Getting your voice heard on the internet is never easy. It can be like setting up your soapbox on a crowded street, and waving frantically to get passers-by to pay attention. You might be an expert in your chosen topic, with pearls of wisdom to dispense on X particles or Z-list celebrities, but how do you get people to stop long enough to listen?
The answer is finding the right balance between SEO-friendly content and readability. It’s essential to make sure the Google (and Bing) spiders – and therefore readers – can find your website or blog. Knowing a few tricks can help you climb their rankings, without sacrificing your sparkling writing or specialist knowledge.
Choose Your Keywords
Keywords are the most important aspect of SEO , so think about them before you even start to write. It can be hard slotting keywords in afterwards without sounding clunky and forced.
Brainstorm words and phrases you think people are looking for, and use trusted tools such as GoogleAdWords to help pick the best. Consider how much competition there is for each phrase. Instead of catch-all terms such as “travel agency” consider more specific terms, such as “Italian luxury travel specialist”, to sell your particular area of expertise.
Place Keywords Carefully
Search engines don’t just analyze which words you use, but where you place them. Getting keywords in the title or first sentence is obviously a good start. Many newspapers change their pun-heavy headlines to more SEO-friendly versions on their websites.
You need to find the right keyword density – “keyword stuffing” can be penalized by search engines, as well as being a turn-off to readers!
Don’t forget “hidden places” to put your keywords, such as meta tags and image captions.
Use Free Tools
Take advantage of free tools, such as Google Analytics which can assess where your site traffic comes from and which aspects need more work. For bloggers, WordPress has various plug-ins that can help you choose the best post title and keywords, avoid duplicate content and make the most of meta-tags. Mashable has a list of the top 20 WordPress SEO plug-ins.
Become An Expert on Your Topic
Let’s say users are searching for “Edinburgh travel tips” or “easy Christmas recipes”. If you’ve got several articles on the same topic, then search engines will assume you know what you’re talking about. Choosing a targeted area of expertise will help you get on that coveted first page of search results.
Use Links Wisely
It’s not just what you write that counts. Clever use of links will help your site climb the rankings – including ones to other parts of your own website. If another page has relevant information or you’ve written a similar post in the past then add a link. Just don’t overdo it!
Wear the right Coloured Hat
SEO techniques are sometimes referred to as “white hat” or “black hat”. Search engines regard “white hat” techniques as legitimate ways to optimize your website and help users find the information they want. “Black hat” techniques refer to practices such as using hidden text, or having separate versions of websites to deceive search engines. They might work in the short term, but could lead to Google blocking your site – not a good strategy!
Write for Your Audience
“Content is king” may be a cliché, but it’s basically true. SEO techniques can grab readers, but engaging writing keeps them there. Don’t let your text get so loaded down with keywords your main points get lost. Giving away useful information or creating a lively, informative blog is the best way to keep readers coming back to your site. Think of your audience. Are they interested enough to plough through a long piece of text? Or do they just want the basic facts as quickly and succinctly as possible?
Make it Readable
And on the same theme, make sure your writing is easy on the eye. Break up chunks of text into subcategories, and use images effectively. Lists can be a good idea – and a way to repeat keywords without readers noticing! Use short sentences and leave plenty of white space.