Search Engine Optimization? SEO What?

seoWhat’s all the fuss about? Why are so many bloggers writing about SEO this and SEO that? How can anyone dwell so intently on search engine optimization techniques without their eyes glazing over?

Maybe I’m being naïve, but it seems to me that if you write unique, high quality content that search engine users are seeking, you are optimizing your blog for the search engines. Instead of looking for clever tricks to make money online, wouldn’t it be easier and better to concentrate on developing clear writing and communications skills?

The foremost goal of SEO copywriting is to produce succinct, effectively persuasive text for a well-written web page. Writing that “optimizes” a search but offers little useful information or only weak persuasion is frowned upon in the profession as ineffective. At its worst, it becomes a costly resource inducing potential buyers to turn away from the site rather than generating sales. (Source)

I’m not going to get into a “white hat” vs. “black hat” discussion and debate. I think most users – most buyers – want to deal with ethical people. If you came here looking for “black hat” SEO techniques, look elsewhere.

It’s not enough for the search engines to love your site, either – you can write great copy for SEO, place highly in the search rankings for your chosen keywords, but if it doesn’t engage readers, if it doesn’t inspire them to act, then it’s just not working.

Passion – readers can tell if you care about your subject or if you’re just “phoning it in.”

Tone – blogs are informal; readers don’t come to be preached at, and they’ve worked too hard and read too much, most days, to decode dry, boring, academic prose.

Keywords – make it clear what your post is about. Include all the relevant keywords – think “index.” If you were searching for just this post, what would you enter into Google’s search box? “People need to like your content before Google will.” (From How to Create Compelling Content – an excellent and free PDF that explains, in very simple terms, how to write for both people and search engines.)

It’s important to be specific – there’s little point getting buried under too-common keywords, such as “writer” or “lawyer” or “doctor” or “dentist.” The latter might want to explore phrases like “pain free dentistry” or “we cater to chickens” or “dentist gives nitrous oxide.” A writer might want to use “children’s picture books” or “kidlit” instead of “writer” or “author.”

The new version of StatCounter, still in beta test, provides quick insight on pages that rank highly in Google for certain search terms. My site, for instance, ranks #1 for “It’s all a matter of perspective.” Obviously, the blog title and meta tags help. It’s a common phrase, so it’s likely to be searched – ranking well is probably worth something. It also ranks highly for similar phrases, such as: “a matter of,” “it’s all perspective,” “its all about perspective,” and “religion matter of perspective.”

Disturbingly, my blog also ranks highly for “swim in warm water young boys up the nose.” Now, this phrase may be a bit too specific to be useful; however, I have noticed similar terms over the past couple of weeks. Combined with searches for “Naegleria fowleri US cases ,” it’s a little disturbing. Death by brain-munching amoeba is fairly easily prevented by wearing noseplugs and discouraging cannonballs into warm lake water.

Mind you, I haven’t been making any particular effort to employ SEO techniques – whatever “search engine optimization” I’ve got going, here, it’s 100% “organic” or natural. What phrases do you think would stand out here, in this article?

What if I really set out to rank well in the search engines?

Searchers are focused, motivated, and – if they’re looking for a product or service – odds are good they’re in the market to buy.  Your job is to make it easy for them to find your site, and then to convince them that out of all the competitors in the world, you’re the best.

Once you’ve written great content for users and search engines alike, you have to get out there and promote it. You have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for searchers to follow, or to give them a little push to go to your site and not someone else’s.  That’s where social media comes in. It’s not enough to publish great content – if no one can find it, it might as well be shoved into the back of a drawer.

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