Entries Tagged 'SEO Saturday' ↓

Avoiding the Website Grammar Police

Website Grammar Police

Typically we discuss writing tips on Thursday is Words Day, but today we’re going to talk about grammar, spelling, punctuation, style and fact-checking. As we make our way down Google’s list of 23 traits of how to make an authority site, the next items on the list are:

  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? We recently covered how to make your site trustworthy in great detail, and if you create a trustworthy site, most people will be willing to make a purchase directly from it. One more tip about taking credit cards is to use a third-party payment processor, such as PayPal. PayPal has a 45-day charge-back policy, which makes it easy for someone to request a refund directly from PayPal if the merchant hasn’t fulfilled their end of the deal. Using a well-known payment processor with an easy refund policy can help increase sales from your site.
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? This is pretty straightforward. It makes sense if you’re publishing content online to write well. And that includes checking your spelling, grammar, and facts before clicking the publish button. If you’ve quoted another source, place a link to it. Use the spell check. Read your post before publishing it. If you’re not great with grammar, ask someone else to read over your posts or hire a ghost writer. As far as style goes, web style is more loose than print, but be consistent within your site. At the very least, within each post. For example, if you start off using the term “T-shirt” in a post, don’t later write “t-shirt” or “tee shirt.” Pick one and be consistent. Little details like that will go a long way toward building your credibility.

Until next time,

Happy blogging!

 

The Dreaded Duplicate Content Penalty

duplicate content penalty

Continuing down the list of things Google has stated make for a high-quality site, today’s topic is number three: “Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?”

If you’ve been blogging or working to optimize web content for any length of time, you’ve heard about Google’s dreaded duplicate content penalty. I’m still not sure anyone really understands the whole duplicate content issue, but from what I have researched, there is no (or at least there wasn’t until recently) real “penalty.”

As far as “authority” goes, Google simply ignores all duplicate content except for the original. In other words, if you publish original content, it should be indexed by the search engines. If someone copies that content, it may show up in the search results, but it won’t help that site count toward their site authority.

The point about duplicate content is, those who scrape content from other sites are trying to scam the system. Many scammers have auto-blogging software that search the Internet for content related to specific keywords and then automatically posts excerpts of that content into an blog. Those are the type of sites Google wants to avoid giving authority to.

Again, the thing we blogger need to focus on is creating fresh (unique), useful content that is relevant to our audience. If we do that and do it consistently, we will build an authority site that will rank well in the search engines.

Here’s a tip I give when I’m consulting with small business owners about building an authority blog:

  • Make a list of the biggest questions, issues, concerns and/or dreads your audience has – basically, make a “Frequently Asked Questions” list.
  • Now, answer those questions on your blog. As you create content, think about where your customer is now and where he hopes to be when his goal is reached. Make a list of steps required to get from point A to point B. Those steps will be individual blog posts.
  • You may need to write more than one post on each particular topic, especially if it’s complex. For example, this series could be called, “How to create a site Google will respect.” Since Google has over 20 items on their list, this will be an ongoing series for a while.

 

Rest in Peace, SEO

 

Search Engine Optimization as we know it is terminally ill, and experts have predicted that by mid-2014, it will have been laid to rest. Does that mean we don’t need to optimize our sites? Not at all. We still need to practice good on-page optimization, but the most important thing bloggers can do to rank well is to reduce off-site SEO efforts and spend our time creating quality content.

As we go through the list of things we need to do to Penguin-and-Panda-proof a website, the next item on Google’s list of things that make a quality site asks, “Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?”

Remember, the new trend in SEO is to “forget about SEO.” And the way we do that, is by replacing old-school SEO tactics with high-quality content. I’ve always focused on providing original, relevant, and quality content on this blog. And guess what? None of the Google updates have affected my traffic. Not farmer. Not Panda. And not Penguin. And I don’t fear any future Google crack-downs.

Why? Because today’s SEO tip is to ensure your site is written by someone who is enthusiastic about the topic and ensure your content isn’t shallow.

So, basically today’s topic is how to create compelling content that is relevant to your audience, fresh, authoritative, and has some meat on its bones.

The problem with most of the sites that got “Google-slapped” by the recent algorithm updates is that they either contained unedited PLR (private label rights) content, had poor-quality outsourced material created for cheap, scraped content from other sites (duplicate content), or were just full of ads and links with no real content at all. Those are the types of sites Google wants to sandbox.

This is GREAT news for us, because real websites with real content will start to rise in the search engine results. The key to ranking well in the search engines is to become an authority blogger. Pick your blog’s topic, and write with authority. Consistently. That’s it. It’s very simple – not always easy, but simple.

Here are some tips for becoming an authority blogger:

  1. Be passionate about your topic. Enthusiasm is one of the key components Google is looking for in content.
  2. Post consistently. Write new blog content at least once per week (but the more often, the better). Try to publish your posts at about the same time of day, and if you don’t blog every day, post on the same day(s) each week so readers will know when to check for new content.
  3. Be real. Transparency is important to grow an online following. You must be honest and open on your blog. Let people get to know you as a person. Be easy to contact.
  4. Make your site easy for your readers. Use clear navigation. Have a well-designed site. Simplify your category structure – it’s best to use a limited number of broad categories and use tags for more specific searches. A blog that dozens of categories strewn down the sidebar appears overwhelming to readers. Here’s a post I wrote on how to make your site easy for your readers.
  5. Be generous. Give away your best stuff for free. Always think of ways to add value to your blog posts. Include actionable takeaways that your readers can easily implement.
  6. Keep up with (and inform your readers of) the trends in your topic. Be a student, but be an authority. One of the best ways to become an authority blogger is to keep learning about your topic. The more you know, the more you have to share with others. And the more interesting and relevant content you share, the larger your audience will become.

If you keep these six tips in mind as you build your blog, you won’t ever have to fear past or future Google updates because your site will be the type of quality site Google is looking for.

 

23 Ways to Paint a Trustworthy Image of Your Blog

How to paint a trustworthy image for your blog

During the coming months on SEO Saturday, we’ll be going through the what-makes-a-high-quality-site list presented by Google. Some of those upcoming posts may leave you wondering, “What does THAT have to do with SEO?” Most people think of SEO as some guruish techie skill that no one else can master.

Not true. In fact, just last week the Search Engine Land blog quoted a former Google guy made a statement that rocked the SEO world. Andre Weyher, formerly of Google, recently said, “…what I tend to tell people is the following; if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO.

So, don’t fret if the principles I’ll be sharing with you sound simple. Most of them are. And the best part is, they are principles any blogger can incorporate to make their site trustworthy, not only in the eyes of Google, but more importantly, in the eyes of your readers.

The first question on Google’s list is, “Would you trust the information presented in this article?” Note that the question uses the word “article,” not site. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, Google ranks individual pages within your site, which in turn gives the entire site authority. When I discussed Google’s article last week (“What does Google want from you?“), I went a step beyond Google’s question about trusting the information within an article and instead asked, “Is your site trustworthy?

Today’s post will share 23 ways to make your site is trustworthy. While researching and compiling this list, I realized how lacking my own site is in this area, so I’ll be adding plenty to my to-do list as I make improvements to On Blogging Well.

  1.  Use a domain-based email. A professional email address gives you instant credibility, thereby increasing your perceived trustworthiness. It doesn’t take long to set one up through your domain’s cpanel, and you can forward it to be read by whichever current email address you’re using.
  2. A clean, professionally designed site. If your site still sports the flashy, spinning .gif images that were popular in the late 90s, then it’s time to update it. Even my site is “dated” style-wise, and I’m working on a redesign. Websites have styles, just like fashion. Keep your site clean of clutter and up-to-date. You only have a couple of seconds to impress your site guests, and your design is the first thing they see.
  3. Great content. Spammy, low-grade sites scrape content from other sites, or they have little-to-no “real” content. If you provide fresh, original, useful, and relevant content on a regular basis, this will help paint a trustworthy image for your website. The amount of content also aids in your site’s trustworthiness. If the content to ad ratio is low, your site looks sketchy.
  4. Dependability. Notice I said “regular basis” in the above point. Pick a blogging schedule and stick with it if at all possible. People get accustomed to your posting schedule, and besides helping increase your website’s trustworthiness, it will help grow your audience.
  5. Security. Protect your blog by creating regular backups, using security plugins, and, if you do any ecommerce on your site, ensuring the security of the payment processor you use.
  6. Credentials. You’ve likely chosen the topic you picked because you have the credentials to blog about it. If you own a flower shop, you have the proper credentials to blog about all things related to flowers and gifts. Your credentials don’t have to be blasted all over your blog. Post them discretely on your about page and those who are interested in learning more will find them.
  7. Links. Link out to relevant, informative references. One of the things that gives great journalists integrity is the sources they cite. This makes their writing trustworthy, and it applies to bloggers, too. Besides, the outbound relevant links will enable search engines to get a better idea of the type of content your blog shares.
  8. Authority. Authority goes back to the basic writing concept, “Write what you know.” If you babble on about something you have no clue about, your audience will quickly pick up on it, and that will damage your reputation and you won’t be trusted. Authority is similar to credentials, but it goes beyond mere titles and pieces of paper. All the credentials in the world won’t help you if you don’t use them. For instance, I was a music ed major in college. Yet I don’t work in the music field. At my day job, I’m an operations coordinator for a digital services company owned by a large daily newspaper. I spend many hours each week consulting with small business owners about their online marketing goals and helping them develop strategies. Interestingly enough, I got that job because of my “authority” (from being self-taught) in the field, not through “credentials.” Although now, my position gives me credentials in this field.
  9. Clout. Again, different from authority or credentials, but all three fit together and help increase your online trustworthiness. In relation to online trust, clout is typically associated with social media. I shared a few weeks ago about a website that measures your social media clout in the post, “Got Klout?” Note: The more active you are in your social networks, the more your Klout score will increase. When I first posted about Klout, my score was in the high teens (embarrassing!), but I just checked it and now it’s in the 50s, so keep plugging away. Social media clout is becoming a huge factor in search engine results.
  10. Advertising. Most bloggers would like to make a little money through their blogs, and ads are one way to do that. Be careful about the types of ads you post (make them relevant to the interest of your audience) and the amount and placement of ads. It was a LONG time before I broke down and put advertising on this blog, but blogging does require a monetary investment, so a little AdSense income helps pay the bills.
  11. Contact Info. Some people are so worried about identity theft that they won’t post any way for readers to contact them. Use a contact form, create an email address just for your blog. Do something – but let people get in touch with you. I will note that I’ve never posted my physical address on any of my websites. Do be cautious. I consulted with a client last week who had a stalker issue a few years back because she’d posted personal residence info on her blog. Get a post office box and use that address. Don’t put your home address online.
  12. Comments. Allow comments, but don’t let anyone and everyone post anything and everything. Here’s how I moderate comments, and it works great for me. In the WordPress dashboard under Settings > Discussion, I allow those who have had one previously approved comment to post without further approval. So, once you’ve made one approved comment on my blog, all of your future comments display immediately without you having to wait on me to approve it. This prevents spammer posts from displaying (don’t EVER put your settings to let all posts go live without any moderation) but it doesn’t frustrate my loyal readers.
  13. Social Shares. This goes along with clout. People notice how many shares your posts have. Some of my posts have been Tweeted and shared on Facebook dozens of times, some haven’t been shared at all. This also helps me decide what my readers are looking for in terms of content.
  14. Testimonials. If you provide products or services, post a few testimonials on your blog. You can create a testimonial page if you want. People do read reviews and testimonials. Endorsements people make about you on sites such as LinkedIn are another form of testimonials.
  15. Reviews. Speaking of reviews, collect links from your online reviews and post them in one place on your blog. This is especially important if you have a brick and mortar business. Check Google places and Yelp and Foursquare, then post links to the actual reviews so people will know you’re not making them up.
  16. Endorsements. Be careful of products you endorse. Try them out first and make sure they’re high quality, useful, and relevant to your audience before inviting your readers to buy them. A few dollars in affiliate commissions are not worth damaging your online reputation.
  17. Edit. Give your blog posts a quick read through before hitting the Publish button. Most readers will forgive an occasional typo, but if your blog consistently has errors that a little proofreading could have fixed, you’re hurting your reputation and losing trust.
  18. Check your facts. The Internet can be a big gossip mill. Make sure you post information that is accurate and if at all possible, link to your source. It’s always best to use sources that are credible, too, because anyone can post anything to the Internet – true or not.
  19. Social Media Profiles. This isn’t directly on your blog, but your profiles contribute to your online trustworthiness. Make sure your profiles are filled out as completely as possible. Include a photo of yourself. And do your best within the parameters of each platform to keep your profile information consistent across the web. Post prominent links to your profiles on your blog so readers can connect with you.
  20. Use your About page wisely. This is an area I definitely need to improve upon as I re-work my site. Your about page can eliminate a number of trust issues people may have with your site. We’ve already discussed listing credentials and testimonials. You can also use this page to list any professional certifications or associations you have. Put your picture on your about page so readers can get to “know” you.
  21. Supporting content. Add charts, graphs, screenshots, and statistics within your posts to help support the points you’re wanting to share with your audience.
  22. Insider Info. Share insider information about your industry with your readers. This step goes beyond building trust and adds to the why should you get your information from THIS blog instead of any other blog out there on this topic.
  23. Be friendly. Yes, an old proverb states if you want to have friends, you must first be friendly. That’s true when building online trust relationships, too. In effect, bloggers are “Trust Agents,” a phrase made popular by the book with that title written by pro-blogger Chris Brogan. Most people want to know and like someone first before they trust them. Be likeable.

This turned into a VERY long post, but I wanted to make sure you understand all the things you can do to paint a trustworthy image of your blog.

What does Google want from you?

What does Google want from you?

Google rocked the SEO boat again this month with the release of their new Disavow Tool. The tool basically enables webmasters and bloggers to exclude low-quality backlinks from Google’s analysis of sites.

This update comes on the heels of Google’s recent Penguin update (April 24, 2012), which set out to lower rankings of sites that used “black hat” SEO tactics, such as link schemes, cloaking, keyword stuffing, and deliberately producing duplicate content. Many site owners were affected and cried out to Google in protest, so the Disavow Tool allows them to ask Google to ignore certain “spammy” in-bound link.

The other fairly recent major algorithm change, Google’s Panda update (February 2011), focused on reducing low-quality sites from search results. These drastic updates have left many website owners wondering, “What does Google want from me?”

The short answer: High quality websites.

The long answer was placed on Google’s webmaster blog with their post, More guidance on building high-quality sites.

Google’s ultimate goal is to produce the results searchers are looking for, and because many (not all) online marketers are attempting to take short cuts by quickly building low-quality, advertising-filled junk sites, Google brought out the broom and cleaned house.

Should you be concerned about all this Google update stuff?

Yes and no. Yes, because you need to be aware of what goes on in Google-land, but no if you’re already striving to build a high-quality site with great content that provides solutions to your audience. Does this mean you can’t attempt to monetize your sites?

Certainly not! The point is, Google wants to help searchers find answers – real, quality answers. And those sites that provide quality content will be rewarded by higher rankings in the search engine results.

What should you do to make your site high quality in the eyes of Google?

Here are some questions I summarized from the famous Google 23-points for creating high quality sites for you to ask yourself about your own website:

  • Is your site trustworthy?
  • Are your site articles written by someone who knows the topic or is it shallow?
  • Does your site have similar (duplicate) articles that vary only by emphasizing different keywords?
  • Does your site offer a secure means of processing payments?
  • Is your site correct? (spelling, grammar and facts)
  • Is your site content written for the purpose of helping readers or in hopes of ranking in the search engines?
  • Are your articles original?
  • Does your page provide value?
  • Is your site an authority on its topic?
  • Is your content mass-produced over a network of sites?
  • Are your articles edited?
  • If your site shares health-related content, can that information you provide be trusted?
  • Is your site recognized as an authority for its topic?
  • Are your site articles comprehensive in nature?
  • Are your articles interesting and insightful?
  • Is your site something others would share or recommend with friends?
  • Is your site littered with excess ads to the point they distract from the content?
  • Is the content on your site comparable to the quality of an article you’d find in print?
  • Are your articles short and/or unsubstantial?
  • Is your site designed well with attention to detail?
  • Would a user complain to Google if they landed on your site?

Another trend in Google’s search results is the impact of social authority. During the coming weeks, we’ll go through the 23-point list Google provided and offer tips on how we can use this “from the horse’s mouth” advice to ensure our sites are high quality.