One of my favourite definitions of content is the one given by Business Dictionary, which compares content to the glue that sticks a website together, pulls visitors in and, once they’re effectively lured, keeps them from leaving.
If we were to continue that analogy, your job as a content writer would be to tailor-make, customise and personalise that glue in such a way as to make it as powerful and sticky as possible, hence attracting the right audiences and compelling them to action, be it sales, media sharing or any other online marketing purpose. And, if we were to carry the comparison even further, a content writer’s own brand of glue would have to be called SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, will almost certainly be one of the first terms you’ll come across once you start out as a content writer. And, though your creative writing skills will undoubtedly carry you through your first few weeks at the job, SEO is certainly not something you can bluff your way through.
According to Moz, SEO is “the practise of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” This can be a little frightening if you have no idea how online marketing works.
Just like anything else, creating SEO-friendly content can be learnt as long as you’re willing to give it a shot. We’re here to give you our top tips for coming up with some killer SEO content:
Pro tip 1: Write high quality content
High quality content doesn’t simply mean that your text should be entirely free of spelling and grammar mistakes (though that should be considered an absolute given). Fresh, engaging content should always be 100% unique. This means that, although you’ll have visited several websites while conducting your research, you should never copy anything directly from that website, even if you insert its link in your text. Duplicate content is very easily detectable by many search engines including Google and will affect a website’s ranking in search results. If you are worried about unintentionally creating duplicate text, use a plagiarism checker such as Copyscape or Grammarly.
Pro tip 2: Build a strong introduction
Whether you’re creating a blog post, product description or landing page, your introduction is the most important part of your content. Strong introductions are short and get straight to the point, and quite possibly include one or two keywords (more on those later). This is because search engines will scan the first few sentences of a text in order to detect its subject matter (a process known as crawling); because they need to do this at lightning speed, you, as a content writer, should try to put in as much important information as possible, in as few words as possible.
Pro tip 3: Don’t forget the body
Many content writers make the mistake of pouring their body and soul into their introduction, only for their text to fall flat 20 words into the next paragraph, filling their body text with filler sentences and fluff. A smart content writer will maintain the same high quality set from the start throughout their whole text, inserting keywords strategically (see below) and presenting information in an engaging, persuasive, but succinct manner.
Pro tip 4: Watch your length
While some content tasks come with specified lengths that a writer is obliged to stick to, others – such as blog posts – are usually given more or less free reign. That being said, keeping texts concise is an unwritten rule that any newbie content writer should keep in mind. Overly long-winded content that rambles on excessively tends to be filtered out while the page is being crawled and may ultimately negatively affect your client’s rankings.
A great way to break up long chunks of text is to use headers and subheaders. Subtitles not only have the advantage of presenting content in a more attractive manner; they can also serve to grab attention with bold, eye-catching formatting. They also provide a convenient opportunity for inserting keywords.
Pro tip 5: Know (and use) your keywords
Tailored, effective content is always created for a purpose; but, if that content doesn’t show up in user searches, that purpose is consequently and resoundingly defeated. One extremely common SEO practise proven to affect visibility is keyword usage. The Search Engine Journal even goes as far as proposing that “properly leveraged, targeted SEO keywords should be used to inspire all page content in order to satisfy searcher intent.” When you’re just starting out in content, you’ll probably be given a list of keywords to use for your first few assignments, but that won’t last long. Soon enough you’ll be able to conduct your own keyword research to come up with the most relevant words and phrases. Google Keyword Planner is a nifty way of helping find useful keywords – just remember not to overstuff and use them wisely in your title tags and meta descriptions.
Pro tip 6: Use visuals
The idiom “a picture tells a thousand words” is truer than most of us would think. Though human beings are highly verbal creatures, in truth a substantial percentage of our minds is dedicated to visual processing. Images enhance our understanding of concepts, draw our attention and help us retain information in our memory. When it comes to content, research has shown that a strategically placed image makes a text 10 times more likely to generate engagement, especially on social media posts.
Pro tip 7: Link to previous content
Internal linking is a great strategy of keeping visitors on a client’s website for longer. In fact, it’s been proven that the chances of ranking in Google are extremely slim without backlinks. Links – whether internal or external – lead search engines into ‘thinking’ a webpage is important; they will then direct more traffic to the site and ultimately affect visibility, big-time. Furthermore, inserting several backlinks into your content is a way of boosting credibility, both that of the content writer and the website itself.