Guest Post from Matthew Pitt: Do You Know Your SEO From Your Elbow?

Matthew Pitt (With PokerNews buddies)
I must be doing something right, because I finally have a guest post on this blog (There is actually another one in the pipeline too). The man who took over from me at UK PokerNews, Matthew Pitt. He has had a lot of interesting writing gigs in poker, and he knows a boat load more about SEO than I do.

You can learn more about Matthew Pitt at his blog. (Did I link to it correctly? SEO donk here).

Thanks to Matt, and here he is:

As someone who has worked in the poker industry for several years now I thought it would be a good idea to write a guest post for Barry Carter that fits in with his series on poker media industry articles.

Barry recently wrote an article entitled “How Do Poker MediaWebsites Make Money?” and within this article he mentioned terms such as pay-per-click and touched on the subject that a writer's employer may not care much for the quality of the content a writer produces because he is looking purely at how many customers click a specific link within the content provided. One way you can help your articles become more useful to your employer is to employ some basic SEO, that is Search Engine Optimisation, to your content.

The first thing you need to realise is that, in the poker industry especially, Google rules the world. Forget all the rubbish Bing and other search engines try to push on you about them being the best search engine or the most accurate etc Google is the daddy, the head honcho. You are at the mercy of Google and its unknown search algorithms. You are Google's bitch. You no longer search for something on the internet, you Google it; so does your mum and possibly your gran. Google makes the world spin around and being ranked number 1 in Google for a specific term is like holding the Holy Grail in your hands. Think about it. How often do you Google something and simply click the first answer without even looking or thinking about it? Exactly.

The way Google works is down to a number of secret algorithms that work in unison to create an extremely powerful search engine. Regardless if you think it is the best, the most accurate, the fastest or whatever, Google is the industry standard search engine. Although these algorithms are top secret, there are a few assumptions you can make about how Google works and how it ranks content it finds on the world wide web.

  • Google loves new, fresh content
  • Google knows how to read bold and italicised text.
  • Google likes it when content links to other highly ranked content
  • Google is happy when your article has some relevant keywords naturally occurring in your content
  • Google smiles when your headline is related to your content
  • Google gets mad when you blatantly copy other articles
  • Google starts to cry when you link to poor ranking content
  • Google does not like you trying to force readers to click links
  •  Google gets royally pissed off when you try to force keywords down readers throats
There are scores of others but those mentioned above are probably the most common and the ones you have the most control over. As you can see Google is almost like a living, breathing entity that adapts and evolves to bring what it determines is the best content for a person to read, watch etc. It is up to you (and your editor) to keep Google happy.

One of my first jobs in the poker media was to provide copy based on keywords. For months on end I used to churn out articles for some major sites based on keywords I had been given. For example, I would be asked to write a 400-word article about anything I wished as long as it mentioned “poker bankroll management” at least five times somewhere within those 400 words. Sometimes the keywords were perfectly reasonable but then they started to become a little obscure. I distinctly remember having to write a 400-word article that said “poker play online free” at least eight times. You try and fit that non-English rubbish into an article once never mind eight times. I bet Google hated those articles!

After writing between 500-750 of these I now automatically think of keywords whenever I am writing articles, whether the articles are news related or promotional material. A large percentage of the articles I write are poker-related and I know dozens of keywords and phrases that people use to search for other poker related material. In recent weeks I have described someone being dealt pocket aces as “Player A was dealt the best starting hand in Hold'em, pocket aces, and three-bet all-in” or something similar. That small sentence will rank in Google for terms such as:

·         What is the best starting hand in Hold'em?
·         Are aces the best Hold'em hand?
·         How to play pocket aces
·         How often will you get dealt pocket aces?
·         What is a three-bet?

Those five bullet points are all valid questions Joe Bloggs could type into Google and find my article with. Hopefully he will then read the rest of it, click a link to an online poker site and keep my bosses happy!

Emphasising your text by making it bold is another way to ensure Google picks up your content. At PokerNews I always write a player's full name in bold in news articles and keywords in bold in promotional articles. For example, “Get involved in this value-added promotion where we have six freerolls each with a $5,000 prize pool.” Google will read the bold text, think it is important and if someone searches for keywords such as “value-added freeroll” or “freerolls with large prize pools” guess which article it is going to bring up or at least consider bringing up for searchers.

By now you have probably cottoned on that SEO is mainly common sense and that continues when you want to link to other content. When you link to a specific article, particularly one that is not hosted on your site, Google goes all warm and fuzzy inside because you are essentially vouching for that site and spreading the love. If that site has linked to other “good” sites and they are themselves linked to then Google gives you some extra points (in secret of course) and ranks you higher.  This is why I get frustrated when sites copy my work or use it to create articles of their own and do not credit me. I have written articles in the past that were exclusive to me yet they have ended up on a rival site a few hours later and complete with spelling mistakes! Had they copied it and said, “according to UK PokerNews” with a link to the original article Google would have been over the moon and given them a hug. Instead Google will have marked them down for being plagiarisers and possibly future articles they write by themselves will be marked down too. I give credit all of the time whenever I use a site such as Blonde Poker or the PokerStars Blog for tournament reports and live updates. Give credit where it is due.

Last but not least, and following in the same link-related vein, is linking to content naturally. Whenever you link to something you want downloading, reading etc you have to try and make Google you are just suggesting your reader should click. Terms with links in such as “click here” or “read more here” do not impress Google because you are essentially forcing your readers to click a link. What if they didn't want to click a link and they just wanted to carry on reading your article? You are now dictating to your reader what they have to do. Not good.

Imagine you are writing an article about Jake Cody going deep in yet another tournament and whilst talking about him you happy to mention he is a Triple Crown winner. “Jake Cody, one of only four Triple Crown winners, has once against gone deep in a PokerStars.com European Poker Tour event.” I happen to know that I wrote an article when Cody completed his Triple Crown so I can link to that article by using the keywords “Triple Crown.” This merely suggests to the reader that if they click that link on the words “Triple Crown” they are going to be directed to another article about the said Triple Crown. Doing so makes Google so happy that it does a little dance. You should see what Google does if you provide a natural link on a certain keyword that has bold text; I think when this happens a fairy gets its wings.

The ins and outs of SEO can be quite complicated and much of SEO is theory. Nobody knows the algorithms Google uses so it is all trial and error but by following the hints and tips above you should be able to keep Google happy for the time being and if Google is happy with you then your boss usually is too.


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