Special FLASH Offer for New Clients!

From today, 12 November 2020-Friday, 20 November 2020 at 5pm PST, Wordz by Jericho is pleased to offer a “skinny” trial retainer for new clients.

We really “otter” get to know each other!

Here’s how it works:

Your $100 evergreen retainer gets you FIVE hours of content creation and SEO services.

That’s one bonus hour with a value of $25!

Retainer can be used for:

  • Content creation with SEO optimization
  • SEO planning and strategy
  • Social media & email marketing and content creation
  • Basic image cropping, retouching and resizing
  • Existing social media management and engagement-driving services

Retainer may not be used for:

  • Graphic design, rendering or manipulation
  • Ghostwriting
  • Web design, development or administration

Please click here to view the Client Agreement for a comprehensive list of what is and is not included with your retainer.

I believe if I can’t prove to you I’m worth the money in five hours, I don’t deserve your business.

It’s just that simple. But I know when you see what I can do for you and your business, you will find me to be the best blend of value, knowledge, service and results at my price point, bar none.

Like all good things, this special introductory retainer won’t last long.

It ends at 5pm PST on Friday, November 20th. If you’ve been considering an SEO solution, or you’re not satisfied with the search engine marketing results your current provider is delivering, there will never be a better time to give Wordz by Jericho a try.

Click here to purchase your “skinny” retainer package

and let me show you why you really “otter” check out the SEO and content creation solution for which Wordz by Jericho is known!

New Client Testimonial: Rachel Pfister-Rhys

Rachel Pfister-Rhys is a romance author in the Portland, OR area. She needed an initial website buildout with social media channels and some graphic design work. Here’s what she says about her experience with Wordz by Jericho:

In my experience, it’s hard to find a social media content solution which can both work with the budget of a beginning writer and won’t balk at some of my more outlandish requests. Wordz by Jericho has ably proven to be that solution for me.

Wordz by Jericho was invaluable in setting up my website and online presence to my specifications. Jericho Wayne made everything all “plug and play” and idiot-proofed it as best he could. He even designed the signature I use on my website and in emails!

When we were setting up my various accounts, I misspelled my email. Jericho dropped everything and got me back up and running with full access to my social media channels and the correct address in less than an hour. If I’d done that myself, I might still be trying to get everything untangled!

Jericho’s professionalism and dedication to his clients speaks volumes, and I recommend Wordz by Jericho to anyone who needs a great, responsive, affordable online presence contractor without hesitation. Five stars, and thank you for all your help!

Thank you for your kind words, Rachel! You were a pleasure to work with. I’m happy to help you out anytime! –Jericho

Visit Rachel Pfister-Rhys and learn more about her work at rachelpfisterrhys.com. (Caution: This site features some NSFW content which may not be appropriate for all viewers)

Human Vs. Machine, Pt. 3: Artificial Linkbuilding

Outbound and inbound links help give your content authority. But too many or the wrong kind can actually get your site blacklisted.

In Thursday’s post, I mentioned that content creation is a balancing act between satisfying the algorithms by which search engines rank content and writing for human eyes. This week, I want to do a deeper dive into the concept to illustrate why it is so important to achieve this balance–and why sometimes, seemingly paradoxically, the machine will lose.

Some of the most popular and risky ways to game SERP rankings include:

Today, we’re going to talk about artificial linkbuilding.

A good linking scheme keeps relevance and value uppermost in mind.

Links are another way to build authority for your content. There are two types: outbound, which take you to another website, such as when you’re citing a source; and inbound, which bring people to your website. Algorithms evaluate links as one of the criteria to determine page rankings. Good links:

  • Track to sites with high trust and authority
  • Take viewers to relevant content
  • Offer value to the reader

There’s a lot of variation in what experts say is a good link density. One common formula, and the one I personally hold to, is between 2-5 links per post. (Note: This article has 6: four internal links and two outbound. Because of the relevance of these links to the information I’m presenting, this is reasonable. Always remember: THERE ARE NO HARD AND FAST RULES WHEN IT COMES TO SEO, ONLY BEST PRACTICES!)

However, Google seems to allow as many links as you can stuff in, provided the links meet the criteria above. If I was doing a rundown on the top stories of 2020, this would be a good thing as I would need to do a ton of linking to cite all my sources. But generally speaking, 2-5 is plenty. This allows me a couple of external source citations, a couple of internal links to other content on my site and one more “wild card” link I can use for whatever best suits the content I’m creating.

Artificial linkbuilding ignores this formula by creating links to sites of dubious or no relevance or value to the viewer.

If you’ve ever received spam comments on your website exhorting viewers to click to see “hot Russian women who want to marry YOU!” or “Buy methytraxachloroquine* cheap!” with a link, you’ve seen one of the most common artificial linkbuilding tactics. People who post these links hope the webmaster or comment curator won’t be paying attention or takes the lazy route by bulk-approving comments, giving the poster a free inbound link. This sort of linkbuilding is usually executed by third parties, many of whom get paid to do so based on how many links they can seed around. For this reason, the content of these comments is usually copypasta.

Unfortunately, this method works often enough to keep them doing it.

The problem is, when it works, these links compromise the authority and perceived value of the site by Google and other search engines. Which makes sense, because this sort of link has nothing to do with the actual content on the site.

Another variation on this theme is creating a ton of links to other sites within the content itself, which don’t actually have anything to do with the site itself and only the most tenuous connection to the content. Unlike comment-based artificial linkbuilding, this is done by someone who has direct access to the backend of the website. This type of linking usually involves selecting a bunch of arbitrary anchor text or keywords and then finding something loosely related to them.

This style is both more insidious and harder to detect by the human eye. Web-savvy users assume by default that if a link is present, there must be a reason for it. You may click on a random link or two, realize it’s irrelevant and move on with your day, but chances are you don’t give it a second thought beyond that. On the admin side, unless someone goes through and manually clicks every link to verify it goes somewhere relevant, the same assumption is present:

“This link is here. No one puts in links without a reason. Ergo, this link is here for a reason.”

-Every User and Webmaster Ever

The logical fallacy of this non sequitur (“It does not follow”) should be obvious. The link is indisputably there. No one adds the extra work to install a link for no reason. The link thus must serve some purpose within the content.

BUT!!!!!

(Yes, yes, I’m also a fan of Terry Pratchett too and, as such, I’m well aware of his opinion of multiple exclamation points.)

The fatal error in the logical chain comes in that bit in the middle. Let us say rather that no one installs links for the sake of installing them. There is always a reason to put a link in, but that reason is not always for the benefit of the visitor.

Just because a link looks good doesn’t mean it IS good!

This sort of linkbuilding is just one shady tactic employed by black-hat SEO operators. Lots of inbound links leading to their site boosts their apparent authority, but damages the credibility and authority score of the sites where the link is present. Over time, this can lead to a substantial drop in SERP ranking or, if other forms of algorithm-gaming are determined to be present in conjunction with artificial linkbuilding, can get your website blacklisted.

Here’s how website owners and admins can combat artificial linkbuilding.

  1. Always check any outbound links personally. Content creators are only human and we sometimes make mistakes. Thus, a link which looks visually fine on the page may not work in practice. Leaving a character off the end of the link, the wrong HTTP suffix or a subtle misspelling of one word could result in a broken link, or worse, take your visitors somewhere they didn’t intend to go. (Back in the day, you may recall, whitehouse.com took you someplace very different than whitehouse.gov, much to the consternation of a generation of parents and teachers who wanted to teach kids about government and instead found themselves fielding awkward sex education questions!)
  2. Clear your spam comment cache regularly. (I personally recommend doing this at least weekly, and daily is better.)
  3. Blacklist the IP addresses and email of offending commentators.
  4. Add keywords which pop up in your spam comments regularly to your list of disapproved content, like methytraxachloroquine. Unless you’re a pharmacist or pharmaceutical manufacturer, the odds a word like this is going to pop up in normal discourse on your site are virtually nil.
  5. Set all information requested by your contact form as “Required.”
  6. Set up a honeypot to trap spambots. Honeypot programs add a required element to your contact form which is invisible to human eyes, but which bots will readily fill in because bots are not smart. When this happens, they’re automatically prevented from posting to your site.
  7. Audit your site links periodically. At a minimum, this should be done biweekly, because link addresses may change, sites may go down, or information may be altered or amended to no longer apply to the anchor content you’re linking from. If your key authority link falls down, it can drag your site’s authority ranking down with it.
  8. You might want to sit down with your content creation staff and hammer out a “best practices” style sheet for things like links. Establish a whitelist of known authority sites relevant to your profession and niche, and stick to that list as much as you can. While you’re doing this, also establish a review policy for links which deviate from the list. Every link should be relevant, timely to the content or evergreen, and capable of conveying additional information or increasing value in some way for the viewer. If a proposed link doesn’t meet these criteria, without a very good reason, cut it and find a link which does.
Too many broken links undermine your site’s authority and value, which can pull down your rankings!

With a little vigilance, some due diligence and a healthy dollop of caution, you can help protect your site and its visitors from artificial linkbuilding and spamming, building your reputation and authority without jeopardizing your search engine ranking!

Be sure to tune in tomorrow, when we’ll be discussing the weirdest method of algorithm gaming around. In the meantime, be sure to drop a comment and tell me about your experiences with artificial linkbuilding. What steps did you take to prevent it? What steps would you recommend others take? Can you think of any other important bits, tips, tricks or tactics I might have overlooked?

*This is a joke name intended to highlight a serious issue for website owners. Methytraxachloroquine, to the best of my and Google’s knowledge, does not exist. Using an actual drug here struck me as being in singularly poor taste, so I made up my own mythical placeholder.

Human vs. Machine Pt. 1: Algorithms and Spun Content

It may be a time-honored signal gaming trend, but content spinning has long since outlived its usefulness.

In Thursday’s post, I mentioned that content creation is a balancing act between satisfying the algorithms by which search engines rank content and writing for human eyes. This week, I want to do a deeper dive into the concept to illustrate why it is so important to achieve this balance–and why sometimes, seemingly paradoxically, the machine will lose.

Some of the most popular and risky ways to game SERP rankings include:

  • “Spun” or computer-generated content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Artificial linkbuilding
  • Link spamming
  • Whited-out text

Today, we’re going to talk about spun content.

Back in the bad old days when I started writing optimized marketing content, content spinning was an accepted practice. The idea was to take a base article and generate multiple other iterations which sounded and looked different enough from each other to be publishable. This meant, with some editing and tweaking, someone could hypothetically write one piece of content and get paid for it dozens of times over! (And in the bad old days, say 2010-2013, they DID. This practice always struck me as a little shady, and when I was no longer working for agencies which required it, I did away with it altogether in my own work in favor of creating bespoke content.)

Spun content is easy to pick out because it has an artificial feel, even when it’s been edited and smoothed over for better readability. It’s the Uncanny Valley of text-based content. Even if a reader doesn’t consciously recognize it, the content’s slight “offness” can cause viewers to feel unsettled, uneasy or anxious even if they can’t quite explain or even put their finger on why. When website visitors are put off by the quality of the content, they don’t stay. If visitors don’t stay, your site and your business lose potential revenue!

Does this doll creep you out? If so, you have some idea of what spun content feels like to a reader. If not…well, nothing personal, but maybe we shouldn’t make any dinner plans, okay?

“But so what? If we’re getting eyes on our content, that’s a win, right?”

Sorry, but WRONG.

Over time, human readers and curators will review the content on your site. If it comes off as so much gobbledygook, which “spun” content so frequently does, it will be reported. Rack up enough reports, or even a single report from a superuser, and you could find that content or your entire site suppressed or banned from search engine indexing. When that happens, you lose all your gains and may have to start from zero with a brand-new website. If you think that sounds like a fun time, you may also need to use a different computer and/or router to set up the replacement site, just to ensure there are no fingerprints left on the new site such as that pesky IP address which may set off alarms and get your site banned AGAIN the second you take it live.

Avoiding tripping alarms is a lot easier when you just don’t do the things which activate them in the first place.

Practices such as spinning have largely fallen out of favor except among “black-hat” SEO marketers, who promise quick results and nothing more. White-hat operators strive to create content which gains traffic and value organically. Yes, it takes more time, but it also won’t get your site banned!

Every search engine’s ranking algorithms work in more or less the same manner. They evaluate and grade content based on a number of “signals,” or indicators of relative quality.

Well-crafted, human-created content which is purpose-designed to rank prioritizes signals which satisfy the algorithms without compromising the reader experience.

Spoiler: Happy readers spend money!

Writing to satisfy an algorithm can be tricky. Take the following paragraph, for example. This is a good example of how writing for human eyes and writing for a machine can clash. I’m going to pick on Google for this example, because it’s the 800lb gorilla of the SEO world. I literally know NO ONE who actually worries or even cares about how Bing or Yahoo ranks their content, as long as they reach Google’s Page One results.

Google is very circumspect about how Penguin, Panda and its other algorithms evaluate website content. This is not a bug. It’s a feature of the algorithms’ design. By keeping what signals are used to assess content and how these signals are scored a secret, Google tries to prevent people from gaming the system. People often try to inflate their ranking by emphasizing signals which look great to a computer, but read as gibberish to human eyes. Most of what we know about these algorithms’ function has been discovered “in the wild” through trial and error, including real-time monitoring of page rankings across SERPs as content is posted and refined.

“I’m watching you, human.” –Google Penguin algorithm

Just for a goof and to illustrate the problem with spinning, I took this paragraph and ran it through a free online tool called Spinbot. The text in the top box is the original. The text in the bottom box was the result of the machine rewrite. As you can see, the results…well, they’re something!

Result screen edited for clarity and ease of reading. The original website will look different.

For accessibility purposes, here’s the bottom text as rendered by the machine:

Google is extremely careful about how Penguin, Panda and its different calculations assess site content. This isn’t a bug. It’s an element of the calculations’ plan. By keeping what signs are utilized to evaluate substance and how these signs are scored a mystery, Google attempts to keep individuals from gaming the framework. Individuals regularly attempt to blow up their positioning by stressing signals which look incredible to a PC, yet read as jabber to natural eyes. The majority of what we think about these calculations’ capacity has been found “in the wild” through experimentation, including ongoing observing of page rankings across SERPs as substance is posted and refined.

Mean what you is content my good not? Best the I writer am. Human beat no me can! Error! Error! EX-TERM-IN-ATE…!!!

When we compare the two, the bottom iteration is mostly grammatically sound. It’s TECHNICALLY correct in the sense that the reader can still (sort of?) understand what the writer is trying to say. But in terms of readability or actual sense, it’s abysmal. To illustrate this, I ran both iterations against an online readability checker. Here’s how my original content scored, as indicated by ReadabilityFormulas.com.

If I take this assessment at face value, this paragraph needs to be rewritten so it scores at least a 60 on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale (higher score = easier comprehension). However, I’m not going to do that right now for three reasons. First, it’s unnecessary. I have faith that anyone savvy enough to follow this article doesn’t need it broken down to Dick and Jane levels. Second, in this case, it’s a pointlessly tedious and difficult exercise which doesn’t add sufficient value to be worth the time investment. Third, while I believe readability scores do serve a purpose in some cases, they are generally a frivolous concern when weighed against other signals which have more impact.

Readability does not always equal intelligibility.

This is one area where I’m perfectly prepared to ignore the machine in favor of content designed for human minds.

This said, I assess work undertaken for a client differently than work I do on my own, depending on what the intended results and audience are. Some situations demand a different approach, such as documents which must be prepared in compliance with state and federal laws specifying a given minimum reading score. This is why humanized content requires human eyes, if you’ll pardon the pun!

And here are the results from the spun copy:

As you can see, the spun content is even more difficult to parse. While it technically meets the definition of “original” content, it falls down badly in terms of readability and in some spots borders on outright nonsense. It also feels artificial, or at best like it was run through Google Translate by a non-native English speaker.

Another thing you may have noticed about the spun content is that some of the keywords have changed. One that jumped out at me is the way “algorithms” are now replaced with “calculations.” This isn’t a problem if I’m concerned about ranking for “Google calculations” over “Google algorithms.” The issue is, “Google calculations” means something very different than “Google algorithms,” so people seeking information about how Panda and Penguin rank their content will pass over anything about “calculations” unless there’s a very clear linkage created. Even then, that linkage is likely to be so thin it probably won’t get to Page One, never mind “above the fold,” which is where 95% of all productive business clicks occur!

As algorithms have become more sophisticated, they have begun to become quite adept at sniffing out spun content. They do this by indexing pages and comparing the content on them across the search engine. When they find content which is sufficiently similar (and no one is entirely sure what the threshold for “sufficient” is outside Google itself), they evaluate which content was posted first. The one which has the longer historical presence wins in this case. This makes content spinning at best of questionable valuable and at worst a disastrous practice in about 99.9 out of 100 cases.

No one knows all the secrets of The Matrix. Except Google. Google knows…

If you absolutely MUST use spun content for some arcane reason, you need an experienced content creation professional who can minimize the risks for you.

Generally speaking, you and your intended audience will be happier with, and more secure in, the quality and value of the content you’re delivering if you just hire a professional to craft bespoke content for you from the outset. It may cost a little more on the front end, but the time, money and hassle you’ll save yourself in the long run will be well worth the investment.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we talk about the most popular form of algorithm gaming still going on: keyword stuffing! Also, let me know your thoughts on spun content. Have you had good OR bad prior experiences with it? What happened when you encountered or used it? Let’s talk!

10 Reasons Your Website NEEDS a Sense of Humor

Have you ever had your TV on for background noise and realized you were listening to a daytime soap opera or a Spanish-language telenovela? Have you ever noticed they’re often so deadly damned serious they inadvertently cross the line into hilarity?

Would it surprise you to know the same thing can happen with your website?

Because it can!

Look, I get it. You worked hard to get where you are. You want your company’s image to reflect the fact you take your work seriously and mean business. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, demonstrating your business has a sense of humor can boost your business in surprising ways. Study after study after survey demonstrates businesses which display an appropriate sense of humor for their niche gain more followers and clients, and also perform better in face to face interactions.

You don’t need to go QUITE this extreme for the laugh…

The key is, “for their niche!”

This means acceptable business humor for an attorney or a cosmetic surgeon might be different than the kinds a doula, an adult toy business or a plumber may employ. Because you work in that field, you know far better than a generalist like me what sort of humor is okay and what sort is taboo. That said, there are some general reasons having and demonstrating a sense of humor can work for your business instead of against it.

When I write for a client, I try to inject appropriate humor for their industry into the copy when and where possible. My object is to help your website and its content rank on Google and other search engines. In this respect, I’m working to satisfy a machine and a patchwork of algorithms. But I’m also, and far more importantly, writing for human eyes. Striking a balance between the often conflicting requirements of the machine versus the human is the art form at the heart of my craft. And, to be perfectly honest, it makes my job a little more fun too.

With this in mind, here are ten reasons why your website needs a sense of humor!

  1. If you want people to listen to you, make them laugh.

There is a time and a place to be perfectly earnest and serious. However, on first introduction probably isn’t it. If you can make someone smile or laugh, you can also make that person THINK about what you’re saying. This makes the person more receptive to what you have to say and offer. They will like you more, and the goodwill fostered by that feeling could make the difference between establishing a positive, mutually productive working relationship and finding they’ve taken their business elsewhere.

2. Humor showcases your humanity.

“Sorry I’m late, everyone. I just got a new espresso machine for the office and I couldn’t figure out how it worked!” (Said with a shrug and a self-deprecating chuckle)

It’s been a RUFF morning

In today’s caffeinated society, most people will be at least a little sympathetic to the need for an eye-opener to start the day. Plus, the challenges of adapting to any new technology, be it a fancy coffee maker or the latest and greatest whizbang smartphone, are universally relatable. Using humor on your website demonstrates you’re human too, dealing with all the challenges your clientele is. You don’t necessarily need a lot of humor, and you don’t need to be constantly cracking wise. But you do need to point up the fact your company is run by humans, with humans and for humans. If your profession is particularly prone to puns, such as the names of certain notorious law firms, you might make a couple upfront. This gives you the dual benefit of getting a possible laugh and heading off your prospective customer’s chances to make the joke at your expense, since you got there first!

3. The right humor shows you know your audience.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To show the armadillo it was possible.”

Y’all got jokes…

Tell this joke in Austin, Massachusetts and you’ll probably get a level stare and, “Okay…?” Tell it in Austin, Texas and people will likely be rolling on the floor because armadillos, in addition to being the Texas state animal, are also a common sight along the side of the road after being struck by vehicles. It’s funny to Texans because it’s so frequently proven to be true, but someone from Massachusetts probably won’t get it.

The same basic principle applies to any other form of business. From attorneys to adult bookstores, every industry has its own unique jargon and humor. If you can find the customer’s pain point and make a joke out of it, it subconsciously signals the reader that “THIS person gets it and knows what to do about it!” In turn, this fuels your perceived likeability and your business’s profitability.

4. A sense of humor equals resilience.

Things fall apart, don’t work as planned or just flat-out go straight to Hell in a handbasket. It happens to us all. Someone who experiences a minor setback and freaks out, goes on a full-throated rant about why God has forsaken them and generally loses their cool is unpleasant to work with, soul-crushing to work for and has little to no chance of retaining customers in the long term. On the flipside, a person who can look at a less than ideal situation and apply humor to it can dispel tension and redirect everyone’s focus toward potential solutions to the problem rather than the problem itself.

5. Humor often equates to creativity.

Have you ever had someone make a wisecrack about a situation and realize that person inadvertently gave you the solution? Studies show a sense of humor often correlates to a high degree of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. This means your office smartass, the one who can’t seem to take anything seriously, might actually be the problem solver a given issue requires. Because they look at things differently, they can often conceptualize solutions which may evade or thwart a more linear thinker.

6. People with a sense of humor are easier to be around.

Whether it’s the boss, coworkers or clients, people tend to naturally gravitate toward others who demonstrate a sense of humor. As bosses, they often take a lighter approach toward management. As coworkers, they tend to be more collaborative. As clients,they tend to be more easygoing and patience. In short, people who can laugh and make others laugh are just generally more pleasant and relaxing company.

7. Your results will look better.

Say you have two people working on a project. One person is a serious, earnest, nose to the grindstone, Type A personality. The other is always making little jokes and having fun with the project. They get equal results–but chances are high you’ll view the joker’s results more positively than the serious one’s, even though they’re identical! The reason is simple: As a species, we view the people we see as likeable, and their results, more favorably than the ones we don’t, even if the results they achieve are indiscernible from one another.

8. It makes you appear more competent and confident.

“I got this!”

People who are afraid to make a mistake or lack faith in their abilities tend to approach jobs with a grim, narrow focus. They don’t look at the big picture and they’re so terrified of screwing up that they wind up with “paralysis through analysis.” Because they don’t feel confident, they often appear incompetent and like they don’t know what they’re doing, panicking at the first sign of trouble. Someone who’s relaxed and demonstrating humor appears to have more control over the situation. “Yeah, this isn’t great, but we’re going to get through it as soon as I duct-tape this cut on my arm!” inspires trust–and usually rewards that trust with measurable results.

9. It makes you feel better.

Laughter is literally medicine. Endorphins are the natural feel-good chemicals your body releases in response to stimuli like a good workout, eating your favorite food, cuddling with your partner or sex. You can also get this same “high” by laughing. They are just as addictive as heroin, which is why people seek out their favorite forms of endorphin release frequently. Amazingly, endorphins increase endurance, stamina and feelings of well-being. They make you happier and able to sustain effort for longer. Delivering a safe boost of endorphins to readers, viewers and your colleagues makes them happier and more willing to work with you, and a well-crafted, perfectly timed joke makes YOU feel better and enjoy your work more too!

10. Humor fosters closeness and connection.

No one likes being on the outside looking in. The human animal is wired to be very social. We need touch, intimacy and connection. Being part of the “in-group” satisfies that innate craving for the feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself. Humor is a kind of conspiracy which invites the participants into your circle. It says, “We’re in this together and we’re going to get this done the way you expect, but we’re also going to have some fun with it.”

There are, of course, times and situations where humor is grossly inappropriate. You likely wouldn’t expect to find a joke on a website for a funeral home, for example, although the occasional pun or dark humor isn’t totally off the table.

It’s a bit on the nose, but it certainly sends a message…

You’d probably be disgusted if the attorney you’re considering for your personal injury case goes on a “hilarious” rant about something harebrained a former client did. Chances are you wouldn’t want to go to an adult store whose homepage is nothing but sexist jokes. Self-deprecating humor should be treated like salt: a little goes a long, LONG way. And of course, “-ist” jokes in general are best not made or even alluded to.

But done well, adding the RIGHT humor to your website can generate more pageviews, stimulate word of mouth advertising and make your phones ring more.

Which is what you want, isn’t it?

Stay tuned for more content creation tips, tricks and tactics, and let me know what YOU think about humor on your website in the comments below!

Why Long-Form Content Matters

Businessman holding tablet

It’s a myth that long-form content such as blog posts, articles, in-depth videos and so on isn’t worth the time or cost. This is simply not true! Long-form content has been and remains the best and most cost-effective possible way to craft a cohesive message for your company or brand, and gives you an edge in organic search results.

People who push the narrative that long-form is “dead” are frequently invested in “short-form” social media and search engine marketing formats.

These include such items as linkbuilding, clickable ads and Twitter marketing, all of which offer a limited character count and modest reach on their own. However, Google has clearly stated, and independent research has borne out, that long-form content consistently performs better in search engine results pages (SERPs) versus any other type of content on its own.

This is because Google prioritizes and emphasizes organic search results based on a number of “signals.” Having long-form content which reads naturally and offers information, thus value, to the reader is a huge signal. A good mix of outbound links, which take you to other websites or sources, and inbound links which lead to your content, is another. Finally, having a fast, responsive website which loads quickly and is easily viewable and navigable on any device is the third major signal.

To be fair, all these items have their place. Long-form content is not the end-all, be-all of marketing. Neither are any of the others. None of these items are likely to function well in a vacuum, and all of them hinge on other facets of best practices for SEO/SEM to be effective. The best marketing strategies embrace the broadest possible options for getting their message out. This means incorporating a mix of long-form and short-form content. Let’s evaluate a hypothetical scenario to see how this might work.

A personal injury law firm wants to update their online presence to attract more pageviews and, ideally, more clientele. There’s nothing “wrong” with their website, per se; it’s professional, concise and gives viewers exactly what they need to know to feel confident considering the firm for services. But…it’s also SO stodgy, professional and concise as to leave many people feeling unsettled. It lacks a distinctly human touch, so a lot of viewers click away. How can this firm attract a broader clientele without sacrificing the professional feel of their site?

Long-form content doesn’t have to be difficult to create!

I would advise this firm to take the following steps, in the following order:

  1. Planning: Start working on longer videos and articles which speak to the type of law the firm practices. For example, the state legislature is debating a new bill which aims to limit or cap recoverable damages in personal injury cases. Information like this could be highly important, useful and valuable to a prospective client. The content should include a primary keyword and a number of variant keywords and phrases based off the primary. In this case, “Oregon Legislature [name of bill]” would be a good primary keyword. You also need to source any photos or images you want included. I use Pixabay for this, myself, but there are plenty of others which don’t cost a fortune and offer royalty-free, no-attribution images which can then be altered, manipulated and used in marketing without risk.
  2. Content Creation: This is where you have the most options. You can opt for written content which delivers a detailed, nuanced consideration, a whiteboard or other video or both. Written content tends to hold up better over time as a rule, but this is not necessarily true in all cases and should be evaluated in the context of what’s going on. If you decide to pair the two, this creates a one-two punch which gives you broader appeal and audience access. A good general ratio for written content paired with video is 200-300 words for every 15 seconds of video. Thus a one-minute video should be expanded out into 800-1200 words, two minutes would be 1600-2400, etc.
  3. Outbound links: Yes, you need them. In this scenario, I would insert a MINIMUM of five outbound links. One link points to the webpage on the state legislature’s website for the bill. Two links take visitors to highly viewed opinion pieces written by other attorneys which agree with the points or conclusions you want the reader to draw. One link should go to an article or video from local or national news media, ideally one whose content is not concealed behind a paywall. The final link goes to a highly viewed article or opinion piece which disagrees with your basic premise, but ultimately draws the same conclusions. By presenting both sides of the argument in a curated manner, you signal an interest in making sure your clients are fully informed of the pros, cons and nuances while still generating a positive bias toward your firm.
  4. Social media marketing: Now that you have your content assembled and developed with an eye to maximizing the number of search strings, you have to pare it down into bite-sized chunks which give a broad overview and encourage viewers seeing them on social media to read/view the whole thing. In this case, I would create at least three unique “blurbs” to stimulate reader interest, each including a relevant image and a link to the parent content: One for Twitter, which maxes out at 280 characters; one for Facebook which consists of a MAXIMUM of five sentences and 125 words; and one for LinkedIn, which falls somewhere between the other two. I might also create 1-2 “in case you missed it,” or ICYMI, versions of each blurb, as well as one on each outlet for the whiteboard video. Thus you end up with a minimum of three and a maximum of twelve possible blurbs, which can be remixed and matched multiple times over the lifespan of the article. (Note: the Facebook promotion can be readily ported to your Instagram account if you have one, effectively giving two for one promotion. Thus, I do not consider Instagram as a separate entity for purposes of this discussion.)
  5. Clickable ads: I differ from many of my colleagues in that I am not wholly sold on the efficacy of paid content promotion. If you already have a Google or Facebook ads account, there’s no reason not to utilize them to help maximize your distribution, especially on a timely article about a topic impacting your clientele. You’re paying for them, so you might as well get the maximum possible mileage from your advertising dollars. However, if you do not have a Google or Facebook Ads account at the start, I generally advise prioritizing long-form content over a pay-per-click, or PPC, campaign.
  6. Engagement: Now you have the content together and you’re ready to start sharing it. Once you do, it’s very important to stay engaged with the response the article generates. This means keeping a close eye on your social media accounts and site dashboard to reply to any comments or criticisms you might receive. A simple “Thank you for giving your thoughts on this!” can go a long way toward bolstering your reputation and attracting new clientele. However, you should NEVER engage with trolls or lose your temper.

All of this sounds like a lot of work. To be fair, to do all of these things, it is. You’re probably looking at minimums of:

  • three hours to plan, gather all the pertinent information and suitable images, write the reader-based content and get the links in
  • two hours to be devoted to the script if you use the video/written combo
  • one hour to create the blurbs for the various social media outlets
  • one hour for drafting the ad copy for your clickable campaigns (if applicable)
  • whatever time it takes to manage and curate reader engagement to your content, which could range from several minutes to several hours measured over the lifespan of the article
  • plus time for editing and revision and approval required at each stage, which could range from 0-several hours.

So, as a practical matter, you’re looking at a bare minimum of 4 hours and an upper limit of somewhere between 10-12 hours just to create, deploy and manage public response to long-form content of the quality you expect and deserve, depending on whether you go the video route and use a PPC campaign engine or not. This estimate does not take into account time spent producing, editing or voicing over the video, only the scripting.

But you’re busy. You need you and your employees, partners and staff to stay focused on serving your clientele to the limit of your capabilities. You don’t have time to become an expert on SEO/SEM, create content with a good chance of ranking on Google AND manage the responses too!

That’s where I come in. I bring a decade of experience and a proven track record of creating hard-hitting content which ranks well in SERPs, attracts readers and helps establish my clients as thought leaders in their respective industries. I use only white-hat SEO techniques and avoid the scammy, sketchy and illegal tactics some SEO agencies embrace. These tactics get quick (irreproducible) results, but they can also quickly get your website blacklisted, leaving your company invisible to the very people who need your services most.

Click here to contact me, and let me show you why long-form content is STILL the reigning heavyweight champion of SEO/SEM marketing!

All images included in this post were sourced from Pixabay under a Creative Commons license which permits for commercial use without attribution. If your image was sourced or used in error, please contact the site owner and it will be removed promptly.