7 SEO Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing Content

During a recent Whiteboard Friday on Moz, Rand Fishkin went into the nitty-gritty on how Google may vet content. We say may, because without a confirmation from Google, it’s near impossible to know. That said, we can see patterns and those patterns can lead us to insights.

Below’s an overview of the seven areas that Mr. Fishkin pointed out, with a corresponding question for each:

1. Keyword matches

  • Does your content contain keywords and synonyms that much up with other authoritative sites on the same topic? Do the keywords in your headline and body match up?

2. Topic Associations

  • Does your content contain keywords that often occur in other authoritative sites regarding the same topic?

3. Content Length

  • What is the content length, comprehensiveness, reading level, and sentence/paragrph format that people are looking for when they search your target keywords? Are they expecting listicles, long-form essays, short blurbs, or multi-page behemoths?

4. Brand Name and Site Name

  • Is your particular brand name or site domain closely associated with the covered content?

5. Dynamic Media

  • Is the type of article you are writing often associated with video, audio, or pictures?

6. Truth

  • Does your content (particularly in the case of  YMYL Queries or Your Money or Your Life Queries) present accurate information?

7. Phrase and Sentence Structure

  • Does your content target a specific phrase/sentence structure in the query?

When it comes to SEO, Google has confirmed that Content and Link Structure are among the most important variables. Of course, even within content there are also many variables at play. For more content insights, check out the Content section on Moz.

Google, RankBrain, and the Closing of the American Frontier

I just read a very insightful article by Kristine Schachinger on how the way that SEO Folk and Google get along is changing. Here’s my histrionic (and historical!) take on it:

The Significance of the SEO Industry in Google’s Growth

For a while, Google was the US government circa 1870. It had a great product that was incomplete on its own. It needed help to expand. It recruited the likes of SEO Folk to temper the wily processes of Google’s search algorithms so that ranking loving publishers could could safely land their blogs, personal websites, and online stores near the top of Google’s search results pages for a given term.

In plainer speech: Google needed SEO Folk to make sure non-SEO Folk could efficiently create and rank their sites. SEO people needed to communicate with Google in order to figure out the best ways to cater to Google’s constantly shifting search algorithms. As more and more non-SEO folks started establishing an online presence, more and more people needed SEO.

For a while there was a mutually-beneficial relationship between the two peoples for the previously mentioned reasons, but Google grew. Built on the back’s of hard-working SEO Folk who spent untold hours learning the ins and outs of Google so that they could make money guiding others through Google, while establishing the legitimacy of Google in the Process, Google inched its way towards not needing SEO Folk. Like a snake sloughs off its skin, so did Google SEO Folk as just another stage of growth.

Google has reached a point of self-sufficiency where now they no longer need SEO Folk, because they have robots. Yes. Robots. AI. Singularity. Bicentennial Man. Robots. Google’s algorithm is becoming self-sufficient. It no longer needs the middleman. The frontier is closing.

Intrepid Souls Wanted…Wait…Not Anymore

For a while, there was Matt Cutts and it was good. Matt Cutts oversaw Google’s web spam team. Matt Cutts made a point of maintaining open channels of communication with the SEO Folk–posting videos, hosting Q&A’s, letting the SEO Folk know what was going on, while keeping some small element of mystery. But towards the end of 2014, Matt Cutts left. Indefinitely. And in his place came relative silence from Google…and Rank Brain. A machine learning, artificial intelligence created for the express purpose of making Google the most efficient search engine out there . On its first appearance, it was responsible for processing a “very large fraction” of Google search results. It was but one of hundreds of ranking factors. Now, it’s at least in the Top 3.

To clarify, RankBrain is not Google’s Search Algorithm. That is called Hummingbird. And it has a very nice name. Rank Brain is one of the ranking factors that makeup Hummingbird, but given it’s quick rise to the top of search ranking factors, it can be safely said that RankBrain is calling a lot of the shots.

The Closing of the Frontier?

SEO is not yet dead. It’s still necessary for people to get their stuff ranking. But it is becoming less important. Just as guides, fur trappers, and cowboys did not suddenly lose their use at the official closing of the American frontier, so are SEO Folk still relevant and needed. For now.

The Ever-shifting Sands of Google’s Search Engine Algorithms

Google chrome logoAs mentioned elsewhere around the web, it’s hard to effect a quick change in search engine results page (SERP) rankings. It’s a long-haul process that takes time. It’s less of a sprint and more of a marathon. Depending on the competition for a given search keyword (i.e. the keyword that one is attempting to rank for), it can be less of a marathon and more of an ultra-marathon relay across the contiguous United States.

The Challenge

There are a number of reasons why SEO takes time. There is the aforementioned search keyword competition, the hundreds of Google’s search engine ranking factors to operate around, and the ever-shifting landscape of Google’s perpetually updating search engine algorithms.

To complicate matters even more, Google often updates their search engine algorithms without the public’s knowledge. So, figuring out the ins and outs of Google algorithm updates is much like trying to play pin the tail on the donkey, only the donkey keeps metamorphosing into different types of animals (penguins and birds and bears–oh my!)

Fortunately, there are some great SEO thought leaders out there (Moz, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch) that are always on the lookouts for algorithm updates. However, even the knowledge of these great organizations is finite.

Are you starting to get a sense of challenging SEO can be?

A Case Study

The way that Google utilizes all of its search engine ranking factors is constantly in flux. One day backlinks (links on other sites that point to yours) may be the best way of getting your site up to the top of Page 1. So, you plan and execute a strategy to get as many sites possible linking to your site. Phew! What a lot of hard-work. But it looks like it’s paying off. Over time you see your site jumping from Page 5 to Page 3 to Page 2 to Page 1. Your strategy is working. Time to rest on them laurels.

Then the next day, you see that your site is on the bottom of Page 2. You think “HOW?!?” You check the latest developments on an  SEO news publication and discover that a new Google algorithm update suddenly makes backlinks passé and good content that is geared toward people (not search engines) the best tactic possible.

Fair enough.

You rehash your strategy and make sure that all of your content is as unique, authoritative, and user-friendly as can be. You crank out some great 1000-word content. You share it over social media, you get other sites to feature and reference it, you begin to see results. Again, your site seems to make its way to the top of Page 1. Success! Your strategy is working…

…Until you hear about a new Google update called Mobilegeddon that penalizes sites that are not mobile friendly. You notice your site had dropped in search results once again and you’ve become painfully aware of the site’s early 2000’s, static, and otherwise not-mobile-friendly design. Shoot.

The Take-away

So you see, Google’s algorithm updates make SEO a dynamic arena that constantly challenges the champions who enter it. SEO can be frustrating and it can be rewarding, but in the face of so many moving parts, one thing always holds true: it takes time.

The Periodic Table of SEO Factors

Alright. There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now and I should probably just say it.


Here it goes.

Deep breaths.


Not only is this is a great site to follow the latest SEO news, they also provide some great resources for understanding how SEO works and strategizing SEO campaigns.

For a GREAT visual resource, check out their Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

What is Online Reputation Management?

I help people manage their online reputations for a living.

But what does reputation management entail?

Well, in the case that you’ve already looked over the BrandYourself website and still feel like you’re missing something, this article from SearchEngineLand.com offers a great explanation.

In summary, online reputation management (ORM) is making sure that then when some searches a kewyord (your name or company), the results that pop-up are all relevant and supportive to your image. Of course, people are entitle to free speech, and so should and are able to say whatever they want about whoever they want on the internet. But just because someone is free to say whatever they want, that doesn’t mean that whatever they say needs to be at the top of search results. In fact, that can be downright injurious to someone’s online reputation. In the case of businesses, it can result in the loss of a lot of potential customers.

That’s where ORM comes in.

We work to push positive results (positives) to the top of search result lists and negative results (negatives) to the bottom. It’s impossible (without delving into hacking) to downright eliminate a search result, but you can effect it’s ranking on search result lists.

A few things you should know:

ORM is a marathon, not a sprint

It takes search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) a long time to update their results. Which is actually a good thing when you think about it. Otherwise, search results would be shifting everyday and it’d be impossible to effect any lasting change on keyword ranking. Specifically at BrandYourself, we usually yield optimal results around month 7 of campaigns. That may seem like a while, but every month before that is spent working hard and laying the framework so that month 7 can happen at all. Sometimes, it takes even longer than that.

You have to keep at it, to stay in shape

You could diet and exercise for a year, feel great and look great, but if at the end of the year you started to eat donuts for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert and the only exercise you did was light walking and heavy typing, then you’d end up losing the results you want. It’s the same thing with ORM. As mentioned above, it takes a lot of hard-work over a long period of time to yield results. Once you start getting results, you have to keep at it to maintain them. Google is constantly updating their search algorithms, web traffic is always shifting, and online properties need to stay fresh (keep updating) in order to look good in Google’s eye. That means that without persistence, negatives can go up in rankings and positives can unfortunately go down.


At least you know that if your online reputation is not how you want it to be, you can effect a change. That’s pretty empowering and pretty freaking cool.


Websites like brandyourself.com, searchengineland.com, and moz.com all offer great tips for managing your online reputation. If you’re curious, I highly recommend checking them out.

I hope this has been helpful in explaining a little more about what I do. Feel free to contact me if you have anymore questions.