Skip to content

Posts from the ‘SEO’ Category

25
Jan

SEO Copywriting: Who do you write for now?

Content Farm DocumentsThe Background

It’s not that this question hasn’t been relevant, but Matt Cutts’ defense of Google’s Search Results brought content and copy to the forefront of the argument. That is to say, if you weren’t thinking about content and copy prior to the “content farm” bomb, you are now. Eric Ward made mention of it in his post at Adgooroo, and was so nonchalantly tucked in Matt’s post, it may have been overlooked by many:

To respond to that challenge, we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.

The gravity of the situation has changed. Based on the quick digging I’ve done, Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, wrote about the Google Patent on Web Spam, Doorway Pages, and Manipulative Articles back in 2007. It seems Matt might be hinting/referring to using these methods, as well as others, in their new “content farm” fighting methods. Definitely worth reading. Bill and David Harry are really the authority on patents, so they’ll have to set me straight if this is the right place to be looking.

The Problem for You

Admittedly, Matt’s description of hunting down content farms is most vaguely descriptive thing you’ll ever read. It’s says all the right things and provides none the real detail anyone who writes website copy for client sites wants to hear. And, now, the question remains: do I have to change my site content so I’m not classified as “spam”?

It’s a great question. Answer: probably not. Unless of course, your content is spam/spammy. And, let’s be honest, you know if your content is spam (i.e. a deluge of your “target” keyword littered throughout (a real, verifiable overuse), unnatural usage of your target keyword so it’s “stuffed” in there, and in general reads like shit, etc).

What if I’m Not a Writer?

If you’re not a writer, be one or find one. Sorry, there are no easier or simpler answers to that. Fact is, anyone can write and learn to write prose fluidly, structured, and well, but there’s a steep learning curve (let’s call it a lifetime of standard deviations). At some level, you have it in your blood or you don’t.

Writing is like SEO. It’s a blend of science and creativity. It’s back-end research and testing (reading a variety of authors and writing styles) and forging new ground by blending styles to create unique, fresh language and style. Writing for the web is no different, save the exception that the story you’re telling is about a product or service.

Who Do You Write for Now?

There was a post last week that suggest you write for search engines and not people. My general rule has always beenDo you write for search engine spiders or people? that you write for people and not search engines. AJ Kohn, author of Blind Five Year Old, makes some really great points backed up by some big names (Steve Krug and Jakob Nielsen); I’d encourage everyone to read that post.

Still, the argument remains: who do you write for? With enhanced, document-level spam-hunting getting underway, I’m hesitant to advise anyone to write for engines solely. I’m also not going advise anyone to write just for consumers/humans either. Neither extreme is helpful, and neither is likely to get you the results you want. It’s in the middle.

When you’re writing for people on the web, it’s about getting them large chunks of important information in sight-byte chunks. When you’re writing for engines, it’s about being keyword-obvious so the spiders know what you’re page is all about. And, the secret is finding a middle ground between those two poles. Making content rich and full without putting your instant-gratification users to sleep.

Simple Things to find the Middle Ground

If you’re an experienced SEO that’s written your fair share of site content/copy, then this is old hat for you. If not, then welcome to the middle ground.

  • Break up your content with keyword-driven headings. Structure your content with appropriate use of [H] tags
  • Use bulleted lists when you’ve got lists. Whether these lists are benefits or qualities or whatever, there’s nothing worse than reading a comma delineated list in paragraph form. NOTE: try use a bulleted list once. Nothing reads worse and looks worse than multiple bulleted lists slammed together
  • Mix your pronouns and keywords in the content. If you never use your keyword(s) in the content don’t expect the engines to know what you’re writing about. And if you never use pronouns, nothing reads worse than: “XYZ is a an amazing product because XYZ can do it all. Countless customers have told of XYZ’s greatness, XYZ will make a believer of you too.” Really, you can substitute an “XYZ” for “it” every now then folks

The answer: you write for both. It’s not easy, but neither is good SEO’d content. Let the Google Web Spam team decide where you fit in. If you do it right, you CAN have both. I’ve done it. Countless other SEOs have done it too. You don’t have to bend the rules, break the rules, to rank. You just have to play the game better: work for long-lasting results, work for solid (from the inside/out) websites, and work to make your competitor’s websites look like amateurs.

10
Jan

Social Media Optimization: Just Another Slice of the Pie

Social Media Optimization is Just a Slice of the PieSince 2008, this term has been all the buzz among search marketers: social media optimization. In 2009, it’s spread like wildfire through the big corporate business community (you know who I’m talking about: Dell; the poster-child of Fortune 500 social media). And in 2010, it was a must have for every business (even if it may not be right for your business) thanks to mainstream press organizations and anyone with a blog. It seems that 2011 is picking up where 2010 left off: pushing social media profiles and optimization.

Another SMO Push Article

iMedia Connection had a post last week explaining why SMO (social media optimization) will be the new SEO. If you haven’t read it, here are the major points that solidify SMO as the “new” SEO:

  1. Dennis Franczak and his colleagues get the majority of their news from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, before resorting to Google/Bing/Yahoo search to find an answer. Hence viral communication is more important.
  2. That it is less about finding information (the search for information) by optimizing it, rather the lasting model is targeted-audience pull information.
  3. Because Bing now has “firehose” access to Facebook data, he argues that specific content is now available on personalized pages. Thus, making it a better experience, and more attractive, to audiences that don’t want to deal with Google SERP information

Push-back on the “Push” Article

I don’t completely disagree with that article; in fact, many of those points can have a case made for them. But not now. Not until average users raise the level of their understanding do any of those statements become realized. Just because social media usage has increased across the board at every major demographic, doesn’t mean social media optimization is the new SEO.

More Social Media Indoctrination for Business Owners

This does not mean that all these existing and new users want to find information on these social platforms. I have no choice but to chalk up this article up to another indoctrination piece.That’s the issue I have with the iMedia article; there is no consideration for the average user (this is not the “Reasonable Surfer“) and how they use the web to find information.

We don’t have to look any farther than the author of the piece: he’s a CEO of an agency that does a lot of traditional marketing work, but “is grounded in interactive”. It’s no secret that traditional agencies have been beating their clients over the head the last year and half with social media. It’s the last ditch effort to get in on the “internet marketing rage” and put in a stop-loss measure to losing their clients to search marketing firm, keeping that revenue in-house.

Search Marketers Use Social Media Platforms for Information

Marketers use social media platforms to find information. Marketers want to encourage users to get to business pages, interact, and provide answers.

Average users do not use social sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) to find information. They go to these sites to tell people about what they’re doing personally or what’s happening in their careers, and to interact with friends and family members (i.e. connect, re-connect, catch-up). Average users may see product or service comments in these spaces, but will go to a search engine to validate/investigate those claims.

In my opinion, that article doesn’t take that into consideration. I don’t know a single person (friend or family member) that begins their information hunt on Facebook or Twitter. They simply stumble into it and use search engines to find sites about that product/service/topic.  And, I think Pew backs me up on this:

 

2010 Internet Usage Stats by Generation

Click to Enlarge

SMO is Just Another Slice of the Search Marketing Pie

No one is ever going to suggest that SEO is the end all, be all of search marketing (even though we’d like to think so :-) ). It just isn’t so. There are plenty of other avenues a business must take into consideration to have real online success: paid search, email marketing, conversion rate optimization, social media, and traditional marketing pieces. Are all these slices created equal? Are all these slices of the same urgency? No.

SEO is not social media optimization; never has been, never will be. And, I would venture to say, that SEO should be largest piece of the pie with the most urgency attached to it. Social media can be an important piece, but it doesn’t work for every business, can’t be effectively implemented for every business (not without looking you just got off the bandwagon express), and still has yet to stand-up to the ROI question.

The Website and Search are Still King

As long as search is still the one of most popular activities among all major demographics (see Pew image above),SEO Still King of the Web there’s no reason to feel rushed/bullied by traditional or hybrid agencies into starting a social media optimization campaign. While social media has increased usage across the board, it is still tangential/supplementary element to an online marketing effort.

The website is still king. Search is still a primary activity among all demographics; the idea that people are/will be using social platforms as primary source in lieu of search engines to find information is simply wishful thinking. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve your company in social media; by all means protect your brand name on the web by owning profiles on major platforms.

But social is not a make-or-break solution. That is, if you don’t have social media, your online efforts aren’t dead. However, not having some modicum of SEO on your site (in the event you’re not a huge brand name), could very well damage your ability to create a successful online marketing campaign. As far as I’m concerned, SMO is should be a very distant thought in your SEM arsenal.

15
Dec

Social Media Profiles for Quality or Rank?

Creating Social Media Profiles for Quality or RankIf you work in search marketing, then chances are good that you’ve read the great journalistic effort from Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land “Social Signals Google and Bing Really Count?” Since the story is now 13 days old in linear, real-time (translating to roughly 6 months old in Search Marketing time), you might be wondering why I’m choosing to talk about this now?

There’s been plenty of talk about the details of how Bing and Google credit profiles and what they key off of to assess that profile’s authority. But, what I haven’t heard from anyone, is the quintessential problem this reporting of this data brings with it: do you build a profile for quality or a profile for ranking purposes.

Caveat Emptor:

This post is solely going to focus on Twitter profiles. While Facebook does have relevance to the conversation, it’s not being used by more than one of the major search engines in full (via Search Engine Land’s Article) and even at that it appears Bing is back-referring to Twitter to surmise authority. Ultimately, this is going to more introspective about how I’ve used Twitter in last two years, than empirical facts.

It All Starts With Quality

We all start building our profiles with the aim of quality in mind, because, after all, our first profiles are usually personal. We follow influential people in our business spaces, friends, or people who provide amusing or great information. As your time in a given space grows, your own influence builds. Whether it takes months or years, every active profile arrives at this point where they must choose the direction of the profile.

Follower counts grow, following counts grow. The opportunities to spread your meme farther and farther is alluring. At some point you stop focusing on the quality of followers and focus on the number. Bigger is better. And Google and Bing seem to agree with that logic. What Danny was calling the SocialRank and as Bing articulated:

We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results

Nowhere in that statement does it mention quality. And, you might feel free to apply that to this statement, but I’d be careful about that. It seems to be focused on straight quantity. Followers to Following.  The measurement, it would seem to Bing, is to see a well-defined gap between Followers and Following.

Social Media Can Be Cold-Hearted

It Ends With Rank

I’ll be the first to admit, being on twitter for almost 2 years now, that I’m as interested in attaining rank, being as “influential” in the space as possible. At some point Twitter transformed itself for me into being a tool for getting messages out, highlighting great content, building relationships (i.e. Superstar mentality) and less about the quality of followers.

For the first year on Twitter, I didn’t care about counts in the least. I built a profile fashioned out the industry’s best, whether they followed back or not, because they brought great information and conversation to the table. I was of the mindset that I would rather have a succinct core of idea and information exchange, than be a Jim Morrison wanna-be. I subscribed, and still do subscribe, to Edward Lewis’ Twitter paradigm that you kill off spam profiles/accounts from followers. Because it was/is all about quality in your stream and getting the maximum from the space/tool. Then it happened:

At some point, I started caring about how my profile ranked and how much influence my profile carried. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but is was a progression over time. And, truthfully, it makes me a bit sad. I love the community of SEMs/SEOs/Marketers that I listen to and communicate with daily. I really do believe we are as tight-knit a community as there is on the web, but at some level we all see each other as a means to an end. Spreading the meme, good SERP position for queries where social has influence, and standing on one another’s shoulders to shout for authority/thought-leader status.

Just tonight I looked over my profile and found a huge surplus of spam hanging around. And, because I’m so careful to keep an acceptable Friend/Follower ratio, I explain it away. I prune obvious leaving the ones I know are spam but fake human well enough.

The Tools Reinforce This Behavior

Don’t get me wrong, I think Klout, Peer Index, and the like are innovative and genius. But they reinforce the mentality about Rank over Quality. And, yes, I use these tools to not only keep tabs on my own influence, but when I’m engineering a social attack strategy, these are first places I go to start organizing and architecting that attack.

These tools assess influence, reach, amplification. I don’t know the accounts personally, whether they’re small and have a solid following; I just know that I’m going to place Person X here and Person Z here because their influence and amplification dictate those terms. Because these are the right moments to set off the meme-explosions with the right profiles. It’s impersonal and cold-hearted.

Google and Bing Reinforced This Behavior

I’m not blaming the messenger for this. Danny did a bang-up job on that post. I’m blaming the engines for encouraging people to be more mindful of their counts than the quality of their profiles. It’s clear the engines think that these two ideas overlap, that one can’t be had without the other. In some respects, they’re right. Quality attracts quality. However, quality also attracts a boat-load of spam.

To be honest, one the hand I’m glad the engines finally admitted what most of have known for some time: influence, friend/follower ratios matter. On the other hand, it disturbs me that this information will only encourage more spam profiles to be created, and that people will not label as such because of the influence factor. I know that’s asserting a lot about the Twitter community in general, but I see this as an inevitable outcome. When ratios matter, when authoritative meme-spreading matters, spam gets a break because they lend itself to bolstering stats and occasionally helping a meme along.

What’s the Solution

I wish I had one. And, there are some of you out there saying, “And? No problem here. It is what it is.” I’d love to tell you that Tweeple will reverse course and solely focus on building quality, but I know that’s not realistic, or feasible. We’re marketers, it’s about leveraging advantages.

The solution is to let this take its course. That’s the best I’ve got folks. I think since there’s still some mystery around how engines are viewing what’s authoritative and influential and what’s not, there’s no reason to get jittery. Yet. But, if “links” have taught us anything, it’s only a matter of time before exploitation of the system becomes a premium. And it is my sincere hope that the engines have enough sense to adjust fire when it becomes saturated into their SERPs.

Overall, I’d like to see our community eliminate the spam profiles following them now. I know that you kill off one, three more takes its place, but if we remain steadfast on eliminating these profiles, eventually we’ll be left with quality. I can hope can’t I? (Starting with me)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,932 other followers

%d bloggers like this: