Why you shouldn’t try to bamboozle Google.

A brief look at boneheaded attempts to dupe the algorithm.

Here’s a devious idea. (Also, hilarious.)

I was catching up with my niece’s husband at a recent family reunion. As we sipped beer from red Solo cups while waiting for the barbecue to work its magic, my kinda-relative was asking me about SEO.

I am not Red Letter’s SEO wizard—but I know more than your average niece’s husband (NH). I launched into an extemporaneous tutorial, during which I mentioned Google’s habit of favoring sites that are regularly refreshed with new content.

With a gleam in his eye, NH asked me whether the following scheme would fool Google while keeping his content production costs low.

The content flip-flop flim-flam.

“What if”—postulated my impish interlocutor—“What if I kept two versions of copy for every page on my website? They would say the same thing but use different words and sentence structures. Every few months I would switch them out. Google thinks my site is getting fresh content, but I don’t have to pay some copywriter to keep generating more words about my company. Whatdya think?”

Had I been in the process of swigging my frosty stout, I would have done a spit take suitable for the Spit Take Hall of Fame. (On the other hand, if I had been biting into a pulled pork sandwich, I might have choked to death.)

Resistance is futile. So relax!

I have shared my NH story with several people more expert than me about the workings of the mysterious Google algorithm. They have responded with a blend of eye-rolling and begrudging admiration for the mischievous workings of NH’s mind. Everybody thought this search marketing shell game was kind of funny. They also thought it was hopeless.

Link farms and other lunacy.

The history of the web includes countless examples of attempts to game the Google. You may recall link farms, a scheme in which a group of websites are artificially interlinked in order to improve the link profiles of all of them. This method of attempting to snooker Google’s index has been called spamdexing. (It was not 100% necessary that I mention spamdexing in this article, but I really wanted to use that word in a sentence. While this writer considers the practice of digital deception unsavory, he is quietly pleased at the infusion of delightful new words to our ever-evolving language.)

As for link farming—it doesn’t work, so don’t do it.

Writing like a robot frightens people. Not good!

There was a period when copywriters—wild with apprehension about how to appeal to their new audience (spiders)—started writing in a stilted, repetitive, keyword-saturated style that caused word watchers to fear the End Times were near. It was Stepford copy.

This was another stupid reaction to what Google is trying to do.

The sordid history of SEO hanky-panky.

Black hat SEO shenanigans never work for long, if at all. But the ingenuity of some of these dead-end schemes can be entertaining. For a thorough overview of search skullduggery, this exhaustive archive will keep you amused.

Google likes what people like.

It’s that simple. If you want to interest your audience, be interesting. Say insightful things using vivid language that could never be written by a robot. (No disrespect to my Robot Overlords, to whom I owe everything.)

Of course you should use your knowledge of search engine optimization (and of human behavior) to be sure you are delivering clear, compelling content that will appeal to both humans and spiders. But those who try to devise tricks to bamboozle Google are using the wrong part of their brains.

Our real SEO expert is always happy to answer your questions.

He knows everything there is to know about improving your site’s ranking. Also, he is very polite to me about the rudimentary nature of my own SEO expertise, so I am grateful for that. You will surely agree! Click below and we’ll put you in touch with this unusually gracious guru.

Posted in SEO

What is location-based SEO? How to rank for your city, state, or region

Top 5 tips to master location-based SEO

In the caveman days of SEO, when we were all just sitting around banging digital sticks together, trying to figure out how the darn thing worked, broad keywords were all the rage. It wasn’t unusual to see a domain name that said, simply, “gardener.com.” Location-based SEO wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

Thankfully, we eventually evolved. Nowadays, marketers know that location-based keywords—like “Atlanta plumber”—are a much better bet when it comes to improving your SEO. Below, we explain why that is, and give you some quick tips on how to do it.

Why location-based SEO matters

Almost all of today’s searches are location-based, including yours. Think about it—when you pull out your phone to find a nearby restaurant, you don’t just type in “restaurant”, you type “restaurant in [your city]”, saving yourself the hassle of combing through irrelevant listings.

The more mobile our society gets, the more important location-based SEO becomes. Google’s latest algorithm updates reflect this trend: Google Possum and Google 3-Pack both reward location-targeted content more than ever. The bottom line? Focusing your marketing around your location is an excellent way to improve your search rankings and, ultimately, your sales.

With no further ado, here are some tips on maximizing your local potential.

1. Set up a Google My Business account

Many business owners are unaware that they can directly control the information Google displays about their business. It’s simple–just set up a free account in Google My Business. This mother-of-all-listings site allows you to upload your location, contact info, website, and hours of operation. You can also upload professional photos of your location to make it look more inviting. This can help prevent some less-favorable customer-generated photos from cropping up on your profile. (For example, think of the last time you looked up a restaurant only to see a close-up of someone’s half-eaten food.)

2. Create location-based site content

Now that you’ve taken care of the basics, you’ll want to create plenty of location-based content for your website. The most efficient thing you can do, from an SEO standpoint, is create a page for every location you’d like to target. That’s right – every location. Unlike lumping everything into one big “Locations” page, this allows you to target every area specifically in the headline, H1 tags, and other SEO areas. If time and budget constraints don’t allow for this, grouping all locations into one page is a good second option.

3. Add your location URLs to your Google My Business page

Once you’ve set up your location pages, remember to return to your Google My Business account to add those new URLs. Don’t just add your home page or domain URL; adding location-specific pages will help Google’s search crawlers index your page and give you higher rankings. It’ll also give your customers a better user experience. For instance, it’s much more convenient to check out happenings at your local coffee chain than search through all 1,600 locations.

4. Make sure your NAP info is consistent

NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. When Google performs a search, it cross-references your NAP information across a variety of websites–like Yelp, Yellow Pages, et cetera – to ascertain that you’re a real, legitimate business. It’s incredibly unlikely that a spam website would have consistent NAP information across multiple sources. Therefore, help Google out – and improve your rankings – by making sure that your NAP information is correct across the board. If you’re not a developer, and you don’t know any, don’t worry – we do.

5. Create location-based Google Ads

Running location-based ads will increase your reach and competitiveness for your targeted areas. You can even use geo-targeting to ensure that your ads only within a specific geographical radius. If you’ve set up a Google My Business account, it’ll be easy to integrate your information right into Google AdWords.

location-based SEO

Master location-based SEO with a Greensboro SEO company

As Google’s users – and algorithms – give more and more preference to mobile, location-based SEO will matter even more. Luckily, there are a wide array of tools, techniques, and channels that will allow companies to stay on top of their game.

Red Letter Marketing is a marketing agency based in Greensboro, NC, specializing in branding strategy, SEO, app and website development, and much more. You can see our work here.

5 Qualities of a Great SEO Company

Searching for an SEO company? Look for these 5 key traits.

SEO is a powerful strategy that can be used to elevate your search rankings and boost your sales. Unfortunately, many SEO agencies lack the skills and experience to implement SEO effectively. Below are 5 characteristics of a great SEO company.

1. They tell you exactly what they’ll do for you.

No SEO company can outright promise that it will get you to the #1 spot on Google search results—we’ll get more into that below—but a professional SEO company should be able to illustrate, in writing, exactly what it will do for you. A few examples include:

  • Performing an audit of your site, homepage, content, or link profile
  • Sending you a monthly report of your site rankings
  • Adding plugins that can enhance your SEO efforts
  • Implementing internal linking across your web pages
  • Offering ongoing website maintenance to help maintain your rankings

The more specific an SEO company can be about the services it provides, the more knowledgeable it probably is. Look out for answers that are vague or which “pass the buck” to someone else who mysteriously never gets back to you.

2. They don’t overpromise.

Getting a website on the front page of Google is no easy feat, and a knowledgeable SEO company knows that. The biggest brands in the world are gunning for that top spot, most of them with significantly more resources behind them. An agency that promises to get you there is kind of like a coach promising he’ll get your kid into the NFL. It’s possible, but it won’t be cheap, fast, or easy. (On that note, watch out for words like “cheap”, “fast”, and “easy”. Quality SEO is none of those things.)

3. They reach out to you. A lot.

A quality SEO agency will need certain things from you—and not just the keys to your WordPress site. It will need to have an ongoing, constant dialogue with you about your challenges and goals. It will need to understand new issues that crop up, and new changes that are affecting your company. Your SEO agency should be an ever-present part of your overall business strategy. If all you’re hearing from your agency is crickets, it might be time to consider other options.

4. They tell you the good and the bad.

Some agencies, like some people, will never tell you what you might not want to hear. This strategy only works for so long, however. If your site is full of broken links, bad content, or useless plugins, you need to hear it. If all you hear is praise, you’re not getting the whole story. And you’re not getting the full value of what a great agency can give you.

5. They genuinely improve your search rankings.

Just as you shouldn’t throw out your scale after a one-pound gain, don’t assume that a one-month dip in traffic indicates a bad SEO agency is at work. SEO is like bodybuilding, or construction. It’s about building a strong, solid foundation over a long period of time. As a general rule, results won’t start to show in at least three or four months.

With that said, however, an SEO agency’s job is ultimately to improve your rankings. If six to eight months have passed with no sign of improvement—or worse, a downward trend—it’s time to start asking questions.

Need a Greensboro SEO Company?

If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of SEO, or if you have questions that your current SEO company doesn’t seem to be able to answer, Red Letter Marketing is here to help. We’ve helped hundreds of companies just like yours improve their search rankings, grow their site traffic, and boost their sales. And, of course, if you need good old-fashioned print ads, we do that, too.

Whatever your web development, marketing, or advertising needs, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Content Marketing Tips: How to Avoid the Black Hole of Content

The internet has become a massive black hole of content. Here are some content marketing tips that can help you execute a smart content strategy in spite of it.

Beautifully created content is getting lost in cyberspace. It’s dropped off on the side of the road in the most remote areas of the information superhighway, with no one around for light years. If you’re developing content without promoting it, you’re dumping your content straight into a black hole. But there’s hope–here are some content marketing tips that can help you shine a light on your content.

1. Wave to the Bots!

Give yourself a shot with the search engine bots by investing in SEO. Conduct keyword research to understand what your audience is searching for. Set up on-page SEO with the appropriate title tags, headings, meta descriptions, and image alt attributes for your content. While there are a lot of factors that play into effective, modern SEO, it is still important to have a solid foundation of basic metadata for your content to help you get discovered online.

2. Sell it in the SERPs.

Create compelling, creative, and inviting page titles and meta descriptions to maximize your click-through rate on the search engine results page (SERPs). This is the copy that will show up when the user is trying to decide which search result to click on. Think of the meta description as the ad copy for your page. Describe your page in a way that sells the content to the “customer.” In this case, the customer is the search engine user that is looking for information related to your content topic.

3. Don’t be afraid to repeat your tweet.

If you are posting a link to your content via Twitter, you will want to schedule multiple tweets to promote your content since all of your followers will not be online at the same time. You can vary these posts with a different focus featuring a key quote, statistic, or question addressed in the content. No time to manage your social media? A social media marketing company can help.

4. Pay to play.

Unfortunately, the social media landscape is quickly becoming a pay-to-play venue. As algorithms continue to evolve, it is increasingly difficult to get a lot of eyeballs on your info without paying to promote a post (even if you have a large following). Invest in boosted posts in a way that will get people to your content AND will also increase your future organic power. In other words, use boosted posts on Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter to drive people to your content, as well as increase followers and email subscribers. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but with consistent contributions you can continue to build a following and leverage their individual networks to expand your organic reach.

5. Images = Everything.

To increase the “shareability” of your content, be sure to include engaging visual elements. Use quality custom images both in the content pieces as well as the social media posts promoting that content. To overcome the noise in social feeds, consider what type of images will catch your audience’s eye.

6. Use network multipliers.

Expand your reach by encouraging team members to share your content via social media. This is especially applicable if part of their network would fall into your target audience. Also, using hashtags in social posts will help mark the content by relevant topic. This will help expand your audience reach beyond your existing followers.

7. Go serial.

Leverage the power of “To Be Continued” and create episodic, multi-part content to get return visits. Combine these parts and pieces to build powerful long-form content that will promote referral links from 3rd party sites.

8. Click-to-Tweet.

Make your share-worthy content easier to share. Include appropriate/relevant social share buttons on your blog post page. This will make it easy for those who want to share tasty bites of content, like a key quote or statistic from your article with in-context click-to-tweet buttons. You can find a number of “Click-to-Tweet” plug-ins available to make this easy to setup.

9. Keep your troops in the loop.

One of the most overlooked content marketing tips: Make sure you keep your loyal email subscribers up-to-date with your latest content. This is a group that raised their hand to say they are interested in what you have to say, so don’t leave them hanging. This may seem obvious, but it can get overlooked.

10. Captivate your captive audience.

In addition to your email audience, keep your current website audience engaged by cross-linking between related content on your site. Feature new content with links on your home page, and provide cross-links to new content from related blogs and pages. Make this new content easy to discover for your website visitors. Connecting the content dots across your site will help get more views and shares on the new stuff. It will also provide an SEO boost with increased engagement on your site overall.

If you create beautiful, valuable content, these content marketing tips will give it a chance to survive out in cyberspace.

Strap some jetpacks on those blog posts, infographics, and videos to make sure you get that valuable content in front of the audiences that need it. If you need more content marketing tips, give us a shout. We keep rocket fuel in the office.

Want to boost your SEO? Hire professional content writers

Professional content writers can rejoice.

Though the all-knowing algorithm remains under lock and key, Google’s Search Quality Guidelines were released less than 6 months ago. A cursory reading of these guidelines shows that Google now gives primacy to content written by professional content writers.

In short, the internet’s most powerful force now favor skillful, authoritative writing. This is especially true in sensitive areas like medicine, finance, and healthcare, where the stakes for misinformation are higher. If you want to give your SEO a boost, it’s important to hire professional content writers with industry knowledge.

Professional content writers yield higher rankings

This is great news for internet users, because it means we’ll be exposed to better content from more qualified sources. Content farms—known for paying writers measly sums to generate loads of chiefly insufferable material—were undermined greatly by this change. Flimsy organizations like Anti-Vaccine Movement, The Flat Earth Society, and Ken Ham’s Creation Museum all have expressed outrage, claiming that their voices are being stifled. Yet overall, Google’s new guidelines make for a better web experience with more respected voices now separated from the masses of chaff.

Lousy content brings lousy results

These changes confirm what Red Letter Marketing has stood for all along: valuable content that makes a difference for target audiences. There is still a plethora of false prophets in this territory, ready to sell you cheap and easy content marketing solutions. Some have even recommended hiring a college student on the cheap to churn out blogs in order to keep your website content fresh. But the fact is, this won’t work, and is even less viable now than when it actually had some—albeit slight—impact.

The new EAT standard: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness

Though more vital in fields like finance and healthcare, no industry is exempt from Google’s new E-A-T standard. This is the acronym for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. For example, say you’re looking for information on air movement. Google is more likely to drive you to reputable sources like Dyson or Boeing. Though each of these companies operate in distinct industries, they have expertise in the realm of air flow.

Offering Valuable Content, Interestingly

What’s the lesson in all of this? Chiefly, you need to have expert, professional content writers to produce your content. This is especially  true if content marketing is a main artery in your business development strategy. But industry expertise alone won’t cut it. You need to present that information in a way that inspires engagement. Hierarchy of information, scanability, and relevance all become significant elements in the presentation of content. You need to keep a reader interested, even excited about the content.

Poorly-presented information will drive visitors away faster than a toupee in a hurricane, even if it’s valuable. It’s vital to keep your readers…well—reading. They want to leave the page feeling that you’ve provided something useful and accessible. If you’ve succeeded, they’ll remember, and are more likely to come back. If not, they may end up at a competitor’s site. In this regard, professional content writers are often more qualified than those who have industry experience, yet poor writing skills.

As marketers, we take content quality seriously. To do anything less is to disrespect readers, and consequently, customers. Because Google is now reviewing websites using the E-A-T standard, the quality of your content will affect your site content. If you’re wondering how to create effective content marketing that gets the attention of both Google and customers, let’s talk.