Thursday, May 25, 2017

SEO 101: Short-tail and Long-tail Keywords

It's 54 degrees in Philadelphia today--the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. For the last few weeks on the East Coast, we have endured cool (at times cold) dreary weather. Last Friday, we experienced a rare preview: temperatures hit 90 degrees. Yet this week, the temperatures have scarcely hit 60.

Now, with Memorial Day upon us, we're longing for the summer Karl Ove Knausgård describes in My Struggle Book One: "Blue sky, boiling hot sun, dusty streets."

What words conjure summer for you? Knausgård also writes a lovely portrait of summer rain:

"Oh, the raindrops that fall on the dry, hot pavement, and then evaporate, or are absorbed by the dust, yet still perform their part of the job, for when the next drop falls the pavement is cooler, the dust damper, and so dark patches spread, and join, and the pavement is wet and black."

Photo Source: Secret Forts "Full on Summer"
We all have different associations with summer--and often these associations can be defined in a few key words. After all, summer iconography is rich and evocative. A single word can illicit a distinctive feeling.  Say the word "beach" and we all have a distinctive feeling.

Photo Source: Secret Forts "Full on Summer"
The best brands understand how to evoke a singular feeling with a simple word or phrase.

Think of Nike's "Just do it." Or Apple's "Think Different." Certain slogans are famous.

More famous, however, are the brand names: Nike and Apple. When you Google "Apple" for example, Google offers the company first--not the fruit. The brand has become so noteworthy its fame exceeds the world's most famous fruit. (You won't even find mention of the fruit on the first SERP).

"Think Different"--the famous marketing campaign from Apple--the company, not the fruit.

SEO 101: Keywords

We're noting these examples to illustrate a simple SEO point: the power of simple words--or, in SEO-speak, keywords.

Certain SEO observers have predicted the "death of keywords" for years. For many, the word conjures negative associations. It is true, in the early days of SEO, Black Hat SEOs practiced keyword stuffing, excessively adding specific words or phrases into a site’s content--and more sinister, into a site's hidden development.

This practice was unethical--yet effective, for a time.

Today, however, search engines easily spot keyword stuffing. The practice is ineffective. The judicious use of keywords--especially long-tail keywords--is still the best way to promote a brand online.

Long-tail Keywords

Today, most SEO firms focus on the importance of long-tail keywords--short phrases or sentences that specifically match the queries of today's browsers. Long-tail keywords are important today for two fundamental reasons:
  1. Today's browsers often use voice search to ask longer more complicated questions, which require longer more complicated answers--not single words, but phrases or sentences. 
  2. Today's browsers are more savvy; many understand how to search for precise information, which requires more precise answers--again, not single words, but phrases or sentences.

As Jayson DeMers wrote over at Search Engine Land in 2015: "The focus on keyword-based search engine optimization is dying quickly." DeMers believes long-tail keywords signal the new, easier way to rank:

"Essentially, long-tail keywords are less popular keywords because they have less search volume and less competition to rank for. Consider the following two examples: 'home remedies for bed bugs' or 'how to get rid of depression.' These are each considered long-tail keywords as compared to trying to rank for the much more competitive search terms 'bed bugs' or 'depression.'"

We agree with DeMer's assessment. As we noted in a post from 2016:

"Although shorter keywords will drive more traffic to your site, long-tail queries account for more total impressions. Simply put, people are using long-tail keywords more often."

Short-tail Keywords

A short-tail keyword is the word that most precisely conjures the image of your brand. For brands like Nike and Apple, the work is done. We merely need to say "Apple" to illicit a host of products--many of which we likely own: iPhones, iPads. MacBooks.

When building a brand, the goal is to illicit a similar response in your customers. Your brand should be known by name and product name. So, when beginning to market your brand, you must choose the right words for each.

Keywords are not dead--not by a long shot. A recent article on SEO by Entrepreneur proves the point. Of nine SEO tips, four reference keywords specifically, including the first, most essential tip: "Pick a good Keyword to Focus on."

"The first step" Brandon Turner writes, "is to simply pick the search term or phrase you want the post to show up for."

Simple? Perhaps. Brandon suggests using Google Keyword Planner to learn more about any potential keyword you might wish to use.

Read: These 9 SEO Tips Are All You'll Ever Need to Rank in Google

Brandon is speaking specifically about content. Yet keywords serve an elemental purpose. Your brand name and your product names--these are your most important keywords. Naming a brand is not an arbitrary exercise.

Imagine your ideal customers searching for your product or service. What keywords best describe your product or service? How do you want people to find you? Can you create a marketing campaign around keywords?

As we noted before:

"Short-tail keywords can work in concert with long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords will increase your traffic while more precisely-targeted long-tail keywords will encourage your ideal customers to stick around."

What Are Your Keywords? 

These are fundamental questions for any online business. The point, of course, is to choose wisely. For today's search engines, keywords still run the show.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy summer--rain or shine. And just remember, the rain can be enjoyable, too. As Knausgård writes:

"Oh, the hot summer air that is suddenly cooled, making the rain that falls on your face warmer than your face itself, and you lean back to enjoy the feeling it gives you."

Organic SEO & Keyword Research with Stepman's SEO

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with carefully chosen keywords, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's SEO: 215-900-9398 Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Does SEO Need Online Reputation Management?

In last week's post, we asked a simple question: Do you need Online Reputation Management? As we noted, the ORM industry "promises to monitor and improve (or repair, when needed) the reputation of individuals and businesses online."

Unfairly (or not), many individuals and businesses suffer from poor online reputations. For an individual, a poor online reputation can translate to a lost job interview (or worse, a lost job). For a business, a poor reputation (like a series of bad Yelp reviews) can translate to profit-loss or even closure.

But what of an entire industry that requires ORM? We often hear, for example, that the SEO industry suffers from a bad online reputation.

How is this possible? The very point of SEO, after all, is to improve a site's visibility by optimizing carefully crafted content. ORM works hand-in-hand with SEO (as part of a comprehensive digital marketing campaign) to improve businesses reputations.

Well, like many online industries, SEO is unregulated by any ethical body, and many so-called SEOs use optimization to negative ends.

We reported, for example, on the case of a Dallas firm who had hired a certain William Stanley "to improve its online reputation." Stanley is one of many who work under the pretense of SEO, yet practice something closer to "negative SEO," or as Stanley admitted in his plea deal, "illegitimate SEO."

In his plea, Stanley admitted to threatening his clients by "posting fraudulent comments and creating negative reviews online if the victim did not pay him a certain amount of money."

Negative SEO, which attempts to deliberately harm another site's reputation, is as old as SEO itself. Stanley admitted he "created websites that had the ability to damage GE’s reputation by associating GE with a scam."

Stanley was likely referring to "bad links," one of the earliest weapons in the Black Hat SEO arsenal.

Read: "Organic Website Optimization & Negative SEO: The Battle Between Good and Bad"

We also reported on e-Ventures Worldwide, who had 213 sites de-indexed by Google after the search engine determined the sites were pure spam. Defending the company, Dan Blacharski, "a thought leader, adviser, and industry observer," asked "Is Google Trying to Kill SEO?"

Blacharski's hackneyed understanding of the elements of this case pointed to yet another problem that has dogged SEO's reputation: Even well-meaning industry observers misunderstand SEO, and many, like Blarchaski defend the wrong type of practices--in this case spammy practices, which have little to do with true, organic SEO.

Read: "Google is Not Trying to Kill SEO"

Frank Sinatra was arrested in 1938, after two women fought over him, arguably improving his reputation. Unfortunately, most individuals and businesses are not so lucky. [Photo Source]

Does SEO Deserve the Bad Reputation? 

The SEO reputation problem was cited by Tony Wright, an SEO veteran, in a recent article for Search Engine Journal.

"There are still uneducated, unethical people claiming to be SEOs," Wright says, "and our industry still has less respect than used car dealers."

For Wright, the problem is essentially about communication. "Its incredibly easy to find SEO information online," Wright notes, but the "amount of bad SEO information online is staggering."

Unfortunately, Wright believes, the SEO industry deserves this fate.

After all, "four years ago, as a newly elected board member of SEMPO, [Wright] embarked on an ambitious endeavor to create a 'search congress.'" It was a "noble idea" that "failed miserably." Over the years, Wright notes, only four people filled out the form on the search congress site to solicit more information.

The problem, Wright says, is indifference: even the good SEOs don't care enough to fight the bad.

With all due respect to Wright, we disagree. This blog, as well as many reputable SEO publications (the sites that often hit the top of the SERP) go to great pains to distinguish poor SEO practices, like negative SEO and bad links, from good practices, like those advocated by organic SEO.

To distinguish between the two, consumers must perform their own research before blindly accepting the advice of a spammy SEOs--like those who flood inboxes with innocuous greetings--"Greetings of the day!"--that quickly turn scary.

"Many business owners and unsophisticated webmasters (and even some who think they are sophisticated) don’t see these solicitations as spam," Wright says. "They fear that something is wrong with their sites."

So how do perform your own research? If you're considering SEO for your website, we suggest reading our post on finding a reputable firm: Five Questions for Your SEO Company. Otherwise, browse the articles on sites like Search Engine Journal, Moz, or Search Engine Land--or of course, The Organic SEO Blog.

Honest SEO with Stepman's SEO

It is important to understand the work your SEO firm performs for you. You want to hire a real professional who will not waste your time and money. If you want to speak to a reliable SEO professional, please consider the Organic SEO Blog's sponsor, Stepman's SEO.

Just like this blog, the professional SEO specialists at Stepman's SEO strive to educate you about what we do and how we do it. After all, you should know exactly what to expect from your SEO professional's work.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do You Need Online Reputation Management?

Earlier this week, NPR cited an on-going study from the Harvard Business School, which is researching the effects of minimum wage increases on San Francisco area restaurants. Preliminary data suggests that higher minimum wages increases the possibility of restaurant closure, with a caveat: "Restaurants with low or middling Yelp reviews have become more likely to go out of business. Places with high reviews have been unaffected."

At the mention of Yelp reviews, our ears perked. When we recently wrote about local SEO and how online reviews effect businesses, our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, of Stepman's SEO, told us about a local client who had closed shop and rebranded to escape the impact of several bad online reviews.

The client, Stepman said, sold a quality product at a good price, but was compromised by bad hires--employees, since terminated, who had offered poor customer service. Despite generally positive comments on the product, the Yelp reviews cited poor customer service as justification for the poor reviews--several of three stars and less.

As the NPR segment noted:

"Places with three and a half stars, about average, were 14 percent more likely to close after a minimum wage increase of one dollar. But restaurants with five stars, a perfect rating, weren't affected at all."

Obviously, poor customer service was likely not the only determinant factor in the closure of a majority of these San Francisco restaurants. The food was important too. But as Bon Appétit writes:

"Some diners would argue the best food in the world won't make up for lousy service...A good dining experience is built on trust. It's the server's or host's responsibility to initiate that trust; they're the first point of contact a diner has. Conversely, great service can be enough to make up for things that go wrong in the kitchen."

What amplifies mistakes in today's business environment, of course, is the easy availability of online reviews, like Yelp's--the "novel dataset," as NPR reported, that has "economists excited about" the Harvard Business School's study.

Read: Restaurants With Low Yelp Ratings Suffer Under Higher Minimum Wages

In the restaurant industry, as many other industries, customer service and product are equally important.
[Photo Source]

Do You Need Online Reputation Management?

As we noted in our prior post on local SEO and online reviews, bad reviews must be managed, first, offline--in the day-to-day operations of a business. The three key elements of success have never changed. You must offer a quality product at a competitive price with superior customer service.

Beyond your offline performance, however, your online reputation definitely matters. The key is guaranteeing that your good performance offline matches your reputation online. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. However unfair or biased, a single bad review can have consequences.

In response to such slights, the online reputation management (ORM) industry promises to monitor and improve (or repair, when needed) the reputation of individuals and businesses online. 

There is not much data about the current size of the ORM industry. In 2013, Forbes (without citing any specific evidence) pegged the worth at $5 billion.

Meanwhile, Vendasta, which bills itself as the #1 platform for selling business solutions to local businesses, has produced a juicy infographic, "50 Shocking Stats About Online Reputation Management." Oddly, Vendasta offers no background to support its infographic (where and how the data was compiled)--a practice that seems at odds with building trust, a key factor in ORM.

Are you now worried about your own online reputation? Should you be "shocked" by ORM? More to the point, do you need a firm like Vendasta to manage your ORM?

Probably not. As MarketingLand notes, "You don’t have to break the bank to correct a reputation situation for yourself or a business. It can even be a DIY project — it isn’t rocket science!"

MarketingLand's approach is similar to the approach of Stepman's SEO, which advocates simple, timeless SEO techniques to improve (or repair) your brand's image. After all, what is SEO if not a form of reputation management?

Among MarketingLand's "9 Key Points for Cleaning Up Your Online Reputation Nightmare Via SEO," you will find the same SEO techniques advocated on this blog, too, including positive content, title tag optimization, and url optimization.

Read more: Good ContentTitle Tags and Meta Descriptions, and Search Engine Friendly URLs

Assuming you sell a good product at the right price with excellent customer service, the key of ORM is to replace any negative impressions with uniformly positive impressions via carefully crafted and optimized content.

SEO That Improves your Online Reputation with Stepman's SEO 

Stepman's SEO understands how to effectively promote websites to manage your ORM. To learn more about how Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective marketing campaigns, call: 215-900-9398.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Will You Survive the Contentpocalypse?

Content marketing intends to engage an audience with the objective of "driving profitable action." This definition, from the Content Marketing Institute, sounds like a traditional definition of marketing. So why the emphasis on this new phrase--content?

In 2017, more than ever, brands can market their products or services with unique, inventive content. And clearly, search engines prioritize sites that share a variety of content: not simply writing, but photography, digital art, infographs, cartoons, emojis, and much more. However, in today's online environment, the written word is still perceived to be the best way to increase your authority--and your search rankings.

Perhaps this is why content marketing is so popular with digital writers. As we noted in a recent post: Content Marketing has been deemed a hot trend by many writers, at least judging by the press (here, here, and here, too).

And yet, this popularity may prove to be the downfall of the content marketing craze.

In 2014, a full three years before the current content marketing craze, Mark Schaefer, a marketing consultant, writer, and teacher, wrote of content supply exceeding demand: "This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock."

Oh no, it's coming! CONTENT SHOCK!
At the time, Eric Enge, over at Moz, summarized Schaefer's view--as well as the opposition to his view--in his post: "A Clear Path for Marketers to Surviving Content Shock."

Citing a study that Moz performed with BuzzSumo, Enge noted "the great majority of content gets little material response: 75% showed no external links. Over 50% had 2 or fewer Facebook interactions (shares, likes, or comments)."

On the other hand, Enge wasn't ready to declare a "contentpocalypse."

"Content marketing is here to stay for one basic reason," Enge wrote. "It provides a way for business to connect and build trust with their prospective customers. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, people still need and want a relationship with the businesses from which they buy products and services."

Enge's path dovetailed with some of Schaefer's advice at the time, yet Enge's view was decidedly more rosy--and hopeful for smaller websites, whom Schaefer believed would be priced out of the equation. Over the past few years, however, Schaefer has come to believe (and promote) a certain notion of hope.

In a recent post revisiting his first content shock post, Schaefer affirmed the existence of content shock while defending his original position as relatively uncontroversial.

"My thinking on this topic was rational," Schaefer writes, "based on simple economics — supply and demand. Economic models aren’t controversial. They’re math. They just are. Economics only becomes controversial when it runs against the prevailing wisdom that more content is the answer, that the best content will always rise to the top, that the key to business profitability is the arc of your story."

Will You Survive the Contentpocalypse? 

Schaefer's point here is that the prevailing wisdom about the value of content is false. Content is only as valuable as its readership. The problem, or the challenge, as Schaefer attempts to re-frame--is not content creation but content distribution: "the economic value of content that is not seen and shared is zero."

This view dovetails with Jayson Demers, who wrote about content marketing for Forbes.

"If you’re a savvy marketer," DeMers writes, "you’re already actively engaging in content marketing. Unfortunately, many business owners are so focused on the creation of their content that they’re forgetting the marketing component of the equation. After all, what good is amazing content if nobody knows about it?"

The upshot? The contentpocalypse may be real, but you can survive the effects with a dynamic plan for creating and distributing your content.

Make Your Content Count

No doubt, the Internet offers a glut of content. We all have our ways of sorting through this glut--of discovering our preferred content. And, of course, the best content should be a viable means to "driving profitable action."

Content can be valuable--if the content drives profitable action. Yet this is clearly not the case for a majority of the writing on the Internet. The statistics noted by Enge above are discouraging. Frankly, most content receives little attention. Again: "75% showed no external links" and "over 50% had 2 or fewer Facebook interactions (shares, likes, or comments)."

Read: "Content, Shares, and Links: Insights from Analyzing 1 Million Articles."

So should you spend your time creating content?

Yes, of course. But with this advice, we add a strong caveat: Make your content count. 

If you're creating content with the explicit purpose of selling something (anything) and the content is not inspiring conversions, you're wasting time and money. You have a simple choice:

1. Stop creating content (a terrible choice)
2. Evolve to meet the demands of today's market (a spectacular choice)

Evolution requires amazing content and amazing marketing. Before you attempt to create content, make sure you write well. If you do not write well, hire someone to write well. If you do write well (or have the means to hire someone who writes well), start thinking about how to write content that counts. As Schaefer notes: "Consider the dramatic changes in content forms, distribution, and evolving roles of the social media platforms."


1. Three Keys to Writing SEO-Friendly Content That Inspires People to Share

2. Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content

For a different perspective, read this recent article from Jayson Demers:

7 Reasons Your Content Isn't Getting Shared

Questions? Comments? Please drop a line below...

Content Marketing with Stepman's SEO 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with great content, contact Stepman's SEO: 215-900-9398. Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.