In this podcast episode she explains:
- Why every writer should learn to write for the web
- How to balance writing fiction and nonfiction
- What’s working in SEO today for writers and authors
- How she balances creative and analytical work
- Why she still writes fiction
And lots more
Bryan Collins: Abudemi, could you give me a bit of background information about how you made the transition from writing an award nominated book back in 2010, to SEO and copywriting, which is an altogether different type of writing?
Abidemi Sanusi : It is quite different. So when I wrote the book Eyo, which is nominated for that literary award, I used to be a human rights worker. I used to be a human rights worker, and when I got a bit jaded … I’d been doing it for about four and a half, five years, and I knew that I wanted to leave the field of bitches. When you get sent out to all those conflict zones and I knew I wanted to leave the field, but there were two issues I was very passionate about. I was very passionate about, which is about gender and conflict, especially child slavery because I used to campaign against those. But, I wanted to do something. I just didn’t want to leave human rights. I wanted to do something.
Abidemi Sanusi : So I asked her, “What is the one thing that I do that I’m passionate about that I think I’m kind of okay at that will also raise awareness of this issue?” And the result was Eyo, which was nominated for that award, which is the Columbus Writer’s award. But I’d also had dreams of running my own business being a freelance or being a consultant of some sort. I wasn’t quite sure what that was. So between leaving the human rights field and just trying to figure out how to make this whole running your own business, being freelance, being a freelance, being a consultant.
Abidemi Sanusi : I was also working at the human rights organization, it was a very small charity, really tiny and we had an office based in Highbury in North London. And then we also had another office in Nigeria but resources were very tight. And so I was the West Africa Programs person, but I was also the web editor and I got exactly five minutes training. I got five minutes training for my boss, the manager. And then I think about two or three weeks after we got funding to create a French Week in Human Rights website.
Abidemi Sanusi : And the target was, I think I had to get, I think like five or 10,000 people. Attract them to the site so we could actually get more funding. I didn’t know anything. This is the world of charities. I can tell you more stories. So I think all those factors actually played into it. So that was my intro working in human rights and SEO and copywriting and doing contents. So that was my introduction. So when I left the human rights world, I realized also that I had a passion for digital things. I’m a bit of a nerd like that. Until today I still spend stupid amounts of money buying and playing with software. But that’s just another thing entirely. So that was how I made the transition.
Abidemi Sanusi : So with that challenge, which I absolutely met, and we got funding to do even more work in West Africa, which is where my … that was my area of expertise. Because when you do human rights you tend to specialize either in a new region or a certain thing. So that was how I made the transition. It’s a bit of a long winded response but I think, I hope I answered your question.
Bryan Collins: I actually used to work in a different career in social care and actually worked for a charity at one point. [crosstalk 00:03:21] I was writing fiction, although I didn’t have as much success as you’ve had. I transitioned into non-fiction as well. So I can recognize some of the steps on your journey. I mean the biggest thing for me was learning how to write for the web, which is completely different to trying to craft a nice sentence for a literary book. How did you learn that skill?
Abidemi Sanusi : It’s really weird the way you say literary book, because I’ve never really seen myself as a literary writer. I’ve never really seen myself … In the kind of culture … I was born in Nigeria and then I was sent to boarding school in England and I kind of stayed. I kind of decided to stay on afterwards. In Nigerian West African culture, there is a real appreciation of the literary style of writing. I’ve never actually seen myself like that. I’ve always seen myself as a commercial author. And it’s only actually the last couple of years that people have actually told me, “Oh, you’re more of a literary writer.” I just think no, more commercial. Neither one is better than the other, I have to say. But I just think my writing is kind of, I like to think of me as personable. But when I think about literary stuff … Can I just say that I will read anything.
Abidemi Sanusi : But when I think about my writing style, I think it’s kind of light. I don’t know if you have … And I know this is now going internationally into the world, I always think about rights and so literary rights it’s like going to The Ivy, a really, really amazing restaurant. You get posh food, but the quantities are really tiny. And then you finish it and then probably afterwards go get grab yourself a burger because you’re still hungry.
Abidemi Sanusi : It feeds you. It’s amazing presentation. It’s fantastic. Everything is good. You have an amazing experience but you leave … Or maybe it’s just me that you think, “Oh God, I’ve got to get a burger after because I’m still hungry.” But with commercial fiction that’s a misunderstanding. It’s like going to a Nandos with your friends. The food is affordable, it’s cheap and then you leave. It’s like you’re really, really satisfied, really happy. So that’s [inaudible 00:05:35]. I think when you write fiction in general anyway, it is different to writing web contents and I think you have different parts of your brain that are working. Because when I’m writing web content, I am so focused on the audience. I’m always thinking about the people, like the channels that got to come through the website.
Abidemi Sanusi : Is it via Twitter? Is it via LinkedIn, is via social media? What’s the social media channel? What is the intent? I know some people find this stuff boring, but a lot of our SEO copywriting especially, is about intent. Your page has to convert. To do that you have to know why you created that page. So that’s the technicalities of it. But also, in the actual writing itself, you have to have a certain writing style. Essentially people break your stuff up in paragraphs. It has to be short and sharp and lean, because not everybody is reading it from a desk top or a laptop. More than likely they’re reading it from a mobile device. So you have to factor that in. Don’t have long paragraphs. Nowadays, six lines to a paragraph is too long. It’s too long. I use different parts of my brain when I’m writing books. And as you know, I write fiction and non-fiction. So what I’m doing that I use a different part of my brain and when I’m writing web content, I use different parts of my brain.
Bryan Collins: You still write fiction as well?
Abidemi Sanusi : Yes. I’ve actually got a book out next year.
Bryan Collins: Oh, right. Okay. Congratulations.
Abidemi Sanusi : Yeah. Which I’m really excited about. And it’s fiction. It’s fiction. It’s a bit weird but anyway, it is what it is.
Bryan Collins: Yeah. Well they certainly engage different parts of the brain. So how did you study SEO or writing for the web? Did you take courses or imitate the styles of other people?
Abidemi Sanusi : Yeah. So when I had my five minute training for that small human rights charity, literally it was five minutes. The manager went through it, she goes, “So this is how you update the database, this is how you do this.” And I basically have to figure out things for myself, because she left a couple of … I think she left a couple of months after. So I basically had to figure things out for myself. I’m a big fan of up skilling and basically learning new things. So when I decided I was going to be a consultant or a freelancer or contractor or whatever you want me to call it, I knew that I had to be better than anybody else that was out there. And I knew the way to do that was via SEO. I went on an SEO course when I left but, I knew the basics of it.
Abidemi Sanusi : When you do web content writing, you need to know the basics. But I just thought, “What would elevate me, what will put me at the premium position compared to everybody else in the market?” I knew I was going to set up this business anyway. I wasn’t going to freelance, I was going to set up a business, a content agency, not a digital agency. An SEO content agency. But I just thought, “What would distinguish me from everybody else in the market?” Because what tends to happen is when you set up a digital agency, you have different teams doing SEO or content. Mine was just the one thing. I just thought, “Fine.” So SEO I wanted to learn it. I just didn’t want to outsource it or get somebody in. Sometimes it’s good to know what you’re talking about.
Abidemi Sanusi : So I went on the course and I actually made friends with the trainer of the course, Joe Williams. I think he’s a literary professor of SEO now, but back in the day he used to run probably one of the top three SEO courses in London at that time. He was very, very good, very well known. And we kind of struck up a kind of friendship. If I had questions I would ask him. I came away from that. And most important, I practiced my skills. So when I was optimizing setting up, my agency. When I transitioned from freelancing and I’d been a consultant running an SEO agency, I set myself the goal. Well, if people typed in SEO copywriter, I wanted to be basically number between numbers one to three. The first page was good, but I wanted to be numbers one to three because that was the best way of demonstrating my expertise. That was exactly what I set out to do and that was what I’d achieved. Because then people would come to the website.
Abidemi Sanusi : It would be like, “Oh, I just typed in SEO writing services, but I see you’re a copywriter.” And seeing as you are number one or two or three or four or what have you. Certainly I was in the top three. That’s when I knew that you knew what you were talking about. I no longer run [inaudible 00:10:12] writer because I’m focused on doing extra things. But I am still coming to speak about SEO copywriting because obviously I wrote a book about that as well. So that was how I got started and transitioned into that.
Bryan Collins: Yeah. I like your story about the transition. So what would you say is working in SEO these days for writers and for freelancers?
Abidemi Sanusi : SEO copywriting is not like your traditional, what I like to call traditional copywriting. So SEO copywriting, I know that you know what the differences, but an SEO copywriter is somebody who has been trained and somebody who writes content that’s designed to perform well on Google in search engine results. To design to perform well on Google. So when people type in a certain word, or what have you, that content hopefully should be on page one or two. Preferably page one, and also more than that, get people to click through from Google search engine results to your website. Once they get on the web site, your job also is to make sure that those visitors are converted.
Abidemi Sanusi : They have a longterm plan. There’s a kind of conversion plan. And that’s different from what I like to call traditional. I know I’m going to get killed for this, for like traditional copywriting because it doesn’t factor in, all these other regiments. The SEO techniques and the kind of things you have to apply to your content to make sure that it ranks well. It’s a specific skill. That’s what I like to call it. It’s knowing about SEO and it’s also basically knowing about copywriting and bringing the two together. That’s the difference.
Bryan Collins: So if I wanted to get started with writing for the web or SEO, what would you suggest I do?
Abidemi Sanusi : Well, one of the things I would obviously suggest is come on my course. SEO copywriting.
Bryan Collins: [inaudible 00:12:10]
Abidemi Sanusi : Yeah. Come on my course, SEO Copywriting. See the way you learn about SEO and copywriting and also how to run an SEO copywriting business. Or you could decide, actually I don’t want to be a copywriter anymore. There are quite a few courses that you can do, just search for SEO courses. But just be aware that SEO is a bit nebulous. It’s not the kind of thing that you get results from like overnight for instance, because you are optimizing and doing things for the long term. And that’s why there is a kind of discord, well, tension between digital marketeers and SEO analysts or optimizers. With digital marketing, you have a goal, you have a campaign, throw money at it, you can see results or basically see your 5,000 pounds or $5,000 go down the drain.
Abidemi Sanusi : Whereas with SEO you are writing … In a lot of cases, you’re investing a lot of time and effort in creating good content, making sure the technical bits of SEO have been implemented. And it takes time. Probably three to six months before you start seeing any of that results, and the best result is the free traffic you get to your website. It’s free quality traffic, which you can then convert it into customers. If you’re a writer you think, “Okay, this is something that I should be looking into.” You’ve always [inaudible 00:13:39] I would say definitely learn about SEO, learn about copywriting. And if you are somebody that writes books, copywriting or content writing, it’s very different from writing books. Nobody has time to read like 20 pages of Shakespearian writing style.
Bryan Collins: Yeah. I think as a copywriter you could write a long sales page that’s 10, 20 pages long and it might help you converse. Bub with SEO there’s a different approach you have to take at it. That’s been my experience that it takes three to six months for a page to rank. When I write something I start with keyword research. So how do you approach keyword research?
Abidemi Sanusi : I would always come back to what the goal is for instance. I would always say to people you first define your business objective and then you optimize. You define your business objective and your content. Your website is basically your online port or your online shop. So whatever services you’re providing or maybe you sell books, maybe you write books, you want to sell your books. Maybe your books is, I don’t know … Freelance or fantasy? So make sure you position that page on your website. Do the research around readers. Look for the kind of key words that somebody’s looking to buy, looking to discover it, looking to discover new authors, might possibly search Google for. So it might be a keyboard as for example, Martian, new Martian, also in Dystopian fantasy, for instance. Something like that.
Abidemi Sanusi : That is so niche. I’ve just made out by the way. But it’s so niche and those kinds of people that are searching for those kinds of keywords, they’re usually looking to buy, basically keen to buy. Another example I can give to you is for car insurance. That’s a short keyword. If you’re selling car insurance or you’re Mr Slow Joe, don’t ever optimize for that because you just be crushed online by all the big insurance people. So it’s much better for you to basically optimize your website for car insurance for people living in Leyton, East London. [inaudible 00:15:58] the search volume is lower, but you’re more likely to get traffic to your website if you optimize your website for that. So the difference though, just making sure that whatever you’re optimizing for, think about key words that basically suggest … Key words that suggest that the people searching for use that key word within a mall.
Abidemi Sanusi : They have purchasing intent for instance. So car insurance. Anyone that types in car insurance, they’re looking for information, but you want people who want to buy. So car insurance company, in Leyton, East London. For me, I would say actually there’s somebody typing in that. I know that they live in East London, they live in Leyton, East London. They’re looking for a local car insurance company and they’re definitely looking to buy. That’s the way I would approach it. Be very focused, don’t get carried away. Don’t try and bid for broad keywords like car insurance that all the other big car insurance companies. You just would never rank for that at all.
Bryan Collins: What tool would you recommend a new writer use to get started for keyword research?
Abidemi Sanusi : Well, there are quite a few tools. Neil Patel, who’s very well known in the SEO world. I’m just going to throw that out there. He’s got tools. [inaudible 00:17:10] Uber Suggest and so you can start from there. And I know he’s also doing some amazing things and for keywords, for SEO in general. You could start with that and there’s also a chrome extension that you can use called ‘keywords everywhere’. So basically just installing it on your chrome browser and when you type in a particular keyword, it gives you an idea of the search volume for that.
Abidemi Sanusi : Another thing that you should also try and think optimize for is Google’s [inaudible 00:17:40]. You type in your question in Google and it brings up the snippets. You type in a question and it gives you answers from different websites. So that’s sort of the thing that you could try optimizing for. And I think another big thing is actually voices search. That’s going to be huge if it’s not huge already, because people don’t like typing in stuff anymore. I still type in stuff but people like to ask Siri and all those people questions. So that’s something you definitely should look at.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, I agree with the voice search. It’s definitely going to be a new technology that will change how we use the internet and search for topics. I thought we’ll just go back to your creative work and I’m just curious about how you balance creative work with SEO, which will definitely be more analytical or technical.
Abidemi Sanusi : That’s the funny thing. I’m probably not the most analytical person in the world. I don’t think I am. The truth also is if you write books you have to be analytical. I think it doesn’t matter if you write fiction or non-fiction because your book has to have a beginning and an end. There has to be structure to it. People often think if you write fiction I means you’re so la-di-da and everything is just so woozy. It doesn’t work like that. And I think as an experienced writer, an author. Because we’re both writers and authors because we’ve written books, you you understand that this is your career and you put the time in. You don’t want to basically write a shorter book and you’re always thinking about the market as well.
Abidemi Sanusi : When you’re writing, how are you going to market it? You want to do a really, really good job. And also when you’re writing it, you want to basically deliver a good book and you have to be analytical about how that is. And I think I’ve come to the stage where when I’m working on a book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, obviously I don’t edit my book myself. I’m not an editor, I’m a writer. I try to give it my best, make sure whatever I do, I do my research, make sure I rewrite it and rewrite it when I finish it. Don’t just give it to the editor. I make sure it goes for several rewrites. And the same thing with the SEO copywriting as well. It is analytical because we have to do the keyword research and there’s some technical bits, you know, fiddling around with Google console. But I think if you take pride in your work and you want to deliver good work, there’s an element of analysis that goes into it. And that follows on from …
Abidemi Sanusi : I know some people were just tossing out their writing career. They want to write books, they might not want to hear this because writing actually … I didn’t know that writing books and being an SEO copywriter required analysis. Well, it’s the same for anything that you do in life. You just have to make sure you sit and think through everything. They just sit there and say, “Okay, I’m going to write book and everything is going to come out.” No. Write an outline, have some structure to it. The same thing for the SEO copywriting. Do the keyword research. Think about the second core elements, make sure you’ve got the metadata right. Educate yourself about Google search console, what’s going on in the industry. And don’t ever wait for the right time to do anything.
Abidemi Sanusi : If you’ve written a book, you finished, completed the manuscript. If you want to self-publish, make sure you get the best editor that you can and get it out there. And the same thing for the SEO copywriting. If you want to do that, do it. But don’t fret about, “Oh, it’s not good enough of this.” At some point you’re going to have to show your words to the world. have at it.
Bryan Collins: So do you believe that people are left sided or right sided when it comes to brain thinking or does it matter?
Abidemi Sanusi : I don’t think it does. I don’t think it does. When people see me, people that know me, they’re like, :You are the least analytical person in the world.” I am analytical. I have to be because I’m a writer. I write books, I do this SEO stuff. If you show me data and figures and stats. I am so lost. I just, I cannot make head or tail of that stuff. I just can’t. It’s just not me. Well, by the virtue of the work that I do, there has to be an element of data analysis and just basic analysis into what that data is. Especially when it comes to trends, you look at Google analytics. So I don’t really see myself or classify your thinking in terms of less left brain or right brain, because I’m just not that way inclined. I was going to say lazy. I’m just not that way inclined.
Bryan Collins: Yeah. Do you approach a creative work like writing a part of your story in the morning and then some of the analysis that you described in the afternoon or what does your ideal early morning routine look like?
Abidemi Sanusi : So wake up in the morning, meditate, go to the gym. And then with the writing stuff, I know experience tells me, and I know for a fact. Now I know because I’ve been doing this for a long time now, so I know for a fact that I write best in the morning. Anytime after one, two in the afternoon, it’s just not good. But that’s just me. I’ve worked it out. I do my best writing in the morning and then the planning stuff. Whatever it is I want to write, or if I’m thinking about the plot or the structure, or I’m thinking about the SEO research, I just think I’m a morning person when it comes to that stuff. I tend to leave the afternoon for boring admin stuff. Or project planning or something, I don’t know. But anything that requires a lot of thoughts or writing, it’s always, always done in the morning.
Bryan Collins: Does that include SEO copy?
Abidemi Sanusi : Yeah, always in the morning.
Bryan Collins: Okay. Okay. And are there any lessons you’ve learned about time management since you’ve set up your copywriting business that you wish you’d known maybe back in 2009 or 2008?
Abidemi Sanusi : Things will go wrong. Focus on quick wins. Marketing is very, very important. And when things go wrong, don’t beat up yourself. Learn from it and move on very, very swiftly. Life is too short. Don’t be afraid. If you’ve done something, you want to do something, don’t say, I’m going to wait until the perfect condition, the perfect time, the perfect this. That’s just never going to happen. It’s just never going to happen. If you’ve got something you want to do that’s in your heart, just do it and get it out there. Don’t just wait and wait. And if you’ve done something and you’re still perfecting it and perfecting it and perfecting it. You’re not doing yourself any favors mentally and otherwise. Do it, get it out there. Learn lessons from it and just try and take feedback. If it doesn’t work, it’s fine. It’s a learning experience. If it doesn’t work, it’s okay. Seriously, you will live through it. This is somebody who sent us an email talking about myself [inaudible 00:24:51] I think 750,000 people to our website. That was the night that had gone down and I didn’t realize.
Bryan Collins: Oh, what happened?
Abidemi Sanusi : I was launching this new website, it was my new website. I’d done all this work, I got some partners involved. And they’ve got to send out this email introducing people to my SEO copywriting service, 750,000 all over Europe. I had the developer. I didn’t realize actually because I’ve been speaking to him and my end I’m checking the website, I thought everything was fine. A lot of the stuff I’m getting emails from people, your website’s is down. Needless to say, relations between me and that developer were fraught after that.
Bryan Collins: Were you able to email them again when your website was back up?
Abidemi Sanusi : I was supposed to email them again but I lost momentum. I think for me, the worst thing was I was so mortified because this went on for … and they couldn’t get the website back up.
Bryan Collins: Oh God. Yeah. How long did it take to get back up?
Abidemi Sanusi : I think we lost the day.
Bryan Collins: Yeah. It happens, I suppose it happens. Where can people find you and your book or some information about your services online?
Abidemi Sanusi : So what I do now, I don’t do SEO consultancy anymore. I run online courses. So if you go to Abidemi.tv, which is A, B, I, D, E, M, I dot tv, that’s short for television dot TV. I’m online or you could Google my name. You can find the online courses there. If you want to buy my books they’re available on Amazon and that’s where you can find me.
Bryan Collins: Thank you Abudemi.
Abidemi Sanusi : Thank you Brian.
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