Former Google Rater weighs in on Quality & SEO Analysis

girl telling another girl a secret

If you think SEO is just a matter of good keywords, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

By Syble Harrison, SJ Marketing Conceptor

Before I became a copywriter for SJ, I spent three years as a senior website rater on contract for Google. After a stint behind enemy lines (Google’s not really the enemy, but you get the point), I learned one thing for sure: A high-quality website with a so-so keyword strategy will rank higher than a so-so quality website with an awesome keyword strategy—every time.

Don’t get me wrong. Keywords are necessary (and powerful). But, quality, not keywords, should always be the foundation of your SEO strategy. Here’s why.

Google wants to be useful

The goal of Google Search is to help people find what they’re looking for. And what people are looking for is websites that are useful, not websites built to generate traffic by tricking the search engine with keywords. Your awesome keyword strategy may very well earn you page-one status. But, believe me, Google is always on the hunt to make sure that status is short-lived.

Only high-quality (i.e. useful) sites will take up permanent residence on page one.

High-quality websites have useful pages

The biggest mistake a company can make is to assume “high-quality” means “a pretty design and a solid set of keywords.” Site design does factor in the overall quality score, but its effect is minuscule compared to site usefulness. And a useful site is filled with useful pages.

Useful pages answer questions and solve problems

For example, imagine you’re doing research on fishing, and you enter the search term “fishing techniques.” Now, imagine your first result is a blog post on a fancy fishing gear website. The post is stuffed full of the keyword “fishing techniques,” but it doesn’t provide good info, the writing is bad, and it’s obvious that the point of the post was to get people on the site to buy fishing gear.

On the other hand, imagine your first result is a blog post on a less fabulous-looking fishing gear website. But this post is well-written and informative. And, even though it’s on a fishing gear website, you don’t feel like the point of the post is to trick you into buying something.

Despite the first site’s superior design and more intuitive interface, its landing page would rate as much lower quality than the second site’s landing page.

An otherwise great site with too many low-quality pages will ultimately rank as a low-quality site.

High-quality sites are cared for

Another lesser-known factor in a site’s quality score is whether the site shows evidence of care.

Updated copyright

One of the surest indicators of care is an updated copyright. It may seem unimportant, but a copyright that’s five years old screams abandonment and neglect. Set a reminder to update yours every January.

Working links and forms

This one is huge—and often missed. Broken links and wonky forms are extremely frustrating for users. So, a site with too many such problems is considered too frustrating to be useful. Schedule regular page checks to make sure your interface is in working order.

Fast loading speed

Frustration is the key with this one, too. We all (including Google) know how irritating it is to sit idly in front of a slow-loading page. A site that wastes time is anything but useful. If left unchecked, too many slow-loading pages will significantly ding a site’s quality score. Again, make loading-speed checks part of your regular SEO maintenance schedule.

It’s about balance

Achieving and maintaining the coveted page-one status requires a balanced approach. Definitely, don’t ditch your keyword strategy. Just be sure to apply that strategy to a site built with human beings—not just their pocketbooks—in mind.

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Why Authenticity is Key to Corporate Philanthropy

Giving is great for business… as long as that’s not why you’re doing it.

Authenticity. It’s easy to mess it up if your heart’s not in what you’re doing. After all, authenticity is, well… authentic. Missing this point is precisely the reason so many companies’ corporate philanthropy campaigns fail to impress. Continue reading…

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Beacons – Little Powerhouses in the Digital Landscape

young woman looking at beacon message on cell phone

Have you walked into a store to find a coupon appear instantly on your phone? Then you’ve been beaconed. Check out a few impressive stats on these miniature marketing marvels hitting the digital landscape.

What Beacons are and How They Work

Beacons are small, battery-powered transmitters that send targeted messages to nearby mobile devices via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. At anywhere from $5 to about $50 each, beacons are relatively inexpensive. Cost factors include features such as battery life and signal range. Continue reading…

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4 Reasons Reno is Becoming a ‘Best Place to Live & Own a Business’

western desert highway outside reno a best place to live

You’ve probably heard that Tahoe’s sister city, Reno, NV, is booming; here are four top main reasons why.

Since anyone can remember, the Reno and mountain areas have, in many ways, operated as one. But, while the Tahoe-Truckee sector has been able to enjoy a consistently strong tourism industry, our biggest little sister city has limped along in recent years. Back in 2011, with its unemployment rate close to 14% and its once-strong gambling industry on the slow-fade, the future was looking uncertain for the charming historic town. Continue reading…

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Pet Network Just Keeps Getting More Awesome

pet network puppy paws

Local Tahoe pet rescue organization Pet Network Humane Society (who, we’re quite proud to say, is also our client) helped bring in 160 pets to make room for animals displaced in the recent hurricanes.

Yep, you heard us right. Our client Pet Network Humane Society really is that awesome. The organization led the charge in early October to free up some room in New Orleans area animal shelters, funding two air shipments of 80 pets each into local airports. Read on to learn how these heroes did it. Continue reading…

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3 Tips to Help Your Business Survive (and Thrive!) the Offseason

girl working in a cafe

Don’t let the offseason get you down. Just get busy stirring things up. (Photo by Alex Robert on Unsplash)

It can feel a bit like paying the piper. We enjoy eight or nine months of business so booming we can hardly handle it, then—WHAMwhere’d all the shiny happy people go?

Truth is, the shiny happy people (and their money) are so busy doing other things, they aren’t thinking about resort-life fun. But you have the power to change that! Continue reading…

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Tourism Marketing: How Archetypes Can Help Create Authenticity

group of lake tahoe tourists toasting in a restaurant

Tell a Story to Create a Connection in Tourism Marketing

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away they all lived happily ever after.

As human beings, we crave stories because we’re brought-up on them. They’re how we communicate with one another. So, it’s only natural that we want to connect with a place, an idea, or a brand through a story. And, an essential element of a story is a strong cast of characters based on commonly understood archetypes: “The Hero,” “The Caregiver,” “The Lover,” “The Rebel.” Continue reading…

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Local Advertising Online: Try Evergreen Facebook Ads

local advertising online

Most platforms for local advertising online have developed some aspect of self-service to make it easier than ever for anyone to set up an ad campaign. So, you could probably spend a few hours per platform figuring out how to do this yourself, but would you be maximizing your spend? Would you be targeting the right people? Would you know how to analyze campaign stats to determine what’s working and what isn’t — or even execute an A-B test? Continue reading…

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Straight Up Marketing Results w/a Twist (& Shout)

Our clients had marketing results worth making noise about in 2016.
Here’s a sample of what they achieved with the help of SJ Marketing strategies and execution:

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8 Emails = $117,000 in Revenue

A resort client generated a little under $117,000 in holiday dining and lodging revenues with the help of an SJ Marketing campaign. The digital strategy included eight emails for which we recommended switching platforms to better access and segment prospects.

The results? Dinner reservations doubled over the previous year and the average dining and lodging ROI per email was about $14,500. The fee for the more effective email tool? $750.


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Facebook Results Rocked

A client was able to sell out a seasonal attraction ahead of schedule thanks, in part, to the creative strategy brainstormed by their SJ Marketing team. Taking into account a modest budget, we recommended a precisely timed Facebook campaign.

An analysis of past ad conversions revealed that results were 30% better on one day of the week. SJ Marketing created two urgency-based campaigns to take advantage of this timing and consumers took action.


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Online Survey Outperforms Targeted Input

A government agency client achieved more than their targeted public input on a project with over 300 responses to an electronic survey developed by SJ Marketing. The survey was part of an integrated outreach campaign.

Other components included an online slideshow that educated over 4,000 viewers and community open houses, which attracted record attendance. The outreach efforts also helped increase visits to the client’s website. They doubled year over year.


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Mobile Site Update: Downhillers Up-to-Speed

With the mobile site update they commissioned from SJ Marketing, a ski resort client is attracting more downhillers this season. The new mobile display is designed for a faster load time.

The custom header also features topics that are the most relevant to skier/boarders. It’s quicker and easier to tap the information they need on their way to the slopes.


Ready to start a similar success story for your business? Give SJ Marketing a shout. We’d love to collaborate with you. Call us at 775.831.6262, or email

— Kelly Houston, President/Account Services

Kelly has specialized in advertising and marketing strategies for the last 15 years. Since 1997, she has focused primarily on internet marketing. As Director of Account Services, she oversees all projects, ensuring that work is completed on time, that marketing efforts are integrated for cross-platform benefits, and that the integrity of each brand is maintained.

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Another Pea to a World of Pods – A Quick Guide to Instagram Pods

peas in a pod

Been wondering about Instagram pods? Wonder no more! (Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash)

Instagram Pods have sprouted all over, so because Instagram holds a special place in my heart, I’ll answer what they are, whether you should be a part of one, how to join and I’ll give my final opinion — even though you didn’t ask for it. 😉 Continue reading…

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I’ll Take Your Numbers, and Raise You by a Format and a Graph

using charts and graphs for data analysis

Marketing Analytics—Why visuals are your best friend ever

Here I am, coming into week four of a football pool. I’ve been close to the bottom every week (not the bottom, just close…alright practically bottom) and I can’t figure out why I can’t even be mid-pack. Continue reading…

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Team Building: Blending the Seasoned and the Green and Somewhere in Between


We work in marketing. It’s an exciting and rewarding industry, most of the time, but we’re often called upon to solve a problem for our clients. How can we increase our group business? How can we make the most of our marketing budget? How can we get more people to join our email database? How do we get the top spot in a Google search?

Because we’re so intent on developing solutions for our dear clients, we rarely look at ourselves as an organization, as an agency, and ask ourselves, what are our challenges? What problems do we need to solve for ourselves?

“In an agency environment where we always focus on the client, it’s easy to forget about the company’s greatest asset—its employees,” said Kelly Houston, President.

And when you’ve been around for 30 years, you find yourself with a diverse team—in longevity, age, experience, ideas, and knowledge. Then add to that mix our remote workers, whom we rarely see beyond an email or video call. So, how do you create a cohesive, productive (and fun) culture with such a diverse and geographically dispersed crew?

Two words: Team-building events.

In other words, you make everyone hike two miles straight up a mountain on a sunny 80-degree afternoon. But don’t worry, we’ll have cheese and crackers with some wine (because we’re classy) waiting for you at the top.

With that said, on Wednesday, September 28, “Elevate SJ” kicked off with a group hike to Snowflake Lodge at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, where we took in panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, munched on appetizers and sipped on a few adult libations, while our resident canine companions canvassed the area.

“Nacho found a deer’s leg, or something. And then got sick,” said Jesse Plate, Digital Services Manager and pet owner.

Aside from that obvious excitement, the SJ team participated in a fun and uplifting activity at 7,440 feet, where we had an opportunity to build each other up by sharing positive traits of each of our teammates.

“It was a nice reinforcement to read positive, uplifting comments from your coworkers,” said Darolyn Skelton, Business Development/Account Executive http://enligneviagr... Others, like Lynn Finnigan, Copywriter, commented that the group activity made them feel appreciated.

After hearing from others, we each shared a few words of what makes us proud as individuals.  Several agreed that getting to work for a marketing agency in Tahoe was very near the top of their list.

“I felt positive and energized,” said Skelton, who also helped organize the event. “I feel it was a success and it seemed like everyone had a good time.”

It is clear that the event and activities generated positive, and constructive takeaways while creating an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other on a more personal, honest level through socializing outside of the office.

“Getting out of the work environment and seeing everyone as a real person improves trust and helps communication,” said Houston. “That’s worth more than most anything in my book.”


–Brianna Sheck, Studio Manager, SJ Marketing

An MS in Integrated Marketing Communications and a BS in Technical Communication with a minor in Journalism were the beginning of Brianna’s career in digital and traditional marketing nearly 15 years ago. Today, she enjoys “wearing many hats,” combining strategic support with creative concepting, from project management to media planning to graphic design.

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