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The 7 Steps to a Perfect Blog Post

Can you really write a perfect blog post?Blog orange

Well, “perfect” is a little tough to pin down, but yes, you can make your blog posts far more powerful. A recent blog post of mine went wildly viral (at least from my own, limited perspective). It was read more than any other blog post, shared more than others, and picked up and syndicated by several blog sites like Business2Community.com. I’ve often wondered what made that blog post so special. I think the secret was that I inadvertently applied some of the seven steps below from the folks at Buffer. There’s a more thorough discussion of this over there, but here are the highlights.

Start with the perfect headline

You may realize that people tend not to read online: they scan. Research shows  that people tend to read the first three words in a headline and the last three words. I’ve used that technique in this very post.

There are also a number of headline techniques that catch readers’ attention:

  • Surprise: “Don’t optimize for Google”
  • Question: “Are You Getting Screwed by Google’s Pigeon Update?”
  • Curiosity Gap: ” Top 10 Rankings Factors – #4 Is a Shock!”
  • Negatives: “Never Ignore the User Experience”
  • How To: “How to Fix Your Keyword Stuffed Copy”
  • Numbers: ‘The 7 Steps to a Perfect Blog Post” (I’m using that one in this post)
  • Audience Reference: ‘You Need Video on Your Site Now”
  • Specificity: “Six Ways to Get More Out of Your SEO”

 story-impactHook readers with a story

After you grab them with the headline, hook them with a story introduction. This turns out to be surprisingly important in turning a glancing reader into one who stays and reads your whole blog post.

I’ve started out this very post with a short story. Did it help hook you?

 Cut down on characters per line with an image

Placing an image in the top right corner of a blog post does two important things. First, It provides a picture to attract attention and hopefully focus the reader on the subject at hand. But second, It makes the first several lines of text shorter. Shorter lines are easier to read and easier for the eye to scan; it’s easier to comprehend and it seems less complicated. That makes your post almost subliminally more appealing for someone to read. An alternative is to make the font size larger for the first paragraph of your post., I’ve actually done both in this blog post.

Use sub-headings

As I said before, people tend to scan on the web rather than read left to right, one word after the other. They scan down the page seeking morsels of information that appeal to them. Then they read.


Headings and sub-headings provide the perfect scan-fodder for your readers. They also add white space and break up your text, making it more approachable. Another technique that can help is using bullet lists  — for the very same reasons.

Consider your word count

Word count does play a role here. Too low a word count makes the page look like it’s not going to be very informative. After all, how much important information can you glean from 100 words of text? On the other hand a 3,000 word post is just over-kill. It may appear too complex to read, the reader may think they don’t have enough time right now to read it, or they may think it’s got too much information to digest at one sitting. All those are turn-offs.

There does seem to be a sweet spot.

socialsharesThe folks at QuickSprout have an extensive article about this, and their research shows that longer posts get more social shares. Social shares is a simple measure of how many people read the article and found it worthwhile. Shares really start  to pick up once the post length exceeds 700 words, and is best over 5,000.

Add one or two “tweetables” to your post

Tweetables are little snippets of text — like soundbites on the news  — that are memorable and easy to tweet. You can even use a quick blog plugin to help you create them. You’ll find one of those about three paragraphs up in this post, using the Click to Tweet WordPress plugin.

 Four little things to consider in your blog post

  1. Include a call to action. “Share this post” “Call us for an appointment” “Visit our website” There’s a reason the person who takes your order at the fast food burger chain always ask “Want fries with that?”
  2. Include images. We remember photos 6 times easier than text.
  3. Include social share buttons. You want your readers to share your post with their own circle of friends and colleagues, right? You’ll notice our social share buttons at both the top and bottom of this post.
  4. Create a readable URL. Instead of the URL for this post being http://www.rankmagic.com/blog/2014/09/7-steps-perfect-blog-post/ it could be improved to http://www.rankmagic.com/perfect-blog-post/.

stopwatch-timingTiming matters

When your blog post appears has an impact, too, but I’m not convinced this is as important as the other factors. For one thing, most blog posts are published during the workday, but most social shares of blog posts happen between 5 and 11pm, after the workday. More social shares also occur on weekends than during the work week. Do posts published outside of working hours get shared most often? Or are those posts that were published during the workday but not read and shared until after work? The research doesn’t tell us.

There you have it. Seven steps to a perfect blog post.

How many of these things do you employ in your blogging?

There’s plenty to agree and disagree on here. Which are most important? Which do you think are hogwash?Which have worked well for you? Let us know what you think about these in the comments below.

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If perfect blog posts aren’t helping your visibility on the web, maybe the problem’s with the rest of your SEO. At Rank Magic, we can fix that. Drop us a note.


The Most Common Mistake for a Local Business Website

The local business error we see more than any other

You serve people within a limited geographic area.

Oops-250So when consumers in your area search for what you do or what you sell, you need to show up in the search engine results. And to maximize the likelihood of that, search engines need to understand where your business is, and what geographic areas you serve.

Despite how much better search engines have gotten in understanding the focus of a web page, they’re not yet as smart as a person. If you have a page all about in-home widget repair, search engines will understand that very well. And if you have another page about your service area, they can understand that. But what they don’t do well is connecting those dots. To a search engine, each web page is like an island. It connects with others via links, but it needs to do the dot-connecting itself. In other words …

You need location information on every page of your website.

Depending on your business, it’s good to have your phone number posted prominently near the top of every page. And make sure it’s a local area code. Toll-free numbers for local businesses make customers suspicious.

Then, make sure your address, including state and zip code is on every page. Beyond that, you might allude to your service area: counties you serve, or even the major cities and towns, as long as you don’t make that annoyingly long. The easiest place to include this is in your page footer because that allows you to put and maintain it in one spot that will be inherited by all the pages on your site. For example, if Rank Magic was limited to local business, I might place this in our footer:

Serving the north Jersey counties of Morris, Essex, and Sussex
from offices in East Hanover, NJ 07936

If you serve customers (or clients, or patients) at your office or store, you should obviously include the street address as well.

How do you deal with this on your site? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Your Clichés Turn Off Potential Customers

You probably don’t use clichés in the marketing copy on your website.

Or do you?

I learned a simple rule from a marketing consultant years ago that’s stuck with me ever since. Don’t make your reader think “well, I should hope so”. But I see that all the time in website copy  — empty phrases and promises that prompt exactly that response.

  • Quality service!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We do it right the first time!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We always honor our agreements.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We have expertise in [whatever it is we do]
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Free estimates.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • At [company name] you’re the boss.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We pride ourselves on working hard for our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We provide a job well done and done to your satisfaction.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We respect our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Fully insured!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Your satisfaction is our goal.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We work to make you happy.
    Well, I should hope so.

You get the idea.

The next time you write or revise your web content, I hope you will keep this principle in mind.

Well, I should hope so.

What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comments below.

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Should You Avoid a Niche-Designed Website?

Niche Websites: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

search-magnifying-glassThere are web design and hosting companies out there that focus on a specific industry or niche. Some create only Realtor websites, others specialize in car repair shop websites, some do only podiatrist websites, and so on. They have advantages and disadvantages, and for some situations they may be the perfect solution. But for others, they can be a very bad solution despite how attractive the process might appear.

The Good

  • Considering their specialty, they may understand your target market or readership perfectly; better than other web designers.
  • Often you’ll have a single point of contact for web design, web programming, content writing, etc. instead of different individuals.
  • They may integrate with your back office systems like practice management systems, CRM (Customer Relations Management) systems, etc.
  • They may offer specialized, pre-programmed tools to enhance your website; things like mortgage calculators, diagnostic questionnaires, etc.
  • They may have pre-written content that can really expand and flesh out your website.

The Bad

  • You may get stuck. If you’re unhappy with pricing or customer service, you may be unable to pick up your website and plunk it down at another web hosting company.
  • If you’re stuck, you may find yourself at the mercy of abnormally high recurring costs for your hosting.
  • Once you’re stuck, the company may have less motivation to update your site to current standards and your site may begin to look stale.
  • Limited templates may mean your site looks like a lot of other websites that are in your niche.
  • In some cases, you don’t own the rights to the content on your site; it may be legally owned by the website creator, not you, the website owner. That means if you want to move your site away from them, all the content needs to be rewritten from scratch.

The Ugly  — Sometimes

You may be in a niche that doesn’t require SEO. Not every website needs to draw visitors from search engines. Someone new to a community may search online for a pediatrician or a podiatrist, but someone who needs a brain surgeon is very unlikely to search the web to find one. If you’re that brain surgeon, you rely on referrals from other doctors and patients, and your website serves to provide information to people who have already been referred to you. For you, a niche-sprcific website may be perfect.

But if you’re like most website owners you need to attract new customers, clients and patients via your website. You need to show up in search engines when people look for what you sell or what services you provide. Here is where niche-designed websites may get ugly.

Some may not permit many optimization techniques that will help your website show up for the searches your target is looking for.

Google hates duplicate contentBut perhaps the ugliest thing is something I listed above as a good thing: They almost all offer pre-written content for your website. If you’re a podiatrist, say, they may have content about bunions, ingrown toenails, ankle injuries, plantar fasciitis, and many other conditions of the foot and ankle. Good, right? Not really.

The Danger of Duplicate Content

Let’s say you want patients suffering from bunions to find you online. If a dozen local podiatrists have a page about bunions that says the same thing on all of their sites, Google is very unlikely to show more than one of them in search results. What good does it do the searcher if every one of the top ten results has exactly the same information for them?

How likely is this to happen? Well, in a search for a local doctor who treats bunions, I found a podiatrist’s web page that began with this sentence: “A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint).” That page has a good deal of relevant, interesting content. But then when I searched in Google for that precise sentence, I found quite literally thousands of web pages with exactly the same content. The likelihood that multiple podiatrists serving the same geographical community have the same page on their websites is very high. Any two or three such podiatrists are almost certainly not all going to show up on the first page of Google because of that duplicate content issue.

Those websites will be fine as brochure websites for people who already know the name of the doctor or medical practice, but almost worthless in terms of attracting people looking for a podiatrist on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Does your experience with a niche-designed website support or contradict this? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 SEO Tips For Lawyers – Plus 1 Bonus Tip

21.9% of people needing a lawyer search online.Not everyone looks for a lawyer online.

However, according to Lawyernomics, search is the second most common way people look for an attorney.  If you want your share of those clients, SEO is essential so your website ranks near the top in Google, Yahoo & Bing.

Are you getting your share of clients from search? It’s easy to tell. Pretend you’re a potential client who doesn’t know the name of your firm or of any attorney on staff. Go to the search engine you use the most and see if you can find your website. If you don’t show up in the top two or three pages, you’re missing out on those clients. And if other local firms show up prominently, guess where those clients are going for representation?

1  — On-Page Local Optimization

Attorneys deal with clients on a face to face basis, so your clients are going to come from a certain radius of your offices. They’ll be searching for such terms as

  • Morristown child custody attorney
  • North Jersey workers compensation lawyer
  • New Brunswick DUI lawyer
  • Wayne NJ estate planning attorney
  • Lake George business attorney

As such, it’s important to have local terms on your web pages so the search engines know exactly where you practice. And it’s not enough to have a page entitled Service Area or something similar; search engines won’t readily connect the dots between that page and your page about child custody, workers comp or DUI. You need your geographical terms on every page.

2  — Local Search Directories

Local search resultsYou also need a presence on Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local, well optimized for display in the local search results. Beyond that, you need to be listed at local oriented directories like Yelp, City Search, Insider Pages, Yellow Book, etc. It takes explicit action to ensure you’re listed in all those places with appropriate information about your firm.

3  — Focus on Sub-Practice Areas

Many firms concentrates in a limited number of practice areas. For sake of discussion, let’s say you practice family law and elder law. It’s not enough to have a Family Law page with a bullet list of sub-areas like divorce, mediation, custody issues, and child support and an Elder Law page that lists services like estate planning, wills, medicaid planning, trusts, elder care issues, probate, etc. You need a page about each of those detailed practice areas with meaningful content. Ensure there’s clear navigation on the site so a potential client can find information related to their specific concern.

Bonus Tip – Not everyone comes from search

Content is what converts visitors to clients.Clearly, many potential clients come not from search but via referral: from a friend or another attorney. Those people will still go to your website to check you out and verify your expertise and professionalism. Regardless of how a potential client ends up on your site, it’s up to your website to convert them into a paying client. You need clarity, reader-friendly copy, appropriate calls to action (“Call now to schedule a free consultation”), and information about the attorneys on staff and their education and experience. But don’t make your content all about you  — you need a clear client-focus to show you’re goal is to solve your visitor’s problem, not to brag about your skills.

Need professional help making this happen? Rank Magic can help.

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We always welcome your comments below.


Combat the Bounce

The Dreaded Bounce  — What Is It?

Visitors who bounce like this are bad for your rankings.

We’ve all done it. Clicked on a link to a web page somewhere and realized it’s not what we were really looking for. So we click the Back button in our browser and move on. That’s a bounce: we bounced right back to where we came from.

Is a Bounce Bad?

Clearly, a bounce isn’t exactly good; that visitor didn’t buy anything. But is it really bad? Or just … meh?

Actually, it’s pretty bad. It’s not just a “so what?” matter.

When someone bounces, especially when they landed on your site from a search page, that tells the search engine that (at least to that visitor) your page wasn’t a good match for what they were searching for. And if your page isn’t a good match for whatever keyword phrase was searched, the search engine probably won’t want to rank your page as highly next time.

This can hurt you no matter how well your on-page keyword optimization has been done, and no matter how many relevant pages on other sites are linking to your page. Bouncing is a negative ranking factor.

How Do You Prevent Bounces?

This is where you need the skills of a copywriter. You need to make your page uniquely informative  — or fun  — or surprising  — or outrageous  — or provocative. And unique. SEO techniques can’t help you with this. Nothing done with search engines in mind can help you with this. You need to craft each web page with your visitors in mind. What do they need? What are they looking for? What will they like?

And you need to ask them to do something. “Click for more.” “Sign up for our newsletter.” “Tell us what you think.” “What are your questions about this?” “Buy now.” These are calls to action, and their efficacy is undisputed. Why do you suppose when you order a fast food burger they always ask you “Want fries with that?” It’s because they sell lots more fries that way. It can work for you, too.

Find this post useful? Then please click on the Like button above. Or Tweet it with the button above. Or +1 it with the button below. (See how I’m using calls to action here?)

Give us your feedback in the comments below.

Need help with your own website’s rankings? Rank Magic can help.

 


Don’t Optimize for Google

Huh???

Sure, Google gets twice as many searches as Yahoo and Bing combined, but you shouldn’t optimize for Google. You shouldn’t optimize for Yahoo and Bing either.

It’s the User. It’s always the User.

A poor UX will get you nowhere with Google.Identifying the right keywords and doing on-page keyword optimization is arguably the easy part. The hard part is developing a compelling UX (User Experience). In a competitive niche, that’s what separates the high flyers on Google from the also-rans.

Let’s think about that for a second. It’s always been Google’s goal to present the best sources of information for any given search. That’s why you won’t find multiple listings on the first page of results that all have the same content. They’re out there  — just look at websites developed by vertical market website vendors; they often have pages with lots of information, but pages that are the same on many other websites. Google never wants to show you more than one of those: the rest are all redundant.

But it’s more than just having unique content on your site (although that is an irreducible essential). Your site needs to be easy to use, easy for users to find what they want, full of information not easily found elsewhere … it needs a good UX. That’s always been a #1 priority for Google and in their statement of philosophy headlined “Ten things we know to be true”, three of them relate directly to UX:

  • Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  • Fast is better than slow.
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.

I’ve written about all of those things in this blog before, but it wouldn’t hurt you to review some of them.

Focusing on the user is Google’s #1 value. We’ve gathered all the stuff we’ve posted on that subject in our User Experience category.

The speed issue is always a concern when we prepare optimization recommendations for our clients, and all of our posts on that subject are neatly combined into our Page Speed tag.

Recognition that people are increasingly accessing the web on their phones is inescapable. But many websites that look great on a desktop or laptop, or even on a tablet may be close to unusable on a phone. We’ve written about that, too.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

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How does your UX stack up against your competitors? Need some help beating them out in the rankings? If so, Rank Magic can help

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Do You Write Compelling Subject Lines?

Click Bait?

A killer, click-bat headline.Your web page or blog post or newsletter may be astoundingly helpful or surprisingly informative, great fun to read and generally a gem that your target market really needs to know about and read. But if your subject line isn’t good “click bait”  — something that will make it impossible to pass up without clicking on it  —  no one will know.

You need to grab them with the subject line. In an email newsletter, it’s the subject of the email. In a social media post it’s the headline you give the post or the first few words of the post. On a web page  it’s the page title that will show up in search results. And in a blog post it’s also the page title, but that often duplicates the primary headline of the post.

Dierdre Rienzo wrote a helpful piece at MarketItWrite about how to analyze your prospective subject lines for their likelihood of attracting clicks.

The Value of Good Examples

One thing I’ve often found helpful, especially when a headline or subject line seems beyond my grasp, is to look at some examples.

Info Marketing Blog reprinted 100 great advertising headlines with a brief discussion of each. Review them and you’ll get a sense of what elements go into a real compelling, click bait subject line.

The Financial Brand has s helpful set of rules for creating a killer subject line, even though their focus is financial.

From an advertising perspective, Crazy Egg has a list of nine steps to follow to create a compelling subject line or headline.

If you don’t get enough inspiration from these sources, try searching in Google, Yahoo or Bing for headline ideas or how to write a headline. There are some great ideas to get you through that writer’s block.

BTW, if you found this helpful, please share it with friends: Like it or tweet it withthe buttons above and =1 it with the button below.

 

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10 Reasons Your Site Needs to Be Obvious for Users

 There’s a fine line many web developers walk when designing their sites that toggles between coyness and pushiness. We don’t want to beat people over the head with our pitch, yet we fear losing visitors if we don’t make that pitch effectively. By pitch, of course, we’re talking about the message or intent of your website – telling the visitor what you want them to know. Answering the question your site is meant to answer. There are very good reasons why your site needs to be obvious to users, and we’re going to look at ten of them here:
  1. First Impressions – We all know the old adage about them, and it holds true as much online as anywhere else. If your visitor doesn’t get their question answered right away, or isn’t clear on what your site is about, they likely won’t come back to find out later.
  2. Distractions Lead to Detours – If there’s a lot going on all over your website, your visitor can easily overlook its import. You need to guide them to do what you want them to do and go where you want them to go before they get lost on a tangent that takes them someplace else.
  3. They Can’t Say Yes If You Don’t Ask – Visitors need to know what it is they need to do when they land on your page in order to get what they came for. Your site should be easy to navigate, and action buttons or windows should be prominently displayed above the fold.
  4. Short Attention Spans – Remember, more often than not your visitors will be coming from a search engine link. This means your site will be one among many options they have to find what they’re searching for so you need to tell them quickly and clearly why your site is the one they should use.
  5. Web Surfing = Channel Surfing – There’s a reason the terminology has been carried over to internet browsing: the psychology and methodology of the two are very similar. Web surfers are looking for a reason to stay put. If they don’t see one right away, you’re history.
  6. If You Lead, They Will Follow – People respond to clear instruction, and even prefer it. If you tell them exactly what to do, visitors are more likely to do just that and will appreciate the uncluttered, direct approach.
  7. Too Many Options = Too Many Wrong Choices – One of the wrong choices we’ve mentioned already is that they will leave your website. However, it’s also confusing and unnecessarily complicating your purpose to offer a visitor too many options. Provide the shortest path possible to your objective.
  8. Inspire Confidence – A website that asserts its message and establishes itself as a concise source of whatever the visitor is searching for tells them that they’re in the right place. They are less likely to continue their search if you make it plain that it isn’t necessary.
  9. Keep It Simple – Don’t put a lot of speed bumps or roadblocks in your visitor’s path. Have them click as few buttons and follow as few links as possible to arrive at their destination and your objective. Any extraneous action is just another opportunity to leave before they arrive.
  10. Page Ranking – When your content is relevant, high quality, and answers the visitor’s search query, your website will rank more highly in search results. That means more traffic coming to your pages, instead of turning them away.

Thanks to Hannah Howard at Longhorn Leads. This article original appeared here.


4 TrustRank Factors That Sabotage Your Rankings

Does your site or blog have a decent TrustRank?

Jill Whalen of SEO firm High Rankings has written an excellent piece about four TrustRank issues that send negative signals to all the major search engines.

TrustRankTrustRank

TrustRank is a ranking factor at all the major search engines, although at Google it’s more a cluster of different specific ranking factors than a single measure. You can think of it as a measure of your web site’s web-spammy-ness, or rather the lack thereof. Google’s Panda algorithm update a couple of years ago was focused heavily on TrustRank issues.

Here’s a quick list of the four dangerous TrustRank signals Jill explains:

  • Expertness  — Does your website demonstrate your knowledge of what each page is about? Or is your content rather shallow? Does it provide any real, useful information, or just ask people to hire you or buy your product?
  • Comprehensiveness  — Are your web pages and blog posts too short or insubstantial to be of real value to a visitor? Can people tell who wrote your blog posts?
  • Keyword Redundancy  — Do you have multiple pages talking about essentially the same thing but in different ways to focus on different keywords? That may no longer be necessary, at least for Google.
  • Proofreading  — This goes to the user experience on a website: typos, poor grammar, formatting errors like hard line breaks in the middle of a sentence, even nonsensical copy resulting from an attempt to work in awkward keyword phrases.

Jill explains these factors in more depth than I do here, and offers some advice on how to uncover them and fix them. I recommend her article if you have even the slightest concern that your website may be sending bad TrustRank signals.

If you need professional assistance with this, Rank Magic can help.

If you found this article helpful, please click on the headline then like it, tweet it or share it with the buttons above and below the article.


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