SEO – how to use it, and when to ignore it

SEO can be a useful tool to ensure that your content is visible and accessible to your target audience. But in science writing, it’s important to make sure that your SEO actually is improving, rather than obscuring, what you have to say.

It’s no secret that writing quality science content for the web is a difficult undertaking. Trying to fit that content to a search engine’s algorithms adds an extra layer to an already complex job.

When it comes to making your content accessible, basic SEO is just common sense. Use a catchy, relevant title. Include a meta description (the text that will appear under your title on a search engine) that has your main point clearly outlined. Identify your keywords, and keep them prominent.

But don’t forget what you really want your work to be ‘optimised’ for – your audience.

There’s no point peppering your content with a keyword that you chose without checking that it’s relevant to your audience – Google Analytics can be a helpful reference point for seeing what people search for, when, and in what context. And there’s also no point in adding the chosen words to the point where you disengage the reader with repetition. In fact, as SEO becomes smarter and more reactive, having the same words appearing over and over again can register as spam and actually hurt your work’s chances of being seen.

Getting caught up in SEO measures could lead you to lose sight of the overall quality of your content.

Remember your audience first and foremost. What do they want to know about your subject? Keeping the answer to that question clear, concise and quickly accessible to web users should be your top priority.