Search engine optimization (SEO) is critically important to online writing because you want to be found when people look for what they need. Search engines such as Google rank content by its degree of value to users. Because searchers rarely look past the first page of the list that comes up, everyone wants to be one of the first ten results. Engines continually refine their criteria and algorithms to reflect their perception of highest value. For website and blogs, the perennial values are appealing content that changes often, number of inbound links (links to your site from other sites), and the effectiveness of your keywords and search terms.
Lots of expensive professionals are available to help you optimize your site by adjusting your content and search terms, as well as plenty of books. Here I give you a brief overview.
To dig into SEO, seriously brainstorm your enterprise to come up with the language your target audiences are most likely to use when searching for your ‘service’ or ‘product’ or ‘posts’. Try for a pool of at least 30 terms that include your product or service names, location if relevant, and any industry specifications people might think of (for example, XYZ Photography, ABC certified developers). You want to use the most popular search terms — but on the other hand, if everyone in your category is using them, your business may be buried. Many people look for a balance between the obvious and obscure and cover both ends of the spectrum.
Help is available via Google itself.
Try entering a search term, then click on “Related searches” to see what competitors are using.
Once you settle on your search terms, use them liberally! “Frontload” your headlines by putting the keywords at or near the beginning. Sprinkle them through your website and blog content, and use the most important ones in the first paragraph. Some specialists recommend using three to five per page, but recent algorithms mostly credit those used in the first few paragraphs. Each website page should have its own set of terms to distinguish its content. Keywords are also important to social media bios and posts —savvy people pack even the one-line Twitter bio with keywords as well as hashtags.
Fortunately, your groundwork for websites or blogs gives you what you need, adaptable to each platform’s guidelines. The trick to all this is to make what you write feel natural and read well, despite the search terms. Even working in three keywords on a page can undermine your message’s impact. If you jam in so many search terms that they interfere with reading and enjoyment, you’ve defeated your purpose.
Always think of the reader first, then the search engine and its crawlers.
A few trends to note:
There’s a shift toward “long tail” search terms, the more natural way people might look for what they want — closer to the question they would ask. Instead of (or in addition to) “formal bowtie,” for example, “tie you wear with a tuxedo.” This is in line with the growing use of voice search — as in asking Siri or Alexa to find something for you. A second big tilt is in favor of mobile communication. If people type in a keyword, it must be short and to the point. On the other hand, if they voice their question, they are apt to use long-tail search terms. Mobility also creates more demanding criteria for your content. The smaller the screen, the tighter, more relevant, and fat-free must your writing be.
Keep in mind that optimization is about content first, then SEO to promote distribution of that content.
Keep your material fresh and alive.