A U-Turn for SEO?

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Less about rules and more about writing?

We all know that Google (and other search engines) continually update their algorithms and change the ‘rules’ in terms of what they look for from websites in order to rank them. As a copy writer I try and keep myself up to date with these changes (not the most enthralling bedtime reading I’ll grant you!) and was interested (yes, honestly!) to read a couple of blogs recently which reported some apparent u-turns on what we content writers understood to be key SEO principles.

SEO but not as we know it…

Firstly, keyword density. Not so long ago we were aiming to create high keyword density (ie the number of times your keywords appear as a proportion of the total content). Good writing should never be compromised by peppering copy with too many keywords but nevertheless we always write with the use of those keywords in mind. While previous advice was to aim for a density of 3-5%, the guideline now is to keep it at less than 3% and that over stuffing with keywords will in fact be penalised.

Secondly, meaningful link text. Make it meaningful was the mantra – link text that doesn’t contain relevant keywords was once described to me by a web developer as a ‘wasted link’( ie ‘expert SEO writer, Sarah Ainslie’ rather than ‘expert SEO writer, Sarah Ainslie’). Since the Penguin update of March this year, it would seem that Google is now seeking fewer keyword rich links and more natural format ones such as ‘click here’, ‘website’, ‘about’ etc. We should be aiming for a combination of the two and those with more than 50% of their links in keyword rich format may potentially be penalised.

Good old fashioned copy writing

The interesting thing for me, particularly as someone who has suggested that SEO could be killing the art of copy writing (see my previous blog – note the natural link!) is that these ‘developments’ are not really developments at all; they are backward steps to how we used to write before. So, with an apparent U-turn on the principles of SEO, are we returning to good old fashioned copy writing?

Let’s not get too excited here. The search engine guidelines change all the time and no doubt by the time I hit the publish button it may have all changed again. These are just 2 of countless guidelines and writers know that we need to incorporate sound and sensible SEO practices into our online content. That said, I can’t help feeling encouraged that best practice for optimisation and best practice for copy writing are slowly moving closer and will one day, hopefully, meet in the middle.

I’ve always believed that if you write well to create text that flows, entertains, educates and engages then you are halfway there already and with a few tweaks and nods to SEO then you can’t go too far wrong – form follows function after all! Perhaps Google is following MY lead?!

Free Web Content Seminar

If you’re interested in what makes good web content and how to make yours better then I am running a free seminar in conjunction with the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce on 4th September at 8.30am in Wakefield. See the Chamber’s website for more details and to book a place.