Please note this article is aimed for those with little or no knowledge of search engine optimisation and is a summary of my best practices when writing a basic blog or article.
Using a solid structure for SEO
How a blog or article has been structured has an effect on how well it can rank on search engines, how ‘clickable’ the article is as well as how it can appear on SERPs through the use of schema. In this short blog I will explain some of my favourite methods to structure a blog or article using very simple HTML markup.
An article/blog is much like a book and has several different markups to help the reader digest the information – examples are titles, images, references, headings and paragraphs in conjunction with good spelling and grammar.
The title (html markup <title>) should describe what the entirety of the content is about. It needs to include the correct keywords but also engaging and make people want to read it. A bad example of a title is “VANILLA ICE CREAM VANILLA ICECREAM” – although it has the keywords in there this title is non-engaging and repeats the keyword unnecessarily. A good example is “The Best Vanilla Ice Cream in Skelmersdale | John’s Dairy” – this is an excellent example as it has the keywords (Vanilla Ice cream), it’s descriptive (The best), has the location keyword (Skelmersdale) and brand keyword (John’s Dairy).
The title is one of the most important factors of an article in relation to SEO. Make sure it describes what a clicker would find if they clicked on it – and make the clickers want to click on it.
Search engines may truncate a title if it is longer than 55 characters so the optimal length should be in the region of 50-60.
Think of the meta description as the blurb of a book, if the title and cover picture hasn’t grabbed their attention then perhaps the meta description can. The meta description should accurately describe the content in an engaging manner – write it in such a way that it is relevant to the searcher and it will offer them what they are looking for in terms of information and content.
A meta description should be less than 160 characters to avoid being truncated.
A heading (html markup <hx> replace x with a number 1+> works in a similar way to a title, but instead of describing what the whole article is about a heading describes what the next section of content is about. There are differences between headings in terms of prominence and you can describe this to the crawlers using numbers; a H1 is main heading, H2 subheading and so on. In terms of SEO anything more than a H1 has little if any impact.
Make sure to always have just one H1 which is keyword rich and a couple of H2’s, the SEO value decreases rapidly after H2 but they can still be used for visitor experience.
Now this is where it really comes down to my own personal opinion. I am in the ‘content is king’ camp and champion long, in depth and rich content. I find that a sweet spot for a really good piece of article that ranks well and gets links has over 1000 words and often goes over 2000 and beyond. However, this is not to say you should waffle on as quality is much more important than quantity.
I would always recommend to use your own judgement when you have worked in SEO for a while but to ensure that a page or article has at least 750 words in it as a good starting point.
Keyword density used to be an excellent way to rank on SERPs in the olden days but not so much at time of writing. My best tip for density is to write the article fully without tracking first and then use a KW density tool afterwards. Google likes the content to be written for humans and not for the robots but there’s no harm in making sure your point gets across, just not too much.
When I write content I make sure to write for my target demographic. Before writing the content think “Who do I want to read this? Who are my customers?” and then use appropriate language and words that suit them, Writing for academics? Make sure the content suits that. Writing for children? Make it easy.
Images help with SEO but more importantly in my opinion, the user experience. Images can bring the article more alive with the use of infographics, charts, explanations or just to show what you mean through the text. The SEO opportunity with images are in the title, description and alt-text of the image. The words included in the image meta-data can contribute to the page ranking and the image itself ranking.
For your images make sure to use an appropriate title, description and ensure that alt-text is there. Google cares about user experience and for people who are partially sighted or bling the meta data helps them a great deal to deduce what the image displays.
Writing a credible piece of writing should always involve referencing your work. If you are writing a piece that has used external information then make sure to link to that relevant information. This will boost your credibility with the reader but also with the search engines. For example, if your writing piece is related to the medical industry then a link pointing towards a medical related website makes perfect sense to both the reader and the crawlers.
To conclude, having an article have a solid structure can give it the best start in ranking and gaining some links. Titles can help improve the CTR (Click-through rates) as will the description, the headings and images can improve visitor duration and lower the bounce rate. However, the quality of the content is still much more important than all these combined so make sure that that is where most of your time is spent.