SEO Guidelines for Content Writers
Many of the businesses that have hired me for SEO want to write the website content and/or blog themselves or hire professional writers. Some entrepreneurs are very confident in their writing abilities or love the writing style of the professional writer that they hire. I actually really enjoy working with writers because they are usually so open to new ideas and topics and this makes the creative aspect of content marketing quite fun.
However, some writers are extremely sensitive about their writing and do NOT want me to edit their content even though the editing I do is … optimization. For these writers, I’ve created this set of guidelines to help them write for SEO.
Top 10 Steps to Write for SEO
- Write to your target audience in their language. For those businesses that have multiple target audiences try to create a title &/or sub-title that will attract their attention. ex: this post is written for writers.
- Before beginning to write identify a list of keyword/phrases for the specific topic and identify the overall keyword/phrase for the particular web page or blog post that you are writing.
- The title/heading must be unique on your website. Never have 2 or more web pages or blog posts with the same title. The titles for web pages should be very direct and the titles for blog posts more catchy. Try really hard to include your primary keyword in the title. And make sure the Heading-1 <h1> tag is selected for the title.
- Create at least 1 sub-title for the web page or blog post. The sub-title should be the Heading-2 or <h2> tag. The subtitle does not need to be unique for the website, hence you can re-use sub-titles. If you have multiple sub-titles, try to use your primary keyword/phrase in at least one of the sub-titles.
- Don’t make really long paragraphs. This is less for SEO and more for your readers. Readers will be on different devices and have different font settings – so in general, a 1-3 sentence paragraph is more than adequate for internet reading.
- Short active sentences are easier to read and provide clarity. Avoid writing in the passive tense if possible.
- Try to write a minimum of 300 words for the page or post.
- Excerpts for a blog (or to use on social media) – If you have a catchy headline you still need a good lead into your blog post. An excerpt shouldn’t just be the first few sentences of the post, but should be an enticing line to get your readers to click on the post and read it. You can also use these excerpts on your social media with a link to your blog post.
- Plus … make sure the content is relevant! more on relevance following.
- There are many more tips and tricks for SEO writing but this should give you an excellent start!
SEO and “Relevance”
I always talk about “relevance” to writers and they don’t always understand the concept because … of course what they are writing is relevant. My background is in IT (Information Technology), software development, and databases, and “relevance” has a different meaning to me, as it does to Google and other search engines (which are essentially giant databases). Databases are populated for search engines with relevant data, if your web page or blog post is indexed by the search engines they have to determine the indexes, the keywords, the relevance.
“Relevance” is less about how many times you use a keyword/phrase on a web page or blog post but it is more about the flow of relevant information. Today’s search engine algorithms are much smarter than simply counting how many times a word was used. A good rule of them should be a middle school essay layout – the introduction sentences should be the most relevant with the body supporting the topic. And a summary or conclusion should preface the final call-to-action.
In other words, the search engines put more value on the content on the top of the page than the bottom of the page. And internet readers have very, very short attention spans so get to the point quickly!
One of the areas that I see this problem over and over again is on ABOUT web pages. People tend to write chronologically, which is fine if you lead with a relevant opening statement and then follow up with a “more about…” sub-title and a chronological list or story.
Another tip on “relevance” is that If you are writing about a complex topic (or an instructional topic) it is better to have supporting web pages or blog posts to expand upon deeper topics. The last thing you want to do is cover so many topics that the search engines have a hard time figuring out the essence of the current page or post.
A WordPress Tip
If you have WordPress you might have the Yoast SEO plugin installed. Many find the challenge of changing the grey, red, and orange lights to green challenging, exciting, and sometimes frustrating. If you follow the steps above for writers you will get the green! Essentially if you write 300+ words and select the most relevant keyword you will get the green. Good luck and don’t worry if you don’t get green/green for your writing and SEO.