This resource is going to be a stream of consciousness of my SEO, social media and internet marketing thoughts. Feel free to dive in as you so desire as there is going to be little structure. It will contain mostly my ramblings and what I am thinking about in terms of getting traffic to a website through Google search or other social media websites. So, without further ado…
Is a Picture Worth 1000 Words in the SEO World?
For quite some time the “gurus” and “experts” have been upping the ante on the optimal number of words per resource. Years ago, it was 300. Last year it bumped it up 500 and early in 2014 I read an article that claimed the optimal number of words per article is over 1000. Who really knows at this point. What I do know is that Google understands what a user is doing on a website. If you have thin content that is littered with keywords the visitor is not going to remain on the website very long. If your bounce rate is high and your time on site is low there is a good chance you do not have great content.
Note that this is not true all the time. There are some cases in which a high bounce rate and low time on site is acceptable. If you have a website that is devoted to getting visitors to other sites through a news aggregate it makes sense that they are not going to sit on your website for hours. I would imagine Drudge Report does not have an average time on site of 10 minutes. Does that mean that The Drudge Report is a bad website? Not at all. Know your niche and understand what your visitors are looking for.
If the “optimal” number of keywords is truly 1000 is one photo or picture all that is needed? A picture is worth a thousand words right? With this logic, we can go grab a photo, slap it on a blog post and immediately rank on the front page of Google search, right? Not so fast my friend. Once again, niche and industry greatly matter. If you are in personal injury I can promise you won’t be able to rank for car accident lawyer with a single photo on a blog post. That said, if you have a photo of a car accident of a 1924 Ford Model T there is a high likelihood you could rank on the front page for “1924 Model T Car Accident”. I would imagine there isn’t a ton of content on the web about this type of car crash.
Recently I created a new website that is only newspaper clippings and titles. The one words on the blog posts are the credits to the newspaper that published the advertisement, event or newspaper article. In less than a week I have already noticed that many of these titles are ranking on the front page of Google search. Please understand that this is a very uncompetitive niche. In fact, I don’t know anyone else doing it which is the exact reason I decided to do it. I do not expect to get tens of thousands of searches for “price of bread to advance” but I think it is a visually pleasing website that will truly intrigue the visitors that stumble upon it.
Even though my brand new website is seeing early success it does not mean that a picture is worth a thousand words in the SEO world. In fact, I think a picture is worth about 100 words or less in the SEO world. If you are in an industry that is competitive you are going to have to get words on a page that are valuable to the visitor. If you are not willing to do this you are going to find little, if any, long term success in terms of ranking in Google search. You cannot post a photo and hope to get 100 searches for people looking to get braces for their son or daughter. Do not expect this to happen.
With all that being said, I truly believe you should find a way to incorporate photos into your blog posts or resources. There are too many social networks that require an accompanying photo these days. You won’t be able to pin a resource to Pinterest without a photo. Websites like Google Plus, Facebook, Flipboard and Tagboard attract users because of the visually pleasing photos and gifs. If you plan on sharing photos with your posts make sure to give credit to the photographer. I would suggest taking it a step further; take your own photos so you have nothing to worry about when it comes to Creative Commons and the possibility of a copyright lawsuit.
The best deal on the market right now is a Nikon D5200. If you want to render your photos in HDR I would suggest Google’s Nik Collection. It is amazing and well worth the price. If you have some creativity you will be able to snap a couple hundred photos each weekend that will keep your resources and blog posts visually pleasing for months and even years. Try not to worry all that much about becoming a professional photographer. If you can get a photo that looks good you are going to make the visitors to your website happy. No one expects you to be the next Trey Ratcliff or Ansel Adams.
A word about SEO and photos. Try try compress your photos so it does not take 30 seconds for them to load on a website. Cognitive drift is alive and well. Many visitors will likely wait a second or two and then click the back button. This will decrease your time on site and will drastically increase your bounce rate. This is something to be aware of before putting several 10 MB photos on your website or blog post.
If you are thinking about building a photo website it might be best to create a presence on Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr or one of the other websites in which there is already a user base. You will be able to better understand what visitors are looking for by accessing these website before you start your own. Jumping in head first to your own picture or photo website seems like it will be successful but trust me when I tell you there have been tens of thousands of others that have thought the exact same thing.
The Value of Links From Reputable Sources
After sleeping in this Saturday I woke up motivated to create content for my clients and myself. In the past six years I have had the opportunity to “guest blog” for dozens of websites. Some of these opportunities were wonderful and others were simply signing up with an email address and a name. When I first started my Internet adventure I stumbled upon a news website, indexed on Google news, named Examiner. Examiner was extremely popular in 2009 and 2010 as almost every expert in a specific city and niche wanted to write for this news outlet.
At the time, I had to go through a strict application process in which I had to prove that I was “the” Raleigh Mortgage Industry Expert. Was I really an expert? Not so much. That said, I had written thousands of articles on mortgage rates and credit cards. That makes me an expert, right? I digress. I started the Examiner author application process by submitting a few sample articles I had written for other websites around the Internet. These websites included Technorati, StumbleUpon, Propeller and LewRockwell.com. Some were good, others were bad, but it was content on the Internet.
After a few days I received an email that I had been approved to write articles under the title “Raleigh Mortgage Industry Expert”. I was stoked. Not only was Examiner a very powerful website but it was also indexed in Google News; still is to this day. This meant that I could start to build my reputation as a copywriter and a content writer on the web. Well, a few things happened shortly after I was approved and I only ended up writing an article once every few months. I was pumping out much more content for websites that I owned. As a side note, I think this is what everyone should do. If you have the choice to write for your website or another website always choose yours. There is nothing wrong with guest writing for another website but at the end of the day you want to build the house you are living in; so to speak.
Even though I was only publishing about six articles a year, Examiner allowed me to remain the Raleigh Mortgage Industry Expert. At one point in 2011 or 2012 Examiner actually claimed authors would lose their distinction and publishing access if they did not submit an article in a specific amount of time. I think the requirement was one article every 60 days. This got me somewhat motivated as I worried about losing the opportunity to publish on a news network that was getting quite a bit of traffic and was indexed on Google News.
I did my best to keep up with publishing one article every two months but life called. My Internet adventure, aka Wojdylo Social Media, started to pick up steam and other areas of life were much more important than publishing articles on a user generated news website. Remember, this was before Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. User generated sites like Ezine Articles, HubPages, Squidoo and Gather were extremely popular. In the back of my mind I knew these websites could not be reputable. When anyone, even myself, can be considered an expert there is a problem.
By late 2012 many of these user generated websites were doing everything in their power to get their “authors” to pump out as much content as their fingers could handle. Funny side note, at one point in 2011 I was publishing 50 articles a day and my fingertips literally hurt by the end of the day. I guess you could say I got my 10,000 hours of “expertise” in rather quickly. I think I had published 10,000 articles in less than three years of owning my own domains. Ahhh, the good old days.
With these user generated websites pushing anyone and everyone to produce content it was all in due time before the content started to diminish. Add on top of this that almost anyone could get through the application process and it was quite obvious that the glory days were going to come to an end for Examiner, Ezine Articles, HubPages, Squidoo and almost all other user generated sites. Some of you may be asking how Wikipedia continues to survive.
Wikipedia is very closely moderated. In fact, if you look at Wikipedia on an hourly basis you will find that many resources are edited by the senior moderators. I have edited over 500 Wikipedia pages and well over half of those were edited even further by the moderators. These were not big edits but they were very important edits such as proper capitalization or the correct citing of references. This type of moderation is a must for user generated content sites. Wikipedia started with a very strict editing policy. One of the number one rules of this policy was that you cannot outbound link to any website. This immediately scared the SEO’s and spammers away. If they cannot get a link, they are not interested. Why do you think Instagram is free of so many SEO and Social Media spammers? No links = no value to them.
While Wikipedia was able to survive Google Panda and Penguin other user generated content websites were not. I had heard about Ezine Articles, HubPages and Squidoo but I honestly did not do any research on Examiner. I thought that this news website had a moderation process so it was not as likely to get hit with a Google penalty. The more tight the moderation rules, the less likely the website is going to get hit with a penalty. When writing for Examiner in years past it was the case that my articles had to go through an editor before they were published.
When I signed into Examiner today I noticed that it said I needed to publish content to retain my publishing rights. I found this interesting since I had not published in well over 18 months. I think it is safe to say that I did not hit that one article in every 60 days mark. After looking through my dashboard I found that I was able to publish an article for Google News, evergreen content or a list. Oh boy. This was the first worrisome sign for me. Any website that is pushing lists is a concern in my eyes.
I do have an entire section devoted to the Best Accounts to Follow on Twitter but these resources are much more than lists. They offer commentary and are vetted resources to help illustrate who someone should follow on Twitter if they like College Football or the Kentucky Men’s Basketball team. If I just slapped up 20 Twitter accounts with little to no information I can honestly say this would be thin content that has very little value. When creating content for any website remember that you are hoping to create value for a reader. If you are trying to simply get traffic or hope to trick people I would suggest trying to sell used cars for a living.
Even though Examiner offered an opportunity to make “lists” I still decided to write an evergreen content piece that was long lasting and valuable. After typing over 1000 words on the ways in which a real estate agent could expand reach on social media I did some editing. I added some valuable links to the content I had created across the web. Some of the links pointed to my websites and some of the links pointed to friends of mine that are prolific content creators. When all was said and done, this was probably one of the best pieces of content published on Examiner in quite some time. I am not saying I am an amazing content creator. I am saying that Examiner has opened the doors to anyone so the quality has tremendously declined. Just go to Examiner.com and read the articles on the front page and you will know exactly what I am talking about.
I even uploaded one of my HDR photos that was taken in a nearby housing development. This article was fantastic. I was super excited as this was something that was sure to get read and shared around on social media. As soon as I hit publish there was a weird feeling in my stomach. I decided to do some keyword research on the articles I had written for Examiner in the past. I went to Google Incognito and searched some of the keyword phrases that I knew showed up years ago. They were nowhere to be had. Heck, these articles weren’t even on the first 10 pages of Google. The red flags started waving.
Within five minutes I texted one of my good friends to ask her if she felt as if Examiner had been hit by a Google penalty. Her response was a quick, “definitely!” She sent me a few screenshots of their drop in traffic. After doing my Google keyword research I had guessed this was the case. I immediately jumped back into my dashboard and unpublished the article. I don’t want this amazing content on a weak and thin website. I also don’t want links pointing back to my resources or my friend’s resources from a website that has been penalized.
I unpublished the article and felt all was ok. I went to Google and searched the title of the article and it had already been indexed! No! There was nothing I could do. I know that one link to my website or one of my social profiles is not going to get it penalized but I truly dislike links that have little to no value. After thinking about this situation for a few hours I came to a very powerful conclusion. I will never point links back to my website or any of my friend’s or client’s websites unless I personally know the owner of the website in which I am writing a guest post or guest blog.
There is no reason to spend hours writing content for websites that are not producing quality. For every great article that Jesse Wojdylo publishes on Examiner there are probably 20 articles from spammers trying to get links for “money” keywords. You can probably find a few of these types of articles by accessing the front page of Examiner.com at this very moment. If you ever worry about links pointing back to your site you should analyze that website as a whole. Is it moderated? Can anyone publish articles on the site? Were their guidelines for you to submit content? Is the website in your niche or area of expertise?
These are all things to consider before taking hours to produce an amazing piece of content that will be published on the web. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly suggest sharing content on your website first and foremost. If you only have three hours a week to write content it should be for your website(s) or the website(s) of your clients. If you had spend hundreds and thousands of hours building out HubPages, Squidoo Lens or Ezine Articles in the late 2000’s there is a good chance a lot of that time was wasted. While article marketing was a very popular form of SEO in the past it is not much of a ranking factor today.
If you do want to build natural links think about accessing those in your network. If you look at your LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook friends there is a good chance a handful of them own websites. If just a few of them have websites in your niche this is a better opportunity than writing for a website that is open to all. Think about a private club vs a public club. Anyone that plays a lot of golf knows the different.
Private clubs have well manicured fairways and greens. The staff is extremely nice and you likely have a team of “cart boys” that will be more than happy to help you with your clubs. As you get to the clubhouse you are greeted by the golf pro and you have free access to the range. Would you like a bucket of balls before your tee time? There is likely a short game practice area and immaculate practice putting greens. As you make your way around the course you notice there are few, if any, weeds and the greens roll true. You will even see a cart employee that asks you if you want some drinks or a snack. When you finish you are already thinking about the next time you are going to play this course.
Now, lets compare this to a public golf club. When you arrive at a public club there is no one there to greet you. As you walk in the front door a part time employee asks if you have a tee time. He then rings you up and hands you the keys to a cart. You have to get your clubs out of your truck and put them on the cart. There is a small driving range but you have to pay $10 for a bucket of balls. There is no short game facility. The practice putting greens are the size of two parking spaces in the parking lot. The first tee box has a line of 10 golf carts that are ready to tee off. The whole time you are playing the course you have to wait for those in front of you and you are being hit into by those behind you. When the round is over you wonder why you ever play public golf courses.
The same is true when it comes to publishing content online. If you are a guest author for a website that is private and limited this is much more valuable and useful than a user generated content website that is free to the public. Trust me when I tell you, playing that private course is much more enjoyable than trying to fight the battle of playing a public course. If you have the choice it is always best to go for quality over quantity. Websites that are pushing quantity day in and day out are not going to be as valuable to the visitor.
These are my Saturday ramblings and I hope it made you think about future “guest blogging” or content creation. In my opinion, it is best to create content for your website and let the chips fall as they may. If you are creating truly valuable content you will receive natural links and SEO will not be a problem. When you try to cut corners by making a list that is 200 words that is when you will run into many issues.