So, you want to write engaging content that search engines will find and rank highly, but don’t want to sound like an utter robot, who’s never ever sat in an English lesson? How should you go about it? We’ve put together these 8 top tips to consider.
1) Who are you writing for?
The secret is definitely to forget you’re writing for the search engines. Your writing will come across as much more natural, and as a result be much more successful, if you’re not always looking over your shoulder for the Google police.
We’ve all seen those long lists of geographical place names on websites. Not only does it look like you’re obviously aiming for ranking but it hardly makes riveting reading for your audience either.
Yes, the bottom line is you want to rank highly, but with a little thought we believe it’s possible to do this by striking the happy medium of writing for both users and search engines.
2) Keywords are still king!
You may have previously thought that if you just cram your writing full of your chosen keywords, you’ll soon climb to the number one spot in Google. We’ve all seen pieces of writing that are obviously trying to do this, but they generally end up just sounding really weird and making very little sense! And nor are they particularly successful in SEO terms.
It may seem obvious but first of all you do still need to make sure you include the keyword your clients will be searching under. It’s amazing how many times we discover in SEO audits that the keyword or search term a customer will most commonly use is not actually used in the body copy of a web page. Equally, ‘keyword stuffing’ is indeed a thing of the past. You don’t need to include it in every sentence and many successful articles written with SEO in mind use the target keyword only once.
It’s also a good idea to use words related to your keyword, which signify relevance for search engines. Again, writing naturally, you may find yourself doing this anyway. If you’re writing about Facebook, for example, and also mention Twitter or social media, the relationship algorithm will pick up on that and you’ll get extra SEO ‘brownie points’.
Fundamentally, good SEO writing isn’t just about keywording stuffing but nor is it about forgetting them altogether. The trick is to use them judiciously.
3) Use enticing titles
Try and go for titles that will grab the reader’s attention. Google looks at elements such as the time users spend on your site and how popular an article is, so a title that encourages readers as well as search engines is vital. But, you guessed it, the title should also contain a keyword, otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity. Just try and ensure it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb! In addition, it’s typically still considered that the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title the better.
4) Use sub-headers
If you break up your copy into bite-size chunks, it not only makes it more readable and visually appealing for the user but also gives you the opportunity to use your related keywords in sub-headers in a perfectly natural way.
A good example from one of our own blogs, which ranked highly and adopted this technique.
5) How readable is your copy?
Remember you’re writing for real people!
You may come across a readability test used often in SEO called Flesch–Kincaid. This measures the textual difficulty of reading a passage in English. If the text is too difficult, people will not stay on your site long, resulting in a high bounce rate and leading to a lower ranking in the long run.
Key things to consider are to keep sentence length short and word choice generally simple. Don’t always use an ‘unencumbered’ when ‘free’ will do!
6) What about backlinks?
Backlinks are great but don’t just write to attract backlinks. We should all still be writing high quality copy that in and of itself causes people to make genuine reference to it. These are, as a result, much more credible. There are many types of content that will attract backlinks, without sounding artificial or clumsy: lists, for example, have been shown to attract more links than articles taking other forms - mmm, maybe you’re realising why this blog gives you 8 easy lessons…!
7) What about pictures?
It’s a great way to make your copy more appealing by including a relevant image that will draw the eye in. It also has the advantage that you can add your keyword to the alt tag, which we know Google looks at. Never turn down another chance to get that keyword in again!
8) Is the author irrelevant?
After a three year trial, Google Authorship is no longer ‘a thing’. But with its death, has the mooted Author Rank (which would take into account who wrote the article when deciding where to rank it within Google) gone as well? Current thinking is mixed but it seems obvious that Google still want to do something around trusted authors to improve the relevance of search results for their users. It’s therefore still worth including a byline, with one eye on where Google might take the system in the future.
There you have it - our 8 top tips for writing for SEO, without it being glaringly obvious. There’s no getting away from the fact you’re writing for two masters - the user and the search engines, but from our experience, it is possible to appeal to both.
Be yourself, try experimenting and measure the results. Happy SEO Writing!
By Lindsey Russell. Lindsey is ClientsFirst's Copywriter. She has a wealth of experience producing copy for various big name clients and projects, including roles in full service agencies and at The British Council. Away from work Lindsey is a keen runner and in fact has her most creative ideas whilst pounding the track or country lanes!