Before you write new content, take a look at your old content

As a writer, blogger or copywriter, you may be relying heavily on the belief that well-written content is enough and therefore, cannot be significantly improved once published.

Rather than constantly churning out page after page of content, I suggest you look at your top pages and look for ways to improve them. If your bounce rates on top pages are high, chances are you’re not learning enough from your logs and will just create more pages with high bounce rates.

This never ending tea poppin’ doe

My suggestion is that you think multi-dimensionally. It’s not just the words on the page, it’s the total user experience. Here are just a few of the many dimensions you can address:

Length – the widely held belief now is that longer is better, but I suggest that you be respectful of people’s time get to the point
Usefulness – trim the filler and expand upon what’s actually useful
Tone / Voice – try being positive, negative, sarcastic, optimistic, elitist or a commoner
Ease of use – make readers work less

 

Ease of use is really the big one. Writers, bloggers and copywriters have only recently started taking ownership of UX.

  • Visuals / UX
  • Maybe what you’ve written is great but you’ve overestimated readers’ attention spans / time available to consume / commitment to your clients’ brands  (especially in cases where you’ve written big / long content)
  • Visuals make content easier to digest, provide visual breaks and increase scan-ability
  • How can you make your content interactive?
    • Is there a plug-in to add comment boxes inline with article content similar to Medium?
    • Can you mimic this behavior using existing tech like forms placed inline with content that act as micro lead generators?
    • Can you add CTA breaks that ask commenters for their thoughts mid-way through?
  • And don’t forget … video, video, video

All these things can increase time spent on page and lower bounce rate.

What have you learned from your bounce rates?

 

To brand or rebrand? That is the question.

My co-worker Kelly recently attended an iStock branding webinar and shared her notes with the team.

There were elements of the webinar that intrigued me enough to seek out the video below and to share a few of her bullet points.

 

 

Kelly’s bullet points appear quoted below. My responses appear after each.

“Do NOT start by creating a website; perfect your strategy and THEN create the website”

I see this happen all the time. Entrepreneurs think building a website is the first step towards building a business. Then once the website is built, suddenly they are a business. Not true!

“So, whatever you tell your clients to do, your site must do exceptionally well and it must demonstrate the effects of doing it well.”

This made me think of a client that has five different options for fitment and how they NEED to have videos demonstrating each option before they expect the general public to request one at all.

“Don’t try to make your business more sensational than it is. Instead, be truthful.

I like this because it’s defensible. We shouldn’t pose as experts. We should ask to partner with experts so we can learn and serve.

“Juggling multiple brands is seldom effective

Here’s an extension of the above. People do business with people and not brands, companies, industries or websites. The most important brand is your personal brand – who you are, what you can do and why you’re the only person that can do it. The company name, tag line or web address is inconsequential by comparison.

So the question remains … to brand or rebrand? When hard times befall your company or when industry changes make you feel outmoded, chances are your brand isn’t responsible. The webinar mentions a couple valid reasons for rebranding (such as a merger or outgrowing of your business) so make sure you’re just not out of ideas before you take this pivotal step. 

Disinformation: Social Signals are Not Part of the Algorithm

My co-worker Jeff sent me an interesting post by Blind Five Year old that re-opens the debate surrounding social signals and SEO.

In a nutshell, the article says that social signals are NOT part of the (current) algorithm but they ARE important (because they tend to extend the reach of content / create inbound links).

While I don’t disagree with the summary above, I do warn clients not to believe everything they read.

Here’s why.

I don’t optimize for Google today, I optimize for Google 5 years from now. Therefore, social signals ARE part of the algorithm.

Remember, Google used to say links mattered (now it has websites afraid to link).

Why would Google say “the amount of likes and shares you have is an indicator of how relevant your content is to a particular query.”

If they did, they would already be equipped to deal with the avalanche of junk data created by like builders. They may be close, but I don’t think they are there yet.

To me, it is more likely than not that Google is currently observing social sharing activity in its natural, non-like builder environment and writing algorithms to suit. Then, when unnatural activity is detected, the algo can easily compare to natural activity and act accordingly.

Failure to react to the SEO industry (link builders) quickly enough has put Google in the predicament it’s in today – it’s reliant upon a method of ranking websites that’s easily manipulated by those with knowledge and money.

At present, I’m largely reliant upon income generated from my knowledge of the current algorithm, its operation and ways to monetize sites that rank. But I don’t expect the next generation Google algorithm to be as susceptible to exploit.

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Why you shouldn’t 404 out-of-stock product pages

Lately it seems that I only blog about Matt Cutts. I guess that’s partly because he’s the most influential voice in our space. And partly because you have to take what he says with a grain of salt. Unless you are an experienced SEO, it’s easy to give bad advice based on something “Matt Cutts said …”.

In his latest release, Mr. Cutts answers the question:

How would Google recommend handling eCommerce products that are no longer available?

Cutts describes three scenarios in his answer. View the video below.

In the first scenario, a solution for out-of-stock products is provided for small sites with “tens” of page. Cutts gives excellent advice here: don’t 404. Be helpful and provide a link to a related product.

In the second scenario, a solution for out-of-stock products is provided for medium sites with “hundreds” or “thousands”  of pages. Here’s where I think Cutts gives bad advice. He says:

I would probably think about just going ahead and doing a 404.

Why would people using a smaller website want to be treated differently than people using a medium-sized website? Is it not possible that people use both small and medium-sized websites? The answer is yes. It’s better to be helpful than not. To me, 404 pages are not helpful to users (other than for obvious reasons) and certainly not helpful when you consider time-on-site or conversions.

In the third scenario, a solution for out-of-stock products is provided for websites that post ads (such as auction or classified sites). Here Cutts recommends the unavailable_after meta tag. Good, soild advice here.

I acknowledge that Cutts is not a UX or conversion optimization expert, but as someone that lives in that world, I thought it important to comment here.

What’s your opinion? If you’re shopping for a product and it’s out-of-stock, would you prefer to see links to similar products?

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What Matt Cutts really said about social signals

Matt Cutts is Google’s head of web spam. When he speaks, the SEO community loses its mind. Bloggers roll out their jump to conclusions mats and Twitter bursts into flames.

In the video below, Cutts answers the question:

Are Facebook and Twitter signals part of the ranking algorithm? How much do they matter?

This video is sparking discussion as it seems to contradict something Cutts said in 2010 (that social signals do matter).

The confusion seems to stem from this.

In the first (most recent) video, Cutts talks about how Google ranks pages and how Facebook and Twitter pages (in the form of social profiles) are dealt with the same way any other page would be.

He seems to confuse the question with the answer. I don’t believe the question was “Does Google count the number of likes and follows my social profiles have to determine if they’re relevant to user queries” but that is EXACTLY the answer Cutts has provided.

Cutts also talks about the “causation vs. correlation” argument that seems to be so en vogue these days. He says that (paraphrasing) just because your (web) page has a lot of social sharing activity doesn’t mean it will rank well. It’s probably a good page and therefore is getting links.

Then the Cutts disinformation machine kicks in. Cutts says:

…I think over 10 years, we’re more likely to understand identity and to understand the social connections between people, but at least for the time being, we have to deal with the web as it is and what we are allowed to crawl and what we can easily extract from that and count on being able to access that in the future

I don’t think for a minute that Google will take 10 years to figure out the relationships between social shares, even if Facebook never lets them in.

So, if you want to be relevant now, get links. If you want to stay relevant, get shares.

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