Diary of a Novice SMX Attendee

Sarah at SMX SydneySMX Sydney was my first Search Marketing Expo and from what I am hearing, I am not the only one who was impressed. See Rand Fishkin’s blog post regarding SMX Sydney.

This year Search Engine College was one of the official sponsors and as such Kalena and I (wo)manned an exhibition stand at the Expo. As a first-timer, this provided me with the chance to meet several industry rock stars and to really get a feel for the search marketing industry. The sessions were informative, all exhibitions were well put together and the atmosphere was professional - yet relaxed and friendly.

Our stall was quite busy with plenty of interest regarding training options for emerging search engine marketing professionals. Even so, Kalena and I both managed to sneak off and attend several sessions happening downstairs throughout the two days.

In this post I want to highlight several points Ciaran Norris from Altogether Digital, made in his presentation “Copy Writing for Search”…

When writing articles, blog posts or web site copy that you wish to be easily digestible by humans and search engines alike, keep the following in mind:

Keep headlines clear and concise: Avoid metaphors and abbreviations. A reader should have a good idea about the subject of the piece they are about to read, simply by looking at the headline.

The opening sentence of the first paragraph is very important: Aim to capture the attention of your readers immediately. The first sentence of an article or blog post is often used by search engines when displaying your link in the results page for a search query (SERP). Research has shown that click through rates are greatly influenced by the two lines of text displayed under a link in the SERP.

Conduct a competitive analysis of keywords: Research which keywords or phrases achieve higher click through rates for similar articles. If you want to reach an audience outside your own region use keywords which are not region specific.

Placement of links within copy: Ciaran pointed out the difference between online and offline copy is the ability to link. When using embedded links make sure your reader has a clear idea about what they are going to find when they click through. Do not use vague link descriptions as this can frustrate and alienate your reader. Important links should be used early in your article, less important links towards the end. Links which are not directly related, but still useful to your reader, are best placed boxed-off somewhere to the right or bottom of the page. Linking can also be used to create a timeline of issues related to your subject. One of the ways to do this is to create a landing page and link to every relevant article regarding your subject.

Track people who link to you: Keep track of who links to you and build a network of industry contacts regarding your subject matter. Find blogs which are related to your niche and link to them. Establish yourself as a voice of authority. A reader who finds you through five or six different sources will recognize you as a trusted source of information regarding your subject.

Ciaran is a fabulously entertaining presenter and his session really appealed to my background in journalism. This was the first of three sessions I attended and I will include another post with notes from Jane Copeland’s session on Link Baiting shortly.

From all of us involved in the search marketing industry in this part of the world, many thanks go to Barry Smyth and Lisa Davis for organizing such a fantastic event, and also to the many international speakers who traveled so far to be with us here in the land “Down Under”.

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Q and A: Do people actually search for exact phrases?

QuestionHi Kalena

As I’m rethinking about my page, I’ve become curious about something. Do people actually search for phrases such as “web design Gloucester” or do they for the most part just search for a page with those three words on it? (which if I understand things is what you get when you search without quotes).

Of course if I have the three words as a phrase either search hits it, but I’m having trouble making it as readable as I’d like using the concise phrases and I’m wondering if the sacrifice in readability is worth it?

Lastly, I wanted to be sure that if I have a key phrase such as “web design Gloucester” that the string “web design in Gloucester” matches. I seem to remember that “in” was a stop word ignored by Search Engines.


Hi Steve

I think you’ll find that most people will start a search using generic terms and then add qualifiers to help narrow down the results. So they might start with “web design companies” (no quotes) and then seeing billions of matches, they might try “web design companies Gloucester” or “web design Gloucester” (no quotes). I don’t really know too many searchers who use quotes unless they are advanced users or SEOs. So it really pays to try to get ranked for the non-quotes version of your target keyphrases.

You can achieve this by using the phrase in your text but including stop words so the copy is more readable. You should never have to sacrifice readability! Stop words are words like “the”, “and”, “in” etc that are mostly ignored by the search algorithm. So if your page has the sentence “we are one of the most popular web design companies in Gloucester” then search engines should rank your page high for the query “web design companies Gloucester” as they will ignore the word “in”.

The reverse also applies, where if a search query includes a stop word, engines will show pages that have either the shorter sentence included without the stop word/s or the longer one.

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Q and A: How many anchor text links should I create on a page?

QuestionHey Kalena

Quick question for ya if you got a minute. If I’m targeting a keyword or phrase, lets say dogs. I write a 500 word article about dogs. I post it on my site. I want to target my main url i.e. www.dogs.com. How many times can I create anchor text in that one article that links to the main page?


Hi Chris

It’s really not about counting the number of keywords or links - it’s about what sounds natural to a reader and what makes the most sense in the copy. If you can read page copy aloud and it doesn’t sound stilted or repetitious, you’ve probably got the right balance of keywords. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend aiming for keyword repetition of around 2 to 3 times per page for each keyword/phrase you are targeting. More than that usually ruins the copy and/or triggers red flags in search engine filters.

When using anchor text, a good way to avoid excessive keyword repetition is to try using keyword variations and word stemming e.g. accounts, accountant, accounting etc. Also consider using your keywords in headings, sub-headings and bullet points. These have the added advantage of breaking up the copy and making it easier to read. Oh and if you decide to use “dogs” in your anchor text, for Pete’s sake make sure the page you are linking to talks about dogs! Sounds obvious but it’s amazing how often this is overlooked.

ADDED: Nick from Search Engine Optimization Journal has blogged about this post. He took from my comments above that when I said 2 or 3 instances per page, I was referring to anchor text links. But I was actually referring to keywords per page, not links per page. Nick’s right, too many links pointing to a single page using the same anchor text is dodgy and unnecessary and may trip spam filters. Just wanted to clarify this point to avoid confusion. Thanks Nick!

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Q and A: Does it matter where keywords are placed within the site copy?

QuestionHi Kalena…

I do have a question I would love an answer to. Is keyword/keyphrase placement within copy relevant? Does it matter “where” the keywords are placed within the copy? Does placement affect search engine relevancy?


Dear Di

All other things being equal, the closer to the beginning of your copy you can integrate your keywords the better. Some people insist that scattering keywords throughout works well, but all agree that you need your major keywords in your main heading and first paragraph no matter what. This is because search engines scan the first few paragraphs first when determining relevancy.

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Q and A: As a new content / SEO writer, how should I quote?

QuestionHi Kalena…

I’m after some advice from a professional and I immediately thought of you as I’m one of your SEO students. I’ve set up my new website and I’ve just had my first request for a quote. However, I’m not sure how to quote, what to base that on, or how others are doing that.

Would you be able to let me know how most content/SEO writers quote for doing websites? It’s really for writing new websites, so not simply editing existing ones. I’m not sure whether to base that on the number of pages/words or on a time spent basis, or what. I don’t know what the norm is.

Could you give me any pointers?

Thanks very much!

Dear Micky

There are some very good pointers for this in the bonus lesson that comes at the end of SEO 201 so you might want to download the bonus lesson PDF and look at that.

Basically, it’s always better (in my opinion) to quote an hourly rate and then work out how many hours each page will take you to copywrite. If it’s easier, you can always provide the customer an estimate (e.g. each page should take between 2-3 hours at my standard hourly rate of $150 + taxes) and then invoice the final cost after the job is done.

This will require you to keep timesheets and be accurate with your time measurements. It also gives the client the option of reducing the number of pages to be done if they want to save money instead of expecting you to lower your fees. Something else I offer clients is the ability to save 10% or 20% if they purchase consulting hours in bulk e.g. hourly rate is $150 but drops to $135 per hour for 10 hours or more purchased in a single month or to $120 per hour for 20 hours or more in a single month.

You might also find my past blog posts about Home Based Business helpful, particularly As a freelance SEM, how should I structure my fees?

In that last post I talk about Freshbooks online invoicing software that has built-in timesheets and a start-stop timer so you can monitor time spent on projects and bill clients accurately. Apart from the fact that it’s very low-priced, I simply could not function without this software!

Good luck with the business.

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