On Episode 66 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with Ed Alexander of Fanfoundry.com, about content rich publishing and how it helps with your website’s SEO.
Ed Alexander’s fanfoundry.com
Find Ed Alexander on Twitter
Contact Ed Alexander
Find Ed Alexander on LinkedIn
Find Ed Alexander on Facebook
Search Engine Optimization: Getting on Page One
Google Webmaster Tools
Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools
Moz: SEO Software, Tools & Resources for Smarter Marketing
Grammarly: A Free Writing Assistant
Link SaviorLabs Cybersecurity Assessment
How To Market Your Product
Webmaster Tools: Building a Content Rich Website
Making Your Website Usable
Does SEO Really Exist?
Location, Location, Location
Relevance of Content Is Always Relevant
Price Is Not The Only Factor
Rich Content Publishing: How It Helps With SEO
How To Market Your Product
So let me bring up another proxy we can go over. So you have a new writer, wants to write a book. And, in the old way, it would have been to send it to a million and one publishers, get it returned, and all that different thing. Well now you can publish your own. You can go to Amazon, and you can have a book published. But you’ve got to get people to buy it. So I can put posters up on telephone poles and say, “Buy my book.” That’s probably not going to have a lot of return on the investment. It might be so strange that people might do it. But so what would we say?
We’ve got a brand new writer. They’ve never written before, and they want to put up a website and sell a book. What do they do? Tough one.
Ed: It’s a tough one, and I’m going to talk about two aspects of that that are, that I’m familiar because of my client work. One of them is we have the good fortune that the Amazons of the world and then GoodReads of the world, the book ranking indexing agents are very helpful to the author. You can create your own book listing for sale and have it categorized by its genre, maybe even the person who is the most likely reader for this book.
Paul: So we can git on the right shelf.
Ed: Exactly, right. So when you and I are searching for a book or maybe have bought a particular book, you’ll see the recommendation engine pop up. Oh, Paul Parisi wrote a book on the same subject. He may be interested in that. A little recommendation engine approach. That happens over time. It’s just like a crawl bot or anything else. It will do it for you over time. You may not show up in someone’s recommendation engine early on in the early stages of getting word to your work out there. But it can improve over time. It can happen.
Another helpful way is if someone has exactly read your book and writes a positive review about it. You can encourage reader reviews. Reader reviews themselves improve the ranking and the visibility of your book in a recommendation engine. So it’s a self-feeding sort of mechanism that you could employ on your own behalf.
If you’re self-publishing, and you don’t want to publish on Amazon, and you really want to just make it available to your audience, and you’re going to promote it in a more insular way to a smaller audience, then this is of no relevance to you. But if you’re intending to make revenue from that book, if you’re goal is revenue and you mean to get publicity from it to as broad a distribution as possible, then by all means, use the features available to you on the bookseller sites.
Paul: Excellent. Okay.
Ed: They’re very helpful.
Webmaster Tools: Building a Content Rich Website
Paul: Alright. So we’ve generally covered SEO at a high level, and I want to reiterate it for our audience. So you have a website, and it is sitting there. Let’s assume it’s largely static. That’s its current state. The biggest action that somebody needs to take is to go in and create relevant content, on, at a certain cadence — whether that’s weekly, monthly… Probably monthly is about the biggest time frame. I don’t know if you’d do quarterly. But at some cadence, you’d want to create new content that the people who are your target would find interesting. They’d find it organically interesting. Is that fair?
Ed: Certainly. Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. Sure.
Paul: So and then you want to make sure that you have Google searching that, and if they’re not searching it, you want to check and make sure that you’re in the Google index and in the Bing index. Because if they’re not searching it, there’s something wrong because they haven’t found you yet. And there’s tools. I think they’re called Webmaster Tools, which allow you to take your website and tell Google or Bing about it so that they will go out and look for it.
Ed: Exactly right. We hadn’t touched on Webmaster Tools or any of the — what I like to refer to as — on-page SEO tactics. We’ve talked more about rich content publishing.
Paul: Okay. So what is that next, that on-page stuff? So I have the article. We’ll go through the attorney again. You know, electrocution, and there’s one article about this lineman that was killed, etc. Do I put in the sidebar two other articles? Do I just put links there to my two other articles? Or do I just have that one blog post?
Ed: Well, to answer the original question of on-page SEO, think of it as this. I like to simply it, and I’ve… Pardon me if I’m dumbing down, but I like to think of it as child’s play. The old childhood card game of Go Fish.
“You got any threes?”
“No, go fish. You got any sevens?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a seven. There’s a match. I win.”
Likewise, any search crawler will do that same Go Fish game. It’s goal is find out if there’s more at home like the first match it found for you, and it will improve your search ranking based on how relevant the other stuff is.
Where does it go look? It goes looking at things like the tags on your website. What’s a tag on your website? Every time you type something in boldface and use the header command, typing in the… You know the WYSWIYG word editor we all have? If you’re using Drupal or WordPress, you’ve all seen it. You can decide that this is going to be a title, and you can decide that that title is going to be a big title, which is an H1 or a Header 1 that goes with the big font, and it automatically uses the same default shape and size and color header for every single webpage so it looks consistent. It’s all programmed into your WYSWIYG editor.
That H1 title tag is really important to the crawler, the search bot. It decides, oh, okay. The information in that header is absolutely relevant to what this dozen or a hundred thousand people are searching for. It’s approximately the same or exactly the same phraseology most often used.
Well I put in my Header 1 and my Header 2 a subhead tag, my Header 3, sub-sub head tags, relevant key phrases that match the other research I did on Google Trends. I will reuse that, and I will make sure the subheads and subtopics within that blog article are written for humans but they borrow the best examples from the way your search result has occurred by the majority of users over the recent one to three to five years, whatever the trend is telling me.
Paul: We’re giving the search engine hints of what’s important.
Ed: We’re giving it more crumbs, more breadcrumbing saying this is relevant content and so is that and so is the other. It’s all used in that same latent semantic indexing, that old approximate and analogous content matching process. Your tags on your content help you do that. They help you make it visible and clear to your search engine that that’s what you’re doing.
It’s especially important when you’re doing what I recommended earlier, which is a 500 to 1,000-word article. You certainly don’t want to run hundred or a thousand drone-on sentences with no paragraphs or breaks. So break it up into manageable chunks that are scannable and easy for a person to read and understand, because we’re all busy people. We’re not lazy. We’re just busy. And sometimes all we can do is skim the headlines to get enough of a general notion that this is the right attorney to be calling for this case that I want to pursue.
So using the tagging and the analogous matching and then, again, I’ll cite that once again. Try using Google Trends. But you could also use Google’s, oh gosh. It just flew out of my head.
Paul: Oh, well.
Ed: They have plenty of tools.
Paul: Webmaster Tools?
Ed: Thank you. Webmaster Tools. But they give you another free tool. What the heck is it called?
Paul: I don’t know.
Ed: SEO analyzer is free. If you have a small budget, you can buy a tool like Moz, or buy a license to Moz, and it gives you analyzers that will then allow you to apply it to the content you just wrote and feed back to you, kind of reflect back through that looking glass what it thinks you just wrote. What is it telling me? Which words appear the most? If I happen to use the words “you know, you know” a lot, it’s going to say the most commonly used word is “You know.” Is that relevant to your topic? Well, probably not. You may think about removing the word “you know” from place to place and replacing it with something more germane on the topic so the most relevant words are what are matching the search.
Making Your Website Usable
Paul: Okay. So we’re talking about SEO, but we’re always talking about just making your site usable to the humans as well as to the search engines. So in the question I had earlier where we had the article about the lineman, is it wise — because you went down appropriately the right track of saying that I don’t necessarily have to put a side link to say, “Here’s article three and article four” because the search engine will know that. But now from the human point of view, if I’m reading about a lineman here, personal injury, and I want to have relevant articles to there, should I put an excerpt, or should I put a link to just the headline? Is there any guidance there you can give us?
Ed: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s not something that I do faithfully, but I have from time to time used the metaphor of a recommendation engine in a little call-out on the side of a blog article embedded with the content saying, “If you like this, you might also like that.” Not in those exact words, but have a little callout that says, “Lineman recovers miraculously,” or something related to the subject that people who are interested in reading more about can indeed do easily because I gave them the link and the callout that shows them where to find it.
Typically, my references show up at the bottom of my articles. Call me a fool, but that’s how I do it. It’s just a habit. I could do better, I suppose. I could put the links further up.
Paul: Sure. Well I guess that’s a whole ‘nother subject is where, what is the optimal place to put all those things and how do you actually derive that. The, well we’re talking about SEO but we’ve really stumbled into content marketing. Is that true? Is that fair?
Ed: Absolutely fair. Content marketing is really part of SEO, and I don’t know that I’ve ever had a single SEO discussion in recent years that hasn’t also included content marketing as part of the discussion.
Is SEO really a Thing?
Paul: So is SEO really a thing? I mean, it sounds like it’s a byproduct of reality.
Ed: It’s changed. The tail is wagging the dog. We really can’t allow ourselves to be algo slaves to algo terrorism because it’s no longer a thing. What’s happening, frankly, Paul — and I think we see it in our everyday lives — is Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and the folks at Microsoft… Let me digress from that for a moment and remind people, for those of us who were around then… In 1999, when Google first went public, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as cofounders, put in their public mission statement, the first four words in their mission statement were “First, don’t be evil.” In other words, do something beneficial to people. But they quickly, when they rang the gong on the New York Stock Exchange, were interviewed by CNBC, and they were asking, “What are you really up to, these guys? Are you going to make a lot of money on ads? What’s your modus operandi here? You’re saying first don’t be evil.”
And their frank response was then — and it’s still true today — is no, we’re going to be the world’s biggest artificial intelligence engine. This is 1999 when they first stated that. These guys had been thinking about it years before then, before they even decided Google was going to be their mission.
What’s happened, here we are 25 years on, and we’re indeed working with artificial intelligence. Now there’s different layers of artificial intelligence, and I’m only going to digress into the subject of AI for a moment here, but humor me. Artificial intelligence is a search engine. Artificial intelligence is the CRM software you use that allows you to say, “If this, then that.” If I get an email, I want to send this automatic reply saying, “I’ll get back to you because I’m on vacation.” We use artificial intelligence at its very, very basic level in many, many aspects of our lives. It helps us avoid having to scale and do every single chore singlehandedly by hand. Think of that as the outer shell of AI, is sort of a apriori or mimicry or analogous workflow kind of thing. And so we’re using artificial intelligence to everyone’s benefit. Industry is using it to our benefit.
What we haven’t done, and I think it’s kind of the next shoe to drop for most people, is beyond the basic use level — if this, then that, monkey see, monkey, apriori matching process — is to then get into the next level of AI, which is not just mimicking but learning.
Can more website learn to improve the way it presents my content without me having to mechanically, deliberately perform it? My vision is this: Wouldn’t it be cool if this latent semantic indexing process were something that my WordPress or my Drupal or my publishing platform had that built in, so it could help me while I’m typing — not just as a semantic or a typographic error detector software will use. Right? If it also had the feature that says, “Well, you’re writing about this subject of the lineman who was electrocuted, but he spent an awful lot of time talking about his beagle. Maybe you should focus less on the beagle and more about the case.”
It helps you through the writing process so that you’re providing authoritative content and that learning process becomes part of the benefit of using that platform to do your publishing.
Paul: There’s a tool out that’s being heavily marketed called Grammarly. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
Ed: Yes, exactly what I’m referring to.
Paul: But they’re doing that in the grammar space.
Ed: I use it.
Paul: Yeah, so it would be interesting to extend that to the topic space and actually analyze what you’re saying.
Ed: Now if I’ve imagined it, and you’ve imagined it, someone else is out there building it. I’d love to meet them because I’m no genius. So who else is out there doing that sort of thing? That’s the next layer of the onion I’d like to peel back in terms of content marketing and authoritative marketing and search engine optimization.
Paul: Right. And you could imagine how it would be done if you’re writing an article about an emerging news story. All the news stories relevant to what you’re writing come up and even highlight that for you. It really brings the research to the researcher as opposed to having to go out and look for it.
Ed: Sure. And the third layer of artificial intelligence and among the three obvious layers would be for me to have my word platform not just use the Grammarly approach to help me remind myself to stay on track when I’m authoring an article, but incorporate latent semantic searches that tell me, “Geez, other people looking for the stuff you do are also searching for these other topics.” If that’s relevant to you, maybe that should be the subject of your next blog article. In other words, the trends help me determine what to write about next because it’s in season or the trends seem to be leading in a direction where I want to meet them at that future point. Anybody who remembers Wayne Gretzky, the goalie for the LA Kings was always fond of saying, “I never skate to the puck. I skate to where it’s going to be. And that’s how I score more goals.”
Can we apply that same simplistic thinking to the way our engines evolve that we use to publish our authoritative content. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Does SEO Really Exist?
Paul: So, does SEO really exist or is it just a byproduct of reality?
Ed: Oh my gosh. We haven’t even had a single beer yet.
Paul: Well I… ‘Cause I guess what I’m saying is that SEO seems to happen because of what you wrote. Now writing something smartly or intelligently is going to get you better results than if you just put random words on the page and post that. So what you’re saying is that, make sure your content is relevant, as opposed to the old days where it was like, “Oh, you’ve got to have metatags. You’ve got to have this. You’ve got to have this. You’ve got to put this type of formatting in.” I mean, yes, headings help.
So if you want SEO, make sure your headings are relevant and make sure your text is relevant and post it with some regularity. Is that fair?
Ed: Absolutely fair. So search engine optimization, SEO, per se — whatever you want to use for better or worse as a catch-all phrase — has certainly evolved. It’s different now than it was then. We’re not gaming the search engines because it’s no longer possible thank you to the sophistication and evolution of the way search engines perform. And thankfully, I have to say, I’m pleased at the way it’s going in that, if I’m doing the search, it’s going to find me, good, authoritative, relevant results for what I’m really looking for as opposed to someone who has done a good job of gaming their webpage.
Paul: Right. Of course.
Ed: All those things are looked at in total by a crawler to really help validate the authority of the source it’s referring back to. So it can’t be gamed.
Location, Location, Location
Paul: Interesting. Very interesting. You had talked a little bit about location. And I’m wondering about if you have any insight into the difference between location. We happen to be on the North Shore of Boston.
Ed: It’s a beautiful location.
Paul: If you say to people, “We’re a company that serves the North Shore,” they understand that. And that means that if you have a business in Danvers, you serve Beverly, and you serve maybe even all the way to North Andover. How does Google deal with that? Because I might be in Beverly. I’m sitting in Beverly recording this right now. And if I say, “Gee, I want snowshoes,” it’s going to list the stores that are closest to me.
Or let’s use the attorney example. I want an attorney because snowshoes are, I’ve got to go find the model I want, and I buy it. But an attorney is more relationship. It’s deeper. So there might be 50 attorneys here in Beverly and 50 in Danvers and 50 in all the towns. So I’m going to get a lot of attorneys. How can I get the most relevant attorney to mine? If we use the personal injury, that’s going to certainly separate them, sort of like the cream off the top. I can say, okay, personal injury lawyers. But I’m just wondering if you have any insight on how we can effectively market ourselves if we’re an attorney in Beverly but we want to make sure that people in North Andover know about us.
Ed: Great question. At the very architecture level, I would make certain that in my description of my business, I may want to include the word “Massachusetts.” Massachusetts has its location in common with all the cities in Massachusetts. So on an indexing basis, if I was a search engine or a search engine bot and I’m trying to deliver relevant results, I know I’m going to deliver a result based on Beverly, Massachusetts, not Beverly, Iowa. Danvers, Massachusetts, not Danvers, California.
So Massachusetts becomes an authority term to help with location discovery. That’s simply the tagging and the meta layer, that middle layer of your website.
Paul: So you would say that in — just to reiterate. So in the meta tag on the page, you’d put in Massachusetts. Would you also put Beverly in or would you not?
Ed: Certainly. Why not? Because both Beverly and Massachusetts are relevant. Beverly as a micro and—
Paul: Would you put Danvers in, which is the next town over?
Ed: Great question. Fortunately, one of the things that a — and I know this is true about Bing. I’m not so sure about Google because Bing comes from Microsoft, and they have all of their directory listing and have been working on for years. The approximation of Massachusetts and Danvers is just as valid as the approximate match between Massachusetts and Beverly. They’re neighboring towns. And so search, people’s searches on, let’s say, “Pizza joints North Shore Boston,” for example, will find Beverly, Massachusetts, Danvers, and such. That search result, that’s pages like this, recommendation engine approach, to delivering results benefits anybody, not just a pizza joint but the lawyer in the North Shore of Boston. So an approximate match on Massachusetts in Danvers will help find you if you’re in Beverly, even if the word Beverly isn’t in your meta tags, although it’s helpful to have Beverly there. But I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you’re getting enough business right down the street, you don’t have to list every neighboring town.
Ed: You could also use zip approximation. The zip GIS database is also linked.
Paul: Interesting. So here now, let’s reverse that. So I imagine in your business, it doesn’t matter where your customers are, and you have people all over the world. So do you list Massachusetts or do you not? Because I, I would imagine if a customer came to you from Massachusetts, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, I don’t want that.” Of course not. You’d say, “We’d love to work with you.” If a customer called you from Ohio, you’d say, “Oh, I’d love to work with you.” If a customer called you from England, you’d say, “I’d love to work with you.”
Ed: Yeah, if location were not a concern, I could absolutely understand that.
Paul: So do I put the company’s address on the website? Is that going to thwart me, or is that going to help me.
Ed: I’m not sure that putting the company address on the website is either a help or a hindrance really. I think it does something else. In other words, I wouldn’t dissuade anybody from putting their address on their website. I think it’s an advantage to prove you have a physical presence.
Paul: Would you write an article about our services, are relevant for people in Massachusetts and Ohio and the rest of the country, or… So in other words, is that in the About page? That’s putting a lot of responsibility on the search engine to be able to parse that and understand that we serve the three-county area, or whatever you want to say. And Google doesn’t know what the three-county area is.
Ed: If you’re doing a location-based search for a result, and your zip GIS database is attached to the search, process, it’s going to find you, even if you’re within three and five towns. If you include your zip code, that’s even better. As you probably know, analogous or neighboring zip codes have approximately the same first their digit prefix. That’s close enough. It will look at 019, which is — guess what? — North Shore of Boston. 01906 is Linn, and 01907 is someplace else, and 01918 is another part of Beverly. 019 helps. And if it’s somewhere near the word Massachusetts that’s a good approximate GIS search. You can do things by using your own address to help you get found if it’s location based.
But to answer your question, if you don’t care where the customer is because it’s not location-based, now I’ve turned a whole other page, and we can spend some time on that too.
Paul: Okay. Well how do you deal with that?
Ed: I have customers who are all over the world, and I get searched because it’s a relevant topic matter. If they don’t care where I live, and I don’t care where they are either, then we’ll do it based on the relevance of the content.
Relevance of Content Is Always Relevant
Paul: But it sounds like relevance of content is relevant, always.
Ed: Sure. That’s all anybody wants these days. It’s got to be relevant. I’m way too busy.
Paul: So is that the summary of content marketing in its simplest form, just providing content that’s relevant to people?
Ed: Yeah, you boil it down to a simple word, which was value. If we’re not exchanging value, where are we paying attention? We’re probably not.
Paul: Yeah. Exactly. So how do you counter the person that says, okay, “I’m an expert in the sports equipment, and I can tell you what the best snowshoe is, and I happen to own a snowshoe firm that sells snowshoes”? And Amazon sells them for $20 less than I sell them for. How do I prevent my blog article from not driving sales to Amazon but people investing in me? Is that even possible? Because I want to say, there’s three new models of snowshoes this season, and here’s the pluses and minuses of them, and this is the recommended, my editor’s choice of the snowshoe. And here’s the click link. You can buy it for $29.95.
People are lazy, but they’re also cheap. Not in a bad way. I mean, it’s their money. They want to be good stewards of it. So are they going to go and then click on that, see what your price is and then say, okay, I’m going to go over and search on Amazon and buy it from there, and I’m done.
So I just invested all this time writing an article, promoting it, getting traffic, and I didn’t receive any results for it.
Price Is Not The Only Factor
Ed: That’s a great question. If I were ruthlessly focusing first on price above all other factors, I might just buy from Amazon. But therein lies the answer. If price is not the only factor, and it rarely is…right? You want to think about the reputation of the manufacturer; you want to think about the ability to get your product serviced if it ever breaks. If you’re a conscientious consumer, you think about those things. It’s snowshoes are slightly more mechanically complex than, say, a book or a CD or a music download because they’re physical objects that break. Now those things factor into my pricing decision.
I probably, to use the example of snowshoes, since we’re on that, not necessarily think of Amazon as being the first resort. If I need to get my snowshoes serviced, I may prefer to go to a local sporting goods store with somebody who has some expertise and knows how to fix these things and can keep them running in good condition. Heaven knows we’ve actually had a few snow events around here on the North Shore of Massachusetts where, if one snowshoe breaks, you’re going nowhere because you’ll sink knee-deep in the snow, and you can’t walk that way. You have to have two good snowshoes that fit you. So you’ve got to keep them running and tuned, and maintaining your snowshoes is like brushing your teeth, some winters around here. So you think about that, besides just price.
Paul: So you’re saying that it’s from a product that needs maintenance, potentially. That’s a motivator. What if it’s a product that doesn’t need maintenance, per se? A book.
Ed: Great. So let’s focus on, yeah, a book or a service or anything that’s not a physical, tangible good that’s going to require maintenance in proximity to repair and all those things. Rent versus own. Lease versus buy. What are those arguments? What factors into them?
Maybe you’re the authority on why you’re the best answer, and you can defend your price based on things you know. And you can say to the public, this, “I am your safest bet, even if I’m not the cheapest. And these are the reasons why.” That’s a great blog article. It might even be an evergreen page to have on your website to help people decide favorably that you’ve thought it through, and you recognized why you deliver the value you do and that your price is fair, and I can agree with that.
Paul: So that’s sort of an appeal.
Ed: It’s an appeal, but it’s based on something other than sentiment.
Paul: Right, right. But you’re laying out the real sort of construct of, “I’m the expert. I’m giving you this information. Please honor that and buy from me.”
Ed: Sure. Yeah. I have a client who is in that same business right now. It’s crowded. It’s competitive. There are many ways to solve the challenge. There are many ways to access the service they provide. And one of the pages on their sites spells it out saying you’re better off using our option than others if you’re this type of buyer. Rent versus own. If you can afford to own with the whole enchilada, go buy the whole enchilada. But be aware that you’ll be in for maintenance headaches and everything else. If you’d just as soon rent because you’re only an occasional user of this service, then we could be a safer bet, and here’s why. We’ve thought it through on your behalf. You’re welcome.
Ed: Be the authority on that aspect of the buying process, not just about your product.
Paul: Okay. That’s fair. So I guess what, in summary, we’re talking about content marketing, which is really the new way of search engine optimization because you’re feeding the search engine beast what it wants, and then it takes and turns around and hands that out to people who are looking for things. And it gives them relevant things. That’s the goal is to give you the best answer possible, hopefully with a search engine.
Ed: That’s right. Two words. Go fish.
Paul: Well we’ve been talking with Ed Alexander of fanfoundry.com and you’ll be able to find out more information about Ed and his company in our shownotes as well as links to some of the resources we’ve talked about.
Thank you very much and we look forward to next time on the Edge Of Innovation.