Google and Ryan Gosling love you! (example of a non-SEO friendly headline)

I want to talk about SEO in a way that won’t gross out people who don’t care about SEO. For those unfamiliar with the acronym that has become as trendy as the shift from kale to cauliflower (PS: I do not endorse this. Cauliflower is the herpes of vegetables), it stands for search engine optimization. Media brands, be they blogs or multi-national corporations, are resorting to various algorithmic techniques to ensure their content wins the Number One Spot (the Ludacris song, obviously) on search engines, yielding more traffic, engagement, shares and sales. Side note: when you work in digital media long enough, you tend to forget that there is such a thing as traffic with cars.

Yesterday at the magazine, the staff was (sounds weird but it's a collective noun so we're good) invited to an SEO workshop. I don’t need to go to this, I thought. The best way to learn SEO is to JUST DO IT (brought to you by Nike) as a sort of trial-and-error-experiment. Wrong, Marissa! You did need to go to this!

One fascinating thing I learned is that yes, it means you are doing something right if your article ranks top 10 in a search request, but while the top result garners 53% of clicks, the 10th result garners, wait for it…wait for it… one meager depressing per cent of clicks. Imagine how much exposure the 30th or 50th or 100th search result get? Chew on that for a bit. 

Very fundamentally, it starts with a focus keyword. Let’s say nail art tips. Because really nothing is more important than nail art tips. You can’t just toss around “nail” or “art” or “nail tips” on their own throughout the article content, meta description, headline, page URL, heck, even the image file should be something like nail-art-tips.jpg!!!

My aim is not necessarily to demystify SEO as a practice, but to encourage you all to play around with various techniques and figure out what works for you, what makes sense in the context of your brand. The key, in many ways, is to play reverse psychology (or maybe just psychology, I don’t know, I’m not Freud, leave me alone) and envision what people will type into Google, and in what order they will phrase their search inquiry. How does the mind work? How do people want their information served? This includes embedding your post with relevant hyperlinks in an organic way and, the money tip, producing quality content.

When the lecturer was all like “quality content,” I was all like “Hold the phone, mister.” How do you measure quality content? Besides being some subjective evaluation, how do you create content that is holistically *good enough* for SEO?

He said the trick is to produce original content. This means that all of that syndicated crappola (excuse my French) that you read on blogs who regurgitate one another, are truly shooting themselves in the digital foot. The take away: Be fearless in the content you create. Be artists, visionaries and abstract thinkers whenever you can. Ironically, it's important to be creative in how UN-creative you get in terms of crafting SEO-friendly headlines. A pretty pun on a print page is a disaster in digital. Think in numbers, lists, how-to's. When a Google user wants to get rid of a cold, they don't have time to type in "Sucker punch those sniffles in the face!" but, quite plainly and banally, "Get rid of a cold fast."

There is a plethora of replicated garbage out there and not enough room for it in search engine rankings and in our brains. I get that it’s financially savvy to run stories from a newswire, but the return on investment of producing a fresh angle on an old story is invaluable to your brand and to readers. Or, you could just save a ton and get your intern to write it. But don’t worry, because that intern will one day be successful and enterprising and all that fun stuff. See? It’s all about ROI. Wink.

Pretty much, if your crush isn’t noticing you, it is because you are not SEO-friendly enough and you’re just ranking low on search engines and you should probably paint more relevant keywords all over your skin. Feel me? 

The trick now is to implement SEO best practices into this SEO blog post. How’s that for meta?