When it comes to content many people still seem to be in the SEO stone age with repetitive keyword usage, lack of clarity and context, boring headlines just for the sake of Google search. By now that doesn’t work anymore if it ever did.
Content findability is the key element of getting editorial sites to work properly.
How to optimize content for findability on site, on social media and search engines?
You rarely hear government officials, educators and information architects talk about SEO. They are often considering a bigger picture, dealing with so called findability. When it comes to findability you don’t artificially separate search from social media and your own site.
You create findable websites that work for all use cases no matter where they start and end.
You have to focus at least three audiences at once, the audience that already resides on your site, the one that appears via social media and the one that finds you while searching for a query on Google etc. In fact we are speaking about the same people. When you take a look at actual visitors you will notice that they appear on your site directly one day, via search the other and social sites on different occasions.
In reality the visitor journey is of course more complex.
- You know a brand from TV and print ads
- you see a product shared on Facebook
- then you search for it on Google
- bookmark a page and return a few days later.
- You use internal search to find exactly what you seek.
Apparently most touch points are not about search and SEO. So even in case you’d assume that keyword stuffing works (like I did last time in 2004 when I started out in SEO) it wouldn’t make sense for four out of five instances of someone viewing your site.
URLs are for clarity and context
A unified resource locator (URL) is obviously the number one and most important aspect of your content findability. It has be a so called “speaking URL” not (just) a number. It has to contain the most important keywords but not too many of them. It can’t be too long as then sharing via mail might be a problem. For sheer SEO most experts advise you to make it as short (and while at it boring ) as possible. So we end up with article URLs like
and so on.
Are we dealing with fruits, technology or music - I guess you know the wonderful musician called Fiona Apple? So obviously this URL has been optimized to death. We need a bit more context for overall findability.
This example is better:
where “tech” is the topic or directory and “apple” is the article file name. Of course you have to find middle-ground here to suit all aspects of findability. For search we need at least a keyphrase
Consider this example:
It’s both findable with Google, you are even much more likely to rank for a keyphrase than solely [apple], it’s clear that we’re dealing with the corporation and the actual news that makes the URL click-worthy on social media is in it as well!
Positionly is the perfect example of correctly implemented URLs that are working for clarity, context and findability as a whole:
Titles are for tabs, bookmarks, social sites and Google
Titles are not headlines. Many people use the term headline and title interchangeably. I refer to the HTML title of your page.
You can create a custom HTML title in WordPress using popular SEO plugins. The title is nowadays almost invisible. Most browsers display titles only partially so the title only shows up in its entirety when you search for it on Google, in your bookmarks or using internal search.
A keyword-laden title may work on Google but will fail as a bookmark.
Note how my title from “The Great to Banned Link Building Technique Lifecycle” is already a bit too long while the homepage title provides the optimal clarity and context.
Your internal search does not necessarily focus on keywords in your title but on the actual headline instead.
WordPress improved its internal search with version 3.7 significantly. You get the most relevant posts on top and the result quality is much better now. In 2014 internal search is really an option. Remember than WordPress runs about one fifth of the Web.
Many social sites like Google+ or Delicious use the title tag for sharing purposes.
So it’s not just about Google search. You need to make titles work for findability in manifold circumstances many of which contradict each other. In our case we managed to get Google search on our side as well:
Headlines are for readers
Headlines are for readers not bots. Many SEO practicioners disagree whether h1 headlines have a positive impact on your Google rankings. On the other hand it’s a widely accepted consensus that page titles have a major SEO impact on those.
Even in case you assume that the first and foremost headline - the h1 - is crucial for SEO you need to take into account the actual people who will read your article. So keyword stuffing here is awful for your onsite engagement.
Boring keyword oriented headlines will get overlooked unless of course they contain the exact keywords the people are searching for.
That’s why you need to employ secondary or tertiary headlines to add the boring keyword part without ostracizing potential readers.
In our example I could have combined two headlines to make it perfectly findable and still enticing by using something like:
Link Building Techniques: How to Predict the Next SEO Tactic to Get Banned by Google?
In this case: “link building techniques” would be displayed smaller but in the hierarchy it could even be higher or h1 while the rest of it would be a h2 that would get displayed much more prominent for the reader.
Tags are for implicit terms
For onsite findability there are other good ways to make content more findable, the perhaps most underused one is: tags. You can add tags in WordPress but they can harm your overall SEO unless you use the noindex meta tag on them.
A much easier way to use tags is simply to add them manually below the post or page.
You don’t need to run WordPress or another CMS that offers built in tagging to do so. You just add a line like this below the post:
tags: findable, content, howto, findability, urls, titles, headlines, keywords, Google search, internal search
Ideally you don’t just repeat the terms you already used in the text itself like I did but also add some things that were dealt with implicitly but weren’t mentioned by name. For example:
tags: search engine optimization, information architecture, user experience, social networking, social bookmarking, shareability, writing, blogging.