Writing content in an SEO-friendly way is fascinating. There’s often a misconception that we’re writing for robots. We’re not. Well, we are a bit. It’s complicated. We’re trying to write great content for readers, first and foremost. But in a way that search engines can understand.
There is very little point in writing an incredible article about how to custom paint your Ford Fiesta with sick flames so everyone knows how fast you are… if no one ever sees it.
That’s where SEO comes in. It’s about using the right words, found through keyword research and audience data, in a clear, concise way. This improves your chances of search engines such as Google being able to interpret what it’s about and who it would be useful to.
This is why SEO content writing has become such a vital part of a marketers toolkit. Your number one goal is to get your website in front of the right people. If you’re writing relevant content with a clear structure, you have a better chance of being able to do this.
So, how do we make sure we’re writing copy in a way that will please overlord Google AND our target audience? Calling George Orwell to the stage. It makes sense if you think about it. The man who gave us Big Brother would be the one best placed to understand how to write for Google, the modern-day Big Brother.
He also wrote a wonderful essay on making the perfect cup of tea, if you need something to drink while reading.
Bin the Metaphors & Similes
Try to avoid using a metaphor, simile or other figures of speech you would often see in print, because it’s boring and repetitive. It doesn’t evoke anything in your reader’s mind. Phrases like “when life gives you lemons” have been said so often they don’t mean anything anymore. They’re more of a reflex than an expression.
Avoiding these phrases encourages you to write in a way that only you can. It’ll push you to give a unique spin to everything you write.
Finding a unique angle is good practice because guess what? Search engines don’t like repetition or similar content, either. It leaves them with a difficult choice. Which is better? Is one of them plagiarised? That’s when they have to look at other metrics. When the content was created, which is the stronger site as a whole etc etc.
If you’re just trying to follow the crowd, you’ll find you don’t really stand out at all… And fall down those search engine rankings.
This is especially important when you’re looking at your website content as a whole. Too much similar content and you run the risk of keyword cannibalisation. Keyword cannibalisation is when you have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword. This lets you know the content on both pages is way too similar and needs to be restructured, and the likes of Google aren’t sure which page to prioritise in results.
If you don’t address this issue, you’ll end up with two pages performing poorly, rather than one that performs well for a chosen keyword.
Don’t Use Long Words When Short Words Will Do
Sometimes, you need a juicy, long word. You just do. They can be incredibly evocative in a way their shorter, simpler counterparts just can’t be. But they can also just bog the reader down. Especially if they’re archaic words that aren’t commonly used. It leaves you unable to understand the piece without a dictionary, so it loses all flow and ability to connect.
We’ve all been at a party where we’ve been approached by a walking thesaurus and immediately zoned out. Now imagine that conversation you barely paid attention to is written down. How long is each sentence? How many words are over 10 letters and why? A good rule of thumb is the fewer the syllables, the better.
From a search engine’s point of view, this type of content won’t score well on any readability scale. So which piece will they choose to promote? The one that everyone can understand, or the one that needs CliffsNotes to decode?
If You Can Cut a Word, Cut It
Just get to the point.
Don’t Use Passive Tense Voice When You Can Use Active Voice
The active voice should make your reader sit up. Things are happening! Right now! Get involved! The passive voice puts the subject at the start of the sentence, it requires more build to get to the action. In a world where people want bite-sized content, this can turn them right off.
You want engaged readers and using an active voice is one of the easiest ways to do this. Sentences using the active voice also tend to be shorter. They’ve gotten to the point already. This means you can focus on being clear and engaging, rather than needing to use an extra 20 words to explain what’s happening.
Don’t Use Jargon When You Can Use an Everyday Equivalent
This one is, maybe, a bit contentious amongst some marketers. Depending on your business, technical vocabulary may be necessary. But, I would argue, this meets Orwell’s rules – only use jargon when there’s no alternative.
Keep this in mind when writing for SEO, but also keep the thought in your head ‘I know this language, but does my audience?’ A common problem with technical businesses is they assume their customers are equally technical. Often, they’re not. That’s why they come to you to provide technical solutions.
Think about how you might talk to that person face to face to get your point across.
Break These Rules If Following Them Makes Your Work Worse
Rules are only ever guidelines. Sometimes you’ll read a piece that’s ranking incredibly well and you just can’t understand why. The website’s awful, comic sans everywhere, and it’s just a HUGE block of text. But, it works. Often, because it’s really interesting despite its format.
Or it’s very clear this is written by an expert, even if it’s not the most user friendly.
If you know your piece will be better by ignoring the rules then… Ignore them. Orwell broke them all the time. I’ve broken almost all of them just in writing this. I’ll never stop breaking three of them because I have stories to tell and I’ll take my sweet time getting there. You HAVE to balance the need to be understood by the search engine with the desire to connect with the people reading.
SEO Content Writing IS Human Focused
The most important thing to remember is primarily, you should be writing for people. You can then optimise for search engines, but never at the expense of your audience. It helps to keep a critical eye on what you write though. Could this semi-colon be replaced by a full stop? Is there a simpler word I could use? What is the information my audience wants and how do I lead with it?