William Shakespeare, Charlotte Brontë, Henry David Thoreau, and Stephen King never had to consider search engine optimization (SEO) when they wrote. Unfortunately, bloggers and other web content creators do. In part one of this two-part series, we looked at how to capture reader interest. In part two, we consider writing posts for effective SEO.
Search engines such as Google and Bing “search” online pages to determine which ones to include on search results pages – and in which order. By applying the principles of SEO, you can increase chances that your posts will be seen in search results.
To improve your website’s SEO:
Write quality posts.
Writing posts for effective SEO begins with engaging content. In judging web pages, search engines consider reader experience and backlinks, and top-notch web articles help with both.
1) Search engine algorithms detect if users don’t spend much time on your pages. Thus, if you don’t engage readers’ attention, they will quickly bounce off your site. Clear, useful content helps hold the audience.
2) Backlinks refer to links to your site from other websites. If you provide valuable information, you’re more likely to earn backlinks. This can include fresh data, original insights, helpful infographics, and easy-to-understand definitions.
Since SEO “tricks” can prove worthless without a quality post, don’t write for SEO. Instead, start with a well-written post that matters to readers, then massage it as needed to improve search engine ranking.
Determine your keyword(s).
A first draft of a post begins with a working title and a thesis, which highlight the purpose. That purpose points to the focus keyword or keywords – i.e., the search term that you want your page to rank for.
To determine your keywords, think like a digital marketer rather than a writer. The keywords should stay true to the article’s content, but they should also reflect what words people are most likely to type into a search box. You’re not going for flowery or poetic but for practical.
Keyword phrases – also known as key phrases or long-tail keywords – typically work better for search engine ranking. For one thing, large established websites will probably get top billing for single keywords like books, furniture, recipes, and masks. Second, qualified customers know what they’re looking for, as reflected in their search queries: young adult mystery books, teakwood patio furniture, pumpkin dessert recipes, and cloth coronavirus masks.
Let’s say a small local furniture store is marketing a line of retro, mid-century modern furniture and adding a blog post on barstools of the 1960s. A single keyword such as furniture would bury the post beneath multitudes of larger furniture store pages. Better would be a multi-word, long-tail keyword: retro barstools of the 1960s.
Apply the keyword(s).
The key phrase needs to appear several places in your post, including the back end.
- In the introduction (first paragraph)
- Within the content
- In the title
- In a subhead
- In the meta description
- In the URL
- In the image alt text
In the example above, retro barstools of the 1960s fits easily and naturally into a post.
- In the introduction: … Classic retro barstools of the 1960s have several elements in common.
- Within the content: … Retro barstools of the 1960s make you feel like you’ve traveled back to your childhood home.
- In the title: Update your kitchen with retro barstools of the 1960s
- In a subhead: Swiveling retro barstools of the 1960s
- In the meta description: Learning about retro barstools of the 1960s helps you appreciate this fun furniture that adds a colorful element to your kitchen.
But don’t overstuff your post with the keywords. Such repetition can harm both the composition and search engine optimization. Instead, substitute synonyms: mid-century modern, bar furniture, kitchen stools, etc.
Search engines judge pages favorably for having external and internal links.
External links direct readers to other websites (preferably those that are reputable). It can seem counterintuitive to send readers to other sites, but there are indeed advantages. As trained writers understand, such citations support your point and help establish your credibility. They also demonstrate that you care about providing rich information to readers.
As you gain experience writing, it becomes second nature to find reputable sources and save the URL so you can properly link and give credit.
Internal links direct the user to other pages on your site. Not only do these keep readers on your site, they also give search engines insight into your site’s structure.
As a writer, you add headers to establish the main points of your outline and break up the material for readers. As a digital marketer, you recognize that headers help search engines “skim” your post. To ensure the headers get proper SEO attention, be sure to use HTML header tags (H2, H3, etc.).
Writing for two audiences – human readers and digital search engines – makes blog writing challenging. You should be crafting engaging content and writing posts for effective SEO. But if you pull it off, you’ll have achieved a skill that Shakespeare never did. “To blog or not to blog … ?”