Writing for Search Engines

Aug 21, 2007 - 5:34 pm 2 by

Kevin Ryan begins by introducing himself as the new Global Strategy Director of Search Engine Strategies and goes on to welcome Heather Lloyd-Martin. Heather starts by introducing the topics of SEO copywriting and how to take advantage of content opportunities. An example is AmsterdamEscape.com, who had bad duplicate content issues and was actually banned from Google for 18 months. They ended up having to spend $4,000 a month in AdWords in order to keep traffic coming into the site. What Heather's company did was to explain to them that content is king, and getting them to build the site with this in mind. They created pages such as "Do's and Dont's when visiting Amsterdam". Once back in the index, they starting ranking for terms such as "Amsterdam nightlife" and "Amsterdam apartments" through their new content pages. The new traffic allowed the site to scale back on PPC and save $48,000 a year.

How "fit" is your site? Look at the review page titles, pages and topics. You can check the health of your content by doing a site: command and see what page titles and descriptions are being used. Make sure that all of your page titles and descriptions are unique - don't keyword stuff as it's only short term. When clicking through from the search result to a page, make sure that the landing page is relevant. Also ensure that the words which you're looking to rank for, make sure that those terms and similes appear on the appropriate pages in a natural fashion. Create stubby content - try to write around 250 words per a page, you can write more if it's appropriate or an informational/research page. Don't pack your keywords into the first paragraph of your content, it will look odd and just put off your visitors. Remember to target a term and a topic in the page titles, headings and and subheadings.

If your content isn't converting, don't just edit the content - consider rewriting it from scratch and you're better able to integrate the terms you're working with. As meta descriptions are shown in the search result pages, you can use it to market to a user and also include the terms they're looking for. Titles should be unique and compelling on every page, this will help you gain better positions and click-through rates. Look at adding in marketing messages that will stand out from other results on a search page. Think to yourself “why would someone click on my listing?”. Don't necessarily target your company name, it's something that you should test. Your product may convert better than your brand. If you can't get your rewrite signed-off in a company, try editing a less-important page on your site and monitor changes in conversions and visitor click-paths. If necessary, see if the IT department can dynamically create page titles using existing Content Management System data and then manually edit them at a later date.

If you're not sure what to talk about, think about FAQs, SEO friendly press releases and manufacturer information pages. If you have copywriters in-house, consider giving them training on how to write with SEO in mind. If you don't have copywriters, outsource the work or look at hiring either a specialist SEO content writer or train a new employee to do so.

Jill Whalen is up next to talk about editing content for the search engines. Don't write fake content such as useless articles, press releases or blog posts. Keyword stuffing is also a big no-no. Good content is the regular pages on your site that sells your services and explains your products. It also starts with keyword research to find out what words and topics people are searching for. There's no point being number 1 for phrases that no one searches for, target terms that will generate traffic. Search Engines can't read content in graphics or flash, you can use ALT attributes although they're not as valuable as real text. PDFs are indexable, so publish any documents and press released that are not currently linked to on your website.

Remember that users come first, make sure that everything makes sense to real people and not just purposely sprinkled with keywords. Be descriptive in links and page titles e.g. "Our B2B Marketing Services" rather than "Our Services". Optimise for key terms and not for keywords, because ranking top for single word terms is not possible for most people. Don't rely on stemming (search engines considering word variations as the same), use plurals, past tenses and other similes in your website. Consider words with multiple spellings, don't use both spelling form on the same page - include variations deeper within the site.


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