Many things are said about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) a good many of them wrong and misinformed. The most common of the critiques is that there is a trade-off between writing for your readers and writing for Google. A compromise between having a blog focused on content, readability and character, and a blog that is optimized to be scanned, indexed and searched.
Not only is this untrue, but more often that not good white-hat SEO tactics will make your blog better. Better for your readers, better for you, and better for the people that want to find what youre producing be it a product, information, or entertainment.
Good SEO tactics the kind of SEO that you could proudly append to the bottom of any post, describing to your readers what you did and why you did it can make your blog more readable, accessible, and just plain better.
Write posts that are detailed and thorough yet sharp and well defined. Posts that could be mistaken for entries in the encyclopedia. Great stories that have a distinct theme and subject. This is what readers want and its also what search engines want.
Search engines dont like long unfocused and rambling posts (they dont know how to index them) and neither do your readers (they find them vague and usually boring). And even you the blogger benefit on this one. One of the biggest challenges bloggers face is thinking up enough interesting topics to write about. When you go throwing 3 or 4 different subjects into a blog post, not only are you confusing your readers, but youre also blowing off what could have been 3 or 4 different posts. Stay focused and everyone wins.
Similar to focus but more concerned with word choice as opposed to themes and topics. Trim the extra words from your posts and make sentences crisp, clear, and streamlined. Computers are not as smart as people when it comes to deciphering meaning so if your readers are having trouble with passages then so is Google. Make sentences short, easy to understand and memorable.
Also watch your use of pronouns, hackneyed phrases, and generic verbs.
Lets look at 2 example sentences:
A. When we got there everyone was waiting impatiently.
B. When we got to the hotel all the other guests were waiting to check-in.
Theyre both describing the same scene but the first one assumes the reader knows what youre talking about (and some might not). The 2nd one is not only more clear but also has a number of keywords that people might actually be searching for. Hotel, guests, and check-in are certainly much more commonly searched than everyone and impatiently.
This might seem like writing for Google, but it will often make your writing more clear and easy to read. Remember as well: not everyone reading a travel blog has English as their first language.
3. Use headings and sub-headings within a post
Common SEO advice is to use keywords and keyphrases in headings and subheadings; and bold them in a couple of key sections throughout the text. Sounds like common tactics in the print industry long before Google was founded.
Headings, blockquotes, and bolded text grab peoples eyes and arrest their movement down the page when theyre starting to scan. They also make it easier for search engines to determine the main topics of a post or page.
4. Use a diverse array of media
People love posts with images, charts, and videos and so do search engines so use them. If you make videos embed them on their own page within your website and be sure to transcribe the audio into text that will appear below the video. This is good for Google and Bing it tells them what this video post is about but also good for readers. It allows them to quickly scan the content to see if they want to watch it, and also allows visitors with a slower connection to consume this information even if theyre not able to stream the video.
5. Post ideas
Do you want to know what topics search engines are interested in? Use a keyword tool to find out what words and phrases are being searched for.
Do you want to know what topics people and your potential readers are interested in? Use a keyword tool to find out what words and phrases are being searched for.
These are not separate ideas. As a blogger you should be interested in solving some demand an answer to a question, a desire to be entertained, a need to feel motivated and inspired and search engines are in the business of solving these demands by finding you.
Obviously youre doing your readers a disservice if youre writing posts just because they appear in a keyword tool. So stick to what you know.
But using a keyword tool is akin to emailing your friends and asking If you were writing a post on mountain climbing what topics would you want covered? Keyword research tells you what the answer would be if you had 2 billion friends.
6. Load Time
Google has stated clearly that load times are one of the signals they use to determine quality of a page. Readers undoubtedly like fast loading pages as well. [Todd here, we have a very helpful discussion in the forums on how to increase the speed of your site with some simple WordPress plugins]
7. Use descriptive names and tags for images
Though search engines have made huge strides with image recognition software they most definitely are not using it on all images on the web. By using keyword rich file names, employing descriptive alt and title tags, and making smart use of captions search engines will have a pretty good idea what the image is about. Clearly humans are not as dependent on these hints but a good caption and title tag (the text that shows when you mouse-over an image) will give readers a much richer understanding about the context, location, and details of an image.
8. Use a descriptive URL and directory structure
Google likely uses URLs and directory structure to attempt to understand the subject of a post and so do readers. The URL string can often be the link text for a post and the only thing a reader sees when making a guess regarding a posts subject.
9. Have an easy to navigate website
Google doesnt index everything on a site so attempting to have the majority of your posts 1 to 3 clicks away from your homepage can make it more likely that all of your posts will be found by search engines. Readers like this too, and few things are more annoying or will have users clicking away from your site faster than making content hard to find.
10. Make awesome resource pages.
Google and people both love resources pages. If youre planning a trip to India theres nothing better than a list of high quality links to good information. The trouble is, resource pages are hard to do well. To the uninitiated resource pages can seem an easy and thoughtless attempt at attracting links but theyre not. To do them well requires a lot of legwork, regular updating, and a keen eye for knowing what people are interested in.
What SEO tactics do you use that also benefit your readers? Are there any SEO tactics that you think come at the expense of readers?