How to Make Your Online Articles Search Engine Friendly: The Basics
Do you write to achieve personal satisfaction alone? Don't give a monkeys whether real people stop to read and engage with your online content?
This Hub isn’t for you.
This Hub is for the writers out there who have something to say and want other people to read it. I’ve met quite a few people who associate the scary phrase “SEO writing” with commercial marketing – it’s for ruthless marketeers with a product to push, right? Wrong. It’s a writing style, and one that I very much recommend you adopt if you want readers to find you online.
Hang on, WriteWithRosie, what makes you think that you know what you’re talking about?
As a professional copywriter, editor and content manager I eat, breathe and sleep SEO writing every day, and I know what a difference just a few easy tweaks can make to the visibility of your work online. Which is exactly why I decided to put together this Hub with tips on how to write for the web, both commercially and for fun.
So, without further ado, here are the basics of how to make your online articles SEO friendly.
Whoa, wind back for a second... What is SEO?
‘SEO’ stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. Did you know that there are literally trillions of Google search queries submitted worldwide every day? “Googling” the answer to our questions has become second nature. Practising SEO simply ensures that the online content you produce has the best chance possible of being found, indexed and ranked by a search engine – and, as a result of this, has a better chance of reaching more readers.
Write Something That People Will Actually Want to Read
Okay, my first tip is embarrassingly obvious, and it’s not necessarily about SEO writing. If your aim is to grow your audience, you have to produce something that they will want to read. There are actually two important points here.
1) Choose your topic carefully.
It’s unlikely that a topic such as “5 taxidermy techniques specifically suited to stuffing small birds of eastern Europe” is going to attract a broad general readership. If you’re looking to provide an answer to a question or provide a commentary on an issue, do some research to find the most popular themes and base your topic on that.
There are a number of great tools for this—I’ll be writing another Hub soon about the importance of keyword research and key phrase enriching.
I also implore you not to create content for the sake of content, especially if you’re writing for commercial reasons. One we see quite often in the travel industry is a topic such as “how to pack for your summer holiday”, which will recommend including sun glasses and a few changes of clothes. Well, duh. I didn’t need to read a 500-word article to figure that out.
2) Think about the reader experience.
If your article is littered with typos, suffers from serious spelling and grammatical errors and tries to convey everything in one unbroken paragraph, you’re probably not going to retain your reader. It is widely reported that the average human attention span now is less than that of a goldfish (although this BBC story makes a case for why this is a spurious claim), so it’s more important than ever to keep your reader engaged.
Some simple ways of doing this is to graphically break up your text on the page. Use headings, sub-headings, numbered lists, bullet points, images, maps, polls ... HubPages has some amazing content capsules that allow you to do just that, so take advantage of them.
How often do you include a poll in your Hub?
If you can, get someone else to copy-edit your work before you post it online – two pairs of eyes are always better than one.
Why are you telling me this? I thought this article was about SEO writing?
Keeping and engaging your readership matters because Google (and other search engines, but here in the UK we are overwhelmingly Google-centric so I’ll probably use the words ‘Google’ and ‘search engine’ synonymously) will reward you if the Bounce Rate of your web page is low. A Bounce Rate refers to the number of people who click onto your article and then leave within a couple of seconds – which suggests to Google that whatever they found on that page wasn’t useful.
Quantity and Quality Matters
So you’ve found an engaging topic and you’re a pretty accurate writer. How long should you aim to make your article? If no one’s attention span lasts longer than 8 seconds nowadays, you should make it as short and snappy as possible, right?
Wrong. About 10 years ago it was widely accepted in the SEO writing community that if you wanted to get an article ranked, it should be around 500 words long. Nowadays the pages that rank best in search engines are thousands of words long – we recommend to our clients that long-form content is a minimum of 1000 words, and we often aim to produce a piece of around 3000 words.
What does this trend suggest? Rather than writing 10 short articles on related topics, collate your research and write it all up in one beautifully produced, authoritative article. HubPages suggests that you make your Hubs 700-1250 words long, so that’s a good parameter to aim for if it’s your platform of choice.
Duplicate Content is a Big No-No
You’ve put lots of effort into researching, writing and formatting your work into one fabulously engaging article. I know it can be very tempting at this point to publish it in tonnes of different places – your WordPress blog, your Hub, your Medium page, etc. Think again!
Gone are the days when you could write something and post it to 300 different platforms for maximum coverage. Most up-to-date blogging platforms do not accept duplicate content, which means that you cannot post it in multiple places, even if you wrote it yourself and want to publish it on your own accounts.
If you want to boost the reach of your article, publish it on one platform and then link to it from various social media accounts, with a unique and carefully crafted snippet for each channel. Encourage your followers to read and share it too.
It’s also important that you don’t copy swathes of text from one web page to another, as this also counts as duplicate content (or potentially copyright infringement, if it wasn’t your work in the first place!). If, like me, you are planning to write a series on a specific theme, make sure that all of your introductions and conclusions are 100% unique. Believe me, it’s not that hard to rewrite a paragraph using different words – flex those writing muscles and see it as a fun challenge.
What does duplicate content have to do with SEO writing?
The whole concept of duplicate content became an issue when Google started punishing sites that took their text wholesale from other places on the internet. Rules on this are notoriously murky – how exact a match does it have to be before your web page gets penalised and drops out of the search engine rankings? How does Google know which source actually wrote the text and which one is copying?
My advice? Don’t worry about the specifics, just obey the central tenant of all SEO writing:
Thou shalt only write unique content.
So there we go: write well, write a lot, and say it in your own words. And with that, my 1250 HubPages word limit is exhausted.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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