Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is a term that is thrown around a lot when creating content for the web. The name can definitely come across as intimidating and confusing, but the basic principles of SEO are actually quite simple to understand.
At the most basic level, search engine optimization is exactly what it sounds like, making it so your content is more appealing and friendly to search engine searches. People use SEO techniques to try to make their content more easily found when doing a search online. Different techniques include using commonly searched keywords and having links to your content from other reputable sites.
The hardest part to understand is how search engines rank their results. Search engines like Google do not publicly release the algorithm that they use to determine where a site ranks on the search result page so there is really no way of knowing exactly what factors are at play. Furthermore, Google is regularly updating their algorithm to ensure that quality content is displayed higher so the methods are always changing. Content that tries to scam the system by over-optimization is now penalized and ranked lower.
At its worst, SEO techniques rely on cheap gimmicks to drastically increase their search engine traffic. For example, an article run by the Huffington Post prior to the 2011 Super Bowl received a lot of criticism for their title “What Time Does the Super Bowl Start?” The article wasn’t directly about the starting time of the Super Bowl, and the title was just a gimmick to take advantage of the large number of people doing a search for the Super Bowl’s starting time. Readers are not fooled by these types of techniques, and they will quickly be turned off by them.
At its best, SEO is a good technique that people can use to attract more readers. The goal is to think of what people might be searching for when they would come across your article, and target those search keywords in the content. The proper use of SEO for your blog will ensure that the people who want to read your content are able to find you. You should make sure that your information is relevant to the common search terms, and don’t ever including irrelevant keywords just for the sake of increasing your web traffic. You want to encourage people to return to your blog after discovering it through their search engine search, so have something valuable to say about the topic they are searching about.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an important strategy to attract more web traffic to your blog or website. When done correctly, SEO can help you to increase your number of regular visitors. The proper use of SEO is all about treading a fine line between getting good rankings in search engine results and providing informative, interesting, and highly readable content to your visitors. However, the poor use of SEO techniques may actually backfire and cause your regular readers to quit following the site.
Don’t Use SEO Just for SEO’s Sake
When many people try to optimize their blog for search engine rankings, they typically tend to overdo it. They do things like tag articles with excessive keywords and stuff as many keywords into their posts as they can. For a while, these types of techniques would trick Google and other popular search engines into giving the page a much higher ranking. Thankfully, there have been a number of recent updates to search engine algorithms that change the way search engine results are calculated and make these techniques less successful.
Overuse of SEO Makes Content Less Readable
When these techniques are abused, the quality of the written content is highly compromised. Instead of having a well-written post or article that flows nicely and is easy to read, the reader will find short blurbs of texts overstuffed with keywords. Existing followers of your site will no longer want to read the content, so they may wind up just skimming over what you have to say, or might just unsubscribe altogether.
Why the Type of Increased Web Traffic is Not What You Want
Increasing web traffic is one of the biggest goals of using search engine optimization techniques. When you optimize naturally and sparingly, readers will hardly even notice the change. But when you overstuff the article with keywords to the point that it is no longer readable, people will certainly take notice.
The search engine might boost the ranking (at least until the next algorithm update is released) leading to a temporary boost in traffic. But the people that are directed to your site will not tend to stick around for very long, and are not likely to return again. The search engine optimization tricks them into visiting, but once they fail to find anything of interest, they will quickly close out the page and move onto something else, never to return again. Focusing primarily on the content and using SEO sparingly is the best way to encourage repeat visitors to your site.
There’s a disturbing trend going around the SEO writing world right now and it has been for a few months. They are called “Build My Rank” articles (a.k.a. BMR articles) and they are basically short, 150 word articles with one link in them.
There are a few reasons that this is disturbing to me:
- You’re paying for links; something Google considers a black hat method of SEO. Google HATES paid links.
- They are too short! The service requires the articles to be at least 150 words, but unfortunately that’s barely enough space to form a coherent thought much less provide useful and insightful information that the search engines and readers can appreciate.
- People are posting projects for these on Elance and paying very little for them, so it’s probably safe to assume the quality is not good either.
It seems that even though the Panda update last year caused a huge rift, people are still not learning from their mistakes and keep on making the same ones. The best way to build your rank is to not use a service called Build My Rank (that should seem a little fishy in the eye’s of Google anyway) and to follow what they have already shown us they will rank you for. In fact, this link network is no different than any of the other link networks of the past that don’t work anymore (like LinkVine or LinkVana).
Simple and Common Sense Ways to Build You Rank
The best way to improve search engine rankings is to do what the search engines do like and these have all been learned from seeing what they don’t like through the various Panda update rollouts that took place last year.
- Provide quality content
- Build brand-name anchor text links
- Use content-based linkbuilding
- Use on-site linkbait to draw in links
- Post to high-quality and relevant directories
- Become a resource
- Don’t over use the same anchor text in linkbuilding
What Won’t Build Your Rank
- Low amount of original content
- Low quality content and high number of pages with low original content
- High percentage of duplicate content
- High percentage boilerplate content
- High amount of irrelevant advertisements
- Unnatural use of a word on a single page
- Meta tags that don’t match the page content
- Article spinning
- Links in guest posts that aren’t relevant
- Scraping from blogs
- Posting to low quality directories
Interestingly, there’s a lot more items that won’t build your rank than there are those that will. Sticking with the simple and common sense methods will yield the best results in the long run.
Make Lasting Long-Term Investments
These services tend to have short-term success. It is just a matter of time before Google decides it’s nothing more than buying links and they will slap it out just like they did content farms and link networks last year. From what others who have use this service have written, it is expensive and time consuming and you’re better off putting your effort to better use elsewhere.
If you’re going to spend time and money, make your investment worth it. Articles on your website and blog that attract links and attention are going to have a lasting effect and will help you build your rank the natural way, which is the best way.
Link networks have come and gone and they will likely continue that way. It doesn’t take much time at all until they become fruitless and leave you having spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on links that may actually harm you in the long run.
Finally, I can’t stress enough that quality does matter. I recently had someone tell me they just needed short articles for SEO, and that quality and grammar didn’t matter. I just looked at my computer screen and shook my head. The search engines want to return quality results to searches because they know the readers want quality. They are penalizing low-quality and rewarding high quality! Quality matters! It’s that simple.
Of course, if you don’t have the time or ability to write quality content yourself, you’ve always got Words You Want to turn to. 🙂
I know there are probably hundreds of articles (if not more) online about writing for the web, but I feel the need to reiterate a few points that pertain to it. I recently had an encounter that really emphasized the point that not everyone who orders articles, eBooks and content really realize the difference between web writing and academic writing.
Remember Your Audience
When people think of writing, their immediate instinct is to think of the research papers and reports that they wrote in high school and college. While this is where people typically learn how to write, the style that is beat into your mind then is not how people in the real world actually read. It’s important to realize that your audience is not a college professor. Your audience is everyday people that are just looking to learn some information from you and perhaps consider purchasing your services or products based on that information. If you come across as a boring and bland research paper, the chances that they feel as though they will be able to relate to you are entirely diminished and the chances of you making a sale are pretty much out the door.
There are all sorts of people online. Many are high school and college graduates, but many are not. You don’t want to alienate any of your readers, so it’s important that your content is written in a conversational style. You don’t want the writing to be condescending, but you also don’t want to talk over their heads either. Your content needs to have a common style that the common man or woman will enjoy, no matter what their educational background is.
It’s All About Style
It’s funny that I actually just wrote a blog about style a couple of weeks ago and how a writer and a client don’t necessarily meet eye to eye when it comes to style. This is the reason it’s important that clients thoroughly review a writer’s portfolio prior to hiring them. Saying that, it’s also important to remember style when it comes to your readers. Online readers want to read content that sounds like it is talking directly to them and addressing their needs on a personal level. They want to feel as though they are reading the advice given to them by their sister, brother or best friend. This is why second person is heavily used in web writing. It speaks directly to your reader like you’ve known them forever – sort of like this paragraph of this blog.
In addition to personal and conversational writing, your content needs to be rich with information. You need to strive to provide details and answers. You need to try and ensure that the reader is learning from everything you publish, but you want to make that learning fun and not work. This is why content written for the Internet uses a lot of short paragraphs, subheadings, questions and bullet points.
Voicing Your Expectations
As a writer, I realize that conversational writing doesn’t apply to every facet of online business, so if you require writing that has a little more of a professional tone, then it’s important to voice that as an expectation when you order content. Conversational writing is default, but we are flexible. Writers are more than happy to write in a more businesslike manner, but this is something that you need to tell us ahead of time. It’s very difficult to turn a conversational piece into a business piece without having to completely rewrite it, and depending on the level of professionalism required, we might have to charge a little more for that content as well.
If you do require more professional content, you still don’t want it to be bland and boring. The content should have a little second person in it and it should have a hint of a conversational tone to it. Today’s businesses are changing and they aren’t leaning towards the bland and boring, but the interesting and fun. Businesses aren’t trying to take everything so serious anymore. In fact, if you look at many of the business websites today, you’ll find that they are trying to connect with their readers with more humor and style. Again, it’s all about relating to your reader. Writing from the heart and with a little bit of conversational style shows that you care about your reader and you don’t want to bore them to death.
Thoughts on Grammar Checking Software
As writers, we know that programs such as Microsoft Word are not perfect. It’s impossible for software to pick up on the nuances of modern English. We use words and phrases today that software simply doesn’t know what to do with. Whenever writers see programs mark up these phrases, we simply ignore them, confident that we know what we are saying and doing. However, we realize that clients aren’t as familiar with these issues as we are and it’s alarming when you see colored squiggly lines. While you’re busy running a business and we’re busy telling Word that a specific word does exist in the English language and that a certain phrase is proper. We’ll deal with all the little green and red squiggly lines so you don’t have to.
If you do choose to check our work with software, that’s fine, but please keep in mind that SEO writing is different academic writing. Please make sure your software knows the difference as well! Again, your audience is not your Freshman Comp professor. Your audience is a real person looking for real answers to their problems. They don’t want to read a long research report, but something that’s concise and easy to comprehend quickly. Our world may be overrun with computers, but it’s been proven time and time again that they don’t always make the correct decision, so a little common sense can go a long way.
Remember that your readers are looking for answers quickly and they want to find them efficiently. If they have to look up a word in the dictionary or if your content comes across as “uptight”, they’re going to click off your page and will likely never return. Whether you write articles and blogs for your readers or if you create video content or podcasts, keep it conversational. Don’t exclude any potential buyer because they can’t relate to you or your content. Be friendly and efficient and you’ll win over the hearts of your readers quickly.