Posts

Make your SEO content shine in search with Schema

SEO expert Carrie Hill shows how using Schema mark-up can be a valuable SEO skill setAs an SEO content writer, you’re constantly looking for ways to expand your offerings and set yourself apart from others in your niche.

While skill and great training can set you apart from a good many, being able to offer marked up content that is search-engine friendly is going to set you apart from 99% of the others.

It is an advanced SEO skill set worth its weight in gold!

Adding Schema.org protocols to the content you write – and that of your clients – can improve ranking results and add some much needed click-through support to search engine listings.

Advising clients to mark up their existing content with address, product, and review or event markup can expand the reach of the SEO content you write and, in turn, increase your freelance copywriting rates accordingly!

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation to Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Certification students and grads about how to use Schema mark-up and its value as a prized SEO copywriting skill set. Here are some of the highlights:

What are the best Schema protocols to learn as an SEO content writer?

First, I recommend you start small.  Learn how to do one type of markup and do it well.

You can write the code for Schema.org and place the code in the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to see if it validates correctly.

Always check your validation before publishing and right after publishing.  (See the tools I like in the “Tools” section below.)

1. Location & Mobile

If your client has a location-based brick-and-mortar business, marking their address up with Schema.org/LocalBusiness markup makes a lot of sense.  It’s one of the easiest schemas to implement and it can affect not only search engine traffic, but I speculate this could help immensely with Mobile search in the future.

If you use Google Now, and are familiar with their “card’ system – you can see how data that is structured could be very useful to search engines and other local search websites.

Use this code by copying and pasting into a text editor like Notepad and replacing the generic text with your clients’ data:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>

<a itemprop=”url” href=”http://www.ClientWebsite.com”><div itemprop=”name”><strong>Client’s Company Name Here</strong></div>

</a>

<div itemprop=”description”>A short description here – maybe 1-2 sentences. You CAN leave this out, but it helps if you can use keywords and the city state in the description</div>

<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>

<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>1234 Oak Street, Suite 444</span><br>

<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Anytown, </span><span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CO </span><span itemprop=”postalCode”>55555  </span><span itemprop=”addressCountry”>USA</span><br>

<div itemprop=”telephone”>555-123-4567</div>

</div>

</div>

2. E-Commerce Product Descriptions

Many writers are contracted to write new products descriptions for their clients.  Adding the markup to outline a product with Schema.org/Product or Schema.org/Offer code can help your client’s product stand out from the pack.

To go along with product and offer schema, review schema will add the rating stars to the search engine result listing, which can have a big impact on click through rates:

Bunn Thermal Coffee Maker

 

 

 

 

3. Events

Event markup is a fairly easy process, but is done rarely, and surprisingly  – not very well.

There are a handful of event companies and directories that do it right (check out Eventful.com for a good example) and that lack of accuracy is an opportunity for you.

Are you writing content about an event your client is putting together? Creating a listing that has an enhanced look in the search engine results is a great side –benefit.

You can see from the example below how useful that would be to the viewer:

Upcoming Events:Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

Essential Tools to Use

 

Closing Thoughts

This is an opportunity for you as an SEO copywriter to set yourself apart from your competition!

Some of the implementation of the Schema.org markup may take collaboration with the clients’ website teams, but the results could definitely be worth the effort.

You may consider offering the first bit of markup as a “freebie” to show the benefits with regards to ranking and click-through, proving to the client the value behind your expertise.

However you approach it, knowing more about how to make content rank well, and achieve a larger number of clicks, can only enhance your reputation as an SEO content writer.

 

About the Author ~ Carrie Hill

Carrie Hill is the Director of Online Marketing for KeyRelevance, LLC.  She specializes in technical SEO and social media – and absolutely loves email marketing.  She is also a regular author for SEMClubhouse.com.  When not immersed in all things search, she’s a big fan of hanging with her kiddos, reading, cooking, gardening.  Find Carrie on Twitter @CarrieHill or on Google+.

image thanks to crazyseo20 (Crazy Seo)

Learn the latest SEO copywriting skills straight from top SEO experts like Carrie Hill with the SEO Copywriting Certification training program – now 20% off through June 1st with code CELEBRATE

 

 

Master Your Per-page Keyphrase Strategy in 6 Easy Steps

Hey there and welcome back! As foretold, today’s post is about strategizing our per-page keyphrase research choices, and what’s more, we’re going to do this in six – yes, six -easy steps!  You’ve all worked very hard, and you had a lot to digest from last week’s post, so here is your well-deserved, simple 6-step how-to reward!

1. Review the site section you focused on for the keyphrase research and choose a page.

2.Place the URL of the page in the URL column of your keyphrase strategy workbook.

3. Check out the theme and intent of the page:

  • Is it to sell a product or service? (If so, refer to your product-level keyphase tab.)
  • Is it a subcategory page?  (If so, check out your subcategory keyphrases.)
  • Does the page include any brand-related terms?  (Look at your brand keyphrase list.)

4.Choose two to three keyphrases from your keyphrase strategy workbook that relate to the page (excluding misspellings or grammatically incorrect keyphrases).These would go to your keyphrase column.

5.If there are few more keyphrases that could work for the page, include them on your list.  Just know that you’ll eventually focus on two to three when you start writing.*

6.Now, spend the time you need to do it right, but don’t waste hours agonizing over each and every keyphrase choice.You have the option of using a different keyphrase later (see step #5) if the one you’re hung up on just doesn’t flow or fit with the writing, or if another keyphrase strikes you as more appropriate.

*An important note and caveat: I mention two to three keyphrases for a given page as a most general guideline:  it isn’t written in stone or meant to be”the formula.”  As stressed time and again, where and how often you massage your keyphrases into your content depends on the page’s theme and intent. There are no absolutes and no substitutes for your own good judgment and discretion!  Listen to your own inner copywriter’s voice!

The obvious question that arises with per-page keyphrase strategy is:can you overlap keyphrases and put one keyphrase on two (or more) pages?  The answer: yes, absolutely!

For instance, let’s say you were working on a “personal fitness training” subcategory page, and also had a FAQ page about the benefits of personal fitness training. You can optimize for “personal fitness training” on both pages, since the keyphrase is a natural fit for both.

Completing your per-page keyphrase strategy document is an incredibly powerful planning tool.  Your keyphrase strategy list immediately demonstrates what keyphrases you’re focusing on and what keyphrases may be underrepresented. And just like your keyphrase research list, your strategy document is a living document  you’ll want to refer to it and update it often as you add new pages, or anticipate keyphrase seasonality.

Another great advantage of completing your keyphrase strategy document is ensuring consistency among multiple writers: having a per-page strategy in place makes it easy for you to assign work and streamline your efforts, knowing that your writers are focusing on the “right” keyphrases in support of your overall SEO project.

Hang on to your SEO hats, as next week we’ll be pulling all your research together and launch into the meat of the matter: how to write and edit powerful SEO content that converts like crazy!

How to Turn a Boring FAQ Page into a Sales Star

Does reading your FAQ page make you yawn?

Do you write your FAQ pages in five minutes, figuring “nobody is going to read them anyway?”

Check this out…

FAQ pages can be incredibly powerful to the sales process and conversions. Plus, infusing your FAQ page with a little personality can set you apart from your competitors.

Ready to transform your FAQ page into a sales superstar?

Here’s how to create FAQ pages that Google (and, your readers) love!

(Modified transcript below):

The poor, ignored FAQ page is yearning to be optimized for both search engines and internal linking/conversions.  Like the proverbial ugly duckling transforming into a majestic swan, you can make your FAQ page a beautiful conversion star.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Group FAQ’s Around Keyword/KeyPhrase Themes Whenever Possible (vs. Long, Untargeted FAQ Pages)

Grouping your FAQ page categories around keyword/keyphrase themes is much easier than it sounds.  Simply check your analytics for guidance.

What you want to avoid is talking about everything on your FAQ pages in a disjointed, rambling way, from products to shipping and returns policy on one page.  Split out these disparate subjects and organize them by keyphrase theme.

2) Match Your Site’s Tone and Feel  (vs. Boring, Administration-Sounding FAQ Pages)

While your FAQ page isn’t a sales page per se, try thinking about it that way: match your site’s tone and feel in your FAQ page.  While you may have to tend to necessary administrative details here, you can infuse them with the personality that you’ve honed in your other pages.  (But still take care to separate those administrative FAQ’s out from products/services FAQ’s, as noted above).

3)  Link to Products/Services Pages Whenever Possible (vs. “Dead End” FAQ Pages that Don’t Encourage Conversions)

The FAQ page can weave in little calls to action when answering prospect questions.  Using the example of an e-commerce kayak company, it smartly links internally to their product page by answering a common customer question (FAQ) with: “to learn more about our ‘Creek Boats’…”

Voila!  In simply answering a common question on its FAQ page and linking to its product page, this kayak company has gone from providing reader information to conversions – a very effective way to move your prospects along any given sales funnel.

Not so good is a “dead end” FAQ page with no links and therefore no option of click-through.  You want to encourage that conversion whenever possible!

4) Include Your Contact Information (vs. Making Your Readers Hunt for More Info)

Don’t assume your reader knows how to contact you, or will work to do so.  Be sure your contact information is front and center, at all times!

5) Highlight Overarching Company Benefits (vs. Hiding Your Benefits in the Copy or Not Mentioning Them at All)

When appropriate, try to highlight the overarching benefits of your company as well as those of your particular product or service.  Try to inspire company-level confidence.

6) Optimize the Title (vs. Writing a Non-Descript, Generic FAQ Title)

This cannot be over-emphasized:  a well-written title is as essential to the FAQ page as it is to any other conversions page on your site.  Assume your FAQ page title to be as important as that of your sales page.  Without incorporating a keyphrase, a FAQ page title is a “throw-away,” such as “FAQ Page.”

What do you think? Are you ready to tweak your FAQ pages and turn them into sales superstars? Post your comment below!

Interview with the Conversion Scientist, Brian Massey

The Conversion Scientist, Brian Massey

Brian Massey is the Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences and he has the lab coat to prove it. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses was developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, national speaker and writer.

Conversion Sciences was founded to fill the Web with helpful, engaging and entertaining online Web sites that convert visitors into leads and sales. Brian has helped dozens of businesses transform their sites through a steady diet of visitor profiling, purposeful content, analytics and testing.

So how did it come to pass that you became the “Conversion Scientist?”

Well, I knew that few business owners were waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats screaming “I need an online marketing strategist,” which is what I technically do. Even fewer are screaming for a “Conversion Scientist.” However, the next best thing to having someone say, “Oh, I need someone like you,” is having them say, “You’re a what?” And I can explain conversion in a sentence.

The Sciences theme plays to the fact that my practice is very data-driven: “I get no pleasure if we don’t measure.”

In your opinion, where is the art of conversion copywriting going?

I think it is going cross-channel. To be a good copywriter, you must be able to be persuasive on a landing page, home page, product page, etc. To be a good conversion copywriter, you have to be able to write a video script, summarize the major points for the landing page, create the series of blog posts that tease the video, compose the white paper that the video pitches, integrate the search key words in all of this and then cram it all into 140 characters… all in a week.

The only way to really know what to write without doing a lot of research is to watch your results. You have to know which topics get clicked. You have to know which headlines get sales. You have to know which search terms like which offers.

A good copywriter watches the numbers.

Do you have any words of wisdom for SEO copywriters about conversion optimization?

Get comfortable reading Adwords analytics and site analytics. Figure out what works for humans (conversions) as well as the search engine (visits). Then practice, and when you get good, charge a whole lot of money.

Besides actual text, what are other ways to induce conversions?

Use big buttons that call people to action. Draw boxes around important points you want to make. Strike stock photography from the site. Add a video. Shorten your signup form. Add trust symbols and logos to your pages and shopping carts. Most importantly, know the person who typed in the page URL or search term, and why they did so at this point in their life. Then make them glad they did.

Where do SEO copywriters “fit” in the overall conversion equation?

Copywriters have more ability to affect conversion rates than any other contributor to the online marketing equation. Richer images can be drawn with words than with Photoshop. Headlines can be more emotional than photographs. Designers assume they have 8 seconds to get someone’s attention. Good writers will capture visitors for minutes. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s still the words that count.

Why does it sound like I’m so full of shit? Because writers don’t know how to defend themselves. Most marketing firms believe that, because they own Word, they are qualified to edit a writers’ work. As a result, writers suffer from PRPSD: Post Red Pen Stress Disorder. By the time a corporate committee has finished “reviewing” their work, the storytelling, metaphor and color have all been bled out of the best copy. Copywriters begin to just do what the client asks rather than fight the battle. Copywriter heal thyself. Every situation is different, but I would recommend the following:

Be the most expensive in your industry/area /subject matter. This gives you the freedom to rewrite and do more research if necessary.

  1. Set expectations up front: “I won’t let just anyone edit my copy.”
  2. Don’t EVER assume that the client knows their customers, especially on the Web.
  3. Get good at doing personas of Web visitors. These fake people will rise to your defense when your copy is attacked.
  4. Threaten to fire clients frequently.
  5. Gather data from every client you don’t fire to demonstrate your prowess.
  6. Call yourself a Copy Scientist, Persuasion Editor, or Conversion Linguist… and then kick ass.

How to Create a Customer Persona

Greetings! This week’s video how-to answers a reader question:  “How do I create a customer persona?” Creating a customer persona is a fundamental step that is often overlooked by businesses both large and small.

Join Heather as she explains the purpose of developing a customer persona, as well as how to go about it:

When your prospects read your online copy, there’s only one thing they want to know:  “What’s in it for me?”

The purpose of creating a customer persona is to get to know the person who is reading your stuff or buying from you.  And at the end of the day, what matters to that person is what is in it for me? So everything you write – be it sales copy, blog, or article – should be targeted to your customer persona. The “what’s in it for me?” customer question is the essential one you need to answer.

  • And then you need to consider that you’re looking at different types of folks who may be visiting your site, reading your content, or considering buying your products or services.

An explicit example:  Would you “sell” the same way to these 35-year-old guys?

A lot of folks will claim that they have a product or service that appeals to everyone, so they can’t write copy specific to any one persona.

Well, consider this example of two 35-year-old men:

  • Customer Persona #1/Momma’s Guy:  He lives at home with his mom, enjoys ham radios and bagpipes, reads magazines about military history, and dates maybe once a year.
  • Customer Persona #2/Metro Guy:  Lives in a downtown condo, enjoys scotch and fine dining, reads exotic travel magazines, and dates several times a month.

So would you write the same for them?  No, probably not.  Each guy has different hopes, fears, desires, pain points, and objections to overcome.

This example speaks to the importance of creating a customer persona.  When writing online content, you’ll want to delve deeper into your readers’ persona.

Some Questions to Ask When Developing a Customer Persona

There are a lot of questions that you need to ask at the very beginning of the process when creating a customer persona.

If you’re a freelance writer, one of the first questions to ask your client is if you can view their customer persona documents so that you can capture the reader you’re writing for. Or, if you’re working in-house and don’t have access to customer persona profiles, then this presents a great opportunity to go back and revisit your copy to discover what content is really resonating with your readers.

A list of questions to start out with are:

  1. Do you have multiple target audiences?  (As referenced before, Constant Contact does a fabulous job of segmenting verticals on their landing page).
  2. How old is your typical buyer/reader?
  3. What level of education have they reached?
  4. What are their average income levels?
  5. What benefits are important to them?  (What is important to one 35-year-old guy may be irrelevant to another, as noted above).
  6. What magazines do they read?
  7. What sites do they visit and trust?
  8. What objections do you need to overcome in the copy?

In the end, you want to know your customer persona like you know your best friend. Your copy will resonate with the customer, and convert! 

5 Beginner SEO Writing Tips to Try

Pre-launch Site Success:Video Roundup:031813Today we feature five of Heather’s SEO copywriting video how-to’s that address web content planning and strategies which tend to get overlooked – at the cost of traffic and conversions.

From defining your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.) and a customer persona to creating clickable web page titles and resonant tone and feel, discover all that goes into a successful website launch…before the launch!

Site Launch Considerations3 things to consider before a site launch

So you’ve a sexy web design and beautifully written content – you’re good to go, right? Wrong. Find out what’s missing from this picture – three critical elements, in fact – that will make all the difference between whether your site launch succeeds or flops. (Besides what the other videos listed here address).

 

So what defines you? Creating an irresistible U.S.P.What's Your U.S.P.?

What distinguishes you from your competition? What makes you unique? Learn what makes for an effective unique selling proposition (U.S.P.) that will appeal to prospective customers and set you apart from the rest.

 

Customer Persona How ToHow to create a customer persona

Just as you need to define who you are by means of a U.S.P., you need to define who your target customer is by creating a customer persona. Listen in as Heather gives examples of customer personas, and discusses how to fine-tune yours so your web content attracts, keeps, and converts!

How to resonate

How to resonate with your readers through web page “tone and feel

Now you’ve created a customer persona, you need to “speak” to him or her through your web pages’ “voice” – meaning, your site’s tone and feel. Does your web writing resonate with your target audience? Or is it generic – or worse, discordant? Learn how to tweak your web content for reader connection and conversion.

 

Clickable SEO Page Titles

How to write SEO Titles that get the click: 3 tips

The search engine results page is your first conversions opportunity. In answering a reader question about the use of “pipes” in webpage Titles, Heather first explains what “pipes” are, then goes on to discuss preferable, smarter SEO and conversion strategies for creating Titles that will lure the “click” on the search engine results page.

 

Photo thanks to Eric__I_E

The 4 C’s of a smokin’ hot YouTube marketing strategy

A powerful YouTube marketing strategy is distilled into four elementsWith over 100 hours of video uploaded every minute and over one BILLION people across the world accessing the site every month, YouTube is no longer just a destination for one hit, viral videos.

In fact, with Channel partners such as the Warner Music Group and Machinima, its video content rivals that of popular streaming services Netflix and Hulu.

It’s no wonder that an astounding 87% of online marketers use YouTube video content in their marketing mix. In addition, YouTube is the number 2 search engine on the planet, making it a fantastic platform to grow your audience.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the four C’s you need in your online video strategy to successfully drive traffic and sales from YouTube:

– Captivation

– Consistency

– Conversion

– Community

Captivation

Simply put, you need to hook your viewer from the start and continue to engage them throughout the video. This is especially important since YouTube has changed its algorithm to give more weight to average watch time than number of view counts.

Also, videos that retain viewers throughout the entire video rank higher in YouTube search and are more visible in YouTube’s related videos algorithm (suggested videos at the end of each video and related videos on the right sidebar).

But how do you go about captivating your audience? Here are 3 easy steps that you can implement today:

1. Compelling Content Comes First

Many viewers decide whether they are going to keep watching your video within the first few seconds. Attention spans are short, and viewers are just one click away from abandoning your video.

Having an animated intro is a great way to instantly captivate your audience. You can find some great templates over at VideoHive or get a custom one at SmartShoot.

It’s even more important to have an animated intro if your video only uses one camera angle (such as a webcam) or is a talking head video.

If you are creating a “how-to” video, consider showing the final outcome first then show the instructional steps. Hooking the viewer from the onset will keep them engaged through your video.

2. Vary the Camera Angle

There’s no hard and fast rule to how long you can stay on one angle, but I would recommend that you keep it at about 30 seconds and no longer than 1 minute.

Think about a trailer to your favorite movie. There are multiple cuts to different scenes and no scene receives longer than 15 seconds of airtime.

If you’re doing a talking head video, consider varying the angles or background for the different sections of your topic.

3. Add Transitions, Overlays, and Graphics

Caution: adding a transition does NOT mean inserting a “page over” effect on your video.

Transitions can be as simple as a single frame that introduces a new section or topic of a video.

An excellent example of adding a simple transition to break up different sections can be found in this video by CopyHackers’ Joanna Wiebe.

Remember, it does NOT need to be complicated.

Consistency

“Consistent audience requires consistent content!” – Freddie W., Top YouTuber.

We all understand the importance of consistency when it comes to growing a blog.

And although creating a video can be more time consuming, the same principle of creating consistent content should be applied to marketing on YouTube.

By creating regular content on YouTube, you will keep your channel feed active, increase your reach, and build more subscribers. While there’s no hard and fast rule for how often you should produce content, YouTube suggests a minimum of one video per week.

However, the right amount of content depends on your audience and your goals.

A quick and easy way to create more frequent content is to do a Google+ Hangout interview with an expert in your industry. You can then use this material for your YouTube channel and blog.

Here’s an example of a video SmartShoot created from a Google+ Hangout expert interview, outlining the process that goes into creating an animated explainer video.

Conversion

While conversions are always top of mind on your website, they somehow become an afterthought on YouTube.

Remember, online video is an interactive experience and prompting your viewers to take action will help you build engagement and a larger audience.

Depending on your message, you can use the middle or end of the video to prompt your viewers to take action.

Here’s a sampling of a few actions that you can use on your videos:

  • Subscribe: Give viewers a reason to subscribe by highlighting how often you’ll produce new videos. If you’re a host or personality, you could also end your videos asking for viewers to subscribe.
  • Like / Add to Favorites / Share: Simply asking your viewers to Like, Favorite, and Share within your video can yield some amazing results. The more you can get from your viewers the more likely the video appears in more places across YouTube.
  • Comments: Encourage your audience to participate by asking a specific question or a topic that they’d like you to cover in an upcoming video.
  • Video Graphics: Create a video “end slate” that appears at the end of the video to direct viewers to your website. Give them a lead magnet to increase email subscribers.
  • Link to your website: Within the first 2 lines of the YouTube description, make sure that you include a link back to your website. Be sure to include the “http://”, otherwise YouTube will not make the link clickable.

Here’s a great example from the Nerdist channel using Conan O’Brien to ask viewers to subscribe to their channel:

Nerdist Conan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community

While YouTube is a massive online video platform, don’t forget that it’s also one of the biggest social networks.

People are drawn to online video because unlike regular broadcast television, they can interact with their favorite channels and YouTubers. From video responses to parodies to musical covers, YouTube is an engaged community of viewers and creators.

So, listen to your audience and speak to them in a way that grows your following and empowers them to become your biggest ambassadors.

3 Easy Ways to Build Your Community on YouTube:

1. Ask the Viewers

Ask viewers for their opinions, ideas, or feedback on videos by leaving a comment. Ask them if they have any specific questions that they’d like you to cover.

Rather than asking general questions, ask specific questions. This will lead to more responses and a more engaged community.

For example, rather than saying “what would you like me to cover in my next video?” instead say “would you like me to cover a) Facebook marketing; b) Twitter marketing; or c) YouTube marketing?”

2. Feature the Community

Once you have feedback from your viewers, feature them and their content in your video. The goal is to make your community feel as if this is their channel by highlighting their comments and/or user-submitted content.

Consider doing a Google Hangout Q&A with a few of your most loyal fans. Seeing other viewers within your videos will not only build a loyal following, but also encourage passive viewers to become more active on your channel.

3. Reward Your Super Fans

Beyond the typical mention in your videos, look for ways to reward your super fans (both on and off YouTube).

Simple things such as a discount code, free month to your service or even a t-shirt can go a long ways to building an engaged and loyal following on YouTube.

Concluding Thoughts

While online video in general is still a confusing medium to most businesses, it does provide a fantastic platform for businesses looking to grow their audience beyond their blog.

Remember, Blendtec, a company that some may say sells a boring product (blenders), has over half a million subscribers on YouTube and is proof that when done correctly, YouTube is a powerful social network to attract new customers!

About the Author ~  Steve P. Young

Steve P. Young is the Director of Product Marketing for SmartShoot where marketers go to get stunning photos and video from the best local photographers and filmmakers. Connect with Steve on Twitter or LinkedIn.

image thanks to Maurits Knook (mauritsonline)

Learn the latest SEO copywriting and content marketing strategies with SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting training!

 

 

 

Wooing the Googlebot: 5 Steps to an Irresistible XML Sitemap

Make you site irresistible to Google bot with these top 5 sitemap strategies

You can have the best site in the world but you won’t rank well if your site is difficult to crawl and navigate by a robot.

All sites should have an XML formatted sitemap including the pages of their site as a standard. This is what search engines use as part of their crawl and subsequent indexing.

It is always a good idea to make these files as easy as possible for a search engine bot to read, as it can make the indexing of your site faster.

In this post I will show five of the best practices for the set up and submitting of your sitemaps. Not all will apply to all sites, but on the whole if you put these into practice then your sitemaps will be much easier to read and manage, and your site will be easier to index.

1. Split out into sections/categories

There is a standard limit on the size of a sitemap of 10MB or 50,000 URLs, and while a search engine robot will read a sitemap up to this size it can take too long and may compromise crawl time.

What to do:

For larger sites or sites with a clear structure, you can create a few different sitemaps to split out the pages to crawl. For example, you could create a general sitemap for all your top level pages and a separate sitemap (or sitemaps) for your category page(s).  Alternatively you could create different sitemaps depending on how frequently they change to set different crawl priorities across the different pages.

How does this help?

Splitting out your sitemaps makes it easier for search engine bots to crawl them. It also allows you to identify with more ease which pages have yet to be indexed by a search engine in Webmaster Tools. It allows you to manage changes to your site much easier. You also don’t have to create a new sitemap for the entire site if things change on your site.

2. Show the links to all your sitemaps in your robots.txt file

This is a pretty simple thing, but it is surprising how often this isn’t done right. A robots.txt file is a small text file that essentially tells a search engine robot what it should and shouldn’t crawl. You can disallow entire directories or pages on your site as well as manage other parameters that pertain to a site crawl. It is always best practice to show the location of your sitemap in the robots.txt file as it is usually the second place the robot will go to when it crawls your site.

What to do:

If you have more than one sitemap you can list them here too in the following format:

User-agent: *

Allow: /

Disallow: /wp-admin/

Disallow: /category/

Sitemap: http://www.mysite.com/top-page-sitemap.xml

Sitemap: http://www.mysitee.com/category-page-sitemap.xml

How does this help?

Essentially it is your first signpost to a search engine, pointing it in the direction that will allow it to crawl your site along the easiest path possible.

3. Make sure there are no broken links

Many sitemap generation tools will crawl your entire site using its internal link structure and produce a sitemap.xml file for you. This has its benefit – it’s quick and easy – but it is not accurate. In some cases where your site has old pages that are still linked to internally by mistake this could result in a 404 error. Sometimes these can end up in your XML sitemap and that isn’t good when a search engine crawls them and hits a dead end.

What to do:

Once you have generated your sitemap you can run it through a validator to see if it can be read properly and if there are any errors such as ones created through broken links. I use the {W3C Validator http://validator.w3.org/} most often.

If you find broken links you should identify their location on your site and remove them. You can then re-generate your sitemap. If there are a lot of pages that have broken links you will want to resolve these as soon as possible to ensure your site doesn’t suffer in other ways.

If you have a large site or lots of pages you need to remove from the sitemaps you can use crawling software like {Screaming Frog http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/} and open the file in a text editor, identify the pages and remove them. Be careful with this though as if you don’t edit the file appropriately it can corrupt it.

How does this help?

By removing broken links search engines won’t hit any dead ends in your sitemap and this can speed up the crawl. Also, with both Bing and Google Webmaster Tools errors like this can show up in the dashboard and in some cases stop the search engine even looking at the file.

4. Remove 301 redirected pages

If you have internal links which are 301 redirected it makes sense to replace the links with the new destination URL on a sitemap rather than have an internal link which is redundant. It would slow a crawl down and it can also slow site navigation down as well!

When it comes to creating a sitemap file, if you have internal links which redirect these may get picked up by whatever tool you use to create it. This means that you could end up with a sitemap that contains old redirected links and the intended destination URL too.

What to do:

Quite simply, scan over your site and ensure that all internal links are pointing to the intended destination rather than to a page which has a redirect on it. I’d recommend using the Microsoft SEO tool for this as it will pick these up easily for you (You can find out about the tool and its other uses {here http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/microsoft-seo-toolkit-review/}).

How does this help?

By removing redundant links and only leaving your site and sitemap with links to live pages it can reduce the size of the sitemap and reduce the time it will take for a search engine to read it leaving valuable milliseconds for on-page crawling of your site.

5. Submit your sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Once you have a sitemap created it is important that you submit them to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. This way you can offer an additional (and quicker) opportunity for them to crawl the sitemap and site itself.

What to do:

In Google Webmaster Tools you navigate to the sitemaps tab on the main dashboard, click the red box on the top right which says ‘Add/Test Sitemap’ and add your sitemap(s) URL excluding the main domain. This then adds it into the dashboard.

In much the same way as Google, in Bing Webmaster Tools whilst in the dashboard you will see in the middle right section of the screen ‘Submit A Sitemap’. Click that and add the sitemap URL to show it in the dashboard.

How does this help?

Submitting to both these Webmaster Tools platforms will allow you to better monitor your sites’ indexing, re-submit sitemaps to the search engines manually when there are changes and also allow you to better understand what areas of your site are getting crawled more often (if you split your sitemaps out).

Having a well-structured and easily accessible XML sitemap will make it much easier for search engines to find the pages on your site and crawl them. Again – you can have the best site in the world but you won’t rank well if your site is difficult to crawl and navigate by a robot! It is within any site owner or developer’s best interests to make it as easy and quick to crawl as possible.

I hope this post has been useful and if you have any questions or other sitemap related comments please feel free to add them!

About the AuthorChris Simmance

Chris Simmance is a Digital Marketing Consultant. You can connect with Chris on his website, and Twitter.

How to Explain SEO Copywriting to Clients

Do your clients think that “SEO copy” is a bad word?

Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  An article called, A 3-Step SEO Copywriter Confession by Kelly Watson joked, “As an SEO copywriter I often get lumped in with keyword spammers, blog content aggregators and overseas article writers.

Sound a little familiar…?

Clients – both small and large businesses – may think of SEO copywriting as “keyword spamming” and want nothing to do with it. Sure, they know they need good content. But where they get confused is what good SEO copy looks like. Maybe that’s because all they’ve seen is bad copy. Or maybe that’s because although content is crucial, it’s not necessarily valued.  After all, Yahoo! owns Associated Content – accused by some as being a “content mill” company. Some SEO companies pay low-dollar for writing and refuse to pay more for higher quality work. We love what content does for us. But we want it cheap. And cheap typically means really, really bad stuff.

And unfortunately, there’s so much “bad stuff” out there, it gets mistaken for “normal” SEO copy best practices.

For instance, Stephen Spencer in his Multichannel Merchant article, Black Hat Tactics Can Ruin Your SEO said one black hat tactic was:

SEO copy — slipping keyword-rich content (often with keyword-rich text links too) meant only for spiders into the very bottom of the page

Whenever I see SEO copy I roll my eyes and think to myself, can you get any more obvious than that?

Well, yeah, I understand what he means – he’s talking about keyphrase STUFFING, not keyword-rich content.. At the same time, the casual reader (someone who is not SEO savvy) reads this and thinks, “SEO copy is bad and obvious. I shouldn’t have it on my site.

Another example comes from the 3-Step Confession article.

Confession: I have inserted misspellings into my own writing.

I have rejected really good headlines and great lede sentences for mediocre ones that start with a keyword or phrase.

I have stifled the urge to delete redundancies. I’ve even added redundancies to get one more keyword into my writing.

Don’t get me wrong – the rest of the post is great. But adding misspellings purely for SEO purposes has never been best practices. And adding redundancies makes me think of fluffy, keyphrase-stuffed paragraphs that talk about “home business opportunities” for the next 750 words.

And if *I’m* thinking that – what are clients thinking? I know if I was a clueless client, I’d wonder, “So, I have to have misspellings on my site for search engine rankings? No way.”

Is it any wonder that clients are a little confused?

The great news is: Once the clients understand the benefits, they’re excited. They’re on board. They realize that their copy will not, in fact, suck.

You just have to explain what good SEO copywriting is first. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get a sense of your client’s knowledge levels – and be prepared to spend time addressing the basics. Don’t assume that your client understands what SEO copywriting is just because they contacted you. Or because they throw a few buzz words around. They may know that they need it – but they may be pretty fuzzy about the specifics. They may really believe that it’s all about stuffing the page as “spider food” (as Spencer mentioned.) Take some time to share with them why the writing is so important, and explain how it could impact their site. Bonus points if you create a PDF with some fast copywriting facts.
  • Show examples of your past writing. I talked to a prospect the other day who said, “I know exactly what SEO copy is. My SEO company wrote something for me and I hated it.” When I showed him that (good) SEO copy was completely different than the keyword-stuffed page he received from his SEO, he immediately mellowed out.
  • Explain your process. Take time to impress upon your client that you’ll be doing more than just shoving keywords into the copy. You’ll be learning about their business, creating benefit statements, developing a strategy and telling a compelling story. I heartily agree with Watson when she says, “SEO is the easy part. The hard part is capturing readers’ attention with writing they actually want to read.” Clients need to know that, too.
  • Ask what questions your client has – and listen to what they *don’t* ask. Unless you have a highly direct client, they may not say, “Hey, I’m afraid that I’m going to pay you a lot of money for content that sounds like hell.” But they may ask things like “How can I tell if it’s working,” or “Why should I hire you at $X/page, when I can get this for $Y/page.” Same fear. Different approach.
  • Do a rockin’ job. It sounds basic, but if you’re not returning your client’s calls/emails – you’re sending a bad message. If you’re sending so-so copy because you’re “busy,” the client won’t be happy. Show your client how fantastic (and professional) SEO copy really  is. Once your client has seen your awesome writing (and the resultant sales paired with some impressive search positions,) they’ll be a fan of SEO copywriting (and you) for life!

Content Criminal Minds: Eye Candy, Passion & Community Dedication

In “Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU” (the first of my Content Criminal Minds series*), I introduced the stunning Derek Morgan.

Yes, he’s eye candy, but he’s functional eye candy. While he adds beauty to the show, he also shows a lot of passion for his job and dedication to his community.

Content and content strategies need that same functional beauty. After all, first impressions make all the difference. If your content and website look spammy and low quality, it won’t get the attention it deserves and no one will see the value.

Content and Content Strategies Should Be Pretty

Whether you’re looking at an individual piece of content or all of your content as a whole, it has to look good and reflect well on your brand. (And yes, I mean it should be high quality, but it should also have visual appeal.)

For example, a piece of content should have images, video, audio and other mediums instead of just text. This will make it easy for people to read, it’ll make the page look nice, but it will also help with things like SEO, social sharing and comprehension. Your content strategy should be the same.

Including a variety of mediums in your content strategy will:

  • Keep your site (and your brand) fun and interesting.
  • Expand your reach by catching those who prefer alternative media.
  • Improve your authority and value by further exploring a topic.
  • Make your content easier to consume and share.
  • Better show the value and benefits of your products/services.

Use Content to Show Your Passion and Personality

Part of what makes Derek Morgan attractive and such an important member of the group is his personality and passion for what he does. And it shows in everything he does. He knows when to have fun and when to get serious. Your content and content strategy needs to do that, too.

It’s important to get down to business and get your information out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s your only option. Even if your brand is highly professional and refined, you still need to be personable and show your personality. You might even want to have a little fun.

Take Nike, for example. They’re a huge company and very, very formal and professional. Their advertising also screams quality and professionalism, but they’re not afraid to have a little fun, either. And they’re passionate, too.

If you can’t get excited about your industry, products and services, your target audience won’t be able to, either. So, get excited, show the love you have for what you do and open the window to all the benefits, value and opportunities your industry can bring. You’ll find it will get a far better response and be much more effective.

Be Easy to Work With and Make Sure People Know What You’re About

Derek Morgan may have the occasional disagreement with other characters on the show, but he’s easy to work with and they always know where they stand with him. There’s no beating around the bush or playing games. Your content and content strategy should be the same.

Everything you do should have a single purpose. If you add something to a page (or to your strategy) that doesn’t meet that specific purpose or goal, it doesn’t belong. This strengthens your marketing, adds clarity and strengthens your message. Visitors will be more likely to get your message and you’ll be more likely to meet your goals.

Navigation through your content and your content strategy are also important. Everything you create should be easy to find. People should be able to find what they need without digging, and most importantly, they should find it in the right order.

In other words: You need clear content funnels that move visitors from the landing page to the “goal” or “money page”. That being said, your content strategy can’t just be a stream of advertisements and product pitches.

Your content should be well rounded. It should be a well rounded strategy filled with relatable, confident and valuable content that informs or entertains. And it should all have an emphasis on serving your community (your target audience).

Derek Morgan adds good looks, passion, a fun personality and an unwavering dedication to his community. Your content and content strategy should do the same.

*The Content Criminal Minds series:

Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU

Content Criminal Minds: 11 essentials goals of a solid content strategy

Content Criminal Minds: Fast & easy ways to streamline your content strategy

About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

A seven-year veteran in the war against boring, crap content, copywriter Angie Nikoleychuk loves writing, but she loves content strategy even more. She’s always up for a challenge and enjoys showing others how much fun (and effective) content can be. Find her on Twitter.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Learn the latest in content marketing and SEO copywriting best practices – check out my SEO copywriting training options and find the best program for your needs!