Lost in Google? How to optimise your writing for the web


Journalists and writers who first approach writing for the Internet must learn some basic rules to create a Search Engine Friendly article. Seriously: If Google finds you easily, so will the rest of the Internet. And helping the world to find you is essential to generating readers and igniting conversation.
Regardless of if you write for a personal blog or on an online newspaper, there are a few basic rules to follow in order to increase the chances that Google & Co., put your article at the top of their list.

When writing for the Internet, the writer has to keep in mind both her readers and Google. If she writes only for her readers, she risks alienating Google. If she writes with only The Google Rules in mind, she’ll end up with dry and boring articles. As in life, balance between the two is the best way to go.

A good writer has also to understand that readers have very different behaviours on and offline. Everything is faster online. Readers skim articles looking for interesting topics and tend to read more superficially than they do offline.

Writing for the web is only one part of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) process, which involves also coding and researching. But it is an important part.

Many think that the title should be full of relevant keywords, but I disagree. I think that the title is one of the most important parts of an article. It has to catch reader’s attention. I’d leave the title to the creativity of the writer instead of filling it up with meaningless words just to get “Google-noticed.”

I’ll start with the first paragraph, which has to contain the key concepts of the article in keywords. It is here where readers will instantly realise if they want to continue reading. At the same time, Google will index better your page.

A good use of paragraphs and bolding is mandatory. Internet users “skim” content, they don’t read it all. A recently published research showed that generally only 28 percent of an article is read. Users get trough it rapidly, skimming it with their eyes.

In this atmosphere what stands out is a nicely formatted article, with short paragraphs containing important keywords or sentences in bold. Readers can easily skim the article and pick out the bits of information they want, or decide to read it all.

Posting images is indeed a plus, encouraging readers to stay on our pages. But we have to remember that (at least now) Google can’t index images alone. It needs some text to go with images, describing what those images are about. This means: always use proper image names and write short descriptions. Users won’t see them but Google will.
If you’re on a Content Management System which supports tags (like Wordpress, Joomla, etc.) it’s a terrific idea to use them. Tags are not only a great way to rummage through your website’s content, but they provide useful information to Google about the article. But remember: use no more than five tags per article!

It’s great to have other websites linking at you and vice versa. This “reassures” Google that your blog is trusted, as others feel good about linking you.

SEO is not a science. It’s a technique that requires constant attention and patience. You’ll have to wait weeks or even months to see your PageRank change or your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) position rise. But it will be worth it. Being well indexed by Google means having a constant flow of readers.

If you want to go a little bit more technical, Google has recently released a SEO Starter Guide which provides insights into how Google thinks. It also describes how to do basic SEO tricks with your website’s code.

Flickr photo from user nataliat. Word cloud by Wordle