Think Engaging Content - Forget SEO Hacks

Strive for excellent writing and Google will applaud

SEO image

Since the dawn of Google, website designers and writers have tried to bend the internet in a valiant attempt to increase the number of people consuming their content. In the competition for clicks and advertising revenue, many search engine hacks were utilised. Head count was all important, not who or why was the content viewed. From keyword stuffing and invisible image text to purchasing backlinks, many hacks or techniques as they prefer to be known, have been unceremoniously retired by ever sophisticated algorithms.

So how do we optimise our content for search engines now and how do we make our efforts future proof? What can we do today that will stand the test of time? The clever search engine folks, whether employed by Google, Bing or Yahoo have a singular focus when ranking non-affiliated content. Is it intrinsically honest and does it engage the reader? Now I know that having two criteria isn't a singular focus, but they are two sides of the same coin. When I click on a link, am I transported to my expected destination and once I arrive, is it worthy of my valuable time? That is all the algorithm coders want to ascertain. So if we deliver intrinsically honest and engaging content as the algorithms become more and more refined, our work will be elevated above less worthy specimens.

Now you and I can read an article, tutorial or review and quickly form an opinion on its quality and intentions. Like a well-meaning parent meeting their teenager's romantic interest for the first time, judgement is made in seconds and is hard to upgrade once formed. In the online world we inhabit, we still have to help out our less well-formed search engine commutators. They may be able to shuffle through millions of attractions in a blink of an eye but would struggle to evaluate that Chad is a gold-digger or Sophie has a meth habit.

Write engaging content

So how do we help search engines to help ourselves? The sub-header says it all! If we provide content that our target readership finds interesting, they will read more from our source. If they respect our work, they will recommend it to their friends, colleagues or twitter followers; basically anyone who will listen. Remember, content quality is subjective and what appeals to you might not appeal to others. The not-so-secret method for writing compelling editorial is to know your audience and write with them in mind. If you get that right, everything will fall into place.

But what about keywords?

You will see plenty of tips about where and how many keywords to pepper within your text but again, please stop thinking about SEO hacks. If you write interesting content that is enthusiastically shared, you have won. If your writing conveys your intentions, surely it has enough keywords. Artificial SEO content is dull, laboured and intellectually moribund. Technically, keyword stuffing will reduce, not elevate your ranking. People can spot content written for SEO purposes and so can algorithms. Yes five years ago this little hack entertained search engines but so did pictures of planking.

How do we guide the bots to crawl our content?

The simplest and most effective way to provide a guided journey through your content maze is with descriptive markup. The basics are just that, basic. Do you want to point to the main heading that distills the essence of your article? Wrap it within h1 tags. Do you have additional informative sections headings? Wrap them in h2 tags. Do you have further titles that should stand out? Guess what - wrap them in h3 tags. How about some text that you need to emphasise? Well there is a tag for that call emphasis.

But isn't SEO difficult? What is the Semantic Web? How about Meta Tags?

This is the secret sauce that further guides web crawlers to understand your web page. Even though this is touted by web agencies as the holy grail of SEO, if you produce unworthy content, your page ranking will always be deficient. In the next article I will explain how to use Meta Tags and the Semantic Web to your advantage. It is not technically difficult and if you can write a cracking article you can easily master the mysterious world of Meta Tagging.