Writing well is hard. And writing great content that is optimized both for humans and the search engines is even harder. However, it’s the game of the Internet, and there is no way around it. Therefore, I have pulled together six SEO writing tips that will increase your confidence and entice people to read your articles and come back for more.
1) Pick the Right Keyword Phrase
If you want your content to rank well in the search engines (and thus increase the likelihood of somebody finding it online), doing some amount of keyword research upfront is a good idea.
You may have an inkling that you want to write about fun summer activities for families (which I would love to read!), but what is the best keyword phrase to target?
One quick way to get a general sense for the relative volume of traffic for different keywords is by using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. (You don’t have to use Google AdWords to use the tool.) In the example below, I entered “fun summer family activities.” You can see that it gets around 260 searches per month:
The tool provides a list of related keyword phrases that may (or may not) work better. For example, “fun family activities” looks pretty promising at 27,100 monthly searches. However, it may not be as targeted as we would like.
Further, “summer family activities” gets 1,300 searches per month, so that may be worth looking at.
Another quick check is to see what the competition looks like:
None of the first three results use the exact phrase, and that could be a good thing.
Ultimately, you want to pick a phrase that makes sense for the content you want to write, but also has at least some monthly traffic and ideally less competition.
2) Write a Click-Worthy Headline
You can write the best article in the world, but if it doesn’t have a compelling headline, it’s all for naught.
Because nobody will click on it!
The folks over at Copyblogger are experts at headline writing and have even published a tutorial on how to write magnetic headlines. I won’t regurgitate their well-formulated tips here. Just read it!
I especially appreciate the 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work part of the tutorial series when creativity is lacking. Here you will find ten headline templates such as “The Secret of [blank]” and “What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]” that can be used for almost any topic.
Lists also make great headlines. Who wouldn’t click on the headline “Top 10 Tips for Living Your Dream?”
And of course, make sure to use your carefully-selected keyword phrase in your headline – ideally in the beginning of the title (but only if it makes sense!). And keep it to 70 characters or less (unless you don’t care if Google sees all of it).
3) Bake Your Keyword Phrase into Your Page Content
You picked your keyword phrase for a reason, right? You wanted to write about fun summer activities for families. As such, it shouldn’t be too hard to work your selected keyword phrase into the content without sounding stupid.
And that’s really the test. When you proofread your article before you publish it (which you should always, always do), make sure it flows and doesn’t sound forced. If it doesn’t read well, you’ve probably added your keyword phrase one too many times.
Here are some other ways to optimize your page for the selected keyword phrase:
On-Page Optimization Tips
- Add keyword phrase to title (yes, it bears repeating)
- Put keyword phrase in first paragraph
- Include keyword phrase in URL
- Include keyword phrase in page headings (if it makes sense!)
- Add images and optimize the img alt attribute to include your keyword phrase
4) Write Consistently Good Content for Your Audience
I’ve written a whole article about writing for your audience, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, it is a point that cannot be made too many times. You’re not writing for yourself (unless that is your mission with your blog, which is fine).
If you are trying to increase traffic to your website and grow an audience, you have to write content that your audience will enjoy and (ideally) share with their online networks.
Writing consistently means writing at least once per week, or preferably even more frequently. I find it difficult to crank out more than 2-3 high-quality posts per week. If you can do more, good for you!
5) Use Proper Grammar and Spelling
We know that humans care about quality writing, but did you know that the search engines also care about the quality of your content?
And since you’re writing for both, you’d better get your grammar on.
There are lots of great resources on how to write well. I summarized a few of these in a guest post called 7 Resources to Take Your Writing to the Next Level.
And spelling is easy to fix using spellcheck.
But watch out for the it’s vs. its, your vs. you’re, and common mistakes like that, which spellcheckers will not find, but bothers a lot of people (like me).
Proofread your content at least once before you hit the publish button. I always find something that can be edited for an improved reading experience. (In fact, when I wrote this post, I found a missing ‘s’ on my third read-through.)
6) Ask Your Audience Questions
One great way to get some additional content on your pages is through user-generated content (e.g. comments). It can be difficult to get your audience to engage and write comments (trust me, I have lots of posts with 0 comments). But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
By ending your blog posts with one or more questions to your audience, you increase the likelihood of actually getting a response.
(See below for an example…)
SEO Writing Tips Bonus!
OK. I can’t stop here. One more important aspect of SEO writing is to make your content shareable. I hinted at this above, but in the world of social media and increasing importance of social signals, it is extremely important that your content is sharable.
Meaning, it is either so funny, relevant, interesting, valuable, or downright crazy that people just have to share it with their social networks. Not every post needs to be like this, of course, but you definitely want some of your work to have these qualities.
For example, Steve recently wrote a massive post about free SEO tools. It was a lot of work, but the payoff was nearly 300 tweets and 136 Facebook shares. That translates into a lot of traffic and exposure for our brand.
Of course, you have to include sharing buttons to make it easy to share your content.
Now, stop reading and go write something! (After you leave a comment, of course…)
Over to You!
What SEO writing tips do you have to share? Do you consciously think about SEO when you’re writing online content? Have you ever written a piece that ranks well without any conscious optimization efforts? (I know I have, which shows that writing for humans is insanely important!)