Viewing all posts by Danny Goodwin.

Creating Blockbuster Content: 7 Essential Tips for SEOs

you-are-what-you-createMore content no longer means more success in SEO. It just means too much content.

When it comes to content creation, we’re seeing a shift in quantity to real quality. The launch of Google’s original Panda algorithm, which targeted thin content, started this big focus shift, which continues to this day.

At SMX Advanced, Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist & Owner at Kairay Media, shared seven essential tips on how to create blockbuster content today. Here’s a recap.

1. Goals Define Your Definition of Quality

Quality is in the eye of the beholder (the reader or customer). That means quality varies from person to person.

Ultimately, quality is defined by your goals. The content you create needs to be beneficial to you as a company.

What sells? What’s profitable? The content you create should have a business benefit.

If you sell 50 products, but only 10 are real movers and shakers, start there. Explore related topics to those products and prioritize creating content around those items. Don’t start with the whole company or every product.

Don’t be too commercial or create content that is totally unrelated to your business. Find balance.

2. Winning Types of Content

The best sites are those that are resourceful, helpful and interesting. People link to and share this type of content. You also want to be viewed as forward thinking.

Some examples of content that, when executed well, are popular include:

  • How-to guides
  • Long-form content
  • Lists (Greatest/Best/Top 10/15/20, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Visual guides (especially on Pinterest).

Content should exist for a reason, such as to solve a problem or answer a question. Visit a support forum and see what questions people are asking. Wherever there are lapses or content gaps, there is a content opportunity!

When your content is really resourceful, it will be shared and referenced. And it can help brand you as an authority on a topic.

3. More Minds = More Great Ideas

You’ve done your keyword research using your tools of choice. You’ve explored popular hashtags on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. And you’ve looked at sites like Reddit to see what is being written about in your niche.

Don’t stop there.

Once a week, gather everyone on your team together in front of a whiteboard and start coming up with ideas. Most people get ideas from other people’s ideas.

By pulling in all the minds you can, you’ll get a lot better variety of ideas. Come up with 100 ideas in one session.

Once you’re done, have everyone involved in the process score the ideas from 1-10. Put it all together in Excel and you’ll get a good sense of what ideas have the most potential to be popular and help you successfully hit all your goals.

4. Look at Your Competitors’ Content

What is getting the most social shares and comments on your competitor’s site? What are they showcasing?

Certain content succeeds, some doesn’t. Look at what content works, and compare it to what content doesn’t work. See what is getting the most traction for your competitor and figure out what similar types of content might also work for you.

5. Push Your Content Further

Your content can always be better. Your goal is to be at least a little better than the competition.

Ask yourself these questions when you’re writing:

  • Is there more to the story?
  • Has it happened before?
  • Does it relate to current events?
  • Are there unanswered questions?
  • How are you adding perspective?

Also, make sure to do a quick search and social lookup to make sure your article is complete, add quotes and references, and link out to related information that adds value.

People are going to share the best source, the one with all the information. Make sure your content isn’t just one of 50 stories about a topic.

6. Formatting Your Content

  • Provide quotable, shareable, linkable text excerpts. Providing people with excerpts will help them share on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, which will then drive more people to your site.
  • Break paragraphs for easy skimming. Try to limit yourself to one idea per paragraph. The majority of folks have lost interest in deep-form reading, so make it easy for people to skim.
  • Use bulleted lists. These help break up content, are easier to read and let you highlight key words and phrases.
  • Images. Use pictures to summarize concepts, break up content and provide something socially shareable.
  • Optimize for mobile. Make sure people can read and share your content on mobile devices, and make sure your content loads fast with a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights.
  • Avoid commercial elements (e.g., shopping cart buttons) or pop-ups (e.g., ads, signups). These end the user experience. Users are turned off, close your page and leave the site (and may never return). Also try to avoid ads within content.
  • Get rid of old junk: Ditch those calendars, tag clouds, counters, and any old social buttons.

7. Don’t Forget the Power of Social

If you see a bunch of people waiting outside a restaurant to get in, you presume it’s good. The online equivalent of this is social engagement.

If you see that a piece of content has many likes, retweets or comments, this sets up a subconscious expectation in a reader’s mind that the content they’re about to experience is of a certain level of quality. Don’t forget to promote your content socially and engage when people comment (or start the discussion in a positive way).

Creating blockbuster content is only half the battle. You must Plan for social promotion.

You can check out Csutoras’ presentation here.

About the Author
Danny Goodwin is Associate Editor of Search Engine Watch, the longest-running search industry publication dedicated to covering the latest search and social marketing news and trends, as well as providing how-to guides and actionable advice for marketers and advertisers of all skill levels. You can find him on Twitter.

Now’s the time to learn how to create high-quality, SEO-optimized content! Save nearly $200 on SEO Copywriting Certification training with coupon code FUN. This discount ends soon, so get it while you can!

Creative Commons licensed photo thanks to wiredforlego.

How to Write Brilliant Headlines for SEO, Social & Your Readers

headlines

Write attention-grabbing headlines.

Headlines. We’re bombarded by them on a daily basis as online publications vie for the most pageviews.

What’s the magic formula for the world’s best headlines? Is it long or short? Positive or negative? Clever or straightforward? Is it BuzzFeed or the BBC?

Well, yes.

I hesitate to call headline writing on the web an art, as it’s more of a science mixed with a bit of luck. Even if you follow all the advice on the proper words to use to increase clicks, there’s still no guarantee that people will click on your headline, no matter how many superlatives you cram in.

After all, your competitor may have a more compelling headline than you, Google might not rank it well enough to be seen, people might not share it socially, or you just might not have done as good a job as you think you have. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Regardless, your ultimate goal remains: to write brilliant, amazing headlines. A great headline increases the odds that you’ll get clicked, read, shared, and ultimately rank better. What follows are some tips and advice on how you can learn to write accurate, optimized, click-worthy headlines.

Do You Write 16 Headlines for Every Piece of Content?

As I was reminded of in this ClickZ post, David Ogilvy wrote that he never writes fewer than 16 headlines for a single advertisement.

Sixteen? Why? Because:

“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money. A change of headline can make a difference of 10 to one in sales.”

Couple this with the often-quoted stat from Copyblogger: that “8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” (Let’s not even get into the depressing reality that most of those people who click don’t actually read copy all the way through.)

Honestly, I’ve never written 16 headline options for anything. Unfortunately, one and done is a rarity – more often than not, it takes a handful of tweaks, and can even be a struggle to include everything you want to.

Some days, it’s a struggle to write a decent headline. To get past headline-writing block, consider bouncing ideas off of someone. Show them the story, or give them the gist of it, and see what ideas they toss at you. They may end up writing the perfect headline for you, or they’ll suggest something that gets your brain firing on all cylinders.

The Goal of Awesome Headlines

Your post should clearly convey what the reader will get when they click through to read the piece. But that’s not all. It should:

  • Be optimized for search. What keywords will people use to find your post in search engines?
  • Be optimized for social. With only 140 characters to work with on Twitter, you need to make sure your headline is fit for social sharing. Depending on your audience, and the topic, consider adding hashtags into your headline, especially if your post is about an event or conference, to potentially increase engagement and visibility.
  • Be optimized for your audience: Your headline must keep your built-in target audience or loyal readers. If certain headlines cause a negative backlash from loyal readers (e.g., “SEO is Dead!!”), maybe it’s time to eliminate such headlines.
  • Speak to the reader: There’s a reason many people include the word “You” in headlines. It works. But this could also mean indicating that there is a benefit to reading the piece (i.e., the content answers a question).
  • Entice the reader: This can be done by asking questions (e.g., “Are You Making Any of These Common Tax Mistakes?”) or revealing secrets (“15 Best Kept Secrets of the Super Rich”).
  • Educate, Inform, or Entertain: Every piece of content should do this. Your headline must set readers’ expectations here. For example, an educational headline might be “How to Get a Job at Google”; an informative headline might be “Why Apple Employees Quit”; an entertaining headline might be “20 Must-See Places Before the World Ends.”
  • Be Understandable: Google’s Matt Cutts recently posted a video discussing the importance of clarity when writing for the web. I say this goes for your headlines as well. Whether it’s a headline or the article copy, your writing should be understandable for your readers and search engines. Searchers need to know this is a post they want to click on, because you can’t rely on Google to add more context by showing the snippet you want in search results.

Consulting your analytics can reveal what articles resonate most with your audience.

13 Headlines About Sony PlayStation 4 Sales

On Feb. 18, numerous headlines about PlayStation sales figures emerged on all the usual tech news sites. These headlines would all fall into the “inform” category.

Since we don’t have access to analytics data for each post, we can only take a look at how each performed socially and is now performing in the SERPs (mainly looking at Google).

One note about the search results: Rather than showing searchers the most recent sales figures from February, Google is including older, outdated sales figures from December (one from the PlayStation.Blog) and January (from JoyStiq.com). There are also newer stories about sales in Japan, and even sites like Amazon.com and Walmart appear, as if my search for [playstation 4 sales figures] indicates my intent to buy a PS4.

OK, let’s look at some headlines:

Sony has sold over 5.3 million PlayStation 4 consoles worldwide (The Verge).

This post has about 2,000 social shares, 288 comments, and (as of this writing) appears in the second organic spot on Google when I search for [sony playstation 4 sales figures].

While it has had more lasting power on Google, it’s still not the most interesting or “search optimized” headline (seems more conversational, perhaps the influence of Hummingbird?). Even at a mere 64 characters, it seems a bit needlessly wordy.

Personally, “has sold over” makes my inner headline writer weep (and my old friend AP style says when referring to numbers, you should use “more than,” not “over”). Including “worldwide” seems unnecessary.

So without looking beyond just the surface to hard pageview data, the Verge’s popularity and engagement likely sent the right signals to keep ranking well. Also, when it comes to news, sometimes being first to publish has long-term benefits, and this was the first story on this topic that appeared in my RSS feed.

Sony sells 5.3M PlayStation 4s worldwide since launch (VentureBeat)

This post has more than 300 social shares, one comment and appears in the top organic spot. Yep. Right on Page 4 of Google. (However, a post from Feb. 13 about PS4 outselling Xbox does sit in the sixth spot of Page 1.)

Ah, now see, “Sony sells” has a more active voice. However, “since launch” just is a killer – when else would they have sold them since? Before launching? Also, “4s” just looks awkward. Is that a new model? Like an iPhone 5s? Or is that the plural?

Sony has sold over 5.3 million PlayStation 4 game consoles to date (The Next Web)

How many shares? The Next Web ain’t sharing. It has one comment, and ranks right in the middle of Page 7 of Google.

Not wild about using “game consoles” here, as taking a look at a Google SERP for this keyword reveals several retailers trying to sell, but no news posts. Total lack of keyword targeting for that headline.

Also, “to date”? Really? As opposed to last Wednesday? Or next Sunday? And it also has the “over” issue like The Verge.

Sony Sold More Than 5.3 Million PlayStation 4 Consoles Globally (Mashable)

This post has more than 2,600 social shares, three comments and is somewhere in the abyss of Google (I stopped looking after Page 10).

Hey, look, they get “more than” vs. “over.” That said, it’s really wordy for a headline. One thing I’ve done in the past to tighten up headlines is using a simple “+” to indicate more than.

I’m still not wild about “consoles.”

As for “globally,” this word really doesn’t matter for a headline. If you’re talking about one country, then it would make sense to say “Japan” or “U.S.” in the headline. But if Sony, a global company, is revealing sales figures, it seems a bit redundant.

Sony Says PS4 Sales Top 5 Million (WSJ)

This post has less than 150 social shares, no comments and can be found in the middle of Page 8 of Google.

You can tell this is a longtime newspaper. A short, understandable headline. But, again, Sony is separated from PS4. Is “Says” needed? No. Cut that out and that’s a near perfect headline (personally, I’d add that .3 to the figure, though you could argue that it might make readers want to find out by how much).

However, an interesting note: this is only an H1, not what WSJ is using in the title tag and showing to Google searchers. WSJ’s title tag is: Sony Tops PS4 Sales Target Ahead Of Japan Launch.

Ugh. Super boring. Maybe not for WSJ readers, but for the general world, yeah.

Sony Beats Its PS4 Sales Target, With 5.3M Consoles Sold In 3-Months (TechCrunch)

This post has more than 1,000 social shares, one comment and is also in the Google abyss. This one is just a snoozer. Beating its sales target? Does the average reader search for this, or care? Also, why the hyphen for 3-months?

Sony PlayStation 4 sales top 5 million worldwide (CNET)

This one has more than 300 social shares, 54 comments and is the top organic search result for [sony playstation 4 sales] on Bing.

Love getting “Sony PlayStation 4 sales” right at the front. Solid headline, though “worldwide” does nothing for me.

A few other headlines ranking on Page 1 of Google are:

  • PlayStation®4 Sales Surpass 5.3 Million Units Worldwide (Press release on PRNewswire)
  • Sony PlayStation 4 sales top 5 million (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Sony Says the PlayStation 4 Is Well Past 5 Million Units Sold Worldwide (TIME)

What other posts will you find on Page 1 of Bing:

  • Sony announces PlayStation 4 sales rise to 5.3 million worldwide (Joystiq)
  • Sony hits PlayStation 4 sales goal well ahead of target (via Yahoo Games)
  • PlayStation 4 sales hit 5.3 million before Japanese debut (TechHive)
  • PlayStation 4 sales pass 5m worldwide (The Guardian)

Write Your Own Headline

OK, now it’s your turn. You’re the editor of a news publication or blog and you’ve just finished editing your story about the PS4 sales figures. What would be YOUR perfect headline for this story?

Danny Goodwin is Associate Editor of Search Engine Watch, the longest-running search industry publication dedicated to covering the latest search and social marketing news and trends, as well as providing how-to guides and actionable advice for marketers and advertisers of all skill levels. You can find him on Twitter.

Photo thanks to Christopher Woo. (Headline News)

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5 tips to guarantee your guest blogging pitch doesn’t suck

Want to guest blog for a great site? Here are 5 tips for your successI see a lot of guest blogging pitches. Most of them are simply ignored because most of them are really, really bad – sometimes they’re so bad they make my brain hurt.

But every once in a while, someone manages to make their pitch stand out from the cesspool that guest blogging has seemingly become. What’s their secret? They get “it”.

What is “it”, and how do you get “it” if you don’t already have “it”? Let’s find out by looking at some actual examples of emails I’ve received from people who want to write for my website.

Are You the Keymaster?

At some point, you’ve probably read a story about how editors are the “gatekeepers.” Well, I’m one of those gatekeepers.

Considering that Search Engine Watch (SEW) is the longest running site dedicated to covering the latest developments in all thing search, naturally it attracts attention from people in the search marketing industry – and sometimes from even people beyond SEM. During a week, we may see anywhere from 25 to over 100 requests from people who want to write for SEW.

Like many sites, SEW has a pretty straightforward page for people who are interested in writing for SEW, fittingly called “Write for SEW”. If you’re so inclined, you can click on that link and go read those simple rules, which aren’t there just for SEO purposes. These rules are meant to explain to potential contributors exactly what we’re looking for so we can avoid wasting each other’s time.

Still, so many people seemingly go to that page and fill out the form fields and click submit without bothering to read the guidelines, or even put much thought into their pitch.

Rather than talk in generalities, though, let’s look at a few examples of guest pitches that suck, so you can know what to avoid and increase your odds of guest blogging or becoming a regular contributor for a website you really want to write for.

1. Don’t Tell Me Where You Write, Show Me

Actual email: “I would like to see if you have an opening for a writer! As a full service digital agency, I write for [REDACTED] on SEO, UX, web development, kiosks, media production, mobile, and social.”

Why This Sucks: Too generic and not nearly enough information here to stand out from any of the 100+ pitches I’ll see this week, all from people with the same/similar skillsets (and many of them also have a “full service digital agency”).

Tip 1: Don’t tell me where you write, show meLink me to awesome posts you’ve written or at least to a bio page on another site. Trust me, gatekeepers at authoritative sites generally won’t make the time to hunt you down if you obviously haven’t spent more than two minutes on this form.

Additional (real) examples of things not to do:

“Please see my sample posts and let me know if you need anything else.” (No sample posts or links included.)
” ” (No, that’s not an error. More than one person has left the message where he/she should have included additional details, such as maybe a potential topic or links to previously published posts – or anything really!)

2. Your Pitch Isn’t About You

Actual email (excerpt): “[REDACTED] would love to expand his expertise by join SEW’s writing team. He is interesting in contributing articles that focus around SEO, social media analysis, content marketing and their relationship with new business.”

Why This Sucks: I’m instantly put off by someone who thinks that writing for my website will grow HIS expertise. (Remember: I don’t know you yet, so don’t expect me to fall in love and jump into bed with you (metaphorically speaking, of course) instantly!)

SEW wants to feature contributors who share their expertise with the greater community. SEW’s mission is to help marketers (our core audience) do their jobs better. If you need to grow your expertise by writing for us, you aren’t writing for SEW. The same will be true with other quality publications, regardless of the niche/vertical.

Tip 2: Your pitch should focus on the site you’re targeting: Show me how the post you want to write for SEW will help our readers, not you. Show me you’ve done some kind of research and we aren’t just a notch in your guest blogging bedpost.

Additional (real) examples of things not to say as your “pitch”:

“I produce a ton of good content. I’d love to become a contributor for SEW.” (You and 1,000 other people.)

“All I would ask is to be able to place 1-2 relevant do-follow links back to my client’s reputation management website.” (Asking for links is just asking to be ignored.)

“Kindly allow me to write here.” (Kindly, no.)

“I’m willing to become a regular contributor here at SearchEngineWatch.com. I have been following this platforms since many years and it would be really a good achievement for me to be a part of the platform I have been admiring.” (You may be willing, but I’m certainly not!)

“I am primarily looking to get my word out and write about something i have much passion in.” (Your word, eh?)

“I have been a reader of SEW for several years now, and would like to be a contributor on a bi-monthly basis. Thank you for your consideration. Looking forward to your response!” (But that first guy would “love” to be a contributor…you only would “like” to? ;))

“It has always been a goal of mine to write on a regular basis for a quality source of information and SEW is, in my eyes, perfect for me.” (So, are you expecting me to start singing “Call Me Maybe”? Because I just met you, and this is crazy.)

3. Grammar and Spelling Count, Big Time!

Let’s stick with the same email excerpt from the previous section for a minute.

Another Reason This Sucks: Just as typos or grammatical errors will get your resume thrown in the trash, so too will a pitch with just wording as “by join SEW’s writing team” and “He is interesting in contributing articles” get your email deleted. If you want to write for a site, you better be able to, you know, show that you are able to write.

Tip 3: If you really want to write for a website, check your spelling and grammar before you send that email or submit that form. First impressions count. If you can’t get your pitch right, I assume everything about your content will be suspect, and you definitely aren’t worth the risk.

Additional (real) examples of bad grammar that kill you dead:

“Please let me know if you can allow me writing a guest post on your blog and I will send you my article for review.” (There’s a difference between can and won’t.)

“All of the content I provide is unique and written to a high quality ” (This is a huge warning sign that your content will actually be the opposite.)

“I writes passionaly about social media in reliance on marketing tactics, technique and on my marketing education.” (Passionaly? More like painfully.)

” I’m be interested in writing for searchenginewatch…” (Work on mastering writing first, OK?)

” I would like to contribute as a write to your prestigious portal” (Funny, I want to keep it prestigious.)

4. Your Contacts Have Names

Actual email (excerpt): “Hello Admin…”

Why this Sucks: My name is not Admin.

Tip 4: Do a bit of research: Find the “About Us”, “Staff”, or “Contact Us” page on the website or blog/publication you want to write for. There, you’ll likely discover an actual name of a staff member, editor, or webmaster. Show the blog owner or editor a signal that you know who they are. Make it personal.

Additional (real) examples of things not to say as your “pitch”:

“Hi {NAME}” (Wow. Just wow.)

“Dear Sir/ma’am” (My facial hair doesn’t give away my gender?)

“I’ve been reading your blog on searchenginewatch.com since long.” (Don’t use a domain name…use the publication, website, or blog name. Not to mention don’t use terms such as “since long”.)

“I was just checking out your blog…” (Obvious way to show you don’t know the website.)

5. What Are You Going to Write About?

Some people simply link to their writing samples. While linking to published content is helpful, by itself it is useless.

Tip 5: Clearly explain what you want to write about: If you’re targeting a search marketing publication, you should have some expertise in SEO, PPC, social, analytics, local, mobile, or video. What topic do you want to write about?

Even better, pitch a headline and blurb (teaser). This will be another indicator that you’ve given some good thought to your pitch.

Even better, do a site: search and make sure the post you’re pitching hasn’t already been written about. Identifying a hole in your target site’s coverage, or perhaps offering to update/rewrite an existing article, are two quick ways to potentially get your foot in the door.

You Can’t Game a Gatekeeper

Think of gatekeepers as if they’re Google. Google’s algorithm determines a website’s ranking based on more than 200 ranking factors and signals. So when you pitch a blog post, you can’t just focus on any one of the above areas, or even other “intangibles”, and expect success.

Spammy guest blog pitches will be wiped out of inboxes in the same way Google removes spam from its index. Sending editors all the right signals won’t guarantee success for any number of reasons, but you will definitely improve the odds of getting a reply to that email you’re waiting for.

Bottom line: Don’t be selfish. Be human. Be polite. Be smart. Be specific.

 

About the AuthorDanny Goodwin

Danny Goodwin is the Editor of  Search Engine Watch, the longest running search industry publication dedicated to covering the latest search and social news and trends, as well as providing how-to guides and actionable advice for marketers and advertisers of all skill levels. You can find him on Twitter.

photo thanks to Rachael Towne (stockerre)

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