By Edie Melson @EdieMelson
I know the title of this blog may strike fear in the hearts of some of you.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Keywords sound like such technical things. But they are NOT difficult concepts to pick up.
Today, I’m going to give you a crash course in the basics to help you get your blog found.
A Short Story to Illustrate the Concepts
Look at an anonymous business owner with me and I think you'll see what I mean. We'll call him Joe and he's a plumber.
He's a smart business owner and named his business, ABC Plumbing. He chose carefully because with that name, he had a good chance of being the first listing in the telephone directory under plumbers. That was ten years ago and that ad in the telephone directory kept him supplied with customers while it made him visible around the community. But as time went by, fewer people looked at the Yellow Pages when they needed a plumber. Instead they looked online.
Well Joe is a with-it sort of guy, so he had a website built. It wasn't fancy, but it did the job, just like the old ad in the directory. Actually the two looked a lot alike. But Joe began to see his traffic and customer base diminish. This was due to the fact that when someone searched on the Internet for a plumber in his area, his website didn't come up first. In fact, it didn't come up until page three of the search.
He did some research and found that he needed to add some things to his site to come up higher in the search engine. He came face-to-face with the new acronym SEO. Search Engine Optimization became his key to getting the name out about his business. So he started a blog and began tweaking the information on his site.
The first term you need to become familiar with is Keywords.
A keyword is like a label. It's a short way—although almost always more than one word in length—to state the purpose of your article. Articles can have several keyword groups or only one. I only have one main keyword group for this article and it's Writing for the Internet. You'll see this keyword in the labels following this post. You'll also see some related keywords, Internet, Internet Audience, Learn the Basics of Writing for the Internet, How to use Keywords Effectively.
I use groups of words because the point of the keywords is to direct the searcher to your website. You want your keywords to match, as closely as possible, what someone types into a search engine search box. People rarely type just one word because it gives too many options.
Here are the guidelines for using keywords effectively:
- Always use the keywords in the title.
- Repeat the keywords at least once in the first 50 words of your article.
- Spread the use of the keywords naturally and evenly throughout the rest of the article. (In a 400 word article that would mean using the keywords a minimum of three more times)
Anyone who’s spent any time writing content for the web or even researching this market, has run across the acronym SEO. Remember, this acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's basically where, in the list of millions, your content will show up when searched by a reader (search engine). This is determined by a closely guarded, mathematical equation called an algorithm.
When you use different search engines—Google, Yahoo, etc., you'll notice each will give slightly different results from any given search, because they each have a proprietary calculation. But there are things we can do as writers to move our content up in the rankings. To accomplish this we have to have a basic understanding of how SEO algorithms work.
Early on, these algorithms were less complex and depended heavily on keyword usage. Website writers would just use pages of keywords to raise their ranking. The search engines caught on and the equations got more complex. These algorithms will continue to evolve, with the goal being to give the searcher the most valuable sites first in the rankings.
Even with the evolution of algorithms, one thing hasn’t changed. They are still mathematical equations and as such, Search Engine Algorithms take words literally—and that can be good or bad.
This means that they don't always understand double meanings or the clever usage of words. For example, a recipe for vegetarian chili cleverly titled, Too Hot to Handle Chili will rank far lower than one titled, Homemade Vegetarian Chili. This is because an algorithm uses the literal meaning of words and the first title doesn’t even have the word “vegetarian” in it. Often times a clever title will result in fewer clicks.
This doesn't mean we can't be clever—only that we have to be deliberate in where and when we're clever. Take that chili recipe, give it a title that can be searched literally, like Hot and Spicy Vegetarian Chili, but in the description use the clever tag line—too hot to handle.
Very rarely, a clever title can work. This blog—The Write Conversation—is a clever play on words that works. Truthfully, I just got lucky. I chose the title of the blog before I knew what I was doing. The only reason it worked was because I wanted this site to be searchable for the keyword write as well as be clever about educating writers as an ongoing conversation.
As a writer, I love to play with words. Part of that play is coming up with literal—creative—titles. Instead of seeing SEO as a hindrance to that, I look at it as an added level of difficulty in a game I enjoy more than any other.
Next week we’ll talk more about choosing effective blog post titles. In the meantime, be sure to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!