I’ve been writing professionally, at least part time, for a very long time: around 3 decades. More recently I started blogging. Needless to say, I’ve been writing longer than I’ve been blogging. In fact I’ve been writing longer than blogs have existed. Therefore I learned to write according to the old school conventions, which placed making a written work entertaining to the reader above making it popular with a search engine.
Of course search engines have not always been as persnickety as they are now. Early on, search engines actually rewarded writers for using natural language and allowed them to include in the header of an article a whole string of keywords that related to the content of the article. A keyword string for this article would have included, search engine, search, seo, blog, blogging, article, post, web, internet, optimize, optimization, keywords, and writing. Search engines trusted writers to include a spectrum of words that were directly related to the article, even if not all of them appeared in the article. But then the spammers came in and discovered that they could insert totally unrelated, hot topic keywords to give their page a boost. If I were to include Miley Cyrus, twerking, and Justin Bieber, this page would become robot candy even though those words have nothing to do with what I’m writing about. And so, the search engine strangulation began.
Over the past decade there have been so many changes to the algorithms that Then holds very little resemblance to Now. I believe that the driving force behind this battle of wits between search engine programmers and web site or blog operators was greed. Once people found a way to cash in on page views the war began.
When I began blogging, and studying the ways to attract traffic, I found many of the highly touted methods to be… let’s say… less than honest, and I avoided them. Good thing too, because in short order the search engine programmers would find ways to block these methods and the SEO Experts would have to re-write their content or get banned. They’d find a new loophole to exploit and the programmers would find a way to close it up.
I also found reading “optimized” articles annoying. Being old school, I found text that was repetitive aggravating to read. Things have swung back the other way now and search engines are rewarding people for a more natural style of writing. But the sad fact is that the internet is so huge that your article becomes one grain of sand on a beach. If you want people to find your web site or blog, you have to use some SEO skills or be ignored by the majority of the universe. But you don’t have to be a card carrying SEO specialist to get it right.
An SEO Tool
I use a plug-in on my blogs to help me measure the SEO effectiveness. I’m not hawking the plug-in and I have no connection to its creator, it’s just a tool I use. There are similar versions, but this is the one I like.
Upon saving the article as a draft, the plug-in rates the article with a battery of tests and gives me a report. For a real simple, How’m I Doin there is a “traffic light” signal off in the right margin of the text editor that shows red, orange, yellow or green. Red being “not even close” and green being, “good to go”. There is also a gray light if it thinks you haven’t even tried.
Below the text entry screen is an SEO data screen. Some of this data can be automated through your set-up choices, some need to be entered manually. I select my keyword or keyword phrase and enter an article description, automate the rest. Once I’ve entered the keyword it will give me stats on usage of that keyword. Change the chosen keyword and the stats change.
On another screen I get a deeper examination of the way I use the keyword with suggestions on what I could do to improve my score. I look at these, but often ignore or down-play some of them. For instance the article from which I took this screen shot was a technical piece on a canine health issue. It used some medical jargon and some complicated sentences, so it scored really low on the readability score. That’s just fine with me. To score a Very Easy on this score the article needs to read like a Dick & Jane book. That’s not how I write. On my prattles I shoot for a Pretty Good score. On technical pieces I ignore this altogether: anyone intelligent enough to be studying up on these issues is intelligent enough to read an article aimed at grown-ups.
There is a growing trend, especially in the content creation markets, of going to very short articles with simplistic language. 300-400 words, all sentences short and clipped. This is driven by readers who don’t read. They skim. Some web sites buy these articles to draw people for the page views, they don’t care if people actually learn anything. Those people do not like me. I’m ok with that.
The other scores are pretty self-explanatory. If you have any questions, drop a comment below (no charge, I won’t even add you to a list and my site will shoot you an e-mail with my response) and I’ll provide more detail. Otherwise, I hope this has helped you. Thanks for reading.