SEO Factors vs. Compelling Content

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For a while now, I’ve noticed a mindset amongst bloggers that seems to pit search engine optimization against writing quality content that genuinely engages readers. In the hearts and minds of many online authors, it’s as if these two concepts are mutually exclusive. You cannot write content that is attractive to both Google and to a real audience.

But is this really true? Is Google forcing us to choose between their search engine and our audiences?Would that even make sense?

The answer to all three of those questions is a resounding NO.

Google is looking for relevant content that their users will actually enjoy and find useful. They want to provide their searchers with articles and content that is engaging and they’ve worked hard to create a system that allows bloggers and webmasters to communicate the content of their site to Google while at the same time maintaining the compelling edge that draws in real people.

4 SEO Factors that Won’t Harm Your Content

Listed below are four examples of the most powerful SEO factors that bloggers can optimize to rapidly increase their presence in search engines while still maintaining stellar content that readers will keep flocking back to your site to read.

  1. The Title Tag: Most experts weigh the title as one of the absolute most important elements for ranking well for keywords. This tag is the piece that appears at the top bar of your browser. It doesn’t actually show on the page. It’s also this title that appears on search engine listings so it’s important to make it catchy and extremely relevant to what your page is about.
  2. Inbound Links: Inbound links are like votes that tell Google and other search engines that your website is important. It’s also incredibly helpful to have inbound links that use phrases you’re trying to rank for as the anchor text. For example, as I’m trying to rank Site Sketch 101 for the phrase how to blog, I’m working to build inbound links that use the phrase how to blog as the link text. (Hint. Hint.)
  3. The Description: The meta description for a page is invisible to everyone except for the search engines and those who view your listings on them. A description that makes use of a relevant keywords and provides a very clear representation of what your article is about will always attract the most visitors.
  4. The Heading Tags: Doesn’t it make sense to use headlines that are relevant and descriptive as to the content of your articles? Your readers should be able to read your headlines and tell exactly what your content is about. Google uses this reasoning to weigh the words in your headlines as more important than the rest of the text. This simply means that you should use your headlines to share important concepts with your readers. That’s a good practice for both SEO and for readability.

Group Reflection

Are you afraid of search engine optimization? Do you view it as a threat to your community or to your content? Stop thinking that way today and start finding ways to marry these two concepts together: SEO and compelling content.

How can you work to infuse these SEO factors into your website? Can you make them a part of your site?


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  1. Building a Strong Community Without SEO

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59 Vibrant Comments

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  1. March 2, 2010

    Ron Leyba said:

    As a blogger and optimizer, I always see to it that my site is very well optimized ON-PAGE. What I mean is the title tag, description and meta tags are well presented.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Webthesurfi Rugs Webdesign =-.

  2. March 2, 2010

    Tom | Build That List said:

    I don’t think seo is something we should be scared of. And we can still do a lot of keyword optimisation in our articles without scaring our readers away. The key is finding the balance.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: The 4 Reasons People Unsubscribe Mailing Lists =-.

  3. March 2, 2010

    From Bangladesh said:

    SEO & Quality content can’t be goes on the same way. Where SEO means keywords proximity, Writing specially on very one content than there is a probability of quality contents. It’s true.

    So inclining on Good Quality ultimately will add values.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Cheap Domain Name & Hosting Registration in Bangladesh | A Providers List =-.

  4. March 2, 2010

    Kok Siong Chen said:

    Yes! I will try to balance the quality of content and SEO as well. However, sometimes i will afraid that i have overdone the on page SEO.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: 3 Basic Ways to Relieve Cancer Pain =-.

  5. March 2, 2010

    Andrew plays free games online said:

    Great to see a “blogging blogger” take the approach that SEO and blogging in it’s “extremist” sense can and do work very effectively together – IF – you take a minimalist approach and exploit the areas that provide opportunity to do so.

    Also you forgot to mention internal linking. It’s the best SEO technique for any small site in my opinion.

    For instance Nick, you could have SEO’s this post a little better by linking how to blog to your post about trying to rank for it. It’s relevant to the surrounding text and also to the overall context of the post. This link would be so juicy to google because it suits THEIR purpose.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      That’s actually a great point and although I’ve been working hard to implement more links from within my articles, I failed to do it very much in this article. Thanks for the great reminder. That is definitely a great factor that can be done to add value to both Google and your readers.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: The 15 Most Influential Bloggers in 2010 =-.

      • March 2, 2010

        Dave Doolin said:

        Adding more links is time consuming, but it can be fun.

        About once a week, I like to write a long article spotlighting various people on the web, and not always bloggers. My intention is to provide my regular readers with material they won’t find in our little closed blogging circle. Of course, I spotlight reader’s blogs as well, and with far more than a simple link.

        This could be part of the change in direction you emailed about last week.
        .-= My Latest Blog Post: Technical Tuesday: Another Look at WordPress register_activation_hook =-.

        • March 3, 2010

          Nicholas Cardot said:

          Dave Doolin » That’s a really neat idea. I’m also a big fan of the in context links. I love linking to other articles or resources within my articles so that other people can find and enjoy more information on the same subject if they’re interested in it.

  6. March 2, 2010

    Mant said:

    Some places in this post are kind of wrong (I hope I won’t get attacked by trying to help again).

    Google doesn’t use meta keywords when ranking their sites at all.

    In my opinion, smart usage of keywords in-page doesn’t harm anyone as long as you don’t cross the line when it gets noticeable and disturbing.

    By the way, you shouldn’t make emphasized text in post look like link, because phrases like “will actually enjoy and find useful” or “Won’t Harm Your Content” (especially latter one) really causing usability issue as they look how normally links do in other websites. Normally, it’s agreed that underlining should be use only for linking because this is how users behave.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I don’t understand what you disagree with. I never mentioned meta keywords at all throughout the post and my primary reason for pushing a meta description was so that searchers viewing it in the search engines results pages would be more enticed to click on it because they’ll be able to see a clear concept of what is contained on the page.

      And although I agree with your critique of the link styles and appreciate the feedback, I have to ask, is that relevant to this conversation at all or have you hijacked this thread to a different topic? Wouldn’t it have been more beneficial to have dropped that critique in the contact form on the contact page?
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: The 15 Most Influential Bloggers in 2010 =-.

  7. March 2, 2010

    David Hutchison said:

    ditto @Mant’s comment – I was under the impression that meta descriptions no longer mattered to google.

    How do you get people to link using the keywords you are trying to optimize for?

    content, content, content…but I do suppose a bit of attention to basics can’t huet.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Luongo steps out Brodeur’s shadow with Olympic gold =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      First, meta descriptions aren’t that important to Google. That’s not why we use them as an important SEO factor. We use them because they are important to the people who view them on Google. When a person sees what your site is about and it happens to be what they are looking for then they will click through and hopefully enjoy what they find.

      Get people to link using anchor text by linking to others using anchor text, by making it known what text you are trying to rank for, and by producing top quality content that is actually on the topic of the text that you want.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: The 15 Most Influential Bloggers in 2010 =-.

  8. March 2, 2010

    Aminul Islam Sajib said:

    I like the girl there. 🙂 Where did you get her picture? Any email ID available? 😀

    Beautiful photos are also good to make returning visitors 😛 of course if they are relevant to the content.

    Well, kind of joking here. 😆
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Do You Need A Google Wave Invitation? =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I think I got that picture from I get a lot of pictures from them and I think that it’s really important to have great images to help draw people into your posts.

  9. March 2, 2010

    Reza Winandar said:

    But if inbound link is increased crazily, say about 1000 backlinks/day, it may cause Google to ban your site because it seems un-natural growth of backlinks. That’s just my opinion, CMIIW.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: This is blog is now Do Follow =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Yes, but how in the world are you going to get 1,000 backlinks in a day or two? If you know of a way, let me know.

  10. March 2, 2010

    Codrut I Affiliate Blogging Tips said:

    I laugh when hearing others saying that you can’t please both readers and search engines.

    Wealthy-mindset people think “both” 🙂

    I use basic SEO strategies in my content and avoid tricks or black hat tactics like the plague.

    Want to release content that wows people, and if it pleases Google, then that’s a bonus
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: 3 Keyword Research Tips Guaranteed to Attract Buyers =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I’m with you on that. The two can both exist quite well together. People who think that they have to dismiss either one for the other are really missing out on some very targeted traffic and a great way to continue growing a community.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: The 15 Most Influential Bloggers in 2010 =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Dave Doolin said:

      Totally agree, having both works best in my experience.

      Articles well-structured for reader’s comprehension tend to be well-structured for search engines as well. This is not an accident. Really smart people work on this full time.

      On the other hand, if enjoy outre semiotic excursion (as I do along about 3 of my readers), you have to do a bit more work.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: Technical Tuesday: Another Look at WordPress register_activation_hook =-.

      • March 3, 2010

        Nicholas Cardot said:

        Dave Doolin » Ha ha. I don’t even know what that is so I think that you must be completely right. That really must require some more work. 🙂

  11. March 2, 2010

    [email protected] said:

    Yes, the tips are very important and powerful factors. Being important in the blogoshpere is all about, if you can make your blog have hundreds people told Google that your blog important than you can sit relax about the rank 😉
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Why We Need To Create Similar Contents? =-.

  12. March 2, 2010

    iPodDanny said:

    Fully agree that the two works best in harmony. As a blogger and optimizer i always write my content to try and engage and be relevant to the reader, but at the same time keep my search-hat on, using principles you have covered above to ensure that nothing is keeping the search engines from seeing the value of the content as well.

    Think with the recent moves towards more real-time and universal search, using these optimization principles becomes increasingly important to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to find and enjoy your content.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Fatman goes wireless with the Fatman Wi-Tube Amplifier and FatDock =-.

  13. March 2, 2010

    Bruce said:

    Google’s main goal is to provide users with the best content on the web for what they are searching. Google’s algorithms are always changing, but if you write for your readers Google is working on finding resources like YOU. Obviously you have to do some SEO, and I think what you suggested is probably the best place to start. You hear it again and again, even here on SS101, write for your readers first. It makes Google and your readers happier.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Back From The Grave =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Bruce » That’s exactly right. People feel like Google is targeting some bizarre, keyword stuffed content but they’re not. They want to display results from real people that are written for real people and as such they’ve made it incredibly simple to let them know what the content is about without subtracting from the experience of our users.

  14. March 2, 2010

    Dennis Edell said:

    First and foremost I write for readers. All my post SEO is done during my proofreader before publishing.

    Google and Yahoo have both finally come out saying they no longer use meta keywords for anything…does anyone think it’s still a good idea to include them for maybe some smaller engines?

    Also Nicholas, I don’t know if you read Robs Web Tips, but you may find this interesting –
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: DEDC Updates – What the (Near) Future Holds for You and I! =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Dennis Edell » I do read Rob’s web tips. In fact, Rob and I are good friends and we chat often together. Having said that, I ultimately disagree with his take on things. I believe that we can implement powerful SEO factors and write amazing, community-oriented content without making any compromises. I get hundreds of visitors every day from search engines and the numbers are steadily growing. Should I throw that traffic away when I can have it for free without compromising your site’s value? That wouldn’t make sense to me.

      • March 2, 2010

        Dennis Edell said:

        Nooo of course not. I did find it an interesting POV though; seems to work well for him.
        .-= My Latest Blog Post: DEDC Updates – What the (Near) Future Holds for You and I! =-.

        • March 3, 2010

          Nicholas Cardot said:

          Dennis Edell » I would actually argue that it does work well for him. As much traffic as he gets now from referrals and from social media, imagine what his numbers would look like if he added 300+ search engine visitors per day. Imagine having people flooding into his community who are actually looking for the exact material that his community is about? He believes that SEO compromises his community, but I am adamant that if you do it right, it doesn’t compromise your community…it enhances it.

          • March 3, 2010

            Dennis Edell said:

            I agree Nicholas, I mention it is working for him as he is quite content with it, at least for now. At the end of the day, happiness with your blog/business is what it’s all about.

            You’re right, done correctly you can have the best of both worlds.

            As I said above, I completely finish the article, written for the readers. Then during the proofreading phase, I do any SEO I can without interrupting the reader experience.
            .-= My Latest Blog Post: DEDC Updates – What the (Near) Future Holds for You and I! =-.

  15. March 2, 2010

    scheng1 said:

    Actually seo is just a method of writing, just a matter of substituting the word “it”, “them”, and use the proper keywords. Nothing really difficult, and shouldn’t dilute the ideas in the article.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: An inspiring experience of an ex-smoker =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      scheng1 » That’s exactly right. Some very simple changes that do not degrade the quality of the articles can go an incredibly long ways toward attracting search engines toward your work.

  16. March 2, 2010

    Tracey Rissik said:

    Hi Nicholas,

    thanks as always for another useful, well-thought-out post.
    I’ve been doing SEO on client sites recently (as part of a service, building WordPress sites, not as an SEO consultant) and it’s amazing to notice how FEW websites use their Title Tags effectively – despite it now being fairly common knowledge that they are important. What’s really worrying is the number of “professionally done” websites with title tags such as “Home Page”… giving web developers a bad name!

    Thanks, and keep up your excellent content!

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Tracey Rissik » You’re welcome and thanks for the awesome comment. I’ve noticed a lot of really cool sites also that are very poorly optimized for search engines and I often wonder to myself how much traffic they might be missing out on.

  17. March 2, 2010

    George Serradinho said:

    I’m currently using Scribe plugin and it has helped me a lot with regards to title, description, content, keywords, etc.

    I am doing my best to get my score between 85-100%, but it’s not as easy as one would think.

    I would say that SEO and Content work hand in hand and you can have the best SEO practices, but boring/rubbish content.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Monthly Roundup – February 2010 =-.

    • March 2, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      George Serradinho » I’ve heard a lot about that plugin. How is it? What’s your take on it? Is it necessary to optimize well for search engines or is it more hype than anything else? I’d love to hear your honest review of it.

  18. March 2, 2010

    quadrillio said:

    the part about google was big truth. They know what they are doing…that’s why they dominate the market. We don’t know what will come in the future but at the moment there is nothing better than their search engine algorithm.

    • March 3, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      quadrillio » Exactly. People underestimate the fact that Google’s programmers are incredibly intelligent and they are working to find the most relevant material they can for each search term.

  19. March 2, 2010

    Dave Doolin said:

    Nick, excellent points.

    One would think this topic has been beaten to death, yet so many people still don’t get it.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Technical Tuesday: Another Look at WordPress register_activation_hook =-.

    • March 3, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Dave Doolin » I completely agree. Many people fail to realize how great these two concepts are together.

  20. March 2, 2010

    Glen said:

    I’m still not sure I get how to optimize title tags.
    Can you explain the process more or could you provide a link to more information?

  21. March 2, 2010

    Miranda said:

    I think that Bing’s launch as a “decision” engine made Google really pull their socks up and get serious about matching search queries to relevant content. The Wonder Wheel isn’t really revolutionary, but some of the changes they made around the time that came out made a big difference in how you should write for the web, IMO. Synonyms and related keywords count for a lot, and more than where keywords are placed, the overall relevance of the article counts more than it did in the days of keyword stuffing. You don’t have to use the same keywords over and over; as long as you stick to one main point, use a variety if interrelated keywords and write well, you can get good rankings and keep your readers happy.

    P.S. Sorry for writing a short novel. Your post was great.

    • March 3, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Miranda » Don’t ever apologize for writing long comments. Those are the best ones. I would rather have real conversations taking place than a bunch of comments that say “Great post!”

      Having said that, I think that you bring up some good points. Google has two major competitors: Bing and Yahoo. And the truth is that they are all on my side. I want all three of them to index my content. But Google knows that and so they are working hard to provide better content to it’s searchers than are Bing or Yahoo.

  22. March 3, 2010

    Eric said:

    I’m not too concerned at this point about SEO compared to my readers and all. As I learn more about SEO and dabble into it I think I can make something work out.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Build Your Blog With Fire In Mind =-.

    • March 3, 2010

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Eric » Even if you’re not overly concerned with it, it’s still good to familiarize yourself with the concepts so that as your blog continues to grow and gain exposure online, you can continue to create new ways of bringing people into your community. When I first started blogging, I didn’t care about search engines at all. I figured that if Google didn’t like my content that they could just change their algorithms because my content was going to good stuff. I wasn’t cocky, but I was very determined. And I found that as my site began building inbound links that Google began to take notice. Then I learned that I could change one word in a post title and draw in thousands of visitors to that one article.

  23. March 3, 2010

    Davor Gasparevic @ Ebooks blogspot said:

    I’m not afraid of SEO at all. In fact, I’ve been pushing SEO only for my blog untill just 2 months ago.

    Then I realized I could spend just a little bit more time on social sites and get some traffic from there.

    I slowly (baby steps) raise my daily visitors, and some of that traffic sticks, my readership is still child’s play compared to successful and semi successful blogs, but I definitelly can see an overal improvement.

  24. March 3, 2010

    chandan said:

    I enjoy doing SEO and I like to experiment by implementing different strategy. Currently I am working for 5 SEO prjects, which are more competitive and I am just trying new SEO techtics on those sites.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Advance backlink building strategy by social bookmarking =-.

  25. March 3, 2010

    Daryl James said:

    Content with an eye toward SEO…just a few of the basics that you’ve posted here will help your cause. I like to think of it as though I’m on a “street team” handing out flyers – where would I hand them out, who what I give them to, what would they say?
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Selecting the Right Outsource Provider at the Right Time =-.

  26. March 5, 2010

    Jasmine Henry from System Fail News said:

    I have to admit, that although I’m not “afraid” of SEO, it can be a little daunting. I know the basic gist of SEO and I understand that it’s important but I have never seen a post that says ‘why it’s important’ or ‘how to implement it’.I think it would be especially useful if a blog about blogs (such as this one) would cut out the technical jargon and help a blogger out! Ya know?
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: A Good Nintendo Wii Game? Wait, what?!? =-.

  27. March 14, 2010

    Jake Jacob said:

    I’m so *^(*&__& confused – I help small and medium sized businesses here in Tucson get more business using the internet. I was using this guy for SEO and going broke and my dad is published author with over 750 articles and books (mostly articles).
    Anyway, I read this article that was saying that even journalist were now being taught SEO and were being told to weave in their keywords so the SE would pick up the articles. It seems like this would destroy the entire art of writing.
    Now I read this and it sounds like Google is a wise old man who nods with approval if he thinks you’ve been a good boy and written something wonderful Mr. Google will nod with approval with no regard for SEO. Am I reading it wrong or do I just plow on writing as best I can and hope the Google god will acknowledge me because people find me.
    Totally totally confused, frustrated and need help.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Part One: Trends in Social Media for the Coming Year =-.

  28. August 8, 2010

    Sujit said:

    I have always read in the net that compelling content, compelling content.. everywhere.
    I learnt how to write it here. I’ll try and test my further articles.
    Will reply you back.

    My Latest post

  29. November 9, 2010

    Biodun | UK ecommerce forum said:

    Yes if you are not using headings on your website, now it is the time to start using them, because they do help in improving your website ranking in the search engine.

    These tags are HTML tags that are used to organize the design and the content of a web page