Phase One: Optimising your Pages
You’ve done your keyword research and you know what your customers are searching for. Now you need to create compelling content that is going to knock your competitors out of the park. But like everything there is an art to this. Content creation isn’t about getting as many keywords in as possible, quite the contrary, it is about answering people’s questions in a clear and engaging manner. You have to be two steps ahead at all times.
We’ve put a clear and concise checklist together for you so that you avoid some common mistakes people make when writing content. We’ve also listed the ways that you can optimise your written content. We will cover visual content in due course. Stay tuned.
How to optimise your pages:
Here are a few aspects that we are going to explore in more detail:
– Title Tag Modifiers
– Your meta description
– External and internal links
– Schema Markup
We’ve covered keyword research in another recent blog (include link), which you can check out to get the low-down. Here, we will discuss how you can use your keywords throughout your page for maximum results.
2. Title Tag
3. Meta description
Firstly include your keyword in your URL. This is Google’s first port of call when determining where to rank you in search results. Using your keyword here tells the search engine what your content is about, so make sure to be as direct as possible, as it will have a bearing on your click-through-rate (CTR). A keyword that matches your content means more clicks and engagement.
2. Title Tag:
The next place to consider your keywords is your title tag. This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to mention. Your title tag should tell the reader what the article/blog is about. If you’re writing about repotting plants, what do you think your keyword is going to be? That’s right ‘repotting’! So, some version of this needs to be in the title. An example is ‘Repotting your plants: a simple guide.’
3. Meta description:
Your keyword should also appear in your meta-description. This is the text attached to your content, which explains what it’s about to search engines. Of course, don’t stuff your keyword here, only include it where it makes sense.
4. Your content:
Last, but not least, your keyword should appear within the first 150 words of your content. Again, don’t stuff. If you’ve got something to say to your audience, say it, your keyword will appear as a result. This is also where your keyword research will come in useful, as you’ll have found other terms and words that your audience is searching for. In larger texts, like blogs and articles, you can use as many relevant keywords as you like, so get creative!
Keep URLs shorts and informative:
We’ve already spoken a little about using your keyword in your URL. A URLs job is to let search engines know what a page is about, so it stands to reason that your main keyword goes here.
Studies show that short URLs rank highest in Google. This might be because the shorter the URL, the more likely the whole term/phrase is going to appear in search results. If a URL is too long it might get cut off. So best to keep it short and sweet.
Embed title tag modifiers:
Long-tail keywords are keywords that take the form of a question, sentence or phrase. Basically anything more than one word. They account for 50% of all organic traffic, so it’s a good idea to include them in your content.
Creating long-tail keywords is easy. All you have to do is combine your primary keywords with title tag modifiers, i.e. words that modify the meaning of your keyword. Some examples include ‘best,’ ‘simple’ and ‘ultimate’.
A compelling title tag is what is going to attract those clicks, so get creative with your title-tag modifiers. If you need to get the ball rolling, you can find lots of lists of title-tag modifiers online. Get digging!
Optimise your meta description:
Like your title, your meta description should entice readers to click on your page. Although meta descriptions aren’t always shown, when they are they give users an idea of what your content is about. It’s therefore a valuable space. We recommend you:
– A meta description can be any length, but best to keep it short and sweet, around 120 characters (https://moz.com/learn/seo/meta-description)
– Use active language to compel the reader
– Consider and speak to users’ search intent
– Include your main keyword
– Elaborate on the title
Images are a great way to break up a blog and give your readers a break from chunks of text. However, simply including pictures isn’t enough. You’ve got to make sure they are optimised to give the user the best possible experience. Here are a few ways you can optimise your images:
– Install an image compression plugin (Link)
– Use descriptive file names when uploading your images, so search engines know exactly what they are. E.g. ‘potted plant,’ ‘mini cactus’.
– Add an alt text description. Again, this lets search engines know what the image is, lets the user know what the image is if the page doesn’t load, and makes the image accessible to people using screen readers.
Your formatting is very important, as it guides a reader through your blog. If your formatting is clumsy or disorganised, it will discourage a reader to engage.
So, how do you ensure that people visiting your blog stick around? Make it a pleasant experience for their eyes:
– Use short sentences and paragraphs
– Divide content into sections with headings/subheadings
– Include table of contents’
– Use bullet points to help readers skim for important points
– Emphasise important points with bold text
– Break text up with images
External and internal links:
Linking other pages is a great way to build up your authority online. An external link refers to when you link pages from another website, and an internal link to pages on your own website.
It’s important, when linking externally, to link to websites that you trust and that have a strong authority already. This reassures users that your information is well researched and reliable. We recommend linking between 6-8 external links per article.
Internal linking is also very useful, as it builds up a stronger picture of your general content for search engines and helps to direct users around your website. If you publish an article on rock gardens, for example, and you’ve previously written about how to conserve water in your garden, you can add a link to give users a broader knowledge on the subject.
In this case we recommend including 2-5 links and using keyword-rich anchor text depending on the size of the article, i.e. text that clearly describes the topic you’re linking to.
Schema markup is the information you provide a search engine with, for example your opening hours, a space for reviews, etc. It appears with the link to your website in search results, and can be the difference between getting a click and not.
Consider, for example, two links, one of which has a meta description only, and the other which has a meta description plus reviews and opening hours. You’re more likely to click on the second, because it’s providing you with more information.
One of the bonuses of schema markup is that it is relatively easy to do. Go to Google’s markup helper, or use a schema markup generator for help creating your markup.
What to avoid:
1. Keyword stuffing
2. Thin content
3. Duplicate content
4. Auto-generated content
1. Keyword stuffing:
You may have heard us talking about this before. Keyword stuffing is including your keywords in your text too many times. Take this for example:
Here at Digital Trawler we are passionate about content SEO. If you need to improve your content SEO, then you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve got the content SEO plan for you. Head over to our content SEO page to find out more.
Some people think that repeating your keyword will boost your search ranking. Unfortunately for them the opposite is true, as keyword stuffing actually puts you at risk of being penalised by Google.
Try to focus on what you want to communicate to your audience and your keyword will appear naturally. This way you avoid being penalised and your content is more readable, which keeps your audience engaged.
Our Managing Director, Ronan Walsh, has a mantra:
? Write first for humans
? Proofread as if you’re a search engine
? Finally edit as a human
2. Thin content:
Thin content is exactly what it sounds like, content that lacks substance.
At one point it was difficult for Google to recognize the relationship between terms, which meant that if you wrote an article about a specific topic, you may not have ranked for the topic’s related terms.
For example, if you wrote a blog about content SEO that included a section about keyword stuffing, you would only have ranked for content SEO. This meant that you had to write a separate article about keyword stuffing to rank for that term. This led to people creating multiple pages with similar content that lacked any real substance.
Nowadays, however, Google is much more sophisticated and can recognise a number of terms in one article. This means it’s no longer necessary to create separate pages for topics that could be covered in the same piece of text.
Google also prioritises high-quality content, so be sure to do your research and craft well-thought out pages that cover a topic in detail, rather than something that pays lip service. Including citations and links, where suitable, is a great way to help readers find more information. They also help you to rank higher. It’s a win-win!
3. Duplicate/Scraped content:
Duplicate content is content that appears between domains or on several pages of a single domain. Scraped content, similarly exists across domains, however it is unauthorised so is, in essence, also plagiarised.
If you don’t have permission to use somebody else’s content, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t. It will reduce the authority of your website and engender mistrust in readers/other websites. Focus on creating your own seal-proof content. It will pay off in the long run.
Of course, there are certain cases where internal or cross-domain duplicate content are necessary. In this case use the rel=canonical tag that Google provides. A canonical tag tells google what is the original content and to ignore the duplicated content
4. Auto-generated content:
As you can imagine, auto-generated content is content created by a program or bot to manipulate search rankings. Although its aim is to rank higher in SERP, it is ineffective, because generally it doesn’t make sense to the reader.
However, as technology improves, so too do the capabilities of these programs. Going forward you’ll see more reader-friendly auto-generated content. As a result Google have set out a list of guidelines, meaning auto-generated content isn’t penalised simply because it’s auto-generated, but rather depends on the quality. If it’s being used to manipulate SERP but is poor quality, then it may be penalised.
This involves hiding HTML code from visitors, to manipulate search engines and is subject to penalty by Google.
Practically speaking, cloaking is when a visitor clicks on a link or website expecting to find one page, only to be brought to another. This happens because the HTML code that is shown to users versus search engines is different.
In some cases cloaking is allowed, if Google deems it productive for the user.