How Hummingbird affects SEO writing

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

SEO copywriting continues to evolve. SEO copywriters have already had to adjust to Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. How will the most recent search algorithm update, Hummingbird, impact SEO copy? Why the Hummingbird update? Google anticipates that more people will use mobile devices for voice search and natural language queries. Why? Smartphone use is growing rapidly. In some countries mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop and other countries are expected to follow soon. So instead of just matching up individual keywords, Google wants to interpret and understand a user’s intentions (SEO, Hummingbird and more). The focus is shifting from individual keywords to content which addresses the meaning behind a question (What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for AWAI Copywriters). Tips on writing content after Hummingbird How do you write content which addresses the meaning behind a question? So what exactly are you supposed to do? Here is a brief summary of suggestions from various SEO content experts. Know your audience. Anticipate a user’s questions and needs. Offer relevant content. Be clear in the words you use and how you structure sentences. Don’t forget to use synonyms. Adopt a conversational tone of voice and approach to copy. Keyword strategy has changed; less emphasis is on short tail keywords, more emphasis is on long tail (What are long tail and short tail keywords?). Show you are an authority in your field by providing quality information and expert advice. Know your audience Eric Enge, President of Stone Temple, advises publishers to build “…pages for each of the different basic needs and intentions of the potential customers for your products and services. Start mapping those needs and use cases and design your site’s architecture, content, and use of language to address those” (see article on Hummingbird). Relationship between words even more important than ever Understanding customer needs is one of Paul Hill’s eight recommendations on Hummingbird and website content strategy. As is “Thinking about language”. Content Director of online marketing & SEO agency Further, Paul explains: “Hummingbird is geared, in part, to mobile and voice search. So be clear in the words you use and how you structure sentences. Consider synonyms – the alternative words or phrases that describe what you do and that people might use, rather than focusing your content around an exact-match keyword.” Copywriter Alan Eggleston gives concrete examples of how you can broaden your use of keywords (SEO Copywriting after Hummingbird). In terms of  automobiles, think of using cars, vehicles and sedans. Other words for Chevrolets, for example, are Chevys, Malibus, Impalas and Cavaliers. You can describe a dealership with words such as: dealer showroom, service centre and GM portal. Alan advises writers to find ways to redefine a keyword in a meaningful way. Conversational tone of voice Another...

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Discover the right keyword phrases: think like a reporter!

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Do you have an awkward feeling that your website’s keyword phrases¹ could be better? Can your target audience easily find your website? Looking for some handy tips? Well, I am certainly game for any new SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copyediting or writing² suggestions. In creating the right keyword phrases, SEO consultant Jill Whalen’s advice is to think like a reporter. In her handbook “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” she advises SEO copyeditors to ask the questions reporters do (who? what? where?). Why? Because the answers to these questions are often the keyword phrases you are looking for. Reporter’s cap In other words, if you ask these questions, you will most likely come up with your keyword phrases. For example, when writing for an Italian adventure travel website specializing in bike and walking tours, you can ask yourself the following question: “What kind of travel?” and the keyword phrase answer could be: Italian adventure travel. And when you ask yourself the question “What kind of vacations?,” the keyword phrases probably at the tip of your tongue are : bike tours and walking tours. By being more specific about the product or service you are selling, you optimize your text. So instead of using generic words such as product or service, Whalen’s advice is to use your keyword phrases instead. Regarding the website mentioned above, Whalen suggests substituting our service with the keyword phrase our adventure travel tours. So instead of being too general, be descriptive. Journalists fit the description Journalists are said to be particularly suitable when it comes to writing for the web. Whalen certainly illustrates one of the reasons why. We ask ourselves these questions everyday. ¹ “A ‘keyword phrase’ is a two-word or longer phrase that prospects type into a search query box, such as ‘Florida travel’ or ‘heavy equipment dealers.’ The word ‘keyword’ refers to a single word search term (like ‘Florida’ or ‘equipment’).” ² “Search engine optimization (SEO) writing: Search engine optimization writing is specialized copywriting that entails weaving keywords and keyphrases into marketing or informational copy. The purpose of search engine optimization copywriting is to gain prime positioning for the desired keyphrases, as well as increase page conversion rates.” Both definitions are by SEO copywriter Heather Lloyd-Martin, author of “Successful Search Engine Copywriting.”  Copyright photo: Svilen Milev,...

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Protected: Santa Claus and Sinterklaas

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

The other day I came across one of my direct mail letters about Santa Claus and Sinterklaas which I wrote a couple of years ago. Did you realize that Santa Claus is actually a morphed version of Sinterklaas?  Since the story is a fascinating one, I thought I would share it with you.Or so the story goes. Dutch settlers brought the Sinterklaas tradition to New York (US) in the 17th century. Dutch families got together every year to celebrate the anniversary of Saint Nicolas. And they spread the word. In the 19th century “Sinterklaas” or “St. A Claus” started to look more like the current Santa Claus with a white beard and a red outfit. Artists and poets embellished upon this enchanting figure. He became a happy, plump dwarf with reindeer instead of a white horse. At the end of the 1800s Santa Claus evolved into the Saint Nick we all know. It is strange to see one week a good-hearted man full of cheer at a Dutch shopping mall and the next week another one in a different outfit, when many years ago they were actually one and the same. Enjoy the holidays. Whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, they are all great traditions which bring us good tidings and lots of cheer.   Copyright photo: Barry Meyer,...

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Provocative punctuation marks

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

It might not have grabbed your attention, but apostrophe abuse has been in the news lately. After the results of an apostrophe survey were made public, blogs on the topic of the apostrophe surfaced once again. According to the survey carried out by IT firm SpinVox, nearly half of the 2000 UK adults tested were unable to use the apostrophe correctly. Apostrophe makes headlines Just consult a couple of English language style guides and you will see that this punctuation mark is one which causes native speakers a lot of trouble. On BBC’s Newsnight, the possibility of actually ditching the apostrophe was even discussed. Should you be toying with the idea of getting rid of the apostrophe, The Guardian’s Style Guide suggests that you take a look at the phrases below before making up your mind. my sister’s friend’s investments my sisters’ friends’ investments my sisters’ friend’s investments my sister’s friends’ investments If you look closely, you will see that each phrase has a different meaning. So one reason to keep the apostrophe is simply to avoid confusion. Although these examples are crystal clear, the rules regarding possessives continue to be disputed. Is it Stephens’s story or Stephens’ story? Semicolon sparks emotion across the other side of the ocean Hardly a runner-up, the semicolon is the other punctuation mark which continues to make headlines. Although The New York Times praised a New York City Transit public service writer for using a semicolon on a public service paperboard sign, the semicolon tends to receive negative attention. One of the most well-known examples is a court’s decision to reject a conservative group’s challenge to a statue regarding gay marriage due to the insertion of a semicolon. “A conservative group had asked the court to order the city to ‘cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnising marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before the court.’ As the San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren explained, the word ‘or’ should have been used instead of the semicolon. ‘I am not trying to be petty here,’ he told reporters, ‘but it is a big deal… That semicolon is a big deal.’” Americans in general dislike the semicolon and avoid using it. As applied linguist Ann Keating in the article “Pause Celebre” (Financial Times) explains, “Americans see the semicolon as punctuation’s axis of evil.” Although I do not have any strong feelings about the semicolon, I often avoid using the semicolon just by rewriting copy. My New Year’s resolution, however, is to use use this punctuation mark more often! *A client of Stars & Tulips inspired me to write this web column *Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /...

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400 red and blue years

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

On the train back to Rotterdam, I leafed through a book I had been handed at the Mayor of Amsterdam’s reception celebrating the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, called 1609, The forgotten history of Hudson, Amsterdam and New York by Geert Mak and Russell Shorto. Why this book in particular, I wondered? I flipped the book from the front to the back side only to discover that one side of the book is in Dutch and the other side is in English. I started reading it and entered the 17th century world of Amsterdam, with explorer Henry Hudson preparing for his trip to Asia. Once at sea, faced with near-mutiny, instead of heading towards the pole, he decided to change course and have his ship, the Halve Maen, sail across the Atlantic Ocean. “They encountered natives in several places, and traded with some and fought with others. They continued past Manhattan Island and on up, all the way north to present-day Albany, before realizing that the bed was narrowing and the water no longer salty. This was not the route to Asia. Hudson gave the order to turn about. They sailed back to Europe.” Years ago, during my vacation I used to stay with friends at their 18th century colonial riverside farm in Walden (New York), not far from the Hudson River. Hudson, obviously determined to find Asia, sailed right past Walden all the way to Albany (New York). It’s now easy to scroll up and down the Hudson River using Google; in those days Hudson in deciding which route to follow, relied partly upon information from his friend Captain John Smith. A couple of years before Hudson set sail, Smith had helped establish an English settlement called Jamestown in Virginia. Henry had concluded from Smiths’ letters that the channel which cut through the land mass somewhere to the north of the Jamestown colony was a path between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.Unfortunately for Hudson, it wasn’t; and he never did find a short route to Asia but discovered New York instead! About twelve years later, the Dutch West India Company set up a colony called New Netherland in this area, with its capital New Amsterdam located at the southern tip of Manhattan. When I received an invitation to a “launch invite” in New York City some days later, things fell into place. This book was actually an introduction to coming events in 2009. The Netherlands Government, NYC & Company and the City of Amsterdam, recently launched a yearlong celebration of four centuries of Dutch-American friendship in New York City. If you are just as interested as Stars & Tulips is in the deep-rooted connection between the Netherlands...

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Recipe for recession?

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m wondering which items will end up in the shopping cart this year? Potato chips or rice cakes? Pizza or spaghetti? French fries or potatoes? Will consumers during this recession eat more healthily or resort to junk food? Despite expectations that Americans will focus on health and wellness during the economic downturn, almost half of the Americans interviewed by internet trend market research company Trendsspotting say that they overeat or eat unhealthy foods in order to manage stress. The Dutch trend is a similar one. Over the past year, the Dutch have been consuming more traditional Dutch junk food, namely: “bitterballen” (a kind of mini-croquette served as an appetizer) and “kroketten” (croquettes). Dutch financial director of Royaan, producer of Van Dobben and Kwekkeboom “bitterballen” and “kroketten”, thinks people find solace in these products (Volkskrant). In other words: it’s comforting to eat these snacks. If American and Dutch consumers seem to crave junk food, will these consumers actually start buying more health and wellness products in 2009? Supposedly American consumers are increasingly more focused on how to avoid becoming ill during an economic crisis. Should the food industry concentrate on health and wellness and on building brand awareness, as international consulting firm Frost and Sullivan suggests? In order to be able to profit from consumer fear, Frost and Sullivan’s advice is to position familiar brands and recipes in a way which is reassuring, maximize brand exposure, and to emphasize the health and wellness aspects of products. Nowadays more Americans are staying at home to eat instead of going out to a restaurant. And I’m not quite sure whether this means that American eating habits have actually improved. Certainly the Dutch seem headed down the junk food lane. Since the last quarter of 2008, the Dutch are frequenting snack bars, lunchrooms and fast food restaurants, more often than other restaurants. “When the economy is not doing well, snacks are for many consumers an inexpensive alternative for a meal in a restaurant,” explains Dutch culinary journalist Johannes van Dam. Obviously money plays a role here; but so does the consumer approach to stress and illness. It should be interesting to see whether American and Dutch consumers will choose healthier fare this year or whether junk food sales will skyrocket.   Copyright photo: Pontus Edenberg, www.newsoffuture.com....

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