If you, or the business or organization you work for, want people to visit your (or its) website, you should know the most important factor in search engine optimization.
As you probably know, SEO is any set of strategies designed to improve your website’s ranking in an online search. Various sources ascribe varying values to such strategies, but most SEO experts agree that the following approaches are important:
- Content should be well written, relevant, engaging, and frequently updated.
- Title, meta description, and header tags should contain terms that accurately reflect site content.
- URLs, or website addresses, should be short and should contain relevant keywords.
A website’s longevity, and its reputation among popular websites with related content (indicated by shared content, links to your site, and references to your site), are also beneficial factors. There are additional techniques, but these are the basics that content producers should be aware of.
You should also be alert to one of the factors that causes a website to be penalized in search engine rankings: Content that lacks depth and substance and that uses keywords excessively.
Most website administrators, webmasters, and content producers are aware that search engines companies are constantly refining their products to reward websites with high-quality content and penalize those that ignore these simple, self-evident principles. However, it’s surprising how often one still comes across densely keyword-laden, awkward content that is designed for search engines, not human beings, to read.
This approach to SEO is akin to that of a retail establishment that temporarily offers free products or services or that stations attractive, scantily clad models at the store entrance for a particular promotion. These techniques certainly encourage customers (I know both of them get my attention), but they have nothing to do with the quality of the products or services; once the freebies and the hotties go away, will customers come back?
By the same token, if you want people to return to your website, give them what they want — and what they want should be what you have to offer, not distracting diversions. The quantity of content varies widely depending on what that is, but quality is constant: Website content should be clear, concise, and informative.
Compare the following paragraph from the About page for Daily Writing Tips with the one after that, which reflects what I would probably write if I were unfortunate enough to be an SEO content creator rather than a writer:
“Whether you are an attorney, manager, or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age — with the proliferation of e-mails, blogs, and social networks — makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever.”
“Daily Writing Tips knows that English-writing skills are essential to your success. Whether you are an attorney, manager, or student, you need to write English well. Read tips about how to write English better at Daily Writing Tips. At Daily Writing Tips, we will show you how to write English well, use correct English spelling and proper English punctuation, and use the right English words. Bookmark Daily Writing Tips now for the best English-writing tips.”
One paragraph tells you what you need to know. The other makes you want to scream. It isn’t content. It’s data. It is designed to be read by a machine. Design your content to be read by people.