It’s a daunting landscape for professional writers in 2016. Whether you studied to hone your skills or went straight into employment, it’s tough to succeed in such a competitive industry. If you write for print or work in traditional, offline marketing you may not be aware that online copywriting takes a different set of skills. If you work in a digital agency like Quadra you’ll pick these up quickly, if you don’t, there are plenty of resources online to teach yourself.
The way in which writers create, optimise and deliver content online changes constantly, something I love about working in digital. This blog is going to focus on the search engine optimisation of online content, starting with the basics!
Can I do my own SEO?
At Quadra we have Analysts who are SEO experts. The world of SEO is complex and our clients come to us for our in-depth knowledge in this area. That said, it’s also essential for us to have marketers that understand the core concepts of SEO too and can apply this to their writing.
When you're just getting started it’s helpful to understand how search engines work. It may seem like dark magic that Google (and its less popular counterparts) can access billions of pages in a fraction of a second but rest assured, they actually use monstrous data-centres all over the world to do so. Search engines aim to provide you with the most relevant and popular answer, hundreds of factors influence this and unsurprisingly, search engines are notoriously secretive about the exact formula to their algorithms. Moz, a great source of SEO knowledge, has done the hard work for you and compiled a guide of ranking factors based on the extensive research they do into SEO.
To para-phrase this guide, ranking factors include the quality of links to and from your website, visitor traffic and most importantly for writers, the on-page optimisation of keyword usage, content quality and quantity. Social and brand metrics are also important so creating shareable content is in your best interest not only for brand exposure but also for ranking. I’d recommend reading this to better understand how search engines work.
How can I optimise my content?
When you’re writing keep in mind some of the following factors, these are essential to the success of your content and website as a whole.
• Uniqueness of the content on the page
• Reading level of the content on the page
• Length of content on the page
• Use of keywords on the page
Keywords are an essential part of SEO, doing research into keywords is one of the most valuable things you can do. By doing this research you’ll gain an unparalleled insight into your customers and the type of content they want. At Quadra we use Google Adwords Keyword Planner, it’s easy for beginners to navigate and allows you to explore long-tail keywords that will help your content convert. Remember, a higher number of searches isn't always best, it often means more competition and therefore specific (long-tail) phrases are better suited.
Once you have your keywords remember to include them in the following on your page:
• URLs (keep these short)
• Title (60 characters or less)
• Metadescription (Under 155 characters)
• Body copy (within the first 200 words and throughout)
• Images (file name, ALT text)
• Links (use a keyword-rich anchor text)
If you’re using WordPress I’d recommend getting a Yoast plugin. Yoast asks for your focus keyword and then searches for it in your content. Like our content management systems (built using SilverStripe) it gives you fields to add an SEO title and metadescription.
Do I have to worry about more than keywords?
Put simply, yes! As I said earlier in this blog post, there are many ranking factors to consider. Other things to think about are whether your page is mobile friendly, how fast your page load speed is and your clickthrough rate to the page from search. Take a look at our blog on SEO for small businesses for more on this.
Things to avoid
As well as positive ranking factors, there are also negative ranking factors that can be troublesome when trying to rank in search.
While using keywords is effective, the over-use of keywords, or ‘keyword stuffing’ as it’s more commonly known is actually a negative ranking factor for Google. It stops your content from being easy to read, remember to write for your audience first and search engines second.
Duplicate content is one of the most vexing problems any website can have. While having a decent amount of pages is beneficial, search engines have little patience for it. Similarly, canonicalization (when two or more duplicate versions of a webpage appear via different URLs) confuses search engines, as they aren’t sure which page to rank first.
Which online resources should I use?
Within our team we use a mixture of free and paid resources to stay on top of search and continue to learn. One resource I’ve mentioned multiple times during this blog is Moz, their beginner’s guide to SEO really is the best way to learn. I’d also recommend Google, starting with ‘How Google Search Works' and moving on to their general guidelines on search. Blogs that provide good information include Kissmetrics, HubSpot and Distilled.