There’s no such thing as digital writing

‘You know about computers, right?’

‘Yes...’ I say. And the dread has already started.

‘What do you know about SEO?’

Ah. I’ve had that question a lot, especially when friends I know are making a new website. Every time, they seem to think they need to do something special when writing for the web. That to make their site searchable they need to come up with a bunch of keywords and plonk them in their website willy-nilly. But it’s actually a lot simpler than that. It comes down to one very easy-to-remember rule.

It’s all about the reader.

It’s always been about the reader. It just got forgotten about because some clever-clogs figured out how search engines were looking for good content. But now Google’s announced it’s going to hide what you’re typing in from the world (if you’re logged in or make an effort to go to the right site). Which means site owners will get a lot less information about what words people are using. And that means it’ll be harder for naughty black hat sites (ones that try to cheat their way around search engines with lots of ‘keywords’) to abuse the system.

So how do you get noticed?

Remember that it’s people who are going to read your site. So when you design it, just think about what the most important information is and get that up front, on your home page. Make sure every page has a link to it. That your readers can share and comment without needing to trawl through a labyrinth. Make it so people can use it. Sort out your navigation.

When it comes to the words, you don’t need to do anything special. Just write decent content. Make it useful. Make it helpful. Make it something that people want to read, and will hopefully bookmark. If you want people to link to your website, write about the things people will actually want to link to. And if you write naturally, in the way you talk, you’ll inevitably do all the good things you need to.

‘Even if you do kind of brain-dead stupid things and shoot yourself in the foot, but have good content – we do want to return it,’ says Matt Cutts, one of Google’s engineers. ‘First and foremost we care about trying to get the stuff that people really will like – the good, compelling content – in front of them.’

So remember, it’s Google’s job to send their customers to the sites they want. Not yours. Yours is to make interesting content that people will want to share.

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