The Write Stuff

The primary service search engines provide is relevancy. You enter a query and the search engine provides what its algorithms consider to be relevant results from the index. It’s that simple.

Search engines are only as good as their results. Consequently, search engines are continually crawling, categorizing, and sorting Web content to provide you with the right stuff: relevant search results.

Here’s the kicker: search engines need your help to deliver the right stuff. Often enough, this depends on your ability to deliver the write stuff to for the search engines to crawl and index.

If I were to winnow successful SEO (define) down to two primary concerns, my priorities would be links and content. Today, we’ll discuss content.

It seems like a no-brainer, but if you want your site or site page to be found for a particular search query or two, you’d better have the query words on the page.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to optimize a site for specific phrases, only to discover the words the site owner wanted to be found for were no where on the page.

Often enough, the primary culprit for the lack of proper keywords on a page is a result of industry jargon or company-speak. In my experience, the larger the organization, the greater the propensity for company-specific vernacular to riddle its content.

It’s only natural for an organization to want to be known for its specific brands spelled in its own corporate, legally approved way. But focusing on what the company wants searchers to seek and what searchers actually seek is another matter.

I once had to explain why British English spellings for a company’s premier cosmetic line could wreak havoc with U.S.-based searchers. Even the company’s internal search capabilities were based on British English spellings.

You couldn’t find eye shadow or lipstick on the site. You had to search for eye colour or lip colour. Naturally, we wholly reconfigured the internal search functions to account for U.S. spelling. But getting the right words written on the product pages within the site was another matter.

There’s more than one reason to include popular keywords in your site’s content. Even though we’re talking about helping search engines find and index your site, the primary reason for writing keyword-rich content is to help guide visitors to the products or services they seek.

Don’t shove keywords into every place you think they can possibly fit. Use keywords and keyword phrases naturally, in a user-friendly manner, in plain language. If you leave a breadcrumb trail for visitors to follow, they should easily be able to land on the right destination.

Successful SEO copywriting is part art and part science. You must provide visitors with valuable, relevant content that’s readily scannable and easily readable. You’ve got about three seconds to provide visitors with a reason to stay. You need them to keep reading.

Stand back and look at your site’s structure and formatting. Pretend you’re a first-time visitor. Do you find value in the content? Do visitors see the value and respond to a call to action? Or is more information required?

Most SEO copywriters shoot for 6 to 8 percent keyword density on a page. How do you determine keyword density? You can use some of the free keyword density tools on the Web. Or you can simply count the total words on the page, then divide that by the number of times your keyword phrases appear.

As a general rule, don’t try to optimize any one page for more than three or four keyword phrases. Personally, I try to stick with one thematic phrase and several popular variations on a theme that are relevant and on topic. There are a couple of ways to increase the keyword density on any particular page without making a mess of the content.

Assuming you already have keywords placed in the page title, a simple way to increase keyword density is to use bulleted statements. These provide visitors with short, concise information to scan and reassures them they’ve found what they sought. You can also add a bit of emphasis to specific keywords and keyword phrases by using bolded or italicized text. Just don’t overdo it and make the copy difficult to read.

Another way to improve keyword density is to use the phrases in internal links. Breadcrumbs near the top of the page are a perfect place to leverage this type of tactic. The linking trail is useful to visitors and can help you communicate relevancy to the search engines.

Incorporating keywords and keyword phrases into internal links encourages the same type of structure from external links into your site. Not only is this a third-party validation of site content, this optimization tactic reinforces relevancy and trust.

Consider creating a win-win-win situation for your site, your visitors, and the search engines. Remember, search engines want to provide searchers with the right stuff: relevant results. The best way the search engines can provide this service is if your site’s content provides visitors with the write stuff.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Latino in Miami, July 10-11, 2006, and Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 7-10, 2006.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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