A How-To Guide for a Robust SEO Strategy

Your website is your billboard to the world. For health and fitness companies, it’s usually the first place potential clients land when they are looking for a gym, a trainer or some stylish new workout digs. That’s why you have to put effort into your digital storefront.  Trust me — your entire company will be judged with one click.

Yes it is, Spock!

However, unless a future customer knows your exact URL, they’ll likely find you through a Google search. The fitness industry has a lot of online noise, and it’s up to your creative thinking to stand out in the conversation. That’s why you need an SEO strategy.

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4 Tips for Engaging Your Target Audience

Not too long ago I gave a writing presentation to a room of athletic-clothing fashion designers.  I started out asking them a seemingly simple question:

Who do you want wearing your clothes?

They looked around the room with darting eyes, sinking into their seats. One young woman bravely responded, “Everyone.”

This was the exact response I expected.

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Indeed, from a business owner’s standpoint, if everyone is engaged in your product, then you are a success. But the truth is, not everyone is going to come to your gym, love your style of yoga or be comfortable in your see-through cropped workout pants. In order to connect your product with consumers who will buy, you have to have an extra firm grip on the kinds of people who would be attracted to your gym, studio, spa or clothing line.

So, in a world of 7 billion people, how do you figure out who is your target audience? Here are 4 tips from the marketing experts at Swoll Media.

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Automation Schmatoumation

I have very few inflexible rules when it comes to marketing, but one in particular tops the list of Must-Don’ts. I don’t automate social media posts. I am anti-automation. That’s not to say that I don’t schedule posts or organize campaigns ahead of time. I even keep a posting calendar, editorial content concept files, and an extensive set of swipe files with an ongoing list of my highest performing strategies, tweets, posts and other tag lines.

But I never, ever automate.

social-media-conversation

Why? Why not save time and push out a blog post that automatically sends out a tweet and a Facebook message? In one click I can share my latest ingenuity with all of my fans and followers. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong.

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Breaking the Block

One thing that really caught me by surprise when I entered the “paid writer” world is often I’ve come face-to-face with a bullying case of writer’s block. I always thought writer’s block was a bit of a cliché, really. Then I learned, quickly I might add, that in college you aren’t producing something every single day. You have weeks before an article is due. You can chew, mull, prob and pull until the putty of your words takes the shape you want.

Even Kurt Vonnegut dealt with writer's block.

Life at a desk job is a bit different. So far, I’ve learned that:

  • Computers aren’t inspiring.
  • The closer your deadline the more your head hurts.
  • Reading your own writing makes you sick.
  • The neurons that travel from your brain to your fingers have died horrible, ghastly deaths.

Face it: writer’s block is a leg cramp for Lance Armstrong or a sore throat for Lady Gaga. It gnaws you up, sucking the marrow and leaving you all meek and doubtful. You need to shake up your routine; find another reason for writing. Creativity doesn’t come from stagnation. Derived from illumination, the only way to break through writer’s block is inspire yourself.

  • Read something you enjoy!
  • Take a pen and a notebook and go for a walk. You’ll be surprised how blinding a computer really is.
  • Have a conversation. Tell someone (or yourself) about the story, in detail. Jot down a few of the things you say and you’ll find that the phrases you create during a conversation are way more engaging.
  • Work on something else. If, like me, you have a plethora of writing, designing and web assignments, just switch over to something different. Give your mind a break.
  • Stream it out. Forget the grammar, punctuation, AP Style… just go for straight to paper. Put your thoughts down, in their chaotic beauty. Let the rambling lead to coherence.
  • Change the scenery. Work in a different part of the office or plug-in some headphones. Do something to alter the environment and refresh your mind.

Nothing, to me, is as frustrating as writer’s block. I can see it wreaking havoc in a well-intentioned story. I gave it the good ol’ college try, but my best just isn’t in it. You can’t, however, hold on to that. You have to accept that you will write a paltry story every once in a while and that’s okay. The world didn’t end. Remember, all pages start out blank.

Profile Blues

In my line of work, I write a lot of profiles. It seems like every time someone writes a check, I write a profile. Profiles can be fun, but they can also be frustrating. I enjoy the creative freedom, but mostly I  enjoy just sitting with a person, getting a feel for his or her character and quirks. A profile should reflect the whole person, warts and all. Often, I am asked to erase some of those warts, which takes a bit of the humanity away from the piece. Sometimes, I am asked to write about a person and, well, it takes a great deal of digging to find a good focus. That’s the trick to profiles, you don’t always have an event to center your piece around. Oh, dig deep enough and you’ll eventually find it, but that luxury isn’t always available on a tight deadline. Here are a few techniques I use to try and add some sauce to a profile, particularly those that need something more potent that salt or pepper:

  • Have a conversation about life, the universe and everything. Don’t just limit your interview questions to “How did you feel when that happened” or “What kind of impact did that have on you?” Ask them about their passions; get them energized about something. You may not get one drop of good material, but you will make your subject more comfortable with you, and that will get them to open up more.
  • Conduct secondary interviews. Talk to their teachers, friends, employers, parents, spouses, children, mechanics, baristas, personal trainers, hair stylists… anyone and everyone you can think of who knows your subject. Secondary interviews can give you great quotes and unexpected insights into your subject.
  • Find a related theme where you can connect their story to your audience’s lives. For example, if you are writing a profile of a master gardener for a home magazine, ask him or her about the toughest plant to grow. If you write for an alumni magazine, ask them which faculty member was their mentor and to describe his or her influence. Ask them about their favorite place on campus. Think about how your subject’s experience can benefit your audience’s lives. Whether they can inspire or provide insight, find that common thread and connect it securely.
  • Get in their habitat. If you are writing a profile for a yoga magazine, go to a class with your subject. If you are writing a profile on an IT guru, spend an afternoon shadowing them at work.

Sometimes a story just doesn’t have the legs you hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean it should be trashed. These are just a few ways that I try to get a profile story to jump off the page. These tips can help you paint a scene, using engaging prose to cover up any lack of content.

Keep Writing, Keep Reading, Keep Learning

For a long time, longer than I really should admit, that beautiful bachelor’s was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The idea of graduating and finally exploring the professional world of writing was definitely that proverbial “new chapter,” but I just kind of assumed that I would inherently, automatically even, continue growing and learning as a writer.

Feel like you're buried alive in the mundane office work?

I have learned, however, that work is a much different beast than school. The workplace has rules, which are rarely negotiable and can be incredibly stifling. Between endless meetings and navigating office politics, you find that your energy is often spent before you have a chance to get down to the work you love. You feel like the only thing growing is your inbox. Your words are the same size and weight they were the day you were hired.

Office settings are just not places where us creative types flourish. The key to keeping your creative brain from melting into some zombie-like corporate drone is to continue discovering new ideas. You can always learn more. You can always get better. The reason you were hired is because you have something–character, flair, talent– that sets you apart from the rest. It is up to you, and no one else, to keep fueling that special something inside you.

Here are a few strategies that I use to make every assignment, from the shorts to the features, video to social media, as a way to grow and find meaning in my craft:

  • A good writer is an energetic reader. Find writers you like and study their style. One of my favorite writers, St. Petersburg Times’ s Lane DeGregory, creates a world so easy to visualize, you feel like you’ve lived next door to her subjects all your life.
  • Learn to, as many seasoned writers say, “kill your children.” If your word-smithing is overwhelming or your count is too long, you’ll have to cut out some of those darling little-one liners that add spark, but lack content. This is something I struggle with the most. However, I never delete them. I simply make a word file, a kin to the Island of Misfit Toys, and retire them until I have a better opportunity to give them life.
  • Keep with that college student mentality. Buy updated textbooks and read them once a week on your lunch break. Stay up-to-date with new technologies and techniques. Read Mashable every night. Explore different media. If you are a web writer, try to promote content through social media. If you are a print writer, take a photography class. Never, ever stop enhancing your mind and your resume.
  • Pull out that red pen and mark up your work. Circle all your verbs and go back and analyze why you used them. Are they active or passive? Then, circle all your adjectives and adverbs. Kill off the unnecessary ones. Unburden your words. Do this weeks or even months after you’ve written the piece and you will have a more objective eye for your own work.
  • Dissect your writing process. Do you make outlines, use Venn diagrams or word clusters? Try new techniques and explore the different ways you can create a story.

Every assignment, every story, every photograph or video is an opportunity to refresh your mind and add some vitality to your brain. Not only will you see an improvement in the overall quality of your work, but you’ll rekindle some of that love of discovery back into the doldrums of the real world. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire yourself.