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So You Want To Write SEO-Friendly Content

rowlandcreative | Thinking | February 28, 2018

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 the search algorithm to compete for that coveted #1 position in the SERPS (search engine result page). But this takes a devoted team, tools, and a large budget to accomplish that. For many small to medium sized companies, 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 friendly content writing are very similar to best practices for clear writing, in general. So here are a few things to guide you to writing great user-friendly content that gets you traffic and ranks well in the search engines.

Find A Topic And Stick With It

When there’s an important topic that your audience needs to learn about, create 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 the search engine crawlers 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. Creating content with that sort of keyword overloading actually does more harm to your SEO than good now. The algorithms have become smarter than that, and will actually lower your site’s ranking if you overload on keywords or engage in dubious tactics to rank higher.

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. SEO-friendly content is not forcing keywords down your throat, it is just providing friendly, approachable content

Now, this doesn’t mean toss keywords out the window. When you find your topic, do lots of keyword research! The search algorithms have updated many times since keyword overloading was effective but one of the best changes (in my opinion) was moving more towards latent semantic indexing (LSI). What this means is that rather than stuffing one keyword, do your keyword research and compile a list of keywords that fit within your topic. When your content is indexed, there will be more of an emphasis on relationships between topic-centric words rather than the frequency of one. This forces you to write your blog posts, content marketing pieces and really just everything like it is meant for a human, and that’s the point, right?

Pick a topic, and stick to it, but don’t try to outsmart Google with nonsense keyword overload. Creating SEO friendly content should be natural, if it isn’t, It won’t work for Google—or your readers.

 Writing More Content Is Not Always Better (Sometimes)

OK, this is a tough one to describe. The world of SEO is very much a “yes…BUT” game. What I mean by this is that every agreed upon rule works but should not be followed religiously. Every situation, every post, every piece of content must be examined on a case-by-case basis for what works best. There are some great articles about SEO word count and many of them seem to agree on one thing — quality over quantity. The “but” to that statement is that in 2016 there was a study done of 1 million Google results and it found that the average first-page result has 1,890 words. Now keep in mind so that is an average which means there are articles much longer and articles that are much shorter. A well-researched piece of content should feel natural, it should be friendly to read and it should be purposeful. When you start struggling to provide fresh content is when you should wrap it up. A great piece of content marketing can be well optimized with only 750 words. At the same time, a blog with 3,000 words with non-important filler content may not grab a position and drive website traffic as the author anticipated.

Optimize After a Few Months

Now hopefully you followed this guide and did your research for your post and it is ranking in the search engines and bringing in traffic. However, your SEO-friendly content needs checked in every few months. Going back and using tools such as Google Search Console to monitor the performance will let you know if performance is slipping. What I mean by that is someone else is always optimizing their content. While you are king of the hill for a little bit, if you do not keep your content fresh, someone will take your place as king.

Search engines take time to process content, I mean, the internet is a pretty big place and engines like Google have to process all of it. Patience is sometimes the hardest part of keeping SEO-friendly content. You need to let time pass as you optimize your content. Wait a few months and let the search engine result pages settle and see how your posts are doing. Do your research, re-optimize, and monitor for a few months before doing this again.

Organize Your Content

Do you know who loves organization? The Internet. In a post from Google, they state that the index contains over 100,000,000 gigabytes of data, that’s nuts! So you can imagine that if your site is not organized well into information hierarchies, there is probably a competitor’s website that does. You need to have clear titles that describe what the article is bout. You need to have sub-headings to support your titles, this makes it digest-able and clearly communicates the purpose of the article, blog, content marketing piece or whatever you are writing. The whole point of a search algorithm is to please the end-user by serving the most helpful and relevant content. A good way to think about it is you should be able to look at the headings of an article and now what it is about and probably a few supporting ideas.

If your digital home is in order, website visitors will be a whole happier.  Happy visitors, happy algorithms–everybody wins.

Optimize Your Content

Ultimately, Your Content Should Satisfy Your Reader

I know, this is probably about the tenth time I have said that the end goal is to satisfy the user, but it’s so true! The algorithms will update (in fact, they probably have since you started reading this) and these updates will tweak things. However, no matter what changes will happen, the intent behind them will remain constant — and that is to make the experience better for the user. If you keep in mind the person who will be reading the article the whole time, your content will always be SEO friendly.

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 search engines – will thank you for it.

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