Writing for SEO: Simple Ways to Rank Online
Monday, April 27, 2020
As communications professionals, we’re tasked with delivering messages across multiple channels. In today’s business environment, we’re delivering a majority of those messages online. The internet is powered through search – be it through a search engine like Google or social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Writing for SEO and optimizing content to be found on those platforms is greatly important. This is where search engine optimization comes into play.
SEO — Search Engine Optimization — is the process of affecting the visibility of content in a search engine. The goal of SEO is to make the content you create for the web visible to the audiences searching for it. When your content and website is optimized, it can reach the audiences you’re trying to inform or influence, can drive relevant traffic where you want it to go, and ultimately increase revenue and accomplish business goals.
SEO for Content Writers
There are many factors that tie into SEO. This article focuses on the factors content creators can control, but you make sure you’re working with expert developers who can help with the more technical aspects such as schema mark-up, website structure, and speed.
We’ll cover the following:
- Audience Awareness
- Keyword Research
- Ranking Factors
- Writing for SEO
For communications professionals, search engine optimization starts with knowing our audience. People use search engines to answer their questions; the search engine’s job is to provide the best answer. Search engines are intent-driven. Its job is to figure out what the user is actually searching for and deliver the most relevant response. You need to be the best answer and flag to search engines that your content answers user intent.
This begins with knowing where your audiences receive their information. Google is the #1 most-used search engine across the globe, accounting for 73 percent of all searches. Google often pulls in content from social media platforms and other online channels, so knowing how people conduct Google searches is often the starting point of optimization efforts. It begins with the question: “What is my audience asking?” To answer, you conduct keyword research.
There are many tools for keyword research, but they all follow the same basic structure. For each keyword, you’ll see:
- Search volume – how many searches are conducted with this keyword.
- Competition – how many pieces of content are optimized for this keyword.
The best type of keyword is one that’s searched often but not answered by many other organizations. Writing unique content or answering a question with a perspective only you can bring is important. Don’t be an echo; bring something new.
Think about who you’re writing for and how they might search for it on the internet. Jot down as many phrases as you can and use that as the basis for your research. Check out online forums, social media, or your own FAQ page for more insight into how your audience thinks and what information they typically seek. Rarely does anyone move past the first search results page (SERP) while looking for something on the internet. The goal is to be the best answer to the question and get your content ranking in top slots on that first page.
Typical SERPs are comprised of snippets, ads, organic results, and maybe a map, if applicable. Google has started pulling your content to answer a question directly on the search results page – meaning they don’t have to click into your website to figure out what they need. Google also tailors its results to the individual user – browsing history, demographic info, and location – are all factors used to determine which answers are provided. Remember that you’re not trying to capture all the traffic to your website – just the traffic that’s relevant to you.
Once you’ve determined who your audience is and found the keywords they use when conducting a search, you can begin to write your content. Google’s algorithm for quality content is constantly changing, but a few elements stay the same. It wants content that shows Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
- Expertise: How knowledgeable is the content creator on the subject matter?
- Authority: Is the content creator clearly credited for the work, adding credibility to the website?
- Trustworthiness: Is this website a reliable source of information?
Expertise is demonstrated through useful content that answers a question and satisfies a searcher’s intent. Start by looking through your website’s analytics. What pieces of content do users spend the most time on? How do they flow through the site? Where are they dropping off? You can see which queries brought them to the site through search console and you can track how long they’re spending on your site through Google Analytics. Use that data to help create expert pieces of content for your audience.
Authority can be trickier to demonstrate. Creating author biographies on the website, linking out to individual social media handles, and attributing the content back to the correct expert are ways that help demonstrate authority on a subject. Google ranks content based on the authority behind the author and the domain to deliver the most trustworthy content to its searchers. Therefore, it will rank the United Nations website higher than your neighbors blog.
Trustworthiness is the culmination of expertise and authority. As you produce more useful, reliable content that searchers depend on, your website becomes more trustworthy to Google. These factors help push your content to the top of the search results page where more people can find and benefit from the content you’ve created.
The E-A-T SEO factors are simply that: factors. They aren’t guaranteed to make your website rank better in Google, but they serve as a guideline for producing useful content.
Writing for SEO
While writing your content, think about the keyword you chose. Use that keyword:
- In the title, preferably toward the beginning.
- The first paragraph; make it clear what you’re writing about.
- A few times throughout the copy: keep the topic consistent.
- In the meta-description, which is the description that searchers see on the search results page.
Keywords aren’t the only way you optimize content. The structure is also a way to differentiate your content from your competitors. Make it easy for your audience to skim your content and “get the gist” while also providing sections for deeper information. You’ll notice that this is a longer blog post, but we’ve included clear headings, bolded content, bullets, and numbers to make it easier to navigate.
Once you create your content, share it! As PR professionals, you know where your audience is on the internet. Whether you write an article for LinkedIn or shoot a video for Facebook, include a link back to the main piece of content on your website. If people are enjoying and benefitting from your content, Google sees that it’s valuable and gives it more ranking juice.
Create content that is useful and beneficial to your audience. You write for people first, search engines second. Focus on knowing your audience and using your expertise as you build out your content calendar and conduct keyword research.