Poor SEO. Thanks to the written-for-robots heyday of SEO, before 2011, it’s gotten a bit of a bad rep, particularly among writers. If you’ve ever had a client ask you to use a keyword like “Sam Smith, technology wizard, Pennsylvania,” in that exact order, five times in a 400 word piece, you might give any requests to use it the side eye.
The good news about SEO is that, like many other things, it’s evolved over time. You do want to create content for your clients that the search engines will find, and you don’t have to sound like a robot or like someone who didn’t pass English Grammar 101 to do it. If you’ve been hiding from search engine optimization, consider this your SEO primer for a new era.
Remember Who You’re Writing For
Yeah, it’s true that search engine crawlers or spiders are going to scan your content and decide how its ranks on Google and the rest. But, here’s the thing. You’re not really writing for those search engines. A search engine won’t purchase your client’s services or product. A living, breathing person will, and you need to keep that at the front of your mind when writing any type of copy. Shares and links are a big part of SEO these days. You want to write content that people share on social media and are willing to link to on their own blogs or websites.
One simple way to make sure you’re writing for a human audience is to read your pieces or ask someone else to do it for you. When reading a blog post or other type of content, ask yourself if it’s something you actually enjoy reading. Does the piece flow, does it grab your attention, or does it make you want to weep because you’ve stuffed it so full of keywords it barely makes any sense?
Get Friendly with Keywords
While keyword stuffing has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaurs, keywords do still play some part when it comes to online content. Search engine crawlers are much smarter today than a few years ago, but they aren’t that smart. You do want to do some keyword research when writing online, to see what’s popular and what will help people find your content. But, these days, it’s the quality of the keyword that matters more than the quantity. According to Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Watch, where your keywords are located in the content is more important that how often they appear. Search engines are also able to recognize synonyms and similar keywords today, so there’s no need to lock yourself into using a really awkward and ungainly keyword phrase.
Focus on Headlines
One of the best places to use a keyword is in the heading, for Google’s purposes and for the benefit of your human reader. Headlines are also essential to SEO for another reason: They are what draws your reader in and gets them clicking. Which headline makes you want to read an article more: “5 Places to Visit in Philadelphia” or ” 5 Unique Places You’ll Totally Regret not Visiting In Philadelphia”? Most likely, you’re going to click on the second headline. It gives you more detail about the piece and lets you know why it’s so important to read it. You don’t want to have any regret in life, do you?
There are three things people like to see in headlines. They like numbers, so include one if you can. They like ridiculous promises, particularly when the article beneath the headline lives up to its promises. Finally, they like descriptive adjectives, as those adjectives give them an idea why they should read the article.
SEO’s no longer for the robots. Instead, the focus is on making your readers happy, and turning those readers into clients or customers.
Amy F is a freelance writer in Philadelphia, PA who’s learned not to fear SEO.