I’ve recently been training a new editor, and, in addition to various rules that must be followed for different clients, many of our discussions revolve around the use of keywords. While keywords are still important, this isn’t necessarily the best way to think about optimizing content — before it can be effectively optimized, content must be compelling, and as search engines keep getting smarter, that’s truer now more than ever.
As an editor, it’s a bit too easy for me to look at words as separate, individual building blocks rather than taking in an entire sentence or paragraph. The fixation on spelling, grammar, and word choice can overshadow the larger value of a sentence and the points being made — and this danger becomes even more pronounced when editing content with optimization in mind.
So how do you remain an effective editor focused on the small stuff, while still evaluating content for SEO?
It’s a Matter of Trust
Launch’s Editor-in-Chief recently passed along this excellent video from the Moz Blog on keywording, and as I watched it a deceptively simple thing occurred to me: effectively optimizing content is largely a matter of trusting your readers.
Think of it this way: when you’re having a conversation with someone, you trust that they’ll be able to understand what you’re talking about and maintain interest without you mentioning the subject repeatedly. Such is the case with SEO, too — while overloading a page with keywords may have been effective at the turn of the century, search engines have gotten much smarter and more intuitive since then. If you want to tell somebody about your sweet new car, you’re not going to shout it’s name and model year again and again in the hope of convincing your friend that it’s awesome — you’re going to mention the vehicle’s name when appropriate while talking about why it’s so great.
I would argue that the why is the most important part. If a reader visits a page and finds an ocean of keywords with scraps of content in between, or if they’re brought to a page with only a tangential relation to what they’re looking for, they’re going to feel cheated and leave. Just as you build conversational credibility over the course of a dialogue, you also build credibility for your website with substantive, interesting content.
As you build unique, specific content for your site, you’ll also start to see the benefits of creating network connectivity between various terms and phrases. By building out more and more content that offers genuinely useful information on your products and services, you’ll automatically create the opportunity to transfer link equity from page to related page across your site. You’ll also create more opportunities to show up in search for specific questions and queries, which in turn translates to more opportunities for inbound links and social shares. Think of it like effective word-of-mouth advertising, but for the digital age.
The Takeaway of Natural SEO Practices
Certainly, there are important technical considerations to effectively optimizing your content. My point is that it’s easy to over-think SEO practices, and doing so can sabotage your efforts. Make valuable content, optimize it naturally for your readers, and trust the search engines to help those readers find it.