Online Writers: Should you write with search engines in mind?
Statistics have varied over the years but there’s no doubt that a great number of your website visits will come from search engines. So when you’re writing an online article, should you write specifically for search engines? Or should you simply write and hope for the best?
The fact is, that you should be doing both. The good news is that you don’t have to be a search engine expert in order to do it – and do it well.
You’ll find thousands, quite possibly millions, of articles on the internet about search engine optimisation, tips and tricks, advice from ‘gurus’ and in-depth white papers that are almost impossible to understand.
The important thing to remember about this so-called advice is that search engines change all the time. Start using ‘tricks’ now, and they might work. But in six months, or even tomorrow, the search engines have moved on and they just don’t like your site anymore.
So what can be done?
How important are search engines to online writers?
These days, you’ll probably find that a great number of your page views come from social media but that doesn’t mean that search engines can be ignored. You might find that half your visitors find you in Google, Bing or Yahoo.
Writing to keep them happy is simple – all you need to do is remember a few basic facts. These will not affect your writing or your overall tone of voice and you don’t have to apply and clever ‘tricks’ or spend hours researching keywords and search terms.
Search engines are still important to you and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
How do search engines work?
The important thing you have to remember about search engines is that, just like any other business, they want happy customers – in other words, you and I. That means that when a customer searches for something, they need to find the information they’re looking for. Pretty simple, eh? That is their goal; that’s what they aim for. Happy searchers will return and use their services again. This means that tricks and attempts to fool them or influence them will be frowned upon. This keeps things a lot simpler for us, the genuine writers who are looking for genuine visitors. Search engines are not our enemy. They are our friends, as long as we don’t try to fool them.
Search engine optimisation: Does it still exist?
Not really. In previous years, many people have made money by setting themselves up as search engine optimisation specialists. I have done so myself. And in those days, it was pretty easy to fool their computers and their visiting little bots. But search engines are big business and these days they have stringent rules. Break them and you could find out entire site is either removed from their index or hugely downgraded. This in itself is a good reason not to fall for any erroneous advice. Search engine optimisation companies themselves were victims of their own ‘cleverness’. I remember when the German BMW site was totally removed from Google because SEO ‘specialists’ had used a technique they disapproved of.
What are the most important issues to consider?
Mainly, these are common sense. And strangely the first thing to do is forget about search engines! Just write your article naturally. Don’t be tempted to repeat the main focus of your site. For example, do not write ‘here’s my recipe for apple pie. I love apple pie. My wife loves apple pie. All the family love apple pie...’ Search engines won’t like that one bit. But when you’re writing naturally, the main focus of your article will more than likely be in the first sentence. Make sure that it is. Just once. When you write naturally, the title of your page will also make sense. So you wouldn’t entitle your article ‘A tasty treat for you to enjoy’. You’d title it ‘Apple pie recipe: Quick and easy’ or something similar. Remember that when your article appears in search engine results, it’s the title that shows. If you were searching for an apple pie recipe, would you click on ’A tasty treat for you to enjoy’? Or ‘Apple pie recipe: Quick and easy’? Exactly.
What else should be taken into account?
Remember that search engine bots and spiders don’t ‘see’ a page the way we do. They analyse the code of the webpage. It may sound obvious but if words aren’t on the page, then they won’t be taken into account when the page is indexed. For example, I once created a huge site for a swimwear manufacturer and they never once used the work ‘bikini’ in their copy. They used ‘two-piece’ or ‘tankini’ or similar – and wondered why Google didn’t show the site in bikini-related searches. So don’t use ‘fancy’ words. Search engines are pretty good at interpretations these days. Today, that swimwear site maybe wouldn’t have the same problem but why make life hard for yourself?
Write naturally. Don’t bold or italicize words if you wouldn’t in print.
Be interesting. Be informative. Be helpful. And don’t worry about search engines
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