Category Archives: Algorithms

#Marketing Tips from an Unsuspecting Italian Leather Shop Owner

The leather aroma emanating from Dante’s Leather Shop Sas in Florence– or Firenze, as the Italians call it, was hard to resist. There were many pop up tents on the cobblestone street with vendors displaying leather jackets, but this store seemed real—something requiring rent and a permit.  I wasn’t looking for a fake coat, but a reputable product as a birthday present for my husband.

Greet the Customer.Italian store

After two minutes eyeballing a multitude of coats, I spotted one I liked and a stocky, older gentleman approached me.  He asked in Italian if he could help me. When I asked in Spanish if he spoke English, he quickly obliged and began his pitch.

But, I wasn’t ready to buy. I just wanted to know if

  1. the leather was real,
  2. would the coat fit my husband,
  3. and how much the coat cost.

Demonstrate the Product.

He showed off this particular long jacket like it was a prop in a Penn and Teller act.

To answer my first question, he pulled out a lighter and held the flame against the outside of the coat. It did not ignite. “If it was a fake it would burn,” he said.

I don’t know if the lighter thing is true or not, but having grown up around saddles, I could smell the leather and trusted my nose. I was intrigued by his magic trick and felt comfortable moving from question one to question three.

Overcome Objections.

How much? (That would give me another indicator as to the validity of his answer to question one.)  He gave me a price and I put the coat back on a hanger. Holy cow. These are expensive.

He paused, stopped me, and walked to his counter, returning with an envelope.

“Let me show you how I’m going to save you 14%,” he said, as he detailed the duty free procedures he’d and I‘d follow, so that I’d receive a refund of Italy’s retail tax.  He pulled out past receipts and explained how it worked for other customers. (So, jump on the bandwagon.)

Since this was my first store and leather shopping experience in 2015, I wasn’t sure if his base price was legit.  I wasn’t ready to buy, but kept listening.

“This is a gentleman’s coat,” he said, brushing the length of the jacket with the back of his hand and straightening the collar. “A beautiful coat!  Notice the two tones. This is a popular style for men today.  What size is your husband?”

I had no idea. “He’s taller than you, but not as stocky in the shoulders,” I said.

Without missing a beat, the man put the coat on and said, “And he probably doesn’t have as big of a belly. I apologize. I enjoy our Italian pasta too much.” The ice was broken and I smiled.

The coat looked tight. Then, I remembered pictures I had on my phone and found them. Before holding my phone to look at the pictures, the salesman politely asked, “May I?” Just a small detail, but he knew enough to ask permission before he continued moving me through the sales funnel.

In the photo, I was standing next to my husband on the beach. The craftsman immediately put the coat back on the hanger and pulled out another size.  “This is the one,” he announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He wasn’t insulted, but assured me after fitting so many men, that he knew his sizes.  He also gave me his card and said that if he was wrong, I could return the coat and he’d send the correct size.  This didn’t 100% comfort me, as I imagined shipping charges between countries and the uncertainty of dealing with issues from afar, but he was trying and answered with patience.

My final concern was the train travel ahead and the coat getting stolen during the journey. I once again put it back on the hanger and the man’s face fell. I’m sure he thought he’d never see me again because time and distance kills many sales. “I am coming back through the area in a couple days,” I said.  “I’ll swing by then.”

He nodded and I left.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d be back.  I breathed easier after leaving. I was free of the pressure to buy, but over the next couple days, I looked online at leather coats and found most to be more expensive. I also browsed other leather shops in the area and found that Dante’s price was indeed reasonable.  The coat would be a good buy and a classy gift for my husband.  So, I went back and bought it.

Apply Interpersonal Salesmanship to Digital Marketing

We can learn from this Italian businessman.  He did not intend to teach anything, but we can connect these parallel digital applications.

Invest in a legitimate website.

Don’t skimp on a pop up tent that’s a few pages with thin offerings of products and content. Invest in a mobile-friendly site and plan your navigational flow to include each category offering you sell.  By now, you’ve heard that Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm goes live April 21, 2015. Pay the money to sell from a proper site and hire writers to produce relevant and convincing content. Shoppers want to shop where carts are secure, pages quickly render, and flawless images and words are helpful.

Offer your assistance before the customer leaves.

Give customers a few moments to look through your store, but do greet them.  Many online businesses provide chat services to help shoppers find products or ask questions.  These can annoy, so configure your settings appropriately to avoid chasing away potential customers with pushiness.

Anticipate shopper questions.

Shoppers ask the same questions and have the same concerns that other shoppers express. Overtime, you learn what customers will ask. Answering these repetitive questions can get tiring.  However, customers want to feel important. Thoroughly and patiently answer each question. Whether in person or through the Internet, you’ll improve sales with a one-on-one approach.

The Italian shop keeper answered questions in the order I asked them.  He didn’t jump ahead to other predictable topics. He answered what I wanted to know when I wanted to know it. Another customer might have asked the same questions, but in a different order.  He didn’t assume I was someone else.  He personalized his answers to my agenda.

Your website should thoroughly answer the questions that are asked every day in your store. Create videos or FAQ pages to explain common or complex information. Give customer traffic the flexibility to choose what they want to know when they want to know it. Offer product reviews on your site for the insight and comfort other customers provide.

Speak your customer’s language.

Later in my trip, I walked into a café where the cashier was not going to try to speak English or even meet me in the middle with Spanish. Ridiculous, right?

Not really.

It’s easy to forget that your website might be giving the same cold shoulder to potential leads from abroad. If you want more tourists to buy, communicate in the language and with the expressions they understand. The leather shop owner quickly adapted his initial greeting from Italian to English, overcoming my first sales hurdle—language inadequacy. You might consider offering an online chat service in multiple languages for customers who visit your site.  Thank goodness for Google Translate, but even so, can you make your site friendlier to foreign shoppers? Is your site’s reading level accurate for various ages and fluencies of your customers?

Know and love your product like a craftsman.

The Italian store owner knew his product and business. Your website should also demonstrate your breadth of expertise. Provide details and demonstrate passion for what you’re selling. Think of concrete word pictures, phrases, and examples to help customers visualize using your products. Offer images with close ups and 360 degree views. What might the product look like on a small, medium, or large person?

Know your competition and how well your products are priced, as compared to competitor’s products.  Some companies have in-house experts write their content and then hire content companies to edit for SEO-friendliness, grammar, and usage.

Be polite.

Your brand’s tone does make a difference.  Respect your customer’s intelligence and interest with the words you choose.

Offer a no hassle return policy.

If you offer a great product, then your return policy ought to be friendly to offset customer indecisiveness or concerns about your legitimacy. A no hassle return policy communicates that your business is for real.

Let your customer leave.

If you’ve accurately priced your product and you know that your product is of quality, then don’t sweat when a customer leaves.  Sometimes people need space to see that you offered a good deal.

But honestly, the Italian shop owner knew my leaving wasn’t ideal. You will lose a percentage of sales when potential customers leave, so address their concerns while in your store without being pushy. Some retailers provide competitor comparison charts on sub-category or product pages to demonstrate competitive price or product details. The Italian shop owner offered to directly ship the coat overseas so I wouldn’t have to carry it with me—an alternative that I determined was too expensive, but at least he was accomodating.

After the sale, invite customers to return.

It was a simple phrase the man said after the coat was in the bag and I was leaving the store…

“Thank you for shopping with us.  I hope next time you visit Florence, you will treat yourself to something, as well.”

Oh gosh. That was good.

He’s right. What about me?

Unknowingly, I wrestled with my pragmatic inner-voice. It scolded, “You got the trip. Your husband gets the birthday coat.” But, another inner-voice snapped back, “The salesman is right. You deserve this. You could be getting a good deal, too!”

What a smart phrase to zing customers with at the end.

Be an expert salesman online.

Whether you’re a shop keeper with one store and no online presence or a major retailer with thousands of SKUs and hundreds of global stores, finely tuned inter-personal skills applied to each and every transaction add up over time.  Bring those traditional business practices to today’s platforms and you’ll increase sales like a pro.

 

~Jean

 

 

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Filed under Algorithms, Audience, Branding, Capturing Audience, Customer Profile, E-Tail Category Content, Marketing, Merchandising, Personas, Product Descriptions, Reviews, Sales, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Words Which Sell

Google to Launch Ranking Adjustment for Doorway Pages

If you produce a variety of doorway pages to increase search traffic to your website, well, your goose is about to be cooked.  Today, Google announced that they’ll be cracking down on doorway pages that don’t offer enhanced user experiences.

Regarding the new doorway algorithm change, Google’s Brian White explains that:

Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their ‘search footprint’ without adding clear, unique value. These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof. To improve the quality of search results for our users, we’ll soon launch a ranking adjustment to better address these types of pages. Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.

What is a doorway page, you ask?  If you’re asking, you probably don’t need to worry about it unless your site is in the hands of an SEO other than you. Google offers the following examples of doorway pages:

Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page.

Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s).

Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy.

These pages may frustrate users who’ve clicked on one, two, or three page variations only to return to the same site again.  It’s conceivable that some users migrate to alternative search engines at that point. The doorway page that dazzles the user with a cool initial hook, but then offers no unique or catered content once he or she arrives on the site, has been put on notice.

Google suggests that you ask these questions about your site’s doorway pages:

  • Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

This algorithm is sure to cause big headaches for some- especially companies that operate with extensive networks of doorway pages.  Check with your SEO to see if your website might be a causality of this latest algorithm update.  You’ll need to eliminate doorway pages or provide unique content and functionality for each.

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Filed under Algorithms, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Seven Ways to Improve Your Local Content

Local SEO is important for neighborhood businesses, but it’s increasingly competitive to score in the top three local results. Having better content than your competition remains key to gaining extra visits.  Keep in mind the following seven marketing strategies to improve your local content.

Get Detailed

What makes your service or product better?  Don’t skim the surface.  Provide depth, but don’t ramble.  You want to sound like the local expert by providing helpful resources to would-be customers.  If you are the local expert, get your fans and customers to talk about their experiences via Facebook, Twitter, and G+.

 Appeal to the Eyes

Take extra measures to include photos which look of professional quality on your webpage.  If this means hiring out the work, do it.  This small investment can bring in a great increase in revenue.  The same goes for web design. Your homepage should reflect the quality of your goods or services, all while being aesthetically pleasing.  Search engines are moving toward more visual searches, and you don’t want to be left behind because of a shoddy homepage. Plan out your keyword navigation and do include video.

Claim Your Company

Chances are there is already a location listing for your business.  You simply need to claim it and verify the information as correct.  You should do the same with your Google+ page.  Incorrect location information can mean a big hit to your business.city

Verify Yelp and City Search

Take the time to examine the correctness of the information on CitySearch and Yelp if they are applicable to your business.  The information included on these databases is sometimes incorrect or out-of-date.  Do not be overly concerned if you see some negative reviews as you do this.  If you know you are offering the finest quality goods and services, the positives will shine through in the form of favorable reviews.

 Pinpoint Your Location

One of the simplest practices to increase local content is to include your business address and phone number on each page of content on your webpage.  This ensures identification of your location regardless of the current page being viewed.  Your goal is to give contact information each precious moment someone is visiting your page.  If a potential customer has to take the time to search for this information, they will probably move on.

Team Up With Other Locals

Collaborate with like-minded local business owners with an agreement to recommend their business on your site in exchange for recognition on their site.  This sign of goodwill can provide a boost for each party, yielding positive return to your local culture.  All this is the recipe for a win-win situation.

Go Mobile

In a world of mobile devices, modern customers are on the move.  Reliance on mobile devices drives the market for a mobile presence.  Make your website mobile-responsive so customers can have a better browsing experience when viewing your website on smart phones or tablets.  Be sensitive to the appearance of your content pages on mobile devices.  Try to steer clear of using technology such as PDF or Flash, which are less usable on many popular mobile devices.

Finally, brush up on Google’s Pigeon update and then make necessary adjustments to your local profile.

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Filed under Algorithms, Local, Mobile, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What Are the Projected Benefits and Drawbacks to the New Google Penguin Update?

This October will be the one year anniversary since the release of the fifth update to Google’s Penguin algorithm. In case you’re not already familiar with Penguin, this update was created to improve Google’s ability to catch websites that were spamming its search results. For example, websites that buy links or obtain them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.Penguin Update

The reason why so many websites are anxiously awaiting this update is because when a new Penguin update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links may regain some of their rankings. For any business that heavily relies upon web traffic and SEO to draw in customers, this can be the difference between success and failure.

So what can we expect from Penguin 3.0 and will this update offer a substantial improvement over the last version? Here are a few highlights as to what the experts are saying.

The Benefits

Penguin 3.0 is expected to make major changes to the algorithm with the main goal being to make it capable of running more frequently so that those whose websites were impacted wouldn’t have to wait so long to see a refresh. Cue sighs of relief from businesses everywhere.

Google has admitted to the fact that their current algorithms don’t reflect webmasters efforts to clean up the issues that caused them to be penalized by Penguin in a reasonable time. It’s expected that the new update will attempt to resolve this issue. With Penguin 3.0, Google claims that websites that have “sanitized” their backlink profile and replaced spam links with real links will finally see a lift in SERPs.

The Drawbacks

While this update will certainly have its benefits, it also brings several drawbacks and concerns of which you should be aware. Just as previous updates jarring and jolting to thousands upon thousands of websites, we should expect the changes associated with this new update to be just as significant. If you’ve taken the effort to clean up your bad links, this is good news, but if you have not, this could mean even more penalties and negative impact on your SEO. Additionally, over the past year Google has been working on improving their ability to catch “spammy” link and many that may have flown below the radar of the last Penguin update are once again at risk of getting caught.

One final concern to keep in mind is even if your own website doesn’t get caught in the Penguin filter, other “spammy” websites can still negatively impact your SEO by linking to your website. Google’s official position on negative SEO is that “Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.” Essentially, it’s on you to resolve this issue with the other website, which can be no easy task. Worse yet, you may not even know these links back to your website exist until it’s already hurt your SEO.

How to Bounce Back From Penguin 3.0

If your site has been hit by Penguin, you should immediately perform a link audit to be sure that each and every backlink in your profile conforms to Google Webmaster Guidelines. It’s a small price to pay now compared to getting caught by the new Penguin update. If you do, you may need to wait another year before until a new update provides a chance to recover.

Additionally, if your site hasn’t been hit by a past Penguin update, you are still not safe. If you have any “spammy” links in your profile, remove them now. If you have done any automated link-building or hired shady, offshore link-building services, you are likely at. Non-penalized sites should still perform a thorough link audit to be safe. Failing to do so will make you the next website anxiously awaiting a Penguin refresh.

Once you have sanitized your backlink profile, it is time to permanently end the bad practices that may worked well in the past, but represent risk, today. Instead, focus on post-penalty marketing activities that conform to Webmaster Guidelines.

Just because you are under penalty, doesn’t mean that you have to wait for a Penguin rerun to get organic traffic. In addition to replacing the bad links with good ones, you should spend time and resources on generating traffic that does not require Google organic search- possibly through creative marketing services.

The final takeaway is that every single website should perform a link audit on their website. If you have any bad links, now is the time to correct them – before Penguin 3.0 is unveiled. Furthermore, end the bad practices with spam links one and for all and conform to webmaster guidelines. Also focus some of your marketing efforts on various other tactics that do not involve Google organic search just to be safe. Finally, keep a keen eye on other websites that link back to yours to ensure they are not negatively impacting your SEO. ~Stephanie

What are you most looking forward to or are worried about when it comes to Google’s Penguin 3.0? Share your thought and insights by commenting below!

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Filed under Algorithms, Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The Process of Switching to Https – Why? When? And How?

Ever since Google made the announcement that secure webpages would be given a small SEO boost businesses are beginning to upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS. But what do these letters even mean and why should you want to make the switch? Let’s first start with a brief background on the difference between the two.https

“HTTP” is an acronym for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” and this is the format that the vast majority of websites use for their protocol. “HTTPS” stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.”  This means that information exchanged between the user and a HTTPS web site is encrypted and cannot be hijacked to allow someone to electronically eavesdrop on the information the user provides, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or social security numbers.

This “secure” element becomes most important for ecommerce websites, but nearly all businesses can find several good reasons to also make the switch and provide a more secure online environment for their users.

Why?

On August 6, 2014, Google published on their Webmaster Central Blog that HTTPS will now be considered as a ranking signal as an effort to increase internet safety and reward websites that use HTTPS. It’s important to note that this will be a “lightweight signal” that will affect less than 1 percent of global queries. Google has indicated that, in the future, this signal’s ranking weight will increase.

Additionally, HTTPS will allow more people to access your site from various locations. Many businesses have installed firewalls blocking employees from viewing non-HTTPS sites as precautionary measures. Your blog in HTTP might be blocked from office internet, creating a roadblock between you and your readers.

Now that Internet users are becoming more aware of the meanings of HTTPS and the lock symbols on websites, more trust is being placed in websites with this level of security. Users feel more confident when they see HTTPS on your domain. It builds trust and security not only with your website, but with your entire brand.

When?

Now that the longstanding fear that the switch would hurt your SEO rankings has been addressed by Google, there’s really been no better time to jump on the bandwagon to make the switch.

Users are informed and aware of the difference between the two and appreciate the added security. Even if the SEO ranking signal is modest, there is still an added benefit to making the switch. The answer to “when” is the sooner the better! While the process for how to do so can be a bit more technical, it’s not any more complex than the effort it took to first develop your site or update it.

How?

First and foremost, you will need to buy a Secure Socket Layer Encryption (SSL) Certificate and have it installed on your website. According to Verisign, a provider of Internet infrastructure services, SSL is a technology that enables encryption of sensitive information during online transactions. Each SSL Certificate contains unique, authenticated information about the certificate owner. A certificate authority then verifies the identity of the certificate owner when it is issued.

All links on your webpages will have to link to the HTTPS area or your website will have a caution sign instead of a green closed lock. If you are using a content management system (CMS), all of the dynamic links created by the CMS will adjust accordingly. Links created by the user (ones that are copy and pasted from somewhere else) will need to be manually updated. Finally, if you use any libraries from other websites (such as for hosting your graphics or logos), you will need to ensure that these are linked from an HTTPS link as well to ensure the green closed lock –  a sign of a fully secure site.

A note of caution: a website that uses SSL encryption does not safeguard users from phishing and other schemes.  When visiting websites that accept financial information online, it is always smart to make sure the online company is legitimate, has a good reputation in customer service and uses SSL encryption in their transactions.

Have you made the switch to Https? Share your insights and experience by commenting below!

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Filed under Algorithms, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Google Wants High Quality Content, But What Does That Mean?

Okay writers and webmasters, you’re good, but you continually challenge yourself to better.  This post is ready to be a resource to you.  We’d like to explain the following:

  1. The crux about quality from the recently leaked, March 2014 Google rater’s guideline manual.
  2. What high quality means.
  3. The attributes of low quality content.
  4. What you can do to improve your website’s content.

The Rubric- Google’s 2014 Search Quality Manual

Behind the scenes, an army of quality raters double check the accuracy of Google’s algorithms before and after updates. These raters are issued guidelines, which steer their evaluations and reflect what the juices are in the current or upcoming algorithm changes. The latest handbook, version 5.0, was recently leaked. We wrote about the 2011 version, and gave an overview of the new version at Relevance. What’s important for you to know is that E-A-T, or Expertise, Authority, and Trust are now key factors when determining Google search engine rankings.  Most insiders have known that the reputation of one’s brand is an important ranking factor, but this manual gives a detailed look at the factors that determine site popularity- well, popularity isn’t even the right word.  It’s more about the culminating signals behind your site’s reputation.

If you’re the Director of Marketing, you’ll want to download your own copy of this handbook at scribd.com because it talks about design and functionality elements, too.  Since My Web Writers focuses on content creation, we’re going to drill down into that aspect of the handbook.

Definitions of Highest and High Quality Pages

I really like how Google defines quality and provides so many specific examples.  It says,

“Highest pages are very satisfying pages which achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality of MC <each site’s main content> as well as the level of E-A-T and reputation of the website. What makes a page highest quality? We require at least one of the following: <1> Very high or highest quality MC, with demonstrated expertise, talent, and/or skill.  <2> Very high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (page and website) on the topic of the page. <3> Very good reputation (website or author) on the topic of the page… We will consider the MC of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill. Very high quality MC may be created by experts, hobbyists, or even people with everyday expertise. Our standards depend on the purpose of the page and the type of content. The Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high quality MC.”

This means that as a writer, if you are writing outside of your area expertise and don’t do your homework, your average content could sink a website. Conversely, if you’ve specialized in a certain area, interest, or hobby, you could see a surge in demand for your knowledge after people get familiar with this document.  Writers, don’t be deterred from tackling new subjects, but when you do, do your homework.  Talk to experts and include their testimonies in your articles and quotes. You also can’t slop through the writing process.  Check your spelling.  Get the subject and verb agreements right.  Go deeper than what the culmination of five articles say about the topic.  Nobody wants to read repurposed articles when they’re looking for new angles. Pick up the phone and dig up unique quotes or tidbits of information that no one knows.  Google tells raters that,

“Highest quality pages and websites have a very high level of expertise or are highly authoritative or highly trustworthy. Formal expertise is important for topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice. Expertise may be less formal for topics such as recipes or humor. An expert page on cooking may be a page on a professional chef’s website, or it may be a page on the blog of a home cooking enthusiast. Please value life experience and “everyday expertise.” For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc. Think about what expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean for the topic of the page. Who are the experts? What makes a source trustworthy for the topic? What makes a website highly authoritative for the topic?”

Google would also like to see secondary content on high ranking websites, if possible.  From videos to games to reviews, find ways to help users delve a little deeper and engage a little longer. Not every high ranking site has to have secondary content, but if it has good secondary content, that’s a plus.

The Attributes of Low and Lowest Quality Content

Compare what content needs to achieve top scores to what deserves low scores. First, it’s important to note, Google recognizes intent.

“We have very different standards for pages on large, professionally-produced business websites than we have for small amateur, hobbyist, or personal websites. The type of page design and level of professionalism we expect for a large online store is very different than what we might expect for a small local business website. All PQ rating should be done in the context of the purpose of the page and the type of website. The following sections discuss page characteristics which may be evidence of Low quality. Occasionally, these same characteristics may be present on smaller amateur or personal websites and are not a concern. Please use your judgment when deciding whether these characteristics are evidence of low quality on the page you are evaluating, or merely a sign of non-professional but acceptable small, amateur, or personal website design, for example, “Uncle Alex’s Family Photos” website (a hypothetical High quality example).”

Google lowers scores if main or secondary content is distracting or unhelpful.  For example, too many ads are distracting and appear to have the purpose of monetizing the site rather than helping users. If the site lacks supplementary content, this too can lower the site’s score. Poor page design or a lack of website maintenance (meaning broken links or slow load images) can hurt your site’s score.  As much contact information as possible should be added. Google tells raters that,

“We have different standards for small websites which exist to serve their communities versus large websites with a large volume of webpages and content. For some types of ‘webpages,’ such as PDFs and JPEG files, we expect no SC <secondary content> at all. Please use your judgment… Here is a checklist of types of pages or websites which should always receive the lowest rating:

• Harmful or malicious pages or websites.

• True lack of purpose pages or websites.

• Deceptive pages or websites.

• Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users.

• Pages with extremely low or lowest quality MC <main content>.

• Pages on YMYL <Your Money or Your Life> websites with completely inadequate or no website information.

• Pages on abandoned, hacked, or defaced websites.

• Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading.

• Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations.”

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

This list seems fairly straight-forward and yet, one could see where rater subjectivity could get the better of a site. Pages or websites that are “untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” could tank a business or individual with rogue opinions or controversial views.  The overall checklist appears reasonable, however, if Christopher Columbus had a website back in his time, I wonder how he’d score? Taken in whole, the document is fairly clear that raters should look at how well you, as the content’s creator, did your homework and presented information or opinions; but, the “unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” phrase on its own should be considered a warning shot fired about appearing half-baked in the public arena.

Definitions of Lowest Quality Content

The writer who has the depth of a baby pool probably shouldn’t be assigned very heady topics.  As a manager, find each writer’s strengths and let each write about those topics. Google says that,

“The quality of the MC <main content> is one of the most important considerations in PQ <page quality> rating. In this guideline, we’ll judge the quality of the MC by thinking about the how much time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill was involved in content creation. If very little or no time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill has gone into creating the MC, use the lowest quality rating. All of the following should be considered either lowest quality MC or no MC:

• No helpful MC at all or so little MC that the page effectively has no MC.

• MC which consists almost entirely of “keyword stuffing.”

• Gibberish or meaningless MC.

• “Auto-generated” MC, created with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

• MC which consists almost entirely of content copied from another source with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

Finally, the distinction between low and lowest quality MC is often human effort and manual curation. If you are struggling between ‘low quality MC’ and ‘lowest quality MC,’ please consider how much human effort and attention the page has received.”

When writing this article, I struggled with how much content out of Google’s manual I should quote.  My reasoning to go ahead and use as much as I have is because to date, not much has been written about the manual and not everyone, who is in a position to change their website, will read the 160 page document (though they should) or if they do, they might want further insight about it.  Thus, I think the amount of quoted handbook content is justified, given the extra value added with insight around the quoted content.

However, this is different than copying and pasting half an article without attribution or even with attribution and not adding further value to what already exists on the web. Nothing is worse than paying a writer to create original content and discovering that it is backwash.

Google says,

“Important: We do not consider legitimately licensed or syndicated content to be ‘copied’ (see here for more on web syndication). Examples of syndicated content in the U.S. include news articles by AP or Reuters. The word ‘copied’ refers to the practice of ‘scraping’ content, or copying content from other non-affiliated websites without adding any original content or value to users (see here for more information on copied or scraped content). If all or most of the MC on the page is copied, think about the purpose of the page. Why does the page exist? What value does the page have for users? Why should users look at the page with copied content instead of the original source?”

What You Can Do to Improve Content

Deliver what you promise for each keyword query you target. If you want to rank for the term “Arabian Horses for Sale” your page ought to have pictures and descriptions of several Arabian horses. You’ll want other websites to have great reviews from customers about your previous transactions. You should be registered and a thriving member of Arabian horse registries. Don’t let your content get off topic, but do make it be so rich that users will want to return and will recommend it to others. Make sure you spell check your work and don’t stuff the content with too many keywords.

We recommend reading the raters’ guidelines to learn more about how to improve the content of your website. You’ll find additional insight about what it means to have high quality content. ~Jean

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Filed under Algorithms, Branding, Business Strategy, Editors, Keywords, Reputation Management, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What should web writers know about content creation?

Strong content is a must-have to make your sites not only user-friendly but highly-ranked in search results. These tips will help you find a strong balance of readability and SEO.

Move Beyond Keywords

With each change to the Google algorithm, the role of keywords becomes more sophisticated. Keyword density higher than 2% can actually hurt your ranking. Just looking at keyword data will no longer work for generating high-ranking content. Additionally, the implementation of encrypted searching will make keyword data less reliable. Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Watch suggests continually building your content and refreshing pages to signal that your site is alive and growing, rather than focusing strictly on search terms.

Write Like People Think

When you do use keywords, the new secret is to instead use search terms in a way that more naturally reflects how the word is used conversationally or the way people think about the words. For example, instead of using shorthanded terms in your meta titles and keywords, use phrases or concepts. As search engines begin processing natural language more frequently, the change may become a hindrance to ecommerce and business sites that use keywords less conceptually. For example, rather than using a title like “Find the Best Writing Solutions,” which emphasizes keywords like writing and solutions but doesn’t sound much like an inquiry someone might ask a search engine, you might try “How to Write Better” or “Best Ways to Improve Your Writing.” Whereas older algorithms focused on keywords, the new algorithms are looking more for phrases and concepts that reflect real people’s language use.

Engage Your Audience

Since you’ll be writing more like people think, it’s important to think more about for whom you’re writing. As content becomes more prevalent in search algorithms, so do different ways of assessing the quality of the content, such as authority and audience engagement. Quality content is frequently updated, helpful, and targeted for your audience. Aim for content that will get the audience to comment, bookmark, or share. End your posts with questions or prompts to encourage audience participation and use reader feedback to help you assess who your audience really is. Not only does engagement with readers boost your SEO rank, it also helps you better address your readers in a way that makes them feel connected to your site or brand. Pay attention to signals that let you know what language, examples, and other trends are most engaging for your readers. Building a relationship with your audience is more complicated than analyzing keyword results, but it provides the biggest boost to your brand and content quality.

Use Social Media

While all social media is a huge means of generating traffic, you can’t underestimate the use of Google+ in developing your rank and content. Link your blog or website to Google+ and make sure that you generate content that crosses over well. Think eye-catching pictures, engaging questions, and sharp summaries that encourage users to click from your Google+ page to your blog or website. That linking builds your presence and authority in the Google algorithm.

Creating a broader social media strategy is an important part of getting your content seen and of generating more engagement and authority. When using social media consider your audience and which sites offer the best reach. A social media strategy must do more than simply sharing links and hoping they’ll get reposted. Introduce content with thought-provoking or click-worthy leads. Ask questions. Use visuals that grab attention. Many social media platforms use a lot of white space in their design, so visuals really pop. Meet your audience where they are and draw them into your content.

~Kasey

More Posts:

Content Improved Our Client’s Keyword Reach and Searchlight’s Data Proved It

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

A Writer’s Insight into Google’s Hummingbird

Seven Helpful Apps for Social Media Marketers

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Filed under Algorithms, Content, Hummingbird, Keywords, Panda, Penguin, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media