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You’ve launched a blog post, and in return, you’ve received crickets. No conversion, no hits, nothing.
We’ve all been there at some point. On paper, you’ve done everything right. You took the time to write content that solved a problem for your audience. It had a word count between 800-2000 words and you made sure to have someone read it before posting online. But still—crickets.
It’s a frustrating feeling and leaves a lot of us struggling to see the point of updating our online content via blog posts and campaign pages.
This post is set up to answer any number of the following frustrations:
- Why am I getting a lot of hits on my website but no one is sharing my content?
- I looked at my analytics and my ‘bounce rate’ is really high. Why aren’t people staying to read my posts?
- I write fresh content for my site all the time, but I’m still not seeing any progress.
- I can’t seem to get off the 2nd or 3rd pages of google search.
- I know writing for the web is different, but I’m not sure how to navigate getting started.
- What’s the point of writing a specific landing page if it doesn’t get any hits?
All of these are stressful situations that every website owner runs into at some point or another when they are flying solo or relying on a small team.
Most of the time the answer comes down to if and how you are writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). To answer all of these questions, this post is the first in a series about formatting content for your business website or blog. These basic principals can be applied to WordPress, Squarespace and even Leadpages.
Here is what we’re going to look at today:
- Your Keywords and Call to Action
- Effective Headlines
- Outlining your post for SEO
- Research, Backlinks, Internal links
- How readable your content is
- Writing formats, proofreaders and posting to WordPress
This is a post combining copywriting basics and web strategy. By the end of this post, you will be able to plan your writing to optimize for increased traffic and make writing for SEO a part of your routine.
When writing for SEO, it all starts with your writing
Honestly, writing for SEO starts with your writing style. Most of us start writing for our website in massive blocks of text layered with our accumulated wisdom. We write in proper paragraphs and follow the rules we learned in grade school to create what we think is great content.
Often, it doesn’t occur to us that we would have to write any differently when posting online. We don’t think of the mentally exhausted person on the other end of the screen who just *doesn’t want to think anymore*. We want to throw up a blog post and get on with our day because that to-do list isn’t getting any shorter.
As a freelancer, I totally get it.
It takes time to reprogram your brain to write in a new way. To make your transition to writing for SEO a little easier, I’ve put together a quick list to keep in mind while you’re writing your content to save you time during formatting and editing.
Use a headline checker
There are two types of people. Those who write their blog post first and those who write their headline first. Each camp feels really strongly about how their method is the most effective one.
Honestly, it’s a personal preference whether you write the blog post first or the headline first. Either method will be improved by using a headline checker to validate your headline choice.
Personally, when I’m settling down to write a piece of content, I like to write down what conclusion the audience will get out of reading it. Then I’ll brainstorm a dozen headlines and run them all through a headline analyzer. The one that scores the best and reflects what I’ve written about is the winner.
This works for landing pages and blog posts alike. A good headline will help you position your content to the audience who needs it most. It will be repeated in Ads and at the top of your page and will ultimately become a promise to your audience for what’s to come.
My favourite ones are:
Decide on your keywords and call to action
Back in the dawn of the internet, SEO was pretty simple. You had a keyword, and if someone searched for it, your post might be served to them.
These days, there are hundreds of factors (link: https://moz.com/search-ranking-factors) that go into making a decision about who makes a first-page ranking on Google.
To give yourself the best chance at having your content rank in Google, decide on your keywords and call to action before you get started on your outline. Writing for SEO in this way will help you create a really cohesive piece of content that still considers the reading experience for your audience.
So what’s a keyword?
Keywords are basically the terms that your readers are typing into Google, Pinterest, etc. to end up on your website. The main thing to remember is that your keywords need to match what your content is about.
If your post is about ‘Top 10 best apple picking spots in Nova Scotia for getting your autumn on’ then your keywords would be ‘apple picking,’ or ‘apple picking nova scotia.’
You can often pick out your keywords from your headline, which is why many people choose to write their headline first. You can decide on this once your content is written, but to be really effective—it would be ideal to have these picked out first.
Outline your post
I need to start this point by admitting that I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this one. I’m a person who sometimes starts writing a tangent about something and hours later, I end up with 8000 words that belong in several different blog posts. So ‘do as I say and not as I do,’ kay? Kay.
Outlining your article/blog post/landing page means you are going to start with a single point and end with the same point having been made very clear. It also gives you an overhead view of how relevant all your writing will be to the Keywords you’ve chosen.
The outline of your content differs based on what you are going to be writing content for. The outline for an *about page* will be vastly different from an outline for a blog post.
If you aren’t sure what the outline of your content should look like, take some time to do your research. Review what your competitors are doing. What kind of structure are they using? What points are they making? What do you think their keywords are?
In the end, having an outline will speed up the whole process of writing your content, no matter what it is for. It means you will be doing research first, and when the time comes to write it, your content will end up being well sourced and100% authentically you.
Track your research for backlinks
Speaking of the research you’re doing for your content, make sure you’re doing a lot of it. Doing research beforehand will help you write effectively and have loads of facts and references handy for when you write your post.
While it may feel like you need to know everything, your readers are not expecting you to come up with everything yourself. Most content creators use information found on other sites to back up their thoughts and give the reader even more of the stuff they’re looking for.
When we’re creating content for our readers, we add these links to our post as the source of the information. This process is called backlinking.
When you’re writing for SEO, you want to backlink to reliable sources of information. Try not to copy and paste from their sites unless it’s tiny linked snippets like that one above. A sentence or two is fine as long as you are linking some part of it to the source it came from.
You will also want to eventually look into how to get people to backlink to YOUR website, but this is another tactic for another time.
Use Internal Links
Another type of link that should be present in your site content is internal links.
Internal links are when you link to content related to your current post that exists on your own website. Aim to have a single link to your own website somewhere in your writing. This could be to another blog post, your contact page, etc.
These types of links can be decided in your outline, while you’re writing, or by going back to the content later and adding it in. Also, make sure you’re adding these only where it will improve the reading experience for the audience. Google gets a little edgy about ‘link stuffing’ of any kind.
All this being said, there is one exception, which is on a landing page. Any time you’re writing for a landing page or a campaign where there is a specific action you want your audience to take, you do not want to link out to other content. These pages should have only 1 link out, and that’s to the action you want the audience to take.
Ditch the fancy words and jargon
Your post should be written for the person in your audience who knows the least about what you do. Scan what you have written and look for words that someone might have to look up to fully grasp your meaning.
If a reader has to look up what you’re talking about, there is a chance that they might navigate away from your site to go look up what you mean—and forget to come back.
Avoid this by removing and replacing jargon. Also, remove difficult words. You’re dealing with an easily distractible generation of internet users who have a phone sitting a couple of inches from their fingers. They are probably struggling to stay focused on what you have to say, so keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.
A good test to do before publishing: read it out loud to yourself. If you find yourself stumbling along a sentence or mispronouncing words, these might be places where you could improve your content.
Check your Fletch Reading Score
If you don’t know what it is, the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests are a method designed to indicate what grade level of understanding your content is written in. There are two types of this test—the one we use commonly online is the readability test aka The Flesch Reading Ease Score.
Content with a very high Flesch score (about 100) is straightforward and easy to understand, with short sentences and no words of more than two syllables.
Even if your target audience is the executive CEO of a Fortune 500 company, aim for that 7th-grade reading level (or 60 – 70 reading ease score) to increase your engagement.
Personally, I use Grammarly to help me edit my content. It provides the length and reading time for my writing and also my readability score. If you don’t have Grammarly, you can use Microsoft Word or the plugin Yoast.
Finally, do not write and edit inside WordPress
Call me crazy, but I like to know that all the time I invested in my business is safe and secure away from my website. If I’ve learned anything in my years of working on WordPress, Squarespace and Leadpages, it’s this: You do not want to have your written content saved in one place if that one place is your website.
Websites can crash, your data can be corrupted, and backups can fail.
While most hosting providers include a backup service for their premium hosting, or can advise you on what backup plugin to use for your website—I choose to back it up manually by writing outside of WordPress.
There are a number of services that are available to you for keeping backups of your written content:
- Google drive
- iCloud Drive
- On your computer with a regular backup
- In the Grammarly App archive
- Mix and match a bunch of these things
I use a mix of these. When I’m writing, my first draft is made using notes on my computer/phone. The second draft is edited (a couple of days later) in Grammarly. And the final draft is revised and formatted in Grammarly before being copy and pasted into WordPress. For good measure, I keep an additional copy on Google Drive to go with my images.
This might look like a lot of work on the surface, but eventually—when you have an archive of hundreds of posts—all that time you’ve invested into your business will be worth it.
Formatting in WordPress
In the end, you should have a piece of content ready for your site that’s already optimized for keywords and ready to be formatted in WordPress. To read the full post on formatting in WordPress, click here.
Does the editing and improvement of your content end there? Oh heck no. But following the same process while you write will save you some of those hours editing down the road. Is there anything you do for your workflow that you’d like to see added here? Comment below.