SEO: Tips and Tools When Writing for Search EnginesAs time progresses so do the Google Search algorithms. The days when it was enough to dump a lot of keywords into content in order to rank high are long gone. While writers might fear that writing for search engines means that they’ll have to take away from the natural flow of user-oriented writing, this is far from the truth. The ranking factors are more and more focused on what the user wants to see once they enter a search query, thus making writing for users and search engines two very similar goals that can be achieved without taking away from one another.
Is it Possible to Beat the Top-Rankers?Many are discouraged by the fact that the top-ranking pages are often giants that have a huge advantage in the game because of the sheer volume of backlinks (incoming links to a webpage) they already have. Forbes wrote about this “vicious circle of SEO” and whether it’s possible to beat it. It boils down to learning abilities of the ranking algorithm. Even with all the backlinks in the world, if a page has a huge bounce rate and users are leaving it soon after they got there, it’s indicative that they didn’t find what they were looking for. Over time, the page loses credibility and ranking. The longer your domain is there and producing constant high-quality content that takes care of the reads’ needs, the easier it will be to become the competition for top-ranked spots. Getting up there will, of course, take time and effort, but making sure you’re doing your research and using all the tools at your disposal makes it that much easier.
Who is the User and What do They Want to Know?We said it times and times again – knowing your target makes all the difference. Using Google Analytics makes it easy to identify both your users’ demographic and interest data. When you know what your audience likes to read about, it’s time to pick a topic. In the planning phase, it’s not vital to pinpoint the exact headline to your content. It’s more about having an idea that can serve as a base to keyword research. Researching keywords will also largely help define your topic because based on search terms you’re able to distinguish the interests of the audience that reads up on that particular topic. eMarketer lists the keyword/phrase research just below the relevant content as the most effective SEO tactic. Using the Google’s Keyword Planner is usually a great way to start, especially because it’s free to use, but once you begin the competitive analysis, paying for SEMRush or LongTailPro that provide in-depth analysis is worth the while.
Your content should provide an answer to your reader’s question. Google is almost infallible when it comes to understanding user intent. Based on the search query, Google identifies whether the user is looking for an answer or trying to find the right product to purchase. If you’re trying to write for search engines, seeing the content that already ranks will let you know what users are looking for.
Comprehensive Content and Unique ValueAnother reason to search for your topic is to learn what the competition is doing and hopefully learn what they’re doing wrong. First of all, you want to make sure your content is comprehensive enough and covering the topic. Content is better than no content, but it’s proven that search engines favor longer and detailed topic coverage that provides greater value to the readers. While there’s no one magic number, there are a lot of tools at your disposal that can provide directional length. SEMRush SEO content template provides a multitude of useful recommendations, text length included.
Looking at the most relevant competitor results grants you the opportunity to identify if something is missing from their topic coverage. You might notice that they didn’t use graphic explanation where one would help readers better understand, or that an in-depth analysis of the subject is missing. A qualified writer will always bring a certain unique value to the topic they’re covering, but finding a dent in the top-ranked quality armor and using it to your advantage can’t hurt!
How to Create a Catchy Headline/Title?When we say catchy, we mean catching both the reader’s and the algorithm’s attention. While there are some technical rules that Google will appreciate, users also value similar headline qualities. The title tag determines the display title in search results, and according to Moz, the ones starting with a keyword tend to perform better than the ones that incorporate the keyword towards the end. As with everything else, there are useful tools to help you optimize your headlines. Sharethrough offers a free tool that scores your headline and suggests optimizations. It’s also important to keep your title short so that it doesn’t get truncated. Moz offers a title tag preview tool that gives you the opportunity to see what it will look like.
From the user’s point of view, your title will be the first thing they see and will make all the difference. However, using a click-bait title will be damaging in the long run, as it creates mistrust between the reader and your website. Make sure that your headline is a concise description of the content you’re offering. The meta description – the snippet of text below the title in the search results are not a ranking factor, but they are vital for getting high click-through rates.
Knowing the Basics of Technical SEOYou don’t have to be an SEO expert, but even the best content in the world won’t help you if your website is not crawlable and indexable. You can use audit tools such as Screaming Frog to help identify and fix the issues. Making sure that your website is safe is easy by checking the URL – if it says https, it means that it’s using the secure socket layer of security (SSL), which has an instant positive impact on your ranking potential. Keeping your load time low, streamlining the user experience, and avoiding duplicate content will get you one step closer to a successful rank.
When Content is Done and PublishedNumbers are the beginning and end of all planning. Always keep a close eye on your content’s performance and optimize where possible. Make sure to identify which topics work and which don’t. Make a note of pages per session and bounce rates. Try to identify and eliminate everything that causes bad user experience, especially if you’re looking for conversions. If a specific article has exceptional performance, always make sure to link it to the other articles on your website, therefore using its performance to boost other ones. Remember, the more lessons you learn from your current content, the more tools you have for the upcoming one. Once your content is live, make sure to share it wherever you can. Comment on other relevant blog posts and share it on social media to add some additional exposure boost. After all, if you’re not willing to share your content, who will be?
Taking all of the above into consideration points to the conclusion that search engines have the users in mind, so you should too. The SEO improvements shouldn’t derail from user-oriented writing, they should help lead them to you. After all, once on your website, your readers are the ones that give you credibility.