Anyone who has written for more than a few years might feel a little intimidated when someone asks, “Do you know how to write for the web?”
It’s writing, right? I write for a living, right? What’s the big deal?
Writing for the web is not a big deal; it still requires writers to pay attention to word choice but with an added consideration — making sure what you write is optimized for organic search.
Before you panic, stop and think about it. When you need background on someone or statistics to round out a writing assignment how do you use search engines?
You put in a string of keywords related to the topic you are looking for and wait for the results to show up on your screen, just like everybody else.
Let’s say you were searching for statistics on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. If you want current data, the timeframe is important. If you want statistics, you need to include that word, too. Then you have to direct the search engine to the topic for which you want statistics. So maybe you would enter this phrase:
2008 statistics prevalence Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
This phrase helps the search engine to know what sites to bring back to you. Search engines scan millions of pages for those keywords and bring back the sites that match them most closely. If you don’t choose your words wisely, you could get hundreds of thousands of sites, most of which won’t help you at all. As specific as this phrase was, it still brought back close to 20,000 results. The first page of results was spot on — and from reputable organizations like www.birthdefects.org/.
So what does this have to do with writing for the web?
For all the articles that my very directed search brought back, there are probably 10 times that number of relevant articles on the Internet that did NOT get found. Why not? The writer forgot to use the keywords that people searching for his or her topic used. If the keywords that people use to search for information are not included, the search engine is going to skip right over your article.
Two questions probably popped up in your head as you read that last paragraph.
How do I know how people are searching? Even if I did know, why would I change a really well written article by stuffing keywords in it?
The first question is easy to answer. Try using a tool like Google AdWords – https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal – to see how people are searching for this topic. Select “descriptive words or phrases” then enter your search terms or search terms that you think are related to your topic, into the text box to the right. Leave Use Synonyms checked and click on the Get Keyword Ideas button.
Google will bring back keywords in the order of highest search volume to lowest. So, now that you know the keywords that people use to search for information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, what do you do with them?
This goes to the second question — if you write an article but don’t optimize it for search engines….they will not come unless they get lucky! If you want your articles, pages or press releases to be found, you have to use commonly searched key words or phrases in them so search engines can find them.
Using keywords and keyword phrases in your writing is not as hard as it sounds. If you can find out what the primary keywords are before you write, you can work them in while you are creating. If you don’t, you can get a handle on how people are searching for your topic after the fact and revise your article to include them.
Either way, knowing how people are searching for the topic you are writing about then using some of the keywords and keyword phrases in your article may help your writing to rise to the top of the search engine results when people search for your topic. And isn’t that what all writing is really about — getting people to read it?