Writing for SEO

We have long known that search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have moved beyond the single keyword. Semantic search has been part of the dialogue for quite a while now. But what does that mean for good SEO page content? Well, it means good content got more complicated, yet still logical.

Google has said, for years, that we should write for the users, not the search engines. At the beginning (15+ years ago), that was difficult. When search engines rewarded keyword stuffing and single-term focused page content, they put good SEO in direct opposition to quality writing. With semantic search, that changed.

Write Naturally

When we speak about a topic, we rarely use the same word too repetitively. For most topics there are multiple ways to refer to the subjects, and we tend to pepper our speech with these variations. When writing for almost anything other than SEO, our natural tendency is to also vary the way we reference ideas, items, or people. This same approach is critical for creating content on the web site; it reads better and is better for organic search.

If you are not sure where to start, think back to how we learned to write papers in grammar school. We started with an outline, and worked our way to an essay or report by working through the elements of the outline. For the search engines, a page on your website is structured in exactly the same way.

Logical Content Structure

Every page starts with an overarching topic. This topic can then be divided into subtopics that help explain or elaborate on the overall content theme.

In school, we created outlines. In HTML structure, we use Title and H tags.

  1. Title:   Only 1. Main theme, content area
  2. <h1>:  Only 1. Different words, same theme as Title
    1. <h2>: sub header
    2. <h2>: sub header
      1. <h3>: sub header
      2. <h3>: sub header
    3. <h2>: sub header
      1. <h3>:sub header
      2. <h3>: sub header
        1. <h4>: sub header

The html Title and H tags are not something you see as a reader, but you do see the content. These tags “wrap” the content so the search engines can see the structure of your page.

For each H tag header or subheader, we write content directly related to the topic. A small paragraph can be sufficient, but there should be enough content to make your point.

What if a single subheader has a lot of content unto itself? This is not uncommon, and usually indicates that you have another theme to explore. In these cases, you write a small bit of content for this page, and link to a new page that elaborates on the sub-topic as it’s main theme.

As an example, if your content is about employee productivity, many of the subtopics are worthy of their own pages. Worker productivity increases with training or improved morale. Certainly these are proper subtopics to productivity as well as worthy of their own pages.

So, how much subtopic material should be on this page? This is where your qualitative assessment must come into play. As a reader, if you begin to wonder if the topic is about productivity or about employee morale, then you’ve diluted the primary topic too much with subtopic content. There is no magic formula, so use your judgement or ask others to review the article.

Creating Quality Content

You have your outline, and you’ve created decent blocks of content, but you’re not done yet. The search engines are grading your content on several levels, and one of them is quality of writing.

No one is looking for Pulitzer level writing, but you have to have the basics covered. Google is able to assess spelling and grammar in page content. While we can’t say how much weight is given, and how “wrong” it can be before it’s a problem, Google has indicated that the quality of the writing is part of the overall page assessment.

Let’s face it, what the search engines are asking from us is that we create relevant content that users can easily consume. Their algorithms are simply now aligning to the goals that they’ve been articulating for the past 15+ years.

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