SEO isn’t only about the search engines. You can write for Google all day long, but if you ignore your readers, it’s not going to make a bit of difference! Here’s what I mean by that. Think of the last really interesting blog post you read. Was it easy to read? Or was it really long and drawn out without images or even breaks for paragraphs? I’m guessing it was easy to read, easy to follow along with, and probably contained a few of these key factors as well:
For SEO reasons, it’s important to include the keyword you’re targeting in the headline of your article/blog, but you also want to make sure that the headline is a true description of what’s coming up in the following blog post. In other words, you don’t want it to be misleading. If your blog post is about the best ways to entertain kittens, make sure that the post is actually about entertaining kittens and not about gardening techniques. That seems like it should be self-explanatory, but sometimes people write a title jammed with hopeful keywords, hoping to rank in the search engines, when the article in question really has nothing to do with the keyword in the title. This isn’t going to help you in the long run, or in the short run for that matter. Just be honest and create interesting, informative and helpful blog posts about the things your audience wants to learn.
Also – try to make the headline eye-catching; something that your readers will care about. Here are a few techniques to try:
- The “How To” method – answer a question that your readers want to know in “how to” format, i.e. how to plant a garden, how to adopt a kitten, how to create a content marketing strategy that works.
- Add buzzwords and modifiers – instead of just saying “How to create a content marketing strategy” say something like “The secret to creating a dynamite content marketing strategy that really works” (the words in bold being the added buzzwords to catch the eye of readers)
- Add numbers – those usually catch the eye of readers. For example, “7 Revolutionary Ways to Create a Content Marketing Strategy that Works” (be honest – you want to know the 7 ways now)
I’ll do a whole post about this in the future, but those are just a few ideas to get you started!
When used correctly, headers can break up your content into smaller sections that make the article easier to read. For example, the words “Headline” and “Headers” and “Use of Bold + Italics” are all headers in this particular article. They give you a clue as to what is coming up in the next section, and also help to break up the page a bit. Also, for readers who skim, headers will give a general idea of what the article is about. Then – if readers are in a time crunch – they can decide for themselves what sections they might want to go back to and read in more detail.
If the entire blog post is just plain text, it’s going to be difficult for readers to skim. And let’s just be honest for a minute – you know you skim things. I know I do. When I read a blog post and I’m a bit pressed for time, the first thing I do is read through it quickly, looking for the terms and phrases in bold.
So, use bold and italics for emphasis – but don’t overdo it. Just make sure to use these on the most important points within the text. Use them to draw your readers’ eye and to tell a story. If someone were to just read the portions in bold, they should be able to get the gist of the article. Italics won’t be quite as easy to spot as bold will be for the quick skimmer, but it can also be helpful when used to emphasize certain terms and phrases. Again, use this sparingly, but effectively.
4. Images + Alt Text
We live in a visually-driven culture, and while words are important, a picture is still worth a lot of words (I’m not sure I’d go so far as saying 1,000 words though!) Regardless, images can be used to illustrate the point you’re making within your article, complementing the words you use. Images can also be used to break up the monotony of the text. Because sometimes staring at a full screen of text is a bit hard on the eyes. But make sure the images are relevant to what you’re actually talking about. And for SEO purposes, go in and create an alt image tag that relates to the keyword/topic you chose for your article – that way the image has a chance to help your article rank for the keyword too!
5. Bullet Points
People are drawn to lists. They’re easy to read, easy to understand and effectively highlight the key points you are trying to make. You can also use bullet points to organize your content into different sections. Below, I use bullet points in my conclusion to this blog post. In that instance, I am trying to draw your eye to the most important information presented within the text. In case you missed the entire post and skipped to the end (which actually isn’t all that uncommon) you’d still get an understanding of what the post was about just by reading through that bullet pointed list.
6. Gripping Intros and Conclusive Conclusions
Why would someone want to start reading your blog post? Is it interesting? Does it draw readers in right from the first paragraph? Just like a great novel draws your eye from the first page, so a great intro should draw readers into your blog post. Some ideas for introductions:
- Start with a question – make sure it’s one that readers want to know the answer to.
- Tell a story – if you tell a story throughout your blog post, the intro should set up that story in a way that makes readers want to keep going.
- Use an unbelievable statistic – have a number that will blow your readers away? Use it! The more shock and awe you can create the better – just make sure that the stat is accurate.
In the same way, make sure that your conclusion efficiently and accurately summarizes the blog post. Often times, readers will skip to the ending to see if the article is actually worth reading – make sure that you grab their attention and prove that it really is worth reading. Summarize your main points, but don’t go overboard – just give enough information to bring your points together in a way that makes sense to those who have read the article in its entirety, and will whet the appetite of those who have yet to go back and read.
7. Engaging Middles
So you’ve got the intro and conclusion down, but what about the middle? As I said earlier, a lot of times readers will skim through your middle section, just catching the text in the headers or in bold font. And that’s ok. Not everyone has the time to read through a full article. However, that should not tempt you to skimp on the middle section. If the content you create is solid, informative and engaging, you increase your chances of someone actually reading it. Try to write for your audience by using words that they would understand – don’t go over their heads. You may be an expert on your particular topic, but your readers might not be. Your job is to educate them to the best of your ability, and if you do this in an engaging way, chances are that your audience will read and appreciate your article.
8. Not too Long, Not too Short
Not too hot, not too cold, just right…something like that. But really, the length of your blog post is important. For a thorough, well-researched and in-depth article, 1500 words is a good length to shoot for. Try to at least get above 750. This not only helps your rankings in Google, but makes the article worth your readers’ time. Unless you want to write an in-depth guide or e-book, don’t go overboard with the word count and write a novel. But don’t skimp either. Try to find that happy median.
So there you have it – the recipe, or I guess guideline would be a more accurate term, for the perfectly structured blog post. When writing your next post, be sure to think about:
- Use of Bold + Italics
- Images + Alt Text
- Bullet Points
- Gripping Intros and Conclusive Conclusions
- Engaging Middles
- Not too Long, Not too Short – Just the Right Length
When you include these elements, your blog post will not only appeal to search engines, but your readers will find it easy to follow along with. And when your readers are happy, when they learn something useful from your blog, they may decide to share it with their friends. And that only helps boost your standings with the search engines even more. It’s a win-win really.
What about you? Have you tried any of these elements in your own blog posts? Have any of your own strategies to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
**This blog post is part of an ongoing series on SEO – if you missed the first two posts, you can catch them here: