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How do you balance substance vs. spam in blogging for search results?

The most successful bloggers and web writers generally aim for quality content and search engine optimization (SEO). It’s a balancing act for sure, and the game just became more complex than ever with another new Google algorithm in action.

First, what is SEO?

Simply put, SEO means copy is tailored to maximize its likelihood of coming up high in results to internet users’ queries on the major search engines. 

Writers may employ keywords, celebrity names, hot headline subjects and other wordings that are apt to pop up in popular internet searches. By doing so, web wordsmiths hope to draw in as many readers as possible.

It’s easy to overdo it with SEO strategies and lose the art of good writing. What’s more, many eager bloggers and website designers are tempted to load up their posts with ads and web-links, aiming to increase earnings from monetization.

That’s not all bad, as long as it’s done in moderation, using solid strategies.

Search engines balk at spam.

Google’s own “Inside Search” blog posted a warning this week, reminding blog publishers to beware of spamming. The massive search engine unveiled another algorithmic alteration January 19th, and pointed directly at spam-filled blogs.

According to Google’s own description, the change “looks at the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result.”

Apparently, the new algorithm is aimed primarily at blogs and websites that “make it hard to find the actual original content on the page.”

What does this mean for blog writers?

Somehow, we have to walk the fine line between mindfulness and monetization. We need to stress substance over spam. A few links and ads, placed neatly within the body of blog posts and sidebars, are certainly appropriate. Promotions and listed links should relate topically or contextually to the subject of blog posts.

My friend and writing colleague Marie Anne St. John offers this advice for bloggers: “Google isn't going to tell us outright how much is too much, but stand back and look at your page with fresh eyes.” That seems like a solid strategy.

How many ads are too many ads?

Without resorting to standardized mathematical formulas, which baffle many wordsmiths (read: English majors) anyway, writers will have to find a way to weigh each blog post or online article.

Essentially, entries offering more original, value-added content are likely to be more readily accepted by the top search engines than posts overflowing with promotions and links. Well-constructed blogs will be visually appealing and readable, rather than jumbled layouts of unrelated ads.

For example, this blog post contains seven article links. Can you find them? One leads to the Google blog. Another goes to Marie Anne St. John’s blog (Write, Wrong or Indifferent). Five links direct readers to related articles I’ve written for various sites.

Are seven links too many? Probably not for a blog post totaling more than 550 words. But seven links in a 100-word post might be considered excessive.

What would you rather read and write, substance or spam?

OK, that’s a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious, right?

Perhaps the ubiquitous bots and mysterious web-crawlers would agree. And who wants to be slapped on the wrist by a massive search engine or two?

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  1. Great advice. While content writers (I've done my fair share) took a huge hit when Google changed things up, I think it was a good move and everything will stabilize so that sites with something to offer will again be profitable. There was SO much spammy, keyword-loaded garbage out there that something had to be done.


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