Does Your Blog Post Satisfy Your Reader?

self publishing

And why it matters for marketing and SEO.

I first started freelancing in 2003. I spent a lot of time writing blog posts and other content for small business owners via Odesk (now UpWork). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was fairly new back then, the term is believed to have originated in 1997. Does your blog post satisfy your reader was not the priority back then.

Search Engine Optimization Then

All the internet gurus were advising businesses on how to “rank on Google” and how to do it quickly. Back then, the algorithm was much more mathematical. It was easy to “trick” the search engines and get your content on the first page of Google.

As a result, I was often asked by my clients to hit a specific keyword density (number of times the keyword is used). Clients back then told me it didn’t matter what I wrote, as long as the keyword density was at the level they wanted.

It was just not in my nature to write nonsense or to write stuff that wasn’t accurate; I did the research anyhow, but it paid very little. I soon stopped taking projects from these types of clients.

Because of these types of website owners, there was a plethora of content on the internet that was nonsense. Some articles even had sentences that just didn’t make sense. It was all because website owners cared more about ranking and drawing traffic than they did about providing valuable content.

Business owners were being told they had to rank on Google to get traffic. So their goal was publishing as much content as possible on their website so they could draw traffic and boost their site ranking. It sounds crazy now, but it was common practice then. A blog post that satisfied the user didn’t guarantee a Google ranking then.

Search Engine Optimization Now

But SEO has come a very long way since those days. There have been multiple upgrades to the Google search algorithm. Google and other search engines have progressed. Most are much more capable of analyzing content based on more than just repetition of words.

In fact, there are now over 200 factors that go into whether or not any piece of content ranks on Google’s first page. A few of these factors include internal and external links, site speed, bounce rate, site structure, metadata, and many others.

Search engines now are also capable of recognizing natural language and conversational tone, visual and infographics, and video content. The algorithm can even distinguish valuable content from poor content or “thin” content. All of these changes have made it much harder to simply game the system. It also means writing a blog post to satisfy your user is much more likely to get your post ranked on Google SERP.

The future of SEO is all about user experience.

Of course, you can use paid ads to rank in those top spots on Google. But paid ads can be costly and not everyone has the budget for this technique, especially as a new business. Today, the best way to rank organically on Google’s SERP (search engine results page) is to provide the best possible user experience with your content.

There are some mechanical factors that go into providing a good experience such as site speed, optimization for mobile users, eliminating broken links, reducing errors, and others. It can be difficult to understand all 200 factors that go into your content ranking. Unfortunately, there’s never a guarantee of ranking unless you have the budget for paid ads.

But there are tools you can use to address some of the ranking factors such as Google Search Console and mobile optimization views offered by many web page builders. The future of SEO is all about providing the best user experience.

You can provide the best user experience with your content, if you understand your customers and what they are looking for when they perform a Google search.

The Buyers’ Journey

There are three main stages all buyers go through:

  • Awareness/Interest
  • Evaluation
  • Decision/Purchase

When you write your content, think about what stage of the buyers’ journey your reader is in when doing their Google search. What is their intent or purpose in searching? What do they need? Can you provide information that will help them move to the next stage of the journey? If your post satisfies your user, you stand a much better chance of ranking organically on Google’s first SERP.


At this stage, the buyer has recently become aware of a need they have or a problem. Your content should focus on the pain points of the problem and on making potential customers aware of your product or service as a solution.

Searchers at this stage are looking for how to get more information about their problem or need.

Content that satisfies the user at this stage in the buyers’ journey will typically be more educational in nature. Examples of content that satisfies the user at this point are whitepapers, webinars, reviews (to see what solved the problem for others,) e-books, and checklists.

Buyers at this stage are beginning to recognize their problem and are interested in more information about how to solve it. Your content should increase awareness of available options, including your services. It should also help them determine how relevant the issue is for them and provide information they need to continue the journey.


Very few people jump to a solution for a problem without exploring alternatives. The awareness stage alerts potential customers to the fact that they have a need or problem and that there are multiple solutions or options.

At the evaluation stage, the buyer is trying to determine which option is the best solution for their problem.

Content to satisfy the user at this stage of the buyers’ journey should help them understand what features or other things they need to consider to make a decision.

The best content to satisfy the user at this stage is content that compares and contrasts different solutions or gives in-depth information about one solution. In-depth content on features common across the options is helpful at this stage.

Examples of content that helps move a user to the next stage of the journey (decision or purchase) are buyers’ guides, case studies, demonstrations, and other content that shows them how the product or service will solve their problem.


Users who have moved to the decision stage of the buyers’ journey are ready to buy or commit. They’ve evaluated their options and have narrowed it down typically to one or two potential solutions. They’re going to buy or commit to a solution.

To satisfy your user at this stage, your content should reinforce your solution as the best option.

Content that satisfies the user at this stage will be live training, launch events, or user guides. The content you provide should show them exactly what it will be like to implement your solution.

The changes to SEO are great news for business owners who are committed to providing value for their readers and potential customers. If you focus on writing content that helps your user make informed decisions about a solution to their problem, you’ll satisfy your user and win “points” with Google’s ranking system.

Of course, there are those other approximately two hundred factors that go into ranking with Google, so there are no guarantees.

But the more you focus on providing value and the more educated you become on how to satisfy your users at each stage of the buyers’ journey, the easier it will be to rank with Google and attract your ideal customer/reader.

Looking for freelance writing jobs? Get my free Market Mondays newsletter every week. It’s chock full of links to writing jobs and other markets that pay writers and my best tips and tricks for freelance writers.

Meg Stewart has been freelancing for nearly two decades. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. Freelance Filter was founded to help writers get paid and help solopreneurs do business better. Meg and her family, (along with two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos), live in Northeast Ohio.

Should You Create a Personal or Business Brand?

Chiquita banana-unsplash-Personal-or-Business-Brand

Part of what I do as a business owner is to teach live tech help calls where writers and other small business creatives can learn how to use the software they need to run their businesses better online. One question that always comes up involves whether to create a personal or business brand.

The members of my very first tech help group - I call them my “guinea pig” group - have transformed from writers trying to monetize their hobby to CEO’s who are planning and launching their small businesses.

I love seeing all the progress they’ve made with their businesses now that technology is less of an obstacle to moving forward.

In the process of teaching business owners about the technology they need to write, get seen, and get paid, I also answer questions on techniques for branding, email list building, SEO basics, developing their messaging, building an online presence, identifying their audience, and more.

One of the first steps a business owner has to take when building a business is to build a website. The first step to building a website is to buy a domain name. In order to help with buying a domain though, we first have to talk about branding.

To do that, we talk about the differences between personal and business brands.
Deciding between a personal or business brand for your writing business or startup, is one of the early decisions you’ll want to make. If you buy a domain without committing to one or the other of these, you may end up having to redo your website or even buy a new domain name at some point.

You can’t always make the decision between personal and business branding when you first get started, but knowing the difference between the two can help you with choosing your domain name. Sometimes when you begin to think about your writing as a business, you may decide you need to have more than one brand or more than one domain, and that’s okay, too.

Creating a Personal Brand

A personal brand is just what it sounds like: It’s a brand built around you as a person. The way I explain it to people is that if the service you are offering or the business you are building would not exist in the same way if you sold it to someone else, then you want a personal brand.

For most writers, authors, and freelancers, a personal brand is going to be the best choice. If you want people to recognize your name and your face, then a personal brand is going to be a good route to go.

Authors and writers generally want to be known by their name, or at least their pen name.
If you decide on a personal brand, you’ll want to choose a domain that is or some variation. It can sometimes be difficult to get your exact first and last name, especially if your name is common. If you can’t get your first and last name, then the next best option for a personal brand is to get a version of your name as your domain. You can do your first name, middle initial and last name. Or, try your middle name with your last name, a nickname with your last name, etc.

My first and last name wasn’t available. Neither was my nickname with my last name. I ended up with my nickname (Meg), my last name, and the word writes. If I had to make this choice again, I might use the word writer instead of writes, simply because writer is a better keyword.

When you build a personal brand, it will most likely reflect your personality and values. You’ll choose colors, fonts, and other elements, such as your photo or caricature likeness, and other images that will tell your audience who you are, what you do, and why you do what you do.

Creating a Business Brand

Part of our group time over the last several weeks has been used to share the progress each business owner has made with developing their website, landing page, and other marketing messaging.

We have a couple of people in the group who are developing a business brand. It’s so great to see how their writing businesses have evolved over time as they’ve learned more about branding, developing their messages, and using technology.
Your business brand should also reflect its personality.

Is your business formal or informal? Serious or fun? Are your services educational, entertaining, or something else? Answering these questions will help you market your business to the right audience and hone your messaging.

Consider SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also critical when developing your brand. Having a keyword in your domain is also a good idea for optimizing SEO to help drive traffic to your website.

So if you are developing a personal brand and you write about health, for example, you might do your first name, last name, and add the words health writer or nutrition writer (more targeted). For a business brand, you might include words like wellness, fitness, or even just health in your business name.

If you’re ready to take your writing or other creative work from hobby to business, think about whether it would work best as a personal or business brand. Ask yourself whether or not you can ever imagine selling your successful business?

Think about how you want your business to be known in the world. Those who prefer to be behind the scenes rather than in the public eye might prefer a business brand.

Personal brands might be better suited for writers, musicians, and for those who want to be known as the face of their business, or for those who provide personal services such as coaching.

A Personal and Business Brand

For myself, I began with a personal brand, using a version of my name, as a freelance writer and consultant. It made sense then as I was primarily doing freelance writing, with a byline.
People who might buy my services need to know that I’m a real person. Using my name and photo in my branding, and honing my messaging around my personal values and interests, helps my clients know and trust me as a writer.

As my business is evolving, I’m also developing a business brand as Freelance Filter. For Freelance Filter, the focus is on helping small business owners learn to use the technology they need to do their own business better online. Freelance Filter provides helpful tutorials, software reviews and comparisons, and tech help services.

I can have other writers or staff involved in providing Freelance Filter services as long as I oversee the work to make sure it accurately reflects my brand values. Freelance Filter is a business brand that could someday be run by or sold to someone else if the opportunity arises.

There’s not really a right way or wrong way to brand your business.

Branding can even vary for different people who offer similar services. The important thing to do when branding is to make a conscious decision about which way to brand your business.

It will likely evolve and change over time. Richard Brandson, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are examples of people who have both personal and business brands.

Once you make the decision between personal and business branding, you’ll find it’s much easier to make decisions about choosing a domain, designing your website and other marketing messaging, creating service offerings, and embarking on future endeavors.

Set Smart Goals and Boost Your Chance of Success

typewriter with goals

One trick from the 1950’s you must use in your modern business to avoid failure.

It may come as a surprise to you that a process to set smart goals which originated in the 1950’s could still be effective in your modern writing career or business.

But believe it or not, without this one technique, your business is setup for failure.

The SMART process of goal setting became well-known in the education arena thanks in part to the extensive Professional Learning Community work by Rick and Becky DeFour.

But the concept of SMART goals was originally associated with Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management (1954). Fifteen years before I was born! I first heard about Peter Drucker, in college, when I was an Elementary Education major in 1988.

In the 1990’s, SMART goals was also popular trend for adult learning curriculum to enhance accountability and productivity.

This meant, throughout my decade as a community education instructor, certified life skills facilitator, and program coordinator at the college, the SMART goals process was an ever present focus for me.

Now, SMART goals are used in just about every phase of life, including healthcare, fitness, counseling/therapy, manufacturing, agriculture, HR/recruiting, big business, marketing, and so many others.

What Are SMART Goals?

It should come as no surprise then that SMART goals can be effective for writers and small business owners.

There have been several versions or variations of SMART goals over the decades but for most people SMART goals are ones that are:

S-pecific (clearly identified or defined)
M-easurable (something quantifiable that can be monitored, counted, and tracked)
A-chievable (under your control or influence)
R-ealistic or Relevant (a stretch from current status but not too much)
T-imely (they have a deadline or due date)

SMART Goals for Writers

As a writer, it can be very motivating to set and meet an annual income goal but you can take that one step further and set SMART goals for your writing business. These will help you to not only meet your income goal, but will help you to know what your next steps should be.

SMART goals guide the decisions you make for your business at any given point.

You can create SMART goals for your own business.

Think about what your goal is for your business for the year. Do you want to launch a course? Or start a YouTube channel? Maybe you know you need to build your email list or launch a website or start a blog.

Whatever your goal is, write it down on a piece of paper.

Make it Specific

Now look at your goal and make sure it’s specific. Will you know when it’s accomplished? Is it something concrete you can do?

Here’s an example:

Goal: I want to build my email list.

Specific Goal: I want to double the number of subscribers on my email list.

Make it Measurable

Now that you have a specific goal, you need to make sure it’s something that you can measure.

It’s important to be able to monitor your progress and see that you are moving closer to your goal.

Measurable Goal: I want to build my email list from 100 people to 1,000 people.

Make it Achievable

Now that you have a measurable goal, you need to make sure it’s a goal you can achieve.

What is required to start your goal? Who will you enlist to help you? Is it doable and under your control?

I want to build my email list to 1,000 people and to do that I need to take an email marketing course, for example.

Make Goals Relevant or Realistic

Shaunta Grimes, founder of Ninja Writers has a great way to do this using an editorial plan she developed.

I used her method in 2019 to set a goal for myself of replacing a portion of my fixed income with my writing income by December 2020. I was halfway to meeting that goal by June! By the way if you’re not already in the Ninja Writers club, I highly recommend it.

If your current email list is 100, it’s probably not realistic to set a goal of 100,000 in a year. But a goal of 1,000 in six months might be totally realistic for you.

Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s something you have control over and can realistically get done using your own efforts.

Make Your Goals Timely

The last piece of the puzzle for SMART goal planning is the T for Timely. This means giving yourself a deadline to accomplish your goal. By setting a deadline, you give yourself that little push needed to keep you from procrastinating.

This is especially important for writers who are self-employed. Set a deadline and stick to it.

Break big goals into smaller, sub-goals and give those deadlines too.

If you find you’re having trouble making progress toward your goals, it can help to post them on display where you will see them often throughout the day. It can also help to get an accountability partner or group to help you stay on track and keep you motivated.

Now that you’ve got the idea, I can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year!

If you struggle with finding clients, get my step by step guide to using Twitter’s advanced search feature to find writing clients.

Self-Publishing and Why Authors Must Understand the Basics

Plus the two things you must get right when you self-publish.

I just had a conversation recently with a client about self-publishing. I’ll admit I’m not a book marketer. I’m not a self-publishing expert. But I’m a working writer who studied the self-publishing industry extensively when I wanted to self-publish my own novel.

In fact, at one point I wanted to be a book marketer and help other authors get their books seen by the right readers.

That is, until I researched self-publishing and learned how many things can tank book sales, if you don’t get it right from the start.

During my research over several years, I learned a lot about the self publishing industry. I also studied related topics so when I did self-publish, I would know what questions to ask to choose the best service.

In the process I learned a lot about what not to do when self-publishing.

The two things you must get right.

You absolutely cannot afford to get the genre of your novel wrong. There are very specific elements to many genres and sub-genres. If you get this wrong, people who love your genre of book won’t find it, which can mean low sales, if any.

Those who find your book in the wrong category, may hate it. If they are looking for cozy mystery and you give them horror, for example. At the least they will feel dissatisfied or deceived, which can result in bad reviews.

Your book cover is your only chance in most cases at a first impression on potential readers. I know that every genre and sometimes sub genre of book also has standard design elements for the cover. When it come to font, style of drawing, even color combinations, you have to get these elements right if you want to attract fans of your genre.

Get the design of your book cover wrong and you make a bad first impression.

Readers won’t even see your perfect blurb, your amazing hook, or that engaging first chapter because they never click on your cover. Without a great cover, your dream of doing something meaningful with your life by becoming a self published author is probably over.

Know what service your expert can and cannot offer.

Because technology has made the process of self publishing so much easier, many, many people have begun designing book covers, and offering self-publishing services, or book marketing services.

Not everyone is trying to run a scam. Some folks are simply trying to earn a living doing book cover design, something they’ve discovered they’re good at. They have that eye for visual design and produce great looking covers.

Others are trying to make money using their skill in technology to convert a manuscript in Word into an e-book in Kindle, Mobi, or some other format. The conversion of a manuscript into this format can be a frustrating thing to learn, so many authors would rather just pay someone to do it for them. Many of those offering design services are highly experienced in their craft.

Technical skill and publishing industry knowledge don’t always align.

But someone who is phenomenal with book design might not have the knowledge about the importance of those genre elements of cover design. They may give you exactly the book cover design you want, without realizing it’s the wrong design for your genre and will tank your sales. So it’s up to you, as the author, to know what the design elements are right for your genre and make sure they are in your cover design.

If you are considering self publishing a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, make sure you do your homework first. It’s your responsibility to know about genre, cover design, and the actual publishing process. It’s perfectly fine to pay someone else to do the tasks you don’t want to master. But the more you know, the better questions you can ask when you are vetting those experts.

For solid information on cover design, marketing, and the self publishing process, I turned to YouTube and found Derek Murphy of CreativIndie. I’m not affiliated with him in any way, I just feel he knows a lot about the industry, has experience, and is sincere in trying to provide the best information about self publishing he can.

If you’re going to self-publish, give your book a fair shot by making sure you choose the right experts for each part of the process.

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