SEO tricks that stick

I’m constantly searching for the holy grail that is SEO… the new buzz term of the digital age where optimizing every syllable is the only way to confirm your content’s social media status has cracked Google analytic stats.

As Staffordshire University lecturer Sue Greenwood explained in journalism.co.uk, securing a headline that resonates with the public is just the beginning. She teaches journalism students “about picking the right name and explains about site names versus URLs; placing of keywords; SEO tricks; design as signal; design for readability” and she “always brings them back to thinking about how their audience will use their blog and what they’ll want to get from it”.

That’s what effective bloggers do’, Sue Greenwood
on 
Why all would-be journalists need to blog

I ate up the contents of this post because the holly grail of search engine optimization, or SEO, that I’ve managed to uncover seems simple: “integration”. Read on.

I’ve poured over webinars, releases and online content on the subject for longer than I’d care to admit, each so-called expert revealing ways to optimize but never really explaining a blow-by-blow how-to. So it was refreshing to stumble across Greenwood’s article … it made me ask, where do I sign up! She needs to package it online via Udemy.com because it is difficult to go from 02Geek. I tried it. Geek’s optimization freebie revealed one or two gems but I’m not interested in pursuing ongoing programming, so I opted out!

So how can the average Joe master the ins-and-out of SEO? Good question, glad you asked so here’s my take, I hope it resonates!

Don't let the SEO hype beat you ... when all else fails just write from the heart

Don’t let the SEO hype beat you … when all else fails just write from the heart

To become an effective blogger, be it to push a message out, pull customers in, or engage with an audience, what you say needs to be integrated simultaneously across as many social media channels as possible for the content to be optimized fully.

What does that mean? Put simply, before even getting started, THINK BIG. No, you’re not a rock star and may never want to be, but you do want people to read your words of wisdom so you’ll need to build an audience, and that can take time. To fast-track that process when setting up a personal blog, or website, also set up and link it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, uTube … and especially LinkedIn. Why? When you’re ready to get started, you’ll have all your social media connections in play.

I’d suggest even paying for likes, followers, sign-ups and website hits! Set a modest budget and post your request on job sites like Elance to get people around the world talking about you, or your product. Many individuals and firms do this. Mainstream journalists have news agencies that do it for them so that’s why bloggers, external to news rooms, who want to be heard, need to put in the hard yards upfront.

There’s no real tricks except for being able to grasp that integrating content with social media advertising and PR machines equal good SEO!

TIP: Hyperlink early in your content to your own sites, as well as other’s to back up, confirm facts, as this optimizes integration of your search prospects.

Next, those “magic” SEO words need to appear in content.

  • Think like a journalist: write your story with an upside down pyramid in mind.
  • The key is to use key “primary and secondary” phrases throughout your article.
  • Primary phrases [general or broad key words] need to appear no more than five times*: once in your headline, once in the intro paragraph, twice in the body and one last time at the end: the closing paragraph/bio.
  • Next, optimize a further two to three secondary phrases [targeted words or sentences] throughout your copy.

*”Overstocking your story with key words is akin to spamming and won’t help in the long run. Just a few targeted key words can significantly bolster search engine confidence in your message and help your blog rise to the top. Always use natural variations on your key words. Search engines are partial to content that is written well and that would read naturally to an end-user.” Source PRWeb

Next, the type of search engine optimization. Many SEO strategists say there are three considerations: Quality, Quantity and Real-time.

  • Quality is being authoritative. Research your message, say it with confidence and back up your facts with links.
  • Quantity is about the content, and links. You can repurpose/rebrand the same message/content multiple times in numerous ways via social media that link. Always include shared buttons and hyperlinks.
  • Real-time relates to content updates that appear in real-time across social media channels.

TIP: Research the best key words to get to the top of search rankings and increase customer traffic. Do this by testing your key words and phrases in Google and see what pages hit first page spot, or pay a firm to do it.

30MinutePR editor Marc Harty, in a webinar for PRWeb, offered these gems on writing effective press releases, which apply to any form of writing. He calls it the 3Cs test.

  • Be consistent Ensure your message is the same across all social media channels.
  • Connected Understand the power of synergy.
  • Content-driven Make your release [blog] about a story or persona, not just an announcement.

Which segues nicely back to Greenwood who reckons bloggers need to understand what is important both in signaling intent to the human audience and to search bots. “They have to pick the right subject for their blog, align their passion with expertise, usefulness, or humour, then combine content with key words and phrases while keeping top of mind how their audience will use their blog and what they’ll want to get from it”. After that, she says, “it’s a hop and a skip to branding, marketing and how the concepts they’re practising on their blog could earn them six-figure salaries!”

So you see, using SEO to build your brand has never been so easy! Not convinced. My final piece of advice: write from the heart, you’ll always connect with someone.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance journalist who, during the setting up of a business website and app, has had to delve into the world of SEO, integration and mastering social media. It has been a steep learning curve and there’s still much to learn!

Out in the middle of woop woop

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. – Carl Sagan

Giant saguaro cactus, Sonoran desert

Giant saguaro cactus, Sonoran desert

It’s good to get out to Maricopa County, Arizona, where the monsoon rains wash the Sonoran desert sands over the roads and giant saguaro cactus strain towards the sky to ensure they suck up each single drop.

At first I thought I’d arrived in the middle of nowhere, what we Aussies call woop woop,  but the estimated 232,000 population of Scottsdale Phoenix would strongly disagree. Though said to be the south-west’s most western town, the area is also coined the jewel of the desert, and it is serious pro-golfing country where business and leisure pursuits come together at exclusive resorts surrounded by outlying Arabian horse studs. If it wasn’t for the desert, parts remind one of the Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia.

So how timely given Phil Mickelson just joined golfing’s elite list after winning the 142nd edition of the oldest championship in golf, the British Open, that I’m smack in the middle of pro-golf territory where his win is the talk of the town! Why wouldn’t it be? The San Diegan is big on the Scottsdale golf scene. In 2011, he and “coach” Steve Loy acquired the operating rights to McDowell Mountain Golf Club and redesigned the course to make it more challenging for better players, and more forgiving and fun for beginning golfers.

And now this near Scottsdale local is ranked second in the world after claiming the fifth major title of his career and his final-round 5 under-par 66 has catapulted it among the great final rounds in golf history! You’d think things couldn’t get any better for a guy who last year also made it into the World Golf Hall of Fame but Mickelson has one more win, the US Open, to secure a career Grand Slam.

Deserts sand wreak havoc on roads following monsoonal rains.

Desert sands wreak havoc on roads following monsoonal rains

So back to Maricopa, described by one visiting Australian as God’s own golf county. Golf.com lists the best golf resorts around Phoenix and Scottsdale rates highly and Troon Golf courses in Arizona explains why. Apparently the 200+ courses here are “as diverse as the south-west itself, each woven into the rugged desert terrain with a unique vision and infused with impeccable quality…”

I’m here by default while I work on the release of an app and website that has often kept me too long indoors with only my imagination to keep me company. So being able to break free at Zona Hotel & Suites where golfers play in the blazing heat, I’m being pleasantly distracted by four different watering holes: the fiesta and cabana pools being among my favourites.

As the hotel promo says there are so many things to do in the Valley of Sun, unhindered by weather, during the day that is. And the sun surely shines on and on until it sets and fierce thunder storms hit, cracking sounds like a Fourth of July party and invoking lightning shows that set the night sky aglow. These monsoonal storms make the nightly news, and until you’ve experienced them and seen the havoc they wreak afterwards, you’d hardly believe it could happen in the middle of what at first appears a desert wasteland.

Despite this, like so many cities and towns in the south-west of the United States, once you dig a little deeper only then do the gems appear. Wikipedia refers to The New York Times’ description of downtown Scottsdale as “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach” and as having “plenty of late night partying and a buzzing hotel scene”.

Welcome to Arizona where some of the best luxury real estate is out woop woop.

Welcome to Arizona where some of the best luxury real estate is out woop woop

For me it is always the real estate advertising that gives the greatest insight into the heart and soul of a city. Scottsdale, for example, attracts flocks of tourists due to those splendid golf courses and magnificent resorts and spas. This in turn is pushing up the luxury home market. Price tags range anywhere between $2.2 million and $13 million, for hacienda-style mansion horse ranches of course!

The line being spruiked is this: “Despite the blossoming of grand vacation retreats and exquisite city surroundings, Scottsdale retains an impressive landscape. From mountain escapes in gated communities that offer beautiful vistas, to country club estates with every amenity, the Scottsdale luxury home market has something for everyone.”

Unfortunately for me, those price tags don’t fit my modest budget, but I’m enjoying the area all the same, especially being among such an elite golfing fraternity.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer in the United States to unleash an app and website onto the US market, which is about to be announced, so best keep a close tab on this page!

In search of an even money bet

Gambling promises the poor what property performs for the rich
– something for nothing.
 George Bernard Shaw

The Strip, where all world icons meet.

The Strip, where all world icons meet.

Never a truer word could be said of the city of Las Vegas. Forget The Strip, the real money is being made out in the suburbs.

If you had the cash and nerves of steel in late 2010, you could have picked up a six-bedroom home on 11600 sq ft in one of Las Vegas’ gated districts for a mere $787,000 and sold it today for $3.9 million.

Las Vegas was and still is one of the hardest hit cities in the US for property but the turnaround has begun. Homes that couldn’t rent or sell in 2010-12 have for the past six months caught the eye of individuals and syndicates which have been snapping up foreclosures for as little as $60,000 and reselling them for double and something.

Reversal of fortunes

The mood for property here has changed. The expected win rate is riding high and those lucky enough to have the front money to secure a bank credit rating of 720 and above can get back into the real estate game.

And, yes, those that can position themselves at first base have the edge. Home values are expected to rise 7.5 per cent a year, not bad when one compares it with the current interest rate return under 1 per cent. Properties in Vegas on a whole are up 25 per cent since they bottomed in late 2009.

Odds are this is sure to create another bubble so the astute gambler needs to get in on the ground [now], spend up big [buy as many quality properties as they can] and cash out quickly [sell, sell, sell] to ensure they take all winnings.

So is it really time to buy in?

The Lakes, Las Vegas

The Lakes, Las Vegas

Before the credit crisis  Vegas was growing at a rate of 2000 people per week, according to Clark County government stats, and most of them were drawn to the city by the 2007-09 construction boom involving the $8.4 billion CityCentre development project by MGM Resorts International and investment fund Dubai World. It was the largest privately funded constructed project in the history of the United States.

By 2011 there was a mass exodus of 65,000 and as few as 13,000 people have returned or arrived since. So, if you’re in the mood for a punt and want to take advantage of low property taxes and 0 per cent state income tax on earnings then it’s good to know that there’s more to this city than just The Strip. Ten miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard in an oasis described as desert serenity meets the Mediterranean dozens of gated communities, such as The Lakes, dot the landscape at the foothills of Spring Mountains.

Beautifully manicured lawns and landscaping surround wide tree-lined streets – and that’s just the communities outside these districts. Inside some have their own golf courses, gourmet waterfront restaurants and speciality boutiques. Of course, the most expensive homes face directly onto pristine man-made lakes.

DSCN2082

The view from the deck of Mt Charleston Lodge.

You don’t expect to find these sedated suburban enclaves, yet they run from every point of The Strip. And though it seems all villages have a casino on every corner, there’s so much more to do here other than gambling.

When the desert heat in summer reaches above 110 degrees F, locals escape to the town of Mt Charleston, to camp, hike, ski or just kick-back for the day sipping beers on the deck of Mt Charleston lodge.

And 25 miles south-east of the city is Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, where helicopter tours and cruises run daily. Of course these activities are mild in comparison to the fun and games down on The Strip where world-class cuisine meets entertainment on the edge.

This really is a city with a lot to offer and, but for my money I enjoyed downtown Fremont’s Viva Vision Street Experience. It takes you back to what old-style Vegas was surely all about.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance journalist who is in the United States to launch an app and website she hopes will become the next big thing.