How does Google work?

how does google's algorithm work

You’ve heard that Google is the most popular search engine, much like the wizard of Oz, operating behind a curtain of mystery.

But how does Google work?

Why is Google so powerful?

And how on earth does Google rank your website?

If you’re new to SEO and want to get to the bottom of this marketing riddle, this post is for you.

Note: Google is a machine that’s forever changing. At the time of writing, all the information provided is up-to-date and relevant, as to the best of my knowledge.

 

Why is Google so powerful?

Google is the #1 search engine worldwide, and a BBC report from 2016 names it the most valuable company in world, worth nearly US$520bn. There are other search engines you can use, such as Bing and Yahoo, but Google is the only one that’s captured our cultural devotion, and gone on to become an official verb within the dictionary.

So what makes Google so popular? For starters, the Google homepage is incredibly user-friendly, and it loads quickly. Also, Google displays far less ads on its homepage compared to competitors, making it appear more like a tool than a business.

But that doesn’t account for its alleged reputation as the smartest search engine.

The question is, what makes a search engine valuable?

Compared to other search engines, Google is top of their game for the way they deliver relevant search results. As Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice-President of Engineering, said, “our goal is to get you the exact answer you’re searching for faster.”

 

 

Essentially, Google was created to crawl the web, and other search engines weren’t. Yahoo was created as a directory, and businesses paid to be listed. It's this industry-leading, world-first algorithm that sets them apart from the rest.

 

So how does Google do it?

You may have heard a few animal names bandied around when industry pros refer to Google’s search algorithm. Before we get into those names, let’s go through what an algorithm is.

The word “algorithm” refers to the logic-based, step-by-step procedure for problem solving. When we’re talking about Google, the problem is how to find the most relevant webpages for this particular set of keywords (or search terms) that a users types into the search field.

But here’s the thing: it changes every day, and Google’s algorithm today is a lot different from 2014.

 

A brief history of Google’s search algorithm

Google has always strived to deliver relevant search results, but it wasn’t always the best at managing those search results.

Before Google Panda and Google Penguin updates were introduced, a website could easily rank for a specific key word or search term phrase by ‘keyword stuffing’. That’s the black hat SEO practice (read: totally dodgy SEO practice), of placing keywords a bunch of times within a page to rig the search results. It’s totally un-useful, right?

Correct.

Eventually, Google's engineers decided things needed to change.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on four key changes that continue to impact how the search engine works today.

 

·       The Panda update - 2011

·       The Penguin update - 2012

·       The Hummingbird update - 2013

·       The Pigeon – 2014

 

Let’s get one thing straight before we power on ahead: there is just ONE algorithm, and all of these animal names describe specific updates to this ONE algorithm. Each update assists with a particular part of the search engine that Google is trying to improve.

 

  • Panda – An update designed to stop sites with poor quality content ranking in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).
  • Penguin – Prevents spammy websites ranking through buying links, or using poor quality back linking tactics.
  • Pigeon – Assists with delivering relevant local search results.
  • Hummingbird – An update that was designed to help the algorithm focus on the meaning behind the words and the entire search term, rather than treat each individual word as distinctively separate from the overall sentence structure.

All of these algorithm changes and updates were intended to ensure that Google delivered the best possible content for users.

 

How does Google rank your website?

Google has one goal, and that’s to help each person find the most relevant, up-to-date information they’re looking for, as quickly as possible.

With Google changing its algorithm all the time, the most recent articles with the most factually correct information should be listed on the first page.

That said, Google is a machine that uses an incomplete science. And although Google’s engineers are developing a sophisticated machine that mimics the human brain, Google doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. It’s quite common to find very old SEO articles floating to the top of the search results, which contain information that’s no longer relevant.

However, for most search queries, the odds are in your favour. You’ll likely receive the most relevant and factual articles for your search query on the first page of the search results.

 

How do I work with Google’s algorithm?

There are many, many factors which Google uses to assess your website. In fact, there are over 200.

Now, I’m not going to list ALL of these here for you.

But, there are a few key ways you ensure that your content is deemed worthy by Google, and high quality by your website visitors.

When you your content is both optimised for search engines and for your customers, that’s when you’ll see an increase in traffic, happy customers, and your bottom line.

 

How to boost your Google ranking

Keep it fresh...if time = relevance

Google loves fresh content.

Cyrus Shepard notes that “the freshness score can boost a piece of content for certain search queries,” even though it then degrades over time.

But what does FRESH content mean? Does it mean you need to constantly update your home page?

Well, no. 

When we talk about fresh content, what we're referring to is “timely” content. Think of timely content  as sensitive to relevancy within a time-period. For example, news articles. These can often be seen in Google’s search results by a Top Stories section of links for the query. For example, if I were to Google 'Spring Racing Fashion', the first article that pops up is the official spring racing fashion website. Underneath that, articles that were published this racing season.

Google fresh content seo ranking signal

 

These pages you see above are the most relevant, because they were published this year. It makes sense you'd want to see what's on trend this season, as opposed to last year's cup. 

But this begs the question: Do I need to be publishing content frequently to boost my Google ranking?

The answer: it depends on whether this fresh content is valuable for your readers. Ensuring you have fresh, quality website content can drive more traffic to your website if:

You have a large portfolio of keywords you can target;

You're engaging in a link-building campaign that sees this new content promoted by others on their blog, or on their social channels.

If you have a business that seeks to educate customers and clients (for example, a service-based business, like mine), publishing industry-relevant content frequently will definitely work in your favour. Even better if you can target a variety of industry-related keywords. 

But what if you don't blog frequently? In my opinion, all businesses should be creating content regularly. But as for blogging weekly? It all comes down to the nature of your business.

 

How to optimise:

  • Keep your pages up-to-date with new information. This could be updating blog posts with more relevant information, or changing your about page, or adding to your portfolio page.
  • Perform a content audit at least once a year to assess whether your copywriting needs a refresh, and prioritise pages with less traffic. They’re the ones that need a boost.
  • Don't stress out about blogging every week. You want to aim for quality over quantity.

 

Consider content length

It’s a common myth that your articles have to be looooong in order to rank. Additionally, Google’s Panda update took aim at “thin” content. But length is relative. For example, if competitors within your industry features articles over 1500 words, you should use that word count as a bench mark. It’s all a matter of what you audience is receptive to. Copyhackers wrote a great article on blog length over here.

How to optimise:

  • Use content marketing tools like Buzz Sumo to search for industry-relevant topics. Buzz Sumo allows you to see the most popular articles first, and from there you’ll be able to manually explore these blogs to assess the right word length for your content.

 

Backlinks

Backlinks (that’s a link from another website that points to your website) remain an important ranking factor. But over the years, Google’s wised up and learned that not all links are created equal. If you have more backlinks, you can boost your Google ranking. Yet these links have to be more a diverse number of sources, and from authoritative websites.

Once upon a time, you were able to comment on blogs with your website URL, creating a backlink from high quality websites. This isn’t the case any more, and your SEO efforts require a more strategic approach.

How to optimise:

  • The first place to start is by guest posting on websites that have a similar authority to yours. Offer a blog post guest swap, or interview each other on related topics.
  • Reach out to high-quality partners for backlinks. Buzz Sumo is a great tool for this. I also have a resources page that lists a few select businesses that I feel confident enough in to recommend to my clients.
  • You can also join high quality directories: I’m a member of the Dream Big collective, Business Chicks, Women in Business and the League of Extraordinary Women. Join earns you membership to a community, and a high quality link back to your website.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to take stock of your current bank links, and to reveal any potential back linking opportunities.

 

Mobile-first UX

One of the biggest changes we saw in 2016 was Google’s shift towards mobile-first indexing. This means that Google prioritises your mobile website experience over the desktop version.

In 2017, your website’s SEO relies upon how responsive it is across all mobile platforms. Mobile-first is now the norm, and with 85% of all websites now meeting Google’s criteria for being mobile-friendly, it’s time to ensure your website is easy-to-use on the fly.

Page speed is another important ranking factor that ties heavily into a good user experience. Desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, while mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less (according to SearchMetrics, the top-ranked mobile websites are approximately one second quicker than their desktop equivalents).

How to optimise:

  • Use Google Search Console to assess the mobile version of your website.
  • Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that the same structured markup exists on both your desktop and your mobile site.
  • Ensure that your mobile site is accessible to Googlebot using the txt testing tool.
  • Test your page speed using PageSpeed Insights. If your page is slow.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to assess what aspects of your website can be altered to improve the page speed.

 

In conclusion

SEO is an ever-evolving science, with the aim to provide a useful tool to solve searcher queries. Google isn’t out to ‘get you’ or your website, but is rather trying to master the art of problem-solving. Learn to play by Google’s rules, and your business will come out on top.

 

Want to learn how I got to #1 on Google? I’m hosting an SEO Workshop in Melbourne. AND, when you’re a member of Communique, you get a HUGE discount on ticket prices.

 

 
I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

How do I come up with content ideas?

content-ideas.jpg

One of the most common problems that businesses and marketing teams encounter when entering the content marketing game is often not what you think it may be.

The main quandary is not always mastering the art of crafting perfect prose (although it can be).

And it’s not choosing a content management system (CMS) to publish content either.

Most of the time, the main bug bear is figuring out how to generate creative content ideas that get clicks, eyeballs and engagement.

With content cramming our social feeds daily, it’s easy to get content fatigue. How many more cat videos must we be subject to?

When will the internet stop blogging about jade eggs?

How many more productivity hacks could there be?

 

A clarion call for fresh, relevant and interesting blog content

I’m not the first to compile a how-to post on generating blog ideas, and I won’t be the last either. And some may stumble across this blog and close their browser within a few seconds, already bored with my words as they return to Google or Facebook in search of greater meaning.

But I’ll tell you one thing: I strive to create fresh, relevant and interest content for my readers. And while it may not appeal to all, it appeals to some.

On top of that, I strive to add value by walking you through my own process, step-by-step.

So with that, I’m going to take you through the very process that I use to create a honeypot of content ideas that work, by figuring out what people want to read and will engage with. 

An important note: The aim of this blog post covers the first part of content idea generation: creating a swipe file to refer back to for content idea inspiration. You can use this swipe file to inspire your own ideas, which is something I cover in my SEO workshops. For more information on this, see the end of this post.

 

Step One: Mine your communities

When I first launched my freelancing writing career, I joined several Facebook groups. Not only was it a great way of feeling like I was a member of a group as I sat alone at home, it also gave me access to a collective of women who resembled my ideal audience. By joining Facebook groups filled with members who fit your persona perspective, you’re able to more easily understand what you audience is looking for when they seek content.

Which is why you need to be asking them genuine questions with the desire to assist, rather than straight selling.

I’m a fan of Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, although it’s not moderated and posts can get out of hand. I’ve also been a member of the Dream Big collective, Secret Blogger’s Business, Business Chicks and a few other industry-related groups. Join those Facebook groups that are most active, pay attention to the rules, and go in with the aim to share rather than sell.

 

Step Two: Find what’s trending

There are a few ways to discover what topics and themes are trending. If you’re a fashion business, you might find more value in exploring trending hashtags on Instagram. Of course, hashtags can be quite broad and people do tend to use them haphazardly.

However, when used creatively, they can pack a powerful punch.

For example, The Bachelorette is a popular program that people love to watch and love to hate. By capitalising on a Bachelor-themed hashtag, using it in a creative blog post title, you could very easy create a piece of content that gets a lot of eyeballs.

For example, if I were to write a blog post about bad clichés to avoid, I could write a post titled, ’10 bad copywriting cliches I learned from The Bachelor’.

If Game of Thrones were still airing, I’d be predisposed to write a post titled, ‘How to write an elevator pitch to rival Khaleesi’s boss bitch soliloquay.’

Or, if you were a fashion business, you could look to recent award shows and create a post titled, ‘X style tips we learned from x at the Golden Globes’, with links to your own products if applicable.

If you own fashion or beauty business, I’d be looking to seasonal trends and events that will have a great impact on what your customer’s are searching for. Is it festival season? Are the spring races on? Could these be themes to incorporate into your blog post?

Step Three: Find what's getting shared

One way to tell if a content idea is a win is to see how many other people are sharing it, or linking back to it. When you have influential blogs and news websites linking to a particular article, that’s when you know that particular blog post is valuable.

One free and fabulous tool that I’m a big fan of is Open Site Explorer. Owned by Moz (who I am NOT an affiliate for, but just a huge fan), this smart tool helps you spy on your competition by allowing you to see who is linking back to their website, and what articles have the most links.

For example, if you owned a skin care e-boutique with a customer base of women aged 25+, you might look to goop.com for content ideas. Let’s keep in mind that people often link to goop.com in order to debunk medical claims made by writers who haven’t done their research. But for the purpose of this exercise, we’re looking at content that gets linked to frequently, whether it’s because the writer finds it valuable or contentious.

Let’s plug in their URL and see what content performs best.

how to generate content ideas using ose

As we can see in the example above, the controversy around jade eggs (otherwise known as yoni eggs) is getting picked up a bit by op-ed authors.

You can also type in the URL of individual blog posts. For example, this post on wearable stickers has led to a lot of opinion pieces.

how to generate content ideas using ose

Step Four: Discover what people are actually searching for

I’ve written lots of posts on how to perform keyword research (like this one here for The Cool Wow Collective), so I won’t outline every step involved in this post. But I will reiterate that it’s ideal you use a few keyword research tools to really give you an accurate insight as to what people are searching for.

My favourites are:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Keywordtool.io
  • Moz

 

Step Five: Search by topic on Medium

Did you know that Medium is much more than a platform for male-centric start-ups to share productivity hacks? Yes, Medium is actually one of the most powerful content platforms out there because of its built-in audience. As of today, it attracts over 60 million readers every month, making it worth over US$600 million.

I don’t currently post to Medium as I keep all of my content on my own domain to improve my SEO ranking, but I do consume a lot of content on Medium.

Many people choose Medium as their blogging platform as it allows you to publish content and make it insanely searchable and shareable. You can do this by adding tags, submitting to other Medium blogs, and networking with other writers.

 

How I use Medium:

As part of my content marketing service, I have a client in the design industry who seeks to publish content that positions them as a design authority. I regularly turn to Medium for inspiration, discovering articles that discuss design news, innovation and opinions on a range of different design-related topics.

I also use it to search for articles on love psychology and relationships for my other business.

So how do I discover these articles? Sometimes they’re on the first page of Medium, so I don’t have to go far at all.

 

how to use medium to generate content ideas.png

But how does Medium know what I want before I even tell it?

The beauty of Medium lies within its ability to curate content based on what I'm interested in, and other articles I've recently read. When you create an account, you select topics that are of interest to you, and Medium creates a front page that is completely tailored to your interests.

But if I want to explore further, I begin by searching for a keyword, like ‘design thinking’, and then look at which posts get the most attention.

an example of a medium blog post.png

Just like Facebook and Instagram have Likes, Medium has claps, which are virtual kudos and votes of approval. In the example above, that particular post has over 9000 claps.

Those top posts then end up on my list of potential topics, or added to my swipe file.

 

Step Six: Curate your ideas

Once you have a list of content ideas you like, it's up to you how to curate or store them. I like using an excel spreadsheet, but you might like using Pinterest or a Trello board organised with different labels, and different topics under each label.

 

But Camilla…isn’t this stealing?

I’m not suggesting you copy all of these content topics and claim them as your own. What the purpose of this exercise is not to get you re-writing, or worse, copying and pasting every point within the articles you’ve chosen for your swipe file. The idea is to create your own unique take on these topics, by finding common problems that your readers have, and then creating your own unique solution.

It’s how I came up with my empathy-based approach to SEO.

And how I created my Stylish Guide to Fashionable Takeovers.

And I’m going to be outlining how to create your own unique content in my next workshop, coming to Melbourne this November.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage, CoYo, Ralph Lauren and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.
 

Fashionable takeovers: your guide to stylish guest posting

how-to-guest-blog

Australian consumers love their fashion blogs. From reality TV series that follow the glamourous lives of our coveted sweethearts, to branded content courtesy of household names themselves, fashion blogging is showing no signs of slowing down. Why?

64% of social shoppers turn to social media and blogs for inspiration before making a fashion-related purchase decision.  Beauty and fashion advice seekers are turning to each other for direction.  Whether it’s to discover chic products or learn how to create the perfect cat eye, consumers trust social media and blogs the most for their answers. (Source)

But if you’re a new style-minded business, you might be thinking:

What is the secret is to a successful blogging strategy for my brand?

And the answer is this: there are many secrets (please, refrain from hate mail). But for the sake of not overwhelming you – which is not what this blog is about at all – I’m going to go over just one secret today.

Whether you’re a stylist, own an ecommerce boutique or are a burgeoning fashion blogger, this post is for you.

 

Stylish takeovers – my guest blogging tips for fashion-forward businesses

It’s fairly common to believe that in order to drive more customers to your website, you should keep all the content on your domain (your own blog). But it’s this exact thinking that I’ve seen hold so many brands back from achieving their business goals: more website traffic and conversions.

 

Guest posting is the missing piece of your content marketing puzzle.

As the Content Marketing institute puts it:

[Guest posting is] content authored by experts within your company published by third-party media already consumed by your target audience.
— Kelsey Meyer for Content Marketing Institute

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read somewhere on the internet that guest posting is a dead SEO technique, and if you start guest posting you’re going to be banished from the internet FOREVER.

Take heed, because that’s not true.

Yes: spammy, short-form articles created by content factories that serve no value to customers are worthless and will do nothing to improve your ROI.

But a considered, thoughtful, in-depth, and well-written guest post? The kind that gets clicks, Likes, shares and fondled in all sorts of digital ways?

It’s gold for your business in acquiring new qualified leads.

 

The value of guest blogging

When you create a guest post for another website, you tap into their audiences. And when these audiences are engaged and listening to what you have to say, you introduce them to the top of a sales funnel, with your guest content positioned at the top.

Allow me to illustrate:

guest posting tips

 

Guest posting is at the top of this sales funnel, as a guest post may often be the first point of contact that a potential lead has with your brand.

As your reader embarks upon their sales journey, they’re then introduced to authority-building content on your website via a link in your author credit, or a link within the body of the post itself. If you have a sales funnel set up on your website that captures emails (think pop-ups, content upgrades, etc) these readers are then introduced to gated content that increases engagement. From there, and in an ideal scenario, you’ll build brand loyalty, and eventually, increase sales.

 

Why is guest blogging important?

Your guest post achieves a few things for your brand:

  • Allows you to tap into a new audience.
  • Can help boost your Google ranking with more backlinks (links from other websites pointing to your website).
  • Positions you as the authority in your niche.
  • Builds trust and credibility for your brand.
  • Allows you to create relationships with third party publishers.

 

Get your high-heeled foot in the door: my technique for a fashionable guest blog 

1.     Find guest posting opportunities

First thing's first: where to guest blog? It's time to find a publisher for your literary masterpiece. Backlinko calls these publishers “linkreators”, because they consistently generate backlinks for other businesses. They could be fashion bloggers, influencers, other businesses, or an association for those within your industry.

Backlinks are imperative for a successful SEO strategy, as the number of links, as well as the quality of links, that you have pointing back to your domain, the more likely you’ll be able to boost your SEO ranking. For example, if you were to pen a guest post for The Daily Life on wireless bras, such a reputable domain would generate amazing traffic for your website. As a high quality website, they’d also pass on their magic “link juice”, which is their authority. You’re cool by association.

You can begin finding an appropriate publisher by determining what blogs your ideal audience is reading. If you’re an interior decorator, you might want to contact an interior styling blog. If you own a luggage company, you might want to get in touch with a travel blog to write a post about packing tips.

The best place to start? I like to search Instagram for potential publishers. If you search for niche hashtags in your industry, you can find accounts that might have a similar audience to yours. You can also expand your search by looking for similar account suggestions. 

Important: Read a publisher’s media kit first. Sometimes guest posts are called sponsored posts, and you might have to pay a fee in order to be featured on their website.

 

2.     Form relationships first

I’m going to write an entire blog post about this soon, but it’s crucial that you treat each publisher and editor as a person. Many of my guest posts have come to fruition after a period of authentic, consistent engagement. For example, Instagram Marketing queen Mackayla of Social Stylings recently penned a piece for me on Instagram captions. This post came about after almost a year of messaging each other on Instagram, expressing mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work. I wanted to have Mackayla on my blog because she's a valuable source of marketing knowledge, uses an accessible approach to social media marketing, and we share a similar audience. It’s the perfect partnership!

Do your research on what types of content your chosen publication will publish, and create exclusive content for them. Never spam multiple outlets with the same pitch.

 

3.     Allocate marketing resources to, you know, actually write the darned thing

Who will be authoring the guest post? Yourself? Another writer? Many copywriters (ahem) will ghost write for you, offering you full attribution.

Ideally, your guest post should be written for those brand new to your brand, services and products. Keep technical terms to a minimum, and treat each guest post as a virtual handshake, introducing yourself to new, qualified prospects.

 

4.     Update your content calendar

As part of my own content marketing efforts, I like to schedule a guest post for once a month. This is in addition to my twice-monthly blogging and of course, sending out Communique to my valued subscribers.

Still not sure if you need outside help with your content marketing?

Let’s get to the bottom of it.

 

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage, CoYo, Ralph Lauren and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

The curious truth about burnout and busyness

burn out.jpg

Like many young professionals, I possess a somewhat grandiose sense of confidence. I just typed that, and I’m ok with admitting it. It’s that kind of confidence that sees me dodging late fees with my gym membership, altering menu items at restaurants on the weekend, and speaking publicly about my sex life in front of 500 people. My confidence helps me navigate parts of life with ease, like when I quit my job in 2014 to become an SEO copywriter. But it also made me very, very sick this year.

Because I am young (and I am – I’m 29-years-old), I’m prone to dreams of invincibility. I blame the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Sophia Amorusos who earned their first million at an age far younger than I am now. It’s a comparison that we’re all guilty of as we scroll through Instagram, and for myself, this lack of self worth led to burnout. It’s this burnout that saw me sick in bed staring at the ceiling, developing an addiction to Vanderpump Rules, and yelling at my cats to quit jumping on me. I even started to hate Melbourne and blame my lethargy on the city’s weather, of all things.

Like many overachievers, I tried to deny it for some time.

But truthfully, this control freak was losing her grip, knuckles white with failing determination.

 

What is burnout?

Otherwise known as physical and mental exhaustion, burn out is caused by a state of chronic stress. And what is chronic stress? A prolonged state of anxiety and depression that persists over time.

Now, stress can be hugely beneficial to productivity and problem solving. But when you’re waking up dreading phone calls and yelling at your phone company, stress is getting the better of you. You think, “Aha! This is not going to happen to me.” And so too did I.

I’d felt the instability of this tipping point coming for months as I teetered over the edge of irrational thinking and 24/7 grumpiness. Every time a friend mentioned burn out, a caricature would spring to life in my brain like an inflatable air dancer at a car dealership, flailing its arms  in an attempt to have me heed the warning signals. I’d ignore it, and soldier on into entrepreneurial martyrdom. Armed with three cups of coffee a day, my bullet proof oil and the determination of a puppy with a pair of fluffy slippers, I was adamant that I would pull through, dammit. Just you watch me try to manage three businesses on my own.

And if you were watching me, you would have seen me teetering over the edge of sanity like a baby giraffe walking in high heels.

 

My moment of revelation? When did I finally realise I needed to slow down?

A collection of moments gathered together to reflect a complete picture of a woman over extending herself. Here are the common signs of burnout which I suffered from most acutely:

 

-       Lethargy (I was sleeping around 10 hours a night and was still exhausted).

-       Cynicism and detachment (You know something’s up when not even your martini can perk you up).

-       Withdrawal (Sorry I didn’t call for months, ma).

-       Forgetfulness (I was forgetting meetings, deadlines, people’s names, always my keys, when bills were due – basically everything.)

-       Increased illness (I had bronchitis for over a month).

-       Anger and irritability (I’m a particularly hot-headed person, and during this time completed many apology tours as a result of my rage).

 

There wasn’t one event that led me to realise I was completely burnt out. Like clinical depression and generalised anxiety – burnout’s close cousins – mental and physical decline happens gradually, and then suddenly. The onset is a slow and steady decline in happiness and fulfilment, and then one day you realise you’ve been seeing the world through turd-stained glasses for quite some time.

 

Hello Europe

A year ago last Wednesday, I took a 3-month trip around Europe. And in April of this year, I booked myself in for another adventure in August. This time I went for a much shorter period, and the reason is two-fold: I thrive in stability and couldn’t mentally handle another long-haul jaunt, and I knew that taking 5 weeks off work wouldn’t be too hard to manage in terms of cash flow.

So on the 10th of August, I headed off to London, Amsterdam and Italy for over a month of relaxation. And if I’m to be honest here, a lot of pizza and Aeperol.

For the first week, I barely left my friend’s couch in Hackney, choosing to watch Game of Thrones and to listen to podcasts over pub-crawls and rides on the London eye. I know, I know, London’s not exactly a city to find zen, and its appeal lies within the endless list of activities on your doorstep. So I did make time to see a play on the West End, visit Hampstead Heath, go shopping, and ensure I checked out London’s prime vegan restaurants…eventually.

I didn’t manage to fully unwind until halfway through my trip, when I found myself moving throughout the day without a sense of urgency. I was no longer checking my phone on autopilot, and no longer opening my computer first thing. Entire days were mine, and aside from completing a bit of work for regular content marketing clients, I was a free woman.

 

This was the first proper holiday I’d had in over 5 years.

As a self-employed copywriter, I generally work public holidays, my birthday, other people’s birthdays, New Years, every day up until Christmas, and even when I’m sick. An entire weekend off is what I would call a retreat.

But as a pair of phlegmy lungs most recently taught me, time off is essential to your productivity and mental health.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve noticed my health improving over the past few weeks:

-       Improved cognitive capacity. I’m able to concentrate for longer periods of time…as long as I turn my phone off.

-       Increased creativity. When your mind is darting off in other directions – my podcast, my friends, family, dating, what to eat for lunch, have I bought cat food? – it’s hard to produce high quality work. When you’ve given your brain a chance to regenerate, it’s been found that you can produce your most creative ideas. This is why meditation is proven to be so beneficial. https://www.wired.com/story/googlers-avoid-burnout-secretly-boost-creativity/

-       Stronger ability to solve complex problems. When you’re stressed out, even the smallest problem can turn into an emotional volcano. With a fully rested mind and body, I found little hiccups like cancelled accommodation and misplaced items easier to manage.

-       Renewed motivation. After almost 5 complete weeks off work (bar a few blog posts for regular clients), I’ve found myself actually EXCITED to return to my computer and begin writing. Nothing makes you appreciate your job more than spending time away from it (and realising that the reason you CAN take 5 weeks off work is because you’re your own boss).

 

All of this isn’t to say that I didn’t have my sacrifices to bear. In order to enjoy this trip, I turned down a very high-paying contract job, a speaking opportunity, two podcast interviews for All We Cannot Say and a writing job for a luxury property development. But these are the brunts one must bear when self employment is your status. Taking a holiday without passive income streams means decreased cash flow. But for the sake of my health and happiness, it was worth it.

I want to know why, in this age of busyness, and despite all that we know about chronic stress, we’re still making ourselves sick with productivity. If we’re not making time for the normal, daily things that bring us joy outside of our pay checks, when does work become life? When work time stretches into Me Time, it’s easy to lose your identity and sanity amongst a sea of open tabs.  It’s my greatest wish that our literal and our internal hard drives don’t crash before we lose our mental bandwidth.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage, CoYo, Ralph Lauren and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

 

How To Write The Perfect Instagram Caption With Social Stylings

instagram copywriting

As a marketing professional who works with fashion and lifestyle businesses, I know that Instagram is one of the most engaging, fun and profitable channels. So many shoes! So many new brands to discover! In fact, I've found the majority of my new favourite fashion brands on Instagram.

But it's not just what products they're promoting that has me scrolling for far too long in the morning. I'm also drawn to a strong tone of voice, great emoji game and an ability to get to the point, fast. It's definitely a unique skill to hone, and mastering the art of engaging Instagram captions is crucial to getting those click-throughs.

But what's the secret to creating amazing Instagram captions? You know the ones that make you feel like they're talking to you directly? That ask all the right questions, hint at all the right answers, and send you in search of more?

Enter Mackayla of Social Stylings. I discovered this Instagram boss earlier in the year, and I've been adoring her posts ever since. Her super power is her ability to make Instagram marketing easy, fun and achievable for small businesses like myself. So naturally, I had to pick her brain to find out how I (and you!) could boost my Instagram caption game.

 

 

Not only is your Instagram visual content absolutely gorgeous and engaging for your particular target audience, your captions are structured and well written. Do you follow a particular formula?

That is a great question! The formula that I follow differs between my short and long captions, however, there is one thing that is the same - the first few words have to be intriguing!

 

Instagram cuts your captions off when they appear in the newsfeed, usually only displaying the first sentence of your caption. If that first sentence doesn’t make your followers want to read any further… why would they?

I like to think of my Instagram posts as individual, bite-sized blog posts. Make sure they have a beginning, middle, and an end.

 

When did you realise that Instagram captions needed a particular format? What purpose does it serve?

When I first started out I was very focused on educational content as I knew I had to show that I knew what I was talking about to prove that I was a good marketer. The only issue is I could talk for hours about marketing, and while I love writing long captions, I needed to make them easy on the eyes so people would actually read them!

I quickly found after some trial and error that I could make my captions appear shorter by utilising correct formatting as well as throwing in some spacing by using emojis or full stops to ensure that there are clear paragraphs in my longer captions.

 

As a copywriter, I know how important it is to nail your brand’s tone-of-voice. With my own clients, I take them through a process to flesh out their copy personality so that we can weave particular themes through their copy, and concentrate on using particular language that resonates with their audience. Do you do something similar?

Yes! I know that a lot of freelance marketers don’t usually do this, but it is one of my biggest pet peeves. Brand voice is so important to nail, especially if you plan on eventually outsourcing your marketing. All of the big brands that have successful social media marketing campaigns get those results because they know their brand voice, and they know the way their customers want to be spoken to online.

I am actually writing an e-book on nailing your brand voice and caption-writing for launch on the 11th of July!

CLICK HERE to join the virtual launch party!

 

I like to slightly tweak my tone of voice for each channel, as each channel serves a different purpose. For example, my Instagram tone of voice is a bit more cheeky and fun, and of course, the length of my captions are shorter. How else can I optimise my Instagram tone of voice for maximum engagement?

That is very smart! With the clients I work with who have multiple social media platforms on the go, I encourage them to look at the demographics of the people engaging with them on each network and adjusting their marketing strategy accordingly.

For example: one of my clients is a national skincare brand. On Instagram, they are targeting the younger spectrum of their target market, and with their Facebook the more mature. That is why we have chosen to promote certain products (i.e. acne solutions) via Instagram. I have also found that it is easier to sell your entry-level products or services via Instagram, and your higher end services elsewhere online or further down in your sales funnel once they’ve become a loyal customer.

 

One thing people always express frustration with is not knowing what to write as a caption! Where would you suggest someone to start if they’re not a natural wordsmith?

I would definitely start by grabbing a copy of my new e-book! (hehe)

Take a moment to consider the different types of captions you could write - Educational, Motivational, Conversational, or Promotional. You never want to get boring with your content so mix it up with your captions!

Many of my clients haven’t dedicated much of their time to Instagram as they feel they’re not witty enough. If someone’s lacking a funny bone, how can they make their instagram captions engaging?

You don’t necessarily have to be humorous to be on Instagram, so don’t worry too much about that! One of the best ways to engage people on Instagram whether you are a personal brand or a business brand is to create conversational content.

A brand that does this really well as an example is Birdsnest Clothing. They ask their followers questions that relate to their interests - they tap into trending TV show finales, start conversations about favourite childhood memories, and they generally know how to get their community excited!

In my own experience, I engage my audience the most (based on analytics) when I chat to them about my background, my business journey, and the lessons i’ve learnt along the way.

 

Should you speak in first person, or third person?

That is a great question! Again, it depends on what kind of brand you are.

If you’re a personal brand like me, where you are the face of your business and you are technically a #solopreneur, you must use first person.

Some brands like Frank Body use first person, and they do it wonderfully! They have succeeded because they have personified their product and given it a cheeky personality of it’s own.

If you are a team of people you would use third person.

 

What’s your stance on emojis?

Oh, how I love emojis! However you have to be careful to ensure you use them appropriately.

One time I had to explain in a Facebook Group why the #(eggplantemoji) had been shadowbanned on Instagram…. that was an interesting conversation for sure!

In my business I have chosen about 5 emojis that I consistently use when responding to comments and in captions. I am now known and recognised for using certain emojis that they have become an additional part of my brand.

 

How many drafts should a person write before they publish?

I actually use my first draft – always.

When I write I generally edit out words or make word choice changes as I go, and by the end I am pretty chuffed. I also have a typing speed of 90WPM so I am a little bit speedy!

Most of my clients struggle with writing captions the first time around, and that is exactly why I am launching my caption writing e-book in the next week.

 

As someone who wants to outsource their Instagram marketing themselves, who do you think should write Instagram captions? The client, or the social media manager?

I would definitely say the Social Media Manager - that’s their job! However, you should absolutely be approving of all of the captions before they are uploaded. This needs to be communicated to the manager when you hire them, as all freelancers and agencies have different practices they follow.

When I used to offer management, for the first few months of working with a new client I would send through a Word Document of all the captions for the month for them to be adjusted to ensure the client was happy. I have found this is the best method for quality control and brand voice consistency.

Over time you won’t have to check them as much as the manager should be seeing some similarities in the changes you are making and will start making a conscious effort to eliminate certain words and phrases.

 

I see a lot of fashion bloggers writing captions that have nothing to do with the visual content. Do you think there needs to be a connection?

I personally am quite particular about ensuring that the imagery and chosen hashtags are in alignment, but with the caption you can be a bit more lenient.

However, as you can see from most of my posts for Social Stylings I often like to let the image lead me to what I want to say rather than the other way around.

 

Calls-to-action are super hard on Instagram, as you can only supply one link. How do you maximise your links?

Well, I’ve got a hack for that! There’s a great tool called Linktr.ee which allows you to host up to five different links on a mini landing page so that you can direct people to different web pages.

It will save you time and hassle from constantly changing from your blog link to your sales page link to your Facebook page link…. it’s just the best!

 

Let’s talk hashtags. There’s so much conflicting advice online. Some blogs say 30 hashtags, others say keep it 4. What do you think delivers the best results?

During the writing and research period of my Must-Have Hashtags e-book, I also came across a lot of conflicting advice.

The way I like to look at it is this - you don’t have to pay for Hashtags. Hashtags are completely free, and they allow you to target your ideal customers very easily with minimal effort. Why would you not take every single free opportunity you have to make sales for your business?Because someone might think you look desperate? Those people just don’t get it.

Just make sure to put your Hashtags in the comments section, out of your caption, and out of the way.

 

Instagram has a crazy stance on banning hashtags. Where would someone go to find the full list of banned tags?

Unfortunately that list doesn’t quite exist. However, my good friend and the founder of my favourite Instagram Scheduling tool PLANN has written an incredible blog post all about it.

 

What’s the best length for an instagram hashtag?

That’s an interesting question! There really isn’t a set limit, it is moreso about how many people are actively using and looking at that particular Hashtag.

If you are trying to come up with your own branded Hashtag for your customers to use when sharing your products online, keep it at a maximum of three words.

Did you know that you can also hashtag emojis? It’s so funny!

 

And finally, how else can someone optimise their Instagram caption?

The best way to make the most out of your Instagram captions is to keep a close eye on the ones that perform well and result in comments from your community.

Use an analytics tool like Iconosquare to analyse your most engaging posts and take a moment to sit down and think about what the similarities are between those top performing captions.

Mackayla Paul is an Instagram Marketing Specialist from Brisbane, Australia.
Her mission is to educate and empower female business owners in the Fashion and Beauty industries so that they can stay competitive and stop settling for mediocre marketing results.
Work with Mackayla to turn Likes into happy, paying customers! She offers highly valuable 1:1 consulting and Instagram Masterclasses all over Australia.
 

Here's why you have to stop blogging now

sea-backlinks-and-blogging

I’d been blogging for Mr A for over a year, and things were not going well. Every week, I would send him a long-form blog post, as per the editorial calendar. I’d pepper our post with our chosen keywords used in a natural way, looking to add value for readers as much as I was looking to drive traffic from Google.

The aim was to make him the go to in his industry, a hotly competitive industry with a saturation of similar experts. And that’s just in the real world. Online? It’s the Wild West. Huge brands already had monopoly over any keywords related to his field of work, so attempting to boost his Google ranking was already a hard task.

Don’t get me wrong: we did manage to get him ranking for a few keywords here and there, and celebrated some small wins along the way. But while we’d quadrupled his traffic and hit a few KPIs, we weren’t smashing his other goals out of the SEO park.

His bounce rate was far too high, his pages viewed far too small, and his conversion rate was abysmal.


Why am I writing about my content marketing failures?

I want to be honest with you about what I've learned, and how I've adjusted my services to provide more value.

Not to mention, actually achieve results.

Like many others who turn to blogging as part of an inbound marketing strategy, my client and I were making a huge mistake. 

We were doing ZILCH to build his SEO backlinks.

I'd mentioned SEO backlinks to him before, but it wasn't included in the scope of my contract. The ball was in his court, but as a busy family man who was running a business, SEO backlinks were not a priority to him. 


Why you need to stop blogging and build your SEO backlinks

Over my near two-year tenure blogging for Mr A, I learned a lot about content marketing and what does and doesn’t work.


Firstly, here’s a list of everything we were doing right:

  • Produced regular content on timely, relevant topics

I’m not an expert on real estate, so I relied a lot upon Mr A’s wisdom, expertise and direction. Additionally, I would always check the news, interest rates, announcements from the RBA, trending topics on Google Trends, popular content on Buzz Sumo, frequently pinned items on Pinterest, and search online forums like Whirpool. Mining these resources gave me plenty of topics to choose from, and more than enough to create a pool of content for us to choose from.

  • Used keywords naturally within copy

I don’t believe your h1 and h2 tags ALWAYS have to feature exact match key phrases. But I do believe your content needs your keywords at least once (but sometimes there are exceptions, mentioned in this post I wrote here).

Keeping my client’s tone of voice in mind, I’d use industry-relevant long-tail and medium-tail keywords in a way that was designed to drive traffic, but also to appeal to a reader on an emotional level.

  • Ensured his website copy had a consistent tone of voice

If your blog tone of voice doesn’t match the tone of voice on your website, the user experience can be quite jarring and sound fake. Make sure all of your channels are aligned to create a consistent experience.

  • Used a documented strategy with KPIs

In my first year as a full-time copywriter in Melbourne, there were many a time where I'd gone to create a strategy, scribbled a few lines in a note book, and then treated myself to ice cream for all my hard work. Needless to say, I don’t do this anymore.

Because here’s the thing: a strategy is not a few haphazard goals or a good intention to post frequently on Facebook and Instagram.

A strategy is a larger document that goes beyond creating, distributing and sharing content. It should be a couple of pages long, with multiple sections, and shared internally amongst all involved in the process.

A content marketing strategy outlines audience personas, organisational goals, the ways different types of content can be used across a buyer’s journey, KPIs to gauge success, roles of team members, budgets, and a mission statement, just to start with.

When you have a content marketing strategy, you’ll be better placed to measure your success and figure out what needs to change should you not reach your KPIs.


What we were doing wrong:

  • We weren’t building links

When people think of content marketing, they believe they’ll create content that Google loves, and then this will get pushed to social media. And bada-bing, bada-boom. Improved Google ranking, social media love and droves of happy customers – right?

Wrong.

If I’ve learned one thing in this past year, it’s that you absolutely need to focus on building authoritative, editorial back links, in additional to social media sharing.

When myself and Mr A didn’t focus on building external links and relationships with other credible websites, we were shooting ourselves in the foot.


What is an SEO backlink?

An SEO backlink is an external link (in other words, not from your domain) that points to your website.

The following are all examples of SEO backlinks that are worth pursuing.

  • Editorial links from organisations
  • Links from other popular blogs
  • Directory listings on highly reputable domains

Google loves back links because they’re like credibility votes. If I write something for a website with a high domain authority and a high Google ranking for a few keywords, then Google looks at my website and thinks my website must be credible too, just by pure association.

FYI, SEO backlinking is one of the biggest ranking signals.

The more credible backlinks you have, the more SEO juice Google will send your way.


The difference between a NoFollow link and a DoFollow link

There are two types of backlinks: NoFollow and DoFollow. If I write an article for another blog, I always make sure they give me a DoFollow link. This ensures that they pass on their SEO juice to my website.

A NoFollow link is usually implemented when a website can’t keep track of the links on its website, like on news website that relies on comments for engagement. As you can imagine, often blogs get hit with a lot of spammy comments with spammy links. And linking out to a spammy website can be detrimental to your domain authority and Google ranking too.

That's not to say there isn't value in commenting on blogs. Blog comments can send traffic to your website, but they don’t have as much value as a natural, editorial link.


How to begin your SEO backlinking strategy

An easy way to begin building your portfolio of links is to guest post for others in your industry. It’s a matter of finding those influencers, asking to post on their blog and asking them to share other articles of yours via there social channels, or within their website.

But where do you find these influencers? How do you know who’s credible and who’s not?

Introducing: The SEO Workshop – Growing Popularity and Backlinks

My new workshop is on July 15 in Melbourne.

If you rely on your website to be your number one sales person, boosting your search engine ranking is crucial to your success.

Back linking is one of the best ways to do this. And in this 4-hour hands-on workshop, you’ll find out exactly how it’s done.

Reserve your spot today. Subscribe to Communique and save on full ticket prices.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage, CoYo, Ralph Lauren and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.