The Search Engines, The Rulers of the Online World
Search engine optimization is the buzz phrase of the online world and the preoccupation of every site owner out there. Search engines, with that miraculous ability to dredge up pages based upon quickly-typed (and sometimes even inaccurately typed) words, are the only reason the Internet works at all. And search engines know how to exercise this power. Directing users here and there, controlling the flow of Web traffic by displaying links to sites, search engines are the true rulers of the World Wide Web. Your job, when you have a site, is to cater to them with SEO-friendly content.
Search engines aren’t impressed with streaming video, vibrant music in the background or all those hard-to-find fonts. Within a single heartbeat, search engines ever-so-quickly scan Web pages not for the best features and pictures, but for words. Tiny, black and white or full color, words.
When a casual Internet user types “Paris Hilton” into the search bar, the engine scans sites for that exact phrase. Sites which feature the phrase “Paris Hilton” the most get the highest rankings for that search — well, truthfully, that’s an oversimplification, as I’ll explain shortly, or else it would not be so difficult to get to the top of the search engine results page.
Obtaining a high search engine ranking is the goal, the desire and sometimes the thing that keeps site operators awake at night. No site could exist without content to hold it all together…but how can you create content that’s SEO-friendly, and therefore highly compelling to the all-important search engines?
What is SEO-Friendly Content?
It’s a given that no site can get lots of traffic (and therefore, earn money) without content. All content, no matter how poorly presented, will contain certain keywords and phrases which appear throughout. It is these repeating words and phrases that draw the attention of search engines.
Suppose a Web savvy entrepreneur wants to create a highly popular site about Miss Hilton, a topic which offers a lot of competition. Why not pull one over on the search engines, and fill the site with content that features her name over and over? “Paris Hilton scarves Paris Hilton watch Paris Hilton gossip Paris Hilton Paris Hilton!” This sort of content may be decidedly rich in the important keywords, but there is very little meat for users to wrap their interest around. Not only will this sort of content disappoint readers; it won’t trick the search engines. Those savvy little sites actually know how to scan for readable, sensible content — meaning that content which only offers barely strung-together words won’t make the cut.
True SEO-friendly content is rich in not only keywords and phrases, but offers an easy read for the average Internet user. There’s a fine line to walk with search engines, and it’s important to make sure words appear frequently – but naturally – within text. For every 400 words, it’s a good idea to include keywords and keyword phrases at least twice throughout. SEO-friendly content will also have bold headings and subheadings which feature those same keywords and phrases.
If creating SEO-friendly content sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. The Internet is constantly reinventing itself and there’s always something new being added. Web sites which want to stay in the game will have to likewise offer fresh content and fresh keywords to keep up with changing trends and news. The most popular sites are rich in related content that’s always chock-full of different, enticing keywords and keyword phrases.
Again, that’s a lot of work. Many highly-visited sites employ a full staff of writers whose sole purpose is to continually churn out new, engaging online content. When going this route, it’s important to establish all the business details of the relationship up front. No matter how casual or friendly you want your writer-employer relationship to be, lay some groundwork first.
Make sure your writers know how often they should add content, approximately how many words each new piece of content ought to contain and what topics they should cover. You may even want to give your writers certain keywords and phrases to use, to be sure they’re creating just the sort of content you have in mind. Always, always make sure both sides agree upon the terms of payment before any work is submitted, unless it is done on a sample submission basis.
You’ve thought long and hard about it, and there’s no way you can create the content you need for your site all on your own. You know your options and you’ve decided to hire a writer or two for your site. So…how is such a thing done?
Classified ads are one type of content which will always thrive on the Internet no matter what, and that’s lucky for anyone who wants to hire an online writer. There are literally hundreds of Web sites out there dedicated to finding jobs for freelancers, and many of these allow you to post ads for free. Be very precise in your advertisement about what you’re looking for and what topics will be written about, and you’ll definitely get plenty of replies. There are a lot of writers out there; finding them will be the least of your Web site worries.
It’s important to think about the keywords and phrases you’ll want to feature on your site, which essentially boils down to one thing: choosing a theme. A single site simply can’t cover every topic under the sun, which means narrowing it down to at least one. The umbrella can be as wide or as specific as you like – entertainment news in general, or American Idol-specific stories – but pick a topic for the site. Otherwise, you’ll just have confusion that certainly won’t draw lots of traffic. Once you decide what you’d like to cover (investment ideas, for example), it’s time to seriously think about keywords — before you put any content on the site.
Don’t just create content without giving a thought to the words, other than making sure what you put down is easy to understand. Creating content for the Web takes a bit more savvy than simply creating an article in 500 words or less. You will need to think like a searcher, and you will need to brainstorm.
Think about the words you would type into a search engine if you wanted to explore your topic. Write down everything that springs to mind, no matter how (frighteningly) long the list seems. Next, get online and go to a popular search engine. Start typing in your words, see what’s out there and it’s likely that list of keywords will only get longer and longer.
The list may at once seem formidable and impossible, but it’s very unlikely that’s really the case. Now, it’s time to get critical with keywords. You’ve made a huge list, so the next step is to narrow it down. How do you decide which keywords you don’t need to use?
There’s no need to include obscure, hard-to-spell, easy-to-forget or highly technical words in your keyword phrases. Too, there’s no need to create incredibly long keyword phrases (“how to find the best investment advice“) when most users choose simpler searches anyway (“good investment advice“ instead). Simplify your keywords, keeping only the most commonly used, and focus your attentions on placing these phrases within online content.
It doesn’t matter where keywords appear within content, as long as they do so…right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Where your keywords appear is every bit as important as what those words actually are. Every piece of content on your site should have at least two important keywords and phrases that you’d like to focus on for that specific piece. To optimize these words and get the best possible search engine ranking, make sure they appear in the right places.
The main keyword phrase you plan to use in your piece should appear right away, in the title. To create even better search engine opportunities, make sure your content has subtitles to break up and organize the piece. The keywords should appear in every subtitle as well. Also, make sure the main keyword phrase appears in the first sentence of the content, and gets repeated several times throughout. Again, make sure the words appear naturally and that the content remains readable.
What’s the backbone of the Internet? Content. And what makes the Internet work? Search engines. Successfully marrying these two concepts creates keyword-rich content the search engines, and your users, will love. But there are ways to create even more content for pages without hiring extra writers or working longer hours. Thank goodness for Web 2.0.
Today’s Internet is all about an interactive experience, which is good news for you. Be sure to include a user comments section on every piece of content. This gives readers the opportunity to sound off, and it also gives you the opportunity to get a little extra content on your site.
General forums and discussion boards will likewise help you create keyword-rich content at no extra cost or time to you, save that you may have to read and monitor these free-for-alls to be sure they remain appropriate and on topic. Content-creating extras like these help you add even more to your site, and perhaps boost page rankings at the same time.