Google gets approximately 70,000 searches per second. Per second! If you want that to translate to website traffic, you need to ensure you’re writing for SEO.
If you do it correctly (and often), your website, blog posts, online articles, social media and other digital content can work for you on two levels. (1) They can help readers learn what they want to know, and (2) they can generate traffic and leads and, ultimately, sales.
If you’re looking to learn more about the basics of SEO, check out our primer here. If you want to learn more about writing for SEO, read on!
Know Your Keywords
The first step is to know what you want to target. Or at least know the main concepts if you don’t have the exact terms. If you don’t yet know what keywords to target, there are many free tools that will help you find them.
Don’t forget that a keyword may be a long-tail keyword, which is basically a phrase. For example, people may not always search for something broad like “shoes.” There is a lot of competition for that word, and it’s unlikely to pull up what the user is interested in. But someone may type in “red running shoes with white stripes.” That’s a long-tail keyword, and it may be easier for you to “own” those kinds of keywords since there is probably less competition.
Know Why You’re Targeting Those Keywords
What do you want to accomplish through those search queries?
- Increase website traffic
- Capture qualified leads
- Manage the company’s online reputation
- Strengthen domain authority
- Increase e-commerce sales
Your goals may change over time too. For example, you may start out to increase traffic, then switch to generate and capture sales leads.
Solve the Searcher’s Query
Google wants to provide users with the most relevant results for a search query. It’s looking for “search intent” – which means that the content should fulfill what was being searched for. In other words, write content that someone will find valuable.
Did you catch that? Writing for SEO really means to write something that others will find interesting and worth their time. So, don’t think of it as trying to beat a search engine. Think of it as giving people what they are already looking for. That’s easier, right?
Search intent also applies when you add links in your content that go to another site. Those links should be placed under the right words or phrases to ensure the linked-to content is relevant. Let’s say, for example, that you’re reading an article about the outdoors and what you need for camping and hiking. There is a link under the word “backpacks.” If you click it, do you want to see:
1. A page about various outdoor gear
2. Photos of people backpacking
3. The definition of backpack
4. A page that gives information about backpacks
You probably want to see the page that gives more information about backpacks. Or, depending on the context of the link, possibly a page that sells backpacks. But if you land on a page that shows all kinds of gear and you have to scroll or click around to find the section about backpacks, it can be frustrating.
The moral is: Make sure your content will help the person who conducted the search. If your content doesn’t satisfy that user’s intent or goal, the person will “bounce” off the page. A high bounce rate means that people are coming to your page but leaving immediately. If you get too many bounces, the content won’t continue to rank.
Put the Keyword Where It Matters
Each page should have one primary keyword to target. Other, secondary keywords may also be used naturally on the page. But there should be only one to target.
That keyword should be used in the following on-page elements:
- Headline – The keyword should be used in the main headline. It should be tagged as an H1 header. (Note: As with keywords, there should be only one H1 header per page.) The headline is usually the title of the page.
- Subhead – Use the keyword in a subhead for a section of copy. This should have a tag of H2 or H3 or something similar. There can be more than one subhead on a page.
- Content – Use the keyword at least 4-5 times throughout the page’s copy, assuming the page has at least 600 words. It should be in the first paragraph, the last paragraph and other places naturally. (Note: If the page has less copy, the keyword will naturally be used less.)
- Internal links – Add a link under the keyword to another page on your site that goes into more depth about the topic. This helps you show the user (and Google) what is important on your site. Plus, it enhances their experience by providing more information. However, don’t use too many internal links or have them too close together.
- Image ALT tags – Alt tags are used to describe the image, and if applicable, they can include keywords. If someone is visually impaired or otherwise not able to see or understand the image, the alt tag explains what the image communicates. It may be read aloud by a screen reader. So, don’t stuff it with keywords to the point where it’s not helpful. That said, it can provide a minor SEO boost if you are able to use your target keyword.
- URL – The web page’s address should include your target keyword as well. In addition to SEO value, the URL instills trustworthiness to the user. Words in a URL are more credible than a string of random numbers or letters. Many sites generate URLs based on the page title so you may be covered automatically.
- Meta description – The backend of your website should allow you to add a meta description for the page. This can show on the search engine results page if your page is included. That means the meta description should entice the user to click to the page. It also should include the keyword (naturally, of course) to show Google what the page should rank for. Don’t make your meta description too long though – Google will only show up to 160 characters.
Make the Content Easy to Skim
User experience (UX) is more important than ever these days. Search engines are looking at engagement metrics now.
Of course, we want the reader to look at every word on the page. After all, we chose them carefully and spent a lot of time writing and editing that copy. But if the reader can’t do that – if the reader only has a few minutes or wants to understand the overall idea – it’s good to make your content easy to skim.
To make your content more scannable:
- Have short paragraphs.
- Use bullet points.
- Incorporate sections and subheads.
- Keep sentences short.
- Don’t get too technical or complicated.
- Don’t use jargon.
- Include images or gifs to break up text.
- Add pull-quotes for interest and to highlight key information.
- Try to only have about 20 words in a sentence. And only about 300 words in a paragraph.
There are tools that can be added to your site – such as Yoast for WordPress – to help you check your content and make sure it’s SEO-friendly.
Writing for SEO
Write well and often for SEO. It is not a one-and-done activity. Add new content to your website regularly. And make sure it’s well-crafted copy that will be meaningful and useful for your readers.
Think about your target audience(s) and write something that matters to them. What questions can you answer? What will they be interested to hear? What insight can you give that they haven’t heard yet?
Re-evaluate your keyword strategy every six months or so to make sure you’re still targeting something that people care about. Use Google Trends to get up-to-the-minute details on the popularity of a search term and how it compares to others.
For additional tips on writing in general, check out our many blogs on the topic.
If you need help with writing, SEO or any other marketing tactic, give us a call or shoot us an email. We’d love to help you grow your business!