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Writing for The Web – How to Create Great Content Pieces That Fly

writing for the web

Writing for the web what should a person be considering?

Creating good content isn’t as easy as people like to think, it takes thought and intelligence and an awareness of all the factors that make content stand out. In this piece we’ll take a look at the topic of writing for the web and the best practice you should use. We’ll think about what we’ll do before, during and after producing and our content and learn how a few simple disciplines can help improve the work that we produce.

So you want to create something for your niche?

It’s important to understand the factors that influence performance as without them, it’s difficult to appreciate the various nuances that come together to make up the whole.

We need to give people readable content that they’ll like; content that they might be inclined to share, content that they’ll want to click on when they see it appear in the search results.

Understanding the reasons for these will help us.

It’s pointless writing content that has a very limited audience or is devoid of aspects that’ll make it noteworthy. We need to create content that seeks to inspire, excite, inform, encourage, create and motivate.

From a technology perspective, we need to make sure that our content will be favourable towards the search engine algorithms too so that it is returned for the keyword phrases and queries that we’d like to see it appear for in Google or Bing.

The performance of a page in search is often influenced by four categories of on-site factors, offsite factors, keyword and competitor research.

On-site Factors

On-site factors relate to most of the things that happen on the web server which we or our team can control directly. Things like website structure and architecture (navigation, site speed, crawl-ability, content mark-up, page urls, domain name, hosting etc.)

Off-site factors

Off-site factors relate to site authority — links citations and variety, and to a lesser degree social signals from social media. The more of these link signals that sites have, the better they tend to perform amongst competing sites in their respective query space.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is an important part of the content creation process as we need to consider what it is that people search for and the volumes in which they do so. It’s pointless writing a piece that has no keyword phrase or aspiration in mind. We need to think of our intended audience and give them what they need in a way that helps support our business aims and growth by looking at key phrases that have search volume.

Competitor Research

Competitor Research is also vital in understanding our niche and what our competing brands and services are doing in the space.

The content that we write and the page URL’s we create will be largely based on our product or service knowledge and what we learn in our research phase.

The Pre Writing Phase

So, you are about to write or edit an amazing piece of content that you’ll get 1000’s of social shares, links back to the website and visitors that’ll convert to sales.

What should you be doing, what kind of thinking mode do you need to have, in order to be the most effective that you can? We’ll need to think about how others are doing things and ask how we can do it all better. We’ll need to think about who it will be who helps float our content and take notes on what works and what doesn’t. We’ll need to source images and ensure that they are well optimised and fit for purpose and to help us, we’ll need to use the search engine to find things out.

Keyword and Competitor Research

Whilst much of the initial keyword research may have already been undertaken, it’s a very good idea to take a quick look at what it is you have been tasked to write about, as it will help solidify the need and give you a broader understanding of who’s already succeeding and why.

Using Social Media

Conduct a Twitter search and make note of who’s tweeting in the space.

Consider the installation of chrome plugins like list builder and Klout to help build your Twitter network and to identify potential influencers in the space. Look at other tools like Peer Index and Kred too.

Use a tool like http://analytics.followthehashtag.com/ and take note of who’s talking about your topic in that space, they could be great advocates post publish point.

If you have other tools that work for you, use those instead or in conjunction.

Look at LinkedIn and see if there are any stand out brands or people and take a note of who they are.

Check out Pinterest and Instagram, weigh up whether your content could cater to these audiences too.

Not every piece can, but if it’s particularly visual, it might have a good home on Pinterest but if it’s more about charts and numbers then perhaps not.

Use #hash tags to supplement any products or content you share. In the example of a gift shop sign selling wedding signs, then hash tag the image with #wedding #weddinggifts #weddingideas and related words.

The same applies for images or pages that you share on Twitter.

It’s super important to get people onside and make them aware of what it is you do.

Don’t assume it’s as obvious as you think it is.

If you are producing excellent useful content then people who have interest in the space will want to share your stuff within their networks.

Set aside some time in identifying who these people are and follow them on social media just after you publish.

Image Selection and Naming

The best content pieces are a mix of text and imagery. Images are important to both content and search as they help break up big chunks of text and make a piece more visually attractive too. We’ve all heard the story of a picture and it painting 1000 words…

It’s best to have original images but if you can’t source one locally then use an image bank to find one. Be sure that your image is optimised for the web.

Keep it to a decent file size, optimise it for the web. Not everyone has superfast broadband and many of your visitors will be reading the content from a mobile device with a limited rendering or download speed. Keep these factors in mind with your use and selection.

When selecting your images think about the topic you are writing and aim for at least one or two directly related images that can be used to increase image content relevancy for your target phrase.

In addition to social media, Google image search is a great source of traffic. Name your images in ways that are likely to help in this regard. Using wedding-sign.png is infinitely better than image_43294.png.

You can of course source imagery from the web generally, but it’s best to avoid this where possible.

If you do, then it’s important to give attribution or to seek permission prior. Don’t just take it.

Using Search Engines

Search your primary keyword phrase in Google and Bing; take a look at who is and what is ranking for the phrase and take notes:

  • Look at the content that is currently winning and ask yourself how you can improve upon what they’ve provided.
  • Look at competitor page <titles> and headings and note why they had appeal
  • Look at the types of content that are being returned in the search results images, video, text, rich snippets etc
  • Are there bloggers or Tweeters appearing in the SERP?
  • Is there a structured data result that appears in the Google knowledge graph perhaps?
  • Look at the snippet and note any specific calls to action

Through looking at the SERP (search engine results page) we can gauge what it is that Google likes for the query set and what we will need to do to occupy the positions and raise our visibility.

We’ll also show opportunities for sharing post production (bloggers, Tweeters, related communities)

Pre Post Actions and Takeaways:

  • Assess the organic SERP competition.
  • Assess PPC competiton and see what people paying for ads are saying
  • Ask yourself critical questions around your content plan.
  • Look for opportunities within the SERPs and factor these into your content piece.
  • Assess the social media space.
  • Identify potential advocates for post publishing activities and to gain greater understanding of what’s happening in the keyword space.
  • Name images in relevant ways, optimise image sizes, seek permission of copyright owners and give attribution where free or unpaid.
  • Separate image file names with hyphens to maximise image search relevance down the line

Thinking About Content Type and Audience

We need to think about the type of content that we are creating and its intended audience. Until we’ve really looked at the former it’s difficult to know exactly, what’s the best way forward.

Sure, we can say that “I want to write a blog post” or “I want to write a press release” or “I want to create a guide” but to do so in the absence of exploring the keyword space first is folly. We need to look at what ranks, what gets shared and try and figure out why. This will help inform our decisions, and focus thought on what kinds of content will work best.

Content Type

We can loosely categorise content in to a number of camps. I’ve put together a loose grouping of 6 which will give you some food for thought using a topic of gift signs to help illustrate the examples.

Blog type content — Conversational, topical, aimed at a specific aspect of what we do or personality/innovation/event/niche type thing. Content that has personality with a distinct user voice that encourages user engagement via comments or social sharing perhaps.

News type content — Some content is often newsy, directly informative, and not overtly sales like in tone — a piece announcing an acquisition or investment perhaps. Industry specific, breaking news type stuff

Core content piece — this will be product specific content. Highly targeted at a specific aspect of what we do or the product we have. This wedding signs page is one such top level example that we’d need to improve upon and create a new product item for perhaps, we’d expand upon what is being presented, look at creating a new search friendly URL and talk about the different wedding signs at hand.

Guide piece — A piece of content that adds context to the general proposition. What it is, what it does, how it works, what are its benefits. “10 Top Signs For Loved Ones” might be a good example for our sign company, giving inspiration for people looking to get a loved one a gift.

Infographic — Infographics are a great way of getting shares and creating conversations. They are a visual mix of data and text and when done correctly, can garner huge attention.

Maybe this gift company could look at sales and best sellers and see what the data is saying. Is there a story to be told? What kinds of words are people entering into their personalised signs section for example.

Thought leadership — Most people like direction and look up to authorities for guidance and leadership. This presents great opportunities in what is a fun feel good space. They might talk about ethical sourcing of materials perhaps, enviro friendly aspects of what they do for example and talk about lesser alternatives like plastics and less bio degradable products perhaps

Understanding The Target Audience

It’s of course critical that we know and understand our audience. Who it is we are seeking to communicate with and why. Sometimes, we might wish to talk to our Twitter audience. We know what they want and know what gets them excited. Other times, we might be reaching out to a different constituency, the general press, the trade, the creative community or simply prospective consumers.

If we know who were are targeting, we can better shape the delivery of what we say by using language and imagery that resonates.

Simple Marketing and Promotion Writing Ideas

So, what else could this gift sign company be doing?

How could we help them succeed?

Controversy — We could be getting a little guerrilla and shaking the tree of an established mind-set that we believe is no longer relevant and challenge otherwise accepted traditions of thought and doing things. We might create a little controversy and stimulate debate as a result.

Piggy Backing — We might be mindful of an upcoming industry event that we’ll be looking to ride the coat tails of or draw awareness to our value add. A big craft fair, a regional exhibition perhaps, piggy backing anticipated search volumes, using prior knowledge or trend tools. We can use social media to use the awareness in the space, using hashtags on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

News and Events Cycles — We might have knowledge of a general news cycle that again, we believe we can add to and perhaps occupy a news place in Google news through proactively creating content that’ll be a good fit for lazy journalists.

By knowing who we are aiming at and adjusting our message to suit we can help increase the likelihood that our content will be well received; be it a blog or a guide or a new product or a news piece or some fantastic thought leadership white-paper; through thinking about who it is we are talking to we can better deliver on our goals.

Network Utilisation and Strategy

It’s a whole lot easier to get content to fly if you have a cunning plan.

Thinking about how you can leverage your network post content completion is vital to gain traction and momentum.

Have a mini brainstorm in the office “Guys and gals, I’m creating x y z, does anyone have anything to throw in to the mix?”

Marketing Hooks — what will be yours?

This is a great look at the topic which might fire a synapse or two.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234202

We could possibly be looking to massage the ego of a well-known voice in the space, someone with an audience of their own who’ll appreciate the recognition. Someone who has a high profile and who might be willing to talk about their purchase.

We might offer users the ability to tweet or Facebook or Instagram about their recent purchase at checkout perhaps, an easy click to share that enables for the image to be embedded within their social feeds and seen by their networks.

Any action that amplifies the content we create is worth considering. If it raises brand awareness and creates conversations about us and our products then it’s worth doing.

Editing Pre-existing Content

Sometimes, we might need to edit an aged or out of date piece of content that gets lots of traffic already (or doesn’t).

For pages with a lot of traffic, It’s important that we don’t make too many radical changes as if the page is performing well, then we wouldn’t really want to change the page title or the headings too much as to do so could lose us a fair degree of traffic.

On the other hand. we might notice that there are some great opportunities to be had, especially for page that isn’t performing at all, in which case some radical surgery might be required.

Generally, we should check the performance of the page we are seeking to edit using our analytics package. If the traffic is awful, then we have very little to lose and should edit to our hearts content using the knowledge we’ve acquired from our actions further up the page.

In cases where traffic is good we should go ahead with caution. We wouldn’t want to unnecessarily edit a page URL for instance nor would we want to change a page title or core heading (date related aspects excepted)

There may often be cases where traffic is good and engagement is poor. In most cases the reasons should be obvious, in which case edit away and add value.

We might want to add some value (images/rich media/new data) or make subtle edits to copy. In most cases these shouldn’t present many, if any difficulties.

If we change a page URL then we of course need to put in a specific redirect so that the engines and crawlers know the new location. Talk to the tech team or SEO around the need for a 301 redirect.

During Content Creation

Having established what it is we are writing, it’s important that our content piece has a clear page structure with a good mix of related keywords and phrases with our core keyword phrase at the centre of it all.

We’ve thought about layout, message and flow, we’ve sourced our images and have named them appropriately and optimised them for use on the web and we are ready to put it all together.

What are the key structural components of a good piece of content?

Evidence shows that pages that do well in search engines share a number of key characteristics.

  • Well thought out page titles <titles>
  • Good <meta descriptions> with calls to action that generate decent CTR (click through rates)
  • Good headings and hierarchy
  • Keywords in the page content
  • Visual Breakpoints
  • Good navigation

Page Titles <titles>

The page <title> is the most important part of the page. It is the part of the content that will appear in the SERP’s and is used by the search engines as a primary means of establishing what the content is likely to be about.

Getting back to the gift sign company example, if we were creating a content piece that was to target the phrase “Handmade Wedding Signs” then we’d look to make sure that those words were present in our title. Of course, a page title that just said “Handmade Wedding Signs” would look exceedingly bland and would miss out on other opportunities to draw the click and to speak to humans, so we’d look at how we could make that work.

Our keyword and competitor research would have already established that competing pages have various characteristics that we can use too.

For a core content piece we might use the page title of “Buy Quality Handmade Weddings Signs, Environmentally Sourced” which would of course be better than “Handmade Wedding Signs” alone.

For a blog piece we might get a little more conversational and say “5 Little Known Rules for Creating the Perfect Handmade Sign”

People also love “How to’s” and “What” type queries. “How Can I Make the Perfect Custom Sign for less than £20?” or combined “How Can I Make the Perfect Custom Sign for less than £20 — What should I look For”

The variations above would also have a secondary benefit in that they’d target additional search phrases with search volume and use language that relates to what they do.

“Wedding Signs”, “Custom Signs” search query aspirations would all be assisted by the page title “Where Can I Find A Custom Wedding Sign Online — What should I look For?”

The sky is the limit and ultimately it’s bound by your creativity. The central message is that you of course need to include the primary phrase within your page title (as near to the start of the sentence as makes sense) and talk to humans at the same time gaining their attention and getting that all important click.

Try to keep your page titles sub 60 characters in length as Google typically shows just the first 60 or so characters; anything longer than this is truncated. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use titles that are longer but be sure to have your most important messaging and keywords within this limit.

Meta Descriptions

The <Meta name=”description”> tag is important as it is used by Google and Bing to surface a snippet of content in their SERP’s. It sits in the code section of a HTML page.

Meta descriptions are a great opportunity whereby you can reinforce your message and add extra content and calls to action for the page that you are trying to attract that all important click from.

You should seek to add effective context with words that are related to the query space in a way that also talks to human beings.

Meta descriptions should be around 160 characters most but can be longer. Anything over 160 is truncated and will not be displayed.

Be sure to think about how you’d like your message to appear in the SERP’s and be mindful that the meta description will often be the search engines first port of call when adding supplemental information about a page.

Page Headings <H#>

Similar to books, good web pages have good structure and are headed up by relevant headings and subheadings.

HTML hierarchy dictates that headings are number 1–6 typically with <h1> being the largest and most important.

Heading tags are an opportunity to arrange your content in a way that is logical and readable to your user. They’ll help break up the content and make sense of what it is you are communicating.

The <h1> tag should be the first heading on the page and should only appear once. Typically, it often closely mirrors the page <title> which when you think of it, makes sense from a user readability perspective.

Additional subheadings <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> should be used throughout the document as appropriate, in a clear hierarchy.

Note: You don’t have to use all of those headings. Pages rank well in absence of H1’s or through a mix of different headings to0. Structures like H1, H2, H3, H3,H3 H4, H2, H2, H2 are often used too and don’t appear to negatively impact performance to a large extent. The takeaway is, that logical structured headings are a good habit to get in to and help signify important aspects of the document or places within it.

Do’s and don’ts for headings and subheadings

  • Resist the temptation to keyword stuff your target phrase in to every subheading that you use. If you do, then your piece will read poorly and will possibly be marked downed as keyword stuffy!
  • Ensure that your primary keyword phrase appears in your <h1> heading
  • If it makes sense, then use it in your first <h2> subheading too and subsequent or latter subheadings, but don’t over do it.
  • Look for opportunities to use keyword variations — If your content piece is targeting Birthday Signs then be creative and think of variants that you can blend in to your subheadings “70th Birthday Wooden Signs” perhaps, or “Birthday Gift Ideas and Inspiration” or “Examples of Our Most Popular Wooden Birthday Signs” all of these titles are related and the search engines will get that too. Through adding variance and semantic relationships in your copy, you’ll help elevate relevance and increase readability.
  • Don’t over use headings either. No point having a subheading for every sentence or paragraph.

Content Copy

When writing your copy, try to ensure that you make mention of your primary target phrase in the first or second sentence that you use. Make it stand out so the reader recognises the core message early into the piece consider the use of or tags where appropriate.

Search engines are relatively dumb so we need to give them as many clues as we can. Page titles, Meta descriptions, headings and content mark-up are ways in which we can do this.

That said, they are getting smarter so we need to be mindful that we don’t overdo things and resist the urge to keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing will damage our ability to rank and switch our readers off so it’s important to bear that in mind and not overdo the keyword phrase thing!

When writing, we should look to use related phrases and words where we can. We want to be on the lookout for easy related ranking opportunities and send out that strong message that our content is thematically related to our niche and contains strong word correlations throughout.

Our ultimate aim site wide is to be recognised as THE authority on our topic so through using words that have semantic relationships we help ourselves achieve this. Antonyms, synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, meronyms will all help, use them with gusto!

The most important factor of course is to write for humans.

We can have the most amazing rankings in the world, but if our content reads like crap and people hit and run or fail to engage then we will fall at the first hurdle and will see our rankings go backwards.

Do’s and Don’ts for Content Copy

  • Do not keyword stuff — write for humans, your core keyword phrase shouldn’t appear more than 5–6% of the time typically, but this will vary across niches and isn’t set in stone.
  • Do use variations of your target key phrase, think of related words you can include, think semantically.
  • In most cases, try to keep your web documents to a decent readable length.
  • Don’t consign yourself to TL;DR hell. Try to keep your blog posts to less than 1500 words. No one wants to read a long piece of content unless it’s really useful and merits their time. If it’s going to be long, then try and engage people along the way,
  • Different types of content such as comprehensive “how to guides” and “white papers” may well be longer of course, simply because people are expecting highly detailed specific information.
  • There’s a great piece on content length generally here https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-ideal-length-of-everything-online-according-to-science

Internal Link Reinforcement

One of the ways in which we can help ourselves is to continually reference our most important content pieces. We can do this by linking to such pieces as we create new content. If we are writing about topic x y or z and happen to use the term gift signs, then it makes sense to hyperlink that phrase and point it to the page that we would like to rank.

Less is often more of course, so we don’t want to overdo things. Who wants to read a document of a zillion hyperlinks!? If it makes sense, then do it. If you look back over your finished article and see some way of weaving in an internal link opportunity then do so.

Vary Your Anchor Texts

Try to add some variance to your internal links too. A page that targets birthday signs would also benefit from being linked to with variations of anchor text (the words contained in the hyperlink).

So, if we used the term birthday in our piece, then we might hyperlink that to our birthday signs page.

The same would apply for related variants. Birthday | signs | plaques | gifts etc.

External Linking

Links are the glue of the internet, without them we’d all be a little lost. When creating your content, you’ll often link out to other sites and partners.

General rules of thumb are:

  • Don’t link to spam sites! Think about who you are linking to and how — no point helping a competing service with a juicy link to their competing page.
  • Is there a blogger in the space with influence who has said something cool? Link to them! They’ll love it and might even talk about you.

Using Images to Break up Your Copy

You may have already sourced your images in your research phase. If you have then great just be sure that they address the following:

Sources referenced where external or unpaid for and permission sought

Optimised for fast loading times (where the platform doesn’t do so automatically perhaps)

Solid naming conventions with references to keywords where appropriate separated by hyphens.

Through using well named imagery that’s related to the content and theme, that’s well named and engaging we can help improve performance in Google image search and raise our profile and traffic.

Page URLs

The page URL (web address) is an important element of search performance.

We should look to make sure that our page URL’s contain our target keywords and or variants.

URL’s have no limitation in length, but it’s sensible to keep them relatively short and punchy as they are often displayed in the SERPs. Page URL’s will be truncated if too long so try to limit them to 100 characters max. It doesn’t matter if you overstep this limit, but be mindful that any characters after will not be seen.

Some CMS’s like WordPress create our URLs on the fly, taking the page title or heading of the content piece.

The WordPress CMS presents us with an opportunity to edit our URLs.

Where appropriate, we should apply similar thinking to that of our page title selection looking for variance opportunities where they present themselves.

Google News — There is discussion within the tech team for content that is newsworthy or aimed at a specific news element to be tagged or identified as a news piece.

Where this occurs, it’s important to ensure that a 6 figure number is appended to the end of the URL. Failure to do so, will mean that the piece will unlikely be included within Google news.

Tagging and Topics

WordPress gives us the option to tag our content and file it under various headings. Try and categorise your content in to 4 or 5 relevant camps if possible. Most CMS’s allow for this, so use it if it exists.

Through doing so, we create content diversity for a variety of singular topics and increase the likelihood of ranking for a variety of related terms.

After You’ve Completed Your Content

So, you’ve created your content and have spell checked the hell out of it and ran it by a colleague for sanity checks. Woot! Well done, what next?

In our pre writing phase above, we looked at the various social media opportunities and took notes around who was talking in the space.

It’s a good idea to have a post publish process that makes the most of what you learnt in your research phase and try to build up a head of steam.

Fledgling content will not fly alone, it needs the help of friends and colleagues to gain wings and help it grow.

The following list of bullet points will help your content get eyeballs and create additional impetus.

It only really applies to blog posts or special reports/white papers , guides and news items so bear this in mind before you do. Don’t use it for boring old product pages, unless they are super awesome or innovative perhaps

  • Follow folks and brands that were tweeting or visible in your key phrase space and seek to engage with them over time.
  • Use a social scoring metric as an aid in identifying who might be worth the largest investment of your time.
  • Publish your post to Twitter and tag it with #hashtags relevant to the topic — determine the ideal time to do so aiming for your largest GEO audience
  • Utilise your internal office/company network and let them know that you’ve posted and ask them to retweet, favourite and share your post.
  • If appropriate — Post your link to LinkedIn and linked groups that you participate
  • Post the link to your Facebook page and consider a small post boost targeted at Facebook user cohorts interested in your space
  • Evaluate any other spaces that could be good conduits for your piece. Reddit for instance
  • Include your latest blog post in any email footers you may use
  • Did your post have a cool image? Is it Pinterest or Instagram worthy? Tag and send it to these networks.
  • If someone shares or retweets or comments on your stuff, then thank them for doing so. Be social.
  • Monitor the performance of your post in Google analytics. Spend a few minutes each day looking at your recent posts or content pieces and see how well they are doing.
  • Talk to Rob about tracking new keywords and URL performance

Rinse, refine, and repeat.

Is your expert link builder worth the trouble?

Don’t buy questionable link building packages, buy good ones

I was just talking with a friend about link building. He’s a small biz chap with a good product and looking to try and grow what he does.

He asked me for my thoughts on link building and it got me thinking of the variety of services that are out there.  The game’s changed, primarily due to the increased perception of risk generated by the chatter and dings delivered by Google.

It’s basically pretty stupid to pay anyone for anything that takes a cheap arse ‘button press’ type approach to link building. 1000 directory submissions, 20 blog posts and 100 forum sigs might seem fairly attractive, especially if it’s packaged up in a £50 one time fee parcel with promises of boosts for your target keyword/s.

I probably sounded almost cliched but I found myself talking to him about  creating genuine conversations and buzz and how that one of the best ways of achieving that might be to build a fully integrated platform that enabled him to do so, which might possibly mean creating the most kick arse resource in the country/region/planet for his  niche.

I pointed him to a resource that’s fairly niche in the home improvement vertical and showed how they were enabling their visitors to ask questions, give feedback, review products and how they could read  product  how to’s with guides and tools and videos and podcasts  along with the usual social box ticking.

There were a few other generalisms but the point of it all was to try and convey the idea that if you set out to make stuff that is  link worthy, as in kick arse useful content that people will want to share on youtube,  niche home improvement/green/save the world/ type communities, blogs, social networks etc, then half of the battle is won.

I guess I was trying to say that even if his end product out there in the real world is top class, well priced, sought after that if his online shop front didn’t do the same then in lots of ways, he’d be wasting his time. Why do people expect inferior shitty boring user experiences to rule their niches?

Socialise get down, let your souuuul hit the waves shake it now, go ladies, it’s a living dream… *

I don’t need to bang a drum that says that the web is becoming increasingly social. Anyone with half ounce of eighteen pence knows this already. The fact is that if you have a bog standard, say nothing space on the web, then by and large people just aren’t going to talk about you.

So I kind of went full circle and said something like your link building company should really be talking to you about these very things. Your brand, your product, your offering. How they’d go about creating something viral perhaps or how they’d use his voice and identity and add genuine value to the places that they engaged with on his behalf. He’s a small business, he can’t be everywhere, but maybe his link building company can give him some stellar advice as to how he can get others to do so. If they can’t then there’s a chance that they are stuck in some time warp creating very little else but shit.

Sure,  you CAN go and buy links of course. You can go out and spam forums, blogs, pr networks with your stupidly crafted laser targetted anchor text and build links  that way. It’ll work too, for a time, but eventually you might get caught up in some mess that see’s your domain Pandarised or Penguinated. I won’t mention Karma. I won’t mention the offence you’ll cause to all and sundry as you pay a bunch of wankers to go pollute the web with your pony “hi nice post” type comments, or your useless kill me now type shitty guest blog posts, or your no one gives a hoot type add no value to the world type press releases as I hope that’s a given.

 

My closing words were something along the line of ask this ‘expert link builder’ what it is they’ll do.Cut through any old bollocks they give like directories, shitty press releases, guest blog posts in spammy networks and instead listen to those who talk about you and your brand and their understanding of what it is that you are trying to achieve. If they can’t understand that then, I  doubt that long term you’ll get any links worth having.  Sure, there may be some short term SERP success; but if it’s built on a house of cards, then it’ll eventually fall. Far better to take a long view and do it properly the first time around.

Thanks for listening.

 *

Old Mahalo Had a Farm SE SEO

Don’t feed the pigs excrement

I was thinking about the recent farmer update and around some of the things said and around how the algo might work and how new or existing farmers might keep on feeding the pigs and chickens.  A side win is that it also helps one to refocus ones efforts through prudent little implementations and tweaks that might help engagement and perhaps insulate from similar future changes. You can never afford to sit on your laurels in someone else’s playground. We might think that this web thing is open and accessible to all, but for today at least Google still is the defacto gateway and for that reason alone any business intent on getting traffic from them, would be foolish not to sit up and take note.

Are the Sheep Happy? Be a good Shepherd

Kates’ post here http://www.distilled.co.uk/blog/ppc/google-bounce-rates-the-untold-story/ reminded me of past considerations of bounce rates and the masses of misunderstandings that were out there around the issue. I’d both heard and read people going on about bounce rates as a quality metric as if it was some one size fits all thing that applied carte blanche to every web page out there. As Kate rightly says different pages have different outcomes. If user A gets what they want, and leaves within a short time, then the less informed amongst us might be forgiven for sniffing and thinking, crap page, hit and run, poor user experience.

Yet of course this is patent nonsense as the page in question might just have exactly what the user wanted, requiring no more time or interaction on the page other than the hitting of the red x or the back button. Some sites  like blogs, often have a one hit wonder effect, be they shared through a social network or arrived at through a search engine query. The user visits with the express intent of reading about that particular issue and that’s that.

They don’t want to go deep and read about a lot of  indirectly related topics as their focus is elsewhere. Old style forum threads in comparison have much lower bounce rates, due in the main to things like pagination or general time difference between search indexing and user visit. Lots of page visits of very small time samples followed by rapid exit might be a signal of a poor user experience. OTOH, it might also be the obverse (photo gallery for example) . The truth is that unless, there’s some like for like standardised similar type site to compare it’s very difficult to determine algorithmically, what is and what isn’t a poor user experience based upon single metrics like bounce or time on site.

There are lots of other examples, that have differing outcomes most of which I’m sure the experienced Internet user has encountered at one point or other, and I’ve kind of veered off the main point a little as this isn’t directly related to the content farm thing; at least not in the totality of reasons why you’d get your arse kicked in this update but it does nonetheless, bring to mind the core of what you should be considering when bringing people to your site and making them happy. Give them a shitty user experience where they don’t want to come back againor begin to rank for everything they want and they’ll start to complain about it. If they complain enough in sufficient numbers, then sooner or later you might just be toast. Thinking about shit like the above, get’s you back on track.

Elsewhere on the farm..

A thread at webmasterworld http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4276279.htm cites the Cutts and Singhail http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/03/the-panda-that-hates-farms/all/1 post on Wired which is full of interesting little nuggets.

From an algo watcher perspective it’s fascinating stuff full of little clues and perhaps the odd red herring, yet much as I snark the truth is that in many ways it’s full of things that should really be common sense to the accomplished Webmasters of this world. A look at the list from Sistrix http://www.sistrix.com/blog/985-google-farmer-update-quest-for-quality.html shows the various winners and losers.

Outside quality raters were involved at the beginning

…we used our standard evaluation system that we’ve developed, where we basically sent out documents to outside testers. Then we asked the raters questions like: “Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card? Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?”

The cynic in me had already covered the ground of hmmn, how many low quality type Q and A sites are out there and how long would it really take a multi billion dollar corporation to task a team of individuals to seek out and identify crap sites, or sites that were clearly just taking the piss a little with ads and stuff like that.  How long would it then take to run the sites through a bunch of  quality raters http://www.beussery.com/blog/index.php/2008/03/new-google-spam-recognition-guide-for-quality-rater-reviewed/ and score them across the various metrics? So this kind of re-inforces that as fact 🙂


Excessive ads were part of the early definition

There was an engineer who came up with a rigorous set of questions, everything from. “Do you consider this site to be authoritative? Would it be okay if this was in a magazine? Does this site have excessive ads?”

If you look at some of the sites involved prior to getting Google thumped, you’ll see that a lot of them were indeed rife with adsense and ads from other networks (some still are) . It wouldn’t be so difficult to have a script look for such instances and then determine a threshold above which, you get issued with a nice pair of lead boots to weigh you down.

The update is algorithmic, not manual

…we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side. And you can really see mathematical reasons.

This part is of course all the more interesting as it more or less says that here are a bunch of sites with lots of quality signals and on the other are sites with not as many.  I’m not going to sit here and dissect the strategies of all those bumped, but there really is gold in them thar hills. Sure there are anomalies. Mahalo has been hit despite a big PR push on it’s recent change in approach. The powers that be IMO have decided that a continual get out of jail free card just wasn’t in their PR interests. EHow, that much maligned repository of textual verbosity has also survived the cut no doubt someone demanded that their media http://www.demandmedia.com/ was worthy of a little more time http://www.fastcompany.com/1723737/did-demand-media-ipo-just-in-time.

Some people (aka spammers) will no doubt have seen the opportunities that these ructions present and will have been up bright and early repositioning downgraded content into new loftier place holders. Lessons will have been learnt, content will take account of things said by Messrs Cutts and Singhail and the show will roll on. Only time will tell if Google has done enough to slay the beast of public scrutiny, these things come in cycles and for now at least the monster seems to have been given a bit to chew on.

Paying to Play in SEO

The Bad SEO  Rep Thing

SEO as an industry has for a long time now suffered with a terrible rep. The web is littered with case after case of burnt individuals recounting stories of being mislead at best and defrauded at worst – An examination of a lot of these tales will often reveal a well trodden path of company promised one thing whilst delivering another, usually in the form of not very much at all, or in extreme cases a nice page 6 ranking penalty from the Google monster.

Top 10 is it then Len?

I think it’s interesting that this happens, despite the wealth of info out there.  Google even publishes a guide to SEO, which for the DIY brigade, is a good little reference point. Yet the reality is that whatever way you dice it, there’s only ever really 10 organic spots to be had and unless you’re above the fold, you might as well not be there.

Sure, there’s Local,  Universal and Social and all that blah blah blah but let’s face it, if you aren’t ranking at positions 1 to 5  in a clean non obfuscated SERP then…need I state the obvious?

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Online PR – Off Site SEO – If there’s a difference it depends on who you are

Online PR or off site SEO?

I was talking w/ a colleague the other day about Online PR versus Off site SEO. Whilst chatting it became clear that in the minds of some people out there that a degree of confusion exists around the terminologies due in the main, to the many cross overs of both.

I thought it might be useful therefore,  to layout the benefits of each, and highlight what they do, and show the commonalities and differences of each, showing both how they may be perceived and the benefits of each of their respective approaches.

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Holistic 360 Internet Marketing Are You Doing It too? Search..

Holistic Search Marketing

It’s been ages since I wrote anything anywhere near interesting or controversial so I thought I’d sit down and have a go and see where it leads me. 🙂

We often hear the word ‘holistic’ bounded about these days. Increasingly (and rightly so) companies are looking to connect the dots and put together the various pieces of their marketing puzzles.

The challenge for many is that they aren’t quite sure themselves, they are looking for people and companies who can sit down and explain to them what fits where and why.

How Does PPC affect Organic CTR’s?

Just recently I was having a discussion about PPC and it’s relationship with SEO in the SERPs, specifically, does a PPC listing help organic clickthrough (CTR).

It was very late and I’d had quite a few beers and was very stuffed with Chinese food but even so, we managed to get to a point whereby we discussed a variety of other questions which such a question begged, namely that it depends on the vertical, the user, the PPC position, the Organic position, the brand, the creative etc.

In other words, there is no simple answer other than yes, quite probably. PPC helps organic CTR.

The Pie is big with lots of flavours

I used this example because it’s relatively fresh in my mind and has a natural segue to the core question. SEO and PPC are indeed just a part of the online marketing pie – there’s also Online PR, Social, Affiliate and Display too – All are related, very few large corps can do one without any of the others as there are lots of inevitable overlaps and blur lines – It’s right today in these frugal times that marketing managers looking to maximise the impacts of their budgets, should be asking probing questions like – Should you do one w/ out the other? What aspects of each inform the other? Where should they target their budget to get the most bang for their buck? How will you track ROI for them? Which piece of the pie will deliver the most? Yet answers to these aren’t always as clear cut or as straightforward as we’d like. Many of them require scrutiny and analyses of the pieces used and the pieces that are likely to come into play. Not many big corps still really *get* online. Many struggle with the idea of a unified strategy, preferring to go with the segment that’s the most tried and tested.

No surprise there either, why would they direct positive ROI spend anywhere else – it’s all about ROI after all Rob you dummy!

Well yes and no. Yes because absolutely, if company X invests 100k and gets 300k of sales from a single Channel then the jobs a winner, it’s a no brainer, right? Yet no, because to do so is to take ones eye off of the ever shifting fluidity of the other channels out there. 2k On PR could deliver 50k worth of Organic Serp positions, as could 10k invested into Affiliate, Display or PPC. Whilst it’ll usually be on a case by case basis, there will be very few scenarios where wholesale investment in one channel would be a sensible online strategy.

Some of you reading this might be asking, “yeah ok, but what about offline” and of course you’d be right to ask too! Why wouldn’t a good agency consider offline, they’d be mad to ignore the impact of a good TV, Radio or Paper Media campaign. Your agency or individual (if they were any good) should be falling over themselves to get access to your analytics package to advise upon strategy or to demonstrate past impacts through retrospective analyses.

Yet how many today do? How many companies can actually sit down and give a coherent definitive overview and strategy and deliver on budget? My guess is not too many. It’s a good reason why that on many projects, you’ll find quarterly or monthly inter agency reviews, whereby agency A will sit down with client and agency B, C and D and all attempt to discuss the strategy w/ out giving away too much IP to probable or likely competitors. Yet for the companies who can provide that full 360 overview, who can clearly demonstrate how and why doing X will deliver Y to the bottom line, who can clearly show how aspect XXX strengthens the position of strategy component Z, the benefits and potentials to win new business is huge.

To state the obvious, it’ll be the companies who are demonstrating these traits and abilities who’ll grab the most market share – companies who invest in their people and think outside of the box with experience and insights are the ones who forward thinking businesses will want to trade with. Businesses that recognise that having six or seven different relationships to manage is a whole lot more time consuming and draining than one.

Companies like the one I work for (plug plug) who can step up and deliver, should do really well as a result. 🙂

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