In creating content for their company website, many small business owners feel torn. On the one hand, they wand to develop a site that’s pleasing to potential customers, and helps them brand themselves effectively. On the other hand, they want to make sure they have all the technical elements in place to find favor with Google’s search algorithms.
The Role of SEO
Sometimes, these two missions are cast as being somehow at odds with one another—as if catering to Google algorithms requires you to compromise readability. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember that Google ultimately wants to provide its customers (search engine users) with a satisfying product (accurate and relevant search results). As such, ensuring that your content effectively answers readers’ questions in a clear, easy-to-navigate format is really one of the best things you can do for your SEO.
Consider also that those techniques that impair readability—including black hat practices like keyword stuffing, link stuffing, invisible text, etc.—actually land you with Google penalties; meanwhile, Google has consistently claimed that high quality is the #1 SEO priority. Put all of this together and it becomes clear: Google wants you to produce well-written, well-organized content for your human readers. That’s the crux of good SEO.
Creating Quality Content
With all of that said, how can you ensure that your written website content does fulfill its role of helping the reader—and thus, of finding favor with search engine algorithms? Here is a quick checklist—just a few simple steps you can follow to maximize readability and SEO.
Ensure Your Content is Original
Google doesn’t see much value in duplicate content. The thinking is simply this: When people are looking for answers to a particular question, they want a variety of perspectives—not the exact same content repurposed over and over again. Any kind of duplication is to be avoided, then—whether it’s plagiarizing someone else’s page or simply repeating the same content on multiple pages of your own website.
If you have concerns about the originality of your content, we recommend Copyscape, or any of the countless other plagiarism checkers that are out there.
Write an Optimized Headline
Your headline is in many ways the most important part of any page, because it’s what signals to the reader what the whole page is about—and thus helps them determine whether they want to read further down the page. A good headline, then, should be clear in the value proposition—not just what the page is about, but what benefits the reader can derive from reading that content.
Using a focus keyword in your headline is also a good idea, just so long as you can fit it in naturally. “Our Guide to Finding the Best Hair Replacement in Charlotte” is an example of a natural-sounding headline. Meanwhile, something like “Best Hair Replacement Charlotte Hair Solutions” sounds very much like a series of keywords jammed together without much sense. Keywords should never hinder the plain meaning of your headline.
Also, keep it short! Your headline needs to be displayed on the search engine results page (SERP) without Google having to truncate it, which means keeping it to 55-60 characters—including spaces.
Structure Your Pages
A good piece of online content will include a series of subheadings—H1, H2, and H3 tags, etc.—that break things up into more digestible segments. This is not only a chance to include some more targeted keywords—again, make sure you do so naturally—but also to guide your reader through the content.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: You should write content that is easy to read, but also easy to skim. Section subheadings that walk through each topic of the content really enhance the skimmability of your website, which makes it more user-friendly—and thus, more SEO-friendly.
Make Readability Key
Always have the actual utility of your page—its readability—as your guiding concern. Here are a few basic tips:
- Keep your sentences fairly brief.
- Keep your paragraphs short; avoid long, unbroken blocks of text.
- Resist the passive voice.
- Keep each page of content on-point, geared toward helpfully addressing one specific topic.
There is not really a formula for readability, and it can vary depending on your target audiences—for a more technical product or service, more elevated language might be appropriate, while other businesses might benefit from plain speak. Here, your buyer personas can help you determine what could qualify your content as truly readable, relative to your audience.
What About Links?
Linking is always a great concern in SEO circles. How many internal and external links should each page of your content have? That’s a big topic, but our rule of thumb would just be this: Make sure that the links themselves aid readability. Be judicious but also generous in linking to resources that compliment and illuminate your material, while avoiding anything that might be distracting or off-topic.
Thinking About Readers—and Search Algorithms
You may sometimes wonder whether it’s best to write for human readers, or for search algorithms. This is one of the oldest tensions in digital marketing, and it’s also a bit of a red herring. The best approach is to write for both, as their interests are very much in alignment.
Get off on the right foot with your content, ensuring it appeals to users and search bots alike, by consulting with an SEO expert. The enCOMPASS Agency team is certainly happy to help. Reach out to us today to start a conversation about how best to optimize your website content.
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