Writing for search engines is becoming increasingly like writing for humans. Search engines used to base rankings for a particular keyterm on the frequency of the term in question on a page. Today, many more factors are taken into account by Google's algorithms, with the goal of determining the relevancy of the document to the user's search query. As a general rule, it is more important to write natural sounding articles than to target them at robots. Here are some of the various factors to consider when writing for search engines:
Make your copy bounce-proof: extract important information.
There is still much debate over whether or not Google takes bounce rate into consideration, but I feel that it makes sense for Google to use all of the data available when ranking websites, not just some of it. Assuming this is the case, if a website shows up for a certain query but has a high bounce rate – which is generally defined as the percentage of users who spend an extremely short period of time of the page – it probably means that it is not the best result to display for that particular query. Google will test out certain results to see how well they perform on page 1.
For example, if you write a dense paragraph about how to change a halogen light bulb, you can expect to have a high bounce rate (percentage of users who leave your website immediately). Most visitors are unlikely to search through dense text to find instructions. Instead, they prefer a layout closer to eHow's articles that clearly lay everything out, step-by-step.
This isn't always possible, especially when you're writing articles or essays. However, you may post a long, dense essay about the comic book industry of the 1940's, but have a relatively low bounce rate because most relevant search queries result from users interested in the subject matter and therefore willing to read through your long paragraphs. However, if a user is looking for a quick fact – such as the name of the fellow who criticized the comic book industry for its lack of morals – but the name is buried in text, your essay-like layout is not ideal. The way around this is to have a list of key information alongside your copy, or in a table of contents like Wikipedia does.
Write to attract links:
When writing, while keeping in mind bounce rates and visually appealing copy (bold points, lists, useful sidebars, etc.), think about writing pieces that bloggers will want to link to, will want to save to their bookmarks, and tell others about. Look at the homepage of Digg and Reddit. You will notice that the posts are straight to the point (i.e. right now an article entitled "Is foreplay really that important?" by the Sun is on the front page of Digg.)
Be kind, link out:
Bloggers who don't link to anyone else often times don't get linked back to. One of the best ways to encourage others to link to your website is to get their attention by using them as a source for an article. They will appreciate the link and are more likely to one day return the favor.
It doesn't matter what you think it's called, it's how others refer to it:
Just because you know your products or services under a certain name does not mean that Google users employ the same words to describe them when searching.You will lose out on a lot of traffic and have a lower conversion rate if you use industry-only terms.
The on-page minimum requirement checklist:
However, sometimes even if your copy is great, your website is holding you back. Here are the most important points, which are minimum requirements to have for a successful SEO campaign.
Unique URLs: The website should have unique URLs for each article, which do not change. When I worked at the IHT.com, the URL of the same story would change over the course of the night, leading to what is considered duplicate content (the same content) which Google removes from its index. Also, it dilutes the link value to articles across a bunch of URLs instead of focusing all links to one unique URL. Another problem can occur if a website uses frames, which change the content of a page, without changing the URL by pulling HTML information from another source. Obviously if a website uses Flash and uses one URL for all pages, that is also a problem (for more reasons than one).
Use CSS instead of tables: In the code, content should come first, before sidebars, etc other junk that will reduce the relevancy of the page. CSS is the solution to this. You can place content below a menu visually, but above it in the code.
Page load time should be minimal: Search engine only wait for heavy pages to load when they consider them to be important for some reason. If your website is brand new and takes a long time to load, then it will most likely not get crawled at all or very often.
Page titles should be unique: The title tag of your article page should contain the few keywords you are targeting, but remain within 70 characters for best presentation in search result pages.
HTML code should be used as it was meant to be used: Every HTML document has a hierarchical architecture that permits search engines to determine what is most important. Besides the positioning of content, search engines also take into account the way HTML tags are used to surround it. For example, the title of an article should be in an H1 tag, other less important subheadings should be in H2 and so on.