From finding the right topic to choosing the best structure, we’re delighted to share our insights on creating first-class content. This is the second in our series looking at the foundations of SEO. Check out our other posts on setting up your website for SEO, creating a link building strategy and understanding Google’s algorithm.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Make it audience-first
This might sound a bit cliché, but putting yourself in your reader's shoes is critical for creating content that resonates. This means having a clear idea of their persona (demographic, interests and preferences) and tailoring your writing towards that.
Whether you’re crafting an article for a new, digital-only bank or a citizens advice bureau, the principles (which we explore below) will be the same, but the tone is likely to be different.
Do your research, and make sure you know who you’re talking to. Would a playful, friendly approach work or would something a bit more serious and factual be more suitable?
2. Focus on the benefits
Before you put pen to paper, ask yourself “so what does this mean to me, as the reader?”. This is where you need to adopt a benefits-led mindset to your writing, depending on the context of course (i.e. if you’re selling a product or service).
Let’s say you’ve just started an international relocation business. That’s great, but how does it add value to your customers? By asking yourself this question, you could position your content into something like this:
Our international relocation service takes the stress out of moving countries. By packing, loading and transporting everything for you, we free up your valuable time so you can focus on the more important aspects of your move.
3. Use keywords strategically
Once you’ve researched the keywords that you want your page to rank for, you’ll need to include them selectively throughout your content.
Getting the right balance is essential. If you use too many in your content (known as keyword stuffing) not only will search engines penalize it - your readers won’t appreciate it either.
Aim to include your main keyword in the first couple of sentences, and then a few more times dotted throughout the rest of your content. If you can include them but keep your content sounding natural, you’re on to a winner!
4. Embrace clarity
Uncomplicated, natural and easy to understand language will help your content to thrive. Just because a topic is complex, it doesn’t mean your writing has to be.
Write as you speak - within reason! Resist the urge to use words that you wouldn’t typically use in everyday life in order to come across as sounding more intelligent (which has actually been shown to have the opposite effect). This doesn’t mean dumbing down your content (never use slang), but it does mean making it clearer and more accessible.
Check out The Plain English Campaign’s A to Z of alternative words, which provides other options to many of the unnatural words we are sometimes tempted to use in our writing.
5. Find your authentic voice
There’s a huge amount of content out there, and if you look closely, you’ll find varying degrees of repetition. We all need some inspiration to get started, but it should be just that - inspiration. Your writing should always be authentic and come from your own voice. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
If you’re writing about a topic that’s already covered (which is highly likely, given the nature of the internet!), take a look at the other articles and try to identify what you think is missing, from a reader's perspective. What would you have included, and how would you have explained it differently?
Or, why not start something from scratch? Sure, the keyword search volume might be low, but if it’s a growing trend there’s certainly no harm in being the first mover. Find your own angle, and run with it.
6. Keep it structured
There are a few simple things you can do to structure your content, helping it to become easier to read and more SEO-friendly. Make sure you:
- Summarise your standout point in the introduction: so readers know what to expect without having to read to the end.
- Keep paragraphs short (no more than three to four lines): to help create a natural reading flow.
- Break it up with headers, bullet points and images: to inject a healthy dose of variety to your content.
- Add a short conclusion: so everything is brought together and any next steps can be referenced.
Linking to other pages on your website not only helps from an SEO perspective, but it helps to continue the conversation. Whether you’re linking to another piece of content or a specific call to action (such as signing up or buying), it’s important to include these within your text, but use them sparingly.
7. Bring it to life
Once you have a structure in place, it’s time to turn it into something that people will love to read. Attention spans are short, so you need to do your best to generate interest quickly. Try to:
Create powerful headlines
What grabs your attention more: “The best cities to visit in Spain” or “These are the Spanish cities you need to visit before you turn 30”. Hopefully it’s the latter! Adding a sense of urgency, and addressing the reader directly is just one example of making a headline more enticing.
Use active rather than passive language
Engage with the reader by using action-oriented language. Use verbs to encourage a response or participation, and to inspire them to carry on reading. For example, “Explore Amsterdam’s free museums” is better than “Visitors can explore Amsterdam’s free museums”.
Listicles and Q&As
People love lists and question/answer formats, because they present information in a way that’s easy to digest. They allow the reader to skim an article while getting the key points, and they also help with SEO, allowing search engines to easily grab the information that corresponds to a particular search term.
Creating top content is just one aspect of a successful SEO strategy, but without it, everything else becomes harder. Although we’ve focused on the writing aspects in this blog, it’s always a good idea to include all types of content formats, such as infographics and videos to complement your words.
Getting search engines to endorse and rank your content is the next step. For that, you’ll need to build trust from other sources, which we explain how to do in our guide to link building.