Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that SEO is all about keywords and key phrases (i.e. the words and phrases we use to find stuff on the interweb). But how do you translate them into readable, clickable SEO optimised content?
Great question. Here are 6 simple steps that’ll have you writing for SEO in no time.
Approach it like a human (not a robot)
At its core, SEO is designed to work as humanly as possible. That is, it picks up the everyday words and phrases we use to find things, and it delivers search results based on those words and phrases. For that reason, it’s important you approach the whole SEO shebang like a human.
Whether you’re writing a blog, an article, or a page for your website, start by brainstorming all the words and phrases an everyday human would use to find what you’re writing about.
Let’s say you’re writing a blog about how to get your kids to eat their veggies. Parents with salad dodging offspring might be using search terms like ‘how to get your kids to eat vegetables’, ‘how to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals’, or ‘my child won’t eat their vegetables and I’m afraid they’ll get scurvy’.
Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. Use the words and terms an everyday person would use to research a topic and make a list. Step one, done.
Do your research
Competition for SEO space can be tough, and sometimes it seems like every other bugger in the world is trying to rank for your preferred term/s. Good writing for SEO means considering all your options.
The Google AdWords keyword suggestion tool is a great free way to generate a multitude of options. Simply type in your preferred key word or phrase and it’ll spit out variations you might not’ve thought of. It’s also worth checking out your competitors – what terms are they using (and ranking for)?
But before you start tapping away at your keyboard, make sure you assess the difficulty level of your preferred search terms. As a general rule, single keywords are hard to rank for (think snowball and hell), two word phrases are more achievable, and three word phrases are even better. The downside is that we tend to search for single words more than phrases, but them’s the breaks.
If you’re not sure what your chances are, the MOZ keyword difficulty tool will help. It analyses your words and phrases and provides percentages indicating how likely it is you’ll rank for those words and phrases. It’s not free, but they do offer a free 30 day trial.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, pick the 3 or 4 words or terms to use in your content. You don’t have to use multiple ones every time, but throwing in a mix is a great way to successfully write for SEO. That’s because Google recognises variations, and throws them all into the mix when providing search results.
Oh, and if the thought of researching this stuff does your head in, hire some outside help. SEO copywriters like me can do the hard work for you, including the writing bit. If you’re short on time (and patience), it’s an investment that can really pay off.
Put your keywords to work
Once you’ve picked your terms, you need to scatter them like seeds throughout your copy. Keywords should be placed in your:
- Title tags – This is the main heading or title at the top of your page
- Meta tags – These are the 160 character snippets that summarise your content
- Headings (aka ‘H tags’) – These are the headings you use throughout your content. H1 tags (main headings) rate the highest, and they go down from there (H2, H3 etc – aka ‘subheadings’)
- Images – If it’s appropriate, SEO phrases can be used in your image descriptions for a little extra SEO juice
- The first 100 words of your content
- Internal and external links – These are the electronic tentacles you send outwards from your content to either other pages on your site, or pages on someone else’s site
- Body of content
Although there are no hard and fast rules about how many times a phrase should appear in your content, as a general rule it should appear in your first 100 words, and then 3 or 4 times in the main body content. However, you want to avoid keyword stuffing at all costs so spread your phrases out and don’t use them just for the sake of it.
SEO experts are divided as to whether short or long form content is the best way to write for SEO, but Google needs at least 250 to 300 words to recognise your content and rank it. So aim for 250 to start, and taper off as soon as you’ve gotten to the point.
Write for your audience
SEO’s built for humans to find stuff, so it makes sense that SEO optimised content should be written for humans who want to find stuff.
As a general rule, you’ll be using keywords and phrases that feel pretty natural. But making them fit into your content can sometimes feel unnatural. If that’s ever the case, the reader always wins.
Content, whether it’s SEO optimised or not, is written for a specific audience, not a bunch of robots. So you need to do everything you can to ensure that content is easily read, absorbed and acted upon by your human audience. Read your writing aloud to test it out – if you sound like a brain washed parrot repeating a series of specific phrases, get back to the drawing board.
Review, review, review
Before you put your work online, there are a few things you should do:
Read your work aloud
Reading your words aloud is one of the best editing tips I know. It will help you iron out the wrinkly bits that just don’t sound right, as well as highlighting the areas where your keywords appear a tad too frequently. If you think you’re too close to the piece, get someone to read it aloud to you – trust me, it’ll give you a whole new perspective.
Run it through a word cloud
Word clouds are a graphic representation of the words that appear most frequently in your content. The size of each word indicates its frequency or importance. If you’ve done it right, your SEO phrases or keywords should stand out above all the rest. If you’re running a WordPress website, the Yoast plugin can also provide handy hints about where, and how you’ve used your search terms.
Double check for keyword stuffing
When it comes to SEO, Google’s much smarter than you are. So double check that you haven’t shoved all your keywords into one or two paragraphs, but have spread it out throughout your content. Stuff this bit up and Google will give you a virtual smack down that could adversely affect your SEO rankings for a good while to come.
And that’s it – Writing for SEO made simple
SEO isn’t an exact science, so it’ll take time to get it right. Once you’ve published your piece, track your rankings (Moz has some great tools for this), or pull up an incognito window every once in a while to check your progress. You might have to head back to the drawing board once or twice, but it’ll be worth it in the end.