Posts

Link Bait Creation — Are You Really Getting a Return on Your Investment?

Guest Author, Angie Nikoleychuk

What’s on your list of successful link baiting techniques? Contests? Infographics? Widgets?

If so, you’re not alone. You’ve probably used a few of them yourself. And they may have done their job and generated a ton of traffic. But do these types of content really give you the results you’re looking for?

Failure Disguised as Success

A friend of mine once gathered a bunch of icons and published them together in series of posts. (Each post featured icons, representing a particular social network or action.) After a bit of promotion, each post generated a ton of traffic.

Sure, he got a few bookmarks, saves, and shares, but that’s about it. When people arrived on the site through these connections, they came purely for the icons and nothing else. Most of them probably didn’t even know what my friend did for a living, or what he had to offer.

The traffic he got through people linking to his posts wasn’t much use either. In fact, the only thing he really got out of it was using more of his bandwidth.

He’s not alone. Most infographics and other link bait pieces created today give similar results. Why? People keep repeating the same process, without looking at how to get the best results from their content.

Measuring With the Wrong Metrics

Site owners often see the traffic and attention they get from their link bait and automatically assume they’ve been a success. But what good is traffic if it doesn’t bring anything else?

”But it brought visibility,” you say. Yes, it probably did. But was it with the right crowd? And was it worth the $1000 or however much you spent on it?

Before you answer “Yes”, think back to the last list post, contest, or infographic you visited. Do you remember the site it was on, and what it was actually selling?

So what does matter?

  • Links — But not just the same old crappy links. You want the good ones, from authority sites and sites that are already attracting your target audience.
  • Interaction/Engagement — Are people commenting? Sharing? Interacting with you?
  • Branding/Authority — Did your link bait reflect your brand and help build some sort of authority (or at least made you look good)?
  • Conversions – Did you generate sales, inquiries, or even clicks to your main ‘money’ pages?

Getting in With the Wrong Crowd

Who do you write for? Clients? Or others in your industry? Copywriters and content marketers have been debating this for years, and the debate won’t be ending any time soon.

I have a slightly different view on the matter than most. Who I write for depends solely on my goal for the piece.

Let’s say I’m trying to generate links. I know my clients generally don’t link back to copywriters and copywriting companies, so they likely won’t link back to me. But, others in my industry (and in related industries) do link back. As an added bonus, these people also attract a wealth of companies and individuals who may need copywriting at some point.

These are the people I’ll write for, if I need links. On the other hand, if I’m after sales, recommendations or buzz, I’ll write to clients and potential clients.

The side effect is you get people from both your target audience and a number of different companies and industries all coming to your site. The result? A rich mix of people who together create a well-rounded community of knowledge and insight.

Lack of Research

Forget your competition; assumptions are your worst enemy. Thinking your audience will like a piece of content simply because you did is setting yourself up for failure. It doesn’t mean it won’t get any attention, or won’t be a smash hit, but it significantly lowers your chances.

Besides, if you’re investing a ton of time and/or money into your link bait, shouldn’t you at least do a little homework first? You know… make sure it’s something your target readers want to see?

Lack of Effort (Failure to Think Things Through)

Ever heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? Or how about, “Anything worth having is worth working for”? I truly believe link bait is the same.

Contests, awards, and other quick ideas at link bait often fail because the people who’d normally link back aren’t interested — there’s nothing there for them.

Think about it:

  • Contests — As soon as someone has won whatever’s on offer, everyone forgets about it. And unless you’re willing to give away some serious prizes, people aren’t likely to write about it either.
  • Awards — Who cares about some image they “won” from a site most of their clients haven’t heard about? Unless you’re a huge industry leader, leave this one alone.
  • Infographics — Sure they’re cute to look at for a minute or two, but they’ve been overdone. Present some fresh information that will grab attention from the right sources, or combine your infographic with an in-depth write up, or forget it.
  • Widgets or Tools — No one will regularly use (or write about) a gadget that’s been done before. Even if it’s really funny, it’s not something that will lead to lots of conversions or helpful links. You need to either fill an actual gap in the market (not just make another version of the same old thing), or…

Never mind. You have to fill an actual gap in the market and make something people would actually use.

The only way to get the right attention is to create something that actually solves a problem or issue. Or, you could try mimicking bad link bait — doing something so completely different and unique people can’t help but comment and interact (but in a good way).

When it comes to creating successful link bait, there are no shortcuts — you have to do your homework if you want to succeed. Not even lying to yourself and covering up your failure with traffic numbers can save you.

Start researching your audience. Find out who’ll give you what you want, and what they’re looking for. Then, create and market your content so it gets their attention — and the kinds of conversions you’re looking for.

A Canadian currently located in the UK, Angie Nikoleychuk is the owner, senior copywriter, and strategist at Angie’s Copywriting. Contact her on Twitter.

Top 5 SEO Copywriting Video How-To’s

photo credit: woodley wonderworks

Greetings! Today we’re featuring Heather’s all-time, top five SEO copywriting video posts, from how to write for Google’s Panda update and expanded site links, to “ideal” home page word count, SEO web copy over-optimization, and that undying keyword density question.

Tune in and enjoy the best of Heather’s best!

1. How many words should be on your home page?  A closer look

Here, Heather addresses the specifics of optimal homepage word count, discussing why you should move beyond counting words to how you can achieve reader engagement, conversions and page rank with a killer home page.

2. How to write for Google’s Panda update

Wrestling with the Panda? If the challenge of working with Google’s Panda update is weighing heavily on your SEO copywriting mind, you’re not alone. In this video, Heather shares smart tips on writing online copy in the year of the Panda.

3. How to write for Google’s expanded site links

You may have noticed that Google has made yet another change to its SERP (search engine results page). This change presents a fantastic opportunity: besides displaying expanded site links, Google is also displaying a little snippet from each of those links from the page’s meta description. In this video, Heather explains this newest SEO opportunity and how to take full advantage of it.

4. 3 signs that your SEO copy is over-optimized

Yes, there is such a thing, and it happens when you’ve geared the copy so heavily towards the search engines that you’ve forgotten about the user experience. Join Heather as she discusses the three telltale signs that your web content is over-optimized, and the three ways to fix the problem.

5. SEO keyword density: lose this relic and adopt best practices

Having been around the block a time or two for nearly 14 years, Heather has encountered the question of keyword density time and time again.  Her short answer: there is no such thing anymore!  Here she expounds on why this is so, giving her insight into the history behind the whole stubborn keyword density concept, and how to move beyond this antiquated mindset to relevant SEO copywriting best practices for keyword and keyphrase use.

Target Your Web Copy with an Ideal Customer Profile

Guest Author, Courtney Ramirez

There’s something at the center of every great web copy page. It’s not keyword selection or the call to action, although those are both important factors. It’s the customer. Understanding the customer is at the heart of good copywriting – but to make truly great SEO copywriting you need to go one step further and create an ideal client profile.

In an Ideal World, Who Are You Doing Business With?

When you create an ideal customer profile, you’re basically answering this question. Who do you want to do business with? The biggest mistake I see clients make is that they assume that everyone needs their product or service. This happens with everyone from solopreneurs to large corporations. No matter what your size, you need to narrow your scope and find an ideal client. Your ideal client is uniquely suited to what you have to offer.

Does this mean that you’ll turn away consulting clients who don’t fit your exact ideal or set up your shopping cart so only certain people can make a purchase? Of course not. When you focus on marketing to your ideal client you’ll naturally get business from people who are “nearly ideal.” Not everyone you attract will be carbon copies of one another.

Creating web copy pages with an ideal client profile in mind will make the process a lot easier, and a lot more effective. It will help you reach out to those ideal and nearly ideal clients in a more precise way.

With an Ideal Client Profile, You’ll Benefit From:

  • Easier keyword selection – You can tap into the exact words that your clients would use to describe your product or service. By getting into their head, you can find keyword phrases that represent their research phase, their decision making phase and their buying phase.
  • More targeted copy – Writing to an audience that includes everyone and your grandma can really muck up your copy. By focusing on just one person, you’ll know exactly what type of language to use.
  • Clearer calls to action– The more you know about your ideal client and what motivates them, the better your conversion rates will be.

Now that you know about the gloriousness that can come from an ideal client profile, it’s time to piece one together.

Building Your Ideal Client Profile – A Few Rules

  • Your ideal client is not your target market. Your ideal client is part of your target market but they are different. Think of it this way – your target market is your vineyard and your ideal client is that one perfect bunch of grapes that is perfectly ripe. Your vineyard includes lots of perfectly fine bunches, but you want to pick the perfect one.
  • The more specific, the better. Don’t be afraid to get really specific with your ideal client profile. Many businesses resist this type of narrowcasting because they believe that it will put a cap on their profits. Not so! If you know your audience well, you’ll be converting your ideal clients and nearly ideal clients at a better rate than casting a wide net and trying to market to everyone.

Building Your Ideal Client Profile – 3 Steps

Step One – Demographics

The demographic characteristics of your ideal client will detail their age, income, location and other quantifiable factors.

For example, an inner wealth coach focuses on working with high income women in Los Angeles, between the ages of 35 and 65, who have more than $2 million in net worth. This demographic information is an important starting point because already we can tell that the copy will be geared toward a female reader and keywords should include location.

Step Two – Psychographics

Demographics were the tried and true way to research a target market but due in part to the Internet, they are not enough to zero in on an ideal client. Online demographic groups can mingle to create new groups based on motivations, interests and feelings. Psychographic information helps you zero in on the intangible similarities between the members of your target market. With it, you can get a clearer picture of your ideal client.

The same inner wealth coach has psychographic quantifiers for her ideal client. She mainly works with women from that demographic group who feel trapped in wealth and aren’t sure how to cope with the feelings of being extremely privileged. They are looking for something more than just a weekly shopping spree on Rodeo Drive. They want to find their purpose and use their wealth to create good in the world. These psychographic elements will affect how the copy will position this particular coach’s services and will create the tone for the web content pages.

Step Three – Fleshing Out the Persona

Finally, it’s time to put your creative writing cap on and flesh out your ideal client profile into a persona. Look over the demographic and psychographic characteristics and create a person to fit those details. Give the person a name. Tell their back story. Get really specific and you’ll be able to understand how to reach your audience better.

For example, Stacia is a 42-year-old woman who lives in Beverly Hills. She has been married for 18 years and has a 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son. She is married to Greg, who is the CEO of a major entertainment company. She believes that she can do more with her money. She worries about raising her children in affluence and making sure they come out with good values intact. She likes bargain shopping but doesn’t know if it’s “okay” for her to shop at Costco. She has several causes that she is interested in supporting but doesn’t know how to start supporting them in a real and lasting way beyond making financial donations.

Find a picture on Flickr to match your ideal client profile so you know who you’re writing for. Get as detailed as possible with your ideal client, especially with large websites where you’ll need a lot of copy. By taking the time to create a profile you’ll find your SEO copywriting will be much more effective and easier to write.

About Courtney Ramirez:

Courtney Ramirez is a certified SEO copywriter and content marketing consultant. As a student of search engine marketing, web usability and social media, she’s been able to craft a writing style that is both inviting to readers and ranking factors.

Courtney prides herself on excellent customer service and is semi-addicted to the Sims 3. When she’s not typing away at the keyboard, she is spending time with her husband, an author, and two daughters.

How to Write for Google’s Expanded Site Links

Greetings to you! Today, Heather addresses how to write for Google’s expanded site links. Yes, you may have noticed that Google has made yet another change to its SERP (search engine results page). This change presents a fantastic opportunity: besides displaying expanded site links, Google is also displaying a little snippet from each of those links from the page’s meta description.

So now, rather than having just one or two links and corresponding meta description snippets to leverage, you’ve up to six via Google’s expanded search results. Tune is as Heather explains more about this newest SEO opportunity and how to take full advantage of it:

1. More SERP real estate – more opportunities

With the expansion of site links in Google’s search engine results comes that much more SERP real estate for site owners to fill out with meta descriptions (think marketing statements) for those links.

As shown by the Brookstone SERP example, there is little bit of information about each site link (“snippet”) included beneath the main site link. These snippets are pulled from the corresponding pages’ meta descriptions.

  • Now, the meta description is even more important

2. Why? A comparison to illustrate: Starbuck’s vs. Seattle’s Best Coffee

Looking at the SERP for Starbuck’s, you can see that it has its sitelink optimization down, providing unique descriptions across their pages from its career center to its compelling product description.

On the other hand, looking at Seattle’s Best Coffee, you see that they have the same meta description across multiple pages: coffee, coffee locator, zip code, map it.

  • So you can see how Google’s new way of displaying its search results provides a great opportunity for writing multiple, powerful marketing statements.

Granted you don’t have  a lot of characters to work with – around 35’ish with spaces – but you can see what you can do to make those characters count, making your statement the best it can be for the user.

3. So what does this mean for you?

  • Check your sitelinks – what do you see?
  • Know that every page must have a unique meta description. If your pages don’t have a meta description, this is great opportunity.
  • Google is displaying about 35’ish characters of the opening meta description text, so you need to write well and write tight.
  • Adding keyphrases and calls to action is a great idea.

A great resource (which inspired this post) is by Adam Sherk: http://www.adamsherk.com/seo/google-expanded-sitelinks-optimization/.

 

On SEO, B.S., Panda & Best Practices: Interview with Terry Van Horne

To refer to Terry Van Horne as an SEO expert is nearly redundant. An accomplished practitioner, sage and advocate of SEO best practices, Terry — well known in the SEO world as “Webmaster T”– is a partner in the SEO Training Dojo, the founder of SEOPros.org, and the director of the not-for-profit organization of Search Engine Optimization Professionals.

It’s a pleasure and honor to share this in-depth interview with Terry. — Heather

You’re a recognized SEO expert since back in the day, widely known at “Webmaster T.” So tell us: how did you get your start in SEO?

Pretty much how anybody does these days. I had a website and was looking for ways to promote it, only back then search engine optimization was just part of what you did to promote a website.

There were a lot of very bad search engines so most users were using directories like Yahoo!, which at that time had an even more dominant position than Google has now.

My passion for SEO started when one day I was trying to find Pegasus email software and noticed many engines were very challenged in finding the site. So I decided to see if I couldn’t figure out why.

What inspired your founding of SEOPros.org?

Founding SeoPros was a no-brainer. There were a lot of bad things being said about the industry and I felt there needed to be something done to start changing the image, or at the very least providing the other side of the story.

I was also a Telemarketer and definitely saw the potential for the industry to become regulated by government (think “do not call” list) in the same manner and for the same reasons, i.e., a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. I also hoped it would help the industry become a trade rather than just another Internet marketing business.

How would you describe the “mission” or philosophy of SEOPros.org?  How would you describe your role as Head of the Executive Committee on Standards?

Standards are tough because there is a stigma attached to them. IMO, most of that is more about people not being confident in what they do (i.e., afraid they wouldn’t pass the standards).

Mostly, I think many jump to conclusions about what standards can be applied to them. Anything using internet protocols, or are errors in Google Webmaster Tools, can be tested and standards applied because these do not change… or rather, very rarely change.

The second part of our “mission” is to provide free guidance and information to people looking to hire SEO’s. Quite frankly, it is absurd to think someone should have to learn about SEO to hire one.  Do I have to learn about the laws concerning my case before I choose a lawyer? Do you have to research your symptoms before choosing a doctor?

Considering I have over 16 years’ experience and am still learning something new every day, am I any less a professional than a doctor or lawyer?  No. But the industry holds itself back by clinging to “fight club” attitudes from the 90’s that are no longer valid or good for the industry.

SeoPros provides both an RFP generator and assistance in hiring an SEO. It is always good to have a third party opinion with no potential influences from a biased party.

There’s a plethora of SEO companies out there, all claiming to be the “best” or “absolute ‘expert’” provider of SEO services. How would you recommend weeding out the B.S. when searching for an SEO provider?

Always check out the linking techniques. That usually tells you a lot about the expertise and knowledge within an agency or of a consultant. Are they are providing all 3 types of links?

1. Foundational (directories, bookmarks and article marketing)

2. Promotional (begging for links from top sites, press releases)

3. Placed Content (guest posts, widgets, etc.)

Each website and business is unique! The best SEO’s and link builders will use a diverse strategy, using all three types of these techniques with variations according to the target audience.

Tell us a bit about the SEO Training Dojo.

The SEO Training Dojo was founded by David Harry, and I came on as Dave’s partner about 6 months in.  The Dojo is a unique community in that there is little if no hierarchy. Some may look from the outside and see Dave as the pinnacle, but that is an incorrect assumption in that all are on equal footing — which means the flow of information comes from many people, not just a few at the top of the hierarchy.

The networking aspects of the community have been its biggest asset, with members often preferring to work with others from the Dojo because there are a lot of synergies in what they do together. That has been a bit of a surprise for Dave and I, but it is something we are both very proud to be a part of and try to foster.

As “Webmaster T” with SEO Training Dojo, what do you enjoy most about this gig?

The people! They are outstanding individuals — not just as SEO’s, but as people. Getting a chance to interact with a lot of new and intermediate SEO’s in the Dojo has made me wonder how I worked on my own for so many years.

Google’s Panda update is still causing a fair amount of controversy. What is your take on the sites that got slapped by the Panda? And moving forward, what does Panda mean to SEO?

From the old SNL days, “Panda has been very, very good to me.” None of my or David’s clients have been hit, but we have had our newer SEO consulting biz take off like a shot from sites hit with Panda and something similar in Ecommerce that looks to have rolled out in January.

Sites that got hit by Panda in many cases deserved it! They followed bad advice like “build sites for search engines not users” (and the person who advocated that said almost the exact opposite after Panda). Following bad advice because someone is supposedly an “expert” is just silly.  Never, ever, ever believe anything you read on an SEO blog is the gospel according to Sergey.

Most of those who got hit did no future-proofing of their SEO. In other words, if they didn’t question the long-term value and see that directory submission, article marketing and comment spam were not long term solutions, then they were not thinking ahead and they will always be hit by new filters and dampening of link values.

Doing things because they work today is often a poor strategy in the long run… but keep it up folks, because those of us who do future-proof reap the benefits when you stumble. :-)

Mainly, if Panda means something to your SEO … you were doing it wrong and you’d best take a loooooonnnnnnnng look at everything you are doing! Panda is basically a return to the basics of REAL SEO. You know, before SEO’s became link whores and understood their job was to unlock visibility on sites that work!

Make your site search engine friendly with an optimized architecture and easy-to-understand navigation, and you’ll have happy users and enthusiastic crawlers. Keep thinking you can optimize through links and your SEO business will be struggling in a few years. There is definitely a trend away from link text/authority to more on-site relevance and personalization of authors and internet users.  Google now has the ability, using the Social Graph, to track reviewers, authors and other entities. Link authority will have some value…it will just be drastically reduced.

In your opinion, what are some of the “low-hanging fruit” SEO techniques that most businesses don’t leverage (or leverage well)?

A website that works! A website that is built to sell to people, not search engines — because, well, I’ve yet to have a crawler buy anything from a site. :-)

Fully optimized, on-page factors is a must. Building links into a poorly-optimized site is pouring link equity down the drain, and often means that link equity isn’t passed correctly down the link hierarchy.

Do you have any words of advice for copywriters who may be considering specializing in SEO?

Yes: don’t get too enamored with SEO! Learn as much as you can about keyword research! There is a lot more to it than just getting query data from a tool!

Keyword research and development of personas are keys to SEO Copywriting success in an age where Google is really developing its ability to know who you are and your status in your community.

Mostly, be careful not to change your writing style! The best SEO copywriting doesn’t look SEO’ed at all!

On-Site SEO: Optimizing for User Intent

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

User-intent plays a huge role in SEO. Understanding why someone uses a particular keyword or keyword phrase to search helps you better optimize your site to meet their needs. There are three kinds of searches that site owners have to be aware of (informational, navigational, and transactional) when it comes time to optimize their site. Each search type reflects the goal and motives of the end user. Is your site optimized for all three to help it reach all of your target audience?

Informational Keywords

Millions of people turn to the search engines every day to conduct informational searches. Informational searches are exactly what they sound like; a user is looking for information. This could be anything—how to change a tire, the phone number of a local beauty salon, comparing reviews on mountain bikes and so forth. Informational searches don’t necessarily have to deal buying (looking up the local weather, for instance) but from a business perspective these types of searches are often associated with the beginning of a consumer’s buying process. Informational searches are used to find out more information so the consumer can eventually made a well-informed purchasing decision.

So how do you optimize your site for informational searches? One way to do so is to create content that mimics a FAQ. Let’s say you own a shoe e-commerce site. If someone searches “best running shoes for flat feet,” why not write a page of content called “Shoe Fit Chart” and offer suggestions for the kind of running shoes someone should be buying based on the type of foot structure they have.

Having your site rank well for a user who is conducting informational searches is both good and bad. It’s good because if you are able to give them the information they need right away, you might be able to convince them to stay on your site and convert. Sometimes consumers are looking to make a quick run through their buying cycle (choosing where to go for lunch, for instance). However, if someone is “shopping around,” chances are they are going to leave your site to see what others have to offer. There is no guarantee they will come back.

Navigational Keywords

Navigational searches are when someone searches for your brand or company by name (“Nike running shoes”). If someone searches for your site by name, this is a good sign that you’ve developed a strong brand presence, both online and off. Users that search by brand name might be brand loyalists and repeat customers, but they could also be potential customers who heard about/saw your brand elsewhere and searched for it by name. Branded searches aren’t restricted to company name. Someone might search by product name, model number and so forth.

So how do you optimize your site for navigational search? If you’re site sells high-tech equipment that comes with user manuals, make sure those manuals are properly optimized with company name, product name, model number and any other identifying information a user might search for. For instance, don’t just call it “Company X User Manual,” rename the content to “Company X Product Y Model 123 Owner’s Manual, Updated for 2011.” That way, searches will know that content is exactly what they need.

Optimizing your site for navigational search can also help maintain brand integrity. There might be another company online that has a similar or same name to yours. Incorporating branded keywords helps the right searcher find your site.

Transactional Keywords

A user will conduct a transactional search when they have reached the end of their buying cycle and are ready to make a purchasing decision. Oftentimes their search will include buzzwords like “buy,” “purchase,” “shop” and “order.” Transactional searches also tend to focus on the long tail keyword as opposed to more broad keywords (“buy ASICS women running shoes” vs. “women shoes”). This is because a user knows what they want and are looking for it specifically.

So how do you optimize your site for transactional searches? Simply include call-to-actions throughout your page content and site components like Meta tags and descriptions. Let’s say your website sells computer software, try to incorporate phrases like “Download the latest version of our X software today” and other variations. Transactional searches typically have a lower search volume than informational searches, but they also lead to a higher conversion rate.

You need to optimize your site based on your business goals and the kind of visitor you hope to attract. It’s not easy to optimize one single piece of content for all three types of searches, but it isn’t that complicated to do once you spread your efforts across an entire site. For instance, individual product or service pages are great place to incorporate keywords that target navigational or transactional searches. Company blog posts are perfect for incorporating informational search keywords. Just remember that you want to target 2-5 keywords per page, based on the content of that individual page.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO expert and President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO company. With over 12 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips in his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 140,000 opt-in subscribers.

How to Write for Google’s Panda Update

Wrestling with the Panda?

If the challenge of working with Google’s Panda update is weighing heavily on your SEO copywriting mind, you’re not alone. Today’s video post addresses the ever more frequent reader question: How do I write online copy for Google’s Panda update?”

The Panda update has received a lot of attention in industry news and online forums for some time now, as many site owners have found pages that had positioned relatively well before the update have dropped – often dramatically – post-Panda.  And they’re scrambling to figure out what to do about it.

So for today’s video how-to, Heather has put together some tips for working with Google’s Panda update:

1.  Don’t Try to Trick the Panda

There are all kinds of articles and posts online about “special techniques” to get around the Panda update, or to somehow “fool” Google whereby it considers your site to have far more quality content than it actually does.

  • Don’t Do It!

The gist of Google’s Panda update is that Google wants to reward those sites that have good content with higher rankings in its search engine results. The Big G does not want icky, anemic content that fails to educate readers or otherwise convey value.

  • Instead, Take the Opportunity to Revisit Thin Web Pages & Rewrite Content

Rather than trying to “trick” the Panda or find a way around Google’s algorithm, focus instead on doing what everyone was supposed to be doing in the first place:  follow best practices and create truly valuable content that resonates with your readers and offers them a worthwhile user experience.

2.  Focus on Quality – Not Quantity

One of the issues pre-Panda was that site owners were trying to crank out as much copy as they possibly could.  So rather than focusing on the quality of content, many site owners were of the mindset:  “We need to create 20 articles around one keyword…the articles don’t need to be good, we just need them written fast and uploaded even faster.”

  • So if you feel like you’ve been writing at a break-neck pace and your content reflects that (i.e., it hasn’t been all that good), then this gives you the opportunity to step back and evaluate your writing to figure out how you can make it better.

Rather than concerning yourself with kicking out X number of articles per day/week/month, focus on content quality.  By quality, consider these parameters:

  • Content that likely will be shared
  • Content that is genuinely useful and informative

If you create content around what your readers want rather than what you think Google wants, then that will improve your copy immediately.

3.  Feed the Panda Healthy – Not Junk – Content

What Panda did was to weed out sites that churned out what Google considers “thin content.”  We’ve all seen these pages, where they positioned well in search results but when you clicked through to the site, you were greeted with horrible writing and a bunch of ads – and you could readily tell that the content was written strictly for search engines.

  • As with quality content vs. quantity “pulp,” you want to focus on what would make a good reader experience: substantive content that would be “passed” by Panda and considered good “Google juice,” rather than poor copy that the Panda will munch away and kick out of the index.
  • So again, this presents a great opportunity to winnow out any junk content that you might have on your site, and start rewriting these pages gradually so that they’re centered on your readers, targeted towards your reader persona, and offer what your readers want.

Creating high-quality, “nutritious” content that your readers will love will also do well in feeding the Google Panda what it loves. It’s a win-win solution for everyone — including that bear.

 

Beware the SEO Copywriting B.S. – 3 Tips about Those Online Tips

Greetings!  Today’s web writing video post answers a question from the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group:  “How can I tell if an SEO copywriting tip is legit?”

An excellent question, as the online world is thick with misinformed SEO “advice.”  Join Heather as she discusses how to judge if that “expert SEO tip” is legit or flat-out b.s.

Beware the B.S.:  In this particular instance, the writer was told most adamantly that according to some online source, bullet points would hurt search engine rankings, to which Heather replies:

  • No, bullet points
  • Will not hurt
  • Your search engine rankings
  • I promise. :)

This kind of “expert” stuff is everywhere online, and much of it is simply not true.  Bullet points will not hurt search engine rankings. And p.s., there is no magic keyphrase formula, keyword density or ideal word count for search engines. Heather has addressed these and other prevailing misconceptions about SEO before, including her posts on SEO copywriting myths and SEO Keyword Density.  (The corresponding video on SEO Copywriting Myths is on the SEO Copywriting YouTube Channel).

So how do you distinguish the sound information from the b.s.?  Here are three tips for evaluating those online tips…

Tip #1:  Who said it and where?  Consider the source.

  • When you come across that SEO tip or news that makes you say “hmmmmm…” stop and consider the source.

For instance, if the person who broke the news or made the claim is from a credible site such as Search Engine Land and is a recognized authority, then yes, the information is definitely worth considering and investigating further.

On the other hand, if the source is “Bob’s Copywriting Blog,” and you know nothing about this Bob person, or if you’re finding that Bob hasn’t been in the industry that long and you haven’t heard anything about him, then the credibility of Bob’s information is questionable.

Tip #2:  Do other experts back up the claim? 

  • Regardless of who makes the claim, do a bit of research: are other experts backing it up?
  • Are you going to other authority sites and finding the same information repeated over and over?

If you’re finding that yes, this is a claim or technique that is working and has a record of success, then you may want to pay attention to that information.

One of the typical issues with an SEO tip is that while the person sharing it may have found success with the technique on their own site, it doesn’t necessarily transfer well to sites across the board.  You’ll want to make sure others have realized success with the technique on their sites.

Tip #3:  If in doubt, ask a consultant before implementing the strategy.

  • This is especially important if you’re looking at a technique or strategy that might dramatically change your page or site structure.
  • The last thing you want to do is implement a strategy you found online, and then find that it’s not the best thing to do for your site.

A recent post-Panda technique that got a lot of press and received much online attention was HubPages’ use of sub-domains.  For HubPages, breaking out key pages into sub-domains proved a successful way — for them — to work around Google Panda.

Understandably, your first instinct might be “oh wow – I have to do that too!”  But again, this is an example of one of those techniques that you find online that might have worked well for one company, but is not necessarily going to work for your site.  Or, equally important, the hot new strategy may take so much time and effort to implement that it doesn’t make sense for your business model.

A consultant can help you evaluate whether or not a new strategy or technique is advisable for you and your unique set of circumstances.

 

What to Do When Spammy SEO Outranks Your Quality Content

Greetings! This week’s SEO copywriting tip is in response to an email S.O.S.:  “Help! My competitor’s spammy Web copy outranks my site. What should I do?”

Even in the wake of Panda, spammy copy remains a problem: Google’s Panda algorithm didn’t catch all spam and probably never will – it’s an ongoing process.  There are still sites and landing pages out there with thin copy that are ranking well, and yes, better than your high-quality content.

This seems to be especially true of local site copy:  you’ll see very similar, keyword-crammed content for geo-targeted cities, whether it be New York, Boston, or Portland:  such as “[City] Web Design Services” with “web design services” repeated over and over in the content.  Worse yet, the thin, keyphrase-stuffed content doesn’t give the reader a good experience or offer the reader WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) benefits.

Feeling the pain, Heather answers this question with first, why this shouldn’t distress you overmuch, and second, how to better focus your energy with three strategies to combat the spammy competition:

While it  can be really, really irritating when a competitor outranks your quality SEO content with spammy Web copy, here’s why you shouldn’t waste your time stressing about it:

  • The key to success? Don’t freak out. Remember, just because your spammy competitor is out-ranking you doesn’t mean they’re making any money.

Page rank success does not equal conversions success. While it may be tempting to immediately try to figure out a new SEO content strategy to beat out your competitor, stop! Consider instead just backing off with the knowledge that ranking doesn’t mean income.  And know that when people are clicking into your competitor’s spammy copy, that copy is reflecting the competing company and their brand in the worst way.

So comfort yourself in the knowledge that when a reader is trying to make a buy decision, spammy copy may well drive them off that landing page in favor of a more credible, quality site (like yours) that is geared towards what matters to them: substantive content with specific benefits.

  • Don’t copy your spammy competition because you think “It’s what Google wants”…Google doesn’t want spam. Google wants good, quality content.

A second temptation is to throw up your hands and cop the attitude that you might as well join your competition in their junk copy ways because Google seems to be favoring spam with Page Rank.

You don’t want to go this route. Eventually, spammy sites will be penalized, Panda or no.  The short-term success of crummy content belies the fact that it’s doomed for long-term failure, whether by Google or by dissatisfied readers and poor conversions.  Stick with Google best practices.

3 Ways to Focus Your Energy: Analytics, Content, Social Media Leveraging Opportunities

1. Check your data:  Will an improved position help drive more traffic? Or is it an “ego thing”?

Drill down in your analytics and determine objectively if the particular keyphrase you’re getting outranked for is truly important to your business model:  Is it going to make your company more money if you position better for that keyphrase?  Often the answer is “not really, no.”  It may be that the boss just wants to see a better ranking for that keyphrase.

Here, you need to ask yourself if an improved ranking for the competitive keyphrase will actually drive more traffic, or if  it’s more of a vanity/ego thing.

2.  Take a good, hard look at your own content:  Is there anything you can do with your own content to improve your ranking? Are you sure?

“Are you sure” is emphasized because if you’ve been working on a website for awhile – be it your own or in-house – it’s very easy to have “blind spots” about your own marketing and optimization copy.  There may be a lot of opportunities for leveraging or otherwise improving your site content, but if you’re too close to it you may well not see them.

So if you’re finding yourself “stuck” for ideas and feel that you’ve already done everything you can do, this may be the time to look outside of your company and bring in an independent consultant.  A consultant can evaluate your site with fresh eyes and offer you a different perspective.

About 95-percent of the time, that consultant can help you find new content and marketing opportunities, both in the way of long-term strategies and more immediate, “low-hanging fruit” strategies.  It pays to spend the money for fresh ideas.

3.  Are you leveraging everything you can around social media (e.g,.Twitter, local Google Places page, Facebook, guest blogging)?

Granted, not all social media venues may work for you, but it is well worthwhile to have a discussion internally, or with your outside consultant, on how to leverage social buzz around your site.

While it’s great to have search engine rankings, it’s also great to have your brand represented across a number of social networking sites, and have that many more channels open for prospects to find your site.

 

The Trouble with “SEO Copywriting”

Guest Author, Eric Enge

The trouble with the term “SEO Copywriting” is that so many people misinterpret what it means.  A large number of people associate the term SEO with a mindset that involves manipulation and trickery, and they bring this faulty mindset to copywriting as well.  Worse still is that many believe that this manipulative behavior is a victimless crime – after all we are only tricking big corporate America (Google and Microsoft) into giving us search traffic they would not otherwise intend to give us.

But there are in fact real victims.  People who come to search engines and click on links to sites that have managed to rank well in spite of poorly written copy are victims. And, in the long run, the publishers who fall into this trap are victims as well.  Even if their bad content helps them rank in the short term there is no long-term future for their business. Visitors to their site see no value, and eventually the search engine algorithms catch up to them and take their traffic away.  When this happens they are left with nothing and have to start over again.

So what are the most common problems that come up when you have the wrong mindset? Here are the two biggest ones:

1. Content written mostly for search engines The search engine must never be the primary target of your article. This is a slippery path on a mine-filled hillside.  With search engine algorithm changes like Panda, the search engines are getting better at measuring content quality and user engagement.  I would argue that the strength of your brand is also a ranking factor today. Bad content hurts a brand while quality content helps build it.

In addition, no writer can serve two masters equally well.  The target audience for your writing must come first.  Write something outstanding that reflects well on your brand.  Something that helps convert visitors into customers.  Something that you can be proud of. This is the content that the search engines want to find and deliver traffic to.

2. Content over-filled with keywords Once writers learn that keywords are important for search engines there is the danger that they lose focus on the user.  Consider the following example:

“Looking for left handed golf clubs? You have come to the right place. Our left handed golf clubs help you take your game up a notch. Left handed golf clubs you will find on this site are made by Ping, Callaway, and TaylorMade. Who else would you want to buy left handed golf clubs from?”

Don’t you almost feel soiled reading it?  Clearly it is completely unnatural looking and it just does not seem well written.  As a user this type of writing is a complete turnoff. Can you imagine talking to someone at a party that kept repeating the main point they are trying to make in a conversation in every sentence like this?

There are two major problems with this sample text.  One is the excessive use of the main keyword.  The other is the complete lack of use of any synonyms.  While we don’t actually know what factors are used in Google’s Panda algorithm today, both keyword stuffing and a lack of synonyms could easily be signals that indicate poor quality content.

Consider instead using variants of the phrase, such as “left handed golf club.” “clubs” or “club.” In addition, focus instead on pitching your value proposition, such as we see in this sample text:

“We offer left handed golf clubs from Ping, Callaway, and TaylorMade. Our clubs are backed by the strongest support team in the industry. If you have any concerns with the club you purchase just return it and we will refund the full price, no questions asked.”

In this version the copy focuses more on the key selling point of superior service, not on keyword stuffing.  You also see other variants of the key phrase being used in a way that closely approximates the way that people normally communicate.  Much better!

Summary

SEO Copywriting is dead. Long live SEO Copywriting! Master the art of producing content for users.  Content which is designed for readability, and that quickly gets to the key benefit the user might be looking for when they come to your site.  Move the reader towards your ultimate goal.

And finally, create copy that is SEO aware (because it is presented in search engine crawler visible text) and that uses terminology that keyword research tools tell you are used by prospects that are searching for products like yours. Not keyword stuffed, but selected to match up with the topics of interests of your prospective customers.

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20+ person Internet marketing consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. A self-described “crusty old veteran” with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet, Eric writes for Search Engine Land’s Industrial Strength Column, and is a contributing expert to the Search Engine Watch SEO Column.

Eric is the author of the SEOmoz Link-Building Pro Guide, and co-author of The Art of SEO, published by O’Reilly Media.