Everything I know about…

This is a new series. I will run out of useful topics fairly quickly (it may have happened already), so I will either stop or move onto more frivolous subjects. Only time will tell. 

Writing SEO content – part two

Search engines love content and they love written content most of all. Video, images, audio – these are all important for your business and promote engagement with your audience, but the Google bots aren’t looking at them in the same way.

A Google bot will see that you have all of these things on your site. It will read the file names and the captions and all that good stuff, however, they can’t look at the images, watch the videos or listen to the audio. Probably one day, but not right now.

This means your written content is still vitally important to push your message, your products and services, and reveal your expertise.

This isn’t a writing lesson

I can’t teach you to write well. That’s something you’ll have to do yourself. It is commonly said that anyone can write. That’s true. If you are literate, you can write. But writing well and writing for a purpose is different from scratching some shapes on a piece of paper.

If you want your content to do anything more than just sit there on the screen pointlessly, then you need to learn more than just the mechanics of putting words next to each other.

Read, write, read, write, read, write, and read and write some more. That will help you understand how sentences should flow, how to build momentum, meter, tone, and all those things writers practice for years to develop. The only way to learn how to write is to study other writers and write yourself. 

Anyway, this blog isn’t about how to be a better writer. I’ll assume you can write and move onto what it means to write SEO content.

Writing SEO content is a leisurely stroll

So, now that you have your headings sorted out, it is time to write some content underneath them.

Different writers have different styles. Capote was lyrical and evocative, Hemingway was sparse and direct, and Tolkien could write for decades about the same tree. SEO writing needs to be all of these things. It needs to convey a message about your business clearly, it needs to highlight its unique selling points in an engaging way, and it needs to spend some time doing it.

I think about SEO writing as taking the long route to a place you can already see in the distance.

Your readers should know what your business does and how good it is at doing it within the first paragraph of your content, whether it’s the homepage, your ‘about’ page, or a suburb-targeted landing page.

That’s easy. 

That’s 100 words. 

The trick is then expanding on this first paragraph without being repetitive or dull to ensure your pages are long enough.

It’s not just what you say, but how long you take to say it

A good length for SEO content is between 400 and 600 words per page. That’s a lot of writing when the topic is your business and your services. Also, you could have 40 landing pages with the same keywords and only the target suburb changing, each of which needs to be unique and well-written.

The ability to write a lot of content about a thin topic is something I have spent a long time practicing. I can write 200 words about a business and their commitment to quality workmanship and customer satisfaction, 200 different ways. It’s not just rambling and hoping for the best. There is a method.

Let your mind wander and watch your content grow

Have you seen that episode of Mad Men where Don’s idea for Lucky Strike cigarettes is “It’s Toasted!”?

And the head of Lucky Strike says that every cigarette company uses toasted tobacco?

Don’s response is that it’s not a matter of being the first or the only, you just have to be the one that says it. 

I think about this a lot when I am looking at a client’s information.

If you offer something, even if it is something everyone offers, then mention it. So long as you don’t make outrageous claims about it, if you offer it then you should write about it. Even if it is something you’re obligated to offer, turn it around and make it a selling point. You aren’t required by law to do X, you’re accredited because you do X. It’s just a matter of perspective.

As a business owner, you are too close to your topic to know what the layperson does and doesn’t know. Assume they know nothing. This gives you the leeway to write about the very simple aspects, the very complicated ones, and everything else in between. The good thing about SEO content is that you never know who is going to be looking for answers on your site, which gives you the freedom to tell all you know. It could be something as simple as what to expect from your services, where to park when visiting your premises, or something related to the industry as a whole. Assume no one has any knowledge and you’ll never run out of topics, angles and ideas. 

This is a particularly good technique for landing pages because you want to write in a way that highlights things people might search for, even if these phrases aren’t targeted.

Writing more leads to long-tail key phrases and stronger optimisation

One of the major benefits of writing long, high-quality content is that by letting your content’s message and point wander around the topic (in a metaphysical sense), you will be creating long-tail key phrases without even realising it. Long-tail phrases are mostly associated with blogs because blogs are less sales-focussed, but there’s no reason your website content can’t also be written with this concept in mind.

Long-tail key phrases can be anything. Looking at what I have written above, the one that immediately stands out as a potentially strong phrase is

“good length for SEO content”.

What makes it special is that if it was presented as a targeted phrase, it would be harder to fit into a piece of content, but because I was exploring and explaining an idea and not just advertising services, it came out in the natural course of the process. Additionally, because it was created naturally, the words, sentences and paragraphs around it will all be crammed with related words and ideas. This is something that search engines place a lot of value on – the context of the key phrase – and is why keywords stuffing is regarded so poorly these days. (Keyword stuffing is usually spotted by phrases and words being awkwardly thrust into a sentence with little care or thought about the flow of the writing or the topic like copywriting for websites Melbourne.) 

The first draft of anything is shit

That’s what Hemingway said (allegedly). He knew a thing or two about writing.

SEO writing, and writing in general, takes time and patience to do well. Don’t expect your first effort to be any good and certainly don’t put it on your website. Your second and third will be closer, but not necessarily the finished article. (I have been editing and revising this blog for twice as long as the first draft took to write and I still won’t be 100% satisfied with it.)

I’ve worked in many places, with a lot of different writers, each one at a different stage of their development as writers. Some come out of uni and think they’re the finished product, get their first writing job and become arrogant and blinkered about their abilities. Being a good writer isn’t a destination you reach, it’s something that is always just out of reach because you can always be better. Like being a musician or an athlete, even the best strive to get better. 

Creative endeavours are tangled with self-esteem and confidence issues, so it’s only natural to feel defensive about something you’ve expressed to the world. Honestly assessing your writing is half the journey to being able to self-edit and make improvements. It’s tough to do and many of the writers I worked with in the past were too proud to admit their writing needed editing and improving. But remember what Hemingway may have said and suck it up.

You need to take a critical eye to it and ask:

What works?

What doesn’t?

What is boring?

What doesn’t make sense?

Where can sentences be tightened and clarified?

Editing is as big a part of the process as the actual writing, so spend the time to read your writing carefully. If you aren’t experienced or confident, ask someone else to read it. Even if they don’t know anything about writing, they’ll be able to tell you if they understand it.

Regardless of what you think, your website is a reflection of your business

In 2018, people take websites seriously and you shouldn’t just think that any old nonsense on your website will do. Your website is important. It’s better to have no website than a bad one. Even if you’re a builder who gets their business through other means, if you have a neglected or bad website, people are still seeing it and judging your business.

Everything I know about…

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