Words (to SEO experts like me) are just tools – tools used to acquire links.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate great writing, a clever turn of phrase or an insightful comment. But blogs, guest posts and articles are a means to an end – getting higher page rankings for our clients.
At least, that’s the way it has been for most of my SEO career.
Writers treat links in much the same way they regard footnotes and bibliographies – drudgery required to get their amusing stories and searing commentaries published.
At least, that’s the way it has been for writers through much of the new millennium.
Then Google Panda and Penguin came along. They forced writers and SEO experts to live in the same Internet zoo.
It’s a good thing. We need each other. But that doesn’t mean we get along.
Us folks in SEO are data-driven doers. We like to gets things done. NOW! Give us an algorithm and we’ll rock it and roll it. We’ll get the links and the rankings any way we can.
And that’s part of the problem: the contest to win first page rankings turned the Information Highway into an Information Dump.
Here’s another problem: writers need the drudgery of links if they want to get noticed.
Some 16 million men and nearly 19 million women are bloggers, according to the Pew Research Center. It takes more than a flair for phrasing or a killer sense of humor to stand out among 35 million competitors.
It takes SEO knowledge.
Writers who ignore the power of keywords and links may never earn the six-figure incomes that some bloggers make annually.
And writers who create content for businesses won’t serve their clients’ best interests if their words don’t improve a website’s SEO.
The copywriters who do produce compelling website content that engages readers and increases website rankings can charge premium rates because they deliver results with a positive return on investment.
Successful content marketing — the ideal combination of technology-driven and creative marketing — demands the understanding and strategic use of keywords.
Strategy is crucial. Google punishes those who use keywords and links with wild abandon. You may not want to include more than one or two in a blog or guest post. So it’s more important than ever to use them well.
Here are six types of keywords to strive for in those few links:
1. Primary Keywords
This is the trophy keyword — the phrase you hope gets you to the top of the search engines. Dominos, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s all would like to be number one for “best pizza.” If you can work an exact match link to your website or your client’s website, go for it.
2. Secondary and Third Keywords
These are variations on your primary keywords. In the above example, “pizza best” would be a secondary keyword. If you owned a vacation rental resort in Park City, Utah, your primary keyword might be “park city vacation rentals,” your secondary might be “park city rentals” and your third might be “park city lodging.”
3. Brand Keyword
Coke and Pepsi are examples of brand keywords. Unfortunately, unless you’re a company as well-known as those soda giants, your brand keyword won’t help you that much. But try to include a keyword in your blog or company name.
If you name your business Betty’s Best Blogs, any link that includes your company name will help you rank under “best blogs” as well as a primary keyword would.
4. Branded Keywords
This covers a wide range of keywords that include all or part of the brand name but that aren’t purely the brand. If, from the example above, Betty offered other services besides blogs, a branded keyword might be “Betty’s Best Website Design.”
In large corporations, the branded keywords might include a division. For example, Yellow Book is a division of AT&T and a branded keyword for the company.
5. Long tail keywords
When you’re writing, you may find that your primary or secondary keywords don’t fit comfortably in a sentence. You’ve certainly read some awkward sentences that became clumsy because the writer forced keywords into them.
Let’s say your keywords are “buy Vancouver BC real estate.” You don’t have to force those exact words into a sentence in order to make the keywords count in your rankings. Many variations count. For example, “buying real estate in Vancouver BC” or “buying a home in Vancouver” works.
You don’t have to sacrifice quality writing and grace in order to include keywords in your writing.
To keep in Google’s good graces, some of your links shouldn’t match your keywords at all. Examples include phrases such as “Find out more”, “Visit our site,” or simply “Click here.”
Any link that gets readers to your site helps you in the most crucial way — it increases traffic. And because links add eye appeal — the blue stands out among all the black letters — you can include links that grab readers’ attention — and get them to click — without using keywords.
A link that contains the words “one-day, half-off sale” is a great natural link. It probably doesn’t contain a single keyword pertinent to you or your client, but it’s very click-friendly.
State of the Content-SEO Union
Great writing and great SEO don’t need to be incompatible. And great writing deserves recognition, something SEO can provide. This means that writers and SEO strategists, working together, can achieve high-ranking brilliance.
The partnership of writers and SEO specialists will never be entirely comfortable, of course. But that’s okay. Discomfort challenges us to find better and newer solutions.
More importantly, perhaps, is that it forces all of us to provide more value to the people who read our words and the companies who pay us to market them.