So You Want To Write SEO Friendly Content
We write—and help our clients write—a lot of web content. Often, at some point, they ask us “how much attention should I pay to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) while writing my content”?
The answer is deceptively simple. If you write strong content with your end user in mind, the SEO will fall into place. Huge, highly competitive companies like Amazon or Walmart might need to pay detailed attention to every possible SEO implication, and every change in Google’s algorithm. But unless you do business on an international scale, and have millions of web visitors a day, the best way to ensure your site’s SEO ranking is to create logical, audience-focused content.
It turns out that best practices for SEO writing are very similar to best practices for clear writing, in general. So here are a few things to keep in mind as you write great user-friendly content that ranks well in the SEO world.
Find A Topic And Stick With It
When there’s an important topic that your audience needs to learn about, have a page dedicated to that topic, and write about it in a way that satisfies the end user. Stay on topic, use concrete language when possible, and keep it simple.
Older advice would have been to focus on a keyword and use it a lot so that Google clearly connects your content to that topic in search results. Some “SEO experts” even suggested hiding extra keywords within your page that the end user never sees. But that sort of keyword overloading actually does more harm than good now. Google has become smarter than that, and will actually lower your site’s ranking if you overload on keywords.
Besides, keyword overloading violates the “write for people” rule. If you are trying to sell widgets and the conversation goes like “widgets are great because I love widgets and everyone should have a widget because widgets are important” then I would most likely uncomfortably avoid eye contact next time I saw you in public. And just like a human, if Google hears you talk like that, they will avoid you too.
Pick a topic, and stick to it, but don’t try to outsmart Google with nonsense keyword overload. It won’t work for Google—or your readers.
More Content Is Not Always Better
Sometimes we’re asked if a page should contain a specific number of characters, or if there’s an ideal word count. There is debate as to what the sweet spot is for word counts per page but we are talking about the basics here. Put down what feels natural and try to hit a minimum of 250-300 words per page. Having 1,000 words is no better than 500 words if you just say the same thing twice. And, like people, Google recognizes boring repetition. If you have a lot of valuable things to say about a topic, great! Shout it from the mountaintops and write awesome, rich content. Write what feels natural and inform the end user about the topic. But once you start struggling for new ideas it might be time to step away.
Do you know who loves organization? The Internet. Also, people who are trying to read blocks of text. Do not just have one 1,500 word long block of text. Your readers will get bored just looking at that chunk of words, and your English teachers will be cringing. Instead, take the time to organize your thoughts. Have a conversation about each idea before moving on to the next section.
There’s one point about organization that is particularly relevant to SEO. Separate your ideas with headers and sub-headers. Note that it’s important not just to change formatting – don’t just use big or bold text, use actual heading tags. The heading tags are used by the Google algorithm to separate ideas and create a content hierarchy on your page.
Your website visitors will be a whole happier if your content is organized, and Google will be happier if you use heading tags as part of this organization. Happy visitors, happy Google–everybody wins.
Ultimately, Your Content Should Satisfy Your Reader
Yes, Google can change what is most important in SEO development. You’ll hear articles every once in a while about subtle changes, and you might wonder if they’ll affect your site. Unless you’re Amazon or Walmart, the answer is almost always “not enough to notice”. The basics never change. If your content is relevant, on-topic, and well-organized, then you will be ok.
I could geek out about the nuances of SEO all day long. And don’t worry, I’ll keep sharing more! But for now keep it simple: write like a person, for people. Your audience – and Google – will thank you for it.
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