Want to finish by talking about the relationship between good online content creation and search engine optimization. If you’re responsible for writing content for a website, you’ve probably read lots of tips and tricks designed to get your website pages to rank highly in search results or you may have had unsolicited offers from companies who claim that they can get your site into the top 10 results in Google. Some of the tips might sound sensible to you. Others might seem a bit weird. As for the companies making those promises, I’d recommend that you don’t get involved with them at all.
SEO is a Business
Here’s the big issue with search engine optimization or SEO. SEO is big business. Very few online searches move beyond the first page of result, so companies really do start fighting for search engine result placement. The thing is, nobody outside the search engine companies knows how to do search algorithms work. There are whole blogs devoted to dissecting the offhand comments that people who work on the search algorithms make at conferences. This leads to many superstitious behaviours and recommendations.
Search Engine Algorithms Change
What’s even worse is that the algorithms change over time. Sometimes rendering a previous recommendation is useless, or even dangerous. It’s interesting to think about why the algorithms change. It’s about keeping the search results relevant. The search engines are trying to provide the pages most likely to be relevant to the humans doing the searches. They mostly do this by deciding which attributes of each page contribute to the relevance, and then weighing all of these up to rank the different pages, display them in order on a search results page.
Search Engine Love Well-written Content
If the search engines do their job properly, the top organic or non-sponsored results should be the most relevant, and so the most satisfying to users. The search engines are trying to measure the relevance of the content on their pages. They’re trying to see how well written the content is. The irony is people don’t write well when they’re trying to somehow improve SEO. Instead, they try tricks like keyword stuffing, hidden text, repetitive and uninformative blocks of text, cross-linking, and other techniques that might temporarily improve your ranking for a specific time, but are more likely to get you banned.
My suggestion is that true search engine optimization is what happens when you write concise, authentic, useful content. That content is likely to contain the terms that people really search on that’s likely to be surrounded by other similar, equally useful information. Several of the techniques for good writing practice that we cover in this course are also used by SEO practitioners. That’s not really surprising. Well-written content should be placed near the top of search results, but the correlation isn’t the same as causation.
Just because people who charge you money for search engine ranking using some of the same techniques doesn’t mean that all of their techniques are going to work or that if they work today, they’ll work equally well tomorrow. In fact, some of the tricks that SEO practitioners used five years ago are now coming back to cause problems because the major search engines now penalize sites that use those tricks. It’s far better to invest your time and money in creating the best possible content you can on the subjects you care about than to spend it on dubious promises that require you to make your text almost unintelligible to regular humans.