Content produced for search engine optimization (SEO) benefit has a terrible reputation — and with good reason. “SEO content” is typically poorly written, filled with lists of keywords, and lacking in any real customer or marketing value.
These nine tips will change the way you produce and optimize content for SEO benefit, ensuring that every shred of text on your site extends the value of the page.
1. Create Quality Content
From a purely SEO traffic-centric perspective, search engines are working more and more customer experience metrics into their ranking algorithms. If your content isn’t engaging or if customers hit your page and pogo-stick back to the search results to choose another page, your ability to rank will degrade.
From a purely SEO revenue-centric perspective, any visitor you bring to your site with misleading or generally crummy content is less likely to convert to a lead or sale. Poor quality provides nothing of value and wastes your resources creating it.
From a brand-centric perspective, your goal should be to produce the best content you possibly can so that you’re projecting a professional, consistent, trustworthy brand image that meets your marketing goals and brand guidelines.
2. Make It Unique
To be very clear, all of the content on every page must be unique — not repeated on every page of your site, not lifted from other sites on the web.
Search engines devalue duplicated areas of text because it doesn’t speak to the unique reason for the existence of each individual page. If the content is repeated frequently enough on a page or a site, it can even start to send over-optimization signals.
A small section with a few bullet points on the core company benefits, used as a boilerplate on every page, is fine. But a highly-optimized paragraph containing the same juicy keywords over and over is a no-no.
Search engines map the content on every known page on the web. They can easily detect how many of the words on those pages match or closely match the words you use on your pages.
Don’t fill your pages with regurgitations of what you find on Wikipedia and other top-ranking sites. Set the stage with your own version of the accepted facts that are found everywhere, but use that as a way to introduce what you bring to the table that has value.
Do you have a unique perspective, a contrary view, a little-known fact, data from the research you’ve collected, or statistics based on anonymized sales data? Those elements add unique value to your content that no other site can offer, and it communicates leadership to your customers.
3. Write for Customers, Edit for SEO
Since your primary goal is to create great, unique content, start there. Appeal to the needs of your potential customers with the content you provide. Giving your visitors what they desire will help your page convert visitors into leads and sales.
Edit the content only after it’s been written to grab the attention of your visitors. Your editing efforts should focus on making sure that the keywords and their contextual themes are communicated clearly enough to send strong relevance signals to search engines.
4. Use the Keywords
Optimization requires using keywords in the content. That means literally writing the words that people search for into the rest of the words you have on your page.
While search engines can understand contextual relevance — an article about pets that mentions “cats” is highly unlikely to be referring to Caterpillar earthmovers — they cannot detect relevance from references to vague concepts or visuals that communicate ideas without textual help.
The trick is to work the keywords in naturally while retaining the creativity, engagement, and uniqueness of the content. It’s absolutely possible, but it takes a concerted effort to edit the keywords in skillfully after writing great content.
On the other hand, you don’t need to get minutely specific in your keyword use. Pluralized versions like “cat” vs. “cats” are presumed to be synonymous. Conjugated verbs like “run” and “running” or verbs of different tense like “run” vs. “ran” are generally also synonymous. Even the order of the words in the keyword phrase can be rearranged to meet grammatical needs.
5. Forget Keyword Density
There is no magical number of times to use the keywords in the content on your website. In general, you should use the higher-demand keywords at least once. Working in the biggest keyword(s) twice or more is ideal, but only if you can do so without ruining the flow of the text.
6. Look for Easy Targets
Pronouns and vague references are easy targets for keyword replacement. Look for ways to use actual keywords instead of pronouns like “it” or “they.” For example, an RV rental company could convert the following sentence:
“It can be such a relaxing way to travel…”
to a more optimal version:
“Renting an RV can be such a relaxing way to travel….”
7. Make One Phrase Do Double Duty
Work in concurrent keywords to get more bang for your buck. A single phrase can hold two or three overlapping keywords because they count as longer single keywords as well as the two separate keywords.
For example, consider the sentence:
“If you’re on the fence about buying business class tickets to Paris, consider these benefits…..”
This example hits on two keywords — “business class tickets” and “tickets to Paris” — at the same time.
Using this trick reduces the number of unique times you need to work specific keywords into the text.
8. Optimize across Punctuation
Search engines ignore punctuation. That means you can end a sentence with one part of a keyword phrase and start the next sentence with the end of the keyword phrase.
Use that concept with any punctuation: colons, commas, dashes, etc. For example:
“I went on a trip to France — flights to Paris on Air France were so expensive!”
That sentence hits two keywords at once — “flights to Paris” and “France flights” — without sounding over-optimized.
This tactic also enables you to create grammatically incorrect keyword phrases like “France flights” in ways that are grammatically correct and read well.
9. Make Every Sentence Work Hard
If you write a new sentence, it needs to bring value to the page. A sentence that restates something that’s already been said in a different way typically doesn’t add any value — it merely takes the visitor more time to process the information before they can take the next action. Placing enough valueless sentences into a page raises your exit rate, as visitors get fed up with the fluff.
Do not create longer content simply because you think using more words is better for SEO. The relevance and value of a page for SEO are based on whether it meets your customers’ needs, not whether you said the same thing 10 times vs nine.
Have something to say. Say it. Stop.