SEO (search engine optimisation), three little letters that strike fear into the heart of the business owner. They know they have to optimise their website for search engines, try to get up the page rankings on Google, stiff the competition in the battle for customers, but the process is shrouded in mystery and seems to be populated by expensive practitioners of the dark arts who promise the world for unfeasible sums.
It doesn’t have to be like this!
This Blog will show you some simple techniques that will provide long term benefits and introduce you to Google’s own concept specifically designed to help you achieve high level rankings.
Just EAT It
Let me introduce you to the concept of EAT. No, it’s not a food delivery service but stands for Expertise – Authority – Trust.
You may not have come across it but Google have an SEO Starter Guide, and even though it doesn’t get updated as often as the famous Google algorithm there is one piece of advice from them that never changes, you should be:
Optimizing your content for your users, not for search engines.
Which is where the concept of EAT comes in. Any SEO expert should be telling you that writing great content will make more people want to link and share – if they’re not telling you this and continue to talk about keywords and nothing but keywords, you should think about changing your SEO expert!
Keywords are the starting point not the end point as we’ll see in a moment.
EAT then is a recent definition of what Google’s emphasis on editorial quality looks like. In practice it means things like reinforcing your content with evidence and references, providing author bios and pics, citing evidence of your expertise and using original research where possible.
Incidentally there is also something called the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, mainly aimed at techies but non the less the October 2020 version mentions EAT 186 times within 175 pages, so it’s a big deal.
Let’s break EAT down in a bit more detail.
E is for Expertise
In my role as a copywriter, creating content for other people’s businesses I come across a lot of experts, in fact I’m blown away by the in-depth knowledge that other people have and always try to convey their expertise when I create blog or website content for them.
But that on its own isn’t enough. What we really need to be doing is creating expert content that we know our audience will love.
Rather than creating content because we think it’s what our customers want – create expert content that we know they’re searching for.
There’s an easy hack for this which can be done by ordinary business owners who are not SEO experts, it’s as simple as this:
Find out what your audience is searching for – which begins with keyword research – then meet and exceed their needs.
A digression into keyword searches for the unskilled
A bit about simple keyword research. For example, if you were an a At Home Care Provider would you know what your potential new customers search for? It’s simple to type in a few phrases and see what Google spits out.
When you type in your phrase, in this case “help with elderly care”, Google’s predictive text will also show you a list of other phrases people use (screenshot below).
Then when you click on one of the search phrases, (I used ‘help with elderly care at home’) you’ll find a section mid-way down the list of search results called ‘People also ask’ – under this heading you’ll find other search queries around the same topic, (screenshot below).
Because of the way that Google search works in seeking relevant text for an enquiry, if you click on the arrow at the side of each of these answer boxes, you’ll find specific information from a website that caters to that query (screenshot below, I looked at ‘How can elderly get help at home UK?’).
Finally, if you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find a heading and a list: ‘Searches related to help with elderly care at home’ (screenshot below)
You can find all this information regarding the questions people are asking about topics you or your business may be expert in just with one simple search – and while it may not be scientific it is easy, timely and realistic for any business owner to perform.
So now you know what people are searching for you need to ask:
Can I create expert content that better answers the questions people are searching for?
Back to the Expertise bit of EAT
If you’re a provider of elderly care at home, you can show your expertise with great content that answers the questions people search for by using carefully structured easily digestible text that will allow your reader to truly understand the subject by the end without making it heavy and laborious.
Then when it’s written, don’t just publish immediately, sit back and consider what it says;
Read your text, then edit what you’ve written so it’s better than your first draft. Most writers will tell you that 60% of writing is editing!
Remember too that Google doesn’t like sloppy grammar so remove grammatical errors and check your spelling and punctuation.
You can also think about what else you’ve learned from search results and how that will inform the content that keeps your site alive with new updates, blogs, case studies etc.
This supplementary content should grow over time and is where you can really start to express your expertise in multiple ways. Your website shouldn’t be static so this supplementary content both helps your customers and helps Google by proving your expertise.
And to keep Google really happy you should optimise each piece with internal links and ensure articles can be easily accessed with good menu signposting.
I’ll return to how to structure your writing in a later blog, but remember above all:
It’s all about becoming the go-to source for information in your field
A is for Authority
It takes time so don’t expect to launch yourself up the search pages on day one, those days are gone, so persevere with expert content and then something amazing can happen: You Become An Authority!
When other experts or key influencers in your market start citing you as a source of information, you’re striking gold. Equally if your name or company brand becomes synonymous with relevant topics, you’re more than an expert, you’re an authority.
How do you know if this is happening? Here’s a short list to help you judge your authoritativeness:
You’re an Authority when other respected sources start quoting and linking to YOU!
T is for Trustworthiness
Now this is going to sound negative, but if you want to really sink your ratings on Google get yourself a load of poor reviews. Proven Trustworthiness is really important – expertise and authority can get you up the scale, but negative reviews will plunge you right back down again.
Google notices negativity around a brand
Negative sentiment around your business will see you suffer on Google, so you need to be meeting and exceeding customer expectations, so they leave positive reviews. But if you do receive negative feedback address it immediately – Google make it clear in their guidelines that poor reviews will have a negative effect.
On the plus side positive reviews on trusted platforms such as Google My Business, Trustpilot, Tripadvisor, Facebook, Feefo, Yelp etc. will really help.
Easy wins to show Google you’re Trustworthy
There are some easy trust based wins you can implement on your website, that you should be doing for your customers in any case, but Google will also notice:
Review your site and check you’re doing the simple things that Google notices
But does it work?
If we look at the example used earlier with my elderly care enquiry, you’ll have seen that when we expanded the “How can elderly get help at home UK?” tab in the ‘People also ask’ section it was Help The Aged UK that was revealed. Why? Because they have followed the EAT principle, they can show they’re Experts, they’re Authoritative, often quoted and referenced and they are Trusted.
Principal points to takeaway
A lot of the actions recommended by Google using the EAT principle make sense to implement for your business in any event. Every business wants to be known for being experts in their field and building trust is essential if you want to gain repeat business.
For Google expert, authoritative, trustworthy content is now important – they are not in the business of recommending pages with false information.
Taking a holistic approach to SEO using EAT as a framework isn’t a recipe for instant success – but it should give you a plan for content marketing and makes sense if you want to be ranked by Google for the best search terms in your market.
There are no quick wins in Google rankings anymore, but if you stick by EAT there is every reason why your pages should achieve high rankings over time, and more importantly stay high all the time.
About the author
Peter McConnell is a copywriter, blogger and content creator working with businesses to help them create content that helps them connect effectively with their customers.
Believe it or not you have a brand. Yes, even the smallest of businesses, have a look & feel and some values that represent them.
If you’re a small business owner you know how you want to be seen – many businesses integrate certain values or standards into the way they work.
For example, honesty, integrity, professionalism, efficiency, speed of delivery and friendliness could all be part of your brand – you can use these to help create your tone of voice, or in other words the way you write about yourself on your website, social media and marketing materials.
You’ll also have a look that represents you to the outside world, even if it’s just a logo and a colour you predominantly use. So, if you’re building your first website it’s important to make sure you use those colours and the logo that your customers are already used to.
The final piece of the branding jigsaw is your target audience. Whether you’re a new or established business you’ll know who the people are that you want to buy your products or services.
If you know your customers and the people you want to attract you can talk to them in a tone of voice they’ll find attractive, because ultimately your brand is all about getting people to buy from you.
How you use your brand is important
Big corporates like to talk about their branding and how everything that emerges from the organsiation follows the same format, it’s always consistent.
Smaller businesses might not talk the same language but should behave no differently; no matter what platform you’re using, your messaging and branding should be consistent too.
In many cases the first engagement a new customer has with you is through your website. It is of the utmost importance that your site looks good, is consistent throughout and reflects the professionalism you want to convey.
Your site therefore has to be well designed and simple to navigate. It's easy to be tempted by the offers of the template driven site builders such as Wix and Squarespace, and they can be useful but I know from bitter experience just how time consuming and what a steep learning curve they can be. I'd always recommend a good local web design company as a first port of call, but make sure to look at their past work and to get testimonials from other customers.
Remember too that your site must tell people exactly what it is you do in easy-to-understand language. You’d be amazed how many sites fail this simple task.
It is also true of your digital marketing, the fact is you’re sharing with people how you can solve a problem, but they don’t necessarily need to know the intricate details, just that you’re the right person to help, in fact sharing too much detail can be off-putting!
And remember visitors consume content on websites by scanning pages, they don’t always read your carefully crafted descriptions in full like they would in a brochure, so keep it short and simple.
Visitors don’t linger on pages either; if they haven’t found what they’re looking for quickly they move on. Sites must therefore have a logical flow and obvious navigation markers to help visitors discover the next level of information, just like the sites we help create.
Don’t be tempted by novelty
We talked earlier about your logo and the colours you use, you may favour a particular font too, all of these make up your brand identity. Customers associate that identity with your business, so don’t be tempted to do something new and novel on your website.
As an example, consider a brand we all know, Coca Cola whose basic brand identity - the curly typeface - was created in the early 1900’s with the red detailing arriving in 1950. There has been very little change ever since because Coke knows the power of their brand.
Remember your Digital Marketing
Carry your brand consistency through into your digital marketing. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can all play a crucial role in attracting new business and reminding existing customers of your services.
Imagine if the messages you put out on each social media platform looked different and had a different tone of voice. Would it inspire confidence in your business? If one of those messages inspired a click through to your website which was then hard to navigate or had a completely different look, would that make you seem credible?
Luckily, it’s easy to be consistent across your website and social media platforms with some forethought and planning and, by being consistent you inspire confidence and gain credibility.
Consistency helps you up the rankings
Consistency works for you in more ways than just image and credibility, it helps to keep your website high in search engine rankings. This is especially true if you include links to your social media on all the pages of your site.
You may not have a social media strategy, but you should consider it - it’s a simple method for engaging with potential and existing customers, increases visitors to your site and keeps the site refreshed when you post regular content.
Consistency is the key
Keeping your branding consistent is crucial to making the best of your online presence. It’s simple enough to do especially with the head start you can get with the simple templates henleywebdesign.com provides. But if you’re going to compete, gain market share and grow as a business you need to make sure you follow through consistently into all your other marketing too.
During the Brexit referendum debate in 2016 Michael Gove MP famously declared that “Britain has had enough of experts” and like so much rhetoric to come from that debate it was nonsense.
Gove at that time was the Minister for Justice so it’s reasonable to assume he’d appreciate the expertise of the specialist lawyers, judges, police, clerks, expert witnesses and the many other professionals charged with ensuring justice is dispensed fairly and hence the success of his department.
If you’ve had the privilege of reading the The Secret Barrister's book, you’ll know that Mr. Gove’s department was not a success as the criminal justice system was devastated under his watch. Experts with years of experience, knowledge and understanding were shed, meaning the justice system is now in chaos. Justice for both victims and perpetrators of crime is now a lottery.
This may be an extreme example but one which I believe exemplifies the need for experts. A specialist professional knows how to perform a task or facilitate a project, so it happens successfully and in a timely fashion.
For a vivid example of the difference between experts and amateurs you only have to look at the difference in skill levels between the professional dancers and the enthusiastic celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing.
On a personal level I wouldn’t attempt to fit a carpet, rewire my house, plumb in a shower, deliver a baby, pilot an airliner or dance a foxtrot. In fact, there are many specialist jobs I wouldn’t attempt to do, I’d leave them to the people who know best how to perform them.
At a business level we leave it to experts all the time, web site designers, graphic designers, IT consultants, software developers, commercial lawyers, accountants, book keepers, architects, mechanics, printers, engineers…the list could go on, but you get the point. All these specialists facilitate a piece of work effectively because they are experts at it.
If you think of all your touch points with specialists you quickly realise there are many roles and tasks, even in a small business you can’t perform yourself, because you don’t have the expertise.
The business of writing, or writing for business is no different, yet it’s one of those areas that many people think they can do themselves, after all most of us know how to write. But do we all have the skill to write for business, conveying often complex messages with clarity?
I look at it this way, if I need a well composed, properly lit, sharply focused photograph for my business website, I don’t put something up I’ve just snapped on my smartphone I engage a professional photographer.
Written content is no different, if you want well composed, sharply focused, grammatically correct content engage the expert, use a writer.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein
Writing content for your website shouldn’t be a chore, but should be a reflection of your business and the problems you solve for your customers.
It’s not all about keywords either; search engines pick up great site content much more than endless repetition of keywords.
So what should you consider when writing site content, here are my top 10 rules to follow:
1. Have a plan
Think about what you want to write, in what order and in what context.
Most writers spend on average 50% of their time planning, it makes the writing process much quicker. In fact writing should only be 20% of the process, with editing the final 30%
Plan your content in advance, think about who you are addressing and what you want them to learn:
Planning will help shape your thoughts and make the writing process so much easier!
2. Write about the most important point first
There’s a technique journalists use called the inverted triangle, which basically means: put the most important information at the top of the page, before drilling down into more detail.
Think of it as front-loading your content so a reader can get a great idea of what you offer first up, before you tell them how or why later on.
I’ll talk more about this in my next blog.
3. Explain what it is you do as a business on your home page
It still amazes me that business owners make assumptions that site visitors know what they do.
A better rule is to assume visitors don’t know what you do, so write as though the visitor is meeting you for the first time.
4. Write in shorter sentences, not long paragraphs
I’m often asked, how long should a sentence be? Ideally I’d suggest no more than 30 words, preferably fewer than 20. And each paragraph should be no more than 2 sentences long.
Remember you’re writing for the web here, so paragraphs need to be compelling and easily digestible for visitors who may just scan the page.
5. Be clear and concise
Don’t use complicated language or over elaborate sentences. Simplicity is the key.
To quote the writer C.S. Lewis;
“Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
Many web writers’ manuals suggest writing as though you’re addressing a 14-15 year old. So keep it simple.
6. Write for your ideal customer
Most businesses know who their best customers are, they know why they buy from them and what they like.
Write your content to reflect these customers – they’re the ones you want more of.
7. Use headlines, sub-headlines and bullets
Dividing up your content, giving way markers and, making the next bit sound exciting keeps visitors interested and reading.
8. Don’t be afraid to edit
I’ve always found it useful in whatever context, to write in long form, then walk away and do something else for a while, before coming back and editing the text until it says exactly what I want it to say.
Then I repeat the process – your third or forth draft is always much better than your first.
9. Print it out
If like me you spend lots of time at your screen, you don’t always see something obvious staring out at you. Whether it’s a typo, poor grammar or awkward phraseology I tend to see them only when I’ve printed the piece.
Believe me it’s so much easier to edit when you can scribble on the paper and rewrite different ideas by hand.
10. Read it
Make sure you read your finished work after you’ve edited it.
You need to check:
There’s a lot more than can be said about writing for the web. In my next blog I’ll look in more detail about the concept of the inverted triangle and how it can help you with writing compelling content.
Writing with clarity is the best thing you can do for your website.
It shouldn't be a big surprise but for many people, experienced marketers included, writing clear, concise online content as the number one way of improving SEO, sales and customer retention is a real shock.
We have a theory at What Are Words Worth, that it's because we've all become slaves to the algorithm. We believe to get on top of search must be complicated, therefore there has to be a trick to it.
Surprise, surprise the trick is to write it well, using simple language, explaining what you do and who you do it for.
By making your site or blog lively, readable and engaging you make it sticky, and only when you have the viewer's interest do you need to start explaining how you do it.
If you've ever found a site and wondered what on earth it is the company does, they have failed!
A major sporting event we were involved with worked hard to win a new title sponsor; for the entirety of their 5 year sponsorship we couldn't work out, no matter how often we read their website and literature, what they actually did.
Ask yourself, are you that organisation? Is your content over complicated? Do you inform site visitors in simple terms what it is you do?
Or does your site use jargon and acronyms? Does it make assumptions about visitors levels of knowledge about you? Does it actually make them click away - probably to a competitor?
The key to retaining site visitors, and ultimately turning them into customers, is to write content using simple, natural language, easily readable and understandable by a visitor.
We're trained as content creators to write prose that can be easily understood by a 12 year old, which may not be a bad rule of thumb.
We prefer though to think of our readers as busy people, fellow human beings, seeking to discover valuable information as quickly and as easily as possible.
In the next What Are Words Worth blog we'll look at the Top 10 Rules for writing great web content.
Without a doubt the online world is an ever changing space and gaining traction for your website is increasingly difficult. If the guru's at SEO organsiations struggle to keep up with the changing nature of search algorithms, what hope have the rest of us?
I was therefore reassured to read in a recent post on Databox, that amongst the 31 actions you can take to keep your site top of the page rankings, two of the most important are:
Write clear, concise content - telling people what it is you actually do.
Blogs are important - it's an easy way to keep your site refreshed.
Reading the full post here, shows just how difficult it is to keep up in the online world, however taking simple steps with great content and relevant blogs is an easy shortcut to keeping skin in the game.
One of the questions I often get asked is why do I need a blog on my website? It probably ranks right up with, what is SEO? And believe it or not the two are related. In a nutshell the number one reason for having a blog on your website is that it drives search engine traffic.
How does it do that? Well, for one it enriches your content, but secondly and of equal importance it keeps your site updated.
If you think about the way Google and other search engines work, they constantly look for indexed pages. So every time you put up a blog it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means there is a greater opportunity for it to show up in search engines.
Blogging also shows search engines that your site is active and they should be checking back regularly for new content, even better it puts more keywords on your site, all of which help it rise up the page rankings; in the trade it’s known as organic SEO!
But it’s not all about SEO, blogging is one of your best sales tools helping increase leads and improving conversion rates.
I don't know many people who advocate using a blog for a direct sales message, but it is your big chance to really tell your organisation’s stories, to show your credibility and to prove your authority in your marketplace. In many ways blogging is your chance to show off, to really convey that you are an expert.
If you have a new product or service, you can talk about it, but don't tell us what it is, tell why you've created it, tell us about the journey it's been on, tell us about the challenges and frustrations. That's way more interesting than a pure sales message.
I always get a real buzz when reading a blog that teaches me something new, written by someone passionate about their subject, it’s such a great opportunity to get inside the personality of a business; to hear its human voice..
Don’t make it too long though (around 500 words is optimum), but tell compelling stories in your voice, which help customers and potential customers understand something about what you do, how you work, your industry or what you’ve learned on the way.
Your blog therefore is the enrichment you put into your site, the thing you do to change it from a showroom into a friendly business.
The big benefit of this rich content is that readers love to share new, fun and interesting material they’ve learned from. Which means that not only do you have something to put up on your social media channels every time you blog, but so do your clients and potential clients.
Think about it, if a potential client has read your blog and has even linked to it on social media, how much more likely are they to buy from you than if all they’d seen were the static “services” or “about us” pages on your website?
And you know I said its not all about SEO, well actually those social media links are great for creating inbound links to your website, something search engines absolutely love.
Of course it's no good just posting the occasional blog. To keep your site active; to keep enriching your content; to keep those pages being indexed, and to keep crawling your way up the search engine rankings - you need to keep posting regularly.
Write a list of the interesting things you want to talk about then plan into your diary when you're going to write and post each blog. Once a month is OK, fortnightly is better.
This is my first blog on this site so I'm trying to practice what I preach!