Writing for Spiders
Search engine spiders "eat" text differently than humans read. Their diet has to trim fat. "This" has no meaning to a search engine. "That" could be anything. Writers creating web content serve two masters: humans and spiders. My first SEO Writing article shared a note I sent to our project manager at LifeTips. Today's post summarizes five rules we use to split the difference between spiders and humans:
SEO Writing Tip 1 - You Can't Be Too Specific
My college English professor helped my seo-writing. She taught me to read every sentence with a "the" in it twice. On the second read take out the article. If a sentence stands without the "the" let it go. The is eliminated now about 75% of the time. This piece of advice is seo-writing advice even though there was no such thing back when wheels where new, men and women lived in caves and large reptiles roamed the earth (or when I was in college :). Apply my professor's rule to other search engine "stop" words such as "this", "it" and "that" and you will increase keyword density by fiat.
SEO Writing TIp 2 - Remember Its Math
The irony of how much I use math has not escaped. I was one of those, "I will never NEED this," kids. I would stomp my feet and swear to my liberal arts mother how useless algebra really was. I knew better than to even attempt to make such an argument with my engineer father. My mother, as are most mothers, empathized and cared. My father would have told me I was crazy and, darn it all, he would have been correct (once again). Online writing is parsed by robots. Math lives at the core of every piece of content on your site. Writing like a robot not recommend. Remembering whatever you write will be mathematically evaluated is my Web Content Writing Rule #2.
SEO Writing Tip 3 - Who Else Is Doing What?
Some site is already ranked #1 on every keyword phrase. One weekend I searched high and low for a phrase with almost no sites already ranked for it. If your immediate reaction to this sort of sad revelation is I need a life you are correct. The point of this "test" was to see how far and wide before finding any "blue ocean" on Google. FAR AND WIDE is the answer. Earlip Fantasy was the surrealist phrase I created. At that time there were 3 Google returns for Earlip Fantasy. There are now 142 sites on Earlip and, after this article, it is sure to break 200. DO NOT RECREATE SEO WRITING, STEAL FIRST. See who is winning top positons on the search terms you want now. View their site's source, all browsers have this menu option. Good SEO-Writers steal first. Use benchmarks to influence standards for keyword density (how many times you can safely use keyword phrases X) and writing your site's meta-information.
SEO Writing Tip 4 Say What? Bullets vs. Paragraphs
If you write for spiders no one will read your words. An online voice MUST be distinct, honest and fun. In my business, remember I am a Director of E-commerce by day, there are two camps on web content development. One camp says, "Nobody reads online, so you should bullet point everything." Another camp says, "People read what is compelling and informative wherever and whenever they find it." Bet you can guess what camp I cook my fish in. People read bathroom stalls, restaurant walls and graffiti. If your message is compelling, your voice true, don't be afraid of a block of text. Spiders also learn from context, the words next to your keyword phrase. Context is hard to establish with bullet points. Bullet points have a role, but they are not the only way to write web content. Write entertaining, compelling stuff and it will be read (you are reading this tome after all LOL).
SEO Writing Tip 5 - Two Kinds of People
Seems stupid to say there are only two kinds of people. There are infinite kinds of people and they all act in one of two ways online. There are "readers and researchers" and "buyers" on your web site as you read this. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to serve them both. Serving two disparate sets is not as easy as you think. Keep one thing in mind. Readers and Researchers will WORK for their reward. Buyers, having done their reading and researching already, want a clear line to the exits. Web technology provides ways we can serve both audiences. If, after reading this, you count the number of steps to conversion for both audiences and they are the same then you have work to do. Buyers "conversion funnel" should be about half the steps for Readers and Researchers. Today's reader is tomorrow's buyer. When they switch hats you need to get out of the way and let them give you money assuming money is your goal. I don't think of money as cash. I think of money as VOTES. You've voted with something you care greatly about. You (customers) don't do this lightly and it should not be taken so. You (web masters) will work for every dollar someone uses as a VOTE for you. In this economy my advice is CHERISH every vote you get and make sure your Buyer funnel is easier and faster than your research architecture.
[ Sidenote: My last rule sounds like I'm suggesting complicated research paths - make researchers work harder than buyers. Quite the contrary, researchers and readers may be willing to work harder but your site can still piss them off "forcing" valuable contacts out the door. Simple research navigation, good keyword alignment and tagging will move readers to what they want quickly. There is a "patience factor" to research online. Every search, article or snippet needs to teach something, to move researchers down their path. Too many dead ends and false starts and they are GONE returning back to Google (no doubt). ]
SEO Writing Tips 6 - 10
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Writing for Spiders