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!

5 Content Marketing Tips for Tough Financial Times

In-house and freelance writers are all asking the same question…

…what should I do now?

I get it. I do. As I talked about last week, this is a time of tremendous uncertainty. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know what it will mean to our income. Heck, we may not even be able to work in our “normal” office or enjoy a “normal” schedule anymore.

Everything feels up in the air. And that’s because it is.

Having said that, there are things that you can control right now. In fact, this time could (weirdly) be a huge opportunity.

Let’s talk about five things you can do.

Get yourself (virtually) out there

You know that confused, “what should I do next?” feeling you have? Your clients and prospects feel the same way. They are looking for a thought leader (like you!) to connect them with others and to help them navigate this weird time. 

One way to do this is by thinking about how you can help and serve your market. For instance, I wrote a LinkedIn post asking people to comment if they’re looking for writing jobs. The post is trending for #copywriting, it’s been reshared 24 times with over 2,500 views, and it’s brought together a community of freelancers.

That’s pretty darn cool.

You have a choice right now. You can choose to be THE person your customers can turn to during this weird time. Or, you can choose to hide in the shadows and wait until it’s over. 

What do you want to do?

Work on your value proposition

It’s easy to sell products or services when the economy is good. When resources dry up, so do sales — unless you know how to adapt.

NOW is the time to review your value proposition and make sure it’s still relevant for today’s new world. That may mean overhauling your sales copy to reflect the current times. It may mean changing the voice of your site so it’s more conversational. (Pro tip: people want to read personal-sounding copy right now.) It may even mean hiring someone who can see your site and content with fresh eyes — and show you how to fix it.

Pretty much every site out there can do something. Now is a great time to start.

If you’re a freelancer, consider building your skill set, revamping your site, and taking some online courses. No, it doesn’t have to be one you purchase from me. :) Just anything that helps show clients that you are the one-stop solution they need. 


What does OYDCP stand for? Optimize your damn content, people! Although that seems like a no-brainer statement in a blog post about SEO writing, there are a lot of folks out there who haven’t taken this step.

News flash: you are out of excuses. Driving Google traffic is one way you can drive leads and make sales. It could even make the difference between making enough to make payroll or putting it on your line of credit. If you’ve avoided learning how to optimize your site or blog post because it feels “too geeky” and you’re not ready, get over it. Especially since there are so many people out there who can help you.

Get more mileage out of your existing content

Are you trying to squeeze every drop of ROI you can out of your content? Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing new content, why not repurpose the content you have? For instance,

  • You can add transcripts to the bottom of podcasts or videos. That’s great for Google — and great for people (like me) who hate watching videos.
  • You can turn blog posts into an e-book.
  • You can pull pieces of content from your blog posts and turn them into email copy.

The possibilities are endless! Here’s how to find easy content opportunities.

Review your social posts and sales emails

Raise your hand if you’ve recently seen an email that made you think, “Ouch, that seems a little tone deaf considering the current times.” Guess what, Mr. “let me help you with your IT solutions” dude — most folks are worried about their businesses right now. Not their VPN.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell or market right now. Just…be smart. Showing stock art photos of large groups standing around a computer monitor is dumb. Pushing for a meeting during a time when companies are trying to keep their staff employed is dumb. Pretending that it’s business-as-usual during a global pandemic is dumb.

As a side note, I just saw the first COVID-19-inspired commercial from Cadillac. Check out their “We have your back” ad. Personally, I can’t imagine dropping the funds for a brand-new Cadillac right now…but I’m not their target market. And if I was, I’d appreciate how I wouldn’t have to leave my house to buy a car.

Your readers and customers are watching you. Do you want to be known as the helpful company who brought people together? Or the slimeball who responds to every LinkedIn invitation with a canned, “let’s set up a a 20-minute time to chat about your financial needs” message.

I know what I want my legacy to be during this time. How about you?

What do you think?

Do you also want to scream, “Don’t you get it?” to all the spammers out there? How are you serving your audience during this challenging time? Leave a comment and let me know!

Does Your SEO Client Suffer from UGE?

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I receive such a positive response every time I write a rant-filled post —  so I thought I’d do it again!

What am I ranting about now?

Clients who insist that a page “deserves” a top ten position — even if the keyword intent is all wrong.

I call this UGE — Unrealistic Google Expectations.

Chances are, you’ve worked with a client who suffers from this affliction.

No matter what, they insist they can achieve a Google position — despite the search intent or what their consultants say. They have UGE goals and UGE strategies. They spend oodles of cash and time pushing for a result that’s not going to happen.

Grr. Here’s what I mean.

Recently, I’ve stumbled upon a bunch of folks who tell me a similar story. It goes like this…

“I sell accounting software that gets great reviews. We spent a lot of time creating and optimizing our product page, but I can’t get it to position top ten for [best accounting software].”

I do a quick search for [best accounting software] and what do I see? Third-party review sites, Hubspot, and technology publications.

No product pages. The only sales-oriented listings were ads.

What does this mean?

It means that Google has “decided” the search intent for the keyphrase [best accounting software] is informational — not transactional.

More specifically, this means that the client is never going to position their product page for [best accounting software]. Ever.

Spending additional time and money on trying would be foolish.

It’s as simple as that.

The reality is, Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. You may think that Google should position your sales-focused page for [best accounting software] — but what you think doesn’t matter.

It’s up to Google.

Adam Heitzman talked about this in his article, “What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Pages for Your Keywords.” I recommend you read this article and save it for later. It will be an excellent reference for when your client or boss says, “Are you sure we can’t position for that keyphrase?”

This will happen to you someday. Trust me.

But really, Heather, are you sure there’s nothing you can do?

Yup. I’d drop it like a hot potato and switch my strategy.

That means pivoting away from that particular keyterm goal and looking at other terms that would drive better ROI.

It’s not just me saying this. As Adam says in his article, “…you need to shift focus away from this keyword altogether or understand what you are dealing with to better align.”

Alignment is crucial.

Sometimes, it takes a while before companies “get” this concept. You can say, “But, check out the Google search results,” until you’re blue in the face, yet the client (or boss) will still insist positioning is possible. You’ll hear things like, “Maybe if you just added a few more keywords in there.”


There’s no reason to beat your head against a Google wall when there are scads of other topics (and keyphrases) waiting for you.

Why not go after those?

What do you think?

Does your client (or boss) suffer from UGE (Unrealistic Google Expectations)? Share your pain and leave a comment below!

Will AI Replace SEO Writers?

I was going to write about Google’s latest nofollow link changes, when a great question came in…

“Hey Heather, I read that Chase hired a AI (artificial intelligence) company. The machine-generated copy outperformed human-written copy. Should I worry? Is SEO copywriting next?”

Yup, it’s true that Chase locked down a five-year deal with Persado, an AI content company.

Persado’s Google ad copy says the company “reinvents marketing creative by applying mathematical certainty to words.” When you click on Persado’s home page, a big ol’ subheadline screams, “The future of marketing success is through the power of words.”

(LOL, really? I had no idea.)

Snark aside, I’ve been hearing AI-themed rumblings for a while. After all, many of us already fight for higher pay and a seat at the marketing table. If AI can take our copywriting jobs — well, we may as well work at Starbucks for free coffee and good benefits.

I see why AI can outperform humans in limited ways. For instance, Chase hired Persado to create ad content, which is normally short, sweet and very focused. AI could cycle through a multitude of copy variations faster than a human writer, learn what works, and create a super-clickable ad.

And, it worked. In Chase’s case, some of their AI-created ads saw twice the clicks as ads created by humans.


What’s more, AI doesn’t require insurance, hand-holding or a salary. It will never miss a deadline or force you to listen to its bad date story.

It seems easier. And cheaper. I get it.

But (because there’s always a but…)

Does this mean that AI can eventually replace SEO writers?

No, and here’s why…

Behind every blog post, sales page and skyscraper guide, is a smiling, imperfect human.

We’re the ones who create the brand voice. We’re the ones that develop the strategy. We’re the ones who can create snarky responses on the fly (for instance, the person who handles Wendy’s Twitter account is a genius.)

Even Alibaba, which has its own AI tool, acknowledged that “human creativity is the cornerstone for the machine.

AI can do simple tasks (like writing ad copy.) But anything more complex? Nope. Not yet.

Not until we’re bowing to our robot overlords, that is. :)

In fact, Barry Feldman (who coined the term “artificial stupidity”) checked out an AI content farm so he could evaluate the content quality.

Yes, their price was dirt-cheap — imagine writing 50 articles for $45. Yet, the copy was…dreadful. For instance:

“Numerous fruits are called thus because they are called this way from several blooms.”

Yup, imagine sporting that copy on your site. Suddenly, $45 for 50 articles doesn’t seem like a deal anymore.

OK, but what about SEO writing?

SEO copy seems like it would be an easy AI target. After all, it’s just shoving keyphrases into content, right?

(That was a trick question; of COURSE it’s more than that!)

This reminds me of the bad-ol’ days of SEO writing when “spinning” content was the norm. Specialized software could change out some keyphrases, tweak some wording, and create multiple versions of the page.

Was the copy good? No. Did it follow grammar rules? Very loosely. It looked like what it was — machine-generated content.

To bring this into the current day, think about how many times the Yoast plug-in told you that you didn’t use your main keyphrase enough times — when, in fact, your content positions just fine.

Software and machine learning is great for simple tasks. Anything more than that, you’re pushing its limitations. In a bad way.

STILL don’t believe me? The Whopper lives in a bun mansion. Just like you!

What am I talking about? Burger King created ads based on AI-generated content. Watching their commercials made me laugh so hard, I HAD to stop writing about links and share this stuff with you.

Here are some of the best lines:

“Tastes like bird” (not sure if that’s a benefit statement or a warning.)

“Bed of lettuce for you to sleep on” (and now I understand what I need to cure my insomnia — a bed of lettuce!)

“Burger King’s chicken is the new potato.” (Um…what?)

Sure, their commercials are funny and make me like Burger King a bit more — but, they also drive home a point.

In the words of Marcelo Pascoa, Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person.”

And there you go.

AI writing can handle “easy” tasks — but companies need creative people like you to develop great copy that connects with their reader and entices them to take the next action step.

I may have laughed at the Burger King ad, but I didn’t run out and buy a Whopper because it “tasted like bird.”

(Need a good laugh? Check out these commercials. You’ll be chuckling for a long time.)

I’m not saying that AI content creation isn’t a threat to some writers and agencies. If you specialize in PPC ad writing or Facebook ads — and you don’t create strategy or create other types of content — you may want to expand your skill set.

But, for now, we’re probably safe.

As long as I can sleep on a bed of lettuce, life is happy.

(And, wow, this was WAY more fun to write about than nofollow links!)

What do you think?

Are you ready to bow down to your AI overlords? Does AI writing freak you out? Leave a comment and let me know.

Let’s Make Content Easy-to-Read Again

Yup, I’m back! I spent my digital detox rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. For almost three weeks, I lifted heavy gear bags up steep, sandy hills, hung on through the cold, wet rapids, and found sand everywhere.

It. Was. So. Peaceful.

And then, I came home.

Hitting reality full-speed was hard. Sure, re-entry is always…challenging. But, I never noticed how much energy-sucking crap filled my day-to-day life until I had digitally detoxed for three weeks. 

For instance:

  • Spending 10+ minutes every day deleting newsletters I never read.
  • Saying, “Yes” to people asking, “Could you help with this one thing?” — even when I don’t have time.
  • Responding to text dings, email notifications, or other “hey, look at me” distractions in the moment. 

Ugh, right? I’m sure you can relate. You spend 10 minutes doing this, and another five doing that…

…and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour (or more) a day doing stuff that (to quote Bill Murray in the film Meatballs) “just doesn’t matter.”

But then, I got to thinking. Content marketing, as it stands today, forces people to wade through a lot of energy-sucking crap to get the gems they want. 

For instance:

  • We write extra copy so we can shove keyphrases in somewhere, and we hide the “meat” of the post towards the bottom. (I’m looking at you, recipe sites.)
  • We focus on long-form guides that are 2,000 words (or more) because “that’s what Google wants.”
  • We worry about content that’s short (say, 500 words) and wonder if it’s “too thin.” (As a reality check, 500 words used to be considered “too much” content back in the day.)
  • We’re forced to write buzzword-filled content because our boss is convinced that “our audience needs to see this on the site.”

I’m not saying this stuff is bad — there are studies showing how longer content tends to get higher rankings and more links. Following what works is a good thing.

And, sometimes we need to add buzzwords to our content — or write in a slightly more academic style. That’s fine.

But, OMG, please let us write content that’s easy to read. 

Plus, check out the latest voice search statistics…

According to a recent study by SEMrush, the average text length for a voice search answer was 41 words across all devices (for instance, Google Home or Alexa.)

Just 41 focused words written at a high-school comprehension level.

Of course, the answers are pulled from posts that are much longer than 41 words. In fact, 78 percent of voice search answers are culled from the top-three results — and those pages tend to have higher word counts.

Yet, Google can still find the right 2-3 easy-to-read sentences with the right answer.

Pretty cool, eh?

So, how do you dovetail what Google seems to reward (longer word counts) and still make it easy for folks to find the specific information they want?

This is where the page strategy comes in…

Here are some tips for Google AND your readers:

Tell me a story that engages my brain. Don’t drown me in jargon. 

Conversational, easy-to-read content is always king. Yes, I know you want your brand to sound “smart” and “like a market leader.” However, many top-positioned, highly-technical sites are easy-to-read, engaging and approachable. Here’s a great post from Content Marketing Institute that discusses why storytelling is so important.

Use subheadlines as “cues” to explain what the following paragraph is about and to help your reader find the information she needs. 

Yes, I know it’s tempting to write a sexy headline like, “Market Leading Excellence.” But, to your reader, this is just corporate-speak that says nothing. 

I love this quote from Hubspot:

“Subheadlines have the power to reel the reader in. While the headline may grab the user’s attention, you need to do more than that in order for the user to stay. You want to compel the reader to look, to click, to sample, to scroll, or to do whatever it is you want them to do.”

Yup. Exactly.

Use lists, bullet points and summary paragraphs to immediately help the reader find the information she needs. 

If your topic is about “how to boil an egg,” put that information front and center. You don’t need to write 500 words outlining the history of eggs and egg boiling. Please. Just…don’t.

Check your paragraph and sentence length. 

Long paragraphs and run-on sentences are annoying to read on a computer — and even more annoying to read on a mobile device. Instead, write short, snappy sentences. Do it. Please. They’re easier to read.

Experiment with presenting your content in different formats. 

For instance, you could create a 60-second explainer video that highlights your main points. Or, create an infographic for your visual, quick-scan folks. Think “easy.”

Not everyone will read your 10,000-word blog, no matter how much you put your heart and soul into it. But, they may check out your video or share your infographic.

Don’t just test your content — test your layouts, too. 

I’ve seen conversion rates increase 30 percent because the new layout better highlighted the important benefits. If you keep losing folks and you can’t figure out why, the layout (not the content) could be the culprit.

What’s the big takeaway? 

Know what your readers are looking for and make that information simple to find. Test your layouts and see if you can improve your time on page and conversion rates. Write in a way that makes your reader hang on your every word — not wonder what the heck you’re trying to say.

In short, think “simple, short and to the point.”

Your readers will thank you!

What do you think?

Leave your comment below!

Is SEO Writing a Dying Art?

I thought about making this the shortest blog post ever by answering the subject line question with a single sentence.

“No, SEO writing is NOT dead — despite what you may have read.”

</end blog post>

But instead, let’s break down how this zombie myth happened.

At least once a year, somebody comes out with an article proclaiming the “death of SEO.” 

Their reason? Google is changing. The way people search is changing. The search results page is changing.

So. Much. Change.

That change means SEO (and, by extension, SEO writing) is a dying art.

I get the fear. I do. Google’s search results page is different than it was a few years ago. More ads, featured snippets, and “people also ask” results change our familiar “ten blue links” Google layout.

You can’t throw a keyphrase on a page anymore and automatically see a top position (oh, how I loved those days.)


Just because it’s changing doesn’t mean it’s dying.

Google is just growing up.

In fact, here’s a great post by Kristine Schachinger in Search Engine Journal that outlines ALL the cool opportunities.

But, something is dying…and it’s not SEO.

It’s the SEO practitioners (and, sadly, SEO writers) who aren’t keeping up with the times.

In today’s brave new Google world, we have more opportunities than ever before.

We can strategically write our content to try to land a “people also ask” slot.

We can learn how voice assistants “think” and can write content that provides the best answers. 

We can create “micro-moment” content, giving readers the exact answer they need, when they need it.

In short, we need to evolve as SEO writers and to learn how to work with Google TODAY — not Google as it was in 2010 (or even 2015.) That means keeping up with what works and not falling prey to common, outdated zombie myths that WILL NOT DIE.

Sure, this may sound scary if you’re used to doing things a certain way. You may have only ever relied on a so-so SEO writing formula to do what you do.

Just know that embracing Google’s new way of doing things is actually fun. It takes more strategy and think time — but the end result is better, more visible content.

So, no, SEO writing isn’t dying — in fact, we have more opportunities than ever before.  

SEO is alive and well.

What do you think?

Are you afraid that SEO will go away tomorrow? Do you also enjoy a silent chuckle every time you read an “SEO is dead” post? Leave a comment and let me know.

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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.

Danny Sullivan, You Changed My Life. Thank you.

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Heather Lloyd-Martin and Jill Whalen

Me and Jill Whalen after our first SEO speaking gig — in Amsterdam!

Last week, I read the news that Danny Sullivan is shifting away from his role as Chief Content Officer of Third Door Media, and is taking an advisory role.

I was shocked.

Sure, Danny isn’t the first “first generation” search marketer to step away from the industry (I believe my first business partner, Jill Whalen, was the first.) But, he’s the biggest. He’s called the “Godfather of SEO” for a reason.

Danny’s been neck-deep in this search engine stuff since the very beginning.

And, it’s because of Danny that I got my SEO start.

Once upon a time, in the late ’90s, Jill Whalen and I published a newsletter called RankWrite. She wrote about SEO. I wrote about content. The newsletter did well, and we grew our subscriber list fairly quickly.

Back then, there were only a handful of “SEO experts.” Heck, back then, most folks didn’t know what SEO was! The old guard included Greg Boser, Bruce Clay, Disa Johnson and Shari Thurow.

And of course, Danny was included too. He had already published A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines and was reporting on the industry.

Because of Danny, my first industry speaking gig was with Jill Whalen in Amsterdam (I believe Danny’s wife was due soon, and he didn’t want to fly.) I was as green as could be, completely freaked out, and I was convinced I’d be gonged during my presentation (yes, the moderator would hit a big gong if the speaker ran overtime.)

I am so grateful the video of my presentation is no longer online. :)

That conference changed my life in so many ways. It was the first time I traveled internationally by myself and the first time I spoke to a huge crowd.

And despite my speaking glitches, my presentation gave me the confidence to know that I was on the right path. I had found my passion.

Plus, I had more to look forward to! Danny had invited Jill and me to speak at Search Engine Strategies (SES) Boston a couple of months later. Back then, SES was THE SEO event. First Amsterdam, then Boston. I was on a roll!

However, life likes to throw you a curve now and then.

Two days after I returned from Amsterdam, my husband committed suicide. I was left virtually penniless, in shock, and wondering what to do next. If it weren’t for Danny’s pre-existing invitation (and a lot of help and encouragement from Jill — thanks, Jill,) I would have passed on the Boston conference. I would have stayed home and licked my wounds.

But, I went. And I had fun. Life felt a little lighter.

Because of that event — and the opportunities that came from it — I built an income. I built a brand. I turned a crappy situation into a wonderful career.

Danny continued to invite me to SES conferences. Because of him, I was able to travel the world and talk about what I love. I met amazing people, and had incredible experiences.  The “old-guard” SEO folks –the first and second generations — are like family to me. We grew up together.

I wouldn’t have found my family — my tribe — without Danny.

(As a quick shout-out to Danny, he always invited smart, female speakers. Women like Shari Thurow and Christine Churchill rocked the house back then, and they still do today. We may have been outnumbered, but we never felt tokenized.)

Along with Disa Johnson, I even got to visit Danny when he was living in the U.K. and meet his family. I’ll always remember an early-morning trip to Stonehenge, which still ranks as of my coolest memories ever.

I have a lot of cool memories.

I have to admit: I cried when I read Danny was transitioning to an advisory position. Immediately, my brain cycled through 19 years of search memories, places and faces. I don’t know why I reacted like that. I’m happy for Danny.

But, the emotion still hit me. Hard.

I know Danny’s not going away, and he’ll excel somewhere else. If anyone deserves to take time off and to reflect, well, that’s Danny. He’s done a lot over the last 21 years.

How many other careers did Danny launch? How many people can track their success back to Danny’s help? How many times have we been frustrated with Google, and we’ve relied on Danny’s calm, in-depth take?

For many of us, Danny has been a part of our lives for over two decades.

I know it’s not goodbye –Danny’s “taking a break.” But, the news does feel like the end of an era.

Thank you, Danny, for everything.

Your help, encouragement and support changed my life.

Update: Kim Krause Berg wrote a wonderful post about Danny’s role in her life and career. You can read it here.

Yes You Can!

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Morning in the Canyon

I’m baaacccckkkk!

Many of you know that I took a month-long break from work. Part of that was spent rafting the Grand Canyon (the trip was literally life-changing.) Then, instead of coming home and immediately jumping back into work, I took another week off just for me.

What’s more, I didn’t look at email (or call in to find out what was going on with the business) the entire time.  I didn’t think about new client acquisition or receivables or blogging or business planning for 30 entire days.

It was wonderful.

The main takeaway wasn’t “Hey, I can ignore email” or “Wow, the world still spins without me when I’m gone.” It was much, much deeper than that.

I realized the depth of my own personal powers. And, like my trainer Daniel Iversen says, “Yes, you can.”

My business has always been my baby. If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be taking a month off, I would have laughed so hard that I’d start to snort. A MONTH off? Heck no. A day, sure. Maybe two. More than that, I would need to take my laptop to “check in.” Besides, what if something blew up? I’d need to be around to fix it – right?

If you’re a business owner, you may be saying to yourself, “Well, that’s great for Heather, but I can’t do that because of X.” No money, no time, too many responsibilities. I get it, I really do. I felt the same way. It’s not like I was flush with cash before I left. There was a client issue that needed to be resolved quickly before I boogied out. I had so many balls in the air that leaving felt stupid and bad and irresponsible.

Yes, I learned an important lesson about the necessity of taking a long break. More than that, I learned that anything is possible – if you ignore the excuses of why you can’t do something.

Consider how many times you say to yourself, “I’d love to do that, but I can’t.” Maybe you want to quit your in-house job and freelance. Maybe you want to go back to school.  Or purchase something that makes your heart sing every time you think about it.

Telling yourself “no” all the time, granted, is the easier path. You start breaking out of it, and suddenly, a bunch of well-meaning friends give you their opinions. They’ll tell you how they know someone who did what you want to do – and failed miserably. They’ll tell you that it’s not a good idea “right now.” They may even tell you that you’re being irresponsible.

But here’s the thing: How long are you going to let “no” dictate your life? How long will you keep yourself from what you really want to do? Because at the end of the day, no-one else is telling you “no.”

It’s you that’s holding you back.

Plus, once you take the leap, it’s amazing how many magical things happen. I came home focused on prosperity and abundance – and I’ve been rewarded already (and it’s my second day back in the office!). I’ve talked to so many freelancers who stress about spending money on the SEO Copywriting Certification training – but once they do, it’s like the floodgates opened up for them. Suddenly, they were generating more clients than ever before. They were living the life they wanted to live.

And it’s all because they opened themselves up to the possibilities and said “yes” rather than shutting down and saying “no.”

If this strikes a chord with you, this is your “permission” to say YES! Do that thing that scares you. Throw caution to the wind and go for it. Sure, you’ll want to do your due diligence – but once it’s done, throw yourself off the cliff and make it happen.

You will be amazed at the help and support you’ll receive once you do  – and the miracles you’ll experience.

Have you thrown caution to the wind and done something that makes your heart sing? Tell me about it in the comments. Or, if you’re thinking about making a leap, share your goal and your fears. We’re all in this together – and we all understand.

Now, go forth and make it happen.

Internet Etiquette: Has Its Time Come?

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As I sit here looking at this screaming blank space in my editorial calendar, once again, knowing full well that up to the 11th hour my promised guest post will not arrive, yet again, for the umpteenth time… I find myself thinking about internet etiquette.

Is there such a thing? And if not, perhaps it’s time to define one…?

It’s not just about being a bad guest blogger, although Heather Lloyd-Martin’s words on the matter of being a no-show are most appropriate for my current situation:

“The “deadline, what deadline” guest blogger This is the scariest type of blogger. This person promises “Yes, I’ll have your post by noon on Friday.” When noon on Friday rolls around, this same blogger is surprised that the blog editor is upset that there’s no post – and a big hole in her editorial calendar. If you’ve promised a blog post by X, treat it like you would treat a client gig and don’t miss the deadline. Remember, the industry is small – and people do talk. Missing deadlines is a sure way to mess up a valuable connection.”

No, it’s far more than that. It’s about being respectful and accountable to your community, whatever that community may be.

Offline, it could be your car pool or your neighborhood watch group. In this real world, you wouldn’t just blow off the group of people who share in your commute and watch your home in your absence, would you? No. Because you need them and depend upon them as much as they do you.

Online, your community may be freelancers and SEO copywriters, small business owners like yourself, or any number of Web groups. And again, you need them and depend upon them as much as they do you.

It seems to me that with the once-removed distance intrinsic to the virtual world, it’s just too easy to do just that – blow people off, forget about community, deny responsibility, and/or otherwise be a jerk:

jerk 1 |j?rk| noun 2 informal a contemptibly obnoxious person.

Okay, maybe “jerk” is too strong…how about just drastically selfish:

selfish |?selfiSH|adjective (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure: I joined them for selfish reasons.

Ah, most appropriate, the example: “I joined them for selfish reasons.”

I think this speaks to the heart of the matter, as far as internet etiquette – or lack thereof – is concerned.

If you’d indulge me, I’d like you to join me in considering these questions:

  • Did you join a community on the internet for strictly selfish reasons (e.g.,resume, PR)?
  • Are you guilty of not giving back to or honestly engaging with an online community?
  • Did you join that LinkedIn group just so it shows on your profile?
  • Do you really give a rat’s ass about that Facebook group? How have you contributed?
  • When’s the last time that you took the time to give genuine feedback on a post? (And by this, I mean feedback that means something – like you actually took a few minutes to read the post.)
  • Have you bothered to pause and thank that “nobody” who has faithfully tweeted and re-tweeted your posts? Ever?

If you’re still with me, I think you get my point, which is what is the point of all this crazed sharing and tweeting and klouting and plusing and liking and stumbling and digging and guest posting if it is ultimately only self-serving?

If not genuine, then it seems to me that all of this social networking must be some sort of a mass psychosis/narcissism: If no one is really interested in anything but their own social reflection, then it seems we’ve all been duped in a truly insidious way…

Or, far less dramatically, maybe we all just need to complete a “finishing school” of sorts to be honorable denizens of the web?

What say you? I’d love to truly hear your honest thoughts, assuming that you’ve actually read this post. :)

photo thanks to glans galore