The world of marketing has always been a kind of a crazy roller coaster ride, and the last few years have seen the pace of change accelerate rapidly. And while it can be quite exhilarating, sometimes it’s a little scary when you don’t know what’s coming up around the next bend. Will it throw you for a loop? Send you into a nosedive? Only time will tell. However, like any roller coaster, marketing always seems to come back around and start all over again.
Consider search engine optimization (SEO). When it first came into play, many people were resistant to the idea of “writing for robots” in order to make web pages rank higher on search results. Cramming a well-turned phrase with keywords seemed like an affront, as did front-loading a clever headline with popular search terms.
But without optimizing your web content for search, how would people ever find your site?
Fortunately, this situation has changed as well, and we’ve come full circle. We may still be writing for robots as well as humans, but those robots now understand natural-sounding language and reward pages that deliver what real people might actually be looking for.
This development is one of the topics addressed in a new eBook from Anvil Media and Act-On Software, How to Make Any Content SEO-Friendly: A 3-Step SEO Guide for Writers and Content Marketers. This eBook is a great resource for anyone who has been tasked with writing anything for a website. Whether it’s an article, a blog post, a landing page, a product page, or an entire site, this eBook can help you make sure your content will be found through organic search.
Optimizing content isn’t complicated, but there are several tricks of the trade around keyword research, selection, and placement. And since, like everything else in digital marketing, SEO continues to evolve, there are some emerging best practices that you can use to help search engines make the most sense possible of what you write … which helps them choose your page to return.
Here are three basic steps that can help you optimize your content for search engines.
Step 1: Choose Your Keywords
Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed – optimizing your content is still all about choosing the right keywords. But instead of just picking the keywords that are likely to get the most searches and fitting them into the copy as many times as possible, it’s important to prioritize. Quantity is great (to a point), but quality is even better. It’s smarter to use a keyword that’s very targeted to your audience and cast a smaller net, because the searchers you pull in will be more likely to buy. It’s also best to think about how your audience might actually look for your content. What questions are they likely to ask? What words will they use to ask them? Find the answers … and your keywords will follow.
Having the right words isn’t enough – you also need to consider the order of your keywords. For example, “vegan gluten-free oatmeal cookie recipe” receives an average of zero searches per month, whereas “gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe” gets an average of 20. It’s amazing…. all it took to improve the results of this concept was to reverse the order of two words. Brainstorming, research, and tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Wikipedia, Übersuggest, and MergeWords can also help with the keyword creation process.
Step 2: Refine Your Choices
Once you’ve uncovered the keywords that make the most sense for your page, you should make sure you have at least two and no more than eight keywords. The most relevant of them all will be your primary keyword, and the rest will be supporting keywords. In order to whittle down the list, it’s important to remove the words (and combinations of words) that can actually harm your search results, including:
- The ones that don’t sound like a naturally occurring phrase. For example, “Cookies oatmeal” has search volume – we all enter backwards phrases like that into search engines now and again – but optimizing for it in your copy would make you sound like English isn’t your first language. Keywords should blend seamlessly into your page copy, so don’t try to make something work that just doesn’t sound right.
- The ones that sound like advertising. Keywords with words like “best” or “for sale” may get more search results, but your copy will suffer if you play to those search queries explicitly. Try to keep your keywords purely descriptive.
- The ones that mention a competing brand by name. Bidding on competitors’ names in order to gain impressions is also a bad idea. The results are sure to suffer because your page isn’t really what the potential customer is looking for.
Once you’ve got your keyword list, make sure the primary keywords aren’t used that way anyplace else on your site. You should never assign the same primary keyword to more than one page. It’s fine to use a primary keyword on one page and then use it as a supporting keyword on one other page, as long as the keyword in question is relevant to both and the primary keywords are different.
Step 3: Optimize Your Page
The more your primary keyword appears on your page, the more convinced Google will be of the page’s relevancy to that keyword. You should make sure your keywords appear in the following places:
- Body copy
- Page title
- Meta description
Keyword placement can be challenging. It used to be that there was no such thing as too many keywords. These days, that’s called keyword stuffing, and it won’t get you any points with a search engine. SEO is almost more an art than a science, so if you have any doubts about the density and placement of your keywords, you may want to consult an SEO professional.
Be sure to read the eBook to get an in-depth look at the tips that can help you connect with your target audience, and make sure that search engine robots love your page as much as your human readers do.