Search engine optimization has come a long way since the days of ham-handed tactics like keyword stuffing and the heavy use of backlinks. Today’s search engine algorithms are far more elegant and sophisticated and able to weed through digital clutter to find gold. This doesn’t mean you can’t still optimize your material for search engines, but it does mean that there are fewer shortcuts. Today’s search engines are getting better and better at sniffing out and rewarding high quality content. Having said that, here are some guidelines to help you write perfect SEO articles.
1. Choose and use keywords carefully
Keywords are still the predominant way that search engines match content with what users are searching for, but how they evaluate those words has changed drastically. Where once the name of the game was use, use and overuse, now search engine algorithms can actually dock you for the overuse of keywords. For an SEO worthy article, you want to choose 1-3 very carefully researched keywords and pepper them very judiciously throughout the article. Including a keyword in the title, the first 300 words of text and in the first or second H1 or H2 are some of the best spots to place them.
2. Shorter is not always sweeter
Studies show that search engines often favor longer content that offers in-depth information, with heavier “”weight”” being given to articles of 2,000 words or more. Conversely, however, the majority of readers will often be put off by a 2,000 word article and will not read it. The sweet spot between these two is articles of about 600-1,000 words in length. You want to offer high quality, actionable content, while still making it short enough to attract readers.
3. Break up your content
Search engine engineers are well aware of how people ingest information and most people are put off by long walls of text. Even though search engines favor longer, in-depth articles, the engineers that program those algorithms also understand how human beings work. While long walls of text have actually been proven to be easier to read, they are also more intimidating and harder to ingest. Therefore, search engine algorithms reward sites that break up their content into smaller, easier-to-digest morsels of content. You can break up walls of text by including things like:
- Bulleted lists
- H1 and H2 headers
- Numbered lists
4. Use links judiciously
While you do still want to use outside links, you need to use them judiciously and carefully rather than peppering them liberally through your entire article. Ideally, you should include no more than 2-3 links to other high quality content/ high ranking, authoritative sites. The longer the article, however, the more links you can get away with and the more links are encouraged. In a 2,000 word essay, you can easily include 5-6 links and probably should.
5. Go organic
In life, we can all recognize that person who is just trying way too hard. They laugh a little too loudly, dress a little too provocatively or are just way too over-the-top in some way. In the same way that we can recognize these people in real life, search engines can recognize some of these same tactics digitally. Keywords should be used in as natural a way possible and anchor text for links should also be natural or organic. If you read a line or sentence and something just seems out of place or a little too forced, it’s a safe bet that search engine algorithms will pick up on that as well and dock accordingly.