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Great Blog Content vs. Search Engine Optimization

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SEO Smackdown PanelThis weekend I was on an “SEO Smackdown” panel at our local WordCamp Portland. Two of us were from the content side, while the other two panelists were SEO experts. My take on SEO is that writing compelling, interesting blog content that people will want to talk about and link to will get you around 95 percent of the way to good search engine rankings. If you don’t have great content, SEO is not going to be very useful for you. You might be able to do some SEO trickery to get people to your web site, but if they aren’t impressed by the content when they arrive, they won’t stick around long enough to have any impact.

Here are a few of the tips that were shared during the panel to help you write blog content that will help your search engine rankings with no knowledge of SEO techniques or web development required.

Write Great Titles

Keep in mind that you are writing titles for human beings, so your title should be catchy and convey the meaning of the post as a first priority. While you write the title, you should also be thinking about the keywords that people might want to use to find your content and make sure that you have included a keyword or two in the title. I’ll illustrate this with a couple of examples of good and bad titles.

  • Bad: Dawn’s Thoughts for March
  • Better: Analysis of Facebook and Twitter Demographics in March
  • Bad: Day 1 of LinuxCon
  • Better: Mobile Linux and Open Standards on Day 1 of LinuxCon

Write New and Interesting Content

Write content that people will want to link to and discuss. If you are rehashing the same stories as every other blogger, people are much less likely to read and respond to your content. Write posts that are new, fresh and unique with analysis and insight from your unique background and perspective. You can talk about a news story that other people are blogging about, but spend some time writing about your experiences and ideas that offer a different perspective than the rest of the crowd. Use research in new ways, interview interesting people, and talk about your experiences. By offering something new, people are much more likely to read your blog post and link to it, which is where the real SEO magic is found.

Include Personal Anecdotes

Nothing makes a post unique quite like personal anecdotes based on your experiences. I saw this first-hand when I started writing for WebWorkerDaily. I wrote what I thought was a brilliant post on using Yahoo Pipes and then I wrote a short, quick post about how I dread answering the question, “So, What Do You Do?” during the holidays when talking to non-technical family and friends. The “brilliant” post got a few comments and some traffic, but nothing like the short, personal story about how to answer that difficult question. Human beings read our blog posts, and personal stories resonate with people in a way that technical facts and figures never will.

These are just a few of my tips for writing content that people will enjoy reading and then link to, which generates better search engine rankings.

What are your tips for using content to improve your SEO?

Photo by Nathan Bergey, used under Creative Commons.

28 Responses to “Great Blog Content vs. Search Engine Optimization”

  1. yes Write good content that people will want to link to and discuss. it is very vita for any blog .If you are rehashing the same stories as every other blogger, people are much less likely to read and respond to your content.

  2. If anyone is going to use content properly, compelling titles are a must in order to draw new readers in to read your fresh new article or blog post.

    Thanks for bringing this important topic to my attention.

  3. I think this is a great reminder to anyone responsible for the content of the site. However SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is exactly that at its root: optimization.

    Start with quality, relevant, intreguing, rewarding content. Then, optimize the page’s meta keywords and description, the image alternate tags, link titles, and html code structure (if you haven’t already. Then, lastly, very minor tweaking could be done to the content and paragraph-nested linking to enhance the usefulness to users and to help google properly categorize it to meet your placement needs. But! During this process don’t mess up your writing quality or your authentic voice to your user.

    The this article leads to the basic notion that there is a difference between Search Engine Optimized quality content and Search Engine Oriented poor-to-the-user content.

  4. I have to say that blog title could be better. It should have been something like “Great content – How it helps for Search engine Optimization”.

    I agree that great content helps for SEO, however there are many other factors like “back links” play very important role.

  5. Concur – Nice post Dawn. Here’s my deep dive (with personal stories) about Social Media and communication: Beyond the Smoke, Hype and Fanfare – What is Social Media?..really

    I think a lot of people get lost in the tools and forget that they’re in actual conversations with people, sharing ideas and trying to help out.

  6. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    I like to use Google’s business model to explain why SEO (in the traditional understanding) is passed its sell by date.

    Google is a broker, helping people who want to know things get together with people who want to share those things. In the process it charges others (who can’t, don’t, wont publish) to sit on the sidelines and be present during the conversation – the advertisers.

    If Google can’t attract “searchers” with the best content, it also can’t charge advertisers for the privilege of sitting in.

    Simply pointing “searchers” to keyword optimized marketing pages won’t keep them coming back.

    Without our experience, knowledge and ideas Google ultimately won’t have a business

  7. Although a good article, I don’t agree with the title. As others mentioned, good content is good SEO. I don’t see why they should be compared with each other. A lot of people have misconception (rightly, because of some people in the industry) that SEO is simply stuffing keywords in an article, writing meaningless articles repeating the keywords to make nonsense sentences, etc.

    Writing good content is the first thing to do for SEO, search engine accessibility and subtle sprinkling of keywords are the secondary things.

    Here is a simple experiment anyone can conduct to see if search engine accessibility helps. Write a great piece of content about widgets, take a screenshot of it and put it on Vs. add the same article in the text format with the url

  8. Completely 100% agree with this Dawn – but I would go further and say that great content = great SEO. Creating content to help clients get traffic to their sites is my job and you would be amazed at how many companies operate websites that are incredibly thin on content that is searchable.

    So their site might have lots of product stuff, but lots of it might be in javascript or flash, or text is tied up in images and is not searchable.

    Makes sense to clarify that great content is SEARCHABLE content – not just whatever is sitting on your site looking pretty or in a clever animation.

  9. Sometimes you don’t want people to stick around on your website, you want them to leave through your advertising. I guess it depends what you’re motivations are. If you’re in it to make money then good content isn’t as important as SEO. If you want to build a name for yourself and a following for your blog then it is essential (but there’s no reason you can’t have both).

  10. I definitely agree with Guy Kawasaki’s take on this one: If you write good content SEO will almost take care of itself. Google and the other search engines are really good at crawling your content and making sure it is discoverable by others :D

    • Helena Rebane

      I don’t think there’s such thing as Great Blog Content vs. Search Engine Optimization. SEO is about getting traffic to your website through search engine results and that’s exactly what good content does.