What is duplicate content? A simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings

What is duplicate content? Here's a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

What is duplicate content? Here’s a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

Remember your schooldays?

All that homework – man that was a chore! Let’s face it, it was just so much more fun to spend your afternoons playing with your buddies than slaving over books and numbers and essays. Ugh!

Worst of all was studying for tests.

Perhaps you didn’t want to cram for the test, or you simply forgot about it.

And then, to try and save the humiliation of a Fail, you tried to copy the answers off the brainbox you’d cunningly sat next to in the exam room.

Except, of course, the teacher noticed what you’re up to, and you got a far greater humiliation than the Fail. Perhaps you were made an example of, or made to stand out in the corridor. Or you had to see the scary Headmaster. And, of course, your parents would be notified – horrors!

You soon learned that copying other kids’ work wasn’t in your best interests.

The same lesson about copying relates to your website

When it comes to your website, copying other people’s content is also a bad idea.

While there’s no teacher to punish you, instead there’s Google. (And a punishment from Google, be it a down-graded ranking or total black-listing, is a lot harder and more difficult to recover than even your teacher’s worst punishment.)

Why does Google punish you for copying?

Let’s look at copying content from Google’s point of view.

The bottom line is that Google wants to give its users a good search experience. And a good search experience means that people can quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. Google also wants the information you find to be helpful and meaningful.

Website content that’s helpful and meaningful is usually unique: it is a bespoke, one-off article that someone has researched and written.

Conversely, low quality content is not so desirable. And over the years, some website owners have tried to “cheat” the Google ranking system by copying other people’s content. And if the internet is full of copies of people’s work, it all gets a bit tedious, spammy and not a very nice or exciting place to be.

Google hates spammy websites. And it hates spammy webmasters who copy content from other people. Google would much rather point to the original source of material – and penalise those who try to copy it. These penalties come in the form of downgrading the rankings of those sites with copied content, or, worse still, removing a website from its search results altogether.

So what is duplicate content, exactly?

You get the general idea that duplicate content is not a good thing, but defining “what is duplicate content” exactly is a little trickier.

If you refer to Google’s official advice, there are some tips there (albeit quite technical), but it’s still not crystal clear. So let me explain some of the more common duplicate content problems in practical terms.

Before I cover common duplicate content problems, one thing you need to be aware of is that duplicate content doesn’t just apply from one website to another, but it also applies to pages on your own website.

The reason for this is that some spammy webmasters create dozens of pages on the same topic, to try and artificially increase their Google rankings. That doesn’t work any more, because of Google’s dislike of duplicate content.

Does Google say what percentage they consider duplicate content?

There are a number of online tools, such as Page Similarity Check Tools, where you put in two website addresses (URLs) and it tells you how similar the pages are as a percentage.

The problem is that Google doesn’t give a percentage in their guidelines, so these online tools aren’t a whole lot of use!

Rather than worry about percentages and other technicalities, here are some practical suggestions on how you can avoid common duplicate content problems.

Common duplicate content problems – and how to avoid them

On a practical level you need to be very careful with the following types of duplicate content:

  • Mobile versions of your website that have the same content twice. The solution here is for your webmaster to use the ‘noindex’ meta tag so that the duplicated pages aren’t indexed. (Or better still, build your website so that it’s mobile responsive, and doesn’t need recreating for handheld devices.)
  • Printer-only versions of web pages. The printer pages should have the ‘noindex’ tag applied so that these duplicated pages aren’t indexed.
  • Similar content that appears across a number of pages. The solution here is to make the copy, order of information and other content as different as possible.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb. Chances are that every other re-seller is using the exact same copy, so be unique and write your own product descriptions.
  • Syndicate articles carefully. Some people think they’re doing you a favour by ‘promoting’ you on their website by repeating an article. Wrong! Their site could get penalised for duplicate content – but so could yours, if Google hasn’t indexed you as being the original source. The way round this is for the other site to use the ‘noindex’ tag, and to include a link back to your original article. So you can syndicate articles, but do it carefully… and if the other website owner doesn’t know what a ‘noindex’ tag is, or they’re not willing to apply it, then don’t do it. (Note: A bigger problem is that some spammy webmasters use ‘scrapers’ to steal content without your permission. If that happens, you can ask Google to remove the scraped content from their search results.)
  • Avoid cheap copywriters. Not all copywriters create unique content; and if you’re buying an article for $5 from someone in India, there’s a good chance that they might have copied someone else’s work. Or they’ve taken someone else’s work, and then put it through a ‘spinner’ which is an automatic software tool that rewrites content. And yep, Google hates ‘spun’ content! If you use a quality copywriter, the content will not only be unique, but it will reflect your tone of voice; demonstrate your company’s expertise; and compel readers to buy from you or otherwise take action.

Those are some of the main duplicate content issues I’ve come up against. There are others, too (as listed in the Google article I linked to) but they are there for your web developer to action, rather than a copywriting issue.

Ask your website developer to help you

The best advice I can give you is to focus on creating unique content, and that your website developer does their part in the programming. Go through the list of action points in Google’s article point by point.

Don’t assume that your web developer knows all this stuff, or will automatically do it: I’ve come across numerous web developers who have never heard of 301 redirects, or will only do them for an extra fee.

Remember that it’s YOUR website and your business at stake, so you have every right to ask questions of your suppliers.

If you play nicely, you should be fine

Just like schoolteachers punish only the naughty kids, Google only intends to punish those website owners who deliberately engage in deceptive practices. Google doesn’t like people who try to cheat the system and take shortcuts; they’ll be punished, sooner or later.

So if you focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website (and have a web developer on side who’s clued up in this area), you should be absolutely fine. (And if the worst does happen, and your site gets blacklisted by Google, you can submit your site for reconsideration.)

Summary

Here are some of the steps you can take so that your website doesn’t suffer from problems with duplicate content:

  • If there is a separate mobile version of your website, ensure that the ‘noindex’ tag is used for them.
  • If your website has printer-only pages, use the ‘noindex’ tag for them.
  • Avoid using similar content across a number of pages.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb and write your own.
  • Syndicate articles carefully, and get the other website to use a ‘noindex’ tag, and also link back to your original article.
  • Avoid cheap copywriters who might steal or ‘spin’ content.
  • Ask your web developer which steps they’ve taken to avoid duplicate content issues. Go through the Google article with them as a starting point.
  • Focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website.

Need unique copy for your website? Discover the ‘Words by Cornelia’ writing service →

This article was originally published by me, Cornelia Luethi, on my copywriting website: http://wordsbycornelia.com/what-is-duplicate-content

What is the purpose of a website?

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here's how to get optimum performance from your website.

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here’s how to get optimum performance from your website.

A website is a vital business tool: it’s as essential for a business as having a phone number, or email address, or business card. But what is the purpose of a website, exactly? 

How can a website help a business?

In my view, the purpose of a website is 2-fold:

Firstly, the website should attract traffic (i.e. visitors).

Secondly, the website should convert as many of those visitors as possible into a prospects who contact you in some way.

Let’s take a look at these two purposes in more detail…

Purpose of a website #1: Attracting traffic

There’s no point having a website if no one can find it or no one knows about it.

Your website needs to get visits from as many relevant prospects as possible.

There are a number of different ways in which you can get traffic to your website. Each of these tactics is approached in a different way, and has benefits and drawbacks:

  • Free search engine traffic: Attracting search traffic rarely happens by itself: you need to take proactive steps to make your website attractive for search engines (and for human readers). This is called search engine optimisation (SEO). It takes a bit of work to set it up, but if it’s done well it can potentially generate traffic to your website for years and years to come. For most businesses, the return on investment is very good.
  • Paid search engine traffic (e.g. Google AdWords): This can be effective, but you only get the traffic if you keep paying for it. This can work out to be expensive after a number of months, unless your business has a very high average dollar sale and high profit margin.
  • Online display ads and banners: with “pay per click” or “pay per view” advertising, you only get the traffic if you pay for it. This too can be very expensive – especially for businesses with modest average dollar sales and profit margins.
  • Links from other websites: This is a good strategy to pursue, but in practice many businesses find it hard to get meaningful links. It is important that the links come from high quality websites: if they come from poor quality, spammy websites your website’s online reputation could suffer as a consequence. So think quality rather than quantity.
  • Links from directories: The success varies, as any directory these days is secondary to Google. Think carefully about paying for listings: crunch the numbers upfront; and monitor the results.
  • Links from social media: You have to be committed to social media for this marketing channel to work. That involves having a clear social media strategy and making the updates consistently. Social media might be free to use, but it takes a good amount of skill and commitment to get it to work or to get any traction. Social media sites to consider include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. There are many others, too, but those are the main ones. Use the ones that your customers use: e.g. there’s no point tweeting like crazy, if your target market isn’t on Twitter!
  • Include your website address on your business cards and other printed stationery: Yes, you need to do this, but your reach will be limited, so don’t rely on this alone.
  • Include your website address on any sign writing, e.g. premises, vehicles, etc.: This can be very effective, but again, your reach is limited.

Tip: Before you commit to spending money on any website traffic attraction strategies, carry out a break even analysis to see if what you’re considering is likely to be pay dividends – or be an expensive waste of money. It’s far better to discover that upfront before you spend a cent!

I’ve seen businesses work wonders with some of these attraction methods. Some businesses do really well with Google AdWords. One person I know gets a substantial amount of his business from LinkedIn. A small business with multiple vehicles on the road gets crazy good results from their vehicle sign writing.

But there’s one website attraction technique that works consistently well for most business types. And that is, search engine traffic – which usually comes from Google, seeing as they have 89.69% global market share (as at September 2013).

Source: gs.statcounter.com

How do you get more Google traffic?

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

Getting traffic from Google comes down to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are different SEO techniques; I’d argue that the most effective technique I’ve seen is to write website content that targets the keywords users put into Google when conducting their searches. This is known as “SEO website copywriting” – in other words, writing content that uses keywords.

I earn my bread and butter from writing SEO website copy for my clients. Here are some of the results I’ve achieved for my clients:

  • A client with a multi-million dollar business is getting 42% of his business from his website. (He measures this data carefully, so that’s an exact number.)
  • A one-man band in a service industry reckons he gets 95% of his work from his website.
  • Another customer is steadily getting $50k worth of business from her website year after year… she may have spent say $5,000 dollars on the website and content, so that’s a 900% Return on Investment! And the website keeps delivering more customers year after year!

So if you’re wondering why your website isn’t attracting more traffic, maybe it’s because your website hasn’t been set up with this in mind. (This is very common: many website developers aren’t aware of SEO techniques.)

I’d suggest you look into this to find out if optimising your website content for search engines would bring you more traffic.

Remember, if this is done well, the search engines are likely to keep delivering traffic for you, year after year. So if you want to turn your website into a cash machine (or at least a prospect generation machine), then check out SEO website copywriting.

Aren’t you biased because you do SEO website copywriting for a living?

Yes, I write SEO website content for a living… but the reason I started specialising in that area is because of the staggering results it achieves.

I firmly believe that small business owners need marketing techniques that are sustainable over a period of time, and will generate returns for them. I haven’t come across any website attraction techniques that deliver such good returns in the long term as SEO website copywriting.

Of course, results vary: some industries are more competitive than others. Or if you’re in a fledgling or niche industry, the search volumes may not be that high.

But with the bullet point list above, of the different ways to get website traffic, you can start evaluating different tactics to see what might work for you.

Attracting website traffic is the first purpose of a website – now let’s look at the second:

Purpose of a website #2: Converting readers into prospects

The second purpose of a website is to convert readers into prospects. What this means exactly will depend on your business model.

Conversion could mean any combination of the following:

  • Getting people to call you, email you, or fill in a contact form.
  • Getting people to download your Free Report or white paper.
  • Obtaining email subscribers.
  • Making an online purchase.

These are the best kinds of conversion goals, because they are measurable.

However, getting those conversions is no mean feat, as it generally means getting complete strangers to trust your business right away.

Your website need to build trust quickly

You have something like 5 to 9 seconds to grab readers’ attention, and compel them to read on.

A big part of the reader’s decision making is based on trust, so your site has to instil trust and confidence with complete strangers – and very quickly.

Here are some resources to help you:

http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-resources/increasing-website-conversions-101/

You’ll find comprehensive resources via that link.

But if you just want some quick tips, then check out my quick, 10-step guide to building trust online.

http://wordsbycornelia.com/your-quick-10-step-guide-to-building-trust-online/

Have a clear and obvious call-to-action

One important thing to mention about converting readers into prospects is having clear and obvious calls-to-action. In other words, what is the next step a prospect should take to buy from you? This may be obvious to you, as the business owner, but on many websites this is very unclear and ambiguous.

  • Should people phone you? Or email you?
  • Is there a consultation? If so, is it free or paid for?
  • Do you provide written quotes or estimates? Are they free or not?
  • Do you have a shop, showroom or office? Can people just pop in, or do they need to make an appointment? What are the opening hours?

Your call-to-action should be clear and obvious on every page of the website. And if your buying process is more complex (e.g. architects, builders, business consultants, etc.) then include a page called ‘The Process’ or ‘How it Works’ or something like that. Once people know the steps involved in the buying process, they can start to picture themselves going on that journey. Conversely, if people have no idea what’s involved, they are far less likely to contact you to take the next step. It’s up to you to explain your process clearly and concisely – and encourage prospects to take the next step.

Hint: If you’re thinking of re-writing your website’s content to attract more traffic, also look at the content in terms of conversion. Are there things you could do to the content that’ll help transform more readers into prospects?

After all, if you’re going to re-work the website content, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s converting well as well as attracting traffic. This way you can kill two birds with one stone.

Summary: Why a website is much like a car…

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

If you’d like an easy analogy to describe the purpose of a website, a website is a bit like a car.

You buy a website development like you buy a car: that part of the investment is like the technological nuts and bolts.

But to get your car anywhere, it needs fuel. And that’s where the content comes in: words, pictures, videos… and for a website to really travel the distance, it’s a good idea to keep topping it up with fuel (content).

A car also needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. If you don’t do that, the car might break down. Similarly, a website needs tweaking and reviewing regularly, too. The most successful websites are continually tweaked and revised, and the results tested and measured – just like a racecar is continually fine-tuned for optimum performance.

I’m known for telling my customers that “a website is never finished” – this is much like car maintenance and re-fuelling being an on-going task. It is definitely a worthwhile task: there are few marketing channels as effective as websites.

Where the analogy ends is traffic: in a car, we don’t like traffic – but for our website we want lots of it! 😉

So go on, fuel up your website and get your business moving in a whole new direction, and with more momentum. Vrooooom!


Next step: Products to help you with your website

Looking for ideas on how to rev up your website?

The Website Owner's Manual is written in plain English to help small business owners get better results online.

The Website Owner’s Manual is written in plain English to help small business owners get better results online.

If you know you need to rev up your website, but you’re not sure where to begin, the Website Owner’s Manual will help you.

The Website Owner’s Manual:

  • Explains SEO (search engine optimisation) basics.
  • Lists 14 essential elements to help with trust building and conversion tactics.
  • Gives you ideas for extra content you could add to your site… stuff that your prospects (and the search engines) will love!

The Website Owner’s Manual costs less than a tank of gas for your car, and it’s written in plain English for normal, non-technical people.

CORLUE---eBook-Call-to-Action-Button

Do you want to do your own SEO work?

Keyword Research: Discover my SEO website copywriting secrets.

Keyword Research: Discover my SEO website copywriting secrets.

Want more search engine traffic? And want to do your own SEO (search engine optimisation) work? The Keyword Research training goes through my whole SEO website copywriting process:

  • Brainstorming keyword ideas.
  • How to use the free Google Keyword Planner to get data on keyword search volumes.
  • How to format the data so it’s easy to work with.
  • How to create a keyword strategy for your website.
  • How to use keyword strategy and optimise the page content.

This is the exact same process that I use for my SEO website copywriting clients – and it gets phenomenal results!

Training-Call-to-Action-Button

 

How to get more Google love with photo keywords

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO...

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO…

Let’s be honest… when you’re adding content to your website, adding photos can seem like a big, time-consuming pain-in-the-butt job.

Chances are that adding a photograph to your new web page is the very last thing on your To Do list, and once you’ve done that, you can put your feet up for the day and do something fun. Like go out to dinner, or take the dog for a walk, or enjoy a nice relaxing glass of wine. Or crack open a nice, cold beer while you fire up the barbecue.

In short: adding photos to your website is something you probably want to get over with as quickly as possible… Am I right?

Whoa, slow right down!

Good photos not only make your website look more appealing, but if you use them in the right way they can also help improve your search engine rankings.

Many website owners I’ve spoken with over the years aren’t even aware that (a) Photo SEO (search engine optimisation) exists, and (b) that it can make a difference to your site’s rankings… but it can! 

Photo SEO: How to keyword photos

Here’s how to keyword photos. There are a number of different aspects to photo SEO:

1. Image file size

First things first… and that is, you need to make sure that the photograph’s file size is appropriate.

By ‘appropriate’ I mean that the photo should be large enough (in pixels) to display OK… you don’t too use too small a file, or it will look pixelated and grainy, which looks very unprofessional.

However, you need to make sure that the file size (in KB) is reasonable. Slow loading photos (and slow loading web pages) cause users to abandon your website, and that can actually decrease your website’s search engine rankings.

The goal is for your website to load fast ‘n’ snappy, with sharp looking pictures.

(Note: Re-sizing photos and the software to use is covered in my eBook ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing‘.)

Bonus Tip: Whilst you’re using the image editing software, if the photo you’re using is your own (i.e. an image that you have taken yourself, or created yourself), then you might want to include your copyright information on it. I do this on the cartoons I draw and use on my websites, for example.

2. Photo file name

While you’re using your image editing software to re-size the photos, take this opportunity to re-name the image file.

Why re-name the image file?

So that you’re using your focus keyword in the photo file name, of course!

Example: If an image comes off your digital camera as ‘DSC1234.jpg’ that’s not going to tell Google very much about what’s in the photograph.

Instead, say your focus keyword for a web page is ‘plumber Auckland’, then use that for your photo keyword too. Re-name the image as ‘plumber-auckland.jpg’.

Why use hyphens to punctuate the keyword?

Punctuating a keyword with hyphens is a technique I learned at Search Engine Bootcamp a number of years ago: it’s been considered best practice for a while. I’ve been implementing this ever since, and the (many) photos I’ve keyworded in this way get really good visibility on Google. Punctuating with hyphens works!

If for some reason you’re using a website infrastructure that doesn’t allow hyphens (for example, it may use the underscore instead), don’t worry. It’s just a small thing, and I don’t think this one small thing in isolation will matter if the rest of your web page is optimised well with keywords.

What about using uppercase and lowercase letters?

Google isn’t case sensitive – i.e. if you do a search in ALL CAPS or all lowercase (or something in between), you’ll get exactly the same results.

So consequently it doesn’t matter if you use UPPERCASE, lower case, Sentence case or Title Case for your photo keywords.

3. Photo captions

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about using photo captions…

For one thing, photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy. So if you’re not using photo captions, you’re missing out on getting your message across.

What’s more, photo captions give you another opportunity for photo SEO. So be sure to include your photo keywords in the caption that you write.

Hint: If you’re struggling with writing photo captions, here are some articles to help you:

Be sure to write your photo captions so that they’re meaningful and interesting to human readers, first and foremost. Using photo keywords is just the icing on the cake!

4. ALT attribute

Think that your work with photo keywords is done? Think again… there’s still the ALT attribute! And this is something that many people miss out when keywording photos and images…

What’s the ALT attribute?

The ALT attribute (also known as the ALT tag) was developed so that blind and visually impaired people can interact with graphic elements on a web page. Visually impaired people use a screen reader that reads out the content of a web page. And when a screen reader comes to an image, it reads out the ALT attribute. So a well-written ALT tag lets blind people know what’s in an image, even if they can’t see it.

Google accesses the ALT attribute too, so if you use your photo keywords in the ALT tag, you’re not just letting visually impaired people know what’s in the image, you’re also letting Google know. So I’d suggest taking some time and care in writing a meaningful ALT attribute – whilst using your photo keywords, of course!

Using your photo keywords in the ALT attribute is an important part of photo SEO, but be sure to write ALT copy that makes sense to human readers, first and foremost.

You need to use photo SEO in combination with other SEO techniques

Don’t keyword your photos in isolation and expect a huge surge in your Google rankings or visitor numbers: you need to keyword the rest of your web page as well.

It’s the cumulative effect of all of these SEO techniques that will give you the best results.

Using photo keywords for photo SEO is a step that many website owners skip, so if you do this (as well as other SEO techniques), there’s the opportunity to make some gains on your competitors.

Summary

  • Make sure image sizes are optimised for quick downloading – but without noticeably degrading the image quality.
  • Use your photo keywords in the image file names. Punctuate the file names with hyphens.
  • Write a meaningful photo caption that also includes your photo keyword.
  • Write an ALT tag that’s both meaningful and keyworded.
  • Photo SEO won’t boost your website rankings in isolation, you need to use other SEO techniques as well.

 


Discover my keyword research secrets...

Discover my keyword research secrets…

PS. Are you wondering where you get the photo keywords from?

You get your photo keywords from doing keyword research.

In my book ‘Keyword Research‘ I go through the keyword research process I use in detail. (My bread-and-butter is writing search engine optimised website copy, so keyword research is something I do nearly every week!)

In fact, this book contains the keyword research secrets I use for my customers’ SEO website copywriting projects – it’s all there!

See details of the Keyword Research eBook →

Why article writing is the reluctant marketer’s best friend

Ugh. There it is. Scrawled at the bottom of your To Do list: “Marketing”.

Just the sight of it makes your heart sink.

Ah well, you tell yourself, you’ll get round to that once you’ve done everything else on your list.

Of course, that dreaded marketing task never gets completed!

This is a familiar scenario for many small business owners: even though they realise that marketing is important, they don’t enjoy it and find it time-consuming and frustrating.

The good news is that there’s a highly effective marketing tactic that’s quick and time-saving

Time-saving marketing? Is it possible? Yes – if you use articles as part of your marketing tactics.

Articles? Why use articles?

Articles are a wonderful marketing technique, because one article can be used in many different ways:

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

1. Newsletter content

Include the article in your newsletter as it’ll remind existing clients of your expertise. Good quality articles add value to the relationship with your clients, and put you ahead of your competitors.

If you regularly send your clients quality articles, in time it will help to increase both your customer retention and word-of-mouth referral rates.

2. Website and blog articles

Having an informational article on your website or blog will be appreciated by both your readers. These readers could be existing clients, or they might be prospects who are umming and ahhing about contacting you. A meaningful article might just prompt them into taking action.

Customers and prospects aren’t the only ones who’ll appreciate your articles: so will the search engines. They rate websites that are rich with unique, high quality information, and if you regularly add well-written articles, you should see your website rankings increase over time.

3. Social media updates

Once the article is on your website or blog, it’s a doddle to link to it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other social media network. It can be a good way of driving more traffic to your website.

Seeing your article on social media sites not only reminds existing clients of your expertise (and help your customer retention rate), but it may even introduce new prospects to your business

4. Free reports and eBooks

What do you call a collection of articles? It’s a book! You could put your content into an eBook format, and either sell it online, or give it away to clients and prospects.

5. Information sheets

Put your articles into an Information Sheet format with your logo on the front, and all your contact details in the footer of each page. You can then give these Information Sheets to prospects at sales meetings, or send a PDF copy after the sales meeting.

By adding value in this way, and proving your expertise, this inexpensive method can boost your sales conversion rates.

6. Guest blogging

Other websites and blogs are always hungry for content, and if you can get your article in front of a targeted, quality audience, it can (a) drive more traffic to your own website, and (b) introduce new prospects to your business.

There are various ways to make this work, but the most important thing is that you edit the article (and its headline) before you post it elsewhere. Remember how I said in point 2 that search engines like unique content? The search engines actually downgrade sites that have ‘duplicate content’. So if you get the opportunity to post your work elsewhere, make sure that you edit it – and that the article or byline includes a link to your own website!

But what if you don’t like writing – let alone article writing?

Many people who don’t enjoy writing are great at talking. If that sounds like you, dictate your article: you can either use speech recognition software, or else get a secretarial service (such as a Virtual Assistant) to type up your dictated article.

Your other option is to get a copywriter to write your articles for you. Professional article writing is worth the investment, as the articles bring so many different benefits to your business over an extended period of time.

Summary

Article writing is a powerful marketing tactic because one article can be used in so many different ways:

  • Newsletters
  • Website and blog articles
  • Social media updates
  • Free reports and ebooks
  • Guest blogging

A marketing tactic that helps with customer retention, referral rates and introduces new customers to your business – what’s not to love?! Article writing is an investment that can yield you returns for a long time to come.

 


PS. Yes, I can help you with article writing!

Don't enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Don’t enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Read more about  copywriting services from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub.

“Cornelia writes the text for our newsletters and some website updates. She did a great job of taking our rambling thoughts and turning them into professional, easy to read copy. We’ve had a good reaction and it has had the desired effect of prompting some existing clients into starting new projects with us.”   – Nigel Smith, Transformer Design

 

What is SEO? A beginner’s guide in plain English…

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about making sure your website gets found online. And the way that most people find websites is via search engines.

Google is the biggest, most popular search engine with approximately 65% of traffic. Their competitors include Yahoo (approximately 15%), Bing (13-14%), plus some smaller players. *

How do search engines work?

We need to have a quick look at how search engines work in order to understand what SEO is all about.

In short, the goal of a search engine is to bring its users the most relevant results possible to their searches.

After all, if a search engine consistently gives you, the user, a load of bad results (e.g. poor quality websites, that don’t reflect what you’re looking for, or spammy websites), you’ll end up using a different search engine. The search engines want you to keep using them, so they want to give you relevant search results.

To give you relevant results leading to good quality websites, the search engines use complex formulae (known as “algorithms”) which look at a variety of factors when ranking websites. The higher the ranking, the more relevant the website is seen to be to the user’s search.

These website  ranking factors include:

  • Keywords: does the website’s content use the same kinds of words as those that the user has input? If so, that’s a notch in your favour. Keywords are good! That’s leads onto the next factor:
  • Information-rich websites: search engines love good quality websites that are rich in unique, well-written content, which is regularly updated. It’s not just search engines that love it, but readers do too. And for the website owner, it’s an opportunity to use a rich variety of keywords, which will help rankings further still.
  • Inbound links: the search engines figure that a good quality website will be linked to from other good quality websites. Notice the word quality: if you have links to your site from spammy websites, it could count against you.
  • Bounce rate: have you ever followed a link to a website; didn’t like what you see; and immediately hit the “back” button to leave the site? That’s called a bounce. A bounce indicates that the website is irrelevant to the user’s search; and a lot of bounces for a particular website tell the search engines that the website isn’t a good quality one. So bounces are bad. (You can see on your website analytics what the bounce rate is for your website.) A high bounce rate is bad; a low bounce rate is good, and it’s one of the factors used by search engines when formulating their rankings.
  • Time on site: again, if users spend a good amount of time on your site, the search engines will figure that your website’s a good one. So the time users spend on your site is another factor addressed in the algorithms.

SEO means that a website owner is actively addressing these ranking factors used in the algorithms. It’s about taking a proactive approach to a website, and increasing its chances of getting good rankings for as wide a variety of search terms as possible. This might sound easy, but the goal posts are continually moving!

Things change over time

The list of ranking factors is a basic one, to give you an overview. But you should also be aware that these algorithms aren’t static – far from it. They’re continually being tweaked and fine-tuned.

So what’s a business owner to do with these changes in the SEO world?

There’s one strategy that’s never changed: and that is to have a well-built website, that’s full with good, information-rich content, and that’s updated regularly.

Don’t be tempted to try and “cheat” the system – it’s not worth it. It’s far better to focus on having a great site that real people (as well as search engines) will enjoy using.

 

* 2011 data from http://www.quantumseolabs.com/blog/seolinkbuilding/bing-google-market-share/