Search engine optimization (SEO) is a buzz word. It’s often discussed as a mysterious magic bullet that takes place behind the scenes via URL tinkering, metadata, and ridiculously expensive keyword tools. However, the heart and soul of good SEO doesn’t take place behind the scenes — it happens right within your website’s content.
Quality, SEO-optimized content is both simple to create and critical to the search engine success of a blog, e-commerce store, or any other profit-minded online enterprise. If you’re looking to give your website an edge over the competition, here are a few easy-to-follow SEO tips to incorporate into your content.
SEO: An Art Form
Before diving into the nitty-gritty details, it’s important to point one thing out: SEO is an art form. Sure, it revolves around strategies and statistics, but when you boil things down, good SEO is quite artistic in nature.
There’s no hard and fast set of rules that dictate what proper SEO should look like. In fact, every SEO expert has a different “secret sauce” that they’ll emphatically inform you is the answer to your problems.
However, the continually developing search engine algorithms make it very difficult to pin down a specific way to formulize the search engine optimization of a website.
This creates an element of unpredictability that, in effect, gives SEO a very artistic feeling. In the same way that a masterpiece can be painted with either acrylics or watercolors and still be equally impressive, good SEO can take on a variety of forms and still be highly effective.
With that said, the strategies suggested below are aimed at informing you, the humble website owner, on the various elements that search engines currently care about as they crawl your site and look for ways to understand just what your content is all about. While all of these things matter on one level or another, the specific degree of their importance and impact can vary depending on how Google is currently measuring and quantifying its data.
From a practical perspective, this means it’s absolutely critical that you set up Google Analytics or another form of data tracking software in order to measure the results of your efforts. If you find that prioritizing keywords in your titles and URLs makes a significant difference in a blog post’s traffic, adopt it more heavily into your strategy. If you find that including a keyword a certain percentage of the time has no measurable results, ditch that tactic.
To put it simply, if you approach your SEO strategy as an adaptable art form rather than a strictly rigid formula, you’re much more likely to find success as you go.
Alright, on to the fun stuff. Here are some of the top considerations for properly SEO-optimized content in the online world.
Set Your Priorities
It’s important to start things off by setting your priorities — especially when it comes to finding the balance between focusing on your readers and the search engines. As you sort out your SEO strategy, it’s easy to over-prioritize your optimization tactics over the quality of the content itself. After all, won’t that lead to more traffic?
In the past, the answer was a resounding yes. Ethics aside, if you stuffed a page with keywords, you could show up at the top of a search, no problem — to the dismay of the readers who clicked on your post expecting some quality content when they arrived on your page.
However, Google’s algorithm has become much more refined over time, to the point where those who actually want to rank higher must prioritize the reader first and the search engines second.
In addition, make sure you’re following all of the online legal requirements depending on where you live. If your site is breaking the rules (knowingly or otherwise), the consequences of being flagged for creating illegal content can undo any SEO momentum you’ve created in an instant.
Create One-of-a-Kind Content
One of the most important ways to focus on the human element as you optimize your content is by making it unique. Resist the urge to rehash basic or obvious information. Never plagiarize other sources. Don’t promise one thing with an alluring, clickbaity title and then discuss something else.
Instead, aim for each piece of content to be as unique as possible. Fashion each article into a one-of-a-kind source of data, knowledge, or opinions. Provide genuine value to the reader and make sure to satisfy search intent — that is, your content should actually answer the question intended by the search inquiry or keyword it’s tailored to.
Go For Length When You Can
While many sites have found tremendous success with shorter articles, there’s something to be said for the connection between lengthy posts and SEO.
When a topic naturally lends itself towards a “deep dive” article, writing a longer piece of content often will lead to a higher SERP ranking. This can come from a variety of factors including:
- The chance to include a keyword more often.
- More opportunities for quality links.
- Longer dwell time on the page.
- The ability to be more comprehensive and thorough in covering a subject.
All of these elements can contribute to a higher SEO ranking for the content itself, as well as your website as a whole.
According to SEO guru Brian Dean, while keywords are an old school SEO tactic, they still make a dent in your optimization efforts. When creating content, it’s important to take the time to identify a keyword or keyword phrase that the article or post is centered on. For instance, a blog post about how to build a chicken coop would likely focus on the keyword “chicken coop” or if it was focused on inner-city chicken owners, perhaps “urban chicken coop.”
Once you’ve identified your primary keyword, it’s worth taking the time to try to include it naturally in your article title and text, preferably in the first 100 to 150 words of the piece. In addition, try to incorporate it into an H2 as well as throughout the post whenever it naturally fits. However, don’t feel the need to keyword stuff. According to Dean, he once used a keyword just 6 times in a highly ranked 32,000-word post.
Links are essential to quality SEO content. You want to include a smattering of internal links (that is, links to other pages on your website) as well as external links (links to other high authority, relevant pages outside of your site).
In both cases, you want to ensure that you’re selecting quality links. For instance, when selecting internal links, look for high-performing related pages on your site in order to link a new piece of content to something that already has momentum. When it comes to external content, look for sites with higher authority such as .gov or .edu top-level domains, or pages that are authorities in their own right within the niche you’re targetting with your content.
Think About Flow
Once again, if you’re looking to satisfy the reader first, it’s important that you take time to consider the flow of your content. One critical key to online content is publishing skimmable content. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, only 20% of the content on the average web page is actually read.
With that in mind, make ample use of things like headers, short paragraphs, bold font, and bullet points in order to break up your text and help draw the readers eye down the page.
In addition, make sure to vary the types of content included in your post. Add in videos and infographics, or embed tweets, or other images to both help break up the text and encourage the reader to engage with your content.
Podcasts are another great way to build your SEO power, especially if you include transcripts of each podcast in order to help search engines understand what the audio contains.
While you don’t need to include every one of these options, it’s important to find the ones that fit into your site’s style and voice and then integrate them consistently.
Consider Your Reader’s Access Points
Mobile optimization has become a life and death factor for a website. Regardless of the kind of content you are producing, you must make sure that, along with diversifying your actual content strategy, you also cover all of your bases when it comes to different devices visitors may use to access your site.
Mobile traffic has officially surpassed desktop internet usage at this point, and a site that doesn’t work well on a smartphone or tablet will likely lead to a higher bounce rate, less dwell time, and a general decrease in the search engine rankings.
Create Your Personalized SEO Marketing Strategy
While there are countless facets and considerations when it comes to crafting a quality SEO strategy, these are some of the most important elements to start with:
- Prioritize human readers first and search engines second.
- Create unique, valuable, one-of-a-kind content.
- Write longer content when naturally possible.
- Identify keywords and include them in important places and in reasonable quantities.
- Include quality internal and external links.
- Consider the flow and skimmable aspects of your content.
- Make sure you’re mobile optimized.
If you can incorporate these SEO concepts into your marketing strategy, you’ll be able to produce content that is both optimized for your readers and the search engines.
This will allow your marketing collateral to appear higher in the SERPs while simultaneously satisfying search intent and naturally bolstering your brand’s reputation, all of which are critical elements to a successful marketing strategy.