The Mequoda Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Process: A Simple, Seven-Step Process for Writers and Editors Who Want to Take Control of Website Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Have Their Content Found
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
If a writer creates a great story and no one reads it, does it have any impact?
While the answer to the first questions may be debated forever, the answer to the second is a clear and resounding “no.” For the words we write to have impact, they must be read. And to be read widely, they must be found by search engines.
Posting content to a website without regard to search engine optimization is a sure way to not be found. No matter how great the content, if Internet users can’t find it, it does not exist for them.
The Mequoda SEO Process is designed to show you the best practices for helping search engine users find your website pages. It’s not exactly easy but it is simple and effective if you follow all seven steps. Don’t be intimidated by the mysteries of optimizing your website for Google and the other search engines and indices. If you believe that search engine optimization (SEO) is all smoke and mirrors, or beyond your comprehension and control, please relax. Search engine optimization is not magic. It’s not that complex. You can do this!
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Sure, the intricacies of SEO are constantly changing, as Google refines its algorithms (see definition below) and roots out those who try to abuse their system for an unfair advantage, i.e. a higher ranking than deserved. But if you’re an honest online information marketer, and you’re willing to do a little more than your competitors when creating content, you’ll soon realize that search engine optimization is a logical extension of the editorial process.
Whose Job is This?
The best person to do the search engine optimization of your website is you. Hiring a search engine optimization firm to consult with you is fine, but trying to delegate search engine optimization to others is generally a mistake.
For content-driven, periodical websites, the day-to-day work of search engine optimization—preparing the written copy on your website so it can more easily be found by users—is a down-and-dirty, grind-it-out, got-to-be-done part of the editorial process.
Search engine optimization is becoming a routine part of the editorial function, and website writers and editors must learn to be search engine optimization experts.
Search engine optimization is a job for people who love words and who can write and edit at the professional skill level. Once you understand the process of making search engine-friendly pages, you’ll want your writers, editors and other content creators to do it themselves. If you create content yourself, SEO now should be a part of your job description.
We’re not strategizing here about website architecture or site maps or navigation. Those are separate issues where SEO and design consultants can be useful. They can help you make certain that your site architecture is properly designed and coded, so that when the search engine spider hits your homepage, it can find the second, third and fourth tiers of your site.
But it is the editorial writers who are responsible for preparing copy for the website who now should be trained in search engine optimization. If you’re determined to succeed at search engine optimization, you must be a good writer, with a love of language and an appreciation for the subtleties of meaning and nuance. If you don’t excel at writing, you probably won’t be a very effective SEO editor, either.
The Mequoda SEO Process for search engine optimization is naturally entrepreneurial. It is designed for writers and editors who are actually creating content for their own websites. We believe larger organizations that outsource or delegate this process to their marketing or (worse) information systems departments are not likely to benefit from these search engine optimization techniques. That’s because the content creator is more likely to be fully engaged in the complete editorial process.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is the process of creating pages that result in a high ranking in the results returned by a search engine. The higher a website ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that a user will visit the site. Commonly, Internet users do not click through numerous pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic to the site. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine.
Our goal for SEO is to weave skillfully into our webpages the precise words that are most often searched by the users of Google and the other search engines. Our premise is that when the best (most frequently searched) words are identified and used, Google will reward the page with a high ranking. That means a Google search of those words will be more likely to return our webpage in the top 10, 20 or 30 results—a high ranking.
In our examples, we refer to Google because it is widely recognized as the most popular search engine. The other major search engines—MSN and Yahoo!—have similar rules for ranking web pages. But because Google dominates, we have chosen to cite it as the standard. Optimizing your website for Google will not diminish the results you obtain at the other search engines.
Spiders Only Read Text
A search engine spider (also known as a web spider or web crawler) is a computer robot that browses the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner. Spiders create a partial copy of all the visited webpages for processing by a search engine. The search engine then indexes a summary of the pages and returns the results to users doing a search of an individual word or phrase.
Spiders can only “read” text. Spiders ignore pictures, audio and video. So, it is essential that you prepare your webpages with written text that is properly coded for navigation to the main body and site map. Otherwise, the spider will not be able to find its way into your site and the site will not be indexed.
However, you only need to consider the navigation requirements once when designing your site’s architecture. An experienced search engine design firm or consultant can help you do this properly.
But be wary of designers who only know how to create attractive graphics and are not search engine savvy. They can design ineffective webpages through ignorance of the spidering process. An example: using menus as graphic elements that spiders can’t read (vs. text, which spiders can read).
Don’t allow your website designer to use Java-driven menus or graphics to define the site’s navigation. In a contest between pretty and practical, the winner is obvious. It’s not creative unless it’s search engine friendly. And that means identifying and optimizing for search the key words in your website content.
>Keyword Density Strategy vs. “Multi-Variant Validation”
If the keyword phrase for which you are optimizing shows up too much in your site’s content, Google will assess a penalty. Or not, depending on how consistently the word or keyword phrase is used. Believe it or not, there is a logic behind this apparent contradiction.
If the keyword phrase is used in exactly the same way in the URL, title and page content, your site earns ranking points. If not, you can expect a penalty.
Especially egregious: if the keyword phrase appears in your site’s metatags, but not in the overt content. That’s usually assessed a severe penalty.
What is the Intent of Search Engine Page Ranking?
Google, MSN and Yahoo! have similar objectives for their search engines’ page ranking algorithms. The primary focus of a page ranking is intent. Each search engine is trying to find the pages that are truly relevant to the keyword phrase that the user is searching.
Keep the website user in mind as you follow the Mequoda seven-step process and you can expect to be reasonably successful in the long term.
Be True to the User: Learn How Your Customers Think and Search
The Mequoda Group has convincing evidence that conversion rates—the number of times someone visits your site and clicks on something—increase when the exact keyword phrase for which a user is searching appears overtly on the page returned by the search engine.
As an editor, it is necessary for you to make certain that the terminology and keywords you employ in the articles you write are the same keywords for which users are searching. It helps to know your customers and how they think.
For example, people who work in the food service industry probably don’t think of themselves as food service workers, so don’t address them that way. They probably think of themselves as “restaurateurs” or “executive chefs” or “specialty food buyers” or “restaurant owners,” so you should address them as such.
If you sell “pet supplies” and optimize your site only for that keyword phrase, it doesn’t help if the user is searching for “dog food.”
You get the idea. Think as a customer would think.