This guest post is by Sarah L. Webb of S. L. Writes.
Maybe you consider yourself a serious writer who doesn’t have time for the details of how to boost SEO.
Why should you bother with that when you’ve launched a blog to help people and make the world a better place? Every post you write is packed with valuable information and compelling content. For you, that’s most important, and it should be.
However, it’s hard to change the world if you can’t reach the world, and SEO increases the chances that readers will discover this life changing blog of yours.
You still might think SEO is mostly fake and contrived and not worthy of a serious writer’s attention and time. You might view SEO as a spammer’s bag of tricks, even with Google’s efforts to make it harder to manipulate the system.
I understand that you’re a truly passionate blogger who wants to distance yourself from the kind of malignant marketing that clogs your spam folder. But there’s more to it.
Basic SEO practices are also good blogging and writing practices. More than just helping your site show up in a search engine, SEO can help improve a blog’s focus, readability, and value.
Here’s how it happens naturally.
Focus keywords: passion and niche
Keyword usage is possibly the number one strategy for bloggers, likely because it’s one of the simplest. But keywords have gotten a reputation for destroying perfectly good writing by making it annoyingly repetitive. That’s because spam writers pack keywords into every sentence, thinking it makes a difference.
Instead, the only keywords you need to focus on are passion and niche. Your blogging niche is probably your passion.
Of course those two terms won’t be your actual keywords. Instead, your keywords are the names of the category/sub-category that your niche falls under. For example, your niche and therefore your keywords might be rooftop gardening, comic book collections, or backswing.
This is far from contrived, and you’re probably already using these words because they’re the subject of your blog. It’s actually what your site is about and what your posts are about from any number of angles. The majority of your posts, therefore, and your titles, should naturally include these words on a fairly consistent basis.
If readers can’t tell what your blog is about, they probably won’t come back. If it’s clear that your blog is all about rooftop gardening, then rooftop gardeners will keep returning for more information. Otherwise, they’ll think you’re some sort of generalist blogger who once wrote about rooftop gardening on a whim.
So it’s bigger than keywords. It’s about the focus of your blog.
Still concerned about the quality of the writing? SEO can help improve the reading experience of your posts.
Titles and language: be direct
Honest, soulful, non-spam blogging is all about the readers, isn’t it?
Beginning with the title, SEO reminds you to tell readers exactly what to expect from an article. They shouldn’t have to read hundreds of words only to realize your post won’t give them what they’re looking for. Readers are busier than ever and they literally have a million other things they could be giving attention to. If you don’t respect your readers’ attention, they may never bother to read your work again.
It’s only fair that you don’t waste their time with misleading, ambiguous titles or introductory paragraphs that dance around the subject. More than likely, they won’t even click the link if the title is bad and isn’t somehow informative. You can still keep intrigue and shock, but the topic should always be clear and specific.
Another value of being SEO minded is that it reminds you to write in a clear, conversational tone. As the saying goes, “Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.”
This is more than search engine friendliness. Conversational language helps you connect with your audience and convey those brilliant ideas to the broadest, possible range of people.
Before you could ever think about the “how” of language, I’m sure you determine the “what.” What’s the value in everything you’re doing, and how does SEO help you improve that value?
Length and links: offer valuable content
When I’m grading student papers, I can estimate how well-developed or under developed the papers are by looking at the word count. Word count factors into the quality of writing because many students make strong claims, but they fail to support illustrate, or expound on those ideas.
For instance, students would probably say they can sum up this entire post in one sentence.
I can too: SEO can help improve a blog’s focus, readability, and value.
But if I had just stopped there, would you be convinced? Would you really walk away with a renewed perspective on SEO if I had left it at that?
That’s where elaboration comes in. Make a wonderful claim, and then tell readers how to apply it or how it relates to them.
Readers like posts that are packed with insight and helpful information. Being vague and general won’t give them that. Write it plainly, but also write it completely.
Include links wherever they’re truly relevant. Give readers the opportunity to continue learning beyond the single post they’re reading.
All of this is in line with your noble mission, not contrary to it.
SEO with soul
Unfortunately, a system put in place to measure the value of sites so that Google could deliver the best value to its users has been hacked by people trying to make a quick buck. But like any form of technology, a few people who abuse the system don’t make the system inherently worthless. Like Facebook, Twitter, and television, it’s about how you chose to use the tool, and the kind of value you bring to it.
If you’re a regular at ProBlogger, you’re probably someone who uses technology for legitimate, even charitable purposes. Your good intentions should lead you to an honest use of SEO. I call it SEO with soul.
So I urge you not to let the spammers keep you away from a great thing. Take back SEO, and show the world how to do it right.