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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

Restaurant chains are using COVID to masquerade as indie food pop ups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Applebee’s and Chuck E. Cheese appear on delivery apps under aliases. Is this a shifty marketing scheme or a legitimate practice?

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chuck e cheese pizza

Restaurants have pivoted hard to stay alive during dine-in shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are selling grocery items like eggs, flour, and yeast (check out the pantry section at the Brewtorium!) while others have created meal kits so families can cook up their restaurant favorites at home.

Meanwhile, a few large chains have been busted for re-branding their kitchens to sell more meals. A reddit user in Philadelphia reported that they ordered pizza from Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings thinking it was a local business they had yet to try, only to learn it shared a kitchen with Chuck E. Cheese. As it turns out, Pasqually is a member of Munch’s Make Believe Band, the terrifying mascot band led by murine bad body Chuck E. Cheese. Pasqually is the confusingly human drummer (and Italian pizza chef?), joined by lead canine guitarist Jasper T. Jowls, sweetheart chicken Helen Henny on the tambourine and vocals, and the dinosaur? Closet monster? D-list muppet? Mr. Munch on the keys.

Though this inter-species band should be disturbing enough for us all to rethink our childhood memories of Chuck E. Cheese (let’s be honest, Disney World should be the only place allowed to have adults parading around in giant mouse costumes) what’s more upsetting is the competition it creates with locally owned restaurants. In West Philadelphia, there is another restaurant called Pasqually’s Pizza.

Chuck E. Cheese is not the only restaurant re-branding to save their hides. Applebee’s has launched a “brand extension” called Neighborhood Wings. Customers can order larger quantities of wings (up to 60!) from Neighborhood Wings, but not Applebee’s. You know, for all of the large parties people have been hosting lately (thanks COVID-19).

This restaurant run-around is further evidence of the noise created by third party delivery apps. GrubHub, Postmates, and others have been criticized for taking huge commissions from already low-margin restaurants, and providing little added value to profitability and industry worker wages. Using these platforms as a means to build shell restaurants for large national chains is just another example of third party apps doing a disservice to both its clients and customers.

Of course, Applebee’s and Chuck E. Cheese are franchises. If one wanted to go out on a limb for these brands, it could be argued that they are indeed ‘local’ businesses if their owners are local franchisees. The third party apps are simply another platform for businesses to gain a competitive edge against one another within a specific customer segment. Furthermore, consumers should hold themselves accountable for their patronage choices and doing their due diligence when investigating new pizza and wings options.

Nonetheless, it behooves all of us in this pandemic to get to know our neighbors, and build relationships with the small businesses that are the lifeblood of a community. Restaurants exist thanks to local customers. Try placing your order directly on their website, or give them a call. I am a restaurant worker, and I truly am happy to take your order.

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Business Marketing

Restaurants might actually lose money through Grubhub and similar services

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Restaurant owners are asking themselves if third-party food delivery apps are nothing more than a good, old-fashioned shakedown.

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grubhub site

If you haven’t seen the GrubHub receipt that has everyone outraged, you probably should. It exposed the food delivery apps for their unreasonably high commissions and excessive charges to the restaurants (on top of the changes to the consumer).

Many people, in an honest attempt to support local restaurants while staying home and safe these days, have started ordering out from their favorite small, local eateries. And they should! This could be the lifeline that allows those restaurants to survive being closed for upwards of a month. However, if they order through a third-party food delivery service, they need to know that a good chunk of their money goes to the service, not the local business. Plus they are paying extra for the service.

It’s a big bummer, to say the least, a bamboozle some might say. Why would restaurants agree to use these services at all, then, if they aren’t beneficial? Well, they initially served the purpose of helping smaller restaurants and food trucks sell to a wider customer base without having to incur the cost and manage the logistics of offering delivery. Not all of the charges are immediately apparent, either, although I am sure they are in the business agreement.

GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats all charge eateries a commission between 15%-30% to even work with them. This is for the most basic level of service. When GrubHub, for example, wants to stimulate more sales, they may offer a deal to consumers. This could be a dollar amount or percentage off of a customer’s order or free delivery.

Everybody loves a deal, so these promotions are effective. They drive more sales, yay. The restaurants, however, incur the full cost of the promotion. You would imagine GrubHub would share that cost, but no, they don’t. If that weren’t unscrupulous enough, GrubHub then charges the business the commission on the full, not discounted, price of the order. Unctuous, right?

Sure, restaurants have to opt in for these specials and other promotions the third-party apps are marketing, so they know there’s a fee. Yet, if they don’t opt in, they won’t appear as an option for the deal in the app. It’s deceptive, feels like a bit of extortion to me. All of these delivery apps have some sort of similar way to rack up fees. For a mom-and-pop food truck or restaurant, the commissions and fees soon eat away at the already small profit margins restaurants usually have.

It’s simply wrong, so wrong. But wait, there’s more! Another nasty, duplicitous practice GrubHub (specifically GrubHub) has implemented, with Yelp’s help, is to hijack the restaurant’s phone number on Yelp. This means if you look up your favorite restaurant on Yelp, and call in an order from the Yelp platform, your call will actually go to GrubHub instead. And get this–they charge the restaurant even if you pick up the order yourself, not only for delivery.

These third-party companies have even started buying up domain names similar to the restaurants to further fool patrons into ordering through them. They also have added restaurants to their platforms, even if the restaurants haven’t agreed to work with them. They seem willing to do anything to get a cut of restaurants’ hard earned dough (and ours). Loathsome! How are these scams even legal?

It happened to me recently. I kept trying to order for pickup at the restaurant, but somehow the order kept going through GrubHub. Bamboozled!

RVB bamboozled

This boils my blood and breaks my heart for these restaurants. In my other life, I am a blogger for a hyperlocal blog whose sole purpose is to highlight, celebrate, and promote local everything. I’m also the internal marketing chair for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, where we work with local restaurants, distilleries, breweries, and such to promote them and help raise their visibility in the community.

I only bring this up, because I’ve sat with these restaurant and food truck owners, listened to their stories, seen the fire in their eyes as they talk about their recipes. They’ve regaled me with stories of how they got started, what inspires them, and when they had their first successful day. It’s delightful to see the intensity of their enthusiasm for sharing good food with people and how much of themselves they put into their restaurants.

In the original post that lifted the curtain on this shady practice, the Chicago Pizza Boss food truck owner Giuseppe Badalamenti, says the money he got from his GrubHub orders was “almost enough to pay for the food.” Badalamenti had participated in some promotions, which admittedly reduced his cut dramatically, yet the whole premise came as a shock to customers who have been spending their dollars to keep these local businesses afloat. Then here comes the third-party apps, poking a hole in the floaties.

It comes across as downright predatory. Thousands of people have sworn off these apps in favor of calling the restaurant directly for pickup if you are able. This way, you ensure the business you want to support gets the full bill amount. You can get the restaurant’s number directly from Google Maps or the business’s social media or website. This is the best way to help your favorite places stay in business.

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Business Marketing

TikToks new augmented reality ads seeks new audiences

(BUSINESS MARKETING) TikTok product developers hustle to roll out a new augmented reality brand effect to compete with Snapchat and Instagram.

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TikTok is getting ready to launch a new ad feature to level the playing field with Snapchat and Instagram. The unofficially named “AR brand effect” will allow TikTok users to incorporate augmented reality brand advertisements in their videos. The ads will create visual effects that interact with the filmmakers’ physical environment as if it exists in real life. The ads will include music that can be played over the film.

TikTok also offers an ad product called Brand Effect, a 2D advertisement filter that users can add to their videos. The in-house product development team at TikTok created this feature for a reported cost of $100,000 according to Digiday.

Snapchat already has its AR brand experiences called the Sponsored Lens and Word Lens, which allow brands to create augmented reality filters to advertise via Snapchat’s users and their interactions with friends.

Snapchat charges anywhere from $50 to $500,000 for augmented reality advertisements. The lower tier starts with a 10-second ad between videos that users can choose to “swipe up” and interact with. The higher tiers get advertisers a day-long spot with a Sponsored Lens.

Though the efficacy of this advertising strategy appears to be hit-or-miss, the creative opportunities for advertising to a wide audience is attractive enough to keep this product development relevant. TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin clocked in two billion downloads in the month of March. Its users skew young with 41% between the ages of 16 and 24, and its global following boasts 800 million users worldwide.

TikTok is moving with adept agility to roll out new products to keep its increasingly large user base engaged. “They are doing it a lot quicker [than competitor social media platforms],” media agency Starcom told Digiday. “Their ability to scale and move forward is frightening, really. If they get it right they’re going to be a huge player in the next six months to a year.”

TikTok is also working on new ad products that allow advertisers to connect with prominent influencers. With the future of stay-at-home orders looking to turn into an interminable cycle, it will be telling to understand how these advertising strategies will effect e-commerce and digital brand experiences.

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