashtag, any mention of it will come up. There is no exact science behind creating hashtags--it's a general consensus, and those that are most popular (say those regarding a current event) become the hashtags. There can be more than one hashtag for a subject, too.

Tweetup-Twitter meetups, meetups started on Twitter that can take place at a physical location, such as a restraunt or a bar or at

Tiny URL-For URLs longer than 30 characters, use a shortening service.

DM-Direct message. These are private messages that only the recipient sees. They are not public posts. Ed. Note--This section has been edited after Ashley Hall of Ephricon was kind enough to provide me some great feedback! She reminds us that you can only DM people who are following you back.

Twitter Uses
1. Monitoring reputation, buzz, tracking keywords
2. Live reporting, describing events as they are unfolding
3. Journalism--CNN, Reuters, BBC all use Twitter
4. Public Relations--Promoting stories, linking to blogs, participating in conversations with customers
5. Crisis Situations--Campus lockdowns, emergency situations. People in the thick of these events can tweet out via mobile devices to let those on the outisde know what's going on.

Twitter for Business
For those who have not previously used Twitter, the best advice, credited to Corey Creed, is to sit back and watch. See how people you're following use Twitter, and learn from them. You should also start playing with Twitter and see what's out there. Do some searches, try to find some contacts. The more comfortable you become with Twitter, the more likely you'll be to use it!

Here are ways you can use Twitter to promote your business:

1. Create a contest--give other Twitter users a reason to re-tweet or post a link to you.

2. Grow Your Network--One audience member recounted a story of recently coming into Charlotte and Tweeting, "I'm passing XYZ bar. Who wants to join me?" And five people showed up! These weren't people he knew, but they were brought together by Twitter (Paranoid Aside: Be very careful if you plan to use Twitter this way. It can work, but as with anything involving the Web, you must remember that ANYONE can see what you post. Be safe, and always meet in a public place).

3. Be transparent in marketing your brand. Market yourself more than a product or service. The point of Twitter is to be "social," not to send out spam or market blasts. Plus, if you do make the mistake of doing this, people won't follow you! Remember, Twitter is not a direct selling tool.

4. Search on Twitter. Look for people who need your services. For example, if you're a real estate agent, look for people who have tweeted about moving to Charlotte. You can use the Advanced Search feature to get more specific in your searches.

5. Link to useful information. Twitter is very viral, so if you give people a reason to follow you, they will. Tweets can spread, be re-tweeted, etc., so it's got a wide reach.

6. Thwart negative customer service experiences. Many large, national and international businesses monitor Twitter for their pr, and if they see negative comments regarding customer service issues, they will have a company rep (sometimes even an executive!) respond.

How NOT to Use Twitter

1. Do not disparage your employer or slander anyone. These things have a way of making their way back to the offended party! Google the "Cisco Fatty" incident for proof.


An audience member asked if someone follows you, do you have to follow them back. The answer is "no." There is sort of an unspoken obligation that you will, but you certainly don't have to.

Another question was, "What happens if I tweet and no one responds?" The answer: Move on and forget about it. Nathan Richie of NR Creative Group perhaps summed it up best by likening Twitter to the restaraunt: Everyone at different tables is carrying on different conversations. You might walk by, overhear something, throw in your two cents and then leave. That's essentially Twitter in a nutshell. You're glimpsing pieces of conversation, joining in when appropriate and exiting out. Some conversations may be long, others might be a single tweet. It's a social tool, a way of connecting people.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"To Twitter or Not to Twitter" by Keith Schilling

Just returned home this evening from a great presentation on Twitter by Keith Schilling of On Top Results. He was speaking before the Charlotte Entrepreneurs Meetup group, and there were some other high level SEOs in the audience, who contributed useful gems of knowledge, as well. Very energized and getting ready to do a post on what I learned...stay tuned!

When Your Copywriter Says This, Run

I think it's one of the worst things a copywriter can do. And if your copywriter ever does this, you should Run (yes, Run with a capital "R") in the opposite direction. Copywriters, who are presumably skilled at marketing, should know much, much better anyway.

"I write about all different things. I write novels, short stories, poems. I also do copywriting."

OK, there it is: If your copywriter ever indicates that he/she is a master of all things involving the written word from screenplay writing to advertising copy, lace up those running shoes.

It's an absolutely ridiculous claim, because no one, no matter how good he/she is, can be all things to all people. If you don't believe me, go visit my LinkedIn profile and see what people have to say about my copywriting and marketing expertise (I'm pretty proud of those reviews). Then ask me to write you a poem. You'll see right away that my expertise as a copywriter does not translate into this genre.

That's because I spend the bullk of my time learning as much as I can about social media, writing sales copy and interacting with professionals in the Web development, search engine marketing and education fields. So, what I specialize in--copywriting for business clients--I do very well. But in the writing areas I don't consistently work to perfect (ficitional writing), I'm so-so at best.

So, what happens when someone asks me, "Can you ghostwrite short fiction?" Or, "Do you ever do short stories or poems for blogs?"

I tell them, "No."

I can't in good conscious sell myself as a first-class fiction writer and charge folks the industry standard rate for work I know I can't perform at industry standard. I would be doing half-assed work and secretly loathing it.

I'd much rather refer those clients to someone who does specialize in fictional writing than risk earning a reputation as an incompetent writer at best and a fraud at worst.

Many writers, I'm sure, would disagree. "The economy is tough; you can't be turning away work," or "I know it's not my first choice of writing work, but it is writing work," are definite arguments in those writers' favor.

Nonetheless, I stick to my guns; I say copywriters come out ahead by contininuing to master their chosen area of expertise (copywriting for a particular industry, learning to use social media for more effective marketing, etc.) instead of attempting to be all things to all people--even in down times. A dedicated copywriter should be focused on writing copy. Period.

Twitter Informational Seminar TONIGHT

Keith Schilling, a Charlotte SEO expert, is doing an informational Twitter seminar tonight in Charlotte. Follow the link for details: Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Ruin Your Home Page

It's actually not as difficult to ruin your home page as you might think. In fact, if you're doing any of these things, you may already be successfully losing visitors at your Web site's front door:

1. Attemping to showcase your entire Web site on your home page, from a detailed listing of all your services, to pictures of your office, to Twitter, Facebook and blog links. A too-busy home page is intimidating, and it scares people away. People want to pull up your page, easily find what they're after and go there. Time is limited, and we've all got a billion and one things to do, so don't assume we'll take the time to sort through a maze of information--we won't.

2. Having a long, rambling home page that requires users to scroll and scroll...and scroll. Use your navigation and design smartly so that your Web site is organized in a way that makes sense and is, first and foremost, easy to use. A home page that requires users to endlessly scroll is a sure tip-off that you've either got a templated site or bad Web design.

3. Showcasing irrelevant information on your home page. Your home page is like your business card to the world; it should introduce visitors to your business and what you can offer. It should not contain any information off that point. So, leave solicitations for your daughter's Girl Scout cookies, photos of Aunt Bea's 80th birthday party and anything else non-business related off your home page (and preferably off your business Web site altogether).

4. Utilzing your home page "real estate" unwisely. Is half your home page made up of a gigantic graphic, which forces site visitors to scroll down to find out what your company does? If so, you're not using your home page real estate wisely. A good home page should be a balance of graphics/photos and text. As beautiful as a photo or graphic may be, it is your copy that explains to visitors what you do. Don't let your home page create a mystery as to what you're business is--most visitors won't hang around long enough to solve it.

The bottom line is that your home page truly is the front door to your business, and the first introduction many people will have to you. You don't want it to be your last, so if your home page is guilty of any of the aforementioned sins, you've got homework!

Check Out SEMCLT in Charlotte, NC

I was amazed at the incredible information shared at last Thursday night's SEMCLT meetup. It is a group for search engine marketing professionals, and it was far and away the best networking event I've ever attended (much more useful than Chamber of Commerce events where you're largely dodging insurance sales folks and business planners). The Web site is: The next event will be in August, so plan on joining us.

If you are not located in Charlotte, I encourage you to check out search engine marketing groups in your own area. A good group will be informational and help you learn from other industry experts, but also give you the opportunity to network with your peers.

A big kudos to Keith Schilling of On Top Results and Corey Creed, author of The Jungle Map blog, for making the Charlotte SEM group so useful-- and fun!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The 8 Questions You MUST Ask Your SEO

OK, I'll give it to you straight: I have an insider perspective when it comes to what goes on behind the scenes in the Web development and search engine marketing businesses. For 10 months from September 2008 to June 2009, I worked at a Web design firm that sold SEO services, and it was here that I learned what clients should absolutely ask of their SEOs before doing business with them:

1. How much of your business is search engine optimization (pay per click, organic SEO writing, dedicated, legitimate link building)? The reason for asking this question is that even bad SEOs aren't cheap. And if a company only spends 2o percent of its time on SEO work, chances are good that SEO is not a high priority for them. So, they may be doing the bare minimum--submitting your site to a bunch of useless search engines and generating Google Analytics reports that create the false impression they have spent hours working on your campaign--and then leaving your SEO at that. Yikes.

2. How much time will you spend on my account each month? If you are paying an SEO management fee, you should know exactly how much time your account will get each month. Don't pay a company hundreds of dollars a month just to run an analytics report once a month. Yes, that happens.

3. How long have your SEOs been doing this work? Make sure an actual SEO, who has other accounts they can show you results from, is doing your SEO work. Now, an SEO copywriter (like yours truly) can assist you with organic rank and link building, but that person, too, should have knowledge of how search engines work. What you don't want is an administrative assistant or whoever happens to be available assigned to generate a keyword list and throw together a fast, but useless campaign.

4. Do you ever outsource your SEO? If the answer is "yes," you can bet dollars to doughnuts, the company isn't a serious SEO. It may want the revenue SEO work generates, but if a company is paying folks in India 25 cents an hour to write SEO articles or submit your site to hundreds of search engines no one has heard of, you might as well burn your money.

5. Who will be handling my account? Make sure the company has a dedicated SEO who can advise you on which strategies will best serve your needs. And if you meet a senior level SEO, clarify with him that he, and not a junior SEO, will be handling your account. If the account is to be handed down to a junior SEO, inquire about the person's credentials and make sure that he, too, is well-qualified.

6. What kind of on-going SEO training does your SEO team partake in? Run, don't walk, away if the answer is "None," or "Our SEOs learn and train on their own." A reputable SEO--especially because SEO is such a burgeoning and ever changing field--WANTS to continually learn the latest information, so they can be genuine SEO experts to their customers. These types of companies don't settle for letting their SEOs read a few articles once a month and call that "training." The bottom line: A company that does not value on-going education when it comes to SEO is not serious about it.

7. What kind of promises can you make me? The answer should always, always, always be NONE. A reputable SEO realizes that you can manipulate search engines, but that you can't ever wholly guarantee which Google page a site will show up on. Now, you can buy advertising to come up on the first pages of Google, but those are paid ads. Organic rankings, which happen naturally and increase when your site is updated and quality information is provided, take time--usually months, if not years--to achieve. SEOs that promise you the world just want your money.

8. How many links can you get me? Any SEO can get your Web site listed on thousands of search engines, but if they are search engines no one has heard of, they won't do you much good. You want an SEO who will explain to you the importance of legitimate link building; that is, linking to sites that offer your Web site users value and getting others that also serve your audience to add your links to their sites. The higher the quality of your links, the more heavily Google will weigh them. And the higher your ranking will be.

Charlotte's SEO Training

With SEO and Google rankings becoming ever more important in on-line sales and marketing strategy, it's worth your time to learn more about it, especially if you're a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to your Web site. I have taken classes with Corey Creed--the guru of SEO marketing training in the Carolinas--at Hippo Internet Marketing and strongly recommend them for anyone looking for high quality, but affordable SEO and social media training classes. His next classes start in September. Don't miss out!

SEO Meetup (FREE) at the Ivey in Charlotte Thursday Night

If you are interested in learning more about all aspects of SEO, social media and on-line marketing, you should consider stopping by the Ivey in Charlotte tomorrow night. You can get more details at A lot of the industry's brightest minds will be there--and it's FREE!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thank you for stopping by!

Thank you for stopping by, whether you already know me or whether you somehow stumbled upon this blog! I am a recently out of work senior copywriter who is currently attempting to find full time work. In the mean time, though, I'm trying to create a go-to resource for people who want to know the straight scoop on copywriting and what you really have to do to get your site ranked (just a word of advice--you can only buy advertising on Google--getting to page 1 on Google naturally doesn't just happen without a lot of time and hard work!).

I hope you find this information useful, but I welcome your brutally honest criticism and contributions...that said, I'm glad you're here!!


My First Post Should Establish My Credentials

Timina Stengel

Huntersville, NC 28078
Ph. 704-728-6775 (cell)


Senior Editor

Professional Summary: Highly accomplished senior editor with nearly a decade of experience developing and implementing creative, informational and sales content in traditional print, on-line and social marketing mediums. Proven ability to turn new initiatives into profitable, long-term successes while providing effective team leadership and developing upcoming junior stand-outs. Unique ability to adapt writing style to project needs; equally as skilled at creative, sales-based writing as technical, informational writing. Willingness to learn new skill sets for optimal performance.

Project Management * Content Management * Press Management * Team Leadership and Resource Development * Marketing Message Development * Social Media and On-line Content Development * Technical Writing & Documentation * Client Retention & Relationship Building * Strategic Planning * Initiatives Roll Out * Process Improvements

Professional Experience

ClickCom, Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina, 2008 – 2009
Web design and development firm with a national client base and approximately one million in sales annually.

Director, Copy and Content Management
Chief leadership responsible for overseeing the copy process on all projects involving copywriting/editing, content creation and organic search engine marketing. Executive leadership on special projects; provided expert feedback, created applicable marketing and training materials and facilitated a smooth roll out of the WordPress content management system and a successful, spring 2009 launch of a new medical sales vertical. Catalyst for creating more streamlined procedures, increasing quality control and client retention measures.

Revenue Generation:
Turned a newly created position into a profitable role by generating $40,000 in copy services inside my first three months as Director.
Generated thousands in Web site sales by spearheading all public relations initiatives, which resulted in significant, positive company publicity in the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte Business Journal.
Recovered customer relationships with clients who were ready to leave ClickCom, Inc. and saved the company losses of over $5,000 annually in search engine marketing revenues.

Key Highlights:
Spearheaded the project management of Oscar award winner Stephen Schwartz’s Web site. The Wicked and Godspell composer had several unique requirements involved in his project, which required my vigilant oversight and collaboration with the graphic design and programming teams.
Successfully developed content and worked with the executive leadership for Girls on the Run (based in Charlotte) to create an effective Web presence.
Worked with Breon Klopp of Pit Crew University (Mooresville, NC) on Web site redesign.

Client Feedback:
“I appreciated Timina’s interest in the project, which clearly showed in her understanding of the product and what we needed the Web site to accomplish. Timina was able to accurately capture the message of Pandora’s international brand while succinctly describing the local touch and flavor that Gina’s store offers.”—Molly Carroll, Marketing Consultant and Charlotte-area radio personality

“Timina went to great lengths to help me last year when I first enlisted her writing services, which I can proudly say are fantastic. She has since written numerous articles for my weekly e-zine and for both my Web sites…She has always been helpful and has reached out numerous times to do what it takes to solve my problem(s) quickly and restore my faith in vendor relationships beyond the call of duty. In this day and age, just getting someone to respond is a chore, and Timina, on many occasions, has reached out and helped me on a weekend, which is unheard of in the workforce nowadays.”—Robert T. Carr, owner of TLC Incorporated and TLC Garage Works and Chamber President, Gambrills, MD

Editorial Consultant, Charlotte, NC, 2003 - Present
Collaborate with freelance clients all over the country on a wide spectrum of projects.

Client Feedback:
“Wow--the Catholic School Exam review is so well organized! Thank you. It's really beneficial how you drew some conclusions and helped sort through the data. This is perfect--exactly what I needed.”—C. Cantarella, Owner of Acumen Enterprises and a Harvard Graduate

“Timina, the style, design and editing of this interview copy is outstanding. It blew me away! I’m also impressed with how you really understand what we do, which isn’t easy to do. It took me 30 years to figure it out! Thanks again for your creative and innovative approach to my work.”—Robert T. Yokl, CEO of Strategic Value Analysis Savings

JS Consulting, LLC, Editor, 2000 - 2008, Milwaukee, Wisconsin & Charlotte, North Carolina
The #1Watchguard training firm in the Southeast. Also provides IT consulting solutions and services to a national client base.

Developed information technology training materials, assisted with classroom instruction and coordinated all internal and external company communications. Directly responsible for generating publicity that resulted in expertise requests from the Charlotte Business Journal and invitations for the company’s IT security technicians to speak before the FBI.

Key Highlights:
Managed special projects that involved developing and implementing Web copy and e-marketing initiatives for clients in a variety of industries, including lumber & building materials distribution, banking, real estate and manufacturing.
Designed an expansive CD product catalog for a Charlotte building materials distributor that experiences sales growth every year and presently does about 30 million in annual sales.
Selected for a year-long, monthly columnist position with the Charlotte Observer in 2004.

Higher Education:
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, GPA 3.73, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2003

Kappa Tau Alpha, journalism honor society, top ten percent of MU’s graduating class of 2003