The rush to make the most of search engine optimisation has led to a plethora of crummy websites, and a few good jokes.
Have you heard the one about the SEO expert who walks into the bar, public house, pubs, bars, public houses, Irish pub, liquor house, drinks, beer, ale, wine, wines………?
Stuffing your web copy with keywords might fool a search engine into ranking you highly (although Google has wised up and won’t rate you if you look like a keyword stuffing spammer), but it won’t make a reader stick around for long.
No one likes copy that doesn’t make sense. Writing becomes meaningless when it’s overloaded with phrases that add nothing to the flow of an argument, so squeezing in as many keywords as possible won’t win you any friends. The key to pleasing search engines and people is to create well targeted valuable content, written in a natural and engaging tone of voice.
1. Start with people, not Google
A keyword search can help you plan your article, but your first point of reference should always be your clients and customers, as your aim is to create content that’s genuinely useful to them. Google can help you do this, by showing you the terms that people are searching for in the wider world – throwing up some related search terms that you hadn’t thought of, maybe offering a sideways route into your subject that you didn’t initially think of – but it can’t replace the real people that you deal with, and that you build your business around.
2. Keep your article focused on the issue
You’ve defined the problem that your clients want help with, and you’ve checked with Google that there’s an interested wider market searching for material on your subject, so write that article succinctly. Both readers and SEO bots like content that sticks to the point. You don’t need to hammer home all the keyword search terms, but do use them as a framework for whatever it is you’re writing. Use your keyword research to keep you on a tight rein. Don’t wander off!
3. Be natural
Write as if you were talking to someone sitting next to you. When it comes to putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, write for a real person. Keep the real person in mind, not an SEO bot. Your SEO keyword research has framed your thinking and planning, but it shouldn’t influence the phrases you use, or the tone of voice you adopt. If you’re writing helpful content that answers a genuine need, it will please everyone.
4. Use your keyword in the title
Headlines need to grab attention, they have to cut through an awful lot of chatter on Twitter and all the other places you’ll be publicising your blog. Make it easy for people to find you by crafting the search term they’ll be using into your title. For example, if you were writing about the benefits of reclaimed flooring, say so upfront. SEO bots search for relevant titles, so your article will be found and ranked if it’s called – ‘How reclaimed flooring cuts renovation costs’ – but not if it’s called ‘Flooring it – a guide to cost cutting.’ If you keep the title short, you can give yourself room to add some funny/punny words around it to give it a lift on social networking sites, but make it easy for people to see exactly how relevant it is to their query by giving it a clear title upfront. Don’t be too clever.
5. Use keywords in sub headings
Web readers skim read, so guide them through your writing with sub headings to keep them on track, and show them what’s coming up next. Tying the headings to keywords helps Google see that your article is relevant, in the same way that it reassures readers that your article is targeting the promised issue.
6. Keep producing relevant helpful content
One well written, targeted and engaging article is great for customers and your website’s ranking. Ten is good, a hundred is even better. Adding more and more pages of genuinely useful content will make your site more attractive to your customers, and it will help your site get found by more people. The thing that will help search engines find you, and will make people like you, is quality content that serves a real purpose. Both Google, and your customer, want you to help them. At heart, it’s as simple as that.
As Adrian Knight of Digital Investments (resident SEO expert here at Spike Island) says:
“Google’s mission is to serve the highest quality and relevant material to its searches. Help them to do this by producing high quality, valuable content created with the user in mind, and you will do well.”