We’ve been debating around the office whether it’s better to write for search or to write for readers.
I think it’s actually a little of both.
On the one hand, there are people who will never optimize a single blog post for search engines. They just write awesome stuff and people flock to them through word of mouth.
On the other, there are people who believe that it’s okay to churn out crap, just so long as you win search engine results. Their thought is if you win more search, you get more traffic.
The problem with the latter is that while you may get more traffic, you also get more people who see your writing is crap, and so you get more people who ignore you. The problem with the former is that you can’t rely on word of mouth. That’s why it’s important that you do both.
I call it blogging for posterity.
Blogging for posterity means you want to win search, but you also want people to read it. It means you optimize for search while you write as well as you can. This shouldn’t be an either/or proposition.
I had a great example of writing for posterity on my Laughing Stalk humor blog last week. For no reason that I can determine, I got a big spike of readers — 600 over 3 days — showing up at a column I wrote nearly a year ago.
My newspaper humor column, “Honey, It’s Over. Burma Shave!“, started ranking high on my Google Analytics, nearly 10 months after I first wrote it.
The source? Google.se, or Google Sweden.
The reason? I don’t even know. I don’t know if I got featured on a front page of a major website somehow. I don’t know if a news story mentioned the incident. I don’t know if there was an auditorium filled with Swedes who were all visiting my site.
What I know is that I had nearly 606 Swedes visit my site over a 3 day period, and spend some time on my site. They came because they found me on Google (Google Sweden, which I guess just makes me Swedish famous), and they stayed for an average of 40 seconds. Not huge time, but all the RSS bots seem to be screwing with my Time On Page stats.
Had I tried to just focus on search for this post, my readability would have most likely suffered. But had I just focused on readership, I may never have been found. But I was writing/blogging for posterity, and I was able to enjoy the benefits without stressing out about it.