In the magazine business, I have learned from some of B2B's most highly decorated editors. And here's the most important lesson these smart people taught me: Steal. If you want your publication to be great, steal smart ideas from anybody and everybody. (We once did a special issue of our little security magazine with article formats and outrageous cover lines straight out of Cosmopolitan: "What Excites a Metric-Sexual" and so on.)
If a staid publishing medium like print requires continuous acquisition of new ideas, the rapidly evolving Web increases those demands even further.
Here are four SEO tactics I have stolen from various places, collected so you can steal them from one convenient source.
1. Keywords: Don't forget action and adjectives
Last month we talked about the matrix of keywords/topics your site wants to address. “Keyword matrix” is a term commonly used by business sites. But what is it that makes a keyword “matrix” instead of just a keyword list? I'll tell you.
Let's say you run a site on computer peripherals. Your Topic keyword list might include:
and so on.
But you'd be a fool if you ignored all the actions that readers want to perform with those items. So you should also have an Actions/Adjectives keyword list including:
and so on.
If you put your Topic keywords on one axis of a spreadsheet and your Actions/Adjectives on the other axis, you've got a keyword matrix. You could even create a third dimension with terms like:
and so on. (The "and so on" part means you have some brainstorming to do for your particular site/desired audience/topics.)
As you create articles, landing pages or databases targeting each keyword combination, you can check off the box on your cool multidimensional spreadsheet. Would I like my peripherals site to rank first for the search term "buying printers"? Of course I would!
As discussed last column, you can prioritize these terms using Google Trends. Years ago, when I worked on cio.com, we had several articles in a series called "The ABCs of [Topic]" that had excellent search rankings for those topic terms, the king of those articles being The ABCs of ERP. However, when we wanted to launch a similar series on CSOonline, we had access to Google Trends to tell us that ABCs is not much of a search term:
Hence the labeling of our series as "[Topic]: The Basics". Notably, cio.com renamed its series at some point as well, as you can see by the artist formerly known as the ABCs of ERP.
2. How to cover more critical keywords (and make a few dimes to boot)
Now that you have this monstrous matrix of possible keywords, how will you ever possibly get all those articles written?
Here's a tactic to supplement your staff and freelance budget:
I wanted to publish an introduction to SOA security – that's SOA as in service-oriented architecture, a challenging topic (you might rightly use the term “arcane”). If I tried to write that piece myself, or assigned it to one of our staff writers, we'd have to invest a horrifying amount of time in background research and technical fact-checking.
As luck would have it, I had a briefing with the chief technical officer of a company that does work in the area of SOA: Mark O'Neill of Vordel. Turns out O'Neill had written a book on the topic. So I asked him to write up SOA Security: The Basics, which as a subject-matter expert he could do accurately and quickly. My regular readers got a useful (vendor-neutral!) article; CSOonline got a decent Google ranking for the term SOA Security; O'Neill got visibility with a great audience for his company and his book.
Taking this approach – sometimes using a direct book excerpt instead of a new article – we've been able to cover a number of valuable topics with very strong content: security incident detection and response, information security management, pickets and strikes, and more.
Bonus: We have an Amazon affiliate account, so when someone buys the books via our links, we get a small percentage. Instead of paying freelancers for this content, we can bring in a little revenue ourselves. My publisher gets a huge kick out of this. Yours might too. (Though don’t get too excited – it's not millions of dollars.)
3. People like pictures, and so does Google
I can't stress enough the importance of using images online, for three reasons.
One, people like pictures. Pictures make people happy.
Two, an image reinforces to Google the focus of your article. Assuming, of course, that your images are labeled correctly, which means all text elements associated with a picture should incorporate the same keywords you're emphasizing in the article itself. Alt-text, description, caption, even file name if possible.
Three: As engines deliver more and more blended search results, images give you another chance to show up at the top of a results page – not just on image search, but on the regular search results as well. (Search for "hurricane" on Google for an example of a blended search results page.)
Where are you going to get all these images? Magazine photos and graphics are option one. Product vendors usually have .jpgs readily available. Stock art libraries are an inexpensive possibility. And the Web offers all sorts of other creative possibilities. Look, I created a security article using Google Trends screenshots!
One SEO guru claimed that correctly labeled images are "the last free source of search traffic." On the other hand, I've had one other alleged Web expert tell me images aren't worth the bother.
Which dovetails with my general observation that about 50% of what you hear about the Web is bunk. So caveat emptor, but as for me, I'm doubling down on images.
4. You didn't forget these pages, did you?
Editors are often focused on articles. But there are lots of pages on your site that deserve a little keyword attention. Have you looked at the headlines, text and meta-tags on your …
and so on? The lesson here: Never miss an opportunity to make clear to the world what your site is about and what specific resources you have to offer.
Derek Slater is editor in chief of CSOonline.com and CSO Magazine, a publication about security. He has been recognized as a Top Innovator by B2B's Media Business, and CSO has won numerous awards for editorial quality, including the Grand Neal (ABM) and Magazine of the Year (ASBPE).The soundtrack for writing this column included Mastodon, old Pearl Jam and Duran Duran.