We work with some wonderful clients and we do our best to educate them within each area of the digital marketing process. This not only helps us throughout the process, but it also helps them understand the effort involved in SEO, building a website, or launching a PPC campaign.
Anyone that works in SEO knows it’s a process and a team effort. When we work with our clients, we not only help them develop the right SEO strategy to grow their brand, we also work towards building a long-lasting relationship with them by providing ongoing education on the SEO process. This helps them provide the high-quality content we ask for and allows us to focus on other parts of the overall strategy like implementing structured data, setting up Google Tag Manager and tracking goals, internal link audits, or working on tasks such as E-A-T audits.
Today’s post focuses on best practices for SEO friendly content. It will walk through the importance of creating SEO friendly content for humans and search engines, it will discuss the process of creating SEO focused content, and then it will wrap up with a checklist for on-page optimization efforts.
Education is Key
I had a client ask me to provide him with an “SEO Best Practice” list so he could share it with his team. He wanted something that gives them a general understanding of the SEO process and what to keep in mind when creating and publishing content. When a client wants to learn more about SEO, we jump at the chance to educate. Client education is key for long-term, sustainable SEO success.
There are a lot of parts to SEO and we do help our clients with all of the nuances that go into strategy, planning, and actual on-page optimization. That said, we can’t help the client be successful, without the client be an active participant in the process.
That is why education is a critical component of SEO success.
The more our clients know about SEO, the more they help work towards SEO best practices, and the smoother and more cohesive the entire SEO process becomes.
While this blog post doesn’t cover everything, it does focus on content creation and the proper SEO techniques to implement when creating and publishing content. And it’s a great overview to share with internal stakeholders.
SEO Friendly Content Starts With a Strong Process
Quality content doesn’t come easy and it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a competitive world out there, especially when it comes to search. In order to rank in search, you need to produce good quality content for your visitors. This takes time, a thorough plan, and a structured process.
Don’t just sit down and just start writing for the sake of publishing more content. That won’t do you or your visitors any good.
Use this getting started list below to help get your thoughts and ideas organized and start the process of putting a plan in place about the content you are creating. In the end, you will find it provides focus and hopefully makes the process a little easier.
1. Define the Problem
Figure out what problems your customers or patients might have and how can you solve them. Every Google search starts with a pain point, problem, or need for a solution. Your customers and patients have lots of pain points, problems, and questions. You just need to make sure your content answers these questions and solves their problems.
Google and Bing want to provide the best answer possible to the visits that search through their index. Your job is to help them do this and this is the heart of SEO.
Think about your customers’ problems and write for your visitors. Write about what matters to them, provide the important information they need, and help make their lives better.
2. Watch Duplicate Content
Now that you have an idea of what you want to write about, check your site and make sure there isn’t a blog post or page already written about the same topic. If there is, maybe you just need to update the piece of content by adding more information to the post or updating it so the content is current and fresh. Don’t create a new page or post about something you have already written about. It will confuse the search engines and could be considered duplicate content.
3. Consider Search Intent
When a user enters a search term into the search bar there is an objective or intent. That individual is looking to achieve something specific from the search. This is referred to as “search intent.” Identifying the user’s search intent is one of the first things to figure out from an SEO perspective and it is an important part of creating SEO friendly content. It sets the tone for the content you are creating and it also drives your keyword research.
There are four primary types of search intent you need to consider:
- Navigational – Navigational searches are performed with the intent of going directly to a specific website. These are searches for a company, website, or person. EX: Facebook, Oprah, The White House
- Commercial – Investigational searches are inquiries that lead up to a purchase and help a buyer find information. These could be consumer or business related. EX: Person Injury Lawyer, Yoga studios
- Informational – This is the largest category and typically represents people looking for quick answers like recipes, game times, weather, or even the cure to an illness. EX: Brownie Recipe, Chicago Weather, Rash on Head
- Transactional – These searches are largely for purchases or completing a specific task such as receiving a quote or signing up for a service. EX: Car Insurance Quotes, GQ Magazine Subscriptions
Once you narrow down intent, get your keywords together.
4. Perform Keyword Research
Take a look at your keyword mapping list (if you don’t have one you need one) and see what keywords fit the topic and search intent. If you don’t have any existing keywords on your list you can use, do some additional research to find keywords for your topic.
At emagine, we help our clients with this task. We use various tools like KWFinder, SEMrush, Answer the People, and Google Search Console to help our clients find the right keywords for their content.
I would suggest looking for the “low hanging fruit”, long-tail keywords or keywords with lower search volume. Long-tail keywords tend to be longer, lower search volume keywords that can be easier to rank for and are typically more specific to your target market. The added bonus is these phrases can mean a higher conversion rate.
Long-tail keywords can be more specific and in tune with your audience. There is no reason to produce a piece of content focused on keywords with a high search volume. These terms tend to be more general and they often bring in the wrong traffic. Narrow your funnel and target the right users.
Once you have your keywords make sure they are not being used on other pages and posts on within your site. If you fail to do so, keyword cannibalization could come into play and that creates issues for you, your visitors, and for search engines.
5. Create an Outline
Take a few minutes and identify what the purpose of the piece is and what you want to accomplish with the blog post, new page, etc. Create an outline that identifies:
- Your audience – Who are you targeting? What do you know about their challenges and what are their problems?
- Key takeaways – What do you want them to learn or what information do you want them to gather from this piece of content?
- Your theme or purpose of the page – Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines discuss the purpose of the page and correlate it to the overall quality of a page. The purpose of your page should be very clear to your visitors.
Now that you know the user’s search intent, you’ve verified the content doesn’t already exist on your site, and you have selected some keywords to focus on, you can start writing. There was a lot of prep work wasn’t there? SEO isn’t fast or easy, but it highly effective and worth the effort.
Once the piece is written, it’s time to review it, and optimize for SEO. The on-page SEO checklist below will ensure you have all your SEO bases covered for on-page optimization.
An On-Page Checklist for SEO
1. Length of Content
The search engines and users want good quality content that is accurate, useful, and meaningful. Your content should provide value to the user, provide an answer to their question, and should come from a trustworthy, authoritative source. Are you an expert in your field? Show it, provide as much detail and information as you can.
Good quality content tends to be longer. Long-form content pieces are usually 1,000 -2,000+ words and tend to rank better with search engines.
Longer content tends to perform better for keyword rank, off-site activity, and conversions. Let’s explore each one below.
A serpIQ survey showed:
- The average content length of each of the top 10 results was more than 2,000 words.
- The average number of words for the content in the #1 spot was 2,416.
- For the #10 spot, the average number of words was 2,032.
People tend to share longer content on social media more than shorter content. People also tend to link into longer content than they would a shorter article or post. Social shares and inbound links bring in referral traffic, brand awareness, and they boost SEO ranking because they are key off-site SEO factors for Google and Bing.
Website conversions can also be altered by content. The longer the content, the more likely the conversion. Why is this the case? Because you are demonstrating your expertise to your visitors, you are helping them solve their problems, and you are showing them you are the key to making their lives better.
2. Keywords, Variations, & Semantics
Review your planned content and make sure you have the keywords you focused on, as well as, variations of those keywords. This will help your content read more naturally and it will help search engines better understand the content itself.
Another thing to consider is semantic word usage. This sounds difficult, but it is not. Semantic language is simply a way of using associated words to help search engines better understand what you are writing about. Instead of using “it”, clearly describe what it is. This more descriptive language will help Google figure out if you are writing about a “hot dog” you eat or a “hot dog” that is outside in the sun. Words like “bun”, “ketchup”, or “calories” would help Google quickly know your content is about something you eat. Words like “temperature”, “fur”, or “heat exhaustion” would help Google understand the content is about Fido and his distaste for hot summer days.
3. URL Structure
The URL is the website address for the specific piece of content you are writing. The URL appears as part of the search results page below the page title. The right URL can help your SEO efforts, while the wrong URL usage can derail SEO and degrade your ability to rank in search.
The URL should:
- Include a focus keyword
- Be as short as possible
- Use dashes between words
- Avoid underscores
- Be easy to read
- Avoid symbols or unrecognizable characters
- Include content silos when applicable
- Be within a few clicks from the home page
4. Meta Title
The page title is the name you give the content piece. The meta title, however, is the title that shows up in search results. It may or may not equal the page title. This meta title is the blue link that shows up in the search results, so it tends to be very important to SEO.
Meta titles guidelines:
- They should be relevant to what the content discusses
- The title should be unique and does not duplicate another page/post title
- Should be short, easy to read and digest (keep symbols and all caps out of your title)
- Include the keyword phrase (don’t stuff it with keywords)
- They should be between 50-60 characters
5. Meta Description
The meta description is the 1-2 sentences below the URL in the search results. This is the first chance to explain to the user what the page is about and to entice them to click on the link.
Meta description guidelines:
- Summarize what the page/post is about in 1-2 sentences
- Should not duplicate any other pages/posts on the site
- Be easy to read
- Contain the focus keyword (don’t stuff)
- Under 155 characters
At emagine, we work with WordPress websites and recommend using the premium Yoast SEO plugin on our websites. Yoast allows you to set the page titles, meta descriptions, and assign keywords to the content. It can also help with semantic usage, keyword variations, and internal linking.
6. Header Usage
Search engines, screen readers, and humans all rely on headers and subheaders to guide them through content. When done correctly, headers help search engines “see” content like a human. It’s important that your content is organized and easy to read. Semantic HTML5 headers help you do this. Make sure your website or WordPress site is using semantic HTML5 headers and that you can set them as needed.
H1 Headers guidelines:
- There should only be one H1 header set per page
- It should be a basic description of the page, similar to the page title
- They should contain the focus keyword
- The H1 header should be positioned before other headers (H2, H3, H4, etc.)
H2-H6 Header guidelines:
- H2 – H6 headers should flow properly
- Headers should show hierarchy such as the image displays below
- Some subheaders should include keywords, where they fit naturally
- Avoid duplication of the H1 header within H2-H6 headers
- Include keyword variation or semantically related terms
7. Intro Paragraph
The Intro paragraph sets the stage for the rest of the piece. It gives the user an understanding of what to expect from the content on the page. It’s also important to search engines because it helps search engines understand the content and where this content should be applied in search.
Intro paragraph guidelines:
- Include the primary keyword phrase
- Make it at least 40-50 words
- Should be directly after the H1, if possible
8. Internal Links
An internal link is a link within your content that takes the user to another piece of content on the website. Internal links help navigate the user through your site and they help the search engines discover new or updated content.
Internal links also help search engines determine the most important content on the website. The more links that point to a URL, the more Google believes that URL is important.
Here is what Google says about links:
“Use links wisely. Write good link text. Link text is the visible text inside a link. This text tells users and Google something about the page you’re linking to. Links on your page may be internal—pointing to other pages on your site—or external—leading to content on other sites. In either of these cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you’re linking to is about.”
Internal link guidelines:
- Use keywords if they fit naturally
- Don’t use generic anchor text like “Learn More” “Click Here”
- Be descriptive with your anchor text so the user and the search engines understand what the page you are linking to is about
- Try to use short easy to read descriptions (a few words or short phrase)
- Don’t overuse links
- Minimize links in the first paragraph, so visitors and search engines time to properly crawl and digest the content
- Only provide internal links that provide value to the reader
Everyone loves images and they are great for SEO, sharing on social media, and usability. An image allows the visitor to connect to the piece in a more meaningful way. They can be very powerful so use images whenever possible, but not so much that it becomes distracting or impacts the user experience.
- Name your images properly by describing what the image actual is
- Include image alt text that also clearly describes the image (see Matt Cutts’ video below)
- Use keywords in the file name and image alt text if it fits in describing the image itself
- Don’t embed text in images as this is difficult for screen readers, Google, and mobile responsive rendering
- Optimize your image size so you use the highest resolution and size needed and no more
Last but not least – proofread, check for grammar, and validate your spelling is accurate. Look for long stretches of content and try to break it up, so this content is easier for people to read and digest. Bulleted lists are also advantageous for readability, as they help humans digest content and they provide HTML based structure for search engines.
Are You Producing SEO Friendly Content?
Now that you’ve gone through our list for writing SEO friendly content, I’d love you to take a moment and review your website. How does your content look in comparison to the list provided above?
If you follow the details listed above, your content piece will be well optimized for the human user and search engines. Use this as a guide and checklist every time you produce a piece of content.
At emagine, we have content templates that we use and share with our clients for creating content and tracking all the SEO elements discussed in this blog post. I would recommend putting together a content template for your team. This will provide them with a guide and create consistency within your content.
And if you’d like help along the way, we’d love to help with your search engine optimization efforts. We work with SEO clients across a variety of industries and from all over the world. We’d be happy to help you and your team as well!
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