I’ve been toying with writing this post for a number of weeks now after reading a number of posts on the death of Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers.
Nick over at Performancing kicked it off (at least it was the first one I’d read for a while) with Why Bloggers Don’t need SEO which I think is a great post making some valid points.
His main argument, as I read it, is that if you write for humans instead of computers that you’ll find you’ll build traffic, get subscribers, get links from other sites and as a result you’ll grow in your Search rankings.
In a sense by writing for humans you ARE doing a very organic SEO as one of the main things SEO experts teach is to get relevant, one way links from other sites.
It’s a pretty strong argument for ‘writing for humans’ and a similar one to what Steve wrote in his recent post (point 4) where he argues strongly that you should write for humans first and computers second.
While I don’t think either Nick or Steve would argue that SEO principles should be ignored completely one might conclude from reading posts like these that SEO is a waste of time and should slip off the radar for bloggers.
I am one blogger that does not believe this. My Dad always used to teach me that when there are two arguments on a topic that in many cases the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
My recommendation is that there is a middle ground and that writing for humans and writing for computers are not mutually exclusive things (and I’ll note that I’m not accusing either Nick or Steve of saying that they are).
Here’s a number of random thoughts that I’d keep in mind when exploring this topic:
1. I would argue that the degree that you write for humans/computers will need to vary from blog to blog somewhat. As I wrote a few posts back here – as I look at my blogs I see some that need SE traffic more than others. ProBlogger is one that does not rely heavily upon SE traffic (although I’ve noticed more of it of late) while my gadget blogs do. This is because of the nature of what people are looking for on those blogs.
Here at ProBlogger people are looking for community, a learning environment and fellow travelers/teachers to explore a topic over time. On my gadget blogs people are looking for information on a particular product for a particular time. A much smaller percentage of them want to build community around those products – instead they want to make a decision on what to buy and their first point of call is a search engine where they’ll type in ‘product name review’. While writing for humans is still important in these blogs SEO is still worth exploring – in fact as I look at the traffic on some of these blogs search engines account for the vast majority of visitors.
2. Sometimes SE traffic leads to repeat traffic – While writing for humans can lead to SE traffic as Nick points out, I believe the opposite is true also.
As I mentioned above, ProBlogger has recently seen an increase in it’s SE traffic (mainly from Google). This has been partly because of the process Nick describes in his post (ie lots of incoming links as a result of writing useful content) but also a little SEO. The great thing I’ve noticed though is that quite a few visitors from SE’s are staying on as regular readers. I regularly get emails from readers saying things like “I found your site after searching for ‘insert search term here’ on Google and have been coming back every day since….”
3. SE traffic converts to revenue best – the topic of this blog is ‘helping bloggers earn money’ and I’d be doing readers a disservice if I didn’t mention that in my experience (and that of others) SE traffic converts better with Advertising and Affiliate programs than repeat readers. Of course not all bloggers have money making as a goal of their blog so this is less important to some – but worth keeping in mind.
4. SEO CAN be a distraction – There are many ways bloggers can become obsessed with one element of their blogs to the point that the rest of their blog suffers (point #5 here) and SEO is one of them. While I do argue that SEO is something to learn about and keep in mind as you blog I do not think it’s the only aspect that needs to be worked upon. I know a number of web-masters that have become obsessed with SEO and have seen it’s negative impact upon their blogs. Keep it in balance.
5. Blogs as a Natural SEO format – Most blog platforms come in their default mode in a format that is well optimized for Search Engines. In addition to the fact that blogs link to each other, they usually have good URL structures, interlink well within the site (via categories) and are regularly updated (creating fresh content that Google loves). There are things you can do to enhance your SE ranking there is no need to be overwhelmed by it because you usually have a good starting place.
I guess for me it boils down to this. I do primarily write for humans – I want my blogs to be useful to them and work hard to provide good content. However most humans who use the internet use search engines to find content when they don’t already have a source of information for their interest. As a result I want my blogs to be findable in Search Engines and think it a wise move to do what I can to help this process along by learning about how Search Engines work.
While this does not mean I ignore the human element – it means I keep in mind the principles of SEO as I develop blogs and write posts on them. To me balance is the key and a combination of SEO and concentrating on quality content has been successful for me to this point.
To read more about Search Engine Optimization you might like to read my post on SEO for blogs.