Adrian Lurssen has a great piece up on vision for web-based content creation. His post titled, Writing for the Web: Two Basic Rules
, neatly addresses the fundamental issue of balance.
In the first part, he describes what he calls The Rule of Three
, advising that we make both text and hypertext links work together, and separately. The reader should be able to get 'full value' from any online publication regardless of whether they choose to:
- read just the text;
- scan the text and link out to external sources; or
- read the text AND the contextual links.
Adrian goes on to address the concept of writing for the search engines, and highlights a position that we strongly advocate at Stem
- write descriptively, especially when it comes to titles. The caveat being, it looks spammy if you write exclusively
for search rankings. You also run the risk not connecting with your reader, which trumps all other objectives, including traffic (IMO). ... This is not, however, and either-or situation. Traffic, reader engagement, and relationship conversion can all happen in unison.
Web writers are far better off sticking to descriptive titles, avoiding 'the smart' title (eg: quoting a common phrase or poem), and mildly using target phrases within the text of their content. After that, one's approach to drafting should be all about connecting with the audience.
We should never be forced to make a choice between writing for the engines & writing for people. Again, balance. If you title descriptively, use a Content Management System (CMS) that automates on-page SEO (for page titles, etc.), AND address your topic with passion ... you will put yourself in 'the game' for search traffic.
The link popularity portion of the search algorithms then takes over. Which does have some connection to writing - ie. great content attracts links - but you'd be naive to think your online network with other web publishers didn't also play an important role.
Descriptive writing plus personal networks have always been a great tandem. In a multitude of ways...