Content Marketing Brings In Traffic – A Case Study

writing with seo in mind

Increase targeted traffic to your website by posting regular, optimized content focused on bringing value to the reader.

Web marketers have pretty much always lived by the rule “content is king,” but that rings true more than ever in 2016. As I wrote in this post, SEO is dying because writing regular content that is focused on providing value to the reader is going to automatically optimize your pages for search engines.

You don’t need an SEO company. What you need is a writer who knows how to write content for marketing.

In fact, SEO only exists as a concept because of content. Content is king.

Content Marketing is all about using content to help people find you.

If your entire marketing funnel has various stages, they would be: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. This is the AIDA model, which was created by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Coincidentally, people haven’t changed all that much and this still works today.

  • Awareness – the customer is aware of the existence of your brand.
  • Interest – the customer is actively expressing an interest in your brand.
  • Desire – the customer is aspiring to a particular product or service of your brand.
  • Action – the customer is taking the next step towards purchasing the chosen product or service of your brand.

Content marketing exists before the AIDA model even starts, and then continues through both Awareness and Interest stages.

The point of content marketing is to bring people to awareness, hold awareness, and develop interest.

Content marketing has so many benefits that people are ignoring these days. First of all, it builds your brand. All of the content will speak through your brands voice, creating a consistent experience for all visitors.

All of the content written for your site is also content that can be shared through all of your social media channels, reminding people of your existence and directing them to your website, where they can develop interest and desire, and ultimately take action.

But most of all, content marketing builds a long term audience that will continue to follow you as long as you continue to provide value to their lives. This is a flywheel effect for the rest of your marketing plan.

Your competitors are doing content marketing. If you are not, you can’t compete.

Let’s take a look at a client. This client hired me to write regular content for their website with the purpose of increasing brand awareness and traffic. All of my content aims to provide value to the reader first (through the content itself) and to the brand second (through a call to action at the end).

Each contract was three months long. I currently only offer contracts in three and six month intervals. I find that three months is how long it takes to see a difference, and six months is how long it takes to feel a difference.

content-marketing-case-study_rcvrrstrt_corrected
Graphic design is not my strength. Writing is.

Here you can see that content grows consistently over the nine months of posting regular content.

For the first three month contract, I focused on trial-and-error to get a feel for the industry and discover what value I could provide to website visitors. I posted daily content for five days out of the week, Monday through Friday.

For the second three month contract, I had figured out what content would bring in new customers, as well as bring the others back for repeat business. While the client was happy with the results by the end of this contract, I was not. I pitched a change of focus for the third three month contract.

In the third three month contract, I cut the content amount down from five posts per week, to three posts per week. This gave me the opportunity to focus more on providing valuable content without increasing the rate of the contract. As you can see, with content marketing the rule is “quality over quantity” and traffic began to grow even quicker.

The reason the content dips so drastically at the end is because this screenshot was taken at the beginning of June, so a full month’s worth of traffic had not happened yet.

This client had no SEO plan and was not buying ads, nor creating any other content that directed visitors to their website. All content growth was through my efforts, as well as their word-of-mouth marketing to friends and family. They also periodically shared the content I wrote on social media.

There’s more to content marketing than just blog posts.

While I only offer content writing services, you would benefit even more from also seeking out professionals who can create other media content.

The great thing about the content I write is that it can be repurposed elsewhere. When you hire me to write for you, you own the content. The content is yours to use wherever you like.

I recommend you connect with a professional who can take my written content and create video content for YouTube.

Another popular idea is to create a podcast based around the content I write for you.

Content marketing is right for your business.

Every business will benefit from content marketing, and the benefits are only exacerbated when working directly with other marketing campaigns.

If you’re interested in hiring me for content writing, please go to the Hire page.

“I always knew I wanted Garrett to write for my site, it was just a matter of finding the right project. Bringing a writer you hadn’t worked with before onto your site is always a risk, so it’s important to vet them and think about where their voice will fit on your site. Garrett was a consummate professional. He delivered his copy on time, it was well-written, accurate and polished, and he made any edits we asked for quickly and efficiently. It’s always a pleasure to work with writers who listen to feedback and use it to produce a better product.

It helped us launch flagship content for our website that ended up being a success, in part because of Garrett’s efforts. I really liked the research that Garrett did on the subjects we asked him to write about. Because he had done his homework, he was able to write with authority.

We got really good traffic on the pieces Garrett worked on, and the project ended up being a showcase for a redesign that was central to our overall plan for the site. I would definitely recommend Garrett’s services. Garrett’s ability to quickly understand and take ownership of an assignment means you get quality work without the hassle of having to check in constantly, or worse, deal with a blown deadline. Also a plus: Garrett is really skilled at promoting his work on social media and through careful search engine optimization.

I’d say that Garrett is a creative, experienced writer with a can-do attitude who will take a writing assignment from inception to completion with a minimum amount of hassle on your part. He’s always willing to go the extra mile to make sure you get the copy you need.” – Claes Bell, Bankrate.com

How To Write With SEO In Mind So You Get More Readers From Search Engines (Part 2 Of 2)

writing with seo in mind

writing with seo in mind

You will benefit from employing SEO techniques in your writing.

Despite the fact that SEO is dying thanks to smarter algorithms, tailored experiences, and the always increasing popularity of social media: it’s still worth knowing basic SEO practices and employing them in all of your online content.

(This is Part 2 of 2. Please click here to read Part 1)

Establish the purpose of the article.

The first thing you need to do when writing SEO friendly content is to figure out the main point of the article, blog post, or page.

The point of this blog post, for example, is to teach you how to write SEO friendly content so that you can get more hits on your webpages. More hits leads to more exposure leads to more money if you monetize properly.

Knowing how to write SEO friendly content can also get you a job or contracts because it’s an important skill to have when writing non-fiction for the web.

Conduct keyword research.

Now that you have established the purpose of your article, it’s time to figure out what people are searching for in regards to that. This is called keyword research and it’s a whole art in itself, but we’ll keep it simple here.

Just go to Google and start typing what you think people would search regarding your topic. Check out those autofill suggestions. Those are the kinds of things people are searching.

Hit enter, or grab one of those, and then scroll to the bottom of the first page. Look! more suggestions. Awesome.

Compare and contrast those with what you wrote first. You should get a good idea of what people are searching for regarding your topic, and especially what type of language they’re using (how they word their searches). You want to be mindful of all of these different suggestions when writing your content.

Your title needs to have this sort of language in it, as does the rest of your content. In fact, you want it to be as close to the front of your title as possible. However, you also need to make sure that the title and content make sense when read.

Write reader-friendly content.

“Reader-friendly content” means that it reads well, is relevant to the topic, and is useful. When people are searching stuff, it’s because they want to learn something. They need to know the thing. What is the thing? That’s whatever you wrote about.

You’re targeting their thirst for knowledge. Google will lead the horse to water, but you have to provide the water for them to drink it. And of course, as the saying goes, you can’t make them drink it. But we’re going to do our best by making sure our content is friggin’ awesome.

Write good content! Write what you would want to read.

Write the way you talk.

Imagine you’re sitting down with your best friend and they ask you about the thing. Explain it to them. Write it the way you explain it to them.

Okay, but what about the optimization part? Didn’t we look up those suggestions so that we would have better content optimized for the search engines? Yeah, throw it out. You’ve already learned it and subconsciously ingested it into your brain.

If you didn’t naturally use that language when writing your content, it’s probably because it feels unnatural to you. And if it feels unnatural to you, then it’s going to be unnatural to other people.

Before we write content for the search engines, we need to write content for the users.

Studies show that content written with the user first, rather than the search engine first, will rank better for longer. Content written for the search engines tends to turn off users, and the users stop reading, stop buying, and stop coming back to your site.

Like I said, SEO is dying.

There’s lots of other stuff you should know, at least according to SEO’s, such as keyword density and crap like that. Don’t worry about it. We’re writing for the user, not for the search engines.

One thing that used to be important was to make sure your keyphrase is in a subheader. If you’re writing for people, it might not fit naturally in, and injecting the keyphrase where it doesn’t flow is not good for the reader.

You shouldn’t be building your headers around what is SEO friendly. You should be building your headers around one thing: what are the key takeaways for the reader?

Another thing that used to be important was bolding the keyphrase. Again, it doesn’t always work out that injecting the keyphrase in somewhere and bolding it is going to help the reader any.

You shouldn’t be bolding things just to have the keyphrase bolded. You should be bolding key takeaways for the reader.

I know, this is titled “How To Write With SEO In Mind…” Listen, I’ve been working in SEO for a while, so I know how it all works. It’s not the way it used to be, and these old SEO guys are stuck in their old ways and wondering why I’m doing better than them.

Check out my case study on writing regular content and I’ll show you that my system for writing content is better and consistently improving every website I write for. (Coming soon)

SEO is dying because if you do everything right, your content will automatically be Optimized for Search Engines and you won’t have to worry or even think about it. Backlinks will come naturally, because you wrote good, useful content that people want to share.

How To Write With SEO In Mind So You Get More Readers From Search Engines (Part 1 Of 2)

writing with seo in mind

writing with seo in mind

I often tell people that SEO is dead.

Like Gary Vaynerchuk says, “marketers ruin everything.”

And like my friend Scott Russell said, “you don’t need an SEO specialist. You need a writer that can convey your message clearly enough for a bot to get it.”

You’re going to learn to be that writer.

Wait, let’s backtrack a bit. I might need to explain SEO to you. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

Have you ever wondered what makes things appear in Google in the specific order they do?

When you Google search, or Bing, or whatever you use, there’s a method to the madness that is SERPs, or Search Engine Results Pages.

Go search for “David Lynch Quinoa Recipe” (that third word is pronounced “keen-wah”). For a lot of people, the first thing that comes up is an OpenCulture.com article. Cool.

For some people, you might get something else. If you’re logged into your account on whatever search engine you’re using, you probably have results custom tailored to you. If you’re not logged in, or if you’ve never searched the keyphrase before, then you’ll get the same results as anyone else in your shoes.

(Note: I added “&pw=0” to the link above, so if you clicked that, you will receive the results that show for logged-out users even if you’re logged in.)

These results are decided based on an algorithm that is a secret except for a few people who are working on it at the company.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with Google for the sample company and search engine. They all work the same, though have different algorithms to decide the ranking of websites.

Google has this super secret algorithm that a few people know, one of which is named Matt Cutts, and that algorithm reads a ton of different things around the web such as links, social signals, and basically whoever is talking about a website or article. Then it decides where, amongst all the rest of the related things on the web, it ranks in terms of usefulness for the user.

There was a time where we used to spam content networks with articles full of backlinks to artificially raise the ranking of websites so we could make more money. We gamed the system. I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but maybe I’m just biased because it kept food on my table for a few years. I definitely wouldn’t say it was right, either.

Now that you know how search engines work, we can discuss why SEO is dead.

The search engine algorithm is getting smarter and previously mentioned systems that used to game the algorithm are no longer working. On top of that, the search engines are learning to build SERPs that benefit the user more and more. There’s far less “SEO trash” showing up on page one than there was 5-10 years ago.

Of course, SEO’s (Search Engine Optimizers) are trying out new things to game the system more and more, and there will always be new things, but it’s definitely not like it was back in 2009, where all you had to do was slam content aggregators with backlinks.

Backlinks are links in an article that link back to your main content (or, as marketers call it, “the money site”) with the sole purpose of increasing ranking. Backlinks still help your ranking, however getting good backlinks is very difficult these days.

People are using search engines less and remembering content more, for some inexplicable reason.

I don’t know how that works considering our brains are awful at storing information (great for processing it, though).

But here’s what’s going on: people are starting to remember sources more. A lot of people will go to a specific source to find information about a subject now.

For example, I am a big fan of the brand seanwes and the information they provide. I frequently search for things on their site rather than a broad Google search. To speed things up, I’ll still use Google, but search it with a “+seanwes” which makes sure it only searches for things on the internet that include the word seanwes in them.

Search engines are more tailored to the individual (at least, when the individual is logged on).

When you’re logged in to your Google account, it’s tracking the things you search and the pages you go to, and may or may not track what’s saved to your bookmarks (when using Chrome).

Then, when you search for things, your history plays into what results are provided to you. This has been, and will continue to get more and more custom tailored as times goes on.

And of course there’s social shares.

People are sharing things through social media, and a lot of people will use the search engines built into the social media to find the information they’re looking for.

An example of that is how a large portion of people no longer conduct Google searches for news. Instead, they go straight to Twitter to find out what’s going on. Twitter moves way faster than CNN or Fox and most internet savvy people know that.

SEO’s really not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.

In part two, we’re going to discuss how to actually write with SEO in mind, despite the fact that SEO is dying, because it’s still going to benefit you. Continue reading here.

A Game Design Document (GDD) Tutorial That Will Save You Time And Energy

Game Design Document - GDD

Game Design Document - GDD

I have a degree in game design from a state college called IRSC. In our game design classes, the curriculum was pretty adamant that we have a game design document (GDD) for each of our games. The professors weren’t too terribly strict about how it was organized, but there were stipulations on what it should contain and how it should be updated.

Once I got out of college and started designing games on my own, I threw all of that out and found a better way.

If you’ve ever worked on a game before, you know that the original idea doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you end up changing your idea because the prototype just didn’t work right, or the play testers straight up said it “isn’t fun” (this is why I highly recommend prototyping and playtesting early on…more on that later). You then either have to scrap the game, or you pivot and salvage whatever is useful from the work you’ve already done. Either way, building and then having to rewrite a GDD before that is going to end up a massive waste of time.

The thing is, we can’t just get rid of the GDD altogether. There needs to be a written (or typed, or drawn, or musical) plan of what’s going to be in the game, what it’s going to do, and where it’s going to go.

So I developed a much shorter, easier to maintain GDD, and I made a template I’m going to share with you below.

The Rules

First, lets discuss a few rules.

  1. Use something like Google Drive. You can hold everything in a folder and interlink documents, plus your entire team will have access to the latest versions all of the time.
  2. This GDD sticks to strictly the game design itself and doesn’t include any of the business end of things like marketing. I use a business plan for all of that.
  3. No images/videos/media. Keep them in a folder and link to them. This is so the document is easily editable and no one will have to spend time rearranging images because text got added, or something.
  4. If a change is made, do a “Save As…” and name it something like “GDD_2”, “GDD-3”, etc.

The Pages

First Page

Start Off With The Name

Name the game. You can use a working title if you want. I usually don’t think of game names until much later into development, but the game needs to have a name of some sort from day one.

Ex:

  • Garrett’s Good Game Of Game Goods

Add Your Team’s Names

Add the names of all of the members of your team. Hierarchy and ranking aren’t necessary, just put them in an order that makes sense to you.

Ex:

  • Garrett Mickley
  • Tom Ato
  • Ollie Tabooger
  • Willy Finish

Second Page (And All Pages From There)

Elevator Pitch

You should have an elevator pitch for your game. An elevator pitch is one sentence describing the game briefly but in enough detail that a person should be able to decide whether or not it’s something they would be interested in.

Ex:

  • It’s a cross between hockey, bowling, and shuffleboard, but two dimensional on a touch screen. (used for my game I Hate Red Squares)

Story Brief

A brief, one paragraph (at most) synopsis of the story. If the game is going to be some sort of epic with a huge story, put that in another document. If your game doesn’t have a story, you’re doing it wrong. Every game needs a story. If your story is only one sentence long, that’s okay.

Ex:

  • Steve (the player) wakes up on a deserted island. He has nothing but the clothes on his body, and a vast expanse of material in front of him. He uses the materials to build tools, shelter, and explore. When night falls, monsters come to attack him. He does everything he can to survive.

Gameplay Features

This is where you describe how the players play the game. Include all of the features that will be involved. Break down each feature into its own little section so that everyone knows what each individual thing is, and so that if something needs changed or removed, it’s easier to find. Include game controls in this part (A for Jump, D-Pad to move, etc).

Ex:

  • Players will tap their finger on the screen and send the blue circle towards where they tapped. The Ideas is to tap towards the red squares at the top of the screen. The red squares will then bounce around the screen. The object is for the player to knock all of the red squares off the top of the screen with as few taps of their finger as possible. Sometimes there will be grey squares, which are immovable obstacles.

Levels (If Needed)

Not all games have levels, but if yours does, you will need this section. Otherwise, just skip it.

If you do need it, include the level number, name (if appropriate), and a description of the level. As before, make sure each one is in its own section in case it needs to be edited or removed.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • The Darkness. Player has to move through the darkness and find a flashlight. The player wakes up and must navigate their room to find a flashlight. They won’t be able to leave their room until they do. The level ends when the player find the flashlight and approached their bedroom door to leave.

Menu Screens

Describe each menu screen and everything that will be needed in them. Most games have at least a main menu screen, a pause menu screen, and a settings menu screen. Many games also have level menus, character design screens, etc. These are important to list out. Make sure each one has it’s own little section so that if something needs changed or edited, it can easily be found and changed.

Ex:

  • Main Menu
    • Three buttons(Level Select, Settings, Quit)
  • Level Select
    • Has list of all 15 levels.
  • Settings
    • Options to turn music and sound effects on or off.

Art Assets Needed

Here is where you will include all of the assets needed as well as brief descriptions. I will be up to the art director to discuss the details of the art with the artists who will be making hte assets. Don’t forget that there will need to be art for each level, zone, menu, etc, so this can be broken down here.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • One blue circle
    • One red square
    • Left wall
    • Right wall
    • Bottom
    • Background
    • Pause button

Sound Assets Needed

This is just like the art assets list above but you also list out the sounds you need.

Ex:

  • Level 1
    • Tap sound
    • Circle hitting squares sound
    • Squares hitting squares sound
    • Circle hitting wall sound
    • Squares hitting wall sound
    • Square leaving screen sound
    • Circle leaving screen sound
    • Background music
    • Pause button sound

And that’s it! That’s all that’s really needed to throw together a solid GDD that can easily be modified.

Here’s the template I made for myself that I use for all of my games. Go ahead and download it. It’s free!

5 Important Steps To Designing An Attention-Grabbing Game

5 Important Steps To Designing An Attention Grabbing Game

5 Important Steps To Designing An Attention Grabbing Game

Brief Audio Summary:

Designing games is the most fun thing in the world that can become a life-long career. If you’ve ever had an idea for a game, or played a game and thought “if I made this game, I would have done X differently,” you’re already a game designer.

I mostly design video games but I do sometimes work outside of the digital realm and make games that exist in meatspace. This guide will work as well for video games as it will for board games or table top games, or any other type of game you can think of.

To be honest, it’s not really that hard and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Designing a game is easy; designing a good game is difficult. My first game designs sucked. Some of my more recent game designs suck. It happens. Don’t let it stop you from designing more games.

1. Come Up With A Concept

I come up with a new game idea every day. I don’t even have to force it — it’s something I’m passionate about and so it comes naturally to me. I will admit, I had quite a bit of practice. Short backstory: I used to play a lot of D&D and other tabletop games as a kid. My friends liked when I was the Dungeon Master and I didn’t have much money so I usually created campaigns instead of buying pre-made ones. Eventually I decided I didn’t like some of the monsters and player classes in D&D and I started creating my own more basic tabletop role playing games based on the D6 system.

It’s okay if you don’t have this sort of game design background, but I bet you’re here because you had an idea for a game and decided to pursue it. That’s awesome, you’ve already completed the first step. Write it down! You don’t want to forget anything. I use Google Docs for pretty much everything because it’s accessible from anywhere with internet (which for me is pretty much anywhere I go).

Set up a folder for all your game design ideas. Then create a new folder for each idea you have. In that folder, make a document just for jotting down ideas. Don’t forget to get the apps so that if you have an idea, you can get it down quickly. When I was going to college for my degree in game design, I had to drive an hour from my house to campus. During that time I would have ideas, but I couldn’t write them down. I used to repeat them to myself over and over again until I got home (or to campus) so I wouldn’t forget.

Do whatever you can to make it easy to record your ideas before you forget them.

2. Come Up With Gameplay Mechanics

You’ve got the idea, now it’s time to work on the gameplay mechanics. Gameplay mechanics are the meat of the game. If the game’s a video game, this would be something like in Portal, where you can shoot portals and pass through them, or in Super Meat Boy, where you can (somewhat) grip walls and jump off of them. Those are unique and specific mechanics. More basic mechanics are things like: how the player moves, combat, and anything else that involves gameplay side of things. If the game isn’t going to have a basic WASD/Joystick to move, Space/A to jump, etc, you need to be writing it down. Actually, even if it is basic, write it down anyway because when it comes time to build the game, programmers are going to want to know what buttons make the game do the thing.

To design gameplay mechanics you don’t have to know how to program, you just have to be able to describe it. Make sure you get all this information down in your ideas document so you don’t lose them. You may also change them around in the future if you have new ideas or decide to tweak them some. Don’t stress about that unless the game is already in production. You shouldn’t be changing mechanics at that point in development.

In games that aren’t video games, the game mechanic could be something like the way cards interact with each other, or if it were a tabletop role playing game such as D&D or Pathfinder, it would be the dice system.

3. Sketch Out Levels (If Needed)

Not all games have levels, but if yours will, you need to sketch at least a few level ideas out. There is a lot that goes into designing a good level, and if you take your game to production you may end up working with one or more people who specialize in level design. I find level design to be one of the harder things to do. Lucky for me, most of the games I’ve designed aren’t level based.

However, if your game is level based, you’ll be doing everyone a favor if you’re able to sketch out a few levels first. Google Drive does have an MS Paint -like tool but I would recommend just drawing them with a pencil on some printer paper, scanning or taking a picture, and uploading it to your Drive folder where you’re keeping all of your documents related to this game.

Evernote is actually really good for this but I prefer to work with Google Drive because I find it more useful, and because I do a lot of my writing from a Chromebook. You may find Evernote to be more useful for yourself. Use whatever tool is going to make game design easier for you.

4. Write A Story Outline (If Needed)

Actually, this isn’t an “If Needed” it’s an “It’s Needed”. Every game needs to have a story (Tweet That!). Every game needs to have a story, even if the story is short enough to fit in a Tweet. Third time’s a charm: every game needs to have a story.

There needs to be motivation. It doesn’t even need to be a fictional story. For example, in my game Did You Win Or Did You Lose? (in development), the story is this:

The player is on a quest to discovery if they won or if they lost.

But the game mechanic is this:

The player clicks or taps on a difficulty button and finds out if they won or if they lost.

It’s a game as simple as it gets, but there’s a story there. There is always going to be a story. Write it down. Put it in your ideas document.

5. Create A Game Design Document (GDD)

The final step in designing a game is to take all of the stuff we’ve collected, organize it, and throw it into a game design document (or GDD) so that we can present it to others such as investors, or teammates that will be working on the game with us when we decide to take it to production.

Creating a GDD is a huge topic on its own. Next week, I’m going to not only show you how to make a game design document, but I’m also going to give you a free template you can use for your games in the future. Don’t forget to come back next Wednesday!