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Eight Keys to Good Web Content

January 27th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Good content is not a search engine optimization gimmick. It’s one area that can never become one. It can’t be faked. In the end, people are only going to visit your site or link to it if it’s worth visiting. I get tickled when I read about the hot blogging strategy of “link baiting.” That’s simply the technique of writing something that’s interesting enough for others to link to. Well, then we should all become link baiters. The keys to good content are not complicated:

  1. Make your pages easy for your target audience to read. Every group has their own jargon – their own “in” language. But does your special terminology make it easier for others to understand you – or simply harder for them to become an insider?
  2. Write it right. The real purpose of good grammar, spelling and punctuation is not to impress people. It’s to avoid distracting them. If it’s worth putting on the Web, it’s worth rereading and rewriting.
  3. Keep your content organized. A page should deal with a single topic. A paragraph should deal with a single sub-topic. Headings and titles should signal to your readers what they’re about to read. Mixing several topics haphazardly makes it hard to get good search engine rankings for any topic.
  4. Imagine what your visitors want and how they will find you. Your titles and headings need to include their search terms, or they may miss your site. Use synonyms to catch them all. A well-written page will include several thematically-related terms, which tells the search engines that you’re thoroughly covering your topic, not just pretending.
  5. Don’t repeat yourself (or anyone else). Nobody wants to read the same thing over and over. If someone else said it better than you, link to them. If you don’t know a different way to say it, think of one. If you can’t say something original, you may as well not say anything at all. Search engines automatically remove duplicate content.
  6. Don’t try to fool the people, or the robots. Stuffing your page with lists of keywords, instead of providing the content that people want, may temporarily please the search engine robots, but it won’t permanently keep your search rankings high.
  7. If the text is an image, it doesn’t count as text. Yes, images allow designers to control exactly what the page looks like. But any text contained in an image can’t be indexed or searched. Users can’t cut and paste it, and screen readers can’t interpret it. And it can’t help visitors find your site. If you want your creations to be picture-perfect, may I suggest acrylics or oils, not the Web.
  8. Be fresh and original. The more current you can keep your content, the more visitors you’re likely to have. If someone spends time on your website, you don’t want them spending that time wondering if your information is still accurate, or if you’re ever going to add any new content for them. Focus on your expertise. You know and do things that nobody else does.
  9. Empathize. Do your visitors have needs? Can you help to meet them? Does what you’re doing actualkly benefit anyone besides your own small circle? Your Web page is your chance to benefit others, to show that you understand them. If you put yourself in your visitors’ shoes, you’ll find yourself saying, “They probably don’t know this, so I’m going to point it out.” “They probably misunderstand this, so I’m going to explain it.” “I wish someone had told me this a lot earlier, so I’m going to tell them now.”

In our next installment on search engine optimization: what is “lorem ipsum” and why shouldn’t you care?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 Search, Web Content
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