When you are creating new copy for a blog or creating content for the Web, there are two objectives that you need to fulfill:
- first, make the content useful, pleasant and attractive for human users,
- and second, do the same thing, and add topical relevance (with well researched keywords) for Google’s algorithm so that your page will get a lot of traffic.
These sometimes overlap and occasionally contradict each other.
In this post, we will run down some of the most important tools and structures in your content and how they serve users and SEO (infographic) outcomes.
It is important to understand how to craft great content, because it can be the cornerstone to a website and help you build your brand.
By taking the time to learn the best ways to improve your copy, you are investing in the future.
The structure of each piece of content makes a big difference in how many people will spend the time to read it.
Especially online, it is becoming ever harder to attract and keep a reader’s attention. One of the best ways to do that is to use short sentences and small paragraphs.
This is advice from journalism, where keeping a reader’s attention with short paragraphs is an old trick.
How users read on the Web: “They don’t. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.” – Jakob Nielsen
You should also use plenty of subheaders with boldface to let the reader know exactly where they are. People scan (not read) content on the Internet.
All of these structural tips are aimed at making your content easier to skim.
It is rare for people to read a post or article all the way through, but very common for them to skim it and read only the sections that seem most interesting to them at the time.
It is hard to make a choice about layout, because here the human and SEO objectives clash a little bit.
This graphic shows the essential SEO elements to build into a web page. And you must to all you can to avoid the common web design mistakes.
On the one hand, having more images and even infographics can be quite attractive to human viewers. They are perfect for supporting and reinforcing text and they also serve those people who prefer to skim.
However, any content that you put into an image won’t be crawled by Google (make sure to add relevant keyword text in the image alt attribute, so it will help drive SEO benefits. And, you’ll get found in image search!)
You also don’t want to put in too many images because that can affect the speed at which the page loads, and we’ll talk more about that later.
If you use WordPress – use an image optimizer to get better page load performance.
You want the navigational bar to be easy to find, clear, and located in a consistent place, because readers should never be confused about where they are or how to get to where they want to go. Here’s an article on how to use breadcrumbs for SEO and your navigation.
Clarity takes priority over flashiness in all elements of web design.
You need to pick headlines for your content appropriately. This also goes for subheads. They are important for both SEO and readership.
The goal of a headline is to describe what is to come in the following content in a condensed, enticing phrase.
A headline that is too long will take too long to read and spill onto multiple lines. If it’s too short, the headline won’t be descriptive.
That will make Google’s algorithm suspicious that your content is not organic and genuine. If you think ahead, you can make your headlines into tweets for when you announce your content on social media.
Remember that headlines and subheads are what your viewers will see first and are the thing they are most likely to remember, so spend some extra time crafting them and think long-term.
Adding lists with bullets to your content is a great way to summarize repetitive or similar ideas without needing to create an image or relying on long, loose sentence structure.
There is no rule of thumb for when to add a list, but if you have, for example, a set of pros and a set of cons for an item, then that is a good candidate for creating some lists.
There is a happy medium when it comes to the length of a list.
It’s also not a good idea for list items to spill too far onto a second line, because that can be distracting and take away from the list’s appearance.
Lists are a perfect way to break up walls of text, which are anathema to engagement.
Social media is a very important part of sharing your content.
First of all, social media is a means for people to find your content.
You share everything you post via social media channels, because then you have people who can stumble across you in more places than just Google.
More importantly, when your readers share your work across their own social networks, you gain many more potential followers and loyal readers. This effect is called propagation, and it is very powerful.
The more a piece of content propagates, the more readers you get with no investment of your own: your readers are actually spreading the content for you.
In addition, social media engagement is a positive sign for Google, and it will get you a higher ranking as long as the propagation is organic. In other words, don’t try to buy likes or shares.
It’s more important than every before to think about mobile users. They now constitute more than half of all Internet users worldwide. The recent Pew Internet Mobile Report shows usage, behaviors and that people’s technical sophistication is growing.
Today nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information and for staying connected to the world around them – PEWINTERNET.ORG
That means if you are not ready to serve them, you will miss out on a large number of potential readers.
Set your content up for mobility by choosing pictures that will resize themselves, making sure your fonts do not become blurry on small screens, checking for the column width so that it doesn’t cause lines to break up on mobile, and so on. Your developers can install plugins (if WordPress), or utilize CSS and mobile detection to serve the right content and navigation.
Take the mobile test on Google.
There are a lot of little details that can affect how content displays on a mobile device. You need to carry out tests to ensure that things work properly and all of the content displays as intended for mobile users.
Not only are you including them in your readership, but mobile platforms are perfect for social media engagement, so it interacts well with your social networking and outreach.
The bottom line is that the best way to make your content and copy as good as it can possibly be is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential readers.
Ask yourself what they would want and then decide how you can provide that value.
Test out your site on friends and family to see how they react to it and use testing tools to look for any flaws in the design.
Make your copy easy to scan and digest, and encourage readers to leave comments and share it on social media.
Greater engagement will give your readers a better sense of connection to your copy as well as improve your standing from an SEO viewpoint.
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