Why SEO Matters

By Alan Eggleston

According to Mashable, a reliable technology blog popular today, there are currently more than 350,000,000 Internet domains – News of Delhi places it more precisely at more than 366,848,493 (as of December 2011). How many of those are your direct competitors? More important, how many of them compete with you indirectly?

SEO matters because it helps two kinds of people find your website: people who know you but don’t know your website and people who don’t know you but want your content. Both can find you using a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, AOL, Alta Vista, or one of many others.

If someone knows your name, chances are very good that they will find you by entering your name in the search window, although it isn’t a given. If someone knows of you but doesn’t know your name, they can enter keywords about you and scroll through results pages until they run into you. If someone knows about your topic but not about you or your name, again they can enter keywords about your content and scroll through results pages until they run into any site that offers the actual content they seek, which may or may not include yours. Your goal is to maximize the chances that those people will find you before they find someone else. That’s also the goal of SEO.

Chances are good that those who know your name are getting to your site just fine, unless you have a difficult or strange domain name. So let’s focus on the other two groups of seekers. The more difficult you make it for them to find you in a search – the way most people who don’t know your domain name will try to find you – the less likely it is they will find you. Good SEO practices are to remove as many obstacles to finding you as possible. Good SEO practices are to set up your site to make finding you as easy as possible.

Back to your competitors: You have direct competitors – the sites with whom you compete directly for customers. You also have indirect competitors – the sites that through their website practices and through search engine algorithms place them in competition with you for ranking on the results pages. Some of both groups optimize their pages for search engines, some don’t. You can’t control what they do, and you can’t control what the search engines do, but you can control what you do. You can control how you optimize your pages and create the opportunity for seekers to find you.

That is why SEO matters.

Also see my series on SEO Basics for more on SEO for Web Editors.

My next article: SEO and Keywords
One of the most important tools you have to work with in search engine optimization is the keyword. It should form the basis of all your work to optimize your Web page. Up next in my series of articles will be, “SEO and Keywords.” Join me!

Stylin’

Did you know most publications, print and online, use a “style?” (Did you know websites also are considered publications?) A style is a set of guidelines or rules that a publication follows to maintain consistency. Do you capitalize this? Do you italicize that? Do you write out this abbreviation? Do you use a comma after the second item in a series of three? Or not?

These are the kinds of questions that a style or style guide answers, and which editors and writers go to the style to find answers about. There are different styles: Associated Press (AP), Chicago, American Medical Association (AMA), even Yahoo! has a style guide.

Most publication staffs develop deviations from the particular style their publication uses. These sometimes turn out to be pet peeves or general preferences. Style can be a combination of a professional style such as those mentioned, and a list of preferred styles from a publication’s staff. A hybrid style, per se.

Recently the writers for this blog had an interesting discussion on just which style we would use for the Web Editors blog. We had pretty much narrowed it down to AP Style and Yahoo!. (See comparison of AP and Yahoo!) There were advantages and disadvantages to both, and writers weighed in for both. While there are many similarities, the differences were negligible, so you may not notice much difference. We finally decided to be brave and flexible. Even though we decided to make AP the official style of this blog, writers are permitted to use Yahoo! style if they prefer. As long as the individual writer chooses either AP or Yahoo, and sticks to that particular style, that’s fine.

So if you happen to notice some minor deviations between writers’ styles, that’s okay. We hope you won’t mind if we’re a little more stylish than most publications.

Web Editor: Alison Lueders

I am the Founder and Principal of “Great Green Editing”, a certified green business which provides website and online copyediting services for other green businesses, as well as health, education and nonprofit organizations. I am an MBA and a CKM (Certified Knowledge Manager), and I arrived here through a somewhat circuitous route that nevertheless makes me feel I am in exactly the right place now.

My current small business is built on 30 years of experience in the corporate world, where I did software applications development, management consulting, and training. My favorite role was a decade spent as a Knowledge Manager for a Fortune 500 company. That experience crystallized my love of technology, information organization, and writing, and made web editing a natural choice for my own business.

My interest in green and sustainable business issues has evolved over the years. From reading Tom Friedman’s book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded” to auditing Environmental Management courses through Harvard, my concern has only grown. So at this stage of life, I decided to both become a green business myself (hence the certification through the Green Business Bureau), AND assist other green businesses with their website and online editing needs.  My clients help to make the world a greener, more sustainable place, and my goal is to help them succeed.

I am thrilled to be a part of the Web Editors blog, and to share my experience of this fascinating, ever-changing job with others. I constantly learn new things from this group, and appreciate the open, friendly tone of its members.

My posts will offer tips on how to make your web writing the best it can be, based on the actual web copy I see from my clients and on the Internet generally. (Names shall be changed to protect the innocent.) My first post, coming up on March 22, 2012 will cover “5 Common Web Copy Errors to Avoid”. As the blog evolves and readers weigh in with questions or requests for topics, that focus may adjust accordingly. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Wikipedia Balances the Taut Line Between Accuracy and Editorial Control

News–
Who polices accuracy on your website? Probably you as web editor, right?

Wikipedia uses a large battery of editors to guard the accuracy of its millions of articles, and still, its reputation is often questioned. A recent article in The Atlantic highlights their dilemma as they try to balance between remaining open for anyone with knowledge to update information and managing those with strong opinions but little other standing who insist on pushing their views on the site.

In this case, a topic expert with new information from recent research tried to update an article on a subject important in American history. But his startling new information didn’t match the popular view on the topic, so the Wikipedia editors – who often aren’t topic experts – reverted the entry back to its original form, which was then less accurate.

If you have ever been involved in a content dispute with someone on Wikipedia, you know this can be frustrating for both sides. Someone has to be the arbiter, yet not everyone can be expert enough on every topic to know what is a genuine revelation and what is someone’s obsession – who is knowledgeable and who is not.

Was Wikipedia right to revert the content back? As a web editor, what’s your take on it?

Web Editor: Alan Eggleston

Editor in Geek?
By Alan Eggleston

Do you have to be a geek to be a good web editor? I don’t think it’s in the job description, and in many cases it’s probably more important to be a good editor than to be a good geek, but it was being good at being a geek that got me a shot at working on the Web. So I’m going to say, if you want to be a Web editor, you should consider whether you’re also a geek.

I’ve been a web editor since 1995, when my supervisor at the corporate publications office realized I was a geek playing around on the Internet and asked me to tackle the company’s first website. I then found myself advising the company’s affiliates on their websites, and when the company put together a department for global online communications, I became its web editor. A year later, I was invited to join a new e-commerce team as web editor to help develop a new online model for the company. In 2001, a week and a half before 9/11, I left the corporate world and became a freelance web editor, which I continue doing to this day. I love editing and as a geek, I love Web editing.

Not all web editors need to be geeks, but as web editor it helps to have played around with various browsers, html editors and WYSIWYG programs, content management systems, CSS attributes, and mobile apps. It’s also useful to be familiar with Web design concepts, mobile conversion, and know the difference between jpgs, gifs, and tiffs, and be able to work with Web video and audio. While you’re at it, it will help your cause to know about search engine optimization (SEO) and site analytics, although not absolutely necessary. All this you may learn through experience, although much of it you can learn through Internet searches. I was fortunate enough to be curious and learn it on my own – a sure sign of being a geek.

My next article: Why SEO Matters

As a web editor with a lot of experience in search engine optimization, I’ve noticed it’s an area a lot of other web editors don’t understand. I recently ran a series on my own blog on SEO Basics for Web Editors, and I hope to bring some of that knowledge to your aid in this blog as well. Up next in my first article will be, “Why SEO Matters.” Join me!

Introducing — Us!

Welcome to the Web Editors blog!

Beginning today, a group of very talented writers and editors, who are responsible for a great deal of the content across some of the web’s most influential sites, will introduce themselves and begin to educate and inform both the public and our colleagues of just what a web editor does, can do, should do and might consider doing, all based on our experiences within this profession.

The writers you will encounter are all currently from the Web Editors group on LinkedIn. Someone posted within one of the many discussions that there was not really a good blog resource available for the profession of web editors (Thank you Jonathan Reid!), and the idea to begin a Web Editors blog was afoot.

So over the next few weeks you will meet us, and learn how we came into this fine profession, and then a little bit about what each of us will be writing in our next post.

Web Editor: Cathy Hodson
As for me, I am Cathy Hodson. I began my career as an English teacher in a small town’s high school, then went back to suburbia to work in publishing as a writer and editor of engineering and manufacturing trade magazines for a little over a dozen years.

I was happily working as a writer and editor on an environmental engineering magazine, when the young woman who had been our web editor left the company. I had been feeding her product releases to add to our website, and as someone who had always drooled over technology and the latest gizmos, I threw my hat in the ring for her job. How hard could it be?

Still, I was surprised I got the job, having no experience as a web person at all. I didn’t know a stitch of HTML, what an authoring program was, or how the information that needed to get up on the website got there. I found out quickly that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it was terribly intriguing and what I learned that first year from some very patient colleagues has made my job exciting, thrilling and incredibly fun to this day.

Part of the thrill comes from the immediacy of the Internet. While a print article can take anywhere from 3-6 months to see publication, you can write something today and it will be on the Internet within a matter of seconds. Some say that’s also the problem with the Internet, but I prefer to think that the work of a professional and someone who cares a great deal for quality content, still rises to the top.

We hope you will continue to check back as our blog continues to grow. Some of us will be writing monthly, others semi-monthly, but hopefully over time you will get to know us and what we are passionate about.

My next post will be in mid-March, and I will be writing about managing a large website. In the meantime, tomorrow you will hear from Web Editor Alan Eggleston about how much of a geek you need to be to join the Web Editor profession. Stay tuned, and welcome!