When content writing plays a vital role in your business’ marketing efforts, chances are you’re counting on that content to bring results. But to bring results, your content needs to (1) be findable and (2) interest your target audience. How do you achieve that? This post gives small businesses tips on how to write content for readers and search engines.
As a small business, your budget may not be as large as established competitors’ budgets. That’s one reason you’ve turned to blogging for your business—and why you really need your content to work for you.
You’ve invested time and effort into writing content, so it has to perform well on search engines. And it has to facilitate getting found by potential customers.
But achieving that isn’t always so easy. You can write and write and write and still see no results.
It’s times like these – when you’re working hard to create effective content – that you begin to wonder:
- Should you write for the people that actually consume your content, i.e. your readers?
- Or is it better to cater to the machines (and their algorithms) that decide how and where to rank your materials on search engines?
Experience has taught me that you must do both.
Because at the end of the day, it is real people that read your content. They’re the ones who will buy your product, pay for your service, sign up for your newsletter, or send an inquiry. That’s why you need to write primarily for them.
At the same time, it’s the search engine’s job to give its users the best possible results – relevant content – based on their search query.
Therefore, in order to prepare your content accordingly, you need to know what search engines look for to determine page rank.
So there’s really no getting around it. You have to consider both human and machine.
The next logical question then is, how can small businesses write awesome content for humans that is also optimised for search engines?
How to write content for readers and search engines
The simplest way to approach content writing is to focus on quality. At the end of the day, quality content is what gets rewarded by both readers and search engines.
But again, that’s a lot easier said than done. What goes into creating high quality content? Is there a standard for it?
Here’s what Google has to say about this:
Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.Google’s Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide
With that in mind, here are a few tips to set you on the right path.
Here’s how to write for your readers
Tip #1: Start with a plan
Every great piece of writing begins with a well-thought-out plan.
Since people – not machines – are the consumers of your content, you will want to lay out a plan that tackles the question “how do I make this content worth my readers’ time?”
That means addressing the following points:
- What is the purpose of this content?
- Who am I targeting?
- Where are they in terms of search intent?
- What do I want to focus on?
- What are the key ideas I want to address?
Tip #2: Do your research
There’s a lot to be said on this topic but we can summarize it as such: Research your audience and research your topic.
If you’re to write effective copy, you need to know who your readers are, what they want, what matters to them, and what will make them take action.
And for your content to be factually accurate and comprehensive, you’re going to have to do at least some research.
For example: You might need to look up the latest statistics, recent findings, background information on a topic, and so on.
Tip #3: Write well
Writing well is part and parcel of producing high quality content.
Substance and contents aside, that means your content has to be easy to read, easy to understand, and clearly written.
Here’s how you can achieve that:
1- Your writing should be well organised and properly structured.
- Make sure you have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Avoid large walls of text by breaking them down into logically-structured, easily digestible paragraphs.
- Use subheadings to organise your content.
2- Keep your sentences short, so that they are easy to read.
3- Write in a way that is accessible to as many readers as possible. Don’t use jargon or complex terminology.
4- Check for correct spelling, good grammar, and the proper use of punctuation.
5- Don’t waffle or ramble – stay on topic.
Tip #4: Be crystal clear
This tip builds upon tip #3 in that part of writing well entails making sure readers can easily understand your content.
That’s generally why writers avoid the passive voice.
Passive voice is frowned upon because it “makes for a murky, roundabout sentence” whereas the active voice gets straight to the point.
And when you’re blogging for your business, the last thing you want is to come across as confusing.
Tip #5: Use transition words
Transition words greatly improve the quality of your writing.
Transition words are words like “also”, “however”, “in fact”, “for example” and so on. Using them in your text allows you to express ideas in a clear and concise manner by providing readers with a logical link from one idea to the next.
Put simply, transition words help guide and inform readers how to process the information you’ve just presented them. And that’s important if you want your text to be effective.
Without transition words, you risk your writing coming across as choppy, lacking in flow, or worse – have readers asking “how is this relevant?”
Here’s how to write for search engines
Now it’s time to take a look at how you can optimise your writing for search engines.
These are tips I’ve learned from experience and, believe me, experience really is the best teacher.
Tip #1: Plan your keywords
Keeping your website updated with new, relevant, and high quality content plays an important role in helping your site perform better on search engines. But it can’t just be any old content – there has to be a strategy behind what you publish.
In the context of writing for search engines that means having a keyword strategy.
You need to research and plan your content around the search terms you want a page to rank for most.
Once that’s decided, use that term sufficiently in your writing. That doesn’t mean you should stuff the page with that keyword or iterations of that keyword. Rather, use it just enough to indicate the main idea or topic of your piece.
For example: A 1,500 word piece of writing should have your keyword mentioned more than just once in its entirety.
- Have a focus keyword (or phrase) that you can centre your writing around.
- Consider keyword density relative to the text’s length.
- Don’t go overboard with keywords. No stuffing!
Tip #2: Pay attention to your opening paragraph
If you want to write content for readers and search engines, don’t skip this tip! It’s an important one.
Your first paragraph essentially sets the tone for what readers and search engines can expect a page to be about.
It’s also the portion of the page that most people will read.
For this reason, search engines tend to give greater importance to the text that immediately follows the main (H1) heading, i.e. your opening paragraph.
That’s why you should pay extra attention to what you write in it.
It should capture attention, give insight as to what the text will be about, and, of course, include your focus keyword or keyphrase.
Tip #3: Your URL is important
Unless you’re the one tasked with managing your website’s SEO, chances are you haven’t really put all that much attention on your content’s URL.
You just write an article or post, format it, publish it and accept whatever URL is suggested…right?
Well, you might want to start thinking about it. More specifically, you’ll want to think about the slug portion of your URL.
Here’s what it looks like:
Here are a few considerations:
- Where possible, make sure to include the focus keyword or keyphrase you’ve chosen from tip#1 in the slug.
- Strip the slug clean of any unnecessary words or those that serve no purpose in clarifying what the page is about.
- Choose a slug that is clear and concise but descriptive enough that users instantly know what the page will be about should they choose to click through.
- Consider if you want modifiers like the publish date to be included or if you’d rather stick to post / page name alone. Decide this before you start publishing content.
Note: You can only use a specific slug once, so have everything from site structure, page hierarchy, content ideas, etc. planned out before you hit publish!
Tip #4: Links are important
Before we get into the importance of links, let’s first understand the three main types of links.
- Internal links are the links between pages on your own website.
- Inbound links are links to your website from external sources, i.e. websites with a different domain name.
- Outbound links are links originating from your website that lead to other websites.
When you write high quality content for your readers, linking tends to happen quite naturally.
What do I mean by that?
Well, if you’ve taken the time to write a stellar piece of content that gets people talking or that readers find useful, interesting, or worth sharing then they’re more inclined to link to your page. In other words, you can earn inbound links this way.
Note that inbound links are incredibly valuable (but hard to earn) because they essentially signal that a certain page is credible, an authority on a topic, and can be trusted. That in turn can help you rank higher in search engines.
Likewise, where it is natural to do so, your page / post might also link to external sites. For example: To give credit to a source or to reinforce an argument by linking to further relevant reading.
Either way, giving and receiving high quality links can help to improve where you rank on search engines.
Tip #5: SEO title and meta description
Remember that it’s one thing to land your page – one of many options – in front of prospects and another entirely to get those prospects to click through.
After all, these are the first things potential readers are going to come across when they come across you on the search engine result page.
Putting thought into the SEO title and meta description increases the chances of getting your content read.
Phew – we’re done! Use these ten actionable tips to help you write content for readers and search engines this 2020.
If you have any questions about how to write awesome content for your small business, feel free to e-mail me – I’m always happy to help!