Which is Better: SEO or Good Content?

Which is better for making your site visible to the search engines – SEO or Good Content?

Good content is the basis of good SEO. SEO without good content will be nothing.

In this post I’ll deal with some simple, on-page SEO points.

Again: SEO without good content is nothing. So everything from here on assumes you have good, well-researched, informative and well-written content.

On-page Search Engine Optimisation

On-page SEO is about setting specific META tags that tell the search engines what your page is about.

Any of the WordPress SEO plugins, such as Yoast or All-in-One-SEO, will give you fields to fill out that make it easy to specify those tags, and those tags are what I’ll cover in this post.

On-page SEO also includes structuring your page content correctly, and I covered that in a separate post on SEO writing best practices.

Setting up your META tags

META tags are contained within the <head> area of your page. Unless you look at your page source code you will not see them, but they deliver instructions and information to both the search engines and browsers.

These are the META tags that you need to define for each post, and you define them in the fields provided by one of those SEO plugins:

  • Your META keywords (discussed below)
  • Your META description (discussed below)
  • Your SEO title (discussed below)
  • The page category (audience suitability – in WordPress this is defined site-wide on the Settings > Discussion page)
  • Telling the robots whether or not to follow links (the default is for the search engines to follow links. So you only need to specify nofollow where it’s necessary. This usually just requires checking a check box)
  • Telling the robots whether they can index the page (the default is for the search engines to index the page, so you only need to specify noindex where it’s necessary. This usually just requires checking a check box)

All of this data is important.

You will hear that META keywords are no longer important, and it’s true that Google places little emphasis on them currently.

But Yahoo does currently appear to use them. So do Bing and other search engines.

And no one knows what algorithm changes any of the Search Engines have planned for the future.

Even if Google doesn’t use Keywords now that doesn’t mean to say they won’t be using them in the future.

The META data fields are there, so use them.

If you use all your META data fields properly, all the time, the negative impact of future changes to Search Engine Algorithms on the way your site figures in search results is likely to be reduced.

Note: I did NOT say eliminated!

Sites (especially relatively new sites) tend to bounce up and down in the search results, as Google tries to assess the public reaction to your page.

META tags to focus on

There are three META data fields to pay particular attention to: the SEO Title, META Description and META Keyword fields.

Any of the WordPress SEO plugins will place fields on your page edit/add screen into which you specify these three tags – it’s very straight-forward, but you do need an SEO plugin. I recommend either Yoast or All-in-One-SEO.

SEO Titles

These appear as the blue headlines in the search results listing and, currently, they carry a lot of weight when Google is comparing what the searcher typed in with the pages it can offer up.

META Description

The page META description is what usually appears as a summary of the content of the page, immediately under the headline in the search results.

This is important, because you want this to act as a hook to bring searchers into your site.

If you don’t use this field Google will pick up a snippet of text from your page that it thinks is relevant and place that there instead. And what Google thinks should be there may not be particularly compelling.

Usually the Search Engines only display up to 150 characters in the text area under the headline, so make your description enticing and include a call to action.

Keywords

When you write a post you should be doing some keyword research to establish what searchers have been searching for to find information similar to what’s in your post.

These are the keywords around which you focus your writing, and you should also add them into the Keywords field that the SEO plugin gives you.

The keywords you use must be relevant to each page, not the site.

Keep your keywords focused and don’t use too many – no more than 5 – 8.

I’ve seen pages that have used up to 70 keywords, and they’ve not been focused. This is just a waste of the keyword META field and is likely to be considered spamming by the search engines.

Google’s focus is on searchers

Always remember that Google’s focus is on serving searchers. Not advertisers or webmasters.

As much as we may not like that, that’s the situation. So if we want to do well in Google search results we need to recognize that and work with it.

Google’s focus on serving the searcher drives them to constantly refine their algorithms in a never-ending drive to present the most relevant results possible.

To figure well in the results for a specific search term (keyword), therefore, your META data and your content must be tightly focused around it.

Using too many keywords, irrelevant titles and un-focused descriptions just dilutes your efforts and will drop you down the search results.

When creating your SEO titles, however, put yourself in the position of a searcher.

Think about what you would actually type in when doing a search and use that type of wording for your SEO title.

For example: if you were searching for ways to pay off your mortgage you wouldn’t type in ‘how to pay off your mortgage’. You would be more likely to type in ‘how to pay off my mortgage’, or ‘how to pay off a mortgage’.

So use those terms as your SEO titles, not terms from your perspective as the content provider.

And finally, for this article, make sure that your description, SEO titles and keywords are totally relevant to your content.

The Google bots do read and understand your content, and if they decide that it doesn’t match what you’ve put in your META fields, your page will be way down in the list of search results.

So, to summarise:

  • Use ALL your META data fields
  • Make sure your SEO Title, META Description and META Keyword fields are tightly focused around a set of relevant keywords.
  • Make sure that the content of your page is totally relevant to the keywords you’ve used in your SEO Title, META Description and META Keyword fields.

As I said at the top: this post has looked at the META tags, but you also need to structure your content with the correct tags – the semantic tags. I’ve covered that in a separate post on the basics of SEO writing.

Cheers,

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.

What do you think?

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  • Mical Johnson Nov 24, 2009 @ 6:16

    You covered the basics of on page SEO well. I have found in my SEO strategies that the biggest factor has been the combination of Title tag and Anchor text (link from other website) matching. That will do more for your ranking than just about everything else.
    .-= Mical Johnson´s last blog ..Fortune 500 company or Online Scammer? =-.

    • Martin Nov 24, 2009 @ 7:15

      Mical, hi,

      Thanks – good tip – one that I hadn’t thought about 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.