What’s Most Important for SEO?

Did the news about Google’s recent core algorithm update freak you out?

After all, SEO is confusing enough. But hearing that Google’s core algorithmic updates can drive companies out of business is always a little…weird.

During this time of Google FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt,) people look for the secret SEO recipe that will make Google happy. Which makes sense — you want to focus on what drives the most ROI.

So, according to top SEO experts, what’s the most important aspect of your SEO campaign?

The answer may surprise you…

No, it’s not links (although links are important.)

It’s not your site design (although that’s important, too.)

Here’s the answer:

During the SMX Advanced conference, Search Engine Land released the 2019 Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. The report breaks down what’s currently important to SEO rankings (for instance, keywords and content “freshness,”) what hurts positions (ad-heavy content and keyword stuffing,) and emerging verticals, (such as voice search.)

The big takeaway? Content rules.

In fact, according to this article, Barry Schwartz, editor of Search Engine Land, and one of the creators of the report, introduced the findings by saying “in the contest between content and links, it’s now a settled fact that content is more important.”

Wow.

Sure, content has always been important. But this year, the importance of content was turned up to a Spinal Tap 11.

This. Makes. Me. So. Happy!

So, what does this news mean to you?

Well, if you’re a content creator, this is pretty sweet news. :) The opportunity is there.

At the same time — and I’ve said this before — you need to up your game and learn how to create strategic SEO content.

It’s not enough to write a 500-word blog post focused around a target keyword. Now, you need to understand the competitive landscape, write in a conversational style, think about featured snippets, and provide content that’s more useful than what’s currently positioning in the top-10.

Is this more stuff to think about? Yes. At the same time, Google is giving us permission to write fantastic content. We don’t have to write the same content as our competitors so we “look competitive.” We don’t have to write keyphrase-stuffed content. We can do things differently…and better.

That’s cool.

If you want more information about what Google considers quality content, Google actually spells it out in this “oldie-but-a-goodie” post. The post is from 2011, but the information is still solid (and cited) today.

Yes, this will mean letting the low-paying, “I will pay you $25 for an SEO blog post” go. Let’s face it — for $25, you can’t spend the time you need to write content that snags fantastic search rankings. Not unless you want to make $1/hr.

Instead, it’s time to find those higher quality clients who understand the value you bring to the table.

They are out there.

Why would you settle for anything else?

What if your company has SEO content creation challenges?

Now is the time to get your writers the training they need.

It’s not just me saying this. During the SMX Advanced conference, Jessica Bowman, one of the authors of the SEO Success Factors, emphasized how important it is to train your writing staff.

Your writers want to create top-positioned content. They really do. They just need someone to break down the SEO steps, to tweak the strategy, and to streamline their current writing process.

Once that light bulb turns on and your writers “get it,” they’ll be unstoppable. I’ve seen training clients go from nowhere to positioning top-10 for highly competitive phrases. Sure, they worked their butts off to make it happen. But they did it.

That’s also pretty cool. 

(And you know I can train your team in SEO writing best practices, right? Just zip me a note if you need me.) 😀

What do you think?

Have you been thinking about an SEO writing training for your in-house writers? If you’re a freelancer — how do you think the latest news will benefit your bottom line? Leave a comment and let me know.

How to convince a clueless SEO writing client

How to Convince a Clueless SEO Writing Prospect

How can you convince an SEO writing prospect that you can help her land the search positions (and conversions) she wants?

Well, it depends…

I received a great question from one of my newsletter subscribers (thanks, Steve!). Here’s a quick excerpt:

“I usually ask a prospective client ‘do you have a website?’ If the answer is yes, I then ask ‘how is it working for you?’ Their answer is usually, ‘It’s not working. No business and the website doesn’t show up in top Google searches!’

Hmm, client is wasting money on the website with no business! How can you convince them of the need for SEO?”

(Raise your hand if you can relate.)

I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again. Some prospects are convinced that SEO “doesn’t work” because they don’t understand it, they’ve tried before (and worked with a bad consultant,) or they figure they don’t need it.

When the reality is, their content is bursting with low-hanging fruit opportunities. Just a few tweaks and their site’s SEO potential would explode.

If only we knew the magical words that would convince them.

What are those magic words?

First, let me tell you a story…

Years ago, I used to nag my husband about integrating stretching into his hockey routine. He’d go from playing three hours of hockey to coming home and sitting on the couch.

I’d show him studies about how stretching would help…and nothing.

I’d warn him that he was going to hurt himself someday…and nothing.

I’d ask if he wanted to stretch with me…and, well, you know what happened.

In fact, he didn’t stretch or foam roll at all…until he was injured on the ice.

Going to physical therapy for seven weeks showed him the importance of stretching and taking care of his body. And now, he stretches all the time.

You see, he wasn’t ready until he was ready — no matter how many times he heard he “should” do something. 

We humans are strange, irrational beings. We let fear, apathy and doubt block smart decisions. No amount of convincing will teach us to eat our vegetables if we don’t like vegetables. Or, that exercise is important if we hate breaking a sweat.

So, why should SEO be any different? 

After all, when’s the last time you convinced someone to do something they were dead-set against? It’s almost impossible — unless the person feels pain and is motivated to try something new.

That’s when they’ll be ready.

What should you do with “hard-to-convince” SEO writing prospects?

My first step is to go into question-and-education mode. I ask questions about the lifetime value of their customers, the keyphrases that are important to them, and what percentage of their visitors convert. That way, I can combine my educational tidbits with specific, measurable benefits.

It’s one thing to say, “you’ll see an increase in search traffic.” It’s another to say, “even a 5 percent bump in search volume converting at your current rate could mean over $460,000 in income.”

That’s education done right.

But, what if your prospect still isn’t convinced?

This will sound harsh…

Don’t waste your time.

Let them go. Set them free. If it’s meant to be, they’ll come back (you’ll be surprised by the number of times that happens.)

Like my husband and stretching, if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. 

Sure, it’s OK to stay in touch and to check in. Sometimes, the buy cycle moves glacially, and a lead may not convert for years. 

Just don’t spend time trying to convince someone to love SEO. It won’t work, and it’s time you won’t get back.

Besides, as my mother used to say, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Why waste time trying to convince someone when you can find clients who DO understand your value?

The (good) clients are out there. Really. You just have to find them.

What do you think?

Have you had your share of indecisive prospects? What did you do to unstick their decision-making process? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s Make Content Easy-to-Read Again

Yup, I’m back! I spent my digital detox rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. For almost three weeks, I lifted heavy gear bags up steep, sandy hills, hung on through the cold, wet rapids, and found sand everywhere.

It. Was. So. Peaceful.

And then, I came home.

Hitting reality full-speed was hard. Sure, re-entry is always…challenging. But, I never noticed how much energy-sucking crap filled my day-to-day life until I had digitally detoxed for three weeks. 

For instance:

  • Spending 10+ minutes every day deleting newsletters I never read.
  • Saying, “Yes” to people asking, “Could you help with this one thing?” — even when I don’t have time.
  • Responding to text dings, email notifications, or other “hey, look at me” distractions in the moment. 

Ugh, right? I’m sure you can relate. You spend 10 minutes doing this, and another five doing that…

…and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour (or more) a day doing stuff that (to quote Bill Murray in the film Meatballs) “just doesn’t matter.”

But then, I got to thinking. Content marketing, as it stands today, forces people to wade through a lot of energy-sucking crap to get the gems they want. 

For instance:

  • We write extra copy so we can shove keyphrases in somewhere, and we hide the “meat” of the post towards the bottom. (I’m looking at you, recipe sites.)
  • We focus on long-form guides that are 2,000 words (or more) because “that’s what Google wants.”
  • We worry about content that’s short (say, 500 words) and wonder if it’s “too thin.” (As a reality check, 500 words used to be considered “too much” content back in the day.)
  • We’re forced to write buzzword-filled content because our boss is convinced that “our audience needs to see this on the site.”

I’m not saying this stuff is bad — there are studies showing how longer content tends to get higher rankings and more links. Following what works is a good thing.

And, sometimes we need to add buzzwords to our content — or write in a slightly more academic style. That’s fine.

But, OMG, please let us write content that’s easy to read. 

Plus, check out the latest voice search statistics…

According to a recent study by SEMrush, the average text length for a voice search answer was 41 words across all devices (for instance, Google Home or Alexa.)

Just 41 focused words written at a high-school comprehension level.

Of course, the answers are pulled from posts that are much longer than 41 words. In fact, 78 percent of voice search answers are culled from the top-three results — and those pages tend to have higher word counts.

Yet, Google can still find the right 2-3 easy-to-read sentences with the right answer.

Pretty cool, eh?

So, how do you dovetail what Google seems to reward (longer word counts) and still make it easy for folks to find the specific information they want?

This is where the page strategy comes in…

Here are some tips for Google AND your readers:

Tell me a story that engages my brain. Don’t drown me in jargon. 

Conversational, easy-to-read content is always king. Yes, I know you want your brand to sound “smart” and “like a market leader.” However, many top-positioned, highly-technical sites are easy-to-read, engaging and approachable. Here’s a great post from Content Marketing Institute that discusses why storytelling is so important.

Use subheadlines as “cues” to explain what the following paragraph is about and to help your reader find the information she needs. 

Yes, I know it’s tempting to write a sexy headline like, “Market Leading Excellence.” But, to your reader, this is just corporate-speak that says nothing. 

I love this quote from Hubspot:

“Subheadlines have the power to reel the reader in. While the headline may grab the user’s attention, you need to do more than that in order for the user to stay. You want to compel the reader to look, to click, to sample, to scroll, or to do whatever it is you want them to do.”

Yup. Exactly.

Use lists, bullet points and summary paragraphs to immediately help the reader find the information she needs. 

If your topic is about “how to boil an egg,” put that information front and center. You don’t need to write 500 words outlining the history of eggs and egg boiling. Please. Just…don’t.

Check your paragraph and sentence length. 

Long paragraphs and run-on sentences are annoying to read on a computer — and even more annoying to read on a mobile device. Instead, write short, snappy sentences. Do it. Please. They’re easier to read.

Experiment with presenting your content in different formats. 

For instance, you could create a 60-second explainer video that highlights your main points. Or, create an infographic for your visual, quick-scan folks. Think “easy.”

Not everyone will read your 10,000-word blog, no matter how much you put your heart and soul into it. But, they may check out your video or share your infographic.

Don’t just test your content — test your layouts, too. 

I’ve seen conversion rates increase 30 percent because the new layout better highlighted the important benefits. If you keep losing folks and you can’t figure out why, the layout (not the content) could be the culprit.

What’s the big takeaway? 

Know what your readers are looking for and make that information simple to find. Test your layouts and see if you can improve your time on page and conversion rates. Write in a way that makes your reader hang on your every word — not wonder what the heck you’re trying to say.

In short, think “simple, short and to the point.”

Your readers will thank you!

What do you think?

Leave your comment below!

What’s Your ONE Content Marketing Thing?

Here’s a question…

What’s the ONE content marketing tactic that drives the majority of your revenue?

Is it blogging?

Webinars?

Teaching small classes?

Or, is your answer, “Hmm, I’m not quite sure, but does it really matter? After all, shouldn’t all my content efforts help?”

Well yes…and no.

Because, without knowing your one content marketing thing, you’re putting your revenue at risk.

Here’s why.

What’s the ONE Thing, anyway?

Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., coined the “ONE Thing” concept. His thought?

“What’s the ONE Thing I could do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

For instance:

  • You may not be a “saver,” but you’ve found that automatic deductions from your checking account helps you build a robust safety net.
  • You’ve found a bedtime ritual helps you sleep a full 8-hours. You know you can fall asleep wherever you are, as long as you can maintain your ritual.
  • If you want to function before 9 a.m., you need a grande almond-milk latte (OK, maybe that’s just me!).

The thing is, we use this ONE Thing principal all the time – but we don’t think about it. It just…works.

But, somehow, the concept gets lost when it comes to our content marketing.

And bad things happen.

Instead of focusing your efforts on the thing that works, your efforts get scattered.

That’s not to say that experimenting with other content strategy tactics is a bad thing. But those “other things” should be in addition to your ONE Thing…not instead of it.

On the flip side, when you do know your ONE content marketing thing, everything else is easy.

Not sure what your one content marketing thing is? Here are some things to try:

  • Comb your analytics. Does a certain type of blog post (for instance, thought leadership posts,) pull in more leads?
  • Do all of your new leads say they found you the same way (for instance, your podcast or a guest post?)
  • Was there a day (or month) that saw a huge spike in sales? Does it correlate to a certain something that happened (for instance, a webinar series?)

Finding your ONE content marketing thing sounds so simple in concept – but pinpointing it may take some time. Plus, if you have multiple target audiences, you may have multiple “things.”

For instance, LinkedIn is my best bet to reach customized training clients. If I want to sell courses, webinars (and in-person seminars) are what moves the needle.

Guess how I spend most of my time now?

I’ve also found that my one content marketing thing has changed and morphed over time. Once upon a time, guest posting drove major leads. Today, I do it here and there — but the ROI never pans out. Twitter used to be great, and now it feels like noise.

You’ll go through the same process. That’s OK. It means you’re trying new things and measuring the results.

What’s your ONE content marketing thing?

Do you already know what your one content marketing thing is for your business? Or, are in you in the process of narrowing it down? Leave your comment below and let me know!

Is SEO Writing a Dying Art?

I thought about making this the shortest blog post ever by answering the subject line question with a single sentence.

“No, SEO writing is NOT dead — despite what you may have read.”

</end blog post>

But instead, let’s break down how this zombie myth happened.

At least once a year, somebody comes out with an article proclaiming the “death of SEO.” 

Their reason? Google is changing. The way people search is changing. The search results page is changing.

So. Much. Change.

That change means SEO (and, by extension, SEO writing) is a dying art.

I get the fear. I do. Google’s search results page is different than it was a few years ago. More ads, featured snippets, and “people also ask” results change our familiar “ten blue links” Google layout.

You can’t throw a keyphrase on a page anymore and automatically see a top position (oh, how I loved those days.)

But…

Just because it’s changing doesn’t mean it’s dying.

Google is just growing up.

In fact, here’s a great post by Kristine Schachinger in Search Engine Journal that outlines ALL the cool opportunities.

But, something is dying…and it’s not SEO.

It’s the SEO practitioners (and, sadly, SEO writers) who aren’t keeping up with the times.

In today’s brave new Google world, we have more opportunities than ever before.

We can strategically write our content to try to land a “people also ask” slot.

We can learn how voice assistants “think” and can write content that provides the best answers. 

We can create “micro-moment” content, giving readers the exact answer they need, when they need it.

In short, we need to evolve as SEO writers and to learn how to work with Google TODAY — not Google as it was in 2010 (or even 2015.) That means keeping up with what works and not falling prey to common, outdated zombie myths that WILL NOT DIE.

Sure, this may sound scary if you’re used to doing things a certain way. You may have only ever relied on a so-so SEO writing formula to do what you do.

Just know that embracing Google’s new way of doing things is actually fun. It takes more strategy and think time — but the end result is better, more visible content.

So, no, SEO writing isn’t dying — in fact, we have more opportunities than ever before.  

SEO is alive and well.

What do you think?

Are you afraid that SEO will go away tomorrow? Do you also enjoy a silent chuckle every time you read an “SEO is dead” post? Leave a comment and let me know.

Why 404 Pages Are a Clever Content Opportunity

Have you ever clicked a link that took you to a big “404 Page Not Found” or “Error 404” page?

Isn’t that annoying?

What the error means is exactly what it sounds like — the page is no longer there. Maybe because a link changed. Or, the page was deleted because the site owner thought it was “thin content” and wanted to get rid of it.

Whatever the reason, landing on a 404 page is a bad user experience. After all, why hang out on a site when the first page screams, “Nope, what you’re looking for isn’t here”?

If you’re like me, you immediately hit the “back” button when you see them.

But here’s the thing…

If your site has been around for a while, you probably have your own broken links and deleted pages. After all, 404 errors are extremely common.

They’re like pimples — everyone has them from time to time, and nobody likes them. 

The important thing is how you handle them.

The solution? Get creative!

Instead of relying on an ugly, “hey, this content doesn’t exist anymore” page, why not create a custom 404 page that helps your readers?

For instance, here’s mine. (Sorry for the earworm — this song will be stuck in your head all day.)

Not only does my 404 page make me smile, it also leads readers to my blog and two of my most popular pages. That way, readers have something to click other than the back button.

Want other examples?

The Pixar 404 page doesn’t have any links, but it’s pretty darn cute.

Airbnb’s page is equally engaging, plus there are helpful links to other pages.

E-commerce retailer ModCloth’s 404 page may not be as cute, but it does have helpful product category and “contact us” links. 

You see? Custom 404 pages are like magical concealer for your website pimples. The page may not exist anymore, but the reader doesn’t necessarily notice or care.

(And yes, if you freelance, you can suggest custom 404 pages to your clients and offer to create the concept and to write the content.)

Pretty cool, eh?

What do you think?

Are you ready to create your own custom 404 page? Do you wish I didn’t stick that earworm in your brain? (Again, sorry!) Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Does Your E-Commerce Page Make This Big SEO Mistake?

One of my father’s favorite things to say was, “Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it too.”

As you may imagine, his wise words had zero impact when I was a teenager. I probably rolled my eyes and replied with something snarky. After all, doing what the cool kids did was all that mattered.

As an adult, I see this aphorism in action all the time — especially in SEO.

Case in point: E-commerce category pages.

This situation recently came up with a wonderful long-term client. He asked me to write “SEO copy” for a product subcategory page to replace what was there.

When I clicked through to the category page, I saw a common issue…

…all the text was shoved way below the fold. There was a headline, lots of product thumbnails, and around 300 (fortunately, well-written) words at the bottom.

Oops. No wonder he called it “SEO copy.” Chances are, nobody saw (or paid attention to) the copy. It was solely there for Google to have some keyphrase-rich copy to work with.

So, I sent him this article, that explains Google’s stance on this SEO writing technique. Google’s John Mueller even says, “from our point of view, it’s essentially keyword stuffing.” 

It doesn’t get more clear than that. 

Yet, my client had a (very good) question. “If it’s so bad, why do I see other sites do this all the time?”

Yup. He’s right.

I totally understand his confusion. After all, a quick e-commerce site check shows a number of sites doing the exact same thing. Home Depot does it. Brookstone does it. Land’s End has almost 1,200 words of tiny type crammed on the bottom of their women’s clothing category page.

Sad.

The thing is, these sites are missing huge opportunities. Instead of thinking “SEO text,” they should be thinking of ways they can make the page better — and yes, showcase their benefits.

The cool kids aren’t always right.

You don’t need to write a below-the-fold novel on your category pages. You just need to rethink how to give your readers (not just Google) the information they need. 

For instance…

Glossier has a short, benefit-full copy block at the top of their category pages.

Even a small amount of content can pack a big bunch!

Tektronix’s spectrum analyzer category page has a snazzy, benefit-rich slider plus two short (and keyphrase-rich) copy blocks.

See? Smart, keyphrase-rich category page content that’s not visually overwhelming.

The Lowe’s exterior doors category page is clean, clear and concise. It’s easy to find what you need, and the benefits are clear.

Keyphrase-rich copy and helpful content! Yes!

See the difference? Yes, there’s text — but, it’s not “SEO text” (although the text is optimized.) It’s good for Google and for readers.

It’s a double win.

This is the technique that Google’s John Mueller recommends, too. From the Search Engine Roundtable transcript:

“Maybe shifting that giant block of text into maybe one or two sentences that you place above the fold below the heading is a good approach here because it also gives users a little bit more information about what they should expect on this page. So that’s that’s kind of the direction I would head there.”

That’s way different than a 1,200-word text block shoved at the bottom of the page, eh?

After all, just because the big-site SEO departments are doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it, too.

Especially when it won’t help your site. ;)

What do you think?

Has a client (or your boss) ever asked you to write “SEO text” for your e-commerce pages? Have you wondered why all the text was being shoved down to the bottom of the page? Let me know in the comments!

What the Death of Google+ Teaches Content Creators

So, did you hear the news?

Google is shutting down the consumer version of Google+. Just like they did with Google’s other social network, Orkut.

Remember Orkut? I didn’t think so. :)

I can’t say that I’m surprised to hear the Google+ news. Neither is anyone else. Here’s some more information about the shutdown and the security breach. Joy.

Google+ went from a “you MUST be on it, because…Google” platform to a virtual ghost town. Heck, Google cites “low user engagement” as a reason why they’re sunsetting the product.

Sadly, Google+ was pretty cool. You could segment your followers and could write posts just for them. You could link your content to your Google+ profile, which caused your photo to pop up next to your blog articles. You could +1 posts you liked.

(Ah, I do miss Google Authorship…seeing author photos on the search results page was cool.)

Some people went all out on Google+. They posted multiple times a day, wrote about Google+ hacks, and put a lot of eggs in their Google+ basket.

Now, all of that information will be gone within 10 months.

Poof.

What’s the big takeaway, here?

(Other than Google seems to have problems creating social networks?)

The only marketing platform you can rely on is the one where you have 100 percent control.

(Typically, your website and your newsletter.)

Everything else could go away in an instant.

Poof.

For instance, Facebook has changed their algorithm so many times that paying for advertising is the only sure thing.

What was once a cool way to build social engagement and to connect with customers has gotten way more challenging. Even big brands aren’t seeing engagement anymore. 

But, what about those people who put a lot of time and resources into their social networks? For instance, I know someone who creates one Facebook live video every day. 

Let’s look at worst-case scenario. What happens if Facebook bans her? Or if it changes its algorithm again? Or if people leave Facebook in droves?

Yup, that could effectively hurt her business…and she would have no control over what happens.

Ouch.

Putting resources into a site other than your own is called “digital sharecropping.” Here’s a great explanation from Copyblogger:

“In other words, anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit.”

Sound familiar?

I’m not saying you should ignore social, because we know that people turn to social sites as part of the buyers’ journey. You may have tweeted a company to get faster customer support or checked out a company’s Instagram for deals.

Social is here to stay. I always recommend that companies find right “mix” of social that works for their business and provides measurable ROI. 

But…

Remember this…

Don’t focus on social (or anything else you can’t totally control) at the expense of your website or your newsletter. Make these assets shine and keep improving them.

That way, you don’t have to worry about the “rules” changing on you. You get to make your own rules! 

What’s more, even if Google and SEO went away tomorrow (doubtful), you’d still have a functioning website and a targeted email list. 

It’s the ultimate insurance.

So, yes, post on Twitter. Enjoy Instagram. Reach customers on Facebook. Just don’t put all (or most of) your eggs into social baskets that could change on someone’s greedy whim.

Make sense?

What do you think?

Are you bummed that Google+ is going away? Or, did you think, “Wait, Google had a social network?” Leave a comment and let me know.

Does your content spark profits?

Does Your Content Spark Profits?

Have you heard of the KonMari method?

In a nutshell, the idea is to go through all your belongings and to ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is yes, you keep it. If not, you thank the item and get rid of it.

I’m asking you to KonMari your content — with a twist — by asking yourself one simple, powerful question:

“Does this content spark profits?”

Here’s what I mean…

A few years ago, Laura, my ex-blog editor, used to spend hours creating a weekly content marketing roundup post. Every post had a theme and a minimum of 20 links.

They are impressive posts.

Out of curiosity, I recently combed through some analytics. No matter how good and authoritative and extensive the roundup posts were, they didn’t drive any direct conversions. No newsletter signups, no leads. Nothing.

In short, they didn’t make money.

In fact, those pages are (sadly) my #1 source of, “I wrote this post, will you link to it?” spam.

Sad.

What does drive conversions for me? Being a webinar or podcast guest. Conference speaking. LinkedIn. My newsletter. My cornerstone posts, like this one. My sales pages.

I’ve learned to let go of the other stuff.

Sure, I’ll try new tactics, or revisit old ones from time-to-time. This year, I’ll probably guest blog here and there, just to see what happens. I’ll try video (ack!) Maybe even more conferences.

I like to tweak, to test, and to shake things up. It sparks joy.

But, I primarily focus on what makes me money.

How can you KonMari your content?

Dive deep into your content and determine if it sparks profits for you. Pinpoint the content assets that drive traffic, get great newsletter signups, and help you get noticed.

These are your money pages. Treat them like gold.

At the same time, you also want to take a hard look at all the content you produce and make sure it’s truly working for you.

For instance:

— Are your Facebook posts consistently falling flat, no matter what you’ve tried?

— Is your podcast a pain to produce, and people aren’t tuning in?

— Are you guest blogging everywhere and still not seeing any returns?

Let them go. Thank them and set them free.

Even if you have to kill your favorite projects.

Sometimes, you may be so proud of something you’ve created, you’re blinded to the fact that it’s not helping your bottom line.

Looking back, I should have pulled the plug on those roundups after the first year. I loved them too much to let them go (or to examine their analytics too closely.) That’s on me.

I’m not saying that these tactics are always off the table. If the perfect blog post opportunity pops up, why not give it a shot? If your social media results suck, you can hire a consultant to see what’s up.

The key is — you’re focusing on what works RIGHT NOW — and then, you can prioritize the other stuff.

What happens when you streamline your content?

Sure, it may feel like a short-term ego hit to discontinue something you’ve been doing for a while.

Trust me. People probably won’t notice (much.) I don’t think one person ever said, “Hey, I miss your weekly roundups.”

But, when you do let go of what’s not working, your life will feel smoother — and the content creation process will be way more streamlined.

And truthfully, letting go feels like a relief.

But, what happens if you LOVE doing something?

This one is trickier.

Sometimes, we know we’re doing something that doesn’t necessarily drive profits — but, it does spark joy.

For instance, I love responding to emails you guys send me every week. Does responding to 20+ emails every Tuesday drive profits? Possibly, here and there.

Although I’m 99.9% sure a consultant would tell me, “You don’t have time to respond to every email.” In fact, other people specifically state on their sites, “I do not respond to questions unless you pay me first.”

I get that. There may be a day that I have to go that route. But, for right now, I like to respond. I just limit the amount of time I spend doing it.

It’s my “best of both worlds” solution.

So, yes, keep what sparks joy (even if the returns aren’t there.) But, know that you’ll only spend X amount of time doing it. No matter what.

What do you think?

Does ALL of your content spark profits? Or, is it time to thank one of your current tactics and to let it go? Leave a comment and let me know!

7 Outdated SEO Writing Myths That Will Not Die

Do you know what drives me nuts?

Reading about outdated or incorrect SEO tactics.

Like a virus, these bad tactics get passed around from person to person. One company I worked with had an old “SEO copywriting 101” Powerpoint that hadn’t been updated in seven years. Another company read a “hot tip” in a forum and didn’t know that it was wrong. Another client got their bad information from an old SEO vendor.

Ouch. That’s scary stuff.

Unfortunately, some sites are built on stupid SEO copy strategies (hopefully, your site is not one of them.) The strategy may seem somewhat effective. Maybe even logical. But unfortunately, they are like slow-moving viruses that are making the site “sick.”

Here are the most common SEO writing myths I (still!) see:

Keyphrase density

Will. People. Please. Let. This. Die. About the time I think the world is safe from keyphrase density percentages is when I get an email saying, “I was watching a corporate training video, and the recommendation was 3.2 %. Is that still right?”

Keyphrase research has’t been a “thing” since the days of Alta Vista (remember them?). Ignore keyphrase density. Wipe it from your mind. Let it go. Don’t you feel much better now?

Keyphrases (and SEO writing) are dead

No, keyphrases are not dead. They are still alive, kicking and doing well. This tasty tidbit of misinformation stems from Google is much “smarter” than it used to be. Yes, Google can understand the intent of a page. But that doesn’t mean your content should be keyphrase-free. In fact, basic optimization techniques can often propel low-ranking pages to top positions.

It’s true that in today’s world, you don’t have to worry about exact matching the keyphrase every time and repeating it X times. However, you’ll still want to use keyphrases (and synonyms) in your content. Continue to research your keyphrases and use them in your body copy and your Title. Just like always. You’ll be fine.

To the people who say SEO writing is dead, I tell them to look at how Google is laser-focused on quality content. To me, that shows writers still have a seat at the SEO table.

Is keyphrase research still important? Yes.

We used to see spammy pages in the top-10 results all the time. Today, we may see them every once in awhile, but the frequency is way down.

Plus, what Google sees as quality content is changing — in the good way.

Heck, Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines are ALL about assessing content quality. Google’s stance on quality content makes me think that SEO writing will be around for a long time.

Press releases are a great way to get links

Once upon a time, press releases were a great way to get links. You could add some keyphrase-rich anchor text pointing back to your site and blammo–links galore! There were some pretty spammy (and funny) releases back in the day. Sure, the releases deviated far away from the real intent of distributing a release (letting the press know about a newsworthy event.) But people didn’t care.

Today, press releases are still a relevant marketing tactic and can be an essential piece of the overall marketing pie. A well-written release can help you (or your client) get press mentions and even drive traffic. But…

…the links within your press release have zero Google link juice and won’t help you position. Yes, distribute a press release if it makes sense for your business — but know that it won’t help with SEO.

There is a “right” word count for Google

There has never been a “perfect” word count for Google, no matter what the experts say. Yes, I know that some experts say that longer copy (1,500+ words) tends to position better. But that’s not the case for all copy, all the time. Nor should an arbitrary word count dictate how you write the copy.

Your best bet is to write a wide variety of content and let the subject matter dictate the length. You may want to write resource-intensive 1,500-word blog posts and 500-word services pages. That’s OK. Your main criteria should be, “Am I writing this for my readers?” If you start slipping into writing things “for Google,” you’ll mess up our readers’ experience.

Besides, even Google has said that word count doesn’t equal quality content. Longer articles aren’t necessarily better or more authoritative. They’re just…longer.

Guest posting can get you slapped with a penalty

Guest posting gets a bad rap. Once upon a time, people used to score links by submitting to every site under the sun. Did it work? Sure. Did it drive qualified traffic? Nope.

Then Google changed their stance on guest blogging. The great Google gods made it clear that writing a crappy blog post for the sole purpose of driving links is no longer OK.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t guest blog on quality publications your target market reads. Nor does it mean that you can’t accept a guest post from a quality author. It just means you have to be picky.

Guest posting can drive fantastic, targeted traffic. It can help your company build brand awareness. Just target your publications (and court your guest bloggers) carefully. If you’re responding to emails that say, “I’ll blog for you for free in exchange for a link back to my site,” well, you deserve what you get.

There is a secret SEO writing formula

I’ve been in the SEO writing game for over 20 years. If there was a “no fail” SEO writing formula, don’t you think I would be on a beach somewhere counting my Benjamins and watching the waves?

Of course I would!

The reality is, there IS no sure-fire SEO writing formula.

Why?

The “best” approach depends on the keyphrase, the target reader, and the current competition. A 500-word article may be perfect, or way too short. It depends on the query and the intent. What works for my site may not work for yours.

Yes, there are specific best practice “steps,” but they’ve never been a secret. If you ever hear the term “secret SEO ANYTHING,” it’s time to run away.

You should blog “for Google”

Yes, blogging is good. But…

…if the only reason you’re blogging is to get in Google’s good graces, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, blogging is a great way to gain Google positions. But, most importantly, it’s a fantastic way to connect with readers at all phases of the buy cycle.

Google doesn’t care how often you publish new content. So, there’s no percentage to uploading multiple pieces of so-so content every week. I’ve even seen companies try to get positive Google vibes by uploading multiple blog posts a day. How high quality do you think their posts were?

Yeah. You guessed it. Instead of quantity, think quality content.

To summarize: Blogging for readers = good. Blogging for SEO only = bad. It’s simple.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite SEO writing myths that will not die? Post your ideas in the comments!