How to write content for SEO
Without search engine optimisation your content will probably find its place in the search results graveyard beyond page one, where only 3% of clicks find their way.
Similarly, without great content, even pages right at the top of results will experience high bounce rates and poor performance.
So content and SEO go hand in hand, and you need to build a solid relationship between the two across your site.
When it comes to writing content which is optimised for search engines, there are a few things you must consider to be successful. We’ve outlined 12 steps to creating content which is optimised for search engines.
Tone of voice.
The copy you write for the new website needs to have the appropriate tone and voice of your brand.
So, what’s the difference between voice and tone?
Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you’re out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you’re in a meeting with a client.
Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t want to use the same tone of voice with someone scared or upset as you would with someone who’s laughing.
The same is true for your brand. Your voice doesn’t change much from day to day, but your tone changes all the time. Here are some things you may want to consider:
- Does your brand use colloquialisms?
- If your brand was a person, what would you want people to think of them?
- If your business was a celebrity, who would they be?
As part of this process, you may need to review your brand guidelines or content style guide and review the voice and tone you need to use. You will probably want to check/define the grammatical rules you use for the website as well.
Each page should have a clear objective and serve a specific buyer persona (or multiple personas). A page must have a defined topic and a clear idea of the next steps you want the reader to take.
This should be thought about before you start the writing. We recommend mapping out the details of your content in a content planning worksheet. This helps focus your content on your users, the buyer’s journey, and around topics – considering target keywords.
This process ensures the article solves for the intent behind user search queries and leads them on a path towards taking action.
Headers tell Google what different sections of your article are about. Also, people read websites like they read newspapers – they scan the headings to understand what the article is about and where key information is.
Ultimately, search engines are going to look at headers before they look at body text.
Think of Google as a reader who is skimming your article. They’re going to focus on the main ideas — and that’s what headers, like H2s and H3s, display.
Use headers to accurately convey the main idea of your section, but make sure each header uses accurate, high-intent keywords. When you use the right keywords (outlined in our keyword doc) you have a much higher chance of helping your post rank on the first page.
H1 tag: should contain your targeted keywords that closely relate to the page title.
H2 tag: a subheading and should contain similar keywords to your H1 tag.
H3 tag: a subheading for your H2
…and so on.
Meta descriptions are another method Google leverages when ranking search results. Meta descriptions are the 1-3 sentence descriptions you’ll find underneath the title of a search result.
Use meta descriptions to sum up what your post is about. Remember to keep it short, use keywords, and make sure it’s engaging. After all, there are going to be similar posts to yours, aiming to rank at #1. You want yours to stand out above the rest.
If you do not write meta descriptions before you publish articles, the text under the page link will be whatever the start of the blog says, which isn’t going to help you pull people in and might contain incomplete sentences.
While meta descriptions aren’t factors in Google’s ranking algorithms, they can have a big influence on click-through rates. This is because search terms that appear in the description are bolded and therefore make it more likely that someone will click on the result.
Writing to answer questions.
One of the many reasons we write blog posts is to solve our audience’s queries.
Google answers countless questions a day. When you frame posts to answer the queries of your audience, Google will notice that and push your post up the rankings.
If you’re stuck on trying to figure out what your audience is asking, you will want to perform keyword research. Sites like Google Ads Keyword Planner, Moz and Ubersuggest crawl search engines for popular search queries.
You can also use Answer the Public to discover a wide range of searches around your topics and subtopics.
To identify hot keywords, Google Trends can also give you a feel for what keywords are popular at any given time. If you see searches are steadily declining over time for a specific keyword, it’s probably not the right keyword to target.
If you are ever running low on keyword ideas, get inspiration from your competition. Use tools to see what keywords they’re currently ranking for — if these keywords are relevant to your business, consider using them too. Moz lets you enter a competitor domain and see the keywords they’re ranking for, their position in search results, traffic received for that keyword and other key metrics.
Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best keywords. Searchers tend to use very specific “long-tail” keywords, keyword phrases and questions when they’re looking for something.
Long-tail keywords comprise up to 70% of all search traffic and can unlock the door to successful SEO.
Because you face fierce competition for shorter, more general keywords, you often have a better chance of ranking in the top results for long-tail keywords. And, long-tail keywords allow you to zero in on higher-quality website traffic that often knows what they are looking for and may be closer to your ideal users.
Once you’ve done your research and built a list of what you think are the most valuable, relevant keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest, SEMrush, and so on.
Many keyword research tools give you the monthly volume for any given keyword. Try to test out different keyword tools before committing to one.
Depending on your capacity for SEO efforts, it may be important to rank for high competition, short-tail keywords. Still, try to also optimise for a healthy amount of long-tail keywords that are high in search volume but low in competition. You may find it’s much easier to rank for these words.
Remember that your focus keywords will evolve as trends shift (as we have seen with the pandemic), terminology changes or your offering changes. Be sure to conduct keyword research periodically to ensure you’re still focusing on the right keywords for your target audience and not missing out on ranking opportunities.
Using your keywords.
Once you’ve decided on a list of target keywords, you can confidently plan and write articles focused on one of these keywords. Brainstorm blog topics within the team/with contributors and decide on a topic that will entice and engage your target audience.
Keep your user personas, their motivations, challenges, interests, etc. in mind throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a topic that will resonate with their needs, desires or pains.
As you write your blog, your keyword and natural variations should be regularly interspersed throughout the post. Your primary keyword should appear in these key places:
- Headings and subheadings
- URL if possible
- Image alt text
- Meta description
- Throughout the content
Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Focus on engaging readers with a natural writing style that takes their needs and interests into account.
If Google notices you are trying to stuff too many keywords into your text, they’ll penalise you, so you need to be natural.
Linking to other pages or blog posts on your website helps search engines crawl your website and create a more accurate sitemap. It also helps your audience discover more of your content and get to know you as a trustworthy, credible source within your industry.
Internal links to other valuable content keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rate and increasing your potential for earning a new subscriber.
When linking to any pages on your website, or even outside sources, use natural language for your anchor text. Avoid using spammy or generic text such as “click here.”
Instead, use descriptive keywords that give readers a sense of what they will find when they click on the hyperlink.
Never force-feed links to your top webpages. These types of links will only turn off readers and could lead to search engines penalising your website.
Don’t overdo your internal linking or any external linking. It can be tempting to link to all of your blogs and web pages, but only choose the ones that best enhance the point or insight you’re writing about. Always think about whether or not these links naturally tie in with the subject matter and if they will offer significant value to your readers.
As you build out your blog posts, don’t be afraid to link to other articles or blogs.
Linking to applicable and reputable websites not only offers blog readers additional reading material to expand their knowledge, but it also shows Google and other search engines that you’ve done your research. And the blogger or writer may even return the favour and link to your site.
Nothing strengthens a blog post like hard-to-argue-with, research-backed statistics from influential websites. Compelling stats help you build a more convincing and concrete argument that will get your readers thinking (especially when they’re from trustworthy sites they know).
Google rewards pages with faster page speed and places those that lag lower on its rankings. So, it’s important to make sure your page-load times are as quick as possible.
One of the top culprits of page lag is large photos. If the photo you uploaded is too big, it will make the page take a longer time to load – even if the image doesn’t seem large on-screen. Luckily, you can keep your posts visually interesting without sacrificing crucial speed.
Once you pick a photo, use a free compression software, like Squoosh.app or tinyjpg.com to make it as small as it can go before it loses any quality. Any removal of excess photo data will speed up loading times so readers won’t have to wait.
With any image you add to your post — whether it’s the featured image or a body text one — you’ll want to add alt text. The alt text describes what’s happening in the photo.
Alt text helps Google, as well as those who are visually impaired, understand why the photo is in your post. This improves your article’s rank and accessibility, making it more shareable.
For instance, if you include an infographic about corporate tax rates, the alt text should read something like, “A helpful infographic that explains rising house prices in the UK.” Notice how this sentence uses keywords to appeal to Google even further.
You should avoid using phrases like “this is a picture of” and “a photo of” and go straight into the description of the image. Also, you should keep it within 125 characters.
Google is constantly striving to get better at filling its user’s needs and satisfying search intent. Today, you see this in action in the form of featured snippets.
A featured snippet provides a summarised answer to a search query which is displayed at the top of a search results page including the page title and URL. It can appear in the form of a paragraph, list or table. By providing an immediate answer to questions, searchers don’t even have to scroll through the search results page, let alone the web page itself.
Featured snippets are usually taken from one of the top 5 results on page 1 and appear before the #1 spot. This poses an opportunity for you to rank first for your core topic even if your page is currently in the fourth or fifth position.
To earn a featured snippet on Google, you’ll want to answer the questions readers might have when they come to your blog post. For instance, if the search term is “how do you write a good blog?”, answer that question with a list, starting with “What makes a great blog” as the header, accompanied by a list of items that are relevant and somewhat actionable.
A good rule of thumb is to write complete sentences and start each sentence with a verb, like “Research”, or “Create”. Additionally, make sure each sentence answers the question or challenge.
This is a lot to take into consideration for every blog you write moving forward, and every blog you’ve written to date, but it’s worth it.
Start by taking note of the current average monthly traffic to your blogs and current rankings for target keywords. Then, implement the changes and analyse the difference after three months. We guarantee that you will see an improvement in your content’s performance, your search visibility and organic traffic to your site.