With over a billion websites and millions of pieces of digital content published and shared each day, readers are bombarded with all types of content and opportunities to click on things. If you want your content to be something readers click on, you’ll need to optimize it.
Even if you’ve written the best blog post in the universe and know people will appreciate it, it won’t matter if they can’t find it or won’t encounter it due to the barrage of items crossing their digital paths each day.
Optimizing content takes some know-how, persistence, practice, and patience. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for content isn’t as simple as jamming a bunch of random keywords that currently rank well into your blog posts and web pages. In fact, your content will often be penalized by search engines for abusing keywords.
And while writing content that’s optimized for search engines is essential in 2017, it’s also not that difficult to do either, if you know where to start. This post is going to state, in an uncomplicated way, what you need to do to optimize your content. You won’t see a bunch of confusing acronyms or industry jargon here.
Here are some simple things you can do today to optimize your content for search engines in 2017.
Know Your Audience
Before you write anything, you should always know who you’re writing for– your audience. They’re the reason why you want to create content in the first place, right?
Do your research and really figure out what’s important to them and why. What type of problem are you trying to help them solve? What type of problem does a product or service you provide solve for them? Don’t just guess. Dig in and find real answers about who they are and what’s important to them.
You’ll also want to know where they hang out online. This is key. You won’t be able to reach your audience with anything you create if you don’t know where they are. There are a lot of tools out there (A lot of them are even free!) that can help you better determine who your audience is, where they are, and what they’re searching for online. Here are some of the more popular options you can use:
These tools will also give you real data about how your audience is (or isn’t) engaging with your content, and how they’re finding it in search engines and online.
Make All Your Content Mobile-Friendly
Since 2015, more searches have taken place on mobile devices than desktop computers (source), and this number only increases each year. And if you have a brick and mortar store, customers are more likely to visit your store if they can easily search for your store, see what it offers, and find out where it’s located– all on their mobile devices.
More and more, people are also starting to view blog posts and read content on their smartphones too, as they wait in a line or while they’re commuting on public transportation. Some of us are even guilty of checking our phones during commercial breaks while we watch our favorite television show. So, you’ll want to make anything you post easy to scan and viewable on a mobile device, especially blog posts and the content on your website pages. And make sure all your mobile-optimized content loads quickly. If it doesn’t, readers on mobile will close it and move on within a few seconds.
Be Aware of Google Updates, Trends, and Tools
Since SEO is all about search engines (and Google is the most widely used search engine), it makes sense to stay informed of any updates Google’s search engine experiences so you know how to maximize them for your purposes. While Google updates its algorithms hundreds of times a year, many of the updates are minor. However, every so often there is a major update that can affect the performance of your content (e.g. The Penguin and Panda updates). You can look at a list of some of the more important updates here.
To see what’s trending on the web at any time, you can look at Google Trends. It will provide insight into what people are currently searching for the most. And you can look up specific keywords and terms to see how they’re performing in real-time. You can even have Google send you a daily email with content that’s trending with keywords you want to monitor with Google Alerts.
Here are some Google tools that’ll help you develop content that it likes:
- Google Analytics
- Google Content Experiments
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google My Business
- Google Page Speed
- Google Surveys
- Google Webmaster Tools
Focus on Optimizing Long-Form Content
When you create content, strive for quality, not quantity. This means that you should write something of quality for your readers, each and every time you want to publish something. Don’t just try to pump out a bunch of smaller articles twenty times a day. Search engines no longer reward content from an author simply because they’ve created a lot of it. Now search engines are using machine learning to determine engagement metrics and how valuable real people will think the content is that’s showing up in search results.
Instead of writing multiple pieces of content, opt for a more thoughtful piece of content that’s published once a day or once a week. Unless you’re publishing “breaking news,” smaller pieces about who was spotted where for the entertainment industry, or small “feel good” pieces about baby raccoons eating with their feet, most of your content should be around 600 words or even more. Long-form content can answer searchers’ questions in a way a short 200-word piece won’t.
Every few months, you should also make sure the links embedded in your content are still valid. Google doesn’t reward content (allow it to rank higher) that’s full of broken or untrustworthy links. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to scan your site for broken links, or you can use options like those offered by Screamingfrog.com .
In addition to making sure your links are current, you’ll want to make sure all content displayed on your site (and content that you’re sharing) is current and fresh. For instance, if you have an article about an industry trend from 2012, you might want to think about revamping it so it applies to the similar trend in current times unless it’s located in the archives and you want to keep it there as a reference.
Utilize Copywriting Techniques and Format Your Content for Readability
Long gone are the days when high-performing content is simply content that’s stuffed with keywords. Thank goodness! Don’t you want something that actually makes sense to read? I’m sure your readers do!
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your online copy while making it more enjoyable to read.
- Don’t forget to write optimized, brief, and helpful meta tags and meta descriptions.
- Use long-tail keywords, such as “water-resistant running shoes for women,” instead of just, “shoes”.
- Research your keywords ahead of time. Don’t compete for top keywords where you won’t get much traction.
- Spend time on your headline—make it something that grabs your reader’s attention and fully encompasses what your content is about.
- Make your sub headings more interesting.
- Use “power words”- You can use this awesome list that Buffer already assembled.
- Insert links to quality sources in your content, and get quality sources to link back to your content.
- Provide proof and studies to back up your big claims.
To make your content more readable:
- Use sub headings.
- Insert lists and bullet points where needed.
- Make important or emphasized phrases bolded or italicized so they stand out from the rest of the text, but do so sparingly.
- Don’t use very dense of large blocks of text.
- Select a legible font.
Review Your Work Before Publishing it
After you’ve written the perfect content for your target audience, edit it before you hit “publish,” or before you share it. Whenever possible, get someone else to read it too. Make sure there aren’t any obvious typos that’ll make you look unprofessional, and that its structure is consistent and easy to read. And verify that all your links are working and that your images are formatted properly. You’d be surprised how many people skip this step. Don’t. You want to make sure your content is helpful for your readers if you want it to perform well in search engines. It won’t be if they can’t skim through it or understand what you’ve written.
Writing content that’s optimized for search engines doesn’t need to be very difficult. Simply remember who your audience is, make your content simple to read (especially on mobile devices), and use copywriting techniques and some of the tools listed above in this article.
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