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what is copywriting

What Is Copywriting? (& How It Creates Successful Online Brands)

If you work in online marketing or even set foot near the industry, you’ve likely heard the term “copywriting.”

It’s everywhere right now. Copywriting this, copywriting that. There’s no escaping it.

As popular as the term is, though, many people still don’t know the answer to the question, “what is copywriting?”

When strangers meet someone who introduces herself as a copywriter, they often nod enthusiastically and then say without a hint of comprehension, “and what does that mean?”

Or, they think it means you copyright legal songs for pay. Some people still conjure up images of journalists on a typewriter, or a reporter — while others think of tech or IT specialists. Unfortunately, none of these hit the nail on the head.

So what is copywriting? And why is it such a big deal today?

Read on to learn more.

what is copywriting

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the art and science of strategically crafting and publishing targeted, reader-focused words (“copy”) online that get people to take some form of action.

We took some inspiration from the classic copywriting resource, CopyBlogger, for this.

“Copywriting” is a hard thing to pin down. Obviously – or everyone would understand it right off the bat!

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this obscure forever.

Brands that work with copywriters hire these skilled professionals to create everything from blog and article copy to social media content and product descriptions — depending upon what they need at a given moment.

Right now, the field of copywriting is exploding as more and more brands migrate to e-commerce and the development of an online presence. Because having a website also creates an immediate and pressing need for quality content, brands around the country and the world are hiring professional copywriters at shocking rates.

According to CopyBlogger, 'Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.' Read more on @JuliaEMcCoy's post about #copywriting ✍️ Click To Tweet

Why Does Copywriting Matter?

Now that we’ve answered the question of “what is copywriting?”, let’s focus on why companies are flocking to it in droves.

Right now, more than 27 million pieces of content are shared across the web every single day.

That’s a big number, and it’s clear that it’s difficult to stand out when so much content is present at all times. Because of this, brands are increasingly turning to professionals to help them rank well in Google, attract more customers, and develop a stronger and unique brand voice.

At its core, copywriting is a form of inbound marketing. Instead of going out and pursuing readers (although it’s not unheard of for copywriters to write PPC advertisements and similar outbound content), copywriting generally focuses on creating things like blogs, articles, and infographics, which are designed to pull readers in and provide relevant and valuable content.

Why does 'copywriting' matter? Today, 61% of internet users around the world head to search engines to research on products they want to buy before buying! 🤯 Click To Tweet

Why is this important, you ask?

Great question.

Today, 61% of the internet users around the world head to search engines to research products they want to buy, before they take the financial leap and make a purchasing decision. Internet users currently conduct more than 12 billion searches each month – despite this, though, the click-through rate of paid advertisements is only about 2%.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why brands have been turning to copywriting. In addition to populating a site with quality content, copywriting efforts are also more effective than outbound advertising methods. By creating unique, relevant, and high-quality content on a webpage, blog, or social media account, a company with an on-staff copywriter can easily build an audience and develop a solid reputation quickly and easily.

Copywriting Statistics You Need to Know

By now, you know that copywriting is important, but do you know just how important? These statistics prove just how relevant copywriting is to brands. These can help you understand the big push for copywriters that have sprung up in recent years.

1. The top 3 results in Google earn 60% of all organic clicks

The top few places on Google’s SERPs are coveted. Ranking here ensures visibility for a brand and can significantly increase the number of leads and the amount of traffic that a brand receives in a given month. Unfortunately, many brands don’t understand how to get here.

Luckily, professional copywriting can help. Through high-quality content creation, SEO optimization, unique topics, and a bulletproof content strategy, a professional copywriter can develop a plan for ranking well for a given set of keywords or topics – a skill that many companies need to grow their followings.

Do you know? The top 3 results in Google earn 60% of all organic clicks. 🖱️ Know more about the importance of #copywriting in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post. Click To Tweet

2. 50% of all mobile searches are local

For brands with a local presence, copywriting may be a life-or-death matter. While the majority of mobile users are searching for local brands, most local brands don’t understand how to reach mobile users. This, in turn, results in a confusing and stressful experience for mobile searchers and lost revenue for local companies.

Enter a professional copywriter.

Professional copywriters are well-versed in local SEO and can help businesses make the changes they need to ensure that their content ranks well for and meets the needs of local searchers.

This, in turn, can result in more traffic for the local business, and a more satisfying search experience for mobile users.

Do you know? 50% of all mobile searches are local. 🏠 Know more about the importance of #copywriting in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post. Click To Tweet

3. Leads gained from SEO have a 14.6% close rate

Leads that come to a company via means of SEO close at a much higher rate than those obtained through outbound methods like direct mail. This is one of the main incentives for businesses to hire copywriters. In addition to the fact that copywriting efforts are much more affordable than outbound advertising methods, they’re also more effective and result in a bigger bottom line for the company in question.

Do you know? Leads gained from SEO have a 14.6% close rate. 🖋️ Know more about the importance of #copywriting in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post. Click To Tweet

4. Marketers that prioritize blogging are 13x as likely to earn a positive ROI than non-bloggers

Blogging is a fantastic way to reach out and connect with would-be customers, and it’s often all a company needs to revolutionize its content strategy. Unfortunately, many businesses are too busy or just lack the skill to create blog content in-house. This is why the skills of professional copywriters are so needed. By developing and populating a blog with reputable, high-quality content, a good copywriter can help a company strengthen its brand voice and provide additional value to customers.

Do you know? Marketers that prioritize blogging are 13x as likely to earn a positive ROI than non-bloggers. 👍🏿 Know more about the importance of #copywriting in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post. Click To Tweet

5. When marketers blogged daily, 82% of them earned new customers

Blogging daily is a smart business strategy, but it’s also difficult to keep up with. Left to their own devices, many companies fall behind their blogging schedule and fail to provide real and dependable content for their readers. By hiring a copywriting professional, a company has a better chance of keeping up with its blogging goals and enjoying the positive returns of doing so offers.

Do you know? When marketers blogged daily, 82% of them earned new customers. 💵 Know more about the importance of #copywriting in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post. Click To Tweet

The (Huge) Benefits of Copywriting For Companies

A copywriting professional can offer a LOT to a company. A few of those (not limited to) are:

1. SEO Optimization

SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s one of the most common responsibilities of professional copywriting firms. By optimizing posts and pages for long-tail keywords and search engine visibility, copywriting firms can help companies rank well in Google and earn more user attention.

2. Human Content Creation

You can’t automate this process. Content creation is by far the primary responsibility of copywriting companies. Depending on what a company needs, the copywriting firm may write a blog, social media post, article, or even white paper content.

3. Content Distribution

Some copywriting companies distribute content on behalf of their clients. By scheduling and managing posts on social media and blog platforms, a copywriting firm can remove some of the stress from a customer’s shoulders and ensure that the editorial calendar is functioning at all times.

4. Idea Mining

If a company needs help coming up with unique blog ideas, a copywriting company may offer to conduct keyword research or develop an editorial calendar that will help guide the company’s editorial efforts. A valuable service that marries the benefits of SEO and content creation, this idea mining offer is popular among companies looking to build larger followings.

5. Social Media Management

Social media is a time-consuming thing for many companies, and a professional copywriting firm can take some of the pressure off. By managing and posting content to a company’s social media account, a copywriting company can help a business grow a following without stressing over time management.

Some of the benefits of having a copywriter include SEO optimization, better blog ideas, and high-quality human content creation. 💯 @JuliaEMcCoy shares the rest of the benefits and importance of copywriting in this blog post. Click To Tweet

What is Copywriting? Now You Know!

So what is copywriting? It’s a critical service that many companies turn to to produce traffic, followers, leads, and conversions. It’s becoming increasingly popular with businesses in all industries and all locations, and it’s a great way to enjoy a positive ROI and an effective marketing strategy. 

If you’re interested in learning more about copywriting, or finding copywriting professionals to help you boost your brand, contact Express Writers today!

infographics designing

Why & How You Should Create Infographics for Your Company

2014 could be your most profitable year yet! How? Well, we’re loading you up with vital content and marketing information, all designed to increase your company’s exposure and profitability during the New Year. And one of the hottest tools is our topic today—infographics!

One of the marketing tools currently said to be marketing gold is the infographic.

Have you heard of them and wondered just why and how it might be of use to your company? We’ve dug into the infographic trenches and even tried using a couple of them ourselves.

Let’s take a look as just why you should do more than think about trying them out, and how you should implement infographics as a marketing tool.

What is an Infographic and Why It Matters for Your Marketing Efforts

You’re educated regarding information and graphic marketing. These two marketing types are practically the bread and butter of every successful marketing campaign launched by every successful business for decades. But what exactly is an infographic? It sounds like a combination of information and graphics, doesn’t it?

Wikipedia provides the simplest infographic definition. According to the online user-generated encyclopedia, infographics, also known as information graphics are graphic visual representations of data, knowledge or information, created with the purpose of presenting complex information in a quick and clear manner. A great example of an infographic is the weather report, which is a visual graphic depicting information about the weather. Graphs and charts presenting statistical data are another type of infographic. Think of an infographic as visual storytelling; it packs a strong and strongly memorable visual message.

Infographics took on a dramatically new meaning for the marketing world with the advent of social media sites. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, infographics can be seamless and rapidly shared from a single user or business to an audience—and potential customer pool—of millions, worldwide.

Why Use Infographics?

Forbes sums up the top reason for creating and using infographics using the headline, “Use Infographics to Boost Your Credibility and Traffic.” Business owners are always looking for proven ways to boost credibility and traffic, but just why do infographics get the job done? Let’s take a look:

  • Catering to short attention spans. Let’s be painfully honest, our attention spans are not what they used to be. We live in an information age. It’s streamed to us all the time; on the television, on the web, over our smartphones, on our tablets. We’re constantly bombarded with tons of useful information. How do we sort this information between our “must read” and “it can wait” lists? Simple! We look for the most captivating presentation. An infographic relays a complex message in a short, capturing format.
  • Visualization caters to the brain. Forbes points out an excellent fact. “Human beings are highly visual.” It’s a fact that we absorb visual information faster than written information. We also retain is more easily.
  • Ease of understanding. When infographics are properly created, they allow the audience to absorb and understand complex information in a fun and engaging format. When done right, this is why infographics can boost a company’s profile and website traffic.
  • Going viral. The goal of every serious business is to create a marketing tool that goes viral, meaning it explodes onto the web grabbing thousands of views, tons of new exposure and converts to sales. A good infographic can accomplish this goal effortlessly while simultaneously inspiring writers and bloggers to chatter, creating backlinks, and further company exposure.

Our highest converting email campaign of 2013 was our infographic campaign. It generated the most clicks and stirred up the highest amount of excitement and interest in our company to date. Why not tap into this proven marketing tool in 2014 and make it a year to remember as you gain record exposure?

10 Popular Ways to Use Infographics

Larger amounts of data and content are the latest trends in online content marketing. According to a TNW Blog article on top ways to use infographics  “the biggest question surrounding [this trend] has been figuring out the best way to interpret it all.” Infographics have been like the superhero flying to the rescue. These super powered creations pack a punch. Let’s review the ten most common uses of these power packed creations:

  1. A recruiting tool. Designers have used infographics on resumes for years as a way to visually simplify their careers by highlighting their specific skillsets with their own design style. Somewhere along the way, recruiters realized the genius of this strategy and started using infographics as a way to recruit for project management positions. Today infographics are used to effectively communicate the facts about a company and who they seek to hire.
  2. A data presentation tool. Statistical and numerical data have long been a bear to present. They have the ability to put the audience on snooze or baffle them completely. Thanks to infographics, data is easier to present in the form of easily readable and understandable graphs and charts.
  3. Simplifying the complex. As mentioned earlier, the primary goal of an infographic is to simplify a complex idea or complex information. Infographics are incredible educational tools, particularly when attempting to present an overview versus an in-depth analysis. The visual basis of the infographic helps students and audiences alike grasp complex topics through memorable and easily understandable visual collages.
  4. Explaining operations. Not only can an infographic simplify the complex, but it can also reveal the mechanics behind an intricate object with precision simplicity. For example, skilled designers utilize infographics to pull apart and demonstrate how complex products like clocks, cameras, computer components and smartphone work. Such creations can be great additions to user manuals, showing consumers how their product is built and the mechanics at work on the inside.
  5. Making startling comparisons. When we compare our business or product to something, we separate points into categories: likeness and uniqueness. Infographics provide an innovative way to display such a comparison in graphic form by creating visual parallels. Sometimes comparisons are difficult to express. Where words fall short, the visual aspect of the infographic comes through.
  6. Displaying thought-provoking facts. Thousands of fascinating facts that apply to your business exist, but not all of them are fascinating to the reader. On the other hand, a graphic display of a thought-provoking fact can command attention and stir up interest the reader might otherwise lack. Infographics are a superb way to bring facts to life, engaging and attracting the reader.
  7. A replacement for strained words. Let’s be honest, some topics are beyond words. Instead of spending hours straining our word choice, only to be disappointed and frustrated, turn to an infographic. They are perfect for visually explaining what words cannot. After all, a picture paints a thousand words—that’s why infographics are so powerful.
  8. Raise awareness. A lot of organizations specialize in important information that is all too often unpleasant or dry. Many companies support such organizations and need audience-friendly ways to express their connection to the issue without unwanted displeasure. Infographics have provided the answer to displaying unpleasant and stigmatic material in a professional way to raise awareness. A few fantastic examples of raising awareness for stigmatic and unpleasant topics include depression, post-traumatic stress (PTS or PTSD) and public safety. A wealth of information can be conveyed in a single infographic using powerful graphics and well-chosen text.
  9. Inform consumers. It’s a proven fact that consumers prefer to be educated. They want to make an informed and educated decision, not an impulsive one. They want to ensure their money is spent wisely on a product or service that fits their unique needs. Businesses have been working to instill confidence in their customers through numerous marketing tools, but infographics have provided a unique marketing opportunity. Through a single well-planned and well-executed infographic, a business can inform, engage, and motive a customer to make the informed decision to purchase their product. This nugget-sized marketing tool can then be redistributed throughout the web, reaching thousands upon thousands of new and eager consumers.
  10. Leveraging the holiday season. The holidays are when businesses expect to pull in their largest sales and when marketing campaigns flood the public scene. Audiences don’t want to be bogged down by hefty reading material. They want to quickly determine whether a product or service from your business will make the perfect holiday gift or simplify their holiday experience. Infographics have quickly become a successful ways to produce pertinent festive content that remains original.

While these ten tips include the most common uses for infographics, reading through them has no doubt sparked your imagination. The beauty of the infographic is its versatility and diversity. They are a marketing tool limited only by your imagination, which makes them a must have for your marketing toolbox this year!

How to Create an Infographic

Now that you see the benefits of using infographics, it’s time to talk about creating one. Any topic can be transformed into an infographic with a little thought and preparation. Think of your project as a collage. It will entertain, engage, and educate the audience. It will give the audience a memorable yet informative reading and viewing experience.

  • Step 1: Choose a topic. The trick to a successful infographic is the audience’s ability to relate to it. When picking your topic, be open. You want something that revolves a little less around your business and a little more on a common interest. But the topic should connect to your business or background, thereby establishing your specific expertise.
  • Step 2: Design. This is the meat and potatoes of creating an infographic, and it is by far the most challenging step. Once you’re amassed your topic information, it’s time to create the most creative and logical visualization of it. You can do this by categorizing your material and determining the size of your layout. Do a quick search on Pinterest to see how others have visualized a similar topic, and draw inspiration. Be creative, but don’t go overboard and create an overly complex infographic. The beauty of these visual marketing gems is their ability to simplify understanding, not complicate it!
  • Step 3: Credit your work. Graphics have been ripped off long before the invention of the web. And you know graphics have grown even more vulnerable to pirating in today’s techno-age. So take full credit for your finished infographic! Include your company logo, artist’s signature, information sources, and even your domain in the design. Own your ownership! After all, you’re the mastermind behind your masterpiece.

You can create an infographic using any graphic design program you’re comfortable with; however, there are some great application options out there specifically for the creation of infographics:

  • EWC Presenter is a fantastic tool designed to help you build an amazing infographic. It can also help you create animations, presentations, product demos, and banner ads.
  • Visual.ly is one of the original infographic creation applications. It sports a huge library of designs and templates designed to spark your imagination and get you creating quickly.
  • Infogr.am is best suited for the creation of various charts and graphics. If you’re looking to turn statistical data into an infographic, this application can save you time.
  • Piktochart brands itself as the “infographics and presentations tool for non-designers.” If you feel intimidated by the design process, this application can help you gain confidence. It uses a three-step process to create and launch your first infographic.

Infographics are a remarkable marketing tool. As we’ve seen, they have HUGE multi-use capabilities including email campaigns, print and publication, blog posts and use on guest blogs. They are leveraged by corporations seeking to communicate innovations and earnings to investors, designers, and professionals looking for projects in need of a unique skillset, organizations seeking to convey issues they care about and educators attempting to teach a challenging topic. Infographics can even be recirculated, provided they carry a unique description for every place they are posted.

It’s time you leveraged infographics to make 2014 your most successful year yet! And not only will this impressive tool benefit you in 2014, but it can be recirculated at any time by simply re-launching it with a unique description via your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or any other social media account supporting graphics. Infographics are a highly cost- and time- effective marketing investment.

Need infographics? Talk to our team!

infographic copywriters brain

Infographic: The Copywriter’s Brain

infographic copywriters brain

Embed this infographic on your own site

Copy and paste this code into your blog post or web page:

 

Writers use their right brain, copywriters use both!

Read more

timeline history of Googles seo and content updates

Infographic: A Timeline History of Google’s Major SEO Content Updates (An Actionable Retrospective for Users, Publishers, and Content Creators)

This post, a full history on Google’s SEO content algorithm updates, has been updated by our team in May of 2017. 

timeline history of Googles seo content updates

Infographic: A Timeline History of Google’s Major SEO Content Updates (An Actionable Retrospective for Users, Publishers, and Content Creators)

We’re used to Google updates and announcements now, but do you recall the old days of improved search? Panda, Penguin, and even Mobilegeddon really shook things up for content creators, publishers, and Google users.

Content writers have had to adapt considerably: not only do we have to know about past and upcoming changes, we must advise our clients on inbound content strategies that benefit the end user in current times.

About Our Google Updates Timeline

This timeline shows not only the Google SEO and algorithm updates, but how they affect content creation and content marketing.

This list also includes unofficial updates, during which users noticed fluctuations, but there was no official Google statement or announcement. Users affectionately branded these updates “ghost,” “zombie,” etc. Perhaps we’ll get vampires and werewolves soon, too!

I did not include each and every unconfirmed update, though I did mention them in some instances.

2017

February-March: Fred

What: Analysts noticed search engine ranking changes, but Google remained quiet on the details. Google’s Gary Illyes said the update targeted aspects of already published guidelines, but observers specifically noticed the targeting of low-value content. Other algorithm updates preceded Fred, but details are sketchy and it’s unknown whether they are related to Fred.

Users: Better quality search results.

Publishers: As always, you need to be on top of your content game. Now is a great time to go back through some mediocre content and improve quality.

Content Creators: Work on restructuring and improving previous content to maintain or improve ranking.

January 10: Intrusive Interstitial Popup Penalty

What: This Google update penalized sites with intrusive pop up ads.

Users: Google is more likely to lead users to sites without annoying pop ups.

Publishers: Publishers must reconfigure sites to function and funnel traffic without pop up ads. Rely on persuasive content to meet your goals.

Content Creators: What is the purpose of the ads formerly appearing on the site for which you’re writing? Consider this strongly when you construct calls to action (CTAs) and the content itself. Use streamlined graphics to accomplish this task.

2016

September 23: Google Penguin 4.0

What: Google’s algorithm began updating in real time and providing page-specific analysis, which was more specific than its previous incarnation.

Users: Outdated site changes and website hacks will affect your search results less often.

Publishers: Your pages may index faster when you publish or update content.

Content Creators: Even if it doesn’t hit Google News, your timely content has more value. You’re still competing with social media, but you can create a live blog that updates as time goes on, just as news sites do during major events. This is creating a liveblogging trend on regular blog platforms like WordPress – it’s not just for microblog sites like Twitter anymore.

In September of 2016, many site owners reported penalties and promotions in SERPs (search engine page results)

May 12: Mobile Friendly (Boost) Update

What: This boosted mobile-friendly sites in the SERPs beyond the existing preference.

Users: If you’re on mobile, this will serve you more posts that will display well on your device.

Publishers: There’s a further emphasis on mobile. If Mobilegeddon didn’t wake you up, this should do the trick.

Content Creators: Mobile-friendliness includes a lot of factors, not all of which are disclosed by Google. Mobile-friendly content contains short paragraphs, bullet lists (when applicable), and immediate information.

February 23: AdWords Update

What: Google axed sidebar ads. Instead, you got another ad at the top when you search (total four).

Users: Be aware of which results are ads (there’s still an ad box to the left of the result to indicate that it’s an advertisement). If you’re on mobile, ads will take up most of your screen initially after your search.

Publishers: If you’re not pouring money into advertising, direct your content efforts towards appearing in the Google Knowledge Graph.

Content Creators: Aim for the knowledge graph, find out what people are asking and answer their questions, and hone your keyword and content planning strategy.

In January of 2016, it’s clear that Google was tweaking and updating their algorithm. This is called the “Ghost Update.”

2015

October 26: RankBrain Announcement

What: Google announced that RankBrain has been active for half a year. RankBrain intelligently learned from searches. This artificial intelligence improved the algorithm to get users the information they need.

Users: This helps you have a better search experience. RankBrain may not only learn about audiences in general, but you specifically, especially if you’re signed into Chrome as you browse. While that’s creepy, it’s also useful.

Publishers: RankBrain means your site needs to be geared towards usefulness, even if you’re selling a product. If you’re selling gardening equipment, your free garden planner and your how-tos should be front and center – NOT your latest sale item.

Content Creators: You’re officially writing for the people, not the search engine. You’re not in the race to rank unless you’re also taking the time to be the most useful.

There may have been an update/incident on October 15. This was an indication of what was to come – and also of the new normal, which means small tweaks and unannounced algo updates every now and then. People call this one the “Zombie Update.”

August: Local 3 Pack / “Snack Pack” Update

What: Google began showing three local map results instead of a list of seven.

Users: Google’s more integrated with its maps app now, so while you’ll get less results without having to scroll, you can click on any of them and easily navigate or call the business. Google will also tell you the hours of the business and other important info you need on the go.

Publishers: If you have a local business and want to know where to spend your advertising dollars to rank in SERPs, this may be your answer. There’s not a lot of real estate for local search results, especially on mobile devices, which people use most when they need something immediately. Make sure you have your business listed on Google and ensure your biz page and your website both list accurate hours and locations.

Content Creators: Check out the competition for local keywords. If you’re in a crowded spot (let’s say you’re writing for a Chinese restaurant in New York City), it’s not likely you’ll rank in the top three. Instead, you’ll want to focus on long tail keywords instead (consider “24 hour Chinese Takeout NYC” or “fast Chinese delivery in Brooklyn”). The future of search is also social, and it looks like Google’s going in that direction. If you can encourage readers to check in as your CTA, you’ll put the business ahead of the game.

May: Phantom 2 / Google Quality Update

What: This was another unannounced update that Google confirmed after the fact. Webmasters reported significant fluctuations. (I run a small website with quality content and noticed a positive change around this time.)

Users: You don’t have to worry much about this one; this just made it easier for Google to serve you useful results.

Publishers: This is indicative of a continual focus on quality. Publish better content, even if that means you have to do it less often.

Content Creators: Quality is increasingly important to Google. Aside from being informative, your posts must be polished: that means expert flow, short paragraphs, flawless grammar, and natural, authoritative links to more resources.

April: Mobilegeddon

What: Google announced this one well in advance. Sites not mobile-friendly were severely penalized in the SERPs following this update.

Users: You can use your phone more! More sites are mobile-friendly for you.

Publishers: If your site isn’t mobile friendly, don’t even bother investing in SEO or content. You need to fix your site first so that it’s ready for mobile devices. You should know that mobile use has overtaken desktop use, and mobile usage rates are even higher in countries like India, where some internet users use phones and tablets exclusively. When it comes to UX (user experience), makes sure your site’s mobile version allows navigable menus and spacing between links for ease of use.

Content Creators: Think about how your content will look on a mobile phone. Infographics need to be responsive and vertical; you should also remember to keep your paragraphs short. Are you linking to mobile-friendly sites, or ones that will only frustrate your reader?

2014

October: Penguin 3

What: This update tightened up the Penguin algorithm update. It’s reported that Google also rewarded sites that improved since the last Penguin updates.

Users: This update helps you get better quality search results rather than stuff link-spammed to the top.

Publishers: Take out your spammy links! It’s not worth it.

Content Creators: Continue to be mindful of the links you include in your posts. Make sure to check their domain authority and Alexa rating.

September: Panda 4.1

What: Google refined Panda, which penalized sites with low-quality content and bolstered some smaller sites with high-quality content.

Publishers: I was lucky enough to start my small website in 2013; I immediately noticed an upward shift in the SERPs after Panda 4.1. Good content gets a boost here. This one’s a win for the underdog, so keep publishing genuine, useful content.

Content Creators: At this point, many larger businesses are really committing to high-quality content because Panda isn’t going anywhere. Remember all that freelance work you lost as a result of Panda hitting ‘content mills’ and citizen journalism sites? Now that very same algorithm update will start to result in high-paying gigs from independent clients. It was a tough few years, but things are looking up for a talented writer.

September: Private Blogger Networks (PBNs) Removed

What: Google issued “thin content warnings” to people who had sites with content that had little or no value. What did they have in common? They were mostly PBNs, or large networks of interlinked blogs meant to game the system.

Users: This helps you find sites with more genuine links and quality information. You’re less likely to come across an article that will lead you astray (to a gambling or porn website, in particular, if that’s not what you were looking for).

Publishers: If you’re using an SEO service, make sure they’re using white hat and grey hat (at worst) techniques. You really don’t want unnatural links in there. It’s a risky, short-term strategy that will only hurt you in the long-run. Make sure you thoroughly evaluate an SEO pro before hiring them. With old school tactics, you’re just paying to get hurt. Invest in a clean site structure and content instead.

Content Creators: Create pithy content and don’t stuff with fluff. Make sure your blog posts are 350+ words and cut the garbage to avoid penalties. Always use reputable links.

August: Google Ends Authorship

What: Google Authorship allowed authors to claim their digital identities and connect their posts to it. In search results, the author’s name and photo appeared near the result, potentially adding legitimacy to the post.

Users: Removing Authorship wasn’t a smooth move for you. If you read a lot of content in the same niche, you’ll probably recognize your favorite authors and know to click on their posts because they’re reputable. This update removed that ability.

Publishers: Make sure your site’s blog posts contain bylines. If you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, set this to display the author’s name.

Content Creators: This isn’t a great move for you, because Google Authorship could help you build authority quickly. You should start your own niche blog, even if you update it infrequently (but regularly) to increase your authority in any given area. Consider a portfolio site as well. I recommend Pressfolios.

August: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Boost

What: Google gave updates to sites with SSL, a security feature. Though the boost was minor, this was their way of encouraging SSL usage.

Users: This makes the web slightly safer for you, ranking secure sites above those that aren’t.

Publishers: SSL is best practice, so it’s something you should have anyway. Contact your web host provider and upgrade to SSL if you haven’t already. This is especially important if you have an e-commerce component to your site.

Content Creators: This shouldn’t affect you too much, but you can check to see if a potential client’s got an SSL site. If they don’t and they’re accepting money for services online, it’s an indication that they probably have no idea what they’re doing or that they’re very new to online commerce.

July: Google Pigeon

What: This update affected local search. This means it included not only local factors, but quality / organic factors as well. Google began looking at whatever website was linked to your Google Local page and integrated with Maps.

Users: This update helps you find better local stuff faster.

Publishers: Your Google Local (now Google Business) page will take tumble in the SERPs if your site isn’t up to speed.

Content Creators: Local content is increasingly valuable, and your client’s Google Business page will suffer if you don’t make the location clear on the content of the website. This includes not only copy, but also alt-tags, meta info, and photo captions.

In July, Google also removed photos from Authorship, so only the author’s name appeared. This should have been a warning sign about Authorship’s untimely demise. (We miss you, Authorship </3 ).

May: Panda 4.0

What: This algorithm update messed with rankings temporarily. For a short time, it took more than a month for changes to affect ranking. Sites that were too heavily optimized took another penalty here.

Users: For a while, you may not have gotten the most up-to-date information when searching, but it’s all fixed now.

Publishers: Avoid over-optimization. If you’re going for local results, don’t spam your location keywords. At this point, it only hurts you!

Content Creators: Focus on natural content. If your copy sounds unnatural, it’s better to use the keyword less and focus on genuine copy.

May: Spam Targeting

What: Technically a separate update than Panda 4.0, this update focused on queries that had a lot of spammed and keyword-stuffed sites in the SERP results.

Users: This kicked some of those Spammy McSpammerson sites to the curb!

Publishers: If you’ve got a non-spammy website in a legitimate but oft-keyword-spammed industry like law or casino gaming, you’re in luck! The spammy sites took a beating, and your site probably rose in the SERPs.

Content Creators: You might have noticed that certain industries still hired you to write some keyword-stuffed content. That’s about to change. This was an ideal time to re-brand yourself as a social media specialist, editor, or creator of high-quality content.

February: Page Layout 3

What: This update targeted sites with multiple ads above the fold. (Digitally speaking, that’s the first desktop view of page without scrolling.)

Users: You get results with less of those annoying ads crowding the top of the page.

Publishers: Time to change up your ad locations. Stop putting so many of them above the fold.

Content Creators: Focus on creating strong ledes and introductions in your blog posts. If you’re writing for a site that makes its money through ad revenue, your future income could depend upon making sure that reader stays on the page long enough to scroll down. Hold the reader’s attention so that they scroll down to see the ads and don’t bounce off the page right away. You should also include an internal link to another page on the site to encourage a lower bounce rate and better site structure.

2013

December: Authorship Decrease

What: Google stated that Authorship wouldn’t be as important as a ranking factor. It’s the beginning of the end for Authorship.

Users: This may have changed the SERP results order just a bit for you, but not much.

Publishers: Authorship isn’t as important anymore. If you blog as your brand name, strengthen your About page to mitigate an increase in brand authority.

Content Creators: This is the beginning of the end for the glorious Authorship. It’s a good time to claim your own personal brand with your name as the URL. While you’re at it, snag a free about.me page and make sure you link all your social media from it.

In October-December, there were some DNS errors in Webmaster Tools and an announced Penguin 2.1 update. The consequences of Penguin 2.1 were not overt or noticeable.

August: Hummingbird

What: Announced after its release, this update was an improvement on the query side, helping the algorithm understand what people search for.

Users: Google will give you some more relevant answers, make sense of misspelled words, and more.

Publishers: It’s time to take a hard look at what search queries drive people to your site. Keep looking, because the more Google refines its Hummingbird qualities, the better information you’ll get. Take note of what people aren’t looking at to find your site and adjust your content strategy to suit.

Content Creators: Start thinking about answering questions accurately. Write from the perspective of an answerer to a query. People look up “Chinese Restaurant San Francisco” and “What Chinese Restaurant has the best General Tso’s Chicken in San Francisco?” You need to make content addressing both of these questions.

August: In-Depth Articles

What: Google began highlighting long-form articles, or content it identified as going deep into the details in response to a user query.

Users: Want detailed information about something? This will help you find it.

Publishers: People crave in-depth knowledge about your niche, which means Google is thirsty for long-form content. Extend the length of some the content you publish, even if that means publishing less frequently.

Content Creators: Get good at long-form content and get used to making it – its importance is now noticeable. Your esoteric knowledge is becoming more and more valuable as time goes on. Now it’s time to shine.

July: Knowledge Graph Expansion

What: The Knowledge Graph grew. It began providing more information.

Publishers: What does the Knowledge Graph reveal for your topic? Make sure you update your site so that it presents all of the requisite Knowledge Graph data.

Content Creators: Make sure you’re thorough with the topic of your blogs and articles. Answer queries in your posts. If someone queries: “Where is the best place to buy organic apples in Louisville, KY?” then your content should be “Our Farm LLC is the best place to buy organic apples in Louisville, Kentucky.”

July included a crackdown on spammers and a confirmed multi-week update. There was also a confirmed Panda update of little consequence.

June: Multiple Panda Rollouts

What: Matt Cutts announced more regular Panda rollouts and updates.

Users: Searchers might have noticed sudden changes in search results if they looked up the same thing repeatedly.

Publishers: In some instances, sudden changes are reflected in Google Analytics.

Content Creators: Most industries aren’t too affected, but if you’re writing in the insurance or loan industries, it’s time to clean up your act and create quality copy.

June: Algorithm Update Targets Spammers

What: Porn, payday loans, and other categories frequently keyword spammed received specific focus in this algorithm update.

Users: If you’re legitimately looking for loans or pornography, you may receive more legitimate results.

Publishers: Keyword stuffing isn’t going to work for you anymore, especially in these categories. Adult content site Pornhub shifts organic efforts to produce targeted and educational content.

Content Creators: If you’re writing for a site in one of these categories, this is a time for your legitimacy to help you stand out. You can leap ahead in the SERPs by producing informative and educational content instead of just spamming keywords.

May: Penguin 2.0

What: Between 2 and 3% percent of English language queries were affected by another Penguin update.

Users: You’ll get more accurate search results but probably won’t notice a major shift as a result of this update.

Publishers: Ranking changes are generally slight, but possibly noticeable.

Content Creators: This is yet another clue to Google’s path and preferences – Penguin is here to stay.

May: Domain Diversity Update

What: This update allowed for a greater variety of domains to show up in the SERPs.

Users: Ever look something up only to find 10 results from the same website? This update will give you more options.

Publishers: Diversify your content and consider long tail keywords if you want to continue dominating SERPs. It’s a good time to invest in cornerstone content to strengthen your strongest page for a given keyword.

Content Creators: Use more internal links to create cornerstone content. You need to tell Google which page it should pick as Google’s now limited for each term.

2012

December: Holiday Panda Update

What: Google rolled out a Panda update right before Christmas. They promised not to do a major update so close to a holiday again.

Users: Since this happened on December 21, it probably didn’t impact search results for most of your holiday shopping. This also happened well after Hanukkah, which ended on December 16.

Publishers: Your SERP rankings might have changed right before a major holiday. Your SEOs, web developers, and content writers may have been on vacation.

Content Creators: You were probably (hopefully) on vacation. Maybe you returned to work only to find a bunch of panicked emails about SERP ranking. It was altogether terrible timing.

October: 65 Changes and Penguin 3

What: Google’s been busy, and their list of 65 specific updates exemplified UX and searchability improvements.

Users: Autocomplete becomes more useful (and also more hilarious) as Google auto-suggests search terms more comprehensively in the search field.

Publishers: As Google fine tunes the algorithm, it’s apparent that accuracy is more important, as is search history. Build up your reliance on long tail keywords.

Content Creators: User intention improvements gives you a bit more leeway to write for the user and not the search engine. Google starts to recognize synonyms in a more useful way, so you can cut down on the keyword spamming.

September: Exact Match Domain Changes

What: This Google update lessened the impact of exact match domains (EMDs). EMDs are domains that match keyword searches; prior to this, “best shoe shop London” might automatically match “bestshoeshoplondon.co.uk”

Users: Your searches will be more relevant rather than just lead you to relevant-sounding domain names.

Publishers: Having the keyword in the domain name is still useful, but you really need to back it up with authoritative content.

Content Creators: This could result in more work for you. Publishers can’t rely on a domain name to draw in viewers; inbound marketing just became more relevant.

August: Limited SERP Results

What: For a limited amount of queries, only seven results showed on the first page of the SERP.

Users: You’ll get less results for certain queries, but they should be especially relevant.

Publishers: This means competition’s a bit tighter on the SERP. Relevance is key.

Content Creators: Some of your page one content could be on page two now. You could repurpose or significantly update the existing content to help it sneak onto page one. Improve, improve, improve.

August: DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Compliance Update

What: Google began to penalize sites commonly accused of copyright infringement to comply with DMCA.

Users: You’ll get less results that lead you to pirated and illegally uploaded media.

Publishers: Don’t publish pirated or copyrighted material or Google will penalize you.

Content Creators: It’s time to really check yourself when it comes to copyright. Do you have permission to publish that song, clip, or photo? Always credit appropriately and don’t use something if you don’t have permission.

June: Inorganic Backlink Signals + 39 Updates

What: Google improved a lot: hacking detection, multi-language support, mobile autocomplete, news ranking, audio file support, SafeSearch, freshness, and “recent” feature on mobile.

Users: You’ll find an easier experience on mobile or tablet searching, and if you’re using an Asian language, the whole thing will make a lot more sense.

Publishers: Newsworthiness becomes more relevant – if your content qualifies for Google News, make sure you consistently use it (but only if this applies to your content).

Content Creators: Those organic backlinks mean even more, so consider doing some more guest blogging. This update helped Google better detect spammy links, which clears the path for natural links.

May: Knowledge Graph Implementation and 52 Updates

What: Knowledge graph began differentiating people, places, and things. It also began serving up some basic information about any given topic without requiring the user to click through to a website, but it did list a source.

Users: You can find basic info with one less click, thanks to Knowledge Graph.

Publishers: Updating low quality content doesn’t work anymore. If the content is low quality, you can no longer exploit its freshness for SERP ranking.

Content Creators: Answering user questions becomes even more important. You want to earn that Knowledge Graph spot so users click through for more information. Be sure to answer the question generally in the beginning of your content. If the question for which you want to appear in the Knowledge Graph is “What color is the American flag?” your content should say “The American flag is red, white, and blue.” A public domain image accompanying it may also help you rank in Knowledge Graph.

April: Google Penguin

What: This update penalizes SEO spamming, link networks, and purchased links.

Users: You’ll get more relevant search results, and hopefully, less spammy content.

Publishers: This is it – no more paid links or link networks. You need to rely on your own charm (and content) to win a SERP ranking. If you have content without these things, you should rank higher in the SERPs.

Content Creators: Don’t include shady links in your content and be especially particular with your links.

February: Venice

What: Google provides local search results even if you do not include a location.

Users: You’ll get relevant, local results. Searching for Italian food near you? You may get something in your neighborhood, even if you did not ask.

Publishers: This makes it easier for your local business to get found as long as Google can discern your location. If you have a brick and mortar location, make sure your full address is listed prominently on your site ASAP.

Content Creators: Make sure your content includes location information (city, state for those in the United States).

January: Ad/Page Update

What: Got lots of ads above the fold? Google’s not so fond of that anymore.

Users: You should have a better browsing experience with less ads in the way.

Publishers: Move your less lucrative ads below the fold to avoid this penalty.

Content Creators: Good ad copy is now more valuable than ever, as is knowledge about what makes an effective ad. Now is an ideal time to learn a little more about what kind of words make a digital ad work.

January: Google Plus Search Integration

What: Google uses data from your Google Plus experience to help you search.

Users: Don’t have a Google Plus account? That’s ok, Google will kind of force it on you and then use your data to improve your searches.

Publishers: Shareability on G+ is now a real factor. A G+ share button on your content/sites could go a long way.

Content Creators: Google is really paying attention to what people share. Your SERP position could rise or fall based upon shareability at this point.

Throughout 2012, Google also pushed out multiple Panda and Penguin updates, most of which affected 1-3% percent of queries.

→ Looking for history prior to 2012? Check out this thorough timelines from Moz and The Hoth.

How Have Google Algorithm Updates Affected Your Site?

Care to see how these algorithm changes may have affected your website? You can plot your Google Analytics data alongside this timeline.

Remember, various factors affect your website traffic as well, including virality of individual pieces of content, paid advertising, and more. Don’t forget to factor that in when you’re considering how algorithm changes may have affected your site.

As you improve and implement quality content into your inbound marketing strategy, keep a close watch on those analytics. Google Analytics will reveal information to make your copy more findable under the latest algorithm updates: such as affinities, niches, and demographics. Tailor your content to your audience.

Most website owners who employ inbound marketing see a lead in the quality of their traffic. You want people who hang around a while, consider you part of their community, and buy – not someone who found your site because you keyword spammed.

If you still want to think analytically, aim for the knowledge graph.

How Google Updates Affected and Shaped My Career in Writing, Editing, and Content Marketing (Authored by Tara C.)

Every web content writer has their own story and experience to reflect the complicated relationship between algorithm updates and writer. Now, we all know the key to bringing in valuable organic search traffic involves answering readers’ questions and providing them with genuine, informative, engaging content.

Strong writers who are writing in their native language benefit from this, and the value of high quality content is now much easier to prove – because it’s easier for searchers to find through the clutter, and it converts better.

During the economic downturn that began as early as 2005, I started writing at the now-defunct Associated Content (later known as Yahoo! Contributor Network) to supplement my income as a barista. My publishing jobs had been outsourced, so I figured it was time to go back to what I knew I could do.

The Era of Keyword Density: Part-Time Spammy McSpammerson

It was simple: you wrote and submitted it, they made an offer, and you could accept it. The offer was based on (usually evergreen) keyword acceptability and quality. Since keyword optimization and page views meant profit, I quickly learned how to write keyword-rich posts that were also interesting – I knew my growing social network factored in, so most of the posts were good enough that I could share them without feeling embarrassed. I had full-time jobs in publishing here and there, but I was always working at least part-time writing.

Enter: The Citizen Journalism Era

Soon I was writing for Examiner.com (that’s gone the way of the dinosaur) and CultureMob (also extinct) and even received a job offer to be a Patch editor. Soon I was making more as a freelancer than I could at a publishing job at my level, so I freelanced full-time.

Examiner was strictly newsy and third-person at first, championing local search and citizen journalism. They later crowded their site with interstitial ads and opened it up to first-person editorials as well. They also paid for referring other writers: I earned thousands of dollars over the course of three months by recruiting writers.

All my writing – from the semi-spammy stuff to the celebrity interviews – was affiliated with these large domains. When Panda rolled out, it was curtains for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Although Y!CN hosted some high-quality content, the older stuff and content users could publish at will (with no review and no offer) for page view money only was not necessarily high-quality. Those of us with largely quality posts went down with the rest of the S.S. Yahoo! writing ship.

YCN

I reached nearly 2 million page views before Y!CN closed.

I ended up in a full-time-turned-yet-again-freelance position writing small business websites, and during this time, it felt like Google algorithms and writers had an adversarial relationship. The algo hadn’t yet figured out to reward high quality sites; it had simply learned how to devalue spam.

At that time, it was hard enough proving value when it came to content, because there really wasn’t a high level of search engine and inbound marketing value for great content. This was life before online inbound marketing had taken off, and long before HubSpot proved content has value, helping the rest of us.

PSYCHIC READINGS Tara Clapper

I wrote a lot of insurance and legal websites, but I also wrote copy for this psychic readings website.

Quality Copy and Personal Service

My gigs skewed independent and personal; my opportunities were more about book editing as CreateSpace took off and my background in self-publishing was of value. I helped businesses who didn’t care much about copy (they just knew they needed a website) and brands (including bands!) that needed persuasive copy to sell everything from franchises to proposals to records. In this respect, the value of content was starting to increase; people at least understood they needed to be more likeable and more findable than the competition as that was already the case for existing forms of advertising and branding.

That journey eventually led me more into a marketing space, and finally to Express Writers.

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