How Many Electrical Engineering Degrees Does It Take….?
It’s funny, recording on the road can be challenging. I take some equipment with me, but you’ll hear that the audio quality on this episode is not exactly the same as it is when I’m in my studio. I hope you can tolerate that.
I was recording, and one of the things that you do when you’re recording podcasts, if you’re doing it properly, is you monitor your own voice. That way if something is going wrong or the levels aren’t right you can hear as you’re talking. I’m very used to podcasting that way and I find it difficult to podcast when I can’t do that. The equipment that I bring up with me is set up to do that, but I couldn’t get it working this morning.
It’s like 4:00 in the morning, I’m very jetlagged, and I texted Cliff Ravenscraft, who luckily is awake, and I said, “I can’t get this working, I can’t understand why. I worked on it for like half an hour.” He’s laughing at me – we’re pretty good friends – and it turns out I had the volume turned down. So now Cliff is really laughing at me, because here I am with two degrees in Electrical Engineering and I can’t even turn the volume. That’s good stuff.
I’m off to the races and we’re ready to go, and I’d like to talk to you about what’s been going on over at the Rankings Institute.
Rankings Institute: Content is Still King
What I’d really like to do is take all the content from the Rankings Institute and deliver it to you on the podcast. I can’t really do that, it wouldn’t be fair to Andrew if I just broadcast his course over the podcast, I don’t think he would like that.
One of the things that I think makes sense is each week for each module for the next eight weeks what I’m going to do is pull out the most important thing that I can get away with telling you; my biggest takeaway that is not part of some secret sauce that I think Andrew wouldn’t want me revealing. He’s a very generous guy, so I don’t think he would object to much.
That allows me to pull out some of the most important ideas. Typically these will be incredibly important things that we’ve talked about before or that have been revealed elsewhere that we can talk about that are still important, things that don’t represent new thinking that is special to the Rankings Institute but that are still incredibly important.
This week the clear message from the first module is that content is still king when it comes to ranking pages in Google.
Now, remember the Rankings Institute is Andrew plus this guy Alex Miller. If you’re interested in staying up to date with what those guys are doing, you can find them at LateNightIM.com/ri. You can get on their list and they’ll let you know when they open the course up again, it’s not currently open.
Alex Miller is a real live SEO. I thought I knew a lot about SEO – I mean, I really do, I know more about search engine optimization than 99% of the people walking the planet. Let’s face it, most people that walk the planet don’t have any idea how stuff gets listed in Google. I’ve been learning about this since 2007, so I may not know more about SEO than 99% of you guys listening to this very specific podcast, but certainly if you were just to pick random people off the street, I know a lot about SEO.
I know nothing about SEO compared to Alex Miller. The reason is Alex is a real SEO, he does that for a living, he has an SEO company and they actually do SEO consulting for SEO agencies in some cases. He has literally personally run SEO campaigns for hundreds of websites in very competitive niches like weight loss and credit cards, stuff that I would consider impossible.
The thing that is amazing to me about the Rankings Institute course and about Alex is that almost all of the stuff that he talks about, perhaps all of it, is based on data that they’ve actually taken where they’ve split tested stuff. They had cases where they had two or three sites that were all ranking on the first page of Google and they were able to change things on the different sites and make them move around on the first page of the SERPs and measure the effects of the changes they made because they were in control of multiple sites at the same time. These are all the kinds of things that I would love to do as an engineer but I could never do because I don’t have hundreds of sites at my disposal to run these kind tests. That’s really cool and that’s one of the things that I love about the course.
Module One in the course is all about getting your site prepared for traffic. One of the ideas that Andrew and Alex talk about in the course is unless your site is optimized there’s no reason to start sending a bunch of traffic and building a bunch of links and working on off-page SEO, unless the site that you’re targeting is air tight. It’s an idea there’s no sense working hard to put water into a leaky bucket, the first thing you need to do is fix the bucket.
One of the things that struck me about the course is Andrew and Alex have pretty clear data that having really solid content is king. One of the things that I’ve noticed and I’m comfortable sharing with you here is in order to rank pages the word counts that you need to get good rankings have really gone up compared to what they used to be two or three years ago.
It used to be that you could easily rank a 200 or 300 word article. In fact, when I was working with Gary Conn back in 2008 and he was making thousands of dollars a month with Adsense, he was ranking pages with 100 or 150 words worth of content on the first page of Google and raking in the cash with Adsense. He would target a keyword with a few hundred words and he’d be ready to rock and roll.
Now in order to effectively target keywords you really need something on the order of 800 to 1,000 words. 800 words is my new minimum limit. If you’re targeting content, my recommendation to you is that all of your pages where you’re really trying to rank have at least 800 words of content. That’s sort of a rule of thumb for ranking on the first page of Google.
Obviously, if you go to Google and you look at any particular page, you may not necessarily see that every page has at least 800 words of content. But if you really look in the SERPs and you really analyze what’s going on there, the question that you need to be asking yourself is, “Is the page that you’re creating actually better, does it actually have better information than the pages that you’re trying to beat?”
When you think about what Google is really trying to do, particularly with Panda and with all of the manual reviews that they’re doing associated with the Panda algorithm, they’re really trying to rank the best content. So why mess with that? Why not just go ahead and create a really strong article, 800 to 1,000 words, and go ahead and be one of the best pieces of content available on your keyword?
I think that’s such a straightforward idea. It goes back to “content is king,” but it also goes back to Google’s primary motivation, their primary goal in the search engine results is to deliver the best results to the user. Let’s be clear about this, it’s not because they care about the user, it’s because if they’re delivering the best results that’s how they can make the most money. It’s really important that you don’t make them look bad by throwing up a crummy page. They’re going to try and seek you out and beat you.
That good content, 800 word content, should be helpful, it should have an image or two in it, and all of those things that make a piece of content compelling. What you need to think of is if a user actually hits your page for that keyword, is that content helpful to them and can they actually use it.
There are a lot of other things in the first week of Rankings Institute, there are six to ten videos and actions that Alex and Andrew have everybody go through on their sites, but this is the thing that stuck out to me is that you need to have great content.
The question is; Is that too big of a pain? Is it too hard to get that kind of content created? After all, you’re busy, you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Do you have time to write valuable content?
The first thing I’ll tell you is I don’t think you have a choice. I think you have to do this if you want to compete in the search engines in this day and age, you absolutely have to have killer content that’s available to the people who are finding your pages if you want to be ranked by Google.
The second thing I’ll tell you is I think it’s easier than ever to find writers that will create killer content for you. The thing is you’ve got to be willing to pay for it. I don’t mean hundreds of dollars a page, but gone are the days, in my opinion, where you can expect to pay $2 or $3 for a page of content that you’re going to rank in Google.
The kind of people that you’re paying $2 or $3 for are going to typically be from economies where in order to support that rate of pay they’re not going to be native English speakers. The thing about written word is when you read it, you can sort of immediately tell whether or not it has been written by a native English speaker, assuming that English is the language that you’re targeting. You may be targeting Spanish, French, or some other language. If you’re targeting English, when you read English sentences it’s going to be immediately obvious if that has been written by someone who learned English as their second or third language, because there are going to be little idioms and other kinds of details that aren’t going to be quite right.
So you need to target native English speakers for your writing and one of the issues with that is that it costs more. I think you should be able to expect to pay $15 or $20 for a piece of content on Elance that is of a sufficient quality to rank well in Google that really benefits your users, that’s well researched and really answers the question that they’re after. But you can do that.
What that might mean is that you need to be a little more selective about the keywords that you target. There may be some keywords that you choose not to target because the return on investment is not there. That means that you’re targeting things where you’re actually going to convert the sale. You don’t target a random keyword.
Maybe you’re in the t-shirt niche and there’s a lot of traffic around “free Dallas Cowboys t-shirts,” but a free Dallas Cowboys t-shirt is hard to monetize because the people that are looking for free Dallas Cowboys t-shirts by definition are looking for something for free. Maybe you need to target Tony Romo t-shirts instead, because people who are looking for a Tony Romo t-shirt have their credit card out and they’re ready to buy something. So you choose to target that keyword where it makes sense to pay $20 for a writer, as opposed to the free t-shirt keyword that doesn’t quite make as much sense because you’re not going to be able to monetize that.
Once you have these keywords that you can attack that have the proper kind of return on investment potential, then I think it’s just a matter of going over to a reputable place like Elance, setting up an account, and posting something very specific about what it is that you want.
What I’ve talked about in the past when it comes to outsourcing writing is that you want to be very clear that only native English speakers need apply. Then you want to give someone a test article or two to write that you will pay for before you commit to a large project. That’s what I recommend that you do, that way you can identify a writer that you can use over and over again.
One of the magical things is that once you find a great writer you can use that writer over and over again on a variety of sites, across a variety of topics. The magic is just finding the first person. Maybe it takes you two or three tries, or four or five tries, to find the right writer, but once you find that writer they could be with you for years. So it’s very well worth the investment.
A lot of times when you have a long term relationship with a writer you can discount pricing on bulk orders and stuff like that, that can drive your costs down. Once you start making money with the articles you won’t feel so badly about spending money on new articles because you know they’re going to profit for you, so you look at it more like an investment into future profits once you have some confidence, as opposed to sunk costs on the front end, which is what it feels like when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or you’re trying it for the first time.
My recommendations; content is more important than ever if you want to rank in Google. This is something that has absolutely changed dramatically and there is clear evidence of it in the search engine results. Again, Google is not perfect yet, they don’t have it right, but it’s very clear that content and the quality of that content is becoming more and more important. Your attitude should be if you’re going to bother to attack a keyword, you should bother to have the best page that you possibly can, something that really helps readers. Content is king.
Second thing is my rule of thumb number for content is now 800 words. I used to say 500, now I think it’s 800 at least. Some of the case studies that we’ve looked at with Andrew in the past, either in Forever Affiliate or in Rankings Institute, you look at these things that are really ranking well. He looked at one that he reviewed with us that was a couple years ago that always stuck in my mind that was for a running watch.
This was someone’s account of this running watch they had bought; they had an unboxing in the review, they had pictures, they had data from their own runs, it was just this long 2,000 word article with pictures and content and just lots of information that was so helpful to anyone who was considering buying this watch. Guess where that review was on Google? You bet it was the first result, absolutely no question. Why? Because it was absolutely the best piece of content.
That’s kind of the mindset that you need to have. Good content, at least 800 words. Find yourself an excellent writer if you’re not willing to do the writing yourself. Be willing to pay for that person and try to establish a long term relationship with a writer that you can trust so that this is something you don’t have to worry about in the future.
If you do that, I think that will be the kind of mindset change that you need to have success going forward from 2014 and beyond, because despite all their miscues and false starts and troubles that they have and examples of where they’ve absolutely gone crazy, Google is getting better at identifying quality content. After all, making the internet a better place is always a better answer than spinning out garbage content that nobody is actually going to read and doesn’t actually help anybody.
Quick Outsourcing Tips
A couple of quick tips for you if you’ve never tried to outsource articles before. Go over to Elance or Odesk, set up an account, you’ll have to give them your credit card. Then what you want to do is write a description that says something like,
“I need several articles of excellent quality on topic XYZ. Each article should target specific keywords that will be provided to the author with the winning bid. Please note that only native English speakers should apply, no exceptions. In your bid for this article please submit one sample paragraph demonstrating your ability to write well. Interested in establishing a long term writing relationship with many follow-on articles to come. Again, only serious, top quality, native English writers need apply.”
Write something like that and then you’ll get a ton of bids. Some of them will be incredibly cheap, some of them will be incredibly expensive, but one thing that you’ll notice is not all of them will include a sample writing paragraph. You can totally ignore those bids because that means they didn’t even bother to read your job description, so ignore those and sort through the rest.
Then what I recommend is that you contact the top four or five bidders that you feel might work out and have a little discussion with them on the message board over at Elance or Odesk, or wherever you decide to do this, and get a feeling for their writing style just from the conversation. If the conversation feels like they’re struggling to form complete sentences, that’s probably not the writer for you.
Once you feel like you have somebody that might work out, negotiate the price for one article. Have them write one article and make sure that it’s of a quality that you find acceptable. Additionally, you might want to specify that “all articles must be original material, no plagiarism of any kind will be tolerated, articles must pass Copyscape.” Copyscape.com is a tool you can use to very inexpensively confirm that your articles haven’t been ripped off from somewhere.
Those are my tips for creating content. Content is absolutely critical. I hope that helps you.
Wrapping Things Up…
That was super fun, I hope you guys enjoyed that. I’ll be back next week with a Rankings Institute Module Two tip. Again, you can check out the Rankings Institute at LateNightIM.com/ri. Next week I have a good tip for you straight out of the Rankings Institute archives, I hope you’ll find that helpful.
After this I’m off to the Philippines for a day and then to Malaysia. Catch you guys from some other Asian country in a couple of days – take care.