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How to make a good website

I know: “A pretentious sounding title. With a cat picture cover – for crying out loud! Who writes this… who reads this!?”
This article brings together my answers to people asking me about how to create a website for their shop, business, project, or about their hobby. It also touches on the topic of brand building.
In other words: how do I make websites with a decent Google ranking and number of visitors? It is long, and will most likely disappoint SEO ninjas. On the plus side, it is structured with chapters, so you can skip to the parts of interest to you.

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. How to start? Subject, and topics
  3. Domain name and branding
    3.1. Domain name relates to what the website is about
    3.2. It should be easy to pronounce and remember
    3.3. If possible, it should be with a .com extension
    3.4. Social networks
    3.5. Wrapping up domain name / branding
  4. Website related technical stuff
  5. SEO and SERP
    5.1. Content (articles, pictures, videos…)
    5.2. Technical SEO
    5.3. Internal (and external) links
    5.4. Backlinks
  6. How to create good quality content?
    6.1. Target audience
    6.2. Research
    6.3. Article structure – like riding a bike 🙂
    6.4. Motivation and writer’s block
    6.5. Keywords
    6.6. Writing multilingual articles
    6.7. Monkeys are getting dumber – Attention span
  7. What does Google like?
  8. Promotion – advertising
  9. Conclusion
  10. Contributors


1. Introduction

Note: I am not a SEO expert. Everything written here is based on my experience. This is what I do, what’s worked for me in practice, and what I think is best. Nothing more, nothing less. Fair enough? Let’s start:

One of my favourite forums – Low End Spirit (a hosting – computers/IT – related forum), has a thread on SEO. Some members asked about how I write stuff for my websites, including multi-lingual website/content creation. I concluded that a proper answer is beyond the form of a forum post, and decided to finally get down to writing this article.

I suggest you read this to the end on the first go. On the second go, spend more time on the parts that you find more interesting, or find harder to understand. Only on the third go try to open provided links (preferably in a separate browser tab), to read in more detail about the stuff that interests you.


2. How to start? Subject, and topics

First thing to do in order to make a good website is to choose a subject, and/or even more specific topics that the site is about. Sure, you can make a site about “a little bit of everything”, but in that case you are the websites subject, so the site is about what you are interested in.

A good example is my cycling website, that deals with bicycle mechanics, riding techniques, and safety. This too is a rather wide subject, that could be broken down into three separate smaller websites, but I think it holds together the way it is.

  • “Cycling” is what I call a “subject” that the site deals with.
  • What I call “topics” are: “bicycle mechanics”, “riding techniques”, “safety”, and “buying tips”.

These are the major recurring themes. After you decide on those, the next step is to break them into relevant categories. In order to do this, you must have a good general knowledge of the subject that website is about. It’s not always straight forward. For example:

Both “reviews” and “what kind of bicycle to buy” deal with the “buying tips” topic from different angles. However, it wouldn’t make sense to put them both under the same main menu category. Yes, this does require some planning and forward thinking (and, I repeat, good knowledge of the subject). My chosen structure is shown in the main-menu categories, and table of contents (TOC).

Website article creation fuel
The struggle is real… and we aren’t even close to what people call “SEO”!
Picture 1

A bad example is this very website. Why? It deals with a subject that is too widely defined, i.e. it contains everything I do that is remotely related to computers and computing. A better option would be to make several smaller websites, like:

  • “Hosting” subject – with the following topics: “servers”, “providers”, “technical support”, “DNS”, “security”…
  • Web design – WordPress, website design, CDN, emails, SEO…
  • Internet technologies – security, cloud storage, privacy…
  • Linux – distros, OS security, patches, utilities…

BEGIN Digressionskip to end
Why don’t I make it into several smaller websites? Two reasons:

  • I had envisioned the cycling website as “N0.1 in the world” within 10 years time (in addition to it also serving as a personal reminder/resource). This I/O site is just for my personal reference, without any real ambitions. It is all on one (multilingual WordPress) website – making it faster and easier to do maintenance, and add new content.
  • Even in a distant future, I don’t plan on writing enough articles to cover all of the above noted subjects.

Making a good website requires time and effort. You can pay people to write articles, pay administrators, editors – but that too is “time” in some way (unless you have a rich uncle).

END of the digression

I’ll repeat this, because it’s important (and not easy): think carefully about what exactly you want to do, before starting (though this goes against the current zeitgeist, and you are free to disagree 🙂 ).


3. Domain name and branding

Nomen est omen,” as the antient Latins say. For those who “don’t speak tech,” see what is a domain name?


3.1. Domain name relates to what the website is about

This topic is mostly related to marketing, branding. How should you choose a domain name?

It should reflect what your site/brand is about. There are many exceptions to this – like Google, and Apple, but generally it is a good idea for a cycling forum (as an example) to be “bikeforums.net”, not “oranges.net”.

I may not be the best person to give advice on this, since I went with “bikegremlin.com” (see why I chose Bike Gremlin). 🙂


3.2. It should be easy to pronounce and remember

“instagram.com” is a good example, while “twitter.com” gets many people confused – in my country, you have to note it’s with “two Ts “, and even then people aren’t sure if it’s “ttwitter.com”, or “ttwiter.com”, or the correct version. Of course, if a website becomes hugely popular (like Twitter), this problem solves itself, but it’s better to have fewer problems from the start.


3.3. If possible, it should be with a .com extension

Why .com? Because most people still associate that with the “Internet websites”. Even if you are aiming at your local country market, this can be important. A concrete example:

A good local brand (Serbian, from my city) “Invicta Bike” has their website at “invictabike.rs“. However, if you make a mistake and visit “invictabike.com“, you will see a piglet picture (at the time of writing):

.com domain extension taken by someone else
.com domain extension taken by someone else
Picture 2

Imagine if a competitor (another local bicycle shop) got this domain, and made it redirect visitors to their website. And say that only 5% of Invicta Bike customers turn to another shop. That’s 5% fewer for Invicta Bike, and 5% more for the competition. Altogether a 10% difference, only because of the silly mistakes people make, like typing .com at the end, because “websites are .com”.
If a brand is registered, it is possible to get a domain that was taken by someone else by going to court – but it requires a lot of time and money, and the outcome is not always certain.

Can you now see why I think .com is still king? This is in spite of numerous other domains emerging, and people getting a bit more “Internet literate”.

Likewise, for similar reasons, if you are aiming primarily at the local market: do register your local domain (.uk, .us, .de etc.) along with the .com – but, if at all possible, not instead of .com, if it is owned by someone else.

Choosing your domain name.
A common scenario: you think of a great name, only to find out that your “greatname.com” is taken, there’s already another website on that domain.
Important note: how to securely check if a domain name is available (so no one “snatches it under your nose”).

What can you do if your chosen name is already taken? Try to think of something else that is suitable. Even if it means renaming your brand. Of course, if you already have an established brand, this may not be feasible, or wise (though even in that case it is worth weighing all your options).

What I’d consider an acceptable alternative, if you have an established brand and can’t find a decent available .com, is using a .net, or your local country domain, but only in case .com is taken by a well-established website, that doesn’t compete with yours (aims at a different market, and/or covers a different subjects/topics).

Fact: there are fewer and fewer available .com domains that are decently short, memorable, and pronounceable. So, in spite of the above noted cons, you might just give up and go with some other domain, while .com remains taken. And that’s OK! But do give it some time and thought and try to get a good .com before giving up.


3.4. Social networks

I’m not a huge fan of social networks. Some reasons for that are explained in my article: .com price hike – where is the Internet going? But this doesn’t change the fact that “Instagram = Internet” for most 20-30 year olds (the younger ones are, as far as I know, on TikTok, while the older ones are on Facebook, and Linkedin).

If you manage to find a perfect .com domain, do check if “instagram.com/yourdomain” is available. Same goes for most other major social networks (which those are depends on your target audience; for BikeGremlin that’s Facebook and YouTube).

What if those are taken? Then it’s the same as if .com is taken: consider finding another domain/brand name – as explained in chapter 3.3.

Social network accounts, on any major social network, can help in your brand/website ranking and recognition. I would also include Google My Business pages here (a separate article could be devoted just to this).

But, for this to work, you must be active on the given social networks – creating and posting good content there as well. Copy-pasting website articles won’t cut it – content must be created to suit each particular social network. Cool pictures for Instagram, thought provoking/informative Tweets, good YouTube videos, educational Linkedin posts, etc.

I wrote a bit more on this in chapter 8. Promotion.


3.5. Wrapping up domain name / branding

If you make a good website (and/or brand), the domain name becomes less important. The bigger the site/brand, the less you need to worry about your chosen domain name. Does this make this whole 3rd chapter pointless? No, not really – because it’s always better to have more things going your way, to start from a more advantageous starting position.


4. Website related technical stuff

Now I will just note the steps that follow, with links to the articles where I explained them in more detail. This article is based on strategy, and content creation (with a pinch of SEO), not the purely technical stuff.

Now you can start making a website. If you are not sure how to do that exactly, I’ve created a series of articles on the topic, as a sort of a walk-through. Most of the articles from that series are linked above. It is based on setting up a site powered by WordPress (and bacon 🙂 ), but the principle is the same for practically any other CMS (or for not using any CMS at all). Going further in this article, I’ll be talking more about content creation, but for the “technical stuff”, you can see the link list below:


5. SEO and SERP

The meaning of these terms often gets mixed up. I would also add the term “SEO marketing,” the meaning of which often gets mixed with SEO. I’ll be concise, use plain English (at the cost of some over-simplifications), and use “Google” as a synonym for any search engine:

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – adding info on your website pages that only Google sees, which helps it understand what your texts/pictures/videos are about.
  • SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking – is my website 1st, or 99th on the list, when I Google: “best bicycle bearings grease?”
  • SEO marketing – using the fact your website gets “listed on top” when people Google, as a means of marketing (“advertising”). Instead of, or in addition to, paid adverts and other marketing strategies.

Separate articles explain these topics in more detail:

Here I’ll focus a bit more on SERP. In other words: “how can I rank 1st on Google?!” Just a moment… someone’s at the door… OH, NO!

When SEO ninjas throw shurikens, you dodge!
When life SEO ninjas throw shurikens at you, dodge!
Picture 3

That was close!
🙂 Now where was I? Yes:


5.1. Content (articles, pictures, videos…)

The crucial thing is good quality content. It’s not enough by itself, but without it, everything else falls.
What is good quality content?
A: If you are into entertainment, it has to be very funny/entertaining to a large enough audience.
B: If you offer information or products, they must solve people’s problems.

Item A is self explanatory, but let’s dive into item B:

  1. First I’ll Google: “best bicycle bearing grease”, or “best grease for bicycle bearings”, looking for articles that seem well researched, objective, and explain the topic well.
  2. Based on the gathered info, I’ll make a short-list of several greases, and Google reviews for those.
  3. Finally, I’ll most probably Google “Mobilith SHC 220” (Amazon affiliate link) to buy it.

Of course, your approach and choice may differ, but this is a typical example. The first prerequisite for your website to rank well, based on this, is to:

  1. Provide a very good explanation of the topic, or an answer that a vast majority of people accept as the correct one (the latter boils down to chapter 5.4. Backlinks).
  2. And/or provide good product reviews, that a vast majority of people regard as true/accurate/objective.
  3. And/or offer greases at competitive (read: “low”) prices, with a vast majority of happy customers (read: “good customer reviews”).

As you can see from the list above, there are several ways to rank, depending on whether you are a shop, a review site, blog, etc. None of those excludes the others. For example, many shops also have blogs to get a better ranking (and link to their products from their blog pages).


5.2. Technical SEO

OK, I have created some brilliant content, but am nowhere to be found on Google. How? WHYYY?!
If ten “Hail Marys” don’t help, try the following, which is called “Technical SEO”:

  • Make website design and layout that people can easily read and navigate. Pay attention to the blind visually challenged people (google: “website accessibility“). Can you reach every page with 3, or fewer clicks from the main menu/front page? Does it look OK from both mobile phones, and desktop computers?
  • Do all the needed website optimizations so that it loads without any hiccups, even when visiting with a lower quality Internet connection (AMP is one of the ways of helping with the latter). Yes, 3 seconds is fast enough. Anything faster is phenomenal. Don’t go chasing 1 second page load times, worry more about visitor convenience.
  • “Submit” your site to Google and get notified of any problems Google might face while checking it out. This is done through Google Search Console (older article, but the principle hasn’t changed).
  • Make sure your website is secure so it doesn’t cause any problems for visitors (see how to secure a (WordPress) website).
  • Cool visual design helps, but it must not be to the detriment of the above noted factors.

More details on technical SEO items (headings, meta-tags etc.) are given in the article Website SE Optimization.

Do all that and don’t worry… you still won’t rank 1st on Google! 🙂
But don’t despair, just be prepared for a little more work, which leads us to… drum-roll…


5.3. Internal (and external) links

First let’s define these:

  • Internal link: linking to yourself. I.e. linking from a page of your website, to another page of your website.
  • External link: linking to the others. I.e. linking from a page of your website, to another website’s page(s).

The above mentioned SEO ninjas often give advice to have your every website page/article contain this-and-that number of links to the other pages on your website. You’ll also hear that if your pages have too many links compared to the amount of text, Google might “penalize” your site for being a link-spam nest.

Both of the noted claims are correct, and incorrect – similar to the claim that water can kill you. Sure, if you drown. But if you never drink water (like the Serbs), you’ll also die.

Serbian team-building!
Serbian team-building!
Picture… err… I’ve lost count…

What (do I think) is the right way to create links?

I follow this simple principle: every term used in an article needs to be defined. Of course, I won’t define the word “rain” on a cycling website, but let’s make one example:

“If you often ride in the (heavy) rain, make sure to more regularly service your wheel bearings, and lubricate the chain.”

On my website, that sentence would look like this:

“If you often ride in the (heavy) rain, make sure to more regularly service your wheel bearings, and lubricate the chain.”

I have included a link to an article that explains how to service bicycle wheel bearings, because I suppose that not everyone knows what that service is, or how it is done. For the same reason, I also included a link to an article explaining how to clean and lubricate a bicycle chain.

It basically doesn’t matter if the linked content is mine, or someone else’s. What matters is that the linked stuff is of high quality and explains the topic well. My cycling website is quite well rounded now, so most of the links used are to other articles on the same website. This “IT site”, on the other hand, has a lot more links to other people’s content. After I write more articles, I’ll be able to replace those external links with internal ones – primarily so I don’t have to worry about some websites going off-line, or changing their article URLs, resulting in visitors going “nowhere” – and not getting the needed info.

Everything that helps visitors, that makes a website better, more useful, is what Google notices and appreciates. Sometimes it just takes a bit more time, but Google’s goal is to provide the best service, the best answer to a question or query.

Yes, I know, Google is (also) a marketing platform. But that still doesn’t greatly change the above stated claims.

Besides visitor convenience, there is another mechanism through which links help improve search engine ranking. Again, a practical example:

  • I wrote an article in which greases are explained in great detail. Primarily for my own personal reference – no normal person would read through that. Let’s call this “Greases explained“.
  • I also wrote an article in which I briefly explain what kind of grease to look for in a shop, and buy for your bike. Let’s call this “Best grease“.
    I have included links to both articles, they are real – and decently ranked for all I could tell.
  • “Greases explained” has a link to “Best grease” for all the normal people who just want to know what to buy.
  • “Best grease” has a link to “Greases explained” for all the people who wish to understand (and check) why I recommend those particular greases.

As far as Google is concerned, it can see I have a rather serious article on greases, that links to another article on greases, in a similar context. Those two pages do slightly overlap, but mostly offer different, though closely matched, values to the reader. Links like these have weigth in search ranking.

Just stamping similar content and inter-linking it may sound similar to this, but it is essentially the opposite of the above noted example!

Likewise, links from this page to the grease articles hold very little value because this page has nothing to do with bicycles, or greases. It looks like a typical “backlink SEO trick” that should be penalized. OK, here it is done for purely pedagogical reasons, but get the point?

Make “reasonable links:” from quality pages, to quality pages, in a matching/appropriate context. That’s golden.

Of course – this only works if Google figures out that your content is high quality, offering high value to visitors. In addition to the above written info, another tool for measuring content quality is, as the Latins say: “Vox populi, vox Dei,” or “backlinks” in SEO ninja language.


5.4. Backlinks

I wrote a separate article explaining backlinks in more detail, while here I’ll do it briefly, only “hitting the high-points” as the Americans say.

What is a back-link?
It’s a link to your website page, from another website.

Here, I’ll make a link to Low End Spirit forum. They just got a backlink from I/O Gremlin website! WOOHOOO! 🙂

People generally link to pages that they like, find useful, or interesting.

So: if you create good quality content, people will discover it sooner, or later, and start sharing links to it. From their websites or social networks. Google notices this, and that is another signal that your content is good.

I’ve experienced this with my cycling website. The largest and the best cycling related forum in the World is bikeforums.net (I recommend it). It took about 2 years for the forum members to discover my articles (wasn’t very highly ranked from the start). Once they discovered them, they linked to them and shared them. When someone asked about a certain topic, they would post a link saying: “here, it’s beautifully explained on this page” (posting a link to one of the pages on my website). Google noticed that and started ranking my pages even higher. So even more people see them – and share/link them. Which Google also notices… it’s a self-amplifying loop. But it requires good quality content!

Do I share my articles? Yes. Most of my articles are written after having to answer the same question for the 1000th time. Once I create an article, I just post a link so I don’t have to write the same stuff over and over again. This also requires good quality content, otherwise it’s just self-promotion that people see through (see chapter 8. Promotion).

Buying back-links?
Maybe SEO ninjas have their own secret connections, but I wouldn’t link to poor quality content, even for money (I refuse such offers). I link to high quality content for free.
Would it be worth offering a high-quality website owner some money to link to my high-quality content? It seems like bad taste to even ask something like that.
That’s all I have to say on this topic – draw your own conclusions and decide for yourself.

Guest posting for backlinks?
This is one more common recommendation by SEO ninjas. You write a good article for another website to get a link (from that article) to your website. I think, in the long run, it’s better to write good articles for your own website.


6. How to create good quality content?

“SEO ninjas” just love the term “content”, “content creation” – I must repeat it, it sounds sooo powerful! 🙂
Basically, on websites, it means: writing drivel good articles (like this one 🙂 ), and adding some pictures, and/or videos.

How do I write (good?) articles?

Read a lot! Books, articles… Read. Then practice writing. Have friends go over your work. Correct. Improve.
That aside (though it is very important and helpful), this is how I write articles:

First I get an idea. Usually I get a question or a suggestion. Then come these phases:


6.1. Target audience

When I’m working on an article, I think about the audience it is intended for:

  • What do they generally know, and what do they not know? Articles for experts are not the same as those for the absolute beginners (and they should have links to beginner friendly article versions, if a novice “drops in”).
  • How much time and effort are they willing to put in? Articles recommending face cream for working single mothers can’t be long and detailed. An article on rear derailleur compatibility may be elaborate, or at least have a link to a more elaborate article.
  • What question does the article answer? Which problem exactly does it solve? This is crucial. You can end up writing about nothing if you don’t pay attention to this.

Never underestimate human stupidity and laziness. Shorter and simpler is always better (chapter 6.7 dives a bit deeper into this.). Links with explanations, even of basic terms, do more good than harm. You never know what kinds of knowledge gaps different readers might have.


6.2. Research

A test I use to see if I’ve really mastered a topic is to try explaining it to a child. When writing an article for non-expert audience, I easily notice gaps in my knowledge. Learning, testing, confirming. More on that: why do I write and publish articles?

For research I use Google, rarely asking experts on the topic (bothering them only when I get stuck). See my video on how to find info/answers on the Internet.


6.3. Article structure – like riding a bike 🙂

Running, swimming, cycling, hiking – these are all very healthy, meditative activities. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

What is the best way to introduce the subject/topic? If I knew as little/much as my target readers, what would I prefer to read first, and what would I be able to understand only later?

For example, in this article, I suppose it was a good idea to first explain SEO, linking, and SERP ranking basics. Only after visitors read that and understand the importance of good quality content, does it make sense writing about how to create good content.

I seldom have a clear idea of an article’s structure (chapters/headings, topics etc.) right from the start. It usually starts by percolating in the back of my mind. “On the back-burner”. While I cycle to and from work, hike, wait in front of a bank… my brain relaxes, good ideas pop up… like Messenger notifications (which are always muted on my phone 🙂 ).

It is easy to write a long article. Short but clear is difficult. Complicated topics take many days of arranging and rearranging before I write anything.

If an article is “ripe” enough, then the first draft often gets very close to the final draft, especially in terms of structure (chapter order, number, and topics selection). While an awful first version is a worst-case scenario and everything has to go back to the “meditation” phase. I can’t and don’t rush it, but enjoy it, and take it easy (no editor on my back).

In this phase I prepare the needed pictures. Sometimes it takes weeks before the right bicycle or bicycle part comes to my garage.

When this phase is nearly finished, or after it’s finished, I open the WordPress back-end and do the following:

  • Create article title and set the category it goes into.
  • Write meta description and excerpt (what the article is about).
  • Optimize, upload, tag, and set the cover image.

Quite often, I decide that the original planned article is better suited for a series of several shorter posts. This calls for changing the excerpt and meta description.

Then I read it all in one go. Then again with more concentration on particular sections and paragraphs. Having a friend, or an expert, check out the article and provide feedback is excellent, but I rarely bother others to do this for me.

In the final editing phase, paragraphs and sentences get edited, often practically cut in half (believe it or not). Shorter, simpler, shorter, simpler…

I always keep the target audience in mind… the only problem is that for many articles I myself am the target audience. 🙂 It’s not as stupid/crazy as it sounds – just see chapter 6.2, and the link posted there.


6.4. Motivation and writer’s block

I’m writing about this because I’ve read about it. Not sure I can help you with this, but I’ll try.

Sometimes I give myself an assignment: “you should write on such-and-such a topic, because many people ask, and it’s not on the website.” It’s as close as I get to writing without inspiration. I start by thinking: “if my knowledge level was like the target audience’s, how would I like having that explained (to me)?“. This usually results in some good ideas, at least after a week or so.

If I don’t feel like writing, I make a deal with myself: “write one heading, and one paragraph. Then stop if you don’t feel like it.” It most often results in me getting “hooked” and continuing writing. If not – it’s OK, it’ll get going some other time.

This is very rare, however. I usually feel a strong need or urge to write on a certain topic, and my main problem is the lack of time.

Finding the time?
Occasionally I dedicate the time for writing. Early weekend mornings, when my brain works great. If I go hiking, then I’ve only got Sunday evening, or after work on a workday. Since most of my work is related to technical support, periods of idleness interrupt chaos from time to time. Ever since I started working, I ordered myself to use that time for learning. Researching and writing articles is an acceptably productive way of using that time. It’s difficult because I don’t get many minutes at a time, but it does save my free time after work.


6.5. Keywords

For a start, forget about the keywords! I know, now SEO ninjas go:

Say keywords don't matter one more time - I dare you!
“Say keywords don’t matter one more time – I dare you!”
– SEO ninja: scarier than a major Windows 10 update!
Picture 5

I see this often – people hung up on keywords, and even worse, key phrases (several particular words, in a particular order). Then they write articles overfilled with certain keywords, or have awful sentences, because they “forced” the use of certain phrases. Let’s list some facts:

Fact 1:
Google has made a lot of effort to understand articles and search queries. I.e. what articles are really about, and what people are really looking for (OK, for Serbocroatian that is not as advanced as it is for English, but who writes in Serbocroatian?! 🙂 ). It makes sense using synonyms, and phrases that fit best, not getting stuck with some pre-determined keywords, or phrases.

Fact 2:
When writing on a certain topic, it is inevitable to have many keywords related to it. Even if you actively try to reduce the number of those words’ occurrences – because a text where one same word is repeated a 100 times is awkward to read (boring, repetitive). Fewer is better!

Fact 3:
Keywords in the main title, and sub-titles (headings) have greater “weight”. URL and meta descriptions containing keywords can also help. However, even for these I advise against forcing it if it reduces the text quality. Google is getting smarter and smarter, and all the tricks will eventually get caught. Write for the people, not for the robots (no offence, robots – you’re still cool, I hear one of you even got to be a California governor 🙂 ).

Near the end of writing this article, I took a look at how my keywords and key-phrases were looking. I’ve missed it all – this article sucks, it’ll never rank on Google! 🙂

SEO keywords and key-phrases analysis for this article
SEO keywords and key-phrases analysis for this article
Picture 6

My WordPress SEO plugin says it will file a complaint for neglect and abuse. 🙂

The situation is similar with some cycling-related articles that rank very highly. Now, I do get it mostly green, most of the time. But not always. Bottom line being:

Don’t take this too literally. If you can get it all “ticked green,” by all means do it. But not at the cost of good writing!

Digression:
The pro version of The SEO Framework WordPress plugin lets you choose synonyms and even context of the chosen keywords you are trying to optimize an article for (works with English, Spanish and some other languages). This allows you to write naturally, without your SEO plugin warning you about the lack of optimizations.


6.6. Writing multilingual articles

99% of my articles have versions in both English, and my native language. Which language do I first write in?

Both! 🙂

I actively studied English from my early childhood, for over 10 years and I never stopped practicing it. I can “think in English” almost as well as I can think in my native language. Apart from some advanced word games, and really subtle stuff, I handle English relatively well (can’t write poetry in English… though my poetry sucks in my native language too 🙂 ).

When I confirm an article structure, it is already clear what each chapter should say. I have a rather clear picture even of what each paragraph should contain, so I usually open two browser tabs, write one or two paragraphs in one language and then in the other. I don’t pay attention to which goes first – it alternates.

Every language has its own “rhythm.” That is why writing from scratch in a language is better than translating. Some thoughts are more easily relayed in English (with fewer words, shorter sentences, or clearer meaning), others in Serbocroatian.

Each article would probably be a bit better written if I wrote it in only one language, concentrating more on just the one. To me it seems a lot more time and effort doing it that way. I’ve never timed it, but it feels like writing two different articles from scratch.


6.7. Monkeys are getting dumber – Attention span

I almost forgot to mention this very important aspect (so the joke is on me! 🙂 ).

What is the attention span?
It’s how long a visitor can concentrate on your content. Nowadays it’s way below 10 seconds on average, with a tendency to go even lower. People today, especially the younger generations, will “scan” the headings, perhaps read a few words or sentences in bold, and swipe on.

Good content for this kind of audience (90% of the people today) is very short, with headings that tell the story, and good/fun images. Just take a look at my articles… and do the opposite! 🙂 Seriously. This article is a great example of too long, how not to do it. It could be cut into five or even dozen short articles, with links to this one, for those who are interested.

Good pictures/illustrations, with headings that communicate the essence of what you are trying to say.

The amount of text in this chapter only (6.7.) is already too much for one whole article – at least for the average Internet user.


7. What does Google like?

None of the SEO ninjas know what Google likes, i.e. how it scores and ranks pages in search results. I even think that not a single person at Google knows exactly how stuff gets ranked, but for all of us out of Google, it is a complete black box.

SEO ninjas are very industrious and persistent. They try everything… except writing a lot of really high-quality content. The cherry on top of the cake are these “SEO experiments”. The linked experiment is flawed. Fact checking and critical thinking usually discover any flaws, but in this case, I’ll use an analogy/story:

3 Serbs and 3 Germans travel in the same train coupe to a seminar (don’t worry, our guys always win against the Germans, eventually… except in football 🙂 ).
Germans buy 3 tickets, Serbs buy only 1.
The conductor starts checking the tickets, and all the Serbs go into one WC and lock themselves in. The conductor knocks on the door, they slip the one ticket beneath the door, he punches it, and that’s done. The Germans see this.
On the way back from the seminar, the Germans buy 1 ticket, and the Serbs don’t buy any tickets.
The conductor starts checking the tickets. All the Germans go to one WC and lock the door. The Serbs knock on the door. The Germans pass the ticket under the door. The Serbs take the ticket, go to another WC, and lock themselves in.
Moral of the story? Never use or judge an algorithm if you don’t know exactly how it works!

Of course, ninjas never give up – update of the “SEO experiment”. In my opinion, all that energy is better used for figuring out and creating content for people, not robots. The ninjas who did that experiment got hung up on: “to become a good football club manager, should I wear a suit & tie, or a track suit to matches?”


8. Promotion – advertising

False modesty is almost as bad as bragging. Be realistic, objective. If you make something good, don’t be ashamed to say so (see “The Special One” 🙂 ).

You can share your articles on forums, social networks etc. But only if you are already actively participating. No one likes the guy who just show up, posts adverts, then disappears. Forums and social networks are two-way communication channels. Respect that.

I freely link to my articles in forums I regularly participate in. In 99% of the cases it’s done as a reply to another member’s question. Social networks? I’m a lot less active there – not my cup of tea. For promotion, being active on social networks can help a lot. But only if you are active, so less than 10% of your posts are self-promotions (though it could be argued that every post on social networks is in fact self-promotion).


9. Conclusion

Help yourself, help others, and it will get sorted out. Figure out what your current visitors want, love, and what they are looking for. How to do that is a topic for a separate article, but one of the ways is feedback (website comments, forum and social network replies etc.). Feedback is very powerful. Put your ego aside, and tune your eyes and ears to the max!

If there’s a target group that doesn’t visit your website, and you would like them to visit it – learn about that group (what they like, need, want). Then create/adapt content to suite them.

Be persistent and patient. There are no shortcuts. It takes at least one whole year to get any meaningful analysis.

What about the Skyscraper, and other cool, advanced SEO techniques?
To me they seem to be a lot more effort for results inferior to those gained by doing what’s explained in this article, and my other article about SEO (it’s worth reading).

SEO ninjas will probably disagree and there surely are some exceptions, but those “tricks” are like trying to become a good football player, without training hard for stamina and speed. Skill is useless if you don’t get to the right place on time, and have no strength to run back to defend.

Likewise, without good content, all the tricks are useless. Adding quality content is an effort more productive than trying to “trick Google” into ranking your existing content higher than it objectively deserves.

The Internet is full of garbage made exclusively “for SEO”. Don’t add to that pile. Stand out from the crowd.

(not very) fun facts:
Active research, finding and optimizing images, and writing the text of this article, took me about 14 hours of life and work (according to Clockify). This is after a couple of months of letting it brew my mental back-burner (see chapter 6.3).

Review and editing took another 4 hours (for editing both language versions).

And I type really fast. 🙂


10. Contributors

I’ll (ab)use this opportunity to thank David Blažević from Maoio agency (that was one backlink for them, they’ve deserved it! 🙂 ), for his suggestions and constructive criticism, which have helped make this article less awful even better! 🙂

Nathan Bennett did a great job of editing this article and sharing his ideas. From changing sentences like: “this is of crucial importance” into “this is crucial”, to making a lot of other, more complicated changes. It’s a huge difference compared to the original draft – for the shorter, simpler, easier to read. In one word: better! Thank you very much for the time and great effort.
If you find any mistakes in this last chapter, that’s all on me! 🙂

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