Anyone writing for a living today should know the basics of search engine optimization (SEO).
Increasing your search engine ranking is a labyrinth contingent upon a multitude of fickle factors, but writing great content still plays an important role.
Incorporating basic principles of SEO into your writing is not difficult, but it does require practice and preparation. Here are seven tips for SEO-friendly writing:
- Find your keywords.
Once you’ve settled on a topic, use a site such as Google Trends or Buzzsumo to research what specifically people are searching for related to that topic. Make a list of consistently popular words and phrases you can target.
To save time down the road, compile relevant topic-keyword lists to pull from in the future.
- Use your keywords.
As you write your content, make sure your keywords appear regularly—but not too frequently. Google frowns on keyword stuffing and could rank your website lower if you jam in keywords all over the place.
Using keywords in headlines, in subheads and in the opening sentences of paragraphs can bump you up Google’s rankings.
- Use your own words, too.
Google tweaks its website ranking algorithm frequently, but one constant is the need to write content with human beings in mind. SEO is not all about pleasing mysterious Google robots.
Writing high-quality content that people link to, engage with and share will boost your SEO.
- Length matters.
Bite-size content is easy to read, but search engines such as blogs and articles with substance. Long-form articles tend to garner more shares and engagement, but longer isn’t always better.
For blogs, between 300 and 600 words is a happy medium. That gives you plenty of scope to include robust detail (and keywords) without giving turning off visitors seeking a quick read.
- Use an optimizing tool.
If you’re publishing on a platform like WordPress, there are free plug-ins that will get you SEO-friendly in no time. Tools like Yoast are easy to use and give you real-time analysis on your content, images and meta descriptions.
- Take a last look.
This isn’t just an SEO tip; it’s one of the most fundamental principles of all writing: When you think your article is complete, read through it again—and then again.
You will always find things to improve, for SEO purposes and for the benefit of your readers. Never settle for the first draft.
- Give it a push.
Once your optimized content has been published, share it on social media. If your content is evergreen and timeless, you can continue sharing it—thereby continuing to reap SEO benefits—for years to come.
Owen Cullen is managing director of Dublin-based Cullen Communications. A version of this post appeared on Cullen Communications’ blog.