Thursday, 8 November 2012

New digital marketing series from yours truly




Hello, long time, no see... That's because I was working on a full-time publishing project inhouse while doing all my freelance writing in the wee hours of the morning. I wrote a few online travel guides for a tour operator - a bit surreal since I was waxing lyrical about sunny, unspoilt beaches while sitting by a hot radiator - and keyed in a few articles on digital marketing for SMEs for the Digital Response's blog (pictured above - link to articles at the bottom of this post).

So far I have written four guest posts, which you might be interested in browsing - you might find themes I have touched upon in previous posts on this blog, but it's all new, improved stuff, honest! Here they are in chronological order:

  1. 8 steps to digital domination: how to start a digital marketing campaign from scratch
  2. Creative content to capture customers: content is king!
  3. What is SEO? Search engine optimization for SMEs: SEO made simple
  4. Social media: your launch pad for interactive engagement: SM for B2C & B2B

UPDATE - 2014: These articles are now offline, you can find a transcript here.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Web wonders, networking, time management & SEO review

21 Ways to Manage the Stuff that Sucks up your Time

Making the most of the web & networking 
I spent the evening of my birthday giving a talk entitled The internet doesn't byte: from virtual reality to practicality (click on the title to download it). This talk is general in scope to accommodate a wide audience, but you will find some business stuff thrown in, here and there. And there is a section on social media with the tagline: addictive but full of goodness.

I'm online seven days a week, so why make an exception on my big day? Prior to the talk I went to Camjelly to hear business mentor Ann Hawkins discuss social media and networking, so I could say that I gave myself the gift of the web and shared it.

Time management: Grace's way
A while ago I signed up to receive Grace's motivating newsletters, so I was delighted to hear that she has condensed and refined her wisdom into a book called 21 Ways to Manage the Stuff that Sucks up your Time. Available from Amazon at $5.97, it offers, as the title suggests, 21 practical tips to organise your time, which is particularly tricky if you have family and/or other commitments. 

There is a "curious" section on how to beat perfectionism, not usually considered a flaw in business, but for a nit-picker like me (born pedant and graduated with honours from the pedant school of subeditors), it could yield several handy tips. The same goes for procrastination - I'm not a natural procrastinator with my troubleshooting and problem-solving nature, but there are chores that get pushed down the list of priorities because of their innate tediousness. 

According to Amazon, customers who ordered this book also bought a guide on recruiting, one on making money speaking and the Barefoot Executive.

SEO article reviews
I went for a two-week holiday in August and due to an Italian pesky hill, our dongle failed to pick up any signal. I had internet access only on the road at various hotels offering wifi, on the way to and back from Italy, but zilch in Italy. So it was with trepidation that I logged into my work email account and found over 600 emails. As I got back, my clients "pounced on me" so I didn't have much time to read all the very useful articles I was sent, which I usually share on Twitter. So here is a selected bunch published from August to early September:

I'm off to deal with my mountain of emails - I'm still far from the top! If you want to recommend any interesting article you have come across, please leave a comment alongside the link.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Finding new clients: Mountain Comes to Mohammad Moments

 Creative Commons


Yesterday I found a discussion on LinkedIn on how to approach potential clients. Some commenters believed in cold calling, others in networking, others again in "business stalking" (you find out where your "target" is going and then show up at the event/conference) while most used their little black book to engineer introductions.

I'm sure most of us tried them all (except perhaps for the business stalking), but have you ever experienced business serendipity? Forget the romcom, I'm talking about having a goal, deploying all your business wiles, failing and then an unconnected opportunity comes out of the blue to work for that client or in that sector. 

I call it business karma or the Mountain Comes to Mohammad Moment. It is a nirvana moment, pure business bliss... Of course some degree of work is entailed, you need an optimized website, a decent social media strategy - nobody comes to a desert to drink, you need to build that oasis first. 

Reflecting on my 18 years plus' career, I have experienced many of these moments. As I commented in that online discussion, fate must have a sense of humour because I'm the most anal, perfectionist and organised person - going with the flow is not in my genetic make-up. Fate is definitely having a laugh at my expenses, so I have decided that I should stop trying too hard. I do the preparatory work and have faith. I won't stop slaving over my website and devise new social media strategies, but I will certainly go with the flow. I won't beat myself up if I lose a pitch for whatever reason, I will accept the unthinkable for somebody like me: "When a door closes, a window opens." 

But let's move on from this flowery language to rational business logic. Out of curiosity I did a search on Google and the concept "business karma" does exist. It is used in the realm of corporate social responsibility, which for me is a must for any business, big or small. I'm only a sole trader but I do dedicate time to local charity causes. I enjoy the feeling of being helpful, I experience an internal glow, a great personal satisfaction in making even a tiny difference. This voluntary work has however helped me out professionally in many ways, from confidence building for public speaking to expertise gained in a variety of fields. 

Moving from the individual (moi) to the general, recent research shows that enterprises engaging in corporate social responsibility do have a competitive advantage. So while it's skills and new experiences for me, the payoff for corporations is higher sales. 


What do you think? Feel free to diss, tut, nod and share. If you are interested in the CSR angle, click here for an interesting article about karma capitalism.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

What is blogging?

The Prince Charles Cinema, London (still standing),
featured on my London Cheapskate site (RIP)



What is a blog?
Let's kick this post with the usual Wikipedia quoteA blog (a portmanteau of the term web log) is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often were themed on a single subject. More recently "multi-author blogs" (MABs) have developed...

I started blogging in 2005 for professional rather than personal reasons. The internet was transforming the magazine publishing industry and I needed online experience. It wasn’t my first online writing experience as I had started a listing website called London Cheapskate in 2001 to share my knowledge of free/cheap leisure and entertainment in the capital. In its first year, it won a web award for its content, despite being a very basic site (you guessed, I was the designer too). It’s still listed on some London sites, although it closed down in 2009 when Geocities was scrapped.


My first blog (of five and half, since having an account on Twitter is classed as microblogging) was in the same vein and was originally called London Cheapskate. It was still London Cheapskate when I moved to Rugby and it changed to Cambridge Ecothrifter (we’re a bit posher and more eco friendly around here) in 2009. I blogged about my interests and posted mini features nobody would commission me to write. As I got enough digital writing experience to switch to web copywriting/journalism, the blogs became a more personal outlet, yet still a place for features nobody would commission me to write. This is the case of my 1930s house blog, where I tackle interiors, gardening and DIY. I haven’t got as many makeovers as I’d like there, but give me time... It's not my day job and it doesn't pay the mortgage.


Moving away from the personal to the general, blogging is a different thing to different people. It could be a personal diary to share with family and friends, a place to showcase visual creativity (from hobbies through crafts to fine art), a writer’s treasury (fiction, non fiction, journalism, random witty rants), an activist weapon (campaigning, highlighting injustice, criticising the powers-that-be), an education instrument (edublogs) and a business/marketing tool.

The beauty of blogs is that they are interactive as they allow readers to leave a comment. So it's not surprising to read in various ebooks that blogging is an effective form of social media and a strong promotion tool for brands (big and small). Plus, it's seotastic: ask any SEO practitioner and they will tell you that having a blog helps to achieve good ranking for your website. 

A blog works its magic even if it's light on words: it can be just images, a curated list of web links, music/audio files (think mp3 and podcast) and even videos (in which case you can call it a vlog). A blog can showcase expertise and talent in a powerful way so it's a great inexpensive marketing gimmick for any budding artist. You can embed those youtube videos, show pictures of your art, post a poem or two. 

Businesswise, a blog is an inexpensive way to achieve online authority, if you can write, that is. If you can't write, you can outsource to a professional writer and if you can't edit it yourself, do hire a copyeditor. Using cheap talent to run a business blog is a bad idea, a blog is like your business card, you wouldn't design it yourself and print it on photocopy paper using an inkjet printer, would you? Yet some businesses head for peanutsforhour (thanks Sookio for that moniker) and hope to find the hidden gem (a poorly paid genius writer). Good luck and goodbye, we don't champion cheap labour here. 

Blogging in numbers

I can imagine the bean counters are now thinking: "Hey, less rambling and more figures, please."  According to Royal Pingdom, here is a snapshot of blogging in numbers:

·  39 million – The number of Tumblr blogs by the end of 2011.
·  70 million – Total number of WordPress blogs by the end of 2011
    ??million    total number of Blogger blogs (no idea, they are not mentioned). If you know, feel free to leave a comment and enlighten me.


Have a mull and leave a comment if you wish. If you are interested in some blogging infographics for 2012, visit Jeff Bullas's blog. I will talk about blogging in future posts. At present I'm getting my head round a public talk I'm giving about the weird and wonderful (and useful) world of the web.

Monday, 30 July 2012

What is internet marketing?


Weird & wonderful  world wide web



Let's kick off with a brilliant definition from Wikipedia: "Internet marketing, also known as web marketingonline marketingwebvertising, or e-marketing, is referred to as the marketing (generally promotion) of products or services over the Internet. Internet marketing is considered to be broad in scope because it not only refers to marketing on the Internet, but also includes marketing done via e-mail and wireless media.

If I might add to this clear definition, I'd also mention inbound marketing, which includes blogs, podcasts, videos, e-newsletters, free ebooks and social media strategies. However - now standing on a soapbox - it doesn't include irritating sales pitches on LinkedIn masquerading as conversations. 

I monitor Twitter like a hawk and lately there has been a flurry of tweets about top marketing strategies. (Why not 10? With my copywriting hat on, it seems a tad unfair as I've always had to sweat out 10 items for each list I have ever been commissioned to write). 



Step 1: Create a keyword strategy
Step 2: Optimize your website
Step 3: Create blog and other content               
Step 4: Promote content & participate in social media
Step 5: Convert site traffic into leads
Step 6: Nurture leads with email marketing
Step 7: Be mobile friendly
Step 8: Analyze and refine strategies.

I lost count of how many marketing professionals have incorporated these steps in various ebooks and white papers, If somebody knows who invented these, feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below.  In the meantime I will go through them as fast as we can both get our quick fix. 


Step 1: I covered keywords in What is SEO?, but since it was a whistle-stop tour, I'm sure I will be covering keywords again. It's bound to happen, with Google constantly preening its algorithms.


Step 2 and Step 3, I'd do a swap here. I'd create the quality content first, using the keywords (sparingly), then inserting a few selected keywords in the source, as explained here. Re blogging, I will soon talk about it in my next post, so watch this space!


Step 4 is straightforward enough; take your website and hit the social media trail. It really depends what you are selling. If you haven't time to read heaps of ebooks, this is the usual advice: Facebook is best for B2C, LinkedIn and Twitter for B2B. The difference between LinkedIn and Twitter is immediacy - Twitter disseminates knowledge at the speed of light while LinkedIn is more useful to build relationships/authority while ruminating at leisure on a variety of topics. What about Pinterest? Well, it's definitely covering more bases than when it started as some firms are now pinning infographics - so it's only about pretty pics then.


Step 5 Ah, here is the challenge. Even if you are top cat in Google, it doesn't necessarily follow that visitors will buy your wares... I'm afraid here old-fashioned sales and marketing principles still stand. There are companies who sell this kind of service if you have a budget for this, but if you don't then it's all hands to the social media pump. Don't spread yourself too thinly, engage with potential customers and solve their problems. Many companies start by offering free advice, free ebooks, free consultations, the choice is yours!


Step 6 Let's be honest here, email marketing is the 21st century equivalent of junk mail. The challenge is to give your potential customers something they trust and/or are happy to get for free, whether information or a product sample. Well-targeted information does work - for instance, in the baby market, registered users get emails about child development, child nutrition, child health, anything really that put a commercial product into a parenting contest. And when your customer loves receiving your informative emails, you know you have hit the right note and sales will hopefully follow.


Step 7 If you are worried about how your website displays on mobiles, Google Analytics can give you a helping hand. Mobile is huge, but again it depends who your customers are, so if your target market doesn't dig smartphones, you are wasting your time.


Step 8 Sounds like an add-on to make a round number, does it? A bit like the number 10 in many top 10s, when it's obvious the writer couldn't think of yet another catchy point. However, scratch below the cliche' and you will find that analyzing your website at regular intervals makes sense. There are plenty of free analytical and organizational products for websites and social media tools. Subscribe to geeky/techy newsletters and you will know them all in a jiffy. Or follow me on Twitter, I post  DIY and free web tools nearly every day under my moniker @simonecas.


Here I sign off. Have a mull. Next post will be about blogging.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What is copywriting?


Mashup lyrics for challenging copywriting: Words don't come
easy
 + You can't get blood from a stone 



How I got to know SEO (Hello, is it you I'm looking for?) 
My background is in print journalism. When the recession hit the UK, I was just out of maternity leave and out of London, where my all media clients were based (and still are). In order to work remote, I built on my blogging and web editing experience to reinvent myself as a digital writer. At first I was writing articles for content site Suite 101 and testing products for Made for Mums

So why was I moonlighting there and subsequently on Brighthub (which pays a modest fee)? I was learning SEO copywriting. I don’t know what the situation is for these sites post Panda, but back then all articles were reviewed by an editor, who also provided SEO guidance. This came in very useful in my day job as product tester and digital feature writer. 

A call out of the blue in 2009 catapulted me into agency copywriting. A digital agency found my website and I ended up copywriting three campaigns for Danone Ireland. While writing thousands of words of static copy and tons of emails for registered users, I learnt about marketing SEO and how to tag videos. All this work was remote, save for one face-to-face meeting. Don’t you love the internet? I do and seeing that nearly all advertised opportunities demand inhouse freelancers makes me angry. I love remote technology.


Rant over, what is SEO copywriting for marketing? (Come gather 'round people wherever you sell aka the marketing song)
When you think of SEO, you might visualise page rankings, incoming links, keywords and social media strategies. Building a community is especially important to brands that sell, say children’s products - if you want to sell something to a parent, you’d better have a website with informative static content, a forum, useful videos, engaging emails for registered users, a helpline and the killer: a good cause. Corporate social responsibility is part of corporate identity and has a competitive advantage – business research has proved this over and over. Global brands know this so well and you will find a good cause advertised aside most branded products.

And if you are selling even a remotely health-related product (a smoothie for kids falls in this category for the anxious parent) you need high-quality content and some experts at hands to take those calls on the helpline and front the videos on the website. Contentwise, you engage a copywriter with knowledge in that market and off you go. But what is quality content? Rules have changed since Panda and Penguin came along. Pundits think it’s all for the better as content is king. It’s back to basics really, there is nothing more off-putting than a badly written website.

Writers have known this all along and I did have to argue with an agency about using different spelling of a word on their client's website. With my SEO hat on, I know that you need to cover all the search bases, but I’d have that in the keywords section, which is not visible (unless you do a source view), not in crossheads or in the copy. Having good content and different spelling of a word throughout an article is not on. Think of copywriting: you can have copy writing, copy-writing, copywriting.... people key in all sorts of spellings when they search for something, correct or not. You can’t have those peppered in the copy, it looks stupid.


Good content (I'm picking up good vibrations)
Perhaps we are now less constrained as writers to produce good content - repeating that a keyword every two sentences doesn’t make for quality copy. Yes, you need to include some keywords, but you can reach your quota using photo captions, tags for videos, crossheads (still unwisely underestimated), infographics, you name it. However, let’s not obsess too much about keywords. We need to spend time on the writing, prioritising quality, originality and clarity. So no stuffing, please, unless you are thinking turkey.

And while you are at it, you have to find that magic voice that speaks to the potential customer while driving home the concept that you are giving him/her value for money, which is far trickier for expensive products. But wait, is there a health benefit to highlight? Yes, there is.... then you need more copy to nail it. 


Presence, feedback and engagement (Bound to ascend + Country feedback)
For maximum exposure, you need to integrate all channels: TV, print, social media... so you need copy targeted for each of them. It’s a long list: scripts, press releases, blog posts, targeted tweets... Yet some companies think that one piece of copy will fit all. Saving on content is a false economy, a website with great design but poor copy is a dead duck.

Word-of-mouth is a good selling tool. So are critiques and reviews. Even negative ones can help, if the company addresses the issue and solves the customer’s problem there and then. Bring on all the social media tools, don’t skimp. It might be time consuming, but it works wonder. 


Usability (Use me)
All of this is fine and dandy, but if the website is difficult to navigate, then you spilled good copy for nothing. A clean design without hundreds of side panels to click is best. Yet some clients don’t want the surfer to miss a thing, so their websites end up as an overwhelming mess. Web readers have a short attention span. You want them to stock up their virtual cart and finalise that purchase, not bore them so they click away.

Have a mull and feel free to chip in your top tips...

P.S. I found a great article on how journalists make for good marketers If I might direct a personal dig to recruiters who rejected my CV as not relevant to marketing jobs (where writing was mentioned in the job description), this article is for you.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Is SEO dying?

Is SEO dying? Shall we call the undertakers and order
a plot and tombstone? Typical, I just started this blasted blog


This morning I read an article on Forbes that intrigued me so much I'm changing the schedule of my posts to mull over it. A kind of STOP PRESS, STOP PRESS, BREAKING NEWS moment. 


The first half of the deadline is alarming: The Death of SEO... then it continues: the Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content. Phew, huge relief, I thought my career choice got canned, but no, I’m fine and dandy as a copywriter. But what about my newly launched SEO sideline?

Let’s rewind. An SEO guru made this statement over a business lunch: “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in two years.”

Ken Krogue, the article's writer, was justifiably blown away. He posted this “bomb” on his blog and got a mixed bag of comments, several not very complimentary. Then Ken (if I may use his first name - we are all friends in the virtual world) goes on to describe what SEO is and the difference between white hat and black hat SEO. Now, this post is not going to be a blow-by-blow account of this intriguing article, so read the rest for yourself here.



White hat, black hat SEO

I agree that Google wants (no, demands) good quality content, but as a white-hat SEO copywriter I sometimes feel that there are dark arts still lurking: websites that are just a long list of links, ripped-off content from legitimate sites, or (worse) they are pretty good on the surface but have a page somewhere where the black arts are deployed to massage rankings. I find it particularly irritating when this is done by a smug copywriter who thinks he/she is the bee’s knees, yet has used dodgy SEO to get a high ranking for a keyword that is not relevant to their business but is a potential money spinner. I do rant about that on Twitter a bit, but I’m not the only one.... Others are getting pissed off about it, after all we all want to maintain a good image about our industry of choice.

So the white hatters are trying to fly the flag of quality content. Trouble is that this good  content is time consuming to produce and costs money - money that some clients are not prepared to pay. Yes, they are prepared to pay the designer top rates (mostly - designers feel free to share), but the copywriter? Oh, no, they don’t have much left in the budget for copy, the SEO specialist they hired after the designer has seen to that. So does this all mean that SEO copywriters will rule? I mean, content is king, all these digital conferences are saying that loud... Will the SEO expert wither and die? Will white hatters trounce the black hatters?

Well, those black hatters won’t leave without a fight. But yes, eventually the black hatters will have to go, the link builders will get shafted and the keywords stuffers will get stuffed.
Google is working on it. The Penguin update has started the process but I have a sneaky feeling it will be a slow death - think Star Wars, Darth Vader was a challenging foe to say the least. The dark side has plenty of wiles to deploy.



Power to the social media people

So links are dead ducks, hello Social Media! A social media strategy is vital for exposure. Everybody knows that, but do companies? Who is the real social media specialist? Usually somebody who has a communications background, in plain words, somebody who can write engaging copy. These specialists will come from  journalism, marketing, advertising and PR backgrounds. 

Scratch the surface and you will find that marketing principles have not changed much. They might have acquired shiny new buzzwords but they are based on consumer behaviour, which is based on human instincts, which haven’t changed. Humans are still trapped in the Freudian dichotomy of sex and death. Sex sells, death does too, albeit indirectly (life is short, you cannot miss out on this and that! Buy that car, live in the fast lane and so on...).

Saintly SEO, I’m getting all philosophical here... COD alert! So basically, you need good content. The problem is what is good content? Which themes and voices engage? This is the challenge. It’s not all about pretty words, it’s finding something that strikes a chord - writing for the web is not like writing for print media, oh no. 

But, the article continues, it’s not only about copy - it’s about images, videos and all things creative. You will probably know that tagging images and videos is a basic SEO strategy that works. If you have videos and images in your blog or website, do spare some time captioning them adequately. And do the same when writing for Pinterest, as this enlightened colleague explains (click here).

And to end this post, I leave you with Ken’s summing-up quote: “It is the overly aggressive marketers that always spoil it for everyone.” I know plenty of those, guilty of starting conversations in LinkedIn that are actually thinly veiled sales pitches.

P.S. This is a Seth-Godin-quotation-free zone. Sethsayers, please refrain from quoting.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What is SEO?

Wikipedia says: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural," or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic"), search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list...


This is a good definition of what SEO is (if you want to read the whole lot just click Wikipedia). A website is much like any product, it needs some sort of marketing so web surfers can find it. Whether you are running a business or just creating a website as a hobby, you will want to engage with others, which is the point of the internet (read its fascinating story here). The internet is a network after all. It allows sharing of resources and information. And a lot of it is still free. Of course, this depends from country to country - personally I have found that Italian sites are less generous with free content compared to British and American websites.


Tons of free stuff online
The cynic in you will think: but why are companies and individuals offering stuff for free? There is a variety of reasons: personal promotion, brand engagement (marketing, advertising, corporate identity), willingness to contribute (many people like to help so take on unpaid volunteering roles, so why not be helpful online?), the thrill of being an authority, followed by people all over the world (if you like to wear an expert hat, that is), creativity (artists, writers, musicians...) and inclusiveness (yes, if you live in an isolated area or work from home, virtual watercoolers and answering people's questions/dilemmas can make you feel part of a community). 


Hang on, this is not an academic tome. Back to the point, SEO allows your website to get good rankings for your selected keywords. What is this keyword business? Well, as in real life people are really fond of labelling things and people, the same occurs in the virtual world. If you want surfers to find your website or blog, sprinkle relevant words that relate to it. Not any odd words off the top of your head, specific ones that rank high in searches. 


Google AdWords Keyword Tool


Google keyword tool



When I offer any SEO advice, this is where I go to find the right keywords for any business (including mine). Shooting keywords at random is not a good idea, nor is keyword stuffing (read about Penguin and Panda here). You need to find out which keywords rank high and use those in your website and blog (if you are using Blogger, keywords are called Labels). So you found your keywords/labels, what's next? 


To illustrate my example I am copying and pasting part of the source of amazon.co.uk below. Can you see the real words among the gobbledygook (aka html code)? So go to your site's source and put those relevant keywords in. I'd have a nice sentence about you in the description line, rather than disjointed words, search engines like this best. Really, just a short one describing your business. If you want more about going to the source, click here. And if you want to know what an SEO specialist is, click here.


<meta name="description" content="Low prices on digital cameras, MP3, sports equipment, books, music, DVDs, video games, home &amp; garden and much more. Free UK delivery on Amazon orders."/>
<meta name="keywords" content="digital camera, LCD TV, books, DVD, low prices, video games, pc games, software, electronics, home, garden, video, amazon"/>

And with this I sign off and let you mull it over.


DEEP END WARNING!

If you are working in marketing, you might want to check out this great discussion on LinkedIn: 

What is the next 'BIG thing' in digital marketing? You will have to join the Digital Marketing group to do so as it's a closed group. 


How to SEO: what's in a name?

SEO is like a rollecoaster ride, everybody is on a steep learning curve.
Expertise comes and goes at the beat of an algorithm

Hello fellow surfer,
I wanted to call this blog SEO 4 Stupid but had to bow to optimization rules and choose the search friendly How to SEO. If, like me, you are an ex print journalist, you will get my drift - the internet is not “puntastic” (certainly not in titles, crossheads and image tagging, thank-you-very-much).

Web surfers search using simple, plain words. If you are looking for a restaurant that serves good food, you are more likely to use plain English (aka good restaurants in Milan), you are not going to type “mouthwatering meals in Milan”, unless you are pretty weird and like alliterations too much for your own good. But hang on, I did just that and got a mixed bag with mouth watering and mouth-watering and mouthwatering used all randomly (the subeditor in me curled up and died there). Predictably the search “good restaurants in Milan” yielded better websites, so there you are, just ignore those voices in your head and you will be fine.

Who runs How to SEO?
I'm an ex stupid (I hope), ex digital dummy, ex technosaurus.... call me what you like. For byte sake, I grew up using a typewriter, got my first PC at 29, started in journalism when there was no internet... Yes we used encyclopedias and the humble phone for fact-checking back then.

Basically I’m old compared to many surfers, but not past it. I started dabbling online around the time of the millennium bug (what happened to that, eh?) with a website hosted on the old trusty Geocities (RIP) called London Cheapskate (RIP and Amen). I became a blogger in 2005 and totally embraced digital in 2008. Why? Because I was a print journalist, the recession came and I had to do something else. So in 2008 I designed my own website altering a template. I spent less than £40 on it but hours of toil to learn how to optimize it, though. I wrote an article about the process for an US site in early 2011 (http://suite101.com/article/setting-up-a-website-on-a-budget-a339771). A lot of things have changed SEOwise since then, but the basic advice still stands.


What are my credentials?
I’m self taught. I do have a degree but it has nothing to do with SEO (don’t judge, the internet wasn’t there, at least not for public consumption). I could say that I’m an alumni of the University of Google. I have found heaps of useful free tutorials and learnt a lot in the past four years. I learnt on-the-job too, having worked on digital marketing/advertising campaigns, run blogs and written digital features for online publications.

So here is a public thankyou for all the generous techies who share their expertise on the web. I learnt nearly everything I know from you. SEO is a fast moving, slippery to grasp, rollercoaster ride, so you can say I’m still learning – whoever tells you they know everything about SEO is lying. Nobody knows what will happen next, which social media tools will grab surfers' fancy (Pinterest now and perhaps troubled Yahoo’s Pipes later?), what piece of software will revolutionise web use – except tech innovators, of course. Sadly I’m not one and, like the hamster, my wheel is spinning faster to catch up.

Content is king, so what?
Finally! A marketing conference in London backed what all us scribblers already knew, that good copy is crucial for SEO. All those link builders and key stuffers got their fingers burnt when Google launched the Panda and Penguin updates. I have no sympathy for content farms, people who talk about SEO like it’s a dark art or self-styled SEO experts. How can you be an expert of something that moves at such a fast pace! Not even Socrates claimed he knew it all (being a classical Greek philosopher he was talking of knowledge rather than the web). So I do hope those dodgy link builders are being dodged and the key stuffers are getting stuffed.

Optimize to capitalise
So you have great content to offer your readers, what now? That’s where this blog comes in, explaining what SEO is and what it can do for you. I will share what I learnt and showcase really helpful articles (no mumbo jambo here) that explain in plain words what SEO is all about. I have started on a smaller scale on Twitter with my #TweetsforSEO, so follow @simonecas to nab those if your attention span is limited to 140 characters. I will be writing simple posts here but also throw in advanced stuff here and there. I will signpost these with a DEEP END WARNING. So if you are just starting out as a surfing SEOer, you can easily skip those hints till you are ready.

Disclaimer: Everybody is a SEO learner, myself included. I don’t know it all (my partner might disagree, but let’s not have a domestic here). So please comment if I get the wrong end of the stick and/or you have some great tips to share. If I had to tag myself, here are my keywords: SEO copywriter, marketing copywriter, journalist, editor, writer, newsletter designer. If you want to know more, visit www.simonecastello.co.uk


P.S. I hope you join in so I'm not talking to my monitor or, worse still, have another conversation with the voices in my head.