Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what it used to be. Modern SEO is a combination of the art of writing to please readers and the science of making a search engine respond to your content.
To generate good SEO writing, you need to have a solid strategy and a sound tactical approach. This article will cover the necessary ingredients of both.
Let’s dive in.
SEO Content Strategy
With Google accounting for 78 percent of desktop and laptop searches and 89 percent of searches on mobile devices, having a content strategy is critically important. Your content strategy includes the tactics you will use to ensure your content ranks as close as possible to the top of search engine results.
There are three components to an SEO content strategy: content, indexing, and measurement.
Write content for people, not bots
Don’t write content solely for an algorithm. Write content with your readers in mind. In the early days of SEO, people would stuff their content with keywords that helped achieve the short-term gain of a higher page rank. This continued until readers, the ultimate arbiter of content quality, chose higher quality content.
Search engines noticed. Not only did they reduce the rank of unnatural or unoriginal content, but they went so far as to penalize content that appeared to have been stuffed or spun.
The good news is — If you write your content uniquely and naturally, you generally won’t have to worry about these measures.
Write your online content to provide value to an audience, not for the sole purpose of boosting your search results. For example, if you’re writing material for a business blog, then the focus should be on the actual subjects and discussions relevant to your prospects and customers.
That can be as simple as addressing customer pain points, answering frequently asked questions (FAQs), or speaking with expertise on a specific topic. Most users go to Google for exactly those reasons in the first place. Meeting users’ needs gives value to both search engines and your potential customers.
To generate the results of your searches quickly, Google parses billions of web pages and indexes their content to its database. Google’s algorithm uses that data to determine which content may benefit readers the most.
Google Search Console is a useful place to analyze whether your blog posts are properly formatted. The Search Console reviews your site and offers guidance to help maximize the discoverability of your articles via the algorithm.
Here are some of the things that Google searches for in order to properly index a page:
- Titles and descriptions that accurately describe the content on your pages.
- Meta tags that contain relevant, high-quality keywords
- Proper use of H2 headings that break up the content on your page into relevant segments.
- Concise, readable URLs to assist users in finding your content.
- Responsive code that makes your content readable on any device.
So now you’ve put your blog strategy to work and published a few articles. How do you know how well that content is performing over time? Measuring the effectiveness of your SEO strategy involves analyzing a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that together give you an overall picture of your performance.
Ranking is the first and probably most obvious KPI. You want to know if your SEO strategy is boosting your page rank.
PageRank is the Google algorithm named after what it does, and after Google co-founder Larry Page. It is the complex math Google uses to measure the importance of a web page, compare it to other web pages, and rank it accordingly. There are dozens of tools online, both free and paid, that you can use to check your page ranking.
Traffic is the measurement of how people are finding their way to your content. Are they reaching you organically through a simple query on Google? Perhaps they’re getting to you through social media or through other websites with similar content that links back to you. Does one source provide more traffic than another?
Time on the page is another important KPI. When people find your content, are they immediately leaving to find better content or are they staying on your site to scroll down and read everything you have to say?
Click-through rate is a KPI that can be used to segregate those who simply visit from those who actually follow the links you place on your site, whether internal or external. The click-through KPI is particularly helpful when analyzing sales funnels to trace how far users make it through the consumer journey.
Best practices for writing SEO-friendly content
So you have your code properly formatted and ready for indexing, you know what KPIs you’re looking to measure, and now you’re ready to generate content. Let’s take a look at some best practices that make both readers and search engines happy.
Know your audience
Before any search engine can index your content, you have to generate reader enthusiasm. To truly get an idea of which people might best respond to your content, ask a few key questions.
Who are you trying to reach? What kind of person, specifically, do you think would benefit the most from the content you are producing? Note whether you’re trying to deliver on an unmet need, or provide better content than what is currently available online.
Who is currently reading similar content? Social media is a good place to find answers to this question. Facebook provides a Graph API which any user can use to query the social network’s database.
Use social media tools to evaluate your audience both quantitatively and qualitatively. You can generate reports that show who is reading your content and their demographic information like gender, age, and interests.
Clearly define your topic
One thing you shouldn’t do when generating content is to try and be all things to all people. Writing about too many disparate topics can result in not creating good articles about any of them.
In your effort to build content that people want to read, focus on material about topics that you are an expert in or can speak intelligently about. One way to set your content apart from others is to be a veritable subject matter expert or true authority on that topic. Use the 10x or skyscraper formula to create content that sets you apart from the competition.
After you have generated an ample amount of material, you can use your KPIs to narrow and refine the scope of your content by tracking what readers respond to and don’t respond to.
Refine your keywords
Keywords go hand in hand with audience insights. You want your content to contain, as closely as possible, the keywords they will be using in their search queries.
Keep content dynamic
A major part of keeping your page rank optimized and driving new visitors is to refresh your content regularly. While this might sound simple, it’s not always easy to just generate evergreen content ideas on a variety of niche topics. Here are some simple but effective ideation strategies.
The most direct way to generate ideas is to talk to your readers. When running a blog, allowing readers to give feedback by way of comments or to contact you via email is one way to get a real-time feel for what your readers want.
Social media is also effective at helping you find what readers and potential customers are thinking without having to engage them directly. Social also will tell you immediately what’s trending and what isn’t. If it’s trending on social media, it’s likely to be a Google trend as well.
Use cluster content ideas as part of your content ideation process to generate many pieces of fresh content off of a single idea. Clustering uses a core, broadly focused pillar topic for the initial piece of content with other more narrowly focused pieces of content built around it.
Incorporating rich media, like videos, can also help SEO. Video has been shown to keep viewers’ attention longer which increases time on the page and reduces bounce rate.
Keep it current
Your blog is an engine designed to help bring new and existing customers to your company and its products. Your content keeps that engine running. If you implement an effective SEO strategy and practices, that will ensure your material stays fresh, your ideas are authoritative, and that people consider your site a reliable source of useful information.
Thanks for reading! Do you want to create thought leadership articles like the one above? If you struggle to translate your ideas into content that will help build credibility and influence others, sign up to get John’s latest online course “Writing From Your Voice” here.