Author: Dale Kiefer

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Black Hat SEO is a Lump of Coal in Your Website’s Stocking

Black Hat SEO is a Lump of Coal in Your Website’s Stocking

It’s the festive holiday season! You’ve trimmed the tree, hung the stockings with care, and decked the halls with boughs of holly. But did you remember to include your website on your shopping list?

The best gift you can give your website this time of year (or any time of year) is a thorough SEO treatment! You’ll see the benefits in return.

Unfortunately, some scrooges are so stingy they cut corners by using black hat tactics to try to promote their websites. These tricks will earn you the online equivalent of lumps of coal in your website’s stocking.

How, exactly? Read on to find out more about black hat SEO tactics you should avoid.

This is part two in a set of blog posts about black hat SEO. You can read part one here. Both of these posts belong to the more comprehensive, and growing, Holiday SEO Series. Be sure to check out the rest of the installments.

A Reminder about the Dangers of Black Hat SEO

In case you’d forgotten, let us at TCM remind you that black hat SEO is bad. You should avoid it at all costs. The potential short-term gains that you might see from embracing underhanded online trickery are sure to be negated by the penalties that Google will stick you with once you get caught. And you will get caught.

Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough these days to detect when developers and bloggers have taken shortcuts to attempt to cheat their way to the top of the organic search engine results. We covered this in part one of this mini-series in a previous post, along with a handful of devious practices embraced by the unscrupulous among us. In that post, we detailed keyword stuffing, invisible text, and cloaking. What follows is a rundown of several other tricks you should stay away from, lest Google end up being the grinch that steals your website’s Christmas.

A Quick Note about Domain Authority

If you run a website, you want it to have a high domain authority (DA). Domain authority is a measurement devised by the SEO gurus at Moz. It describes where any given website is likely to rank in search engine results pages.

All scores are relative and should be compared to those of sites that are similar to yours. That said, the higher your site’s score is, the better. (In other words, if your site promotes SEO services in Canton, Ohio, compare its DA to those of other businesses in your area that provide the same service, rather than, say, YouTube.)

One of the ways that you can increase your DA score is by getting lots of backlinks from other sites on the web. This is the equivalent of other sites vouching for your site, its content, its security, and so on.

Don’t Make Merry with these Black Hat SEO Tactics

Some black hat SEO tactics attempt to game the link-building system to increase DA. Others try to cheat when it comes to content. None of them are your friends.

You should avoid going caroling with them, standing under the mistletoe near them, and getting in their sleighs.

Private Blog Networks

Some might argue that private blog networks (PBNs) could be considered gray hat techniques, as they aren’t as nefarious as the worst-of-the-worst black hat cheats.

Like many black hat SEO tricks, utilizing PBNs might give you an initial boost. This might tempt you to try them out, but TCM warns you to avoid them. After all, Google has taken steps in the past to penalize sites that participate in them. This should tell you all that you need to know about PBNs.

That said, it’s not a crime to learn about how PBNs are set up. Think of this as Law & Order: PBN.

Basically, PBNs create an unearned backlink structure meant to benefit your site. You can design one by buying up expired domain names that have decent DA scores. Then you compose some rudimentary content, place that on each of these purchased sites, and have them all link back to the site you really want browsers to find in order to increase that site’s DA.

So, yes, all of these other sites will link back to your chosen site. It sounds good, but in reality, it’s like putting the site you want to promote at the center of a circular firing squad.

If Google notices that all or most of the sites that link to your favorite have very basic content and that no one ever really updates them, that’s a red flag. And, trust us, Google will notice.

Building links can be a slow process, we know. But earning them organically by creating high-quality content that users will find informative and link to on their own is a lot less dangerous in the long run.

Buying Links

If a PBN scheme is too complicated for you, then you could just buy up a bunch of links to your site!

Yes, you could do this, but you absolutely should not.

As you might expect, link buying is basically what its name says that it is. You pay some service to create a bunch of links to your site as a way of trying to build DA quickly.

The problem is that online, as in life, you’re often judged largely by the company you keep. Guys who sell links for a living may not be producing any good content of their own. They may be sending you links from sites that don’t have any real DA themselves, and aren’t worth the money you’ve paid for them. Plus, if the sites that are linking to yours aren’t particularly relevant to your business, then the whole scheme looks unnatural. And that’s probably not going to help your SEO efforts very much.

Duplicate Content and Article Spinning

We hope you learned in elementary school that copying off of your neighbor’s paper in class is cheating. Cutting and pasting someone else’s content in your website and claiming it as your own is plagiarism. It’s bad. Don’t do it. You will get caught.

But duplicating your own content and placing it on multiple pages within your own site, is also something you should avoid. (We discussed how you might do this unintentionally in a previous post in the Holiday SEO Series.)

Creating high-quality content is time-consuming. But that’s a big part of why it’s so valuable!

Article spinning attempts to get around the hard work requirement associated with fine content by just retooling existing content.

This black hat tactic involves using software to chop up articles and then reassemble them, presenting the messy product as a brand-new piece of content.

The problem is that the result is often of very poor quality. In addition, it might not be retooled enough to even be considered “new” at all. Who’s going to want to consume this online equivalent of a fruitcake?

Machines are becoming more sophisticated all the time, but, for now, content produced by humans is still going to be better. Don’t get software to spin your content for you. And don’t try to spin your own content either. It’s better to invest the time you would spend doing that in creating new content. It’s worth it.

In Conclusion

Enjoy the holiday season! Give yourself the gift of white hat SEO. Don’t engage in shady black hat tactics that may give your site a brief boost, but come back to bite you in the end.

Black hat SEO might promise your website the world (wide web), but in the end, it’s all just a big humbug.

Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO Tactics at All Costs

Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO Tactics at All Costs

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is right around the corner! As a result, when we at TCM say “black hat,” you might immediately think of Pilgrims. That’s understandable, as images of these old New Englanders are ubiquitous in American elementary schools in the fall. But you’re likely also aware that you can use the term “black hat” to describe certain SEO practices.

If you don’t know anything about black hat SEO, the first thing we need to tell you is to avoid it at all costs. What practices qualify as black hat SEO? There are a number of them, a few of which we’ll describe below as a part of our continuing Holiday SEO Series. (Check out a previous, Halloween-themed installment here.)

As you read through the list of black hat SEO tactics detailed below, remember: Stay away from these turkeys at all costs! If you adopt any of these shady practices, they’ll definitely gobble up any goodwill you might have ever earned with Google!

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO describes a set of sneaky tactics certain unscrupulous website designers use to try to game search engines. Those who embrace black hat SEO try to take short cuts to trick Google into putting their website at the top of the rankings. Search engines actually do have guidelines, and people who violate them attempting to gain an advantage are engaging in black hat SEO.

Rather than putting in the time it takes to develop high quality content, build links to other reputable sites, and otherwise establish solid authority for a website, these underhanded tricksters conspire to get to the number one spot without earning it.

There are some well-defined black hat SEO tactics, a few of which we’ll detail below. But as with many other shady endeavors, the term “black hat” can indicate a broad range of ploys.

If, while working on your website, you feel that you’re doing something to “trick” Google to gain an unfair advantage, you probably are. The old axiom, “I know it when I see it” definitely applies here.

What Will Happen to My Site If I Put on the Black Hat?

You want your website to rank well. We get that. If it takes a bit of underhanded string-pulling to get to the top, isn’t it worth it?

No. Absolutely not.

Search engines like Google now use algorithms that are sophisticated enough to detect black hat SEO tactics. And they have no tolerance for them.

In fact, if Google determines that you have embraced shady black hat maneuvering, the search engine will likely penalize your site. What does that mean? Google can push your site down the rankings so far that no one will ever find you. It may even pull you out of the search results altogether. Ouch. Weren’t you concocting this whole scheme to get found in the first place?

A Handful of SEO Tricks You Should Avoid

We here at TCM trust you. But, for the sake of spelling it all out, here is a list of commonly-used black hat SEO tactics you should definitely stay far away from.

Keyword Stuffing

We’re close to the Thanksgiving holiday, but, trust us, you won’t gain any nourishment from this brand of stuffing.

Here at TCM, we have written pretty extensively about the need to fill your website with content, adding the caveat that this content must be of high quality. Naturally, your content should be relevant to your industry and/or your company’s focus. This means that any written content you create should contain keywords that you hope your potential customers will use when conducting a search, thereby finding you online.

But remember that you should never overuse keywords, especially to the point where it sounds unnatural to the human ear. If you provide SEO services, then of course the acronym “SEO” will appear frequently in your website’s content. Users will see it on your homepage, on your “services” page, and in your company’s blog posts.

And you should use that keyword often! It’s what your business does, it’s what you want to rank for, and it’s how you will expect users to find you online.

But here’s something that won’t help you. In fact, it will hurt you. Don’t just hammer out “SEO” 5,000 times and call that a blog post. Nor should you try to be just slightly cleverer and make “SEO” every other word or every third word in your blog posts or main content. That won’t work. You’ll still get caught.

Always create content for real human users and use the most natural, human language you can. Think about how people talk to their voice assistants—in real, complete sentences. You should respond in kind.

Invisible Text

Utilizing invisible text is a deceptive (and, perhaps even worse, lazy) method of trying to fool search engines and, by extension, users.

Human browsers might get turned off if they see all sorts of word repetition on a website. After all, a site that looks like that just screams “shady.” Invisible text tries to get over that hurdle by hiding this form of keyword stuffing. And it does so by making the text “invisible” to human viewers but still detectable to search engines.

How? By placing white text on a white background. Now it’s invisible! Seriously. You’re a real turkey if you think this gimmick will work in 2019. Don’t try it.


Seemingly the very definition of deception, cloaking is another black hat tactic that any upright content creator will avoid.

Cloaking attempts to lead both search engines and human users astray by presenting each of them with a different set of content. If you have content that you want a user to see but you don’t think you can get it to rank well, you can (but shouldn’t) cloak it in keywords that you think a search engine will find.

Using this method, you could, in theory, get Google to rank your page according to certain content that it sees while, at the same time, presenting different content to the user, such as images or even Flash content. Again, you could do this, but you shouldn’t.

In Conclusion

In the world of SEO, it turns out that your elders were right. Hard work does pay off.

Invest your time and energy in creating great content, building a link network, and establishing your company’s identity through regular social media posts and blog writing.

Don’t try to take the easy way out. Avoid shortcuts and deception. Don’t wear the black hat. You’ll be thankful for the good results.

Do you know what else you can be grateful for? TCM’s Holiday SEO Series! Keep an eye out for future installments, including another round of black hat tactics you should avoid like the black plague! Until then, stay honest!

The Spookiest SEO Issues that will Frighten Google Away from your Website

The Spookiest SEO Issues that will Frighten Google Away from your Website

Imagine that it’s Halloween and the trick-or-treaters are roaming the streets in their costumes. You’ve got a house full of candy, and you’re anxious to hand it out. By turning on your porchlight, you signal to these little ghosts and goblins that they should ring your doorbell.

Wait, what does this have to do with SEO?

Well, let’s say that your house is your website and the trick-or-treaters are human web browsers (and potential customers) or even the search engines themselves. In this analogy, your porchlight is good SEO. A dark house, in contrast, is bad SEO.

By failing to optimize your website, you could be keeping search engines away. You might even be frightening users off!

Obviously, you don’t want that. And here at TCM, we don’t want that either. That’s why we’re presenting this multi-part, holiday-themed series tackling SEO problems that might be plaguing your site.

Even though there are Halloween references in this post, know that a lack of SEO will haunt your website every day of the year if you don’t address it.

So, what are some of the scariest, spookiest SEO issues that might plague your website and keep everyone away?

Read on…if you dare!

Not Enough Content

Like a nearly-empty bag at the end of a long night of trick-or-treating, a website without much content is a huge disappointment.

Actually, it’s even worse than that. If your website lacks sufficient content, then there’s not much for Google or other search engines to crawl and index. If a search engine doesn’t find much on your site, it’s not going to recommend that any living human user go there.

Remember that customers conduct searches because they want to find answers to their questions and/or alleviate some pain. If you don’t have much for anyone to find, then you won’t be found. Scary, but true, like a blood-curdling scream in a dark wood that no one will ever hear…

And if you think that publishing tons and tons of content without regard for quality is going to help you, we’ve got bad news for you there as well. Having lots of unhelpful content that does nothing but take up space is just as bad as having very little content.

The Solution:

Create content for your website, but be sure that it’s worth reading. Quality always beats quantity. And content can take a variety of forms. If you’re stuck, feast your eyes on this list of ways to vanquish writer’s block!

Duplicate Content

Just as you might be unnerved to encounter your doppelgänger on the street, you should be concerned to find duplicate pages on your website.

The reason for this is that duplicate pages can hurt your ability to rank. When Google encounters two or more pages with identical content, it has to decide which one is the original and/or which one should be indexed. By making this indexing exercise harder for the search engine, you actually can end up competing against yourself when trying to rank.

Your site may have duplicate content for a number of reasons not due to intentional copying. For example, if you have an http and an https version of a particular page (an unsecured and a secured version, respectively), search engines may see this as duplicate content.

The solution:

You can set up a 301 redirect indicating to search engines that you have a preferred version among the pages with duplicate content. The search engine will then index that page with a bonus benefit: consolidating the positive ranking factors for all of the pages into the preferred one.

(Un)Dead Links

We all know the frustration of clicking on a link hoping to find a product we want or the answer to a burning question only to have the site tell us that the desired page does not exist.

If that happens to you more than once on a particular page, you’re probably going to leave that site and look elsewhere, aren’t you?

Broken links, also known as dead links (and undead links on Halloween) are bad news for your website. Your site may have dead links on it for a number of reasons. For example: the page linked to may no longer exist, the destination URL there may be malformed, or the host server may not be reachable, among others.

Google may not hand you a penalty for having broken links on your site, but that doesn’t mean that these go-nowhere links can’t do you any harm. You don’t want your site looking like a link graveyard!

If a human user finds your site unhelpful or undependable because of a multitude of broken links, then that user is likely going to turn elsewhere for the information or services that you’re trying to offer. User frustration will be reflected in the decreased amount of time people spend on your website. This, in turn, sends a signal to Google that your site doesn’t have much value, which translates into a loss in rankability for your site.

The solution:

Exorcize those dead links! You can prevent some dead links from happening in the first place by taking care to type in URLs properly when you are linking out to another page on your site. If you discover a broken internal link on your website, fix the URL or change the link to send users to another, comparable page on your site.

Due to the constantly shifting nature of the web, it’s inevitable that some of your external links will eventually turn up dead. It’s not as easy for you to address those, as you don’t control them. One solution is to change that link to send users to another site that will serve more or less the same purpose.

What’s the best solution? Conduct an SEO audit on your website! Did we mention that TCM performs SEO audits?

In Conclusion

Bad SEO is not a treat. If your page isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t recommend you, and human users won’t find you. Start with adding more content. But remember to make it high-quality, informative, and engaging content! Next, work on eliminating duplicate content and purging those (un)dead links from your site. You’ll be dancing the Monster Mash in no time!

Look for additional entries in TCM’s “Holiday SEO Series” in the coming weeks!

And, as always, if you need help with your site’s SEO, beyond what you see in this blog, contact Triple Canopy Media! Our porchlight is always on!

Here’s Some Game-Changing Content You Should Create and Why

Here’s Some Game-Changing Content You Should Create and Why

When it comes to content for your company’s website, more is always better, provided, of course, that it’s high-quality content.

Content, as we have discussed before, includes blog posts, social media posts, general descriptive information about your organization’s vision, mission, staff, location, products, services, and so on.

If you run a business, then above all else, your content should engage people. Your content should drive traffic to your website. And once a searcher is on your website, that content should be compelling enough to hold the attention of that user long enough for that person to become a customer.

How can you accomplish this? By creating content that is engaging, informative, and soothes the “pain” that the searcher is feeling. The pain is what caused that person to want to conduct a search in the first place.

This pain can take many forms. Your potential customer is increasingly likely to express pain in the form of a full-fledged question, especially as voice searches become more prevalent.

Such pain-related questions may include:

“How can I drive more traffic to my website?”

“How many presidents have been impeached?”

“Where can I get some poutine near me?”

As you can see, there’s a broad range of questions that people might ask hoping to satiate their hunger for information and other things.

If you run a business, the key is for you to be found (preferably first) as the answer to one of these questions.

Content does that for you!

So, back to our original question: What sort of content should you create in order to get readers’ attention (and keep it)? Read on!

Strive to be a Featured Snippet

An overwhelming majority of all search engine traffic goes through Google.

You probably use Google. If so, you have likely seen a featured snippet at some point when you have asked that search engine a question.

To see what a featured snippet is, if you don’t know, check out the screenshot below:

A screenshot of a featured snippet

In this example, the featured snippet features a snippet that defines what a featured snippet is. (Got it?)

The SEO gurus at Moz have done an admirable job of explaining what a featured snippet is. And Google has rewarded them with the coveted featured snippet spot as a result.

In case you can’t quite make out the definition in the screenshot above, know that a featured snippet is a portion of content which Google places in a box above the rest of the organic results on a search engine results page in response to a query. Yes, above the number 1 result!

Google does this, presumably, because its algorithm deems the result in the featured snippet to be the best answer to a searcher’s question and then places it there.

Now, if you’re developing content for your site, here’s some great news: The featured snippet doesn’t always come from the page that ranks first in the organic search results.

In other words, if you write content so helpful that Google’s algorithm deems it to be the best answer to a frequently asked question, then you can actually leapfrog over results that appear above you and get displayed in the featured snippet box!

You can see this in action in the screenshot below. The featured snippet came from the Moz site, but Moz is actually second, not first, in the list of organic results Google provides as an answer to the question:

A screenshot showing the organic search results for a featured snippet search

Speaking of Frequently Asked Questions…

You always want to be of use to any searcher, and you always want Google to recognize that.

The best way to be helpful to anyone using a search engine is to answer questions. And the most efficient method for accomplishing this, of course, is to anticipate people’s questions before they’re asked. That’s where your site’s FAQ page can come in.

Composing a page with frequently asked questions is one of the most effective steps you can take to raise the profile of your company’s website.

Creating an FAQ page for your website allows you to place an abundance of relevant keywords related to your business and industry all in one place.

Remember that the use of voice search is on the rise. This is a trend that is projected to continue as people become ever more comfortable consulting virtual assistants to satisfy their information needs. When you compose your FAQ page, structure the questions just as you would expect a potential customer to ask them. Use the same language a layperson might use and you may match up exactly with a user’s query.

If your FAQ page is thorough enough or helpful enough, this could be your company’s ticket to the featured snippet box.

Show Us Your Infographics!

Infographics are valuable pieces of content. They may serve as possible gateways to a whole new potential customer base.

Why? Because, let’s face it, many people simply aren’t going to read through pages (or even a single page) of just text. Infographics are more eye-catching and much easier for busy searchers to engage with. As a result, your potential clients are more likely to read an infographic all the way through. The longer their eyes stay on your website, the better it is for your SEO.

Plus, infographics are an excellent way to repurpose content that you have previously created. Have you composed a blog post that tackled an aspect of your industry particularly well? Turn it into an infographic and release it into the world again! The time you’ll spend on the graphical layout is more than offset by what you save on not developing an entirely new set of ideas.

Video Saved the SEO Star

When you’re tired of text, and even an infographic isn’t lively enough for you, try some video content!

Video content gives you the chance to liven up your website and your social media feeds. It can add some personality to your business, which may help to forge a connection with your audience of potential customers. Plus, it gives you a chance to be creative in a different way. And although text interviews can be interesting, video interviews are even more riveting, especially interviews with influencers!

Perhaps more important than that are these stats about video content and social media engagement. In short, social media content consisting of videos receives more engagement and produces more fruitful returns. Even if you’re camera-shy, it’s worth it.

In Conclusion

As always, more content is better. Higher quality content is better. A greater variety of content is better.

Compose those FAQ lists and strive to be a featured snippet. Repurpose your blog post text as a helpful infographic. And increase your company’s engagement with your audience by posting videos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Still stuck? Reach out to Triple Canopy Media! We can help you to develop the content that will elevate your business to the next level.

7 Ways to Develop Good Content Ideas When You Have Writer’s Block

7 Ways to Develop Good Content Ideas When You Have Writer’s Block

Writer’s block, the shorthand for being stuck when it comes to generating new written content, is not just the bane of eccentric novelists. It can and does affect businesses as well.

Since we all know that creating good content is essential to generating traffic on the web, a lack of new content is going to be detrimental to your company’s online success.

Don’t get caught in a state of not having enough new content due to a lack of ideas, feeling discouraged, or succumbing to apathy.

Here’s a list of seven ways that your company can build up your content and get more eyes on your website, your blog, and your social media feeds.


Two heads are better than one. And a whole team is better still!

Are you struggling to come up with a topic for your next blog post? We’ve all been there at one point or another.

Every writer is going to suffer from a lack of ideas at some stage in the writing game. If you work for an organization in the creativity sector (that definitely includes you, marketers) take advantage of the opportunity to tap into the minds of your fellow writers or other colleagues at work.

You may have some vague notion of what to write about swimming through your head, but you aren’t sure where to go with it. Try tossing it out to a coworker and it may just be returned to you as a fully-fledged blog post!

And remember: Your colleagues can be great editors and proofreaders, too!

Harvest Ideas from Elsewhere Online

It’s not a crime to peruse the work of other writers to help ignite your own ideas. Find writing topics by doing research online in your field. It’s not cheating to get inspiration this way. Shakespeare pulled from the works of writers that came before him, so it’s certainly okay for you to do the same.

But don’t plagiarize! Again, seriously, don’t plagiarize!

Not only is this a bad practice from an ethics standpoint, it’s also a poor choice from an SEO standpoint. The penalty is just not worth it.

But a whole new world of potential content opens up to you when you draw from the well of online inspiration.

First of all, this is a great way to find out about new subtopics within your field. It can also help you to catch up with some of the newest trends in your industry that you might otherwise have overlooked.

Second of all, there are very few ideas in the history of human civilization that are so brilliant that they can simply stand alone with no additional input or scrutiny.

Take some of the ideas in someone else’s blog post and add on to them but from your unique perspective. Or, better yet, strive to refute that other writer’s premise using your own experience or expertise.

Pull from Your Own Archive

Even if you feel that you’re out of ideas right now, you aren’t. And if you ever felt that way in the past, you were wrong then, too!

If you’ve been blogging for a while, take a look at your back catalog of previous posts and use some of them as a springboard to help you create a new piece of writing.

Maybe, for instance, you wrote extensively about social media marketing in a series of blog posts several months or even a year or two ago. In this arena, changes happen very quickly. Isn’t that old series due for an update? Write about new developments using the news as your guide.

This naturally leads into the next bit of advice…

Draw from Industry News, Trends, and Current Events

Still out of ideas for new content at this stage? Struggling for what to put in that blog post? You shouldn’t be. But if you are, do a search for the latest trends in your industry. “SEO news 2019” is sure to turn up a lot of useful results about SEO, any one of which could translate to a new blog post from you.

You might also try looking at the calendar as well. In December, consider a retrospective on the news that shaped your industry in the previous year. In January, think about the trends that you think will drive progress in the coming year.

There are also spring trends, summer trends, fall trends…this is an especially fruitful approach to try if you’re blogging about fashion, sports, hospitality, or any other retail sector that changes dramatically over the course of any given year.

Get Personal

Unless you’re in an industry in which all of your activity is governed by the strictest security measures, you can almost certainly afford to “get personal” with your content’s readers.

No, we don’t mean to say that you should be divulging your deepest, darkest personal secrets to the entire online world. But you can and should humanize yourself and your organization now and then.

Does your office have a resident four-legged (honorary) staff member? It’s a sure bet that some of your readers will be intrigued by what Fido has to say about trends that affect his share of the marketplace. This may give you a chance to have some fun with a new “voice,” too!

Conduct an Outside Interview

If Fido is the strong, silent type, and no one else in your workplace is overly fond of sharing, try to book an interview with a person outside your organization. This is not only a great way to fill that content bucket for the day, it’s also a chance for you to learn more and thereby potentially gain material for future blog posts.

And if you can score a one-on-one with an influencer in your field, then you’ve just transformed a bout with writer’s block into a major coup!

Reduce Your Pain by Reusing and Recycling

If content is good enough to share once, it’s probably good enough to share again.

Thankfully, there are a variety of presentation methods, forums, and platforms available to you, the content creator. Take advantage of them!

For instance, write that blog, and then, a few months down the road, convert that piece into an infographic. You still get your message across, but in a way that might reach a different (and wider) audience.

Then share that infographic as a post on Instagram (social media is content, too)! After that, write another blog post about your start-to-finish creative process. Then be sure to hop on Twitter and send out some tweets to promote that blog post!

In Conclusion

Don’t let writer’s block drag you down. It happens to everyone. But the cure for it is all around you. Don’t be afraid to tap into that well for inspiration, snag that interview, or think really far outside the box.

And if you’re still stuck, reach out to Triple Canopy Media! Don’t be content to live without content!

Why Your Company Should Be Using Google My Business

Why Your Company Should Be Using Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is just one of the many online tools you can and should take advantage of to help promote your business or brand on the web. Did we mention that Google My Business is a free service? Well, it is.

If you’re not too familiar with GMB and how it can boost your online profile, read on!

First of all, what is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free web tool Google offers to businesses that allows them to showcase their services, location, hours, and other essential information.

The ultimate goal of GMB is to empower potential customers to find your business more easily.

GMB is a service available to any business that has a physical location. Google’s expectation is that customers will come to your office, shop, restaurant, service center, etc. in order to buy your goods or take advantage of your service offerings.

Even if you offer a mobile business that has you traveling to meet customers, you can still have a Google My Business profile provided that your business has an actual physical location. Examples of these types of businesses include plumbers and exterminators, among others.

I already have a website, so why do I need a GMB profile?

Your company’s GMB page serves to enhance and complement your existing online presence. This (presumably) includes your business website, your business-related social media profiles, and all of the reviews you’ve (hopefully) been encouraging satisfied customers to post.

Having a Google My Business profile makes it easier for Google to present information about your business to searchers. And you definitely want Google to do that.

In fact, the information that you, as the business owner, place in your GMB page is what Google presents to users when you appear in search results, as shown by the screenshots below.

First, here is what the “Info” screen looks like on the Triple Canopy Media GMB page, as we here at TCM see it, (with the most relevant portion circled in red just for this post):

Google My Business screenshot showing TCM description

With that in mind, check out what Google shows a user who brings up Triple Canopy Media in a search (again, the red serves to highlight this text for illustration purposes here):

Screenshot of a Google search for Triple Canopy Media

Just in case you can’t quite make it out, it’s the same copy! In other words, Google will describe your business to searchers using the words from your GMB page. The power to promote yourself to the public in your own words actually does lie with you!

Google My Business can be especially helpful when it comes to the all-important local search, (when users, for instance, type “search engine optimization near me”). More on this in the “Location” section below.

Google stats

In case TCM has to actually spell this out, Google dominates the search engine marketplace. In the first quarter of 2019, there were more than 150 billion searches conducted using Google’s search engine. (Those are numbers for just the U.S. Google page, so obviously the global numbers are higher. You can track Google searches in real time here.) More than 90% of all search engine traffic worldwide goes through Google.

Bottom line: Most people are finding what they want to find through Google. And GMB gives you a chance to tell those people all about your business and what it does.

Keep the content flowing!

TCM isn’t going to stop blogging about the value of content anytime soon. That’s because content is the lifeblood of your company’s online presence. This is just as true for Google My Business as it is for your business website.

First of all, make sure that you have a well-written, concise, and engaging description of what your business is and does in the “Info” section of GMB. (Check out the words circled in red in the screenshots above.) Be sure to use relevant keywords, but make your description readable prose. Don’t just list a string of keywords!

Look at your GMB page as yet another opportunity to post content that will give your business online authority.

Write content for the “Posts” section. This is a good place to keep your customers apprised of upcoming events related to your business or special deals you plan to offer in the near future. You can also upload images and videos to enhance your GMB profile. Show your customers more of who you are!

Product and service offerings for the win

Next, take advantage of all of the opportunities that Google My Business gives you to spell out your company’s product and service offerings. You can list them on the “Info” page and then again, but with more detail, on the “Services” page.

The “Services” page gives you a chance to write a much longer narrative about all of the things your business can do to solve your customers’ problems for them! You can create “sections” and add “items” underneath them. TCM strongly encourages you to do this. Google will then tie your keywords all together and link them to the name of your business, which is exactly what you want a search engine to do.

For instance, in the screenshot below, you can see that the section is entitled “Reputation Management,” which is one of the main services that TCM provides. Underneath that main offering is a list of items that comprise it, along with a narrative about each one. These include vital components of reputation management such as branding and positioning, public relations, website development, content strategy, printing & graphic design, and social media.

GMB screenshot showing TCM services

You can write up to 1,000 characters for each item. That should be more than enough to tell your customers (and Google) what you can do for them.

Location, location, location!

Remember when we said that local search plays a big role in helping Google find and recommend relevant businesses? Well, it does. Fortunately, GMB gives you several opportunities to showcase your company’s location, making sure that both Google and potential customers take notice.

Going back to the “Info” page, there is a subheading where you can list service areas for your business. You can indicate the names of cities, townships, counties, or ZIP Codes. Just be sure that you actually do service an area if you tell Google that you do.

While we’re on the all-important subject of location, this is a great time to stress how vital it is for your business to ensure that your NAP is consistent everywhere you’re listed online. In this instance, “NAP” stands for “name, address, phone number.” (Make sure that you properly list the website address for your business on its GMB page as well. Think “NAPW,” if that helps.)

GMB has you list the location and contact information for your business, of course. It is absolutely essential that the information you list here not only matches up exactly with what is listed on your website but is also perfectly in line with all of the other sites that list this information. This includes social media sites—your business Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and so on—as well as other places where you’re listed online such as the BBB site.

In Conclusion

If your business doesn’t have a Google My Business page, create one now. It’s a free service that will put you, in your own words, in front of searchers using the most-used search engine on earth. Be sure that all of the information you put on your GMB page is accurate and up to date. Use the platform to write content, post pictures, and inform your audience about what’s going on with your company right now.

And, if you need some help creating an outstanding GMB page, reach out to Triple Canopy Media!

Online Reputation Management is Key to Protecting Your Company’s Good Name

Online Reputation Management is Key to Protecting Your Company’s Good Name

When you’re outside on a sunny day, your shadow will tag along with you, serving as your constant companion wherever you go. But at night, in the darkness, it hides. Your reputation, on the other hand, follows you everywhere, all the time. And people know it.

Day or night, fair weather or foul, the way that others perceive you shapes your ability to gain their trust—and their business. This is true online just as it is in life. If you’ve got a bad reputation anywhere, you’re likely scaring potential clients away.

You might think that you can build and maintain a good reputation simply by living an honorable life. That’s a solid start, and a noble goal. Triple Canopy Media applauds you for your devotion to virtue.

Sadly, maintaining a good reputation is often not as straightforward as it ought to be. That’s where reputation management comes in.

Reputation management is the process of influencing and shaping how others see a person, a company, or a brand. It was always a part of the marketing and public relations world, but in the online era it’s more important than ever.

You can do everything right—work hard, run your business honestly, treat your employees and your customers fairly—but still not reap of the full benefits of an earned positive reputation.

This is because there are a number of moving parts that define your reputation online.

One major way that customers learn about your business is through reading online reviews. Reviews matter. A lot. In fact, more than 95% of shoppers check them before committing to a purchase.

This isn’t just true of online shopping either. The same high numbers apply to local businesses, with 91% of searchers in the coveted demographic of 18-34-year-olds trusting online reviews just as much as recommendations from people they know in real life.

Getting good reviews is huge. But there’s more to reputation management than that. What are some of the steps you can take to ensure that you and your business maintain a positive online reputation? Read on!

Don’t Be Shady, Don’t Be a Jerk

Alright, perhaps there’s not a lot of technical knowhow wrapped up in this one, but we would be remiss if we failed to lead with it. If you lie, if you cheat, if you’re rude, if you’re undependable, then that’s going to damage or completely shape your negative reputation.

Some people feel that the universe is out to get them. It’s probably not. They’re just inviting its retribution by embodying all of the bad traits that they were (hopefully) told not to embrace when they were children.

Nastiness begets people who call nastiness out. And online, people aren’t shy about telling you and everyone else what they really think.

Abhor the Vacuum

Let’s accept that you’re generally an honest person and you run your business above board. Good for you! Unfortunately, if you don’t have much of an online presence, then it won’t take very much effort on the part of a bad actor to define your web identity for you.

Bad actors could include unscrupulous competitors looking to get ahead the easy way, disgruntled customers pursuing a vendetta, or random trolls scheming to make someone’s life miserable for their own amusement.

There are plenty of proactive steps you can take to make sure that it’s an uphill climb for anyone who wants to defame you.

If you run a business, make sure that it has a phenomenal website. Create a business Facebook page for it. Make sure that you’re on LinkedIn too. Basically, you should have some kind of presence on all of the major social media platforms. (This is good from an SEO standpoint as well, as it gives search engines more of you to find.) It doesn’t hurt for you to join chambers of commerce and trade associations either.

For individuals, these same tips apply. Create and maintain social media accounts but be sure that their content presents you to the world in the best light. Join professional organizations in your industry or field of study.

Content, Content, Content!

There’s that word again: content. It’s a mantra for TCM, and it should be one for you as well. A bare-bones business website is better than no website at all, of course. But a dynamic business website full of robust, informative, and authoritative content is even better.

Creating good content that can help you rank highly in the search engine results will push bad content down lower on the SERPs. Plus, if a customer reads it, they will hear about you, from you, and in your own voice, not someone else’s.

Those Reviews Once Again

As we mentioned above, bad reviews can harm your standing with customers, especially younger, more online-savvy ones. Sometimes bad reviews from customers are justified. Other times, they’re unreasonable. Needless to say, you want way more good ones than bad ones.

The best way to combat bad online reviews is to actively solicit good ones from customers. TCM’s rabid fans know that we have written about this in a previous blog post.

Still, flooding the online space with positive reviews won’t make the bad ones disappear completely. But it will dilute their power.

There are also benefits, believe it or not, to having some negative online reviews.

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer for a moment. If that person, looking at a host of online reviews, sees nothing but glowing comments, that could be a red flag. The customer might start to wonder if the deck is stacked.

A few negative reviews can allow your business to avoid the axiom: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” They can help give a potential customer a fuller picture of the business in question, from the best- to the worst-case scenario.

Negative reviews can also empower your company to engage with dissatisfied customers and publicly demonstrate to future customers the manner in which you respond to difficult situations. They can also be useful internally, as many negative reviews are actually constructive, and not just libel meant to destroy you.

In Conclusion

Be the best “you” that you can be, both as a person, and as a business. Actively shape your online character by creating content, soliciting positive reviews, and staying engaged with customers.

If you find this process to be overwhelming, don’t worry. The professionals here at Triple Canopy Media know all about reputation management.

We can help you devise a comprehensive reputation management plan, push negative results down below the top search results in Google, and create outstanding content to take their place.

Contact TCM! We’ll make sure you shine!

Want Your Blog to Work for You? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

Want Your Blog to Work for You? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

Yes, of course we understand. You want more clicks, more traffic on your site, more eyes on your blog posts. Perhaps you want to sell more of your company’s products or services, or maybe you dream of cornering a niche in your industry and leveraging that to become a major online influencer.

Whatever your motivation, or your most favored outcome, a good solid blog can help you get there.

But building a blog that works for you or your business doesn’t just happen because you want it to. (Obviously, right?) It happens through planning, persistence, and a bit of strategy.

How can you get more eyes on your blog posts and reap the benefits? Ask yourself the questions below!

Am I Focused?

You should always focus your sights squarely on your subject matter. Pick a niche and stick with it.

If you run a business, then this choice has been made for you to some extent. Blogging about your industry is not just a logical thing to do; it also draws on the considerable experience and expertise you have to offer in your field.

On the other hand, if you’re an individual hoping to raise your profile or make a living through blogging, picking your niche could be a bit more challenging.

Above all, your blog should be focused.

If you want to just chronicle your random thoughts from time to time and call that a blog, then you certainly have the full freedom to do so. But the result of doing that will be more of a fun diversion for you and your friends than it will be evidence of why you should be a major influencer.

Focus! Yes, you should pick a well-defined subject area that you know fairly well. In addition, you should have enthusiasm for your chosen topic. That way, you’ll be more motivated to stay in touch with the hottest trends in the field. Plus, your excitement will shine through and your readers will feel that and want to read more.

Speaking of readers…

Do I Know My Audience?

Your blog should hold your interest, certainly, because you’re going to be the one writing it. But it’s actually much more essential that it covers what readers want to learn about if you’d like for it to be a part of your business strategy.

You’re welcome to occupy online space by writing about your cats or your favorite 1980s TV shows—feel free! But if you believe that this will bring you a lucrative payout or result in you getting calls to give TED Talks, you’re likely to be disappointed.

If you really aren’t sure what you should be blogging about, but you hope to make a living with your writing, think about the marketplace first. Prioritize your audience. Consider the needs of your readers and cater to their interests. Think about their pain points and drill down on that.

Cornering your niche in the blogosphere involves writing about something that can be monetized. It may also center around subject matter that is highly-technical. If your chosen topic is one that very few people can write about, and you’re one of those people, then there’s a possibility that there’s a lucrative future in it for you.

Can I Post Like Clockwork?

Dependability is a great quality not just in real life, but also online.

If you want people to read your blog posts, work on posting them regularly.

Perhaps you have enough material to post every other day? Schedule a time to go live and stick to that. If you feel like you will only post something once a week, try to have your post up on the same day every week, and at the same time of day if you can.

Again, post regularly. People will then come to expect to see your posts at that given time. And, if your posts are enthralling, informative, or entertaining enough, readers will make seeking them out a regular part of their weekly routine.

You can write posts ahead of time, too, of course, and schedule them to go live in advance.

Can I Make Social Media My Blog’s Friend?

While we’re on the subject of getting your blog posts on a regular schedule, we should talk about using social media to promote your posts.

Short version: you should do it. After all, in the United States, 77% of people have at least one social media profile.

You can set your post to go live at a particular time and day, and then, for example, schedule a tweet to go out at the same time which summarizes the post and provides a link that your followers can click on to visit your blog and read your post.

If you don’t have your social media posts scheduled to run at regular intervals already, you should strongly consider doing so. You can manage multiple social media accounts using tools like Hootsuite. You can then dedicate a portion of your workweek to composing all of your social media posts but still have them see the light of day gradually.

Will I Be Able to Change with the Seasons?

Naturally, users search for content relevant to their needs. And those needs, of course, are not static.

For business owners, their needs may change as their businesses grow. For users of all types, their searches are likely to vary with the calendar.

This concept is easier to understand in relation to some business sectors more than others. For instance, if your business involves selling apparel, you’re probably going to be getting more interest in boots in the wintertime than you are in the summertime.

Similarly, the holiday season is going to witness spikes in all sorts of retail sectors, and you’re going to want to stay on top of those trends.

But every business, even those that aren’t seasonal (or don’t seem seasonal at first glance) will have to respond to the pages flying off the calendar. Spoiler alert: In December, or thereabouts, you can look forward to a TCM blog post highlighting “SEO trends for 2020.” Feel free to set up an alert for it.

In Conclusion

Choose your blog post subjects wisely. Make them about things that your potential readers will find useful, informative, and valuable.

Post as frequently as you can, and always according to a regular, predictable timeline.

Stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry and be mindful of the date on the calendar when thinking about what’s “hot” right now for companies of your type.

Use social media to drive more traffic to your blog and, by association, your website and your company.

And, as always, write the very best content you can!

What Steps Should You Take to Stay Visible as More Users Embrace Voice Search?

What Steps Should You Take to Stay Visible as More Users Embrace Voice Search?

In a previous post, we here at Triple Canopy Media discussed the rising trend of users seeking out the products, services, and information they want to find through the use of voice search.

In short, as voice search apps and personal assistants become more commonplace, users will grow more comfortable using them, even in public. You’ll want to make sure that your company is prepared for this rising trend.

What steps can you take to make sure your website will still end up near the top of the search engine results even as voice search takes over? Read on!

Be Natural

How do you generally hold conversations with your (human) loved ones? It’s unlikely that you speak to them as though you’re a robot out of a science fiction movie from the 1950s. (But if you do this, contact us and we’ll take you out for a virtual lunch.)

If you’re proficient when speaking in a particular human language, you probably don’t have to think too hard when responding to basic questions. If someone asks you, “Where did you park the car?” you, without dwelling too much on the construction or sequence of the words in the sentence, will answer the questioner in the same conversational manner. Thus, you’re probably going to reply by saying something like, “I parked on a side street near the bakery,” rather than, “side street near bakery.”

In other words, you would respond in a way that sounds natural. That’s what we mean here at TCM when we say that your content writing should be conversational in style. And that’s more important now than ever before as voice search takes over and people speak to their devices as though they are (almost) human.

Consider constructing at least some of your chosen keywords as though they could have been lifted out of a sentence that one person would say to another person.

Speaking of speaking in sentences…

Longer keywords, longer tails

As TCM explained at length in an earlier examination of this aspect of SEO, the explosion in the use of voice search means that you’ll want to experiment with longer keywords in your website’s content. (And these longer keywords are often at or nearer to the end of the “long tail” on a search engine results graph.)

Sure, fewer people are going to search for a very long keyword compared with a shorter one, (thus, the position of those keywords on the long tail of the graph), but that means there’s less competition for ranking with regard to that keyword. That makes it easier for you to get near the top in the rankings.

And as people conduct more and more searches using voice search, they are going to be more likely to speak (that is, search) using longer keywords. Think about incorporating some nearly-full-sentence keywords into your content, if indeed your business is the best answer to the question that a user is likely to ask their device.

Be an authority

Keep in mind that people perform searches not just to find products and services they want to purchase, but also to get information. (Getting information, of course, is often research that people engage in when they’re planning to buy something—like what your business offers, for instance.)

Your website should be full of content that benefits users. It should be relevant and informative, in addition to being readable. Make yourself a repository, an authority. Compose your content with the goal of answering questions users are asking.

When writing with a set of keywords in mind, think about not only the questions people might ask, but the way in which they might ask them. Look at it this way: how are searchers trying to get the information they want and, most importantly, how are they framing their questions? The use of “question keywords” has been on the rise, in large part thanks to voice search. Composing your content with this in mind might produce real ranking benefits for your site.

Featured Snippets and FAQs

Another strategy? Try creating content for your site that might help you land in Google’s coveted Featured Snippet box. What’s a Featured Snippet? It’s the information in the box you see at the top of the page in the screenshot below.

A screenshot showing a Featured Snippet

The Featured Snippet in this screenshot of a question about Featured Snippets explains what a Featured Snippet is. In case you can’t quite make it out, the Featured Snippet is Google’s idea of the most direct, “best-fit” answer to a query. The Featured Snippet appears above the organic search results without displacing them, providing information while also showing a link to the page that is the source of this information.

Featured Snippets will take on increasing importance as voice search dominates searching methods in the future. It’s good to be listed above the organic search results on any page, obviously.

But if someone is using a virtual assistant designed to respond to voice commands and questions, (as opposed to a phone or a laptop that has additional interfaces), that device isn’t going to read off pages and pages of results in response to a query. Instead, it’s going to read out a short, best-fit answer from the Featured Snippet.

Thus, if you can write content that puts your website information in that spot, you’re going to be the only result for an increasing number of searchers.

You can’t order Google to make your content part of a Featured Snippet, obviously. But you can try to rank there through good, relevant content.

If your website has a Q&A section, for instance, the information you provide there can also go a long way in helping you to rank highly—maybe even in the Featured Snippet spot. Providing clear, concise answers in response to questions that users commonly ask their devices about your industry is a great way to get Google’s attention. And it’s well worth your time and energy.

In conclusion

Voice search is on the rise. And with the growth of personal assistant devices, that trend is not likely to reverse itself anytime soon. To stay competitive in searches, you should be composing good, relevant content, as always. Keeping voice search top-of-mind means making sure that the content you post is informative and answers common questions using the language people use when speaking to each other.

Find your voice, and others will find you by using theirs!

More of Your Clients are Embracing Voice Search. Will This Trend Continue?

More of Your Clients are Embracing Voice Search. Will This Trend Continue?

The world of SEO is constantly evolving. Naturally, your business and your business website will want (that is, need) to keep up with the ever-present changes in the online world in order to keep getting clicks, eyes, and the positive attention that come with them.

When it comes to SEO, many of the strategies that have worked in the past just won’t cut it in 2019. This statement isn’t limited only to tactics that might diplomatically be termed “underhanded.” No, it can also refer to the most basic elements of content creation.

That’s because people don’t search for answers to their problems in the same way that they did even just a few short years ago.

What’s changed? A lot of things, actually. One of the biggest ones? The advent of voice search.

A very short history of voice search usage stats

To many of us, finding answers using voice search has become almost second-nature. That means it’s surprising to some to find out that this method of looking for information online has only just recently become commonplace. But this searching method that started out small has grown tremendously in a relatively short period of time.

Google first added the voice search feature to Google Maps way back in the summer of 2008. It wasn’t until 2012 that the company launched a broader, more general version of voice search that went beyond the one used by the company’s web mapping service.

By May of 2016, around 20% of searches on Android devices were voice searches. In fact, by the summer of 2018, voice searches were being conducted 35 times more often compared to their levels in 2008. And it’s estimated that by 2020, roughly half of all searches will be voice searches.

That means voice search will keep growing

Although we might see ups and downs when measuring certain aspects of voice search trends from year to year, the overall arc is turning toward an increase. And you can see this in 2019 through the heavy competition various voice assistants are engaged in to try to win your business.

But regardless of whether you prefer to search using Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or one of the multitude of others, the way that you conduct searches by voice is going to be very different from the way you conduct them when you have to type out your queries.

Why is the way people search using voice search so different?

We here at Triple Canopy Media have touched on voice search before, notably as a rising trend in 2018, and as a major factor in determining the importance of long tail keywords.

If you’ve been a fan of Triple Canopy Media’s blog posts (and thanks, by the way), then you may already have a clue about how to answer this question.

Brevity likely shaped the old way you conducted an online search for a product you wanted to buy or a service that you needed to help address a business pain point. That’s a fancy way of saying that when most people have to type something out on a keyboard, they probably use fewer words than when they get to talk to a voice assistant.

People are more likely to speak in complete sentences when they use voice search as opposed to the fragments that they might hammer out using the old-school method of typing.

To help illustrate this, let’s say that I need some repair work done to the brakes on my car. I may very well use the same language to conduct that search whether I’m conducting it by voice or typing out my request. But I’m more likely to speak to my device the way that I would converse with a person.

Below are a couple of screenshots illustrating how that could make a difference in the search engine results pages that I will get.

Both of these searches were conducted using Google on a desktop and are tied to the ZIP code 44240.

The first one was a typed query: “brake repair near me.” That seems like a logical set of words to use, right?

A screenshot showing the SERP based on a typed search

In contrast, the second one was done using voice. Since I was speaking, it seemed more natural to ask a question in the form of a full sentence. In this case, I went with, “where can I get my brakes fixed [?]”

A SERP screenshot based on a voice search

As you can see, these two queries produced a different set of results. If your auto repair shop specializes in brake repair, obviously you want to be as close to the top as you can get in both of these searches.

But as a business owner, one of your main takeaways should be that the importance of the number one spot in the voice search query is going to grow exponentially as people use this technology more and more to find solutions to their problems online.

Can my business get found by users performing voice search queries?

We’re glad you asked!

The answer is yes! But as always, getting found involves content. It’s a good thing that Triple Canopy Media knows a thing or two about content strategy!

Getting found when it comes to voice search starts with getting found to begin with.

When it comes to content, your company’s website should have lots of it. But it’s not just about content volume. You also need to make sure, of course, that the writing on your website consists of high-quality content.

Your blog posts should cover topics that are relevant to what your business does. The content on your company website should illuminate some aspect of your industry. Inform your audience, answer questions that readers are asking, and do it all in a readable, engaging, and conversational manner.

To sum up: The writing on your site ought to provide readers with value. That will help keep their eyes on the page once they find you, and that should get them to come back in the future.

In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss some of the step-by-step approaches you can take to make sure your content will get the attention you want from voice search browsers as the voice search revolution continues.

And, as always, feel free to contact us here at Triple Canopy Media for all of your SEO-related queries. We want you to get found, so find us!