For the last 10 years, we’ve been writing and maintaining blog posts to help webmasters get traffic to their websites. To that end, we’ve learned a thing or two about SEO and the search engines.
To be honest, I’m not an expert at SEO. I’m not a professional blogger either. So, I decided to make a story out of a story that I did do. I’ll start by saying that the majority of my blogging career has been spent writing content on the web, so, I could say I’ve had more than 10 years of writing SEO friendly blog posts.
For the past 10 years, the egghead community has been running a blog dedicated to SEO. We are located in Buffalo, New York, and the blog has changed over the years. Before, it was mainly used for SEO tips and advice, but now it’s more of a place for the community to communicate with each other. This is something we can definitely learn from, and it’s a great example of community management.
Over the past decade, we’ve written and optimized – for our own blog or other sites – thousands of SEO-friendly articles and blog posts. What better way to learn from past successes and mistakes? We want to share it with you, not only as a Christmas present, but also because sharing our knowledge with others makes us, and those around us, stronger and more resilient. Google’s policies and updates have changed too many times to count, and the content writers on this blog have also changed many times in an attempt to decipher Google’s secret box. We lost weight, hair, nerves and money in the process, but trust me, we learned a lot, and in most cases the hard way. So we are going to expose ourselves on a delicate point; but if this article saves you from repeating some of the mistakes we have made, we shall be glad. The end of the year is usually a time to reminisce, reflect on the past and hopefully gain some wisdom – however small – for the new year. For many of us, 2021 will be a different year, as we will likely have to do this exercise much earlier in the year. So we decided to go back even further in time, hoping that the lessons we would learn would tell us more than the general horror of that year. We’ve had an SEO blog for ten years. And we learned a few things along the way. Here are 13 (yes, 13, in 2020):
- Optimize everything from URLs to results
- Don’t take anything! Check grammar, facts, quotes
- It’s hard to be consistent. This is also the key to success
- Originality is good, but so is updating the content.
- Google’s algorithms come and go, quality content stays
- Creativity is hard work.
- Questions are more useful than answers
- Forget academic writing.
- Solve your readers’ problems, not your own dilemmas.
- The title of the article affects its effectiveness
- Write less, but write better
- Write less, apply more
- Stay true to your principles
Optimize everything from URLs to pins
I know you’ve figured it out by now: You know you need to have well-optimized content, which means using the target keyword once in the title and at least ten times in the main content, and Google will have no choice but to rank your content. And if not, well, we all know Google sucks, so it’s their fault. This is an exaggeration, of course. But there is some truth in that. As search engine marketing has evolved, we’ve learned what our readers and Google expect from us. We all know that optimized content is the key to success. But optimization should not stop at the content of the content. You need to make some adjustments too:
- Meta Description
- Internal links
- Outgoing links
- Length of text
- Article Main image
In the past, we have not addressed some of these issues. Or at least we didn’t appreciate them enough. So we got URLs like this: https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/26/the-best-link-building-blogs-experts-and-their-tutorials-from-2011/ or three articles published in a row with titles like this: How to get links, how to earn links and how to acquire links. You’ll find a lot of information on how to optimize all of these elements in this blog, so we won’t go into detail here. But here are some resources that may be useful to you: SEO copywriting for editors Internal link strategy Influence of title and URL on search results Link Building Campaigns How to write SEO-friendly titles
Don’t take anything! Checking grammar, facts, quotations
You know what Euripides and my manager have in common? They are both stuck in my head repeating this sentence: Question everything! Even if it seems obvious, take the sincerity test: When was the last time you double or triple checked a known fact? Even something as simple as : Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis or Eskimos have dozens of words for snow. You know it, so use it in your content without unnecessary control. Whether it’s a well-known SEO fact, a famous quote, or an obvious grammatical rule, double check. Some time ago, we published an article about Wikipedia and the question of whether it is acceptable to advertise on a major encyclopedia site. And we suggested Gibraltar as an example. We were very excited about this article and thought it would be very controversial. And that’s what happened. However, the point of dispute was not whether advertising could be imported, but whether Gibraltar was a country or not. It’s a disputed territory between Britain and Spain, we knew that, but we assumed it must be a country if it had its own capital and currency. This is not the case, and we have had to pause and moderate the comments section because of this problem. We updated the screenshot and changed the country to area, but too late. We have also received our share of grammatical complaints from our users. A few years ago we published several articles (which we thought were grammatically correct) and received several letters from our readers that were not so complimentary. We spent so much time researching and reading and reading, and the first thing people noticed were the grammatical errors. Of course, we were proud to have mastered grammar and that wasn’t the most important thing. But after several emails from our users, we decided to work with an English teacher. And it was one of the best decisions we made. When it comes to grammar, things get a little more complicated, as we know. If your first language is not English, you will probably need someone to check your content. At least at first, to give you an orientation. Even if you’re one of those people who corrects exaggerated grammatical errors, a fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. Because you want your articles, your research, your blog to be authoritative in your market, and that’s almost impossible with typos or errors in the style of your masterpiece. Having someone else review your work does not make you a lesser writer or editor. It will make you a better person.
It is difficult to be consistent. It is also the key to success
Have you ever wondered why so many long-running TV shows end up declining significantly in quality? A good idea can come to any of us. Have you had a good idea every week for years? It takes more than creativity. You have to work hard, be disciplined and accept that some weeks are much harder than others. But the most important thing is to keep going and to want to keep doing a good job. Things don’t always go in a straight line. The hard times are followed by the best times. And sometimes the best rewards come after a period of struggle and overcoming difficulties. See the screenshot below? That’s good growth, right? Here is a screenshot of CognitiveSEO visibility of our Site Explorer. The reason the graph looks so good is because we did two things:
- We have consistently published (at least once a week)
- We optimized everything discussed in the previous section, from URLs to output.
(I admit to occasionally looking at this schedule when I lose motivation or procrastinate too much). Yes, we used Content Optimizer a lot too, and it helped us a lot. But above all, we have been consistent. We published regularly and optimized everything for each article, whether it was an in-depth study or a short case study. And it was worth it.
Originality is good, but so is updated content
Having original ideas is probably the key to progress. But the same goes for updating existing equipment, albeit in a less glamorous way. The acquisition of knowledge is done in small steps and not in big leaps. Part of this process is to refine and validate existing knowledge. Therefore, we often prefer to update articles and research rather than start from scratch. And it turned out to be a very good decision. We even wrote an article about how content optimization dramatically increased our SEO visibility. The results are summarized in the following table. You probably have articles that are no longer relevant. Or that search you’ve been working so hard on, but it’s not delivering traffic. Instead of letting them rot, try to revive them, if that makes sense. You will get more visitors and improve the overall quality of your blog. At worst, this strategy won’t get you more traffic, but at least you’ll have relevant articles on your blog.
Google’s algorithms come and go, quality content stays
It’s like the one-hit wonders of music bands. We all remember this musical hit, still hum it at birthday parties sometimes, but we probably won’t buy an album just because of this tune. The same thing can happen to your content. If you want readers to treat your blog/brand/name with respect and rank you as trustworthy content, make it a rule to deliver quality content. As the saying goes, we are what we do all the time. Excellence is not an action, it is a habit. Have you written a blog post and received thousands of shares and thank yous? That’s great. But a one-off performance like that won’t keep you at the top for long. On the contrary: When you set the bar high, you have to set it higher and higher to get quality content. And yes, Google’s updates are a harsh reality. Nevertheless, we have thousands of readers, customers, users, and it is rare that content of very high quality is sanctioned. We’re not saying it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, we see good quality being punished. Take it as a preventative measure anyway. If a police officer pulled you over in traffic, would you be absolutely sure that you had done nothing wrong, or would you feel a slight panic knowing that you had probably broken a few rules here and there? The same goes for content and updates. I know it’s easier said than done, but try writing content so you have less to worry about when there are quality updates. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Google advises you to do when it updates its algorithm.
Creativity is hard work
The famous American TV and radio presenter Larry King told his listeners a very funny story about his father. He says his father, of Ukrainian descent, came to the United States thinking that America was the greatest country, where even the streets are paved with gold. However, shortly after his father arrived, he realized three things:
- The streets were not paved with gold.
- The streets were not paved at all.
- It was he who paved the roads.
There’s a dangerous cliché that creativity is like lightning in a bottle, with young creatives staying up late into the night to come up with crazy ideas out of nowhere. And that’s… definitely a more exciting version than reality. But the truth is that in many cases creativity is a matter of time, patience and incremental progress. And it’s a collective effort rather than an individual one. Eventually, you will find that there is some truth to the adage that spontaneous things take a lot of preparation. Don’t force yourself to be creative all the time. You can be creative most of the time without even realizing it. And we know it’s easier said than done, but even if you don’t feel like it, start writing. Just start and the rest will follow. Larry King’s father was a great man, we’re sure of it. And yet, as inspiring as these success stories are, they are still stories. Not all of them, of course. Inspiration exists, but it has to find you in the process.
Questions are more useful than answers
Over the years we have been asked many questions, which we have not always been able to answer. Understanding how to ask the right question is usually the most difficult task. Access to large amounts of data is no longer a major problem. The question of what to do with this data remains fundamentally unanswered for years to come. So, if you want to research or evaluate a statistic, keep this in mind: It is not just about interpreting and analysing statistics, which requires certain skills. There are also strategic and sometimes even ethical decisions to be made about how to frame the results or even what to look for first. Over the years we have looked at billions of data points. And no, this is not an exaggeration. Literally billions of data points. Each time we started with a question we wanted answered, but almost every time we found out we had asked the wrong question. That, of course, is the beauty of research. But don’t be too proud of your research. Even if your computer crashes after opening dozens of Excel documents, even if your statistics program fails, you should never ignore the other problems that arise from the research. Take for example a study on the effect of titles and URLs on ranking. The original plan was to analyze a few hundred article titles and see if and how a title can affect rankings. We ended up analyzing 35,000 keywords in titles and URLs because we realized we really needed to look at the importance of keyword occurrence in the title, URL, domain, subdomain, and URI. And as you can see in the chart below, in some cases, this vast amount of analyzed data has not tell us anything. Well, there’s… nothing important. Nonetheless, it was worth finding out.
Forget academic writing
We’ll be brief. When we talk about academic writing, we are not necessarily talking about scholarly articles. But there is a certain severity to this work that may not be suitable for a general audience. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep it simple. There is a simple two-step procedure to do this: Read aloud what you have written. If some parts don’t sound like what you would say to a friend in real life, change them.
Solve your readers’ problems, not your own dilemmas
Much of the content is created by the desire to share experiences. You know things that most other people – even those in your field – may not know. You’re excited and want them to learn your new wisdom. It is important to remember that the focus should be on the exchange, not on you as the source of wisdom. This does not mean that your opinion has no place in your work, quite the contrary. But always ask yourself these three questions:
- Will this information help my readers better understand the topic?
- Will this information help my readers better turn this knowledge into action?
- Does this information make me look cool, but doesn’t add anything to the work?
If you answered yes to the first two questions, you must include this information in your copy. If the answer to these questions is no,and the only yes is yes to the third question,then….. you’ll have a great topic of conversation for the next party.
The title of the article affects its effectiveness
Not only the keywords in the titles of your texts are important for the ranking. We conducted a study showing that the occurrence of a keyword in the title makes a significant difference between first and second place in the ranking. But also on the catch factor. And no, I’m not talking about clickbait headlines, but headlines that are relevant to your industry. We published a lot of content, and some of it was a success, some of it wasn’t, but one thing is for sure: If a title has something to do with Google, it will do very well. If you compare an article we publish about a study, research or opinion piece to an article with the word Google in the title, chances are the latter will get more traffic, shares, links, etc. You might be thinking: Why not search all the titles on Google? And now, back to the points I mentioned earlier: We don’t want to be just click-bait; we want to be relevant, deliver quality and respect our readers. When proposing a title for your content, you need to think carefully, because this title should not only be relevant and attractive, but also suitable for the SERPs.
Write less, but write better
I’m sure you’ve noticed it too over the years: empty content in most areas (especially digital marketing). There seems to be very little focus on SEO, audience, conversions and the usefulness of the articles/content to the readers. All of these things need to be clarified BEFORE you write anything. Obviously, if something is written solely for SEO purposes; Without value, empty content won’t help you, even if you score well for it. There is no reason to create content just to have it. You should plan each piece of content based on the audience you want to reach, your goals for each piece of content, how you’re going to use it on social media to achieve your goals, and how you hope to score. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s better than wasting time and resources on content that does nothing for your business. Without proof of the return on your work, your work becomes redundant.
Write less, apply more
Don’t neglect the promotion of content. Maybe you’re too focused on your content marketing processes. And it’s definitely a good investment! However, many content marketers tend to skip the steps involved in content promotion. We know. We did. Without promotion, most of your work will never reach your target audience. We recommend that you write less and spend more time promoting your content. Start your content plan by building a list of channels and influencers that will help you reach more relevant users and get traffic and leads with every post you publish. Source: multichannelmerchant.com
Stay true to your principles
There will always be times when you are tempted to write a lure or write for the sake of writing, with no real value to offer. Because you will look at your competitors and see that they can get results even with low quality content. You invest time, money, and nerves in well-documented research that doesn’t always yield the expected results. You’ll be bored and swear not to spend a single night bringing quality to the online world. I’m sure this happens to every content writer from time to time. Still, if you stick to your principles, if you put time and quality into every article you write, then it really does pay off. This isn’t just talk. The long effort of writing content really pays off. Don’t write anything you don’t want to read. There really are no easy victories. But ultimately, it’s about long-term performance. You may have read this article carefully or just looked at the big headlines and thought: I knew it. Knowledge is power. But ultimately, it’s about what you do with that knowledge. Every action you take every day defines who you are as a person, marketer or business owner. So make sure your actions have an impact on something, whether it’s big or small. Canadian writer Margaret Atwood once said that the internet is 95% pornography and spam. So let’s make that 5% damn good. That’s a lot of stuff, so let’s compress it a little. Since 2003, I’ve been writing for a blog, which I started at the request of a few people who wanted to see what I could do with the content they were providing. SEO is important for bloggers—it helps you rank better in search engine results pages. That means more readers for your content, which in turn means more traffic, which can lead to more money.. Read more about how have seo trends affected the typical work role of copywriters and let us know what you think.
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