— June 8, 2018
No matter how much you might wish it to be so, crafting savvy, SEO-friendly content for your website is not a matter of filling in targeted blanks with strategically assigned keywords. Writing for SEO is a discipline but also an art, and every year that goes by it’s the quality of the content that matters more and more.
Yes, videos and podcasts are rapidly growing in popularity, but amidst everything else your business offers, you need to make sure your website’s writing remains smart. Powerful on-page SEO begins with the words you choose to share.
How to Write Search Engine Optimized Website Content
- Don’t just think about what you want to tell your audience. Think about what they want to know. Sure, you want your audience to buy now, to hire you today, and to arrive on your doorstep, but are you thinking about what they want? What questions might they have about you or your industry? How is it that you fulfill their needs? How can you prove yourself to them? When writing your website text, don’t think “me, me, me”; think “them, them, them.” The payoff will be huge for your human audience; plus, the search engine algorithms will take note.
- Research the keywords your audience is already using. We live in an era of data, so find it and utilize it. Some web development companies supply keyword data to clients as a part of the development process, but however this data is researched, find it. It’s SEO gold. Knowing the exact words and phrases your audience is typing into search engines enables you to write your message in the natural language they’re expecting. Saying “search engines algorithms like this a lot” is a massive understatement.
- Write like a human, not like a badly programmed machine. Today’s search engine algorithms are beginning to understand the natural flow of language with the help of new artificial intelligence (AI) tools, so don’t try to stuff as many of your keywords as possible into your writing. It will sound terrible, and no one—human or bot—will be convinced of your professionalism. Instead of keyword stuffing, try to make your language more organic. Utilize a primary researched keyword or keyword phrase (i.e., “long-tail keyword”) throughout a website page and give it a supporting cast of other valuable words and phrases. Be aware of your keywords, but not obsessed with your keywords. Your SEO will be strengthened, and you’ll still be able to connect with your audience.
- Arrange your language strategically. Use your primary keyword within your page title, meta description, URL, and headers, where organically possible. Know the power of placing your primary keyword phrase and/or secondary keywords within your first sentence or paragraph, within bullet points, numbered lists, or even the language of a hyperlink. Writing for the web in all CAPs is to be avoided (please stop yelling), but stressing specific language through bold font catches human eyes and the notice of search algorithms too. Interestingly, strategic keyword placement might not be as essential in coming years with the concept of user experience (UX) driving the future of SEO; however, as of this writing, strategic keyword placement still drives results.
- Be ready with the quick answer. Returning to that strategic placement, think about what you’re looking for when you do a voice search. You want an answer spoken back to you in a sentence or two. When crafting your web writing, enable your text to fulfill that same need for someone else’s query. This is where the importance of your first sentence or two comes in. You want to get straight to the point. You can give depth and personality later, but don’t be shy about starting with exactly what your audience wants to hear.
- Go beyond to prove your expertise. Of course, after you start with a bang, providing that simple answer to the question or concept that you already know your audience is curious about—thanks to your handy keyword research—keep going. You don’t need to write thousands of words on a subject, but you need to show your expertise. Avoid the jargon of your industry that might confuse someone new at the table, but give enough content to show without a doubt that you are an authority within your industry. This depth and density of focused content is a ranking signal for search engines.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions—no, seriously, within your content, ask away. As already implied, voice search is changing SEO. Just think about what you ask Google or Siri. Do you phrase it the same way that you would type it into a search engine? Is your spoken query a choppy fragment, or do you phrase it as a question? Google has stated that twenty percent of all searches are now voice related, and that number only seems to be rising. We live in a new world, where forty-one percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend, also according to Google. Be conversational in your writing. Match the tone of that question you’ve found in your keyword research. Maybe you can even turn it into a Q&A section of your website. Then provide your audience with the answer they’re looking for.
- Utilize internal and external hyperlinks. Including links to other pages of your website shows the depth of your knowledge and helpfulness. Including links to other external websites shows that you do your research and/or that you are adding your voice to a larger conversation. Both of these are good for your business’s reputation and play into SEO algorithms. And while you’re thinking about hyperlinks, be sure to integrate the language of links directly into your writing. Web audiences understand what hyperlinks look like these days, so there’s no need for clunky web addresses or interruptions of “click here.”
- Cite your research. This follows the external hyperlink note but goes a step further in regard to your trustworthiness. Fake news is abundant. Fake quotes from Mark Twain and Ben Franklin are abundant. Be sure your audience can see exactly where your research comes from. They’ll appreciate your transparency and your integrity. And again, the ranking algorithms will take note too.
- Optimize for local (if your goal audience is local). How is your website ever going to rank well locally if you never mention the name of your city? According to a recent BrightLocal study, seventy-six percent of smart home speaker users conduct local searches at least once a week, with fifty-three percent performing daily searches. A lot plays into local SEO from map integration to Google reviews, but don’t forget the simple step of naming your location(s). Give a shout-out to your neighborhood, your town, or your region. In your footer where you note an address, this is good. Within your main page content, it’s even better.
- Integrate your text with visual elements. If you want to have a modern website, the visual design is essential, whether you’re including images or videos. Just remember your keywords when you’re crafting your alt text, captions, or overlaid text. And as a note, web crawling bots will not read text that is inserted into a video or image. Only text positioned as a layer on top of an image in the development phase is helpful to your SEO. The visual effect might be the same, but there is a drastic difference when it comes to search engine optimization.
- Edit yourself carefully. And then gain a second set of eyes for good measure. There are many great writing reference books worth keeping on your desk, but nothing—no, not even Grammarly—beats having a second pair of human eyes reviewing your content before you publish.
- Update your content regularly. No one likes it when a website feels stale or outdated, and “freshness of content on the page” has a major influence on search ranking.
- Above all else, write for your human audience first. Google’s Latent Semantic Indexing algorithm studies the relationship between keywords and the overall picture of the content. The User Intent (UI) and User Experience (UX) are at the core of this analysis. Is the text well-written, fulfilling a searched for query with relevant, helpful information? Keywords have traditionally guided the conversation about SEO and writing for the web, but authenticity and quality within your website’s text are more important than ever.
Sure, you might have plugins to help your cause of writing for SEO, but even the best of these plugins doesn’t capture the full picture. On-page search engine optimization is a complex undertaking, one that changes dramatically from year to year. Research can guide you; specific strategies can help the cause; but in the end, it all comes back to the experience of the user on the page.
“UX” is a hot topic in the web world, and it will only become more so. Be helpful. Be thorough. Be strategic. Be smart. If you are, there’s a good chance you’ll be multiple steps ahead of your competition—in your web writing and otherwise.