As mentioned in our previous article, good content meets demand, matches user intent and provides original and unique information. Although a good piece of content will naturally appeal to readers and Google, with the competition out there, it can be difficult to rank well. Besides high-quality content, in order to increase the likelihood of ranking, your content also has to be SEO-friendly. Being SEO-friendly simply means helping Google and readers to better understand your content. It may seem easy but don’t forget that Google does not read your content manually. It relies on bots to help “read” your content. Sounds complicated? Look no further, here are 7 best practices for writing SEO-friendly content!
Creating an SEO-friendly title
The title of your content is critical for SEO. When used in SERPs as a title-tag (Figure 1), it gives Google an idea of what your content is about. Additionally, it serves to attract and urge readers to read further, increasing clicks to your content.
1) Start your title with your target keyword
By starting your title with your target keyword, you give Google a clear indication of your content’s area of focus. The closer you keep the keyword to the front of the title, the more influence it has when Google determines your content’s relevance for a query.
For example, with all other things equal, for a query of “lunch recipes”, an article titled “10 Lunch Recipes for Kids” will rank better than “10 Quick and Easy Lunch Recipes for Kids”.
2) Use <H1> tags for your title
<H1> tags are part of a group of header tags used in web language to distinguish between headers and normal content. They vary from <H1> to <H6>, in a descending order of importance. Using <H1> tags for your title (Figure 2) allows Google to identify your title as the main topic of your content. If you are using WordPress, the title is usually automatically wrapped in <H1> tags.
3) Add common words that users include in their queries to your title
Words such as “best”, “how to” and “step-by-step” are often included in search queries. By adding them to your title, it allows your content to rank for those variations of your target keyword.
Bonus tip! Add a number to your title. Studies show titles with numbers are preferred and garner more clicks! (Exactly what I did for this article😉)
Optimizing your main content for SEO
4) Include your target keyword naturally
Similar to the title, this helps Google to associate your content with your target keyword, increasing the possibility of ranking for it. Take note that the emphasis here is on “naturally”.
Here are some tips to get the “naturally” part right:
- Don’t over-saturate your content with the target keyword. Google does not like that and will penalize your content if you do so.
- Start writing the content with the target keyword in mind. It is difficult to fit in the keyword naturally after the content is written.
- Don’t be afraid to make use of variations of your target keyword (synonyms, related terms, plurals, abbreviations). Google is becoming better at understanding related variations of keyword.
E.g. Cleaning service: cleaning services, house cleaning services, maids for hire. Check out this useful tool to help you generate variations of your target keyword.
5) Link to other sites (Outbound links)
Outbound links is one of the factors that Google use to determine the topic of your content. Google also seems to evaluate the authority of a page based on the authority of the sources it links to. This is evident in a recent study where pages with outbound links rank better than pages without. (Remember – Higher authority leads to higher rankings!)
Here are some things to take note of:
- Link to pages with related content, not random topics. You wouldn’t want to mislead Google about the topic of your content.
- Link to good, reputable sources (which have higher authority) = Plus points from Google’s point of view
Additional areas to improve on
6) Keep your URLs reader-friendly and SEO-friendly
- Keep URLs easily readable so that readers know exactly what to expect when they see it on SERPs and links. (Complicated links look dubious and deter readers from clicking)
- Include keywords in your URLs. When it gets copied and pasted, the URL sometimes serves as its own anchor text (which is the clickable words in a hyperlink – yes you just saw one before the bracket). Having keywords in anchor texts increase your possibility of ranking for them.
7) Improve page speed and be mobile-friendly
These areas are more technical SEO issues. However, Google also takes into account both of these factors when ranking pages. Thus, they play a part in ensuring your content is SEO-friendly.
- High page speed allows content to be loaded quickly. Nowadays, users are less tolerant of slow loading sites. A good page loading time to aim for is 3 seconds or below.
- Being mobile-friendly allows content to be viewed conveniently by users on mobile devices.
Although optimizing your content for SEO will help your rankings, the focus on the audience should not be diluted. Most importantly, making your content reader-friendly should have priority over making it google-friendly.
Don’t overdo the optimization at the expense of the audience!
It can be hard to achieve the balance between writing for readers and optimizing for SEO. At Appiloque, we seek to help our clients achieve that balance so why not reach out to us today?