How to write an SEO friendly blogs
Social media may be the darling of the marketing world, allowing creatives to put together engaging images, videos and audio, but Google search is still the best way to find engaged, motivated and interested consumers. Google can’t understand video, so an SEO friendly blog is still by far the best content marketing strategy for organic search.
So, how do you write content that Google can read and will like? Well, first and foremost, Google wants you to write for people not for machines, so your audience has to be the clear focus f your writing, and Google is constantly developing it’s algorithm to reflect customer engagement, relevance and enjoyment in assessing sites.
There are two key aspects.
Technical factors for SEO friendly blogs.
Make sure your site is set up properly and offers an effective user experience. It must be easy to navigate, respond quickly and doesn’t block user access to data. Google is increasingly using engagement stats like bounce rate, pages per visit, average session time etc as a proxy for user experience and these can be affected by how fast your site is, your organisational and linking strategies and the level of pop-ups you use etc.
This is an evolving subject and I have written a more detailed article here about Technical aspects of blogging.
Creative factors that improve on-page SEO.
If your site is set up correctly to provide a strong customer experience, you need to populate your site with relevant, engaging and entertaining content, that will attract and retain the attention of the reader, and hopefully drive them to explore and return to your site, building a long term relationship with you and your service offering.
Google’s objective is to give the searcher the best possible answer to the questions they ask, not to help advertisers find the right customers. The onus is on the site owner to make sure that they meet the needs of the searcher, hence having content relevant to the search is essential.
That means making sure you answer their questions, use their language and avoid terms which mean something to you and nothing to them! Potential customers no longer need to spend time working out whether a site or page is relevant to them, they expect Google to have done that for them, so you need to make it very clear to Google what your page is about and how to find more relevant content on your site. That means:
- Make sure you understand the questions potential clients might be asking that you are the answer to. Remember, people search with questions, not with answers, so you need to write in the same way.
- Use language that means something to your reader, not just to you.
- If your content answers more than one question, maybe split the page into separate articles, each answering one of the questions.
Researching the right content is essential, so if you want to know more, read this next.
SEO Friendly blogs are Entertaining and engaging
Google needs to be able to read your content and understand it, and there are certain things you need to do to help this which we will cover below
However, the most important reader is human, and your content has to be written with them in mind before anything else. You want to build a relationship with a human, not a machine, so make sure you communicate with them in a way that reflects how you want to appeal and appear to them.
Answer the right question.
This is particularly true in service businesses, where developing a sense of authority and demonstrating competence help to overcome buyer objections and simplify the buying process.
Help the reader quickly see how relevant the content is.
The days of padding articles with loads of keywords are long gone. Articles need to be written in clear language, and quickly demonstrate how the content is relevant to them. Most readers don’t “read” articles at first, they skim, so consider using images, intros and headings which help quickly demonstrate how relevant the content is.
Make the content engaging.
If it’s not informative, entertaining or well structured, people will switch off, so it’s worth investigating creative writing techniques, particularly storytelling to help you understand how people absorb information and how this can help you write better. An SEO friendly blog is a reader friendly blog!!
Want to know more?
This follows on from the relevancy points made above. Your article should focus on one concept, issue or insight, and not cover too much irrelevant content. If you find that you need to explain something in more detail, or there are related subjects, these should form the basis for other articles that link to the article you are writing.
This serves multiple purposes, letting your reader focus on the specific subject at hand, but also helping them to understand where they can go to find related content. This helps them and you, as Google is increasing looking at stats like
Average pages per visit and session times as metrics which affect your site score.
SEO friendly blogs – How to write content that readers will like and Google will rank.
Don’t get in your own way!
The biggest failure for writers is not writing anything, so don’t let doubts and uncertainty stop you from getting written content up on your site. It doesn’t matter if other people have written similar articles, or if you don’t think your writing is up to scratch, No one is perfect, so just learn as you go.
Know your audience
Effective writing starts with a clear understanding of what the reader is looking for, so spend time researching what questions they ask, what words they use and the sort of content they are interested in to understand this better before your start. Google is very good at providing clues to what to look for offering tips on keywords and questions asked and the searcher’s intent.
Ultimately you are seeking to build a relationship so your level of interest and enthusiasm will affect how engaging the reader finds you, so write about subjects which interest and excite you. Over time you’ll cover other subjects, but it’s perfectly Ok to focus on your favourite subject first!
Pick a specific keyword phrase
If you are in business for a while you understand what your customer issues are, how they talk and what they ask you, so remember that, when they search, they are likely to use the same terms. They are searching for answers, so this is what Google is trying to deliver, and you need to write if you want to be found.
Google is actually very good at providing hints on this, so spend some time researching the topic and make sure you understand which phrases come up most often.
Avoid the temptation to cover too many things in one article, as this both confuses readers who are only looking for a specific answer and reduces your opportunity to write other articles.
Have a clear idea of your specific keyphrase or word and make sure you use it in the right places.
Focus on the long tail
Long tail keywords are more detailed phrases that indicate a searcher has a specific target in mind, and has focussed theri search specifically to find it. This indicates they are more motivated and more likely to convert than people using simple words with multiple meanings.
For example, someone searching for “chair” could be looking for furniture, a role in a company, a university place or somewhere to sit down, whereas someone looking for “blue, fabric dining room chair” has a very specific product in mind!
Structure your article properly
Make sure that the article’s structure means the expectation of the search and title. If it’s supposed to be a list, make sure it’s a list, if you’ve said it’s a “how-to”, make sure it tells the reader what to do etc.
Satisfaction is the difference between expectation and reality so make sure you manage and meet those expectations.
If you are trying to communicate a more detailed concept, then storytelling is a very effective technique which uses 10,000 years of oral storytelling traditional to help communicate in a way our brains are trained to understand. Hubspot have a great article on Storytelling.
If you are offering a solution, make sure it is actionable
There is nothing worse than thinking you’re going to find the solution to your bad back or marketing problem only to find an article which offers no advice or actionable solutions, and this will put your reader offer and ensure that never read you again.
It also means you should be thinning “where next?” when writing your article and make sure there is a clear customer journey for them to follow, whether it’s to more information, a definition of your product or service or a way to purchase, as long as it’s relevant to the article and where the potential customer is in their journey.
Write a relevant introduction
Your introduction is key for several reasons. It helps readers understand quickly what the article is about and Google’s bots also focus on this section so it’s important to get your Keyword/phrase in early.
Use headers effectively
Headers serve two purposes. Firstly they let the reader understand quickly what the article is about and whether it’s relevant to them ( a table of contents for long articles can also help here)
Secondly, it’s the first place that Google looks to understand what your content is about. It is therefore essential that your Title and Main subheadings contain your keyword or phrase.
And I do mean headers, not titles. HTML uses a formatting concept called “headers” to define the formatting for titles, subheadings, sub-subheadings etc. and Google specifically looks for these tags in the HTML code to understand your article.
So, your bold and underlined titles may look bice, but if they are not properly tagged as H1, H2, H3…. headers, Google won’t realise they are important, which will affect your ranking.
Write content of the relevant length
Tl:DR is a common phrase now, indicating that the reader couldn’t be bothered to read the article in detail, mostly because we are more time poor and readers are more discerning.
Partly this is caused by articles having no obvious structure or too much text but often they are just too long! It’s probably the question I get asked the most, how long should an article be? However, there is no hard and fast rule, it really does depend on the topic.
I recently read two interesting articles on the topic which looked at which pages get the highest ranking on Google. One article concluded that the optimum length was 5,700 words, the other concluded it was between 1,250 and 1,750 words.
Why the difference?? Well basically it comes down to the topic. One article looked at Marketing content the other at sporting content, and the main conclusion is that the length varies depending on what you are writing about. Padding will kill your article, so write as much as you feel you should to cover the subject without being flabby, boring or repetitive.
There is a bottom end however, and that’s technical. One of the things Google ( and I think FB/Instagram) looks at is the ratio between code and content. Your page has loads of HTML in it which tells the browser how to present the content. Lots of code and no content suggests a page with little informational value and can be negatively affected from a SEO perspective, so try to aim for a minimum of 4-600 word for an article.
Write for your audience.
Unless you are using blogging as a catharsis, it’s likely that you want to attract people to your site using your content, hence it needs to appeal to them and be relevant. Use words they use and make sure you are writing from the problems perspective. People with bad backs don’t care how pain killers work, they just want to know that they get rid of pain, so make sure you show how the reader will benefit.
Use images and videos when relevant
Images help communicate ideas more effectively than words, and help break down the text, hence improve the readability of the article. However, they need to be relevant and appropriate. Writing a short article and dumping loads of images in will not help the readability of the article, it’ll make it worse!
Also, check with Google and see whether image content is relevant and interesting. Search for your key phrase, and, if Images results are above the Search results, consider add more images, a pinterest page or a gallery for your chosen subject.
Don’t forget Alt-text!
A simple one, but Alt-text (a written description of an image that helps blind people understand the web) is a great place to add keywords and can help you appear on image searches.
Craft a powerful, eye-catching but relevant Title
Whilst it won’t guarantee a high ranking, your title will have a massive impact on your click through rates so it is essential that it communicates the subject and clearly demonstrates what the reader should expect.
There are lots of formulas that talk about power words, including numbers etc, and they can be effective, but ensuring the title adequately reflects the content is arguably more important especially as engagement and satisfaction stats become a greater part of the ranking algorithm.
Make sure your metadata is correct
From an SEO perspective, this means making sure your URL, Title and Description clearly communicate what the article is about and contain the keyword you want to rank for. Length is key here, you only have around 75 characters for your title and 160 words for the description so be concise!
Use Links effectively
Links are the lifeblood of the internet and Google expects to find and use them. These come in two flavours, Internal and external.
You should be including links to other resources on your site as it helps people find more relevant information, keeps them on the site and increases potential for engagement. Make sure they open in new tabs, and that the text of the link tells you what the link leads to.
Google also wants to see links to other sites, and you can use this to support related businesses or add credibility to your own information. Again, set these to open in another tab and make sure they are a mix of follow and no-follow links.
Organise your content properly using Categories
Organising content on your website makes it easy to find relevant content and increases the chances that your readers will stay longer and read more. Creating detailed hierarchy of evolving content is tough, and runs the risk of broken links, so consider using categories ( one per article) to keep track of your content.
Help readers find new content through related posts
Related post plugins let you present 3-5 articles that have similar ideas or content. This is particularly easy if you have added a category to each article, as this can be used as a search term on the plugin.
Promote your content
We all want our content to be found organically, but it’s always worth giving it an extra push! This can be as simple as posting on a relevant social media channel, adding a comment to a forum or answering related questions on site like Quora.