Posts

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!

What to Know About Local SEO: Interview with Andrew Shotland

Local searchSteeped in Local SEO and search for some 13 years, Andrew Shotland is a leading expert in this highly competitive space. He is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, an SEO and SEM consultancy (and blog) he founded nine years ago. Andrew has also authored Search Engine Land’s monthly local search column since 2009.

Before launching his own business, Andrew headed up business and product development for Insider Pages, a local search startup. As its Chief SEO Officer, he developed an SEO program that attracted over 3 million unique visitors/month to the site.

Here, Andrew answers questions about Local SEO best practices and search trends, as well as the challenges faced by brands competing on a local level. Enjoy!

Could you briefly summarize the essential ways that Local SEO differs from the SEO for big national brands? 

Google, Bing & Yahoo typically show separate local business listings for queries they deem to have significant local intent. The methodologies to compete for rankings in these “local packs” are somewhat different than those you would apply to non-local SEO.

Local SEO also includes appearing well in local-specific search services such as Apple Maps, Facebook Local, Yelp, the Yellow Pages sites and various vertical search engines. It’s a huge, complex space to play in.

If you were to list Local SEO best practices, what would be the top 3? Why?

The Top 3 Local SEO Best Practices in no particular order:

  1. Compete for relevant queries where you have a physical location. It’s hard to show up in the local results without a physical location in the searched city.
  2. Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) and top local search site business profiles (e.g. Yelp, YP.com, etc.) are claimed, up to date and consistent with your N.A.P. (Name, Address & Phone Number) that appears in text on your website.
  3. Don’t ignore the non-Local pack results. These can generate significant traffic. So do all of the typical SEO things to your site to help it rank well: Ensure Googlebot accessibility, use smart keyword/content targeting and get links from other sites.

Last week, Mike Blumenthal (and other local SEO experts) reported that Google had dropped businesses’ G+ pages from its “Places” search results, instead returning URLs from its “Maps” API. Do you think this is just part of Google’s mobile agenda, or is it, as Blumenthal suggested, another indication of the impending “divorce” of local search from G+? What would you say are the implications?

I don’t think this is that big a deal. Google is trying to untangle all of its services from Google+. Google+ for businesses was pretty confusing so perhaps this might end up making Google My Business easier to deal with. I don’t think this changes how we approach Google Local at all. Perhaps this will screw up some services that relied on the API for data, but that’s about it.

In your monthly Search Engine Land (SEL) column, you frequently cite how a well-optimized Google My Business (GMB) page can boost local businesses’ rankings. What specific things would you recommend a Webmaster (or site owner) do to fully leverage their GMB page?

There are a few things you can do to leverage your GMB page:

  • Make sure all of the info is up to date
  • Make sure your business categorization is correct
  • Make sure it links to the most relevant URL on your site (this one is huge)

(Editor’s note: You can view Andrew’s Local SEO Guide GMB page here)

What are some challenges brands face with Local SEO?

Multi-location brands have some of the biggest problems with Local SEO, but some of the biggest opportunities, too. On the problems side, dealing with the data issues involving tens, hundreds and even thousands of locations can be a huge task.

In particular, managing their Google My Business issues requires a lot of well-honed processes to do it at scale. Unfortunately you can’t just use a cookie-cutter approach because the problems you encounter change every day.

On the plus side, when you have scale, you can use that to your advantage once you get the basics right, in terms of content, links, etc. We typically see multi-location brands able to rank for their target queries en masse much easier than single locations, all things being equal.

Given all the Google updates to its Local SEO algo over the past two years that you recently summarized in your September SEL column, what do you see trending for Local SEO and search?

We think two big opportunities at the moment are Facebook Local and iOS Search/Apple Maps. Both of these local search systems are generating huge traffic right now but it seems like most of the Local SEO world is ignoring them. That’s great for our clients 🙂

Any parting words about Local SEO and/or Google’s local algo updates? 

It’s a great business because it’s always changing and it’s one of the biggest markets there is. It’s very satisfying to be able to help both large and small businesses navigate their ways through this ridiculous stuff. Sometimes I have to laugh that this is what I do for a living. It’s certainly fun.

Connect with Andrew on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

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5 Easy-to-Give SEO Gifts that will Make You A Better Writer in 2014

You'll actually want to keep your SEO giftsYou’ve got a bunch of names on your gift list this year, but your name probably isn’t one of them. After all, we’ve been taught it’s better to give than receive. But what if you could do both? By giving yourself these 5 simple SEO gifts, you’ll also receive the boost you need to take your writing to a new level as we bid goodbye to 2013.

SEO Gift #1: Learn More About Your Industry

Some of us spend our careers writing for a single industry, while other SEO copywriters work across multiple industries on a daily basis. Either way, you need to know every detail you can about what your audience knows and what they expect. Learn the jargon, who the industry leaders are, unusual ways products or services are used and any other insider info you can get ahold of. This will make it easier to find low-competition keywords (especially long tail) that others may have neglected. It will also help you write more comfortably and honestly, and that’s something your human audience will appreciate.

SEO Gift #2: Tune up Your Basic Copywriting Skills

Just like practicing fundamentals is important in sports, focusing on copywriting basics can do wonders for your SEO writing. Search engine spiders aren’t very particular (yet) about well-written content. Your flesh-and-blood audience is. Write copy that is interesting and uses sentence structure (shorter is almost always better) and vocabulary that engages your readers. Keep paragraph structure and page layout in mind. Most people don’t really read online; they scan. Do them and yourself a favor by employing headlines, sub-heads, callouts, and paragraph breaks. And finally, always include a call to action. This is something we all learn in Copywriting 101, but many of us forget down the road. Help your site visitors by telling them exactly what you want them to do next. They’ll thank you with their dollars.

SEO Gift #3: Broaden Your View of Keywords

When it comes to keywords, many of us write with blinders on. We identify a few keywords we want to use and write without looking around. This gets the job done but causes us to miss semantic search cues, long-tail keyphrases, and partial matches that we should be picking up. The next time you identify primary keywords for a project, take a few extra minutes to look at related terms, synonyms and suggestions in your keyword tool. Make a secondary list of single words to be sprinkled into your copy as they fit. These words can help avoid keyword repetition, make your copy easier to read and help you pick up incremental onesie-twosie search traffic you aren’t specifically optimizing for.

SEO Gift #4: Trim the Fat

Raise your hand if you’ve ever written filler copy just to use a keyword a couple more times on a page. (Author sheepishly raises his hand.) It’s a crutch we’ve all used when writing for the spiders – and it can work well. Unfortunately, it’s a huge turn-off for your human readers. If you bring visitors to your site only to drive them away with long, boring or repetitive copy, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. The next time you face the decision to fill or not, don’t do it. Only write additional copy if it is engaging and helpful to your human readers.

SEO Gift #5: Do Something for Yourself

Question: What is an SEO Copywriter without an optimized Web presence? Answer: Hard to find. Make it easy for prospective employers or clients to find you by creating and optimizing a website that’s all about you and your writing. If your name is fairly unique, buy that as a domain and set up shop there. If you have a common name or suffer the great online misfortune of sharing your name with a celebrity, you’ll need to take a different approach. Add location-based keywords to start and build your individuality from there. For example, I might go with something New Hampshire related, like www.nhseocopywriter.com or just www.nhseo.com. Whatever you choose, be sure to optimize it just like you would a client’s site, and make yourself easier to find.

There you have it – 5 simple SEO gifts you can give yourself this holiday season. Best of all, you don’t have to wrap any of them.

What other SEO gifts do you recommend?

About the Author

Richard Hostler writes engaging copy that generates sales. He is currently the SEO Copy Manager at Brookstone, where he connects online customers with the best gadgets and gifts. When he’s not writing, Richard can be found training for and racing triathlons around New England. You can follow him through his websiteLinkedIn or twitter.

 

Photo thanks to waferboard (Tacky Gift Exchange-101219-03)

 

Search Siren: Irresistible SEO copywriting content – Nov. 6, 2013

Time's running out on your blog post!This tantalizing collection of SEO content comes at exactly the right time – because time’s running out!

It seems like everyone’s running out of time for blog posts this week, myself included, with a server glitch holding up the site as I type! (Tuesday night)

A few of this week’s expert posts assure me that I’m not the only one blogging out at the last minute. (And, yes, I just coined “blogging out,” meaning to freak out over a looming blog deadline. Feel free to use it … with attribution.)

To help out with the mad rush, the Internet-marketing Gods, aka HubSpot, hath released upon us this brand new collection of blog post templates. Write, my friends, write!

Oh yeah, and there’s a bunch of other helpful SEO stuff in here, too, that you can check out for yourself. Sorry, I’m totally blogging out right now!

Enjoy! 🙂

Ian Lurie writes Content Marketing and SEO: Proceed With Caution for Entrepreneur.

Shanna Mallon tells us how to Build Your Content Calendar: 3 Easy Steps on Content Marketing Institute.

Search Engine Journal shares What Do The New Google Updates Mean For Content Marketers: Interview With Greg Secrist At #Pubcon 2013 by Murray Newlands. (like, whoa! I can’t link that whole title!)

HubSpot’s Inbound Hub gives us Here’s How I Wrote This 1,000-Word Blog Post in 10 Minutes by Ginny Soskey.

Here are 20 Ways To Get Your Content In Front Of Early-Stage B2B Buyers by Derek Edmond on Search Engine Land.

Lee Odden writes Integrating Public Relations & Content Marketing – It Doesn’t Have to be Scary over at TopRank.

Rae Hoffman writes WHAT YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT GOOGLE PENGUIN RECOVERY on her Sugarrae blog. (And, why yes, that is the best industry nickname ever.)

Search Engine People’s Amanda DiSilvestro shares What is Reverse Guest Blogging and How Can It Help?

Our very own Heather Lloyd-Martin tells What Lou Reed can teach you about SEO writing.

State of Digital’s Neil Walker writes Focus Groups and Knowing Your Audience.

Nick Wilsdon shares The Discovery Process Behind Mature Content Marketing Strategies, also on State of Digital.

Jennifer Horowitz introduces us to Google’s Newest Little Friend: Hummingbird over at Level343.

Google Hummingbird and its role in the promotion of content marketing by Colleen Lewis on memeburn.

Nick Whitmore gives us 5 Ways Persistence Pays For Online Content Creators on Copyblogger.

Joe Pulizzi shares the 2013 Content Marketing Prediction Hits and Misses on Content Marketing Institute.

Shawn Rosko writes SEO Techniques for Increasing Website Trust After a Penalty over at overit.

Doc Sheldon asks Writing Content for Users vs. Search Engines: Is There Still a Difference? on Search Engine Watch.

UpCity’s Julie Zare tells us to Ask An Expert 10/30: Local Keyword Selection, Kancart for Mobile, and Backlinks from Directories. (Dang – also too long to link the whole title!)

Julie Zare’s killin’ it over at UpCity with another one! Find out How to Ensure the Content on your Website is Unique.

Ginny Soskey asks Memes vs. MBAs: What Is Quality Content, Anyway? over at the HubSpot Inbound Hub.

David Portney gives us an SEO Makeover for 2014: A Practical Guide for Businesses at Portent.

Kimberly Krause Berg tells us What Google’s Machine Learning Can’t Know About Us on Internet Marketing Ninjas.

WordStream’s Phil Kowalski writes Clearing Up Negative Broad Match in AdWords.

Eliza Steely at TopRank writes 2013 SES Chicago – Wind, Shoulders, and Search.

Maria Winters DiMarco gives us the Top 5 Reasons to Set Clear Goals for Your Content over on SEER Interactive.

Danny Sullivan Shares What He Has Learned About Hummingbird with Eric Enge over at StoneTemple Consulting.

Sugarrae’s back and IDENTIFYING THE MONEY KEYWORDS FOR AFFILIATE MARKETING & SEO for you on her blog.

Lyena Solomon says “I’m Just Not That Into SEO” Is No Longer A Problem After This Post on Search Engine People.

Our own Amy Teeple helps you avoid the Oh no! I have a blog post to write! panic.

KISSmetrics’ Sherice Jacob tells us More Content Marketing Isn’t Necessarily Better.

Photo thanks to Jackie (It’s Official)

Why do some freelance copywriters rake in the bucks while others struggle to make ends meet? Hint: It’s all about tightening up the back end of your business. Learn how to make more money, faster with the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. Save 10% until 11/13/13 with coupon code SECRETS.

Top SEO, copywriting and content news of the week

Can grandma predict the future of SEO?Here it is, folks! This is a compilation of the most important SEO, copywriting and content news of the week from the Internet marketing experts.

Wondering what the future holds for content and SEO? The search professionals have read your mind and offer their predictions.

SEO and content marketing continue to evolve as consumer intent plays a bigger role in website writing. So, if your fortune-telling talent about equals grandma’s over there, here’s some help! Enjoy tips for living in a post-Hummingbird and Penguin Web as well as insights into persuasive writing and consumer behavior.

Search Engine People’s Maciej Fita writes 15 Strategic Questions You Need Answered to Power Your Content Marketing.

Trond Lyngbo shares The New SEO — It’s About People, Intent, & Meaning for Search Engine Land.

Search Engine Land also gives us Schema.org – 7 Things For SEOs To Consider Post Hummingbird by John E. Lincoln.

Marketing Land offers The Future Of SEO Reporting: A Call To The Industry by Benjamin Spiegel.

(Dang, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land dynamic duo – you’re just way too awesome this week!)

Who doesn’t want to read about Matt Cutts Live at #Pubcon? Check out this post by Search Engine Journal’s John Rampton.

Search Engine Watch shares The Impact of Penguin 2.1: Recovery, Knockout Punches & Fresh Hits by Glenn Gabe.

Learn The Future of SEO and What it Means for Inbound Marketing [SlideShare] by HubSpot’s Meghan Keaney Anderson.

Stefanie Flaxman writes 15 Copy Editing Tips That Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art for Copyblogger.

Michele Linn tells us What the Future Holds for B2B Content Marketing: Experts Look Ahead in her post over at Content Marketing Institute.

Our very own Heather Lloyd-Martin tells us How to make more money as a freelance copywriter: 20 tips on SEO Copywriting. (I refuse to let you guys miss this one!)

KISSmetrics gives us How We Acquired 100K Early Bird Signups with Zero Marketing Budget by Kseniya Maksimova.

Ian Lurie writes The Comprehensive Guide to Dealing with Content Plagiarism on The Hub.

Austin Copywriter blog’s Kristen Hicks gives us 5 Key Takeaways for Freelancers from Content Marketing World 2013.

Monique Torres shares The secret ingredient to successful marketing content on iMedia Connection.

Ross Hudgens gives us Link Reclamation – Whiteboard Friday on the Moz blog.

Belle Beth Cooper writes Why procrastination doesn’t need a cure: A guide to structured distraction for buffer.

Douglas Van Praet writes More Effective Than Advertising for Psychology Today.

Rae Hoffman tells you WHAT YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT GOOGLE PENGUIN RECOVERY on Sugarrae.

Social Media Today’s Virginia Bussey shares How to Make the Web a Better Place Through Inbound Marketing.

Jo Turnbull writes Copywriting for Conversion – Know What Matters over at State of Digital.

Diane Charton gives us 5 big ways behavioural economics is changing traditional marketing on memeburn.

 

Photo thanks to Kristy. (Grandma’s Predictions)

Why do some freelance copywriters rake in the bucks while others struggle to make ends meet? Hint: It’s all about tightening up the back end of your business. Learn how to make more money, faster with the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. Save 10% until 11/13/13 with coupon code SECRETS.

SEO co-citations: What they are & why they matter

Anatomy of SEO co-citation and authority transferIt never fails. A new year comes along or Google unleashes a new algorithm change, and SEO professionals start whirling theories and warnings about how SEO will never be the same. They claim SEO is dead.

Once you’ve been in this industry for a while, you learn to pay attention to what’s going on, but not to jump to conclusions and pull your hair out every time someone sneezes.

Link building has always been an integral part of performing effective SEO on any site, regardless of whether it’s a big brand or small mom-n-pop shop around the corner. But when Penguin hit the scene in April 2012, a whole new mindset had to be adopted.

No longer could you easily get away with ranking a lower-quality site merely by creating an army of backlinks for it. And in the SEO world, heads were spinning. To this day, many agree on some principles of links, building them, which ones are good, and which ones really help your site (or hurt them). Other times, there’s disagreement.

Co-citations are becoming a hot topic in the SEO world these days, and for good reason. Several years ago there was a lot of discussion about them; it was the hot new thing for SEO professionals to talk about. But the talk sizzled down… until very recently.

What are co-citations?

Co-citations can be a little difficult to wrap your head around. But I’m hoping you’ll leave here with a basic understanding of them. Co-citations mean that if someone links to your site as well as a well-known, authority site, within or closely related to your industry, in the same article, then you will share some of that authority site’s respect from Google.

Even that was something you had to read several times to try to understand, right?

Maybe this will help:

Co-Citation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In essence, the authority or respect from Google flows both to and from a link. Article “A” links to authority site “B,” and smaller site “C.” The authority from authority site “B” transfers back to article “A” (which is why it’s always good to link an authority site to your content), but it also carries over to smaller site “C.” Got that?

Now, I can just hear you saying, “If I’m writing article ‘A,’ I certainly don’t want to link to a better-known, big-boy competitor’s site!” Well, yes, it can be tricky. What you want to do in this situation is find something relevant and helpful to the reader, but not something that would be a direct competitor to you and your content.

For instance, let’s say you’re a travel agent. You aren’t going to want to link to Tripology or some big travel company. An acceptable alternative might be to link to a well-known luggage store or travel guide books on Amazon for where your readers are interested in going.

This concept has also been referred to as SEO co-citation and similar terms. It shouldn’t be confused with local SEO citations, though.

The shifting perspectives on co-citations

This has been a pretty well-known concept in the SEO industry for a while. But today, the strategy of using co-citations seems to be shifting. The same principles still basically apply, but now we’re going deeper, due to the need to respond and adapt to Google’s constantly changing algorithm. We should be concerned not only about who we’re linking to and who’s creating content that links to us and authority sites, but also the anchor text.

The age-old practice of using keywords as the anchor text is out. Instead, Google seems to be factoring in the words that surround or are in close proximity to the anchor text, as well as the context and subject of the entire article.

Using the example above, in which we imagined you are a travel agent, here’s an example of a great link to have pointing at your site: A blogger for an African Safari company writes a piece about the new day trip they offer. They’ve noticed a spectacular deal you have right now for travel to Africa and link to you saying: “And if you’re looking for a great discount on traveling to Africa, click here.”

They’re using only the “click here” for the anchor text, but it has “discount on traveling to Africa” very close to it. Let’s say they’ve also linked to Wikipedia for the term “African safari” and to a guidebook on Amazon.com.

Essentially, you’re now sharing the authority of Wikipedia, Amazon, and that company’s blog. Plus, you’re keeping Google’s Penguin algorithm on your good side because the link anchor text isn’t keyword-rich.

So how do you make this happen?

I’m hoping this has helped you understand what co-citations are, how they’re shifting, and why you should be striving to get as many of them as you can. But that leads to the next question: How can you get them?

The best advice is to create content that’s not just for SEO, or purely for the sake of link-building, but to be helpful to the user. Every article, post, video, infographic, or whatever you create should focus on a targeted theme. It should be insightful or trigger an emotion among your readers so they feel encouraged to share it within their networks.

The more people who discover it, and like it, the more people will link to you; the hope is that they’ll also link to related authority sites.

If you’re actually creating content to use for linking back to your site (guest posts, for example), remember to avoid always using your keywords as anchor text. Instead, use different keywords in close proximity to your anchor text. And don’t forget to link to authority sites that are related to your industry.

If you create a post that links to resources the reader finds useful, and if you create content for your own site doing the same… co-citations will come naturally, along with better rankings, traffic, leads, and sales.

About the Author ~ Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency, as well as Crackerize.com, a lyrics-humor website. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

image thanks to Dzhus (Dmitry Dzhus)

There’s still time: Join me in Phoenix May 22nd for personalized SEO copywriting certification training plus freelance business-building strategies! 

5 sure-fire ways to create a killer home page

Greetings! Glad you’re here, because today’s SEO copywriting how-to video is about creating a killer home page.  However powerful your copywriting and skilled your SEO, if you’re making these all-too-common, conversions-killing mistakes with your home page copy, your business will suffer.  The good news is, bad as it may seem now, it is easily corrected!

If you’ve been following Heather’s weekly how-to video posts, you’ll notice the progression from the inaugural 3 skills every SEO copywriter must have to this step-by-step series, aimed at providing you with explicit guidance to creating a fantastic website.

Beginning at the beginning, Heather first addresses the home page: what you should include on your home page to serve both the search engines and your target audience, as well as what tactics to avoid.

So let’s review:

Why Focus on the Home Page?

Because the home page is the most important page on your site!  It is your second conversions opportunity following the search engine results page.

The Home Page:

  • Is the page most indexed by the search engines
  • Sets the “tone” for the entire site
  • Orients people: they know they’re at the right “place” and that you offer what they want/need

Your Home Page is Like a Funnel:

From a sales perspective, you should assume that your prospects are coming to your site directly from search engine results, a link, or an offline source.  Your objective is to first, immediately let these folks know that they’re at the right place and then second, direct them to exactly where they need to go next.

Your home page serves to segment your audience and then prompt them to move around your site. Your home page is a great “preview” of all that you offer, not an index of every single benefit you offer.

Tried and true strategies for writing a killer home page, whether B2B or B2C, are:

  • Use overarching benefit statements & general, overarching keywords/keyphrases

A well-written home page should serve as a “teaser,” offering a preview of the great benefits your company has to offer.  It isn’t the place to discuss each and every benefit you offer, or list each and every keyword or keyphrase in your arsenal.  It is the place to offer your readers a taste, then clearly direct them to exactly where they need to go for the full entrée.

Trying to say too much too soon overwhelms the reader, dilutes your message, and detracts from those keywords and phrases that actually apply to the home page.  The same goes for your home page footer:  jamming keywords and phrases into your footer doesn’t do anybody any good, period.  Don’t do it.

It is better to sprinkle your benefit statements and related keyword/keyphrases throughout your site.  You’ve product/service pages to address specific product/service benefits, about pages to discuss your company and mission statement, etc., and to include the corresponding, relevant keywords and phrases for those pages.

  • Link intelligently from your home page to your product/services page

Again, your home page should serve as a funnel, directing your readers deeper into your site.  As with benefit statements and keywords/phrases, you want to avoid linking out to each and every product or service you offer.  It serves all concerned far better to link to main sections/categories of your site.

Far too often, otherwise well-written home pages go wrong with this “link-o-rama” (mal)practice, whereby your prospect is confronted with one big hyperlink.  It only sabotages your home page content to jam it up with numerous internal links.  For the reader, it is both visually overwhelming and psychologically overwhelming.  Easy does it!

  • Write copy that is focused around your customer persona

Write as if you were addressing an audience of one:  your ideal customer.  You want to reach and resonate with that one person.  Writing general, untargeted copy will get you general, untargeted results.

This is a great opportunity to change up your copy to increase conversions by honing your message specifically for your customer persona.  Even if you have multiple customer personas, you can readily structure your home page copy to address each persona and then direct the prospect to vertical-specific, niche landing pages within your website.

  • Create a fantastic, benefit-oriented home page title

We’ve already discussed the importance of creating compelling, “clickable” page Titles.  Far, far better to compose a powerful home page Title that couples one or two of the main keywords/phrases specific to the home page with a strong benefit statement, than to write a so-so title that is stuffed with keywords.  You want to match your targeted home page copy with an equally targeted, clickable page Title.

  • Get to the point

Stay on track and relay your message to your customer persona as succinctly as possible.  Ruthlessly edit your copy and strive for an economy of words:  if you can say something in five words as opposed to 25, do it.  Your home page isn’t the place for waxing poetic!

So, what information should you have on your products or services pages? Stay tuned, as next week Heather will discuss how to craft conversions-driving copy for your company’s products/services!

Thanks for checking in!  As always, your questions and comments are most welcome.

So what defines you? Creating an irresistible U.S.P.

Greetings and welcome to the latest and greatest SEO copywriting tip, via video post from Heather.  Today’s discussion is on how to find and create your company’s unique selling proposition, or U.S.P.  If you’ve been following along with our weekly Monday posts (especially Features vs. Benefits and Transforming Features into Benefits), then you’ll readily see how creating a powerful U.S.P. is like creating one big benefit statement for your company.

Join Heather as she talks about what makes a successful U.S.P.:

Here’s the digest of the essential points:

What’s Your U.S.P.?

When thinking about your U.S.P., ask yourself:  What do YOU offer that’s unique from your competitors?  What makes you so different?  This can be tricky.  Favorite examples of compelling U.S.P.’s are those found in informercials: they have U.S.P.’s down flat!

  • Jupiter Jack:  Turns your car radio into a hands free phone!
  • Perfect Brownie:  The best way to bake, slice and serve your favorite treats!

In both of these examples, you immediately know exactly what the product is, and what the benefit (U.S.P.) is – and it makes you think, “Wow! This could really help/benefit me!  I want to buy it and I want to buy it right now!”   While these particular examples are products, the same applies to services.

What Makes a Successful U.S.P.?

  • Your claim is unique:  the benefit is something that your competition either doesn’t offer, or can’t, or maybe doesn’t promote the same way that you do.  For example, Jupiter Jack:  Turns your car radio into a hands free phone!
  • Your U.S.P. implies a benefit that’s easily understood by your target audience:  this is really important and harkens back to transforming features into a powerful benefit statement.  You want to make sure your benefit resonates with your audience.  For example, Perfect Brownie:  The new non-stick way to make perfect brownies!
  • Your U.S.P. must be compelling: the reader thinks Wow! Great idea! I must check into this right now!
  • You want your U.S.P. on your home page:  it tells your prospect who/what your company is and why they should buy from you.

What else do you want on your home page?

This will be the subject of next Monday’s how-to, when Heather launches a video series that breaks down web pages by what information you should have on what pages, and how to structure your web content accordingly.

Thanks so much for joining us!  We look forward to your comments and questions, and to you checking in with us again next week!

3 ways to learn the SEO copywriting ropes

Greetings!  Welcome to the second post of our video blog series, aimed at helping you excel in your SEO copywriting career.

Last week, we discussed the three crucial skills that every SEO copywriter needs to succeed. Today, we’re going to show you how to cultivate these skills.

Don your headset and check out this mini-tutorial on three ways to learn the ropes of SEO copywriting:

Here’s a recap of the essential points:

1. Read… A Lot!

SEO copywriting is truly a multi-disciplinary field incorporating direct response, content marketing, neuromarketing, and buyer psychology – as well as solid SEO and copywriting skills.  A suggested list for your reading, as a starting point, includes:

2. Expand Your Educational Horizons

The best learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum.   Consider tapping into the training resources offered by local and online SEO copywriting and marketing groups, and connect with your colleagues:

3. Take Your SEO Copywriting to the Next Level

There are a lot of good SEO copywriters out there – which is all the more incentive for you to be great!  Consider taking your SEO copywriting skills to the next level via opportunities like these:

  • Professional Internship: It may not pay, but you can build up your skills and a fantastic portfolio by interning for an SEO copywriting/marketing company.
  • Ground-Level Company Position: Take that entry-level position with a company and work your way up, while letting them pay for your SEO copywriting education and experience.
  • Work With a Mentor: There is nothing more powerful than cultivating a one-on-one relationship with an established SEO copywriting professional.  The personalized attention, guidance, and feedback are well worth the investment in this Master’s level training.

Thanks for tuning in!  Do you have any ideas or resources you’d like to add? By all means, please do!  Hope you will join us for next week’s video post, when we’ll discuss FAQ’s for SEO copywriters.  See you then!