Understanding and Using SEO

A computer keyboard with three keys in a row spelling out SEO in blue.
image from flickr.com

This week's readings were focused on SEO (search engine optimization), and applying SEO principles to our own personal websites or projects.

Understanding SEO

SEO is a topic I've been vaguely aware of for some time, but I never took the time to explore the ins and outs. Before this course, I found it difficult to reconcile the concept of quality, earnest writing, with the concept of strategically placed keywords. In my brain, the two could not co-exist; that is, I felt that peppering your work with keywords to tailor to an indifferent algorithm would somehow result in poorer writing.

Now, I have come to realize that while this is indeed sometimes the case, it doesn't have to be. Chapter 17 in The Yahoo Style Guide by Chris Barr was especially helpful in understanding this. Barr writes,

SEO copywriting is not about trying to trick search engines by stuffing content with unrelated keywords or with so many keywords that the copy sounds silly. Good SEO copywriting makes your page more readable for both search engines and humans.

Something here clicked with me, and I realized that SEO is about finding the best strategy to make sure your work is found by the people who would want to read it. Strategies such as using bold font for emphasis, writing clear and detailed headlines, and using varied forms of key words and phrases will only strengthen your writing.

Applying SEO

With this new paradigm in mind, I got to work on creating an SEO plan for my recent remediation project, which was a digital wine list for a local restaurant. Immediately, the first challenge to arise is the fact that I don't think it's searchable in its current format, which is a table from a third-party site embedded into the page. According to Barr, "All the SEO copywriting skill in the world won't help your site if a search engine can't read it." So a major step towards optimization would be recreating the table to integrate as plain text on the page, while still maintaining the search and filter functions. The menu itself already contains a wealth of keywords, such as "wine," "sparkling," "cabernet," etc.

The concepts of backlinks and off-page SEO were also new to me, and got me thinking about how these could be used for higher visibility. Since this restaurant is located in downtown Macon, one idea is to forge a relationship with some of the higher-profile, Macon-based lifestyle websites and social media accounts, such as Visit Macon and New Town Macon. Getting a featured post or article with links to the new, revamped digital menu would boost visibility, especially since my target audience is already following these websites.

Finally, a brief introductory paragraph at the top of the page would be a great way to incorporate some more keywords that don't occur naturally in the menu itself, such as "drinks," "drinking," or "pairings."

Emma Darnell

Emma Darnell

I work in wine and spirits sales while pursuing a Master of Arts in technical and professional writing.
Macon, GA