A Quick Guide to Creating Content “That Ranks”
Relevant, well-written content is a feature of every top-ranking website and is a crucial part of a competitive search engine optimization strategy. But writing for the World Wide Web is different than writing for anything else. Two audiences must be satisfied: both online consumers and search engine “spiders.”
Writing for Search Engines
A search engine’s primary task is providing the most accurate, relevant search results for keyword searches from authoritative sites. If a user searches for ‘learning to write,’ the search engines want to return the pages that a user will find most valuable and relevant. If the text content on a page does not accurately display authority for ‘learning to write,’ it will not be displayed high in the search results.
For search engines to find content to index, they send out bots (programs or automated scripts) to crawl web pages. These bots evaluate distinct elements of a web page and then index and rank the web pages accordingly. To achieve high search engine rankings and visibility, your content must comply with the following guidelines.
Search Engines Prefer:
- Proper keyword density, about 3-5 percent
- Grammar and punctuation are a must (Try Grammarly)
- Quality, detailed paragraphs
- Organized, original content that is easily categorized
- Pages focused on a singular topic to expound on
- Numerous, up-to-date pages throughout site (the more, the better)
- A significant word count. Compare pages that rank in the top 10 of your specific keyword and duplicate and an average of those pages word count. We recommend, on average, 800 to 1500 words per page.
Writing for Consumers
There are billions upon billions of pages of information on the Web. Users want information, but they don’t want to be misled. They also want to find the best information with the least amount of effort. A page listed on the tenth page of Google results for ‘learning to write’ isn’t going to get much organic user traffic. A page listed on the first page of Google results for ‘learning to write’ because it tricked the search engines and doesn’t provide any useful information on the keyword will not convert into good traffic.
The simple answer is to provide good keyword-rich text content that is valuable to a user. You should be able to read your pages, consider the keywords, and quickly determine whether they are pages someone searching for the keywords would be looking for.
Less than 16 percent of Internet consumers read an entire page from start to finish. Most Internet consumers scan the page for information relevant to their interests. With only a short window of time to grab attention, here are a few things to remember.
Internet consumers like:
- Brief paragraphs, broken up with white space
- Informative, interesting headings
- Concise writing and low word count
- Bullet lists
- Pages that guide to other relevant pages
- Most pertinent information at the top
Satisfying Dual Audiences – By maintaining a happy medium of writing for both audiences, companies with an online presence can rank high, reach their consumers and turn qualified consumer traffic into enhanced conversion rates and increased sales.
What is Good Content?
Good text content is valuable to a user and appropriately displays the theme and keywords for the page. There are a few general guidelines for writing good text content:
- Pages should contain at least 800 to 1500 words of text, if possible. Pages with less content will not appear authoritative in some business verticles. Please remember that each site and business verticles are different, and there are many other aspects of getting pages and content ranked. Pages with more content are more likely to get results if the keyword density is maintained. Often, longer pages will do better in the search engines compared with shorter pages.
- Keyword prominence is a must. Focused Keywords should be at the beginning of an H1 tag and included at least once in your first paragraph. Even better to have the targeted keyword in the first sentence. You can also bold or italics the keyword to emphasize it, making that keyword more critical on the page.
- The keyword density of your pages should be between 3 and 5%. This means the keywords should occupy 3-5% of the total text content on the page. If the density is too high, the page will appear spam-like and most likely will not rank well. If the density is too low, the page will not appear authoritative. Another way to test keyword density is to use each of your keywords once per paragraph (of four sentences) and read them aloud to yourself. If the articles do not read well, the density is probably too high.
- Text content should be 100% relevant to the keywords and, most importantly, be useful to visitors. Writing filler text with keywords interspersed throughout does not provide value to a visitor and will most likely not increase page views or sales. Trickery also places you in the grey area with search engines and does not provide long-term rankings.
- Structure your content correctly. Having a good text structure for your pages helps Google and users “scan” the content. Visitors scan over content to see if they can find what they were looking for, and Google scans the content to understand the text and overall goal of the page. The easier it is for Google to understand your content, the easier it is for Google to rank the page. To improve your content’s structure, focus on the first paragraph, headings, and the first few sentences of a paragraph. Additionally, break up your paragraphs and use short sentences. Short sentences help to engage readers, and people will read short paragraphs. This helps users scan the page for what they’re looking for and makes the information easy to digest.
- Do not attempt to optimize a page for more than 3 to 5 keywords. It’s not possible to accurately optimize or write content for more keywords and still retain the value of the page. The goal should be narrow, targeted pages with very relevant content.
- Always place the primary keyword as the first word in the sentence or paragraph in the content whenever possible. The best way to do this is to place the primary keyword at the beginning of the sentence or paragraph (such as ‘How To Create Quality Content That Ranks?’ There are several methods to achieve high ranking content). The more forward the keyword is in the sentence or paragraph will help the prominence of that keyword or long-tail keywords phrase.
- Always write unique content. Syndicated or copied content provides very little value to the site. Individual pages on the website should also be more than 30-40% unique overall. Copying the same text onto multiple pages with keywords changed out can result in a duplicate content penalty or the pages being ignored by the search engines. Duplicate content also provides no value to users.
Anyone who writes for the Web should consider both the user (user intent) and search engine equally. Poorly written keyword-stuffed text content may get rankings temporarily, but they will not impress visitors and will not convert into good traffic. Be honest with the search engines and provide a valuable resource to visitors, and your site will reap the rewards.
- Stay on theme: Write the content for a page around a specific theme, topic, and/or keyword. If the content goes outside of the general theme you’ve chosen for the page, then you need to create another page around that topic.
- Word count: Pages should contain at least 500 words up to 1,500 words, if possible. Pages with less content will not appear authoritative. Pages with more content are great as long as the keyword density is maintained. The more you write, the more keywords you need to put in.
- Keyword density:
- Maintain a 3-5% density for the primary keyword (the first keyword in the assignment, usually bolded).
- The supporting keywords need to be in the content at least once but don’t need to achieve 3-5% density. (If you can, that’s good, but don’t go over 5%, and make sure it doesn’t look spammy.)
- To figure out the KWD, divide the total number of keywords used per phrase by the total number of words in the content. KWD is determined per keyword, not for all keywords at once.
Example: So, let’s say your primary keyword is “Printing NYC.” You have the term “Printing NYC” in a 400-word page of content 8 times. So, to configure the keyword density, the formula would be:
(2 x 8) ÷ 400 = .04 or 4% keyword density
You may have other supporting keywords on the page too. So those all must be figured out separately. Another supporting keyword you have is “digital printing NYC.” So, let’s say “digital printing NYC” is in the content 3 times. To configure the keyword density, the formula would be:
(3 x 3) ÷ 400 = .023 or 2% keyword density
- Content structure:
- Write your headline first. The headline sets the direction for the rest of your page and keeps you focused. When you write your headline first, the rest of the article will stay on topic. Focused pages get more conversions.
- Include your primary target keyword at the beginning of your main heading (H1).
- The first paragraph should give a brief overview of what the page is about and contain the main message you want users and Google to receive. Your primary keyword for the page should be at the beginning of the first sentence of the first paragraph, as well.
- Your subheadings (H2) should include your supporting keywords for the page and state the content of the paragraph below it. Helpful subheadings allow users, and Google, to scan through the page and pick out what the page is about and which parts to read. Use subheadings for each group of paragraphs that are thematically similar.
- Make sure the first couple sentences of each paragraph have the most crucial information. Google pays extra attention to these sentences, and often these sentences make it into rich snippets. It’s smart to put keywords in the first couple of sentences, as well.
- Don’t use big words: People won’t be impressed by an extensive vocabulary. Readability is essential for a holistic SEO perspective. Text with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) is straightforward and easy to read, with short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease score of 60-70 is considered acceptable/normal for web copy
- Ask questions:
- Anticipate a common question related to your page content and make this question your H1 or H2’s (make sure to include keywords).
- Answer the question in the first few sentences and elaborate afterward.
- Call to action: Always include a call to action at the end, whether it is a number to call, a link to a contact page, etc. You don’t want to leave the reader with anything to do at the end of the page. You can also create a sense of urgency with words like now, today, etc. i.e. “Call us now to get the best clown shoes today!”
- Spelling and grammar: I can’t emphasize this enough: always check your work after you are done. Spell check is not always accurate. Sometimes it will change words automatically, and you won’t notice that it’s the wrong word. Occasionally you can use the wrong form of a word and not realize it until later (i.e., there vs. their vs. they’re). If I’m writing a bunch of content, I wait until it’s all finished and then check it with fresh eyes a few hours later or the next day.