Archive for August, 2011
Website structures are close cousins to computer a document directories. Pages are stored in folders and each folder generally has a subject category. Much like an office administrator might save all this month’s letters in the same spot.
What you may not realise is that search engines view each web page as a separate file. When robots visit a website, each page is scanned separately. The gathered data is stored away for future use when (and if) matching search queries are received.
How search matching works
Remember, what the search engine is trying to do is sort information so it can provide users with relevant results. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is about becoming a good match for those search queries (that’s why keyword research is important).
When an internal page is the closest match, that’s often what appears in search results. This can be because the search engine may not recognise the page is part of a broader site structure. Adopting a networked SEO strategy goes some way to addressing this.
Using a networked SEO strategy
A networked SEO strategy applies primary and secondary keywords in a structured way across all website pages. This technique is useful for smaller sites, especially where there one clear message is being communicated. Other approaches include silo and hybrid strategies.
One key point to note in selecting keywords is page content relevance. It is critical to allocate keyword targets your web copywriter can work naturally into the SEO content. For instance, allocating a target like strawberry for a handmade chocolate site has limited application.
Practical keyword application
An org chart, or similar, is a handy tool for planning a networked SEO strategy. Initially, primary keyword targets are allocated for each page. Essentially, these will become the main keyword targeted throughout the SEO web content and code.
Opportunities are then identified to reuse primary keyword targets as secondary terms. Ultimately, this results in SEO copywriting with strong or subtle keyword references. Additionally, the opportunities for primary keyword internal links are created.
In most cases, a networked SEO strategy will result in two primary and two secondary keyword allocations for each page of the site. Ultimate web content saturations may vary, but should fall in between 4 & 6% for primary keywords or 2 & 4% for secondary keywords.
With the network strategy in place, SEO web content development can begin.
3 take away tips
- Search engines view each website page as a separate and independent file.
- A Networked SEO strategy is useful for smaller sites with one clear message.
- Reusing primary keywords as secondary targets builds internal linking ability.
Have you ever seen an epic domino challenge? Totally amazing. People spend days setting up the long runs, picture blocks, multi-levels and curly cues. It’s a huge planning feat to ensure the display unfolds as intended. Much like your SEO strategy.
What’s an SEO strategy anyway?
If you thought keywords were the start and finish of SEO, think again. It’s the strategic keyword application, right across your online marketing, that brings results. Much like dominoes, it is careful placement that creates blocks and runs of search engine traffic.
An SEO strategy usually begins with web content optimisation. But it’s actually a planning blueprint for use across every piece of online content published, including:
- Websites, blogs & social media
- Online articles & case studies
- eBooks & white papers
- Press releases & advertising
- Video & podcast scripts
3 different approaches
Which SEO strategy is employed for a given website depends on its size and type of business. Websites promoting one clear niche product or service might opt for a Network strategy. An online retailer is likely to utilise product categories that work well in a Silo strategy. For a training organisation with a broad range of learning choices, a Hybrid strategy may be ideal.
this strategy works best for smaller websites and creates a network of relevance across all pages of web content by targeting primary and secondary keywords in multiple locations
an ideal strategy for websites with different product and service offerings where navigation silos lend themselves to relevant keyword targeting in defined core business activities
taking strength from both Network and Silo keyword targeting, a Hybrid strategy is useful where one overarching message, product or service is communicated on most web pages
SEO keyword targeting
In its most basic form, an SEO strategy involves the planned application of keywords. As I’ve just mentioned, that usually applies first to web content. Once SEO keywords have been harvested, tested and selected, primary and secondary targets should be allocated to each web page.
Primary keywords or key phrases are the most robust of the more general keyword targets identified through research process. Primary keywords are the search engine magnets of any SEO strategy and will ultimately be applied at a 4-6% saturation level.
eg. A real estate advocate may use buyers advocate or buyers agent as primary keywords
Secondary keywords are selected from strong contenders that fall outside the core business offering but add context and relevance. Secondary keywords add value and perspective to primary keyword targets and are applied in saturations of 2-4%.
eg. Secondary targets bid at auction or property negotiator may suit our real estate advocate.
With keywords nominated for each web content page, an SEO copywriter can easily weave the desired targets into text and code. So line ‘em up. It’s time to get the domino effect working.
3 take away tips
- An SEO strategy should apply to your website and all other online content published.
- Selecting a Network, Silo or Hybrid strategy will depend on the site and business.
- Primary keywords are SEO magnets while secondary targets add context & relevance.
My mother is a fastidious presser of laundry. Has been all my life. She doesn’t iron underwear but she does press sheets. Now, if you’re my kind of housekeeper, you’re probably thinking “why bother”. That’s something I ask her too from time to time, with invariably the same response. “You can fit things better in the cupboard”. Actually, that’s a lot like copywriting. Haven’t made the quantum leap yet? Let me explain.
Writing to fit your cupboard space
Every writing project begins with a plan and structure. Much like the linen press. The ultimate goal is effective communication. It’s important the writing is well ordered and a good fit for the available space.
What does your linen press look like? Are things are shoved in, pushing up against the next shelf leaving no way to see what’s actually in there? Just like having enough space around items in the cupboard, copywriting needs:
- Well organised pockets of information
- Breathing spots like headings to help the reader
- White space so content doesn’t feel overwhelming
One of the best techniques for writing marketing copy is to ‘overwrite’. Much like those un-pressed sheets, if this overwritten content were utilised, the message would be lost in overstuffed communication. In copywriting (web content especially) less is more. So, just like ironing sheets to fit them in the cupboard, cut back content. As a general rule of thumb, when I’m almost finished writing, there’s still up to one third that could go. Well known advertising guru Robert Fleege famously said “An ad is finished only when you no longer can find a single element to remove.”
Creases and folds meet headings and paras
The thing about freshly pressed linen how delightful it is to make the bed or set the table with. All those well ordered lines make it so easy to match up the middle or side and seat diners. Pressing your copywriting is just the same.
Going through the tasks of editing, analysing and checking your content is a good fit for its environment helps readers enormously.
- Content headings act like crisp creases
just as folds help decide where to unfurl sweet smelling cotton, titles provide a roadmap for readers and top level guide to where content belongs
- Neat little squares or well planned paragraphs
much like those pressed-in checks, copywriting is placed neatly and orderly in and around the layout, so readers find it easy to follow
Decrumple content for clear ideas
Then of course there’s the whole reason why you’d iron anything in the first place. To get rid of wrinkles. Pressing out copywriting to minimise crumples gives readers a better idea of what you’re saying. Lose the rumples of complex language, tangents and other ideas. Get back to basics with one key message: neatly and simply communicated with well written words. All fitting neatly into the designed space.
So should you iron the sheets? You betcha!
3 take away tips
- Overwriting and cutting back is an effective writing tool.
- Headings and paragraphs build well organised content pockets.
- Press out crumples and rumples into one clear message.
As you’d expect, the answer isn’t quite as simple as that. But relief is in sight … there are some key word count drivers to consider when writing for the web.
Approach web content development with these in mind:
- Where will the content be published
- How can I maximise viewer experiences
- Is there a search marketing objective
Writing for web design environments
These days, most websites use content management systems that utilise content templates. In plain speak, that means the pages are set up in zones. There’s a spot for the menu, flash banner … and a designated content area. Loading that up with volumes of text sends the page into a downward spin (look out … you may need a map to navigate if you’re ever to find the footer!). Actually, that’s not such a good thing.
If you’ve looked at web writing 2, you’ll already know readers tend to skim web content. Another thing research tells us is that users don’t like to scroll. That means, unless your web content renders almost entirely in the first screen, most of your text won’t be seen or read.
It’s often the case that I’m approached about writing web content long after the design is approved. In some respects that provides a roadmap for the web copywriting. If the design environment is already agreed, it’s simply a matter of writing appropriate content volume. In most cases, this usually amounts to text of up to 350 words and might include copywriting for:
- Flash banner headlines
- Page breakout boxes
- Website body text
Help viewers make the most of content
Many businesses still hang on to the idea that readers are going to explore web content in some pre-defined order. Not so. Steve Krug is a web usability expert. In his book Don’t Make Me Think, he discusses the importance of good web content organisation.
Effective websites are well planned and provide intuitive cues to help users find web content of interest. Success is less about how many pages your website contains (or how many words on each page). It’s about how simply viewers reach their goal.
Less is always more in the world of web. Given that content should always fit physically and concept-wise with the design layout, try breaking up longer pages. Not only does this keep text volumes down, it allows for:
- Better web content organisation
- Clearer communication of key ideas
- Quick and easy reader access
Search engine optimisation factors
There’s a lot of hoopla out there about ideal word count for SEO. In truth, there isn’t a magic formula for SEO either. As Aaron Wall writes in the SEO Book blog, the most important factor in publishing any web content is user experience.
Having said that, there are general parameters that affect indexing. For example, most search engines limit file size. That means your 3,000 word epic is unlikely be fully indexed. Similarly, very little data makes it tricky for search engines to gain a good snapshot of web page context.
Even if search marketing isn’t on your agenda today, there’s a good chance it will be in future. So, as a general rule, create web content at least 100-150 words long with a max of 1,000.
As we’ve already seen, there’s no ideal number of words per page or pages per site. Web content is actually about the reader. Optimising the viewer experience is where success lies. And that’s the long and the short of it.
3 take away tips
- Write web page content to fit the website design layout.
- Organise web content well and break down longer pages.
- Consider SEO factors but write for the end user experience.