Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Copywriting: Essential Elements

Let’s discuss the five areas to focus on with your web page, blog post, online press release, whatever . . . they’re all the same in the eyes of Google. The 5 SEO copywriting elements that matter:

1. Title – Whether you optimize up-front or later, you at minimum need to know what keywords you’re targeting and include them in the title of your content. It’s generally accepted that the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. But the key is that they appear in the title somewhere.

The emphasis on keywords in the title makes practical sense from a search engine standpoint. When people search for something, they’re going to want to see the language they used reflected back at them in the results. Nothing mysterious about that.

Having keywords in your title is also important when people link to you. When your keywords are there, people are more likely to link to you with the keywords in the anchor text. This is an important factor for Google to determine that a particular page is in fact about a particular subject.

You should try to keep the length of your title under 72 characters for search purposes. This will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.

2. Meta Description – SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about the presentation of your content in a search engine. The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether or not you get the click.

It’s debatable whether keywords in your meta description influence rank, but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t. You want to lead off your meta description with the keyword phrase and succinctly summarize the page as a reassurance to the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for. Try to keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result.

3. Content – Unique and frequently updated content makes search engines happy. But you know that part. For search optimization purposes (and just general reader-friendliness) your content should be tightly on-topic and centered on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases.

It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words.

It might also help to bold the first occurrence of a keyword phrase, or include it in a bulleted list, but I usually don’t get hung up on that. It’s also debatable whether including keywords in subheads helps with ranking, but again, it doesn’t matter – subheads are simply a smart and natural place to include your keyword phrase, since that’s what the page is about.

4. Keyword Frequency – Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keywords appear on the page. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page.

It’s generally accepted that keyword frequency impacts ranking (and that makes logical sense). Keyword density, as some sort of “golden” ratio, likely does not. But the only way to make sense of an appropriate frequency is via the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the content, so density is still a metric you need.

In other words, the only way to tell if your repetition of keywords is super or spammy is to measure that frequency against the overall length of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of keyword stuffing, and your page could be penalized by Google. You don’t need to mindlessly repeat keywords to optimize. In fact, if you do, you’re likely to achieve the opposite result.

5. Page Links – Linking is the fundamental basis of the web. Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages matters when it comes to search engine optimization.

Here are some “rules of thumb” for linking based on generally accepted best practices:

* Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy
* Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
* Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
* Link with naturally relevant anchor text

Again, these are guidelines related to current best practices. Don’t get hung up on rules; focus on the intent behind what search engines are looking for – quality search results for people.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips From Google

Where better to learn about how to optimize your website than Google, the top search engine. If you’re new to search engine optimization (SEO) or wish to improve your site ranking, Google offers a great number of tips. I’ve explored some of Google’s greatest tips and SEO strategies in a variety of places, including their official blog (www.google-success.com), a how-to video published by one of Google’s engineers, and related news sources. Take a brief glimpse at the most useful recommendations from the search experts.

Recognizing “Trustworthy” Information
According to the NY Times article on Google in 2007, Google has a unique search algorithm that ranks Web sites and blogs based on over 200 different signals. The Web search engine is able to pick out trustworthy news sources that will best benefit Web users in their keyword searches. For instance, Google News is able to rate sites based on click-through data on news stories. This calls for more interesting and catchy page titles, and topic-specific terms that appeal to a targeted audience.

Also, Google identifies phrases like “according to the Washington Post” in wire stories. So, it is far to assume that if your story is mentioned in multiple places, your site will gain a higher ranking. And a post about a popular news story will gain a stronger presence.

Don’t Spam Your Articles
One of the things that will weaken your site is weighing it down with too many external Web links. It’s not a good idea to rely too much on link building to draw in new readers or raise your Web ranking. Avoid using excessive links that aren’t related to the posting, and try not to list your page through other Web sites that aren’t related. The content of your site should be, above everything, original, informative, and appealing to readers. Using too many links will likely harm your site’s reputation in the long run.

Comment, Discuss, and Network Often
You can subtly draw readership to your site by expanding your online network. Keep plugged into related blogs and Web sites that cover the topics you’re passionate about. Comment on other authors’ blogs, and also participate in discussion forums and chat rooms that interest you. Be careful that you don’t post your link forcefully at the end of every online conversation. Not only does this convey shameless self-promotion (and not a genuine interest in the topic), it could get you banned or kicked out of online conversations. Most forums allow you to create a signature, which is the ideal place to list your site.

Video & Photo Tips
According to Maile Ohye, Google’s Developer Programs Team Lead, their search engine does favor certain types of formats. As you post SEO photos to your site, keep in mind that Google particularly favors JPEGs over PNGs. Also, be certain that your images are tagged with your top keywords to boost your Web site’s overall search optimization. Videos hosted on YouTube, which is currently owned by Google, can significantly increase your Web ranking more so than videos hosted through other sites.

Link Building Tips

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), maintaining “link popularity” can drastically change how search engines find and list your website for the mass of potential visitors who are searching for an exciting site like yours. Simply put, your link popularity is the number and quality of incoming links that point directly to your site. This is a major factor that search engines evaluate when deciding whether your website is worthwhile and relevant to Web visitors.

The quality of your content is extremely essential – it’s not just about the number of SEO keywords or artificial links to increase your online traffic numbers. The search engines require links from authoritative sites, or relevant sites that share the same focus as your blog. Link-building can be complicated. Here are eight simple link-building tips to help your blog legitimately increase link popularity.

1. Join a directory. Congratulations, you’ve already accomplished step one by joining OnTopList.com. By belonging to a directory, you’ve gained a global network, many of whom either write in your niche or are more likely to help you through cross-promotional opportunities.

2. Piggy-back off of high-ranked sites. If you do a search on your SEO keywords, you’ll get a glimpse of the top-ranked sites in your category. Contact the sites that do not directly compete with you, and build a link-exchange relationship where you can piggy-back off of their high rankings.

3. Contact the owners of related sites. Try to be selective when deciding who you want to exchange links with. Send a friendly solicitation e-mail to open communication, and be sure to give them a reason why the relationship would be mutually beneficial.

4. Trade articles or unique postings with interested parties. Is it a subject or news topic that related sites may find interesting? Often, you’ll find that news or commentary sites have sections to “share news or ideas” or “suggest a link.” This is the perfect chance to exchange fascinating stories or news that you have published with related websites.

5. Use social bookmarking sites to your advantage. Do you already have a DIGG or Delicious social bookmarking account? These sites allow you to bookmark and use tag keywords for your favorite Web links. Bookmark related sites in addition to your site’s entries, and the other users in your network may start consulting your links regularly, which could eventually lead them back to your website.

6. Rely on your own network of friends, family, and colleagues. Don’t leave out your existing network of friends, who know and like you already – and are the most likely to read, comment, and promote your site.

7. Write for online article sites. Lastly, there are numerous sites where anyone can be a published author – Helium.com, About.com, AssociatedContent.com, eHow.com, eZineArticles.com. It’s free to join, plus you’ll be able to write related advice and information to your site, and every one of your article includes your profile – which is where you can link users back to your pages. If you write an article related to a past entry, this is the opportunity to promote and link users to the topic at the conclusion of your article.

8. Write reviews and comments on other sites. If it’s applicable to your chosen niche, you can also write other types of online content in other sites. For instance, if you maintain a technology site, you may want to regularly write product reviews on Amazon.com, ePinions.com, and related sites. This will grow your presence as an expert in your niche, and provide another way to link new visitors back to your site.

If you have additional questions about how I can help your generate more links for your website and how important it is to helping your company receive more exposure online, please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Online Marketing Tips for your Press Release

When most people think of public relations, they understand it to be the act of relaying news to a media source via a press release. They believe once they submit a press release, that’s all they can do. They wait to see what the press release can do for them. Too many people submit a press release to a variety of news outlets-thinking they have a great story the media will pick up-but they hear nothing back.

Instead, they wait, and wait, and wait. Nothing happens. Ever since the first press release was published on October 30, 1906, public relations has been shaped and defined by more than a written release. Networking, relationship building, trustworthy practices, and brand presence are just a few additional elements that help define public relations.

Today, with a wide variety of news mediums to choose from, the public has spread itself across several channels. If you choose to convey your company message only through one medium, such print media, you may find the public is elsewhere and your efforts wasted.

If you’re not using online platforms to enhance your public relation efforts, then you’re missing an opportunity to expose your brand to the public, generate leads, increase sales, and boost credibility. Some of the most innovative and effective ways to reach your target market online include PR 2.0 and optimized press releases.

• PR 2.0: By definition, PR 2.0 is a social media press release. This newly developed public relations tool was born from the rise in social media popularity. As more and more people use flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Digg, they are more desensitized to newspapers and traditional media outlets. Because of this shift, using modern media forms, in addition to traditional forms, is the most effective way to get across time-sensitive news items related to your business. PR 2.0 incorporates a variety of interactive social media elements including video, Twitter pitches, share options, bookmarking capabilities, photos, slideshows, bulleted information, links to your website, blog, and social media sites, and contact options. Because social media press releases are viral, the audience base you can reach with it is infinite.

• Optimized Press Release: Also known as search engine optimization (SEO) PR, an optimized press release is search engine optimized to ensure it pulls up on search engine result pages. In other words, the optimized press release is written to incorporate important keywords that prospects may be using as search terms. One of the most popular places the public and even the media go for their daily news dish is the Internet. Google News, Yahoo! News, and Bing, to name a few.

If you post an optimized pr in popular search engines, you can be sure to get some hits off of it. Similar to a social media release, an optimized pr is viral and has the ability to reach a countless number of prospects.

It’s obvious the public relations model has shifted over the years, but public relations still, without a doubt, embodies the same principles it did over 100 years ago: provide the people and the press with truthful, accurate information that is both newsworthy and valuable.

If you have additional questions about how I can help your press release generate more leads and how important it is to helping your company receive more exposure online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Content is King

By design, online search engines like Google create result listings based on hot and relevant SEO (search engine optimization) keywords. The most ideal website rankings mostly rely on the strategic use of common SEO practices (i.e. long-tail keywords, blog entry tags, meta tags, link exchanging, etc). However, no matter how visual or audible any Web page may be, the actual content matters the most.

Not only do search engines rank your site by keyword relevance, they also determine whether your site is relevant and unique to a user’s defined search. So when it comes right down to search results, it is more valuable to have something worth saying rather than a page designed with repetitive key phrases.

Following are a few useful writing tips that can enrich the value of your site, increase your readership, and raise your overall web ranking:

1. Stick to a solid writing format: introduction, body, and conclusion. The copywriting should smoothly lead readers to the climax of the story. With a Web audience, you have only a few seconds to make a connection, so your writing should reveal the main point within the first 150 to 200 words.

2. Say more with fewer words. Are there any unnecessary pieces of your copywriting that are clouding the core message? Consider how you can avoid wasting words, or using up your space with ranting, musing, or stream-of-conscious writing that lacks direction. Readers who keep coming back to your site desire originality, and sometimes, meaningful information that may be read, recommended, and linked to over the next 10 years.

3. Think creatively with titles. There are many ways to entice readers with new headers or titles. For instance, you can pump it with SEO keywords to show up higher on the results listing. You can pose a stimulating question or startling statement (i.e. “10 worst predictions in 2009 politics,” “sex, lies and health care reform,” or “will your investments be worthless in 2020?”).

4. Encourage interaction with readers. One of the best ways you can expand your audience is by making your site more interactive. In addition to posing intriguing headers or titles, you can assert your take on a controversial topic instead of presenting an informative and neutral position. You can add a kicker in the middle or end of the copywriting, which will encourage commentators to post their opinions.

5. Offer something unique or original. Above all, make sure that your website benefits readers with unique information that they wouldn’t necessarily find on a related blog or site. Think about the entire online experience that you would want to create with your readers. Is there something extraordinary about the opinions you offer (i.e., are you an expert in your topic?), do you allow your audience to get more involved, and does your site provide the full multimedia experience? What is the true value of visiting your site, and what keeps users coming back for more?

If you have additional questions about how I can help your website generate more leads with great copywriting and how important copywriting is to helping your company increase their presence online, please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Copywriting

Can your copywriting be effective without the awareness of search engine optimization (SEO)? Sure it was probably possible in times of typewriters, but now submitting articles in online directories or to search engines without a proper density of keywords nowadays can ruin an article or a website page by not giving it opportunity to be noticed.

There are two factors on the basis of which your article or website page will be noticed or not. First, the content of it. If it is interesting, vivid, catchy and attractive, you will definitely get the readers your article deserves. Second, keywords which should appear in the title and the beginning of the first paragraph. But how often should the keywords should appear in the article? Once per paragraph or more, or maybe less. No matter what the answer is – one must be aware of SEO as it will bring some great benefits and popularity.

SEO copywriting is also especially popular among business owners nowadays who find it very beneficial for their link building campaigns. By writing great quality articles and submitting it to the top directories they gain backlinks. It makes the search engine rankings better for the given website which means that the company becomes more popular and has a higher probability that it will be noticed by its potential clients. Article marketing becomes the top marketing method now and online businessmen are fighting to get the best SEO copywriters for their website.

If you have additional questions about SEO copywriting and how important it is to helping your company receive more exposure online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Dos and Dont’s about Link Building

Bing recently published a document about link building. Although it focuses on how Bing deals with inbound links, it can also help you to get better links for Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. The most important points of Bing’s document can be found in this article.

The importance of link building

The Bing engineers know that link building is important and they describe link building as follows:

“Link building is a very important form of self-promotion on the Web. You contact webmasters of other, related websites and let them know your site exists. If the value that you have worked so hard to instill in your site is evident to them, they will assist their own customers by linking back to your site. That, my friend, is the essence of link building.”

In other words, reciprocal linking is fine. They also remind webmasters that link building is an ongoing process:

“Think of link building as your chance to build your reputation on the Web. As your website is likely one of your business’ most valuable assets, consider link building to be a primary business-building exercise. Just don’t make the mistake of believing it will result in instant gratification. Successful link building efforts require a long-term commitment, not an overnight or turnkey solution. You need to continually invest in link building efforts with creativity and time. Good things come to those who wait (and work smartly!).”

Things that you can do to get good links to your website

Here are the things that Bing recommends:

  • You should develop your website as a brand and brand it consistently. People like to link to high quality websites.
  • You should find relevant bloggers, industry websites and product reviewers and make them aware of your website.
  • You can publish concise and informative press releases online.
  • You can publish expert articles in article directories.
  • You can participate in relevant conversations on blogs and forums and add a link to your website when applicable.
  • You can use social networks to connect to industry influencers. Your profiles should contain links to your website.
  • You can use email newsletters to notify people about new content on your website.
  • You can launch a blog or a forum on your website.
  • You can participate in relevant industry associations and their online forums.
  • You should strive to become a trusted expert voice for your industry while promoting your website.

Warning: the following things will get your website in trouble

Just like Google and other major search engines, Bing doesn’t like to be cheated. If they detect unnatural linking patterns, your website might be penalized. The following things can trigger search engine filters:

  • Your website get a lot of additional inbound links a very short time.
  • Many links that point to your website are from unrelated websites or blog comments.
  • Your web pages contain hidden links.
  • You get links from links farms or automated link exchange systems.
  • Paid links point to your website.
  • Known spammers link to your website.
  • Your website links to known spammers.

Here’s what Bing does when they find suspicious data that is related to your website:

“When probable manipulation is detected, a spam rank factor is applied to a site, depending upon the type and severity of the infraction. If the spam rating is high, a site can be penalized with a lowered rank. If the violations are egregious, a site can be temporarily or even permanently purged from the index.”

Getting inbound links requires some work. The Bing engineers are very clear about this fact: “Make no mistake: getting legitimate and highly valuable, inbound links is not a couch-potato task.”

If you have additional questions about getting more links for your website  and how important these links are to helping your company get more exposure online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Google’s Search Engine Ranking Factors

You would think that listing all the factors that Google uses to determine your ranking would be a near impossible task, right? Well, apparently not. Today we have your first sneak peek at the list of the almost 200 search engine ranking factors used by Google.

How did this list get started? Well, apparently Mr. Google, Matt Cutts, mentioned at a conference recently that there are over 200 variables in the Google algorithm. So the folks at the WebmasterWorld set themselves a challenge to list them all.

Here is what has been included so far:

Domain

  • Age of domain
  • History of domain
  • Keywords in domain name
  • IP address of domain
  • Location of IP address / Server

Architecture

  • HTML structure
  • Use of Headers tags
  • URL path
  • Use of external CSS / JavaScript files

Content

  • Keyword density of page
  • Keywords in Title Tag
  • Keywords in Meta Description (Not Meta Keywords)
  • Keywords in header tags (H1, H2 etc)
  • Keywords in body text
  • Freshness of content

Per Inbound Link

  • Quality of website inbound linking
  • Quality of web page inbound linking
  • Age of website
  • Age of web page
  • Relevancy of page’s content
  • Location of link (Footer, Navigation, Body text)
  • Anchor text of link
  • Title attribute of link
  • ALT tag of images linking
  • Country specific top level domain
  • Authority of top level domain (.edu, .gov)
  • Location of server
  • Authority links (CNN, BBC, etc)

Cluster of Links

  • Uniqueness of class C IP address

Internal Cross Linking

  • Number of internal links to page
  • Location of link on page
  • Anchor text of FIRST text link

Penalties

  • Over optimisation
  • Purchasing links
  • Selling links
  • Comment spamming
  • Cloaking
  • Hidden text
  • Duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Manual penalties

Miscellaneous

  • JavaScript links
  • No follow links

Pending

  • Performance / Load of a website
  • Speed of Javascript

Misconceptions

  • XML Sitemap (Aids the crawler but doesn’t help rankings)
  • PageRank (General indicator of page’s performance)

If you have additional questions about getting your website ranked higher on Google and how important these factors are to helping your company get more exposure online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Link building

The links that point to your website are one of the most important factors that influence the position of your website in Google’s search results. The better the links to your website, the higher the position of your website in Google’s results.

It is possible to get high rankings with only a few links if you want to be listed for keywords that don’t have much competition. As soon as more than one website competes with you for the same keywords, the website with the best inbound links will outrank the other websites.

If you want to get high rankings for competitive keywords, you have to go out and encourage people to link to your website. It’s not necessary to get as many links as possible. It’s necessary to get better links than your competitors.

The Internet has plenty of websites for every category. The following websites can be good link partners:

1. Websites that are listed for the keywords that you are targeting can be good link partners. If a website has high positions for the keywords that you are targeting and if the website is not a competitor, you should contact the owner of that website.

2. Some websites have content that is related to your keyword. If these websites have no examples or references, they could link to your website.

3. There can be many websites that contain a review or a comment about your company without linking to your site. These websites will often link to your website if you ask.

4. If another website links to your website and only uses your domain name to link to your website, ask the owner of the other website to link to your website with your keyword.

5. Blogs that deal with the topic of your websites are often willing to link to your website.

6. If a website links to one of your competitors, it is likely that they will also link to your website if you offer a similar product or service.

If you have additional questions about link building and how important they are to helping your company get found online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com for more information to discuss how I can help you or your company with its search engine optimization, online marketing, or copywriting needs.

Getting Found Online

There are many things that you must do if your website is going to be found online and that it is optimized to be found in the search engines. One of the most important items you must do is title tags, and below is some information that explains title tags in a little more detail.

Title tags
Although they are not visible on the page, it is the single most important on-site search engine optimization (SEO) factor so it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

1) Aim for 65 characters, this is the cut-off point in Google when listed with search results and it also helps to keep your title tags concisely targeted towards the most important keywords.
2) Include keywords towards the start of the title tag.
3) Include consistent branding in the title tag. This comes down to preference, but the branding value of having your company name seen several times when listed in search results can be very valuable. I normally opt for a consisitent style of “Keywords | Brand” but this really is down to personal preference, if you have a long brand name it may be worth abbreviating or cutting this down in some way.

If you have any questions about Title Tags and how important they are to helping your company get found online please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com for more information to discuss how I can help you or your company with its search engine optimization, online marketing, or copywriting needs.