Learning SEO on-the-go: Behind Fancy Comma, LLC’s SEO Strategy

By Sheeva Azma

This article is the first blog in a two-part series about Fancy Comma, LLC’s content and SEO strategy. Read the second blog here.

Fancy Comma, LLC’s website has gotten over 20,000 visitors this year, as of this post’s writing in November 2021. We formally opened for business just a couple of weeks before the pandemic. We launched our website in March 2020, and our blogs got over 21,000 views last year. As of early December 2021, we’ve already exceeded last year’s web traffic!

screenshot of a graph of fancy comma, llc's weekly visitors
A snapshot of our weekly web traffic from mid-April to early November 2020. The solid bars represent unique web visitors, while the transparent bars represent total pageviews. As you can see, our site has been slowly and steadily gaining momentum: growing from 334 weekly visitors to 560+ during this time.

You may be wondering how we did it. The simple answer is that we achieved and built on incremental successes to achieve sustained, long-term increases in web visibility. If you’re interested in learning more about how we created a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy from scratch, keep reading.

We’ve built our website strategically in small chunks, building incrementally on our #SEO successes to achieve sustained, long-term increases in web visibility. #SmallBiz #FreelanceLife #MarketingTwitter

“Inventing the Universe” to Create an SEO Strategy

Remember, we’re first and foremost a science writing and communications company. We help our clients communicate complex topics not just in science, but also health, technology, policy, and business. So, as I was writing this post, a quote came to mind from physicist and legendary science communicator Carl Sagan.

Sagan once famously said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” I find this quote so relevant to SEO strategy. Why? It’s because, to create an SEO strategy, you must first have something to optimize, whether it’s an entire website or a single blog post or landing page. You can’t do SEO without content.

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe,” says Carl Sagan.

The first step of creating our SEO strategy was building a website — inventing our SEO universe, so to speak. Building a website from nothing was both easy and difficult. I had the creative liberty to present Fancy Comma, LLC in whatever way I wanted. That was the exciting part. The difficult part was actually coming up with content for our website. We had to speak on behalf of our business. As a science writer, I had the writing part down, but the strategy part was entirely new to me. So, I looked inward and thought about where I wanted Fancy Comma, LLC to go as a business.

Introspecting to Develop Content Strategy

Coming up with a content strategy for Fancy Comma, LLC, I asked myself some crucial questions, such as:

  • What do we do at Fancy Comma, LLC? At the time of our website launch, we only did copywriting and content writing in science, health, business, policy, and technology. So, that was easy enough. (We now offer other services, too, such as content strategy and strategic communications.)
  • How does what we do help our clients? We had just launched as a business when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Our skillset was ideal to tackle the pandemic’s challenges. In fact, we wrote a whole blog about it. We suddenly had tons of clients who needed us to explain the complexities of the pandemic in an accessible way. This included explaining the science of COVID-19 and how the COVID-19 vaccines work; best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in supply chain and event planning; making sense of the disruptions to the global supply chain, and ways to mitigate them; explaining trends in the financial markets; and more. We were super busy! So, this was also an easy question to answer.
  • What type of discussions do we participate in as a company? Before founding Fancy Comma, LLC, I spent almost seven years going solo as a freelance writer. Being a business owner is not that different from freelancing solo. However, as Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spiderman) says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the pandemic, one main challenge was communicating science effectively to the general public. So, we’ve tried to bridge the divide between science and society as a company. You can check out some articles I’ve since written on the topic of science communication or SciComm here. We also worked together to write a book about getting into freelance science writing with my colleague Nidhi Parekh (who was instrumental to our SEO strategy, as I’ll discuss in a later blog post in this series).
  • What is our brand voice? Our company tone? These were tough questions then and remain tough now. Our brand voice is constantly evolving given our clients’ needs and our own improving skillsets. Plus, I never took a business class in high school or college (though I’ve run a couple of lemonade stands, and ran a tee-shirt printing business in high school). I never set out to open a science writing and communications company, as I wrote for The Xylom — I had a B.S. in Neuroscience from MIT and an M.S. in Neuroscience from Georgetown when I became a freelance writer. What’s more, our particular “niche” of writing in the pandemic, though unusual for someone with my background (I would love to meet more scientists turned copywriters!), fulfilled an important need. If I had to describe our brand, I would say that it is informed, curious, and seeks to break down information silos between technical fields (such as science and technology, biomedical sciences, finance, business, and policy), and between these fields and the public. I used this introspection to come up with communications for our company (including Tweets, LinkedIn posts, and press releases).

These questions were difficult because they forced me to think about our company’s direction from a strategic communications point of view. Had I not taken the time to think about these questions, we would not be able to communicate our value proposition to clients; that is, what our clients get from working with us.

They are also questions many science writers may not have considered. Learning marketing and branding, or even science communication, is not an established part of science education. That’s part of the reason I am writing this blog. While there are a number of copywriters who have a science background, most of us do not have formal business training. If you don’t have any formal training in business, marketing, or public relations as a science writer, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these topics.

Content Strategy Is Essential for SEO

You’ll notice that I have barely mentioned SEO in this blog article! That’s because, in this step, we were working on “creating the universe” of our content. Strategizing saves time and effort in the long run. In what ways did our content strategy support our SEO? Importantly, doing our homework (so to speak) helped us come up with simpler ways to express our message, which helps communicate our value proposition easier to internet visitors. This improved clarity of thought translates to improved clarity of writing.

So, coming up with content, and a content strategy, was the first step in our SEO success. This part easily took months. At times, early in the pandemic, I would spend hours holed up at my computer, typing up different pages of our website. It took a lot of time and effort. Often, figuring out the exact way that I wanted to say something would take more time than actually knowing what to say. I spent many days and nights hunched over my laptop, alongside a box of takeout (to support my local restaurants in our pandemic times, of course), trying to get the right words to electronic paper.

The first step of our SEO strategy involved introspecting about our company’s mission and goals to develop a content strategy aligned with our strategic communication goals. It involved very little formal SEO knowledge.

Without this first step (that did not involve using actual SEO concepts at all), we wouldn’t have been nearly as successful in our SEO strategy. If, like us, you’re a small business seeking to branch out and incorporate SEO into your web strategy, I can tell you the good news: starting a website doesn’t require SEO skills per se. However, refining and optimizing your website will require some specialized knowledge of SEO. We can help you out!

Finally, the purpose of this blog post is not to try to convince you that SEO is unnecessary for your website; quite the opposite. SEO is an important tool in any small business or digital marketing toolkit. As a long-time freelance science writer, I was well-versed in SEO before launching the website, so I did have some SEO goals in mind. For example, I already had a list of keywords I wanted to optimize, which I used when writing.

Lest you think we did not ever end up formally implementing SEO strategies, I can tell you that the next step in our SEO strategy did involve formal SEO. You can read more about that here.

This article is part one of a two-part series on Fancy Comma, LLC’s content and SEO strategy. To read part two, click here.

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