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!

How Freelance Writers Can Survive the Upcoming Recession

Right now, a lot of people are afraid.

Maybe even you.

They look at the news and at past economic cycles and say, “See, a recession will happen any day now. What will happen to my job/business/livelihood when it does?”

Scary stuff.

I get it. I do. For many people (including me,) the last recession was devastating. Sure, many folks are doing 1,000 times better now than they were before 2007, but that fear, uncertainty and doubt remain.

It’s like we’re suffering from an economic-based PTSD. Sure, the worst probably won’t happen. But that doesn’t help us when we wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about stuff.

I learned a lot from the last recession and from talking to other business owners who survived (and yes — even thrived.)

Here are some things to think about:

– A recession does NOT mean you’ll automatically go out of business. 

It’s easy to think that a recession = we all lose money. In fact, many businesses did well during those dark recession years. And yes, even freelance writers. 

It’s important to get your mindset straight NOW, before the other financial shoe drops. If you go into a downtime thinking you’re going to flounder — guess what’s going to happen?

There is always opportunity. You just may need to think outside of the box to find it.

I know business owners who made a bunch of money during the recession and weren’t worried about cash flow at all. (Shocker, I know!) Just because the news is telling you, “Everything is horrible everywhere,” it doesn’t mean it has to be true for you.

– Working in-house won’t necessarily protect you.

Sad, but true. There was a time in 2008 when every. single. one. of my client contacts was fired in the same week. None of them saw it coming. This doesn’t mean your employment is hanging by a thread, but it does mean you’ll want to come up with a plan B — just in case.

Heck, according to this salary survey by Carol Tice, part-time freelancing is the norm. Maybe now is the time to test the waters and to build your writing business.

 – Being “too busy to market yourself” will bite you in the butt.

I hear you. You’re already working long days, and you’re constantly busy. Sure, you mean to update your LinkedIn profile and to contact possible prospects, but who has the time? 

You do.

Instead of waiting for work to come to you, get out there and hustle. Maybe that means connecting with a few LinkedIn contacts every week. Or going to a networking event. Or creating some video tips. Anything you can do to connect with future clients is a good thing, especially if your current reliable client pipeline dries up. 

 – Examine new markets, new skill sets, and new ways to stay competitive.

It’s time to be more than a one-trick pony. Think about new services you can offer your clients (or even your employer.) Stretching your wings, offering different things, and billing yourself as an SEO content marketing consultant makes you more marketable and gives you profitable options.

This is also the time to take a hard look at your target audience and to ask, “Is it worth it?” If you’re constantly underpaid, find a client (or industry) that WILL pay your rates. If you love your niche, think of ways you could expand it. 

– Save money whenever and however you can.

Even a small nest egg will give you a huge sense of control. I use Digit.co to transfer small amounts of money out of my checking account into savings — and it’s been amazing. The amounts are so small that I don’t notice, and I now have a nice chunk of “just in case” cash. 

Some people save X percent of every contract as “just in case” cash. Others transfer money into savings every week or month. Find what works for you and do it — even if you’re only saving $10 a week.

– Can’t save money because things are too tight? Raise your rates.

Freelance writing does not mean “working for less than minimum wage.” Yet, so many writers undervalue themselves because they think they aren’t worth more than $10 a post. You can make at least $50 an hour — and more than $100 per hour — just by positioning yourself and knowing your value.  Especially since there ARE writers making good money.

This is ALL about mindset and marketing. You CAN make more money doing exactly what you’re doing now. 

Want more inspiration? Check out this survey of top-earners (scroll to the bottom of the page to see it.)

 – You’ve got to spend money to make money.

Do you need a business coach to help improve your productivity and to change your mindset — but, you keep saying, “It’s too expensive”? Have you wanted to attend a conference that’s chock-full of prospects, but you’re afraid to spend the money?

Get over it.

NOW is the time to get your mind and finances right for what we all know is coming. Sure, it’s scary to spend money when (1) you’re unsure of the ROI, and (2) you’re already feeling vulnerable. I’ve been there. At the same time, not spending $1,000 now could actually COST you money later.

 – Build a supportive business community and share your story.

When the last recession landed, I felt like I was the only one who was hit so darn hard. I felt horrible about myself (and my business,) and I was afraid to tell my friends how things were really going.

Then, I attended a conference along with some long-time SEO friends. We collectively let down our guard and shared how much things sucked. One friend lost a million dollar contract. Another was thinking about taking a job at his local newspaper. One friend had to lay off his staff and was still dealing with the guilt. This happened to some of the top names in SEO — not just the stragglers.

That dinner years ago was the most cleansing, therapeutic thing that could have happened for me. It normalized my situation, gave me hope, and made me realize I wasn’t alone. 

Create your own community of business/writer friends who “get it.” Think of them like your own personal mastermind group who keeps you happy, sane and focused. You may want to go it alone — heck, that’s typically how I roll, too. But, having folks around you will make things so much easier.

You can enter the upcoming recession feeling confident, secure and prepared. Or, you can fail to plan — and let the financial news (and reality) hit you like a truck. Again.

You have a choice. 

I know what I’m going to do. How about you?

What do you think?

Did Carol’s salary survey results surprise you? Are you ready to take the plunge and to start your own freelance copywriting business? Do you walk around saying, “I ain’t afraid of no recession”? (If so, I applaud you!) Leave a comment and let me know!

Want to know how to start your own freelance SEO copywriting business? I’m running a free webinar on February 14, 2019! Sign up for my newsletter to get all the details.

Are You Sabotaging Your SEO Writing Success?

You know those days when you work your butt off, but it feels like you have nothing to show for it? 

This week was one of those weeks.

Sure, I can blame feeling under the weather. I can even blame the actual weather (it’s cold and grey and dreary.) I can blame a lazy weekend hangover.

Here’s what my problem really was…

I was working — hard — on tasks. But, none of them were important. It was all content busywork that distracted me from what would really make an impact.

In short, I did this to myself.

The thing is, I see writers (and in-house teams) do this all the time. 

They write the same type of content over and over, even if it doesn’t position, doesn’t get shared, and doesn’t drive income.

They focus on detailed minutiae, like revising their blog categories (which is what I was doing) instead of moving their business forward and working on scary goals.

They spend all their energy on a small piece of the content marketing puzzle rather than doing the BIG stuff that makes a BIG impact.

And, that’s sad.

Why do we self-sabotage?

Because doing anything else is hard. It takes work. It means stepping out of our comfort zones.

For instance…

Heck, it may mean admitting that what we’re doing now isn’t working.

 — It’s easier to keep writing non-performing posts than to dig in, to figure out what’s not working, and to make a change…especially if there are in-house politics involved or if people feel “protective” of their work.

 — It seems easier to focus on smaller writing goals than to create a BIG content asset that you can repurpose.

 — It feels easier to sit behind our laptops and to check our social platforms than to prospect and to get ourselves out there.

 — It’s easier to be satisfied with “meh” results than to bring in someone who can tell you how to improve and how to change your process.

 — It’s easier to tweak our blog categories — something most readers won’t even notice — than to start penciling out plans for a San Diego SEO training/coaching workshop next March.

(OK…maybe that last one is just me.) :)

Busywork may calm our fears in the moment. We may feel like good little content soldiers. But, it doesn’t move us forward. It doesn’t give us the results we want. It doesn’t help us grow. 

Sometimes, it even saps our energy.

Does this sound familiar? 

Here’s what you can do.

Think about the things you do every day. 

Do they move you (and your business) forward? Do they put zing in your step and excite you? Are you seeing results — for instance, better positions, more money, or more clients?

If that answer is, “no.” Notice that. Know that you’re not alone.

Most of us LOVE to wrap ourselves up in a busywork cocoon. It feels cozy. Until it doesn’t.

Then, you have a major decision to make…

What are you going to do about it?

You see, noticing it is a (big) part of the solution — but, it’s not the only part. 

We have to take action.

Sometimes, we can do this by ourselves. In most cases, we need outside help to kick us out of our comfort zones and to help us do great things.

That’s why I’ll get called in to train writing teams. They know they need an outsider to evaluate their process and to help them get better.

That’s why people hire business coaches. They need someone to call them on their B.S. and to hold them accountable for making changes.

(And yes, it was my business coach who called me on my reluctance to get involved with video and my reluctance to hold the San Diego seminar I’ve been chewing on for three freakin’ years.)

The point is — you have options. This is something you can change. Heck, focusing on what really matters will make you feel like you’re finally moving forward.

And wouldn’t that feel great?

So, now what are you going to do?

Where are you burying yourself in busywork? What’s that one, big goal you keep thinking about — but there never seems like “enough time” to achieve it? Where are you feeling stuck and stagnant? Leave a reply in the comments and let me know!

Do This Before You Write Sales Copy

Do you ever wonder about the “right words” you should use in your sales copy?

Do you have just a general idea of your clients’ pain points, and creating reader-specific benefit statements is hard?

We’ve all been there. It’s hard to write good copy when you don’t have all the information you need.

The solution?

Start a conversation with your target reader and ask them what you want to know.

If you’re thinking, “Ack, does that mean talking to people in real life?” the answer is yes. :)

Chatting with a reader or a customer uncovers a treasure trove of information. You’ll learn what they love about the company. You’ll learn what they don’t like.

And you’ll hear their story — including why they chose to work with your company (or read your blog) over all the others.

Knowing that information makes writing the sales copy easy. In fact, it basically writes itself.

Plus, readers coming to the site will immediately click with your content. They’ll read it and think, “Wow, it’s like this company gets me.”

After all, how many times have you worked with a company — even if they were slightly more expensive — because the sales copy put you at ease?

Yes, this takes extra time (if you freelance, know this is a billable deliverable.) But it’s worth it.

Are there other things you can do besides talking to people IRL?

Yes. But they aren’t quite as good. ;)

Survey Monkey surveys are a great way to gauge interest in topics, float possible product ideas, and identify pain paints. Consider including a comments box at the end — the feedback is just as fascinating as the results.

Another idea is to send an email after every transaction and ask a couple questions. I do this when people purchase my SEO Copywriting Certification training, and the feedback is amazing. Not only does this give me a great chance to “meet” my students and to start a dialogue, but I also learn why they signed up. 

And that’s great information.

If you’re looking for general target audience musings, specialized forums are key. You can see what people post, get a feel for popular topics, and learn a lot about folks who are passionate about a topic. Check out places like Reddit or specialized forums. Did you know there are multiple forums for a Thor 23FE Freedom Elite RV? Neither did I, until my husband told me. 

Finally, you can get in the habit of asking for feedback. That’s why I do it at the end of every newsletter. I want to know what topics you want to know more about, and which ones bore you. (It’s OK. I’m not hurt.) I learn what’s inspiring and what’s just…meh.

Sure, I have other data too — AWeber (and other email providers) track all sorts of fun stuff. But, I always read my emails. The notes mean more to me than the raw data alone.

So, what do you think?

Are you going to (gasp) chat with a customer or a reader in real life? Or, are you going to get feedback a different way. Leave a comment and let me know! <—See what I did there with the CTA — ha!

How Many Times Should You Exact Match the Keyphrase?

Here’s a quiz for you…

How many times should you exact match the keyphrase in your web copy?

a. Five times

b. At least once every 100 words

c. At least once per paragraph

d. At least seven times, but no more than 15 for a 700-word article

The answer?

None of the above.

OK, I know that was a trick question. But, I phrased it like that to showcase the weird rules some SEO writers follow. There is no reason to tie yourself (and your copy) up in knots anymore.

In short: You can throw the “exact match” rule out the window!

(It’s time to do a little happy dance!) :)

Google has grown up (a little bit)

“But Heather,” you say. “I thought you had to exact match a keyphrase multiple times. Otherwise the page won’t position well.”

In fact, one man from the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group complained that one client forced him to exact match multiple long-tail search terms in the content. Imagine stumbling over [Dallas TX carpet cleaning emergency 24 hours] in a sentence.

Yeah. That’s not good.

This thinking is closely related to that old “keyword density” concept which WILL NOT DIE.

What’s keyword density? 

Count the number of keywords/keyphrases on a given page, then divide it by the total word count.  Voila:  keyword density.  For example, a 500-word page with 10 keywords/keyphrases =  a keyword density of 2-percent.

Keyword density hasn’t been a “thing” for over 15 years. Matt Cutts from Google debunked this back in 2011:

And I talked about it, too:

Here’s the thing: Once upon a time, when Google was young and dumb, you had to exact match the keyphrase multiple times to make Google “notice” your page.

Plus, some writers would optimize pages for just one keyword. One page would be about [running shoes], and another page would be about [running shoe], while yet another would discuss [shoes for running.]

Yes, it was that bad.

via GIPHY

Unfortunately, that’s where SEO writing got its bad rap. Companies — even major ones — kicked out content that read like an AdWords keyword list. The keyword was repeated so many times, it ruined the content’s readability.

What’s happening today?

The Panda algorithm shakeup in 2011 was Google’s first major swipe at keyphrase-stuffed content.

Since then, Google’s algorithm refinements and the advent of RankBrain means Google will return relevant results where the search term isn’t even on the page.

Newsflash: We’re optimizing for entities now. Yes, keyphrases are still important. But, that doesn’t mean you repeat the keyphrase over and over.

You can (and should) use synonyms and related words in your web content.

You should fully answer your readers’ questions without worrying about a following false writing formula.

In short, focus on writing solid copy.

Need more help? Here’s a great article by Ann Smarty discussing four tools you can use to discover and optimize for related keyphrases. Even Ann says, “SEO moved beyond exact keyword matching long ago.”

 

In today’s world, as long as the individual words in the long-tail keyphrase appear somewhere on the page — and the page is relevant to the searcher’s query —  you’re good.

What’s more, Google considers unnatural-sounding copy “poor content.” Here’s an exact quote from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines:

“Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users….Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful main content to help users, should be rated Lowest.”

Still not convinced? Here are some common questions I hear about exact matching the keyphrase:

My client insists I exact match the keyphrase ten times in a 500-word blog post. What can I do?

I feel your pain. I still receive emails that say, “I would like you to write a 1,500-word blog post, and include the keyphrase every 100-words.” Ugh.

You can try to educate your client, by showing her this post and Google’s guidelines. However, there are some clients who won’t “get it,” no matter how much you try. In that case, you can either do what your client wants — or, you can walk away and find another gig.

Help! We’ve exact-matched the keyword too many times! How can we fix our web copy?

Does your copy sound like a laundry list of exact matched keyphrases? You’ll want to track those pages down and de-optimize them. This may mean rewriting the page, or it could mean pulling out some keyphrases until your copy sounds normal again.

Our copywriter/agency/web designer says we have to exact match the keyword multiple times “for Google.” Are you saying they’re wrong?

Yes. They’re operating on outdated information, and that can cost you search traffic. Consider finding another vendor who can help.

A competitor’s site is way over-optimized, and they’re out-positioning our site. Does that mean we should add more keywords to our web content?

Possibly, but proceed with caution. Your content may have some tasty optimization opportunities, and tweaking your content and Title could mean some big wins.

However, if you’re adding keyphrases just because — and they’re messing with the readability — you need to back away from the keyboard. There are other ways to drive search volume without resorting to spammy techniques.

What do you think? Have you had a client (or boss) insist on exact matching the keyphrase multiple times? Leave your comment below!

Should You Rewrite Your Web Copy? Or Hit Delete?

Do you look at photos of yourself from high school and think, “My hair! What was I thinking?”

Yup. Me too. In fact, a photo of 1980’s Heather — complete with BIG perm and beret — was on the screen during my AWAI Bootcamp presentation. 

(The conference organizers asked for old photos, and that’s the best one I had. Here it is, for reference. Feel free to laugh.):

 

I bring this up because, sometimes, we look at old blog pages and think, “Man, that’s not a good post, at all. What was I thinking?”

For instance…

 — You may not have realized that keyphrase stuffing is bad, so you excessively repeated the same keyphrases.

 — Some pages may be super-short and read less like an authoritative article and more like, “I wrote this in five minutes.”

 — Or, you may have accepted a guest post that wasn’t so great. 

Maybe these pages are lurking on your site, and you’ve forgotten all about them. Or, maybe you land on them from time to time and think, “I should do something about this post.” 

But you don’t, because you don’t know what “do something” means.

Heck, even Google disagrees on what you should do. Here’s a great post from Search Engine Roundtable outlining Google’s mixed messages.

(Mixed messages from Google? Never! HAHAHAHAHA!)

Like your high-school hair, you’ve got to do something about those posts. 

Here’s what to do:

Get in the habit of keeping a list of “bad” pages so you can deal with them later.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll look at a not-so-great post, cringe, think, “I should fix this,” and immediately forget about it. Maintaining a living document will help you build fixing (or deleting) pages into your editorial calendar.

Does the page have good information that wouldn’t take long to update/fix? Fix it.

You can strip out the keyphrase stuffing, update your data, and turn the so-so paragraphs into copywriting gold. You can freshen up the header image, too. (I’m doing this with my old blog posts now.) Easy.

Is it a super-short page that’s poorly written? Trash it.

Let’s face it: writing a new article would probably take less time. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Is it a poorly-written guest post? Let it go.

Sure, you can ask the original author to revise it for you. But will they say yes — or even respond to your email? Doubtful. Feel free to send this content to the great beyond.

Does the article have some bright spots, but you don’t have time to revise it right now?

Keep it — unless those bright spots are few and far between. Sometimes, a few minor fixes (for instance, a new opening paragraph or new subheadlines) can help. You can always revisit the post when you have more time.

And yes, my freelancing friends. Helping clients evaluate and fix content is a possible new profit center! Go for it!

What do you do when you see bad content on your site?

Cover your eyes and scream, “I can’t see you!”? Immediately click away? Wonder what you were thinking back then?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Is There a Secret SEO Writing Formula?

Want to know one of the things that grinds my gears?

“SEO experts” who claim they have a “secret formula” that’s “100% foolproof.”

Why am I ranting so early in the morning?  Let me explain…

Earlier this week, I received a note from a super-smart SEO writer who ran into a…challenging…prospect.

Why was the prospect challenging? Because he wanted her to write and to structure the content exactly how [fairly well known SEO “expert”] said to do it. 

But, here’s the problem.

The writing formula she was supposed to follow made the content sound weird. The writer was concerned that the content (and the keyphrases) would sound clunky if she followed the SEO writing formula.

And, when she gazed into her client crystal ball, she realized that all the articles she’d create for this guy would sound exactly the same.

Ouch. 

As soon as I read her note, I wanted to update this blog post and to add one more client type to avoid. 

Some clients attach themselves to an expert’s writing and believe everything he says. If the expert says, “hey, add 20 additional keyphrases into your content,” the client would say, “great idea” without questioning it.

And this is sad.

Here’s why…

Meet the new “expert.” Same as the old “expert.”

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, the query intent, and the current competition. 

What works for your site may not work for mine. Creating content for a smaller business is different than creating content for a competitive industry.

Plus, SEO (and SEO writing) is always in flux. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work.

The thing is, there are always SEO “experts” who pretend they have all the answers. There are always sexy, well-branded folks touting their way of doing things.

Often times, these folks are immensely popular. They’ve got the branding stuff down. Folks cite them all the time. Their SEO skills…well…they may not be the best. Heck, these folks may not even work with clients.

In short, I’ve seen many “experts” come and go. 

What’s my best advice?

Think critically.

If you read an article that insists there is only one way to do X…run away.

If you try something you learned from an expert and it makes your copy sound weird — don’t upload the copy. Change it until it’s right.

If you’re reading conflicting advice, and you’re not sure what to do — hire someone you trust and ask them.

Just because someone has 15,000 followers on your favorite social network, it doesn’t mean they know their stuff. It means they’re good at branding. 

Don’t let the cult of personality mess up your SEO content. 

Whew. Rant over.

What experience do YOU have with SEO experts? What grinds your gears? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

How Often Should You Publish New Content?

Have you heard that publishing more often makes the Google gods smile upon your site and bless your content with top rankings? 

You’re not alone.

Many companies require their writers to post multiple time a week — sometimes even multiple times a day — because they believe it helps with search rankings. Their reasoning isn’t driven by what their readers want. Instead, it’s all about what they think Google needs to see.

Unfortunately, this can have an unintended side effect. 

I’ve chatted with many writers — and worked with many companies — who saw the quality of their content decrease after their publication schedules ramped up. There was less of a focus on creating authoritative content, and more focus on, well, more.   

The writers were writing as fast as they could, trying to keep up with “Google’s demands.”

Were the writers (and powers-that-be) comfortable with the approach? No. They knew the content wasn’t the best, and often felt embarrassed about the quality.

They just thought that publishing more often was the “magic bullet” that got Google’s attention.

Fortunately, they were wrong.

Here’s what Google says about publication frequency… 

In March 2018, Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz reported on a Twitter interaction between Google’s John Mueller and another Twitter user.

Here’s what went down.

The Twitter user asked:

“Do Google’s algorithms take into account the frequency/volume/schedule of publishing new content for a site? Say a site publishes 5 new URLs daily, but then begins to publish 2-3 instead. Does that make Google looks differently at the site?”

Good question. After all, it seems like a sudden drop in a publication schedule could be a negative signal to Google. It’s not like a print publication can suddenly change its publication schedule. Is a website any different?

Here’s what John Mueller said in response:

“Nope. A site isn’t a machine that pumps out content at a fixed rate. Well, it shouldn’t be :-).”

This means Google doesn’t care about your publication frequency. (Woohoo!)

And, your focus should be on quality — not on content quantity.

So, what does that mean to your content strategy?

If your company publishes a lot of content, and you feel the quality is slipping, it’s time to take a hard look at your analytics.

Check your bounce rates, your time on site and time on page statistics. Are people interacting with your content? Or taking off after a few seconds? Is it getting traction on social? Or is it falling flat?

You may find that you get better traction (and better positions, and more social shares) from publishing bigger, meatier content assets than from writing multiple, low-quality posts.

(Isn’t that why we create content in the first place — so people actually read and enjoy it?)

What’s more, you can easily repurpose a strong content asset. A large guide can be repurposed into multiple blog posts. You can use quotes and statistics for Instagram and Twitter. You can create PowerPoints that dovetail with parts of the main content asset.

Why not do it right the first time — and save yourself loads of time?

 What do you think?

Does reading, “Google doesn’t care about your publication frequency” make you breathe a sigh of relief? Or is your company (or your client’s company) stuck in the MORE CONTENT mentality?  Let me know in the comments!

Why Do Keyphrase-Stuffed Pages Position?

In a perfect world, our well-written content always positions top-10.

In reality, well, weird things happen.

Sometimes, a keyphrase-stuffed page makes it to the top of Google’s search results. And stays there.

How can that be?

Did someone pay Google for that listing? (No.)

Is repeating the keyphrase over and over a viable SEO writing tactic again? (Thankfully, no.)

Or, is there something else going on? (Yup.)

Here’s your answer…

We all know that keyword stuffing is bad, m’kay? 

Google advises against keyphrase stuffing. It’s old-school, spammy SEO.

Plus, from a conversion aspect, your readers don’t enjoy it, either. People don’t like to read keyphrase-stuffed pages. People don’t like to buy from sites that keyword-stuff their copy.

It’s not a good tactic.

Yet, last week on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller said that keyword stuffing, “shouldn’t result in removal from the index.”

In fact, some keyword-stuffed pages may still position because there is “enough value to be found elsewhere.” 

Here’s the Search Engine Roundtable post sharing the news.

Um, what? 

So, what does this really mean?

This doesn’t mean that Google is giving keyword stuffing a pass. It’s still bad, and Google still calls it out as spammy.

What it does mean is Google is smart enough to ignore repeated keywords and look at other factors. Maybe the keyword-stuffed page has a lot of good information, despite the bad SEO. Or, the page has some quality links pointing to it.

Is this a mixed message? You bet. When Google says, “thou shall not keyword stuff,” we expect there to be consequences if a site does stuff.

Maybe not total removal from the index….but spammy pages shouldn’t position. 

So yes. This is frustrating.

On the flip side, this is Google’s circus and Google’s monkeys. We can’t control what Google does. We can only control what we do…so…

Here’s what I would recommend…

I wouldn’t try stuffing just to “see what happens.” Best-case scenario, it DOES work…and new visitors read your spammy copy and immediately surf away. Remember, Google doesn’t buy from you — your readers do. Poorly-written copy reflects poorly on your brand.

Period.

Now, what if you have a spammy legacy page that’s still positioning?

That’s a different story.

If we extrapolate what John Mueller said, and Google can “strip away” excess keyphrase use when evaluating page, that means the page should stand on its own.

Which means that it should be fine to rewrite it, dial back the keyphrase usage, and see what happens.

Notice the word “should” in there. I even italicized it twice. There’s a chance your page position drops after fixing the spam, despite what Google says. 

Annoying, isn’t it?

Is it worth it? I would argue yes. At the same time, I’d check the page analytics to see if people are taking action on the spammy versus non-spammy version.

Let the data be your guide. You may find fewer people visit the rewritten page, but they are taking action. Or staying on your page/site longer. Or even making a purchase from you.

After all, there’s no reason to celebrate a top-10 position if you find people are immediately leaving the page when they land on it.

What do you think?

Have you encountered a keyphrase-stuffed page, and wondered, “why is Google letting this fly?” Have you had to patiently explain to your boss why you shouldn’t repeat [b2b blue widget] 50 times in 250 words…even if your top competitor is positioning with the same tactic?

Sigh. I hear you. Share your tale of woe in the comments!