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Writing for SEO

Most writing these days ends up on the web. That means that writing for good SEO (search engine optimization) is an important consideration.  If it’s worth writing, it’s worth getting found by targeted readers.

The procedure itself is rather direct.  Identify appropriate keywords and then put them in the right places in the document, such as title, headlines, first paragraph, etc. and with the right frequencies. The challenge comes in when you also want the writing to look good and work well with human readers, including prospects, customers, and human reviewers at Google and other search engines. And according to Google and SEO experts, writing effectively for human readers is the most critical consideration. The days of just writing keyword-stuffed bad copy are over.

Much of the SEO writing being done is outsourced to Asia, where non-native speakers of English are paid very low fees to string words together crammed with keywords. If they don’t overdo it and get penalized by Google, this can result in a page with good search engine ranking. But human readers will be turned off by this kind of writing and find the page barely readable. Frequently the English is barbaric and many sentences are meaningless or hopelessly obscure. This hurts the company’s brand and presents a low-scale image to the public.

If you want to see what I mean, just Google the name of any drug and read several of the pages you find. Many will be very similar, the same thing repeated in slightly different words strung together in a slightly different order (spinning). Some of the English will be so bad with basic rules of syntax fractured so bad as to make the “sentences” unreadable. Often it looks like it was written by a not-too-smart computer.

It doesn’t not have to be this way. Writing can be done so that it is polished and effective, without compromising it’s SEO effectiveness. We judge our work by language quality, marketing effectiveness, and SEO results. When it’s done right, it builds trust and it builds the brand. More people will read it, share it, and be motivated by it.

The techniques described above with keywords put in the right places and with the right frequencies and densities are called ‘on-page factors’ and are crucial for successful SEO. But there are also off-page factors that boost search-engine rankings, and they can be as important and sometimes even more important than the on-page factors.

The main off-page technique is link-building, in which you try to attract as many inbound links as possible from relevant, highly ranked sites. The best way to do this is with strong, useful, well-written content. Which webmaster or site owner would want to link to the barbarically written pages I referred to above? But if you have a great page, people will want to link to it and boost your SEO in the process. A page that shows quality and builds trust will be much more likely to pick up links from other sites.