Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Crucial SEO Question: Quality or Quantity?

An article in this week's New Yorker, "From Mars," offers a clear example of the value of SEO as well as high-quality, informative content. The article profiles Bryan Goldberg, who started the popular wildly-popular website, Bleacher Report, six years ago, and who now hopes to recreate that success with Bustle, a new site targeted at women.

Bleacher Report started with the goal of providing a viable alternative to the major sports news outlets, ESPN (the website) and Sports Illustrated (the magazine). In the article, Goldberg explains the motivation like this: "We basically looked at the situation and asked, 'How do you cover three hundred teams on a daily basis?' The answer is not to have a newsroom in Times Square in some fancy office building with thousands of writers in it. The answer is to go find some sports fans who live and breathe their teams and have them write the articles.”

To find local sportswriters, Goldberg and his partners posted notices on Craigslist and message boards--and thousands of amateur writers responded. In the first few years, Bleacher Report could not pay any of its writers, so it rewarded them for hits and comments. Encouraged to maximize page views, the untrained writers produced thousands of articles intended for quick, perhaps mindless reading, including "slide shows, 'best of' lists, and pictures of sexy women".

Naturally, too, the site used SEO:

"If Google showed that people were looking for news of LeBron James after an injury, they’d assign an article—or five—on James, making sure to put search terms such as 'injury' and 'Miami Heat' in the title (a process, universal in Web publishing, known as search-engine optimization)."

The Bleacher Report's use of SEO is a fairly simple process of creating tons of content (five articles on LeBron James injury!) and applying popular and timely keywords to its articles and article titles. And happily, for the Bleacher Report at least, this use of SEO attracted millions of hits each month. By the time the initial founders of the site sold Bleacher Report to Turner Broadcasting (for more than two hundred million dollars), the site itself was making "tens of millions of dollars each year" on ad sales.

Despite its success, however, Bleacher Report has been criticized for low-quality content ("The content sucked," Bustle's web content director, RJ Ciggaglione, says in the article). By prioritizing quantity over quality, Bleacher Report became wildly popular. What it did, essentially was "deluge the Internet with a tsunami of mediocre content that is so voluminous that it cannot be ignored, at least by search engines," as Elizabeth Spiers, the founder of Gawker notes in the article. But even Goldberg himself admits that Bleacher Report's low-quality writing was a "rookie mistake"--a mistake he wants to fix with his new site, Bustle.

Readers of The Organic SEO Blog will probably guess what we have to say about Bleacher Report's use of SEO. We have written about the value of content before.

Please read: "For SEO, Content is King". Or: "Content, Content, Content: The Key to SEO".

If you have thousands of writers, like Bleacher Report, you can attract attention merely by playing the number game--writing article after article with well-chosen keyword and titles. Quality hardly matters when you're dealing with that sort of quantity.

But what if you're a small business owner? Or what if you prefer to attract attention with quality?

In our opinion, the Internet is best served when website owners pay attention to the quality of writing. Happily, this is not merely our opinion: it's Google's opinion, too. Google favors well-written, informative content. And despite the example of Bleacher Report, good writing is still the best way for most websites to attract attention.

Remember this idea when you're searching for an SEO specialist. As we wrote in the above-mentioned blog, "Content, Content, Content,":

"Sometimes SEO companies say that they can optimize your website for specific keywords. Often these companies charge one price for two keywords and another price for, say, five keywords. Don’t let them fool you. Organically optimized websites appear on the first page results based on high quality writing--not keywords. If your website is optimized only for only two, or even five, keywords, you will never receive the traffic you deserve, and you will lose potential customers."

Obviously, Bleacher Report's style of attracting hits is not an ideal SEO model for most companies. For most companies, quality content is the most important determinant of online success. Perhaps with the new website, however, Goldberg will show the value of good writing. For the sake of the Internet, we hope so!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Organic SEO: How to Invest Your Money Wisely

At The Organic SEO Blog, we believe website optimization should be applied to every website. As Alex Stepman, the owner of our sponsor, Stepmans PC, likes to say, "You can have the most beautiful and dynamic website on the Internet, but if you're not on Google you're invisible."

And yet, we also understand the need for website owners to balance essential business costs with marketing costs. Organic SEO is, indeed, a marketing cost, and although SEO is essential, we also believe website owners should invest their money wisely. And frankly, many website owners waste money on frivolous website optimization campaigns. In fact, most website owners hire an SEO specialist or website marketing firm without even understanding the basic elements of website optimization.

Of course, a business owner should be efficient. By outsourcing website optimization, most owners simply want to ensure that their website is visible on Google, and that website optimization will attract more traffic to their site. But with organic SEO, a little knowledge can go a long way. For a website owner, especially, a little knowledge can mean the difference between a wise investment and a foolish investment.

Remember, an organic SEO campaign should be relatively inexpensive, and should always create an ROI (return on investment). But do not be fooled by price alone. You might ask yourself, "Why pay full price for website optimization if I can pay half the price that other website owners pay and get the same results?" Price is not the only determinant of success. What if, for example, you paid double the amount that other website owners pay, but you received double the amount of business? Do not try to merely match other website's success; try to double or triple that success for your own website.

The key, of course, is to make a wise investment. To ensure a wise investment, keep the following points in mind:

If you want to improve your website, website optimization is essential, but optimization is not necessarily the best first step. Instead, begin by identifying why your website is not performing well. Of course, your website should be visible on search engines--check to make sure it is!

For a simple guide to checking your website's visibility on Google, please read our handy guide: "How to Really Check Your Website's Performance on Google."

You should also measure the approximate amount of traffic your website receives on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Without this vital information, your website optimization campaign will be inefficient!

A detailed website performance report can be obtained easily. You have several options:

1. You can purchase professional software that will provide a detailed website analysis.

2. You can request this analysis form an SEO professional or website marketing firm.

3. You can ask our sponsor, Stepmans PC, to provide a detailed website report free of charge. To do so simply visit www.stepmanseo.com

A simple analysis will clarify your needs. You might discover, for example, that incoming traffic is not your essential problem. Despite your good traffic, however, you might also discover that your website is not really delivering any business. Organic SEO is not only about your website's visibility. Organic SEO includes thoughtful marketing and a thorough strategy to convert your visitors into actual customers. In this case, you might need to work on your customer conversion rate. For more information about "conversion" read our blog: "How to Convert Website Visitor's into Customers."

Hopefully today's blog saves you some money. After all, once you see your website's current performance, you will know how much maintenance your website actually requires. From this assessment, you can then estimate a realistic budget required to perform the work.

Just remember, in the end, the best website optimization investment is the one that makes sense for your unique website. Do not be fooled by low prices or blanket promises. If you wish to speak to a no-nonsense professional, please visit our sponsor, Stepman's PC. Alex Stepman is a small business owner who understands your need to spend money efficiently.