6 Steps to Effortless SEO

What’s the easiest way to make fast cash with search engine optimization (SEO)?

If we knew that, we would be too rich to lower ourselves to write blog posts like this.

That said, we were not exactly the last kid picked for Team SEO, either. We do know a few things. And here they are. Or at least some of them. Not gonna give away the store, folks!

1. Be Shockingly Original

Noise is flooding cyberspace. So many different attention-grabbers vie for a limited slice of the consumer attention span. To stand out, you must shock in some way. Maybe this means creating a wild YouTube video. Maybe it means simply just being amazingly fantastic at what you do. Or maybe it means cornering a bizarre little niche of the internet (legal, please!).

 

2. Don’t Go it Alone.

Don’t be fooled. The web is not heartless. Its currency is human relationships. This is important. It doesn’t matter whether you have the most shockingly cool content in the universe. If you can’t get people to see that content, you lose. Good SEO can drive traffic to a particular site. But ultimately you must have something people will want or will get use out of.

 

3. The Key is Keywords.

Whether you love Mother Google or live in fear of her, she rules the roost here in cyberspace. To get Mother Google to lay her golden eggs for you (continuing the “ruling the roost” metaphor here), work on your keyword optimization. What language will your potential customers use in Google searches? Build content and other artifacts around those key terms.

 

4. Get Feedback.

Is your SEO campaign working? Who knows. You must measure it and test it and then measure and test it again. Without quantification, you will be essentially shooting in the dark.

 

5. Don’t Do It All – and Don’t Do It All Once.

You could go crazy reading all the SEO blogs and tactics and strategies and techniques and “do nots” and “urgent-to-do-nows” and so forth. Don’t succumb to analysis paralysis. Just get out there and pick an SEO approach, and stay with it for a while. Switching horses midstream is no way to make progress.

 

6. When in Doubt, Simplify.

Remember the old Aesop’s fable of The Fox and The Hedgehog? Every morning, the hedgehog would come out of his little home, and the fox would hunt him down. The wily fox tried hundreds of tricks to nab his prey, but every time, the hedgehog rolled up into a ball, and his prickly little quills repulsed the fox. The moral is that the fox knows hundreds of little things… while the hedgehog knows one Big Thing. Find your one Big Thing. Great SEO will follow.

Saying No to Unfair SEO Client Demands

As an entrepreneur and SEO professional, you crave credibility and good relationships. This is all well and good. To nourish any business relationship, you should go “the extra mile” – not just because it’s savvy business but also because it’s the right thing to do.

On the other hand, we’ve all had hair-pulling situations with SEO clients. Phone calls in the middle on the night requesting next day edits on a random white paper. Mandatory six-way conference calls that meander and have no point. Heated e-mails randomly directed your way.

So what should you do in these kinds of situations? More importantly, how do you determine when to give in to weird client requests/demands and when to jump ship?

Here are some good working tips:

1.         Get opinions from other people whom you trust.

Often, we get so knee-deep into these SEO situations that we cannot see the forest for the trees. Talk to friends. Get an objective read on the situation. Take yourself out of the equation to arrive at a more professional and resourceful decision about how to proceed.

 

2.         If you decide to break ties with a client, do so professionally and honor the terms of any contract or agreement, if at all possible.

Always be a good guy (or gal). Even if a client has behaved unprofessionally or even abusively, that doesn’t give you an excuse to return the favor.

 

3.         Remember: A bird in hand is worth two in the bush – not six or seven.

Sure, it’s a pain to lose any client – and not just because it throws your budget out of whack. No one likes dispensing bad news. But beware of the tendency to overvalue what you already have. Sure, an abusive client may provide a steady stream of work. But every ounce of energy you waste attending to the abuser’s tyrannical demands is one less ounce you have to lavish on a new prospect. 

This tendency to overvalue current assets is all too human, by the way. For instance, who hasn’t had a friend who has been mired in a terrible relationship? This person will admit that he/she should get out of it but ultimately refuses to break things off because of a fear that he/she will never again find anyone “that good.” It’s nonsense. But sometimes you can’t see it if you’re too close to it. That’s why reliable outside feedback is so key.

 

4.         Serenity now.

To paraphrase (and butcher) the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the SEO clients I cannot change but want to keep; the courage to change/get out of dysfunctional SEO client relationships I can change; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Well, that’s really clumsy and ineloquent, isn’t it? Hopefully, it still drives home the point!

SEO: If you can't do it at all, what do you do?

SEOs typically find themselves between Scylla and Charybdis. On one hand, you absolutely, desperately, 100% must leverage the power of the web for your business through some dynamic SEO strategy. On the other hand, you can’t possibly master all of the tactical nuances of things like Facebook marketing, twittering, website building, PPC advertising, and the like.

Unless you have literally years to study – and a fantastic set of teachers to pull you along – you are going to need professional SEO help, at least if you want to sustain a strong online presence for more than just a few months.

If you have tons of cash on hand, no problem. Hire a big SEO firm. Your team can hire twitterers and bloggers for you, build your website, and setup your e-Commerce store. 

BUT — what if you have no capital and a dearth of experience? Should you give up on the SEO game? Absolutely not. But you need to husband your resources and use them sparingly.

Identify a game you can win. Can you become the number one twitterer in your niche? If you write about diets, chances are that you can’t. If you write about ichthyology, perhaps you can.

Can you win a keyword war for a term like “New York City Travel?” Maybe – but it will likely take you years. You probably would be better off shooting for something more doable and gettable. Setting the terms for victory is critical for achieving it. If you want to dive deep into this concept, check out the legendary Chinese war text, the Sun Tzu.

Practically speaking, consider the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” Really think out what you want to achieve from SEO. Get your thoughts down on paper. Pass them by people whom you trust who have industry experience. And give yourself the opportunity for small wins as well as big wins. For instance, instead of looking to make $3,000 a month within three months, look to get 50 visitors a day to your site, and then work out from there. Relish each increment of success – this will motivate you to work harder and grow bigger.

Not to confuse things… but don’t get so caught up in the “measure twice, cut once” mindset that you don’t get out there and DO something.  Your needs and knowledge will evolve as you move forward. So strike a balance between strategizing and doing, between taking projects on yourself and outsourcing them to people.

There is no magic formula. So prepare to experiment and give yourself breathing room to fail… a lot of room!

Short-term SEO – Tactical Shots to Generate Traffic Spikes

Enough with the schtick about persistence, dedication, strategy, and patience. You want a fast acting SEO solution and you want it bad. While battle proven SEOs tend to frown upon the shortsighted path, every once in a while it’s nice to break down and give in and do something crazy. Kind of like cheating on your diet with a nice thick slice of chocolate cake.

So let’s get to cheating with these short-term SEO blasts!

 

1. Extra, extra, extra!

Want to give your blog a shot in the arm? Pick a super popular news story and blog like crazy about it. You need a unique angle. Add pictures and diagrams. Throw in a home-made game based on the story if you are a programmer and have tons of time on your hands. Topics should have broad appeal – e.g. the latest Lindsay Lohan DUI – or they can be ultra-specific to your niche. For instance, if you run a blog about chemical engineering (how boring) and some dude mixes up a new polymer at M.I.T., blog about that. Add relevant pics and have some personality.

REMEMBER: If people want to read an AP story, they will read the AP story, not your knock-off version.

 

2. Create something ridiculous 

Do you have an absolutely preposterous idea for a short YouTube video? How about a cell phone app, blog post, or even website idea that has no long-term value but may have some serious shock value? For instance, record a video of yourself jamming out to Radiohead while wearing a bunny costume in the hope that the folks at FunnyorDie will pick it up. Or create a 4-page report on how best to pet your dog.

The key: keep it short, snappy, and attention grabbing.

 

3. A public stunt

Any day can be April Fool’s Day, if you’ve got the right tools and imagination. Keep it legal and clean. But don’t be afraid to push the envelope. For some examples of how to do crazy stunts right, check out the early work of Tom Green and of course Ali G — a.k.a. Borat, a.k.a. Bruno. You don’t need to be hilarious. But you need to shock and attract visitors. The stunt should be believable, outrageous, and ideally involve some celebrity or politician.

Another great source for inspiration — the online magazine, The Onion.

These shot-in-the-arm SEO ideas probably won’t generate long-term revenue or build your business. But you never know! Remember, people out there are overloaded and have almost zero attention span. To break through this cloud of inattention, you need to yell really loudly or at least wear a crazy suit with $$$ signs all over it like that guy who used to do those commercials about getting free money from the government.

A Brilliant SEO Tip for Getting Links

Links. They are a key currency for any great SEO campaign. But how do you get them? Who do you get them from? How much time will it take you? And how do you maximize the investment of your resources so that you get the best, most SEO friendly links for the amount of time/money/energy you invest?

Obviously, one post is far too small a place to tackle these macroscopic issues. But we DO have a cool tip that not many people know about… that could really help you develop your SEO link campaign.

It is surprising. It is simple. Here is the idea: write reviews of websites and blogs (PR>3) that could be useful to your visitors. Use these reviews to fish for links.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Pick out sites that you love. These should be related to your business or core competency. For instance, if you run a flower website, review other flower and gardening websites. Pick carefully. Don’t (necessarily) go for the big fish. Sift through the net and find high quality sites that are relatively undiscovered.
  2. Write positive but honest descriptions of these sites. Use high demand/low supply keywords for a boost from the SEs. The reviews should be useful and not too salesy. But they are link bait, so don’t be too negative, either.
  3. Structure your reviews, so that they are “one of a piece.” Create a systematic guide to websites you like and that might be relevant to your business. Don’t just think about this as just an SEO mechanism. Think of it as a cool way to add real value to your website and to the internet as a whole. In our flower example, for instance, become almost like a mini directory for great flower websites.
  4. Once your reviews are live and SEO’d and optimized for their specific keywords, contact the owners of the websites you have reviewed. Write an email (personalized a little bit) explaining what you’ve done. Say that you’d love to do a link exchange. But make it clear that your review will stay up, even if you don’t get a reciprocal link. This is key. Come from a place of real altruism.
  5. Not everyone will respond. That’s okay. But the people who will respond may not just give you a link but may also give you a big shout-out or even devote a blog post to your site, assuming you’ve created something of value yourself. (Or something addictive!)
  6. If the site owner wants you to make corrections or changes to your review, do so within reason.
  7. As always, when it comes to good SEO, be nice and be real. Genuinely try to help your visitors and other people in your niche, and you’ll find that altruistic enthusiasm replicated.

Great Read: How to Get an Influencer's Attention

Every so often I read a blog post or article that really impresses me, and that happened this morning with Tamar Weinberg’s (@tamar on Twitter) post called How to Get an Influencer’s Attention over at Techipedia. She obviously put a lot of time into it, and received back a lot of noteworthy responses. Not only are the responses great, but it also gives us a great list of Influencer’s! A few of my favorites:

Seth Godin

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan, and his response doesn’t surprise me because it is in-line with the same message he gives to his audiences:

PR people shouldn’t try to get my attention.

Readers with something to say should email me.

Marketers should make great products that loyal readers or long-time friends or trusted colleagues choose to tell me about!

Pete Cashmore
I completely agree with this one as well, don’t waste your time crafting a huge email, just get your point across quickly.

I think keeping it short and to the point is most likely to get a response — having a clear message or request that gets the idea across in a couple sentences. Everybody is short on time these days, and the more succinctly you can express yourself, the better.

There are a ton more responses, and a great summary at the end from Tamar. Read the rest at Techipedia!

Finding Motivation When You’re "Not Feeling It"

SEO is rough, let’s face it. One minute, you feel like you’ve found the key to long-term wealth and high keyword rankings. The next minute, you read an article that makes you rethink your entire plan. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotional roller coaster — changes in attitude that can disrupt your business plan and leave you feeling stressed out and constantly panicked that you are missing out on “the latest thing.”

To top it off, no one really knows “everything” about this industry, and every industry certainly has new ways to pull in traffic and conversions. To succeed at this game, you need to persist through inevitable failures. But how do you find the motivation?

#1. Slow and steady wins the race

Remember the old tale of The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare sprints ahead, assuming an easy victory. But he gets distracted and meanders off course. The tortoise, meanwhile, slowly plods ahead, ignoring the hare’s progress (and his lack thereof). Eventually, the tortoise passes the hare and wins the race. SEO is a marathon. By acknowledging its marathon-like nature and refreshing and reviewing your business plan and process regularly, you can keep yourself on course and beat all of the hares that are currently miles (and search engine rankings) ahead of you.

#2. Do it for the love, not for the money

Studies on motivation suggest that entrepreneurs who pursue their passions tend to do better in the long term than do entrepreneurs who pursue goals strictly for financial ends. If you don’t love what you do, the bumps in the road will destroy you. True passion is the cure.

#3. Keep an even keel — emotionally and financially

As your SEO practice gets underway, expect ups and downs. Protect yourself by buffering your budget. Build a stable income stream (preferably more than one) to support your venture, and save up for “rainy days” that for some can last many months. If you lack this anchor for your budget, you will feel more pressure to act “quickly” instead of “intelligently” and this can lead you to make costly long-term mistakes.

#4. Take care of your health

Get exercise, eat healthy, take time to be with friends and family, meditate, get enough sleep, get some sun, and don’t spend too long at the keyboard at one stretch. Remember, you are in it for the long haul. If you burn out too quickly, or push yourself to meet unrealistic deadlines, you will exhaust yourself and your business will suffer.

We all have the spark of success inside us — awakening this spark requires showing compassion towards yourself and towards your business and planning realistically and conservatively.

How to handle SEO client problems

As an entrepreneur and SEO professional, you crave credibility and good relationships. This is all well and good. To nourish any business relationship, you should go “the extra mile” – not just because it’s savvy business but also because it’s the right thing to do. I know in this day and age that might be a concept most don’t embrace anymore, but I think it is paramount, even just to sleep at night.

On the other hand, we’ve all had hair-pulling situations with SEO clients. Phone calls in the middle on the night requesting next day edits on a random white paper. Mandatory six-way conference calls that meander and have no point. Heated e-mails randomly directed your way.

So what should you do in these kinds of situations? More importantly, how do you determine when to give in to weird client requests/demands and when to jump ship?

Here are some good working tips:

1. Get opinions from other people whom you trust

Often, we get so knee-deep into these SEO situations that we cannot see the forest for the trees. Talk to friends. Get an objective read on the situation. Take yourself out of the equation to arrive at a more professional and resourceful decision about how to proceed. Getting the emotion out of the situation can be the first step to properly rectifying it.

2. Break ties honorably

If you decide to break ties with a client, do so professionally and honor the terms of any contract or agreement, if at all possible.

Always be a good guy (or girl). Even if a client has behaved unprofessionally or even abusively, that doesn’t give you an excuse to return the favor. I always want to feel like I came out of a situation doing all I could to make it right. You always sleep well at night if you do.

3. Remember: A bird in hand is worth two in the bush – not six or seven

Sure, it can be a pain to lose any client – and not just because it throws your budget out of whack. No one likes dispensing bad news. But beware of the tendency to overvalue what you already have. Sure, an abusive client may provide a steady stream of work. But every ounce of energy you waste attending to the abuser’s tyrannical demands is one less ounce you have to lavish on a new prospect. We have found the often heard saying of 10% of clients take up 90% of you time to be true, unless you make the hard decisions to dump some of them, or never take them on in the first place.

This tendency to overvalue current assets is all too human, by the way. For instance, who hasn’t had a friend who has been mired in a terrible relationship? This person will admit that he/she should get out of it but ultimately refuses to break things off because of a fear that he/she will never again find anyone “that good.” It’s nonsense. But sometimes you can’t see it if you’re too close to it. That’s why reliable outside feedback is so key.

4. Serenity now

To paraphrase (and butcher) the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the SEO clients I cannot change but want to keep; the courage to change/get out of dysfunctional SEO client relationships I can change; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Well, that’s really clumsy and ineloquent, isn’t it? Hopefully, it still drives home the point. Doing what is best for your company, and doing it the right way, can get tough, but in any small business, it sets you up for greater things in the future.

Avoiding Problem SEO Clients

As an SEO professional, you are always on the prowl for new business relationships. There are many great people out there to work with. But there are also many “problem clients” who for whatever reason turn out to be more of a hassle than they are worth. These type of clients will disrespect your contract or call you at 3:30 am with random questions about some minute issue. How do you stay away from the bad clients and keep the good guys on the bus?

Here are some tried-and-true rules of thumb to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the curd from the whey or whatever other metaphor de jour you want to use to describe this process):

1. Eyes out for red flags

– Does a new client keep you on the phone for 30 minutes to talk about her dog? Red flag.

– Does the client repeatedly reschedule calls/meetings for arbitrary reasons? Red flag.

– Does the client complain to you at length about a previous writer or partner – and his complaints make absolutely no sense? Super big red flag with sugar on top.

2. Listen to your “spidey sense”

Do you get a strange intuitive sense that something about a business or client is not quite right? 99 out of 100 times, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Don’t waste time hooking a fish that’s going to die once you get it into the aquarium (sorry, again, a pretty weak metaphor there).

3. Incomplete references or credentials? Bad news

Everyone on the Web is in some sense flailing. This medium is so very new, and we all wing it to an extent. That said, sometimes a leap of faith is just jumping off a cliff. Protect yourself. Check references and credentials whenever you engage a new client (or have questions about an existing one!)

4. Get it in writing – and get it clear.

Set clear expectations. Tell the client precisely what you will deliver and when and how you will deliver it. Remember to keep expectations low and then over-deliver too.

5. Baby steps.

Don’t do $5,000 worth of work before getting your first check. It’s okay to spec out on what might ultimately only be a $50 assignment. But before you invest too much time/money/heartache into a project, make sure that the client shows you the money!

SEO 101: How to crank out content for SEO

It is a cliché in the SEO world that “content is king” – that to feed the hungry search engine beasts of Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, you need to churn out targeted, keyword focused, and most of all useful content. This leads to the long-term passive pay-off that is the SEO pot of gold.

To succeed, you don’t want to get stuck fine tuning content and rewriting blog posts forever. You need to get stuff out the door so that you can get indexed, get ranked, and make a living.

So what’s the secret? How do you quickly create high quality content – stuff that’s really good and useful and that’s optimized for the search engines?

1. Get stuff out the door

Fritter away time fine-tuning your web pages, and you will eventually get discouraged, and your writing will also suffer. Do NOT be afraid to make mistakes. Build web pages, write your blog posts, tweet your tweets. Do whatever you need to do. But just get content produced. You will learn by doing.

2. Focus on keywords, but make it natural

Content needs to be first and foremost natural and good for readers. When you optimize and emphasize for keywords, keep each article focuses on one keyword or phrase, but you can also include variants on that. You spread your article too thin when you focus on 10 keywords.

3. Get input from coaches

Even if you majored in literature at an Ivy League College, you no doubt have a lot to learn about how to write for the web. The internet is a wild world with its own rules for what constitutes “good” or even “acceptable.” You can’t do it alone. You have to talk to people who’ve made a living at this business. Read about how SEO works and how the web writing community functions. Attend SEO and Internet marketing conferences, specifically go to sessions on copywriting and content.

4. Group your assignments

Instead of just doing 1 page for a topic at a time, try doing 10, 20, even 50 pages on the same topic. This may sound like a terrible chore to some people – who wants to write 50 pages in a row about long-term healthcare insurance, for instance? But if you are going for volume, then grouping helps. You can get into the spirit of the topic easily. You can also do research upfront and then have it all laid out in front of you when you write your pages. Take notes while you do research of different article ideas, and use keyword research as a tool to create pages for your topic.

5. Protect your hands

If you plan to bang out more than a few pages a day, you need to be aware of the ergonomic dangers of overtyping and keyboard misuse. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and repetitive stress injuries run rampant among web professionals. Take breaks, stretch, eat well, and maintain a good keyboarding set up. Listen to your body.

6. Develop and refine your system over time

You are not going to get it right the first time. You are not going to get it right the second time. Hopefully, a few days into the process of cranking out good SEO pages, you will begin to develop a rhythm. Get feedback from everyday people as well as SEO professionals to better develop your style, attitude, and routine. Keep reading. Keep building your skills. Focus on easily attainable short-term goals to string you forward.

7. Hire writers if you can’t do it yourself

If you don’t have the time to write your own content, consider hiring a content company like Applied Content, our content writing company. We have a team of very skilled writers that can do lots of high quality, unique content, very fast. If an hour of your time is worth more than the cost of an article, you should seriously consider assigning out your writing.