How to write compelling content that improves your website’s ranking in search engine results. This article covers the steps you can take to write quality web content, including planning and researching your topic, proofreading, using keywords, images, links, content length, frequency and promotion.
So, copywriting for SEO, you just put loads of keywords in your text and repeat them throughout the page, stuff them all in, the more the merrier, right? Wrong! Google has moved on since then, readers have moved on and so must you… But, if you can’t just repeat keywords, then what can you do?
Fear not, you just need to dedicate some time, effort and energy into writing good quality, unique and authoritative web content. And this article takes you through the practical steps you should consider to do just that.
What is SEO?
Before we move on to the fun stuff, let’s check that we are all talking about the same thing. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – what is it?
SEO is the process of improving a website’s visibility on a search engine’s (e.g. Google) results pages.
Not the adverts, which are marked up with a yellow box saying ‘Ad’ – the natural or organic results, because we trust the natural results more than the ads, don’t we?
How Google chooses which websites to rank at the top, and conversely which websites to rank 10 pages further on in oblivion, is complicated stuff. It is the holy grail of today’s marketing-focussed world, it is reward and punishment, and it is a squillion dollar business.
In essence though, Google rewards “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness” – so websites with good quality, unique content, that follows its rules and are seen to be authoritative – are given a higher ranking. Whereas, Google punishes poor quality practices such as duplicating content and overusing keywords and links. Scary stuff eh?
Now that we’re all on the same page, so to speak, let’s focus on the number one thing you can do to improve your position in search engine results – write great content on your website.
Content is the hottest topic in marketing at the moment, so often we are told “Content is king!” Anyone else tired of hearing that? Yes, me too…
However, it is true, content does indeed still reign supreme. And that is kind of reassuring in a way, because at least you can focus on something honest and real – writing good quality web copy that is relevant to your user, that educates, entertains, provokes thought or action or that helps other people in some way.
Isn’t that much nicer than falsely stuffing your content with as many repetitive keywords as you can?
So, what elements should you consider when creating this great content?
Try asking yourself, is your web copy:
- high quality
- and of value to the user?
Planning your content
As with most things in life, a little planning goes a long way. Before starting to write your web content, sit back and think about what you want to achieve and why, think about how you want to position your brand and then choose the type of content accordingly:
- Perhaps a blog would help demonstrate your knowledge and expertise?
- Or some detailed FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) could explain the quality, heritage and purpose of your company and services?
- Maybe a series of detailed ‘how to…’ articles?
- Perhaps your content will be more visual with a video or infographic and some explanatory text accompanying it?
- Or simply, a couple of descriptive, enticing paragraphs of useful introductory text before you list the products on sale.
Once you have decided what type or types of content to write, spend some time researching what is already out there.
Try doing some Google searches using the keywords you are thinking of and the questions your customers might ask.
Who comes out on top? Are some of your competitors there? What are they doing and saying?
Competitor research, as with all parts of marketing, is important, but be careful not to copy your competitors. You must have confidence in your own business and use your experience and expertise to do something different.
I would recommend spending at least half of the time you set aside for writing your web content on this research phase. Read lots of articles, make notes and add to the notes with your knowledge and suggestions. Try organising your notes under headings; this will help you to group relevant concepts together, making it much easier to then translate them into a piece of cohesive writing.
You should now have lots of ideas floating around your head, you should be raring to go and feel well informed and confident about your chosen topic. If you don’t feel like this, don’t start writing yet, otherwise you will find the writing process difficult and you might find yourself waffling without focus – and this won’t hold the attention of your reader. Instead, spend some more time on research.
One of the goals in writing web content, is to captivate the reader so that when they arrive at your website via search engine results, they stay with you. If users view your content, dislike it for whatever reason, and immediately click back through to the search results, that indicates to Google a lack of relevancy or quality, and will negatively affect your ranking.
A user might click straight back to their Google search results for a whole host of reasons, but some obvious ones to avoid include:
- Mismatch of your heading and the content – make sure you answer the question you are posing
- Quality of the content – repetition, jargon, old ideas, lack of facts and information
- Unattractive web page – too much or too little text, use of images, colours and fonts
- Poorly written content – spelling mistakes, poor grammar and basic errors.
Write naturally, in a descriptive, yet concise manner and make your web copy easy to read and understand. Remember: don’t use feature articles or blogs to ‘sell’, keep your products and sales pages separate, but link to them subtly in appropriate places.
At the start of this article, I mentioned that stuffing your web content with keywords is no longer the done thing in SEO. In fact, the overuse of keywords will not just not work, it might actually negatively affect your Google position if it is deemed excessive.
My best advice here, is again to write genuinely, don’t fake it, in fact, don’t even think about keywords as you write – just think about your reader. Use all of your research and advice to create an interesting and useful piece of content.
After you have finished the first draft of the content, go back through the article or web copy and make sure that you have included a reasonable amount of your keywords. This should have happened naturally, but if it hasn’t, then edit your writing appropriately and sensitively to ensure they are included. If you have somehow gone overboard with keywords, then revise your writing and remove some or swap them for synonyms.
Before you start editing your content, it is worth ensuring that you have the right set of keywords. You should have started compiling a keyword list from your competitor research, but also spend some time searching on Google to see what comes up. Look at the bottom of the results page for related searches and make a note of these too.
See below for a screenshot from Google of the related results from my search on ‘keyword research’:
Include on your list the synonyms of keywords, you can use a free online thesaurus, such as Collins, to do this. Also, make a note of related words, phrases and terminologies.
Using a variety of rich, explanatory words and phrases will not only help with SEO, but will also give your user a fascinating and varied read. For a beginner’s guide to keyword research take a look at my blog ‘Keyword research and analysis in 10 easy steps.’
Title and subheadings
The title of your web content (and your web page title) is crucial in SEO, here you should definitely include keywords and use them as close to the beginning of the title as possible.
Think very carefully about the title of each page of your website and the subheadings within it. Your heading should be very focussed and succinct, spend time on this, plan it carefully. Think about how it will translate to social media when you promote your content.
However, don’t try to be clever, funny or journalistic with your title – it must be clear, state your keywords and do “exactly what it says on the tin” – remember you want it to be easily found.
Subheadings are helpful in guiding readers through your content and for scanning to find a particular topic. They also break up your copy, avoiding an imposing ‘wall of words’, that could put people off continuing and cause them to leave your website and return to Google.
Crucially, headings perform a vital role in demonstrating to Google that you have explored a topic fully, this is something that will positively impact on your search result visibility.
Don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading and well written content in holding a reader’s attention. Before publishing, print your blog or article or web copy (it is much easier to spot mistakes on paper) and proofread it yourself. Then get someone else to do it too – if you can afford to pay a professional proofreader, that’s great and it’s well worth doing. If not, ask a colleague, friend or family member.
When proofreading, check for errors, spelling, grammar, check all links work and check for repetition. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience – is it easy to read? Does it flow logically and naturally?
Essentially – putting time, effort and care into writing will shine through in the finished product and in your Google ranking.
Another way of breaking up your content and making your web page more enticing, is using a range of interesting and relevant images. Don’t forget to:
- Put keyword descriptions of the image in your website’s Alt text – this helps with rankings
- Use images that will translate well in social media
- Include different types of images – photos, diagrams and infographics.
Incorporating a variety of colourful images will help to draw the reader through your content – engaging them and keeping them on your website for longer.
Remember: people are visual creatures, studies show that we remember only around 20% of what we read, compared with 80% of what we see!
Links to other websites (outbound links), links from external websites (backlinks), and internal links on your own site will all help with SEO.
Including a moderate amount of relevant links on your website helps the search engine to determine what your niche is. The links should be helpful to your user, giving them a good experience and a full understanding of the topic they searched on. This, in turn, helps to demonstrate to Google that your website is authoritative.
Where external websites link to you, it suggests to Google (and to your reader) that your website is of value and is trustworthy – assuming of course that the linking website is of good quality itself and the link is appropriate.
This is something you should try to cultivate and grow through your contacts and by promoting your content.
Linking to content elsewhere on your website will help your reader to find other valuable information. It will keep them on your site for longer and it might even convert them into a customer if they stumble across a product or service that meets their needs. As well as giving the user a better experience, internal linking helps with SEO by providing clear paths for search engines to follow.
A few thoughts on links:
- Don’t link to anyone and everyone – go for ‘quality not quantity’
- Do use descriptive words and be concise with your hyperlink text e.g. ‘Inbound link explanation’ not ‘click here’
- Do regularly check and update links – it is annoying to find a link doesn’t work and this reflects badly on the user’s perception of your brand.
Although Google doesn’t state any optimal length for content, a more in-depth article will normally be more useful for your user, will keep them with you for longer and is therefore more likely to help with SEO.
It is up to you to choose the right article length for your audience, but for blogs and in-depth articles, perhaps consider articles with a minimum of 1,000 words. This should give enough detail to really help users with an idea, problem or solution.
Search engines are looking for fresh content, so make sure you update your website as often as you can and as feels appropriate. Depending on your capacity and the scale of your business, this could be daily, weekly or monthly.
Whatever you decide to do, plan it, schedule it and commit to it.
There is no point having lots of great content on a website that is static and hasn’t been updated recently – this will not reflect well in your search result position.
Promotion and social media
Once you have created your amazing, well-written, authoritative, unique web content, make sure that you shout about it from the rooftops. Promote your new blog, article, FAQs, video or web copy across a wide range of appropriate social media channels.
Getting links, shares and being popular on social media will most definitely help with Google rankings.
Don’t forget to include social media sharing buttons in your content and make them attractive and obvious.
Planning and review
I mentioned earlier about the importance of planning – and before I finish I think it is worth revisiting again. You will spend a lot of time researching and writing your web content, so don’t let that effort go to waste by posting it and forgetting about it.
Create a plan for your website and its content and include:
- Time for researching and writing new web copy
- Go live dates for publishing your content
- How you will promote it and when
- Time to check whether your efforts have had an impact on your search ranking
- A schedule of when you will edit and update old content.
Some final thoughts…
“We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.”
This quote is taken directly from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
This pretty much sums up what I’ve been getting at – there are no shortcuts anymore, no cheats or quick fixes. That in order to rank well on Google you need to put time and effort into writing web content, whilst making sure it demonstrates your expertise and uniqueness.
Much of what I’ve been talking about is simply understanding and utilising good copywriting techniques, whilst focusing on satisfying your target audience. Will the user feel they’ve had a positive experience on your website?
So, what’s the secret to writing web content for SEO? Don’t write web copy for SEO!
Write for your target market, your customers, your colleagues and peers and for anyone out there on the World Wide Web that might have an interest in your subject. Do this well, with authority, expertise and with a unique perspective and Google will reward you for it.
© Julie Waite, June 2016.
Links to useful SEO articles
Still thirsty for knowledge? Here are some links to blogs that I find useful:
Hobo Internet Marketing: www.hobo-web.co.uk/seo-blog/
Some great in-depth, technical articles on SEO by Shaun Anderson, based in Scotland.
Canada-based web copywriting firm, good blog by Rick Sloboda.
SEO experts, US-based.
Google spider bot – courtesy of allfreepicture.com
SEO arrow, chess set, coffee cup, blah blah, search words, man silhouette, links, post, google seo – beautiful pictures courtesy of pixabay
Rusty crown – courtesy of Ryan McGuire of Gratisography
Keep clam and proofread – origin unknown, believed to be royalty free.