Writing for Search Engines

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2001 Conference, August 16-17, San Francisco CA.

In a session entitled "Writing for the Search Engines," RankWrite co-moderators Jill Whalen and Heather Lloyd-Martin (http://www.rankwrite.com) spoke on the subject of developing content for a web site that maintains a good balance between ranking well in the Search Engines and appeals to the intended audience.

Whalen, Owner of HighRankings.com (http://www.highrankings.com), started off the seminar with examples of client's web sites and how they were improved by: (1) carefully researched key phrases, and (2) strategically inserting them into the regular content. Switch the copy from a generic tone to one with descriptive adjectives that match your key phrases, Whalen explained, and you will match how people search online so they may find you more easily.

"Even if you have a strong inclination of what key phrases will rank good, do your research first," Whalen stressed. "You will find that some unexpected key phrases to show up that rank surprisingly high for popularity."

Whalen had expressed a radical viewpoint to the crowd that "meta tags and keywords don't matter" in the search engine placement for a web site. "I say that to just to shake the audience up," replied Whalen, countering that today's SEO specialists still place too much emphasis on having keywords in the meta tags and not enough on having them in the visible content on the page.

Lloyd-Martin, President of Successworks (http://www.successwks.com/), spoke on how copy should be written that's not only friendly to the search engines, but to the audience as well. "What good is a ranking if you have lousy copy?" She asked the audience. "The copy needs to treat me like an important visitor or customer and not waste my time." Some examples she gave were to keep paragraphs short, leave the page uncluttered and easy to read, and eliminate all pretty-but-unnecessary graphics.

Lloyd-Martin also provided some of her own opinions for debate. Instead of sharing the belief by some SEO specialists that copy should be strictly information-oriented, Lloyd-Martin said that copy should elicit an emotional response. And while another prominent SEO specialist earlier stated that the search engines prefer "dumb, ugly pages," she countered that copy on a web page should be read out loud to test its true appeal to the audience.

"Speak to your audience, not at them," Lloyd-Martin declared. "They will trust you more and feel like you are satisfying their needs."

Grant Crowell is the CEO of Grantastic Designs, Inc, (http://www.grantasticdesigns.com/) founded in 1993 in Honolulu. He has 15 combined years of experience in the fields print and online design, newspaper journalism, public relations, and publications. He is a featured speaker in conferences nationwide on banner design and marketing issues, and is a featured columnist for WorkZ.com.

Leveraging Your Links

Virtually all search engines now use link analysis as a key component of determining relevance. Eric Ward, an expert in link building strategies, was scheduled to speak at the Search Engine Strategies conference, but Tropical Storm Barry damaged Eric's home, preventing him from attending.

Eric has graciously made the notes for his presentation available on the web. It's an excellent primer on how to leverage links to boost search engine rankings.

Link Popularity and Link Building For Search Engines - A Primer
http://www.ericward.com/speaking/sessf2001.html

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