If you want to gather a loyal audience for your blog then you must create quality content that has real value for your audience. And if you want your blog to be found by Google and the other search engines, you need to write content that is optimised for search engines. Perhaps the biggest challenge for bloggers is creating content that effectively does both. In this blog post, I am going to explain how to write content that your readers will love, and want to share, and which is also optimised for SEO so that it ranks well in Google.
SEO is a subject that is frequently misunderstood, but once you get the basics right it isn’t really that complicated. Some bloggers make the mistake of putting SEO above people, and writing content that may rank well but doesn’t actually say anything meaningful to the reader. Others simply ignore SEO entirely and write great content, but because they don’t optimize it properly their blog posts are only seen by a tiny fraction of those who would benefit from them; that means not only less traffic, but also fewer leads generated.
The key to creating high ranking content is to remember that while SEO is important, people must come first. If your blog posts are to be successful there are two goals, which they must accomplish.
They must be appealing to the reader so that they read them, and they must benefit the reader in some way, perhaps by solving a problem they are facing, or by teaching them to do something that they didn’t know before.
How do you do that? How do you strike that balance and produce content that is of benefit to people, but which also ranks well in Google? In this blog post, I am going to show you exactly what is involved.
Understanding internet search
First, a word about how search engines work. We all know that when you run a search in Google you get back a long list of results that are relevant to whatever you typed into the search box, but how is that list of results decided? Why does one webpage rank #1 and another come at the bottom of page 10?
The key to effective SEO is what happens on your website. It may be Google who determines your ranking but they are only responding to the way your content is presented. Google looks at a range of factors including how you target keywords, your anchor text, your chosen meta tags etc. They will also look at bounce rate, engagement, retention rate, and social shares. These are all areas where you have control. If you want to improve your Google ranking, you have the tools to do it. You just need to create the right type of content.
Keywords in particular are important for Google when it tries to determine exactly what your page is about. Google determines the relevance of your content by examining the page in light of a number of different factors, including how often, and where certain words are used on the page. It is these keywords that are central to learning how to write for Google.
Effective writing is a vital skill when it comes to producing content. It can often be a worthwhile investment to hire a professional writer to help with your content creation. Without effective writing no-one is going read your blog posts or to take notice of what you say. Your writing has to reflect a good understanding of your audience. You will need to understand what they like, and what they need, and you must explain how your company can fulfill that need. Your posts should prompt them to take specific, definite action.
Creating interesting content that is also well optimised for search engines is about writing quality, compelling content that targets your chosen keywords, getting this right ensures that you will rank well in search engines, and that your followers will be happy to promote your content across social media.
Choosing the right keywords
Knowing which keywords you should be targeting is vital if you want your content to be seen. Two thirds of all clicks go to one of the top three Google results for every search. If you can refine your content to the point where you manage to reach one of these placings then you will be in a very strong position to improve your traffic.
How can you reach a top ranking spot like this? By focusing your efforts on the right keywords. It is often most effective to look at long-tail keywords as these are less likely to be targeted by your largest competitors. Long tail keywords are three and four keyword phrases, which are very specific to your topic. Customers usually have very specific requirements when they enter a search query, so using longer, more specific keywords related to your topic will help your content to convert better.
Let’s suppose that you want to write on the topic of social media management. Your first step is to find out what keywords associated with that you could target.
One tool which is helpful here, is the Google Keyword Planner.
Type in social media management, and what you will get back is a long list of associated keywords. In this case a few examples we could choose from would be:
- social media marketing
- social media tools
- social media strategy
- social media analytics
By including these phrases throughout your content you increase the likelihood of your content ranking well.
How to write headlines that drive traffic
Your headline is one of the most important aspects of creating quality SEO friendly content. It is going to be the first thing that anyone searching for your site sees when the Google results appear. It is essential that the headline grabs your audience immediately. They must know at first glance that this content is going to provide the information that they need. If your headline doesn’t grab their attention then the click-through rate is going to be low, and it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your content is, it isn’t going to attract the readers you want.
Creating a good headline isn’t difficult. Just try to think like your reader. What do they want? What were they searching for when they typed their query into Google? If you know what your audience is looking for, then you are a long way towards knowing what your headline should be.
Headlines that ask questions are often effective. Another technique, which has proven it’s worth, is to use numbers at the start of your headline. This can be seen on many authority sites, including BusinessWeek, and Mashable. Posts presented in list format can often be more clickable than what are seen as denser articles.
Some examples of great headlines would be:
- 5 Ways to Grow your small business
- How to boost your social media reach in 24 hours
- 6 mistakes most small businesses make
- Why your start-up needs a bigger image
Including keywords in your title is a great idea if you can do it and still have a headline that flows naturally. Don’t try to force a keyword into your headline if it doesn’t make sense to do so. Learn more about writing great headlines in my guide here.
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Creating the content
Search engines feed on fresh, original content, and finding useful content is the primary reason that most people use Google in the first place. Providing a steady stream of new content should give your readers lots of great information, but it also provides plenty of opportunities to improve your ranking within Google.
To consistently write content that ranks well you need to have specific goals in mind before you start writing. You must target the right keywords. This doesn’t mean stuffing keywords into your content for the sake of it, but it does mean including them naturally throughout the content.
How much content should I write?
The quick answer to this is “As much as you need to cover your subject properly”.
Blog posts are getting longer. It used to be that a blog post was rarely more than 500 words, but recent Google updates have increased the trend towards more detailed, longer blog posts that provide really valuable in-depth content. Longer content will normally perform better than shorter pieces, and will increase your online profile with social shares and links. It also is a great way to showcase your industry expertise and authority. Your blog post should be at least 1200 words and closely focused on the topic you are writing about. Don’t be tempted to wander off topic and get sidetracked. If you do think of something else while you are writing, it can be a good idea to make a note of it and then create a separate post on that topic later. It’s better to have a series of tightly focused posts, than to have one very long post that wanders about over several different topics.
Before you begin to write, layout your post. Every blog post needs to have an introduction, a content-rich middle, and an ending that wraps up the post neatly. Having the outline prepared in advance will help to keep your focused.
Add a clear introduction
Your blog post must be about something. It may seem obvious, but there must be a focus. The introduction is where you catch your readers attention and give them a reason to keep reading all the way through the post. In the introduction lay out clearly what your post is about. If you can you should include at least one keyword in the introduction. Ideally a long-tailed keyword.
Don’t forget the meta-description
Meta descriptions are particularly important for Google as this is the part of your post that will appear in Google search results, right underneath your headline. This will help guide the searchers decision when they are considering which search result to select. Writing a good meta description will significantly boost the number of people who choose to read your post compared to the other results on the same page. The meta description should be in the range of 150-160 characters in length.
Writing the perfect meta description that manages to rank highly in Google as well as holding the attention of readers is all about the right use of keywords.
To get this right you must understand the purpose behind keywords. What are people really looking for when they enter a search query in Google?
Suppose for example you are an expert in social media and you want to drive more clients by improving your SEO.
It might be that your primary keyword will be social media help or improved social media, but what do you think your clients are really looking for at the moment they enter that search query into Google?
They may be thinking of social media generally, but it’s more likely that they are thinking in more specific terms. They might want:
- Increased engagement with followers
- More likes on the Facebook page
- More Twitter followers
- More comments on their Instagram posts
- Advice on converting more leads
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Your meta description must be relevant to them. You have to capture their interest by focusing the description on the concerns that are important to them. Write the description with their needs in mind, and explain how you can meet those needs.
One example might be:
Need Social media help? Not getting the results you want? Let an expert turn your visitors into leads and get your business the boost you deserve
If you can include your main keyword in the meta description then do that, but if you find it doesn’t flow naturally then don’t worry about it. Many pages will rank highly without including the keyword here.
Keyword density & keyword frequency
These are often mistaken for the same thing, but there is an important difference. Keyword density refers to how often a keyword appears on a page in relation to other words on the page and is generally expressed as a %. Keyword frequency is a simple count of the number of times a keyword is found on the page.
It is worth noting that while these two factors are still important, and still impact on how your post will rank in Google, they are no longer as important as they once were in determining rank. Recent Google updates have placed more emphasis on other factors, including the length of your content and how frequently it is updated. They also consider non-content related issues, including the speed at which the page loads, the extension on the domain name, and how long the domain name has been registered.
One point that should definitely be remembered is that keyword stuffing will get you penalised in Google. If your keyword density is higher than 5.5% then you will need to go through your article and reduce your keyword count to achieve a lower ratio.
Linking your content
Adding links in your content can be very advantageous. If you have already written on a related subject in the past, then including a link to it within your new post is a great way to help your readers find your existing content and helps them stay on your website for longer. If you refer to any businesses, or other external sites in your post it can also be a good idea to link to them, as this is a good way to demonstrate that you value other websites, and that your own content is reliable. When you add these links it is important that you anchor the links using appropriate keywords that directly relate to the content to which you are linking.
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Are you solving your readers problems?
The most useful content will always attract the greatest number of views, and the highest number of shares on social media. If you write content that answers the questions your reader has, then you should find that your keywords flow naturally throughout the content you are writing. If you find that you are struggling to fit them in, then this may be a sign that you are either targeting the wrong keywords, or that your content is not focused on the right questions.
Remember the value of subheadings
Subheadings make sense for people, as they break up the text on the page, but they are also vital for SEO. Use heading tags h1-h6 to set your font size, these tags will give Google an idea of the relative importance you place on each section and help them to better understand the focus of your piece.
However well you lay out your content, and however much you focus on optimising it, there is no substitute for creating great content. Your audience will know if you are providing low-quality, keyword-stuffed posts that are only intended to be picked up by search engines. They won’t read your post, and they probably won’t come back to read any more of your content. This sort of content doesn’t do anything for your Google ranking either. With each update Google adds greater refinement to the way they calculate ranking and low-quality content is increasingly being dropped from search results.
Writing a strong conclusion
Once you have covered your subject thoroughly it’s time to bring your post to an end. Don’t just trail off, as if you have run out of things to say. You wrote your post for a reason. You want your reader to do something, and this is the part of your post when you tell them what it is. You need to write what is commonly termed a ‘call to action’ (CTA). Be persuasive. Tell the reader what they now have to do, and why they should do it. Your CTA must give them a reason to act. You may want to re-emphasise the key point of your message in the conclusion, or to invite the reader to take the next step and sign up for your course, or download your ebook, or whatever else you would like them to do in response to your message. Don’t leave them in any doubt that your message requires a response, and then tell them what that response should be.
By following these steps you will be able to improve your on-page SEO and rank higher in Google search results. What other tips did I miss off the list? What have you found to be effective when optimising your content for SEO? Let me know in the comments section, and share this post with others so that their ranking can improve as well.