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

Will Google Penalize Your Site for Duplicate Content?

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Have you heard that any duplicate content is a Google no-no?

Are you worried that repeating the same sentences (or paragraphs) across your site will have dire Google consequences?

You’re not alone. I received this question last week…

Is there an acceptable percentage for duplicative content that I can set for each blog post?

I write a blog post for a small law firm once a week. When completed, I run all the blog posts that I write through two separate plagiarism filters to see what comes up as duplicative content and what the percentage is. I’m not sure if there is an acceptable percentage — say 10% or 12% — that I can set as a benchmark. I don’t want the attorney for whom I blog to get a Google penalty based on duplicative content.

Also, would that acceptable percentage include the call to action — “if you have a legal issue, call so-and-so at 000-0000 for a free consultation.”

Here’s the deal with duplicate content…

Back in the SEO old days, duplicate content was was as common as that horrible “Somebody That I Used to Know” song by Goyte back in 2012.

It was everywhere.

For instance, people would write one article about a general topic, swap out the keyphrases, and create multiple articles. The articles were exactly the same (or very similar) — but the keyphrase focus was different.

For instance, one “how to buy running shoes” article would be spun into multiple articles like:

  • “How to buy women’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy men’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy children’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy kids’ running shoes”

You still see this technique used for local landing pages. How many times have you seen something like a [plumbing in Bellingham, WA] page with the exact same copy as a [plumbing in Mount Vernon, WA] page?

And no, it’s not a smart technique. Google says creating doorway pages is bad, m’kay.

(As a side note, building local landing pages is an excellent strategy if you do it the right way. Here’s some additional information.)

But, what about if you use the same turn-of-phrase on multiple pages?

Or, if you have to include a legal disclaimer at the bottom of every page?

Or, if you have the same (or similar) calls-to-action on multiple pages?

Are you going to get slapped by a penalty by big G? Or see your site kicked out of the index?


Here’s why…

Google understands that sites may have duplicate content issues because of legal requirements or content platform issues. Google even recommends workarounds for common scenarios (for instance, how to handle boilerplate copy.)

These issues aren’t ideal — and could mess up the SEO results you want — but they won’t get you in trouble.

At the same time, this is not a free pass to spam all over the place. Google’s not down with anything deceptive. In fact, Google states,

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

It all boils down to intent.

So yes, it’s safe to have some “duplicate” content scattered throughout your pages. At least from Google’s perspective. 

Having said that, you may want to take a peek to see if some of your duplicate content is clunking with your target audience. You may find that mixing up your CTAs and changing some of your similar-sounding content could grab some conversion gains.

What do you think?

Have you heard that any content duplication — even just a few words — was a no-no? Leave a comment and let me know!

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Long Tail Keyphrases

Have you ever looked at a keyphrase research report and thought, “That keyphrase only gets 20 searches. It’s not worth it.”

Well, my friend, this article is for you.

Recently, I came across a great example of a long-tail search content strategy. I was looking for free ways to track my sales pipeline (because, yes, I am cheap,) when I came across this page by Salesflare. 

They were promoting a Free Sales Funnel Template, which was exactly what I wanted.

It was free. I needed a template. I was into it.

But then, as I dug in more, I noticed their SEO and conversion strategy was actually pretty brilliant.

Here’s how their long-tail conversion strategy went down — and what they did right along the way.

First, these guys were #8 in Google for [free sales funnel template]. You may think that a #8 position would equal no clicks — but this is where their Title sparked a conversion.

I clicked their link because their Title “Free Sales Funnel Template For Excel And Google Sheets” was exactly what I needed.

Conversion win #1: Top-ten ranking and a clickable Title

When I hit the landing page, I quick-scanned the page to make sure I wanted the download. Then, I happily gave them my email address in exchange for the freebie.


Conversion win #2: They have my email address and can remarket to me. 

Next, I scrolled down the page, looking for more specific instructions about how to use their template. The company does a good job breaking the how-tos into five short paragraphs, including how to customize the document.

But if you look down just a little further, a big subheadline jumps out. 

When you’re tired of using Excel

The follow up copy reads:

Excel templates are good but manually entering data gets time-consuming and unreliable. When you’re sick of wasting time manually entering data to manage your customers in Excel, try Salesflare for free. No more complex excel formulas and losing time. 

And then, readers are given the option to try their solution free for 14 days.

Conversion win #3: Calling out the pain points of the free solution and removing the risk of trying the paid version.

Now, here’s another cool thing about this page…

SEMrush shows around 50 keyphrases positioning top-10. The big winner is [sales funnel template excel] at 1,300 searches a month — and they position #8 for that term. 

The majority of phrases see a drastically different search volume. [sales pipeline spreadsheet] only sees 30 searches a month. Others, like [sales pipeline template xls] weighs in at 90 searches a month.

Combined, however, those other low-volume keyphrases see over 2,000 searches a month. Individually, long-tail search terms may not drive much sales volume. But, in aggregate, long-tail searches are a powerful force.

Plus that traffic is highly qualified and targeted.

Conversion win #4: Doing their keyphrase research and writing their page right.

So, let’s break down what Salesflare did right.

— They conducted keyphrase research and wove their keyphrases into the content.

— They created a compelling Title and meta description to increase click-through from the search engine results page. 

— They collected my email address in exchange for a free template.

— They brought up the pain point of using a free Excel template and…

— They offered a solution that I could try risk-free for 14 days.

Nicely done, eh?

It’s time to learn to love the long tail.

Sure, it’s tempting to want to spend your time chasing after those tasty high-volume head keyphrases that get all the clicks.

But, let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s impossible to position for a head term unless you’re a big brand site. Chasing after such a challenging goal is going to cost you time, money and your sanity. 

That’s why long tail is truly where it’s at. Especially if you’re looking for highly qualified traffic.

(Want to check out a blast from the past? I wrote about the long tail way back in 2011. Check out what Google’s search results page looked like way back then. Wow.)

What do you think?

Does your company leverage a long-tail content strategy? Do some of your clients insist on positioning for impossible head terms like [travel]? Leave a comment and let me know!

Site Traffic Down? Do This!

Does your site seem uncommonly…quiet…lately?

It’s not just you. In fact, 60 percent of SEOs are seeing a traffic drop. This is up from 49 percent just a week ago.

Yes, it depends on the industry (for instance, videoconferencing and fitness equipment sites are going gangbusters.) But for the rest of us, things are slow.

As for the reason? You guessed it. COVID-19. Thanks, coronavirus.

I discussed last week how you should take this slow time to ODYCP (optimize your damn content, people!) But, there’s one other opportunity your business can leverage, right now — and it doesn’t even involve Google.

What is it?

Your email newsletter.

For instance…

In my quest of trying to keep my workout game tight, I learned that Powerblock adjustable dumbbells were an awesome alternative. They were sold out on Amazon, so I visited the Powerblock site hoping that I could buy direct. 

I could…but the company was so swamped with orders that they had a huge “we’re backordered and everything is taking an additional 2-3 weeks” banner on their site. 

(Sadly, it’s been replaced with a “we’re shut down until the stay-at-home order is lifted” message.)

That was a bummer, but I was still interested in making a purchase. My next step was to search for a newsletter subscription link. After all, I wanted to know the second their products were back in stock, and I figured their newsletter subscribers would be the first to know.

There was no newsletter subscription link. There was no way to stay in touch with the company. The only way to learn about product availability was by checking the site or their social platforms. 

That’s a huge miss.

Think of all those motivated buyers who are happy to wait — they just need to know when to buy. They aren’t going to check a company’s site or social platforms every day. But they will check their email.

A stylist friend of mine has a similar issue. Hair salons are shut down in Oregon, so she’s not making her normal income. Now is the time that she could sell hair products (that can be mailed), promote touch-up hair color kits (that can be dropped off at her clients’ front door), and give hair styling tips to those of us who haven’t had a haircut in four months (ahem.)

Unfortunately, she’s stuck. She doesn’t have an opt-in list, so she doesn’t have the (easy) option.

On the flip side, one of my friends is a Pilates and nutrition instructor. She was able to send a newsletter out to her clients saying that she was teaching Pilates via Zoom and charging for classes. (Hi, Ishbel!) Another friend took his Pilates studio online and is emailing clients about the new online schedule. (Hi, Dan!)

Their newsletters allowed them to easily get the word out and still make money during this weird time.

Unlike Google, newsletters are 100 percent under your control. You don’t have to worry about algorithmic updates messing with your visibility. You don’t need to think about SEO or keywords. You don’t need an expensive keyphrase research tool.

All you have to do is create content and push “send.” Boom.  

What if you have a newsletter, but you haven’t published in a long time?

What are you waiting for? People gave you their email addresses because they want to hear from you. Why not use this time as an opportunity to reach out to your subscribers and help them through this weird time?

No, I don’t mean hitting them with sales messages. Or, the standard “Here is our COVID-19 policy” that every company is sending right now.

I mean helpful content that solves your readers’ pain points, provides valuable information — heck, maybe even gives them a laugh or two. 

As I said last week, now is not the time to go dark. Your readers need you. It may not result in a sale right now. But, building your “know, like and trust factor” will help people remember you when they are ready to buy.

Plus, writing a newsletter can be immensely satisfying. I can’t see you guys — but I still feel connected to you, even if it’s through an email newsletter. We may not have any in-person get-togethers anytime soon. But, we have email.

And that’s pretty cool.

In this time of uncontrollable situations, sending a newsletter is one of the smartest, easiest things you can do. Show the person behind the brand. Offer to help your readers. Make them laugh. Control what you can control.

Chances are, you’ll even see a little business from it too.

(As a side note, I wrote about email newsletters way back in 2012. Here’s the blog post and video.)

What do you think?

Is your newsletter active or is it gathering dust? How do you feel about sending emails during major world events? Leave a comment and let me know!

Here’s hoping you’re stocked up on T.P. and hand sanitizer! 

I’m here if you need me!


Is Google Out to Get You?

A few times a year, every year, I receive a panicked “What should I do?” email.

The emails read something like this…

“We used to be position three for our main keyphrase. Now, we’ve dropped to the second page. Our other keyphrases aren’t positioning as well as they had been, either. I think Google penalized our site and now we’re losing leads every day…”


I totally understand why someone would freak out about lost positions. Hey, even I get cranky when I see the occasional dip. For many sites, losing positions directly translates into lost revenue — so seeing a positions drop can mean an income drop, as well. 

But, is that drop because Google is out to get the site, and the powers-that-be slapped them with a manual penalty?

Or, is it a normal algorithmic fluctuation — meaning other sites are now positioning because Google “decided” those other sites deserve a top position?

Let’s break this down…

Just because your positions have dropped (even severely) doesn’t mean that your site has been “penalized” by Google. 

Kristine Schachinger, in a recent Search Engine Journal article, clearly defines what a penalty is…and isn’t. Her quote:

“The only true penalty (officially) is a “manual action” from Google.

A manual action is when a Google human reviewer has looked at your website and dampened your visibility in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for violating the Webmaster Quality Guidelines in some manner.”

If your site (or your client’s site) wasn’t hiding text, participating in link schemes, or doing other things on Google’s bad list, it’s probably not a manual penalty.

Which is good news — and bad news.

The good news is, you haven’t annoyed Big G, causing them to slap you with a manual penalty.

The bad news is, it means that Google finds other sites more relevant for your desired keyphrases. It’s called “algorithmic devaluation.”

That’s like hearing your baby is ugly.

Sometimes, getting positions back is easy. It means looking at your existing content and determining how to add more value. I’ve tweaked some pages that had dropped in position, and they bounced right back up.


Sometimes, the process is much harder. Getting those positions back may require you to change your content, to tweak some technical aspects, and to revise your existing process. This can take a long time and may require multiple experts.

Especially if Google changed the game and you were hit with a big algorithmic update (for instance, health and medical sites got hit this year.)

Fortunately, in cases like this, we have Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to help us understand what Google considers high-authority content. Yes, it’s a long, boring document — but it provides so much insight. 

I’d recommend reading it, even if your site isn’t in trouble. It’s a great way to peek inside Google’s brain and to figure out what it really wants. 

How can you tell if you were hit be a penalty — or an algorithmic burp?

This one is easy. You won’t have to guess — in fact, Google tells you when you’ve been bad (assuming you have Search Console set up on your site.)

This is valuable for an older site that may have had multiple SEOs providing “expert” advice. A site owner may not know that a past employee set up a spammy link campaign — or pages with hidden text. Fortunately, Google will pinpoint the issue, provide helpful resources, and give you the opportunity to make it right. 

Once you’ve made the necessary fixes, you can submit your site for a reconsideration request. Google will either determine that you’ve changed your spammy ways and will remove the penalty (yay,) — or it will let you know there’s more work to do.

You’ll know either way.

What do you think?

Have you heard, “Google keeps penalizing me”? Is Search Console set up on your site — or your client’s sites? (If not, this resource will help.) Leave your comment below!

14 Things I’ve Learned During My 20+ Year Career

Recently, someone asked me what I’ve learned in 20+ years of being in the SEO world.

Her question initially made me go “hmmm” — and then, the ideas started flowing.

I originally posted nine of these tips on LinkedIn. Here’s my original list, as well as five bonus tips! Enjoy!

🌀The only SEO constant is change.

🌀The smartest SEO expert is usually not the one with the biggest social following.

🌀Feeling weird about a prospect, but you can’t put your finger on why? Trust your gut and let them go. It’s not worth the pain.

🌀ALWAYS get a deposit up front. ALWAYS. Paying an initial retainer is a standard practice. If your prospect complains about paying you, don’t work with them.

🌀The only thing standing in the way of your success (and charging higher fees, and working with better clients, and taking more time off) is you

🌀Gaming Google only works short-term, and only if you know what you’re doing. It’s not worth it.

🌀Keeping up with the latest SEO changes is crucial. If you’re optimizing sites like it’s 2010, you’re doing yourself (and your clients) a disservice.

🌀Spend extra attention on your page Titles/headlines. They matter.

🌀If you’re writing content “for Google,” stop it. Your content is for readers, not algorithms.

🌀You *can* learn SEO by yourself — but, it will save you time, money and brain cells if you hire someone to help.

🌀Not every “SEO trick” you read about works in every situation. YMMV

🌀Social platforms go in and out of style. Remember MySpace? Or Friendster? Or Vine? Leverage them while they’re hot (assuming your target market lives there,) but know that your audience will eventually move on.

🌀”Writing naturally” and ignoring keyphrase research will hurt you. Even if you’re a big brand. Even if you “know how people search.” Put in the time and do the keyphrase research. It’s worth it.

🌀Google giveth, and Google taketh away. Authorship. Google Reader. Google+. Orkut. Decent keyword data. All gone. Poof. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because Google gave us something free (in exchange for our data, of course).

What would you add to this list? Leave your comment below!

Is Bigger Search Volume Always Better?

Let’s play a game!

Let’s say you were a freelance copywriter specializing in pharmaceutical content.

Which keyphrase is the better one to target?

  • The term [freelance copywriter] with 1,900 searches a month.
  • The term [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter] with 10 searches a month.

What’s your answer?

At first glance, [freelance copywriter] looks like the better option. After all, there’s a huge difference between almost 2,000 searches a month and…10.

But, does that mean [freelance copywriter] would be the better keyphrase to choose?

Nope. Not by a long shot.


Let’s look at the Google search results and break this down…

But why ISN’T bigger search volume better?

I know, I know. You see 1,900 searches a month and start salivating. That’s a whole lot of search traffic. Who wouldn’t want all that traffic…and more?

But, is it a smart goal? In this case…no.

Here’s why…

First, let’s do a search for [freelance copywriter].

  • Eight of the top-10 results are informational and targeted toward people looking at freelance copywriting as a career choice (for instance, “how to become a freelance copywriter.”)
  • The other two results? Upwork.

When you see the majority of the top-10 listings filled with informational results with a completely different user intent — the term won’t help you. 

Especially when you figure that prospects are seeing the same informational search results and refining their search accordingly.

After all, they don’t want information about how to start a freelance writing career.

They want to find a freelancer. Like you.

So, let’s take a peek at [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter]. Sure, the search volume isn’t the greatest (10 searches a month versus 1,900.)

Still, the prospects typing in this search term are highly targeted. And that’s the important thing to consider.

There may only be 10 searches this month — but, those 10 people are looking for someone just like you!

When I search Google for [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter], I see some informational results — and, I see competing copywriting sites, too. 

So yes, this keyphrase is a keeper. 

“But Heather — just TEN searches? How are terms like that worth my time?”

I get it. What I’m saying sounds counterintuitive.

Remember the keyphrase is highly targeted. The only time someone will type in something like [freelance pharmaceutical copywriter] is if they are looking for a….you got it…pharmaceutical copywriter who freelances.

You’re not wasting time trying to position for a competitive keyphrase with a totally different user intent.

You’re not focusing on general key terms that your target audience won’t type into Google.

You’re focusing on what works — even if those search volume numbers aren’t ginormous. 


Do you write for B2B sites?

You will see the low search volume issue all the time. 

Heck, you will even see “no results found” for some keyphrase searches — even when it’s a common industry term that returns relevant pages when you type it into Google.

This is normal. It happens because the search terms see such few searches, they aren’t shown in keyphrase research tools.

It doesn’t mean they’re bad terms. They’re just…unique.

Just remember that relevance trumps search volume every time.

In fact, focusing on keyphrase specificity (and user intent) can be one of the most difficult things for a new SEO writer to master. Especially when the high search volume numbers are calling.

What do you think?

Do you have clients that ask you to land them a top-10 result for an untargeted search term? Have you personally fallen into the “bigger search volume is better” trap? (It’s OK — it happens to a lot of people.) Leave a comment and let me know!

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?

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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.”


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!