How To Write SEO Articles That Get You Noticed
You need SEO if you want to show up on search engines, improve your visibility, and reach your audience. SEO increases your traffic and gets your content and brand seen… but only if you know how to optimize properly. The rules of search engine optimization or “SEO” are constantly changing.
So how do you create articles that are optimized for Google and readers?
What Is SEO?
SEO is how you optimize your content to show up on search engines. It is the process of generating content that will organically appear in search results on a website, web page, or search engine.
But in order to show up in search results on Google or other platforms, you need to create content that is “readable” by Google’s algorithm. Basically, Google has a backend algorithm that can scan through all the content on the web and rank pieces accordingly. If you want this algorithm to rank your content, you need to include those variables that the technological “robots” are looking for.
Unfortunately, no one is 100% sure what these search “rules” are. Google and other platforms only give us bits and pieces of information about how their algorithms rank content. Search engines are constantly changing the rules and not telling anybody.
But that doesn’t mean SEO is a guessing game. It just means that there are a number of possible ways to optimize your content. In “Are Blogs Dead In 2018?” we discussed how the internet is a library of content—but the librarians are robots. This means you need to balance writing content that is interesting to your human reader, while also optimizing that content in a way that search engine “robots” can organize and rank your piece.
So how do you find this optimization balance?
In this article, we’ll focus on how to optimize your content in a way that will appeal to both readers and search robots.
(Note that there are other means of SEO on your blogs and website as well. For example, you can optimize other forms of content, like pictures and videos, to rank higher on Google. In this piece will only be focusing on the words on the page. If you want more information about overall optimization, check out Brian Dean’s SEO for 2018.)
1. Choose the right keyword.
SEO has become synonymous with “keywords.” Although SEO is much more comprehensive than just keywords, having the most relevant and competitive keyword is the foundation to successful optimization.
A “keyword” is the term that consumers would search in the search engine when looking for your content. What would people search to find your blog post or website?
You want to optimize for one or two main keywords per piece. If you have too many keywords, you likely won’t have the narrow “focus” needed for optimization. Concentrating on one or two keywords will help set the direction of your piece, which Google will reward fondly.
I use two avenues when looking for keywords: Google’s related searches and Keyword Planner.
Think of what you would look up if searching for a post about the topic. Search for that topic in Google. Scroll to the bottom of the search results to find a list of “related searches.” These are common terms searched in relation to the keyword you input into the search engine.
For example, if you are looking for information about content marketing, you might type in “content marketing” or “how to use content marketing.” After searching your initial “keyword,” scroll to the bottom of the search results. When you look at the related searches for content marketing, you come up with terms like content marketing examples; content marketing strategy; content marketing agency; and how to do content marketing.
This is a great starting point to find unique long-tail keywords.
When you have a few keywords in mind, go to Google Keyword Planner. This is free through Google AdWords with a registration. You can then search to find related keywords and measure the keywords’ search volume and competition.
Choose keywords that have high volume and low or medium competition. High volume means that a lot of people are searching it; for example, 1K-10K searches per month means thousands of people are looking up that topic. But high competition means a lot of other blogs and sites are optimizing for that word already, so you’ll have a harder time showing up on the first page of results.
For example, “content marketing strategy” has 1K-10K searches with medium competition. But “content strategy” has 10K-100K searches with low competition. In this way, you may want to choose the shorter “content strategy” with higher searches and lower competition than “content marketing strategy.” This doesn’t mean you can’t use the phrase “content marketing strategy” in your blog; it just means that won’t be your primary focus.
However, keywords aren’t all about traffic. If you have a specialized business or niche, your keywords may not product many search results. However, those few search results on your keyword are ultra-relevant and directly related to your product, reader, and audience. Oftentimes, the more specialized and unique the keyword, the more likely you will attract relevant readers.
2. Watch your competitors.
You should be spying on how your competitors are optimizing on Google as well. Go in private or incognito mode so your competitors can’t track your view data. Search the keywords that you are targeting. Look at the top 10 results. Those blogs have the strongest SEO are your “content competition.” These content competitors may or may not be the same as your direct product or service competitor.
Take a look at this content. Why is it optimizing? What keywords are they using? What do their headers look like?
Most importantly, take note of their weaknesses. How can you make that content better? Where are they lacking? Filling in the gaps creates additional value for your reader, which can push you ahead of your competition.
You should also look at the sponsored ads displayed at the top of the Google searches. If there are two, three, or four ads for that keyword, you are already up against significant competition. Those sites are paying to optimize for that keyword. This means that the best you could do would be ranking at #4 or #5. In most cases, it would make sense to choose a new keyword with less paid and organic competition.
Stay on top of your competition by creating Google alerts for your keywords. Google will send you daily or weekly alerts with top performing articles that are related to those keywords. This is a great way to keep an eye on your competitors, learn more about the industry, and get ideas for upcoming articles. You can also create an Ahrefs alert to keep an eye on specific keywords with specific competitors.
3. Use your keywords.
Based on keyword and competition research, you should have one or two keywords you want to target. You should include your keyword in the headline, the first 100 words (meta description), the last 100 words, and at least one header. This puts your keyword at “hot spots” on the page, which alerts Google’s algorithm to the main topic of your piece.
You should also put your primary keyword in the site’s URL tag. For example, in this article, we targeted the keyword “blog titles.” Here you can see “generate-blog-titles” is in our URL:
The site tag tells Google’s algorithm what the main point of your piece is.
4. Don’t keyword stuff.
Google’s algorithm has become highly aware of “keyword stuffing.” This is when an author uses their keyword too often in the piece in a way that it appears spammy. The old rule used to be “have an SEO density of 1-3%.” Now, though, Google will actually penalize you if you stuff too many keywords into the article.
Remember that SEO rewards value over keywords.
You can overcome keyword stuffing while still targeting keywords with “semantic keywords.” This is when you use synonymous keywords or phrases throughout your piece in a natural and readable way. For example, your primary keyword might be “how to use content marketing.” But you don’t want to use the phrase “how to use content marketing” every few sentences, because it will seem unnatural and forced. Instead, you could use semantic keywords like “examples of content marketing” or “content marketing plan.”
5. Incorporate backlinks.
Linking within your site and to external sources can help your readers find additional relevant information. Linking internally in your site creates a “content map,” which might attract Google’s algorithm to your content. The best way to create a content map is to link back to a few key pages or posts. These become “anchor” pieces that Google will flag as important.
This kind of content map will push readers into a traffic path on your site. In turn, this can build a sales funnel and encourage consistent conversion. Thus, you’ll usually want “anchor” pieces to be key site pages, like your “Contact Us” or “Services” page. They might also be popular blog posts with strong keywords and optimizations.
Linking out to external sites can help give you authority and credibility with Google and with your reader. Links to data and research can help prove your point, while linking to opinion pieces can prove your blog is relevant to the industry conversation.
Google will also reward your content if you have inbound links from external sources. For example, if Forbes links to your blog, Google sees your content as valuable and credible. Thus, you’ll want to consider reaching out to other relevant bloggers and websites to pitch your blog for a link on their sites.
For example, if you wrote an article about “how to use dogs in your content marketing,” you could reach out to a content marketing coach who has a fun and goofy personality and may want to include a link to your unique dog-related tips.
6. Have a strong headline.
Google rewards “interesting” titles. Your headline should have keywords and emotional phrases in order to optimize on search algorithms.
Moreover, Google’s algorithm watches to see how many people are clicking through and reading your piece. If your header isn’t interesting or intriguing, customers won’t click through to your content. If customers are constantly scrolling past your piece, Google will ding you. A strong header ensures a strong click-through rate, which in turn builds optimization on search engines.
7. Have a strong introduction.
Now you have a great headline. But if you don’t also have a strong introduction, that click through rate will mean nothing. If your introduction is boring or poorly written, people will instantly click away. This creates a high bounce rate that will significantly harm your SEO. You want an engaging intro that will pull people into the piece and encourage them to read on. The longer they stay on your page, the lower your bounce rate, and the higher your SEO.
Introductions should be short and concise. You should present the key topics and takeaways so they know what the post is about. You can also intrigue them with a quote, statistic, or question. Learn more about creating a strong introduction here.
8. Use the right length.
Your blog post should be the appropriate length in order to provide the highest amount of value for your reader. Google will optimize for lengthy articles that offer a comprehensive view of a given topic.
For example, this piece you’re reading right now is on the lengthier side as a way to bring you through the intricacies of content SEO firsthand. Google will likely optimize this piece not necessarily based on word count but on the amount of value found within the words. In this way, greater length is often considered better because it provides more room for value.
However, “clips” of content are also optimizing. Google is ranking “instant answers” very high. For example, if you search “George Clooney’s age,” Google will pull that information from a site and put it at the top of the page. Even if you search, “how to grow basil,” you’ll see an abbreviated “instant answer” at the top of Google. Providing quick and concise value is a great way to optimize for Google’s fast and furious answers.
9. Make your content shareable.
Search algorithms seem to be putting more and more emphasis on social endorsement. Google sees comments and shares as a sort of “proof of value.” In addition, more shares mean more readers and a broader reach.
You want people to share your posts, so you want to make your content easily shareable. Put your blogs on social media with an accessible share button. Maintain a robust and active social media presence. Include social media links throughout your website. Most importantly, include a call to action at the end of your piece that encourages sharing. Click here to find out how to create a call to action that will boost your optimization ranking.
10. Create strong content.
Above all else, Google rewards value. If you provide high levels of value, you will attract readers, have a low bounce rate, increase conversion, promote social shares and comments, and more. Google’s algorithm is smart enough to track metrics of engagement with your piece. If your reader enjoys reading your piece, Google will rank it higher.
Great content optimizes. It’s really as simple as that. So create content that your readers really want to read about.
Strong content should:
Answer the question that your headline posts.
Be relevant to the target audience.
Be easy to read, understand, and digest.
Be the right length.
Be well-written and appropriately structured.
Run an audit of your blog or website. What pages are optimizing on Google? Which aren’t? Why not?
Go through one of your blog posts to get the hang of this content SEO. Find a poor performing post that isn’t optimizing on Google. Rewrite the piece following the above steps for keywords, competitors, and value. In two months’ time, reevaluate optimization. How has your ranking on Google changed?
Are you a marketer looking to create optimized content that will enhance the reach of your business? Contact Palm Beach Content Co. now for a consultative content strategy that will get you optimizing and growing in weeks!