Writing content for search engine optimization (SEO) is a skill digital marketers and bloggers need to master so their content is as competitive as possible in search engine results pages (SERPs). Ranking well is an art form. While there isn't a surefire way to make the top of the list, crafting quality content following optimization (SEO) best practices is key to making your content competitive. Below are eight tips to get you started on your blogging journey.
Structure your blog post.
Written content, whether digital or print, has a structure. Without structure, the content is disorganized and hard to understand. For example, an essay has a title, subheadings, body text, and works cited section.
A blog post also needs structure. The main heading of the page (H1) is the blog post's title or overarching topic. H2, H3, H4, etc. break the content into progressively more specific subheadings, as needed. Subheadings (or subtopics) make content more digestible for readers by chunking information as well as provide a structure that website crawlers can use to understand what information your blog post contains. This makes it easier for search engines to include your articles in SERPs when users search for answers your article provides.
If you need inspiration for structuring long-form content, check out news sources such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Forbes. All three break their articles into smaller sections with photos, interactive elements, and clear headings and subheadings to guide readers through the content from start to finish.
The HubSpot and Mashable blogs use pull-out boxes, subheadings, and lists to break up content. You can also check out our writing tips as well as HubSpot’s free blog templates to get you started with blog writing and structure.
Write feature-length content.
SERPs reward feature-length content (also called long-form content) since it provides detailed answers to users' search queries. When writing a blog post, shoot for a word count of between 850 and 2,000 words—about the same length as a short feature article in a print magazine or newspaper.
If your post is shorter than the recommended length (say 500–750 words), Google isn't going to smite you; there is no hard and fast rule for content length. Say what you need to say to your readers in a way that’s effective and gets to the point. (No one likes to read a lot of extra words that don’t add to their understanding.) Use caution, however, when your content is shorter than 300 words; Google doesn't like super short content, so this post probably won't rank well in SERPs.
If your post is on the longer side, be sure to use subheadings to your advantage. Break the content into "snackable" sections readers can scan and digest quickly without being overwhelmed. (Remember, you get the added benefit of making your content clearer to search engines!)
Don't bury the lead.
Customers should get the main point of your piece or the "lead" by skimming the subheadings and first paragraph of a blog post. Think about a news article; the first paragraph usually has a dateline—the city where the story occurred, followed by the lead—the main topic or event covered in the story. This paragraph aims to tell the reader precisely what the story is about, even if they don't read the whole article.
You don't need the same journalistic structure for a blog post, but your post's main point should still be in the first paragraph. Supporting details such as quotes, metaphors, and other media should support the main point of your blog post but shouldn't overshadow it.
If your post is long, consider putting a list of main points as a featured pull-out at the top. Not only does this list make the main points clear and digestible for readers, but it also optimizes the post for Google's featured snippets at the top of a search results page.
Impeccable grammar still matters in the world of blog writing and SEO. Following grammar rules makes the message you want to communicate to your audience clear and elevates the quality of your blog post. Taking the time to make sure your blog post is free from grammatical errors shows customers you care about creating quality content.
Don't be afraid of external links.
External links to reputable sources show SERPs you've done your leg work and gives readers more resources to find a solution to their current challenge. Links to well-researched articles strengthen your blog post's content as well as its ranking in SERPs.
Write engaging meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions are another area a SERP's crawlers determine a webpage's ranking. Meta descriptions are the short descriptions below the blue title on a search page in Google; usually, they are about 160 characters long. Meta descriptions give SERP users the right information at the right time—when they’re searching for it. As a result, your meta descriptions can help drive traffic to your blog post or webpage.
When you're writing your fabulous description for your blog post, remember HubSpot's best practices for writing meta descriptions:
- Keep it short and sweet: no more than 155–160 characters.
- Don't use special characters in the meta description. These usually don't display in the search engine correctly.
- Use only one or two keywords. Resist the urge to keyword stuff.
- Make it interesting. This description is your chance to stand out from competitors who provide similar information.
Resist the urge to stuff your content with keywords.
Keywords are critical for ranking well in Google but don't overdo it. Using too many can negatively affect you're ranking in Google. For example, if you're writing a post about your recent backpacking trip to Maui, you might want to use "beaches," "island wildlife," and "Maui backpacking trails." You wouldn't want to use all three in your title, however: "Five of the Best Maui Backpacking Trails to See Island Wildlife and Beaches." First of all, this title is too long, but the real issue is it doesn't flow naturally.
When crafting titles and weaving keywords into your content, make sure your keywords naturally fall into place; they should feel like they belong. If your content doesn't have a natural flow, SERPs will catch on and penalize your content because it doesn't provide a good user experience.
Write for your audience.
SEO best practices are essential, but search engines aren't the ones typing in search queries; your audience is. Your audience and their preferences should be at the heart of your content strategy. Make sure your content provides solutions to your customer's pain points, is engaging to read or watch, and showcases your businesses' personality.
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