does readability rank

Our SEO Team Asks-Does Readability Rank?

March 08th, 2017 – 15 Comments

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Marieke van de RaktView her other posts »


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Two weeks ago Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either. Of course, a discussion followed. Some SEOs are reluctant to believe him, because in some cases keyword stuffing still seems to pay off. For relatively small languages (like Dutch) this appears to be true. At Yoast however, we really believe in the value of readable texts for SEO. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of writing readable content for SEO. Also, I’ll give some tips on how to write copy that is nice and easy to read.

Hummingbird and readability

After the Hummingbird update, Google became a lot better at recognizing synonyms. Keyword stuffing, in order to let Google know what your text is about, became useless. Keyword stuffing leads to text that is terrible to read. Webpages with this kind of content will (sooner or later) disappear from the search results. Sooner, if Google actively punishes sites that clutter their text with keywords. Later, if visitors get tired of reading bad copy and are less prone to come back or buy from those sites.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training$ 199 – Buy now » Info


UX and readability

Text that isn’t nice and easy to read will give your audience a bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s boring or stuffed with keywords. All texts should be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the best experience possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors, that’ll bounce back to Google instantly, when they hit your site.

Voice search and readability

As voice search is becoming more and more important, readability of copy becomes more important as well. As people are searching for stuff by talking to their devices, these devices will search for information that they can give to their audience. Information that is a terrible read, will not be comprehended by an audience. Texts should be clear while read from paper, from a screen, from a mobile phone, but also if they are read to you by a device.

How to keep your text readable

Writing readable texts is hard. That’s why we worked so hard on our readability analysis. We’re still working on it, getting it translated in as many different languages as possible. It’s available for free in the Yoast SEO plugin. It helps you to write readable texts. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often, and if the length of your paragraphs is OK.

Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What are you going to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logic order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples, your message?

Read more: ‘Setting up a text structure’ »

Write short rather than lengthy sentences, as lengthy sentences a much harder to process. Try to avoid or to limit the amount of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice.

Keep reading: ‘5 SEO copywriting mistakes you should avoid’ »

Make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard, as not everyone has a talent for creative writing. Make sure to mix it up a little! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word.

Read on: ‘5 tips to write a readable blog post’ »

Conclusion: read out loud!

Let’s be clear: your rankings will not immediately rise if you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you should make sure your copy is easy to read. Posts that are nice and easy to read will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

Contact us to get started with a content marketing strategy that will make sure your business will thrive in the Content Era.

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Even though it’s been addressed by a lot of professional SEO experts, including Google’s Matt Cutts, this is still a  question we get a lot. So let’s review it in detail.

What is duplicate content?

Content is duplicated when similar content exists on 2 or more different URLs.

This can happen on your own site with only original content if your Content Management System (CMS) isn’t configured in the right way and creates artificially new URLs for existing content. For instance if a blog post can be found through 2 different URL paths – something that can be addressed by using canonical URLS as explained by Google.

Another example – this time across domains – is when you syndicate content as Google will see 2 or more exact same posts at different locations. For instance, if you have an industry website syndicate all of your content through its RSS feed or if you republish your own post on Medium or LinkedIn.

Note that in both cases, we’re talking about duplicating a significant part or the entire content to another web page or to another site. It’s like saying: “I don’t care what this content is but it seems to work so let’s copy and paste it to our blog.” That’s not what content curation is as we’ll see below. But first, let’s look at why Google doesn’t like duplicate content and what it does with it.

Is duplicate content bad?

Not necessarily, says Google. As Matt Cutts explains: “It’s important to realize that if you look at content on the web, something like 25 or 30 percent of all of the web’s content is duplicate content. … People will quote a paragraph of a blog and then link to the blog, that sort of thing. So it’s not the case that every single time there’s duplicate content it’s spam.


That’s the important word here: the point Matt Cutts makes is that Google’s objective is NOT to prevent one website from quoting another one – a practice which has been going on since the invention of the World Wide Web and which is at its core through the hyperlink. But, he adds, “It’s certainly the case that if you do nothing but duplicate content, and you are doing in an abusive, deceptive, malicious, or a manipulative way, we do reserve the right to take action on spam.” So if you’re doing nothing but that (if you’ve automated the process without applying any curation) and you’re doing it to deceive Google, you’re in trouble. And should be.

So Google recommends to syndicate carefully. In our own experience republishing to Medium, LinkedIn and other sites, we had great results in Google Search but we used different titles for each destination.

How is Content Curation different?

Though content discovery can be automated (and should be as it’s time consuming), Content Curators apply judgement before selecting what they publish. They also add context by adding value to their audience by telling them what it means for them. It’s like saying “Oh! I’ve read this piece of content and it’s really interesting for my prospects because it answers a question they often have in our commercial discussions.

Let’s make this visual through a slide of our guide of content curation benefits for SEO:

So not only is the intent completely different (spamming vs educating) but the implementation is also very different – an implementation which is built in if you use a professional content curation platform like where all the above elements of a good curated post will be built-in: source attribution and link, short snippet (our system for instance limits it to a few words or the first sentence) and the ability to add an insight, one of our signature features that enables you to add context and value to your audience. But more fundamentally, you can see that in the above curated post, the original content is not duplicated: a sentence or two can be quoted but the original content has not been copied / pasted to create the new post.

Content Curation benefits for SEO

The above differences explain not only why content curation different than duplicate content but also how it helps bloggers, content marketers and great curators rank high in search results. Examples such as John Gruber’s Daring Fireball or Upworthy show that large audiences can be built relying 100% on curation with great, well-deserved results in Google search. To add data to these 铁汇 examples, the Bruce Clay experimentdemonstrated how curated content with annotation ranked #1 for their target sentence. On the platform, we have data that goes beyond anecdotical evidence: traffic – which cumulates in hundreds of millions of visits – originates for about 40% from Google Search on average since we launched (and closer to 45% if we take the last 90 days).

Contact  for more information.





Finding LSI Keywords

For some time now, lin regard to  latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords have played a crucial part of on-page optimization. As such, every blogger should pay extra attention to them if he or she wishes to rank for a particular phrase.

It is no longer possible to reach highest position in Google by simply spamming a keyword over and over again. Due to Hummingbird algorithm, copywriter has to create natural sounding articles that will, not only allow him to be found, but also provide valuable information to the end-user.


Simply put, LSI keywords symbolize all the words and phrases that are semantically related to the main keyword we wish to rank for. This includes synonyms as well as the keywords that are in some way related and are likely to be present in an article (e.g., chocolate and milk).

What is the point of the LSI concept? Back in the day, Google ranked articles based on number of keyword repetition in comparison to length of the content (otherwise known as “keyword density”). So, if you were able to increase percentage of a keyword within the article (otherwise known as “keyword stuffing”), you were able to easily get into top 10 results. At one point, this flaw became so serious that Google had to take actions in order to save its SERP. This led tointroduction of semantic search.

Unlike previous algorithms, semantic search ranks articles based on text meaning. In other words, it uses LSI keywords to find connections and establish what your article is all about. Based on this, it allows article to compete with other top competitors. Have in mind that this system is much fairer. You are unable to rank solely on 捷凯 your on-page optimization and some cheap tricks. In fact, by using LSI keywords, you are only ensuring that your article is visible to Google and that it can be properly presented to end-users when they type certain phrases. With this in mind, there is more emphasis on off-page optimization and how other people perceive your article.

Like any other system, there are certain pros and cons. Obviously, Hummingbird algorithm forces copywriters to create high-quality articles. This benefits readers as it gives them valuable information and improves their Internet experience. On the other hand, due to semantic search, articles will rank not only for the targeted main keyword, but also all other related phrases and synonyms. This can be seen as both positive and negative thing as it can lead to monopoly on certain phrases and related terms.


So, how do we find all latent semantic indexing keywords? No matter what you think, getting to LSIs is pretty easy. You do not have to be an SEO expert to recognize that these words should be an inseparable part of your copy. In fact, any blogger can use them without even thinking.

As previously mentioned, LSI keywords represent all the related terms and synonyms which should naturally be introduced into the text. So, as long as you are writing an organic text for your visitors, you will most likely add them no matter what. I recommend introducing them after finishing your article just so that you can add certain phrases that might have slipped through the cracks.

One of the best tools for finding LSI keywords is Google search engine. Whatever you type in Google’s search box, you will always receive additional suggestions, which may help you finish your query. The thing most people do not realize is that these words can also be considered as LSI keywords.

Let’s start from the top. When you start typing a phrase in Google search bar, program will give you 10 additional suggestions (Google instant search) which can help you out, as well as some popular websites that include this word or phrase. Just create a simple excel file and add LSIs starting with the 10 instant search suggestions.

By default Google shows 10 results per page. At the bottom of each results page you will be able to find the so-called “searches related to” words and phrases. They are always eight of them. Make sure you add them to the already existing excel file as they are the next stop in your LSI keyword research. You already have 18 great latent semantic indexing keywords.

Have in mind that this is usually not enough. These suggestions can be helpful but they only give limited lists based on entered root words. They cannot provide you with other semantically related phrases and synonyms. On the other hand, Google also bolds LSI keywords within META description (text positioned bellow URL). Again, this can give you some insight what are some of the LSI keywords used in text. Nevertheless, this is not a definitive list and you will have to use some other LSI tools that are specialized for this.

Nowadays, there are numerous SEO tools that can be used for generating LSI keywords. Among the most popular ones are: Ubersuggest, LSIGraph, Keys4up (my personal favorite), SEMrush related keywords and the SEOPressor plugin for WordPress.

Now, the great thing about LSI generators is that they are really easy to use. Most of them are pretty straightforward. In fact, in most of the cases, you will just have to enter URL of the website and directly type in your keyword which if usually in the center of the page. The tool will then generate a long list of closely related suggestions which you can use in your copy whenever it makes sense.

Remember, different tools will give you different results. In that regard, it is perhaps better to try out different generators until you find just the thing that will do the job for you.


No matter what, LSI was implemented so that certain SEO malpractices could be avoided. In general, as long as you are writing meaningful and lengthy content, with end-users in mind, you should stand a good chance to rank better in Google. Even with all the tools mentioned in this article at your disposal, you should always rely on your logic and common sense as your main resource.

Contact  for more information.


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Content Marketing Strategy

A few weeks before the start of the New Year I led a workshop on content marketing for about 50 small-business CEOs and operations managers. They came from all different industries. Some were consultants. There was a plumber and a representative from an HVAC company present. Pest management? Check. A few small manufacturing companies, a nonprofit, and a jewelry store rounded it out. In other words, it was a diverse group of companies.

What wasn’t diverse were the ways they were marketing their companies. Most had e-newsletters. All of them had Facebook pages. Every one of these senior leaders was concerned about search engine rankings.

Another consistent characteristic? Not one of them was happy with their marketing. This is not unusual. It’s predictable that senior leaders are often disappointed with their marketing. Why? Mostly because they believe it should be easier than it is. They also feel they are just one secret-sauce answer away from Utopia. I mean, how hard could it really be? (Don’t answer that.)

And that’s what I heard about their content efforts as well. Their blog posts weren’t getting much traffic or converting. Their email newsletters weren’t getting opened. Their customers were ignoring them on social media. Finding themselves on the first page on a search engine listing was equally hard.

Changing course

I’d heard enough. After the last complaint, I stopped my presentation. This is something I don’t normally do. I’ve been doing this particular workshop for a while, and the flow works well with small businesses. The last thing I wanted to do was alter course.

But I did alter it with this one simple question, “Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?”

I looked around at the business leaders. You could have heard a pin drop.

I repeated the question.

“Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?”

I then rephrased and asked the question to each one directly. I asked the jewelry store executive with the e-newsletter if what they sent to customers was any different. They sent coupons and articles that you could find literally anywhere.

I asked the plumber. He promoted content from the manufacturer on his YouTube page and his blog. I also found out that about 300 other plumbers used that same content.

I asked the financial consultant. He said he purposely kept his articles general because he didn’t want to give away any intellectual property without compensation. “How’s that working for you?” I asked.

“Not very well” was his response.

At one point in the workshop, I told them that if they aren’t going to take this seriously, they should all just go out and buy advertising (and I meant it).

Why should your customers care?

For the rest of the morning, we focused on answering one simple question: “Why should my customers care?”

That e-newsletter you are sending out. Why should they care?

Your Facebook post? Why should they care?

Your blog post, video or (God help us all) Snapchat?

You get the point.

Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers (hat tip to Robert Rose). For that to be possible, what you are creating has to be valuable, useful, compelling and, yes, different.

The content tilt

Somewhere along the line, we marketers became infatuated with the tools and less concerned about what we put inside them. This, my friends, has got to change.

Of the six-step process of the Content Inc. model (from my latest book), the most important step is the second, the content tilt.

The content tilt is that area of little to no competition on the web that actually gives you a fighter’s chance of breaking through and becoming relevant. It’s not only what makes you different, it’s so different that you get noticed by your audience. That audience rewards you with their attention.

The content tilt is what will separate you from everyone else in your market area. Andrew Davis, author of Town Inc., calls this “the hook” – a simple twist on a familiar theme designed to entrap or ensnare your audience. Without “tilting” your content just enough to truly have a different story to tell, your content will fade into the rest of the clutter and be forgotten.

How to find your tilt

The real goal of this little story was to get you to ask the question – Is my content different? The majority, like over 99% of marketers, do not have differentiated content. They are not telling stories that are different.

If you are like most marketers, then, your next question is “How do I make it different?”

One question marketers should ask before creating #content: Is my content different from my competition?CLICK TO TWEET

This is easier said than done, but it is possible to tell a different and compelling story looking at different data points. Here are some things to consider:

  • Audience – Are you really niche enough with your audience? “Pet owners” simply is too broad as a target audience. What about “homeowners who like to travel with a dog in their recreational vehicle and live in southwest Florida”? That may be too niche, but probably not. To be truly relevant with your story, you need to focus on a very specific reader. As Stephen Kings says in On Writing, you should think about this person every time you create content.
  • How you tell the story – Content marketing has been around for years and has been called many different things. But we at the Content Marketing Institute were the first to call it content marketing. That made a difference in how the audience responded.
  • Platform – One of the HVAC contractors in the workshop told me there are a thousand blog posts a day on energy efficiency. We also learned that there were few, if any, podcasts about saving energy. Opportunity? I’m not sure, but it’s worth a look.
  • Subject matter – Using tools like Google Trends, you can uncover breakout terms for which there are few instructional resources. Take this quote from Jay Baer as an example:

It’s like, ‘Hey I like knitting, and I’m going to start a knitting blog.’ Really! There are 27 other knitting blogs. Why would anybody read yours? What is different? What is unique? What is interesting? Why would anyone stop reading the knitting blog that they’ve been reading for the last three years and read yours ever? And if you can’t articulate that, you need to go back to the drawing board. And most people I find who haven’t been doing this for a while just don’t go through that competitive calculus, and it’s dangerous.

From the subject matter standpoint, knitting might be too broad. Are there certain types of knitting that are underserved, where you could be the leading expert in the world?

What if your content was gone?

Let’s end with this thought.

Let’s say someone rounded up all your content and placed it in a box like it never existed. Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?

If the answer to this is no, then you have a problem (and this article is directed at you, bub).

We want customers and prospects needing … no, longing for our content. It becomes part of their lives … their jobs.

Today, it’s harder and harder to buy attention. You have to earn it. Earn it today, tomorrow, and five years from now by delivering the most impactful information your customers could ever ask for. “Good enough” won’t win the battle for customer attention. Be great.


When content marries with mobile, mobile will truly excel. 

At the moment, content is universal. You do some research, get the lightbulb moment and then write an article. You publish this to the web and, hey presto, it’s available on desktop, tablet and smartphone.

The content itself will soon be responsive though. Text will actually change depending upon the device. Content will adjust automatically just as a responsive website would adjust to the device it is being displayed on. 


Articles will be much shorter and concise on small mobile screens, with more bullet points. On desktop, the full version will be available.

Content needs to be responsive in order to serve users better.

Some apps have already gained popularity in this sphere. Yahoo! bought Summly which is kind of an app version of responsive content marketing. 

Duplicated content

With all these versions of responsive content how will search engines deal with duplicate content issues? Well, the answer lies in Google’s latest developments – artificial intelligence (AI) and. 

Google will soon be able to discover strong entity connections between content and keywords. As content is published it will note the devices too. Engines will know BlueHost优惠码 that content is from one domain and it has various versions for each device, just like a responsive web site. It will then plug this information into its 3D index, which .

Why would search engines invest in responsive content?

Publishers and technology companies have united to form faster loading mobile webpages in a project called . This is a step in the right direction for mobile. Our attention span is much shorter on mobile because of the busy environment we are often in when we are holding the device. Responsive content marketing aids this.


Responsive content marketing will truly segment and personalise the mobile journey to create an even more comfortable experience.

Google has recently got clever with mobile by adding Tap Now to Google Now. Google Now is based on picking up on searches on multiple devices. 

The next addition of Tap Now would be to add a responsive content layer so we can, at the hit of a button, pick up on content on the device of our choice and to enable content to be efficiently rendered on that device for the greatest possible user experience. 

With Google’s clear support for mobile, it is only natural that this mining of content will merge with mobile: ‘responsive content marketing.’

Get more info at  on .



In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

How much is this going to cost me and tell me why?

This is typically one of the first questions I get asked  by business owners or marketing people like you, once they’ve decided to go with SEO as their primary traffic strategy.

The answer is “It depends”.

You hate that answer right?  We all do.  You hate it  because you think it’s just another angle  digital marketers use to squeeze more money out of your wallet.

The reality is that there are many things that go into determining the right price you should be paying for SEO services.

In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible  so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

I’m also going to give you my opinion about how SEO services will be bought in the future.

The Importance of SEO

In my time as a digital marketer,  I’ve seen “SEO” sold from anywhere from $499 a month to $40,000 a month.

Value can be found at each of these price points and anywhere in between – depending on your specific circumstances, but to make sure  you are getting value you need to understand in detail what SEO is and why it’s important for your business.

Amongst business owners there continues to be a lot of confusion about SEO, with many people still confusing Paid search and Non-Paid search.

With Google being the largest referrer of search traffic, both paid and non-paid, SEO is critically important if you want to have a steady, consistent flow of targeted traffic to your site.

SEO helps search engines understand what your page is about and how relevant it is to users. And if your pages are relevant and sufficiently authoritative, you will be rewarded with a high visibility search listing and traffic to your site.

What do SEO’s actually do for their money?

When you engage an agency to “do seo” for you,  they traditionally do any or all of the following activities.  This list is constantly growing along with the changing nature of the role of the SEO agency.

Some of these activities are one-off and might only occur at the commencement of a campaign;  others are ongoing.

Read the list below and take the time to understand what your agency is doing for you.  That way there  will be fewer surprises and you’ll be able to ask more insightful questions.

Market Research

This involves researching your company,  its competitors, your products, your industry  and the online marketing tactics and strategies that are most effective in your space.

In Depth Competitor Research

Involves researching your competitors and their marketing tactics and strategies in  detail. Specifically their online marketing activities that assist with growing their visibility in search engines. This includes analysing:

  • Their link profiles to understand how they are acquiring quality  back links, critical to strong rankings and visibility
  • Their on-site optimisations to understand the keywords their pages are targeting
  • Their content marketing activities to understand how they are using content for link attraction – a critical element in the current Google environment.

Strategy Development & Implementation

This involves developing strategies for your business to help improve your sites’ performance in the organic search results. For most  small businesses these strategies are mostly the same.

Larger clients in competitive markets however,  require a little  more creativity to develop  approaches that  get results in the face of stronger competitors.

When you have a strategic engagement that costs many thousands of dollars, you are paying for the experience and creativity of theSEO consultant involved.

If you are investing a bunch of money in SEO you should expect a strategy that is more than just “We’re gonna get you these awesome links – 50 a month guaranteed.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is at the heart of everything an seo does.

In the past this was a simple process of researching the keyword phrases that prospective customers typed into the search engines, making an assessment of the relevance and competitiveness of the keywords, choosing target keywords for your websites pages and then drafting the require on site optimisations to help pages rank for these keywords. (Simple right?)

Even with the changes in Google where all searches are encrypted and the keywords people use to find you are not passed into your analytics, understanding keywords is still critical because they help you to understand your customers and how they search for you online.

This in turn helps your SEO team write compelling content, page titles and meta descriptions. (Those bits on the page that help Google figure out what a page is all about)

For smaller  businesses with a small number of pages on their site, keyword research  typically happens at the beginning of an engagement and helps the SEO team  the preparation optimised  page titles,  meta descriptions and content improvement recommendations.

On larger sites such as e Commerce sites keyword research is typically an ongoing activity that drives monthly optimisations to help get more and more pages ranking in the search results.

On site Optimisation and Recommendations

This involves anything to do with optimising the pages of your website.

Based on their research, your SEO agency will be drafting page titles and meta descriptions, recommending or making updates to content, creating new pages, improving internal linking, fixing duplicate content issues, setting up and configuring your blog, installing social sharing buttons.

Pretty much anything to do with your site that will improve the search engines ability to find your content and rank it is what they will be taking care of.

On site optimisations are where some of the biggest gains can happen. The simple act of  including the right keywords in a well crafted page title often sees  pages suddenly jump into the rankings now that Google knows what it is about.

In the past your SEO agency might have been chasing links to these pages with these keyword phrases in the anchor text.  The reality is that Google is smart enough to figure out what keywords are relevant to rank for.  You and your agency should focus on building the overall domain authority and trust which will help these pages rank for the many keyword variations included in the page titles.

Content Strategy and Development

With the importance that quality content now plays in getting found online, most seo’s now offer content strategy and or content development services.

This can be as comprehensive as a Content Marketing Plan for your business or as simple as sourcing blog posts for your blog.

Most agencies now offer content marketing as a separate service that they want you to purchase in addition to SEO.

The reality is, given it’s importance, content strategy and development should be considered a key element in any ongoing SEO engagement.

If your SEO agency is not doing this for you then you need to be asking hard questions about why not?

Rich Snippet Optimisations

Rich snippets simply refers to the extra bits of text and images that appear around your content in the search results.  Google Authorship is a type of rich snippet which is no longer being used.  Others include star ratings on product review ratings, recipes, videos.

For a simple explanation of what Rich Snippets are check out this post.

Reporting and Insights

Reporting is an activity that can vary greatly in terms of what you get and the time invested in producing the reports for you.

At a minimum you will (or should) get a set of standard SEO reports that might be as simple as some traffic reports and ranking reports.

Better SEO agencies will provide information on goal conversions (whether they be sales, sign ups or other goals) and the contribution that SEO or organic search made towards these goal conversions.

Larger clients with more complex businesses should  get more than just a data dump.  They should receive “insight” into what is happening, why and what this means in light of your business goals.

Information about which traffic sources are driving the best (or lowest cost) conversions, information on competitors and about updates in Google’s algorithm and what it means for your strategy.

Expect to pay extra for additional reporting or insight above the standard reports that everyone receives.

Account Management

Broadly speaking this is the cost of taking care of you, the client.  It includes the time an account manager spends talking to you about your campaign goals, briefing the SEO team and meeting with you to discuss your report and results.

If you are a small client you will typically get only nominal account management which might be at the on commencement of an SEO campaign and monthly when the report is delivered.

If you are investing under $1,000 a month don’t expect to be talking the ear off your account manager unless you want to reduce the time spent on actually working on your account.


I’ve seen agencies where this role is done by a dedicated account manager and agencies where the account management role is taken on in part by an seo campaign manager; that is a technician who knows a lot about SEO.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. With a dedicated account manager, the agencies  SEO team spends more time actually “doing SEO” for you while the account manager answers your questions.

However in the situation where you are an enterprise level client you  expect to be able to ask questions and get insightful responses quickly.  Sometimes having to go through the account manager results in miscommunication via Chinese whispers and wasted time.

If you are a big enough client ask to talk directly with the seo campaign manager to get your technical questions answered directly.

Just be aware that as an enterprise client, you will be paying for the account managers time whether you are aware of it or not.

Remember from the agencies perspective, this can be a massive time and cost sink if not managed correctly.

As long as both you and the SEO agency are aware of the account management cost and both of you have matching expectations, any friction can be minimised. You can get the information you need while the agency can get on with doing the work needed to get you results.


SEO Pricing Models

Now to the Meat n Potatoes.

There are various pricing models for the delivery of SEO services.  The choice depends on your specific needs and the size of your organisation.

Hourly Rates

Hourly rates are often used when the work can be broken into many discrete tasks and you juts need those specific tasks done.

The benefit is you can easily allocate a discrete cost to each activity and make sure you are not getting charged for inefficiencies.

However expect to pay more per hour to compensate the consultant or agency for the costs associated with managing time and billing at an hourly rate.

If you are using hourly rates for anything make sure you review the output after an agreed upon set of hours to make sure you are getting value.

Fixed Price Services

Most SEO agencies have a list of services  they offer for a fixed price.

Typically these are the component tasks that make up a larger seo campaign.

Good examples of these services include:

  • Keyword Research
  • Conducting an SEO Audit
  • SEO Migration Planning
  • Drafting On site optimisations such as page titles and meta descriptions

Fixed price services are an ideal way of testing out a new SEO agency before committing to a longer term retainer.

Project Based Pricing

Where your needs are more complex or you have a fixed period project like a new mini site to build, SEO agencies are open to quoting on a project basis.

Depending on your projects needs they will provide you with a custom proposal to conduct specific SEO work on your behalf.

Project based pricing is good when you already have a creative agency or web design company doing most of your work and you need the services of a real SEO specialist to take care of your SEO needs for the life of a specific project.


The retainer model is the most common form of pricing model in the SEO industry.

Retainers make sense because of the broad ongoing nature of SEO work.

Most SEO campaigns have a discrete set of activities which logically follow a set order.  In the beginning agencies do the research. They make and implement recommendations about fixing technical issues on your site. Then they  move onto ongoing marketing activities.

This way each month specific activities are conducted by the agency for you.  Then each month you get to assess how much this activity contributed to the online performance of your business.

Agencies like retainers because they can budget revenues and costs and plan activities for the months ahead.

Heres how to make retainers work:

  • Collaborate with the agency in the development of a 6 or 12 month campaign.
  • Take the time to understand what the agency will be doing for you each month
  • Make sure you are aware of your commitment in terms of resources, providing answers promptly to questions and implementing optimisations when requested
  • Involve the agency in your traditional marketing plans for the year ahead so they can tailor their strategy to leverage any offline work being done.
  • Get clear about how long things take to happen.  SEO takes time so in those early months track the agreed upon activities in the absence of high search visibility and sales which might take a few months to kick in.

This gives both you and the agency visibility into what is going to happen and when. That way they can plan their activities around your traditional offline marketing activities while you can manage your expectations as to what the results will be and when.

Retainers are typically offered as Packages at different price points.  In the next section I’m going to discuss these in more detail.

Which SEO Package Should I choose?

The SEO Package is simply the best way to sell SEO retainer services.  There is a package to suit each budget and requirements level.

This is done for several reasons.

The first is that you have the ability to  self select depending on your budget allowing  you to test SEO at a price point you can afford.

The second is pricing packages allow agencies to create a standard set of services, which they know in advance how much it will  cost them to deliver.

This allows them to budget revenues and costs and resource for the delivery of SEO services.

Most Retainer packages typically fall into the following general categories. (Allow for regional variations but the types of businesses that fall into these bands is generally accurate.)

Small – Generally Up to $1,000

Suitable for companies just starting out, or which have a single local geographic area.

Think local retailers, local service providers such as plumbers, electricians, doctors, cosmetic surgeons, new small commerce businesses.

These campaigns typically should include local search optimisation to help you rank for local searches.

An example of a small local business that suits this category is Event Management Company Triumph Leisure Solutions.  They are an event management business with a very specific geographic target confined primarily to Sydney.  The type of work they should expect from their agency would be the acquisition of local directory links and citations to support  their optimised  Google My Business listing.

Medium – Between $1,000 to $4,000

Suitable for businesses with an established online presence,  which target a national or international audience or operate in more competitive niches.

Think multi unit retailers, larger online retailers, wholesalers, larger brands making the move into online marketing.

An example of this mid-sized business is Otium Group.  They provide Self Managed Superannuation services to a national audience of clients.  They compete in a space filled with highly authoritative financial services companies and government sites.  The type of work they should expect from their agency is would include content asset development, outreach and promotion as well as content amrketig strategy.

Large or Custom – $5,000 and above

Budgets beyond $5,000 are typically for enterprise businesses targeting  national or international audiences in very competitive markets.

Think car insurance, life insurance, travel, tertiary education, credit cards, home loans and personal loans.

An example of this type of enterprise client is NRMA.  They are a national insurance company selling a wide variety of highly competitive products.  Their site naturally attracts tons of links due to their traditional media spend and so ‘link building” is not the primary concern.  Rather their agency should have a strong focus on technical seo as which has the potential to benefit the site much more than a few more links.  In addition the agency would be providing strategic content marketing advice as well as competitive analysis and tracking.

Which package you choose depends on:

  • The size of your business and your budget
  • The geography you target,
  • The competitiveness of the industry in which you are competing
  • Your specific business goals,
  • And your level of understanding of what you are engaging the SEO agency to do for you.

The more educated you are about online marketing, the better you will be able to choose an SEO package that suits your business needs and the less chance of mismatched expectations between you and your agency.

SEO Ranking Guarantees – Real or False

I’ve always disliked SEO guarantees. Many (not all) of them prey on the ignorance of the customer and their trust in the agency to do the right thing.

Typically an SEO ranking guarantee says “We guarantee to rank your website on page 1 for your keywords within 3 months or else your money back”

Here’s the problem with that statement.

Which search engines?

The guarantee typically does not state in which search engine so it could include Yahoo or Bing which provide very little traffic when compared to Google.

Which keywords are they targeting?

The agency offering the guarantee typically selects easy keywords that might have very little search volume or competition and are easy to rank for.

Why are they easy to rank for? Because they are completely irrelevant and no one else in their right minds is chasing them.

Some of the keyword phrases they include as evidence of the guarantee could have been ranked for by simply publishing a blog post with the keyword in the title.

Furthermore, keyword rankings in and of them selves have long since lost their position as the number 1 KPI or metric.

There are broader metrics that are better aligned to your business goals or are better indicators of improved organic search performance such as Non Paid Organic Conversions or the # of unique keywords bringing visitors to your site.

So take SEO guarantees with a of salt and don’t rely on them for assurance that you are getting a no risk deal. 

How to Get the best out of your SEO Agency

I bet through this blog post you’ve been waiting for this section right?  How to I keep my agency accountable?

Most areas of conflict arise because of issues around expectation management.

That is you did not get what you thought what you were getting or the agency thinks you are demanding more than they promised or sold you.

Key areas around which conflict arises include:

What are you doing for me?

If you don’t understand what the agency is doing for you then you will get frustrated when their bill arrives.

Make sure before you start you have a detailed campaign plan that breaks down the proposed SEO activities by month.

If you don’t know what these activities are, make sure you ask your account manager in advance.

How do I know this is working?

If you are looking at the wrong metrics or your expectations about how long positive results are going to take are misaligned then you are going to get really frustrated.

Before the campaign starts make sure both you and  the agency are clear on what your business goals are and how the SEO agencies activities are going to contribute to helping you achieve them.

Decide on the metrics that you are both going to track and make sure the metrics tie back to your business goals.

Create a simple report tracking these key metrics and just focus on them.

Chasing vanity rankings is no longer a viable goal. SEO is now a much broader more complex activity now than ever before.

This SEO thing is taking far too long?

If you need or expect instant traffic then SEO might not be where you should be investing your online marketing dollars.

Safe, sustainable SEO takes time to implement and get results but once your site is performing well it’s the gift that keep on giving.

If you need instant traffic then you might be better served by using Paid Traffic such as Google Adwords rather than SEO.

To learn more about the discussions that occur between agencies and clients watch this discussion between @rand and @dejanseo about the future of SEO and agencies.


The Future of Buying SEO

The SEO world has changed massively in the last two years.

In the past you were able to “manipulate your way to top rankings” with paid or artificially created links.  Many companies were happy to take the risk of link building this way because the payoffs from a page 1 ranking were huge.

However things have changed.

Google is getting more effective at detecting and penalising ranking strategies that go against their terms of service.

Nowadays to get sustainable rankings and organic visibility  you need to earn then through well promoted quality content;  with the goal of acquiring enough links, authority and social signals so that Google will grace your site with higher visibility in the search results.

How will SEO be priced and sold in the future?

Here are some of my thoughts on how SEO services will be priced and sold in future.

  1. There is going to be a large growth in agencies offering you content marketing services, whether included in your SEO campaign or sold separately.  It’s already happening now.  At the smaller end of town this will be in the form of blog content creation services and social media services.  At the top end of town in the form of strategic content marketing campaigns covering  content strategy,  content development  and  content promotion.
  2. Good SEO agencies are going to change the conversations they are having with you as a business owner.  They will be talking with you about sustainable SEO, content marketing, social media and it’s importance as a part of content promotion, new ways to measure SEO performance.  If you are not having these discussions you are talking to an agency that hasn’t kept up with the times.
  3. SEO guarantees will be gone.  A guarantee implies they can control the outcome.  SEO agencies will stop offering these as business owners like yourself become more educated.
  4. Retainers will continue to be the dominant way to provide SEO services. The composition of work done will change however. Think more content marketing.  There will also be a large growth in providing educational services where your agency will help you and your team understand the massive changes in online marketing and how to take advantage of them in your business.
  5. There will be less “SEO Services” and more “Online Marketing Services sold.  The reality is that while SEO is a critical part of making sure your website gets visibility in search, now more than ever it is just one part (albeit an important one) of the full range of online marketing services you need to bring to bear to make your business successful online.  For some insight into how the responsibilities of SEO have changed in the last few years check out this blog post from called The Responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded.
  6. SEO & PR.  At the end of the day they do the same thing.  There is going to be more focus placed on how the traditional PR and promotional activities you implement can be optimised to benefit your online visibility.


Key Takeaways for Business Owners and Marketing Managers

Here are the key things you need to be doing as a business owner to help ensure a successful SEO engagement with your agency.

  1. Educate yourself.  A more educated business owner or manager can make better decisions.  Too busy to learn?  That’s not an excuse anymore is it? Subscribe to the Blog and review the content weekly or choose an agency who is interested in educating you.
  2. Have better discussions with SEO providers.  The ideal SEO agency should be trying to educate you about why you need to invest in content, blogging, audience development etc.  If they are simply talking about tactics like article marketing, comment spamming, or  #1 rankings, ranking guarantees then walk away.  They haven’t kept up with the times.
  3. Demand and work to a detailed plan.  Have a detailed plan in place so you know what is being done each month.  The plan will help manage your expectations and give you assurance that you are getting value each month.
  4. Embrace content marketing & social media.  Miss the old days when you didn’t have to invest in blogging and content?  Too bad.  You now have the budget for it because within 2 years the old paper based Yellow pages will be gone and you can invest that money in content and building a social media audience that can be used to promote your content.  I have made this transition for my own ecommerce businesses and have  even created a Content Marketing Business offering the same content creation services for other businesses.
  5.  Choose the right metrics.  Take the time to work with your agency to develop a simple way of tracking the right metrics for your business.  There are a ton of good articles about this.  If you and your agency agree on these metrics up front there is less chance of disagreements down the track.

In Summary

SEO as a service you buy has evolved massively in the last two years.  So should the way you engage someone to “do SEO” for you.

In all likelihood, the retainer model will continue to be the most popular way to engage an agency to deliver these services for your business.  However what will change is what you get for your money.  More content marketing, more social media, more education and consultation.

As a business owner and manager you need to get more educated about what is being done for you and how long it will take to deliver a return for your business.

Got question?  Agree or disagree with anything I’ve said?  Please comment below and let’s have a chat.

Via: How Much Does SEO Cost? 


As 2015 draws to a close I can all but hear content marketers dreaming up the click bait headlines that will run amuck in 2016.

Rolling over to a new year is a trigger point for “this or that is dead” articles; you would think that Google only makes update at the end of the year the way articles start popping up. That being said, here are five link building tactics that will still work in 2016 unless Google does decide to actually make a yearend change, in which case, we will cover it here, so sign up for our  if you haven’t already.

1. Guest Posting is Finally Dead

Low-quality guest posting for the sake of building keyword rich anchor texts has been a bad idea for a few years now, if you are still doing this, it is time to get up to speed. If you are reaching out to high-quality sites that market to your audience, guest posting is never going to die. Even if it didn’t boost your rankings, it would still send qualified referral traffic, an instant win. So next time you read about the imminent death of guest posts in a headline, save your time and read something useful like how to build high quality links without writing a ton of content or tips on how to

2. Web 2.0 Link Building No Longer Works

In the past many link builders would start link building campaigns off by creating blogs on sites like WordPress, Blogger and Rebel Mouse. In the past, a single article, often times spun, would be added to the blog and linked to the money site. These blogs would then have high volumes of low-quality links built to them in order to boost the Page Authority hosting the link. This method is no longer a good idea, as a matter of fact it should have ended in 2013 at latest. 

That being said, you can still derive value from building out Web 2.0 sites. They can be a good source of traffic, can help you control your online brand reputation, and they can still be part of a good link building strategy. In order for them to have value though, you need to spend the time to create blogs that actually offer value to the reader. Every site should be set up as a standalone blog that people would want to read. Quality content, regular updates and ongoing link building to these blogs are a must if you go this route in 2016. Here is a of Tumblr, a Web 2.0 site being used by a brand properly.

If you don’t have the time or resources to manage Web 2.0s properly, focus on outreach link building instead.

3. PBNs are All You Need

Done correctly, private blog network (PBN) link building can be pretty low risk and incredibly powerful. These types of links are like dynamite though. If you aren’t experienced, using them is dangerous. Failing to use them in just the right quantity can be disastrous and they are not always the best solution. If you are not familiar with building PBNs, don’t risk it, there are too many things that can go wrong. If you are using them, don’t make the mistake of using only these types of links. Link diversity is very important and you should be diversifying your efforts by getting links that drive traffic as well.

4. SEO Software is “Only for Spammers” or is a “Push Button Link Building Solution”

There are tons of pieces of SEO software on the market today that range from automated link building tools like GSA Search Engine Ranker to tools like Scrapebox, often referred to as the Swiss Army Knife of link builders. Automated link building is not a good idea in 2016 unless you know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and fully understand the risks of your methods. Other pieces of software are also wrongly demonized by those who don’t quite understand the many legitimate uses for those phentermine tools. Take Scrapebox for example, it was originally made to be a bulk comment spam tool and for that purpose, it is not useful to link builders any longer. On the other hand, you can use the tool to find broken links, locate resources pages at scale, and to pull URL lists from even huge sites, all of which are legitimate uses. Next time you read about a tool being the reason for an SEO failure, remember, no tool is better than its operator.

5. Link Building is All You Need

This may seem obvious to some of you but I have gotten numerous calls from people asking for our link building services and wanting to pass on any on-page SEO reviews or edits. As I touched on last week, and with it, our role as marketers has also evolved. In order to successfully promote and rank a site, technical on-page SEO, page speed, UX, content assets and link building are all needed. If you want to get to and stay on top in 2016, you need to build assets that deserve to be ranked and that users will enjoy.

Bonus Tip: Stop Asking – Start Researching

I see and hear one type of question all the time. How many links do I need? What anchor text ratios should I use? How long does my content need to be? Etc. Etc. Etc.

The truth is, there is not a set number that you should shoot for across the board. If you are trying to rank for roofing services in St Louis, take the time to see what the top 10 sites are doing and make a side by side comparison of those metrics. You will quickly see that every keyword, niche and location takes a different combination to rank so stop asking for generalizations and spend that time doing research. Contact us at for help with content marketing for your small business.

– Via

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Runtime : 109 min.
Genre : Drama, History.

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