Effective SEO calls for content that is easy to read and written to sound natural. That’s how things should be done. But exactly how does one write naturally?
Here’s a hint: If you are writing primarily with the goal of impressing the search engines, that is just the opposite of writing naturally. If all you do when generating content for your website is intended to please good old Google, chances are you’ll end up writing a piece that is not only of little value for your readers, but one that’s likely to flop in terms of ranking as well.
Now more than ever before, Google advocates doing things naturally. This has always been what they sought from website and content writers, but the emphasis has become even stronger.
In the not-so-distant past, SEO was as simple as using keywords early in the page title, in the first part of the content, in the subheadings, and in links to pages that used exact match keywords as anchor texts; and by building a host of links from external sources.
Today, many SEO experts will tell you that’s the old-school way of doing it. Does the old-school way of doing SEO still work these days, especially when the Penguins and Pandas are roaming the highways and byways of the Internet?
Some old SEO strategies may still work for Bing, Yahoo!, and various other small search engines. You can rank a site for noncompetitive keywords fairly easily, even without doing some off-page optimization. But let’s face it: Google is still king of the SEO hill, and it continues to claim a huge chunk of the all the searches performed on the Internet.
And you know what Google delivers. It aims to provide users not with the most optimized content, but the most relevant content.
Many news articles and high-quality web content such as you find on highly reputable sites like Forbes.com and Mashable are no longer concentrating on keyword-optimizing their content. Instead, they strive to publish content in a natural way that readers can easily relate to. This is because the search engines have become more skilled at determining whether a site is trying to spam by overly optimizing web pages with keywords and displaying little regard for readability.
Again, the focus these days is not so much on how much you should optimize your content for certain keywords, but how relevant your information is.
So if old-hat optimization tricks are considered a form of over-optimization, and/or they are potentially detrimental to your rankings, what do you do? How should you properly optimize for search?
Make your content Google-friendly
We all hope to make our sites Google-friendly. But precisely how do you do that nowadays?
Do you remember Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)? Google and other major search engines have moved away from exact-match results in favor of relevant results. This means you shouldn’t over-optimize your content with exact-match keywords. Instead, shift your energy toward the use of variations of your keywords.
In the past, using exact-match keywords very early in the title was the norm. For example: “Roofing California: How to Hire Roofers in Los Angeles” (when “Roofing California” was the keyword). Today, however, variations such as “How to Hire a Roofing Company in California” are going to be more successful.
Try to mix up your anchor texts by employing other related key phrases. Also, don’t be too concerned about inventing subheaders that include your keywords. If inserting a keyword in a subheader creates a phrase that sounds clumsy or just doesn’t make sense, dump the keywords and write something that more accurately expresses your thoughts.
Also, be sure to make every page unique, with focused and detailed content.
More on semantically related terms
You can reap various benefits from using terms that are semantically related to your main keywords. By identifying terms that are similar to your keywords and using them in your content, you’ll get higher rankings from the search engines.
You may also be able to target keyphrases that you might not have otherwise considered. These have the potential to bring in more traffic that happened to be searching for those related keyphrases.
Consider the following example. The phrases below can all be used as related terms for the acronym SEO:
You don’t have to use all of these related terms. But as a part of content intended to read naturally, it would not be unusual for at least some of the above phrases to appear in your writing.
Okay, so semantically related words are tactically useful for today’s site optimization. But how do you go about identifying those semantically related terms for the keywords you want to optimize for?
Using the thesaurus will give you a decent start. But a more contemporary approach would be to take a direct look at the number of searches entered for particular keywords and their related terms. You would do well to make use of keyword research tools such as Google’s own AdWords Keywords tool.
Modifiers and junk words
In addition to using words that are semantically related, it makes sense to use words that are common modifiers. For example, common buying / shopping searches might include words like bargain, inexpensive, discount, cheap, and so on.
And then there are modifiers and terms that SEOs regard as junk words. Apart from using semantically related terms, you can use modifiers and junk words as anchor texts when directing your visitors to a link. These words include free shipping, click here, buy, purchase, shop, search here, visit here, etc.
The key is to focus on creating natural content that appeals primarily to readers. When setting out to create a proper piece of content, think about how it would appeal to you, or how you would like it to read if you were to target yourself.
Don’t worry too much about all those keywords, modifiers, and semantically related terms at first. Just write your content with the topic and the target audience in mind. You can go back later and modify it so that it includes the ideal array of keywords and related terms.
If you stop to think about it, SEO is actually much simpler now than it was before. And it’s better for the target audience too.
If you have questions on how to optimize your site properly for search, contact us for a free site assessment.