We all know that a website’s ability to score leads and conversions depends heavily on search engine optimization.  If it didn’t, the web wouldn’t be inundated (and I mean, Flooded with a capital “F”) with ebooks and blogs and guides and tutorials and forum-discussions and webinars on how to best “OPTIMIZE OPTIMIZE OPTIMIZE!”

But Google’s algorithm is shrouded in mystery.

Like a fickle lover, it tells us it likes something and then seems to change its mind when we deliver.  Sure, Google releases search quality evaluation guidelines— clarifying its preferences like some sort of profile on steroids. And analysts like Backlinko and Moz do a pretty awesome job of attempting to unpack it all for those of us who would rather search for humorous giphys than attempt to digest all of those one hundred and sixty-four pages.  

But the exact algorithm can only be hypothesized.

It’s truly a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside Google’s cavernous enigma (as glorious as Google thinks its cavernous enigma may be).


We do know that web structure is important. The guidelines list all the usual “must haves”:

→ Clean web architecture
→ High page load speed
→ Domain maturity
→ Domain authority
→ Domain security
→ “Whois” Status

But Google isn’t all about solid framework. Sticking with its retired claim that it’s not evil (ahem….), Google cares much more about what’s on the inside.  

When a Google crawler checks out your site, it’s looking for much more than a great body. It wants the whole package. And what’s on the inside, my friends, is  CONTENT.


Great content establishes your site as authoritative, relevant, up to date, and credible– all major factors in search quality evaluation.  Let’s breakdown content’s appeal, seeing it how a discerning crawler might:

♥ Great content is a snappy dresser.  HubSpot’s “Ultimate Guide to Google Ranking Factors in 2019” declares that “keyword optimization is one of the most important factors you can address in your website’s SEO strategy.”  So great content is all dolled up with fashionable keywords, but not the ones just anyone is wearing. And it’s never, ever ostentatious. Keyword stuffing is like too much bling– tasteless and gauche.

♥ Great content has the power of instant attraction.  The topic, headline, and opening sentence are so undeniably sexy that viewers can’t stop themselves from clicking through. Some believe that those CTRs help a site boost their SERP rank for certain keywords.

♥ Great content doesn’t just look good, it can also hold a conversation. It’s interesting and engaging, seducing your audience into a longer session duration and lowering bounce rate– all of which could improve ranking.

♥ Great content has depth. It’s fresh, authoritative, and even well researched.  In fact, some experts are seeing a positive correlation between outbound links and SEO.  This means that properly cited, quality research does more than just establish your authority– it helps your authority get noticed. And we all like a little brand recognition.

♥ Great content is popular. When content shows authority and thought-leadership, other sites want it hanging around, creating backlinks that help you rank.

♥ Great content is articulate. Grammar and spelling mistakes indicate poor quality. So does content that’s written at a lower reading level. Google doesn’t like flim-flam.

If content is so important in the quest for Google-bot attention, then why are so many businesses still outsourcing their content creation to content mills?

Why are so many companies still hung up on the numbers game, filling their site with a ton of poorly written blog posts that lack authority or substance?

Don’t they know that “more” doesn’t always mean “better”?


Didn’t they learn from the famous Panda-Update-Upheaval of 2016— companies scrambling to remove poor quality content before Googlebots caught on– like teenagers scrambling to clean up after an alcohol-fueled rager before mom and dad found out?

Maybe they just refuse to believe that something more than looks could matter.


But wait, even if these companies don’t believe Googlebot has evolved enough to discern the good content from the bad, let’s consider a little thing I like to call ROI. Is it better to purchase ten poorly written blogs for the price of one expertly written piece?

According to most experts, uh… no. In fact, Hubspot calls content creation the “ultimate inbound marketing practice.”

Quality content, even though it’s more costly up front, has the potential to generate considerably more revenue– especially when it comes to building brand awareness and establishing your company as a thought-leader.  

Even a cursory cost-benefit analysis is convincing:

High Quality/ Low Quantity

Low Quality/ High Quantity

Expert keyword analysis guarantees keyword optimization with no risk of stuffing. It’s cheap! You can purchase a blog from a content mill for about $100 versus triple that (at least) from a skilled copywriter.
Engaging copy creates a better user-experience, increasing dwell time. You may achieve keyword optimization accidentally, by virtue of quantity, but you risk stuffing and content that seems repetitive. And cross your fingers that your purchased content isn’t recycled;  Google will ding you for repetition without canonical tags!
Quality, well-researched content establishes you as a thought-leader. High quantity CAN help build topic authority, but it will backfire if the quality is subpar.
Solid outbound links to reputable sources help SEO and can lead to network-building opportunities. You may achieve higher click-through-rates (maybe… if you have some pretty awesome headlines)
Authoritative content can result in backlinks that help SEO and builds brand awareness.
High-quality content is less likely to be duplicated content.
Downloadable quality content can be used to beef up your subscriber list.
Quality content won’t make you look or feel like a shmuck when you share your site at parties.

Now, is all the writing produced by content mills or by novice writers bad? Of course not.

There are many reasons good writers choose to work in content mills or agree to write a 1000 word blog for $100 on Upwork.  Some can produce content like a one-person-word-factory, churning out dozens of blogs a day. I’ve yet to see it (and I certainly couldn’t do it– this post took me hours), but I’ve read the claims. There are also quality writers who are new to the industry and just need to build their portfolio. They’ve got the skills, they just lack the experience.  

So, you’re not guaranteed a loss if you purchase content from a content mill.  But you’ll have far less chance of a win. Especially since Google and your customers want more than a nice body and a pretty face.

Ready to start working on your insides? Click here for more information:


California’s School Bond Measure Conundrum  

School bond measures are listed on local election ballots across California. And, if 2018 is anything like 2017 when only 33% of local bond measures were approved, most of those measures will not pass.

The opposition to school bond measures wasn’t always so overwhelming. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, at least 70% of local bond measures were approved. Sometimes the approval rate was over 90%.  

So what happened? Why are voters refusing to support school bond measures when the economy is supposedly much better than it was seven years ago?

It’s hard to say. There’s been a backlash against school bonds for a variety of reasons: bonds create long-term debt, increase taxes, and require that voters trust school districts to remain transparent. Both proponents and opponents use emotional appeals to generate support. Do you want our kids to be safe and educated? Do you support the exploitation of our schools by criminals who make pay-to-play side deals?  

Regardless of the arguments, one thing is crystal clear. Bonds are not. Crystal clear, that is.

In fact, understanding bond measures requires an understanding of state funding and school financing– far more information than what is typically provided in voter information guides. If there’s a school bond measure on your local ballot, you’ll have a bit of research to do.

Maybe I can help. Continue reading “California’s School Bond Measure Conundrum  “

Want Your Grade-Schooler to Get into College? Better Start Molding Her Now.

When my son was born almost fifteen years ago, his father and I were instructed by our much more financially-savvy friends that we needed to start a college savings fund. “College?!” I thought to myself.  I was still trying to teach my son to call his human-feeding-device, “Mama.”

My friends were right– saving for your child’s future is fiscally responsible, and I’ve since opened a 529 plan.  But saving for college will lead to nothing but tax penalties if your child doesn’t go to college.

And while 60% of parents expect their child to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher,
only 33% actually do.


So what happens in between parent expectation and reality?

Too much focus on saving and not enough focus on preparing.  These days, getting into and graduating from a good college is more challenging than ever.

Case in point: I was admitted to the University of California, San Diego in the mid-1990’s with a 3.6 GPA and an ACT score of 28. My creds were on the low side then (I think my Rolling Stones-inspired essay actually just struck a chord with one of the reviewers), but today, Mick Jagger himself probably couldn’t get me in. According to Prepscholar, the average GPA is 4.0 and the average ACT is 29 for UCSD.

The UC system is no exception– a Business Insider article called the decrease in Ivy League admissions over the last decade “shocking.” Even if your child is able to pull off entrance into a good school, there’s no guarantee she’ll be able to graduate; Bill Gates lamented on his own blog that fewer than 55% of students actually earn a diploma. So, if you are like the majority of parents who expect their child to earn a degree someday, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Before you mourn the death of Junior’s future, know that all hope is not lost. Education research has provided parents with plenty of tools to help get your child college-ready, you just need to know how to find them. I’ll save you the trouble. Here are the top five ways you can help your child get that acceptance letter and earn a degree. Continue reading “Want Your Grade-Schooler to Get into College? Better Start Molding Her Now.”