SEO – Making Sense of Optimization
One of the most interesting and potentially confusing aspects of web copywriting is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Since entering the world of copywriting I’ve done a great deal of reading and spent a long time making sense of all the different opinions on this subject.
It’s understandable, given the high stakes of search engine marketing, that people are desperate to climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s also understandable that some people want quick fixes, or cheats, to get to the top. People are tempted by the dark side!
So, after researching SEO and talking to colleagues, I would like to present a summary of my thoughts so far. I’m hoping anyone with an opinion will comment on this subject!
With a Little Help from Experts
A special thanks to Madhava and Prem of Dharmafly – social web development – for their input on this post!
Search Engine Optimization – Backlinks and Content Rule the Roost
There are many differing views on how to make sure your website gets noticed by the major search engines (Google, Yahoo etc). Everyone accepts that good quality links are essential to your success. After backlinks, I believe the way to Google’s heart is through your content.
Some people advocate the use of "tricks" to make Google rank your page more highly. For instance, companies spend thousands of pounds paying for backlinks. The idea being that Google treats these links as an indication that your site is popular and useful to users. Therefore having lots of backlinks increases your page rank.
Honest Approach to SEO
When creating a website with SEO in mind, remember that Google just wants to give its users the best, most relevant websites. Google go to great lengths to weed out poor quality, irrelevant sites.
Web Design for the Human Race
If your site is full of errors, with irrelevant information and badly written copy, all the SEO trickery in the world will not keep you high in Google’s rankings for long. Even if you could get Google to consistently rank your site first, your many visitors would have nothing to enjoy and would soon leave , never to return .
Google – The (almost) Human Judge
Google is trying to imitate a human judge of websites. Google’s algorithm is constantly changing (and getting smarter). So rather than trying to outsmart the wonderful people at Google (you will only succeed briefly), try to make the best website you possibly can. This is what Google wants to deliver to its users.
Great sites make people and search engines happy.
Content is King
Do not create your website with search engines in mind. Create your website with your user in mind. The search engines will not be buying from you. Your customers will.
Create a great website that entertains, informs or sells well . Make sure your website is visible to Google, and seek out relevant and useful backlinks (I will address this issue in later posts). Do not obsess about SEO. Instead, be obsessive about creating a great website.
The Fickle Nature of SEO
If you focus your SEO efforts on one particular area (such as backlinks) you are liable to suddenly get dumped down the rankings when Google (or any of the major search engines) tightens up their algorithm or decides to crack down on whatever borderline-illegal tactic you’ve employed to come out on top.
Quality is Never Going to be the Victim of a Google Crackdown
Dedicate your efforts to building a better site. Resist the temptation to employ SEO tricks (also known as Black Hat SEO). This way you protect your site against changes in the Google algorithm.
Google will improve at finding the best websites, so you must continue to improve at being the best website.
Quality Starts with Content
Clearly, it is wise to focus first on content – and by content I mean copy. Your users will understand your business largely by the copy they read on your website. Copy is your communication.
Given the importance of copy, it is sensible to employ a copywriter. Just as you employ a web designer or a photographer to build your site and photograph your products, make sure you dedicate time and resources to copywriting – another fundamental part of your online marketing.
Copywriters Must Understand SEO but Write for People
Copywriters write for humans.
I recently heard a web developer say that he employs copywriters to write for search engines! As of this moment, search engines cannot read, nor can they make purchases. So as of this moment I will not write for a search engine. I write for people , with search engines in mind. But only because it is through search engines that people find websites offering the products and services they want!
Search Keeps on Changing – So Do Copywriters
Because of the high-stakes of SEO, everyone will continue scrambling for the top, and the search engines will continue to weed out the artificially-enhanced sites and offer users quality instead.
It’s a game of cat and mouse which everyone working on the web must follow.
This will be my first of many posts on SEO – stay tuned for updates!