Thousands of articles, books and forum entries detail how to make your site search engine friendly, but ultimately, one rule stands above the rest: Content is king.
A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2005 Conference, February 28 - March 3, 2005, New York, NY.
On the "What is Content" panel a group of experts discussed ways to ensure that Web sites include content that is not only friendly to search engine spiders, but also appeals to the ultimate audience@mdash;the end user.
Kent Lewis, President of Anvil Media, Inc. suggested that including any of the following items on your Web site could provide relevant content for both search engines and end users:
- Press Releases
- Directory Listings
Jennifer Slegg, Owner of JenSense.com, suggested using analytics as a way to determine what types of content you should include on your site. According to Slegg, it is often possible to determine what your visitors are looking for by combing through your server logs, paying close attention to the most popular paths through the site.
Slegg also suggested analyzing your customer service requests to determine areas where your site content could be beefed up. Additionally, look through internal site search tools to see what keywords web users are typing once they reach your site. These words can trigger ideas that can lead to new content, according to Slegg. She also suggested monitoring industry message boards to find content ideas.
When writing content for your site, Slegg noted that it is not always necessary to focus on the most competitive term in the copy. By focusing on "the tail," or less frequently used keywords, it is possible to gain a significant amount of traffic overall from several longer, lower search volume phrases.
When writing articles, Slegg suggested creating short articles of 200-300 words and using catchy titles in order to get users reading. Write about seasonal topics and create content about basic subjects so that those unfamiliar with an industry can learn more about it.
Ensure that all the content on a site is search engine friendly. Slegg said that making certain forums, blogs and other frequently updated sections of a site can be read, it is easy to provide relevant, fresh content for both users and search engines.
Anthony Garcia, Senior Persuasion Architect at Future Now, said while it is important to understand the search engines needs when writing content, it's the end user that is the ultimate target.
"Search engine spiders don't have credit cards," said Garcia. "People do."
Garcia suggested viewing your audience as one single reader, and to write specifically to that reader.
"A page that is read by people is better than a page that is read by bots," said Garcia.
Garcia argued that by writing for the end user, it is easy to write for a search engine spider as well. He said that search engines love feeding web users relevant results, so the more relevant the content is to the end user, the more likely it will eventually be served up by the search engine to that end user.
"SEO methods are useful, but algorithms will change," said Garcia. "The only time content is not king is when it undermines sales efforts, and some SEO methods can cause content to do that."
Garcia suggested creating a target profile of the "one person" being written to in the content, and showed several examples of profiles he has created for his clients. These profiles included topographic, psychographic and demographic information. Garcia also suggested "mapping keywords to the implicit intent of the user" when thinking about how to optimize copy for search engines.
During the question and answer section of the presentation, a question was posed about how to persuade web site owners to pay for high-quality content as part of a search optimization effort. Lewis proposed estimating the potential traffic the copy would generate and creating a financial model around that copy. Garcia said that copywriting is viewed as a commodity, but one that everyone needs to have. His solution: convince the client of the strategic value of the copy before discussing the cost.
Other session attendees were concerned about the effects of syndication of copy, and whether or not that created duplicate content, which search engines frown upon. The common consensus among the panelists was that syndicated copy did not constitute duplicate copy and is not likely to be penalized by search engines.
"A search engine won't penalize duplicate content in syndication," said Search Engine Watch Associate Editor Chris Sherman, moderator of the panel, "but it will serve up the most relevant site with that content on it first."