By Karon Thackston – September 18, 2006
I was so excited to read his post! Google icon Matt Cutts was blogging on August 21st and hit the nail on the head (as he does quite frequently). The title of the post was “SEO Advice: Writing useful articles that readers will love.” That, in and of itself, says it all. Why is this such a thrilling post? Because it reinforces what I’ve been saying for years. Whether you’re writing content for a website, an article or any type of SEO copy, you must think of the reader first.
There is such a barrage of worthless articles floating around the ‘Net these days. Keyword-stuffed, useless ramble that was obviously written with the sole intent of attempting to rank highly. Striving for top rankings is not a bad thing, but the purpose of writing SEO articles is threefold: provide information, rank highly when used on your site and increase link popularity. That means the practice must follow the purpose.
Why Write an Article?
Let’s start at the beginning. Why write articles to begin with? While having SEO content on your site is a good thing, your first concern should be with offering useful information to your readers. Cutts agrees with this practice and makes a point of discussing why providing relevant, helpful information is vital.
If the information isn’t helpful, those who visit your site will have little interest in reading it. Yes, if the page ranks highly, it might bring in a bit of traffic. But if visitors take one look at your article and then click away, what good have the high rankings done you?
Likewise, if you choose to distribute your article throughout the Internet, it is highly unlikely that others will elect to run your article on their sites. If your work doesn’t provide solid information and is poorly written, it will not be considered link-worthy.
Optimizing for the Engines
Once you’ve decided what information you want to provide, you can turn your focus to SEO. Copywriting for the engines requires balance. You never want to sacrifice the reader’s experience for the sake of rankings. Stuffing keywords into text is a method that will almost always backfire. Practically no one wants to read an article (or website page) that constantly repeats the same exact terms to the point of extremes.
Cutts also addressed this issue in his blog post, stating that he included keyphrases within his own article and also used similar terms. Cutts made a point of suggesting that we pay more attention to keyphrase use (and the use of variations of those keyphrases) than focusing on keyword density.
The Two Most Important Keys
The two “meta-issues” Cutts highlighted in his article were both related to user experience, not to the practice of SEO copywriting. First, pay attention to the content you offer. Always impart useful, concrete knowledge to your reader. Second, study your niche (i.e., know your target audience!) and write specifically for the purpose of helping them.
There is other great information included in Cutts’ post, and I encourage you to read it plus the comments that follow. You can find it here.
These are things I (and other SEO pros) have been preaching for years. User first, search engines second. When you get the priority order straight, the rest will fall into line without much hassle.