Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing for the Internet—Part Two

Anyone who’s spent any time writing content for the web or even researching this market, has run across the acronym SEO. This 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). When you use different search engines—google, yahoo, etc., you'll notice that each will give slightly different results from any given search. 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.

There’s also a common myth that an article’s search engine rank is determined by the number of times the keyword is used. There was a time—early in the history of the Internet—when this was partly true. But no more

If this were the case, all a website would have to do is have pages of nothing but keywords to up its search engine ranking. Search Engine Algorithms have done away with that method of cheating. Algorithms are too well written to fall for that—and many have built in sensors that penalize websites for trying to cheat.

Here are some other truths about Search Engines
  • Nowadays, Search Engine Algorithms take words literally—and that can be good or bad
This means that they don't understand it when we make a play on words. For example, a recipe for vegetarian chili titled, Too Hot to Handle Chili will rank 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 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 as too hot to handle.
This blog—The Write Conversation—is a clever play on words that works. The reason being I want this site to be searchable for the keyword “write” as well as be clever about educating writers as an ongoing “conversation.”

  • Search Engine Algorithms also look for keywords.
Keywords are the words that appear on the website that describe that page. When writing content for a client they will often give you a list of keywords. It's your responsibility to use those keywords effectively. This is called Keyword Density and refers to the number of times a keyword is used on a page.

Search engines read from the top of a webpage to the bottom, searching to see that important keywords are used throughout the page.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when determining keyword density
  • Always use the keyword in the title.
  • Repeat the keyword at least once in the first 50 words.
  • Spread the use of the keyword naturally and evenly throughout the rest of the article. In a 400 word article that would mean using the keyword a minimum of three more times.
This should give any writer a good working knowledge of SEO. You can apply it to your own personal blog or website or you can use it to write effectively for clients.

Let me know if you have any questions about writing for the Internet because next week I’ll be wrapping up this series.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. Thanks Edie for sharing. I am working on learning all I can about SEO for the speaking part of my business, and this really helped! Have a great week!
    "Simply" Sue

  2. Well, Edie, you know how much all this stuff frustrates me, but you've made it simple to understand. Now, all I have to do is remember to apply it! Thanks!

  3. Thanks Edie. I'm with Vonda! I have a question that some might consider dumb, but, here goes: Is the keyword like the labels we put in at the end of the blog when typing it or is it the word we think a potential reader might google and thus end up at our site? I thought that was the purpose of the labels.

    Thanks for helping us.

  4. Nan, remember there are no Dumb questions! You weren't born knowing this stuff (if you were, then we definitely need to talk!).
    It's a great question and one I should have covered.
    A keyword isn't the label, it's what you expect your reader to put into a search engine to find your post or article. And the labels you put on the post should ALWAYS include your keyword.
    Hope this helps!

    Thanks Sue and Vonda - I have to break things down so I can understand them and it's nice to know I'm not the only one who needs the help!

  5. Edie,
    I discovered your information today through another writing angel who joined me on Twitter, Vonda. Right now my writing style is bent: I just had my first carpal tunnel surgery on one hand. Oooo! So now I pray instead of write. But I can read your's and Vonda's blogs to glean the gold.... I'm pleased to meet you both.

  6. Good points Edie: thank goodness Google has evolved search past the days of keyword spam (mostly, some still try to game search rank). SEO is a complicated and ever shifting field: there really aren't any magic bullets.

    In fact, as social media and search becomes more integrated, even today's "rules" will change. For example, Bing and Facebook have partnered to filter searches, and a new engine called Blekko is trying to establish a new way of integrating social and search through website tagging.