3 Ways SEO Can Ruin Content

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Do you think keyphrase usage destroys well-written content?

Well, you’re right. Up to a point.

Way back in 2011, Lee Odden wrote “Content Strategy and the Dirty Lie About SEO.” At the end of the post, he posed the question – the question that’s been debated ever since “writing for search engines” started:

Do you think SEO ruins content?

My first reaction was, “Of course not. Good SEO writing is good writing — period.”

I still feel the same way.

But…the haters have a point.

Six years later, there’s still a bunch of SEO writing B.S. floating around:

  • Focus on one keyphrase per page, and repeat it at least X times.
  • Focus on X keyword density (why won’t keyword density die?)
  • Include a keyword every X words.
  • Exact-match your keyphrase at least X times in your copy.

Maybe you believe some of this B.S., too (it’s OK. This is a judgement-free zone.)

This B.S. is why some SEO copy is horrible.  Is it any wonder why some folks think SEO ruins everything?

So, here’s the real deal:

Yes, SEO can completely decimate content — if you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s how:

When the content is written/optimized by someone who has no idea what they’re doing

Most keyphrase-stuffed content I read comes from folks operating on incorrect information.

They do what their clients tell them (for instance, focus on one keyphrase per page) without knowing it’s wrong. These writers don’t know there’s a better way, so they keep doing the same (incorrect) things. Over and over and over.

The result is stuffed, stilted-sounding content that has no conversion flow. The page doesn’t position. The page doesn’t convert. It’s sad.


Sadly, many writers think ALL SEO writing is poorly-written content. So, here’s a news flash:

Folks, if you ever think, “This post sounds bad. I had to work hard to add all those keyphrases,” you’re doing it wrong.

When the content is written “for Google,” without readers in mind

Raise your hand if you’ve been asked to write “1,000 words for Google.”

Yeah, me too.

SEO writing isn't "writing for Google"

Sadly, some folks believe that following a strict writing formula will help them magically position. These folks don’t care about the content’s readability. They only care about the keyphrase usage.

They may even come right out and say, “I don’t care if anyone reads this. I just want the page to position.”


This magical SEO copywriting formula may include things like:

  • Specific word counts because “all posts should be X words for Google.”
  • Exact matching a nonsensical long-tail keyphrase multiple times (for instance, [portland relocation real estate oregon].
  • Bolding or italicizing words that shouldn’t be bolded or italicized.
  • Repeating all keyphrases X times in the first paragraph.

If you find yourself following a weird writing formula that makes the content read like gibberish, know it’s not true SEO writing. What’s more, following a writing formula won’t help you position. The best bet is to learn the right way to do things and throw those useless old rules out the window.

Don’t believe me? Check out Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines and see how Google defines low-quality content.

When the Titles are filled with keyphrases, with no conversion focus

This is a pet peeve of mine.

Get rid of Title pipes

I’ve discussed before how overly-optimized Titles are an inefficient branding method. The search results page is your first conversion opportunity. A Title that’s chock-full of keyphrases isn’t as persuasive as one that’s benefit-rich:

Which listing would get YOUR click?

GEICO’s “you could save $500+” is a fantastic benefit statement, and blow’s Progressive’s keyword-focused Title out of the water. Esurance is a runner-up since they include the benefit “fast” — but the Title could still be better.

Need more “good” and “bad” Title examples? Here’s a great post from Search Engine Watch.

SEO doesn’t ruin content. It’s “stupid” SEO that messes things up

Smart SEO doesn’t ruin good content. It enhances it – making it easier to be found in search engines and shared via social media. If you’ve mastered the art of online writing for both engines and people, you have a very valuable skill set.

On the flip side, yes, stupid SEO will ruin content. And your conversions, too. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” – and repeating a keyword incessantly will not suddenly transform the page into “quality content.”

It reminds me of what some folks say about sales copy being too “sales-y.” There’s a way to include a call-to-action that gently leads someone to the next action step. And there’s a (wrong) way to do it that beats them over the head with hyped language, bold and italics (Hmm. now that I think about it, what IS it about bolded and italicized text?).

What do you think? Is SEO the death of good writing?

7 Hot Tips for Writing a Top-Converting Services Page [VIDEO]

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Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!

SEO Editing vs. Copywriting for SEO

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Should you create original SEO content? Or, should you optimize an existing page (in other words, add keyphrases without rewriting the copy?).

Freelance and in-house writers ask this question all the time. I receive emails saying, “My boss (or client) wants me to add keyphrases to this existing page. The problem is, the page isn’t very good. Will the keyphrases help? Or is better to rewrite it?”

That’s an excellent question that I address in the video  — or, you can read the modified transcript, below.

SEO copywriting and SEO editing — what’s the difference?

First, let’s go over the differences between SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing.

Keyphrase editing is also known as “on-page optimization,” “optimizing the text,” or “SEO copyediting.” The technique is to add keywords — either derived from the writer’s keyphrase research or received from an SEO — to existing text.

When a page is optimized (or edited,) the content is not rewritten. The writer may edit the page Title and meta description, but for the most part, she’s working with the existing content.

SEO copywriting usually refers to creating original content. The writer still conducts keyphrase research (or receives the keyphrases from an SEO.) However, rather than editing the existing content, she would write brand-new content and include the keyphrases (along with synonyms and related words.)

So you see, SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing are very different: one is working with existing text, and the other is throwing away the existing text and starting fresh.

Should you optimize your site? Or rewrite your pages?

So, when is a better strategy to edit existing pages rather than rewrite them?

It’s best to optimize a page (keyphase editing) when:

  • You (and your readers) already love the content
  • The page isn’t crucial to the sales process
  • The bounce rate isn’t too high

If you have content on your site you (and your readers) already love and it’s performing well, but it wasn’t written with keyphrases the first time around, the page may be a good candidate for keyphrase editing.

It’s also OK to edit the page when it isn’t crucial to the sales process. For example, I’ve worked with companies that have edited old blog posts and saw a great bump in search positions as a result. Editing FAQ pages and articles can offer the same benefit.

Finally, optimizing the page is OK when the time on page (or bounce rate) isn’t too high. You know that people are sticking around and reading the page once they’ve landed on it, so adding in some strategic keyphrases here and there is typically fine for that page.

An SEO content editor or an SEO copywriter usually handles the keyphrase editing. He may be someone you employ in-house, or a freelancer.

There are also certain times when it’s better to write original content, such as:

  • When the page is crucial to the sales process
  • When the page is a duplicate
  • When page conversions or time on page is low

If a page is crucial to the sales process, or is somehow intended to make money — like the home page, and subcategory pages such as products and services — it’s better to rewrite it.

You also want to rewrite the page if it’s a duplicate. This is common with  local landing pages, where two (or more) pages may be basically the same (outside of the city name.)

Also, when you know that the page isn’t working — you’re not getting conversions, the time on page is low, and people are bouncing out quickly —  rewrite it. Readers are telling you they don’t like the page by leaving as soon as they can.

Sure, you can edit the keyphrases into a poorly performing page and sure, hypothetically that page might position a little better, but it won’t help boost conversions.

Either a freelancer or an experienced in-house SEO copywriter can rewrite your pages. Also, an SEO content strategist could do the keyphrase research for you, as well as dovetail her research with the rest of your SEO plan.

Make sense? There’s clearly a difference between when you would write original content and when you can work with the existing content — and it’s smart to know those differences before you proceed.

(Editors note: I originally wrote this post in 2011. A lot has changed since then, so I updated the video and the transcript. I hope you enjoyed the post!)

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What Is SEO Copywriting and Why Is It Important?

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Wondering what SEO copywriting is  — and if it’s important for your site?

SEO copywriting is a specialized form of online writing that:

  1. Contains keyphrases — words your target reader types into a search box to find the information she wants.
  2. Helps online content rank higher in search results (such as Google.)
  3. Drives qualified traffic.

SEO copywriting is quality writing. Period. The keyphrases shouldn’t make the writing hard-to-read, sound repetitive, or lose its conversion focus.


Want to learn more about the definition of SEO copywriting? View the video below — or read the modified transcript.

How is SEO writing different from traditional copywriting?

The main difference is: SEO writing contains keyphrases. For instance [blue cashmere sweaters] is a keyphrase.

Typing keyphrases into Google is what we do every day, right? We type words into Google’s search box to get answers to our questions.

But the thing is, SEO copywriting is much more than just inserting keyphrases into content: Google also wants to see authoritative content that fully answers your readers’ questions and stands out from competing content.

Some people believe you can shove a bunch of keyphrases into the content and still get a high ranking (commonly known as “keyphrase stuffing.”)

Not anymore.

SEO copywriting serves two masters

Google has gotten smarter, and things have changed. Now your content needs to be high-quality content for Google to position it in the top spots.

So in actuality, your content satisfies two masters.

On the one hand, your readers need to love it. Your content needs to be relevant and a resource your readers enjoy — something that educates, entertains or enlightens them.

On the other hand, Google needs to see the content written in a certain way to understand what the page is about. Understanding how to make this happen helps your content “compete” with other pages for rankings.

This is where SEO copywriting best practices come into play.

What helps content rank in search results?

There are many factors that influence search engine rank (how a page positions in Google’s search results.)

If you look at the periodic table (which you can find on Search Engine Land), you’ll see that most of the elements on the left-hand side focus on the quality of the content.

The research, the words and the freshness of content are all important to your SEO success.

So if you’re concerned that…

  • Your pages aren’t showing in Google
  • Your pages aren’t converting
  • Your content is outdated and you never really liked it, anyway
  • Your content was never optimized, and now you think it is time to do so

The good news is that SEO copywriting could represent a huge opportunity for you!

After all, as Seth Godin said, “The best SEO is great content.”

If you can create content that grabs your readers attention, answers their questions and drives incoming links, you can finally start seeing some tasty search engine positions.

And that is a very cool thing.

Want to learn more about SEO writing? Sign up for my weekly newsletter!

Of Penguins, linkbait, and the user experience: #SEO best practices

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A mashup of Heather Lloyd-Martin's post about Google updates & SEO best practicesDid you hear that?

It’s the sound of Google finally dropping the other shoe.

Google distinguished engineer and head of web spam, Matt Cutts, announced yesterday that Google’s much-anticipated Penguin 2.0 has arrived. In his blog post, Cutts said “…the rollout is now complete…” and that “[a]bout 2.3% of English-US queries are affected…”

Cutts went on to say that the Penguin update has also finished rolling out for other languages worldwide.

For those SEOs, webmasters, and site owners that had taken heed and cleaned up their site content and backlink profiles beforehand, this “…next generation of the Penguin webspam algorithm…” shouldn’t cause any problems (although there is always a remote chance of collateral damage with any algo update).

More to the point, those who never engaged in any spammy linking or keyword-stuffing practices in the first place, and instead focused on providing a valuable user experience, shouldn’t be overly anxious about the Penguin 2.0 launch.

Would it surprise you to know that before Panda – much less Penguin – was even a twinkle in Google’s eye, Heather was talking about the need to create quality content focused on the persona-defined reader? And encouraging SEOs and site owners to move beyond linkbait?

Me neither.

So as a nod to Penguin 2.0’s arrival, and as a shout-out to Heather for her vision and passion, here’s a mashup of her written and video posts around Google’s Penguin updates and SEO copywriting best practices… Enjoy!


SEO content strategies for Penguin UpdateSEO content strategies for Google’s Penguin Update

From this video post published just over a year ago when the first Penguin update hit, Heather’s counsel retains its relevancy. It is every bit as applicable to this second Penguin rollout as it was to the first!

Her message? Do the right thing and don’t fear the Penguin.


Going beyond linkbaitGoing beyond linkbait – why you need good, original content

In this post written in the fall (October) of 2009, long before the arrival of those cute black-and-white animal updates, Heather urges SEO content writers and online businesses to write for their audience, not for SEO’s sake.

“…better search rankings, better conversions and a better connection with your customers. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?”


Dont fear the PenguinHow to stop worrying about Google updates…and learn to love writing really great SEO copy!

Here is a second video post Heather addressed to the Google-stressed, written after Matt Cutts warned that the next Penguin update would be “jarring” to SEOs and webmasters.

Published in August of 2012, here Heather encourages site owners to move past their Google-fear and learned helplessness, and their ensuing content generation paralysis.

“…instead of being all fearful about what Google is going to do next, think of what’s going on as an opportunity: Good content is still good for Google.”


Suffering from Content Mullet Syndrome?Does your site suffer from “content mullet” syndrome?

Remember those mullets from the 70’s and early 80’s? You know – “business up front, party in the back”?

Once upon a time they were considered hip, even attractive. But today…not so much.

The same goes for your site content. Tune in to this video post as Heather explains what a “content mullet” looks like, and what to do about it.


Keyword DensitySEO keyword density: lose this relic and adopt best practices

Know how to make Heather grind her teeth? Ask her about “keyword density”…

In this video post published exactly two years’ ago today, Heather explains why there is no such thing as keyword density anymore.

Unless you’re stuck in a time warp and writing content for Alta Vista rankings, it’s time to put this SEO bone down. Really.

“You can party like it’s 1999, but don’t write SEO copy that way!”


image thanks to cnystrom (Chris Nystrom)

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Penguin 2.0: Should you rewrite your evergreen site copy?

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The pending Penguin 2.0 update may require you to rewrite your evergreen site copyWelcome back! In this video of the SEO Copywriting Checklist series, Heather discusses the impending Google Penguin 2.0 update and what it means for site owners and evergreen web content.

Matt Cutts, a distinguished engineer from Google, recently released a video announcing the next wave of Google algorithm updates. He specifically discussed Penguin 2.0, saying it will roll out this summer.

So Google is giving site owners a big heads up!

Also, on last weeks’ SEO Copywriting Certification call with Bruce Clay, he discussed Penguin 2.0 and what it means for site content. So Heather thought she would address this update today because it is a big deal to a lot of site owners!

Tune in to learn what web copy on your site might need rewriting, before the imminent Google updates hit:

Are Some Of Your Pages So-So At Best?

– Does your site have any low-quality posts or articles?

– Does your sales copy walk a keyphrase-stuffing line?

When speaking to the SEO Copywriting Certification folks last week, Bruce Clay advised listeners to go through their websites and locate those pages that are of so-so quality, and make them as good as they can be.

A lot of companies have these so-so pages on their site. They might not be technically keyphrase-stuffed, but they’re not necessarily high-quality or well-researched either.

These mediocre pages might be articles that you kicked out all at once and under deadline, so maybe you or the writer in question were working a little bit more quickly than normal. Or you might have some lower-quality blog posts on your site from way back when you first started out.

There also may be old sales copy on your site, where you thought you were supposed to include more keyphrases than you really should, and they are walking that keyphrase-stuffing line.

These are all examples of evergreen content that is ripe for a rewrite.

Also consider that you’re probably not getting much promotional value from them, because you know they’re not good. You never link to them, you never talk about them, and you may haven’t had the time or the inclination to go through your site and make those posts or those sales pages as good as they can be.


Now Is The Time To Make Some Changes!

– Google wants to recognize authority sites.

– Identify low-value and low-quality content and rewrite it.

– If your blog hasn’t been updated in months, it’s time to start blogging again.

In his Google Webmaster Help video, Matt Cutts made it very clear that Google wants to recognize – and reward – authority sites. And Bruce Clay emphasized in his presentation that if you have those kinds of pages on your site that are so-so at best, now is the time to revisit and rewrite them.

So identify that low-value and low-quality content! And if you don’t have time to go through and rewrite those pages, now is the time to find someone who can help you with it.

That way, when the Penguin update does hit, you know that all of your pages are exactly the way you want them to be: they are well-written and well-researched, and you’re able to link to them and refer to them without embarrassment!

And if you’ve neglected your blog for months, now is the time to get back to it. Again, Google wants to recognize and reward authority sites, and the way that you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche is by blogging about it – consistently!

If you tackle this evergreen content rewriting project now, then when Penguin 2.0 and other Google SEO updates roll out, you should be in good shape!

Thanks for tuning in! Have any questions or feedback? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave them in the comments, or email me directly at [email protected]. You can also find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd.

photo thanks to nick.amoscato (Nick Amoscato)

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Why Google’s Recent Changes Mean Good News for the SEO Industry

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Guest Author, Bharati Ahuja

Recently we have been observing many changes affecting the SEO industry. These changes are all initiated by Google and have a direct impact on SEO campaigns in some way or another. The SEO industry has been exploding the web with blog posts, comments and opinions about these updations, most of which are like an accusation that Google is out to get at organic search with a vengeance and give preference, priority and partial treatment to paid search.

The major Google developments affecting the search scene have been:

  • Obviously, the Panda update
  • The integration of Webmaster Tools with Google Analytics, reflecting SEO data (queries, landing pages, geographical data)
  • Google Analytics social data (engagement, action and pages )
  • Google Analytics real-time data (Beta Version – this data shows you what is happening on your website as it happens, but only some accounts have access to these reports)
  • Google’s “Encrypted Search”

Of course there are many more, but these updates and developments have a direct impact on SEO campaigns. I believe that whatever the prime objective of Google may be currently –whether it is to promote paid search or to improve the quality of organic search results in general — in the long run, these changes will surely improve the quality standards of the SEO industry and improve the overall quality of the web. Why?

  • The Panda update focused on quality content and an eradication of content spam.
  • The reflection of the social data proves that the integration of social and search results is something that Google is working on and taking seriously.
  • The other developments related with Google Analytics and encrypted search shows that Google wants the website owners to get genuine and accurate data for their SEO campaigns .

The prime objective of an SEO campaign is to earn the clicks due to the quality aspects of the website as per the search engine standards and not account for every click as in the case of PPC, where every click has a cost implication.

Moreover, if the site is optimized correctly the search presence of the website continues to improve and become richer with time, thereby ensuring an increasing trend for targeted traffic, whereas in the case of a paid search campaign the period for which the website is having the search presence is limited to the period for which you are paying for the campaign.

I think all these changes are drawing a clear, distinct line between organic search campaigns and paid campaigns. The choice is to be made by the website owner, whether he wants to build a search presence step by step via a SEO campaign or go for a Paid search presence campaign via paid search, or would like to have a combination of both , depending on  the approach, need and requirement for a search engine presence.

All of these developments will make SEOs and website owners think beyond rankings and keywords, because the true meaning of SEO is to ensure quality search engine presence on maximum search options by focusing on overall quality web presence — enhancing the quality aspects of the website and reaching out to netizens via various modes of social media.

About the Author:

Bharati Ahuja  is founder of WebPro Technologies, SEO Trainer and Speaker, Web Entrepreneur, Blog Writer, and Internet Marketing Consultant.

How to Write for Google’s Expanded Site Links

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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:


How to Write for Google’s Panda Update

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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

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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.