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Short Tail Or Long Tail Keywords? — A Side-by-Side Comparison

Short Tail Or Long Tail Keywords? — A Side-by-Side Comparison

Long Tail vs Short Tail Keywords

Image credits: Aida Blakely

When it comes to on-page SEO, keywords are the biggest factor in determining your SEO success or failure. When deciding which keywords to use, you’ll need to do some homework and research before deciding which ones to go for. One question that often arise while doing keyword research remains:

Short Tail or Long Tail Keywords?

The discussion has been raging and the resulting ends are something that anyone doing marketing on the Internet should be made aware of.

What Are Short Tail And Long Tail Keywords?
Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are 3 words or less. Examples include: “athletic apparel,” “DVD player,” or “engagement ring.” Short tail keywords are also known as “head terms”. They may be the first thing you think of when you are deciding where to go to eat (“Chinese food,” “pizza delivery”), what to do (“dance clubs,” “roller coaster park”), or where to worship (“synagogue,” “Catholic church”).

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords however are a little different compared to short tail keywords. Long tail words are more than 3 words. They are definitely a lot more targeted and not as broad. You may not bring in as much search traffic from long tail keywords but the traffic you do bring in is the kind you are looking for.

Examples of long tail keywords include: “summer women’s athletic apparel,” “super Blu Ray HD DVD combo player,” or “white diamond engagement ring.” Long tail keywords are obviously a lot more specific than short tail keywords; as a marketer this actually can work very much in your favor. But there are pros and cons to both types of keywords.

The Long and Short Of Keywords

Which type of keyword you want to use for your marketing is going to depend very much on the type of traffic that you want to drive to your site.

As keywords get longer, search volume becomes lower. However, all other metrics such as conversion rates go in favor of long tail keywords.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords have several things working for and against them. For example if you are trying to drive a lot of traffic to your site, you should use short tail keywords. The challenge here is that if your site is “new” or if your search efforts are just beginning you are getting at the back of a very long line.

Volume: High

,
When it comes to volume, short tail keyword is going to win long tail keyword every time. The shorter the keyword is, the higher the search volume. If you could rank for a short tail keyword, you’re definitely going to get plenty of organic traffic.

Competition: High

Given the high search volumes, it’s no wonder why everyone is trying to rank for short tail keywords, the reward is high. Competition for short tail keywords is highly competitive.

To give you a clearer picture, for pizza searches, you are behind brands like Pizza Hut, Pizza Pizza, Dominos, Papa John’s as well as all the ranking sites, local searches, and the like.

So if you notice the pattern here, it’s clear that unless your company is huge at the international level, it is really tough to get into the first page of Google search results.

Focus: Low

There is also the issue of your search not being “targeted.” People searching for “DVD” may be looking for a player to buy but they also may be looking for a DVD player to rent, a DVD film, a DVD reproduction service, a list of DVD rentals and the like. You are going up against names like Samsung, Sony, and Amazon when you simply search DVD.

Cost: High

Short tail keywords also have a cost factor involved which is going to get expensive. Google AdWords is going to charge you a pretty penny to get into the short tail keyword business for your common search terms. Because so many other people are buying them you are going to need to pay a premium for your presence in these searches.

Conversion Rate: Low

Finally, the thing which irks most people about short tail keyword is the low conversion rate. Say you have a term that’s searched for a lot. Even if you get 10,000 searches and 100 clicks your conversion rate may be one or two customers.

While those one or two customers may be your bread and butter, the truth is that you may have more luck and less noise if you opted for long tail keywords.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are like a bear in the forest. They can lie dormant for a while but when they are used they are typically quite deadly. Like the bear in the forest, there isn’t too much else that competes with these keywords as you’ll see.

Volume: Low

When you are talking about long tail keywords you have to appreciate the level of volume. Your volume of traffic from long tail keywords is going to be far less. For some types of businesses, this may be a bad thing.

However, if you have your wares that you are selling and you are trying to cater to your specific customer, you may not want a lot of beady eyes and sweaty breaths clogging up your virtual storefront.

Competition: Low

The competition among others is also lower when you have decided on a long tail keyword. When you have a search term like “RV camper power cord hatch cover” or “baseball card holder sheets” you are getting traffic. The good news for you if you’re selling these things is that there are few others who are selling the same thing. The search is going to be geared towards whatever it is you are selling and the competition for this specific traffic will be low.

Focus: High

Just like the low competition made evident, the targeted nature of the search traffic you get will, for most businesses selling specific things, be ideal. You will pretty well only have people who are looking for “toddler ballerina shoes with ribbon” or “cheap loveseat recliner covers,” coming to your store. That means you’re a lot more likely to have the customers you are looking for, looking for you!

Cost: Low

Another added benefit to the lower traffic long tail keywords is that you are going to pay a lot less for them. Google AdWords has got a reduced price for searches that are specific and contain more terms. This means that you won’t show up nearly as high in general searches (until you become the preeminent name in your industry) but you will have a lot lower cost to get you there.

For small businesses who may have a PPC arrangement, this is going to be huge for your monthly cost. When you are selling more things to fewer customers that will be even better!

Conversion Rates: High

One last point about long tail keywords is the increased conversion rates. If you have people seeking out such specific things as discussed above, you will have a far easier time converting the traffic you generate. These conversion numbers are obviously going go vary depending on what it is you’re selling and where, but the numbers point very strongly in favor of long tail keyword selection.

Moreover, if your customer likes what they see from your long tail conversion selection, even if they don’t buy the first time around they are far more likely to come back to your online store when they do buy simply because your site spoke to their specific needs.

Which Is Better?

To simplify this entire article into a simple table, you’ll see that long tail keywords are the far better choice and rightly so.

At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you and your small business. Of course you want to save money and you want to have as large a web presence as you possibly can.

At the same time you need to remember that the point of your having a web business isn’t (generally) to get people to click to your site and walk away unsatisfied with the results their search has given them; the idea is that they spend money!

Getting your customers to drop that dime and try out your business is the whole point. If you want to increase your conversion and make that sale then you should be directing traffic to your specific type of widget, whatever that may be.

In this day and age of online searches short tail keywords are very difficult break into the rankings of. As discussed earlier it is almost impossible for small or even medium sized businesses to rank among the big boys.

So if this is not a fight that you are even able to have, why would you want to try?

If you have a huge body of content, a very specific but general item, or strong brand and domain authority then maybe the short tail keywords will still work for you.

However if you are looking for higher conversion rate, lower cost, lower competition, and volume that is specifically after what it is that you are selling, the long tail keyword game is one that you should be in.

This post was originally written by Zhi Yuan and published on Nov 18, 2015. It was most recently updated on July 27, 2018.

Related Links:

How To Decide Which Keywords To Use? — Comprehensive Keyword Research Guide
How To Increase Conversion Rate By 113% Using Retargeting Ads
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing – Which Is More Effective?

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Why AI and international paid media is a match made in hell

When looking back on summer 2018, it’s hard to ignore the optimism that’s been in the air. Sunny weather? Check. England football triumph? Almost! AI as the next big thing in digital marketing? Try and count the number of articles, blog posts and sound bites that you’ve encountered over the last month which cite AI in a hype-tastic way.

Now we’re all for a bit of well-reasoned optimism, and there is no doubt that AI is an extremely powerful toolkit that will positively impact all kinds of socio-economic activity. But we’re not so sure about the true value of AI in the context of digital marketing, and specifically for international paid media.

Back to basics

Cutting through the hype, let’s start by looking at exactly how AI and machine learning work in the context of international paid media. For example, on a keyword level, how much and what kind of data are needed for AI to make a good decision?

Well, Google’s machine learning product Smart Bidding states that it “enables you to tailor bids based on each user’s context. Smart Bidding includes important signals like device, location and remarketing lists for better automation and performance”.

This implies that the signals required by the algorithm can be culled from the sum of users’ behavior, and that its “learning capabilities quickly maximize the accuracy of your bidding models to improve how you optimize the long-tail [by evaluating] patterns in your campaign structure, landing pages, ad text, product information, keyword phrases and many more to identify more relevant similarities across bidding items to effectively borrow learnings between them”.

This suggests that the ‘go to’ source of data is our own campaign. But what are these patterns, how long is ‘quickly’, and how on earth can landing page data would help with bid management?

Staying with bid management as an example, we think it works like this:

Primary data: the algorithm looks back at historic direct interactions with a keyword within a client campaign, and makes a cost/position decision based on pre-defined goals like ROI or CTR, and of enough data.
One way to address a possible data volume problem would be to look back a long way. But this would ignore seasonality, promotions and changes in consumer behaviors over time.
Secondary data – the algorithm has insufficient data to make a ‘good’ decision on the primary basis, so uses corroborative data (performance indicators from other campaigns which have similar characteristics (e.g. same vertical, same language) to make decisions.

Do we even have enough data?

The question is if, aside from very high-volume big category campaigns (think car insurance, credit cards), there is enough primary data to power effective AI decision making. AI needs a huge amount of data to be effective. When IBM’s Deep Blue learned chess, for instance, the developer relied on 5 million data sets. Most industry experts believe that AI’s biggest limitation will be access to high-quality data of enough scale.

We also have no idea what a ‘good’ volume of data looks like. This is even more unlikely for international PPC, where campaigns are often very granular, multi-language, and designed to include lots of long tail keywords (which by definition do not have much volume).

When it comes to secondary data, how relevant can the corroborative data be? For maximum relevance, taking CLIENT X as an example, we’d have to assume that the algorithm is quickly assimilating data from CLIENT X’s direct competitors and using that to better inform the bid management strategy.

Surely that kind of cross-fertilized data would power all auction players’ bid tactics, creating a loop where no player has an advantage?

If competitor data is not used, then what kind of secondary data is sufficiently relevant to power good AI decisions. This would easier if we knew definitively how the rules of the algorithms were constructed, but of course, we never will.

Time for a reality check

To recap, if we knew that 10, 100 or even 1,000 interactions were enough to deliver superior efficiency via AI, we’d be delighted. Campaigns could be planned and executed to use the optimum blend of AI and human capabilities, with best results for ad platforms, agencies and clients. AI could focus on brand and category level interactions, with human oversight and detailed management of long tail.

It seems unlikely that adequate transparency as to how AI actually works, how much data is needed, how the ‘rules’ work, will be forthcoming unless significant changes in business models or practices occur.

Instead, AI is optimistically overhyped as digital’s next big thing while blithely ignoring the basic premise of AI and the current practicalities of both domestic and international digital paid media

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What do dolphins eat? Lessons from how kids search

What do dolphins eat? Lessons from how kids search

I recently came across a couple of fascinating papers (here and here) all about how kids search. I found it fascinating in its own right, and also found it thought-provoking in the new ways of searching it showed that had simply never occurred to me. Here are some of the most interesting things I found (though it’s remarkably accessible, and you should totally read the whole thing).

The researchers studied children aged 7-11, and of varying degrees of experience and comfort with the web and with computer-based research. In the course of their study, they identified seven “search roles” (almost like personas) that children display when seeking information:

Many of these are fairly self-explanatory on the surface (though it’s always interesting to read the details) and you may even identify with some of them yourself, as an adult. One of the most interesting to me was what they called the visual searcher.

People don’t all think like you

This was a mode of search that I had rarely found myself in, and had barely even considered could be a thing outside of certain forms of specific image search (e.g. [microsoft logo]). What they found was a cohort of children who turned first to image search for a wide range of their information-gathering needs. In some cases, this appeared to be motivated by discomfort with text and with reading, or at least with scanning and reading fast. In others, though, it seemed to be about veracity and trusting only what you have seen with your own eyes. For those of us who know people who write on the internet, maybe this isn’t the craziest instinct.

One example that has stayed in my mind since I read about it is the experience of certain kids when asked to answer the question what do dolphins eat?

The anecdote that stood out for me was the child who not only turned to image search to answer the question, but did the one-word image search [dolphin] and then scrolled down through pages of results until, having found a picture of a dolphin eating something, turned to the researcher to declare triumphantly that dolphins eat fish.

The lesson here is clearly about the power of observing real-world users. This is the kind of insight that is hard to glean from the raw data of keyword research. Even if you figure out that there is image search volume for [dolphin], you’re some way from the insight that someone is searching for information about what they eat.

This era (the research was published in 2010) was marked by a wide range of qualitative research coming out of Google. I might dive deeper into some other research in another post, but for now, onto the next insight.

There are searches that are hard, and people are failing to complete them

In my presentation and post the next trillion searches, I talked about the incremental search volume available in the coming years as technology progresses to the point that it can satisfy intents, and answer questions that current technology cannot:

One of the things I didn’t talk about in that post was the times that current searcher intent is not fulfilled even though the information is out there and today’s technology is more than capable of finding it. To understand more about what I mean here, let’s take another look at search challenges for kids:

For a start, it’s worth noting that Google can’t answer this query outright. Unlike with more and more factual queries, Google is not able to return a one-box with any answer, never mind the correct answer.

Unsurprisingly, kids struggled with this one (as I suspect would many adults). It tests their ability to string together a sequence of queries, each one building on the last, to discover the answer at the end of the rainbow. And along the way, they have to be sceptical of the information they come across and not get distracted by the pots of fools’ gold:

At certain points along the way, our intrepid searcher may come across pages that purport to give the answer, but which in fact do not for a variety of reasons (not least, as with the example above, that this information can fall easily out of date).

So it combines the ability to break down a question into structured thoughts, achieve complex stringing together of queries, and avoid pitfalls of incorrect and misleading information along the way. How many adults do you know who might trip up on this?

Amazingly, some of the older kids in the study managed to find the correct answer.

If you have kids in your life, try this out

If you have kids, or you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in search to sit and watch them take on relatively undirected searching tasks while you watch. I think it’s pretty educational (for them!), but I also think there’s a good chance you will learn a good deal. In particular, since this research was done in 2010, it appears to have been entirely desktop-driven. I’d be interested in the mobile-first version if anyone wants to run it and write it up!

Anyway, it turns out my kids are (roughly) in the right age range – at the time of experimenting, my daughter was just turned 8, and my son was 5. My daughter was therefore in the age range, and it was interesting to see how she fared:

Rachel aged 8

She found it fairly easy to find out what dolphins eat. Google coped fine with her misspelling of “dolfin” and she wasn’t fazed by the results coming back for the correct spelling. She didn’t bother reading the “showing results for…” section (nor the paid ad, natch) and skipped straight to the one-box. She scanned it without reading aloud and then answered the question: telling me some things dolphins eat. In the process she went from an unmotivated searcher to a motivated searcher: she got intrigued by what a cephalopod is (it is mentioned in the one-box) and set of on an unprompted search to find out.

The next task was too much for her. She’s British, so I decided to go with prime minister, as I didn’t think she’d know what or who the vice president was. It turns out she wasn’t entirely clear on what a prime minister is either, searching for primeinister. She composed a search that could have worked as a stand-alone query: Google corrected it to [when is the prime minister’s birthday next year]. In fact, Google couldn’t answer this directly, and since it wasn’t quite the actual answer to the question as asked, she got stuck at this point, unable to structure the query quite how she wanted it.

Actually, she probably went slightly too far in the first jump. She probably should have gone with something like [when is the prime minister’s birthday] and followed with [what day is <date> next year] but she didn’t make that logical leap unprompted.

Even though my son was a little young, we thought it’d be fun to see how he fared on the “dolphin” question. The date one was a little too much of a stretch:

Adam aged 5

Interestingly, he spelled “dolfin” the same way as his sister (this must be our failing as parents!) but also went with the phonetic “wat” instead of “what”. Nonetheless, Google was quite happy interpreting his search as [what do dolphins eat] so he got the same one-box as his sister.

Just like her, he skipped everything else on the page to go straight to the one-box. This is probably not that surprising in either of their cases – it’s most likely what adults do, and it’s clearly designed to draw attention with the bright image high up on the page.

What was interesting and different was that he didn’t read the whole thing. At the time of the experiment, he was obviously a less confident reader, and preferred to read aloud rather than in his head. He didn’t scan the one-box for the answer and report it, but interestingly, nor did he read the one-box aloud. Instead, he read only the words in bold.

This isn’t the most obviously crazy strategy (at least in the mind of a 5 year old): it isn’t crazy to think that Google would have bolded the words that are the answers to the question you asked, though search professionals know that’s not what’s really going on here. It started okay but then went a little bit off the rails. Here’s what he read out as the answer to [what do dolphins eat?]:

Fishes
Herring
Killer whales
Mammals

He got a bit confused at “killer whales” and knew he was off-track, but wasn’t sure what had gone wrong.

I think the lesson here is that even though people may primarily use the obvious tools and affordances presented to them, they will also make potentially incorrect assumptions and risk being led astray by well-intentioned sign-posts in the UI.

Some other kids’ misconceptions

One child apparently thought that the autosuggest was a list of answers to the query he was typing. That doesn’t always work perfectly:

But to be fair, it’s not immediately obvious that UX like “people also ask” (which does come with embedded answers where possible):

Is entirely different to related searches which are not necessarily even suggested sensible questions:

And finally, to end on a light-hearted anecdote from the research, probably my favourite story was the child (not mine!) who looked for both dolphins and information about the Vice President of the United States on the SpongeBob SquarePants website.

Presumably unsuccessfully, at least in the case of the VP’s birthday.

If you liked this post, check out the whole session from my recent SearchLove talk in San Diego (all you need to do is create a Distilled account to access it for free). You can also check out the slides from my presentation below. Enjoy!

WATCH THE VIDEO

SearchLove San Diego 2018 | Will Critchlow | From the Horse’s Mouth: What We Can Learn from Google’s Own Words from Distilled

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How To Create Content That Really Converts

How To Create Content That Really Converts

“Content” is a catch-all term when it comes to internet marketing, covering anything that isn’t explicit advertising.

I use the word explicit deliberately. Content is, of course, designed to advertise a brand, but in a more subtle and accessible way. Indeed, this form of advertising is known to some as passive marketing, as opposed to active marketing, such as traditional advertising.

I prefer a different definition. Traditional advertising, whether it be commercials, pop-up ads or sponsored links, interrupts what you’re doing, demands your attention, and gets in the way. In that way, this can be thought of as intrusive marketing. As a business, you are going to the consumer. And they hate it.

By contrast, content marketing allows people to find it when looking for answers to their problems online. For that reason, we can think of content marketing as a form of organic marketing. The consumer comes to you.

Are you pushing messages to your target audience or attracting them?

The primary way this work is through the other intention of content marketing: content marketing is designed to help. Whether that’s through advice, recommendations, reviews, how to’s, expert knowledge or more eclectic ideas such as panel discussions. The list goes on and on. But every piece of content used for content marketing is designed to solve a problem.

When people look for the solution, they find the content marketing, which introduces them to the business, and when done well, encourages them to buy from that company.

Three Intentions of Content

Awareness – of the brand, the resident expertise, the product and so forth
Assistance – with problems people commonly face within the world of the product or service
Conversion – encouraging those people to see the upside of the offer, and buy

The first two parts are easy – awareness will happen naturally as a result of assistance. But conversion is a different animal altogether, and requires a careful balancing act.

After all, give too much away and there is no need to buy. Explain too little and you only frustrate your reader. Be too promotional and they feel tricked into reading an ad, and will punish you for it.

Strike balance between the amount of content to be shared and avoid being overly promotional. It’s difficult but you can do it.

You need to strike the balance, and that means any promotional aspect to the content must be storified and subconscious. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

Here are my five golden rules to creating content that really converts.

1. Feel Pain and Build Trust

We spend our lives trying to avoid pain. It’s the reason consumerism has taken over the globe. We see products as solutions to our problems, and ultimately, all our problems give us pain. It’s why we refer to consumer challenges as ‘pain points’.

You might think that pain isn’t something you should be inflicting if you want to sell products, and you’re right. Narrowly, but right. You shouldn’t be vindictive, or upsetting, or controversial in an attempt to hurt people. That will always fail.

But empathy, empathy is the foundation of sales. And by telling the story of pain, by evoking it instead of inflicting it, you can create a sense of kinship with your reader.

Let them know you care about them.

Pain is real, and it is human. No machine feels pain. Anything that makes your content look written by a real, genuine human is good. So what pain does your product or service alleviate? That’s where you start. That’s your strategy. Evoke that pain. Tell the story of that pain.

When people see that you understand personally, viscerally, what that pain, frustration, torment or insecurity feels like? They will start to trust you. And once you start to develop trust, you can start to convert sales.

2. Gain Respect By Watching Your Neighbors

Always keep your eyes on the market changes

In order for people to trust you they have to respect you, and to respect you, they need to feel like you’re an industry leader. Thought leadership is an increasingly common trend, and that’s all about getting out in front of competitors and defining a compelling, hopeful vision for the future of the business you’re in.

So, if you want to be both trusted and respected, and you’ll need to be if people are going to buy, then you need to be on top of your competitors at all times. You need your finger on the pulse of your industry and you need to be current. Watch out the market changes.

#AmazonGo opens on Monday, January 22 in Seattle. Get the app to enter the store. See you soon! https://t.co/jt7quQ4rke pic.twitter.com/shIyrifZyk

— Amazon.com (@amazon) January 21, 2018

You do not want to be the last one to know right! if your competitor is opening a new branch few blocks away from you.

That isn’t just about branch opening, share prices or product releases either. You need to be attuned to their communication. It’s a sad fact that every writer feels they can see the problems in another’s work, but for you that can be a blessing and a guide. Seeing what they’re doing, whether it’s good or bad, can give you something to emulate or something to develop. You can do what they do, or differentiate yourself depending on how successful it is.

I’m talking about their offer. I’m talking about their framing. Their call to action. Their landing page design. Their pitch. The way the content flows. It’s all there to be understood, you just have to analyse it, and with enough regularity that you don’t fall behind. This is a rapidly evolving discipline.

Follow the trends quickly and aggressively until you’re caught up on them, then take the understanding that’s given you and forge ahead. Lead the field. Consumers will follow the leader.

3. Tell A Compelling Story With Catharsis

This is everything, really. Anything that’s ever been successful did so because it told a story people wanted to hear. Every successful brand tells a good story, so make yours one of them.

4 Key elements to build a thoughtful, unique and emotional brand story:

Find your common ground – Know your key consumer insights and where to connect them.
Know your origin – Why you started the business and what is the main issue you are trying to solve.
Keep it positive – Be consistent and positive throughout the journey.
Stay on brand – All sort of visible perception of your market efforts and outreach are aligned with your brand.

Storytelling allows you to make your promotion indirect, and subconscious. It allows people to create a distance that allows them to invest more readily. Do you remember what I said about pain, and how our lives are spent avoiding it? That’s why we don’t want direct advertising, but seeing someone else struggle is the basis of every movie or TV show we’ve ever watched.

4 elements to tell a compelling brand story.

The Greeks invented theatre as a way to separate people from their emotions, so they could watch their pain simulated at a safe distance, and experience the release, or catharsis, that comes from their suffering ending. This “feeling box” has evolved, but it’s most concisely captured in Inception. He talks about how positive motivation is the most powerful way to implant an idea. Reconciliation with an estranged parent is a powerful motivator.

Of course, your motivator may not be THAT powerful, but you’re not in a conceptual sci fi blockbuster either – you’re trying to sell a product.

So put a cipher for your audience at the centre of the story – this can be a previous client, an apocryphal person, or the writer themselves. Explain how they feel, what they want, what they struggle with, and how the product came along and lifted that curse, provided the release from pain, the catharsis. Build up the emotions then release them.

One of the most fundamental examples is an extraordinary proposition for an advert: transform hate into love. Take all the worst parts of something and change them, and the world, for the better. Reframe hate as a seed from which love can grow. Of course, it was Honda.

Hate is one of the most powerful and destructive and upsetting emotions to evoke, and this ad makes it light and airy and constructive and positive. That’s a journey, and that’s what story is. Change.

4. Use Emotional Intelligence To Convert

Consumers make their decisions based on emotion. So all the cool facts in the world won’t matter if you don’t feel it. That’s thanks to something called the Basal Ganglia, which responds to what we feel but only communicates with the GI tract, and is totally disconnected from the rational part of the brain. It’s why we have to feel things.

So what are you waiting for? Start to evoke their emotion now!

My favourite feeling is frisson. A sudden rush of excitement, which also comes with a sense of recognition. How many times have you thought or heard, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it?” That.

By using evoking pain using storytelling, by having a unique perspective on that struggle through your thought leadership, and by providing a solution that is genuinely helpful, nurturing and altruistic, you become the modern equivalent of a spirit guide. The only difference is the language you use.

Which shoe looks more premium to you?

Contrasts that create surprise. These juxtapositions are the essence of a joke. It leads you down a path of expectation and flips it at the end. More on that here.

Be surprising, and you can shake people out of apathy and get them paying attention. There’s nothing worse than having your expectations fulfilled with no imagination.

There’s a totally fake quote out there, that Henry Ford said if he’d have given people what they WANTED, he’d have given them faster horses. That still exists because it’s such a wonderful image for us. But you really can’t ask them what they want and give it to them. There has to be more.

Instead, Ford invented the car. That’s the level of “wow” you should aspire to when revealing the twist in your tale. Your solution should be so beyond the initial crisis that it solves problems people didn’t even know they had. Like how buying a GoPro makes you an elite adventurer by selling you a lifestyle.

Surprise, recognition, frisson.

5. Use Testimonial Or Case Studies

Testimonials, comments and reviews matters!

Reality TV isn’t reality. Documentaries are edited for story. But we LOVE them, and we love them because we get to believe they’re real. As the X-Files told us, we want to believe.

The case study, and even better, the testimonial, are the ‘documentary’ of content marketing. They can be more powerful and more compelling than more general content because they’re written about or by people who already fit the consumer profile for the product.

What your client would talk about you?

What’s more, they storify their struggles and your solutions, making your arguments for you.

The authenticity is immediate and undeniable. Third parties have no reason to shill your product, so they must be responding out of genuine gratitude with a genuine recommendation.

But how do you get the most from them?

When you reach out to get testimonials and reviews, you need to provide prompts that will get your writers “on the rails” – give them a short feedback form. Ask:

Did they like it? What did they like the most?
How do they evaluate your service? Have they used competitors?
Would they recommend the product or service?

Then you can use pull-quotes, like movie posters, from the people who submit feedback.

If you need more control than that, or you work with larger clients who don’t have time to rub your belly in public, you can use case studies of your work on behalf of clients, storifying the process and inputting the hard facts into a classic structure will help you spin thrilling tales of your derring do to your audiences, without it ever feeling like you’re just showing off.

These forms of storytelling can vastly increase the confidence of a prospect on your product or service. After all, people sell to people is the oldest maxim in the marketing handbook.

The Go-Home

Remember, the call to action needs to fit the tone of the piece. You can’t write a beautiful and affecting and genuinely helpful piece of content then put a flashing BuyNow.Gif at the end. It won’t work and it’ll sour the whole experience.

Be helpful, be valuable. Be expert. You will gain trust and respect, which will make converting to sales gentler and easier.

And remember, this is a process. You need to constantly evaluate your content, using A/B testing, Google Analytics and other tools to track how successful your different ideas and approaches are, and make improvements based on data. All of this is just advice, and you still have to find the right way to execute it. I wish you luck.

Had a success story? Put in our comments section below!

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Checklist: Are You Providing What Your Readers Love Reading?

The ultimate checklist for every content marketer.
Learn what makes your readers tick
Get more new readers and traffic with this step-by-step checklist
20 tips included to help you create compelling content that readers love

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Keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization means that you have various blog posts or articles on your site that can rank for the same search query in Google. If you optimize posts or articles for similar search queries, they’re eating away each other’s chances to rank. Here, I’ll explain why keyword cannibalism is bad for your SEO, how you can recognize keyword cannibalization and how to solve it.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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What is keyword cannibalization?

If you optimize your articles for similar terms, you might suffer from keyword cannibalization: you’ll be devouring your own chances to rank in Google. Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get away with 3.

Why is keyword cannibalism bad for SEO?

If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the same topic. In that case, Google isn’t able to distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. As a result, they’ll probably both rank lower. Therefore our SEO analysis will give a red bullet whenever you optimize a post for a focus keyword you’ve used before.

But, keyword cannibalism can also occur if you optimize posts for focus keywords that are not exactly, but almost the same. For instance, I wrote two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. The first post is optimized for ‘does readability rank’, while the second post is optimized for the focus keyword ‘readability ranking factor’. The posts have a slightly different angle but are still very similar. For Google, it is hard to figure out which of the two article is most important. As a result, you could end up ranking low with both articles.

How to recognize keyword cannibalization?

Checking whether or not your site suffers from keyword cannibalism is rather easy. You should search your site for any specific keyword you suspect might have multiple results. In my case, I’ll google site:yoast.com readability ranks. The first two results are the articles I suspected to suffer from cannibalization.

Googling ‘site:domain.com “keyword” will give you an easy answer to the question whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism.

Solve keyword cannibalization with internal linking

You can help Google to figure out which article is most important, by setting up a decent internal linking structure.  You should link from posts that are less important, to posts that are the most important to you. That way, Google can figure out (by following links) which ones you want to pop up highest in the search engines.

Your internal linking structure could solve a part of your keyword cannibalism problems. You should think about which article is most important to you and link from the less important long tail articles, to your most important article. Read more about how to do this in my article about ranking with cornerstone content.

Solve keyword cannibalism by combining articles

In many cases, the best way to solve the keyword cannibalization problem is by combining articles. Find the articles that focus on similar search queries. If two articles are both attracting the same audience and are basically telling the same story, you should combine them. Rewrite the two post into one amazing, kickass article. That’ll really help with your ranking (Google loves lengthy and well-written content) and solve your keyword cannibalization problem. That’s exactly what I should do with my two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. In the end, you’ll delete one of the two articles and adapt the other one. And don’t forget: don’t just press the delete button; always make sure to redirect the post you delete.

Keyword cannibalism will affect growing websites

If your site gets bigger, your chances increase to face keyword cannibalism on your own website. You’ll be writing about your favorite subjects and without even knowing it, you’ll write articles that end up rather similar. That’s what happened to me too. Once in a while, you should check the keywords you want to rank for the most. Make sure to check whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism. You’ll probably need to make some changes in your site structure or to rewrite some articles every now and then.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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Thin Content – What It Is and How To Fix It

Thin Content – What It Is and How To Fix It

You’ve optimized your content with SEO. Now you’re definitely going to rank for your keywords. But it didn’t happen. You can’t seem to find your content anywhere.

It happened to me and that sucked.

You’re probably wondering why this happened after you’ve put in so much effort to optimize your content with SEO. Is it a content issue?

The unfortunate answer is – yes, it is a content issue. Quite a while back, Google released an update named Google Panda, and this adorable black and white creature is the one who is penalizing you due to your content quality.

Google does have a very good reason for penalizing websites with low-quality or “thin” content. Prior to the update, short and spammy pages were a common sight. This defeats Google’s purpose since providing valuable information to users is the goal.

As a content creator, you would want to provide genuinely useful content to users, but there could be issues holding you back that you were not aware of. To rank well and help users see you and get to know you, you would need to avoid thin content.

What is Thin Content?

Thin content is what Google considers to be of little value. You’ve probably come across a few when you were looking for some answers and came across pages that did not answer your question. It’s quite easy to identify thin content:

Not original or unique content
A low word count
Comes from an external sources
The topic is only covered in a shallow manner
Doesn’t seem to serve any purpose
Has plenty of spelling or grammatical mistakes
Is generally not well written
Packed with keywords
Is not very informative

While it is not always the intention of the writers to produce thin content, there’s just no way for a search engine to understand that. The only thing we can do is to take necessary steps to avoid it.

Is Duplicate Content The Same As Thin Content?

There are several types of duplicate content. The first one is complete copies of a page but has multiple URLs in one website or even multiple websites that always bring you back to the same page. Since Google views every URL as a unique one, every copy that is found will cause your content to be considered thinner.

The first is a complete copy. These are completely identical content that is pasted across different pages or websites. Every copy that exists will be penalized and Panda will chew you up like bamboo stalks.

The next one is partial copies of the content across multiple pages or websites. While it isn’t completely identical, if the copied parts are the core message, you would definitely get swiped by the Panda.

And then we have pages that jam-packed with ads, which results in less unique content. I’m talking about pages that have ads screaming at you from most conceivable angles. If you’re looking to benefit from the maximum amount of ads while getting your page to rank, then I have bad news for you.

There has been news of an unconfirmed Google ranking update called Fred who shreds websites with low-value content and prioritizes earning revenue. Sites supposedly targeted by Fred reported a strong traffic decline from Google organic search. We’re talking about 50% to 90% of traffic drop. Besides obvious ads, other types of revenue generation like affiliate models and lead generation are also said to be affected. So don’t think that Panda is the only one out to get you. If you want your pages to be considered high quality, you must have at least the same amount ratio of unique content compared to the number of ads. Above all else, your content must be aimed at helping users because that’s what they’re supposed to be for.

So, thin content and duplicate content are not the same. However, they’re both content issues that would lower the quality of your pages and ultimately cause you to be taken less seriously by Google. And that’s definitely something we don’t want.

It’s Sapping Your SEO Health

Search engine bots are entirely different entities. They don’t function like us and therefore will not understand and categorize websites the same way. They figure out what your website is all about by crawling the content.

The best way to establish authority and credibility on your chosen topic or industry is to have your SEO content rank high for it. The more your content focuses on your niche, the easier it is for the crawlers to index and categorize and decide how relevant and serious you are for it.

The opposite is also true. Thin content is a content issue and would render your SEO efforts less than effective. It also slows down the user journey and makes it harder for them to find what they are looking for.

How To Fix Thin Content

So you may have found some content on your site that would qualify as thin or duplicated content. But relax, it doesn’t mean that you have to be ready to destroy them on sight. While deletion is an acceptable method, there are also different ways to deal with thin content, such as:

1) Expand

Imagine your content as a scrumptious dish you are trying to cook that will appeal to not only users but also Google. If your dish is lackluster and or dull, you can choose to improvise and expand your dish through more ingredients that compliment the dish and makes it better. For example, if your product page is thin, you can add unique content in the form of a detailed explanation. Your readers would be able to find information on your page without having to leave the page. This would be useful to your readers and helps make your site look good in Google’s eyes. It would probably increase the chances of you making a sale consumer-wise too.

2) Rewrite

Sometimes, your recipe may already have all the important ingredients for the dish but it could have more to do with how it looks like as a final product. So what you can do is take all the information that you already have and present it in a manner that is more easily understood and more purposeful. Essentially, you rewrite it. Make sure it’s well-written with relevant information and not just keyword packed.

3) Remove

If none of those works for you, then perhaps it’s time to consider that there might be a problem with the recipe. Why not try replacing it with another one that could work better. For your content, this means to scrap the whole thing and write in new content. After all, your dish must appeal to readers for you to rank high.

4) Expand

If all else fails, then you can always give up and consign your dish to the bin. Rather than letting your content issues bog down your ranking, it’s better to remove it. However, do it with a lot of care. Removing huge sections of your site would be the equivalent of amputating your body parts and may cause negative SEO effects instead.

Tools At Your Disposal

There are some tools that can help identify and prevent duplicated and thin content.

1) Grammarly

This is AI-powered and is used commonly to help detect writing mistakes. Simply enter your content and it will function as a proofreader and a plagiarism checker. The proofreader would make your content that much more reader-friendly and the plagiarism checker can crosscheck your content against billions of web pages and detect if there are plagiarized passages. Fix the plagiarized passages and your content issues will become less of a target to Panda.

2) Copyscape

It’s nifty for pages that are already published. Just enter your URL and Copyscape can tell you if anyone has copies of your web pages online, and if you’ve plagiarised off someone’s content.The free option is limited to checking these but it’s a convenient tool to have at your disposal.

3) SEOPressor

Not to toot our own horn but it’s a great tool to have during your writing process. So if your aim is to expand, rewrite, or replace your thin content, you can give this a try. Just for Panda avoidance, SEOPressor helps you keep your content length, keywords to content ratio, and readability ideal. I’m a fan of preventing issues and with this tool, you address problems before it becomes one.

4) Content SEO Checker

It’s essentially a free version of SEOPressor albeit with fewer functions. It’s more than sufficient if you want to compose your content from scratch and head to a mostly Panda-free zone.

Keeping Your Website Safe from Panda

The goal is to give a great impression to Google that your content is rich and unique. There aren’t any tools that can be considered a thin content tool in the sense that there isn’t yet a machine that can help you to produce unique content. However, you can find a duplicate content checker quite easily. We really only need time, experience, and research to help identify thin and duplicate content and make them better. It is also in your best interest to understand that Google wants to present the best and most useful answers to users.

To combat possible future updates, you can also ensure your site is engaging and of high quality. Creating great content may even help you to rank better!

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18 Essential SEO Tools To Optimize Your Website

An up-to-date list of SEO tools for every marketer to optimize your website.
Identify 18 practical tools that save your time to optimize manually
Get more traffic and higher ranking with these tools
Discover the benefits of every tool to help strengthen your SEO strategy

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