The best way to write great content for the search engines (for SEO purposes) is to write great content for your real life audience. As simple as it sounds, that is really how it works. However, there are a number of ways to take great content and map it to appropriate keyword phrases, increasing your change of search engine success.
The goal of a search engine web crawler (from now on referred to as a search bot) is to determine the purpose, relevancy, and authority of a web page. However, this search bot reads a web page in a much different way than you and I. When writing content for search engine optimization (SEO), the goal is to tell a search bot what your content is all about. This can be done in a number of ways. But here are a handful of more advanced on-page tactics that will help you guide your great content to search engine success.
SEO Tactics to Include in your Content Piece
- Keyword Usage
- Synonyms and close Variants
- Co-Occurring Phrases
- Known Entity Relationships
Important Things to Consider
- Segment your page for search engine success
- Good Content Answers Questions
- Use Natural Language
Light Keyword Phrase Usage
The most overused tactic in content marketing. Filling pages with repetitious keyword phrases is a thing of the past, and in fact can hurt your content relevancy. A base keyword phrase that is being mapped should be included in the URL, Title, one headline, and naturally a few times throughout a content piece. No more than that.
Google has spent years trying to eliminate keyword stuffed landing pages. The Google algorithm prioritizes content, we know that, but over time the search bots are getting better and better at deciphering what good content really looks like. Because of this, write content to your audience naturally, answer questions, and provide valuable information. Do not place your keyword phrases and then build content around them.
Synonyms & Close Variants
One of the main goals for the Google search team for quite some time has been deciphering user intent. Two individuals may use different phrases when looking for the exact same end product. For example, one person may search “garage doors” while another searches “overhead doors.” These terms could be considered synonyms, while the term “French doors” of course means something entirely different.
The design of the Hummingbird algorithm update was based highly around understanding query intent. Because of this, writing content with a number of close variants is a very strong strategy. I recommend listing out a handful of close variants before mapping a content piece to a keyword phrase. This can be done using the Google Keyword Planner tool or even a simple Thesaurus can be helpful.
Typically Co-Occurring Phrases
Google indexes trillions of web pages. That’s a lot of data on words and phrases. Using this data, Google has a pretty good idea of what phrases often show up in the same context. For example, if a content piece includes “Michael Jordan” a number of times, Google expects to see phrases like “Chicago Bulls,” “NBA,” “Basketball Player,” “Air Jordan” etc. This has become a great way for the search engine to get a better idea of the whole picture.
Think of it this way. Two content pieces both contain “Michael Jordan” 10 times. Piece #1 also includes all of the terms above, while Piece #2 does not. Which of these pieces is most likely to rank? When a user is searching Michael Jordan, it is most likely that this user is looking for the guy that plays basketball, not your local insurance agent. Use co-occurring phrases to provide great context and validate your content.
Known Entity Relationships
While the idea above focuses on phrases that often appear together, this idea focuses on entities that are tied to one another. This can include things like brands, related products, or any other clearly defined entity.
A related entity may only appear once, but if it has strong ties to many other things in that content piece, that entity is most likely significant. For example, an article about new Tide products may only say the brand name once in the opening paragraph. However, the content piece goes on to list products such as Laundry Detergent, Bleach, Stain Remover and Dryer Sheets. Tide relates to all of these products, therefore it is most likely to be an important term.
Important Things to Consider
Segmenting Your Content Piece for Search Engine Success
When a search bot is reading a web page, it reads it just like you and I read a newspaper. It searches for a big bold headline, notes the main point of that headline, and then expects the body content to mirror the headline. A content piece should be segmented accordingly. From a coding perspective, the main headline should most often be coded as an H1 tag. From a writers perspective, it is important to keep body content relevant to the headline directly above. A search bot will note the physical distance and semantic relationships within a paragraph. This means that two phrases within one paragraph will naturally have a stronger relationship than phrases that have a paragraph in between.
Here’s a tip. Look at the titles of sub-sections in a content piece. Then use the methods above to quickly identify just a few close variants, co-occurring phrases, and related entities. Then you simply map a few of these into the sub-section, which can often strengthen and simplify your content piece.
Use Natural Language & Answer Questions
The final point is the most important one. The most integral part of writing great content for SEO is writing great content for your audience. Your content piece should create real value. It should give helpful information, bring new ideas to the surface, insight conversation, and at the very least show a new perspective to an existing topic. A great content piece will already have these characteristics, which will make it much easier to optimize for SEO purposes.