Your content needs to do two important things simultaneously: provide value to readers and prove its value to search engines. Here are eight simple ways you can write SEO-friendly content without sacrificing value for your reader.
By Caleb Malik
For content creators under budget and time constraints, or without an SEO expert on staff, tapping into the latest and greatest SEO tactics isn’t always an option. The good news: There are easy things you can do to help make your content SEO-friendly.
1. Do Keyword Research Before You Start Writing
It happens all too often. You write an article, then go back later to squeeze in keywords for search only to find you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Instead, do your keyword research before you sit down to write. If SEO is your focus, you won’t know what the content should be about until you’ve determined what people are looking for online, and what keywords they’re using to find it.
2. Run a Competitive Search
Say you’re marketing a destination. You want to write an article about the best attractions in your city and you want to rank for the keywords “best things to do in _____.” Do a search for those same keywords to see what comes up. What are the top articles? How are they written? How are they formatted? There’s a reason Google ranks them high — it’s because users found them valuable. Competitive research gives you a glimpse into what’s useful to people and what Google thinks is important for them based on the data.
3. Build an Outline
Create an outline informed by both keyword research and competitive research. You may know your city’s best attractions and feel prepared to write an article about them, but you may miss key topics that your users care about, such as kid-friendly activities or things that are happening this weekend. Outline your content based on the keywords you’re trying to rank for, in the order that makes the most sense, and with headers that include those keywords.
4. Organize Your Content Into a List
Structure your content as a bulleted or numbered list to help it receive the exposure to rank high. Let’s say you search for “five steps for achieving X.” In many cases, the first thing that pops up isn’t a search result and it’s not a link; it’s a bulleted list that Google pulled from an article and is now sharing with you because you searched for “five steps for achieving X.” This is what’s called a rich snippet — a bit of content that takes up a lot of real estate on the front page of Google. And because it takes up a lot of real estate, it grabs users’ attention making it more likely they will click through to read the article in its entirety.
5. Integrate a Variety of Keywords
Rather than trying to rank for one keyword, vary your phrases and sprinkle them throughout. For example, your keywords might be “exercises for back pain.” To rank for that, you don’t need to drop that exact phrase into your copy 100 times. Instead, ask yourself: What are the variations on this phrase? It could be “fixing back pain with exercise,” or it could be a related topic, such as “stretching for back pain.” Google is sophisticated enough to understand these variations and recognize that even if users are searching for different but related keywords, they’re ultimately seeking the same content.
6. Optimize Your Title Tag
There’s the title of your article, then there’s what shows up on Google’s front page. This is called the title tag. While it’s just one type of meta data, it’s easily the most important.
When optimizing your title tag, think of it as if you’re creating an advertisement for your content — you want to grab users’ attention right away. When they see the Google search results, what are they going to be attracted to first?
When writing title tags:
- Use title case instead of sentence case
- Add symbols
- Include numbers
- Incorporate special characters
For example, “5 Places You Need to Visit in Phoenix (Updated for 2021)”
7. Embed Links
As people engage with your content, you want them to keep going deeper into your site. Internal links assist in this goal. Let’s say you’re writing an article on the benefits of exercise and you’d like to link to a previous article on how exercise eases back pain. To maximize how search engines work — crawling from link to link throughout the internet to reach different pages — you need to create anchor text. In this example, you might start your article on the benefits of exercise with: “We’ve talked about how you can use exercise to remedy back pain … ” And then link that sentence to the original article. Not only does this provide search engine optimization, but it also offers a useful benefit to users by giving them additional resources on the topic they’re interested in.
8. Write Great Content
At the end of the day, Google cares about the user and what they find valuable. If users don’t spend time consuming content, Google notices. In the simplest terms, great content is good for SEO.