Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an important, and in fact vital, part of any business’s online presence. Put simply, S.E.O. is the “tweaking” of a website so that it’ll be displayed right at the top of a search engine’s results pages (y’know, on that first page of results you get on Google, Yahoo! or Bing etc. when you key in a search phrase or words and hit “Search”). This optimization is an important aspect of any kind of search engine marketing that you do; the ultimate aim being to achieving the highest ranking possible for your targeted keywords and phrases.
Basically, it works like this: When an Internet user runs a search using a search engine they’ll more than likely only look over the first page of results laid out before them. Typically, they’ll then either follow a link they found on that first page or they’ll have another go and try another search. They’d only very, very rarely make it as far as the barren wastelands of Page 3. What this means is, if your website is not among the first listed in the search results, its chances of being found by potential customers are actually quite slim. Basically, there is little point in making a website submission to search engines if your site will never appear in the first few pages of results. Sorry.
By taking the time to think about the writing, formatting, and organization of your website and making the appropriate adjustments for S.E.O. purposes, your website will become more “digestible” by search engines and will be ranked more favorably in their databases. The result is, with a little work (and it isn’t that much work that you gotta do), your site will be able to climb from the depths of search engine results Hell (page 2,569), right to the top of the list (page 1, yeah!). This search engine placement will be highly beneficial for any entity seeking a truly strong presence online.
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of websites on the Internet are not optimized with the search engines in mind. The result here is that your competitors who DO posses well optimized sites will dominate the web traffic generated through the search engines. By optimizing your own site, you and your company can leapfrog the competition and direct traffic away from competitors and toward your own site. After the site is optimized it actually takes very little maintenance to keep your company’s ranking and the effect of the optimization can be seen immediately and for years to come.
Now, whether you’ve hired an S.E.O. guru or decided to attempt the S.E.O. work yourself, one of the major challenges of a great search engine optimization campaign is determining how much time to devote to specific techniques and certain areas of your website. Simply knowing what to do doesn’t really solve the problem of understanding how much to do (it’s that old conundrum: how much is too much?). Whether it’s keyword research, website title optimization, content development or even link building, often the missing link is the art of knowing which of your efforts will yield the greatest return on your investment of money and/or time.
Most of VodaHost’s own optimization work (done from our VodaHits department; check it out: http://www.vodahits.com) is performed on client’s websites and in nearly every case we are working to try and achieve improved rankings and increased traffic within a budget and timeline. Our most typical scenario gives us 90 days to tackle the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and analytics for a group of medium to moderately difficult search terms (from a competitive standpoint).
While every project is different, when you have to show some success in a relatively short period of time, it is important to quickly identify the major issues which are holding back your site. Page title optimization is always very high on the list but even with that said, when you are working on a site with hundreds or even thousands of pages, spreading yourself too thin by concentrating on only one ranking factor will usually fail. Unless you have an overwhelming number of site architecture or duplication issues, you are normally better off focusing on just a portion of the site.
Along the same line is the amount of time you spend on research compared to time devoted to actual change suggestions, on-page optimization tweaks or link building (for example). There are so many different ways to analyze a site or even one page on a site. There are also dozens of keyword research techniques and SEO tools, and you could spend countless hours dissecting the strategies that have seemingly worked on competitor sites. At some point you simply have to be comfortable knowing you’ve done enough due diligence to dive in and begin making changes that will have an impact.
Search engine optimization IS a science. It’s not like building a Large Hadron Collider but most S.E.O.s follow a set of tried and true practices that offer the greatest chance of success. What makes it not like building Large Hadron Colliders is that Search Engine Optimization is also an art and all the S.E.O. research in the world won’t do you a bit of good until you take that first step and actually begin making changes to your website. Every project and every website is different. This is what makes the process an adventure that is fun and exciting.
SEO copywriters have a pretty tough job but it’s certainly not impossible to write excellent and more importantly, optimized content for your website. With this in mind, I decided to write a basic set of rules for S.E.O. copywriters to follow; rules that anyone can reference to produce website content that both readers and search engines will enjoy. Let’s not mince words at this point … this is by no means a complete and exhaustive list; other copywriters might have other lists or other S.E.O. tips and tricks… It’s certainly not my intent to definitely “write the book” on optimized content. It’s just a list of a few methods that have enabled us to achieve the desired results for our clients in a variety of industries.
Rule 1: Google doesn’t appreciate Shakespeare – people do
Search engines are exceptional consumers of content. They read everything on the Internet they can get their crawlers around. They’ve read every book in every language – twice (as well as several million books more worth of blog posts). Thing is, they don’t really understand it… They couldn’t tell you if the text and websites they read are any good from a critical standpoint. Google can tell you what a sentence or paragraph or article is roughly about without knowing whether it’s prolific in a profound sense or a plentiful one.
For the most part, a search engine such as Google will assign value to content according to the behavior of human readers – not according to some arbitrary algorithm that projects an entry’s staying power. If people like it, Google likes it. So certainly do your SEO copywriting for people.
You can optimize and optimize and optimize, hoping Google will reward your efforts with premium rankings, but if human readers don’t enjoy it, then neither will Google. How does Google know if people like it? By following the links…
A popular saying in the S.E.O. community is that “Content is King.” Um, yeah, but it’s really not that simple. Try searching for a classic book, like Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’. What ranks No. 1? The actual text of the book? A scholarly critique? An original book review? Nope. Nope. And nope! It’s a Wikipedia entry. Why? Because Wikipedia has about a billion and one links pointed at its site. Is this a good thing for search engine users? Probably not. Is it good for the tens of thousands of book reports written by students who never read Mr. Stoker’s book? Certainly not.
I introduce this fact not to discourage anyone or to underscore Wikipedia’s considerable advantage. This extreme example is introduced to emphasize the fact Google rewards links, not great content.
How is this valuable to you? In most cases, you won’t be competing with Wikipedia but with rival companies, organizations, groups and other bloggers. So just get more links than them. It’s that simple. How do you do that? Write more engaging content than them.
But isn’t that contradictory? Didn’t you just say content is worthless? No, SEO copywriting is DEFINITELY in. What I said was to get more links. And you get links by writing better content.
Rule 2: Always write engaging content
At its very best, the Internet is a democracy and everyone connected to it has a vote. Those copywriters who compose the posts that receive the most links (or “votes” to Google) win not elections but great and powerful search engine rankings. Your best S.E.O. copy-writing strategy is to reach out to “voters” by writing content they will link to. You must write content people within your niche will blog about, share on Facebook or Tweet about. You must write content that gets people talking about your products, your services and your company.
Don’t be frightened to take a unique stance on a familiar topic to stir up a bit of controversy. Nobody ever really stood out by being the 700th person to agree with something. The people who generate buzz about the Internet are those provocative rogues who are brave enough to support a daring, perhaps even unpopular, position. Fresh will always win the fight. New angles are always the best, even if they’re seemingly ludicrous, because they’ll bring in the links.
For instance, say Galileo had a blog way back when (now there’s a thought!) and he wrote an incredibly controversial post about the world being round – not flat. People would think he was absolutely crazy. They’d bash him in the comments section. He’d be the laughing stock of every astronomy forum but I’m willing to bet that people would link to him. And I bet his blog would rank No. 1 for “The World is Round.” And I bet a whole lot of people would be searching for that once they realized that he was probably right.
So, WRITE ENGAGING CONTENT! Establish yourself as an authority on a subject or introduce a fresh argument.
Rule 3: That’s already been written about 75 million times, but THAT hasn’t…
Everything (okay 99.9% of stuff) has been written about before at least once. The Internet is very much like The Simpsons where everything has been done before and yet there are still infinite questions left unanswered and there are countless arguments that haven’t been made. There are countless viewpoints that haven’t been introduced yet… As an S.E.O copywriter, it’s your job to find them.
You can get started by identifying the hot topics and trends in your industry – then take an angle on them that nobody else has really considered.
In addition to spotting these Internet trends, perform some critical analysis yourself. Do your due diligence. Search Google for specific industry-related questions. Which ones have no adequate answers? What information might prospective clients or customers want that’s so far been inaccessible to them? Don’t know what information they want and can’t find? Then ask them.
Then, once you’ve identified a fresh topic, write the optimized content for it.
Rule 4: My keyword density formula is WAY better than your keyword density formula
The question here is: What is optimized content? Is it content that follows an exact keyword density formula (so-many instances of a “keyword” per total number of words)? Should you incorporate keywords into every singe sentence? Every paragraph? I heard you’re supposed to infuse one keyword into every seventh sentence – is that even true?
Not really, no … It’s nonsense.
My own thoughts on keyword density are as follows: forget keywords and write naturally (as I emphasized in Rule 1). If your content is about a topic you hope to rank for, odds are you’ll use these keywords or phrases quite naturally. Injecting keywords where they don’t belong will only produce choppy and spammy content that neither Google nor your audience will appreciate. It’s a waste of time.
Furthermore, when it’s clear what your content is about, your readers will unwittingly know what keywords you want them to put in their anchor text links. If The Incredible Car Blog writes a blog about what cars will be like in 2020, odds are those linking to the post will put some variation of “2020 Cars” in the anchor text. And one link like that from a really reputable site is worth more than 1,000 instances of “2020 Cars” included in your original post.
So write honestly and eloquently, be informative and entertaining. One of the best ways to do that is to write something you’d want to read yourself. Don’t worry about optimization when you’re writing. Once you’ve completed the most engaging content in the world, that’s when you go back and optimize it.
Rule 5: The brutally honest secret to optimized content
How do I optimize content? Well, I’d love to tell you how.
There is a huge S.E.O. Myth: Optimized content is merely content with keywords included.
If writing optimized content was simply the process of stuffing a bunch of keywords between other words, you wouldn’t need writers. You could take existing content and scatter a bunch of keywords around. You might find this on a car dealership’s website:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was a great time to buy New Chevrolet Cars in Miami!”
Does that mean you don’t want keywords in your content? Of course, not. You MUST have a few keywords. Just don’t overdo it. Let the opportunities present themselves naturally and then pounce on them, without remorse!
Let’s go back to that Miami car dealership. Maybe they already have some unique web content with 5 or 6 natural instances of “Chevrolet Camaro in Miami,” a phrase they rank No. 1 for in Google. Spectacular! But they’re missing out on tons and tons of related searches. Why? Because they have no instances of “New Chevrolet Camaros in Miami,” or “Used Chevrolet Camaros in Miami,” or “Pre-Owned Chevrolet Camaros in Miami,” or “Best Miami Dealerships for Chevy Camaros.” There’s any number of ways people in Miami will search for the same car, but this dealership is only really taking advantage of one of them!
THAT is what optimized content is. It’s writing naturally and then searching through your content for ways to improve it. Anticipate the ways your audience would search for you, and then give it to them. Don’t set out to write content just so you can stuff it with 50 instances of a phrase you want to rank for. Write something of value to prospective clients and consumers, and then go back and optimize content accordingly.
Rule 6: Duplicate page titles confuse search engines
Attention must be paid to every facet of search engine optimization, but perhaps no single factor is as fundamentally important to search engine rankings as page titles. While page titles might seem an incredibly obvious area of concern when optimizing websites, duplicate page titles can actually diminish search engine rankings and quite drastically too.
Duplicate page titles can be the result of laziness, a lack of awareness, a limited website publishing program, or any number of other reasons but the bottom line is it’s simply imperative that unique and descriptive titles be used on your web pages in order to maximize search engine rankings. The more information search engine crawlers can deduce from each page heightens the likelihood your site will be pinpointed for a specific keyword or phrase.
There are numerous ways to determine the different (or in some cases duplicate) page titles in your website. But whether you manually click through every page of your website, explore your entire site per a “site colon search” on Google or Yahoo! (for example typing “site:vodahost.com”), or extract your site’s data from utilities such as Google Webmaster Tools, the first step to rectifying title page redundancy is learning exactly which pages bear what titles.
As page titles offer arguably the most telling description of page contents for search engine crawlers, it is essential that each page title be unique to the contents of that respective page. For instance, on the VodaHost website we tailor individual pages according to topic. Therefore, a page displaying an article about the S.E.O. Value of Keyword Rich Anchor Text is aptly titled “Keyword Rich Anchor Text for S.E.O. | Anchor Text Link Optimization”.
E-commerce websites would be wise to title each web page according to the particular products and category being advertised on that page. This adds notable value to each page, which consequently strengthens the website as a whole.
No matter what the contents of your website are, we recommend titles that accurately reflect the page content and contain the keywords or phrases you ultimately hope to rank high for in search engines. If you try any search query on the major search engines, you will notice the page titles cut off around 60-70 characters, so try and stay within that range. As an example, the homepage of an SEO firm might have a title something like:
Internet Marketing : Search Engine Optimization : VodaHits.com
Again, page titles might seem such an obvious and mundane concern that little should be written or said about them; however, neglecting page titles will undoubtedly have one of the most negative impacts on even the most polished websites. Contact VodaHost if you need help.