Like Me? Follow Me.
So says one of the biggest "SEO Rockstars" in the industry. Someone who I've seen proclaiming White Hat SEO to be "The Only Way" on panels at search conferences. Someone who says any money which changes hands for links is "Evil" - not advertising. Someone who spouts at other SEOs that any content created solely for links is spam.
Jill Whalen has clearly lost touch with reality.
SEO is all about the longtail.
Anybody who tells you otherwise has their head glued to 2003. This sort of deliberately misleading statement (or downright stupid statement, if it's believed) is yet another example of industry "leaders" passing on bad advice to people who don't know any better.
SEO - search engine optimisation - is not about optimising one or two pages of a site for a few vanity terms that bring a lot of traffic but few conversions. SEO is about ensuring that the content on website pages uses language searchers use when looking for the information held on those pages. It's also about ensuring that, through good coding and good site structure, each page is found and understood by search engines.
Not every page on a website is about generic search terms.
In fact, most pages on most websites are entirely about the long tail.
For example, if you're a retailer selling women's clothing, once you've ranked for, say "Women's Clothing" and then split that down into relevant subcategories such as "women's jeans," "women's shirts," "dresses," "women's t-shirts" and "skirts" then everything below will be getting into the long tail - and believe me, if someone types in "long grey a-line skirt" and a page on a website I've optimised comes up, it's because I've optimsed that website to ensure it happens.
I will have:
- Created a keyword map based on keywords searchers use and their relevance to the pages
- Rewritten the Title and Meta description (and keywords) on every page of the site
- Optimised H1, headings, page content, alt text
- Ensured that the navigational structure made sense to both users and to search engines in order to explain the taxonomy of the site
- Done an audit of the code to ensure that the pages had as little code as possible, were clean, built as close to Web Standards as was achievable with the site (often we're constrained by foreign CMS/development frameworks) and that the pages loaded as quickly as possible
- Written or rewritten page copy on every page around targeted keywords (generic and long tail)
- Submitted the site to relevant authoritative directories
- Begun a press release campaign
- Begun bespoke link building
Never mind all those other things such as optimising the conversion paths, setting up social media accounts and getting the client started on creating a social buzz to pass on content and improve brand visibility, submitted the site to local search and begun obtaining local citations, perhaps begun creating videos to rank in YouTube, added a feed to Google Base, if it's applicable, etc.
We do ALL of these things for Search Engine Optimisation because all of these things will improve visibility for a wide range - WIDE, as in both generic and long tail - of keywords in the ORGANIC SEARCH RESULTS. By organic, I don't just mean the 10 traditional results. I mean EVERYTHING THAT ISN'T PAID. If it's not paid it's organic.
The Long Tail bolsters the generic
Furthermore, let me tell you something about optimising for the long tail - it can not only help you rank for generic phrases as they are, inevitably, contained in the long tail - you can link back up to pages and use the weight of your own site structure to help yourself rank, but you can also use those great long tail inbound anchor links to help you rank for the generic phrases as well.
In some instances, when dealing with small businesses with small budgets who operate in competitive industries (travel, real estate, health insurance) it's only feasible to aim for the long tail for a good 12-18 months anyway.
Finally, in most industries (I know there's a few where this doesn't work) but in most industries, it's those long tail keywords that drive conversions - whether they are specific product names with product codes attached, or just very specific descriptive searches such as "size 10 grey a-line skirt."
Yes, it is a good idea to aim for high volume generic keywords because they get you that first click - but you also need to rank for as many long tail keywords as you can in order to get that last click.
If you're doing SEO correctly then you're optimising sites for generic keywords where they apply, working towards rankings for generic phrases and working on long tail keywords where those apply in order to nail down the conversion.
Frankly, if Jill Whalen is still stuck in the mindset that SEO is all about vanity rankings, and not about driving the user to your website at each stage of the buying cycle in order to get that conversion, then Jill Whalen shouldn't be working in SEO.