One of the first parts of ensuring your site is well optimised for search engines is your content.
A “content-first” website strategy is the only real strategy that works well for starting a new project or refining an existing one.
How much easier is it to cook a great meal when you have all the ingredients?
The content part of your strategy is known as On-Page SEO.
Your content needs to be optimised so that people can and will:
- find it
- read it
- love it.
In short, if you want your website to rank well in search engines, you need to produce relevant content that people are actually searching for.
Publishing or blogging regular articles in your niche is a great way to do this, and it helps to communicate your authority.
You don’t have to have a blog, but it can help. An air-conditioning installer may not have a lot of content to share, but the occasional ‘how-to’ article can help boost their rankings, as well as provide valuable information for their current (and future) customer base.
Be sure to keep content regularly updated too.
A quick aside to note: You don’t always have to abide by the advice to do these optimisations. We write plenty of content that has no keyword research done, nor do we always check (or care) if people want that information. Sometimes we just write stuff because we want to. And sometimes that’s our highest ranking content.
So really, do what you want, just make sure that if you do want particular articles to rank, that you do a bit of planning and optimisation.
A point to remember is that if your content is benefitting your readers, then it’s good content.
What we mean by content
Content is anything on your website that attracts your customers. Text, images, audio and video are all types of content.
Now, getting back to your customer again – remember that when you’re thinking about your content, you need to optimise it for your readers, not the search engine.
Simple language is best, and the recommendation is to keep your content written to a year 8 – 10 level. Short sentences and great descriptions will do you well.
Never be afraid to throw in the occasional list or subheading either. Both add to the readability and accessibility of your written content.
Tools that can help with your grammar
- Grammarly (my personal fave)
- There are numerous browser plugins for Chrome and Edge, as well as addons for Firefox to check grammar.
- You can set up Microsoft Word to check the readability and grammar of your text as well.
- In Google Docs, head to Tools → Spelling and Grammar to toggle the settings.
- If you’re a WordPress user, the Yoast SEO Premium plugin has included functionality to help with readbility as well.
Unless you’re writing to a skilled audience in a particular niche, then keep it simple. Don’t write ectomorphic if you can just write skinny.
If you’re looking to hire someone to help out with your content, then ask around for a good copywriter.
Who are you writing for?
Some quick questions to ask yourself as you’re putting together your content are:
- WHO are you writing this content for (if you’ve done persona exercises, this will be easier to answer)
- WHY are they reading it?
- WHAT do you want them to do after they have finished reading it?
Keep all of these things in mind when considering the content, how it’s written and the messages you are trying to convey.
When thinking about what you want your reader to do after reading your content, this could be anything from reading more content, booking a sales call, buying a product, joining your mailing list or any number of other things.
We discuss this in more detail in our website planning resource.
Keywords & content optimisation
Having excellent keywords in your content is going to help a great deal to rank your content higher in search engines.
A keyword is a word or concept of great significance that defines what your content is about. In the realms of SEO, keywords are the words and phrases that people type (or speak) into their search engines to get information. These are called search queries.
We’ll look at some examples of these shortly.
Have you seen any websites where the copy seems stilted and repetitive? This is often called keyword stuffing.
Have a read of this:
“John Smith plumbing can meet all of your plumbing needs. If you need a plumber in Bonnets Bay or a plumber in Mount Rumney or a plumber in Sandy Bay, then John Smith Plumbing are the plumbers for you”.
That paragraph said nothing. It’s so stuffed full of ‘plumber’ and ‘plumbing’ that it loses all relevance and trust. This sort of content is a prime example of optimising for the search engine, not the customer.
This tactic was heavily abused until Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013. This algorithm update started to focus on synonyms and context, rather than looking for repeated keywords. Google can detect unnatural patterns in content and will quite often drop the rankings of websites that continue to do it.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could discover what people were actually searching for in your niche?
Well, you can.
This is what keyword research is, and there are many tools that can help with it.
By knowing what people are broadly searching for in your area of expertise, you can tailor your content to make sure you’re including words and phrases that are being searched for.
That is what keyword research is.
The fat-head vs the long-tail
The definition of a long-tail keyword has been taken far too literally, in that many people believe a long-tail keyword or phrase must be extensive in length. As in multiple words. It doesn’t at all.
A long-tail keyword is a word or a phrase that has either very little or unique search traffic, regardless of how short or long it may be.
An example of a short long-tail keyword could be “F11 Asko”. F11 is the error code our office ASKO dishwasher flashes at us when the drainage pipe is blocked. It’s pretty specific and has low traffic.
“Why is SEO so important?” could very well be considered fat-head as it has huge traffic and is difficult to rank for.
Fat-head keywords target broad terms, are not overly specific, and are generally aimed at a large market. E.g.: “drums”.
Long-tail keywords are very specific and niched. E.g.: “Gretsch Club Jazz 4-piece drum kit for sale in Perth”, or indeed “F11 Asko”. The actual length of the phrase has no bearing at all.
A long-tail keyword will have significantly lower search volume than a fat-head one. This is the advantage of the long tail. Serving your customer is generally going to happen via these long-tail keywords.
Let’s look at “tofu beans” as an example.
As a search term, it’s pretty useless. There is no user intent as it is the fat-head.
What about tofu beans? Does the searcher want to cook them, plant them or buy them? We don’t know.
“Tofu bean recipes” is getting there and could be something to try to rank for if this is your niche. Some people refer to terms like this as the chunky middle. There are lots of opportunities for interesting and targeted content here, but still a lot of competition.
An example of long-tail in this instance could be “how to cook tofu bean cake”.
Let’s say you sell boutique office chairs. In particular, let’s imagine you specialise in Herman Miller chairs and your shop is in Adelaide. A fat head here could be “office furniture”. To go after that keyword and try to rank for it is going to take considerable effort. You’ll be going up against companies like Fantastic Furniture, Harvey Norman, IKEA and everyone in between.
The person typing that search term into Google probably isn’t interested in your boutique office furniture anyway, so why bother trying to get them to go to your site?
Chunky middle: art deco office furniture.
OK- we’re getting closer, but still an awful lot of competition.
Long tail: Herman Miller Eames chair for sale in Adelaide.
So, while a fat-head keyword might bring you more traffic (if you can rank for it), a long-tail keyword will bring you the right traffic, as you have a fair idea of user intent. If you’re specifically talking about the Herman Miller Eames chair that you have for sale in your front window, and someone Googles that – well, you might just have a sale there. It’s a lot easier targeting a long-tail than a fat-head.
This technique can also help with your content writing, as it encourages you to focus on what it is you actually sell rather than rambling on about the ‘fat-head’. Get to the point with your content to make sure you’re talking about the long tail.
Using synonyms in your content
Using synonyms of your targeted keywords can help as well, as it gives you the opportunity to write well, and use multiple words to describe the same thing. This practice holds less power than it used to (as Google is getting smarter), but we have found it worth doing anyway as it stretches your own vocabulary around your topic, which keeps it interesting for your users (and you). Using synonyms will never be bad for your SEO.
Throughout a page talking about a workshop, you might refer to it as a class, seminar and workshop on the same page. The user knows what you’re talking about, and you’re reinforcing to the search engine that if someone was searching for a knitting class, workshop or meeting, then you’re the person to call.
Obviously, don’t go overboard like this old joke: “An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…”.
Is SEO just about content?
It’s important for business owners and marketers to be across all of these factors, even if you don’t plan to do your own SEO. Having an idea of how something works is a huge step in having the confidence to know who to hire to do the job for you. And indeed, a step in the right direction to start to do the work yourself.