The History of Hashtags (INFOGRAPHIC)

Hashtags have come a long way since they were first used on Twitter six years ago. From an unofficial way of giving context to a tweet, to a feature used by Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Flickr and more, the humble # sign is now a vital feature of social media marketing.

Offerpop have created an infographic all about the hashtag and its usage by individuals and businesses on various social media platforms.

Beutler_Offerpop_Hashtag_Design-final-2

Podcast Episode 6: Offsite SEO for Freelance Writers – Attracting Backlinks and Collaborations by Being Brilliant

In episode five of the freelance writing podcast that I co-host, Lorrie and I talked about what you could do on your website to optimise it for search engines. In this episode, we continued this discussion, talking about what freelancers can do to attract backlinks and improve their off-site SEO.

Listen, enjoy, and let us know what you think!

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For accessibility reasons, and just because some people prefer to read, we have provided a transcript below

Philippa: Hello and welcome to episode six of the A Little Bird Told Me podcast, where two freelance writers talk about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful freelance writing. You can find us one the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and from there you can find all the links you need to subscribe, whether by RSS, iTunes or Stitcher Smart Radio. You can also find a link to our Facebook page for the podcast and also our individual websites, social media links and that sort of thing.

My name is Philippa Willitts and I’m here with my co-host Lorrie Hartshorn. In episode five, we started to talk about SEO – or search engine optimisation. We discussed some of the ways you can improve where your website appears in the search engine results by what is called ‘on-site SEO’, which is things you can do with your website itself to help you rank well.

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about off-site SEO: all the other things you can do to help your website rise up the search engines.

Lorrie: So, we’ve talked a little bit about on-site SEO, which is what you can do on your website to help improve your search engine optimisation. However, there’s a lot you can do off your website as well – so, off-site SEO – to help improve things further.

Backlinks

Philippa: Absolutely. Now, off-site SEO is predominantly focused on back-links that is, links from other sites to your website. When Google, or the other search engines, are making decisions about where different websites should rank in their search results, one of the things they actually look at is how many other websites link to them. Because, if many top quality websites link to your site, Google considers that your site must be a respected authority, and ranks you more highly. In theory!

Because, historically, this fact has been abused and websites gained rankings by getting really spammy links from spamming blog comments, forum profiles and low quality article directories. And so, spammy sites that were getting a lot of these spammy links were ranking better than good quality sites that just had a few incoming links.

So, as a result, and continuing with their ‘animals beginning with ‘P’’ updates, this year, Google introduced the Google Penguin update, and this actually started assessing the quality of the backlinks to a website, rather than just counting the number of backlinks. Sites with lots of spammy backlinks are now being penalised, and there are desperate SEOs going round emailing other sites and begging them to remove the links to their sites.

Lorrie: Yeah, I’m not surprised. Because it was getting to the point where the most highly ranked sites were spam directories – just lists and lists of links. You can understand Google’s perspective. It’s completely irrelevant and if people go on to Google and that’s all they can find, it’s no good for anybody.

Philippa: Yeah. Because, from Google’s point of view, if someone searches with them and gets rubbish results, they’ll go to another search engine. So, it’s in Google’s interests to make search results work for people who are doing the searching because it is annoying when you search for something and you just get spam.

Lorrie: And this is really what we’re saying – it’s in everyone’s favour for you to work with Google. There are plenty of guidelines out there on what you can do to be a decent website owner.
In terms of actually developing quality backlinks, you can actually combine this with another aspect of successful freelance working, that I believe Pip and I have referenced at least obliquely in previous episodes, which is the creation of ‘colleagues’. And I’m saying ‘colleagues’ with giant air quotes around it because, as a freelancer, you don’t have colleagues. You’re not in an office. However, the work can be very isolating, so it’s in your interest to create a network of people you can talk to and share ideas with, as Pip and I have done – we’ve become very close.

Now, as a writer, you’re often asked by clients to recommend other freelancers. When they see you doing a good job, they think “Ah, this person knows what they’re talking about, maybe they’ll know someone who can deliver another service to me.” Now, I’m often asked whether I know a graphic designer, a decent software developer, a good editor etc. and, by building up strong relationships with some of the best individuals you can find in these fields, you can improve your own service offerings and network – so you’ve got people to talk to and people to recommend when clients ask you, but you can also develop a strong backlink network for your website.

And, I think it’s good to be discreet about doing this – although not secretive because that always comes over as sneaky – and to restrict yourself to freelancers whose reputations you trust, but you can actually contact someone and say, “I like what you do, I’m a copywriter/editor, you’re a designer/software developer – my clients are often looking for that kind of thing, how about we recommend one another? Some people have link pages on their website, some people are happy to give you a page of your own on their website. It’s whatever works for the both of you, it’s a collaborative thing.

Philippa: Yeah. For instance, a couple of months ago, I did some work on a client’s website. The client was a web designer and I basically rewrote his site with SEO. And he was so pleased with the work that he said, “In my work as a web designer, I get asked all the time to recommend a copywriter – can I recommend you?” and I was like, “Of course I wouldn’t mind – that would be lovely!” Doing that job was one way of connecting with him. There are other ways, like Lorrie said, but yes – it works for him because he knows he has someone he can trust, it works for me because I get referrals. Everyone benefits, really.

Lorrie: Yes, as Pip said, this is a person she had built up a relationship with him, she’d done a good job for him: that person trusts her judgement and is happy to recommend her. What I would say is that it’s important to restrict yourself, and not to go asking people you have barely any connection with if you can do a mutual link with them. The last thing you want is to spam people and make yourself look desperate for any and all back-links or, which is possibly worse, to affiliate your site with someone whose content or service offering is really, really questionable and could get you blacklisted – either by clients, who think “What are you doing with this person?” or by Google, because there’s something dodgy on that website?

Philippa: Yes. This is slightly off-topic but it’s just reminded me of a slightly strange situation I had a few weeks ago…

Lorrie: Why does this always happen to you?

Philippa: I don’t know, but it always does! I followed a copywriter on Twitter and then, a few hours later, she followed me back. She then sent me a tweet saying something like, “Hi, good to make a connection with you. I’ve got lots of excess work on at the moment, would you be interested in taking some of it on?” So, I said, “Sure, yeah, email me.” And then, I thought, “How strange – she’s literally just followed me on Twitter ten minutes earlier, and she’s offering to pass work over to me. She doesn’t know anything about me – she doesn’t know if I’m any good by that stage – we’d literally just made contact.”

And so, then, I thought, “Is this a good idea from my point of view?” It’s certainly not a good idea from her point of view – I mean, I would have done a good job, but she didn’t know that.

Lorrie: Oh, I don’t know – you’re pretty terrible!

Philippa: Hahahaha! Oof, you’re mean!

Lorrie: It’s true. How strange, though. Do you think she was taking a cut? Do you think she was trying to pass on work and then…

Philippa: That’s the thing. And then I started thinking that, just from that one connection, my impression is that she must be quite flakey. And so then I thought, “If she’s willing to pass work over to someone she doesn’t know, then this perhaps isn’t someone I want to associate myself with professionally because…how much respect does she have for the work she’s giving in?

Lorrie: Yes, on face value it looks great: “Do you want to take some work off my hands?” – yes absolutely, it’s all work. But as you say, she doesn’t know you from Eve.

Philippa: Yes, and that kind of attitude to her work, I didn’t want reflecting on me in the end. As it was, she never got in touch after that, which I was quite relieved about. But yes, it was strange, and that was an example, I think of trying to establish a relationship in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.

Lorrie: It’s like walking up to someone in the bar and just kissing them. Like, “Hello, never met you…snog, snog!”

Philippa: Haha, or just saying, “We need a secretary from Monday – do you fancy it?”

Lorrie: Hahaha! That’s probably a better analogy than my “snog snog” analogy, although I stand by it.

Philippa: Yes, absolutely!

Lorrie: Of course I do. Once I’ve committed to an analogy or a tangent, I’ll go with it to the end. But yes, how strange that she’s got such a casual attitude to freelance work when you absolutely wouldn’t do that with a salaried position.

Another way to establish decent backlinks to your website is to get links from directories, although it’s important to research those directories to make sure that they’re reputable.

Philippa: Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of article directories on the internet but, nowadays, there’s only a handful, really, that are worth bothering with. Many people think that one called ezinearticles is the only one worth bothering with, but there’s also GoArticles and a couple of others that are reasonably highly regarded. Most aren’t.Ezinearticles have got stricter recently about the articles they accept in a bid to make it worth publishing to.

The way that they’re supposed to work is that you publish an article to their site, and it has a section called the resource box where you can add your links to your site. Now, the way it works is that anybody has the right to republish your article, as long as you’re credited and the resource box is included. In theory, this can increase your backlink total as more and more people republish it if it’s a good article, and your resource box appears at the bottom. In practice, people often do break the rules and publish it without the resource box, and there is also the risk that the sites which are republishing them are low quality and this will have a negative effect on your SEO.

Lorrie: Yeah, it’s something you’ve really got to be careful about. What I was actually thinking about when I mentioned directories was service directories, as well as article directories.

Philippa: Ah, of course.

Lorrie: Again, if you find a reputable service directory, say, for the town you live in or the services you offer, it can be worth linking to yourself from there. One website that we’ve mentioned a few times, and not always in the most flattering terms, so I suppose I’m eating my hat a little bit here, is LinkedIn. And, in a way, this acts in a similar way to a service directory in the sense that you can list your services on there in the form of an online CV. And, as long as you keyword it up and add in lots of specialisms, it can act as a really useful way of showing people what you can offer.

On LinkedIn, it’s possible to add your website to your personal profile. You get about three or four boxes you can put links in – mine have my professional website, my Twitter, my Facebook and our Podomatic page. LinkedIn registers these as links but instead of displaying anything useful, it just puts “Twitter”, “Facebook” or “Website”, which is no good, because if someone searches for the word ‘website’, you’re not going to rank.

What some people don’t realise, though, is that links from LinkedIn are quite valuable, and that they do count as backlinks to your website. And LinkedIn is a huge website, it gets a lot of traffic, which can be really useful to you. Now, one way to capitalise on this is to use one of the boxes…and there’s an option to click on the drop down box and register this link as ‘other’ rather than “website” or “Twitter” or “Facebook”. And then, instead of entering the name of your website, you can enter a key search term, such as “SEO Copywriting”. This way, you’re creating a link from a really high profile site that features an important keyword for your own website.

Philippa: That’s a really good idea! Twitter profiles, as well, can also be a useful way to get a backlink to your site, as can Facebook Pages, Google Plus profiles and Pinterest accounts – anything like that, really.

Another good way to get backlinks to your site, as well as building relationships with other website owners, is to publish a guest blog post on somebody else’s site. If you feel you’ve got something valuable to offer a website, contact site owners. Now, really only do this if you think you have something valuable to offer them! Do not do guest posts purely for the links, the site owners know and they don’t want to be used in that way. Do it because you have something of value to say, and to give, and consider the backlink to your site to be an added bonus, really.

I’ve written a few guest posts for some reasonably prominent freelance writing blogs, and it was a great experience to work with the women that run the blogs was great, I got lots of really positive feedback about my posts and, also, I do get a fair amount of traffic from the links at the bottom of those posts, so as well as providing good content for them, I do get a nice bonus of backlinks and traffic too.

Lorrie: Absolutely. I think you make a really good point about the fact that it has to be quality content. It’s amazing how many people seem to forget that when it comes to online activity. If you’re a professional writer and you’re writing rubbish, it doesn’t look good! I really can’t stress this enough.

Philippa: Hahaha! It doesn’t help your business!

Lorrie: No! If you contact a website owner and say, “I’ve got a really good article and it’s about four lines, and it’s about how night follows day” or some other unexciting topic that everyone knows about, you’re going to look stupid. Even if they do publish it, you’re going to look an absolute fool.

But, if you do it well, I really do think the benefits are two-fold: you don’t just get the direct clicks from the website, as Pip says – that’s people come and have a look at who you are and what you offer – but it does also help you to build up a store of reputable results for your name. I get a lot of people saying to me, “I Googled you.” Or, if they’ve spotted me on Twitter and they want to know a bit more about me without asking me…because people are always scared that I’m going to correct their grammar! People say, “Ooh, I didn’t want to talk to you because I was scared you’d correct my tweet” – because that’s how I get my kicks, apparently! Haha! But yes, if the Google results are linked to informative, worthwhile, engaging content, and then your website’s at the bottom, you’re upping the chances of your newest potential client being exposed to your work – and your good reputation, and then your website. If you’ve got your “contact me” page on there, it’s in the bag.

Philippa: Absolutely, and you start to get established as an authority in your area, which is so valuable for your business, especially online based businesses.

Lorrie: In terms of building up your reputation as a bit of an expert in your field, it’s good to embrace your own strengths and skills from time-to-time. As we’ve said before, we Brits are pretty bad at doing this – we sort of hide in the corner and say, “Yes, well I suppose it was alright really! I suppose that, yes, it was rather well done!”, but it’s alright to shout about your achievements now and again.

A good way of doing this is to announce them officially via a well-written press release. A lot of people don’t think about press releases. I suppose I do because a lot of my clients want them…

Philippa: Yeah, it’s interesting because press releases are things I write for other people but it never occurred to me that I could write a press release about my own business. But it’s absolutely right.

Lorrie: It’s true. Like anything else, there are a couple of guidelines. Firstly, and this taps into what we’ve said about online articles and guest posts and things, you need to make sure you actually have something to talk about. “Freelancer gets up at 8am” is not press release worthy!

Philippa: Hahaha! Although it might feel like it if you do!

Lorrie: It certainly does! I was thinking, “No, no, 8am’s not too early!” but it really is! Haha! Yes, so you need to make sure the people and organisations you send your press releases to are actually a relevant target for it. Depending on what the subject is, you might decide to tell the local press, in which case it’s time for a bit of easy research on Google. Alternatively, you might send it to a database of followers – people whose contact details you’ve got from your website, so clients, corporate partners, suppliers, colleagues. And you can send your news to them in the form of an e-bulletin – if they’ve opted in to receiving correspondence from you.

Philippa: If and only if!

Lorrie: That’s for people you know – if it’s for the press, by all means send them what you want, just don’t do it too often because they’ll just block your email address.

If you do decide to head down the route of delivering a press release to people, I really can’t…honestly, this is my phrase of the podcast, I think, I cannot stress this enough – or over-enunciate it enough either! – learn how to write a press release first! Now, I can almost see Pip wincing but press releases…it’s amazing how wrong people get them.

Philippa: It is. They are a very…what’s the word? They have such a strict format and, for whatever reason, while the format of other things might be more relaxed or changeable, a press release has a set format that you have to adhere to. It’s just how they are. You just have to.

Lorrie: I wrote a press release once for a client and, I’ll admit it, they said, “I don’t like it – I’m going to do my own!” And I thought, “OK…fine…”. And they forwarded it to me along with about 100-150 other people. They forgot to BCC everybody, so everyone got everyone else’s email address, which is a legal issue in itself. But the press release had pictures embedded in the text, bubble font at the top, no date on it – it was just immensely awful.

Philippa: I actually have a list of instructions for myself for press releases, just because there are so many little bits that have to be included. So, just to remind myself that you have either an embargo date or ‘for immediate release’ written at the top. And, all those little points that it’s easy to forget and that you must not forget – so yeah, I actually have instructions for myself to make sure I don’t miss any of the formatting out.

Lorrie: Exactly – because if you’re a member of the press, you get hundreds and hundreds of press releases

Philippa: Even if you’re a blogger – I can speak from experience – we get press releases all the time.

Lorrie: I bet you can spot immediately which are well written and which aren’t.

Philippa: At a glance.

Lorrie: So, a press release isn’t just any old bit of writing – it’s a serious piece of work, and an official announcement. So if you muck it up, you’re not really announcing your news, you’re just announcing to the world that you’re completely inept. So be warned! It can be a great thing to do to drive traffic to your website. If other publications, like local press, pick it up, it can end up on their websites. Backlinks are great, but if you get it wrong, God help you.

Philippa: Yeah. Another way – and probably the best way, actually – to get good quality backlinks is to stop thinking about “How can I get backlinks” and gaming the system, and instead, publish content that is so awesomely brilliant that other websites just can’t help themselves and link to you because it’s so good. Like with on-site SEO, if you concentrate on providing brilliant information that’s presented in an interesting way, others who love it will link back naturally.

Lorrie: Completely. As we’ve previously mentioned on this podcast, perhaps Episodes 1 and 2, it’s important to go with marketing methods that suit you. Like we’ve said before, don’t get yourself on Facebook if you’re never going to use it, and don’t start tweeting if you’re going to stop again three days later. The same thing can be applied to creating back-links to your website: external sites like YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr…they’re all a great way to create back-links to your site – I know that you, Pip, use Pinterest…

Philippa: I do!

Lorrie: I don’t – I hate Pinterest! I use Tumblr to create backlinks to my creative writing blog, for example

Philippa: Yes, I noticed that the other day – Tumblr’s a really effective way.

Lorrie: So these are all a brilliant way of creating backlinks to your website if – and this underlines a point we’ve made already – you’re actually posting some quality content. If you’re using YouTube, for example, don’t upload crap. Don’t upload junk videos to YouTube and expect relevant traffic to come flooding over to your website.

Equally, as I’m sure Pip can testify, if you get on Pinterest but post nothing of interest, you’re not putting the interest in Pinterest, or working the system properly. You’re just wasting everyone’s time, mostly your own. So, as Philippa says, forget about working the system, and do something that you enjoy and can stick to. That way, it’s sustainable, and it’s far likelier to have better results.

Social Media Mess

Philippa: Yes, I really like Pinterest. I mainly use it in a personal way – I pin recipes I like the look of, and cartoons that I like, but I do have a writing board and a social media board, where I post relevant. I get a good number of clicks through from those but, if you’re like Lorrie and you hate it, don’t force yourself to do it just to get some clicks – value your time more than that.

Lorrie: I suppose I’m a bit harsh saying I hate Pinterest…

Philippa: Well, no, we’ve all got our preferences and that’s fine!

Lorrie: I like it for about five minutes, then I think, “What am I doing?” It’s not that I don’t know how to use it – I follow people like you and I see what you’re doing – but I think basically, I can’t maintain the interest for long enough.

Philippa: And I think that would show, if you’re really forcing yourself to do it, you probably wouldn’t get good results anyway. The same point applies to this podcast. We started this podcast for many reasons – we wanted to share our knowledge and experience and help other freelance writers, we wanted to promote our work, and so on. But an added benefit of the podcast is that we get backlinks from the podomatic website. We provide the links to our sites primarily so that, if anyone listens and wants to get hold of either of us, via our websites or – more commonly at the moment – our social media accounts, they can do so easily. However we also can’t deny that backlinks from a popular site like podomatic doesn’t do us any harm!

Lorrie: It’s true – and it’s not something to be ashamed of. The point is, we spend a good amount of time every week planning what we’re going to cover, thinking of topics, researching, asking people what they’d like us to cover. We take our time thinking about it, having a good old chat and, hopefully, covering some really good topics. We’re not publishing junk.

Philippa: There was a phase a couple of years ago where, in order to get backlinks, people would get some awful text to voice reader to read their blog posts out in some robot voice and then publish them as podcasts. As a podcast fan, it was horrible to see a new podcast post and think, “That looks really good!” and then it would be one of those. Urgh, it was horrible! Thankfully, I’ve not seen too much of that recently, but that’s the kind of thing you don’t want to do.

Lorrie: No, and as you say, we’re only on Episode 5 of this podcast now, but it’s something that’s really had a number of benefits. I know I speak for both of us when I say it’s been a really great way to develop organic discussions across all of our social media. For myself, it’s attracted a lot of people to my website. I’ve made new contacts on Twitter, it’s been really helpful for a number of my professional services – actually the copywriting, editing and proof-reading. If people talk to you, or listen to your podcast and find you helpful, they remember you for it. The same obviously goes for guest posts and blog comments.

Philippa: Yes, it’s been the same for me. I’ve made some really great new contacts and had some amazing feedback about the podcast too – yeah, it’s great!

Lorrie: Yeah, this week has been amazing for feedback, and it’s really given us a good idea of the kinds of topics people would like to see covered so it’s a sustainable thing.

Philippa: We’ve talked before about blog comments as a way to make people aware that you exist. Blog comments are also frequently abused by spammers (as anybody with a blog will know!). Commenting on blogs is not a great SEO tactic on its own. Most links in blog comments tend to be what is called “no-follow” links, which means that the site owner is essentially telling Google in its code that they do not want them to consider this link to be any kind of recommendation. But, that’s not to say they are entirely useless – if you post helpful and useful blog comments, you’re likely to get clicks from them. And then, if people like what they see, you might get a genuine backlink recommendation.

Start to think creatively about how you can attract people to your site, and how you can be so brilliant that they want to link to you from their site. Currently, infographics are currently a very popular way of sharing information

Lorrie: I love them!

Philippa: I do, too, in an unhealthy way!

Lorrie: Haha! It’s true, you do post a lot – but I always click them!

Philippa: I’m obsessed! But yes, people always do click them. And, a little tip here – if you post an infographic on Pinterest, it’s nearly always impossible to read so people always click on the pin to go to the original site. Little tip there!

Lorrie: Ahh, very sneaky!

Philippa: The creator of the infographic usually allows it to be shared on anyone’s blog as long as there is a link back to their original site.

Lorrie: Yeah, it’s not even always an active link, is it? There’s sometimes just a little graphic at the bottom but, again, it’s better than nothing.

This actually might be another place where a good relationship with a graphic designer can come in handy – it’s something I’ve been considering. Collaborating on an infographic of your own can be a great way to get your name out there. There’s a couple of things to think about. If you want to share the glory with the designer who designed it – as I suspect they’d prefer – have a look for someone on Twitter or LinkedIn, then chat to them about a mutually beneficial collaboration. You can add some mutual back-links into the deal – mention them on your website, “Just worked with this amazing designer!”, they can mention you, “Just worked with this amazing writer!” to make it a more positive experience for you both. Alternatively, if you’re a bit of a megalomaniac like Pip…

Philippa: Hahahaha!

Lorrie:…and you prefer to have just your name attributed to that piece of work, get in talks with a designer, get a contract in place – really important – deliver the content and then pay them to design you something really lovely that you can then promote across your social media. It would be worth getting Pinterest for that.

Philippa: Yes, definitely. The thing is to come to arrangement with the designer, as Lorrie says, so you either share the credit for the infographic or, if you come to an agreement with them that you will have ownership of the original design as part of the contract, then the backlinks – and all the glory – can be all yours!

Some other ideas for backlinks: Some people create a powerpoint presentation, or a pdf document with embedded links, on a subject that they specialise in. They then post it on document sharing websites – Scribd is the most common one – and if the document is really useful they can get a lot of clicks from there. Similarly, we mentioned Pinterest earlier. If you’re interested in promoting your site on Pinterest, make sure you use attractive images on your website, which you can then share on Pinterest, and, if other people like them, they’ll repin them, which constitutes another backlink. Really, there’s an endless number of creative ways to gain links to your website.

Lorrie: I think that’s it. Rather than gaming the system and weaselling your way to the top of Google like a sneaky beast, actually just come up with some decent ways of getting natural traffic – attract people, not search engines. Search engine optimisation will follow. A lot of tips on here are about that – it’s just about creating quality content and attracting people in an organic way.

Philippa: Be brilliant! Be as brilliant as you can and, some day, someone will spot your brilliance and share it on Twitter. Then someone will see it and think it’s great and link to it from their site. And then someone who likes their site will follow the link and share it on Facebook. What Google is looking for is that kind of process.

Lorrie: You can’t design a network of links that’s that complex. When something’s picked up naturally across social media, it moves so quickly – you’ll be everywhere. On my personal Twitter account, I get retweeted a lot because I’m quite the rhetorical genius when it comes to be angry – I can get angry and eloquent very quickly when it comes to topics I’m passionate about (politics, feminism, whatever) and it gets you retweeted hundreds of times.

You can apply the same kind of thing to your professional account – I posted something the other day, and it wasn’t mine so I gave credit to the person who created it, and it was a post about how to decide what kind of social media suits you…using bacon! And because it was so strange and weird…Brits love surrealist humour, don’t they? If you want to take a picture of bacon, you should be on Instagram, if you want a bacon recipe, go to Pinterest. I’m eating bacon – that’s Twitter, I like bacon – that’s Facebook. It was really just a good way to explain what the social media feeds do and people like it – it’s a professional account but it’s a bit of light relief for the middle of the day.

Philippa: And whoever created that will be really benefitting from having created something that really clicked with people, and then that you shared and that other people shared via you.

Lorrie: Yes, so be interesting, be funny, preferably be both, and it should work for you.

Philippa: It can be difficult to be so brilliant when you’re describing your services that the content will be shared, you can have a blog attached to your professional site. I have a blog attached to my Philippa Writes site, as well as my Social Media Writer site, actually. So that I can post things of interest that aren’t immediately relevant to ‘The Business’ that need to be on pages of their own. Like, posting episodes of this podcast, for instance.

Lorrie: Yes, I do the same thing – it’s a nice way of attracting traffic, making sure you have regularly updated content on your website and building up a bit of context – people like to know who they’re dealing with. You post something interesting and relevant and a bit witty, they know who they’re dealing with; they know you’re a personable sort of person, if you can say that. It just gives a bit of context – even if it’s not something you wouldn’t give a page over to, it’s still allowing you to update your content regularly, which is great for SEO, and it gives an insight into what you find funny, interesting or amusing. It helps to build you a 3D profile and people like to know who they’re dealing with.

Philippa: Yes, because at the end of the day, people are hiring a human being. There’s a reason there’s no freelance writing software, it’s because they want a person to do it. If you can show a bit of personality, that attracts some people.

Lorrie: I think, as we’ve said, it’s all about being natural.

Philippa: yeah, don’t force it. Don’t send a spun article to 800 directories – you’re fooling no one. Don’t put keyword-stuffed content all over your website. Just be brilliant – that’s my message for the podcast – be as brilliant as you can, and it will work.

Lorrie: True. You’re a freelance writer, so now’s the time to prove you can write quality content.

Philippa: Definitely. So, we’ve covered a lot there about search engine optimisation. We hope it’s been useful. Make a start! Do some of the on-site SEO ideas we’ve given you, and start thinking about some of the things you can do with the rest of your site, your work and your social media profiles to get attention for the right reasons.

Lorrie: So, really hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. As ever, thank you for listening. If you want any more information on either of us, you can go to the bottom of our Podomatic page and all the links are down there. As Pip says, we’ve included some information this week just to make sure you’re not lost with all the new words and phrases we’ve used. Because everyone’s learning, so if there’s anything you don’t understand, it’ll either be at the bottom of the podcast or you can contact one of us on social media. We don’t bite – I don’t correct people’s grammar when they tweet me, I’m pretty nice. If there’s anything you want to discuss, anything you didn’t understand, or an idea or an opinion, let us know.

Philippa: Yep, drop us a tweet, come on our Facebook page! Do it!

Lorrie: Do it. So, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn…

Philippa:…and I’ve been Philippa Willitts. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.

Podcast Episode 5: SEO for Freelance Writers – Attracting the Right Kind of Attention with Onsite SEO

Do you know what you need to do on your website to maximise your search engine success? In episode five of our podcast, we talked about onsite SEO and the best ways to attract positive search engine attention.

Have a listen, and let us know what you think!

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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We always try to provide a transcript, to make the podcasts as accessible as possible, so here is the transcript of this episode.

Transcript

Philippa: Hello and welcome to Episode Five of the A Little Bird Told Me podcast, where two freelance writers talk about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and there you can find all the links you need. You can subscribe to the RSS feed, you can subscribe at iTunes and Stitcher Smart Radio. There’s also a link to our Facebook page. I’m Philippa Willitts…

Lorrie: …and I’m Lorrie Hartshorn, and today we’re going to be talking about how to improve your SEO. So this is SEO for freelance writers, and how to make sure your website’s attracting the right kind of traffic.

Philippa: So keep listening for tonnes and tonnes of information. Before we start, we wanted to mention that we’ve had amazing feedback from the last episode. Looks like talking about being asked to work for free really touched a nerve with a lot of people. And it wasn’t even just writers and editors – we even heard from a professional cake decorator on Twitter who was asked to bake and decorate a cake in return for the ingredients. Like we talked about, she felt her skills were really devalued, just being asked to do that.

Lorrie: Well, you would if someone’s suggesting that years of study and expertise is worth the same as a few eggs and some flour. You’d feel pretty ticked off by that, I’d imagine.

Philippa: Exactly – I’m good at baking cakes but I’m useless at decorating them. It’s really hard!

Lorrie: No, mine always end up an absolute disaster zone, so I generally end up going for the rustic, undecorated cake.

Philippa: Yes, deliberately.

Search Engine Optimisation. Search Engine Opti...

Lorrie: Of course, yes. Through choice! I’m actually in talks with a number of writers and copywriters at the moment on the subject of working for free and being asked to work for free, so I’m pretty sure that, listeners, this won’t be the last you hear on the subject from us.

Philippa: It will go on and on, because it’s an issue that goes on and on – that’s the thing.

Lorrie: It does go on and on! I was asked, just after recording this, whether I’d be happy to translate 26 pages from French to English on a military skirmish!

Philippa: I saw the tweet – it was horrifying!

Lorrie: In return for gratitude!

Philippa: And then he posted another tweet, saying something sarcastic about, “Oh, it looks like translators are trying to earn some money!” as though that’s a really unreasonable thing for them to want to do.

Lorrie: Yeah, I think his tweet was something along the lines of, “I didn’t realise there were so many cash-strapped translators out there!”

Philippa: That’s it!

Lorrie: I’m not strapped for cash – I just don’t want someone taking the mickey!

Philippa: And then he was really passive-aggressive, like “Oh, I suppose I’ll have to do it myself now…”

Lorrie: “It won’t be very good, but I guess it’s the only way.”

Philippa: You can’t be upset that other people won’t do it if you’re then going to complain that you have to do it.

Lorrie: Well this is it – it’s not even our work, is it? You don’t want to do your own work for free, but you then expect someone else to do it for free – it’s just ludicrous. I listened again to Episode 4, and the number of times I used the words ‘ludicrous’ and ‘ridiculous’ was…well, ridiculous!

Philippa: Both of us are quite bad at ‘definitely’ and ‘absolutely’ as well. We should just pick one at the beginning of each episode.

Lorrie: What, a word to include or a word to ban?

Philippa: A word to include. Every time we agree, we should say, “Indubitably” for the whole episode.

Lorrie: I think I’m going to avoid doing that.

Philippa: Really? You’re no fun.

Lorrie: I know, I’m a drag…anyway, what I was going to say before we went off on one of our now famous tangents, is that, listeners, if you do have a story or opinion you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you. You can find all our contact details at the bottom of the page at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com

Philippa: Do it – we want to hear from you. Now, today we’re going to talk about SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and whether you’re British or American depends on how you spell it; we spell it with an ‘s’. It describes the things that a website owner can do to help their site to show up in the search engine results. This is increasingly important because, the higher you up in the search engine results, the more clicks you are likely to get for people who search for relevant terms to your business.

Lorrie: That’s right – after all, nobody wants to search for a copy-writer in their area – either their geographical area or their area of expertise, or the subject they want covering – and find you, the perfect person, eight pages down in the search results! They’re not going to look that far down, so you need to make sure you’re easily spotted.

Philippa: Yes, there are statistics that I don’t have my hands on right at the moment, but basically, if you’re number one, you get 60% of the clicks, then #2 and #3 get 20% and 20%. After that, it’s mainly hopeless.

Now, there are two types of SEO – on-site SEO and off-site SEO. So, first of all, we’re going to talk about “on-Site SEO”. This means the things you on your website to help Google and other search engines to understand what your site is about. This includes the content you post and how you post it, and a few other ‘behind the scenes’ things that can be a bit annoying but are definitely worth doing.

Lorrie: That’s right – we’re going to focus on some of the easiest and most effective techniques for SEO in this podcast.

Philippa: Yup.

Lorrie: Because there are people who make a career out of telling you that they have a magic recipe to get your website to the number one spot on Google and keep it there, but at the end of the day, there are about 1,000 things you can try and you’d spend all day at it if you’re not careful. Or, you can end up paying someone a fortune to do it for you.

Philippa: Because, also, there are very reputable SEO companies but lots of really dodgy SEO practices that will not only not help, and will waste your money, but they can actually damage your site’s position in the search engine rankings. So even if you just have an understanding of what’s needed and you still decide to go with an SEO company, you can still question them in relation to what needs doing.

Lorrie: Absolutely.

Philippa: Now, to build a website, there are lots of different content management systems – or CMSs – you can use: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, that kind of thing. We are both most familiar with WordPress, so this next bit is mainly relevant to that.

If you do use WordPress for your site, there are lots and lots of free plugins available to help you manage your on-site SEO. They will mainly help you to create the right tags and description for every page of your site, so that the search engines have a clear idea of what your intentions are.

My current favourite SEO plugin, and it’s a very well regarded one, is called WordPress SEO by Yoast, which is spelt like ‘toast’ but with a ‘y’. Now, this plug-in is really comprehensive, and it can look a bit intimidating at first but it has instructions are clear to follow. The other bonus with this particular plug-in is, because it covers several areas of SEO, it also avoids the need for having several different plugins all doing different bits of it, because plug-ins can sometimes clash and slow your site down, so the fewer you have, the better, generally. If you use other plugins other than that one, you want to make sure that they will help you to firstly, set meta tags for your posts and pages; secondly create a sitemap and thirdly control how the outbound links from your site – so the links that you place to other places – are perceived by the search engines.

Now, what those things exactly mean would be too complex to go into for this podcast, but in the show notes at the Podomatic page, I will add some links that will explain what all that means. For now, you just need to know that that’s what needs to be done, really.

google_logo

Lorrie: The transcript for this post will be available as well, so you’ll be able to look through it and find exactly what we’ve been talking about.
Philippa: Good point.

Lorrie: As Pip points out, content is one of the most important things to consider when you’re trying to improve the SEO on your website. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not just for SEO purposes that you have a website, it’s so that people can visit, have a look at the services you offer and get in touch with you. So in terms of content, you need to balance search engine optimisation with readability, and a good yardstick for doing this is to ask yourself why you’re writing something.

Now, new, relevant and regularly updated content will help your website’s SEO – it’s undeniable. However, if you’re writing something and you’re thinking to yourself, “There no point to this except for improving my SEO.”, you’re going to risk producing text that’s really reader unfriendly, and that’s going to be copy that’s unusually wordy, horribly long sentences and really unnatural sounding ‘keywords’ like, for example, “Manchester copywriter” stuffed in the middle of a sentence, is unlikely to attract or keep the attention of a potential customer. They’re going to get bored, or confused, or they’ll know what you’re up to and will feel patronised, so it really is important to find a balance.

Philippa: Yeah, I think people underestimate just how obvious it is when someone’s done that. If you get to a website that says, “If you’re looking for a freelance writer in Sheffield, I’m a freelance writer in Sheffield, who can do your freelance writing in Sheffield because I live in Sheffield and I’m a freelance writer!” And yes, it’s full of freelance writer and Sheffield keywords but nobody’s fooled and, for goodness’s sakes, you’re trying to sell yourself as a writer – if nothing else, you want your website to read well.

Lorrie: This is true. So, a few quick ideas on SEO content for your website: it’s a good idea to keep your keyword rich content higher up on your web-pages. So, this has got a couple of benefits – it does make it easier for the relevant parts of your web-page to be picked up by search engines, and – while this isn’t SEO, it’s still a good thing – it does help to maintain reader interest. You’ve got your most relevant content at the top, it’s easy for the reader to find, your whole web-page isn’t stuffed to the gills, you know, you can spread these keywords out a little bit.

Equally, it’s a good idea to include bullet points on your pages rather than horizontal lists. So instead of embedding a list of services in a sentence, like, as Pip said, “I’m a Sheffield copywriter, and I offer copywriter, proof-reading, editing, whatever else…” – rather than popping those in a horizontal list in a sentence, it’s worthwhile including them in bullet points to make those a little bit clearer for your reader and help them get picked up by search engines.

Philippa: Definitely. Headings throughout a piece of text are very useful too. They do help readability because they break the text up, but also, Google looks out for the h2 and h3 html tags that indicate to the browser that these are headings. And, search engines will give more importance to text which has been highlighted with these tags. So get your keywords in that kind of context and that will help.

The title, as well, that you give to blog posts and the pages of your website are very important too. Be clear, in your titles, what the post is about. Basically, help Google to help you!

Lorrie: Absolutely. Don’t sacrifice keywords for…charm, really. Just as I’ve said “Don’t sacrifice readability for keywords.”, it’s important to be practical about it as well. A lot of writers are tempted to be quite literary and witty, but if you’re being witty and wordy and wonderful at the expense of keywords in your headers and titles, you’re going to lose out.

Similarly, include some links in your content, and make sure the anchor text – which are the words your reader can click on, what you’ve highlighted and turned into a link – is actually relevant. So, if you’re wanting to link to a site about graphic design, for example, make sure your link is something specific like “Graphic designer in Manchester” rather than what everybody puts, which is “click here”!

Philippa: Yes. What’s quite funny is that, if you google ‘click here’, the top result is for Adobe Reader for PDF documents, because every time anyone offers a PDF on their site, they say if you don’t have the right software, you can get it if you ‘click here’, and use that as the anchor text.

Lorrie: Haha, that’s brilliant. So, unless you’re feeling particularly ambitious today and you’d like to compete with Adobe on clicking services, and offer your clients the best clicks, do make sure you keep your links relevant. It’s fine to include a few words in your link – it doesn’t have to just be one word; you can link a phrase or short sentence rather than a single word – but make sure it’s not too long.

Philippa: And also, mix it up a bit. Don’t always use “Manchester copywriter” or the same anchor text, because it doesn’t look natural to the search engines and that will make them suspicious. The odd ‘click here’ can actually help with this, making it look more natural. But as Lorrie says, don’t make that your primary anchor text of choice!

Lorrie: True – Pip’s completely right. If you highlight every single instance of ‘Manchester copywriter’ or ‘SEO copywriting’ on your website and turn it into a link, people start to get the impression, even sub-consciously, that you’re a bit of a spammer.

Philippa: Yup, it’s true.

Lorrie: It’s not nice – people don’t enjoy reading if they’re constantly interrupted by the same phrase being highlighted – because linking a word or phrase does highlight it – then, they’re going to lose focus on what you’re trying to sell to them, so just be a little bit careful.

Philippa: Definitely. Another good way to approach your SEO is to ask yourself what people might be searching for if they want your services. So, use that, or a of it that’s perhaps more natural in your headings, titles and meta-tags. So, if someone was trying to find you, what might they search? They might search for “Freelance editor in Scotland” or “web design specialist”. Make sure you get those words in, like Lorrie said, not in the spammy, keyword-stuffing way, but naturally. But do get them in.

Lorrie: Definitely. There are plenty of techniques out there that people will a little bit sneakily try and use to get their site ranked highly by Google. One of these is to fill the site with content that’s searched for regularly (and you can use your imagination as to what this is) and to try and disguise the fact that they’ve used this on the website.

Philippa: Yes, and there are sites you can go to to see what the most searched terms of that day are. It’s “Kim Kardashian” a depressingly high number of times – I don’t even really know who she is – or whatever the news story of the day is. Or, slightly ruder things.

Lorrie: Yes, usually slightly ruder things. I believe that Kim Kardashian has a link to slightly ruder things.

Philippa: That may be part of why, then, yes.

Lorrie: So, if people are wanting to artificially boost the content on their website by including lots of exciting, naughty things that certain people search for, this can either be done by ‘hiding’ the information in the metadata, so, back-stage on your website, or by inserting it in teeny-weeny letters at the bottom of your page. Or, by masking the content against a background by using a font of the same colour, so it’s effectively invisible – so, white text on a white background. This white text might read, “Free porn” or whatever.

I cannot suggest strongly enough that you do not do this. Google and other search engines have algorithms that will pick up on this kind of thing extremely quickly, and your site will end up black-listed. In the meantime, you’ll be attracting all kinds of irrelevant traffic, and possibly dangerous traffic.

Philippa: Yes, because even if you did somehow magically make it on to the front page of Google for people who are searching for Kim Kardashian, what use would that be anyway? People would click your link, see that it wasn’t about Kim Kardashian, and navigate away again. I mean, the chances of that Kim Kardashian fan also having an urgent need for a freelance writer right at that moment is pretty low.

Lorrie: You watch, this time next week, I’ll be blogging for the Kardashians and you will be eating your hat.

Philippa: Will I?

Lorrie: Possibly! YouTube video, actually: Copywriter eats hat.

Philippa: That would get hits, actually. Anyway! Last year, in a bid to get rid of the spammier sites, Google introduced an algorithm update called Google Panda. And what this did was start to reduce the search engine rankings of sites which had low quality content. This might mean badly written content, or content that’s copied or spun from elsewhere, or those sites that, thankfully you don’t see quite as much of nowadays thanks to this, with just one page of very sparse content. On the positive, good quality, original content is rewarded by search engines now more than ever.

Lorrie: Definitely – and as a freelance writer, you have absolutely no excuse. Not from a search engine point of view, and not from your readers’ point of view either. It really is worth just getting some decent content on your website.

Philippa: Absolutely. And another quick point about on-site SEO is internal links. Use internal links – that is, links from one page of your website to another page on your website – use them, use them carefully, don’t overuse them. But say, for instance, on your homepage, as Lorrie said, you’re using bullet points to describe that you offer proof-reading, copywriting and editing. What you’d want to do, for each of those keywords, is link to the relevant page of your site. So, your proof-reading page, for example.

Lorrie: Yes, that’s what I’ve done.

Philippa: Yes, me too. This obviously helps with usability. If someone comes to your site because they want your editing services, and they see a reference to your editing services, they don’t want to have to navigate to the top of the page again to find the link. But it also – going back to the anchor text we mentioned earlier – is useful to get a relevant anchor text with a link. Obviously, internal links don’t count as much from Google’s point of view as external links – as we’ll go on to explain – but they are useful, and use them wisely. Don’t over-use them, as with anything really.

Because SEO is such a complex topic, there’s way too much to cover in just one episode. So, in this episode, we’ve given you plenty of ideas to make a start on helping you with your on-site SEO. Tune in on Friday for Episode 6, in which we’ll discuss off-site SEO, which includes things like getting links to your website from other places, and making a good impression.

Lorrie: So, really hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. As ever, thank you for listening. If you want any more information on either of us, you can go to the bottom of our Podomatic page and all the links are down there. So, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn…

Philippa: …and I’ve been Philippa Willitts, and thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next time!

 

Podcast Episode 15: Guest Blogging for Exposure, Brand Building, Backlinks and More

Guest blogging is a popular and effective way to build backlinks for SEO purposes, however it has many more benefits than that. In this solo episode of the podcast, I talk about how to go about guest blogging, how to find websites to pitch your guest posts to, and how to approach the website owners. I also look at the many additional bonuses that guest blogging can bring to a freelance writer.

We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.

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Show Notes

Links and information mentioned on this week’s show.

How to do a search to find blogs to guest post on. The examples mentioned in the show are:

“social media” + “write for us”

“internet marketing” + “guest blogging guidelines”

Google Reader: http://reader.google.com 

Free Page Rank add-ons for Chrome and Firefox

Little Bird Recommendation of the Week: Cease and Desist: Four Blog Writing and Marketing Practices That Have Got to Go

Transcript

Hello and welcome to A Little Bird Told Me – the podcast about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful freelance writing. I’m Philippa Willitts and this is a solo episode. If you’re missing Lorrie terribly already, don’t worry – just tune in next week and we’ll both be here. Otherwise, please listen on.

To make sure you never miss another episode of A Little Bird Told Me, go to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and subscribe to the podcast via RSS feed, iTunes or Stitcher Smart radio – or on the Podomatic page itself. That way, you’ll never miss another episode. Additionally, there you can find the link to our Facebook page and to the various websites and social media feeds of myself and Lorrie.

Blogging Readiness

Blogging Readiness (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Today, I’m going to be talking about guest blogging. Guest blogging can be a really effective way of getting your name out there, making some great connections and it can also have SEO benefits if you want to promote your website. However, there are some very clear no-nos involved in guest blogging, so today I’m going to talk about the benefits, how to do it, and perhaps most importantly, how not to do it.

If you’ve got your own website – or even if you haven’t – guest blogging is a really good way to expand your reach and put yourself in front of other people’s audiences. I have done guest blog posts for various freelance writing websites and it just puts my name out there in front of people who probably wouldn’t have heard of me otherwise. It builds your brand and makes more people aware that you exist, basically. Another benefit of guest blogging is that you make contact with some really good people. The guest blog posts I’ve done have involved some really good conversations with other freelance writing webmasters. Also, sometimes being edited by other freelance writing webmasters is a really nice experience. It means that when I talk to one of those people on Twitter, they know who I am, they may be more likely to retweet me or reply, whereas prior to guest blogging for them, they had no idea who I was. And when you’re freelancing, especially when you’re internet based, those kinds of connections are really important – not just to grow your business but to reduce your isolation and have people you can get in touch with if you need advice or if you want to pass information on.

And the more your writing is published on other people’s websites, the more you’re able to display your own expertise. If you’re a specialist in a particular area, if you write specifically about any topic really, then guest blogging on websites dedicated to that topic – not necessary freelance writing ones – will help to grow your authority. If you specialise in writing on food and drink, then if you can get some guest blog posts on some really prominent food and drink websites, then people will know your name and associate it with the great writing and expertise that you’ve shown. It grows your authority, basically, and when you’re on the internet, clients and potential clients don’t really know how good you are. So, if you can show that you’ve written for the top four food and drink blogs, then clients in that sector are more likely to take you seriously. Your status improves in that context.

So, how do you go about the whole process of guest blogging? The first thing to do is look for suitable websites to host your guest blogging, and you want ones that accept guest bloggers, obviously. So the place to start is to think about the kind of websites you’d ideally like to appear on. Now, this might be top freelance writing websites, or top websites in your niche, so food and drink, travel, business – don’t just go and approach everyone. Start from the place you’d really, really like to be. Now, ideally, if you do specialise in a particular area, you’ll already know where the tops websites are and you’ll be familiar with them, which is a really great start and will save you a lot of work in the beginning if you already know the kind of content that these websites publish and the style they like their blog posts in. So, start with the top blogs in your area – really study their websites. You want to find out first of all – do they accept guest blog posts. If they do, they’ll probably have some guest blogging guidelines. You want to study those really, really carefully because if they have guidelines and you don’t stick to them when you contact them, especially if they’re a big website, they probably won’t even reply.

Some guest blogging guidelines I’ve seen, somewhere near the bottom, have a particular ‘coding’ just to check that the person approaching them has read the whole document. So, I’ve seen guidelines that say things like, “Somewhere in the email, mention the word ‘red’, then I’ll know you’ve read the whole thing.” It’s a really amateur mistake to not check for that kind of thing and not follow it. Secondly, if you’ve got the information you need about the kind of writing they like and how to approach then, you need a brilliant idea for a post. Don’t just contact them and say, “Um, hey…would you like a…guest blog post…about travel?” because their whole website is about travel. They want to know specifically what you can offer them – they write all the time about travel. But if you recently did a cycling tour of Italy, and offered them a specific blog post about the specific things you learn about Italy when you go cycling there, they’re much more likely to take you seriously and think, “Oh, this person might actually have something to offer us.” So think carefully about what you want to propose – don’t just send a generic email.

The next thing, and it may seem like a small detail, but it’s so important, is to find out the name of the person you’re approaching. For my Social Media Writer website, I get offers of guest blog posts several times a week. It’s a relatively small site, so if you can imagine with a big site, they must dozens or hundreds of offers a week, but the number that start with “Dear Sir/Madam…” is unbelievable, and I don’t read any further. If they can’t be bothered to find out my name, I don’t want them to appear on my website. The next thing they tend to say is, “I would like to write a guest blog post for you about Social Media Writer UK because I am really interested in Social Media Writer UK. In return, I would like two links to my website. Please consider this free content that will benefit your site – thank you.”

Now, it’s just wrong in so many ways – I’m not “Sir/Madam”, I’m Philippa or Ms Willitts, if you want to be formal. Next, if you can’t be bothered to separate the name of my site – Social Media Writer UK – from your email… it’s just blatantly a form email that goes to everyone, where the name of the site is inserted into the email. I don’t want a guest post about “Social Media Writer UK” – if you come to me and say “I have a guest post about the specifics of LinkedIn to promote your business”, then yeah, I might be interested. So, be sensible and think about it from the webmaster’s point of view. If you received an email, how would you want it to be? If you wanted someone you could really take seriously as a guest blogger, what would it say? And do that. Personalise each email you send. It feels like it adds to the hard work but it’s the only way to be taken seriously.

If you’re not familiar with the main sites in your niche for some reason, or if you’ve tried those and had no luck, you might then want to search for other websites that accept guest blog submissions. Now, there are a few ways to do this – one of these is very common now, and I know this as much from the analytics on my own sites as anything – I get lots of referrals to my site from Google searches for things like, “Social media accept guest blog posts” and it’s clear that people are doing a Google search to find websites on a particular topic that accept guest bloggers. Now, there are some quite effective ways of doing this search, and I’ll provide examples in the show notes because it might be difficult to grasp just from listening. But basically, if you know a bit about how Google advanced searches work, you can really drill down a search so it gives you the results you need. The best way is to do a search for [open quotation marks] and then your topic of choice and then [close quotation marks]. Then you want a ‘plus’ symbol, then [open quotation marks again], then something like ‘guest blogging guidelines’, [close quotation marks],or ‘write for us’ in quotation marks.
What this does is tell Google that the results you want are to do with your topic…and the reason they’re in quotation marks is so that all the words have to be together in that order. So, social media, in quotation marks, or internet marketing, in quotation marks. And the plus sign tells Google that not only do you want results with that topic in, but also results that have – again, in this exact wording, guest blogging guidelines, write for us, something like that. So, it’s a good way of drilling down your search so that all the results you get are your exact topic and are also sites that offer guest bloggers a chance to write for them.

So once you’ve got your search results for that (and again, if it all sounded confusing, don’t worry – go to the show notes and I’ll give a written example that will make it all clearer!). So then you look through the results; look through the different sites that Google has brought back to you. And, a few things to check for: you want to make sure it’s not a really obscure with no readers – otherwise, you’re just wasting your time. One way to see how big the site is, is to look in Google Reader – do a search for that site – and it will tell you how many other people subscribe to the site in Google Reader. Now, this isn’t a fool-proof way of making sure the site is popular but it gives you a good indication. If it has 3 subscribers, you might not want to prioritise it. But, if it has 300,000, then yeah, you’ll probably want to go for it!

Another way is to look at something called the page rank. You can get add-ons to Chrome or other browsers that will tell you at the top of the browser what page rank that site has. Now, again, Page Rank is something I believe Google don’t focus on anymore and, again it’s not guaranteed, but it can be a good indicator. If a site has a page rank of 0 or 1, then it suggests there aren’t that many backlinks to it, and that it isn’t that popular. You’re unlikely to find a site with 8, 9, or 10 so ideally, somewhere between 3-6 in page rank suggests a site has a good number of readers.

Also, look at things like the Twitter account and Facebook page of the site – do they have lots of followers and fans? So again, by doing this, you can focus on four or five authoritative blogs you can approach. And the approach is exactly like I described earlier – personalise it, offer them something really good and don’t, in your initial email, make demands on how many back links you want because that’s another thing that makes webmaster switch right off. If I get a guest blog submission with a specification of how many backlinks they want, then clearly their focus is that rather than providing good content to my site.

And if you think about it, why would I or any other webmaster purely want to promote your site? What webmasters want is things that their audience is going to enjoy and find valuable and useful. By studying the kind of content they already prefer, you can pitch your pitch carefully. So, do they normally publish really long, in-depth analysis posts; are they quite short, pithy and funny? Are they in the first person or the third person?

Have a look at some of their most popular posts and make it clear in your email that you’re familiar and are going to produce something their audience will like. Because if they normally produce in-depth analysis posts, then the people who read that site do so because they enjoy in-depth analysis posts. So you want to provide something that the webmaster knows their audience is likely to enjoy, read and share with their colleagues and friends.

Now, as well as getting the benefits of extra exposure, building your brand, raising your authority level, guest blogging also has other benefits, including SEO benefits. If you get a link in a post to your website from an authoritative, popular, well known site, that’s not going to do your site any harm. It’s a good thing. Like I said earlier, this shouldn’t be the main aim of your guest blogging because site owners deserve better than that and they can see through it in an instant. But think of it as an added bonus. Bearing this in mind, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to word your link. Now, mostly, guest  bloggers are offered an author box or bio box at the end of the post, which will say something like, “Philippa Willitts is a freelance writer who specialises in writing about SEO, social media and internet marketing. You can find her website here.” For instance.

Now what you really don’t want is that last sentence – a link from the word ‘here’. The anchor text – the word or phrase that is clickable – you want that to be useful and relevant. So instead, you might say, “Philippa Willitts is a freelance writer, who specialises in writing about…” and have the link to your site clickable from the words ‘social media and SEO’ for instance. Some host blogs will let you provide links within the text of the post as well as the bio box, but don’t abuse this – only do it if it’s really relevant, such as in your travel writing, cycling around Italy post, if there’s something really relevant like, “This was different from when I cycled around Scandinavia…”, which you’ve written about on your own blog, so there could be a valid, relevant link from “cycled around Scandinavia”. Don’t just make the words ‘travel writing’ clickable, because that’s just not how it’s done, unfortunately!

As well as the SEO benefits, there are also benefits of increasing your reach in a longer-term way than just that immediate post. If your post is so good, and so fascinating and well-written that people do click through to your website once they’ve read it, you can also, from there, if you make it easy via your website, have the potential to get them to follow you on Twitter, like your Facebook, join your mailing list or subscribe to your blog. So, make sure, as well as writing a brilliant guest post, when those people visit your site, it’s easy for them to find out how to engage with you. Make the most of the opportunity of very targeted visitors coming to your site. Make sure what they see there is brilliant and that it’s easy to find your Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed, LinkedIn account – whatever you’d like them to find. If you write something that’s brilliant for someone else and it’s good enough to make people click through to your site, if they then find really uninspiring content, or no updates for the last four months, or just a generally underwhelming experience, they’re not going to be impressed and your post won’t have much of a wider benefit for you than the immediate exposure itself.

Now, if your own website is even slightly findable in the search engines or has even a modest readership, the chances are that, as well as wanting to guest post for other people, you might well also get guest post requests from other people. Now, as I mentioned earlier, in my case at least, it’s unusual for me to receive anything that isn’t a blatantly copied and pasted form email that doesn’t inspire me at all to give these people access to my website and readers. So, if you get approached, don’t devalue your website by accepting anything and everything just because it’s free content. You do yourself and your business  a disservice by publishing some PR agency’s spun, dull, generic post that’s only written for the sake of getting some targeted links in the bio box. So think carefully before you give anyone else access to writing on your website. If it’s really going to benefit you, if it’s an amazing post that someone will write specifically for you, or if it has a good angle or edge, then consider it. If it starts with, “Dear Sir/Madam, I want to provide free content to your Social Media Writer UK site on the subject of Social Media Writer UK…” then add it to your spam folder, frankly. There are benefits of getting good guest posts on your site – it does give you free new content – but adding rubbish to your site does you no favours and won’t help clients take you seriously when they find it.

So there we have information that will hopefully help you get some really positive guest blogging slots in our own niche that will help you to expand your brand awareness, your reach, your audience, possibly your social media followers and email subscriptions, and on the rare occasions, opportunities for you to help someone else in the same way. Just be sensible – think what you’d like to receive if you were the webmaster in question – and don’t try and trick people with copy and paste form letters. It doesn’t work; you’re wasting your time and their time. Does you no favours.

Now, last week, Lorrie and I introduced a new segment for the A Little Bird Told Me podcast, which is going to be in every episode from now on, and that’s the Little Bird Recommendations. Every week, we’ll recommend something to our listeners. This might be something we’ve read, a brilliant Twitter update, a tip that we want to share, another podcast we like – anything and everything, really. So here we are – the second ever Little Bird Recommendation ever!

My recommendation this week is a blog post that I’ll link to in the show notes, called Cease and Desist – for blog writing and marketing practices that have got to go. This is somewhat related to guest blogging practices in that it’s all overall about how to produce really good blog posts. Now, this post originally appeared on a website called Business 2 Community, and it has some really good advice – some of which seems sensible, but you’d be amazed at how many people break these rules.  It’s got advice on avoiding clichés and buzzwords – I don’t know about you, but if I hear the phrase ‘laser targeted’ one more time, I might throw my computer out of the window. It has advice on making sure your title matches your content – I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of clicking on a link because it had an amazing title, and then the blog post being unrelated and disappointing. It advises against using bad stock photos – there are some embarrassing examples. And also, talking about whether social media marketing really is free because although you don’t pay for accounts, however the time it takes makes it not free because our time has to be valued, especially if you’re a freelancer.

So, anyway, I’m going to link to that post in the show notes and that is this week’s Little Bird Recommendation. I really hope you’ve found this episode useful, especially if you’re interested in guest blogging yourself or accepting guest bloggers. It will hopefully help you to have much more success in approaching even the most high profile and impressive websites. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the next episode, do make sure you subscribe to us on Stitcher Smart Radio, iTunes, RSS or join our Facebook page. All the links are in the show notes at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. Thank you so much for listening, I’ve been Philippa Willitts and we’ll see you next week.

Podcast Episode 52: The Freelance Writers’ Guide to LinkedIn Success

There are 11 million LinkedIn users in the UK, and 35% use the site daily.

This means that, as a professional networking tool, it is really invaluable for any freelancer.

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

In this episode of the podcast, Lorrie and I discuss the crucial dos and don’ts for winning at LinkedIn social networking, including looking at:

  • how much self-promotion is appropriate
  • how to take advantage of LinkedIn groups, and
  • which subjects should never, ever see the light of day on the site.
76.9% of people use LinkedIn to research people and companies

so the potential for developing great relationships and contacts is huge. You don’t want to miss out on the connections you can make and the commissions you can earn, so listen up and get all the tips and tricks you need to make LinkedIn work for you.

Show Notes

The overpayment scam that targets proofreaders

5 Common Synopsis Mistakes That Fiction Writers Make

47 Hilariously Underwhelming Local News Headlines

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!

Podcast Episode 51: Essential Android Apps for Freelance Writers

When I’m out and about, I increasingly need to do work-related activities on my phone. Thankfully, there are plenty of apps designed to improve productivity, aid organisation and help you to take notes and produce work on the go. In this solo episode, I discuss the top apps for Android-using freelance writers, and most of them are available on iOS too!

Show Notes

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS
Subscribe via iTunes
Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!

Transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 51 of A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. Do make sure you head over there because there are links to all our previous episodes and every link we mention on the podcast.

The other thing you can find at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com is the links to subscribe to the podcast. You know you never want to miss another episode, so whether your platform of choice is iTunes, RSS reader or Stitcher Smart Radio, you can find the links on our Podomatic page.

I’m Philippa Willitts and I’m doing a solo episode today. Some statistics caught my attention this week: in the States, 56% of adults have a smart phone and 34% have a tablet. A quarter of smart phone users say they can’t remember the last time their phone wasn’t next to them. And 29% of Americans say that their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day. I’m only laughing because I can relate to it so well – I’m one of those people who always has their phone on them, I’m always checking my email if there are 10 seconds to spare.

Now, as we use our phones more and more for checking social networks, doing a quick Google to find something out on the go, it gets to the point where you find yourself increasingly working via your smart phone or tablet as well, whether that’s something as simple as checking your email while you’re having a drink in a café or whether you’re doing more complicated work on your tablet or smart phone. The fact is that I think this will continue to increase and that we’ll find it more normal to work in this way. I know I’ve gone from checking my work email when I’m out to doing more and more involved things.

So what I want to look at today is apps that are really handy for freelance writers – apps you can download to your phone. Now, in these recent statistics, in the second quarter of this year, the Android operating system accounted for 75.5% of the smart phone market share. Apple operating system IOS dropped to 13.6%. Windows Phone is increasing but from a very low place to start with, and Blackberry is very low at the moment. So there are three quarters of the world’s smart phone users using the Android operating system, and almost a sixth using Apple. With tablet, so iPads or Android tablets, Android has 53% of the market share, while Apple has 43%. Apple’s number dropped and Android’s grew, so that’s a far more even split.

Now, I’m an Android user. I use an HTC Android phone and I have an Android tablet. I like Android – I like how it is to use, I like how it integrates well with everything else, I like that you don’t have to have a particular brand of phone or tablet to use it – I like that kind of open nature of the coding. It’s a lot less control freaky than Apple can appear to be, so I’m a big Android fan. However, some of my best friends are iPhone users – I don’t object to it!

But, because I like it and because so many more phones are using Android including my own, the apps I’m talking about today are all Android apps. However, some of them do have IOS, iPhone, iPad versions of the same app. Even in the cases where there aren’t exactly the same apps, there will, I’m sure, be very similar apps. So even if you’re an iPhone user, don’t think this episode won’t be relevant – it’ll give you ideas about the kinds of apps to look for and a good number will have iPhone versions available.

So what I’m going to talk about today are the nine top apps that every freelance writer can benefit from. They can have numerous purposes from being handy if you’re out and about to actually serving a better purpose than something on your PC or laptop might.

And the first of these apps is called CamScanner, and it’s available for Android and IOS systems. It’s very simple and very effective. It enables you to take a photo of any document or object, say a receipt. It optimises it, makes it very clear and very contrasty, then turns it into a PDF for you. So when you buy something work-related, and especially if you’re worried you might lose the receipt, you just open up CamScanner, start a new document, take a picture of it and it turns into a PDF that you can then email to yourself or share with your Google Drive and you’ve got a record of that receipt that can then be filed.

Now, you can use the free version of CamScanner, which I use and is great. You can also upgrade to a paid version which has some benefits and that’s either $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. If you use the free version, at the bottom of each document it says something like “powered by CamScanner”. Now I don’t mind that, as I just use the documents for my records so it makes no difference. If you get the paid version, there are no ads and no watermarks. You can also password protect your documents, extract text to edit later and you get a higher quality scan although the scans you get with the free version are, for my purposes, absolutely fine.

Now with this app, you can actually annotate the PDF documents you scan. You can do this 30 times with the free version; if you need to do this more, you then need to buy the paid version. And whether you get the free or paid version, you can share the PDFs with yourself in whatever way suits you whether that’s via Google Drive, emailing it to yourself, uploading it to Drop Box, whatever. It’s a really handy little app – it was one of the first things I downloaded when I got an Android phone for the first time a few years ago.

The next app I’m going to recommend won’t come to a big surprise to regular listeners of this podcast, and that’s the Google Drive app. Again this is available for both Android and IOS devices. It’s incredibly handy if you want to edit a document, create a document, anything like that that you can then get hold of on your computer or on another device. If I have a great idea for a podcast episode while I’m out, for example, I can open a Google Drive app, create a new document, make notes and save it, knowing that when I get back to my computer, it’ll be there waiting for me when I get back. Similarly, if I want to transfer some of the photos from my phone to my computer, I can upload those from my phone to my Google Drive and then access them from my computer. All you need is an internet connection and it’s all there.

You can share documents with people you’re in contact with. It doesn’t even have to be a word processing document; you can open a spreadsheet, format the text on it. If you’ve set out for a meeting but you’ve forgotten to bring the agenda – if you know you’ve saved it to Google Drive, you can quickly access that on your iPad. It’s so, so useful – we certainly couldn’t manage the podcast in the way that we do without it – so the fact that I use it so much on the computer makes it really handy to have it available on my phone and Android tablet.

The next app I’m going to recommend it another Google one – the Google Calendar app, which is available for Android and iPhone users. And there are also lots of other calendar apps that will synch with your Google Calendar so if you’re not enamoured with the Google Calendar app itself, do have a look at some of the others.

Now what this does is synch with your phone, so if there’s something in your Google Calendar that you’ve forgotten, but you’re not at your computer, you’ll still get a notification on your phone. I use a mix of Google Calendar and a paper diary to keep track of what I’m doing. It’s really reassuring to know that, if there’s an event coming up in your Google Calendar, you’ll get a notification on your phone.

And the fact that Android is run by Google means that Android and Google apps tend to work really well together. Within the app you can also – as well as seeing the events in there – add events using your phone or tablet. This is invaluable if you’re out with someone and want to arrange your next meeting, you can access your full calendar and then add the meeting using the app, and even invite the person you’re with using your phone. This means that you’re not having to write it down on a piece of paper and remember to add it to your Google Calendar later. And also you can set up within the app itself the kind of reminders you want.

The other handy thing with the Google Calendar Android app is that you can set up a widget. So rather than having to go to an app itself, you can choose to have something on display. So it might be that on the homepage of your phone that you have a little Google Calendar widget so you can see at a glance what your next event is and the details about it. I have one of those set up – looking at it now, it tells me that tomorrow is a friend’s birthday, that I have a meeting on Wednesday. I don’t even need to go into the app; it just displays automatically. So yes, give Google Calendar a go.

The next app I’m going to recommend is, as far as I can tell, only available on Android. It’s called Eduport, and it’s great for something that Lorrie and I bang on about all the time, and that’s ongoing training, study and learning. And what Eduport does is give you easy and quick access to loads of free lectures and talks.

When you enter the app, you can access different channels. So, there is the University College of Berkley, Stanford University, TED talks, and you can quickly and easily find courses and lectures based on subjects you’re looking for. They’re organised as playlists, really, with different playlist for different topics. And while you can find most of the same talks on YouTube, the joy of Eduport is that they’re all in one place. You don’t have to filter out all sorts of irrelevant things if you’re looking for something specific because it’s specialised and only gives you really reputable sources to work with.

I use this more on my tablet than on my phone, if only because I prefer to watch videos on a bigger screen. But looking at reviews, people love it on their phone – it depends on your preferences. But with this app you have no excuse to not check out different free university courses and other types of courses so you can carry on learning on an ongoing basis. There isn’t, for instance, necessarily a creative writing course on there – I haven’t found one, but there are so many videos on there that there may be! – but it doesn’t all have to be specifically about writing. You might want to do some business, health or maths courses, depending on what you write about. It doesn’t always have to be work related, either – you might want to know more about, say, physics, just as a hobby, and Eduport is a great way to do that as well.

App number 5 is called Voice Recorder. It also appears to only be available for Android – however, there will be very similar apps for IOS. It just does exactly what it says on the tin – there’s a big red record button on it, you press that and speak into it and it records your voice. Now what this is great for is if you have a sudden idea and you’re not near your computer but you really don’t want to forget it. Whether it’s something to add to your to-do list, or a great idea for a story or a good source for an eBook you’re writing. Rather than trying to find a bit of paper to write on, just open the app, hit record and say, “Don’t forget to email Jane about that landing page.” Then stop recording. In a matter of three seconds, you’ve made a record of something that you can easily check when you get home.

Another lovely thing about Voice Recorder is that you can send what you record directly through Gmail. So, you might want to email yourself but equally you might record a note for someone else and send it through to them if you use the Gmail app on your phone. There’s also a widget so you can also set it up so that you just hit record on the widget. So it’s a handy app. I will of course be linking to all of these apps in the show notes at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com so don’t worry about trying to remember what they’re all called; just make yourself a Voice Recorder note to go to our site and you’ll find all the direct links there!

The next app I’m going to recommend is available for both Android and IOS. It’s called Mindjet Maps. Now this is a brilliant and simple way to create mind maps that you can store on your phone, share with Drop Box, whatever. And if you’re the kind of person who really likes a visual approach to planning and brainstorming, this is a really effective method. You can create a visual planning document or brainstorm with different boxes all linked together. They can contain photos, written notes or anything really that can help you organise your ideas. It can also be handy for taking notes at a meeting if you want to represent your ideas a bit differently – rather than just writing pages and pages of words. It may well make more sense to you afterwards – you can see immediately what you were getting at rather than having to re-read loads of quoted words.

Now, mind maps do seem to be the sort of thing you either love or hate, but if you’re the sort of person who finds them useful, then Mindjet Maps is a free app and I’d strongly recommend giving it a go.

The eighth app I’m going to recommend for freelance writers is the Feed.ly app. This is available on iTunes as well as the Google Play store. If you were a former user of Google Reader, you, like me, will probably have done a fair bit of research into a good alternative to switch to when Google Reader was closing. You may well have switched to Feed.ly. Now I miss Google Reader still – I always will.

However, the benefit of Feed.ly is that they’d anticipated that Google Reader was going to close. Several months in advance, they started preparing for that possibility. So they vastly increased their capacity and they really optimised imports from Google Reader and while I did try a couple of other services around that time, Feed.ly was the only one I found to be consistently good. Lots of people were raving about one called The Old Reader but every time I went on there, it said it was over capacity and I couldn’t be bothered with that, frankly.

So, yes, I went with Feed.ly like a lot of people. I access this partly via a Chrome extension but also via my phone and tablet. Now, what Feed.ly does is…if you’re not familiar with how RSS readers work, any blog or website that you want to keep up with, you can subscribe to in Feed.ly. Every time that site is updated, Feed.ly will update and you can scroll through your favourite sites and blogs in this one interface. So you don’t have to keep going and checking to see if your favourite blog has been updated – if it has, it’ll be in Feed.ly.

Now within Feed.ly, you categorise each site you want to keep up with. You might have a section for writing blogs, humour blogs, health information – whatever you want. So each website you subscribe to, you then subscribe to one or more categories. Then, when you want to catch up with your favourite sites and blogs, you to go your Feed.ly app on your browser, or phone or tablet, and you can choose to scroll through all the updates in a particular category or just all of the updates together.

I’m going to put a screenshot from my phone of a couple of these apps into the show notes, include one from Feed.ly. It’s really useful for keeping on top of the latest news. Looking at my own account, I have a category for writing advice, one about my local area, one about SEO and social media, another about PPC, another of photo blogs, one about people I know, one for marketing, one about environmental stuff, a humour one, a feminist one, Google Analytics, Journalism etc.

So if I know I need to find a blog topic for an SEO client, I go straight to my SEO category. If I want to find something to recommend on this podcast, I might go to my writing category and see if anything great has been posted. Or, if I’m on the bus and want some down-time, I’ll open the humour blogs and have a giggle.

And it gathers everything you need. You input the RSS feed or URL of a website and it brings everything to you. I do also have some categories for some specific industries I write regular news stories for – they’re not the kinds of stories I’d normally read, but they’re there and waiting when I need them.

The app for the phone is nice, it’s intuitive, you can swipe to the left for the next story and quickly scroll past things you’re not interested in. You can also share directly from Feed.ly so you click the share button and share with Twitter or Facebook. So if you’re looking for a good RSS feed reader to manage your subscriptions, Feed.ly is one to look at. The phone and tablet apps really do make it easy to use.

So the ninth and final app I’m going to recommend is DropBox. DropBox is a really useful way of backing up and sharing your documents and information. If you’ve got DropBox on your phone and you have some pictures you want to share with your sister, you can create a shared folder for you both, upload the pictures and then, when she turns her phone on, those pictures are there, ready for her to download. If you’ve scanned a business receipt, using my first recommendation – CamScanner – then you can upload the file to a folder called “Receipts” and you know it’ll be there ready to file on your laptop when you get home.

Similarly, if you have a file already in your DropBox, you can open and amend it from your phone. It’s one of those services I didn’t realise was so useful until I started using it. At one point, I was working between two faulty machines. So when I was trying to work on a document I’d previously been working on on another computer, DropBox made it so much easier – with DropBox, it was just there. If you don’t have an account already, do check out our show notes and click through from there. It’s so handy and you get a certain amount of storage for free, although you may want to pay for more storage. And it might just make life that bit easier.

So those are my nine essential Android apps for freelance writers. They can all really help you with your productivity, organisation, planning and your work itself. They can help you learn, take notes, organise notes and access the information you need when you need it. Mobile technology is coming on so fast that we’re going to be using phones and tablets for more and more of our work over time. There’s no doubt – whereas freelancers might have used smart phones for social media, increasingly we’re using it for work and that’ll grow as the capabilities of the machines grow, and also as companies have bright ideas about how to make it easy to do and create apps that help.

So if you do have a smart phone and you’re not already using it for anything work related, then maybe give a few of those apps a go. If you’re already using your phone for some work stuff, then maybe some suggestions here can make things even easier. And if you’re just looking for something to keep your mind occupied, then Eduport or Feed.ly can provide you with endless information at the touch of a button. And so those are my top app recommendations for self-employed writers.

And now it’s time for the famous Little Bird Told Me Recommendation of the week – only one this week, of course, as there’s only me. My recommendation this week is something called Worldometers, which is a website of real time world statistics. It’s just quite fascinating if you want instant statistics, it’s the place to go – it has constantly updated stats.

So I’m watching at the moment about the world population; the numbers are rising several per second. I can see that there have been 223, 404 births today and 92,187 deaths today. If I go back to the main page, I can see there have been 221, 368,000 computers sold in the world this year. I can see that there have been 3,075,000 cell phones sold today. I can see that there has been $104,618,000 spent on video games today, 2,383,000 blog posts written today, 17,988 people who died of hunger today. How much water is being consumed, how much coal we have left, how many deaths by HIV and AIDs…it’s not just full of this really interesting and potentially very useful information, it’s also accountable because it gives its sources and they tend to be really reputable, like the World Health Organisation.

It’s fascinating to watch these numbers but if you’re writing about dieting, you can see that today alone, $110,340,000 has been spent on weight loss programmes in the USA. You can see how many emails have been sent today, how many newspapers have been sent today…so whether it’s something you find useful for work or just something to help you win a pub quiz, then my recommendation today is the Worldometers website, which I’ll link to from our show notes.

So that’s the end of episode 51 – thank you so much for listening. Let me know how you get on with your Android apps. All my contact details – and my co-host Lorrie’s – can be found at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and there you can subscribe to the podcast and find a link to our Facebook page. Do come and say hi on there or Twitter. Thank you again for listening and I’ll see you next week.

 

How to record a Skype call on Windows 8

For the last few weeks I have had the dubious pleasure of acquainting myself with Windows 8. It is an awkward format on a laptop, clearly designed for tablet computing and it has rather counter-intuitive features that I am sure I will eventually become accustomed to.

Windows 8 boasts “apps” rather than Windows 8 home screen screenshotprogrammes, and although some of these are really quite visually appealing, they lack the fine controls that I like to customise to suit my precise purposes. A prime example of this is Skype. While the Windows 8 app version was bright and bold and pleasing to look at, accessing and adapting my “preferences” was frustrating.

I use Skype a lot, most significantly to record the freelance writing podcast that I co-host but also to talk with clients, colleagues and friends. The difficulty with being an early adopter of new Windows Operating Systems is that much of the software you already use no longer plays nicely: programmes become buggy or refuse to work altogether. This turned out to be the case with the software I previously used to record the Skype conversations that I then edit into the podcast.

I downloaded numerous pieces of Skype-recording software and tested each while dialling and redialling Skype’s Call Testing Service on the Windows 8 app. None of them recorded a thing. Some said they were connected to Skype but not one would start recording, no matter how much coaxing I did.

I initially tried with the software I had always used, the VOIP Free Skype Call Recording tool. A nifty and effective programme that is unobtrusive and generally records well. When that didn’t work with the Windows 8 Skype app, I also tried:

Nothing was working, and Google wasn’t telling me much – just that others were trying, and failing, to record on Windows 8 too.

However, never one to let a mystery go unsolved, and with a podcast to record the very next day, I set about finding a solution, and eventually did.

How to record Skype conversations on Windows 8: The solution

Up to this point, I had been using the Skype Windows 8 app. The user interface was growing on me, and I really was trying to embrace the new Windows experience rather than just revert everything back to Windows 7-type familiarity. However what became clear was that the problem wasn’t Windows 8 in itself, the problem was with the Skype programme being an app.

Finding out how to use Skype on Windows 8 as a piece of desktop software rather than an app was the key. It is not promoted, nor is it easy to find, but you can download Skype for Windows 8 Desktop here. When this has been installed, customise the settings so that they suit your needs.

When using the desktop software I had no difficulties recording calls again, and everything went smoothly. If you ensure that, when you need to record a call, you make sure you use the desktop version of the software rather than the app, then any of the above programmes should work, though it is always worth testing them out before an important call.

So, in summary:

    1. If you want to record a call, don’t use the Windows 8 app, use the desktop software which you can download here.
    2. Choose which piece of software you prefer and download and install it. Start here:
    3. Test it out, use your best quality microphone and start recording calls!

 

 

Podcast: Keyword research for SEO writing

I make a freelance writing podcast called A Little Bird Told Me. The episodes are hosted on podomatic, and I also publish them on my main freelance writing site, but it would make sense for me to post episodes that are relevant to social media, SEO and tech writing here, too.

So, the episode I made this week is all about how to carry out keyword research for SEO writing. Enjoy!

It will often be expected of you, as a freelance copywriter, to be able to not only carry out keyword research, but also to know how to use it in SEO copywriting. In this episode, I talk about the basics of undergoing keyword research, and also provides information about writing for SEO in a way that does not alienate site visitors.

This episode also contains a custom-made video especially for A Little Bird Told Me listeners. Find out how to carry out keyword research using the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool here.

 

 

Show Notes

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How to Add Your Own Photography to Pinterest (Video)

I have been studying an Open University short course in film making. For my final assignment I created a tutorial video about how to use Pinterest to showcase your own photography and artwork, rather than just sharing other people’s all the time.

If you are interested, I also had to create a Behind the Scenes video for the assessment.

 

Facebook Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet

As somebody who sometimes uses speech recognition software, keyboard shortcuts are an important part of my life! Even when I’m not using SRS, I still frequently choose to use my keyboard rather than my mouse to make my way through my Gmail messages and Google Reader, amongst other things.

It had never occurred to me that Facebook might have a set of keyboard shortcuts available, so once I found this infographic from mycleveragency, I just had to share it.

Facebook Cheat Sheet by mycleveragency
Facebook Shortcuts Cheat Sheet is an infographic that was produced by mycleveragency