Q and A: Is re-writing content from another blog a legitimate SEO tactic?

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QuestionHello Kalena

My sister has just hired a SEO company based in The Philippines to provide weekly content for her company blog. As I’m a bit more web savvy than she is, she asked me to look over their service outline just to be sure she made the right decision.

Problem is, this “Google optimized content” they are providing seems to consist of copying popular blog posts from other sites in the same industry (women’s health and beauty) and re-writing them in a slightly different way before publishing. I don’t know a lot about SEO, but I am sceptical that Google would approve it. Besides the SEO consideration, this tactic just doesn’t sit right with me.

Is this a legitimate SEO tactic or could it harm my sister’s site in any way?

Thank you

Leon

————————————–

Hi Leon

You are absolutely right to be sceptical. By the sound of things, this *SEO* firm employs a technique called site scraping – where the content of other sites is copied or “scraped” and either republished unchanged on a different site, or re-written slightly and THEN republished.

Long term readers of this blog might recall my hilarious battle with site scrapers in the past and the revenge I took on them. I’ve got no problem outing site scrapers, especially when all attempts at communication have been ignored. Their tactics are not only unprofessional, but go directly against Google’s published Webmaster Guidelines.

Take BrainySEO for example. This “blog” (run by some clown called Mayank Jain in Singapore) blatantly scrapes the content of hundreds of blogs across the net, including mine. What’s hilarious is that the scraped content is run through some bizarre automated plagiarist thesaurus (I’m guessing Babel Fish) to translate it into a slightly different version of the same content as a way to avoid Google’s duplicate content filters. It is then published on servers based in the UK.

Compare these two posts:

1) My Fast Five post from week 39 (original)

2) BrainySEO’s scraped Babel Fish version (scraped)

The second (scraped) version reads like a drunk Aunty.

The service that your sister has signed up for sounds suspiciously similar. As Google re-iterates in their Quality Guidelines:

“Scraped content will not provide any added value to your users without additional useful services or content provided by your site; it may also constitute copyright infringement in some cases”.

Typically, Google and other engines will ignore or filter scraped content out of the search results for target search terms. But that’s not the only negative impact it can have.

Sites like ScamAudit.com provide a rudimentary way of measuring the trustworthiness of sites and suitably, BrainySEO is ranked as *seems suspicious*.

So my prediction is at best, the content your sister pays for will be worthless. At worst, it may impact the reputation of her business and the trust of her customers.

My advice is that she should sever the contract immediately, perhaps citing Google’s Quality Guidelines as her justification.

Let us know what happens!

——————————————————————–

Need to learn more about legitimate SEO tactics but not sure where to start? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!

 

September 28th 2014 blogging, SEO

Summing Up a Summer of Search Engine Shuffling for SMBs & DIY Marketers

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Summing Up a Summer of Search Engine Shuffling for SMBs & DIY Marketers was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Your business is where it is today because you know how to do a lot of things well. When you don’t know how to do something, you identify the best person for the job. Where does your website and online presence fall on the spectrum of things you know and do yourself, on one end, versus the things you hire experts for, on the other?

SEM DIY spectrum for SMB

Subscribe to the SEO Newsletter for the month’s Internet marketing news and tactics relevant to your online business: http://www.bruceclay.com/newsletter/

Odds are good that maintenance and promotion of your website fall somewhere in the middle of your skill set, from expert to overseer. Even if you’re hands off, it would do you good to know what’s new and next in SEO. That way, you can make sure your web presence is capitalizing on opportunities. To that end, you’ll find the latest SEO info from the last few months, and the search engine optimization tips it necessitates, in this article that covers:

  • The Google Quality Rating Guidelines, a brilliant resource that illuminates Google’s quality assurance program for its search results. Written for human QA reviewers, the document explains how to judge quality, on-page elements and reputation of websites in a variety of categories. Here we shed light on new ways to understand how Google determines expertise, authority and trust.
  • Google’s abandonment of authorship markup. Author photos and bylines next to search results are gone. So is the 35% click-through rate increase those photos seemed to generate. Do you have authorship markup on your site? Will you remove it? Maintain it? Nofollow links? Find out what to do about authorship markup here.
  • A new minor ranking signal in HTTPS (secure encryption). When Google confirms anything to be a factor in their ranking algorithm, businesses seeking a competitive edge take note. But before you demand your webmaster secure your entire site, learn the costs and requirements of HTTPS.
  • An adjustment to the local ranking algorithm known as the Pigeon Update. Google says the new local algorithm has improved distance and location ranking parameters and that the new local algorithm now more closely resembles the standard web algorithm. So, what does that mean for getting your business ranked in Google’s local search results? Read on.

SEO Insight in Google Quality Rating Guidelines

A March 2014 version of the Google Quality Rating Guidelines (the instructions Google gives to human quality raters for QAing their search results) was leaked this summer. It’s a total rewrite of the previous version and about double the size. This new version is version 5, and it includes some new terms and concepts that have search marketers pretty excited.

First there’s the term “E-A-T,” which stands for expertise, authority and trust. Now you can refer to this fancy new acronym when framing the importance of issues like quality content, author authority, necessary site components like a Privacy Policy and customer support, and other signals of, well, E-A-T.

Another concept that stood out in the v5 Guidelines include emphasis on website maintenance. This means don’t let pages sit stale too long; even the home page and other key landing pages should be kept up to show that someone cares for and maintains the site.

The document describes differing standards for varying types of pages. For instance, Google provides guidance for evaluating the following types of websites differently, noting that the purpose of content, expectations of users and qualifications of expertise are different for each:

  • encyclopedia pages
  • news sites
  • humor sites
  • forums and Q&A sites
  • PFD (porn, foreign language and didn’t load results)
  • YMYL (“Your Money or Your Life”)

For the YMYL category, it’s important to understand Google sets the highest standards for content related to a person’s health, finances and well being. If your site falls into a YMYL category (including sites that accept payment), Google has a higher standard of excellence for you.

What We’re Doing with the Quality Rating Guidelines

The Quality Rating Guidelines Version 5.0 is a 160-page, printed and bound reference book in the office. While concepts like expertise, authority and trust, freshness and reputation were understood to be the qualities by which content and websites are evaluated, marketers can communicate those concepts with an enriched vocabulary. Expect to hear any informed search marketer talk about E-A-T, YMYL and Do-Know-Go (a shorthand phrase for the three types of user intent a web page might satisfy ━ take an action, learn information, navigate).

For more on what it means to establish E-A-T on your website, watch Bruce Clay, Inc.’s SEO Manager Mindy Weinstein and Sr. Lead SEO Analyst Rob Ramirez talking about takeaways from the guidelines in this video hangout recorded on August 18 (from 23:10 to the end).

Abandoned SERP Enhancement: Authorship Markup

Google says that it’s not using authorship markup data at all anymore. Authorship markup was a way of signaling to Google the Google+ profile associated with an article’s author, from which Google could add an author headshot and byline to an article listing on a search engine results page (SERP).

The devaluation of authorship markup was gradual. First they did away with author photos in SERPs in June or July. At that point the author’s byline and other stats, like how many people circled them, were still under the result. Then in September, Google’s John Mueller said the data was going to be ignored altogether. Mueller advised webmasters not to worry about removing existing authorship markup. The official word was that users didn’t find the photo and byline useful. Unofficially, there have been stories floating around that authorship was a hotbed for abuse, as websites could essentially “buy a blogger” to gain the advantages of that author’s trust and authority.

Discussion within the SEO community has expanded beyond authorship markup discussions and on to author rank, the idea that Google could one day use an author’s expertise and credibility as a ranking signal. While authorship markup, photo and byline enhanced SERP listings may be in the past, many Google watchers predict some form of “author rank” will emerge (also referred to as Agent Rank in a Google patent).

How We’re Handling Authorship Markup

Hear Bruce’s action items for authorship markup in the opening part of our September 17 episode of our weekly podcast SEM Synergy. Tellingly, he shares what we’re doing with the authorship markup on our own website. Bottom line: don’t remove authorship markup! Bruce says he wouldn’t be surprised if Google is saying one thing publicly and will still process the data, or may in the future, when the signal is not as heavily spammed. Among the benefits that authorship markup might convey is acting as a signal of original ownership of commonly scraped content.

New Minor Ranking Signal: HTTPS Encryption

In August, Google said that HTTPS is now a minor ranking signal. All other things being equal, a site that is secure-encrypted will get a boost. However, it’s not a practical option for every site. SSL certificates are expensive. We continue to recommend that websites use them only where it makes sense, like pages where transactions take place.

What We’re Advising Clients Regarding HTTPS

Listen to the video embedded above (jump to the 15:16 mark) for Rob Ramirez and Mindy Weinstein, our Sr. Lead SEO Analyst and SEO Manager, respectively. They share considerations for deciding if HTTPS is appropriate for your site, including:

  • HTTPS will only give a small bump in rankings. It’s not a weighty signal because it’s not an accessible solution for everyone.
  • SSL certificates and encrypting connections, in general, are a best practice for sites that accept money over a payment gateway.
  • HTTPS implemented across all pages can be cost prohibitive for sites with many thousands of pages. It costs more for sites hosted on the cloud as the encryption process is more complicated.
  • There are important SEO requirements for transitioning to HTTPS properly. Redirects and canonicals must be in place to avoid having several versions of pages in the index.
  • Because of the cost component, and because many business owners aren’t aware of SEO at all, small and local business are less likely to implement HTTPS. Google is interested in ranking and rewarding community businesses, so their algo could not disadvantage them for not concerning themselves with HTTPS. In other words, don’t go rushing out to implement HTTPS across your entire website.

Updated Local Ranking Algorithm

There was also a shuffling in the local results with the Pigeon Update, launched at the end of July. Google said that the change made the local algo more similar to the general web algo and that distance and location ranking parameters are improved. SEOs and website owners reported major shakeups for long-standing local rankings. Some reported that adding modifiers like “near me” or “find” to a local intent query would return a map and local pack listing where they had disappeared.

What We’re Doing for Local Business Clients

If the algorithm has truly shifted to be more like the standard web search algorithm, aligning site content with the way people search is critical. Content quality (text, but also rich media like video) matters. Link equity may now carry a larger weight in the local algorithm than previously. The only search-engine guideline safe way to gain links naturally over time is by showcasing truly excellent content, emphasizing the importance of your website quality for SEO in general across local and national search verticals. Reviews (specifically Google reviews) may also have less weight on the algorithm with the shift, but the importance of reviews can’t be overlooked from a social media, engagement and reputation perspective.

That’s a Lot of Stuff! If You’re Looking for an SEO Partner …

Now that we’ve left you with a few search engine optimization tips and pointers related to the many Google algorithm updates this summer, ask your SEO services provider how your website strategy is being affected. And if you’re looking for someone to trust in the role of SEO tactician, consider partnering with us to boost the strength of your web presence. A quote and convo is a form away.

September 26th 2014 Google, SEO

Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools & Analytics

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Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools & Analytics was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

How well do you understand how your own site is performing? Many website owners know when their online business is up or down, but have only a vague sense of why. But it is possible to know specifics, the kind of analytics and facts you need to make informed decisions that will improve your site’s SEO and marketing strategy.

Think about the site data you have now. Can you answer these questions:

  • What’s my most successful web page?
  • Which pages get the most traffic and conversions?
  • Where do my site visitors come from — search, social media, or other?
  • What keywords are leading searchers to my site?
  • What kinds of people come to my site by age, gender, industry, interests?
  • What path do people take through my site, and where do they leave?

If knowing these types of specific data seems impossible, take heart. It’s not science fiction, nor is it a sales pitch. The tools you need are available — for free — from Google.

Two Essential Software Tools for Webmasters

Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics are essential for website marketing. Of the oodles of free software Google produces to help businesses and individuals do all sorts of things online, these two tool packages stand in a class of their own. We so strongly recommend both tools to our search engine optimization clients that installing them is at the top of our new-client checklist. And it’s surprising how many sites haven’t grabbed the opportunity yet to have one or the other or both. They each provide a wealth of information for webmasters to help them manage a site.

Ready to stop flying blind through your website decisions? It’s time to install your own personal instrument panel! Use the resources here to set up Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, understand what each is for, and get started using these powerful free tools.

Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools

First, click to find out How to Set Up Google Webmaster Tools. The article will lead you through installing the code, verifying you are the website owner, and then logging in for the first time to your new GWT account dashboard.

Once you have Google Webmaster Tools set up, look around. Here are a few super-useful features not to miss:

  1. Search Queries report: The Top Queries tab shows keyword queries people searched for (in Google Web search) that returned your web pages in the results. Tabbing over to the Top Pages view, you can see which specific pages ranked in the search results. These reports provide a pulse beat that’s worth monitoring. Watch them when you’re rolling out new content pages, trying to rank for new keywords, or just keeping an eye on your SERP rankings in Google.

    Search Queries report in Google Webmaster Tools

    Search Queries report in Google Webmaster Tools

  2. Sitemaps: This page, located under the Crawl menu, shows XML Sitemaps that Google is aware of for your site and gives you a way to upload a new one. Creating and submitting an XML Sitemap is like giving the search engine spiders a map. With it, they can more efficiently find their way around your site and index more of your web pages for search.
    add or test sitemap button
  3. Manual Actions: This is where Google’s webspam team might leave the kind of news you hope to never get — that they suspect the site of foul play and have applied a manual penalty. (Note: Most penalties are algorithmically applied, without notification.) If you suspect your site has been demoted in the SERPs, check this page for a possible manual action. If so, this is also the place where you’ll submit a reconsideration request, but only after you’re confident your site meets search engine guidelines again.

    manual actions in Google Webmaster Tools

    All manual penalties levied against a website are reported in Google Webmaster Tools.

  4. Much more to explore: There are many more useful features in Google Webmaster Tools. It was difficult to pick just a few to highlight. For a more thorough tour once you get GWT set up, browse the Help Center.

Getting Started with Google Analytics

If you were drooling over the data riches inside Webmaster Tools, grab a bib because you’ll be amazed by the treasures available in Google Analytics! This free yet robust software lets you set up conversion goals, track visitors, view changes over time, and even customize reports and dashboard views to help you monitor almost whatever data you need. Analytics is like a marketer’s best co-pilot, providing the crucial data that helps you navigate your Internet marketing course.

Get started by following our guide on How to Set Up Google Analytics. Follow the steps to create your Google Analytics account and then install the tracking code in your website that will allow the analytics software to gather data. That last bit sounds hard, but it’s not — it’s really as easy as copying and pasting.

Once your software is set up, give it about a day to start collecting data. Analytics data is not retroactive, but the reports will show more and more data over time. Keep that in mind as you begin looking at the various options in the left-hand menu. Imagine how useful it will be to compare weeks, months, or even years’ worth of data and concretely monitor your progress.

Google has designed the Analytics dashboard to be straightforward and as non-intimidating as possible. Still, with such a powerful tool as Google Analytics, there’s a lot to explore and know. We included a couple of instructional videos in that how-to article, so go back and watch them if necessary. We also suggest you browse the “Setup and basics” section of the Analytics Help Center to give yourself a good start.

Google Analytics Help Center

September 26th 2014 Analytics, Google, SEO

Good Web Marketing Just Isn’t Enough To Succeed Anymore

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by Stoney deGeyter

As a web marketer for over 15 years I know the benefits of a good SEO/Social Media/Conversion Optimization/Content Marketing campaign. The number of businesses who have succeeded by implementing solid web marketing campaigns is beyond numbering. But not every business that places a heavy emphasis on SEO succeeds. Sometimes, SEO cannot save your business, only you can!

When the Pole Position Marketing Pit Crew begins analyzing a website and starts building a web marketing strategy, we see a lot of things that fall outside the scope of “web marketing” in general. In short, we see a lot of the shortcomings built into the business. The fact is, it’s impossible for us to develop a successful marketing campaign without first understanding, and second, addressing other business issues. While web marketing primarily deals with how visitors find and interact with the site, if the behind-the-scenes stuff is broken, there isn’t an SEO campaign in the world that will make it succeed. Why? Because Google wants to drive people to great sites that people love.

If visitors hit your site and have a bad customer experience, sooner or later the smaller guys who are delivering a great experience will earn enough online authority to push your website down, down, down the search results! For any business to succeed, it must have a clear mission and goals. What are you trying to achieve? Why? For whom? Having a solid grasp of who you are and what you expect are fundamental keys to developing a successful online marketing campaign. Here are several questions you must ask and answer to be effective at business and that will allow you to have an effective web marketing campaign.

What Solutions Do You Provide?

Highlight the Solution

Everybody wants a solution. The product or service you sell, or information you provide, is merely a means to that solution. For example, this article right here may be a solution for a business owner wondering why their online marketing efforts are not working. What’s the solution? In short, analyze your business model. Do you sell auto parts? Or do you sell top-brand parts for hard-to-find makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs? Do you sell baby toys? Or do you sell educational toys and activity ideas that stimulate your baby’s learning process? Do you sell roofing services? Or do you help businesses and homeowners overcome the obstacles of fixing or replacing their roof after a damaging storm?

Then ask, how do you please your audience? Do you offer guarantees or easy returns? How far are you willing to go to help a customer before and after the purchase? It all comes down to this: how much is a happy customer worth to you, and are you willing to do what it takes to make sure they got the solution they thought they were buying? You have to remember, you have competition out there that is willing to go to all lengths to make their customers happy. Maybe they are new, maybe they are well established. Either way, you’re competing against them for customers. Search engines reward businesses that delight their customers. Are you delighting your customers?

Who Will Benefit From Your Services?

Who Will Benefit?

I’ve found that people often oversimplify who their target audience is. “I’m targeting anybody who wants to buy my product or services”. Well, sure, that makes sense. But who are those people?  Are they parents with kids, single adults, or college students? Are they frugal, well-off, or do they have plenty of disposable income? Are they environmentally cautious or conservationists? Are they indoor or outdoor enthusiasts? Do they own a business, work blue-collar, white-collar or entry-level jobs?These are all important questions to think about and once you start getting some thought behind the answers it opens up the door for more.

The information you gather here will be useful in not only your business messaging, but also with choosing keywords, site design and usability issues, and even determining how your content will be written. Compare your new insights against your main competition. Find out if they are also targeting a similar audience or perhaps going after an entirely different demographic. With all this information in hand you are able to get a good grasp on which direction to take and how to leverage yourself against your competition.

What Makes You Different From Your Competitors?

What Makes You Unique?

Surprisingly, this is a difficult question for many businesses to answer, but it’s a critical one. When you fail to articulate what makes you different or better than anyone else, then you are not giving people any real reason to buy from you rather than from someone else. The most successful businesses are not those that do something unique, they just do something in a unique way. And that’s a crucial point to understand. You really need to answer the question, “why you?” That’s what Google is trying to determine when analyzing websites and deciding which pages get first page placement. If you can’t articulate an answer, then Google will find someone who can and does to put in those top positions.Your customers will do the same!

If you can’t do what you do uniquely, then you have to do one of three things: 1) find a unique angle, 2) find another business to be in or 3) simply become the authority on your industry. Do that by providing better content, more robust information and more helpful tutorials or articles on your site and blog. Draw people in, not because you have better products, but because you’ve gone out of your way to tell them something they could not get anywhere else. Do that well and you will become unique in your own right.

What Are Your Business Goals?

What Are Your Goals?

No one would ever say their business goals are to get top search engine rankings. But that’s what most people looking for online marketing think is the goal of the campaign. Rankings are just one of the means web marketers use to help you achieve your business goals. Think about what you want to accomplish over the next 12, 24 or 60 months. Do you want to double your traffic? RFQs? Leads? Sales? Another question I like to ask is, if your SEO could help you achieve that without getting you a single top search engine ranking, would you still pay them to do it? If you hesitate at the thought, then there is a good chance you still have the wrong goals!

Set goals that are in line with the nature of your business. If you are purely an informational site that sells ad space then page views are a good measure. If you sell products or services then the sales are the measure, and beyond that, making a profit from each sale. Businesses don’t succeed without a plan. Heck, many businesses with a plan still fail. If it’s hard enough to succeed with goals and a plan, it’s even harder without. If you don’t set the proper measures for success then you’ll never be able to measure your success accurately, if there is any success to measure at all.

What Are Your Expectations?

What Are Your Expectations?

Before you move forward with any marketing campaign, you need to settle on the expectations that campaign will deliver. Most business owners and web marketers fail to have similar expectations when starting web marketing, which leads to frustration, if not extreme disappointment on both sides. Some businesses pass everything off to the SEO team and let them do their thing.Others want to know what’s going on each step of the process.

What the site owner or manager expects is important to know otherwise you can be in danger of providing too much information or too little feedback. Either can make you appear as if you’re not doing enough of the “right” things. Be sure everyone is clear on what success means and how soon that will be achieved. This involves communication, understanding of strategies, follow-through and solid progress reporting.

Success Is Up To You

Nobody ever said running a business was easy. Being successful at it is even harder. But there are some basic things you need to do so you can give yourself greater potential for success. Don’t think SEO will save you, it won’t. Web Marketing is just a magnification device. It takes what you have and amplifies it, drawing in more visitors, and hopefully improving your communication and sales processes at the same time. But web marketers don’t run your business. That means they are only responsible for so much of your success. You have to take ownership of the rest. Answer these questions above, and make sure you will succeed, with or without web marketing. If you know you are hitting it on all cylinders, let the optimization begin and amplify your success to the next level!

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

Google’s Search in Sitelinks and WordPress SEO

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Recently, Google introduced the new “search in sitelinks” box for a lot more sites. In the past this used to be restricted to YouTube and a few other sites. If your site is eligible, you’ll see it by Googling your brand, or receiving an email like this from Google Webmaster Tools:

Sitelinks with searchbox email from Google Webmaster Tools

So let’s run through steps 1 to 3:

1 Verify you have a functioning search engine

For 99.5% of WordPress sites, this one is very easy: you type example.com/?s=query (replacing example.com with your site’s URL) and you should be seeing search results. If not; you’ve either made a conscious decision to move your search engine elsewhere or you need to fix your theme.

If you see search results but you don’t like them, read my post on how to make WordPress search suck a little bit less.

2 Add the necessary markup

Another very easy step, assuming that A, you found your search engine under step 1 and it’s the default WordPress one and B, you’re using our free or premium WordPress SEO plugin. Update to the latest version of our plugin and you’ve got the code right on your site.

If your search engine is not the default, you’ll need to change the URL using the built-in filter. If you don’t have a search engine, get one.

3 Set up a preferred canonical URL for your homepage

Step 3, and yet again, this one’s easy. If you’ve got WordPress SEO installed, this’ll have already been done for you. If you don’t have it installed, you’ll realize after reading this that now is as good a time as any to get it done.

If all is done and your site is eligible, you should be seeing something like this in the search results:

emerce search in sitelinks

Conclusion: we’ve got your back

As I said in my post about Google moving back to 10 blue links:

When we were discussing these changes with some SEO friends, one of them said “it’s awesome, it’s a chance to be the first movers on another new thing”. That’s one thing you can be sure of: we’ll be there helping you make the most of it!

That’s what we’re doing. Thanks for using our WordPress SEO plugin!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

September 24th 2014 SEO, wordpress

Are You Over-thinking SEO?

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no-inspirationYou might be a little shocked by the time you finish this article. You might even refuse to believe me. But I’m telling you straight: when it comes to SEO, you are almost certainly over-thinking it.

Let’s take a quick poll. Are you reading every SEO article you can get your hands on? Are you constantly tweaking your page title and meta tags to see if your site moves up the rankings? Are you running daily search queries to see how your site ranks for certain keywords? Do you break into a cold sweat every time Google rolls out a new algorithm update?

If you’re guilty of one or more of these actions, you are totally over-thinking SEO and you need to stop. Right now.

I’ve been in the Search Engine Optimization business for 18 years – long before the acronym SEO was even coined. I’ve witnessed the birth of Google, the death of AltaVista and more algorithm tweaks than Yahoo’s had CEOs. With all the changes the search industry has experienced over the years, I can tell you that the key to SEO is this: understanding your audience. That’s IT. That’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to understand latent semantic indexing, you don’t need to know HTML, you don’t need to know Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon or any of the other latest algorithm changes. You just need to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you don’t know your audience you need to get to know them. Quickly. Talk to them, talk to the staff who deal with them most often. Find out what makes them happy and what is turning them off. Look at their purchase history, their feedback, their interaction with your brand on social media. Survey them.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web and how this is changing SEO best practice. Well guess what? SEO has always been about semantics. The main purpose of the Semantic Web is to enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Just like it has always been, the Semantic Web of today is based on searcher intent.

Every search is a question in disguise. When deciding what web content to rank highest in search results, Google compares the content of your pages with the original search query to see if they match semantically. In other words – does your content answer the intended question posed by the searcher?

Let me give you this example:

  • Oil
  • Hammer
  • Spaghetti
  • Car
  • House
  • Toothbrush

Take these six items and mentally put them into either two groups of three, or three groups of two, based on the first grouping that comes naturally into your mind. My initial grouping was:

  • Oil / Hammer / Car
  • Spaghetti / House / Toothbrush

My justification was that the first group was outdoor related and the rest indoor related. Did you group the items the same way as I did?

Now, if you give this same exercise to someone else, their groupings would likely be different to yours. I regularly present this exercise to my SEO training workshops and the outcome is almost always different for everyone. Some people group the items based on assets and consumables, others might group based on the number of letters in the words and there are always different assumptions about whether *oil* is the edible kind or the motor kind.

What does this tell you? Everyone is DIFFERENT. Depending on what time of day you did this exercise, or even whether you were hungry at the time, it might change the outcome. What does this tell you about the way people search? Everyone searches with a unique mindset and question in their head. Different day, different mood, different mindset, different question.

So how do you identify searcher intent? How do you use the semantic web to your advantage? By understanding your audience. By studying the search terms that your target audience uses to find the goods and services you offer. Once you understand HOW they search and what questions they are asking, you can optimize your content to ensure you answer their questions. Doing that will give you a much better chance of Google, Bing and Yahoo ranking you above your competitors in the search results.

Another SEO shortcut is to create user personas for your main customers. Track what pathways they take through your site. Notice what pages they visit most often and what content they share. Publish more of that type of content. Create unique and distinct marketing campaigns for each persona you identify. Your ROI will hit the roof.

Call your best customers on the phone, buy them a coffee. Get to know them, reward them. Show them you care. They are your advocates and should be your best friends. Turn them into brand evangelists and they will do half the marketing for you.

Spend less time looking at algorithms and more time looking at your analytics and customer feedback. Publish content that your audience is asking for. Publish content that your audience is searching for. Publish OFTEN. Internal Site Search is your best friend. Don’t have internal site search? Get it fast and review what people are searching for within your content.

Re-purpose and re-package your content in different ways. That newsletter that you sent out via email last week? Publish it on your web site – and I don’t mean a PDF – put each individual article on it’s own page. Search engines love fresh content. Ask your best customers why they like your product. Write an article about that. Create a Q and A blog post out of a help-desk ticket. Publish your customer testimonials. Write a case study with the help of your favourite client. Turn your Knowledge Base into several white-papers for download. Republish your blog posts on your Facebook page. Tweet the links from your Twitter account. Add the images to your Pinterest boards. Embrace social media and cross-promote your social channels.

You can do this. Everyone reading this article can do SEO. Everyone. It is NOT a specialist skill. It takes a holistic approach, but primarily it comes down to 3 words: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

So stop over-thinking SEO and just get on with it.

September 23rd 2014 SEO

The Compete Weekly Pulse

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Weekly-Pulse-2014

Welcome to another edition of the Compete Weekly Pulse! If you missed them, take a look at some of our favorite digital marketing articles from the past week below.

A Glimpse Into Marketers’ Social Media Strategies Even the big guys struggle to measure ROI

Curious as to what the social media priorities for marketers are? This infographic from Ad Week provides the top social media questions marketers are asking. Learn how marketers integrate social into their marketing strategies here.

Past, Present And Future: Why SEO Might Transform, But Will Never Die

SEO has been around the block, but just because it’s no longer new doesn’t mean it’s on its way out. This Forbes article takes you through the history of SEO, and discusses what may be on the horizon. Check it out to learn why SEO will be hanging around for quite some time.

Why the modern #CMO should #ThinkLookActDigital

Digital has transformed the way marketing operates, and it will only continue to develop. This infographic from Ravi Jay provides statistics on how CMOs anticipate the future of digital marketing developing. Take a look at the predictions for digital channels and customer experience here.

Native Ads Are Getting a Direct-response Makeover

In the past, native has predominately been seen as an image-building format….but that won’t be the case for much longer. Advertisers are more frequently demanding ads that drive sales rather than simply promote awareness. Take a look at the future for native ads here.

Getting Mobile Right: New Report Provides Actionable Approaches to Ensuring Mobile Marketing Success?

If you’re interested in mobile advertising effectiveness and strategy, take a look at this announcement of Millward Brown Digital’s thought leadership piece, Getting Mobile Right. Click here to read about the piece on Businesswire.com, and click here to download Getting Mobile Right.

September 20th 2014 SEO, Social Media

SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What Matters Most in Mobile SEO with Cindy Krum

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September 20th 2014 SEO

Bruce Clay, Inc. Sponsors Best SEO Campaign Category at US Search Awards at Pubcon

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Bruce Clay, Inc. Sponsors Best SEO Campaign Category at US Search Awards at Pubcon was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

“And the award for 2014 Best SEO Campaign in the nation goes to …”

Bruce Clay, Inc. will proudly sponsor the Best SEO Campaign category at the 2014 US Search Awards on Oct. 8, 2014 during Pubcon Las Vegas at the Treasure Island Hotel.

Noted as the biggest celebration of search, PPC and digital marketing in America, the second annual US Search Awards honors and celebrates the innovative accomplishments of the most talented agencies and professionals across North America in 20 award categories acknowledging the best in SEO, PPC and digital marketing.

bruce clay at us search awards 2013

Bruce Clay presented an award at the inaugural US Search Awards in 2013.

Bruce Clay Joins to Support SEO Standards of Excellence

After attending the inaugural US Search Awards last year, and presenting an award, Bruce wanted a larger role in the affair. “We believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due and to support forward thinking innovations in search marketing,” he told me. “We’re proud to align ourselves with other industry professionals who maintain as high of a standard of quality as we hold ourselves accountable to.”

Awards will be given for the best use of search in retail, finance, travel, and social enterprise as well as for the best campaigns in local and mobile search, integrated marketing, and paid search.

Pubcon Las Vegas Hosts Search Marketing Limelight

With so many of the industry’s leading experts in search and digital marketing gathered together in one place at the same time, Pubcon Las Vegas points the limelight to the many accomplishments and achievements of individuals and organizations. Pubcon Las Vegas and Marketing Signals are headline sponsors in addition to the award sponsors SEMPO, Distilled, Survey Monkey, Linkdex, and of course, Bruce Clay, Inc.

September 17th 2014 SEO

SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What a Winning SEO Agency Looks Like According to Rhea Drysdale

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SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What a Winning SEO Agency Looks Like According to Rhea Drysdale was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

When Rhea Drysdale, the CEO and co-founder of Outspoken Media, takes the SMX East stage on Oct. 2, I have a feeling it’s going to be a packed house. The award-winning New Yorker has a keen understanding of SEO, online reputation management and social media — all of which she’s going to share in “Long-Term SEO: How to Win for Years, Not Days,” alongside Internet marketing VIPs from Trulia, Intel and Ogilvy & Mather.

rhea-drysdale-headshotToday, the SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues as Drysdale shares her insights on building an SEO team and agency that thrives, staying ahead of the ever-shifting SEO target, what the wins and risks of SEO look like and much more. DISCLAIMER: FURTHER READING MIGHT RESULT IN INCREASED MOTIVATION. CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK.


BCI: Your baby turns one and your business turns six and you recently won top 40 under 40. You are a mom-preneur and SEO aficionado, and you have caught a wave or two in your life. What are some lessons you have learned?

RD: Starting a business and growing one are two very different beasts. Some entrepreneurs live for ideas and don’t stick around for growth. Others like the challenge of having to build complex systems and procedures to scale.

Since founding Outspoken Media, I’ve learned that I’m a strategist — I live to solve problems, but I don’t possess much patience for details. Owning and operating an agency gives me the best of both worlds because I get to problem solve SEO and reputation management solutions daily without having to personally manage a sometimes tedious in-house implementation process. I’m happy to build a process, but once it’s built, don’t ask me to live in it, I’m onto the next challenge.

Thankfully, we have a team of incredible marketers at Outspoken Media who do much better with process and they leave me to the mad scientist work.

SEO is also an industry that changes often enough that I’m constantly pushing the limits of my capabilities. I thrive in an environment where I’m forced to innovate daily, communicate constantly, and build creative solutions to challenging business problems. Accepting these truths and learning to work productively in them has been key to surviving a lonely CEO road.

I’ve also learned we do so much more than SEO. This was difficult to grasp after spending years performing tactical SEO services. I recently hired one of my mentors, Al Bellenchia, who joined the team with decades of reputation and crisis communications experience. While sitting in on client presentations he was floored by the value, strategy, and management we give to our clients. We weren’t just providing SEO services, we were strategically improving their business by shaping brands and growth strategies.

I’m proud that we’ve unlocked a new area in SEO that only a few other agencies and consultants have achieved — trusted business advisers. Now we have to communicate that message — fortunately, we’re marketers!

rheaOn the subject of babies… there is nothing to compare the experience to. Nothing. I wrote one post (what to put on your baby registry) if any readers are expecting. Maybe I’ll post again. Maybe.

On the subject of waves… to be fair, I’ve literally only caught two waves. For years my world was entrenched in the northeast Florida surf community though and I was the chairman of our local Surfrider Foundation chapter, an international non-profit whose mission is to protect and enjoy our oceans.

What is your secret to success as a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry?

Getting pissed off.

I’m Scots-Irish and a redhead, so I was born angry. I let that fuel a lot of my decisions and persistence. I’ve had a lot of really horrible situations as a woman, but if I was a man those might have happened anyways. Whatever the reason, when I feel like something is unfair, unjust, or just immoral, I push hard to make something better. I push to be louder than the noise. Louder than the sexist remarks. Louder than bigotry. Louder than someone’s preconceived notions or bias.

It helps that I was raised not to take crap from anyone. My brother was ten years older than me and I quickly learned how to get the better of him in a fight. My father put me in karate class with adults. He also taught me how to do dishes by the time I was three and said I’d always have a job if I knew how to scrub a pot. It didn’t matter that I was a woman or that my grandmother put me in etiquette classes or that I only wore pink for a year — I was always the kind of kid who walked up to a group, sat down, and took charge.

I didn’t see gender as a hurdle until I was old enough to recognize or be affected by sexism in the workplace (or sexual advances), and I used that anger to fuel me further. I didn’t pursue legal actions, I just accepted that the world has a lot of jerks and I’m not going to be one of them. I surround myself with incredible people I trust and we get to work.

Thoughts on building today’s SEO team … what does it look like?

Teams in general require a special balance of attributes and skills wrapped in a culture burrito, so put anything I say into that context. The future of SEO demands that we evolve as marketers — that we better understand users, their experience, their technology, their needs, how they communicate, their expectations, their behaviors, etc. All of this looks like a combination of well-rounded marketers and specialists.

At Outspoken Media specifically, our needs change with the industry, our vision, and the demands of our clients. Today, we’re actively seeking individuals to fill many different roles. Interested? Contact us. :)

What does the right culture look like for today’s SEO team?

I can speak to an agency model — fast-paced, drama-free, flexible, work/life balance, education-centered, creative, and accountable to each other.

What advice do you give entrepreneurs and startups about SEO and building a site from the ground up?

SEO is just one channel in a more robust marketing strategy that has to support your brand and business objectives. If you aren’t clear on your brand and haven’t defined business goals, you’re not going to be able to structure a great content strategy that can support earned links and content that fits the need states of your target audience.

Many businesses lack clarity around their brand, value proposition, point of differentiation, values, and other core areas that any great business needs a stronger handle on to succeed. When these aren’t well-defined, marketers (which SEOs are!) are expected to operate blind and guess.

I don’t like to guess. I want data. I want to know who you are, which will fuel creativity and alignment for enterprise-wide campaigns and processes that are needed for successful marketing and reputation management strategies.

How do you keep yourself ahead of the SEO moving target?

I’ve seen enough to know that a reactionary approach is rarely a recipe for long-term SEO success. I’m not in this industry to ride ripples, I will wait for the right waves and enjoy them, feeling relatively calm and prepared.

We’ve seen this with our clients at Outspoken Media. Those who establish long-term relationships with us don’t get hit by updates. Not to say that they will never experience a negative drop, but they aren’t receiving manual actions or massive algorithmic changes to their positioning. We do still take on industry innovators, who accept great risk for a high reward, but they’re strategic and thoughtful in their approach and we only work together if we feel it’s something we can reasonably put our name to. They know they have a business to run and jobs that depend on measured, incremental success, not risky behavior.

Staying ahead is relatively simple — diversify your marketing strategy, stay informed (find a few sources you trust and can bounce ideas off of), set up your own barometers, and pay attention to trends.

How often should a business evaluate SEO and what’s the best way to go about it?

Businesses should always be evaluating SEO, just like any other major marketing channel. This doesn’t mean that it’s a daily task for some businesses, but certainly it needs to be a monthly consideration with good data to help you make informed decisions.

What exactly does it look like, in your opinion, to “win” at SEO?

Minimal/calculated risk to no risk (based on business needs) and steady growth in metrics that matter. Investment in quality assurance/monitoring and accountability to leadership. The latter requires enterprise-wide education. An SEO shouldn’t be left alone on an island with what is often one of the most important revenue drivers for a business. It is essential that leadership, boards and managers understand what you are doing, so that they can grasp the big picture and strategize long-term.

Can you share some obvious mistakes that brands make when it comes to SEO that are the easiest to fix?

  • SEO is positioned under the wrong department or put on an island.
  • Poorly defined metrics and KPIs.
  • No internal education.
  • No communication across an organization.
  • No understanding of brand.
  • No understanding of audience.
  • No feedback loop/monitoring/quality assurance.

These might not be quick, tactical SEO tips, but they are among the most important problems brands face when it comes to SEO.

What are some of the biggest risks in SEO today?

Everything mentioned in the last question:

  • Cutting corners.
  • Cheap content.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Being overly reactive.
  • Investing in a strategy without really understanding it (I know Kate Morris, our Director of Client Strategy, sees this often with international SEO strategies).
  • Doing something because someone heard from that one guy at a thing to create a unique page for every country, state, region, ZIP code, city, and city-block.

What are some of the pitfalls that are practically impossible and most damaging to recover from when it comes to SEO?

Years of cutting corners with poor content and aggressive link development, paired with poor customer service (lack of proactive or reactive reputation management), and no broader marketing strategy or investment in other channels.

The lack of diversity in marketing, poor business reputation, and high-risk SEO often produces a combination of problems that a business can’t come back from. I’ve seen established companies work with multiple agencies and consultants for years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply to conclude that they need to start over with their entire business and/or brand. It’s heartbreaking to witness.

At Outspoken Media, we find our recommendations often speak to much larger inefficiencies within a company and it’s our job to delicately uncover those and provide our clients with the resources, education, and data they need to change course.

How much should SEO pros know about social media and how much should social media know about SEO?

SEO and social media are both just individual channels in a much broader marketing bucket. SEOs, like any digital marketer, should be well-versed in both areas as well as other critical areas of marketing.

Just because I don’t technically know how to structure and run a PPC account, doesn’t mean I don’t understand industry best practices, how to structure a content strategy that can be effective for both SEO and PPC needs, and rely on the information we can share.

Social media is the same. We’re able to tap into some great information through social media, but this doesn’t mean the audience is the same as on-site. We should understand all channels, how they work together, and the data that’s available to us. We should be aware of trends and how users are receiving/sharing information. If we can’t intelligently speak to this, I don’t believe we’ve done our job well.

I will add a caveat to this that you will always need very technical SEOs who can implement broader digital marketing strategies. This doesn’t mean they have to be the person who defines the strategy, but communication should still be happening, so that they’re aware of the reasoning behind certain decisions.

The Lightning Round

Who are the top five people to follow on Twitter?

That’s a super broad question — there are so many reasons to follow someone. Let’s go with people who inspire me or folks I feel positively competitive with:

What’s your favorite blog?

I have difficulty sticking to a single blog — just like books, ideas, and people. I’m very utilitarian — I’m reading something for a very specific purpose and I have no use for it after that point. I now realize this is because I’m an ENTP personality type according the MBTI.

I’ve been on a big self-discovery kick the past few days. The research led me to a blog that’s now inactive, but for 16 glorious posts, it perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to live inside of my brain: http://entp-problems.tumblr.com/. Scary stuff, but everything single one of those is spot on.

This blog won’t give a lot of great industry insight to your readers, but the point is to be aware of what makes you tick and how you work best. Don’t fight your natural tendencies, learn to embrace and work with them.

Oh wait, there’s Greg Hoy’s blog over here that I’ve really been enjoying: https://the-pastry-box-project.net/baker/greg-hoy :)

What’s the last book you read?

“Champion: A Legend Novel” by Marie Lu. I like dystopian young adult literature. I mainly read YA and business books. It’s an interesting mix.

If I spend a lot of time thinking about why, it’s because YA seems to really embrace bada** heroines. Not like Bella in “Twilight.” That’s just a shame.

One of my favorite quotes is, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” So many girls don’t see strong women in their everyday life. When I was a kid She-Ra was my everything. She wasn’t a supporting character and her hair was 10 times better than He-Man’s bob.

I like continually reading literature where women save the world. It’s a small goal I have before I die — I want to leave a positive dent in the universe at the very least (a la Steve Jobs). That’s a lofty goal, but we all need dreams and I’d rather dream big.

What’s your goal for 2015?

Continued, responsible company growth; team development; best-of-industry benefits; and launch of our new reputation management offering.


Get more insights straight out of SMX East 2014 — check out interviews with Jason White, director of SEO at DragonSearch, and Jim Yu, CEO and founder of BrightEdge. Next week, the SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues with Joanna Lord, VP of Consumer Marketing at Porch.com. The SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues all this month. Follow Bruce Clay, Inc. and Kristi Kellogg on Twitter and be the first to know when the next interview is up.

September 12th 2014 SEO