Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Editors and That SEO Jazz

It's an understatement to say that a lot goes into creating and maintaining a website that appeals to both search engines and living, breathing humans. But when the separate areas of search engine optimization (SEO) and good content come together just right, it's like a good jazz combo. Many different parts combine to create something that really grooves.

  • The first area of SEO is the underlying site design. This deals with elements like crawlability, mobile-friendliness, and page loading speed. This part of SEO is like the pianist laying down the chord structures that underlie the music created by the other instruments — the other elements of SEO.
  • Then you have the content strategy — how often you publish, what topics you'll cover, what voice you'll use. All this is guided by research into your audience and their behaviors, desires, and needs. This part is like the drummer, establishing the tempo of your website and your content production.
  • Marketing — both online and off — plays a big role in SEO. It gives many of the other website elements (especially content production) their direction. The marketing aspect of SEO is like a walking bass line: It gives the site content a foundation and drives the whole process forward.
  • On top of this rhythm section are the melodic instruments — your actual content. Each jazz combo — and each website — has its own particular combination. For a website, it can include text, video, audio, infographics, apps, and more.

When all the parts of this SEO band work well together, it's more likely to attract some attention from Google, yes, but from your audience as well, which is your ultimate goal.

I'm not here to help you build a band, though. Although it's helpful to understand at least at a basic level how all the parts of your SEO jazz combo fit together, you need to focus on your part: the editorial content.

That's where I come in.

On May 13, I will present an audioconference through Copyediting.com called "SEO for Editors." In what I hope will be a delightful and informative 90 minutes, I will cut past the parts of SEO that word mongers like you and me have no control over and focus on the editorial aspects in our bailiwick. You'll get:

  • A brief history of Google algorithm changes that have affected how we create content
  • Guidelines for creating links that both people and Google like
  • A look at how keyword strategies have changed over the years
  • An overview of what titles and headings mean for SEO
  • A discussion of what high-quality content means to a search engine
  • The golden rule of SEO

One more apt comparison of SEO to a jazz combo: There's a lot of improvisation going on in both. Just as there is no formula for creating "the perfect song," there is no formula for creating "the perfect content" that will land in front of everyone who you think ought to see it.

Yes, Google and its ilk use algorithms (just a fancy word for formulas) to power their search results, but
  1. Those algorithms customize results for the listener (the searcher), not the band. Every new search is like a different ear listening for a great tune. (And not everyone will be interested in your jazz.)
  2. They aren't singing. Search engines are tight-lipped about exactly how their algorithms work, releasing only the information they think website owners need to know to help search engines connect searchers with the information they're looking for. Why so reticent? Because people are selfish jerks. With every big search algorithm change, short-sighted SEOs rework their strategies to try to game their way up the search engine results pages (SERPs). Then, when the next change comes along, those short-sighted strategies — much like the once beloved keytar — all but disappear.

My hope is that, in this audioconference, I can show you today's basic best practices of on-page editorial SEO — the right scales and chord changes, if I may extend the metaphor further — so that your content has a better chance of reaching the ears that want to hear it.

So if your job relies on writing and/or editing online — whether you're a blogger, a journalist, an ad copywriter, a corporate word-slinger, or the editor in charge of any these folks — nag your boss into paying for the professional development opportunity that is "SEO for Editors."

See you there.