Are You an Echo?
Yes, I repeated that twice… it was an echo (just me entertaining myself…lol). But let’s talk about being an “echo” online. What do you think that means? To me, it was something I promised myself I would NOT be with my blog and my “PotPieGirl” work online.
I refuse to be an echo.
How about you?
There is so much noise online. It really amazes me at times how LOUD the internet can be. Now that social media like Twitter and FaceBook are mainstream, the noise is overwhelming at times. When I spent a week or so researching for my Google Panda survival post, it became so painfully evident to me that much online IS an echo.
When the latest release of Panda was confirmed, the same story was repeated on many, many sites. Very few had anything new to add to it. Very few even gave the details in a unique voice. Just the same ol’ information on another page on the internet. The web pages I linked to were ones that made ME think. Gave me something new to ponder…another piece of the puzzle.
I’ve heard people refer to being an echo as “Me Too Marketing”. That pretty much means that one doesn’t add anything original to the subject. They read what someone else thinks about the topic, post that info on their site, and are pretty much saying “Me too”.
News sites do it all the time – but how many of us are running news websites?
On my Panda Survival post, someone said this at the beginning of his comment:
“Always love your ability to formulate your own opinions about things Jennifer, and not merely jump on the bandwagon so to speak!”
(thank you, Joseph!)
But at the end of the day, isn’t that what I am supposed to do? Have my own opinion? Formulate my own thoughts told in my own voice? Stay OFF the bandwagon?
And then Allan said (thank you):
“Jennifer, that’s one of the most well researched, well thought out and useful posts I’ve read in a long time!”
Again, isn’t that what I am supposed to do?
When you’re marketing on the Web you have to divide your time between three basic activities:
1. Creating content
2. Telling people about your content
3. Using your content to tell people about your content
And I agree, that is what we do.
But I think that we get so caught up in doing those three main things that we easily slip into becoming yet another “echo” online – especially with affiliate marketing.
How many times have you used Google to get some info on a product and find that most – or all – of the Page 1 results all have the same information on them? Heck, many times the sites even LOOK the same.
When you’re researching a new niche to get in, do you ever type your target keyword into Google and really LOOK at each web page on Page 1?
It amazes me how many people do NOT do this.
We are taught to worry about keyword research,how many results we get when we put the keyword in quotes, who is using the phrase in their title tag, what kind of keyword density the pages have, what kind of Page Rank does the competition have, and alllllll those other things that enable us to gauge “competition”.
But we are never told to really LOOK at each page.
There’s a reason a web page ranks #1 – and no, “quality” is not always the reason. Back links can totally get you to #1 – but getting to #1 doesn’t mean you’ll make money…and being on Page 1 definitely puts you front and center for a manual review. Manual reviews are done by people, right?
In my last Google Panda post, I talked about two case study sites. I told everyone what the top 10 results for a keyword search for one of those target keywords looks like NOW.
No, it wasn’t great. The product owner had 3 listings from 3 different domains in the top 10 – and all 3 were pretty much an echo of the others.
Then there were a few affiliate sites that also echoed what the product site said.
And then, there were 2 forum threads that ranked on page 1. One of the threads was from 2005…the other from 2006.
It baffled me how a search engine that prides itself on fresh new content could be putting years-old forum threads on Page 1 – and I’m seeing this more and more often lately in other query spaces.
But then it hit me -
Know what people do when they type to others in a forum situation?
They just talk – each in their own unique voice. No one (for the most part) is trying to sell anything…no one is trying to “optimize” their post – they are just talking.
Forum posts tend to NOT be an echo.
Forum posts tend to share people’s genuine thoughts on a topic. They tend to start with someone asking a question – and then lots of people give their unique answers.
(unless, of course, the forum allows affiliate or promotional links in the signature line…then the echos DO happen)
I’d like each of you to really LOOK at your affiliate sites…. then really LOOK at those that rank in the Top 10…
Are you an echo?
Are you bringing anything new to the table or are you just repeating the features and benefits that the sales page has?
Does your site even LOOK different than the other sites?
Does your site scream “Affiliate Site!!!!” within seconds of the page loading on your screen?
I am not pointing fingers here at all. Trust me, I am guilty of it too!
Do you know what questions manual reviewers at Google are asked to answer when they look at a web page? (thanks Rach)
Here they are – straight from the Official Google Blog (I’m spacing these out well so we can each REALLY read them):
Would you trust the information presented in this article?
Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
How much quality control is done on content?
Does the article describe both sides of a story?
Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Pretty heavy list, isn’t it?
And when I think about YouTube ranking so well…. yeah, I get a bit confused…lol. Not to sound like a fast food commercial asking “Where’s the Beef?” – but Where’s the Articles? (but that’s a post for another day. Besides, Google has their hands full with government agencies as they try to defend that they don’t favor Google-owned properties in their organic results).
Back to the list of questions…
I can tell you first hand that I have plenty of sites that would get blasted to no-where land in the Google SERPs if a manual reviewer ever came around…ugh!
Then I have others that while they don’t LOOK pretty, the content is good.
And no, I’m not going to say the content is good because “it’s unique” – unique content is not enough anymore.
On those sites I actually took some time to learn about the topic – and then took what *I* learned and wrote it in my own unique voice. As I’ve said before – if *I* learn something, I feel good about what I write. That’s like my “litmus” test for writing in markets I am not familiar with.
In that content, I didn’t say what I thought others wanted to hear… I also didn’t say the things that would be found on a sales page, either.
Know what? Those sites do pretty darn well. Go figure, huh?
We all know the feeling we get when we search online and find crap, right?
But we also know that feeling we get when we find just what we needed.
That’s an awesome feeling, isn’t it?
When the world thinks of the internet, the majority thinks (and uses) Google – and Google has a mess on their hands.
That list of questions above tells me what Google is trying to do.
When the average consumer searches Google, they find the same “echo” crap we find. On the other hand, the average consumer thinks Google is ranking the BEST content – the best ANSWER on page 1 of their results…and they tend to naturally trust the #1 result.
Hey, almighty Google said it’s #1 so of course they should trust it, right? Sadly, that isn’t true… just read this story of one lady’s horrific story after trusting a #1 search result in Google….ugh!
You and I both know that #1 in Google does NOT mean #1. It DOES mean that somehow, that website owner (or staff) worked their way there via the Google algo. A #1 ranking from Google is not an endorsement for that web page…it simply means that web page is winning the SEO race at that moment.
No other search engine is going to do better – at least not for a long time. Google is it now and they won’t stand still to let another search engine even TRY to catch up.
Good for them. Google, to me, is a prime example of “keep moving forward”.
That list of questions above tells me what Google is trying to clean up – loud and clear.
In the comments of my last Panda post, many asked me if SEO was still important.
YES it IS still important – very important.
Having a solid understanding of good SEO and the ability to use the skills is really important.
Think if you were building a house. The blueprints show how to build a solid structure that will last, right? That’s what good SEO does for your site – helps you build a solid structure. SEO best practices are super important.
Just like those blueprints make a HOUSE, the same goes for your site. Good SEO makes a solid site with good accessibility, structure, and the signals Google looks for in a site.
But a blueprint does not make a HOME… YOU make it a home. And YOU – your unique voice – make your site a place for PEOPLE. A place online they trust, they talk about, they come back to… they want to SHARE with others.
In the SEO-Theory.com post I referred to earlier in this post, Michael goes on to say:
“You earn links by making people think. You don’t actually have to change their minds. You just have to make them think.”
Now I know that when it comes to affiliate sites, all we really want people to think is “Wow, I am SO clicking that link and buying!!!” – I totally get that…lol!
But how much of your content is created for that sole purpose – just to get them to click?
I know, I know… the other sites on Page 1 of a Google search are garbage – and we’re gonna have to deal with that for a long, long time to come. Worse yet, many times “garbage sites” will out rank us – it happens.
But let’s all really LOOK at our sites… think about the questions Google asks their reviewers – and review our own work. Do you pass your own manual review? Can you do better? Can you bring something new to the query space?
Are you an echo?
Just think about it.
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