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How To Write For Search Engines

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SEO (Search Engine Optimization) writing, as a distinct style, was born in the Internet era and has matured before our very eyes in a relatively short span of time. Although it is evolving and maturing still, and will continuously do so, we can define some of the tried and tested steps of content optimization to help unique pages place at or near the top of search engine rankings.

Some experts go on to say that the goal of SEO is two-fold, with the first objective to put out the appropriate "bait" for search engine spiders and the second to serve up useful information to people who want and need it. Debates about priorities continue among SEO professionals, but it is never a good idea to devalue the human factors in any success formula. The singular goal, then, would be to develop, position and refine content in such a way as to satisfy all visitors to the page and/or site, both human and bot alike.

Rethinking search engine content terms

"Content is king," goes the old saying – and not only is good content king, it is becoming more important with every passing day. But the term content is best taken in its broadest sense. Content is not simply the written copy placed in a document, assembled on a page, or aggregated at a site. It includes all this, of course, but content actually comprises titles, headings, tags, intra-site links and external links, as well.

All of these components need to work together and form an interconnected whole so that both search engines and humans find the right things, come to the right conclusions and, most importantly, make the right decisions. Good writing is always targeted to the audience, and you are writing for an audience of two readers, human and software. Remember these two components of the audience and find creative ways to reach both of them at the same time.

First things first

Titles are critically important – they are usually the first thing read by both real and virtual visitors. A title is the "primary topical identifier" and, as such, has an invaluable function – again, a dual-purpose one. It must contain keyword targets at the individual word level while stoking interest in potential readers at the phrase level.

When a person performs a search, the title is both their first indication of your relevance to their needs and your first opportunity to compel them to click through. Search engines, more clinical and objective, give the title importance because they see it as an indicator of the page’s main idea.

Yet many pages on the Internet have no title at all, or share "Home" and "Untitled" with several million others. There is no excuse for this oversight. The ignorant cousin of these mistakes, making the company name by itself the title of every page, is just as bad. Keywords relevant to the page should be part of every page’s title.

Heading tags carry some importance too. Simply put, heading tags define the headings and subheadings of your article to both readers and spiders. By default they appear larger than normal text and are bolded. While not a magic ranking bullet, they are looked at with more importance than average text and are an opportunity to show spiders the themes of your content and what keywords you wish to rank for.

The H1 tag is the main heading of your article and carries the most importance, like a headline in a newspaper article. It should clearly convey the article’s topic to the reader and main keywords to the search engines. H2 tags are one level down in importance and structure. Use them to define subtopics under your main topic, and again use keywords where descriptive and useful. If you needed to break down your article to sub-sub-headings, you would use the H3 tags, and so forth.

For both human and robotic readers, it is vital to keep page content focused. The "one topic per page" rule is an unwritten one, certainly, and it’s followed by most professional content developers. This has less to do with the intelligence of the readers (either kind) than it does with several other considerations. For one thing, search engine "crawlers" have algorithms that tend to work best on one concept at a time, and most humans work best this way, too.

In addition, limiting the focus eases the task of placing keywords in the meta descriptions, page title, body copy, tags and links. Finally, dealing with more than one topic necessarily means using more verbiage, which dilutes the potency of a site-wide SEO program and may negatively impact ranking. Better to give these other topics their own content, strengthening your site’s overall informational authority.

SEO copywriting balance

Much ink has been spilled and many pixels propagated in discussing SEO techniques, analyzing strategies, teaching "web content" writing, and chasing changing algorithms. Mentioned less but encompassing everything is that SEO copywriting, like all SEO, is about balance.

While articles such as this one can be helpful, it is important to understand that SEO will always evolve, change, adapt and improve. Study and implement tested techniques, but remain flexible and nimble. Writing for search engines and people at the same time is tricky and challenging at best, and can be frustrating and time-consuming, too. Approach the challenges in a businesslike fashion.

SEO content writing at its best balances art with science, blending the craft of engaging the reader with the dispassionate analysis of keywords on a page. Follow best practices, but fill each article to the brim with information useful to your demographic.

In simultaneously targeting a subject, an audience, and an algorithm, a great deal of creativity must take place to get effective SEO results. And, of course, it all has to happen in an environment that encourages short attention spans and constantly tries to lure people elsewhere. It is a major challenge to craft article titles and copy so compelling as to make people stop and read – or, better yet, stop and then click where you want them to.

Basics, opportunities, and consistency

The basic approach to writing for such a dynamic, ever-changing environment is to get to the point quickly. The "USA Today" news style – which relies on short headlines, descriptive sub-headlines and a few concise paragraphs – is perhaps the best analogy for good SEO writing. The important points (keywords) should appear early and often, and within a short period of time the human readers should know what they are supposed to do, while the search engines should be able to tell what the page is about from a consistency between your page structure and your body copy.

In the eyes of the search engines, everything that it can possibly see counts. That is, using image alt-text not only helps blind readers and people using phone- or text-based browsers, it also gives you another opportunity to add more descriptive strength to the overall page for the search engines. Do not miss any opportunity to further empower and refine your content.

And always remember when writing for search engines – keep writing. Write write write. Search engine bots gorge on new information, and if you consistently update your site with fresh content they will come around more often. While this gives you more opportunities to display your value, more importantly it builds the foundation of information that obviates it.

There’s a lot to do, and it all needs to be done well. Use your numbers, metrics and analytics to point you in the right direction for creating more content. That’s some science. Your creativity and amount of useful information, on the other hand, will point site visitors and search engines in the right direction. That’s a touch of art. When both aspects of your SEO program are firing on all cylinders, you should soon be marching up the search engine rankings.

Next Week

Next week we’ll be releasing Part Three of the series – Writing For Conversions.

How To Write For Search Engines
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  • http://www.siterevamp.com SEO Minneapolis

    Thanks for the article. It is very true that you need a balance between writing for human readers and search engines. Where that balance is can be the million dollar question. There isn’t a fixed rule. Every business is different and every target audience is different. So, it is up to the business owners, SEO company and SEO copywriter to figure this out based on testing and testing.

    One big hurdle about SEO copywriting is that most business owners think they themselves are good writers. They don’t care whether they readers like to read it or not. Telling them that they need to hire an SEO copywriter can be a challenge sometimes. Most business owners never had any basic training in writing and some of them never finished college. They are simply not up for the job of writing. This is why we see so many websites with poorly written contents, some of which are not readable to human readers.

    Hope the landscape will change soon and more businesses take web and SEO copywriting more seriously.

  • http://www.sourcesurge.com SEO Web Design

    You pretty much summed up SEO copywrite in a nutshell. One issue I have about reading tips about SEO is the amount of fluff you read. Not only have I heard the “content is king” phrase a million times without any explanation of how to write good content for search engines.

    You did a great job on this one.

  • http://www.youtakingaction.com Stuart Rubenstein

    i read your article, that is very good article so please your write more article

    thanks

  • http://hotbizsol.vox.com SEO India

    Thanks for this article and SEO minneapolis made a good remark. Unlike fiction or poetry where you need to be creative with plot and characters, many people think content writing for web doesnt require much professional work. If a company’s PR people can take care of all the publicity material, they can handle web content as well, so they think. Then all the SEO ebooks available tell youonly two things, proper meta tags and optimizing for a keyword. So, most of the people think its that easy and why bother paying a professional SEO copywriter. And if you get more creative with your copy, that may not be search engine friendly and no free traffic. So, as a professional SEO copywrites, one has to convince the business owners about the benefits of having a professional copy. Very few businesses gets convinced, I know. But your work for them can make others to think.

  • http://www.ucakbiletibak.com u

    thank you for your sharing. it is very helpful.

  • http://keyknowhow.com Alex

    This second part is very informative too. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.dataflurry.com/internet/newyorknewyork.html New York SEO

    Great points, now good content will succeed! Good content will grab inbound links from other websites and really make an impact. Dull content will linger and eventually die off in my opinion.

  • http://www.gomasterkey.com/ Online Real Estate Software

    very nice article please keep writing, definitely very helpful for all of us.

  • http://emoneymakingonline.com eMoneyMakingOnline

    content plays the major role in seo. i believe adding valuable and timeless content automatically creates more backlinks and hence catches good position in search engines in long term.

  • http://www.gowebsolutions.com Tucson Web Design

    Great job hitting the basics on this! It’s always a challenge to find good info on SEO copyrighting and you nailed it. Kudos.

  • http://www.goashost.com Goan

    Excellent piece of article. This really healped me a lot in desciding how to write stuff.

    Infact I dont have a neck towards wrighting and it becomes a toughest job for me. But any how after reading this post I fell that I should put some time into it and no doupt ill get is some day or the other.

    Thanks

  • http://www.blogistics.ca Blogistics

    Great tips. These are much appreciated.

  • http://dubai.dubizzle.com/ Dubai Real estate

    The writing that supports search engine optimization is key to improve the ranking of a site.

  • http://www.halconrealestate.com/ DUbai Real Estate

    Writing for search engine ranking require lot of cautions like proper use of key words, supportive design and content etc. It needs proper evaluation.

  • http://www.andremoves.com man and van

    great piece of advice will defenitlywill do this to my site many thanks

  • http://www.newyorkshopping-nycshopping.com new york shopping

    Great advice and as usual great article.

  • http://www.conciergeriedeluxe.com concierge

    Great post. Many things I knew but I must admit that some points stroke my attention and I will definitely try them out!

  • http://www.linksabudhabi.com Company Formation Dubai

    I think first thing to do when when writing for search engine is to have your keyword research first. Have this list prepared and write them on a paper so that once you finish writing your content you can then see where to put they keywords or key phrases you have. IMO

  • http://www.rankcrankers.com Minneapolis SEO Guy

    Thanks for the great article, I especially like the part on balance. So many people try to just ram as many keywords into an article and not take the time to make it read well

  • http://seoceylon.blogspot.com niroshan lakmal

    SEO Ceylon is a dedicated group of SEO consultants in Ceylon providing SEO consulting services. As dedicated SEO Consultants in Ceylon we offer: SEO Consulting services, SEO Audit, Keyword Research, Meta Tag Optimization, Search engine submission and Directory submissions etc

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    Really good and helpfull post,thanks a lot!