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

How to Kick Adversity’s Ass

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Sometimes, life throws you a curveball.

I know quite a few folks facing hard times right now. Divorce. Illness. Financial problems. Death of a family member. You probably know people going through the same thing (or, maybe you’re the one facing the difficult days).

It’s interesting to see how people deal with life’s less stellar moments. Some people face their adversity head-on. They see what’s happening, they ignore the fear, and they charge straight ahead.

Other folks don’t handle it quite as well. They turn inward and blame themselves. Life feels uncontrollable and scary. And no matter how much things improve, they always expect the other shoe to drop.

That’s not a fun place to be.

Adversity is one of life’s constants, like death and taxes. No matter how good things are now, something…unpleasant…is going to happen.  The key is – will you let that thing (whatever it is) destroy you? Or will you kick adversity’s ass instead and thrive?

Oddly, I’ve found that my most successful times are a direct result of crappy things happening. When I got laid off and had no money, I started freelancing – and discovered that I loved the writer’s life. When my husband died, I focused my energies on building my brand – and SuccessWorks was born. When I got hit with a huge and unexpected tax liability, I creatively thought of ways to make more money – and had my best year ever.

Yes, I’m stubborn. But I’m also a firm believer that what doesn’t kill me does make me stronger.

Having said that, there may be some times that you’d rather curl up than fight. If adversity is weighing down your world, here’s how to deal with it – and eventually kick its ass.

Feel the emotion and let it go. It’s normal to feel scared, angry, remorseful, guilty – you name it. Pushing the feelings aside will do nothing but bottle them up. The key is to tell yourself, “I’m going to acknowledge whatever icky emotion this is, and then I’m going back to work.” It doesn’t mean that you’ll stop feeling scared, angry and remorseful. It just means that you’ll stop focusing on fear and focus on you instead.

Make a list of what you can control.  There’s always something you can do, no matter how uncontrollable the situation seems at the time. Can you contact past clients and see if they have any work that they need done? Can you start exercising – even a little bit – so you can clear your mind? Heck. some days, “controlling what you can control” means only having the energy to make one important phone call. That’s OK. Make a list of everything that you can do, both big and small. Reminding yourself that you can “control the controllables” is a huge mental-health move.

Take care of your business “baby.” Are you self-employed? It’s easy to put off important business things because your brain isn’t clicking along at full capacity. However, the last thing you need is for your business to suffer because you’re going through a dark time. Remember that your business is your baby. It needs your constant attention, no matter what else is happening in your life. If you can’t give it 100%, find someone who can fill in and help. Taking your hands off of the business wheel will add extra financial stress down the line – trust me. I know.

Take action every day. You may feel paralyzed by your current situation. That’s normal. The key is to snap yourself out of it and take some action every day. Maybe that means figuring out a new budget. Or calling some people who can help you. Or doing some research. Don’t let a day go by without doing something that will help shake you out of your current situation.

Don’t be afraid to pay for help. If you’re facing a financial hit, your first instinct may be to tighten your purse strings. That’s a smart instinct – but don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If your business needs a tax pro to help you out of this situation, hire one. If you need a better business plan, work with a consultant. If you need to talk to a counselor, find one.  Don’t add “I can’t afford it” to your already high stress level.  Spend what you need to spend and pull yourself out of your current hole.

Talk to someone about how you’re feeling.  Do you feel your stomach tighten and your heart rate increase every time you think about whatever is going on? Don’t bottle it up inside – get it out. Find a friend or trusted confident and tell them what’s going on. Cry with them, laugh with them and let them show you the “other side” of your situation.  You’ll walk away with a new perspective (and focus, too!).

Remember that it will pass. The situation – whatever it is – is temporary. It may not go away tomorrow, but it will go away. You will learn some (hard) lessons as a result of the situation, but that’s OK. We all do. The more adversity we face, the better prepared we are to kick its ass – and move through it with grace, confidence – and even a little bit of humor!

What’s your favorite way of overcoming adversity and kicking its ass?

Women Who Rock SEO: The Second Wave

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Following up on last week’s post featuring the first generation of SEO Women who made the profession great, today we focus on the second wave of women who have joined in the work of building and shaping the SEO and search industry (and rocking it!)

So meet this second generation of fantastic women championing SEO and search, these movers-and-shakers who continue to make the industry great with their dedication to its highest standards, as well as their leadership, mentorship, and professional contributions that go far and beyond mere content.

As with the first wave of SEO women, they too have much to share and teach you. Get to know them and follow them on Twitter.

Jennifer Evans Cario – Past founder and President of SugarSpun Marketing, Inc., Jennifer has been submerged in SEO since 2001. Her impressive client list includes Verizon, American Greetings, the State of South Dakota, and Highlights for Children. Jennifer serves as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University Mini-MBA program, and since 2004 she has been Editor-in-Chief and joint owner of Search Engine Guide. She has authored two books, including the free e-book  Zero Dollars, a Little Talent and Thirty Days, in which she shares her experience in starting an online business from scratch. Follow Jennifer @JenniferCario.

Donna Fontenot– (That’s FONT-KNOW) – Donna is an e-Business coach, HubSpot-certified inbound marketing consultant, Web developer, and SEO diva. Her motto is, “You’ll never shine if you don’t grow.” Donna’s vast work experience includes gigs as a ColdFusion Web developer and I.T. department head. Her blog, Making a Living Online, combines her technical background with her inspiring vision for success, and is geared toward home-based entrepreneurs. Follow Donna @DonnaFontenot.

Kalena Jordan – Owner and Editor of ASK Kalena, Kalena specializes in everything search engine, and her blog offerings have recently expanded to include PPC analytics, social media and product launches on Google.  As the Co-Founder and Director of Studies at Search Engine College, an online training institution, Kalena tutors SEO and PPC courses and is the main contact for students. Her LinkedIn profile list her specialties as “Bionic, fibulous conglomeration of random search algorithms resulting in superior ascensionic ranking and visitation abilities. In other words, search is my life.” Follow Kalena @kalena.

Anne F. Kennedy – With over 35 years in marketing and public relations, plus 10 years in SEO and search marketing, Anne is currently International Search Strategist with Beyond Ink.  An accomplished speaker, her recent appearances include SMX Sydney Australia, SES Toronto, and RIMC in Iceland. She’s also a CEO coach and founder of Outlines Venture Group. Follow Anne @AnneKennedy.

Dana Lookadoo – We lost Dana a few years ago, but she still deserves a shout-out for everything she’s done for the industry.  Dana was the owner of Yo! Yo! SEO and used to call herself a “search geek who prefers people over search engines but optimizes for both.” Her speciality was in coupling audience engagement and social media with SEO. Donna began a career in computing/PC training in 1984, then moved into website development and online marketing. As a business trainer, Donna developed classes for Sun Microsystems Open Gateway Programs, Monterey Institute of International Studies, U.C. Santa Cruz Extension, and WallMart’s MEM Technology Conference Series.

Elisabeth Osmeloski – As the past Executive Features Editor of Search Engine Land, Elisabeth managed all the editorial content and daily articles from industry experts. A veteran in the search engine marketing industry, Elisabeth has worked as an SEO consultant and search marketing analyst since 1999. Last year she became Founding Board Member and President at SLC Utah Professional Search Marketing Association. Follow Elisabeth @elisabethos.

Pamela Parker – As Executive Features Editor of Third Door Media’s Marketing Land, Pamela is an accomplished journalist, editor, and writer. In her diverse background, Pamela has worked for ClickZ, and covers media, marketing, advertising, and technology. Aside from her editing duties at Marketing Land, Pamela writes at her personal blog, The River, and has covered such diverse topics as The Future of Display and How Mad Men and Women Get Introduced to the Digital Ad Age in Google Trade at Marketing Land’s sister site, Search Engine Land. Follow Pamela @pamelaparker.

Gabriella Sannino – As CEO of Level343, an organic SEO and copywriting company based in San Francisco, Gabriella operates on the core belief that “conversation is the new currency.”  She is fluent in five languages, and as an international content strategist, she handles everything under the SEO and SEM umbrella from content development to usability testing and data analysis. The Level343 blog covers a wide range of topics including How to Create Content Without Bombarding Your Readers to Buyer Psychology and The Effects of Influence. She states, “Great writers are everywhere but SEO is all about creativity and strong knowledge of search engine marketing.” Follow Gabriella @SEOcopy.

Catherine (Cat) Seda – Catherine is a 20-year internet marketing veteran and the author of How to Win Sales & Influence Spiders and Search Engine Advertising. Presently, she is the digital content strategist for Moonlight Bridal, and an internet marketing consultant, speaker & writer. Catherine wrote the “Net Sales” column for Entrepreneur Magazine and has contributed to eBay magazine, Leader Magazine, and Yahoo! Small Business Insights. Catherine served as Dean of Internet Marketing at LA College International, and is a sought-after speaker on the conference circuit. Connect with Catherine at LinkedIn.

Lyena Solomon – Director of Service Now, Lyena began her career as a webmaster in 1995, then transitioned into web development and consulting.  Lyena specializes in helping small to medium sized businesses with analytics, social media, and web development. In 2011, she was voted by Level 343 as one of the Top SEO Women. Highly educated, she is fluent in Russian and holds Masters Degrees from Vladimir Pedagogical University and Illinois State University. Follow lyena @lyena.

Diane Vigil – As owner of the DianV. Web Design Studio, Diane oversees offices in Austin and Los Angeles. She discovered the web in 1996, and within months she was, “…convinced that I could do it because I’d seen <b> tags [and thought] how hard can it be?” She quickly fell in love with designing websites and started her Web design studio in 1997. Known around the Web as “DianeV”, she was an early moderator and administrator at VirtualPromote/JimWorld, a popular discussion forum for web designers and Internet promotion industries. Her diversified site design portfolio includes music, arts, internet marketing, business, and more, with her client list including the (late) singer Davy Jones, Cal Earth Institute, and KLR Motorcycle Parts. Follow Diane @dianevigil.

Our gratitude to all the women who rock the SEO world, both the first and second wave – and those who have yet to make their splash! :)

The lists of women honored here and in last week’s tribute were not intended to be exhaustive, by any means. Do you know a fantastic woman in SEO you’d like to add? We’d love it if you would tell us in the comments below, and it’d be great if you could include a link to her website or social profile! Thanks!

photo thanks to Mike Baird

The Women Who Made SEO Great

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I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 2000 and I was invited to speak at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference. Back then, search conferences wasn’t the huge, three-day monstrosities they are today. In fact, imagine a really big room with a bunch of roundtables. Yeah, that was the conference.

I was speaking with Jill Whalen on writing for search engines – and boy, was I nervous! I have a clear memory of saying a silent prayer before we started our session. I was that stressed out! :)

Back then, I didn’t know many women in SEO (and the ones I did know about were faithful subscribers/commentators in I-Search, the main discussion list for our industry.) I remember meeting Barbara Coll during SES Dallas. I also met Shari Thurow. But it seemed like the majority of the SEO crowd back then were men.

My, how times have changed.

Today, women rock the SEO world. When I go to conferences, the gender ratio is 50/50 – and many more women are leading companies and hold some pretty nice power positions. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

This post (and there will be a follow-up, too) features the women who made SEO great. These smart females were in the trenches back at the beginning and deserve to be celebrated. They have unselfishly led discussion lists, built resources, and helped set best practices. I am proud to call many of them my close friends.

Get to know these women and definitely follow them on Twitter. They have a lot to share and teach you.

Thank you, ladies. You inspire me every day.


Kim Krause Berg– Kim began designing websites in 1995 and within a year launched her own SEO/Usability consulting business. Her impressive client list includes Geico, USC Information Technology Program, and the Discovery Channel – Travel. Kim is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Land, creating articles from successful marketing and web design to why blending usability and SEO really matters. Follow Kim at @kim_cre8pc.

Christine Churchill  – Hands down, Christine is one of the nicest folks in SEO. As president of KeyRelevance, Christine has well over a decade of experience in the online marketing world. She has marketed cruise lines and hotels, steel foundries, schools, ecommerce sites – the list goes on!  A well-known industry speaker, Christine has appeared at Search Marketing Expo, Search Marketing Expo, and is a regular contributor to industry publications including. Follow Christine at @ChrisChurchill.

Barbara Coll – An early advocate of web marketing, Barbara started WebMama in 1996 because she “didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic.” From there, she quickly became a recognized leading expert in Search Engine Marketing. As the founding President and Chairperson of the Board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Barbara has helped to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide. Follow Barbara at @webmama.

Debra Mastaler – With a diverse background – including 15 years’ marketing Anheuser-Busch and operating an organic food and clothing directory – Debra transitioned to being the link goddess we know and love today. As President of Alliance-Link, Debra trains Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms on link building best practices. Among her many accolades, Debra was featured among Search Marketing Standard Magazine’s 2011 “Women of Internet Marketing” and voted one of Level 343’s Top SEO Women of 2011. Debra is also a featured guest speaker at SES conferences and SMX expo’s. She blogs at her own site, Link Spiel. Follow Debra at @debramastaler.

Susan O’Neil – As CEO and Founder of Website Publicity (later acquired by Paragon Digital Marketing,) Susan established a digital marketing agency in 1998, long before the internet marketing explosion. She also co-authored Maximize Website Traffic, one of the first books on SEO ever published. Follow Susan at @suejon.

Jessie Stricchiola – One of the founding board members of the esteemed Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEMPO, Jessie has been “toying around” with search engines since 1997. The Principal at Alchemist Media – which is consistently ranked by B2B Magazine as one of the Top 100 Search Marketing Companies – Jessie pioneered the charge against PPC click fraud and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and NPR.  She co-authored the book, The Art of SEO, and serves as a litigation consultant on internet related issues. Follow Jessie @ltstricchi (protected account).

Laura Thieme – A 20-year veteran of SEO, PPC, and website/keyword conversions, Laura is the CEO and owner of Bizresearch, which she started in 1997. She is a frequent speaker at SMX conferences, and has been featured in the New York Times, Internet Retailer, TechNewsWorld and Search Engine Watch. A renowned Google Analytics guru, Laura was called as an expert witness in a case involving trademark and meta tags. Follow Laura @bizwatchlaura.

Shari Thurow – Shari was the first person who made people think about “search engine friendly websites,” and has been designing sites since 1995.  Today, she’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. Shari has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wired, and PC World. Her search usability site, Omni Marketing Interactive, offers fantastic resources. Shari is the author of Search Engine Visibility and co-author of Where Search Meets Web Usability. Follow Shari at @sharithurow.

Dana Todd  Dana has over 20 years experience in digital marketing and is appreciated for her intelligent, no-nonsense speaking style. She’s also a past chairwoman for SEMPO after serving on their board. Dana has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The Street. She’s currently CEO of Balodana. Follow Dana at @danatodd.

Amanda Watlington –  Amanda is one super-smart woman. Her impressive resume includes working with 3m, Sharp Electronics, Mercedes Benz and Washington Mutual. She’s also a prolific writer, and has authored scads of articles and two books including Business Blogs: A Practical Guide (co-authored with Bill Ives.) Her site, Searching for Profit, says it all – she’s helping companies build long-term profitable relationships with their clients. Follow Amanda at @amandaw.

Jill Whalen – Jill and I started our SEO conference journey together and we were business partners for quite a few years (who remembers the RankWrite newsletter?) Jill was the CEO of High Rankings and started her SEO journey 1995. Today, she’s on a new journey and is owner of the site What Did You Do With Jill?

There were so many smart SEO pioneers, we even came up with a part two — enjoy!

Ladies, you have my sincere gratitude for building the SEO industry, blazing the proverbial trail, and guiding the rest of us! You rock! :)

Photo thanks to Brett Jordan

Screw Resolutions. Take Action Instead!

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Lately, I’ve been seeing quite a few posts discussing how SEO content marketing should be on the top of every businesses’ resolution list.

These are all great posts. But here’s the thing…

…I’ve read these “write more quality content” resolutions before. For about 21 years now.

And you know what? Very, very few companies follow through. They want to. They mean to. But then, content marketing gets pushed to the back burner. Or, even worse – someone does a half-assed job just to get it off their plate – and the results (and writing) shows it.

To me, putting something on a “resolutions” list is the same as saying, “Here’s what I’d like to have happen. But I don’t have a plan to get there.” It’s a fuzzy goal – and I can’t get invested in a fuzzy goal. As soon as the next shiny thing comes along, I’m more apt to focus on that and ignore whatever resolution I created.

But here’s what does work: Taking action. Don’t just say, “I’m going to write more content in 2019.” Get off your butt and do something.

You’ve probably heard of creating S.M.A.R.T goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The S.M.A.R.T framework gives you an easy way to bring your resolutions into reality. The next step is breaking down the goal into action steps.

For instance, maybe you want to revamp your site’s copy. You know that sales have been slow for awhile, and you suspect that the writing may not “hit the mark” anymore. Action steps could be:

  • Reviewing your analytics – what pages are doing well? Where are you losing your readers?
  • Contemplate your customer persona – is your target market the same as when the content was last written? Are the benefits still relevant?
  • Review your SEO effectiveness – are the search engines driving qualified traffic? Are you positioning for your main keyphrases?
  • Review your sales copy – does it match your customer persona? Does the copy pop, or is it flat?
  • Consider your resources – who would rewrite your content? Do you have the resources to do it in-house, or would you need to outsource?
  • Do you need to find qualified vendors? If so, how would you find them?
  • What’s your drop-dead, deadline for all content to be on the site? Make sure you give your team plenty of time to complete everything necessary. My recommendation: Figure out how many months you’d need to finish the job, and then double that amount.

See? That’s much more specific than “I resolve to revamp my site’s sales copy.”

If you’re a freelance copywriter, one of the most popular resolutions is to “make more money.” Unfortunately, that won’t magically happen without you making some business changes. For instance, some action steps could be:

  • Contact old clients and see if there’s anything that you can help with.
  • Research a new marketing technique (such as Twitter) to help get the word out.
  • Go to a local business networking meeting.
  • Expand your skills and specialize in a new niche (for instance, going through the SEO Copywriting Certification training.)
  • Raise your prices (I know it’s scary. But you need to do it.)
  • Find a mentor and get expert guidance.

The key is: all of these action steps will move you forward rather than leaving you stuck. Instead of “resolving” to do something, you’re actually doing it and making progress.  Before you know it, you’ll have a SEO content marketing plan that rocks – or a freelance career that gives you the lifestyle you want.

It’s all about taking action.

Now, what are you going to do right now to improve your business and personal life? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

Photo thanks to Acererak