Improve Your Business Blog for More Sales

One of the hallmarks of my unique "strong sales through gentle marketing" program is the use of writing, especially blogging, to help businesses promote their products and services. Does blogging work? Yes, it can -- but like any marketing activity, you must be prepared to invest time and effort into your blog. If you don't want to (or cannot) invest time and effort, then be prepared to invest money in someone who CAN invest time and effort for you.  It's a trade-off. If you can write, and you can devote a half hour to an hour per day to content marketing, then blogging may make sense for you.

Blogging is more than just spewing out your ideas and information online. A good blog engages readers and retains their loyalty in the future. A good blog is search engine optimized; it attracts the popular search engines, who like the original posts they find on the blog, archive and index them, and provide them to online searchers. A good blog has personality and style. It is original. It speaks from the heart, person to person, and shares information not easily obtained elsewhere.

Sounds like a tall order, doesn't it? Fortunately, there are alternatives to creating a blog entirely from scratch.

  1. Hire a freelancer: You can hire a freelance writer to create you blog posts for you. Be prepared to search for a good writer and pay him or her a fair rate. Rates for good bloggers start at $25 and go up from there per blog posts.  Where can you find bloggers? Craigslist,, are three places that immediately come to mind.  Be sure to include the topic of your blog and your expectations in your advertisement. The topic is important. You want a writer who has experience in your area, and who is eager to contribute. A fashion blogger may  e ill at ease writing financial advisement tips, and a legal blogger unsuited for home and garden topics.  Ask for their resume, three writing samples, and see if you like any writer who applies.
  2. Work with a third party site: Post your request to a corporate site such as Writer Access: Writer Access allows companies to post writing work for hire on their site. Writers apply with their ideas and you hire, through the Writer Access site ,the best writer for the job. The catch? They take a cut out of the fee, so you have to pay a little bit more in order to attract a good writer. But it may save you time and effort screening applications and some good writers can be found there.
  3. Buy rights:  You can purchase already written content through  Writers (including myself) write and post articles with a price tag. When you buy the article, you purchase certain rights, depending on the level you buy. Read the contract carefully. You can also find writers for hire through their site.
  4. Work with a company:  Marketing agencies provide writers who can craft excellent blog copy. They also have on staff researchers, SEO experts and others who can help you get your content out there.  They are probably the most expensive option among these four, but if you are working with an agency you like, why not ask about blogging services?

Some pundits claim that blogging is dead, but I don't believe that for an instant. A good blog, one that engages, entertains and informs, offers readers another venue to obtain useful information.  If blogging is part of your  marketing plan this year, try boosting your blog's quality through one of these resources.


What Is Quality Content?

What is quality content, and why is it important for your digital marketing efforts? Quality content is the key to attracting positive attention from search engines, and, more importantly, for attracting PEOPLE to your website. The people coming to your website are actual flesh and blood customers, people with a distinct set of wants, needs and desires. By producing quality content that speaks to the heart of their problems, and offers real, compelling solutions, you'll build attention, trust, and engagement with your audience.

But the first step is to bring them to your virtual doorstep, and that's where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

Google's Hummingbird Update and the Search for Quality Content

Google is the mighty king when it comes to search engine marketing. I think the last statistic I read on the topic indicated that Google maintains something like 80% of the search market, with Bing and Yahoo! coming up a distant second and third, and a handful of other search engines behind them. As Google goes, so goes the other search engines, so when I write or speak about search engine optimization, know that I am basing much of what I'm sharing on Google's trends.

Google's search engine algorithm was updated last year to focus more on "quality" content. What is quality?  Quality means:

  • Original content, not regurgitated or reproduced text from another source
  • An original expression, idea or twist on a topic
  • Content written by an expert
  • Content shared on an authoritative platform

Search engines reward quality content by placing the URLs of these pages higher in the search engine results pages. We know that people tend to click on links higher in the results, and especially near the top of the first page.  That's why companies strive for those coveted positions in the search engine results. The higher your page appears, the more potential site visitors you can attract, and the more people you attract, the more money you can make.

That's why people focus on SEO. Get it?

Originality or an Original Spin on a Topic?

I don't know if there really is anything original online anymore. I suppose there are pockets of information out there that still need to be shared, but if you want to know how to change the battery on a 2001 Buick LeSabre, knit Dr. Who's trademark scarf or clean the windows in your house with an organic cleanser, there's a blog, website, video or picture to show you how to do it.

Originality, then, must be something more. The search engine companies certainly know that there's a ton of content out there on the same or similar topics!  I read somewhere that 2 million blog posts are published every 24-hours on the internet. Out of those 2 million posts, how many do you think are about Google's Hummingbird update and quality content? How many are about making the perfect chocolate cake, or planting snapdragon seeds, or any of the other myriad topics that have already been covered to death? Plenty. So then what is originality?

It is being yourself online. It is having a unique voice, style and method of presentation. No two people are alike, and no two expressions of the same thought are alike.

Authority and Credibility

Are you an authority on your topic?

Are you a credible voice on it?

I am authority on marketing. I have an advanced Masters degree, various certifications, and 20+ years of experience in the trenches, on both the agency and client side of the marketing desk.  My writing tends to be credible on the subject because I write what I know.

I would be neither an authority nor a credible voice when writing about, say, astronomy. It's not that I don't like astronomy; I do. Every night when I walk my dog, I look up at the velvety night sky and try to identify constellations. I know Orion and Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper and the Dragon, and that's about it.

If I tried to write about astronomy, it would quickly become evident that I do not know a lot about it. I could write credibly as a seeker of knowledge, as someone trying to learn astronomy. But I probably couldn't pull off ghost blogging for Carl Sagan or the Hayden Planetarium.

Niches Can Build Credibility 

Content produced consistently about a particular niche area tends to build credibility. Why? Because it proves that you are serious about the topic. Finding and sticking to a niche can help you build credibility in a particular content area.

Are you locked into a niche once you build it? No, you can branch out, but be careful how you branch out.  Branching out from a central niche must make sense to your readers. If it's too far out, you'll  lose credibility.

Exploring the World of Quality Content

Quality continues to become more and more important to all who produce online content, whether that content is written, audio or video.  To learn more about producing quality content, see:


Five Simple Business Networking Tips

Did you catch my interview with Cathy Jennings of No Pressure Networking? Cathy shared some wonderful tips to help you network in person and online.  I always feel self-conscious when I go to networking events, but I hope to use Cathy's tips for my next foray into the world of in-person networking. In the meantime, I've committed to more online networking, setting aside a few minutes daily to connect and reconnect with former colleagues. I hope you found Cathy as inspiring as I did.

If you missed the show, you can listen to the recording online on Blog Talk Radio (it's free.)

How to Network: 5 Business Networking Tips

Business networking doesn't have to feel like a foreign language. Based on my conversation with Cathy, here are my favorite five tips that emerged from the show.

  1. Adding people to your email list, without their permission, after you've met them at a networking event is a big no-no.  I was shocked when Cathy said that folks do this. It's smarmy and not good marketing, folks. Instead, reach out personally to each contact you've made. You can call, drop them a quick email, or send an old-fashioned card. Always ask for permission before adding anyone to your email list and include a prominent "opt out" message so people can leave your list at any time.
  2. Ask people what they do when they're not working.  It's a great ice breaker.  Everyone has a hobby, an interest, a sports team they're passionate about. Ask! It's a good conversation starter.
  3. Networking isn't only about business. Yes, you go to networking events to connect with people who may be a valuable business connection. But you have to be a friend, a person first...people do business with other people. Don't jump into your sales pitch the second you meet someone.
  4. Speaking of sales pitches, have a creative way to state what you do and how you help people. Don't rely on canned elevator speeches, and don't answer people with one word answers when they ask you what you do. "I'm a lawyer." "I'm a writer." Boring! Instead, how about, "I'm a writer for magazines, publishers and marketing agencies." Something interesting, at least.
  5. Bring your business cards with you.  I was almost rendered speechless (okay, almost - it's impossible to render me entirely speechless unless you gag me first) by Cathy's statement that many professionals don't bring business cards to networking events. My goodness, people, then what in the world are you there for?  The free watered down Chardonnay? Honestly, bring and share those cards. And they don't have to be traditional business cards. I'm thinking about having bookmarks printed up with my contact information on them. For a writer, that makes sense. How about you? What would you bring? Bring something that has your contact information on it. How can people find you after the meeting?


Cathy offered more great tips. I hope you'll take a moment to visit No Pressure Networking and listen to the half hour recorded show on Blog Talk Radio.

The Five-Step Method to Write Online Articles



The experts all say to do it. Write an article. Or a blog post. Publish it. It builds credibility, they say. You can get back links (links into your website, which is really good stuff for SEO.)  It's great marketing!

The only problem: you hate to write.

The second problem: you don't have a clue how to write an article.

Well, my friend, you have three choices. You can...

  1. Ignore the advice and never write the article;
  2. Give it your best shot and try to write an article;
  3. Hire a writer like me to write it for you (needless to say, I think that's the BEST choice, but I think I'm a little biased.)

How to Write an Article in Five Steps

Let's assume that you can't ignore the advice and for the time being, you don't want to hire a professional writer. You need to write that article yourself.  Article writing for online publication is an art and science unto itself, and not one easily taught in a blog post. However, article writing tends to follow five simple steps. These steps include:

1. Find a topic.

Ideas are all around you. What are your customers asking about? What topics are trending on the major search engines, on social media, on the television news? Think about four to eight weeks ahead of time to give seasonal articles a chance to build traffic online (Easter and spring articles should publish now.)

I like to keep a notebook on my desk and jot writing ideas in the notebook when they come tome. I never know when ideas will gather. Sometimes, I'm researching content for a client, and stumble over a chart, statistics or a news article that will make a great topic for a future article. I jot it down in the notebook. I use differently colored pens to organize the topics by subject. It's a great idea file to turn to when the well runs dry and I need ideas for article!

2. Research.

Take your time and research the topic thoroughly. Can you find new facts that will add to your article? How about a new slant or angle for it?  For research purposes, remember that .gov and .ext (extension offices) as well as .edu (university) websites are the most reputable sources of information. Avoid user-contributed sites such as Wikipedia. It's great for a quick answer, but you have no way of ascertaining how good the research is behind the posts on user-created sites. When in doubt, stick with government, university or cooperative extension websites for the most authoritative research sources.

3. Outline.

I like to outline my articles first, even if it's just a quick outline sketched out on paper. How long will your piece be? How many paragraphs? A typical outline for an article includes a brief opening, the problem/topic, and the solution.

Format your article for easy online reading. Short paragraphs, headlines, bullets and lists make it easy for web readers to digest long pieces of content and take away key points of information.

4.  Write the article.

Write your article using the outline and research completed in steps 2 and 3.  Remember to write from the verbs, meaning that the verb should be the strongest word in the sentence. Notice how the first sentence in this paragraph begins with the word "Write"- that's writing from the verb. (The previous paragraph that begins "Format" does that, too.)  Make sure you hyperlink to your source material, if appropriate, especially if you quote facts. Readers may want to see the sources for themselves.

5. Proofread, edit and double-check your work before publishing it.

The last step is to proofread your work. Run your document through your word processing software's spell check.  I also use an online plagiarism checker such as Small SEO Tools or Dustball just to avoid phrasing that's too similar to something already online. These tools, especially Small SEO, will catch similar phrases even if the original online content is on a totally different topic. If it finds anything close to or the same as what I have written, I take the time to recast the sentence so it is completely original.

Once you've polished your piece to perfection, it's time to upload it only or publish it.

What to Do If You Made a Mistake?

Here's my thought for you for today:  WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES.  I know, I know - this from the woman who loves to collect typos on her Facebook page for the Typo Hall of Shame.  I do this for the humor, not to make fun of the poor folks who write things like "Man Stabs Sun" instead of "Man Stabs Son."  In all seriousness, everyone makes mistakes. If you can fix the mistake, do so. If not, move on.   Leave it at that.

I hope these tips on how to write an article have helped. If you would like to talk to me about writing articles for you, please contact me at

They don't call me the Content Queen for nothing. I've been an article writer for over 20 years, and have over 800 articles published to date. Give me a shout if you would like to hire me to write for you.

Until next time -

An Easy Way to Find New Information

A friend asked a question via Facebook. "I want to improve my punctuation. Can you recommend a book to help me?" As a writer and former writing teacher, I'm often asked this question, and my answer surprises many people.

Buy a children's book.

Not just any children's book. Go to your local bookstore or go to Amazon and find a children, teen, or young adult study guide to grammar. My favorite is the A+ Guide to Grammar published by Scholastic. It's out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon and from other sources.

Why a children or teen guide to grammar? It's written simply, with clear, logical organization. That's important.  Most people don't sit down to read a grammar book cover to cover. They pick up such a book when they need to look something up quickly and find an answer fast.  "Can I use a semi colon here, or should I break it into two sentences?" "Do I use a comma after the word 'and' in this sentence or not?"  Such questions are easier to answer in a young adult guide to grammar because the author has arranged the pages with the most frequently asked questions in mind.

Another reason I like guides written for young people is that they are written in an engaging, conversational style. Grammar and punctuation is boring enough without feeling like the book you're reading is an old school marm complete with pince-nez and her hair in a bun shaking the scolding finger at you.  That's probably the reason you need to brush up your grammar anyway; somewhere, somehow, you were bored or shamed to death around your writing and so you gave up.  Most people have an inner school marm tucked away in their minds, and the last thing you need when you're trying to improve your writing skills as an adult is to trot her out for another scolding. Hide her back in the closet and find some fun, interesting way to improve.

Of course, the best way to improve your writing is to write, and to receive feedback from a kind friend you trust.  If you don't know such a person, consider visiting your local high school's adult education program or community college for a writing class. It can't hurt, and it will help you "strong sales through gentle marketing" efforts as you take your first steps into writing your website content, articles, blog posts and social media updates.


Blog Design Best Practices

Blog design has come a long way from black type on a white background. Sure, some people still have blogs that look like that - Seth Godin comes to mind. That's his style and if it's yours, more power to you.

But for the most part, the online world continues to shift to a more visually-inspired medium. Text remains important. If you don't have anything to say, or you say it poorly, people aren't going to come back to your blog. But if you write well but post to an ugly blog, you make it harder for yourself to attract new visitors and keep them coming back for more.

Blog Design Best Practices

So what's a blogger to do?

  • Clean up your mess. Over time, blogs accumulate sidebar crap. You post something that's nice today and a year from now it's just old. Clean up your widgets on Wordpress blogs, and go over all the extraneous content on your other hosted blogs. Your blog doesn't have to be spare, lean and mean, but does have to work together visually. When in doubt, move it out.
  • Fix broken links.  Do you have a blog roll? Check the links. I was shocked to find that several of my favorite bloggers either had abandoned their blogs or moved them to new platforms, which led to a lot of broken links in both the blogroll and sprinkled throughout my blog posts themselves. Take a few minutes to check for broken links and fix them.
  • Design a new header or icon for your blog.  You can use free online tools such as Pixlr or PicMonkey to create headers for your blogs. Use your own photos, or see the list my buddy Jodee Redmond has published on Freelance Writing Gigs for places to obtain free images under an acceptable usage license. Read the fine print; some sites require attribution, others don't, and it's up to you to know and understand the proper use of images on your blogs.
  • Add a professional signature to your posts.  It's not necessary, but some sort of signature, or consistent closing, does make for a more professional-looking blog.
  • Create pretty social media buttons.  One of my favorite resources is from Carrie Koehmstedt of Carrie Loves Design. She offers free packages of colorful social media buttons, and she's kind enough to share instructions for novices on how to download them and add them to your Wordpress or other blog.  You can find the free social media icon sets here.

Like a good store window, a pretty blog welcomes people inside...and once inside, your prose has to wow them! It is a marketing myth that any design will do. Great writing deserves a beautiful blog.

Does Your Content Stand the Test of Time?


Standing in the entrance hallway of my home is a grandfather clock. But it's not just any grandfather clock. It has passed down through three generations of family on my father's side. My grandparents purchased it in Germany sometime around 1930, and had it shipped back to the United States. It is a beautiful old round-face clock with a walnut cabinet. It no longer chimes, but when it did, the mellow Westminster chimes sound doleful, a deep baritone singing the hours against the heartbeat of the tock-tock of the pendulum.

This clock has withstood the test of time. Its mechanical mechanism continues to mark the minutes and hours with only a minor resetting each week. Its classic design is pleasing, the dial easy to read, the carvings beautiful but not over-the-top.

I thought of the clock today as I was musing about whether or not the myriad of blog posts, articles and content generated every day will pass the test of time. A year from now, will anyone read my blog posts? Will anyone care about Google Hummingbird, or will we be onto the next Google update, the next latest and greatest thing?

Whenever you think about quality content, ask yourself whether it will pass the test of time. Quality content, like my grandfather clock, is timeless.

Content Marketing Defined

content marketing graphic


Content marketing is the art and science of using original, creative, branded content - blog posts, writing, images, articles, stories, case studies and more - to acquire, retain and create loyal customers.

That's what we do here at Seven Oaks Consulting - content marketing, and all that goes with it, like SEO web page writing, website writing, copywriting, and teaching on this and related topics. But what the heck is it?

The Content Marketing Institute has a great definition here: What Is Content Marketing? (Come back here when you're done, okay?)

The Importance of Content Marketing

A recent survey reports that interest by digital marketing managers in content marketing is soaring. And do you know why? Because consumers are sick and tired of ads. They're tuning them out, scanning past them, ignoring and blocking them. Brafton, a fellow content marketing firm, claims that 75% of all consumers prefer informative articles to ads. I'd actually put that number higher. People want information, not advertising, in today's ad-saturated world.

People are hungry for facts. Information.  And that's where content marketing comes in.

Content marketing:

  • Helps brand your company as THE expert in your area, whether it's dog grooming or nuclear medicine.
  • Informs, entertains and engages readers, which encourages them to stick around longer on your website.
  • Gets SHARED virally on social media sites, thus increasing its reach.
  • Sells as it tells an engaging story.

If you'd like to begin your content marketing strategy, schedule a free 30 minute telephone call with us today.

My New Book

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention MY new book is now available! It's a business eBook called Pricing Your Services: 21 Tips for More Profit. You can order it from Smashwords, Amazon, or your favorite eBook retailer.


If you're a writer, artist, consultant, coach or service provider of any type, you know how hard it is to set your prices. How much should you charge? Are you charging too much, or too little?  What about sales - should you hold a private sale? And discounts - are they worth it?

My new book shares with you 21 ideas, tips, helps and hints to understand pricing nuances, determine your pricing strategy and set your prices. Instead of floundering around wondering what to charge, you can feel confident and charge what your time is worth.

The book is just $3.99 and available as PDF, for Kindle and a bunch of eReaders.

Purchase your copy of Pricing Your Services today.