(Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes)
I was talking to my friend Srini over at BlogCastFM the other day and he asked about simple SEO.
(Actually, he was interviewing me for an upcoming podcast, but it feels a little weird to be interviewed, and to talk about it.)
In any case, really simple SEO. What means? It’s easy to understand, but let’s get some context first.
Probably every one reading Website In A Weekend has heard the term “content is king.” If you haven’t heard that, “content is king” just means really good writing trumps everything else on the web.
Trumps everything except really good writing.
When you’re up against your peers, who are also writing kingly content, a little more work on your part will ensure your great writing gets an even-to-better chance at getting found.
And there’s this: your peers may be doing this little extra work too.
Yes, it’s an arms race with the Red Queen, but the simple skills I’m going to outline are, well, simple. Maybe not “easy” at first, but definitely simple.
SEO for people who hate SEO
If your main interest is in writing, in art or film or music or anything other than running an advertising-driven network built to suck in search results, dominate your keywords and crush your competition, this is for you. (Otherwise, I recommend joining up at Aaron Wall’s SEOBook, only $300/month).
That leaves the rest of us.
In fact, let’s just agree to sh*tcan the whole notion of Ess Eee Ohh. We’re not going to optimize. Really optimizing for search engines isn’t that hard, but let’s be truthful: your beautiful prose will suffer. In my book, anyone saying otherwise is a son of a fire-starting shoe salesman.
Instead, let’s think “Search Engine Friendly.”
“Optimize” is such an extreme word, brooks no compromise, even if nobody quite agrees on what is optimal.
“Friendly” is much nicer. Friendly is a Golden Retriever, always happy to see you. Friendly allows for a little give and take. Friendly is being approachable, dateable even.
Your search engine wants to date you… are you slamming your door in it’s face?
Do you know?
Search Engine Friendly
Getting search engine friendly isn’t very difficult. In fact, if you’re using WordPress, you’re about 80% of the way there. If you’re using a modern Theme such as Thesis correctly (or any of several SEO plugins), you may be closer to 95% of the way there.
95% seems pretty good, right?
If you make 95% of 1,000,000 results, you’re going to be buried under the 50,000 web pages ahead of you.
Doing better isn’t that hard.
The SE Friendly List (you’ve seen this before)
Here’s the key: write your best content, then fit the search engine stuff to your content. Like this:
- Title. It all starts with your article title. Whole chapters in books have been written about titles. You should read those books. Then write your own killer titles.
- Post slug. Another critical element, three to five keyword post slugs will really help you out. Can you do it? It’s not that hard, but it takes practice.
- Categories. Like chapters in a book, help keep your articles organized.
- Tags. Your index to great blog posts. I used the “geronimo” tag to find some of the links to this article.
- Meta Title. Important, get the meta title right to attract both readers and search engine loving. It doesn’t have to be the same as your article title, you know. You can make this shorter or longer or different, whatever you think is best. Read more about
- Meta Description. You can choose to write a summary with keywords, or a little sales pitch to suck in readers. Find out the difference between abstract and subtitle styles of meta description
- Meta Keywords. Before we go any further, yes, I do know that Google does not weight search engine results with keywords. I use them anyway.
See, not that hard.
And, like I wrote above, you have seen this before. You will see it again.
Master the basics!
Simple Things are hard enough, don’t get ahead of yourself. If you can’t write a decent title for an article, master that before trying to sculpt page rank.
Did I mention? You’re going to see these basics over and over again, because I’m going to hammer them every which way but loose!
Make SE Friendly a habit
Making your writing search engine friendly rather them search engine optimal may seem like high heresy, but I don’t know any other way to remain true to my writing. (Or true to my readers.)
You can do this. It’s not that hard.
Let’s recap in two steps:
- Write your content for your readers.
- Add the search engine stuff afterwards; just let the search engine know what you wrote about.
Why Search Engine Friendly works
First, getting those first 7 points nailed down is fundamental to any SEO. It’s the starting point for everything, because the search engine algorithms weight those components of your web page very heavily. Getting those right is a Big Deal, and you don’t have to warp your world-class prose to fit. Instead, you fit the SEO to your world-class prose.
Second, when you commit to search engine friendliness, each time you publish is like planting a little seed. The more seeds you plant, the fruit your garden will bear. Make planting seeds a habit, and you grow your garden practically on autopilot.
In other words, being search engine friendly isn’t so much like solving a problem.
It’s really a lot more like dating. It’s a process. You live it. Be SEO dateable. Be the kind of blogger search engines want to suck up to.
Because once they start sucking up to you, they tend to keep sucking up to you. But that’s story for another day.