August 2009

Writing for SEO

You'll see lots of advice about "SEO" or Search Engine Optimizing, or "using keywords." Much of that advice can actually hurt your Google rankings, especially "keyword stuffing," or deliberately over-using the terms you think will bring your page to the top ranks in a search. Google and other search engines are constantly changing the way they calculate search rankings, and they're getting smarter about figuring out ways of rewarding quality sites. That means that the best way of making sure your pages and posts have top search engine rankings and appear in the first few results when someone does a search is to write well.

Really. Good writing trumps all the deliberate use of SEO keyword techniques.

But what, you ask, is good writing? I'm glad you asked, Grasshopper.

To begin with, good writing means being as clear as you can about what exactly you're writing about.

Graphics

Graphics provide eye-candy to Web pages and posts. They attract our attention, and often, the right graphic does more to pique our interest than the catchiest title ever. Moreover, quite often graphics provide information—they not only support the text, they augment it. There are things that can be said with a carefully chosen image or chart that can barely be conveyed with even a thousand words. What's more, on many blogging systems with sidebars for recent posts, only those posts with an embedded image will appear in the sidebar.

Formatting Your Posts and Pages

When writing for the Web, part of the job of the writer is to make sure that the Web page or the blog post is properly formatted. It's not only a courtesy to your reader to format your text correctly, it makes you look like an idiot when your posts lack standard paragraph breaks, properly inserted and aligned images, and correctly formatted links. It's not rocket science, either, since most writers are using a blogging or content management system to create their posts. You do need to remember to check your posts after you publish them. To make changes or corrections, you'll need to be logged in, and then you'll need to be sure you're looking at the full version of the specific post you want to edit.

Titles: They're Not Just for People

Create titles that are intriguing, but that also accurately describe the content of the post.

We're familiar with titles in contexts other than writing on the Web. We pick up a particular book in part because of the title. Movie titles attract our attention in trailers, and we remember them later. Newspaper article titles are second in importance only to the headlines; we make our decisions on whether or not to read an article in large part because of the information in the article's title.

The Importance of Inbound Links

Oubound links can drive inbound links.

Inbound links are links made by other writers to your blog or page. There are two broad categories of inbound links; first, links to your content in the other site's sidebar or blogroll, second links to your site or page in the content, a post or a page, of the other site. You want inbound links. You want them quite a bit; inbound links help Google and other search engines find your site, and individual pages or posts on your site, because they follow links to see where they go.