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How Much SEO is Too Much SEO?

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Google’s Matt Cutts let the cat out of the bag at SXSW this year and explained that Google would be rolling out a change to their algorithm that actually penalized overly optimized websites.  While he didn’t say what Google was considering “overly optimized”, there has been some speculation as to what it could be.

Matt Cutts

"Stop trying to game the system...write better stuff"

First things first – Too Much Onsite SEO

This will actually be a pretty common find once Google rolls out the change.  For years, people have been taught to put their top priority keywords in the title tags of the pages.  This wasn’t (and still isn’t) a “spammy” tactic, so hopefully the penalty here won’t be too harsh.  The thought process here, however, is that a title tag that is full of keywords isn’t exactly conversational, and therefore hurts the overall usability of the site.  For instance, which one of these sounds better to a searcher:

Website Content Management & eCommerce System | Marketpath CMS

OR

Marketpath CMS – The Easiest Damn Content Management System Available

Personally, I’d click through on #2, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.  However, traditional onsite SEO (at least the past 5 years of it) would laugh at that title tag.  Using words like “the” “damn” and “available” would be an amateur mistake.  These words are filler words that don’t help my keyword strategy.

Other onsite items to review once the change goes live are things like internal links that all utilize the same anchor text, page structure that doesn’t make sense other than to create more places for keywords, and snippets of text that appeal more to search engines rather than users.

Next – Too Much Offsite SEO

If you’ve contracted with an external search engine optimization firm, there is a good chance that they have built links to your site to boost rankings.  While there has already been a decrease in the importance of links in the overall ranking algorithm, sites with unnatural link profiles may be penalized even further with this update.  I’d be willing to guess that 999 times out of 1000, sites with unnatural link profiles have contracted out and bought links (either directly or indirectly), which is technically against the Google Terms of Service, so it’s only fair to get penalized. 

The thought process here is a natural one.  Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant content for a search query.  The most relevant content isn’t always delivered because other, less relevant sites may be optimized to rank better.  Removing links from the algorithm and replacing them with other signals might help Google finally achieve what they are trying to do – rank content based on quality, not technical SEO.

Whether or not you agree that sites that are overly optimized should be penalized (we’ve had that argument internally), the change is coming.  The best thing you can do at this moment for your site’s well-being hasn’t changed, however.  Keep an eye on the changes as they are rolled out, read some blogs about those changes, and modify your strategy accordingly.  The heart of your strategy will remain constant, focusing on good content creation and marketing

 

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What Are Your Customers Searching For?

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I just finished up with a sales meeting and demo of our product.  The potential customer knows they need help (which is a great first step), but even better, one thing was said that made me note they are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding why they need help (going beyond the usual “we need more traffic” statement).  The company admitted they had no idea what their prospects called their products.  Of course they use their industry lingo, but how many different terms could be used to describe their product,  Judging by how many different synonyms he rattled off in a matter of seconds, I'd say quite a few.

Potato vs. Spud 
You say Potato, I say spud, or tuberous crop, or...get it?

It’s a problem that a lot of companies have…too much technical jargon.  Too much industrial speak.  So, how do you fix it?  Here are a few tips:

Utilize the Google Keyword tool

This tool will allow you to type in what you think people are searching for and present you with a list of other ideas to consider.  Don’t get too hung up on the numerical values here, as this is Google’s “data” that is being displayed.  Their goal is to entice you to purchase these terms via Adwords, so just realize that higher numbers (global search volume and local search volume) are a good thing.

Ask Your Existing Customers

Your existing customer base can give you invaluable information as to what they call your products.  Find out exactly what they refer to them as and begin to build your keyword lists from there.  If you’re in an industry that services many different verticals, make sure you survey someone from each specific niche…this will help tremendously.

Analytics Data

If your site is already equipped with Google Analytics, or some other platform, check out the “Keywords” section of how your visitors have found your site.  Skip over any branded terms, and begin to dig a bit deeper.  Find the terms that only sent 2, 3 or 10 visitors over the month.  There is a good chance that these are appropriate terms, your site just might not be optimized for them quite yet.

Now that you have a bit better idea of how to find out what your customers call your product, now what?  Well, it’s time to build specific content around the new terms.  It’s up to you or your marketing department to decide whether these new phrases warrant static pages on your site, or if they are good blog fodder.  Put that content management system to use and begin adding the revised content to your site. 

 

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6 Blog Topics You Can Use Today

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Writers block? Perhaps this can help you find an easy topic for your next blog post. Six topics that might provide a jackhammer to get through the blockage.

1) What does your organization do best?

Every one has a core competency and strength. What is yours? Why are you the best at it? Avoid being overly blatant, though. Instead provide some examples of why you are the best and let your audience come this conclusion by themselves. Don't tell them. That just gets annoying. It might be fine for a rush hour radio commercial but not in a blog where people have purposefully visited because they want to learn more.

2) Write a mini case study about a recently successful project

​Surely you have recent projects or customer experiences that lead to a very successful project completion, order fulfillment, or successful fund raising. Whatever it is that makes your constituents happy can provide for a nice mini case study highlighting how it worked, who was involved, what went right, and why the customer had a permanent grin for the day or week.

3) Write about something that went wrong

​We all make mistakes and collectively, as an organization of people, we make mistakes. Tell your audience about one of those, how it happened, and what you did to fix it that potentially made that customer a lifelong customer. I would avoid telling the story about when you burned down the customer's house and enrolled them in the Jelly of the Month club to make up. It's probably best to keep the mistake a little lighter than that.

4) Highlight one aspect of your service

Pick one part of your service process and explain why it is important to the process as a whole. Even if you're in retail you have a service process. An example might be the process you use to stock shelves. What makes it complex? How does it change? Who performs the work? Or, if you are a strict service business, discuss how one small piece is critical and becomes the building block for the rest.

5) Write about an employee that has been a big contributor and made a difference

​Businesses and not-for-profits are full of people and these people are the difference between success and failure. Spend a little time to gloat over one of them. Why do they have an impact? How have they helped? Are they part of a bigger team that cumulatively and frequently performs outstanding work? This not only makes the face of your business more personable and human, it can also be a mini morale booster.

6) Write about your organization's history

​Perhaps you have an about us page that covers this but those are usually the mundane, boring textbook style histories that  are better used for a sleeping agent. Your story probably has more drama and emotion in it. You can talk about how you almost went bankrupt because you overstocked widgets and the widget industry bottomed out immediately afterward. Or maybe there was one particular client that made all the difference in your early success. How did you or the founder get the idea to start the business or organization? How many people worked there after one year? Two? Three? Ten? Tell a story, not an uninteresting, emotionless narrative.

 

There you go - six easy topics to write about. If you haven't noticed, I keep mentioning to be real. Don't skip  the juicy details because you think it might scare customers away - except the really flagrant events like burning a house down. Add some flavor to your stories and explain how you've become a better company because of them. That might just be interesting enough to read!

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