If you haven’t heard of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm overhaul – and it was an overhaul, not just an update – then you’ve been living under a rock. If your site suffered censorship because of it, then you probably want to crawl under one.
I’m not going to reiterate what the new algorithm entailed, except to say that we writers welcomed it. Finally, we were able to once again craft meaningful content, not write synthetic crap. But really, when all was said and done, the readers were the ones who benefited the most.
They’re finally getting what they want and need: real answers.
Hummingbird sounded the final death knell for black hat SEO. Not only do keyword stuffing and spammy-sounding content not work anymore, they can easily get your site banned from Google. Even though keyword research is still necessary, there are other important elements necessary for good search engine ranking and quality social sharing.
So what is the answer? What can salvage our keyword SEO strategies? The answer is Authenticity or, as I call it, REO.
Reader Education Optimization
You could also call it Reader Engagement Optimization; but either way you look at, your content must be focused on your reader, not your product or service. And for truly focused content, the copy must be significant, responsible and relevant.
That means you must genuinely know your target market and write to them with authenticity.
The Internet is awash with content. It’s everywhere you look. There’s no escaping content and many have predicted that this excess will be the Achilles’ heel that brings down content marketing.
It hasn’t in the past and never will. What will happen is that the wheat will be separated from the chaff.
The threshing has already begun. Spammy content in guest posts has already reared its ugly head. And just like its predecessor – black hat SEO – Google has vowed to kill it before it grows out of hand. In fact, their stance on guest post spam has already caused quite an uproar. And while many protest and call, “Foul!” the reality is that Google is just looking out for its search engine users.
C’mon, folks . . . the Google team just wants us to play fair!
REO is Authentic SEO
REO is authentically written, authentically useful content. It’s not sensationalistic copy that hopes to get enough attention by passersby to get shared, like a huckster at the county fair.
REO is focused, targeted content marketing that defines and fulfills its purpose – giving quality information to the people that want and need it.
Furthermore, it’s written in a way that people can relate to and appreciate. If you’ve done any research on writing content, you probably have heard you should write like you speak. But authentic content writing goes even further, taking it to a higher level.
In writing authentic REO content, you’ve got remember your content isn’t a monolog. It’s actually a dialog between two people. You’re not giving a speech; you’re having a chat with your reader. That means you have to anticipate – and answer – questions and objections.
I believe that far more people are persuaded by conversation than oratory. Not only that, but the persuasion is on a deeper, more meaningful plane.
Writing conversationally improves your readers’ perception of you. They begin seeing you as a real person; and “real” is another word for authentic. And your authenticity, your “realness,” makes them feel like you’re talking to them alone, not to a crowded room.
They begin to know, like and trust you, warts and all.
A Real-world Example of Authenticity at Work
I know what you’re thinking.
“Ok, Steve . . . put your money where your mouth is and show me some proof! How do I know you’re not making all this up?”
I’ll show you how I helped a small-business website legitimately get on page one in Google within 2 months. It’s a one-person operation, so it doesn’t have the leverage of an established name-brand company.
We did it with virtually no capital, no wild social media campaigns and with no pay-per-click ads. And absolutely no keyword stuffing or huckster hooey.
Not only that, but it reaches a very targeted audience effectively.
The site’s success rests solely on the authentic content on its pages and blog posts.
The client is a child care provider in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She also does seamstress work on the side. She does mending, alterations, and dressmaking; she can do just about anything that can be done with needle and thread.
She wanted increase the sewing business with a website. When it came to the content, we sat down and she explained exactly what she did and why people would need or want her sewing services. Not being a copywriter, she told me in easy to understand descriptions.
She spoke to me as if I were a potential client.
I wrote the content the same way. I simply explained what she does with simple, authentic content. The same went for her blog articles. She even offered tips so that folks could do what she does, or at least understand the process.
If you type “who is a seamstress in Fayetteville” into Google, her site comes up number three. Narrow the target by adding Arkansas – just like her potential clients would – and she arrives in the second spot. By the way, that’s with the personal results turned off for accuracy’s sake.
She’s actually beating out the more established, big-name tailor shops around town. And it’s a fairly large college town.
If you do the search, you’ll also see a photo beside her search results. We signed her up for a Google+ account. The photo adds authenticity to her results and site. She’s not just a link . . . she’s a real person!
She has gotten quite a few SERP hits, but not a ton of them. Social media shares are probably not that significant either. What she does get is more important: paying clients and way more than before.
Isn’t that what she’s really after anyway?
The Unfair Advantage
The site, by the way, is owned by my wife Mary. She has the unfair advantage of a content marketing pro writing her copy, right?
Well, what are you . . . an amateur?
No, not by a long shot! If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you are a professional content writer as well. It might be for an agency or business, or even as a freelancer. But the game is the same – you need to get results.
Figure out the wants and needs of your prospects, and then deliver them authentically. Be real!
Since it’s my wife’s site – and we both work from home – I have the opportunity to ask her new clients how they found her. It’s almost always from a Google search.
The one thing that impresses them most is the content. They say it told them exactly what they wanted to know. And they felt like she was a real person that cared about them and understood their needs.
She came across as – what’s that word again? Oh, yeah. Authentic.
Your target market is volatile, which is why you must stay agile. But authenticity never goes out of style.