Search engines have changed the world. Have a question, want to learn about a subject, or find a certain product or service? Just type what you want into Google, and it shows up.
In the marketing world, when you try to help your site show up in search engines, we call that “Search Engine Optimization.” Or, more often, SEO.
So, how is someone who isn’t super internet savvy to do you do this “SEO” thing?
There is a TON of information available about ranking in the search engines. However, a lot of it is for your webmaster. If you don’t manage that stuff, but you still create the content for the website, there are still some things you need to understand.
I’ve tried my best to put them in the order in which you will be executing them, but writing good SEO is an interrelated process, so you may have to jump back and forth. Also, if you’re using WordPress, (which I highly recommend) there is a little added value in here.
One more thing. Quality content is an absolutely necessity. While ONLY quality content won’t get you anywhere, without quality content all the SEO tips in the world won’t help you show up.
This is simple: Write something so that when someone finds it, they will appreciate it. I almost put this second, after research keyword, then thought better of it. Keyword’s are important, but only because they are the link between what you write, and what searchers type in. You could write a piece with all the right keywords, LSI keywords, and links, but if the people who FIND your content aren’t interested, it doesn’t matter. They will either A: not click on your page in the search results or B: bounce off as soon as they figure out you don’t have what they are looking for.
So now you have an idea of what the searcher wants. Now your job is to figure out what exactly they type in to find it. You can use Google’s Keyword Research Tool to find search volumes for a lot of keywords. Remember to keep searcher intent in mind. Pick 1 keyword per page. Also remember, keyword can also mean key phrase. For example “winning at life” is a key phrase. Your keyword/phrase may be totally different, like “cleaning dogs that hate baths”.
Now you’ve picked a keyword. You use that to link people who are looking for what you have with your site. However, you don’t just use the single keyword over and over again when referring to your subject. You should use natural language that is influenced by your keyword research. Search engines use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), which essentially means they know what words and phrases are related to and synonymous with your keyword and key phrase. Search engines look less at the keywords and keyphrases now as they try to figure out the key idea.
Overuse of one keyword or keyphase is going to make the search engines suspicious. However, if you keep in mind your target keyword (and target search intent), and make sure to use similar words in what you write, then you will rank higher. This isn’t to say that a key word and key phrase isn’t still important, because it will connect you with the searcher, but just that key words hardly stand alone in the search engines understanding of whether your page matches searchers intent.
If that isn’t possible, at least incorporate it into the title. This is helpful because when returning your page as a search result, Google will bold your the search term or parts of the search term in your title, (or very similar terms in your title, per LSI).
In fact, longer is usually better, as long as it isn’t fluff. Research has shown that the longer the content, the better it ranks in search engines. (All other things being equal, of course.) I would say if SEO is going to be a major focus, one 1,500+ word, well researched article, is going to be better than 3-4 500 word articles. Way better.
Using anecdotes at the beginning of an article may work well to hook readers, but do your best to use your keyword early. Search engines want to know that they’re sending people to a page that will start giving them the information they want fairly quickly.
Even if you aren’t techy, pay close attention here. Tags let the search engine understand what significance different text has. Your “H1” tag will be the title of the page / article. You need to use the “H2 – H6” tags to highlight sections in your article. Header 2 for giant sections, Header 3 for small sections within Header 2 sections, and so on. (In most cases, you probably won’t need to go deeper than H3.) Because you’re writing longer articles (1,500+ words), these headers are going to become more important to make your content easy to scan, both by search engines, and by people.
So how do you do it? In most content management systems, (like WordPress) there is a text editor that will help you do this. In WordPress, you simple select the text you want to specify as a header, (see the arrow pointing to the selected text in the image below) and then select which header you want it to be from a drop down menu on the bottom left of the dashboard over the writing area.
Adding words like “Best”, “2015”, “review”, “guide”, and things like that make your piece of content a little bit more specific, and often people are looking for something like a guide, or a review, or something more recent. It won’t cost you anything as long as your title doesn’t get out of hand. Out of hand being that it is too long, or sounds weird. “Best Review Guide for Recalcitrant Dog Washing in 2015” just won’t do.
Chances are if you’re writing something for your website, it isn’t the first thing you’ve written for it, and it won’t be the last. Make sure that when people visit, they can find other related resources on your site.
This helps you in a few ways. First, it helps reduce bounce rate (people who leave your first page without visiting another.) Reducing your bounce rate, in turn, increases your ranking. Second, it offers more resources for your visitor, which means your visitor stays on your site longer. That is what you wanted in the first place, right? Third, it helps you tell search engines which of your articles are most relevant to the audience of this particular article.
Also, internal links at the beginning of your article are good. People are more link-happy (they’ll click on shiny new links) when they first start reading an article. The farther they are into your article, the less likely they are to click on something because they are immersed in the content.
You should also put a few links at the very end. If people get through with your article and like what they have read, they probably want more. Give it to them.
So how do you add links? In WordPress, it’s simple. Select the text you want to be a link, click on the chain link button–circled below–and put your link in the dialog box that shows up where it asks for the URL.
Make sure that when you link to something, be it your own content or someone else’s, that a reader understands what they’re going to find on the other side. You can do this both by anchor text (the text of the link) Or by simply describing the link. Example sentence: “This article I wrote previously talks about the importance of purple bananas.” In SEO, links are king, so think them out from the readers and search engine’s perspective. It will help both your rankings in the Search Engines, and help your usability, from a visitors perspective.
Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, (among other things). Try to be descriptive when you name your images. Match them as much as possible to your content and the image at the same time. ALT tags also help when it comes to accessibility. To do this in WordPress, find the image details on the right side of the screen when you are inserting an image, and type in your alternate text, and your description of the image.
If you need to use your keyword for more than 5% of your text, use a thesaurus. There are probably more creative ways to say it. If you use it less than 2%, it will be tougher for the search engines to understand to return your page when searchers are looking for information on the subject you are writing on. WordPress SEO by Yoast is a great plugin for WordPress sites designed to help you with SEO. It will check your keyword density for you.
Titles are important. They grab peoples eyes, and hopefully make them want to read your article. But be careful. Anything longer than 65 characters will be cut off in search results, and truncated to 65 characters.
A meta description is the thing that you read under the title in the search results.
In the Yoast WordPress plugin, you can directly edit this easily. To get your meta description down to 155 characters, you can write anything, but a modified excerpt of the text written in the article is a good idea. Because you’ve written to a certain “Searcher Intent” you should write this meta description to show them that you have what they are looking for.
Anything longer than 155 characters will be cut off in search results.
Have you incorporated your primary keyword (or something close) into your page URL? This helps in two ways. It helps the search engines understand when to return your page in the search results. It also helps visitors who may have visited your site, and are trying to find your page again, say in their browser history. It’s going to be easier to tell what mywebsite.com/washing-reluctant-dogs/ is about than what mywebsite.com/?p=345 would be.
According to the SEO website backlinko, Google gives 3-5 words in url the most weight. WordPress automatically generates the URL, but you can manually change it. Your url title should be in the form of lowercase words seperated by dashes, like this mywebsite.com/this-is-my-title/ . Come up with one that matches your title, but stays brief.
Search engines want to know where you get your information. Who is helpful and who isn’t? It’s a little circular, but outbound links to more authorative content makes your content more legitimate, in the search engines eyes. It also helps google understand your content; it is a relevancy signal. You should “link out” 2-4 times per 1,000 words.
There you have it, the basics of SEO writing. Here’s your checklist, (without the commentary). If you forget what I mean, go back and read the corresponding entry.
Are you an SEO guru? I’d love to hear your best tips for writing articles that get ranked in the search engines.