Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Evaluating your work...Customer feedback, results, and what it means...

If I write a sales page for a client and he pulls a conversion rate twice as high as he might have otherwise expected, I'd love to take credit for that. The client might be more than willing to give me that credit, too.

Of course, that doubled conversion rate could be the result of a superior product compared to past efforts. It could be related to a marketing campaign that supplied a more precisely targeted collection of prospects. It might be because the sales page went live the day after most people received their tax refund checks. Who really knows? Sure, with the right split testing of multiple sales pages, etc., we might be able to get a more precise measurement. But even then, there are ghosts in the machine that might be whispering wrong answers.

If I write a press release and the client gets absolutely no play from it, s/he might think I did a poor job. I might question the quality of the work, too. However, the shortfall in results could have been the result of a lousy distribution plan with which I had nothing to do.

The client gets a record number of signups on his/her squeeze page. I'm a hero! No one signs up. It's my fault. Maybe, maybe not. No way to tell. You get the idea.

I started thinking about this a little bit after reading an article by another freelance content writer about the kinds of things buyers should ask prospective writers about before hiring them. One of the questions advocated was whether their articles ever achieved a top position on one or more of the major search engines.

Personally, I think that's a ridiculous answer for a prospective client to ask. Why?

First, because most writers won't have any idea. We write tons and tons of material and don't track the use of every work-for-hire piece, if we inquired about where/when it was going to be used in the first place. The idea that a good writer has the time to check in on how all of those articles are working out for all of those buyers is sort of silly.

Second, because the question itself rests upon the inaccurate assumption that the content itself has some magical power to drift to the top of the SERPs, which it doesn't. Look, I love content. I live and breathe text content. I think it is better than sliced bread, that it is a SERP booster, a backlink generator, a long tail stretcher, a stickiness machine and a whole bunch of other great things. However, I recognize that my article, my sales page, my press release, my whatever won't necessarily work in the wrong hands.

An article that might go straight to #1 with a bullet might languish elsewhere if the owner did a poor job or submitting it to directories, if his/her bio box contained something weird enough to turn people off from using it, if they just decided to use it on one of their own internal pages or a new site that hasn't been indexed. Suppose they put it up, but tinker with the HTML tags to the point of reducing effectiveness? What if other things they have done with their site force them to sustain some invisible Google penalties?

Again, you get the idea. It'd be nice to say that content is only as good as the writer. However, the truth of the matter is that the content is only as good as the writer and the subsequent owner.

I just can't wrap my way around a method of assessing the quality of my work based exclusively, or even primarily, on the outcomes achieved by my clients. When they tell me my work landed them $XXXXX in 24 hours and offer a compliment, I accept it. However, I do so with a full knowledge of the fact it might not have been me.

So, if we want to know how we are doing, how should we proceed.

We could just rely upon client opinion. "I like it." "It looks good." "Great work. Whatever. i have a problem doing this, too. Many of the clients for whom I work hire me because they are seeking improvements over their own work. I have a hard time accepting the observations of a an admittedly bad writer as an accurate grading of my work. There are also those who are simply incapable of telling the difference between junk and good stuff.

Plus, many of the comments one receives back after sending material are of the one-two sentence variety or don't really get to the heart of the matter.

That leaves self-assessment, which is what I do when I read over my work before zipping it up and sending it out. Sometimes I am brilliant. Sometimes I think I fell short. Of course, in the bigger scheme of things, I have no idea whatsoever.

So, I guess I will just keep plugging away, doing things the right way, hoping for good results but knowing I'm only responsible for part of them. I'll keep saving all of those "Hey, great job. I love your writing" emails even though I question what they really prove. I'll keep grinding away to satisfy myself, I suppose and will try to never let my standards slip.

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