Weekly SEO: How to write better blog content
Although SEO is vital to your online success, ranking near the top of Google isn’t worth much if your potential customers don’t like what they see when they land on your site. Today, we’re going to talk about site content – how it can not only improve your search rankings, but also keep customers on your site longer. We’ll also discuss some writing tips to avoid common mistakes that may make your site – and by extension, your business – seem amateurish or untrustworthy. Let’s dive in!
Why “content is king”.
If you’ve done any research into SEO, you’ve probably heard the term ‘content is king’, over and over and over again. It’s a phrase that appears on every SEO blog and in every online SEO course, so much so that’s almost exhausting. There’s a very good reason for this: content really IS king.
To understand why, let’s take a step back and look at what a website really is. At their core, websites are the same as they were 20 years ago – a group of documents, delivered over the internet, and tied together by hyperlinks. Websites today have a lot more window dressing, but at their most basic, they’re still largely text. Google, and all other search engines, primarily use your site’s written content to determine how you’ll rank in their results lists. Now, they take into account a lot of other factors – coding practices, page speed, and plenty more – but Google itself has said that content is far and away the most important factor.
So, writing content helps to push you up the search rankings. Why else is great content so important? Well, no matter how highly you rank in the search results, you still need your potential customers to stay on your site. Not everyone knows how to write well, but almost anyone can tell if your content is well-written. Poorly written content is a sure-fire way to lower engagement and make yourself or your business look small. Big companies are unlikely to make grammatical or logical mistakes in their site content. They take the time and effort (and have the resources) to ensure all their content is top-notch and targeting to their consumers. While you may not have the luxury of a full writing staff, you can take steps to ensure your content is compelling and effective.
It’s a balancing act.
Writing SEO friendly content is all about striking a balance. SEO optimized content can start to sound awkward and robotic. That’s because optimizing content for SEO isn’t the same as optimizing it for your readers. It can be tricky to include the keywords you want to target in your copy without sounding forced. In addition, readability is a big factor for SEO. If you write at too high an academic level (at least according to the SEO algorithms), your content will be flagged as difficult to read, and provide less SEO value.
Nobody knows exactly how the SEO algorithms work, so it’s hard to say exactly what gets you penalized, but many industry experts believe that keyword and link stuffing (that is, placing far too many instances of the same keyword or key phrase, or adding far more links than is necessary) are two areas where Google is likely to ding you. So, how do you optimize your posts without over-optimizing them? The rule of thumb is very simple: write for people first, and robots later.
When you’re writing your content, identify topics you want to focus on for your business, then write the most useful, engaging content you can. Once you’ve drafted, read, re-read, and re-drafted the content into something you’re proud of, look at ways to optimize it. Play with your phrasing, and see if you can naturally slot in your desired keywords. Use a tool like Yoast’s real time content analyzer to see where your SEO is weak, and if it doesn’t diminish the impact of your writing, make changes where appropriate. That’s how you write better blog content.
A few more tips…
So, those are some of the basics of content writing. Write for people, not computers, write high-value content, and write a lot of it. ‘But wait’, you may be saying, ‘I’m just not a good writer!’ We get it. Writing is difficult and highly time-consuming. For some people, it’s worth considering hiring a copywriter. Others may just need some tips and tricks to bump their writing up to the next level. Here’s a few common mistakes we see, and how to fix them:
1. Use the right word!
This is probably the most common mistake people make when they write content. The english language is… enigmatic, to say the least. Many words are spelled or pronounced almost exactly the same, but they mean totally different things. Some of these mistakes are absolutely glaring to the more grammar-conscious among us (“your” does not equal “you’re”! Three times out of four, it’s “its”, not “it’s”!) Other mistakes are more subtle, or sound like they ought to be right. For instance, many people write “could of” to mean “could have”. I blame the contracted form, “could’ve” for this. “Could of” is a meaningless statement. Break it down into its individual words, and it just doesn’t make sense. But it sounds right. It even kind of looks right. Fortunately, tons of resources exist that explain common mistakes and show the proper way to use these words and phrases.
2. Read it out loud.
In the internet age, we spend a lot of time communicating through text, whether it’s messages on your phone, social media posts, or emails, we do so much writing that it’s easy to get lazy. Texts to friends don’t need to be that clear; you already have a level of communication and understanding with them that means your garbled texts stuffed with emojis make sense to them. When you set out to write professional content, though, you need to be more aware of your written voice, cadence, and rhythm. How the heck do I do that, you may be asking? It’s simple: just read what you write out loud. Listen for awkward combinations of words, or sentences that sound wildly out-of-place. Pretend it’s a speech you have to give to some business clients. Does it sound natural, fluid, and logical? Are there any sentences you can’t finish without running out of breath? Make sure you stay on message the whole time, and add pauses in the form of commas, periods, semi-colons, or dashes to break up long sentences. Almost all good writing will sound natural and fluid if read aloud. It’s one of the easiest self-editing tools you can use.
3. Pretend you’re at work.
For most people, when they head home after work, they cut loose a little. You probably don’t speak the same way to your colleagues or to your boss as you do to your friends and loved ones. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with casual communication, but there’s a time and place to be professional. When you write for a website, punctuate properly. Use the sort of language you would when speaking to customers, because that’s exactly what you’re doing! That doesn’t mean stiff, clinical language. Just remember that your writing is a reflection of you and your business. If you wouldn’t say “LOL” to a client, don’t write that way in your site content!
Hopefully that gives you some things to think about the next time you need to write some content for your website. Remember, writing isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Take the time to proofread and edit, and get plenty of practice. You’ll see the results, both in your writing skill and in your business.