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