SEO Basics: 3 Rules for Writing Optimized Page Content
Writing for SEO requires you to look at your web content from a few different angles. You have to take into account the preferences and limitations of search engines as well as the needs and expectations of your readers.
In our last SEO Basics post, I wrote about improving page titles and descriptions to help your page perform well in search results. This time, let’s focus on what makes page content optimized and how to structure it for SEO success.
Create Headings That Feature Your Target Keywords and Help Comprehension
Page headings should be optimized to include the keywords or keyword phrases you are trying to target, send a strong message about the subject of your content, and help your reader make decision about whether to keep reading.
Even though your main heading (your H1; usually the title displayed on the page) can be different from the page’s SEO title tag, it plays a similar role in either underscoring or undermining the relevance of your content. It’s also another factor that tells Google (and other search engines) what you’re writing about.
Ensure that there is only one H1-level heading per page so as not to confuse the bots that crawl your page information as to what it’s really about. If what you promise in your main heading doesn’t line up with the title and description you use for SEO, the visitor might leave quickly, which tells search engines the page is low quality.
Break It Up for Improved Readability
Once you’ve earned a click-through to one of your pages from Google’s search engine results page (SERP), and you’ve helped your reader make the decision to remain on your page by choosing a strong heading, you now need to earn their attention once more.
Page visitors consistently read in an F-shaped pattern, scanning headings, the beginnings of paragraphs, and any highlighted elements to ensure they have found the information they are seeking.
Using short paragraphs, short sentences, numbered or bulleted lists, and sub headings to showcase your keywords and better organize your optimized content improves cognitive fluency—the relative ease with which your content can be read and understood.
Your web content management system should allow content contributors to style and format text in order to make it more readable.
Optimized web pages should be easy to scan and read, and should quickly provide the information you promised in your SEO title tag, description, and heading. Once again, if you disappoint your reader or make the information hard to find, your user could choose to leave your site quickly, increasing your bounce rate and causing the page’s SERP position to decline.
Lead With Keywords
The keywords that you have already included in your meta data and main heading need to be present in the rest of your text. Rather than trying to stuff them in every sentence, consider where they will be most useful.
When writing for SEO, your first paragraph should include your most important keyword, ideally in your first sentence. Understanding the way people read on the web tells us that they’re more likely to see the first few words of a paragraph, so use that space wisely and place your keywords where they’re most likely to be seen.
While keywords are important, use them sparingly, like a seasoning, to enhance your page content for search engines, but not turn them off with too much of a good thing. To avoid the appearance of keyword stuffing, which search engines don’t like, vary the keyword phrases you use throughout your content, and keep it to no more than 2-3 mentions per a short piece of content (300 words or less), increasing in proportion to the length of your page copy.
Unlike copywriting, SEO content writing doesn’t reward cleverness. Your content can be pithy and SEO-friendly at the same time, but only if your wit doesn’t impede reader comprehension. To ensure you consistently produce effective optimized content, understand which keywords you’re trying to target ahead of time, feature them appropriately, and remember to put your readers’ needs first.
Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.