SEO Basics

How to Write A Good Meta Description

how to write an effective meta descriptionThe other day, a friend of mine posted a link to an article that really got my blood boiling.

The link pointed to a piece from Mother Jones that had to do with the number of golf courses operated by the Department of Defense. The blurb included the number of courses and the US Golf Association’s estimate about the cost to maintain golf courses.

Like I said, it got my blood boiling.  As a military spouse, I know there are some pretty crummy locations for DoD personnel to be sent. While I think golf is one of the more boring sports out there (and I even went to the same elementary school as did Phil Mickelson), I realize it’s a favorite pastime of many people.  So – it seems a worthwhile form of recreation to have on military installations, especially since the courses are nearly self supporting.  Most young enlisted troops wouldn’t be able to afford to play at public courses, so it seems especially appropriate to have a low cost form of exercise and fun.

So – contrary to the efforts of the folks at Mother Jones to get me all hot and bothered about how much it costs to run golf courses for the Department of Defense, I can’t say that I give a flying leap about it. Instead I found myself rather irked that they would write such an article at all.

But – the description did what it supposed to. It got me to read an article I otherwise would have glossed over.

How can you use the decidedly unglamorous meta description to get more targeted traffic on your article?

How to Write an Effective Meta Description

1. Use your keywords in an intelligent manner

This means – yes, use your keyword in a way that is contextually appropriate. And no, do not stuff your keyword into the meta description ad nauseum.  Once is nearly more than sufficient, thanks to Google’s algorithm tweaks.

2. Make your meta description compelling

This is where the money meets the road. Using your keyword in your meta description for SEO purposes only gets people to potentially see your content in a search engine results page (SERP).  Google and other search engines also bold your keyword in the search engine results pages, so it really is a best practice to include your keyword in a tasteful, value-added way. However – once they see your article blurb, they have to click on it, otherwise all the SEO in the world is pointless.

Getting people to actually click on your post and read it is a result of your superior writing skills (effective SEO copywriting, really).  Your meta description needs to make it clear why someone would want to click on your content rather than the thousands of others that likely came up as the result of someone’s search.

One way to write a meta description that encourages readers to click through is to ask a specific question and then let readers know you’ll answer that question in your content.

For example, ‘Need to know how to write an effective meta description? Get the tips you need to create highly compelling meta descriptions for your blog content’  could be a great meta description for a post such as this one.

Writing Killer Meta Descriptions –  Quick Tips

  • Use keywords in an effective manner
  • Don’t keyword stuff
  • Use effective copywriting techniques to encourage click throughs
  • Give your readers the specific benefit they’ll get from reading your content

What are your tips for an effective Meta Description?  Leave a comment below!

How Google Plus Can Boost Your Blog’s Visibility

Google Plus might be the most important social media platform that has ever existed.

how to use google plus to boost your blog's visibility

Bold statement, right?  Especially since so many people aren’t using it!

But here’s the thing. Because of the way Google Plus is set up, this powerful social network has the power to give your blog more visibility than any of the other networks out there. And if you’re not leveraging its abilities, you are missing out on traffic from a number of sources, not just straight from Google.

Here’s how Google Plus can boost your visibility as a blogger.

Google Plus Authorship

Google Plus lets you connect your blog (Blogger or WordPress) with your Google profile. This is easily set up with a plugin.  This helps you a few ways.  For starters – you get an SEO boost when Google “sees” all of your content across the web that’s connected with your Google Plus profile. If this content is related in topic and theme, it starts to build your authority and relevance for that topic. Over time, this will move you up on search engine results.  Of course you must make sure your content is worth reading, too, otherwise you won’t get much of a benefit. People have to both find and read your content for SEO to help you.

Google Plus Communities

Google Plus became a much more interactive platform with the addition of Communities, and it’s a super easy way to connect with, learn from, and share information with people in your niche.  Search Google Plus for Communities related to your field – or get adventurous and start your own!  Note – if you start your own, you’ll want to stay involved with it. It doesn’t make you look like a thought leader if you’re never around to facilitate conversation in your community!

Google Plus +1 Social Proof

Just like the “Like” on Facebook or “Retweeting” or “Sharing” on Twitter, the benefits of social proof when people +1 your content can’t be overlooked.  Of course when other people see your content has been shared this way, it gives you the strength that other people’s approval grants. However – it’s also important because it’s also a signal that Google takes into consideration when delivering search engine results. If your content has a high number of shares, Google will naturally “see” it as more relevant and authoritative in your field. And this will give you stronger search engine rankings for your topics.

Speaking of Google…

Google Plus is important for bloggers for one key reason: It’s Google.  Like it or not, the name Google has become synonymous with search. And Google continues to favor Google-owned properties in search engine results. Once your blog is set up with Google Plus Authorship and connected to your Google profile, you will get the biggest boost in SEO if you are an active member of the Google Plus community and add content that is relevant and valuable to people searching for great content in your field.

QUESTION: What’s your Google Plus username? Leave a link below and let’s connect!

SEO Content Writing for Businesses: The Great Blogging Hoax

great blog hoax

Opinions about SEO content writing are a dime a dozen these days – everyone’s got one. (And, like a related saying, most of them stink.)  Seriously, though, just because anyone can blog doesn’t mean that anyone should, much less that they should dispense wisdom about how to blog.

But because they do, there are a number of myths about blogging that persist. Have you fallen for the great blogging hoax?  Check out these myths that need to be refuted now!

SEO Content Writing for Businesses: 5 Blog Myths Busted!

1.  Google isn’t your only reason to blog.

It’s easy to get in the habit of thinking that you’re only blogging for Google and other search engine traffic.  And while yes, you want your ideal customer to be able to find your products or services if you can truly help them, the simple act of scoring well on search shouldn’t be the only reason you’re doing SEO content writing!

You should be blogging if you can create value for the people who need you. And you should be blogging if you can create that value in a way that makes people have a compulsive need to share your content.

On the other hand, if you’re just cranking out content ever few days or weeks just because you’re supposed to these days, please do us all a favor and stop. Because in that scenario – you’re wasting your time and money, along with ours.

 

2.  Some people can blog every day and it’s good. Other people blog every day and it’s hurting them.

This goes along with point number 1. You should only blog if you have something to say. You should not “find something to say” in order to have a blog. Make sense?

If you are able to create amazing content on a daily basis, some bloggers have experienced great results driving respectable amounts of profitable traffic by doing so.  I can’t say that it doesn’t work for some.

But on the other hand –  Jon Morrow over at Boost Blog Traffic  posted a guest post recently that says that daily posting actually hurts your traffic by decreasing the social proof possible on each post.  (There are a few other reasons listed too, and I have to say I agree with him) .

So – posting daily isn’t a part of my strategy, and I’m okay with that.  I’m guessing you’re busy enough that you don’t really want daily posts from me anyway.

3.  If your headline sucks, your article can’t save it.

A reminder for the new – the purpose of your headline isn’t to tell your readers what your article’s about. It’s not to prove to your readers that you’re a super clever author, either.

It’s to get your readers to read the first sentence.

And that first sentence? Yep. It’s to get them to read the next.

If all of those are written well, there’s a good chance they’ll keep reading, unless you bore the bloody hell out of them at some point, in which I can’t help you.

But if that headline sucks?

Kiss those carefully SEO-attracted readers goodbye.  And watch your bounce rates soar.

(Proven and profitable headline tips are often a subject of my weekly e-mails, incidentally)

4.  If your article sucks, your SEO can’t save it.

Okay, so you’ve written this article – and it’s mediocre at best. And then you carefully keyword it, putting in your title and meta tags, tagging your images, and sprinkling your carefully analyzed keyword phrase in like magical fairy dust so your article will rise to the top of Google search.

Even if that somehow happens, there’s just one problem. If your article sucks, no one is going to share it. And Google continues to look for ways to incorporate social signals in their ranking. If your articles aren’t shareworthy or worthy of peoples comments or likes, all of the traditional SEO in the world can’t save them.

5. If you write amazing content, Google’s Panda and Penguin are your friend. If not – watch out!

I think it’s funny to watch people freak out about Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, and here’s why. The team at Google isn’t really sitting around at a table with a perpetual agenda item where Matt Cutts starts by asking, “How can we screw the heck out of as many unsuspecting small business owners as we can today” in his best impersonation of Pinky and the Brain.

Google is continually refining its algorithm to find the best quality content – content that is engaging, authoritative, and relevant – and ensure that content is what appears at the top of search.  And they’re trying to make sure that the boring or crappy keyword-stuffed garbage is penalized and doesn’t see the light of day any more often than possible.  That’s all. So if you’re creating great content in your niche and your readers eagerly await it, comment upon it and share it – Panda and Penguin are 2 of the most loveable black and white creatures you’ll ever see.  You can even look forward to each new release.

Are there any myths I missed? Leave a comment below!

How to Write Blogs For Your Business: Keyword Research Demystified

One of the most important keys to learning how to write blogs for your business is doing keyword research. 

How to Blog Effectively

Talking to other bloggers, I think it’s also one of the things that mystifies people the most.

Keyword research has a little bit of a bad reputation in some circles. For a while, less than credible SEO consultants were using keywords to try to game the system with Google, stuffing keywords here, there and everywhere in an attempt to rank better.

While that’s become more difficult in the post Panda and Penguin world, it doesn’t mean that keyword research is less important. Far from it.

What has happened is that the practice of choosing a good keyword needs to be paired with creating quality website content that people naturally want to read and forward.  Your keyword needs to be set within the context of quality content. Keyword rich content in a meaningful, share-worth context is the key to Google magic.

Which brings us back to the first part of that equation…keyword research.

What is Keyword Research

I was just about to write that it’s the process of researching your keywords to find out which ones are most likely to generate the most qualified traffic to your website. And then I remembered that I shouldn’t define a term by using the term.

Silly me.

But in a nutshell, that’s exactly what it is.

You don’t want just any traffic – you want people who are interested in what you have to say and what you have to sell (products or services). And when you’re trying to monetize, you don’t just want one vistor a month (though if it’s the right visitor and it’s something that’s pretty high-end, I suppose it could work).

How to Blog Effectively For Your Business:  Conducting Keyword Research

  1. Think from your customer’s perspective

This is probably the hardest thing to do when it comes to keyword research. You need to know how to think like your ideal customer to determine what query he or she might Google and expect to find a website like yours.

When someone comes up with your website in a set of results, is it going to help them answer the question they searched under? Will they be pleased to come across your website for that topic, or will they consider it a waste of time?

Are the people who are looking for your website and find it likely to be interested in exchanging money for your products or services?  Unless you’re running a nonprofit, you have to be honest when you answer this question. A few ways to check this might be to see how books on your topic rank in terms of sales at Amazon, or to see if you get any Google ads when you search for your topic.

2.     Use a keyword tool to look at demand for a possible keyword

One of the most popular and free keyword tools is Google’s keyword tool.  Enter a possible keyword phrase in the search box and see if it is a highly searched term or not.  To be as precise as possible, use exact match keywords with this tool.

3.     Compare the demand for a possible keyword with the number of sites that already exist for it. 

Knowing how easy it is to rank for a given keyword isn’t just about how many people search for it per month, it’s also about knowing how much competition you have.

Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income has some great articles about keyword research – he has an interesting comment that he believes anyone can rank for any keyword – it’s just all about how many resources (time and money) you want to spend in the process.  If you’re just starting a business, you need to make money quickly, and you don’t have a lot of time or money to spend at the moment, it would be wiser to work with a keyword or words that don’t already have millions of websites trying to rank for those words.

Another website that has great in depth information about keyword research is Moz (used to be SEOMoz).  Actually, just about everything they have is fantastic, and I strongly recommend diving into their resources about SEO and content marketing.

How comfortable are you with keyword research?  Would it be helpful to have a template I use to keep my results organized?  Leave me a comment below!

Content Marketing Tips: The #1 Keyword Research Tool I’m Really Grateful For!

the keyword research tool im grateful for

The number one thing I’m thankful for in my professional life this year is the opportunity to learn and grow a business – while getting to be home and raise my 4 kids. I am so incredibly grateful that I get to home school my kids!  At the same time, my husband and I get to be active in our role as parents daily.  What a blessing!  I haven’t lost my professional identity, though!  I’ve learned so much this year as I’ve built my content marketing business! And if you’d have told me I’d have come so far in such a short time, I would’ve laughed.

But I still think the best is yet to come!

Because I am so grateful for all I’ve learned, I wanted to share a little gem of a tool with you.  I think this is incredibly helpful in conducting keyword research for anyone who’s doing content marketing.  It’s a nifty way to discover some contextually related keywords you might not have even known existed!

Content Marketing Keyword Research – Contextual Targeting Tool

Google Contextual Targeting Tool:  I admit I haven’t been using this tool long.  The more I use it, though, the more I love its results!  It’s yet another way of using Google’s Adwords feature to find related search terms based on real Google data.  Pretty nifty, right?

So for instance, say you want to look up social media marketing, and you’re just starting your keyword research.  You want to make sure that you don’t miss any keywords so you make sure you’re getting the best targeted traffic possible.

Open up Google Adwords, and select the Tools and Analysis tab.  Scroll down to the Contextual Targeting Tool and select it. 

Your screen will look like this:

Content marketing keyword research tool

Notice that in the text field at the top, I typed “social media marketing” (without the quotes)

The CTT will return results that are formatted with an anchor keyword in the left hand column and a group of related keywords in the right hand column.

 

Content marketing keyword research results image

Look at the content marketing phrase ideas down the left hand column.  You might well discover contextually related keywords that you might not have known people were looking for in your niche.  To find more contextually related keywords select one and enter it into the CTT. You’ll discover even more keywords to help boost your rich content marketing and its SEO ranking.

If you see a category that catches your attention, click the plus sign next to the anchor keyword.  It will expand a list of even more related keywords for your content marketing pleasure.

content marketing expanded keyword group

The beauty of the CTT is that you don’t know every keyword you’ll want to use in your content marketing campaign. And with this – you don’t need to.  In fact, even if you think you know what keywords people will want to use, it’s better to use the contextual targeting tool to examine your content marketing keywords just to be sure.  It’s like trying to proofread your own material.  You might be so familiar with it that you are overlooking what basic keywords and searches people might be performing related to your content.

QUESTION:  Do you find keyword research to be the most interesting or most tedious part of your content marketing efforts?  I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!

Content Marketing: The #1 Secret to Mastering SEO For Your Business

content marketing strategyWhat if I told you that the #1 secret to outstanding SEO is something you already know, even if you’re brand new to social media marketing?  What if I said that after Google’s last updates, Panda and Penguin, that SEO became simpler than ever?  And would you believe me if I announced that the less you know about anything any expert told you about SEO marketing, the better off you are in your online marketing efforts?

Those claims about online marketing sound pretty audacious, even to me (and I’m the one making them).  But I honestly believe them with everything that’s in me, and here’s why.

Once upon a time (aka, before Google updated its search algorithms), optimizing the pages on your website was a bit of a crude art.  It mostly relied on choosing a set of 10 or 15 keywords that you pretty much stuck with, and tried to work them as many times as possible into your article, even if that meant sacrificing the readability of your page.  And that was the legitimate folks.  Illegitimate marketers would create entire pages and sites stuffed full of nothing but keywords, and unfortunately, those results would rank pretty highly in Google search.

But the folks at Google did some tweaking and updated the algorithms used to deliver search results over past year or so, and the quality of search results improved as a result.

It was a bit funny, though, to see marketers get worried about whether the changes to Google would affect their placement on Google search negatively.

If you read Google’s remarks on the changes they implemented, it became very clear that their intent wasn’t to affect the ranking of legitimate businesses offering relevant, useful information online. It was to limit the use of artificial tactics such as article marketing and over stuffing websites with keywords to “rig” the search results.  Google continues to tweak the algorithms to deliver better results.

(Good) Content Marketing is Great Business!

For legitimate marketers, this is FANTASTIC news, and here’s why.  It eliminates the advantage that was supposedly gained by trying to game the system with crappy content (yes, that’s a technical term).  It levels the playing field, allowing the content to speak for itself when it comes to online marketing (with some minor SEO savvy tweaks in the background).

Yes, as many social media marketers are proclaiming these days, content is king!

With one caveat.

Content is King, but…

If content is king, then context is the kingdom Gary Vaynerchuk says that context is god.  I can’t quite bring myself to say that publicly given my faith background, so I’ll stick with saying that context is the kingdom.  But I’ll still credit him with articulating its importance.

What is context?  It’s understanding each article, each page, and each website as a holistic entity.  It’s the setting of your article, page, and website.  It’s in terms of the context of your page and your site that your article can be understood.

Quality Content Matters!

This means that more than ever, quality content matters.  No, you don’t have to be Shakespeare to produce well-written content.   And you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in your subject matter to be able to create informative, thoughtful information about it.

What you do need is a genuine desire to create something that delivers real value for your audience.  Creating real value means that you inform, inspire, or entertain your readers in some capacity.  Content that creates real value leaves your readers with the feeling that they gained something by reading your article.

In other words, creating content that delivers real value to your audience means understanding the context of your article.  Your article doesn’t exist to be found by a search engine!  SEO is not the ultimate end of your content. Discovery and engagement by real people is.  Content created without this understanding of context is being penalized and weeded out by Google and other search engines – and to this, I say, “Bravo!”

Traditional SEO matters – in terms of fine tuning your Google placement.  But after that, your content and your context must deliver a combination that is so engaging, people can’t help but click through, comment, and share your content.  Anything less than that does a disservice to your audience and deserves the Google burial it receives.

How are you creating value for your audience?  Entertainment/humor?  Information? Inspiration?  Some combination of the above? I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!