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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

How Instagram’s latest redesign is more sinister than it seems

(MARKETING) Instagram’s latest updates have all but repurposed the app into an online mall – one that tracks everything you see, say, and buy on it.

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Woman in hijab taking photo on her smartphone for Instagram, affected by the redesign.

Instagram started the new year off with a makeover in their latest redesign. The notifications button teleported to the top of the screen in the app’s new design, and now the “Shopping” button is in its place.

It’s a subtle yet insidious switch. You’re much more likely to select the marketplace out of habit, by accident, when searching your next dose of online validation.

The app has always been a vital tool for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses to promote their work — including myself. And the new redesign is intended to boost the visibility of those groups. At least, that’s Instagram’s argument.

In an article for The Conversation, Nazanin Andalibi of the University of Michigan School of Information provides a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes.

“By choosing to make the Shop tab central to its platform,” she writes, “Instagram is sending its users a message: This platform is a business, and interactions on this platform are going to be commodified.”

As an advertiser, Instagram’s popularity has exploded in the last decade. Even big pharma is in on the surge, with seventy pharmaceutical companies purchasing ads on the app in 2020. (That made it the fastest growing pharma advertiser of the year.)

As we know, Instagram not only runs ads, but also uses user information to filter who sees what advertisements. Now, shopping is explicitly a central function of the app. It sometimes feels like a digital mall… And that’s not really what people signed up for.

I’ve had my account for since I was a teenager, and the experience I have using the app today is totally different from what it once was. For one, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate paid ads from regular user content on Instagram.

And second, I use Instagram to promote my work, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about myself anymore.

Because, to use Anadalibi’s words: “Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience–which might or might not be accurate–is problematic.”

That goes doubly so for youth, who may not be fully aware of that engineering.

For instance, a teenager searching for body positive posts might receive personalized ad results for weight loss programs. A human would probably realize that’s an inappropriate, even triggering suggestion. But algorithms don’t think that way.

Alongside the redesign update, Instagram has also faces recent criticism for their Community Guidelines, which prevent suggestive and explicit images and speech.

And whether you agree with the guidelines or not, don’t be fooled. Instagram isn’t concerned with uplifting its creators, or protecting its young users. Their only goal is protecting their new bottom line, and staying as ad-friendly as possible.

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.

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Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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