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Yes, SEO Can Ruin Content. Here’s How

Do you think keyphrase usage destroys well-written content?

Well, you’re right. Up to a point.

Way back in 2011, Lee Odden wrote “Content Strategy and the Dirty Lie About SEO.” At the end of the post, he posed the question – the question that’s been debated ever since “writing for search engines” started:

Do you think SEO ruins content?

My first reaction was, “Of course not. Good SEO writing is good writing — period.”

I still feel the same way.

But…the haters have a point.

Six years later, there’s still a bunch of SEO writing B.S. floating around:

  • Focus on one keyphrase per page, and repeat it at least X times.
  • Focus on X keyword density (why won’t keyword density die?)
  • Include a keyword every X words.
  • Exact-match your keyphrase at least X times in your copy.

Maybe you believe some of this B.S., too (it’s OK. This is a judgement-free zone.)

This B.S. is why some SEO copy is horrible.  Is it any wonder why some folks think SEO ruins everything?

So, here’s the real deal:

Yes, SEO can completely decimate content — if you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s how:

When the content is written/optimized by someone who has no idea what they’re doing

Most keyphrase-stuffed content I read comes from folks operating on incorrect information.

They do what their clients tell them (for instance, focus on one keyphrase per page) without knowing it’s wrong. These writers don’t know there’s a better way, so they keep doing the same (incorrect) things. Over and over and over.

The result is stuffed, stilted-sounding content that has no conversion flow. The page doesn’t position. The page doesn’t convert. It’s sad.

via GIPHY

Sadly, many writers think ALL SEO writing is poorly-written content. So, here’s a news flash:

Folks, if you ever think, “This post sounds bad. I had to work hard to add all those keyphrases,” you’re doing it wrong.

When the content is written “for Google,” without readers in mind

Raise your hand if you’ve been asked to write “1,000 words for Google.”

Yeah, me too.

SEO writing isn't "writing for Google"

Sadly, some folks believe that following a strict writing formula will help them magically position. These folks don’t care about the content’s readability. They only care about the keyphrase usage.

They may even come right out and say, “I don’t care if anyone reads this. I just want the page to position.”

Ouch.

This magical SEO copywriting formula may include things like:

  • Specific word counts because “all posts should be X words for Google.”
  • Exact matching a nonsensical long-tail keyphrase multiple times (for instance, [portland relocation real estate oregon].
  • Bolding or italicizing words that shouldn’t be bolded or italicized.
  • Repeating all keyphrases X times in the first paragraph.

If you find yourself following a weird writing formula that makes the content read like gibberish, know it’s not true SEO writing. What’s more, following a writing formula won’t help you position. The best bet is to learn the right way to do things and throw those useless old rules out the window.

Don’t believe me? Check out Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines and see how Google defines low-quality content.

When the Titles are filled with keyphrases, with no conversion focus

This is a pet peeve of mine.

Get rid of Title pipes

I’ve discussed before how overly-optimized Titles are an inefficient branding method. The search results page is your first conversion opportunity. A Title that’s chock-full of keyphrases isn’t as persuasive as one that’s benefit-rich:

Which listing would get YOUR click?

GEICO’s “you could save $500+” is a fantastic benefit statement, and blow’s Progressive’s keyword-focused Title out of the water. Esurance is a runner-up since they include the benefit “fast” — but the Title could still be better.

Need more “good” and “bad” Title examples? Here’s a great post from Search Engine Watch.

SEO doesn’t ruin content. It’s “stupid” SEO that messes things up

Smart SEO doesn’t ruin good content. It enhances it – making it easier to be found in search engines and shared via social media. If you’ve mastered the art of online writing for both engines and people, you have a very valuable skill set.

On the flip side, yes, stupid SEO will ruin content. And your conversions, too. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” – and repeating a keyword incessantly will not suddenly transform the page into “quality content.”

It reminds me of what some folks say about sales copy being too “sales-y.” There’s a way to include a call-to-action that gently leads someone to the next action step. And there’s a (wrong) way to do it that beats them over the head with hyped language, bold and italics (Hmm. now that I think about it, what IS it about bolded and italicized text?).

What do you think? Is SEO the death of good writing?

Looking for a low-cost way to learn the SEO writing ropes. I’m running a 3-part webinar series! Check it out!

Leveraging content relationships & social proof for conversion rate optimization

How to leverage social proof from content relationships for CROThough content marketing has only recently reached buzzword status within the search industry, guest posting has been a popular method of promoting products and services online for a long time.

It’s often cited as a great link building technique and when done well, can help your website in more ways than just search.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) has long been a technical art within digital marketing, but there are also a few ways in which you can utilise guest blogging and the relationships you build in the process to help improve conversions:

Qualified Traffic

Search is a fantastic driver of traffic for many businesses but it can also be wasteful in terms of conversions.

This is where content marketing can have more of an impact, as you’re segmenting your market before you ever set out your stall. When quality content marketing campaigns are focused around specific sets of users, they can be a powerful tool to drive qualified traffic to a website.

Social Proof

Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.”

In other words, in observing the behaviour of others the decision process is simplified, providing us a convenient mental shortcut to responding to the task in hand.

The Blueglass UK website provides a prime example of using social proof from content marketing:

SEO Social Proof - 1

As you can see above, they have chosen to highlight their relationships with outlets that have featured their content as well as with other brands using their services, leaving visitors to ask themselves, “If it’s good enough for the Guardian, it must be good enough for me right?”

Authorship

While I could talk about the benefits of Authorship (and the fabled AuthorRank) all day, suffice it to say there is a huge amount of value to be had in including your author profile within content.

As you begin to write and publish more content, your author picture will become synonymous with your writing. Use the same image across all platforms and content and searchers will recognise the visual clue as a familiar and trusted face within the search results. Not only does this lead to improved CTR but it also allows the user to personify the company, transferring their views of the individual content creator to the organisation.

Relationships and Testimonials

Once you’ve placed your content with a high profile blogger, don’t let that be the end of the relationship. There are so many more mutual benefits to be had!

One such example is Testimonials. Rand Fishkin wrote about this method for attracting links back in 2009, but I find it serves a double purpose. Not only does the content creator get a nice link back to their website, but you get a glowing reference that can be used as further proof of your credentials to potential prospects.

Distilled does this very well on their consulting pages, thanks to their close relationship with SEOMoz (now Moz):

SEOmoz Social Proof - 2

 

Custom Landing Pages

A personalised landing page can be a great tool to help create a seamless transition from your guest content onto your own website, and maintain the brand connection between the two.

This is particularly potent when looking to gather blog or whitepaper subscriptions without the user feeling like they are just being “handled”.

From these pages you have much more control over the user journey and can look to move the prospect onto a proven conversion path as soon as possible.

One great example of this is from James Agate who guest blogged for Raven Tools and used a custom landing page to squeeze users towards subscribing to his newsletter.

Simple, yet effective.

We all know that content marketing is here to stay, but as you can see there is so much more to it than meets the eye. By using the relationships we garner through our content outreach we can help further our business goals long after the article has been published.

Have you used social proof to help improve conversions? What are your thoughts on using brand relationships for CRO?

About the Author ~ Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro is a Cardiff-based SEO Strategist at Box UK, a software development consultancy, helping to run the digital marketing department. You can find him on his blog talking about digital marketing and the state of semantic search, or on Twitter: @andrew_isidoro.

Could your conversions use a boost? I can help. Check into my direct response SEO copywriting services today!

Write a (good) blog post in 1 hour – here’s how!

How to write fast when the clock is tickingAre you short on time and need to write a quality blog post – fast?

Sounds like it’s time for a quickie (blog post, that is!)

A quickie blog post is still high quality, informative and fun to read. The difference is, you’re writing your blog post fast and furious (and in one hour or less.).

Is it the ideal way to write? No. In a perfect world, you have hours to write, revise, and tweak. However, there are those times when carving out 60 minutes is the best you can do – and you need to write something engaging, intelligent and useful.

Here are some blog writing tips to consider:

– Write about something you enjoy. If you love your topic, it’s easier to write better blog posts – faster. I write motivational posts when time gets tight. They are fun to write, they come straight from the heart – and my fingers tend to fly over the computer keys.

– Narrow down your topic. This is not the time to write a highly-detailed 1,500 word post. Figure that you have between 300-500 words to work with – so choose your topic accordingly. Mini how-to articles or blog posts listing helpful tips are typically good for a blog post quickie.

– Gather everything you need in one place. Searching your desk for paperwork, surfing for source material and checking email wastes time you don’t have. Gather everything you’ll need to write your blog post before you start writing. This step alone will save you tons of time.

– Turn off distractions. There is nothing that will will break your flow faster than an email notification, a text coming through, or the phone ringing. Turn everything off while you write. If you have to, close down email and any browser tabs you don’t need. (I forgot to close my browser tabs, and Facebook is now notifying me that I have two messages. It’s taking me every ounce of willpower I have not to check them!)

– Spend 25 minutes (or so) writing your first draft. Get everything you can out on paper (or on the screen.) Don’t worry about editing. Don’t worry about tweaking that one sentence that’s not quite right. Just write. You can edit later.

(As a side note, I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique, and working in 25-minute chunks. It’s made me a more efficient writer, and it’s nice to know that I get a built-in break every half hour.)

– Get away from the computer. You wrote your blog post in less than 25 minutes? Awesome. Now put it down and take a break. You’ll be able to see your mistakes (and see writing opportunities) faster if you come back fresh.

– Edit your blog post multiple times. This is the time to quickly flesh out what didn’t quite “click” the first time and fix any typos. I will edit a document at least three times, with a break between each edit. When I think it’s almost there, I’ll print out the post one more time, make any final edits, and then schedule the post.

– Ask someone to proof the post before it goes live. Writing fast often means you’ll make some inadvertent boo-boos. A quick proof by another person can free your post from typos and save your bacon. That no-big-deal typo you didn’t see may be a big deal to your readers – and can possibly even lose you business.

What about you? What tips would you add to this list?

(And P.S. – Happy Valentine’s Day!  Smooches!)

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