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The last time you tried to find something with a search engine, did you think, “which strategic keywords will likely be on the site I want?” or did you think “I want to fix my bicycle so I’ll type in ‘how to fix a bicycle’”?

As someone interested in SEO, you may have been thinking about strategic keywords. Would someone interested in bicycles be thinking about keywords?

Probably not. They’d be thinking about bicycles, and that would be their intent.

Moz just asked some similar questions in Laura Lippay’s article on content strategy, and there’s some great content there along with examples and an interesting string of comments at the end. In Lippay’s view, audience intent wins over keywords as a motivation for content.

For instance, a person interested in bicycles would probably be interested in a site that is a source of bicycle-related ideas, pertinent content, authoritative reference material and discussions as well as a few products and some great humorous memes to share. They come to the site because it has stuff they are interested in (how to fix a bicycle) and come back because it continues to interest them. These interested visitors are more apt to buy what the site sells because there is a history of visits and they trust the site. That’s a win.

To quote Laura Lippay, “It all goes hand-in-hand. When you create something that your audiences like, that they link to more, share more, andĀ engage with more, it’s likely to affect search engine rankings and traffic, too.”

What do you think? Would you agree?

For more on SEO and content, visitĀ reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

Over on Search Engine Journal, Bill Belew has come up with The New Definition of Search Engine Optimization. He might be being a bit sarcastic, because he shares that most people don’t know the OLD definition of Search Engine Optimization. In fact, most of the people in his audiences just stare when he asks for one. Here’s his definition:

Search Engine Optimization is creating good content on a web site in the form of pages and posts that real people want to read, which satisfies the query AND can be found by a search engine. In that order. Readers first!

So what does this look like? It looks like the writer focuses on good content that has these 8 characteristics:

  1. is served up with a title that promises to satisfy a query.
  2. is original and delivers early on the promise of the title.
  3. has images that are relevant to the query and are also searchable.
  4. is consistently on topic within the site where it is found as evidenced by internal links.
  5. appeals to other like-minded sources with relevant external links.
  6. is recognized as such by other credible sites as evidenced by backlinks.
  7. is sometimes timely.
  8. is sometimes timeless.

The result will be good content that is found when people look for it because the keywords are logical and it’s on the first few pages of the results. It’s clicked on because the title looks like it will answer the question, read because it is well-written, shared because it is relevant, and optimizes your site’s reputation.

What do you think? Is this how you’d define SEO? You’ll find more information on the subject atĀ reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

More than anything else, headlines determine whether or not readers will click through and read your content. This is true whether your content is a blog post, a static web page, a social media page, paid advertising, or something else. It doesn’t matter what format your content takes, the headline is one of the most important elements on the page.

A good headline does several things well.

  • For starters, it grabs readers’ attention. It’s got to be enticing enough to compete against other headlines, moving images, and shiny objects.
  • A good headline also promises a benefit. Tell your readers why they should click the link and read your content.
  • It contains an emotional trigger tied to the benefit. The best headlines make the reader click because they have a vested interest.
  • Another thing a headline should do is create an incentive to share. You want your reader to read your content, but you also want them to share it. Your headline will play an important part in that.
  • It should also be straightforward and honest. It should tell the reader precisely what your content is about without being misleading.

Hopefully, you see the importance of writing good headlines. If you don’t, you may not get many readers. It’s one of the most important elements on any web page.

If you are writing content in a highly technical niche area, then you might be wondering whether you should use lots of jargon or write with clarity in mind. Matt Cutts suggests you should aim for clarity when possible.

I completely agree. The exception would be if your audience consists entirely of technical people or professionals within your industry. In that case, use jargon.

If your audience is mixed – that is, consisting of both technical professionals and lay people – then you should aim for clarity, but it’s okay to add a little jargon for the technical people. You have to write in the language of your audience. If you are selling products and services to lay people, it is extremely important to speak their language.

This is a fundamental principle of writing in any discipline. You must keep your audience in mind.

So, what if you have multiple audiences? In that case, I’d write each blog post to a specific audience. If your audience is 80% lay people and 20% technical, then write 80% of your blog posts to the lay audience using clear language to help them understand your concepts. The other 20% of your blog posts can be technical in nature, and you can use jargon to speak to that audience. I would still aim for clarity to keep your lay audience engaged with a little jargon thrown in for the technical people.

Bottom line, aim clarity in your content message when you can.

Adding new content is one of the best ways to increase your search engine optimization, but it can be expensive in either time or money. If you write your own content, you could spend a lot of time writing and crafting that content to say what you want it to say. If you hire a freelance writer to handle your content for you, it could cost you a lot of money. But some SEO techniques don’t cost a lot of money.

One way to increase your search engine rankings and SEO potential is to increase your page load speed.

Google’s page load speed checker will tell you if your web pages load slowly and on what devices they load slowly. This is important information because if your site loads slowly on mobile, that will translate into a bad user experience. Your traffic will go down and Google will notice that your click-throughs are lowering. That will affect your rankings.

Another way to increase your search engine rankings is to employ rich snippets.

There are different types of rich snippets, but all of them are valuable in letting the search engines know what your content is about – and not just Google either. You can use metadata markup to let the search engines know what type of content exists on a page and help them rank it accordingly. Microformats can be used for

  • Book, movie, music, or business reviews
  • People
  • Products
  • Businesses
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • And more

Identify the type of content that exists on your pages and employ rich snippets when appropriate. This alone could boost the SEO for that content.

Social sharing is one of the most telling aspects of content marketing. If you write to your blog every day and your content is never shared, you might wonder if you’re really being read. By having your content shared on the various social networks, you can cast a wider net and attract more targeted readers to your content. But how do you encourage that?

Start by writing the content that readers want to read. If you’re not sure what that is, ask. Nothing will stop readers from sharing content more than the wrong content.

Fundamental to the right content, however, is the right audience. If you aren’t targeting the right audience, then you need to search out the right audience for your niche and produce the content that will get them excited.

Right Audience + Right Content = Social Sharing

Seems simple, right? It is … once you figure out the formula and start working it.

Also, be sure to add social icons to your blog and each page of your website. If people don’t see a way to share your content, they likely won’t share it. Don’t forget to add a way for people to share by e-mail. Even in this day and age, many readers do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. But they do have e-mail, and so do their friends.

One of the most important principles of doing business online is the push-pull principle. You “push” your content out and “pull” your prospects in. But in order for this principle to work, your content has to be findable. You have to make it easy to find by the type of people you want to find you. The best way to make that happen is to start with a simple inventory.

How are people finding you now?

There are various ways to be found online. Here are a few easy ones to pick:

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Other blogs in your niche
  • YouTube
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Paid advertising
  • Organic search
  • Podcast directories
  • Business directories
  • Wikipedia

There are others, but the point is, you need to take inventory. If you don’t know how people are finding you, then you need to take some time and figure that out before you go on.

After finding out how you are currently being found, do an inventory of your content assets. What resources do you have available to push your content out to the places you are more likely to find prospects to pull in?

Having a good idea about what assets are at your disposal is critical to being able to use them effectively. Once you know what is available, you can put together a content strategy to reach the type of people you want to reach. Create awesome content that pulls people in to your sales funnel – then sell them what you have to offer.

Since 2011, content marketers have learned a few things about publishing content online. First and foremost is this: Produce quality content, not rehashed ideas that have been done over and over again.

Content marketers stuck in the past are still talking about link building techniques. Many of those link building techniques still work, but not always. Some of them work well most of the time. Still, online marketing is not all about link building, and the sad truth is that most SEOs are talking about it as if it is.

So if isn’t about link building, what is it about? In a word, it’s about authority. Do you have the authority to back up your claims? Can you prove your authority?

There are different ways to prove authority. One way is to present social proof. That is, you are active on several social media platforms and constantly churning out great content. Another way to prove authority is through search engine rankings and search engine recognition. If Google considers you an authority, then who is going to argue?

After last year, many online marketers are at a loss as to how to win favor with Google. It seems like many of the things that used to work are now only producing meager results.

Here’s a hint: Focus on your readers. Make them happy. If your content is written for your readers, you stand a much better chance at making the search engines happy and leveraging social proof.

A listicle is a short form of blog content where you make a list of items and write a paragraph or two on each items so that the list looks more like an article. They’re very popular for online content and the reason they work are several-fold.

Here are the top 5 reasons to write listicles for your blog content:

Listicles are easy to read

Your blog readers can scan them and decide for themselves which parts of the article they want to stop and read.

They make great SEO

You can include your keywords in the list items, which serve as subheads for the article. This is an SEO-boosting tactic that still works as well as it did ten years ago.

A listicle is a tightly-focused area of knowledge

The best listicles serve up a short list of items on one particular topic, so the information is relevant to a particular niche audience.

Listicles are easy to write

Just write your list then go back and write the commentary for each list item.

Better than a bullet list

Instead of littering your blog with endless bullet lists, you can switch things around and write longer articles with subheads. Your listicles serve as lists without the bullets.

The next time you are tempted to write a blog post will bullet lists, write a listicle instead. They’re also easily share-able on social media.

High profile SEO Bruce Clay conducted a study concerning content creation and search engine rankings. What he found out was pretty astounding. Content curation can work better than original content if

it contains original content.

In other words, the key to successful content marketing is original content. That hasn’t changed in several years.

The Key To Successful Content Curation

The most popular kind of content curation is aggregation. This is where the curator simply takes a handful of links or content on a particular topic and aggregates them into a single post. It’s easy and doesn’t take up a lot of time. However, if this content isn’t accompanied by original content, it will be much less effective.

Distilling a lot of content into a smaller post where the original content is the star is a much better approach, though it does take up more time. Still, it is more effective.

Mashups can also be very effective. This is when you take a bunch of content and merge it into a single piece with an original point of view. That requires original content by definition.

As long as you include original content in your curated posts, they will achieve a certain level of search engine visibility. The more original content, the better. This is true SEO. Taking content that has already ranked and re-using it, even spinning it, is much less effective. SEO is, and always has been, about originality.

Before and after the Hummingbird update, one of the chief goals for many search engine marketers was, and is, to get web pages to rank highly for key search terms. However, how you go about that is different pre- and post-Hummingbird. One thing is necessary in both cases, however: Quality.

If you truly want to produce high quality content, here are five types of content that have a better than even chance of qualifying:

  1. Evergreen Content – Let’s start with the easy one. If your content has value today and will have the same value in five, ten, or twenty years, then it’s what we call “evergreen” content. That kind of content will always rank.
  2. Problem/Solution – This is content that answers a specific question or solves a particular problem. Think of a problem that you know people are having and tell them how to solve it.
  3. Case Study – A case study focuses on telling a success story. Take a particular client or situation and tell how that client was successful doing something. Make the “something” very specific. It can a product or service, a particular problem they wanted to solve, or a process.
  4. Hot Tips – If you have the “Top 10 Tips For Doing X” or a similar post, these are usually golden. Top tips content is very valuable if it focuses on real top tips.
  5. Analysis of a Topic – Write an in-depth analysis of a particular subject. That includes pros and cons as well as statistics regarding the subject matter. Take a position on something and defend it, backing it up with facts and figures.

Of course, there is never a guarantee that your content will rank well for your targeted keywords, but these five types of content give you a big leg up.

If you thought that Google would publish Authorship rich snippets forever, then you are probably disappointed by this bit of news. I hope you don’t think Google promised you a nice big Authorship hug for the rest of your life.

The truth is, Authorship rich snippets were as easily gamed as links and other SEO fauna. Maybe that’s why they’re reducing the use of them.

I think Hummingbird changed a lot for webmasters. Instead of focusing on improving your author profile or increasing your search engine rankings through link building, maybe it’s time for webmasters to focus on publishing quality content that actually helps end users. It’s time to get back to marketing basics.

Yesterday’s post on building domain authority is the key to survival in the current search landscape. But it’s not the only thing that is important.

Online marketing is becoming more complex. The companies that succeed will be the companies that think about the needs of their customers and target audience and then focus on meeting those needs. If you’re still focused on feeding the bots, then you’ll likely end up at the bottom of the search results at some point. Google is getting more sophisticated in ferreting out low quality content.

This should be good news for anyone interested in high quality content.

If you’ve heard that link building is a necessary component to a successful SEO strategy, then you’ve likely been listening to a search engine optimization specialist talking. Did that SEO also say that quality is more important than quantity? In other words, it’s not how many links you get but how good they are.

Link building is one of the more dangerous SEO tactics because if you do it wrong, it will cost you a lot of money and could cost you a lot of time with minimal or no results.

With guest blogging, you reduce your risk considerably. To be successful at ghost blogging, however, you need to focus your efforts on writing high quality content and publishing that content on websites around the Web. The sites you choose to publish your articles on are as important as the articles you write. Pay very close to the reputations of those other sites.

What you want to do is build yourself up as an authority in your niche. The way you do that is with high quality content published on high quality websites.

When you publish quality content on high authority sites, those articles will get shared and receive links. Those links will help your site and your authority ranking. Focus on quality and good links take care of themselves.

Google Trends is a fun way to find new opportunities for keywords and subjects to blog or write about. If you’re not using it in your research, you might want to give it a go. According to Google, they’re beginning to improve the tool with a beta.

In other words, they’re incorporating some changes to deal with ambiguity in searches and search comparisons.

For instance, to use their own example, if you want to compare search trends for Rice University and Harvard University, then you need to narrow your search to beyond “rice.” Otherwise, you might get skewed results as Google will include trends for the tiny white food that some people say isn’t real food. That’s not what you want.

There are countless other examples where this kind of ambiguity can play out. Searching for celebrities or place names could pose a problem as previously Google Trends wouldn’t include misspellings. Now, it does.

Also, alternative search terms may be included in your findings when you use the search tool. That would be a useful feature too – if you could exclude the alternate search terms at will.

I think we should all spend about half an hour playing around with Google Trends this afternoon. Then, you can get back to work and produce more of your fantastic content based on your findings.

In the early days of SEO, all content was based on keywords. That meant that anyone who created content for any purpose was writing content based on keyword data they found during their research. If you were targeting the automotive niche and you wanted to drive traffic to your used car sales website, then your content was designed to impress the search engines enough that you ranked for your targeted keywords. Simple, right?

Well, things have changed since then. Google has killed its free keyword research tool and no longer provides keyword data to webmasters so they can know how searchers found their websites.

Furthermore, the search engines are relying a lot more on social signals than they used to. This has caused a lot of search marketers to focus their efforts on creating social media spam instead of search engine spam, though there really isn’t a whole lot of difference.

Today, ranking for specific keywords and keyword phrases is all but useless. Chances are, you’re not going to know what they are anyway.

You’re better off focusing on your customers’ needs and more pressing questions. Before you build your website or start creating content, you should spend some time in forums and on social media asking potential customers what they want and expect in a service like yours. Conduct a very good market research campaign then design your website to answer the questions people have about a service like yours.

The idea is to build value into your content and your SEO. To do that well, you have to build intrinsic value into your website.

Content marketing is the new SEO. It’s always been the essence of SEO, but in the last couple of years more and more search marketers are referring to themselves as content marketers rather than search engine optimizers. There is nothing wrong with that.

But if you want your content marketing strategy to stand out, then you can’t be reactive. You’ve got to be proactive. So here are three tips to help you develop a more proactive content marketing strategy.

  1. Be More Semantic – You almost have to. Google is now only rarely providing keyword data in its analytics. Most of what you’ll read is “Keyword Not Provided.” Your best clues for what keywords and phrases people found your site by are your entry pages and the search ranking for the keyword they did use. That means you have to do a lot of guess work. At some point, you have to trust your gut. If you understand how people search for information, then you’ll better understand how to present information in the search engines. That requires a semantic approach.
  2. Build a content calendar – Since you’re being more semantic, plan further out. Use a content calendar to plan your posts ahead of time and write the best posts you can.
  3. Do more research – To write the best posts possible, you need to really understand your subject matter. It isn’t enough to know what people are searching for and how. You also have to know how to deliver that information so that they can find it. That requires research.

Your content marketing strategy deserves a more proactive approach, so give it what it wants.

Everywhere I look now there is an article going up on some SEO website, in an e-mail newsletter, or one of the dozen or so Internet marketing news websites I read each day about how you get can back in Google’s good graces following the fallout from all those bad links you built. My only question is this, why did you even start building those links in the first place?

For at least ten years, Google’s song and dance has been “focus on content quality and usability.” You ignored that advice and went with your SEO agency’s advice instead. That advice amounted to

  • Paid links
  • Reciprocal links
  • Link wheels
  • Article directories
  • Link spam tactics

All the ways Google said not to do it, you did it anyway. Now you’re trying to figure out what happened.

In some cases, SEOs and online marketers thought they were following search engine guidelines. By the letter, they were. By the spirit, they weren’t even close. And now the owners of those websites are trying to figure out how to kill all their dead links and get back on top of the search engine listings.

Here’s a reality check: Even if you got rid of all of your bad links, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t rise high enough in the search engines to recapture your old ranking. Sorry, but Google’s smarter than that. The latest algorithmic overhaul – Hummingbird, it’s called – is designed to give whole new ranking factors a greater prominence in the final results.

Instead of trying to game the system, why don’t you just focus on quality content instead?

In a way, online marketing has come full circle. In the early days, you wrote articles and published them. That was it. Yeah, you might have purchased a banner ad on a related niche website, but were those really effective?

No matter how effective those early banner ads were (not very), you could always count on well-written and well-placed articles.

Over time, the definition of content has changed. In those early days of the Internet, pretty much all content was articles. You might have had graphics on your website, but they couldn’t be search engine optimized. So articles were the real content.

What happened?

The Internet grew, photos and videos became popular as the technology to implement them online improved, and millions of websites sprung up in every niche imaginable. The leading online advertising model became PPC advertising. It was very effective if you did it right. It still is.

But, there are many Internet users who developed ad blindness. It’s a very real phenomenon that causes people to ignore ads – even if they’re effective in every way.

It’s hard to ignore native advertising.

Native advertising is content that doesn’t look like content. If it does look like content, then it’s so effective that users will still click to view it even knowing that it’s an ad. It’s content even if it’s advertising. The reason this works is because users really care about great content, even if it’s advertising.

It’s easy to talk about good search engine optimization. It’s even easier if you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about. SEO isn’t just something you do once and forget about it. It’s something you start and never finish.

That said, what is the most important part about providing good SEO? Is it …

  • Link building?
  • Keywords?
  • Your Title tag?
  • Meta tags?
  • Site speed?
  • Page titles?
  • h1 and h2 tags (heads and subheads)?

Actually, it’s none of those.

The most important part to remember about your website’s search engine optimization strategy is your audience.

Yes, your audience.

Most webmasters don’t think of their audience as an aspect of SEO. In fact, most SEOs don’t think of it that way either. But it’s very important to think about who your audience is and what your audience wants before you start trying to search engine optimize your content.

The reason is real simple. You are writing your content to appeal to your audience. Your SEO must be written with your human audience in mind or it won’t matter what the search bots think of it. That not only goes for the optimization part of your content but the language part, as well. Your content needs to be written in the language your audience understands, and by “language” I don’t mean French vs. English. I’m talking about word choices, sentences structures, etc.

Those considerations are every bit as important as your keyword usage.

Write for your audience. That’s the best SEO you can practice.

It appears that Google passed the biggest update since 2010′s Caffeine a month ago. Did you notice? That’s OK. Most of us didn’t.

But it’s being talked about all over the Web.

The change seems to be in honor of its 15th birthday and took place in a private meeting evidently with some of the world’s top journalists yesterday. But what does this new algorithm update mean for us content marketers?

Google’s Inside Search blog gives us a clue.

Hummingbird is designed to make extensive use of Google’s Knowledge Graph. That’s great. I was wondering when they’d get around to actually doing something with that. Remember, the Knowledge Graph was introduced last year?

So the idea is this … you want to know something. Instead of typing in a keyword phrase to get information on a particular topic, you simply ask a question. One example Amit Singhal gives is, “How much saturated fat is in butter versus olive oil?” Just ask Google to compare them. Instant answer.

I have a feeling that this is in its primitive form and nowhere near perfect, but let’s try it out. Here are a few more examples:

Obviously, it doesn’t work for every search, but how can search marketers use this information to create better content? Start by ensuring that your content is designed to answer a single query. Write intelligent natural language content rather than keyword-based content searchers can find anywhere.

Lead your niche in high quality content that answers searchers’ questions and you’ll have a leg up.