Anyone who has even dipped their toes into the waters of internet marketing has come across the term SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Books have been written on the subject and there are countless web pages touting a wide range of theories about SEO. If you have a website, you want to write SEO-friendly articles that Google will love.
It’s easy to say, but how do you actually do it? What does an SEO-friendly article look like these days?
There are a lot of self-proclaimed marketing “experts” that are stuck in the past when it comes to the best strategies for putting an article at the top of Google search results. Chasing after outdated, or overly complicated SEO practices, leads to a lot of low-quality content and a lot of wasted time.
If you want to know the secret to writing great SEO-friendly content, then here it is: there’s no secret at all. This will be a fairly short article, because it’s not a complicated subject. So, let’s get to it.
Focus on Value
Do you ever wonder what Google is looking for? What is the business goal of the world’s most popular search engine? To understand how to write SEO-friendly content, you need to know what the search engine is actually looking for. Makes sense, right?
The answer to these questions straightforward. Google wants to give its users links to the highest quality and most relevant web content that it can find. That’s it! That’s the whole purpose for their existence.
It stands to reason that anything you can do to signal to Google that your content is both high quality and relevant will boost your SEO. How do you send those signals, though?
One thing you can do is to include outbound links in your articles, making sure they are to useful resources that are relevant to the content of your site. This shows Google that you’re interested in providing as much information as possible to your readers. It also connects you with other high-quality sites. Linking to outside authority sites provides references to back up your own content.
Now, some folks who think they can devise a magic SEO formula might tell you that every article MUST have at least two outbound links. That’s the correct formula. Period. They may have convinced themselves, but don’t let them convince you so easily. You see, statements like that miss the point entirely.
Outbound links aren’t included to meet the criteria of some arbitrary formula. Following such predictable patterns looks like an attempt to manipulate the search engine results and takes away from the natural flow of your content. When you have a relevant useful link to offer your readers, use it. If you don’t have one, that’s fine, too.
In general, it seems that Google likes longer content, though opinions vary on how long is long enough. Again, an exact number isn’t really the point. Write detailed, authoritative articles and they will, naturally, tend to be longer.
Each article you write should be as long as it takes to provide value to your reader. No more, no less. You should include as many outbound links as necessary to provide value to your reader (without overdoing it, of course). Everything about your article should be geared toward providing value to your reader. Focus on delivering value, not on following a formula.
But What About Keywords?
I can hear this question now? Perhaps you’ve read one, or more, keyword “gurus” telling you how many times you should repeat your keywords and where, precisely, they need to be placed. Yes, that’s right. These masters of SEO are offering yet another formula.
Some content marketers and, unfortunately, even some SEO companies still cling to the idea that a good SEO article repeats the same keywords over and over. Despite their intentions, this method is detrimental to the reading experience. It may even get your article (or site) “downgraded” by Google. This sort of thing looks like spam, not quality content written for human readers.
It is better to use keywords sparingly. Some would like to attach a specific percentage to that, but I don’t think that’s necessary. It is beneficial to target keywords. That, I agree with, but keywords need fit your content naturally. Always remember, you are writing for real people, not for search engine crawlers.
One of the perks of writing longer content is that your articles will, naturally, include other keywords that you weren’t specifically targeting. You may even rank with Google for one, or more, of those unintentional keywords. Over time, you most probably will.
Keep in mind that synonyms and related terms are also important. If you simply try to write around your topic, those related terms are going to show up in your content without any extra effort.
Make It Readable
The last thing I want to address is readability. I will repeat, you need to be writing content that appeals to human readers. Any attention you get from the search engines will be a direct result of the value you are giving your readers.
Of course, you want your content to be compelling, but readability also involves the look of the article. You want your articles to be physically easy to read. If everything is jumbled up, or your audience has to squint to read the words, they aren’t likely to stick around.
Allow ample space in your content. Be sure to use headings for each section of your article. Make sure your font is large enough to read with ease. Follow a user-friendly narrative structure when writing your articles. Graphics can add a nice visual touch, but don’t overdo it. Not only can it make your article look cluttered, it can also slow down your page.
All of these layout elements will lend to the value of your content. Readability will keep people on your pages longer and that signals to Google that your site has value and authority.
SEO is not rocket science. Complex attempts to decipher Google’s algorithms are no substitute for providing high quality content to your readers. In fact, with each new change to their algorithm, Google gets better and better at detecting valuable, relevant content.
So, the secret is – there is no secret. SEO is, first and foremost, about producing quality content that delivers value to readers.
For more on crafting effective articles, check out our Tips for Writing Blog Posts.