For many writers who came to web content writing from more traditional writing professions, keywords and keyword requirements in web content are anathema, a poison dart that sucks the life out of good writing. After all, how good can your writing be when you have to figure out how to fit “Mustang tail pipes Cleveland” into your 400-word article, not just once but “at least twice in the first 75 words, once in the last 75 words and two more times in the middle”?
That was a typical instruction for web content writers not too long ago. And while the people at Google paid lip service to the mantra of “good content above all else,” the Google algorithm rewarded stilted writing stuffed with repetitive keywords. In fact, the functional rules for writing good web content — that is, web content that attracts the Google monster — used to run almost completely counter to everything you were taught in high school composition classes.
That was the state of affairs when Google introduced the SEO world to the Panda a couple of years ago. The Panda update was designed to promote high-quality writing and informative content while demoting spammy content. It shook up the SEO world in a big way and completely upended nearly everything that most webmasters believed about writing for the Web.
As website owners scrambled to test new keyword density and analyze the pages that were popping up to the top in the search engine results pages, Google engineer Matt Cutts played coy. Asked directly about keyword density, Cutts essentially said there is no formula for keyword density, so stop obsessing about it. Cutts’ advice to webmasters regarding keyword density was twofold:
- Make sure you have the words you want to rank for on the page.
- Use the keywords naturally in your copy.
In correspondence with Karen Thackston, president of Marketing Words, Inc., Matt Cutts doubled down on his advice and advocated using synonyms for keywords to keep content interesting and avoid keyword stuffing. This was just about the same time that Google set the Penguin update free, increasing the importance of high-quality backlinks to the search engine results. Since people link to content they find engaging and useful, Penguin makes good writing even more important in the overall scheme of SEO and Web content writing.
As Google continues to refine its search algorithms through Panda, Penguin and other unnamed adjustments, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. The writing rules you learned in high school composition class still apply: write informative copy about your subject, use synonyms and vary your sentence structure to keep your content lively and fun to read. These days more than ever, if you write content that people like, chances are very good that Google will like it, too.
Deb P is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.