Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to Get Your SEO On

Don't make SEO mistakes.

Everyday at Powell Lawson Creatives, I read a pile of client briefs that describe exactly what they want in a creative piece. They usually need an article, blog, or catalog description. About a third of what I read shows they don't understand search engine optimization (SEO) to the point that they're hurting their business or brand. Without naming names, I'll present the most common mistakes and how to fix them so you optimize your SEO, bring more visitors to your media and better build your brand. The following tips apply to single or blog posts, not websites as a whole.

Not Knowing What a Keyword Is

A keyword in SEO means a search term. It is what you would type into a search box to find relevant results. Your name is a keyword. Your business' name qualifies as a keyword, too. Your occupation, the service you provide, the main topic of your blog or article all qualify as keywords. Not to get too grammatical but, articles, conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns are not keywords. Nope. (More on this later.)

Pick a few strong, basic keywords.

Requesting no keywords.

If you request no keywords in your creative piece, you do yourself and your brand a disservice. Each blog or article needs at least one keyword or natural language keyword phrase. Choose your company or brand name as the less subtle choice. Choose the name of the service you provide as the more subtle choice.

Requesting too many keywords.

An article or blog should contain at most three to five keywords or natural language keyword phrases. Lean toward the low-end of three keywords, otherwise you run the risk of keyword stuffing, the practice of overloading an article or website with keywords. Less is more. The best choices include your brand, the name of the service you provide, and the key element of the blog topic. For example, if you read carefully, this article already named my company, Powell Lawson Creatives; its service provided, creative pieces; and the blog topic, SEO.

Repeating Keywords Too Much

Some clients not only request too many keywords, but too many repetitions of keywords. You may need one keyword to repeat many times. Try not to exceed five to seven repetitions. Ideally, use one to three keywords repeated one to three times. Anything more than that can negatively impact your ranking. The search engine algorithm will dock you for keyword stuffing. Minimal keyword density works best.

Natural Language vs. Keyword Language

Too many briefs request multiple keywords strung together. It either creates gibberish phrases or poor grammar. Natural language means how you would actually say it using proper grammar when speaking or writing.
Incorrect: Whipple Maserati Nome Alaska
Correct: Whipple Maserati in Nome, Alaska
Search engines ignore connecting words like prepositions (in), conjunctions (and), and punctuation. When you request an article using keyword language instead of natural language, the result reflects poorly on your brand because you force the writer to use incorrect grammar and punctuation. You look bad to search engines who see it as keyword forcing and/or stuffing. You look bad to readers who see it as incomprehensible. Enter each word or phrase as a separate keyword item. For instance, enter "Whipple Maserati" as one keyword phrase and "Nome, Alaska" as a separate one. If it's offered on the brief form always choose to allow connecting words.

Misusing Keyword Extraction Tools

Okay, you can call it misusing or misunderstanding, either way, it hurts you. If you have a small business or just started a blog, you may not have the coin to hire a SEO consultant. Some apps can and do extract keywords from your competition's websites and blogs. Some simply exact every word more than one site uses.

True (horror) story: I once received a brief from a client requesting 99 keywords. New to SEO and on a tight budget, they had used one of the keyword extraction apps to mine their competition's sites. Despite my best efforts to explain SEO and how these unneccessary words and phrases would hurt their SEO efforts and the article's readability, they kept the request as is. One of the "keywords" the app identified? "That." Folks, "that" is NOT a keyword. The app only works as well as your understanding of what it does. The well designedapps mine keywords. The poorly designed apps merely return words used on each site. Know the difference. Choose a well designed app and use the top three to five resulting keywords.

Implement local SEO.

Ignoring Local SEO opportunities.

Next time you search for something online, look down at the bottom of the page. Both Bing and Google optimize results by location. As creepy and Big Brother as it is, it can help you draw business. If your business relies on local customers, you need to make your city and state or country one of your keyword
phrases. Whether you bake wedding cakes or plumb houses, this can help you increase your search ranking and draw more business. Also, include your location in the meta data of your website. Search engines use local SEO data to provide the top results since the plumber three blocks from your house makes a much more relevant result than one living one thousand miles away.

Not Linking to Other Sites

I read a ton of briefs from people who want no links in the article. This hurts them in so many ways including loss of credibility, decreased rank and fewer visitors. What does linking to relevant sites do?
  • Linking to sources adds credibility.
  • Linking to sources increases SEO rank.
  • Linking to sources can get you links back to your site.
Some clients worry that a link will take readers away from their site or encourage them to use the competition. Put your mind at ease by having the writer or your web designer set the links to open in a separate, background window. Also, direct the writer to use relevant, non-competitor sources. That does not mean they can't use other plumbers' blogs, for instance. It means they should not use other plumbers' blogs within a 100 mile radius of your business. Your competition means someone actually competing for the same work you do. The writer linking to a plumber in Los Angeles when your business is in Miami does not qualify as a link to your competition. Notice the linked information in this article. I run a creatives company that provides written, photographic and musical pieces to individuals and companies. That means linking to the blog of a publicist or SEO consultant provides validity without linking to my competition.

Using SEO properly can increase your search engine rank, help build your brand, and bring you more customers. Get the most from the money you spend on the creative pieces for your brand by crafting the best requests. I have to brew another cup of coffee and return to the
briefs pile now.


Carlie Lawson writes about tech, mobile and online video, entertainment, sports and fashion. She wrote, Keysian and Movitly for a combined seven years. A former newspaper journalist, she now mostly ghost writes for her clients via her company, Powell Lawson Creatives. Invalid Inputs is her first independent, formal blog. She earned BAs in Journalism and Film & Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma. She also earned her Master of Regional & City Planning at OU. She has worked as a model since she was 17.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Overcomplication of the Internet: I Don't Want an App for That

Last week, in a rare moment of down time, I decided to brew a cup of joe and enjoy one of my favorite X-Files episodes. For five minutes or so, things went great - until the file stopped playback and refused to budge past the moment the Air Force SWAT team finds the test pilot shivering on his bedroom floor, looking like a Hiroshima victim.

No problem, I thought. I'll just download another copy. As I reached for my cell, I remembered that I'd recently wiped and reloaded it due to problems with hackers. I'd only replaced essential apps, meaning I had no Amazon or iTunes app to turn to for the download. Still no problem, I thought. I figured I'd just Google it and download a random copy. Ha, ha. The laugh was on me.

In the late 1990s, I'd come home from school, jump online, find something fun to watch, and start the download while I made a snack and did homework. What a simple thing. Search, find, click. Okay, so download speeds approached snail's pace, but I had A LOT of homework to plow through before I got to treat myself.

Last week, I discovered how far we've left the simple beauty of the 1990s Internet behind. My Internet speed now seems blindly fast in comparison. Very quickly, Google, then Bing, then Webcrawler returned search results of everything X-Files related except episodes to download. A couple of places offered the ability to stream it, but I wanted the file to have and to hold, forever and ever, 'til death or another file corruption do us part. I did not want to put up with jumpy, start and stop playback on my 4G. I did not want to dedicate my phone to a 45 minute episode. I wanted to quickly find one file, download it to my SD card and pop that SD card into my tablet, which I no longer get online with due to hackers. One file.

What I found included episode guides, screenshots from favorite episodes, actor bios, fan fiction, three websites of bogus episode links that actually served ads, an offer for a free month of Hulu streaming, and a guide on how to download a plethora of Amazon apps to access the one freaking file I wanted to download.

That was when it hit me that the Internet's growth wasn't necessarily a good thing. There are too many apps for that - whatever that is. We've taken a good thing and made it bad. What worked simply, we overcomplicated. Now, I purchased the episode once, and was not opposed to doing so again - given a simple, direct method. Let me navigate to a website, click a link, and, poof, download that sucker. Nope. Nothing doing. If I wanted my single episode, I either had to install between one and three HUGE apps, sucking up more of my time, data, and cell phone memory, or I had to pay a monthly fee to stream it or download to watch later - which also required an app. I could:

  • Download and install iTunes, purchase a replacement, then download my file.
  • Download and install Amazon, its sub-store for entertainment, plus its video app, purchase a replacement, then download my file.
  • Install YouTube to subscribe to YouTube Red, a paid monthly service, for the privilege of downloading an episode to watch later, after renting the episode.
  • Install the Hulu app, purchase a subscription and stream the episode.
  • Install a P2P app and pirate the episode (which I did not want to do).

Now, I tried to play along. However, Google sucks. Google Play picked
this time to act up. It would reach the end of a huge download (and on 4G that regularly drops down to 3G every download seems huge) and restart it. To complicate things further, Google Services refused to acknowledge that I just updated it days ago to get Snapchat to work again after my wipe and reload. It too, wanted to update. Rather than download .apks 'til the cows came home, I washed my hands of the affair.

Recall that I had about an hour's worth of downtime to enjoy. I blew most of it learning that today's Internet is doomed with overcomplication. I read Jason Hope, and hope his predictions of the Internet of Things prove correct, however, if the development of IoT follows the path of the development of the Internet, no sooner than it really takes off, it will overcomplicate itself and frustrate its users to the point of desertion.

I never did get my X-Files fix. Rather than the research inspiration and adventurous minds of Mulder and Scully, I viewed a couple of classic episodes of Dark Shadows already on my SD card. I traded aliens for ghosts. I'd still like to replace my corrupted .mp4 file, but only if someone can point me to a website that lets me directly download a legal copy of the episode only. My Paypal awaits the return of the simple Internet. Until then, my middle finger goes up to the entertainment industry for making it way too complicated to enjoy entertainment, but thanks for providing me with inspiration and fodder for my first blog entry. No wonder people still pirate you.


Carlie Lawson writes about tech, mobile and online video, entertainment, sports and fashion. She wrote for and Movitly for a combined seven years. A former newspaper journalist, she now mostly ghost writes for her clients via her company, Powell Lawson Creatives. Invalid Inputs is her first independent, formal blog. She earned BAs in Journalism and Film & Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma. She also earned her Master of Regional & City Planning at OU. She has also worked as a model since she was 17.

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