Archive for the ‘Web Content Development’ Category

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

What Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Holiday Grab Bag: How Not to Name Your Website, Free Guides to Better Web Copy and a Few Laughs

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse-that-wasn’t, here are a collection of links for a few laughs about the year that was and some guidance for online marketing in 2013.

From PR Daily’s Alan Pearcy:
12 best of the 2012 ‘best ofs’
Books, video bloopers, smartphone autocorrects and more. Enjoy!

From Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger, this guest post by Rob Henry:
URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-Ranking Exact-match Domains
Bottom line: Gaming the system doesn’t work. Quality content does.

And to help you create that excellent, search-friendly content, here are three free resources for improving your website or blog copy and content marketing strategy:

Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing White Paper Library
Help with better web forms, nurturing leads, creating webinars and more.

Copyblogger
Copywriting 101: How to Craft Compelling Copy
SEO Copywriting Tips, Secrets, and Strategies
If you want to learn how to write better web or blog copy this year, these two collections of blog posts will get you started, and then some.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

More Great Resources for Copyright-free Images

Monday, December 10th, 2012

I’m always on the lookout for excellent sources of free, public domain images to use on my blogs and for my clients’ websites and other electronic media.

One of my favorites is Compfight, which enables you to search hundreds of thousands of images available for use through Flickr Creative Commons. You can search by keyword and find a host of creative illustrations uploaded by talented photographers, amateur and professional, from around the globe.

It’s important to always include credits to the photographers as specified in their Creative Commons license. My preferred method is to paste all the information about the image and usage license into the image’s ALT tag—so that I can be comprehensive without cluttering up the page. Others choose to put a credit in small print at the bottom of the post.

Just recently, I discovered another great site, The Public Domain Review. A non-profit project of the Open Knowledge Foundation, PDR is “dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.” Archives include films, audio, images and texts, with a bias toward items that are unique, curious or whimsical. Again, be sure to include appropriate credits and read the fine print about usage before posting.

Here you can find a 1918 film of Tarzan of the Apes19th Century samples of Chinese ornament, a copy of The Practical Magician’s and Ventriloquist’s Guide (1867) and onboard recordings from Apollo 11, to name just a few treasures.

Plenty of material to illustrate your online works, and much to mine for ideas.

Of course, there are also many government resources for public domain images. You’ll find a few places to start in this post I wrote back in July 2011, Your Tax Dollars at Work: 5 Great Government Resources for Free Images.

Happy hunting!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover IV: Music & Memory

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have any experience with a loved one who struggles with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, you know the great challenges and sense of loss for all involved. But what if there were a medication-free way to help your loved one reawaken to the world?

It turns out there’s a simple and elegant solution: personalized music playlists. Hearing personal favorites on a device like an iPod can tap deep emotional memories and enable many of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other cognitive challenges reconnect socially and feel more energized and upbeat.

I’ve learned all about this amazing process from Music & Memory, a non-profit based in metro New York that trains nursing home professionals how to set up and manage a comprehensive personalized music program for those in their care. For the past three months, I’ve been helping their great team revamp their website and create a professional, easy-to-navigate user interface designed to boost donations and subscriptions to their webinar training series. The new site went live on November 19.

Capitalizing on a Viral Video

Music & Memory’s challenge was an enviable dilemma: Last April, a video clip from a documentary about their work went viral. The clip told the story of Henry, a 94-year-old with dementia, who is non-communicative and doesn’t recognize his daughter. But as soon as he listens to his Cab Calloway favorites on his iPod, he awakens to his surroundings and can express himself quite effectively.

Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video, which has aroused tremendous interest in Music & Memory’s great work. The non-profit has sought and enjoyed extensive media coverage from major news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and CNN, among others.

Converting from an Organically Grown Website to Strategic Web Content and User-Friendly Design

But Music & Memory’s website was a jumble of information and calls-to-action that did not effectively represent or explain the quality of their program. The site had grown organically, using a free template. Content was written from the organization’s point of view, rather than the user’s. Benefits were not clearly articulated. Navigation was cluttered and confusing. In addition, Music & Memory was in the process of switching over to Salesforce, a sophisticated contact management system that required a better web platform.

Working with the Music & Memory team and web developer Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I took these steps to upgrade the site:

  • Defined key target audiences and established a hierarchy of calls-to-action, with donations and enrollments in M&M’s webinar training series at the top of the list.
  • Researched keywords that would boost search; salted these keywords throughout the site, in text, title tags, tabs, headlines and subheads, urls, ALT tags, search result descriptions and keyword tags.
  • Revised and wrote new content for the entire site, creating a conversational, unified tone throughout.
  • Reorganized content into a logical site navigation.
  • Selected the StudioPress Streamline theme template as the starting point for the new design; this template includes options for a hierarchy of multiple calls-to-action, essential for the site.
  • Selected images from Music & Memory’s documentary stills for the featured image within each main section of the site.
  • Laid out all page content within the template, unifying styles.
  • Integrated testimonial quotes throughout the site, including a rotating sidebar widget, a main Testimonials page and forms.
  • Using the Premise plug-in, wrote and designed a vertical sales page for the webinar series to expand the inquiry pool for this important revenue stream.
  • Wrote three Resource Guides—how to run an iPod donation drive, a guide for elder care professionals who wish to bring Music & Memory to their facility, and a guide to creating a personalized playlist for a loved one at home—that serve as free lead-generation downloads.
  • Served as project manager of the site build, in coordination with Ed Booth and Music & Memory staff. Oversaw completion of all details for the site visitor interface.

Ed built the site and added in many modifications to the template, enabling Music & Memory to fully realize their vision. Working closely with M&M tech pro Melody Ward, he integrated all forms with Salesforce. As always, he worked his magic on every technical challenge and request for greater functionality that we threw at him. He also patiently fixed whatever broke or jammed, all the inevitable problems that arise in a complex site build and launch.

Promoting the New and Improved Website

Whenever a site goes live, it’s always a thrill to see it in action. We coordinated the site launch with a year-end appeal letter that is scheduled to arrive in people’s homes today, November 26. Next steps for Music & Memory include an emailed site launch announcement tied to the annual appeal and a targeted email campaign to drive elder care professionals to the webinar training landing page. We’ll be following Google Analytics results to see how the site performs and making any needed modifications in the weeks and months to come.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to help such a great organization strengthen their ability to attract more donors and reach many more people who can benefit from this affordable, uplifting form of personal care.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The Single Most Important Sentence on Your Homepage

Monday, September 17th, 2012

What’s the goal of your website? This may sound obvious. Of course you want to attract potential clients. But what do you want them to do once they get to your site?

If your have something to sell, the answer is clear. You want them to purchase your product. But what if you’re a service professional?

It’s not enough to describe what you do. You need a call-to-action. This is the equivalent of a Buy Now button on an e-commerce site.

Your Call-to-Action Depends on What Your Visitor Needs Right Now
If you want visitors to call you to find out more information about your services, your call-to-action can be as simple as an invitation to set up an appointment for a complimentary half-hour consult. I’ve had clients who are attorneys use this approach successfully, because people shop around for expensive legal advice.

You have to know your audience and how they make decisions. If they need to feel you out in person as one of several options, a free consult—with limits, so you don’t set yourself up for someone who wants to just pick your brain for free—can be a great way to build your practice.

Build a Relationship with Thoughtful Lead-Generation Content
If you have information products to sell, such as an online course, to leverage your consulting services, you’ll want to develop some free, useful content that your visitor can download, in exchange for an email address. This is called lead-generation content, and the goal of your website in this case is to build a qualified email list for developing your relationship with potential clients through additional info product offers.

Once again, you need to have a clear idea of your goals and offer information that has real value. Most people are wary of giving up their email addresses. We’re all inundated with email, a lot of it junk.

No-one Will Give You Their Email Address for More Junk Mail
What advice can you give in the form of a useful download—be it a fact-filled PDF, an eBook or a white paper—that will make your visitor want to opt into your list? And what do you want to do with that list? How are you going to follow up and build your relationship, leading to a sale of a more substantive info product or your consulting services? You need to know the answers before you craft your lead-generation content and call-to-action.

It’s worth noting that eNewsletters have become so ubiquitous that asking people to sign up for your weekly newsletter, especially if you’re using canned information from an industry subscription service rather than original content, is probably not going to get you much interest. It’s also not going to help you establish your own expertise if you’re just recycling someone else’s content as your own.

So—once again, what’s the goal of your website? And what do you want your visitors to do once they get there?

For a more detailed discussion of how to craft an effective call-to-action, here are some useful articles:

Content Marketing Institute: Are Your Call to Actions Missing These Proven Formulas?

HubSpot: 10 Best Practices to Optimize the Language of Your Calls-to-Action

Smashing Magazine: Call to Action Buttons: Examples and Best Practices

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

How to Be Yourself and Stop Hiding Behind Your Website Content

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I read a lot of websites. Market research for clients, competitor analysis, my own information search—it all adds up to a lot of words on screen. And quite frankly, much of it is, well, garbage, to be polite.

It’s not that the content isn’t informative. It’s not that it doesn’t answer my questions. It’s just hard to read. And I’m not talking about lack of good grammar, though there’s plenty of reason to gripe about that.

Don’t Sound Like a Robot
What bothers me most about many web sites, especially sites for professional services, is that they seem to be written by automatons. The language is stiff, formal, like content you’d find in a term paper. In an effort to sound professional, the writer comes off sounding aloof—not someone I’d want to spend time with.

It’s a pitfall in all forms of business writing—using complicated sentences and big words to sound intelligent. But really, what we all want is to deal with a warm-blooded person on the other end of the website, someone we can identify with, someone we’d enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee for a good conversation and help solving a problem.

Keep It Conversational
I know how hard it is just to be yourself online. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there. We all need boundaries to protect our privacy, especially on the Internet.

At the same time, to connect with your ideal client, you really need to push past any urge to spiff up your web content with lots of long phrases, fancy terms and—please, no—business jargon. No one really talks like that unless she’s trying too hard to impress. And it shows.

So here are a few ways to keep your web content down-to-earth and personal:

  1. Choose strong nouns and active verbs. They always beat overwrought vocabulary and circuitous sentence structure, no matter what the genre. It’s fine to use unusual, interesting words—as long as your target audience speaks that way, too.
  2. Use the second person, you, to speak directly to your audience, as you would in a conversation. Don’t feel you need to use third person he/she/they to be polite or more appropriate. That will only distance you from your reader.
  3. Capture your natural voice in your writing. How would you explain this topic to a good friend? That’s the tone you want to emulate online. The best way to test your content for conversational tone is to read it out loud when you’re through writing. If you hesitate because the sentences are confusing, get stuck on pronouncing big words or get bored listening to yourself, it’s time to revise.
  4. Anticipate your reader’s questions and answer them in a logical sequence. This achieves two goals: Your copy will be easy to read, and your reader will feel understood and keep reading.
  5. Avoid foul language. This is an exception to the point about capturing your natural voice—if you tend to curse a lot, that’s your business, but it doesn’t belong on your professional website. Even today when just about anything goes, many readers will be turned off by words that get bleeped on most TV shows. Occasionally, cursing in context can be very effective, but it should be used with full intention, not carelessly.

For more suggestions on how to write web copy that works, check out this post: Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

 

SEO Best Practices: For Keyword Density, Less is More

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The rules for keyword use are changing as Google and other search engines develop more sophisticated algorithms for page rankings.

It used to be that you’d use as many of your keywords as possible, high on the page and throughout your homepage, especially, as well as in hidden meta-tags (no longer relevant), title tags, headings and subheads. “Black hat” webspammers would pack long strings of keywords in the background of a page, unseen by the human eye but detected by search engines, and inject keyword links out of context.

Keyword Stuffing Can Hurt Your Rankings
But now so-called keyword stuffing can actually lower your rankings. Google, in particular, continues to refine their search algorithms to punish SEO tricksters and reward “white hat” developers who create excellent, relevant content for their websites.

Most significantly, Google now recognizes synonyms for search terms relevant to your copy and rewards your for keyword phrases that are woven naturally into content.

Say, for example, you’re a CPA offering small business accounting services and tax preparation. You do basic keyword research and discover that both of those phrases have robust search. But the phrase “small business accounting services” is a mouthful and it doesn’t feel natural as you write, knowing you want your text to sound conversational and client-centered.

Rest assured that Google will recognize a phrase like “accounting services for small businesses” to be the equivalent of the precise keyword match. You could even use a string of phrases such as “accounting services, including tax preparation, for small businesses” and not damage your search optimization.

Use Keywords Naturally, as in a Real Conversation
The key is to keep your content readable, relevant and informative. You need to identify your most important keyword phrases and use them intelligently throughout your website, as you would in a conversation. More and more, Google can read your site and understand it as a human would. Scary but amazing!

Bottom line: Don’t stuff keywords. Include them in title tags, headlines and subheads, but keep them in context to boost search optimization. You’re writing for your ideal client, first and foremost. Keep it clean, clear and conversational. Less really is more.

Here’s an excellent interview with Google SEO guru Matt Cutts by Karon Thackston, from her Marketing Words Copywriting Blog, that explains more: Matt Cutts Reveals Google’s Updated Copywriting Strategy.

And here’s more detail from Cutts himself: Another step to reward high-quality sites.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The Solid Gold, No-fail Key to Marketing Success

Monday, August 20th, 2012

About 15 years ago, when I had just started as marketing director for a small New England college, I bumped into one of the faculty as we collected our mail. When I introduced myself, he balked. “So, you’re going to give us the Madison Avenue treatment,” he said, making no effort to hide his disdain.

We later became friends, but his remarks unnerved me. I was new to my job and had just been given the role of marketing head a short week after arriving to direct the college’s communications efforts. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and his comments made me feel like I was leading some tainted effort to snare potential students with sleazy sales pitches.

Marketing Must Be Authentic to Persuade
Of course, that’s a common misperception of marketing, with a basis in truth. Traditional advertising manipulates our emotions to get us to buy. But we’re long past the days when the Don Drapers of the world could push out one-way messaging without consumer push-back (unless, of course, the product was a total dud).

Marketing (which includes advertising), especially on today’s consumer-driven Internet frontier, has to be authentic to persuade. Messaging is no longer one-way. Consumers have many options to research products and services online; reviews, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and more provide ample ways to confirm or deny marketing claims. Bad reviews spread with the speed of data transmission.

While the fear of someone sinking your business with a critique that goes viral may be enough motivation to be authentic, here’s a much better reason: Integrity is the key to effective marketing.

Be True to Yourself and Honest with Your Clients
Whether you’re creating content for your website, a blog post or a tweet, be true to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about making promises that you can’t fulfill even if you mean well, getting business under false pretenses, or overextending yourself and undercutting expectations.

I share this because marketing can seem such an overwhelming and unpleasant prospect, a necessary evil when you’re a small business owner who already has far too much to accomplish each day. It’s often the lowest priority on your to-do list, the tightest budget item. You know you have to do it to get business, but, like my former college colleague, you avoid it or hold your nose.

Discover Your Strengths to Reach Those You Help Most
So, consider this: Marketing is certainly challenging. It involves a lot of time and attention to detail and strategy and follow-through. But marketing is also one of the best ways I know to discover your strengths, the true value of your work and how you’re helping others. Developing a solid strategy forces you to think rigorously about your ideal client, the problems and mistakes she struggles with, and how you help her to find solutions. Telling your true story becomes a source of pride in all of your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a means to get the word out and find more great clients to help. Honest client feedback enables you to do even better.

While I was marketing director at that college, I made a solid commitment never to create any false advertising. Sometimes I had to rein in enthusiastic colleagues who wanted to oversell their programs. Sometimes I had to say no. I worked hard to find and tell honest stories, and the college attracted more qualified students.

The same will hold true for your business. Be authentic, serve with excellence, market with integrity, and your work with thrive.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.