Looking to take your SEO writing knowledge up a notch? These advanced tips will help!

Here’s an Easy Way to Test New Messaging

Does your site’s tone and feel seem…off…somehow?

Maybe your current copy is too formal, and you know you’re losing your audience. (I’m looking at you, B2B, legal and financial sites.)

Or, your target audience has changed — and what worked for your Gen X audience doesn’t quite click with your new Millennial market.

Or, you may just hate your content. That happens too.

Sure, you may be motivated to make some big changes. But, let’s face it. Rewriting pages to reflect a new voice is time-consuming, expensive and a huge gamble.

After all, your challenge is figuring out the right tone and feel that grabs your reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. 

So, how can you easily (and safely) test different “voice” approaches — plus, get almost instant feedback?

This is where things get interesting…

As many of you know, I launched a side hustle business called Pivot Hacks. I coach entrepreneurs who want to have more fun, make more money, and not work so darn hard.

This is a brand-new business with a brand-new target audience, so I’m still playing with the messaging.

To get better data, I’ve been running a little experiment over the past six months…

LinkedIn is where I see the most social leads. So, every week, I post different “types” of posts with slightly different messaging. Some of my posts are SEO-related (I test those posts, too.) Some of them are more motivational and “coachy.”

My goal?

I wanted to see what “clicked” with different target audiences and sparked great conversations.

I tracked the comments, reactions (including who reacted), sentiment, and who was reading my content. Granted, LinkedIn doesn’t give the greatest metrics — but I had enough.

Here’s what I learned:

What do my SEO readers love?

This won’t surprise you. My readers love irreverent musings with a dash of snark.

Yes, my newsletter already reflects this style. (I know you love my snarkiness.) Now, I’m experimenting rolling it out to my main site pages.

For instance, I’ve made some tweaks to my in-house SEO training sessions page. So far, the response has been positive — even from larger brands. 

That makes me happy.

Now, here’s what really surprised me…

Remember how I said I posted some motivational and “coachy” posts? 

Those posts outperform my SEO posts every. single. time.

Especially, my recent posts about taking a digital detox and #rewindthegrind. One of my posts even trended (#hustle.)

Which teaches me what people really want.

People are craving a digital detox. They don’t want to “check in” while they’re trying to relax. Instead, they want a true vacation from their businesses. And, they are looking for systems and processes to make it happen.

I had no idea.

(If you feel this way too, please leave a comment. I’m curious to know who else is feeling the grind.)

So, what was cool about this test?

It was free (other than the time it took to write the posts.) Free is good.

I felt free to experiment. I wasn’t worried about SEO or Google.

I learned things. Sure, I’ll keep posting my SEO posts. But, now that I know my more motivational posts reach a wider audience and spark a different conversation, I’ll post more of them. Which is a fun challenge after 20+ years of SEO.

What do you think?

How do you test your messaging? Is this something you could try for your own site? Leave a comment and let me know!

Here’s How a New Site Can Make a Big Splash

Are you wondering how a new B2B site can gain BIG brand awareness — plus, see some fantastic SEO benefits?

Recently, some friends asked for help with their site. They are a new SaaS player in a highly-competitive industry, and they wanted to know how to make the biggest splash in the shortest period of time.

This is tricky. Here’s why.

From a pure SEO perspective, you can’t take a new site from zero to top-10 within a short time. Domain authority and links take time to build. It’s a process, and one that you can’t control.

That’s why so many new sites rely on PPC ads. PPC is a great way to drive immediate traffic while you’re waiting for your organic rankings to build. 

But, what if there was a way to build brand awareness, reach your target market, and drive initial incoming links? 

How to get noticed, the old-fashioned way.

Once upon a time, before Google, we focused on getting favorable press in trade magazines. 

Why? Because, it helped establish our company as a market leader. It built authority. And — most importantly — we wanted our target customer to read the article and think, “They have exactly what I need.”

Today, we can write authoritative, keyphrase-rich resources that help our company get the branding we want. For instance:

An internet security SaaS company could create an annual “state of the industry” survey that’s updated every year. For instance, check out Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report.

An online bookkeeping software platform could survey business owners about what makes them successful. For instance, here’s what Xero did.

An SEO platform could survey top experts and share their opinions. Moz’s yearly Local Search Rankings Factors report is always well-publicized and cited.

The key is choosing a topic that:

— Your customers care about.

— Contains information that’s not available elsewhere (or, if it is available, you’re providing a unique perspective.)

— You can promote as THE resource, and…

— You can slice and dice the content in different Google-friendly ways (videos, blog posts, webinars, etc.) 

(Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, Heather. This sounds like the hub and spoke content strategy approach” — and you’d be right. If hub and spoke is new to you, check out this article for more information.)

Why is this approach so cool?

Lots of reasons:

— It’s a way to snag incoming links, fast. Yes, you’ll need to go all-out to promote your market-leading content. But your promotional efforts will be worth it.

— It jump-starts your visibility.

— It immediately sets you apart as a new company to watch.

— All of the content is (ideally) SEO-optimized, helping you position for a variety of tasty related keyterms and concepts.

— You can gain new newsletter subscribers quickly (especially if you require an email address in exchange for reading the report.)

So, what’s the downside?

This is not a “let’s pull this together in a weekend” quickie content play.

This is a “let’s do the research, set milestones, create an airtight editorial calendar, work with design, and plan a super tremendous promotional strategy” content play.

Expect that the initial content and promotional plan will take at least three months to create. Especially if you don’t quite have a writing process in place.

It will feel like it’s taking forever. It will be worth it.

There’s also the possibility that the promotion flops, and people don’t immediately care about your cool new guide. You don’t get the link love you want.

Some guides take a while to capture their audience. It happens.

If it happens to you (which it won’t,) dig into the “why” and reverse-engineer the cause. For instance:

 — Could you have promoted the guide differently?

 — Who did you reach out to directly? Would you choose different influencers?

—  How did the landing page perform? Was there any friction that made it hard for people to grab your guide?

 — Did the guide topic spark a conversation? If not, what could you have done differently?

 — Did you promote the content at the wrong time? For instance, summer can be slow for some B2B companies.

Chances are, you’ll discover a few things you’ll tweak for next time. And hey, even if the promotion was so-so, your well-written content still sets you apart.

What do you think?

Is this something you want to try for your site (or a client’s site?) Let me know in the comments!

What’s Most Important for SEO?

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

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

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

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

The answer may surprise you…

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

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

Here’s the answer:

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

The big takeaway? Content rules.

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

Wow.

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

This. Makes. Me. So. Happy!

So, what does this news mean to you?

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

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

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

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

That’s cool.

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

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

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

They are out there.

Why would you settle for anything else?

What if your company has SEO content creation challenges?

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

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

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

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

That’s also pretty cool. 

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

What do you think?

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

Why 404 Pages Are a Clever Content Opportunity

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

Isn’t that annoying?

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

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

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

But here’s the thing…

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

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

The important thing is how you handle them.

The solution? Get creative!

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

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

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

Want other examples?

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty cool, eh?

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

Case in point: E-commerce category pages.

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t get more clear than that. 

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

Yup. He’s right.

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

Sad.

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

The cool kids aren’t always right.

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

For instance…

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

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

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

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

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

Keyphrase-rich copy and helpful content! Yes!

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

It’s a double win.

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

What the Death of Google+ Teaches Content Creators

So, did you hear the news?

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

Remember Orkut? I didn’t think so. :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poof.

What’s the big takeaway, here?

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

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

(Typically, your website and your newsletter.)

Everything else could go away in an instant.

Poof.

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

But…

Remember this…

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

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

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

It’s the ultimate insurance.

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

Make sense?

What do you think?

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

Does your content spark profits?

Does Your Content Spark Profits?

Have you heard of the KonMari method?

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

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

“Does this content spark profits?”

Here’s what I mean…

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

They are impressive posts.

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

In short, they didn’t make money.

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

Sad.

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

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

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

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

But, I primarily focus on what makes me money.

How can you KonMari your content?

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

These are your money pages. Treat them like gold.

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

For instance:

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

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

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

Let them go. Thank them and set them free.

Even if you have to kill your favorite projects.

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

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

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

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

What happens when you streamline your content?

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

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

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

And truthfully, letting go feels like a relief.

But, what happens if you LOVE doing something?

This one is trickier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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!

Did someone steal your content? Here's what to do

Did Someone Steal Your Content? Here’s What to Do

Imagine this…

You’re checking positions for a page you wrote, and you see something that stops you in your tracks…

Another site has taken your content and has claimed it as their own. There’s no link, no byline, nothing. They copied your page and pasted it into their site.

What’s worse, the page is positioning for the keyphrases you targeted.

AHHHHHH!

Unfortunately, content theft happens all the time — even to smaller sites.

Sometimes, it’s because the offender is totally clueless and thinks it’s OK to post your content on their site.

Sometimes, it’s because the site owner paid for “original” content and an unscrupulous writer copied your post and sold it as their own.

Sometimes, it’s because someone wants to steal your content (and traffic) because they are too lazy to do things the right way. I had a large SEO agency do this to me.

And sometimes (fortunately, not as often,) someone is doing it to target your site specifically and to hurt your rankings.

Fortunately, you DO have recourse — and there are things you can do.

Here’s how to handle content theft (ugh)…

Best case scenario, all it takes is an email to the site owner that says, “The article originally appeared on my site. You need to take it down.” 

The site owner may email you back and beg for forgiveness. Or, you may not hear a peep out of them — but the post magically disappears. 

When the above SEO company swiped my article, it took a couple emails to the CEO to set things right again. But, I got it taken down. (Oddly, the CEO kept insisting he wrote the article, and he only took it down after “agreeing to disagree.” That still irks me to this day.)

So, what happens if your “hey, take it down” email goes into a deep, dark hole and nobody responds? 

Fortunately, you have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on your side. This means you can do two things:

You can file a signed DMCA notice with the offending site’s web host. This site helps you track down the host and has an easy-to-use DMCA notice generator. Some hosts may require you to mail this information, while others have an online form.

You can go straight to Google and file a complaintGoogle is typically very responsive and will sometimes respond to DMCA notices the same day (at least, that’s what happened when I’ve had to do it.)

Here’s what the form looks like — and you have the option of choosing, “I have found content that may violate my content” on another page:

How to remove content from Google

If you’re short on time, there are also companies that will handle this for you. You can Google [DMCA takedown companies] for a list. 

Know this process can be extremely time-consuming. It takes a long time to research URLs, to make a list of offending pages, and to submit notices.

Plus, the process is like playing wack-a-mole. You may “beat” one content thief, just to have another pop up in its place.

That’s why some people choose not to bother with it unless the stolen content is out-positioning theirs. 

Sigh.

The good news is, it’s extremely fun to see stolen content disappear from Google’s search index. And oh-so-satisfying when it’s gone.

What about you?

Have you had someone steal your content? What did you do? Is it still there? Hit “reply” and let me know!