July 13, 2008

Walking the SEO Balance Beam

Guest Post By Cyndy Aleo-Carreira (E-mail / Twitter)

There's a battle brewing, and it's between SEO advocates and content creators who prefer a more organic growth to their sites. On the one side are the SEO abusers who litter poorly written content with an oversaturation of keywords, making content unreadable, and on the other are those who pay no attention to keywords, don't realize that you can add the Page Rank indicator to the Google Toolbar to check the rank of an individual page, and write whatever they want, with no thought to subject focus or search results at all.

There is, however, a fine balance that can be struck between the two sides, and that balance can be achieved with a focus on the reader rather than on the stats. If I had my way, I'd write whatever I wanted with no thought to the dreaded search engines, but if I did that, I probably wouldn't get paid for my work, so I try to keep a constant eye on that balance.

Much like advertising, overuse of SEO techniques is becoming an annoyance to readers, and if someone were to develop a plug-in like AdBlock Plus that could filter out content that was oversaturated with keywords and internal links, people would download it by the thousands, if not millions.

Still not sure what I'm talking about? Let's take a look at this Mahalo page for a spoof video. You'll notice that in a 68-word Guide Note, there are 13 internal links to other Mahalo pages. Some links are split across lines, making it look like even more. While it may look good to a search engine spider, it looks unreadable to the casual visitor. How many users will actually click those links to find more information? How many will instead click out of the page and move onto something more user-friendly?

Walking the balance beam when it comes to SEO involves a common sense approach: keeping the keyword in the URL, title, and text, but not beating the reader over the head with it just to make it more obvious to the search engine spiders. And sure, offer an internal link for something that the reader may want to see for additional information, but don't link to every single possible page on your site in an attempt to plump up your page rank and search engine appearance. Your readers will thank you, and hopefully, send others.