Part of my job, as I understand it, is helping to keep Jim honest. Not to imply that he would ever be intentionally dishonest – nor would most respectable SEO professionals – but I think that, sometimes, it’s easy for SEO folks to lose sight of the people who actually click on the pages they work so hard to get to the top of the rankings. That little thing called user intent.
Your landing pages (or your client’s landing pages) should be able to pass the Your Mom Test.
Your mom doesn’t know SEO. If she’s anything like my mom, she has no clue what it is you do all day, nor why you get paid for doing it. Your mom doesn’t know what a meta tag is. Keyword popularity means nothing to her. She may think that “linkbait” sounds like some sort of dirty word. When she needs to find something online, she’s not going to know the best way to find it. She types in whatever comes to mind first, and hopes that Google (or Yahoo, or MSN) knows what she’s talking about.
If your mom typed in the keyword phrase you’re targeting, would she be happy with the result you’re promoting?
Let’s pick an unlikely phrase for you to be targeting – like [thorsten kaye]. I don’t know why you would be targeting [thorsten kaye], but I know why your mom would be searching for him. He’s an attractive actor on ABC Daytime’s All My Children. I have it on good authority that he’s popular with your mom’s crowd. (I had an uncomfortable conversation where my mother-in-law informed me that he is, in her exact words, “sex personified.”)
Let’s say that URL for which you’re targeting [thorsten kaye] is http://listing-index.ebay.com/actors/Thorsten_Kaye.html. Is your mom going to be happy with that result? Probably not. Sure, it’s got some basic biographical information. But your mom was at least savvy enough to know how to spell his name correctly, so she probably knew this information already.
The good news is that your mom isn’t going to be wondering why this page showed up in her search. It’s relevant. Just not good. If you’re going to take it to the top of the search engine results with some slick SEO techniques, you need to make sure it’s good. You need to make it great.
First of all, you need more than just a few paragraphs scraped from Wikipedia. You want to have original content. Duplicate content sucks. (This is where your mom’s opinion doesn’t matter. She doesn’t care much about duplicate content as long as the content is good. This is the little voice in the back of your head that sounds a whole lot like Matt Cutts. The second you try to monetize this page by including ads, you’re on his naughty list.)
After you’ve got some slick original content that tells your mom something she couldn’t learn from Wikipedia, you’re going to want to add pictures. Because if your mom is searching for Thorsten Kaye, you’d better believe she wants to see pictures of him.
Is your mom happy yet? Maybe, maybe not. It certainly couldn’t hurt to make sure your mom has a link to Thorsten’s official website and maybe to his bio on the official All My Children website. Why? Because those are authoritative sites that make you look like you know what you’re talking about, and going to either of them will make your mom happy.
To keep your mom happy on future visits, you could include some dynamic content – maybe an RSS feed of news about Thorsten Kaye, or a list of recent videos (that feature him) posted on YouTube. Your mom may not come back to the page if she’s already seen everything you have to offer about her favorite soap actor.
Of course, passing the Your Mom Test isn’t always so simple. You may have a client who wants to target [thorsten kaye], but the client page is about soap operas in general and only links to information specifically about Thorsten Kaye. In that case, you need to ask your client why your mom (his mom?) would want to see his page instead of just clicking on the link. Your client may have an answer, but it’s not going to be a valid one. Your mom really has no reason to see his page if she has to click another link to get to the goodies. She’d be much happier clicking on the direct link from the SERP.
Computer-generated content definitely fails the Your Mom Test.
Your mom may never search for some of the phrases you target – [payday loans] come to mind as a popular example – but try to think about each page you’re working on in term’s of your mom’s approval. You want your mom to be happy, right?