How to write content which is SEO-friendly
SEO is such a huge subject. It's like a 'what's the meaning of life question'. Well maybe not quite that extreme - but there are whole communities online constantly updating on the latest SEO developments.
So, let's keep it simple. To make your copy SEO-friendly you need to make it relevant to your target audience. I know what you're saying, it can't be as easy as that. But if you look at how you deliver SEO both on and off the page, you might agree.
The many features of SEO
The elements that ensure your page is optimised for SEO have been neatly summarised by Moz. And the truth is, copy is only a small element of this. But that's not to say it can be dismissed at this stage. Why? Because the quality of your content is essential.
When you start to delve into SEO, the majority of work is carried out behind the scenes. You know website development and maintenance, for instance - how a page is built, the programming and the back links. However, when you consider the importance of user experience, sharing content through social networks and the value of content to those searching for information, copy becomes an important factor.
I guess we all accept the technical aspects of SEO, like the algorithms that Google apply to rank pages. These are constantly being updated which is why this is such a specialist field.
In my view, copy is something that sits in the middle. You might think this sounds a little strange and wonder why. Well here is how I would position it. Good quality copy will give a nod to the keywords in preference to the relevance of your content to your target market. Let me explain.
Words that provide context and depth
Back in the day keywords were the main topic of conversation when talking about SEO. They probably still are to an extent. And there are still free tools such as Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest that will enable you to search for your keywords.
And yes, at one time copy would be packed full of these important words. The variety and frequency would boost your SEO. This has long since changed though. Google algorithms will now downgrade your content if it's simply packed with keywords.
The difference being the emphasis is now on the context around these words. According to HubSpot/Impact, 50% of search queries are four words or longer. Audiences are asking questions or qualifying their initial search query. It's no longer a single word being typed into Google.
Which means you can write much more dynamic and exciting content. It's about the topics you want to be found for rather than the keywords. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about the sort of information they are searching for. And because there is so much more scope you will naturally include these keywords in your copy.
Don't get me wrong. Keywords still have a role to play. You just need to use them more strategically. For example, include these words and the variants in headlines, subheads, and captions. Front load your copy so you can be found but never over-use across your content.
How to find those relevant topics
Within every business sector there are 'hot topics'. Those areas that are discussed and shared because they are of interest to your audience. So, wouldn't it be great if you had an opinion on these and created content to encourage engagement.
There are tools available that will identify the relevant topics. The free versions include answerthepublic and Ubersuggest. You simply put your keyword into a box and it will generate ideas for content. Questions, statements and comparisons that you can take as a topic and explore in more detail.
And let's not forget that you probably already understand your target market. Basic marketing really. You know what matters to them. Which is why when you start writing about the topics that matter to them, you will naturally use keywords. Impossible not to really. But you are using them in the natural flow of your copy - not packing the text with words that have to be there.
Audiences demand quality
In the world of SEO, you need to answer the questions being posed by your target audience. You need to solve problems and add value to their lives. This is what they are looking for when they generate a search. And Google understands this.
Which brings me back to the need for quality. According to Impact, 'high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search'. It's actually very difficult to find a universal definition of 'quality' from Google. But these are the areas you should think about:
- Remain relevant to your main headline, users have opened your content for a reason
- Use sub headings to help guide your audience through the content
- Maintain a clear structure, classic storytelling of beginning, middle and end
- Add value by answering a question, address a concern, position it in a way they hadn't thought about
- Make it engaging in terms of style and delivery, knowledgeable, friendly
It's great to have your content found but you really want the reader to share it. To like what they have read, enough to want to share it.
This can be achieved within a single piece of content but you can also add breadth to your subject matter. A great example is HubSpot which talks about topic clusters. You choose a topic that you want to rank and create content around the keywords that are related to that topic.
This brings into play another important SEO factor - link building. You write a range of content that is related to a specific topic. The links are then made across each piece of copy. Hence boosting your overall ranking.
Traditional marketing meets digital marketing
There is a saying in the direct marketing industry that 'long copy sells'. Going back to the days when we received paper through our letterboxes, rather than an email to our inboxes. It's good to know that the digital world is now taking a similar approach.
According to Impact, content with over 1,000 words will consistently receive more shares and links than content with a lower word count. Something of this length also gives you the opportunity to tell your story and cover more of the subject matter too. A depth of content that you simply can't achieve in a short piece.
Of course, you need to write in such a way that engages your audience from start to finish. Your aim is to leave a lasting impression so they will come back for more and share with others. This is something that Google will recognise and reward. You could say the basic principles of marketing haven't really changed - they've just gone digital.
For the copywriters amongst us, the need for quality content is great news. Writing engaging content that is relevant to your target audience is what this is all about. The research you do and the tools that are available simply serve to strengthen the end result.
But it's not about a single piece of content. Google wants to make it easier for users to find what they're looking for. Link to the relevant content. Which is why SEO rewards you for making this happen.
What has your experience been of writing content that is SEO-friendly?