By Ron Lieback, founder/CEO of ContentMender and author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).
Writing without SEO in mind hurts your business. Google one of your services or products. Are you on page one of the search results, hopefully ranking in the top five positions?
If you’re not in the top five organic (not paid) positions, you’re missing out on 70.4% of traffic. According to Search Engine Journal, a study that took into account 80 million keywords and billions of results reported the following clicks on the top positions:
Nowadays, browsers are wise. They trust a top organic result for a search query over the top paid Google Ad. Anyone with a huge budget can consistently rank at the top of Google Ads. Much more is needed to rank stronger organically, including solid content.
My specialty is SEO-driven writing, something I also discuss in my book, 365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time). Over the past two decades, I have written over 15,000 online articles and have ghostwritten over 500 articles for CEOs in major publications. Hundreds rank in top positions for “target” keyword queries.
Once, not long ago, content only needed to engage. Now it also must be optimized for search engines, including the following seven essentials. Much more exists, but these are the basics that can positively transform your online content. Don’t just create content with SEO in mind, but revamp older content with SEO in mind.
1. Complete Keyword Research
The foundation of any strong digital content begins with keyword research. Use tools like SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner (free with a Google Ad account signup) to search for keywords that have actual search volume and that you have a chance to rank for. For example, “writing for SEO” has a search volume of 1,900 visitors per month. This is much easier to rank for than “SEO services,” which has a search volume of 12,100.
Ranking factors depend on the authority of your website — which derives from links from other relevant and reputable websites — and a sound technical platform. You need a smooth-functioning (and fast!) technical platform before anything can truly rank consistently strong.
Also, only use one or two target keywords per page, and keep that page’s content hyper-focused on the main topic that includes that target keyword. Also, try to use the target keyword(s) in the:
• Title tag/headline.
• Meta description.
• Headline tags.
• Image alt text (words that describe the image; search engines can’t read images without words).
2. Optimize The Title Tag
The title tag is the title (or headline) that shows up in search results. This provides one of the top signals to search engines about what your page is about. This goes for any webpage: service pages, product pages, blogs, landing pages for email sign-ups, etc. The title tag should:
• Feature the target keyword as far to the left as possible.
• Be an engaging statement that creates curiosity or promises how to do something.
• Be 50-60 characters in length (characters, not words! Search engines truncate after 60 characters).
3. Optimize The Meta Description
This element is under the title tag in search results. Though Google says this has zero direct ranking factors, a meta description has strong indirect ranking factors. Think of this as an ad for your article that needs to be 140-160 characters (not words!).
4. Optimize Headline Tags
Think of these as subtopics for each section. All nine points here are headline tags, which should be highlighted and made Headline 2 (H2) or Headline 3 (H3) tags. For most web platforms, the H1 tag is the title, and you should only use one H1 tag per page.
5. Use Bullet Points
Overall, blog posts work best at a minimum of 1,000 words with 500 words per page. Use bullet points and bullets wherever possible; they also send strong signals to search engines about the value you place on that section of content. With that said, try to use strong keywords within these bullets. They also add value to the user experience because they immediately direct attention to themselves.
6. Use Related Keywords
You’ll want to use related keywords throughout the body of your content, which shows search engines relevance to the post’s or page’s target keyword that was used in the title tag, and also the content’s theme. According to our SEMrush marketing tool, a few examples for the target keyword “writing for SEO” include, “what is SEO writing,” “writing for search engine optimization” and “SEO writing guide.”
You don’t want to force these. Make a list of them, and infuse them into your content naturally.
7. Optimize Internal Links
An internal link is simply when you hyperlink a word or phrase to another page on your website. For example, if I said, “To learn more about SEO, visit ‘SEO Explained in Eight Simple Steps,’” that link points to another internal page on Forbes and shows that the page is relevant to this one. The internal links send strong signals to search engines that we think that other page is important, which helps strengthen overall SEO.
Although ranking at the top of search engine rankings takes months, unlike ads that appear immediately, top-ranking content maintains its impact. If you create consistent and frequent content and keep your website’s technical SEO performance strong, this content will continue ranking highly.
The result is stronger ROI. The No. 1 avenue toward this increased ROI? Writing that puts equal emphasis on quality and SEO. And it all begins with these simple tips.