Posted 12/30/19 by Mike Murphy
My Article Writing Process
For Carpet Cleaners
Why are we writing articles?
Articles are so important to our internet marketing strategy that I wanted to tell you about how I approach article writing for your website.
At this time, I won't WOW you with statistics, but it's clear that Google loves well-written, quality content — and Google especially rewards authors with a good reputation for producing quality content. In order to impress Google, all we have to do is make a better showing than your competitors in this area, and Google will almost certainly rank us higher over time as we grow. Furthermore, I'd like to make your website difficult for your competitors to catch up and outrank you in the future. This will take many months of hard work, and these articles I’ll be ghost writing for you are the most important part of building a reputation. I'm sure you are obsessed with the quality of the service you provide — so am I — and I look forward to working with you on this project.
In this article, I'll share with you the stages and the processes I'll be using to create this powerful content for your website — and what I'll need from you.
But, will people even read these articles?
You may be asking:
"How many of my customers will actually read these articles?"
If we put in the proper effort to create quality content, if we position the articles well on your website, if we place excerpts of the article on The Mothership, Google, and other social media, then the short answer is simply "You'll surely get more readers than your competition is getting."
Let’s say your competition has 20 articles on their website, and they get 5% of their visitors to read a single article.
If we have 30 articles, and we get 10% of your visitors to read at least one article, then you win! Google will generally rank your website higher if our numbers are higher. Make sense?
I know carpet cleaning is not the exciting viral pop-culture general interest topic that people are scrambling to click on and read.
But what I’ve found is that people are indeed searching on Google for information on these carpet cleaning-related topics, and we really want them to get the answers on YOUR website — not on your competitor's — not on Angie’s List — and not on some national franchisor's website.
What’s Most important?
Having the information available for your customers is a truly professional accomplishment. Even if only 10% of your customers ever read an article, all your visitors will get a sense of your experience, your expertise, your enthusiasm, your service, and your professional website, because you have way more information on your website than your competitor's do, most of whom just have silly, badly-written blogs and terrible SEO copywriter low-quality content.
Your customers will notice that you have practical information on important topics related to their home flooring investment, and they can deduce that they are in expert hands with your service — that you are a very qualified, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable expert. And they’ll know where to go to get their questions answered when questions arise.
Let's Choose Good Topics
Throughout the day:
Begin to think of carpet cleaning as a TOPIC,
and every conversation you have with a client as MATERIAL.
I think this year I'll be writing over 75 articles. And it's very important to me that I don't resort to writing fluffy drivel in which nobody finds any value. A lot of blogs and SEO copywriters write articles that are badly organized and bogged down with useless filler. Then they stuff the articles with SEO keywords so that Google will notice them and rank their site higher — and they WILL be ranked higher than sites that have no articles at all.
My lofty goal is to post the best articles on the most useful topics into your website, and into the "Mothership" that supports your website.
So we must choose article topics based on usefulness and general interest to the end-user — the homeowners who value having healthy, clean, well-maintained carpets and who value protecting their investments in good carpeting.
I think there are some questions and curiosities that people may want to know about the service they are hiring you for. For example:
What kind of equipment do you use?
Why do you use hot water extraction?
Will it leave "rez"idue?
What cleaning solutions do you use, and why?
What is included in a pre-inspection?
How do I prepare for a professional carpet cleaning?
How do you handle pet issues?
How often should I get my carpets cleaned?
Another set of topics are educational, such as how to vacuum their floors properly and how often. Which type of vacuum cleaner should they use? What should they have on hand in case of spots and spills?
Yet another way I get insight into what real people are actually searching for on the web is by typing "Carpet Cleaning" into a marketing website called Answer the Public (www.answerthepublic.com). This is a gold mine of topics and search terms that people are actually typing into Google. People are actually asking, "Can carpet cleaning help with my pet's flea problem?"
Google’s own auto-suggest is another gold mine of keywords and article topics. When you type a search query into Google, Google suggests bigger and better search terms based on what the public is actually searching for.
And finally, another great source of topics is from YOU and your conversations with your customers, and from the dozens of other cleaners I’ve worked with for almost a decade who are now joining The Solid Setup network.
Choosing the Article's TITLE
There is a lot of data on the type of article titles that catch a visitor’s attention, and I may use these title tactics on many of the articles that I write. However, often these title types are for “click bait”, and are mostly used for general interest topics such as travel, politics, pop culture, how to get rich, etc. You’ve seen these title types:
- 12 Things You Should Know About….
- 7 Myths about …
- How to …
- Tips and Tricks to Get the Most ….
- 10 Steps to Successfully ….
- The Ultimate Guide to ….
You know the type of titles that get people to click. I will use these title types when it’s natural and appropriate. But I don’t want to be tricky or pushy or anything like that. After all, the people who are most likely to read your articles are actually searching for the answers, or they’re already on your website, and we can skillfully lead them to the articles that may be of interest to them.
So, for home services like carpet cleaning, we more often want to choose article titles that are clear and straight-forward, and represent articles that are interesting, focussed, well-organized, and informative.
Doing Research on the Topic
Using Google's Top-10 Ranked Articles on the Topic
After choosing a topic and a title, I begin to see what’s already out there on the web by going to Google itself. Basically, I Google the topic, and I find the Top 10 articles that already exist on that topic. Google must think these Top 10 articles are good, and I can evaluate them as a human (because so many SEOs in the past cared more about the Google Machine than a human audience. Thankfully, it appears that Google is using more humans to evaluate quality writing these days.)
Then, I copy the Top 10 articles into my software and begin to process each article by reading it, highlighting it, and summarizing it. I’ll get rid of the fluff, and apply a technique called "progressive summarization" which means I’ll go back over the article 3 or 4 times to flesh out the best points. Once I've progressively summarized all of the Top 10 articles ranked by Google, I begin to see patterns, subtopics, and presentations that I think will result in a great article for US, and I create an outline. Remember in school having to outline a topic when writing an essay? Yes, I do that.
At this point, I could probably write a decent article, but I'd face a few challenges. First, our article needs to be unique — different — better. Second, our article needs to be accurate and free from misinformation. Third, the article must represent YOU and your unique character, community and experiences.
So, once I have an organized outline, this is where YOU come in.
I'll need your input so I can
• use your words
• your experience / stories, and
• your character.
Accuracy and Misinformation
First, I’m not a carpet cleaner, so without your help and feedback, I may inadvertently spread misinformation about a topic. I gathered my information from Google, and Google does not check articles for accuracy, misinformation, errors, myths, scams, pushy sales, and other problems. So, when I tap those Top 10 articles for my research, they might be full of misinformation.
Your Unique Local Needs
Every city in the country has unique problems to be solved. For example, your city may have to deal with high humidity, snow, sand, sub-zero degree winters, or 115 degree summers, frequent flooding, ocean air, etc. The help and advice you give your customers may be slightly different if you live in Phoenix vs. Houston vs. Lansing vs. San Diego vs Juno vs. a tiny town by Lake Tahoe.
Your Unique Character
Without your input, the articles will sound like me talking. My job as your "ghost writer" is to make each article sound like you talking — your favorite words, stories, examples, humor, wit, and tone.
Well-written and Unique Content
Again, Google tends to reward well-written and unique content. Google has its ways of sniffing out plagiarism, "article scraping", and other low-integrity techniques used by many SEO people to toss content into websites for SEO purposes. Some SEO copywriters just grab an existing article from the web, re-arrange the paragraphs, grab a thesaurus and swap out some of the words, and then publish that article as yours.
"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
The sleepy canine is being leaped over by a speedy bronze fox.
... a typical SEO low-value tactic. Unique words, but not better. Very awkward. Very lazy. Not professional. Not good.
With this low-integrity technique, I could write each article in under an hour. That’s why SEO companies do it. It requires very little time and effort and it’s often just boring drivel and terribly plagiarized.
In contrast, my article writing process often takes 6-8 hours for each article, because I'm a little obsessed with quality. I'm not just gaming the Google search system. I'm a professional writer, and my high-integrity approach will result in better articles that will actually be appreciated by your customers and rewarded by Google with higher rankings.
There's a fairly well-known marketing content company for carpet cleaners (I won't name names) which sells a subscription that includes dozens of articles that you can just grab and use on your site. It claims that Google doesn’t care if your article is exactly the same as another cleaner’s article, as long as you’re in different local markets. If you live in San Diego, and your article is identical to an article from a cleaner in Houston, this content company claims that it’s just fine, because Google doesn’t care. But I say this is a risky approach.
I think this just-copy-this-article approach fundamentally ignores Google’s ever-improving algorithm. It may be fine to have identical articles in different markets today; but what if next year, Google decides it’s not ok? And they change their algorithm to penalize identical articles? Google could suddenly do that, and then your identical articles will suddenly become a liability, and your rankings will plummet.
Let’s avoid this possibility from the start. Let’s write original articles together that we can be proud of.
There really is no shortcut to quality.
Interesting Experiences and Stories
Your training, experiences, and success stories will be a key to improving the content and uniqueness of each article. So, please brainstorm and recall some conversations and significant successes you've had with clients throughout the years, and share them with me so I can add a personal touch to your articles! This type of material could be a conversation starter with a new prospect.
So, how do I get this original material out of you?
I call this technique "Prompts and Questions"
For each topic, I’ll send you a web form with questions for you to answer in long-form, complete sentences. The questions will be accompanied by "writing prompts" — specific keywords and mental triggers that will help you to thoroughly answer the questions. Please try to use the keywords that I provide in your responses to the questions.
For example, a question may be:
How often do you recommend that your customers have their carpets professionally cleaned?
--- Space to answer the question ---
And then I’ll supply prompts, mental triggers, and keywords to help you answer the question more completely, like this:
manufacturers, warranties, high-traffic areas, pets, children, humidity, vacuuming, before it looks dirty, deep cleaning, how well the homeowner maintains their carpets, types of carpeting, weather, guests, living alone
You get the idea. I pulled these prompts from the Top 10 Articles. And you don't have to stick with my prompts. Feel free to expand, twist, update, and improve on my prompts with your own. Try to explain your answers in your own words, and in complete sentences, in your conversational tone. You’re the expert — you're the author, and this article is yours.
I suggest that you read through the prompts and questions one day, then sleep on it, and answer the questions the next day. But please don’t take too long. I ask that you submit your answers within 3 or 4 days — we’re on a tight production schedule to improve your website!
then let's just discuss the topic over a phone call!
Let me know if you ever prefer a phone call, and we'll set up a time to just have a conversation.
My next task: to write a "crummy first draft"
I have to admit:
I’m a perfectionist, and I’m aware that I can delay posting an article far too long because "it's not perfect yet!!" I've even been editing this article for over a week now! Every author goes through it. So, in order to battle the delays caused by my wanting to be perfect, I am committed to posting your articles in drafts.
Once I have created summaries and outlines from the Top 10 Google-ranked articles, and once I receive your answers to the questions, I will then have all the materials I need to write a well-written article for your website. But, I must begin by writing a "crummy first draft".
There’s a famous book that professional writers love to recommend. It’s called, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. One of the early chapters is called, “SH**TY First Drafts” (This is a family-friendly article, so I cleaned it up). Her message is that an author should give himself permission to just write down the bones of an article without judgement. Then later drafts will refine the article into a great written piece. You get the idea. This first draft is usually crummy, and it will not be seen by anyone but myself.
However, a second or third draft will be posted to your website when it’s “good.” Since these articles are living documents, they can be updated and improved regularly. So, the idea is to keep improving them until they're great articles, but to post a draft as soon as it's "good".
How long do the articles need to be?
This is a question I am often asked.
The answer is: As short as possible to get all the important points across...
... but longer than your competition's articles.
Why does the article need to be slightly longer than your competition's articles? For the win! There's data that suggests that Google will reward the longer articles. So, if the first 10 Google-ranked articles on "How Often Should I Have My Carpets Professionally Cleaned" have lengths of about 300 - 400 words, then I'll shoot for 500 words of well-written, well-presented content, with minimal fluff to respect your reader's time.
Down the road, my plan is to enhance your articles — the ones posted in the past, the present, and the future.
Here is brainstorming of ideas:
- Support Videos
- Links to other sections of your site
- Prompts & Questions recorded over a phone call with me
- Email marketing - Send an excerpt to your email list, with a link to the full article on your website.
Website Articles are Living Documents
Once I post a good draft of the article on your website, this document can and should be updated and improved several times a year.
If you would like to make a change to the article the next day, the next week, the next month — anytime — let me know, and I’ll make the change immediately. We can regularly ask "How can we make this better?" Because, unlike print articles that you can’t change once they go to press, we can improve your internet articles anytime!
And in case you’re wondering…
Yes, Google notices and rewards updates to existing articles.
Together, we are in the midst of a "content competition" to better serve your customers, and to rank higher in Google search results. Our ultimate goal is to educate and answer your customer’s questions and concerns on your website, so they don’t have to look for answers elsewhere.
With your helpful answers to the questions I send you, I can write what I think are the best articles on carpet cleaning anywhere on the internet. It's a slow and often stressful process — writing. I believe that my process of "ghost writing" that gets you involved will give superior results over the SEO copywriter's and DIY cleaner's "blogs" that are far too common on carpet cleaner's websites today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity!