Hiring writers to help generate SEO friendly content

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Does it make sense to hire writers for your online business or website? I’ve started to have a lot of success with outsourced writers – but only when I know the topics that I want them to cover, and also when I train them up on basic content guidelines and SEO. Additionally, I believe that a single person should be your editor so that you can keep the right tone and brand – I never publish anything without carefully reading it and editing it for clarity, SEO and brand.

Training someone on basic SEO shouldn’t be too hard, as long as they are competent and open to learning. Below is an email I shared with a new writer on how they should approach SEO.

My email to an outsourced writer explaining basic SEO tactics

When we write a piece for SEO purposes, our goal is to win search volume on the “focus” keyword/phrase, plus get some related search volume for longer-tail keywords as well. I like this overview, and will expound more below: https://www.reliablesoft.net/on-page-seo/

We need to be pretty calculating with the keyword phrases and terms that we use. Their position in the piece, plus the percent that we use them in the piece matter.

A) In terms of positioning the focus words in the piece, we need to have the header/title use the exact keyword phrase. We should have the exact keyword phrase used once in the first paragraph, ideally in the first or second sentence. This not only lets Google know that we are focusing on this term, it also lets people who’ve just made a search see the result near the top, so they know they’ve come to the right place.

We also must use the phrase, or some version of the phrase, in the sub-titles, at least a couple of times. And we’ll want to “naturally” sprinkle the keyword phrase, and variants of it, in the piece through the paragraph/body text.

B) The frequency that we use the terms is called “keyword density.” We want the term in there enough so that Google realizes what we are focusing on, but not so much that it thinks we are creating spam content. And we don’t want to be unnatural; our writing needs to keep the reader engaged. Sometimes this is easy, other times it requires some real editing. The easiest way to check the density is with this free tool:

https://www.seoreviewtools.com/keyword-density-checker/?text-input

An aspect of density that some people forget is that the phrase density matters as well; it’s not just the single words, but also the combination of words that mattes.

The tool above will help you understand when you’ve gone too far, but the general rough rule is that we want between 1 and 2% of all of the words in the text to be the keyword, and we don’t want more than 2% of the words to be any particular phrase.

B2) Synonyms are not a bad idea either – this can help catch other, related searches, plus make the piece less robotic. For example, I’ll use the term “startup” “early-stage company” “VC funded company” etc to mix it up and not just say “startup” over an over.

C) I’d also like you to visit google and search for the term that we are trying to win. Google will suggest other searches – if these seem relevant, than we want to have a “section” on them. Many of these will be questions, and we’ll want to have a subtitle that asks the question, and a paragraph below that answers it.

D) Please also visit the top couple of search results to see what those people have written on. We may find ideas in there that will help us with what we want to talk about.

E) It’s not a bad idea to have a link or two out to a related topic that is on an “authority” site – ideally a news article or university research piece. This may not be easy, so don’t bend over backwards to do it. It’s got to be “natural” enough to be helpful for a reader who clicks out.

Most importantly, we want to write great content that is interesting to read and answers the question(s) that the visitor has!!

Recent Quora Posts

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I’ve been doing more and more of my writing on Quora, so this blog continues to lag. Here are a few of the most recent/highest read answers that I’ve posted on Quora:

Where can I find examples of investment deal memos written by venture capitalists? I write up an example VC investment memo, including the market opportunity, sales strategy and more.

Healy Jones’s answer to Would you make your company aware if you saw that they accidentally paid you twice your usual paycheck, or keep it a secret? Turns out I thought that I had this situation, and when I brought it up the result was more humorous than anything else!

Healy Jones’s answer to How can being a capital efficient startup help with its exit? My main point: the more the startup raises, the bigger the exit has to be to satisfy the VCs.

Creating a private Twitter list

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Private Twitter lists are a great way to keep up to date on a group of companies, competitors, thought leaders, journalists, etc. – without anyone knowing who you are following.

Why create a private Twitter list?

Twitter lists are like a modern RSS feed – you can passively watch a lot of different companies/people and know about interesting news, trends, etc – without having to actively do any real work.

Keeping the Twitter list private means that the people you follow, and competitors, won’t know who you are following. This helps if you are following a list of customers and you don’t want your competitors to know. Or if you put a lot of time into creating a Twitter list that give you some kind of a competitive advantage and you don’t want someone else to benefit from you work.

I found that it’s not easy to find information on how to create a private Twitter list – not really sure why, as it’s very easy.

How do you create a private Twitter list?

  1. Click on your face in the top right 
  2. Click “lists”
  3. Click “create a new” list to the right
  4. Name the Twitter list it
  5. Make sure you select the “private” option
  6. Add people to the list, and there you go!

How do you make an existing Twitter list private?

If you already have a Twitter list and want to convert it from public, where anyone can see it, to Private, where only you can access the list, all you have to do is:

  1. Click on your face in the top right (see the image above)
  2. Click “Lists”
  3. Choose the list, from you lists in the middle
  4. On the left, click “edit”
  5. Choose “Private”, then save list

Done!

For the Love of Beans!

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I’ve been making a ton of beans from scratch recently – and thought that I’d memorialize my little recipe. I use a crockpot, so it’s surprisingly simple. Six hours and really no work!

Slow cooked beans recipe

  • 2 cups dried beans, rinsed (I usually use black or pinto)
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or veggie are what I prefer)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning

Drop it all into the crockpot on low for 6 hours, and you are done!

ForUsAll recent press

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I’ve been really busy recently, so haven’t been posting much recently. (I did manage to make my vegetarian mexican casserole again this weekend though!)

The good news is that ForUsAll is experiencing some great momentum, and with it, some great press. Here are some of the press pieces that I’m particularly proud of:

ForUsAll in Techcrunch: This technology publication covered ForUsAll’s achievement of an important milestone – $100 million in assets under management. Quoting from the article, “The company has managed to attract a customer base among small and medium-sized businesses precisely because it offers lower cost advisory services with higher engagement rates for employees, according to chief executive and founder, Shin Inoue.”

PlanSponsor: Small- and Midsize-Plan Issues: A plan sponsor finds new provider options. I’m pretty proud of this one, as it is an interview with a non-profit ForUsAll client, Baltimore Curriculum Project. This client talks to PlanSponsor about their decision to work with ForUsAll:

Besides the participant improvements, Scott is pleased because ForUsAll handles enrollment and payroll deductions, as well as Form 5500 reporting. “Previously, I had to enter everything in payroll by hand. Now, after an employee’s one-year eligibility period is up, I get an email that [he] is participating and that the deferral will be deducted from his pay. ForUsAll runs payroll reports and automatically debits deferrals,” she says.

InvestmentNews: Young retirement robo ForUsAll scoring high employee participation rates. InvestmentNews reporter mentions how ForUsAll has reached $100 million in assets under management, and then mentions some of the reasons for our recent growth.

ForUsAll, a budding retirement robo-adviser launched by three former Financial Engines employees, is having more success convincing plan participants to save for their futures than the industry as a whole…

In addition to convincing participants to save for their own retirements, the San Francisco-based firm appears to be presenting an effective argument to attract clients, as it grew assets on its platform to $100 million from $5 million at the start of 2016.

As a reminder, I run marketing for ForUsAll. We are a technology enabled small and mid-sized retirement plan advisor. This means that we help SMBs improve their 401(k) plans by bringing them a suite of technology and our founders’ experience managing billions of 401(k) assets for Fortune 500 companies. This market is highly fragmented, with a number of 401(k) providers duking it out for market share. We help business owners and HR leaders find the right retirement provider, fund lineup, lower fees, and add on a technology stack that helps reduce their administrative workload and fiduciary responsibilities.

Podcast interview with Kruze Consulting

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Late in 2016, Scott Orn interviewed me for his company’s podcast. Scott’s company is Kruze Consulting, a startup accounting and finance firm. He has a great podcast, Founders and Friends, that interviews startup executives, venture capitalists, startup advisors, etc. I highly recommend it!

Some of the things we talked about are how ForUsAll tries to make 401(k)s as easy as possible, while also being affordable. We went into some of the fiduciary risks that business owners take on when they offer a 401(k) plan, how fees get ‘hidden’ in various ways by traditional providers, and how software can help make administering a 401(k) so much easier. It’s a little bit of a ForUsAll review, done by someone working at the company!

Listen to the Scott Orn / Healy Jones discussion!

Vegetarian Mexican Casserole with Quinoa

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I’ve been looking for meat-free entrees that my daughter will eat – not so easy! But she does love beans and Mexican seasoning, so I melded together a few different versions of Mexican lasagna in the hopes that she would eat it – and that it would provide some nutritional value.

And it worked! The thing I like best about this is that the next day, the corn tortillas soaked up the juices and became almost tamale like.

Vegetarian Mexican Casserole

vegetarian-mexican-cassarole

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
Bullion, dried cilantro, avocado oil

Cook the quinoa with water, bullion, cilantro, oil. Let it cool.

1 onion, diced
chopped garlic
Taco seasoning
1 zucchini, chopped into thin slices then into 4 pieces
3 cups diced tomatoes – basically 3 very large tomatoes
1 15 oz can of pinto beans
30 oz can of refried black beens
Lime juice
Mild salsa
1 cup corn
Enchilada sauce
1 pound grated cheddar cheese
10 corn tortillas

Turn oven onto 375 degrees.

Cook the quinoa with the water, bullion, dried cilantro and a half a teaspoon of avocado oil.

Fry 1/2 the onion with some chopped garlic and avocado oil, add the chopped zucchini and some taco seasoning, stir, add some water. Cook off the water, but don’t let the zucchini get mushy. Pour the zucchini into a bowl, use the same pan for:

Fry 1/2 the onion with some chopped garlic and avocado oil, then add the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning. Cook down the tomatoes, add a dash of corn starch to thicken. Let boil, then take off the heat. Pour the tomatoes into another bowl, use the same pan for:

Add the refried beans, head up with some lime juice, add some mild salsa.

Mix the corn and pinto beans in a microwave safe bowl, add some salsa and dried cilantro, head in the microwave to cook the corn to firm but not mushy.

Pour a small amount of salsa into the bottom of a lasagna pan. Layer corn tortillas onto the bottom, rip the tortillas to pretty much take up all of the bottom of the pan. Put in all the quinoa in a layer. Add a thin layer of the tomatoes on top, then the corn and pinto beans. Then 1/2 the grated cheese. Then another layer of corn tortillas, the refried beans, the zucchini, the rest of the tomatoes, then some enchilada sauce, then the rest of the cheese.

Cover with foil, bake for 20 minutes, take off foil, bake for another 20 minutes.

ForUsAll

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I’m excited to announce that I recently joined ForUsAll! ForUsAll is focused on making 401(k) retirement plans available to small and mid-sized businesses. This is a market ripe for innovation. If a SMB does offer their employees a 401(k) plan, they end up paying high fees, dealing with administration headaches and often get less than ideal employee participation rates.

ForUsAll is trying to change all of that using design and technology innovation. The founders come from a deep 401(k) lineage, having helped build Financial Engines – a major player in the Fortune 500 retirement benefit space. My role is to lead our nascent marketing team and I get to partner closely with our rapidly growing sales team. One of the things that most excited me about joining ForUsAll was getting to work with another fast paced sales team – I really enjoyed working with sales at Sunrun, and this is a tremendous opportunity to help shape an awesome sales and marketing organization. I’m also proud to say that we have recently announced our Series A venture capital raise, which you can read about here.

I hope that I’ll have time to blog more about the strategies and tactics that I’m using at ForUsAll. One of my initial goals has been to generate content for the company, so I’ve been writing and editing a ton. This means that I’m back in the groove of writing – awesome! But it also means that I’m busy writing like crazy for my day job, which may make it harder to produce content for this blog.

Now that I’ve left ForUsAll, I’ve put together some “industry insider” reviews of fintech 401(k) companies. You can read a Guideline 401(k) review here, and a ForUsAll 401(k) review here, and a Human Interest 401(k) review here.

2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zinfandel tasting

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For some reason, Zin’s and I have grown apart recently. I used to be a huge fan of young, lush, jammy zinfandels, but am suddenly seeking more balanced wines that mellow well over the evening.

The 2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zinfandel turned me back onto Zin’s in a big way. It’s got the bigness that I loved in Zinfandels, but somehow with a nuanced smoothness that didn’t leave me feeling like my teeth had turned purple.

2013 Fritz Estate Zinfandel

2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zin

This wine has a solid nose of some kind of dark fruit, like cherry. I loved the dark red, but not purple, color and the texture was just how a great Zinfandel should be, thick and luscious.

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