Category Archive Blog

Essential Content Marketing Metrics You Need To Be Tracking

The key to a successful content marketing plan is creating and publishing effective, captivating content. But once that content is published, how can you tell exactly how well it’s performing? You can’t simply send content out into the ether and forget about it. You need to be tracking specific metrics, showing you exactly how your pieces are affecting your bottom line, and how they’re helping you reach your goals. 

Content marketing metrics aren’t as tricky as they might sound, but they should be an integral part of your marketing plan. Your content performance isn’t subjective—there are concrete ways to measure its success. But first, you need to outline your goals. 

Outline Your Goals

Determining which content marketing metrics will be most helpful to you depends on your objectives, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). What’s the higher purpose for your content? What’s the goal of your company? These are important questions to ask and answer before you can start tracking content performance. 

It’s also important to agree upon a definition of content marketing success, set performance priorities, and benchmarks before settling on which metrics to focus on. Without this basic structure, it’s easy to get sucked into tracking metrics that don’t actually help you

What Metrics To Track

Once you have specific goals outlined, you can choose the most helpful content marketing metrics to track. KPIs should differ depending on the type of content. Is your content mostly blogs shared on your website, email newsletters, or social media posts? The success of each of these should be analyzed differently. 

Here is a breakdown of the four main categories of content metrics, and how they apply to your content.

1. User Behavior

This is how visitors interact with your content. User behavior includes metrics such as:

  • Page views
  • Time on page
  • Unique visitors
  • Bounce rate
  • Return rate
  • New and returning visitors

These metrics are used to measure content performance of a website, specifically with regularly scheduled blog or article posts.

2. Engagement

These are actions taken by people viewing your content. You want people spending time with your content, reading or viewing it, and then potentially taking action because of it. Some examples of engagement metrics are:

  • Clicks
  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Reposts
  • Info requests

These metrics are helpful for tracking pay per click (PPC) campaigns, all social media channels, and video posts.

3. SEO

SEO performance is a little more in depth than tracking likes or page views, but it’s an incredibly important category of metrics to be familiar with. There’s no singular magic answer for improving your site’s SEO, but tracking metrics can help you gain insights into what you might need to improve (and what’s already working).

  • Organic traffic
  • Backlinks
  • Inbound links
  • SERP rank
  • Authority
  • Keyword rank

4. Revenue

These are metrics specific to generating sales or leads. Some revenue related metrics are:

  • Generated leads
  • Conversion rate
  • Click through rate
  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Cost per acquisition
  • Sales

Revenue related metrics are great for measuring PPC campaigns, email campaigns, any social media advertising, or online shopping pages.

What Is A Content Management System (CMS) And Do You Need One?

When diving into the world of content publishing and building your own business, there’s lots of platforms and tools to consider. It can feel overwhelming to decipher what software or systems are actually helpful, and which ones are truly unnecessary. One tool you might have come across is a Content Management System (CMS). Below we’ll get into exactly what a CMS is and answer the big question: do you really need one?

What Is A Content Management System

The basic definition of a content management system is that it’s software that helps you manage, edit, and publish content on a website without having to know how to code. Using a CMS allows users to regularly and easily update or change the content on their site by using basic editing modules.This type of platform is perfect for someone managing a blog, news site, ecommerce shop, or even a marketing site.

A CMS is made up of components to guide you through the site building and content management processes. Instead of looking at a blank page needing HTML, a CMS offers helpful content editing options, with many intuitive creation templates and blocks or modules. You don’t need to know or use HTML or CSS to build a fully functioning website when using a CMS. 

Do You Need A CMS

Pretty much any business where you need direct access to editing and publishing content would benefit from using a CMS platform. Though using a CMS platform has limits compared to a fully custom-built website, its functionality and ease usually outweighs the limitations.  

There are paid and free CMS available to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. You might not realize it, but the WordPress platform is actually a CMS. WordPress and other free platforms give you access to easy site building, but rarely include any kind of additional content management or in depth SEO tracking tools. 

Paid platforms, like the HubSpot CMS, offer a wide variety of helpful tools for tracking content performance, lead generation, and SEO optimization and recommendations. However, these tools come with a hefty price. 

The choice of using a CMS or not comes down to how tech savvy you are, how much time you have, and how versatile you need your site to be. If you’re an experienced developer with a history of building sites, a CMS is probably a little below you. But if you need a site built, fast, and have little to no experience coding, a CMS would probably help you a lot.

What Is A Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) And Do You Need One?

In the world of business abbreviations, it’s easy to get lost in all the letters. CTR, PCP, B2B, SMART—what do they mean? One popular term that many business owners have probably come across is CRM. 

CRM Definition

CRM stands for customer relationship management and is a business software that helps streamline customer connection and manages your professional relationships. Customer connection is key to growing a business and using a CRM can organize all aspects of those relationships. 

The Customer Relationship Management Process

How do you track and organize the way customers or clients interact with your business? Your sales, marketing, content management, and support departments probably have their own separate tracking and reports, and probably rarely share that info with each other. 

A CRM unifies this information by hosting all customer data in one accessible place. This creates a central location to plan workflow and allows you to streamline customer interaction.

Customer Relationship Management Components

So what exactly does a CRM do? This software will use the information from your social media, emails, phone calls, and website to analyze and optimize customer leads and marketing needs. Phone calls, email, calendar, and contacts become fully synced, and are used to drive conversions, leads, and marketing offers. Minimizing miscommunication and increasing customer information awareness. 

Do you need a CRM?

CRMs are mainly designed to help with sales or marketing companies, but many types of businesses can use this type of software. You might benefit from adopting a CRM if:

  • You struggle to manage customer data in basic spreadsheets
  • It’s become difficult to bounce between sources of data 
  • You struggle with time/task management and productivity between departments
  • You need in depth, visible metric analytics of customer information
  • You struggle with customer retention

The two biggest downsides with adopting a CRM is the price and willingness of workers to use it. Most software options are expensive or charge per user, but there are some on the cheaper end. But that being said, even the best CRM is worthless unless your staff actually engages with it.

If you’re simply looking for a workflow solution, free platforms like Trello or AirTable are great programs to try out. You will quickly see if your staff can handle working in an organizational platform, and whether a CRM is a potential option for the future. 

When To Use Noindex Tags (And When To Avoid Them)

Webmasters frequently make mistakes with directive tags — HTML snippets that tell search engines how to crawl (and how not to crawl) a website. We draw attention to these issues when performing SEO audits and content audits, but the simple truth is that directives aren’t complicated, and we’d rather not spend our workdays worrying about them.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re in the same boat. We’ll skip past the basics and assume that you have some confusion about noindexing pages, and you’re concerned that you’ll make a mistake that costs you ranking position. Take a deep breath; search engines are fairly adept at figuring out webmaster intent, and even if you’ve made a serious mistake, fixing it is usually a fairly simple process. 

Here’s how Google defines a noindex tag. We’ll warn you, it’s a pretty simple explanation:

noindex – Prevents the page from being indexed.

That was straightforward, right? The noindex tag sends a signal to the search engines telling them that you don’t want the page to appear in search. You might use this tag on category pages, duplicated pages, PPC landing pages, or other pages that you’d rather not see in search.

The bad news: Noindex tags don’t always work.

There’s a caveat, though, and it’s a big one. Google (and the other search engines) will sometimes ignore a noindex tag, indexing the page in question and showing it in search.

Why? We have no idea, but the folks at Google (and, again, the other search engines) leave a lot of room for webmaster error. Most website owners use tags improperly or inconsistently, so the search engines use directives as suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules.

We ran into this issue several years ago with a client’s store page, which another SEO firm had outfitted with noindex tags. The store was still showing up in search, but for specific reasons, the client didn’t want that — they didn’t want the store showing up until a customer actually clicked on the requisite link. 

The solution was to block search engines from accessing the store via the htaccess file (if you’re dealing with something similar and you don’t immediately know what we mean, ask your web developer or drop us a line). We then used Google Webmaster Tools to request that the page be de-indexed.

The problem was resolved, but the client was lucky; Google alone decides whether or not to send traffic to a page. Once something is indexed, getting it scrubbed from the search rankings can be really difficult. 

Ignored noindex tags can be frustrating and confusing.

The entire purpose of a search directive is to direct search. With that in mind, why would Google ignore a noindex tag? We can think of a few reasons:

  • The page has a large number of internal links pointing to it.
  • The page is linked frequently from external websites.
  • The page was well-established in search before the noindex tag was added.
  • Google was feeling naughty that day.

In all of these scenarios (well, except the last one), the search engine made the determination that the page was too important for the “noindex” tag to be legitimate; it must have been a mistake. 

So, here’s the moral of the story: If you really, really don’t want a page to show up on search, the noindex tag isn’t enough. You’ll need to block the search spiders from accessing the page, then add the noindex tag, then make sure that your sitemap is up to date, then monitor regularly to make sure that the page doesn’t pop up. 

If you don’t want a page to appear on search, but it’s not a life-or-death situation, go ahead and use noindex tags. As a general rule, though, webmasters should avoid using the noindex tag unless they have a good reason to use it. Let the search engine decide what should rank. They’ll figure it out.

Of course, most of our clients have the opposite problem — they want pages to appear on search, but they’re unable to raise their domain authority and capture that sweet, sweet organic traffic that they know is lurking out there. The solution to this problem is to perform keyword research and create an effective content strategy, ideally while addressing technical issues along the way. We can help with that, too.

Hopefully, this blog addressed your anxiety regarding noindex tags, but if not, contact ua via email at contact@relaycontent.com or fill out our online form for a quick, no-hassle quote.

How Much Should You Pay for Blog Posts?

Boosting web traffic is crucial for your business, and quality1 blog content is the key to attracting more site visitors. You know that. But how much should you pay for SEO-optimized, business-friendly blog posts?

You can find content writing services at just about any price point. People on Fiverr will write you a blog for the cost of a hot dog or two; writers on UpWork offer hourly rates as low as $15.

Meanwhile, boutique2 content marketing agencies charge $350 and up for a single blog post. And while you absolutely do get what you pay for, you don’t have to pick the highest bidder for quality writing that’ll boost traffic and position your brand as an authority. For example, take — oh, I don’t know — us.

How We Decide What to Charge for Blog-Writing Services

Dollar bills on green background

Credit: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Relay’s pricing sits in the middle range of the market, which is plenty, since we’re not in a huge coastal city paying $6 trillion a month in rent.

We bill per piece because that’s less confusing than hourly rates. It also makes for much simpler invoicing, freeing us up for more of those sweet, sweet billable tasks. And we don’t have a set price. We figure out a per-piece rate for each client. Here’s how we do that:

  • We decide what we want our hourly billing rate to be. Right now, it sits at about $70 an hour. We know that, if we’re lucky, maybe half of our time at work is spent writing, i.e., actually billable. But this rate takes all those unbillable3 tasks into account (have I mentioned that St. Louis is a pretty affordable place to live?)
  • We offer new clients a free trial piece. That gives everyone a chance to see if we’re a good fit, and it also helps us figure out just how long it’ll take to produce an excellent piece of writing for your unique business.
  • Say you’re in an industry we know really well (like data storage, industrial manufacturing, or logistics). Maybe it only takes an hour to write that 600-ish-word blog post. Well, lucky you: We’re going to pitch you a rock-bottom $70-per-piece rate.4
  • We tend to spend about two hours on a really good blog post for an industry we’re still learning. So our most common starting fee is $140 per piece.
  • Ongoing contracts save clients money. Say you want 10 blogs per month for the foreseeable future. Sure, we’ll chop the per-piece price some. Our package pricing may make us slip down to $50 or $60 per hour for a bit, but we like long-term partnerships. Reliable work is its own value. Anyway, the more we learn about your industry, the faster the writing goes.

So that’s how the sausage is made. It costs more than a hot dog, but it is good sausage5.

Choosing a Content Writer for Business Blogs

A lot of content writers don’t like to discuss pricing publicly. I guess they don’t want competitors to undercut them. We’re not worried about that; price competition isn’t the only factor in choosing a contractor. Assuming quality work on all sides, it’s not even the biggest factor, if you ask me. Getting along is.

Business relationships are a lot like, well, other human relationships. Maybe we’re not a good fit, in which case we go our separate ways. But maybe we meet each other and we hit it off and, next thing you know, a year has gone by and your site traffic is through the roof. You’ll be glad you skipped the Fiverr crowd.

Contact us if you want to talk business, or if you think there’s a better way to charge for blog posts, or if you’re just curious as to why we included so many footnotes in a piece about pricing6.

We’re a Worker-Owned Cooperative. Here’s Why.

In 2019, Relay Online Marketing became a worker-owned cooperative workplace. Every member of our team is a co-owner of our business; we all make the same hourly rate. When we need to make a business decision, we vote. Every vote is equal. When we hire new employees, they will be invited into the ownership structure no later than one year after the date of their hire. 

And no, we’re not hippies.

Here’s what happened. In 2008, I quit a customer service job and began my career as a freelance writer. I quickly learned that I work much more efficiently when I can directly see the benefits of my labor; if I know that I get $20 for turning in a blog, I’ll complete the work as quickly as I can. 

So I wrote hundreds of articles, and over time, the quality of my writing improved. Soon, I had more clients than I could handle on my own. Rather than turn away work, I hired employees, and by 2018, I had a successful small business. 

Neon Hands

Credit: Charles Deluvio / Unsplash

But by 2019, I was burned out. I’m not a natural manager, and more importantly, I didn’t see myself as a boss. Neither did anyone else. My management style is basically, “Hey, when you’re done with that, come look at this YouTube compilation of news anchor fails.” I spent my time meeting with clients, digging through Quickbooks, and performing other tasks that didn’t involve writing or SEO in any direct way.

Those tasks were important, but they weren’t especially difficult. I couldn’t justify taking a significantly larger paycheck than my employees. This isn’t to pat myself on the back for changing the structure — that was a group decision — but an honest appraisal of the situation. My time was no more valuable than anyone else’s time, and as we grew, the bureaucracy of business became a bigger problem.

That made me think about those early days of copywriting. I knew I worked better when my pay was directly tied to the quality and quantity of my work, and I knew that what motivated me would be just as effective at motivating other people. I sat down with my employees (now partners), showed them a few hours of YouTube videos, and laid out a basic plan: We’d share every part of the business. They recommended changes, we voted, and we printed up an operating agreement.

We were small and nimble enough to make that approach viable, and our risk was limited: If our business started to fail, we could always revert back to our old structure.

In 2019, we reset the business as a shared LLC. Our day-to-day work changed in minor ways, but we immediately became more productive. We worked less hours. We eliminated some of the efficiency issues that had plagued our old business — I didn’t have to worry about payroll or health insurance payments, and our company meetings were smoother and quicker. Difficult decisions were handled democratically. 

We know that our approach isn’t ideal for every type of business, but it worked for us for a few key reasons. First, we’re writers — we understand the importance of deadlines, and we’d all worked as contractors before joining together as a business. We’re willing to hold ourselves accountable. Second, we’d already set up a great team. We know how our coworkers work, and our company’s culture has remained consistent as we’ve grown and changed. 

Finally, we were willing to try something new for the sake of creating a more equitable structure. We believe that worker ownership helps businesses grow while preventing racism, gender discrimination, and other forms of prejudice from taking hold. We wrote several articles into our operating agreement allowing for the swift dismissal of anyone who creates a hostile work environment, and while we don’t anticipate those issues in our business, we believe that limiting our power as individuals will help us protect each other.

With that said, we work with businesses of all sizes, and our clients have found plenty of other ways to maintain safe, productive work environments. This is simply what works for us — and while our structure is slightly unusual, it gives us the best possible framework to serve our clients effectively.

 

How to Build a Content Plan with Sheer Guesswork

Here’s a story: When I started writing blogs for the industrial sector, I didn’t know much about OSHA. That was an issue, as OSHA is…well, kind of important in the industrial sector. 

To prepare for my first few blogs, I did research. I asked questions that might seem obvious: What’s the difference between OSHA and NIOSH? What happens if you violate OSHA guidelines? Who’s responsible for a compliance violation? Is OSHA run by lizard people?

Surprisingly, the internet was oddly silent (except on the lizard people issue, which took me down a rabbit hole). Getting the answers to some of these basic questions took some digging, so I started writing blogs addressing those types of topics — the types of things that an industrial audience would almost certainly understand from the outset.

I pitched those articles to our clients, they accepted them, and those pages started ranking.  Today, those first blogs are some of the most successful pieces we’ve written about the industrial sector, with several Featured Snippets and numerous top-10 SERPs. 

Not bad for guesswork.   

Building a Content Plan: Robot Eagles vs. Stupid Flying Beetles

You can pay a lot for content ideas. SEMRush doesn’t give you their Topic Research tools unless you upgrade to a premium account, to the tune of about $400 per month. Moz’s Keyword Explorer is an excellent alternative, but access costs at least $79 per month. MarketMuse uses AI to generate topics with strong growth potential; subscriptions start at around $400 a month and go up (and up) from there. You could make that investment. 

Or you could go with your gut. That sounds terrible, I know. We digital marketers like to present ourselves as laser-focused birds of prey, spearing our goals with deadly accuracy from 10,000 feet in the air, and data-focused strategies certainly have their place. 

But eagles aren’t the only animals that eat and lay eggs and generally do okay: So do June bugs. 

A Relay content expert. Credit: Egor Kamelev at Pexels.

If you’ve ever watched one of these bumbling beetles try to regain its footing after flying into your curtains, you might not think of them as inspiring. But they get the work of being a June bug done, even if that means reproducing through accidental mid-air collisions. (I am sure this is how it happens and will not listen to entomologists who claim otherwise.) 

June bugs succeed through the repeated effort of a first-timer, not by being the smartest bug in the room (that’d be spiders). They approach every task with the stumbling amateurishness of a three-month-old. And when I’m coming up with growth-focused topics for a content plan, and my SEO tools fail me? I try to think like a June bug. That is, I put my inner expert to sleep for a while.  

Beginner’s Mind in a World of SEO Experts

Boosting traffic through organic search boils down to one process: providing the best possible answer to the questions most relevant to your industry. There’s no trick. There’s no shortcut. You just have to a: uncover the questions your audience is asking, and b: create the best answers to those questions on the internet. 

If building an effective content plan starts with finding the right questions, a new writer’s perspective can be surprisingly useful in that effort. 

Why? Because content writers don’t know as much about your industry as you do. They never will. They’re also tired, generally, and a a little bit incompetent. Not as incompetent as a June bug, maybe, but often in the running.

That’s also typically true of your audience. Even if you’re writing B2B pieces at a fairly advanced level, a good portion of your readers will want key terms clarified, and some of them will visit your site to try to shore up their knowledge of the industry. Addressing the easy stuff — even if it seems fairly obvious to you — can significantly widen your reach.

Using What You Don’t Know to Connect with Your Audience

I’m not saying “the power of big data” can’t help you build leads through targeted content. I’m not saying that ignorance is a virtue, even, but I am saying this: Listen to your ignorance. 

If you’re curious about something in your industry, so’s someone else. If you can’t find an answer on the first page of Google, you’ve got a golden opportunity, SEO-wise — and those are rare. As you read industry literature, or conduct research, or talk to clients, take notes on everything you don’t know. Then search for answers. 

Worst case scenario, you learn more about your industry. Even better? You find your next great content topic. Like a flailing June bug tripping into a tasty houseplant, your ignorance can lead you backward to your goal. If you don’t have enough ignorance, hire a writer who does. 

I’m pretty sure I just claimed heavy ignorance as a value proposition, so it’s probably time to end this post. On the other hand…you found this page somehow. 

Anyway, here’s a gif of a June bug on its back. Ha ha, keep trying, little buddy!  

  

 

Turkeys Don’t Eat Cigarette Butts (And Why Google Isn’t Perfect Yet)

Recently, the Relay office spent an afternoon debating whether or not turkeys eat cigarette butts off the side of the road.

Don’t worry, it’s not as dumb as it sounds—it’s far dumber. Here’s the deal: Near St. Louis, you’ll often see wild turkeys walking along the side of the highway.

Around Thanksgiving, one of our partners suggested that the turkeys were looking for cigarette butts. He’d heard that turkeys get addicted to nicotine, so they frequent highways to feed their addiction.

I’d heard something similar from a friend of mine, but it didn’t seem too likely. We did a quick Google search to settle the issue, but we ran into a problem: Typing any combination of “turkey,” “nicotine,” “cigarette butts,” or “addiction” brought up hundreds of websites about quitting smoking cold turkey. 

That’s useful info, but it wasn’t what we were looking for. We tried searching for scientific papers about birds and nicotine addiction, but didn’t find anything about turkeys specifically. Frustrated, we contacted the National Wild Turkey Foundation and received a quick response from biologist John Burk.

 Close-up of a turkey

Credit: Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

“I have been working as a Wildlife Biologist focused on wild turkeys for 30 years in 5 different states, and I can honestly say that I have never heard of this being a problem,” he wrote. “Turkeys have no sense of smell and therefore also no sense of taste.”

Burk went on to explain that turkeys have gizzards, and they walk on the side of the road to find small pieces of gravel that can help them digest their food. If a bird ate a cigarette butt by mistake, it would spit it out, since the experience wouldn’t be pleasant.

That would seem to settle the issue, but by this point, office alliances had formed, and the “turkeys are addicts” crowd wasn’t going to go down without a fight. For a second opinion, we reached out to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which put us in touch with another biologist.

After laughing at us for several minutes, he agreed with his contemporary.

“People have been dissecting turkeys for over 30 years,” he said. “We’ve never seen a cigarette butt. While I cannot say with certainty that a turkey has never eaten a cigarette, there certainly isn’t a significant population of nicotine-addicted turkeys out there.”

There you have it: Turkeys don’t eat cigarette butts, or if they do, they don’t do it on purpose.

What Turkeys Can Teach Us About SEO And Messaging

After trying in vain to get one of our clients to run a blog about turkeys and nicotine addiction, I realized that there is a tangible SEO lesson here: Google’s semantic search isn’t there yet.

Semantic search attempts to match a searcher’s intent with the results; if you search for “dog training tips” all afternoon and suddenly search for “pet food,” for instance, the search engine will likely present dog food as one of the top results (rather than, say, cat food, or turkey food).

For the most part, it works well, and semantic search is a crucial part of our strategy. We tell clients not to focus on individual keywords, since the semantic profile of a page—the page’s tendency to use related terms and synonyms that appeal to the searcher’s intent—is more important.

But search for “turkey” and “nicotine,” and you’ll inevitably get pages about “quitting cigarettes cold turkey.” Even if you perform a long-tail search (for instance, “Do turkeys in Illinois eat cigarette butts on the side of the highway because they are addicted to nicotine”), the semantic link between “turkey,” “cigarette,” and “human smoking” is too strong.

The lesson is to be careful when branding. Think about how keywords interact. Consider whether you’re using phrases that could be misinterpreted by semantic search—and when that’s the case, be ready to change your strategy. When in doubt, create as much content geared specifically towards your audience as possible. 

Another crucial lesson: Don’t spend all afternoon arguing about turkeys, or you’ll have to write a blog about it to justify the lost productivity.

SEO TIP: Don’t Just Look At Your Landing Pages

“Why aren’t my landing pages ranking for certain keywords?”

That’s probably the most common question in SEO, and it’s not always easy to answer. We usually respond by asking clients why they want to rank for a given term; are they sure that their audience is using that term? Will the people searching for that keyphrase end up making a purchase, speaking with a salesperson, or reading an article?

But for the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve gone through all that. You know where you want to rank, you’ve chosen your keywords carefully, and you’re not getting results.

What’s wrong with your landing page? What do you need to tweak to build a successful approach to SEO?

For starters, you’re only looking at the landing pages.

That’s a problem.

Here’s why: Google looks at your entire website in order to establish its semantic profile (semantics are words similar to the keyphrase, or related to the keyphrase, but fundamentally different). The more you write about a certain topic, the more authoritative your website seems.

As an example, consider two websites with roughly equivalent landing pages. They’re shooting for the search keyword “dog food.” One site has a single page about dog food; the other has 100. Even though the landing pages are equivalent, why wouldn’t the search engine prioritize the site with more content? It offers more resources for readers; it likely has more relevant links, more related keywords (think “nutrition in dog food,” “low-calorie dog food,” “canine chow,” etc.) and a better overall experience for searchers.

You might have the perfect landing page, but if it’s the only page on your site that uses a certain keyphrase, it probably won’t rank. Why should it? A website with dozens of high-quality, relevant pages should always beat a website with a single relevant page.

Use that principle to guide your SEO plan.

Yes, your landing page needs to be perfect, but you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got other relevant pages to improve your site’s semantic profile.

Oh, and quality is crucial. You can’t just fill a bunch of pages with keywords; make them real resources that will help your audience get the information they need. Cover broad topics and niche topics. To go back to our dog food example, you might write blogs like:

  • What To Know About Raw Diets for Dogs
  • What Nutrition Do Dogs Need?
  • Why Dogs Are Natural Omnivores
  • Choosing A Food For A New Puppy

Don’t worry as much about fitting in keywords. Worry about making useful, functional articles. Ideally, you’ll write 400-600 words on each topic, but if you can get a few thousand words in without stretching, do it. As long as you’re providing quality content, you’re spending your time well.

SEO is a long process, and you’ll still have to pay plenty attention to your landing pages. Our point is simply that your landing page isn’t the only factor in your ranking for a certain keyword. Look at your entire site and consider whether you’re truly offering the best result—after all, that’s exactly what Google’s doing.

Should You Hide Blog Categories with Noindex Tags?

Recently, we had a few clients ask whether they should be putting a “noindex” or “nofollow” tag on their blog category, author, and tag pages. WordPress creates these pages to provide another avenue for site organization; they’re potentially useful to your users, and if you’re creating content on an ongoing basis, it’s usually a good idea to leave them in place.

But should those pages be crawlable? Won’t search engines see them as duplicate content, since they contain some of the same language as your blogs?

Plugins like Yoast give you an easy way to noindex these pages. In Yoast, the setting in question looks something like the image below.

Yoast noindex categories

Yoast giveth, and Yoast taketh away.

Simply click those “noindex” buttons, and you’ll, uh, noindex the pages. It’s not rocket science.

Of course, before you take that step, you’ll have to determine whether or not you actually want those pages to be noindexed. You certainly don’t want to nofollow them, since there’s no real benefit to doing that (and the nofollow tag shouldn’t be commonly used, anyway; that’s a subject for another blog).

Here are the questions you should ask before using the noindex tag anywhere.

Is this page useful to readers in a unique way, and does it have enough content? If so, Google will probably want the option to show it in search.

“But wait,” you say, “these pages aren’t useful, and I’m worried that they’re preventing me from achieving my keyword ranking goals.”

First of all, stop talking out loud at your computer. I’m not the NSA, and I can’t hear you through the monitor (usually). Second, you’re probably not cannibalizing your own search ranking, because that’s really hard to do.

Here’s why: If you’ve got two pages that are great responses for a given query, search engines will simply show both. They’re generally not going to interpret your tag or category page as duplicate content, since hundreds of thousands of WordPress websites use those page types for organization; Google absolutely understands why they’re there and what they do. Google is smart. Google is wise. All praise Google.

Search for FiveThirtyEight’s reportage on Jon Ossoff, for instance, and the tag page comes up first, followed by FiveThirtyEight’s articles on the Congressional challenger. Google interpreted the tag page just fine, and determined that it was the best response to my query.

And you know what? Google got it right. That page provided a better resource than any of the individual blogs.

I should note that my approach here is atypical; many SEOs insist on noindexing tag pages by default. In fairness, there are some instances in which you’d want a blog tag, category, or author page to stop showing up in search.

  • If your site is new or extremely small, the blog tag pages will likely be very low quality. They may list a single blog, and if that’s the case, the blog would surely be a better query response.
  • You also might not use blog tags. In this case, I’d disable the tags entirely, but noindexing the pages is still an option, I guess, if you’re lazy. Are you lazy? Don’t be lazy.
  •  You might have a single author, in which case the “author” pages are redundant. In that case, again, I’d just remove the actual author pages—why trust a noindex tag when you can scrub your site of redundancy?

I would noindex these types of pages in one situation: If I had a small site that was adding content slowly, and I believed that the tag/category/author pages would be useful at a later date. That situation is extremely common; if you’re just now starting a blog, for instance, this is the approach to take. In fact, we noindex our tag/category/author pages for this very reason.

Also, I don’t post as often as I should, since I’m usually busy writing stuff for clients, and our category pages are pretty bad as a result. The shoemaker’s children have no shoes.   

But what about the dreaded duplicate content penalty?

Well, these organizational pages aren’t really duplicate content—they serve a unique purpose. And the whole “duplicate content penalty” might be scary, but it’s usually not a major concern if you’re not plagiarizing.

In most cases, if Google sees similar content on two pages, it’ll simply choose one of the pages to rank—it won’t ban your domain or anything like that. You’re not getting a manual penalty unless you’ve been doing some shady stuff.   

The bottom line is that tag/category/author pages are absolutely fine on larger sites. On growing sites, the noindex tag is fine, but realize that it’s just a suggestion (and Google frequently ignores that suggestion if it thinks you’re mistaken). And before using any SEO directive, make sure that you’re not missing a cleaner solution.

Oh, and if you vehemently disagree with this post, we’d love to hear why. Post a comment below and I’ll respond (and call you names behind your back).