14 Mar 2016

SEO - so often failed by those who'd be its (content) kings

So there I am on Tweetdeck when I see a captivating headline flick into a stream: Human Emotional Filter and its Effects on SEO.
Okay, interesting topic,
thinks I.

Off I trot to indulge myself and perhaps learn a little bit before giving the Tweet a like and a RT. That was it - my sole intention: a quick squint and maybe a social interaction.

tweet of seo hacker's article with strand of DNA representing the human make up

But what a rabbit hole the click through to the host's site proved to be. And what a monster I found hiding in the shadows amongst the mouldy carrot tops.

SEO - you must deliver on every level of your promise

The problem is this. When you promote yourself as an expert - in anything - you raise people's expectations. By offering a tutorial, as the headline in the Tweet that so interested me implied, you've set your stall out thus.

And when you further consider the topic of that headline, you'd expect the author/Webmaster to get that. The biggest Human Emotional Filter in SEO is, after all, trust. As someone looking for enlightenment, as I was, the Tweet garnered implicit trust.

To have that emotion, which I'd already let loose on a rollercoaster ride, derailed by a barrage of advertisements as soon as I clicked through the Tweet was an unexpected blow.

Trust? Broken.

User intent and Webmaster responsibility

I've seen enough of the Webmaster to deduce that it wasn't his intention to break that trust. Especially after going to the trouble of creating a captivating headline.

But most site visitors don't have forgiveness built into their DNA. In our on-demand Internet, transparency is just one strand surfers expect as a matter of course.

Webmasters have to accept that responsibility. We're culpable for everything hosted on our domain. That includes any ads, their volume and their intrusiveness. And talking of intrusive, pop-ups were also a UX-killer on the SEO hackers' post to which the Tweet led.

You might think I'm being pernickety. Ads are part and parcel of the web; it's how many Webmasters fund their site.

And pop-ups? Get with it, right? I was going to a marketer's website and he knows that the money is in the list. What was I to expect?

The UX - it's not all about page load speed and navigation

The copy, headline et al, is a part of the UX. One could argue that, when the searcher's intent is to learn, content is everything.

SEO isn't, of course, that black and white. But ask yourself this:

if a visitor can't trust the content on your page, how will they ever trust the ads and pop-ups surrounding it?

If you do not care about the reader, the visitor whose trust you've earned with a jazzy headline, then fine. Let's not fool anyone. You're not looking to convert them as a customer. You want traffic volume to boost your ad revenue, end of.

Now, I don't often call others' bad webpages out. But it's this type of practise that's kicking SEO when it's down. And the SEO Hackers' article to which I refer is a prime example of when good intentions turn bad.

It's a shame. The premise of the article is excellent; it even goes on to explain some of the concepts well.

The problem, then? The content is littered with punctuation and grammatical errors, all of which I've edited within the content itself. Is that bad? Well, for an expert, getting the fundamentals wrong is a great way to blow trust. Plus, we have this video on spelling and grammar from Matt Cutts:

Where the SEO Hacker's content's format and style contradicts Google's Webmaster advice for compliant websites, I've added footnotes and relevant quotes.

In this day and age, where sex isn't predetermined we shouldn't apportion it. If you're talking about 'Mr Roberts', then fine; say 'his' and 'he'. But where you're referencing 'a marketer' or 'an SEO', use 'they' and 'their' (and not the recent propensity to patronise women by referring to all non-specified gender roles as 'she' and 'her').

Speaking German or French? Fine. All nouns have a gender and you could maybe get away with assigning gender. In English? Keep it non-gender specific.

SEO Hackers neglects the use of bullet lists, too. If you want to emote your readers, you have to show them the benefits at a glance.

Great swathes of text are the greatest way to hide benefits in plain sight. Add long, rambling sentences, you hide the meaning and context from search engines, too.

The result is that your content is good for neither human or machine. Along with the additional reasons I give after this embedded edit:

  • search engines will struggle to find anything on the page as it exists they're able to index with confidence;
  • visitors will struggle to gauge the concepts as SEO Hackers leaves too many questions, supplementary or otherwise, unanswered.

I've no doubt that Sean, the author, has a specialist field. But it's not copywriting. As an expert, he should know when to draft in help when his credibility in other areas is jeopardised by his weaknesses.

It's no slight on your expertise if you struggle with content. Draft your thoughts then get an expert editor to present them in a way that will reach - and emote - your prospects. Herewith, then, the edited SEO Hackers' text:

Human Emotional Filter and its Effects on SEO

Tags:copywriting, emotion, psychology, seo
A note from the editor:
This is my edited version of SEO Hackers' post. General style and grammar edits I've made here are [in green]. My footer and further reading note references are [in superscript]

The web is a place for people. Truth is, the Human Emotional Filter (HEF) plays a big role in SEO. That’s plain, simple fact.

SEO has extended [from] just being a technical, code guru into a job that requires multiple masteries that [extend] to the field of:

  • [marketing;
  • copywriting;
  • functionality;
  • and even design.]

So what’s the human emotional filter and how does it affect SEO?

The Blueprint

We as human beings are wired to feel. We feel happy, we feel sad, we feel wanting, we feel satisfied, we feel angry, we feel excited. We have emotions running in and out of our hearts day in and day out.

There is a blueprint that has made us who we are. People nowadays act out of what [they] feel. This is depicted in movies “Follow your heart”, even if [oft-times] what we feel is not the best decision at all.

Unfortunately, in sales and in laws of attraction, what is logical is boring, unprofitable and is also generally hard to sell.

Do you [realise] that every time someone lands in your webpage, you are selling your page (its content, its design, its functionality, etc.) to them in exchange for their time, and perhaps, money?

Every time a user [visits] your site, that user has the chance to improve your site’s User Activity (UA) or leave (which is not a good thing to your UA profile). So what do you do?

You make them stay.

How do you make them stay?

Create things [on] your website that pierce their Human Emotional Filter.

Make them feel.


There are ways you can attract a user’s attention and lead them on in the content of your website. [Here] are some of the things that are happening ([that] you need to take care of) from the moment they [land] to the time they [leave]:

1) Site Design / Theme

A [visitor lands on] your website, looks around, decides if the ‘look’ speaks of a good, trustworthy brand and is worth [their] time.

2) Great Copywriting / Video Content

The [visitor] reads some of the above-the-fold content or video about your product or service and finds himself excited or wanting.

[ed] - be careful about what you put above the fold. Too much will impair the UX; see Google Webmasters' advice on the topic[1]

3) Branding – The user goes ahead and looks at your about page, clients you’ve worked with, your team and company history and tries to feel in their gut if you’re someone who they could trust.

4) Subscription – The [visitor] likes what he sees and subscribes to your news-feed in [hope] of receiving more of the great information from your website.

5) Conversion / Loyalty – The [visitor] comes back through your news feed and decides [they trust] you enough and you have a good brand and reputation, so [they go] ahead and purchases your product.

Before you get into that sweet 5th step, there [are] the critical first two steps wherein the Human Emotional Filter plays a huge, huge part. You need to make them FEEL who you are by making them see, read, watch and hear what they can get out of you.

Our favorite [subject] is ourselves. So make sure the first two steps are all about your users.

[ed] The practise of inserting multiple links in such a confined space, ▲ as above ▲, is wrong on so many levels. 11 here, 10 in 10 lines!

▼See image▼ and note [2]

image: too many URLs in a short space goes against Google's advice for mobile-friendly websites (see notes, below)

The Tricky Part

[3] [ed][…?]Is that I can’t really tell you exactly what:

  • you should write in your website;
  • how your video should go;
  • what you should say;
  • what content you should write.

The Human Emotional Filter is an extremely customized, reactive decision-maker. So your website has to be extremely customized to fit a person’s wants/needs in order to pierce their HEF positively.

How does all this Affect SEO?

[3] [ed] […?]Simple. The better you are at piercing a person’s Human Emotional Filter, the easier you are in getting them to convert and stay loyal to your brand. First of all, it affects your site’s User Activity by positively affecting your Dwell Time Metrics (DTM).

The more people spending more time in your website in a lot of your pages, the better. This factor is very difficult to fake, buy, and manipulate especially with the accuracy and intelligence that Google has farmed over time through a lot of website’s Google Analytics data.

Secondly, it positively increases user interaction, which, chances are, will reflect on your social signal data. People who like the feel of your page and who can relate to your content will probably give you a Tweet, +1, Share or a Like at the very least.

Thirdly, links. Need I say more? ◄[Yes - this is a tutorial][4] [ed]

Some Actionable Steps to Help you Out

Generally, here are some of the things you can directly take out of this entry:

1) Use strong eye-catching words above the fold (usually in your article title) like ‘Sex’, ‘Discover’, ‘Free’, ‘Help’, ‘Know’, ‘Money’, ‘Powerful’, ‘Secret’, ‘Proven’, ‘Save’, ‘Trust’, ‘Understand’.

2) Create strong branding pages such as an About Page, Company History Page, Meet the Team Page, etc. ◄[using "etc." in a tutorial is lazy][4][ed]

3) Start doing Email Marketing! Mailchimp is a free email marketing service company, you can start there. That’s how over 1,000 SEO Hacker readers keep on coming back here (you can sign up on the form on the right sidebar) ◄[don't be lazier still] [4][ed]

Start piercing your user’s Human Emotional Filter. Chances are, your competitors are still stuck in the field of doing technical SEO. Your creativity and ability to emotionally communicate with your users is your best asset – it is not easily replicated.

Notes referenced for advice and further reading:

"As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away."

"Small or tightly packed links or buttons are more difficult for users to accurately press on a touchscreen than with a traditional mouse cursor. To prevent users from being frustrated by accidentally hitting the wrong ones, tap targets should be made sufficiently large and far from other tap targets that a user can press them without their finger pad overlapping any other tap targets. The average adult finger pad size is about 10mm wide (a bit less than half an inch)…"

[3a] This is the disconnect. We understand the value of conversational search with the implementation of Hummingbird. But asking a question as a title then going straight into an answer without referencing the context leaves the door open to ambiguity.
Yes, use questions as headers. But make sure you format the subsequent answer to stand alone as a statement, too.

[3b] The same sentiment, ambiguity, is relevant to the body of your content. When using 'articles' as the subject of a sentence, make sure that you clarify to the reader to what entity from the previous sentence that article refers.

[4] Don't start what you can't finish
Terms like 'Need I say more', 'Goes without saying', 'Self explanatory', 'etc.' are lazy. You're providing a tutorial. Visitors unfamiliar with your topic visit your website to be educated, not to leave with unanswered questions.

If you are going to add context but not outline its purpose, at least provide a link so that those who've come to learn can at least complete their education. Not explaining in full looks lazy. Not providing a link if you can't be bothered lazier still.

Same goes for referencing other parts of your site. The 'Mailchimp' sign-up form wasn't in the sidebar (either one) If your advertising changes, update your content. And, if it's an affiliate link, be sure to declare that you could benefit from users clicking it.

Dangling thoughts are to site visitors what dangling nodes are to the web: roads to nowhere. If your website is a no through road, don't expect much traffic. ◄ Tweet this

To view just the edited article with footer notes, I've put them together in this Evernote shard

4 Feb 2016

Ashamed of your business blog? Here's what to do and how to do it »

Today, I want to share two presentations to help business owners looking to 'crack' search. They both focus on website-hosted content, i.e., blogging; one's a presentation, the other a video.

First, there's a concise presentation embedded below from SlideShare. It's entitled 6 Business Uses for a Blog, put together by Social Media Hat. The deck's pages offer business owners half a dozen ways to use their blog.

Second, there's a Google Webmaster video from Matt Cutts dating back to 2013. It looks at how businesses can compete in search against marketing-savvy competitors, entitled:

How can a legitimate business compete online?

The argument forming the basis of the Webmaster video is this. A business owner with real world experience struggles to find customers online.

Their website or blog competes with brands who have more SEO/marketing acumen - or budget. And while the competition outranks our entrepreneur in search, offline, the role's reversed.

Now, our business owner has earned their stripes at the sharp end, getting their hands dirty. Is it fair that a fledgeling company should rank higher because they know how search engines work?

How, then, does our business owner turn their real-world authority into online discoverability? That's what both the presentation and the video cover.

Getting found online: the marketer's perspective

It’s funny. We can forget that most people outside the digital marketing arena are blind. They're yet to see or realise the power, reach and engagement capabilities of content.

To combat this, Mike Allton's presentation takes us through the basics of business blogging.

The advice herein stems from his vast experience in his professional capacity. Not only has he leveraged social media to grow a loyal (and huge) following himself. But that's one field of his speciality, too.

Mike, through social media, helps businesses to engage and grow their personal brand online. Yes, blogging's at the core. But one's activity on social must have a hub, i.e., a website or blog at least.

Here’s a quick overview of what Mike covers in the presentation before you dig in:

  • the difference between using a website and a blog;
  • using blogs to answer faqs (saving business owners a bundle on repetitive man-hours);
  • putting your customers in the spotlight by reviewing them;
  • review industry news or your own products/services to keep your audience engaged;
  • show and tell potential customers how to get the best from your product/service;
  • list how-tos, best industry resources/websites/practises, new additions to your range, etc.;
  • push press releases to announce upcoming events, networking opportunities, product launches and industry shows.

What should you use your blog for?

Not everyone has the time to maintain their blog as often as they’d like. Often, that’s because they’ve no clear idea of what they’re going to use it for.

Realise this: your website or blog are just other ways of advertising your business. To begin optimising the opportunity the blogging platform presents, think of:

  • questions real-world customers ask;
  • the benefit(s) your service provides;
  • the problems you look to solve and reciprocal solutions you offer;
  • satisfied customers who've taken a different view of your service from the one you have in mind;
  • the type of people who'd have genuine cause to use your business.

These are all ideas that can (in theory) embellish your blog without a second thought.

Plus, these are all the traits that your target audience and Google want to see you share. The knowledge-hungry surfer wants actionable advice that provides a solution to their query.

Your business blog is an advert, like any other promo

By approaching your content thus, you can reach new, relevant audiences. Or maybe you just want to reaffirm your mission statement to an existing customer base.

Go ahead. Re-address your service pages. Yes, it's important to optimise your About us page, contact page and services, too.

Tweak them to match your current strengths, then share those pages on social media. Remind people what it is you do and the problems that your business solves.

Think of real-world advertising campaigns for a second.

You know your budget; you know (roughly) what goals you’d like them to achieve. You must approach blogging in exactly the same way, as a business tool.

Many make the mistake of choosing between a blog or offline advertising. In reality, businesses who get the most relevant blog traffic are those who unite the two.

Your blog must adopt your voice and tone

You can have as many people visit your blog as there are people connected to the internet. But if they’re not converting into customers, what’s the point?

Use your business blog to exhibit the personality of you, your staff and your business.

People are human. Well, in the main; I know of a few exceptions. But the point? People much prefer to interact with other people than with faceless corporations.

By taking ownership of the direction of your blog content, you can find that magic blend.

Highlight the benefits and you won't need to revert to hard sell tactics. Combine those benefits with quality goods and a matching service that adds value? You’ve found the perfect mix!

Write for your audience, edit for search engines

As a business owner, you've built your reputation by honing your service. And now you're supposed to be an expert copywriter, too?

What's wrong with outsourcing the content? There are plenty of freelance sites out there.

Well, there's a real shift in the marketplace. Google's latest algorithms are looking for real expertise, not a cheap, generic rewrite.

All the content we publish today must achieve three goals (at least):

  • add value over and above anything of its ilk in your niche;
  • resonate with the target audience to garner trust;
  • enable search engines to work out:
    • what you do;
    • who your target audience is;
    • how your copy is relevant to the search queries you're targeting.

That sounds like a lot of work for the layperson. And here's the option many savvy or time-strapped business owners are plumping for.

They know what they want to say from their unique viewpoint. But rather than try to meet these exacting requirements, they're draughting out content.

Only when they have all their key points bullet-pointed do they engage a copywriter. Or, if they've had a decent stab at writing the content themselves, hire a search editor.

This way, it saves the business owner both time and a huge learning curve. And it's not like the learning curve ever gets less steep. Search engine technology is in a constant state of evolution.

Trying to keep pace with Google is a full-time job in itself. So instead, they hire copywriters who specialise in semantic search. They can take the draught copy and with a variety of data extraction techniques, optimise it for search. As Matt Cutts explains, letting Google understand your relevance is paramount:

Wrap-up and further reading

My additional content notwithstanding, I don’t want to steal Mike’s thunder. Nor Matt's, for that matter.

The extra tips I've included above should complement the other media. Please drop a note in the comments for clarification on anything herein.

And if you've not yet slaked your thirst for image-based media about blogging, try two more:

They're 21-slide and 18-slide presentations on Slideshare, respectively. Search is going semantic, with relationships and connections at its heart. Make sure your blog content structures even the unstructured data using crystal clear content.

Google wants to find businesses that add value to its index of the web. You can feature as long as you don't hide your USP behind ambiguous, rambling copy. We all clear? Awesome!