Content creation is a large part of what we do as marketers—and writing effective, well-optimized content is, well, hugely important.
After all, if you're creating content for your website or blog and it's not search engine optimized, Google and other search engines will rank it low on search engine results pages. And diminished visibility in search results can have a negative impact on the ability of customers, clients, and prospects to find you.
In fact, poorly written and unoptimized Web content can render you all but invisible on the Web. Not good.
SEO is one of those phrases you probably hear often. Understanding it is one thing... but putting it into practice is an entirely different story. The good news? You don't need to be an SEO wizard to create SEO-optimized content. And although you want your content to be discovered by search engines, an important thing to keep in mind is that you're writing for people, not machines.
Want to know the number one secret to writing great content? Ask yourself just one question: Is it good for people? If the content you're writing delivers the things that your customers and prospects are searching for, then the answer is a resounding "Yes." It's delivering up what they want and need, and it's doing its job.
(Psst: I would be doing you an injustice here if I didn't say that we are big believers in doing your homework before you write copy—and that includes keyword research so that you know what phrases and keywords people are searching for, as well as the goals you've established for that content. That crazy little thing called a strategy? Always. Start. There.)
We've all probably seen keyword-stuffed content that reads more like a random jumble of terms than cohesive copy. And that's exactly what you want to avoid!
Balance is key. Search engines ultimately want to serve quality search results that highlight fresh, original, and informative content. Search engines want to deliver answers that fit the context of what it is that searchers seek.
Ready to get started? Try the following nine tips for writing effective SEO content.
1. Respect the reader's time
Everyone is busy, and most people would rather scan an article first before they decide whether it's worth reading. Make it easy for your readers to know what your article is all about at a glance. Make it interesting enough for them to want to read all of it. Have a point of view and give an opinion.
You want to invite and generate engagement and discussion with people who both agree and disagree with you.
2. Use effective titles for your articles
Your title should be able to tell your readers at a glance what your entire article is all about. Remember: Your title is a summary of your entire piece. Be careful to avoid being gimmicky. You may attract people at the beginning, but if they see that you are using trickery as a strategy to get their attention, you'll end up losing readers in the long run.
A good practice is to use 8-10 words when formulating your title, especially if you want it shared on social sites. On Twitter, for example, you'll want to limit the number of words in your title to leave enough space so people can easily retweet your post. And don't promise something in your title that you don't deliver in your post. That will only serve to irk your readers.
3. Grab your readers' attention with numbers
Readers are attracted to numbers. Numbers allow them to quickly and easily navigate your content, and they give a structure to your article. See? I'm doing it right now and you're hooked, aren't you?
4. Use killer images and visuals to spice up your content
Add pictures, infographics, slide shows, and artwork to your written pieces. Images not only break up the text portion of your article but also make the entire article more visually interesting.
People are attracted to visuals. Make sure that the visuals you use are your own creations. If not, make sure you get permission to use them from the original owners of the graphics and give credit where it's due.
5. Use lists (sometimes)
People love lists almost as much as they love numbers. And lists are great because they're not only easy to read but also scannable, which means they're a search engine's BFF.
Lists will also help you keep your post succinct and keep your content and thoughts neat and organized. Most blog posts aren't meant to be long-form essays, so keeping your ideas short and to the point not only appeals to your readers but also keeps your content on point so you can focus on the topic (and keywords) at hand without going off on a tangent.
Many people will tell you that they loathe list posts, but everything annoys some people. I'm not suggesting that every post you write be a list post, but using them on a regular basis should be a part of your overall content strategy. They work, despite what the haters say.
6. Use keywords strategically
Know your keywords (see my earlier comment about doing your homework) and your keyword research. Go into the process knowing what people are searching for in relation to your content, and then use that input to guide the creation of key content areas, such as your headline, first paragraph, meta tags, and meta description. But be careful not to overdo it!
Today more than ever, quality content is a really big deal. Using too many keywords, or repeating the same ones over and over because you're lazy, compromises the quality of your content and it can get you in trouble with search engines, too.
7. Use subheads
If your article is longer than 250-400 words, using subheads is a good idea. Subheads will entice your visitors to continue reading your article and easily find sections of most interest to them. Plus, subheads add more fuel for search engines, so use keywords to help craft your subheads.
(And don't forget to break up text into short paragraphs to make it more readable on a computer monitor.)
8. Make your content easily sharable
You've hit publish on a dazzlingly brilliant piece that's thoughtful, informative, and optimized for search engines. Yet, if your content isn't being shared, it's not nearly as effective.
Make sure your site includes social sharing buttons for all of the major social media channels. And if you're crafting a piece such as a press release, include links so people can easily access images and more information. Remember: We're busy. We're lazy. And we don't want to work for information. Give the people what they want!
9. Tell a story
No matter what topic you write about, the best copywriting technique always involves telling a good story. Nothing beats quality content that is written well and contains interesting and relevant information that's both helpful and entertaining.
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You can always go back and tweak your content to better optimize it for search results. If, at its core, your content isn't compelling and interesting, however, all of the optimization in the world won't help it get read, shared, and discussed.
See? You're feeling like an SEO genius already, aren't you? Writing for the web is different from the kind of writing you might be used to, but it's not all that tough once you get used to it. Now go forth and put these tips in action—and let me know how it goes.