There was a period of time when writers with SEO knowledge who didn’t care about their readership as much as they cared about making money. They would use Blackhat practices to drive traffic to their website. These practices included stuffing their content with so many keywords that it became almost illegible. Trading backlinks with other content creators, making their content so inundated with links that it became useless to readers.
Of course, it didn’t long for search engine creators to wise up to these Blackhat practices and change their algorithms. However, those of us who remember the dark days of search engine optimization may feel wary when the term comes up in our business practices. People who care about creating high-quality content may worry that learning about SEO may encourage them to engage in shady behavior and decrease the quality of their content.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It is 100% possible to create high-quality content while also taking SEO best practices into consideration. In fact, understanding SEO best practices can actually improve the quality of the content you’re producing. Not only that, search engine optimization will definitely increase your organic traffic. This means more people will read the content you’re producing. This quick guide will show you how to blend SEO best practices with quality content writing to create a high-traffic website.
Start with Keyword Research
The first thing you should do when creating content for your website before you do any writing is doing some keyword research on your topic. Tools like AHREFS can help you see what keywords your competitors are ranking for and what terms your target audience is searching for.
If you’re just starting out, or are looking to boost your rankings for the first time, you should look to rank for long-tail keywords. AHREFS has a “questions” research button. This will help you find some of these long-form search terms that users are typing into Google. You can see how much traffic those keywords are getting and how hard the competition is for those terms. This can then help you determine which keywords to try to rank for.
How does this help you create quality content for SEO? By starting with the keywords and writing your topic afterward, you can write content on subjects your readers care about. Any temptation you had to write about yourself without considering your audience goes out the window. This means that you generate content that matters to your readers, not content that matters just to you.
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Use Keywords Once
Only one page on the internet can hold the #1 spot in Google for any given keyword. So, if you want your website to rank higher in Google, you need to stop competing with yourself. Once you have the list of keywords you want to start out trying to rank for, you need to make sure that on each page you’re making, you’re ranking for one keyword. Additionally, you want to only rank for that keyword on that page. Different pages need different keywords.
How does this improve your content quality for SEO? Knowing that you can only use keywords once keeps your content focused on one subject. If you realize you’re not ranking high for that keyword, don’t be tempted to create new content. Go in and edit your existing content to make it better. This increases the quality of your content over time. This will give you pillar content that continues to generate backlinks as time continues onward.
Use Keywords in Titles & Descriptions
“Once you know what keywords you’re trying to rank for in each blog post, you should use the keyword not only in the blog post but also in your titles and descriptions. Again, by doing keyword research ahead of time, you can go into your blog post with a sense of direction.” – as mentioned by Doug Stewart from Spamzilla.
This shouldn’t detract from the personalization of your blog. This should instead enhance your content and make it about your reader instead of about you. For example, imagine you’re writing a travel blog. You could write a blog post entitled, “Where I went this weekend?”. But your keyword research would tell you that no one is searching for what you did over the weekend; that’s relevant to you, not to your reader.
However, “5 Takeaways from a Weekend in Bar Harbor, Maine,” might rank higher in Google. No wonder, since that title, which is about the same subject, suddenly feels much more relevant to your readers.
Your descriptions work the same way. By using SEO best practices to enhance your descriptions, you not only make them more searchable by search engines, but you also make them feel more relevant to your readers.
Use Internal Links
When you write content on a regular basis for a niche website, you’re apt to talk about related subjects. Linking two related blog posts together helps search engines understand the hierarchy of your website and how your content relates. This can prevent you from competing with yourself for the same keywords over and over again.
Internal links are also a great way to keep people on your website longer. They may transition from blog post to blog post, reading older content as they go. If you make a practice of posting evergreen content on a regular basis, this is a great way to get it seen and continue helping it rank higher in search engines.
It’s helpful for your audiences as well. If someone is on your website reading an article about the importance of sleep in early childhood, they might also be interested in the post you wrote on how to help your kid work through nightmares. Linking these similar content pieces shows your audience that you understand their needs and that you can be trusted to continue writing to those needs on a regular basis.
Link to High-Quality Websites
If you’ve ever had to write an academic paper, you might remember your teachers telling you not to state something as a fact unless you had the citations to back it up. Similarly, if you want to show that you’re an authority on a subject, you have to prove to your readers that you’ve done your research. Outbound links can help you prove that you’ve taken the time to research a topic in depth.
The key to outbound links is to only link to authoritative websites, and not to link to your direct competitors. Your outbound links should support your content, not detract from it. So, for example, if you run a company that sells protein bars, you wouldn’t want to write “protein bars are good for you” and link to the blog of another company that sells protein bars. Instead, what you’d want to do is say something like “studies shows that protein helps your muscles recover after a workout” and link to a website like WebMD or–even better–to an academic study on the subject.
Using outbound links in your writing can put you a cut above your competitors by showing search engines that your content is more in-depth and better researched. Just make sure to keep track of which websites you link to in outbound links. Too many links to the same website can trigger search engine algorithms to think that you’re trading links with another website owner. This can negatively impact your search engine rankings.
Consider Writing Guest Posts
It may seem counterintuitive to write content for another website in order to drive traffic to your website. However, writing guest posts can have a great impact on your traffic if you do it correctly. Just as outbound links can show search engines that you do your research, backlinks (i.e. links that come from another website to your website) show search engines that you are enough of an authority on a topic that other people think it’s relevant to link to you.
Generally, the deal when you write a guest post for a website is that you’re allowed to link to your own website within that post. These backlinks can drive traffic to your website.
The key to writing a great guest post is to write for a website that is not a direct competitor but that does have some of your potential clients. For example, if you sell business suits for a living, you wouldn’t want to write a guest post for another website that sells clothing. However, you might write a guest post for a website that is aimed at CEOs, since those same clients might be in the market for some dress shoes.
Once you’ve got a website manager to agree to let you write a guest post for their website, the next step is to write amazing content. You want your content to be so good that they want to share it on their social media accounts. You want it to generate as much traffic to their website as possible. It can, in turn, give your website as much authority as possible.
Use Image Alt Text
Uploading images to your blog posts can be a hassle. So, when it comes to images, many people ignore the alt text completely; or they just type the name of the article into the field for alt text. This is a mistake, and it can lower your search engine results.
To type good alt text, you should describe the picture exactly the way that you’d describe it to a blind person. So, instead of saying something like “Picture for the Cereal Article,” you’d write, “Girl sitting in front of a bowl of cereal with a spoon in one hand and a milk mustache on her face.”
The power of the alt text is two-fold. Firstly, alt text really is meant to help people who can’t see images, including the vision impaired. You may not think that blind people are reading your blog posts. But with the increased capabilities of technology, the internet is more accessible to the blind community than ever before. Text-to-speech technology can make your blog post accessible. But they can’t translate your images unless you put the correct words in place.
Secondly, good alt text gives you one more opportunity to optimize your website for your keywords. It helps search engines understand what your content is communicating to your audience. Just like the blind community, search engines can’t crawl images and understand what they’re looking at. But they can understand alt text.
Share Your Content
The final, and most important, step to optimizing your content for search engines is to share it with the community. Sharing your content on social media websites gives more backlinks to your content. It gives more opportunities for you to let the search engines know what your content is about.
Even more importantly, if you’ve done the work to create high-quality content, then you should want to share it. If your content has been written with the audience in mind and is better researched and presented than anything else that’s been written on the topic, then you should feel confident that people will want to read it. Sharing it on social media gives them that opportunity.
The bigger problem may be knowing where to share your content, or how. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the easiest places to start. All you have to do are write a caption and share the link. But many bloggers and businesses find they are most successful when they use sites like Pinterest. Pinterest users get on the website specifically to be driven towards content. So they’re more likely to look at your content than users of other social media websites.
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Search engine optimization doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. When thinking about SEO, remember that Google wants the same thing you want: to provide readers with high-quality content. Google will always reward better content over Blackhat SEO practices. By researching good SEO practices, you’re ultimately researching good content best practices.