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Writing Content for Search Engines (Part 1)

Writing Content for Search Engines (Part 1)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is as important today as ever. Perhaps even more so when writing your website content. Best practices haven't changed that much, but content marketing has changed dramatically.

Today, though, link building via content is a tactic for most SEOs and understanding the relationship between content and linking and how content can impact your search presence, are the first steps in incorporating SEO best practices into your content marketing.

Five Tips for good content marketing SEO

1.   Choose the right keywords

Once upon a time, choosing a single keyword and shoehorning it into a single page multiple times was an acceptable optimisation strategy (so long as you didn’t ask Google, anyway). Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that things have changed.

Attaching a single keyword to a single page does not work, primarily because search engines don’t assign a single keyword to a single page – and they haven’t for a long time. Ever since search engines introduced latent semantic indexing – a process which assesses the frequency of a term and its relation to other words on the page – they’ve been pretty smart about establishing the overriding themes of a page, and consequently, the keywords for which a page should rank.

This means that in a page about Corvettes, search engines might also expect to see words like “Chevrolet”, “General Motors”, “convertible” and “Sting Ray”. It also enables search engines to distinguish between distinct topics with the same name (i.e. “apple” a fruit, and “Apple” the technology company). The concept is much simpler than its name implies.

Consequently, when performing keyword research (for content marketing purposes), you shouldn’t be looking to pinpoint just one or two top-tier phrases – you should try to identify a wealth of terms and phrases that relate to the key theme or themes of your content.

You might argue that this will come naturally when writing the content and, to an extent, you’d be right. However, you can (and probably will) uncover phrases and terms you would never have thought to include by taking the time to research what people are searching for and what phrases competing pages are using. This can make an enormous difference to the relevancy of the finished product and the search visibility it enjoys.

As with all keyword research, Google’s Keyword Planner is a pretty solid place to start. However, tools like KeywordDiscovery.com (paid), Answer The Public (free), and SEO Compare (also free) can help to guide your content by providing further, invaluable insights into search behavior.


2.   Go mobile

In April last year, Google began to roll out its mobile-friendly update. This update was designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s search results (and consequently, cause pages that are not mobile-friendly to drop).

The impact of “mobilegeddon” has been variable. This is no surprise – its effect will be largely determined by the competition. If for instance, your site isn’t mobile-friendly, but neither are any of your competitors’ pages, it makes sense that you’d see very little change in rankings or traffic (as a result of the update).

That said, even if you’ve seen no real change in rankings or traffic to date, don’t assume your site is future proof. If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site (and if you’re not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly you can find out here), start developing one ASAP.

Don’t forget about your blog when designing a mobile-friendly site either; you’re unlikely to see an ROI on your content marketing if people aren’t finding and consuming your content – something increasingly few people will do if your mobile UX sucks.


3.   Remember the on-page basics

As mentioned above, on-page SEO is (at least) as important today as it’s ever been. However it’s not just something you need to consider when crafting category or product pages – it’s a fundamental factor in content optimisation too.

Thankfully, if you know how to optimise a product or category page, you know how to optimise the content you use for marketing.

Title tags – Title tags form part of the

section of your HTML. They can help increase click-through-rates and are also used by search engines to establish the themes and content of a page.

If possible, your title tags should include a keyword or two – but only if it makes sense (never force it).

Standard practice for title tags for content marketing is to include the title of the content, followed by your brand name.

If you’ve followed SEO best practices and considered keywords and search user intent while crafting your content titles, including a keyword here should happen naturally.

Meta descriptions – – Another element of the <head> section, meta descriptions aren’t (we’re told) a ranking factor, which means that optimising them is not, in the strictest sense, an SEO tactic. However, when we talk about on page optimisation, meta descriptions will almost always come up.

While they won’t (again, we’re told) have a direct affect on your search presence, they do affect your click-through-rates. You can help to draw attention to your site (and content) in the search results by crafting the perfect meta description.

H1 tag: Unsurprisingly, the H1 also sits inside the <head> of the page. In most cases, your H1 will simply be the title of your content (or if we were talking about a product or category page, the name of the category or product).

Further reading:

4.   Optimise your images

As smart as Google is (pretty smart), its algorithms aren’t psychic. Google can’t understand the content of a picture unless you explain it to them. Unfortunately, optimising your images probably won’t help your content to rank better in the organic search results. It will, however, affect where your images appear in image search.

This means that correctly optimising your images can help drive traffic to your site (and your content), making image optimization a critical element of SEO for content marketing. The essential elements of optimising your images for SEO are…

Image/file name: Use descriptive names for your image files. So, for an image of a red bull can, instead of something like 567314.jpg, name the image red-bull-can.jpg.

Alt tag: Most people know that alt tags are a crucial component of image optimisation, yet a lot of people still use them incorrectly. Alt tags should not be the same as their file name, nor should they be a list of keywords.

The easiest way to envision how to write an alt tag is to think how you would describe the image to someone who couldn’t see it. For example, the alt tag for this image…

…might be “Joe Blogs looks happy and scared, shortly after jumping out of a plane” (FYI it’s 10% fear, 90% happiness!).

Title: The image title is what appears when someone hovers over an image. How much (if any) SEO benefit it has is up for debate, however, for the time it takes to assign an image a title; I’d encourage you to use it.

Read more: https://moz.com/blog/the-broken-link-building-bible

5.   Promote your content for links

If anyone’s ever told you that links don’t matter anymore, please, for the love of SEO, ignore them (and any SEO “advice” they try to offer you in future).

Here’s the long and short of it: links do matter. Maybe not as much as they did ten years ago – as search algorithms advance, they gain more ways to ascertain the value and relevancy of a page. This tends to mean that search algorithms need to rely less on a site’s backlink profile. It doesn’t mean they ignore it entirely.

Sites with large, diverse backlink profiles, formed primarily of links from high-quality websites will be given more weight in the search results than sites that are lacking in the links department. This means that a strategy of building a backlink profile should form the backbone of any ongoing SEO campaign, and one way to do this is with content.

How you use content to gain links depends on the nature of the material in question.

Imagery, such as infographics, or a series of pictures or illustrations, lend themselves naturally to outreach. This means pitching your content to bloggers or journalists that share similar interests to your own, and that you believe would have an interest in reproducing your content. You can read more about the perfect pitch here.

However, while text-based content doesn’t usually lend itself to reproduction on other sites (especially if you can’t guarantee those other sites will use a cross-domain canonical to credit you properly as the original author), there are other ways you can use it to gain links.

“Resource link-building” for example. This tends to entail adopting the same outreach strategy as above, but instead of trying to get your content reproduced, you’re trying to get it added to a “resources” page.

Another excellent way to gain links to text articles is with broken link-building, where you identify sites that have linked to content that’s very similar to yours, but that’s no longer live (resulting in a broken link). You then contact each site and offer your content as a replacement link.

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