When we think of SEO, we think of keyword research and content length, but search engine algorithms have evolved. Search engines care more about your content’s authority. They want to know whether or not people trust your content. And how do you earn that trust? By focusing on your readers.
This practice will enhance readability and make your content more natural and compelling, which both readers and search engines like. In turn, people will naturally link back to you, indicating to search engines that your content is trustworthy.
Plus, search engines have gotten smarter. Years ago, they’d return results containing the exact keywords you were searching for. Today, they realize that someone searching “cellphone” might equally benefit from results on “smartphone” or “mobile phone.” You don’t need to stuff keywords into your content to rank for a particular term. In fact, you can get penalized for this. So while keywords still matter, it’s more about relevancy than keyword density, and writing first for your audience will mean that these relevant keywords occur naturally.
2. Pay Attention to Content Length
Content length matters to your users, and that means it matters to search engines. According to the American Marketing Association, longer articles between 1,200 to 1,500 words perform better in search engines on average. Other experts have suggested that you may want to go even longer and shoot for 1,500 words minimum.
However, it’s important to understand why that trend occurs. Google has stated that they don’t actually count words on a page and use it as a ranking factor. However, content length can affect SEO in other ways by:
- Providing more keywords, subheadings, and images for search engine bots to crawl.
- Increasing users’ time spent on the site, which shows search engines your content is trustworthy.
- Providing more value to the reader, which means you’ll get more shares and links back to your content.
That said, always keep the user in mind. Longer blog post articles might perform well, but the same length for your home page or about page can seem daunting. Those longer form articles that rank well on search engines don’t manage it based on their length alone; they make it to the top by fitting useful information within their word count.
3. Break Up Your Content for Readability
Another way to write for the reader is to break up your content so it’s easy on the eyes. Examples include:
- Using subheadings
- Writing short paragraphs
- Including images/screenshots
- Using bold and italic fonts to highlight important points
- Using bullet points or numbered lists
Making your content easy on the reader will help increase natural backlinks and authority. However, some of these suggestions also appeal to search engine bots.
For example, search engines look at header tags to determine the hierarchy of your content and which parts are more important than others. Your headline uses the H1 tag. Subheadings should use the H2 tag, sub-sub-headings use the H3 tag, and so forth. (Typically, these settings are found in your formatting options in your content management system.) Utilizing this hierarchy and including keywords in your subheadings will allow search engines to index your site more effectively.
Furthermore, images can also help with SEO. Using alt tags and captions on images provides another opportunity to show search engines what your site is about. Plus, images themselves can rank on search engines, and relevant images surrounded by related text will rank higher.
4. Quote Influencers in Your Niche
Quoting influencers is not only an effective way to boost the quality of your content, but it’s also an effective SEO strategy. When you quote influencers, link out to the source of that quote. External links serve as indicators of content relevancy and quality. Plus, they can attract attention from the sites you’re linking to, which can boost engagement and incentivize links back to your content.
As a bonus, you can use this strategy to reach out to influencers and let them know they’ve been mentioned in your content. Some of them may share it with their audiences to further boost your traffic.
5. Include a Strong Call to Action
Don’t forget that you are not the only one who has control over your search engine optimization. Your readers can also take action to boost your rankings. But how do you get them to help you out? Include a strong call to action in your content. Two major routes you can go for SEO include:
- Asking readers to share your content on social media. Although Google doesn’t use social shares to influence rankings, social shares still matter. The more shares you have, the more people you can reach across the web, which again will lead to more natural backlinks. You can encourage social shares by including sharing buttons when you set up your blog, but you can also encourage social shares through your writing. For example, including click-to-tweet links in your content or asking readers to Tweet their opinion to you can boost shares on Twitter.
- Encouraging readers to leave a comment. Marketing professional Neil Patel says that responding to blog post comments is worth it, and it actually has SEO benefits. The more comments you have on your blog posts, the more text you have on the page. That means you’ll rank for more long-tail keywords. Encourage comments by asking a thought-provoking question at the end of your blog posts.