What follows is a whistle-stop tour of what SEO is and how to use it when writing content for your website.
I’ve personally written SEO optimised content for dozens of websites, this one included, and I’d love to help you with yours.
If you’d like me to write SEO optimised content for your website, or you’d like me to review your website and make suggestions on how to improve it, please get in touch!
Now without further ado…
Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO as it’s generally known, has become something of a byword for web content as a whole. No discussion of online content writing is complete without some mention of SEO, but it’s a vastly misunderstood topic.
On the one hand you’ll find “experts” arguing that SEO should be your primary consideration when writing web content. On the other you’ll find (if you look hard enough…) people writing great content but getting no attention whatsoever from the search engines.
So where do the two meet? How can you produce quality web content – Content that appeals to your customers and to the search engines? To answer that we’ll need to start at the beginning.
How Search Engines Work
Firstly, when I talk about ‘the search engines’ what I’m really talking about are the big players: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Of these three, Google are the almighty titans of internet search.
So how do they work? In essence, they seek to catalogue all websites using automated ‘crawler’ robots – Essentially these are computer programs that travel around the internet indexing every website they find. They travel using links, like this one, that connect whole series of websites together. In fact links, or hyperlinks as they’re officially known, connect nearly every website in existence.
The short version – Links Make The World(WideWeb) Go Round.
As each site is indexed, certain information is stored in data centres around the world. These data centres are, unsurprisingly, vast. At the time of writing there are over 980 million publicly accessible websites. Around 75% of these are inactive, but are nonetheless mostly indexed by the big search engines.
Once the crawlers have indexed a site, it can be found by your average consumer using a search engine.
Easy, right? Sadly not.
Your website has been indexed, but there’s a second part to this equation: Rankings.
Every website is allocated a ranking for each of its pages according to its relevance and importance against a given search term. For the following explanations of those terms, let’s assume you’ve written a page for your website dedicated to the sale of dog biscuits.
Relevance is a search engine’s perception of how closely matched your webpage is to what’s been typed into the search box.
Importance is exactly how it sounds – Each search engine assigns a value to every webpage it’s indexed. This value indicates how important, or valuable that webpage is.
Every time someone searches for something using a search engine, the engine returns results (usually thousands of them) that it thinks are appropriate. How does it know which pages are appropriate? It makes a decision on the perceived relevance and importance of each page based on what’s been typed into the search box. That means your webpage will have a different ranking position depending on what’s been searched for.
What is SEO?
SEO is effectively the practice of making webpages more attractive to search engines – That is increasing the relevance and importance of each page.
Returning to our example, the relevance of your web page is going to vary depending on what’s typed into the search engines. Sadly, it’s often the case that five people all looking for the same product will type in five entirely different things. For instance, the search terms “dog biscuits”, “dog biscuits UK”, and “organic dog biscuits” might all be used, but the perceived relevance of your page will be different for each one. These search terms, by the way, are known as Keywords.
In order to rank well for relevance in the search engines, it’s vital that each webpage is focused on just one keyword. Keyword research is usually conducted using tools such as Google Adwords, and this research is paramount because choosing the wrong keyword could be fatal. For instance, you might write an SEO optimised page focusing on the keyword “dog crackers”. The search engines might then perceive that your page is extremely relevant to that keyword, and indeed that your page is very important. If, however, nobody ever types “dog crackers” into a search engine, they’ll never find you.
Choosing a keyword is a judgement call. It’s important to weigh up, using a tool like Adwords, the following factors:
- The number of times a keyword is searched for in an average month
- The competition; that is, the number of other webpages seeking to rank for that keyword
There are other considerations, of course – The keyword you choose must be highly relevant to what you’re trying to achieve, for example.
Now that you’ve chosen a keyword, you can write your webpage. In order to be deemed relevant to that keyword you’re going to need to use it throughout the content of that page. For this reason, the ‘naturalness’ of a keyword is an important consideration. Returning to our example, “dog biscuits” is going to be pretty easy to weave into your content, but “dog biscuits UK” is not.
How do you use that in a sentence?
Of course, focusing on a specific keyword doesn’t prevent you from including other information in your page. If your dog biscuits are organic and being sold in the UK you should by all means say so – Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to cram every relevant keyword into your page.
There are other aspects of your page that will also affect your relevance score: including your keyword in titles, for one. There are also some considerations for underlying HTML code behind your webpage, namely meta descriptions. These descriptions are generally not seen by visitors to your site, but they are seen by the search engines. Meta descriptions are applied to images, hyperlinks, and even the page as a whole. Ideally your keyword would be used in these meta descriptions, although as I’ll explain later it’s important not to try to ‘game’ the search engines.
Finally we come to the importance of your page. How do search engines determine importance? Well, primarily, by popularity. If thousands of people visit your page every day, the search engines will deem it to be important, and send you more traffic. Easy, right? Sadly this isn’t much help when you’re writing content for a new webpage, and especially for a brand new website. You aren’t getting any traffic at all yet, so how can you become important?
There are a number of factors at play here, but the main one is links. Remember I said earlier that links make the world go round? Well not only do they help search engines to index sites, they also tell them how important the sites are.
In very simplistic terms, the more people who link to your webpage from their sites, the more important you’ll be perceived to be. In fact, that’s exactly how it used to work.
The problem? People tried to use that to their advantage by creating websites that were simply a bunch of links, spamming links to their websites all over forums, etc.
As a consequence of this misbehaviour, the search engines got clever. In order to get value from a link to your website, it must come from a trusted source, i.e. a website that is already deemed to be important. If you get lots of these links, your importance grows. If you get lots of links from ‘bad’ sources, you’ll be deemed to be bad as well and your importance will plummet.
It’s for this reason that link building strategies are a major part of all good online marketing plans. This could take the form of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, often through Google Ads, or it could simply be a case of convincing people to link to your site.
How do you do that? By writing good content that people want to share.
So What Makes Good Web Content?
Well, the short answer is this:
Good web content is focused, well-written and helpful.
In essence, the aim is to write your content primarily for your human readers, but to give SEO it’s due. I’m going to state this clearly, and it’s important that you never forget it:
There is no point in trying to ‘game’ the search engines.
In one sense, it might work. You might write a page that’s almost unreadable to humans, but somehow matches up to exactly what the search engines are looking for in an important and relevant webpage. They might start sending you loads of people who’ve searched for your keyword. Sadly, that’s where your luck runs out. What’s the point in attracting all those people if your webpage immediately turns them off when they arrive? And also, who’s going to link to your content? Exactly.
The search engines use extremely complicated algorithms to determine the relevance and importance of your pages. They also don’t tell anyone exactly what those algorithms are looking for.
Keywords, meta descriptions and links are important. There are some other points to consider as well, which are a bit more in-depth.
But nobody outside of Google knows exactly how the Google algorithms rank pages. Likewise with the other search engines.
The algorithms are also constantly being improved in an attempt to provide search engine users with the pages that best match their search terms. Writing pages purely for the search engines is a battle that will ultimately never be won. The best option is to write quality content for your users, and to give the search engines their due so that they can effectively rank your pages.
Ready To Get Started?
OK, so this page is pretty long. It also barely scratches the surface of writing good web content, and how to use SEO.
I’ve got a wide experience of writing quality content for the web. I’ve managed dozens of sites both for myself and for former employers and clients, and many of my webpages have been on the front page of Google’s search results. My readers have left me quite a bit of very kind feedback.
If you’re interested, I’d love to help you to get the most out of your website. My services include:
- Writing quality web content that appeals to prospects and search engines
- Creating landing pages that create leads and sell your products
- Assessing your existing web content and providing feedback on how to improve it
- Advice and consultancy on how to get more leads and grow your business
If you have questions, or you’d like to work with me, it’d be great to hear from you. Just complete the form below and I’ll be in contact very soon.
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