I see a lot of posts where people talk about how to make your site better for search engines, and how to write a post for a search engine. I can honestly tell you that I have never sat down with that as my goal for anything I’ve written. Just like I don’t advocate designing your site for search engines, I would never suggest you customize your content for them. The web is for humans.(At least until our robot overlords take over.)
At the risk of being repetitive, I will reiterate that you are not making your site in order to be ranked number one in search engines. You are making your site for people to read. If you’re making a site just to be number one, you’re doing it wrong.
No matter what your topic, no matter your product, your goal is to make it something people value. So why is it a search for “how to write for search engines” has so many hits? A large number of those hits are for spam sites, who over-sell advertising and promise you hundreds of hits a day. Others, however, offer the same advice I’m telling you. Don’t write for search engines.
Yes, if you get highly ranked on search engines, you’ll attract more people, but it’s not all about getting them to your site. Once you get someone in the door, you have to keep them. If you’ve ever been to a store where you know you need a salesman and they all ignore you, then you know exactly what it’s like to go to a website that’s all SEO and no content of merit.
The part that confounds me is that all the SEO advice is drivel anyway, as it’s stuff you’re already doing. Also, they confuse the idea of writing for SEO benefit and writing SEO friendly content. There are tips and tricks you making your post layout be friendlier to search engines, while simultaneously making them easier for people to read.
Coincidentally enough, Jane Wells (aka JaneForShort, aka if you don’t know who she is, you probably aren’t a WordPress fan) came up with the above comic (with permission from Randall Monroe of XKCD) and I felt it clearly and hilariously made my points for me. (True confession, I actually wrote this post in early July, but not until Jane’s comic did I finish it. Yes, I’m taking advantage of the timing.) In both sides of the argument, the panelists are ignorant of their absolute truth: together, with a good tool and good writing, you become king.
Just recently Andy Stratton spoke at WordCamp Chicago (You can see a copy of his presentation, which he also used at WC Raleigh, at DIET PILLS, SEO, THEME FRAMEWORKS – There are no magic bullets.) and said “If content is king: context is queen […] Content is king, Backlinks are the Emperor.” For years I’ve espoused ‘contextual links.’ I will, rarely, put up a list of links, but when I do, it’s to organize them contextually. A link on it’s own is meaningless for the user who reads it and the site you’re linking to. If no one follows that link, it doesn’t matter how much ‘link juice’ you’re sending them, because no one’s clicking it.
Don’t write for SEO, don’t make links for links sake. Listen to what your teachers said: write clearly, write well. Link with context, and people will see the effects of your work and link back. Write for the humans. We’re the ones reading.