OSEO Boot Camp, pt. 3: Comprehensiveness

This week, I’ll be doing a six part series on Organic SEO, and how to apply best practices to your web content. Read part 1part 2part 3,  part 4part 5 and part 6.

Today’s topic is a short one (I know, I can hear the sighs of relief already). Comprehensiveness is one of Google’s four key product values, and your site comprehensiveness will affect your overall organic SEO results. Whether you have a product, service, message or idea, you want your site to be a comprehensive resource which generates good search engine placement on hundreds of possible search queries, to pages which match that exact user need.

Predict their questions. Provide the answers.Yesterday, we learned to think not just in keyword usage, but search context. You plan for site comprehensiveness by listing all of those possible contexts, and considering how you can incorporate related content or function which delivers that context. Your goal, quite simply, is to have hundreds of site pages which will exactly match one or more visitor needs, generating thousands of possible entry points to your site.

Now, if you’ve been considering or are currently working with a 4-5 page site, that number may seem daunting, but it’s not as challenging as you might think. In creating your context comprehensiveness plan, you have many web technologies at your disposal to make the process of dynamic site updating simple and straight forward, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your site begins to grow. Consider:

  • A blog updated twice weekly generates 104 total pages a year.
  • One new gallery of 10 images a month generates 132 pages a year.
  • An active user forum can generate hundreds of new pages a day.

Each of those pages represents an opportunity for one or more search contexts in page content, image titles, descriptions, and tags. Additionally, it engages your site’s repeat visitors by giving them new content and additional value. As your site grows more comprehensive, your PageRank follows suit as visitors share specific links to a precise context with others.

Engaging with your site visitors with site interaction is critical for this growth. Not only do user contributions increase your site comprehensiveness by adding questions, opinions, technical reviews and support, they can create new content at a far faster rate than you can, potentially turning growth of several hundred pages to several thousand.

It’s important to remember that the goal here is not to just generate hundreds of pages. The pages need to be relevant to one or more specific contexts, and answer the question or meet the need. Additionally, creating a comprehensive resource is not a project for a weekend, or a month. In fact, planning gradual but consistent site growth over an extended period of time is a great way to achieve tomorrow’s point, which is Freshness.

In summary:

  • Plan for your site to be a growing resource with potentially hundreds or thousands of entry points as opposed to a handful of static informational pages.
  • Engage your audience with interactive content to drive that growth, using content management platforms.
  • Make sure that you are balancing quantity with quality; each entry point should deliver value to the visitor.

If you’re the answer to every question, all roads lead to you.

OSEO Boot Camp, pt. 2: Relevance

This week, I’ll be doing a six part series on Organic SEO, and how to apply best practices to your web content. Read part 1part 2part 3,  part 4part 5 and part 6.

I know, I know, “C’mon, Web Guy, everyone has written about relevance in searches.” You’re absolutely right. A million people have already talked about being relevant to your keywords, about including meta tags on your pages to identify that relevance to the search engines, and to make sure you’re using your keywords frequently in your content. Got it. However, I’m going to write today not about being relevant to the keywords in the search, but being relevant to the actual question being asked.

The problem with strictly aiming for keyword results is that humans don’t speak in keywords. There are many sentences which may use the same keywords, but have entirely different meaning, along with many different contexts that the asker may be referencing. A mechanic and a 17 year old with her first car may both be searching for “carburetor intake manifold”, but their desired results are much different, and you may only be the solution for one of them. Your job, as the creator of content on your site, is to identify to the searcher that you have the correct context they are seeking. So, how do you do that?

Happy Senior Citizen is happy.To help us answer that question, we have today’s guest interviewee, Happy Senior Citizen.

TWG: Happy Senior Citizen, thanks for joining us today.

HSC: Oh, thank you, dear! You’re so polite. I bet your Mother’s really proud of you.

TWG: You’re welcome, and she is! Hi Mom, and Happy Valentine’s Day! Now HSC, how do you go about searching for something on the internet?

HSC: Well, I click on the blue ‘E’ on my desktop, and it brings up the Google page. My daughter set that up for me. Then, I type what I’m looking for into the search bar. I look at the first few sites it brings up into the list and guess which one sounds right. There are always lots of links to choose from, and sometimes, I’ll click through a few of them before I find exactly what I’m looking for.

TWG: So in that list that comes up, how do you know if a link is what you are looking for?

HSC: I used to just click through each one in order until I found it, but now the search results have so much information, I can usually tell if it’s what I need or not. Just looking at the title and the paragraph underneath it tells me pretty much what that web page is about.

Makin doilies...

Here are the top three results from our sample search. Now remember, our Happy Senior Citizen is looking for a method to make lace doilies. The top result has a generic title that matches some of the keywords, with descriptive text that sounds like you’re going to have to buy something. The second result seems to be some sort of generic answer portal, with paragraph text that is mostly irrelevant to the search. The third result has a title that, although phrased slightly differently, is precisely correct, with paragraph text that jumps the searcher right in to their desired information. Bingo!

Except, not.

Despite the fact that to the searcher, this link in the top three seems to indicate best context, clicking through reveals it’s just a blog post where Anna Swanson describes how difficult and tedious making a lace doilie is. This isn’t what Happy Senior Citizen was looking for at all. The best result, an actual tutorial on making lace doilies, didn’t show up until fifth place. Why? Because a blogger providing almost exactly the OPPOSITE of the desired result did a better job at matching the context to the search in the title and opening paragraph than these How To sites did. The message to take away here is two-part: Create Content that relates to specific searches relevant to your context, and put descriptive titles and opening paragraphs on that page (mirrored in that page’s meta tags). Now, let’s talk about those two things.

First, creating relevant content means more than just having a product or service description page; it means having one or more product or service usage pages. These pages can be informational pages or blog posts, but they should have examples of your product or service in action. This may come in the form of an ongoing how to guide, or testimonials and client success stories, but the important part is to be sure you’re providing greater context, capable of matching human readable search strings (phrases and sentences, as opposed to simple keywords).

Next, the title and description (both on the page, and in the meta tags) should contain some of those phrases. Francis Hunt learned about the power of a good title on his blog “Attempted Essays“:

“What I had forgotten on choosing the title was that the essay is also a form of writing with which millions of students have to struggle daily and that most young people nowadays have access to the internet. So, when I look at the ‘search key words’ which blogger.com helpfully supplies as part of the statistics, I regularly find phrases like ‘essays about the American dream,’ or ‘essay on early risers.’ “

The choice of title, blended with relevant content, brought an entirely unexpected source of traffic into his blog, helping to propel him to a higher PageRank than he had expected.

CraigAtkinsonLaw.com posting on Facebook.The description, either as a meta tag, or as the first paragraph of text on the page, is equally important. This information is what is shown on Google under the link result, and also what is used to populate shared links on social media. Law Blogger Craig Atkinson provides a great example of both, using a meta description which gives social media viewers a good idea of what’s behind the link, while writing a strong opening paragraph on the blog post itself which immediately provides a robust context to the content.

The end result is that your link is more likely to be listed early, more likely to be clicked on, and more likely to provide the correct contextual answer to the searcher’s need, which makes it more likely to be linked to as a resource for that need. Hellooo, PageRank!

To summarize:

  • Create specific content that gives an overall context to your product or service in action.
  • Give your page a robust title that accurately describes the purpose of the page content.
  • Include a strong meta description and opening paragraph that leads the reader right into the desired information.

Happy Senior Citizen will thank you.

OSEO Boot Camp, pt. 1: What is Organic SEO?

This week, I’ll be doing a six part series on Organic SEO, and how to apply best practices to your web content. Read part 1part 2part 3,  part 4part 5 and part 6.

Google the term “SEO” (search engine optimization) and you’ll get a billion results, many of them from companies who provide nothing but SEO services. For fees ranging from fifty bucks to thousands a month, they promise to get your site listed first in Google for your key words. I get tons of forwarded emails from clients who’ve received some such pitch, all asking the same question: “Is it worth it?”

Well, probably not.

Frustrated Business Guy is frustrated.To answer that question, it’s best to back up to the why. To help me flesh out the why, today’s special guest interviewee is Frustrated Business Guy.

TWG: Frustrated Business Guy, thanks for spending some time with us today.

FBG: Well, to tell the truth, I’ve got a lot better things to be doing right now, so I’d appreciate if you’d keep this short.

TWG: Ah…okay. Well then, on to our first question. Why do people want to be listed in first place on Google?

FBG: What, are you stupid? Because being listed first means that you’ll get tons of traffic.

TWG: Right! And why’s that important?

FBG: *sigh* Because more traffic equals more sales.

TWG: Wrong! Meeting a need at the right time is the key to more sales. Being listed at the top of Google is only going to help your sales if the search result that brought the visitor in was really a solution to their need, and if it brought  them directly to that solution on your site. Simply driving your domain to the top of various keyword combinations is not going to return the sales benefit you might think it will.

FBG: You know, I really don’t appreciate being used as a literary device in your little rant. It’s hard enough being a one dimensional archetype.

TWG: And that’s all the time we have with Frustrated Business Guy! Thanks for being here.

The fact is, you can get a million visits a day, but if those visits aren’t truly interested in exactly what you have to offer, and land in a place on your site where they can quickly see what they’re interested in, they’re not going to do a thing to increase your revenue. This is where Organic SEO comes in.

OSEO in its technical form means achieving your search engine rankings without paying for that as a service. In practice, it’s letting the principles that Google uses to formulate its own search results drive your content development and marketing: Relevance, Comprehensiveness, Freshness, and Speed.

FBG: Why am I still here?

TWG: Sorry, I needed you again. Say the line.

FBG: Fine. “Why is that a better approach than just paying someone to get your site to the top of all the possible searches?”

TWG: Did you have to say it with quotes? It’s a better approach because the visits that you get are going to be both actually looking for what you’re offering, and land in a place on your site where they are immediately presented with what they were looking for.

FBG: Sorry, I’m just kind of frustrated right now. You’ll have to ask my creator about that. I’m a metaphor, remember?

The single biggest benefit of using Organic SEO to drive your traffic as opposed to paid SEO services is that it’s win/win: you’re getting good search engine placement, AND providing a good user experience that meets the searching visitor’s need, good enough to inspire that visitor to go out and share it with others.

Join us this week as we explore how best to put OSEO principles into action. We’ll cover what each principle means, how social media ties in, and hear from other pertinent visual metaphors on how they hypothetically achieved the results they were looking for, and overcame potential obstacles. We’ll close the six part series on Friday with a Q&A pulled from questions posted in the comments, so ask away!