Ways to Write for the User While Writing for the Web
Search engine optimization (or, as it’s more commonly referred to, SEO), is important–we won’t argue with you about that. Improving your SEO makes it easier for you to get organic traffic over the long-term. The problem, however, is that too many SEO professionals aim for content that’s written for Google–and Google alone. This is a problem for two reasons:
- Robots might determine search rankings…but people are the ones reading the content that goes on those pages. If the content won’t keep people around, it doesn’t matter if you’re number one in Google for every relevant keyword.
- Not only do people read the content, but search engine algorithms take into account how many inbound links a page or post has (including those from social media) to determine search rankings. If your content reads like it was written by a robot, for a robot, it won’t be read or shared…which will make it harder to rank well in search engines.
By going overboard on SEO, you might wind up actually driving potential customers or clients away–the exact opposite of what your online marketing strategy should do.
The solution, like the problem, is twofold:
- Look at the ways you can optimize a page (or post) for search without affecting the on-page content.
- Learn how to write content that’s the right balance of optimized for search and readable by actual people.
The second solution just takes practice–there’s not exactly a hard and fast rule to it. One thing to remember is don’t overuse keywords, no matter how tempting. That’s known as “keyword stuffing” and will actually get you penalized by engines, as it’s a mark of spammy sites.
There are a few definite ways to optimize a page for search aside from the body text, though:
Use keyword-rich headers
Again, you have to keep your end audience in mind here. Headers serve a purpose of making it easy for readers to skim the page and find what they need, quickly. If your headers don’t do that, then they’re not helping readers–even if they do have keywords in them.
But you can do both. Let’s say I have a beard. Let’s say that, well, because I do. And let’s also say that I have a barbershop that specializes in beard maintenance (I don’t). For my company, I could use a header like, “We’re a barbershop that specializes in beard maintenance:” with information about the background of my team underneath it. When you write (or review) your own web page content, ask yourself if the headers are reader friendly and search engine friendly–and if they’re not one of those, try to rewrite them.
Use search-engine friendly page titles
Similarly to headers, you can use keywords in your page titles. Instead of naming a page of mine “services,” I could name it “beard services.” This can be a little tricky, because very long page titles typically don’t work well on a menu bar, but you can aim to work at least one keyword into each page title.
Have your keywords in your URLs
This is self-explanatory. Instead of having a page URL be “yourname.com/35908.php,” set the URL to be based on the post or page title, like “yourname.com/beard-specialists/.” If you use WordPress, this is very easy to do–which is one reason we recommend it!
Make (non-spammy) link-building a part of your SEO strategy
One of the factors that search engine algorithms take into account is incoming links. Linking to and from other pages on your website is a great way to do this, but if you really want to boost your SEO, you can aim to get links to your company pages (and posts) on other sites, too.
The spammy way to do this is to email writers or site-owners and ask them to link back to you for payment. That’s not recommended, though, because not only is it not incredibly effective, but if it’s caught, it’s penalized by search engine algorithms. The best way to do this is to create content that’s so good, others will want to link back to it–and then, of course, follow through by making sure the link gets out via social media and other channels.
You can also make guest posting/contributed articles a part of your SEO strategy, if you want to really go the extra mile. (Although, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t link back to your own content excessively when you’re writing a guest post for someone else’s site–it’s considered bad form.)
This is just one way that content marketing does double-duty. Not only will well-written and useful content keep people on your site and show your expertise to potential customers and clients, but it will also naturally get linked back to from other resources and shared on social media, which creates inbound links that boost your search rankings.
Don’t forget to optimize your images, too
Images, like text, can be optimized for search–with the added benefit that most of the image optimization isn’t going to interrupt your body text. Make sure that your keywords are in the file name of the image (i.e. “beard.jpg” or “beardtrim.jpg” instead of “IMG8309.jpg”) and are also in the title of the image (which is the text that follows ‘title=’ in the image HTML). Your keywords should also be in the alt-text for the image, which is usually used for a longer description of the image and shows up when readers hover over it, or shows up on accessibility-based web browsers for the vision-impaired.
There you have it–five ways you can make sure your pages are optimized for search, without affecting readability or annoying readers. And if your SEO strategy needs some work, give us a call or shoot us an email–we’re happy to help!