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To SEO Or Not To SEO

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I’ve read a lot of the controversy over whether or not we should be focused on SEO results.  I don’t comprehend the criticism.  I’m in business to make money.  I believe my blog is a business generator.  That’s what I work towards.

When I wrote the very first few posts on my website I wrote purely for myself and out of the love of writing and expression.  Not having a comprehension of the potential power, I didn’t realize the results that were possible.  After awhile I came to understand and agree with the school of thought that says if you want to attract the consumer to your blog you should focus on that consumer and write to their needs. 

Fortunately for me I have a place to whine and vocalize my concern, aggravation, ideas and whatever else catches my attention – like a shiny penny – here at AG.  If not, then my blog would still be mixed use. 

I’m new to the blogging world.  I’m still learning and there’s a lot of that to do.  I appreciate transparency.  What I don’t appreciate is giving the store away for free.  I write posts for the same reason I network, keep in contact with my sphere, do open houses and all the rest.

If you’re critical of a blogger for writing to attract the attention of Google and thus the consumer, what are you criticizing?  The writer’s desire to have a profitable business? 

I absolutely love to receive comments from my peers on posts I’ve written, but that’s not my main goal – unless you have a referral for me.  I’m writing to attract the attention of someone who’s going to buy or sell real estate with me.  That’s my job – to bring home the bacon.

In my internet travels today I found SEO Book, a site that offers training.  Not understanding the inner workings of SEO, I can’t tell you if what this site offers is good, but you’ll probably learn something – whether you disagree with it or not.

As a lifelong resident and local Realtor, Vicki has established herself as a respected member of the San Mateo County real estate community. She’s known for her wit, sarcasm, and her personality that shows through in her posts. You can find her spouting off at Twitter, here at ag, and her personal blog, San Mateo Real Estate Blog.com.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Todd Carpenter

    May 6, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    SEO Book is a great site. I interviewed Aaron Wall for Blog Fiesta this year, so check it out if you’d like his take on real estate blogging.

    In the mean time, I don’t think anyone means to criticize other bloggers for writing Google friendly content. Only that some can become so consumed with it that their blog isn’t worth reading. Google can drive traffic, but the words on your blog have to turn that traffic into clients. Writing to Google vs Humans It’s not an either or. It’s more like a moving line.

  2. Vicki Moore

    May 6, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Maybe that’s the point I was missing – that the writing may not be worth reading. I didn’t get that from what I read. But like I said, I’m still trying to figure out what all the huffing is about.

  3. Jim Duncan

    May 6, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    When I read bloggers writing blatantly for SEO content and not quality content, I do get perturbed. There has been significant discussion about it over the years, and the result has traditionally been (IMHO) – the consumers, and perhaps most importantly, Google, will figure out that the “author’s” intent is to game Google (and other search engines)

    Trying to game Google is generally not a good idea – they’re smart. Really, really smart.

    My advice has always been to write about what you want to write about and what you think your audience wants to read – stick to that tactic and the SEO will follow.

  4. Vicki Moore

    May 6, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Jim – Can you write for SEO content and have it be quality? I won’t sacrifice quality. But can’t you do both?

  5. Jim Duncan

    May 6, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    I’m not an expert by any stretch, but I do come up fairly well on organic search for a few key search terms. I’ve found that those who focus on the SEO content tend to spend too much effort on plugging the “right” keywords into the posts rather than focusing on providing good information.

    I like to think that consumers know when they’re being played; it makes me feel better.

  6. Trace

    May 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    While there may be debate in the RE blogosphere about whether you should be writing for machines or people, there is little to no debate among top SEO’s about who you should write for. You should write for your audience.

    If you are writing about “round orange balls”, this term will naturally find it’s way into your content as you write. If you find that is not the case, then make an effort to add the term where it makes sense and reads well. If there are other terms you would like to be on the radar for, find a way to include the topics / terms in your content and do so in a common sense way. “SEO Optimized content” and “content created for end users” are NOT mutually exclusive!

    Quality content is king, but you are also well served: 1) using your keywords in your title 2) using keywords in url 3) making sure titles are H1 tags 4) using H2 tags where arppropriate 5) linking to relevant and useful resources within your content where it makes sense and will help the reader 6) building quality links (duh!) 7) include targeted keywords in the anchor text of your inter-linking structure where links point to that page.

  7. Vicki Moore

    May 6, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Jim – Thanks for clarifying with: plugging the “right” keywords into the posts rather than focusing on providing good information. Got it.

    Trace – no debate among top SEO’s about who you should write for…Good to know. I gather from what you’re saying is that if you write for the machine, once the human gets there they’re not going to be interested – you’re not going to hold their interest.

    Could use your help with H1 and H2 tags, anchor text, interlinking structure. Went right over my head.

  8. Todd Carpenter

    May 6, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Vickie, you just illustrated my other basic objection about spending to much time worrying about SEO. You have a great blog, and not paying attention to H1 and H2 tags has played almost no role in it’s success. Many Agents read advice like that and get psyched out of blogging in the first place. I don’t use H1 or H2 tags either. Luckily, the CSS code in my blog does a lot of this for me.

    Your blog automatically places an H2 tag around the title of your post. That’s how a web browser knows to make it bigger.

  9. Trace

    May 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Vicki – You are correct, once readers find it they will not be as interested, but google is also continuously getting better and better at telling the difference between content that is written purely for seo optimization purposes and content that is natural. So if the meaning of the content and usefulness of the content is compromised for the sake of reaching a 6% keyword density ratio, for example, there is a greater likelihood that google will now or in the future give this page less importance.

    At the end of the day there really is no shortcut to good rankings with google, some tricks may work in the short term, but inevitably will not work in the long term. That’s why google is the best, don’t bet against the algorithm. 😉 Keep in mind that “optimized” pages and “great content” pages aren’t mutually exclusive though….google realizes that very useful content may not always be the most “optimized” content and they are continuously working to recognize and give importance to content that is useful regardless of whether is is the most optimized in terms of keyword density and other technical factors…. Always remember, google is not perfect, but they work in very common sense ways….. Just think in the future SEO will not exist and quality / useful content will reign supreme…or something like that.

  10. Vicki Moore

    May 6, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Todd – 😉 Okay. I’m learning.

    Trace – That’s sound advice. Makes sense even though I’m still not totally sure what you’re talking about. 🙂

    I think the bottom line is that there is no easy way to get to the top – what a surprise. Sounds like if I stay on topic and be consistent eventually I’ll see results. Dang. I wanted instant gratification.

    I love this place. All you have to do is ask.

  11. Trace

    May 6, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    A website that does not have correctly optimized URL’s, H1 / H2 tags, interlinking structure, titles, correct usage of nofollow tags, and a handful of other technical factors may very well do fine in search results, you can still leave a lot on the table if you don’t take advantage of these tools to help spiders understand what keywords are the most important in the theme of your content.

    Take this example from tracecapital.com: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=active&q=no+closing+cost+refinance&btnG=Search

    While I bump around from #2 to #8 on any given day (at the time of this writing I’m showing at #7 and #8 behind Wells Fargo, Countrywide, Eloan, and Quicken Loans) notice how I’m the only person on the page that has two results on top of each other with the bottom result indented. This changes from day to day but most of the time I am taking up two spots…. I do this consistently for most terms I rank for and being at #7 with two listings like this will often bring me more traffic then when I’m #3 with a single listing…. sometimes I’m #3 or #2 with a double listing as well…. The point is that among other things, this will not happen as often and your overall rankings WILL be affected if you have a sloppy theme…. all the technical factors (not talking about content) are tools NOT tricks, to help spiders understand what the hey.

    H1 tells the spider that this title is MORE important then other content and thus, keywords in that content are given more weight….same with H2, same with keywords in URL’s, anchor text, etc…. so if all these factors combined CAN make a difference…. it doesn’t mean you won’t do well if you don’t take care of these items, but they do help spiders understand the overall theme / focus of your content more optimally, at least that has been my experience….. keep in mind for everything I say, there will be somebody saying the opposite… if all else fails, use common sense. Ask yourself, what is best for the end user? That’s what google does and that’s what they strive to do…. if they can serve the BEST content to the end user, they stand to make the most money…..just like you or i do when we deliver what our clients need / want.

  12. Vicki Moore

    May 6, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Trace – Sounds like I need to understand it somewhat. What are the top 5 things a novice can do to get good results in the areas you mentioned?

  13. ines

    May 6, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    The whole SEO concept was foreign to me when I first started blogging – it’s gotten a bit more clear now, but I’m not there yet. I think you can write quality content, content that captivates and that you are passionate about and be able to use keywords without overdoing it.

    I confess than when I try to be “SEO smart”, it’s when I mess up and Google punishes me……I’ve decided to be myself and hope the SEO follows (but it doesn’t mean I won’t be smart about it)

  14. Trace

    May 6, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Vicki: First thing would be this, any technical stuff I just threw out there that makes no sense…. IGNORE IT. Just write about what you know about and write well and often…..

    Keeping it simple: We’ve decided we are going to write about “phoenix golf course homes”…. simply write about the topic and include that phrase where it reads well…. use variations such as “phoenix golf homes”, “phoenix golf living”, “phoenix golf condos”, or any other variations that you think might be what end users are looking for information about… and provide that information…..the key here is use these words in the natural context of your writing, don’t repeat them over and over and over under the assumption that more is better….. simply write well and be conscious that you include these terms where appropriate. Then include your main keywords in your title such as “Phoenix Golf Course Homes Information” “The ABC’s of Phoenix Golf Course Homes”…. or whatever you choose…..

    If you do this you will have created unique content that provides value, is SEO optimized inherently for specific keyword phrases with and SEO optimized title. That wasn’t hard was it?!

    You will find seo basics / primers ALL over the place but once I finish up my ipagio projects and finish building out brokerscience, I will create primers that start from step one (with videos) to walk through everything SEO. It will be a lot easier understanding h1 tags, alt tags, titles, anchor text, etc. when they are in the context of video…..

  15. Chris Shouse

    May 7, 2008 at 9:22 am

    WOW my mind is boggled, Vicki you brought up a subject that has been very frustrating for me for a long time. My new blog is a WP and it has things on there that I am in the dark about. I have never figured out what trackbacks are and where do I send them, It says I can add a custom field? It has a key and a value? What is that? What do you write in your excerpt and do you get SEO from that? I am so confused:)

  16. Trace

    May 7, 2008 at 10:14 am

    @Chris: google is your friend! There are many people with the same questions as yourself, so many people have written articles / guides about the very questions you bring up. You will also find those topics covered extensively at wordpress.org …… btw: a trackback is when you link / reference sombody elses article in a post you make. This will leave a “trackback” in their blog post near their comments section…. if they link to a story you’ve written, you will see trackback on your post in your comments section…..the trackback is created automatically.

  17. Jay Thompson

    May 7, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Of course search results are important. If your site can’t be found in search engines, then it won’t do much good.

    Not a whole lot to add to these great comments.

    The “SEO Abuse” is see (frequently) are posts where there are so many “key words” interjected into the post they become a chore to read. I saw a real estate blog post once that had “city real estate” *19* times in a four paragraph post.

    It was like this:

    As a Phoenix real estate agent, I can help you find a home in the Phoenix real estate market. There are many great things about Phoenix real estate, not the least of which are the buying opportunities that abound in the Phoenix real estate market.

    What utter dreck.

    The guys at Google are *smart*. You don’t need to jam that many keywords into a post for them to figure out what it is about.

    Write original, compelling content, in a voice that you would use in a conversation, and the search engines will get it.

    And your readers will appreciate it. And return.

  18. Vicki Moore

    May 7, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Chris – I new I couldn’t be the only one!!

    Trace – IGNORE IT. Done! I tried reading the SEO website and lost interest rather quickly. It’s too technical. It’s like reading a book with the dictionary next to me. Not fun.

    Jay – I’ll take it from an expert and follow your advice. Now returning to regular programming.

    Ines – I wouldn’t know if I was being punished or not. I’ll try to be smart – if I knew what being smart was.

  19. Glenn fm Naples

    June 21, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Vicki – I am not great at blogging, but what I found is if you write about what you think people will find interesting, they will find your blog. We need to find the balance between search engines and people. This is probably the best thing – quality content.

  20. Gordon Baker

    September 25, 2008 at 12:38 am

    It is an educational process just reading the comments on this post. I’ll retain some of it and forget much of it, until I read another article. In the meantime I’ll try and apply what I’ve learned, but always focusing on great content and what keeps the reader interested. Supplement the content with SEO principles.

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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