16 Oct How to Optimize Content for Search Engines but Still Write it for Humans?
If you want your blog posts to be found and read, you need to first make buddies with the search engine. It’s incredibly important to know how to optimize content for search engines as this will make you more visible to the audience and easier for people to find you among billions of other blogs and websites on the Internet.
This will require some work, of course, but hopefully after reading this post you will learn how to optimize your content for SEO, but still keep it reader-friendly.
Here are some of the most important tactics you should use to make sure your content is optimized for SEO:
Focus on Long-Tail , Not Broad Keywords
Broad keywords are passe. Instead, you should start incorporating long-tail keywords. Here’s why:
Let’s say you want to sell sneakers on your website. Using a broad keyword like “sneakers” means you will have to grapple for the position on Google with about 100K-1M average monthly searches. It’s going to be very hard for you to get noticed by someone this way. Not only that, but you don’t even know what intention someone searching for “sneakers” has. Do they want to buy sneakers? What type of sneaker? Are they male or female, child, teen or adult, what brand? All of these are questions that will remain unanswered by using this broad keyword.
On the other hand, using a long-tail keyword, such as “Adidas running shoes for men” immediately cuts your competition by about hundredfold. Now, you only have to vie for your position with about 1K average monthly searches. But what’s even more important is that now you know the intend of the person searching for the shoes. They are men who want Adidas shoes for running.
Don’t overuse long-tail keywords. One per blog post is usually enough, although in some occasions, you can use two. Using more will just confuse the search engine and your readers, as it will not be clear what the topic of your content is.
Position Your Keywords in These Six Areas of Your Post
Once upon a time, keyword density was all the rage. You “had” to include your keyword throughout your content and make sure it takes a certain percentage of your blog post. I believe it was around 1.5-2.5%. What this usually meant was that content writers paid more attention to including their keywords than if their content read naturally. It was a recipe for bad content that visitors couldn’t enjoy.
Luckily, the situation changed since then and now it’s all about where you position those keywords. There are six areas of a blog post where you should place your long-tail keywords and these are:
Without a keyword in the title (h1), how can the search engines or the readers know what your content is about? The headline needs to be clear about this or your visitors will not click to read your post.
Here, it’s also important where you place the keyword. Since Google doesn’t show more than 600 pixels in the organic search results, which is about 65 characters, make sure to include your long-tail keyword around the beginning. Especially if you have a long title.
In other words, if I want to write a post about using social media to promote your content, I’d use a title such as “Social Media Promotion Tactics: How to Use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the Rest to Get Your Blog Noticed?”. Since the title is a bit long and I know Google will cut a chunk of it, I’ve placed my keyword “social media promotion tactics” at the very beginning, where I know it won’t be disturbed.
One of the first things a Googlebot will crawl on your pages is the URL. To make sure it knows what the post is about, include your keyword here as well. Since every post you create has its own URL, make sure to do this and optimize your post for each individual post. This will make the search bot very happy and it will like your content more.
- Subheadings (h2)
Subheadings are a good way to break your post in more readable chunks. It’s how you keep readers engaged, particularly if your post is long, so it’s a good idea to include your keyword here as well.
Include the keyword in the body as well, but do it in a natural way. Don’t try to stuff it all over your post. I usually place my keywords in the first and the last paragraphs and if there’s opportunity for it, in one or two places throughout the post as well. Also, since search engines have become much smarter, you can use synonyms or change the word order so your keywords don’t have to be verbatim all the time. The search engine will recognize them this way as well.
- Alt Tags
Including visuals like images throughout the post is important if you want to make the user experience better for your readers. Nobody wants to go through a post that’s all text. Readers simply like content with images more than the one without. They are more likely to share it on social media (articles with images every 75-100 words get twice the social media shares than those with less, according to BuzzSumo) and also more likely to remember the information it contains (65% vs. 10%, according to Brain Rules).
However, search engines have not yet reached the point where they can immediately recognize if the image is related to your content. Readers can, but search engines can’t, so be sure to include your keyword in the alt tags of the images as well. This isn’t a big deal when it comes to content optimization for SEO like some of the other stuff I mention here, but it’s better to use a descriptive image alt tags instead of something like “IMG504”.
- Meta Description
The meta description is a part of the post many people neglect or simply stuff keywords in. But it’s actually useful for giving both readers and search engines information about what the post is about. Therefore, keep it engaging and include your keywords in it. It’s just 160 characters, but it metas can be very useful if used right.
Link Your Content Externally and Internally
Search engines will determine the validity and usefulness of your content by looking at your links. Posts with relevant, high quality links fare much better than posts with low-quality or no links at all. If you want to establish yourself as an authority in a certain field, you should link to other authoritative sources.
Authoritative sources are for, example:
- Surveys and research papers
- Government sites (.gov)
- Educational sites (.edu)
- Other high-authority blogs and websites in your niche.
Also, in addition to linking to external sources, don’t forget to link internally to posts you already have and is relevant to the topic. If you think it might be helpful to your readers, link to another post you’ve published. This will also keep them longer on your site. Personally, I like to link to at least three other posts on my blog, but you can do more, just pay attention not to overdo it. You don’t want your post to be all hyperlinked.
Don’t Skimp on Quality
How many times have you heard the phrase “write quality content”? Well, prepare to hear it one more time. It won’t matter one iota if your content is optimized perfectly for SEO your grammar is poor, your sentences don’t make sense and your post badly formatted.
Here’s some of the things you need to keep in mind to ensure that your content is of great quality:
- Make the topic clear
The topic of your content needs to be clear from the start. Don’t leave it up in the air and don’t make the readers wonder what you want to say. Be clear and concise, not ambiguous and redundant.
- Pay attention to grammar.
Proofread and edit your content before you hit that “publish” button. There’s few things worse than some grammar nazi bashing your entire post because your grammar is wrong.
- Use correct spelling
Just like grammar, you should also keep a close eye to your spelling. My advice is not to do this while you write your content, as it will only slow you down, but go over it once you’ve finished writing and edit any typos.
- Stay on the topic
It’s hard enough to keep the Internet user’s attention as it is. Some even claim that our attention span is now equal or worse to that of a goldfish, though this is a myth. Our aquarian friends can actually remember events for months!
Oh, and if it will make you feel better, you also don’t have an attention span of less than three seconds. It’s just that, with so much input we get from outside, our brains have learned to focus their attention differently than our pre-digital ancestors (or even our parents). We just don’t waste time on pointless tasks anymore.
Translated to content, this means you need to stay on the topic. Otherwise, you risk losing your reader.
- Format your content
Use subheading to break your content into more manageable parts. However, again, be sure to stay on the topic. Also, make the post more scannable by introducing bullet points, numbered lists and shorter paragraph. Don’t make the visitor go through blocks of text.
Write for Your Readers, Not Yourself
Blogs used to be about whoever is writing them. In fact, this was originally an online journal, a “web log” (hence the name “blog”). However, that’s now changed and a blog is today used to provide information to the reader about a specific topic that interest them. Again, “them” not “you”.
Throughout this post, I’ve mentioned “intention”. You can’t create content in a vacuum. Instead, you need to know what your potential visitors want to read about. What problems or dilemmas are they facing? Where are they in the buyer’s stage? Do they need a specific information, such as what are the best bluetooth headphones for running or are simply looking for information about headphones in general? One is probably ready to buy a pair, while the other could be looking for information about headphones for any number of reasons.
The closer you are to matching your visitor’s intent with your content, the more likely they will perform an action you want them to perform, like buying your product, clicking on the email subscribe button, or anything else.
“Content is king”. You’ll see this phrase all over the Internet, but this king is actually ruled by your visitors. If they don’t like your it, they will yell “Down with the king!”. Because of this, you need to optimize your content for both SEO and your readers if you want it to be glorified and not spurned.
Do you have any questions or comments about how to optimize content for search engines? Let me know in the comments below and share this post on social media if you found it useful.