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SEO Advice: Writing useful articles that readers will love E-mail

Okay SEOs, what can you learn from my previous post about changing the default printer for Firefox on Linux? In the last week someone wrote and said “I want you to talk about SEO, and don’t give me any of that crap about good content.” I’m going to beg to differ. :) I wrote that post mainly because I’ve looked for this information a couple times and never found exactly what I was looking for quickly. That tells me that in this small niche, I could utterly rock the search engines. Plus once I figured out the info, it was only 10-20% more time to package it up nicely. Now this short content post can act as an evergreen draw for searchers.

Notice what I did with keywords. I carefully chose keywords for the title and the url (note that I used “change” in the url and “changing” in the title). The categories on my post (”How to” and “Linux”) give me a subtle way to mention Linux again, and include a couple extra ways that someone might do a search–lots of user type “how to (do what they want to do).” I thought about the words that a user would type in when looking for an answer to their question, and tried to include those words in the article. I also tried to think of a few word variations and included them where they made sense (file vs. files, bash and bashrc, Firefox and Mozilla, etc.). I’m targetting a long-tail concept where someone will be typing several words, so I’m probably in a space where on-page keywords are enough to rank pretty well. I don’t need anchor-text for “linux default printer” or similar phrases; in the on-page space, I’d recommend thinking more about words and variants (the “long-tail”) and thinking less about keyword density or repeating phrases.

The meta-issues I’d mention would be:
1) The utility of an article is paramount. If you write 2000 words about mortgage loans and never discuss the industry landscape or impart some useful, concrete knowledge to your reader, that should set off a warning flag in your head. So use this advice only for good (high-quality articles), not for evil. :)
2) Be sure to study your niche. I just spent 10-15 minutes to tackle the “default printer in Linux/Firefox/Mozilla” space. Is that niche worth writing an article about? Well, it was for me, because I was looking for this information myself. In general, any time you look for an answer or some information and can’t find it, that should strike you as an opportunity.

But the larger point is that if you put in time and research to produce or to synthesize original content, think hard about what niches to target. My advice is not to start with an article about porn/pills/casinos/mortgages–it’s better to start with a smaller niche. If you become known as an expert on (say) configuring Linux or hacking gadgets, you could build that out with things like forums to create even more useful content. Look for a progression of niches so that you start out small or very specific, but you can build your way up to a big, important area over time.

There are a lot of niches that just take sweat equity. You could be the SEO that does interviews. Or the SEO that transcribes Matt’s videos. Or the SEO that makes funny lists. Or the SEO company that provides webmaster radio. Or the SEO that makes podcasting easy. Or the SEO that specializes in a certain content management system or shopping cart. Or the SEO company that specializes in Yahoo! stores. Or the SEO that specializes in accessibility. Or the company that mocks Silicon Valley and its companies. Or the SEO that specializes in AdWords API ROI tracking. Or you could be the SEOs that write-up a summary of every panel at every search engine conference. Or the company that does cartoons. Or the SEO who pays attention to Google Base, Google Co-op, Yahoo! Answers, or Facebook. Or the SEO that provides Firefox plugins. Or the company that provides metrics and tracking for blogs. Or the SEO that talks about patents. Or the SEO that specializes in dynamic sites. Eye-tracking. Beginner SEO tutorials. Making maps mash-ups. Ajax SEO. SEO for non-profits. SEO for Second Life or MySpace. SEO to repair a company’s reputation. SEO for MySQL, Python, Ruby on Rails, WordPress blogs, or .NET sites. The SEO that surfaces databases or Flash sites. SEO for self-publishing authors. The SEO that does radio ads.

An infinite number of niches are waiting for someone to claim them. I’d ask yourself where you want to be, and see if you can find a path from a tiny specific niche to a slightly bigger niche and so on, all the way to your desired goal. Sometimes it’s easier to take a series of smaller steps instead of jumping to your final goal in one leap.

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