Smart Words by Sarah
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Category Archives for Content

Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and…Content Marketing?

Here’s why your small business should be blogging and producing other content—and how to make sure your content is effective.

Speaking of noise on the internet, everywhere you turn someone has an opinion about how you should market your business. But all across the web, internet marketers agree:

Like Elvis, Michael Jackson, and James Brown, content is king.

There’s never been a better time for content. Blog posts, guest posts, online articles, white papers, and e-books are a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle. Here’s why content is so important:

  1. Google is constantly getting smarter. Every time you turn around they’ve got a new update. But that’s not a problem for savvy businesses that truly deliver value in their content. That’s because Google is getting better and better at finding the good stuff–the articles and posts people want to read. It’s also getting better at filtering out the bad stuff.
  2. Consumers are changing the way they interact with brands. No longer are they content to sit in front of a TV and be yelled at by a cartoon. Today’s consumers (and especially today’s parents) make decisions based on value, trust, and the connection they feel to a brand. Good content can meet all of these demands.
  3. Content marketing gives you a high return on investment. Unlike ads, you don’t have to pay every time someone reads your content. Evergreen articles (those you can use forever) that engage your customers, demonstrate your authority, and make a connection with your audience will pay for themselves several times over.

Successful internet marketing revolves around content.

Just for fun, here are a few more reasons why content is like Elvis, Michael Jackson, and James Brown:

  1. Content often takes the spotlight, but it can’t be successful on its own. The kings of rock and roll, pop, and soul all had powerful support networks. Content gets its support from brand voice, sales copy, and offers.
  2. Content can be kind of a diva. It doesn’t give you a list of demands before every concert, but if you want it to do its job, you have to treat it right
  3. The really, really good content plays to its audience and gets incredibly popular.

It’s only part of the big picture, and it may change over time, but it will always be king.

So how do you write content worthy of the crown?

Ok. Here it is. (Cue the fanfare.) Here’s what you need to know to create blog posts and other content that will bring customers to your business.

  1. Know who you’re talking to. Are they parents who are currently using your service? Former customers? People you’ve talked to before but who haven’t signed up? What you write will depend on how aware the audience is of their problem and how aware they are of your solution. The tone you write in will depend on what your audience wants to hear.
  2. Write a curiosity-evoking headline. Curiosity is so powerful. Put up a headline that is relevant to the topic and makes your readers want to read on.
  3. Tell a story. Weaving a story into your content will help it stick with the reader. Now, a story isn’t always a must, but it can be quite powerful. Thinking about a basic story framework (complete with a main character, a setting, a problem, a solution, and a change in the main character) will help you craft interesting, compelling content.
  4. Above all, deliver value. Does your audience want inspiration? Tips and tricks related to your service? The solution to a specific problem? Entertainment? The more value you can deliver, the better.
  5. Understand that putting up a few blog posts won’t bring you a slew of new customers. Sure, you may get some organic search traffic (that’s people who come across your content by using a search engine), but for the most part, your content will go unread without additional support. Still, content is king because it’s so important to the overall picture.

Creating content is worth it if you’re marketing online. This is true even if you’re a local, brick-and-mortar business. It can be the difference between “I think I saw an ad for them once” and “Oh, yeah, that place! They really know their stuff!”

P.S. If you’re ready to create content worthy of the crown, I’m here to help. You can see my full service menu, including specials, and email me at to reserve my time. Not sure where to start? Schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Call. We’ll see if your business and mine are a good fit for working together, and you’ll come away with a list of recommendations you can start implementing right away.

Is your “About Us” page helping or hurting you?

In another post, I told you about five simple things to check on your website to make sure people take the time to get to know you. Now that you’ve checked those things and fixed up your site, let’s look at some other ways to get your customers’ attention.

Today let’s look at your “about us” page.

I’ll call it a page to keep it simple, but keep in mind that you can have a separate “about us” page or a brief section on your home page.

Here’s what to check:

  • Does your “about us” page show your brand’s personality?
  • Is it written in your brand’s voice? (Do you have a brand voice?)
  • Does it have a real photo of you or your staff? (Remember that people buy from people.)
  • Does it tell a story? Your brand’s origin story could be the key to building a real relationship with your potential customers. If you don’t think your origin story is interesting, think again! You can tell it in a compelling way to show that you are passionate about your work and your customers.

I hope you’ll take a few moments today to make sure your “about us” page is on point. When a potential customer is exploring your site, your “about us” story can add to their trust in your business.

Your partner in growth,

P.S. I offer discounted services to new clients with my new-client specials. Schedule a free Discovery Call at and I’ll help you choose the best place to start.

Are you making these mistakes when writing for your business? Check your words to impress clients.

Don't lose potential customers by publishing embarrassing errors.

To succeed in any business, you have to advertise. These days, most online advertising comes in the form of sales copy (think sales letters, e-mails, and ads) and content (think blog posts, white papers, and e-books).

Whether you’re producing copy or content, whatever your purpose, editing is absolutely necessary.

This is especially true for academic-oriented businesses. Any parent who knows a little about writing will turn and run from an academic service that has mistakes in their materials.

“There’s no way I’m sending little Timmy to a tutoring service that uses your when they mean you’re,” Mom says. “I can’t trust them to teach my son how to write.” It may be an honest typo, but Mom doesn’t know that. She thinks she can’t trust you.

First off, my number-one piece of advice for editing: If you can hire a pro, do. Even if you’re an amazing, experienced writer, it’s critical to have that second set of eyes. Even the best writers can’t see all their own mistakes. A lot can slip by when you’re editing your own work:

  • Typos (You see what you think you wrote—it happens to every writer.)
  • Wrong words (“What? You mean it’s ‘kit and caboodle’ and not ‘kitten caboodle’?”)
  • Weird sentence structures
  • Ambiguity

Here’s the thing: You can’t always see your own errors. You’re too familiar with the message—too invested in the words.

In writing for your business, there are some important things to consider. If you're editing your own work (or having someone else edit yours), here are some steps you can take to make sure your work is polished.

First, a read-through.

  1. Read it out loud.
  2. Have someone else read it out loud to you. (Bonus points if you get a kid to do it—that will give you some idea of whether it’s simple enough for an internet audience.)
  3. Read it out loud again.

Next, a reading-level check.

Remember: your audience may be educated, but it’s always better to bring the reading level down as far as possible while treating them with respect. Make your writing accessible. Big words don’t always impress readers, and you run the risk of alienating your customers. Academic Snob is not a good look in business.

For a reading-level check, try

Finally, a DIY proofread.

You’ll need to go through your text a few times if you want it to be perfect. Here are a few things to look out for. This isn’t a complete checklist; it just scratches the surface of some of the most glaring errors that could get you into trouble with your audience.

Comma check!

Avoid comma splices, especially, but check out all these comma errors, too. There are a lot of them, but they’re important if you’re proofreading your own work or having a friend do it for you.

Apostrophe check!

  • Apostrophes appear in possessive nouns and contractions.

RIGHT: That’s Tonya’s horse.

RIGHT: It’s my horse.

  • Apostrophes are not for plural nouns

WRONG: These gift’s are for the kid’s.

Semicolon check!

  • Semicolons are for linking two independent clauses.

RIGHT: What comes before the semicolon should be a complete sentence by itself; the same is true for what comes after.

  • You can also use them like commas when your list items have commas in them.

RIGHT: Your child should bring the following things to school: A backpack; a lunchbox with an entrée, a drink, and a napkin; a blue, green, or yellow folder; and a water bottle.

Capital letter check!

Capital letters are for proper nouns (names), beginning sentences, acronyms, and not much else. Many people use them for any important word. Please do not do this. Check your capital letters and, if you need to, ask Google.

Sentence structure check!

  • Most of your sentences should be complete with a subject and a verb, just like in English class. But this is the internet, and sometimes you can get away with shortening things. Sometimes. But not always. At least make sure it makes sense and is reader-friendly, and if you’re in the business of academics, it’s best to stick to complete, traditionally structured sentences unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.
  • Avoid misplaced modifiers (the results can be hilarious but can make you look bad.)
  • Make sure your sentence parts are structured in a parallel way.

WRONG: Our instruction and hard work of your child are the building blocks of success. (Eek. This almost sounds like the teachers are harsh taskmasters, standing by while the child works in some kind of academic coal mine.)

RIGHT: Our instruction and your child's hard work are the building blocks of success. (This one makes the teachers and the child partners in academic success. Whew.)

A word of caution about automated tools: Don’t do everything your spelling checker, your grammar checker, and Grammarly say to do. They’re great tools, but sometimes they make some really nutty recommendations. (Please say I’m not the only one who has been told to change “Joe and Sue are friends” to “Joe and Sue is friends.”) If something seems off to you, investigate further.

There are, of course, many, many, MANY more rules, but these basics will help you polish your work before sending it out into the world.

Remember, it’s A-OK to break some of the rules you learned in English class.

But do follow most of them for the sake of your message and your reputation.

Some rules to break:

  1. Start sentences with and. And start other sentences with but. Maybe even start some with or. It’s fine. I swear. Your readers will like it.
  2. Write one-sentence paragraphs. Your English teacher would cringe, but if you have a point to make, this is a good way to make it stand out.
  3. Make use of white space, bold text, highlighting, drop caps, and other flourishes as appropriate. Your English teacher would be furious if you turned in an essay with any of these, but this is not an essay. This is marketing. Aesthetics can help you capture attention and get your point across; you just have to do it with class.

A final plea

If your budget allows, please hire a pro editor to do your editing and proofreading; you'll have peace of mind that your message represents you well. If not, you can do it yourself, but please take your time and do it carefully. Use the above as a starting place to check and double check your writing. Good usage is still important, especially if you want to impress!