11 SEO Tips That Move the Revenue Needle

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Gamification can even help a presentation on SEO for Publishers. During a talk last month at SIPA's Best Practices Conference on New Marketing and Sales Strategies for Customer Acquisition in San Francisco by Ed Coburn, co-president, School Family Media, a chart popped up that drew quick interest. It read Optimizing Posts and listed point values for various criteria of your posts:

  • "Does the post title include the targeted keyword?" 20 points
  • "Is the article more than 800 words?" 10 points (I win on this post.)
  • "Are there at least 3 hyperlinks from additional proximity keywords to other content?" 5 points
  • "Is the targeted keyword in the URL?" 1 point

It was very impressive. (You can see Coburn's slides here.) The only thing missing was a scorecard that told you something like, "100 points! Stand tall, you know your SEO!" Or "35 points, your content is lost in space."

The chart was adapted from Mequoda Systems, where Coburn used to work. Kim Mateus, Mequoda's EVP and planning group leader, will present a webinar on Thursday, Dec. 8 titled SEO Unleashed: Dispelling the Myths and Maximizing Effectiveness. It is free for SIPA members.

Coburn and co-presenter Judy Doherty, publisher, Food and Health Communications, offered many more impressive takeaways in that presentation. (Doherty did more of a case study which we will examine more in a future post.) Here are 11:

1. Avoid the one-and-done by getting an email address. Do this and now you can "start to shape a conversation," said Coburn. "Most people are just not that into you. They come to your site looking for an answer to a question. You satisfy what they're looking for, and they could easily be done and not have a clue who answered it." Capture the email.

2. Target phrases that are three words and more. "Most of the time when you talk to people about SEO, they say, 'we found 30-40 keyword phrases that we're targeting.' Generally that's not going to get much of anything," Coburn said. "...When you're targeting one- and two-word phrases, I have bad news for you: You're not going to be able to move the needle. You've got to do enough research and figure out what are the 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 8-word phrases that you can be competitive on, where you have great content. Do well on those, and Google will start to say, 'hey, there's a similar three-word phrase, let's see how you do there, and then 2 and 1, but let's start with [more]."

3. Make sure your content is mobile responsive. If your audience is heavily mobile and your pages aren't, that's a problem," Coburn said. "Google will stop serving up pages in their search results." He added that you don't have to be lightning fast in your loading, "but if you're slow-loading you'll suffer."

4. Include social sharing capabilities on your pages. Occasionally, the nature of your content may preclude this—medical information perhaps—but that's rare, Coburn said. By following these good practices, Google will develop a trust in your site that comes from reliable site history, inbound links, longer keyword phrases. "They will see that you are a knowledgeable expert in this area and push you to a higher level."

5. Update your blockbuster posts. These are evergreen posts that drive a disproportionate share of traffic. When Coburn worked at Mequoda, he said that their top 200 posts produced 94-plus% of their organic traffic. That was out of about 6,000 posts! "Why don't we just post those, you ask? If we had known what those would be when we started, sure. [But also] part of what makes those 200 posts work is that you have 1,500 other posts linking to them and they all work together." Other posts could also benefit from the most popular ones. Coburn will update posts as much as four times a year. "You're telling Google that it's still current, that we stand behind this content. And you don't need to change it. [You're saying,] 'As of today we think that this is as good as it gets.' Google is okay with this.

6. Use the same URL in those blockbusters. Also, when you update, don't put the original date the article was published on—just the year is sufficient. This way, the original year won't appear in Google's searches.

7. Keep your keyword phrases together. Coburn gave a couple headline examples: "Top 10 ideas for getting parents involved" separates "top" and "ideas." Better to say, "10 Best ideas for getting parents involved." And be clear, he said. "You Really Do Make a Difference at School" may sound okay directed to a parent in one specific instance. But "How to Involve Parents at School and Why it Matters" will do much better in SEO.

8. Keep numbers out of your blockbuster's headlines. Coburn said that "37 tips for running a better meeting" could turn into 35 or 40 later on and create a confusing URL. "Tips for running a better meeting" would be fine. Google likes it when you organize things sensibly, he said.

9. Google yourself at least once a month. "I try to do it every week," Doherty said. "I think it's really important."

10. Use Google AdWords. "When you are in Google AdWords editor, it will show you all the keywords that people are using in search," Doherty said. She added that it can also tell you what people are looking for.  One time it was how to make a poster, so Doherty showed people the process. "Use the power of what people are using and looking for to get to your site... Find out what people are looking for beyond analytics. Know how to describe your products."

11. Make ads there that sell well and are low cost. For text ads, use high-performing keywords. For shopping ads, use your bestsellers and avoid the negative keywords, Doherty advised.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…