In the world of copywriting and blogging, many writers get hung up on the question of whether we should be writing for SEO or writing for people. Why not both?
Here’s how to write content that delights your reader while ensuring that the key SEO bases are covered, too.
Writing for People… is Writing For SEO
The fact is that the SEO landscape has changed. These days, if you take steps to write content that your readers enjoy and want to share, much of your SEO will be taken care of. Google’s search ranking algorithm increasingly prioritizes readability and authority. This means that if your writing pleases the reader, it will also rank high on SEO.
1. Put the Reader First
Many of the same things that make for a good reader experience are key skills to master for SEO purposes. So if you’re trying to write an optimized piece of content, the biggest mistake you can make is prioritizing SEO at the expense of reader experience.
Crafting a top-ranking, optimized piece of content requires that you strike a balance between writing for SEO and writing for the reader. That said, you should always put the needs of the reader first. Your main job is to ensure that your user reads until the end and even shares your content, signaling to Google that your page has answered their question. Then think about how SEO can boost your rankings.
2. Write a Clickable Title
When your reader types their search terms into Google and hits ‘search’, it’s only the title of your piece that will appear in the SERP. This means you have one shot to demonstrate to your reader that your piece contains the information they are looking for. Here’s how to make it count:
3. Address the Reader’s Question
Your piece will be one in a long list of other compelling articles vying for the top rankings, so it’s crucial to make your title stand out from the rest. Using words like “why” or “how” can be effective, as they address the reader’s question directly. Another effective way to address the user’s question is to frame your title as a question, mirroring your target user’s query.
4. Include Numbers in Your Title
When you’re writing your title, try to be as concrete and specific as you can. One proven way to do this is to include numbers. For example, if you’re offering ten decorating tips, make sure you specify this in your title. While there was speculation that users were more drawn to even numbers in titles than odd numbers, this seems not to hold water. Go ahead and use odds or evens—as long as the number in your title accurately reflects your content!
5. Avoid Clickbait
Though it may be tempting to make your title irresistible to the reader, make you’re your title accurately reflects the actual content of your post. There are few things worse for your SEO performance than having your reader arrive on your page only to feel disappointed by the content and immediately leave.
6. Craft a Compelling Introduction
If your target user has clicked on your post, then well done: you’ve written a compelling title! Your next job is to make sure people keep reading to get the benefit of your amazing content. Writing a compelling introduction is crucial if you’re going to encourage your reader to stick around.
The most important part of your introduction is the first sentence. Lead with a hook such as a question, an interesting fact or a statistic that serves to generate interest. The remainder of your introduction is about setting the tone, introducing your topic and giving away a couple of tantalizing clues that give the reader a sense of what you’re going to discuss in the body text. There is a balance to be struck here. You want your introduction to include enough information to make users want to read on, but not so much that they don’t need to!
7. Well-Structured Content
Structure is extremely important to your reader, not only in terms of content organization, but also visually. Structuring a blog post doesn’t have to be complicated. There are several tried-and-tested elements of a well-structured piece that you can master, ensuring that you’re ticking all the right boxes.
8. Paragraph Breaks
In this fast-paced information age, chunks of text tend to put people off. Your reader simply doesn’t have the time to sift through large amounts of information for the nuggets that matter to them. If your audience sees huge chunks of text with no headings or other apparent organizational features, they are unlikely to trust that your content is going to provide a coherent answer to their question or need.
One of the most effective ways to let your reader know that they won’t be expected to wader through reams of irrelevant information is to break your content up into manageable bits. Shorter paragraphs are a visual cue to your reader that you as a writer value their time.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the prevalence of mobile internet use. Viewed on a mobile device, your paragraphs will appear significantly longer than they would on desktop.
9. Clear Subheadings
Subheadings are a fantastic tool for breaking up paragraphs and showing the reader what they can expect to learn if they continue to read on. Research has shown that over 40% of people tend to skim online articles, rather than reading the full text. Subheadings pop out visually and help skim-readers to orient themselves and extract the information they came for. They also help you as a writer by providing extra opportunities to keep the skim-reading public engaged. Subheadings are also useful for SEO purposes, as Google’s bots will crawl or scan your article in a similar way. With this in mind, your subheadings are a great placement for keywords.
10. Stick to Simple Language
Simpler is always better when it comes to blog posts or informative articles. Not only are shorter sentences easier to read, but they mirror the way ordinary people speak, creating a familiar and informal experience. Jargon is always a turn-off, as is complex vocabulary and grammar. And if you were taught in school that you shouldn’t begin a sentence with a conjunction, it’s time to forget that rule. Words like “and” or “but” serve to encourage your audience to keep reading your piece.
11. Avoid Passive Voice
Readers struggle to grasp the meaning of sentences written in the passive voice. Active voice, on the other hand, is much easier to compute when reading at speed.
Whether you’re crafting an informative list or a discursive, in-depth article, these tips will help you make your writing appeal to both readers and search engine bots.