By Sharon Lapkin
If you own or work at a company that wants to market its services or products online, then you need to hire a professional writer.
An expert writer can help your brand grow organically by piquing interest in your products, or services, and by helping you cultivate a meaningful relationship with your customers.
How? Read on.
Forget traditional advertising where you pitch your products via advertisements that cost a lot of money. Forget direct persuasion strategies.
There’s a better way to win customers
Instead, why not hire a writer who can stimulate interest in your products while writing authoritatively about topics that relate to your products?
For example, let’s say I own a company in Italy that makes limoncello—the intensely flavoured lemon liqueur that is a classic in places like Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Rather than spending my marketing budget on advertisements in travel magazines, I employ a writer to pen an article about why lemons grown in southern Italy taste better and are healthier.
See what I’m doing? I’m promoting my limoncello indirectly. Even though the article isn’t about my limoncello per se, people who read it will recognise it is an authoritative article and associate it with my brand.
The next time they’re buying liqueur they’ll see my limoncello in the shop and remember that I know all about lemons. In other words they’ll consider my brand as an authority on the key ingredient in limoncello—without me actually making an explicit connection.
How to reach a wide readership
When the article is written, my staff will publish it on our company website and blog and, more importantly, on our social media channels.
Because I’ve made it a marketing priority to grow our communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin, we have a few thousand followers who will read and, hopefully, share the article with their friends.
When those readers check out our article on lemons, they’ll click through to our blog and will, we hope, spend time reading about more than lemons.
Does content marketing work?
It certainly does! Global marketing research and advisory company Demand Metric, found that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while generating approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing for every dollar spent.
According to Demand Metric, about 60% of people will seek further information about a product after reading about it online.
People also like to follow brands on social media when the content they publish is interesting and relevant. It’s no surprise that blogs and social media channels account for 23% of our time spent online.
Why you really do need a professional writer
Let’s get back to my limoncello.
I have recipes that were handed down through generations of my family, and I’m a well-known expert on the topic of growing lemons. In fact, I’ve spent my entire adult life making the liqueur, and I’ve travelled all over southern Italy sourcing premium lemons.
The answer is obvious isn’t it? I might be a great limoncello maker and businessperson, but I’m not a writer.
A professional writer is an expert content creator. They’re articulate, strategic, research-focused and original. They’re storytellers who write with authority.
Expert content writers know how to weave sentences together. They know how to charm your customers and beguile them with ideas; and they know how to make Google happy.
Professional writers are skilled in SEO (search engine optimisation) writing. It is essential to understand how SEO can accelerate a client’s content in the SERPs (search engine results pages) but, honestly, a business needs to do more than insert optimal keywords.
Keywords are an element of online content strategy—not the focus of it. Other factors, such as authoritative linking, alt text, originality, length of text and visual graphics also play a crucial role in optimising online content.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, released in July 2017, rate the most important factors of website page quality as ‘Expertise, Authoritativeness’ and ‘Trustworthiness’. High quality website pages, Google says, ‘need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic’.
This is what expert writers do every day. They’re able to produce high-quality content on demand because they’ve finetuned their creative processes. They know how to locate reputable sources and factually correct information because they’re professionally trained to do that—day in, day out.
There’s a legal aspect to writing that is rarely mentioned, but it is important.
Professional writers understand the significance of factual accuracy in writing, especially when describing people, institutions and companies.
Factual errors that damage personal and professional reputations, and that quote people inaccurately can result in legal action.
You really don’t want to go there.
Finally, there’s copyright. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of understanding about copyright law on the web and how to avoid non-compliancy. The consequences can be expensive and professionally embarrassing.
Copying other people’s content can also affect your relationship with Google. This is such an important topic that I’ve given it its own section following.
Copying content from other websites
Don’t mess around with other people’s content. As well as breaching copyright law, it will affect your SERPs (search engine results pages) and put you into Google’s naughty corner.
Google penalises websites that copy content from other sources. Called ‘scraping’ there are three different types of copying that get Google fired up and your content hosed down.
- Content that it copied verbatim (exactly) from another source. We’re not talking about syndicated or licensed content.
- Content that is altered slightly from its original format on another website. We’re not talking about summarising or paraphrasing, which are legitimate mechanisms for shortening long-form content. We’re talking about deliberately changing a few words to make it appear it is your own work when it isn’t.
- Content copied from a dynamic source that constantly changes. Google still considers this to be copying.
Aside from incurring Google’s wrath, copying other people’s work and publishing it on your own website is a breach of copyright law.
The creator (the ‘copyright holder’) of the photo, illustration or text that you published without permission can sue you and they do. It can be a very expensive risk to take. Just don’t do it. If you do it enough you will be caught out, and it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Not all copyright holders issue a ‘Take down’ notice. Some head straight to their lawyer and commence legal proceedings. You will have no comeback. Saying it was a mistake, or that you didn’t understand copyright law, will not cut it.
So what can you do?
If you don’t have a designer on hand, subscribe to Canva and make your own graphics.
Subscribe to a stock photo library, such as Shutterstock or Stocksy, and license a good photo for a few dollars. Quality stock libraries will have already taken care of any necessary model or property releases.
Do the hard work required to write original well-researched content. Remember, though, that it’s not just about hard work. It’s about understanding what you can and can’t do with the information you find online that has been written by somebody else.
Attributing your source doesn’t make it okay to copy
Let’s say this upfront. Most of the time it is not okay to republish somebody else’s content without their permission.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the doctrine of fair use allows for a minimum amount of content to be reproduced without permission. This can vary depending on the country.
In the United States, section 107 of the Copyright Act identifies four areas—criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research—that ‘may qualify as examples of fair use’. The important thing to remember is that there are different views on what ‘fair’ is in this context.
In Australia, fair use is called ‘fair dealing’ and it is not as flexible. The most recent version of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cwlth) is available from the Federal Register of Legislation. It is recommended reading for anybody who publishes content online.
What if you see a graph or table on another website that you’d like to copy for an article you’re publishing on your website?
If you add a link, or a name showing where you got it from, can you copy it?
No—you shouldn’t copy other people’s work without their permission. Sure, lots of them don’t mind. They may even be happy that you’re driving people to their website—but, as a practice, always ask first.
Use the ‘Contact us’ button on a website and write to the owner of the content. Explain why you want to use their content and tell them you will attribute the content with a link to their website.
Note that if the owner of the website does not own the content, you will need to locate the copyright holder. This is where it gets complicated because the copyright holder is the only person who can grant you permission to publish the content, not the owner of the website where you found it. Even if the site you found the content on obtained permission to publish the content, that right does not extend to you. You must seek your own permission separately.
The content owner may want to take a look at your website to make sure their content is going to be published on a reputable site. When they write back with permission make sure you keep a copy of the email for future reference.
Your business deserves the best
Always aim for the best-quality content you can produce. Don’t take shortcuts and don’t settle for second best.
Content marketing is a strategy that takes time to show results. The better the quality of your content, the more likely you are to get conversion rates.
Two million blog posts are published daily on the web, but this content explosion isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds because superior content always rises to the top.
Lastly, find somebody to work with who doesn’t just want to sell you something. Find a content creator who puts your business first.