We all know that content is what’s driving the SEO machine these days. What most people don’t know is that they could be going about it all wrong. Writing just any piece of re-hashed, over-done content isn’t going to cut it. Your written works have to be researched, well-prepared, and well… professional.
If your content isn’t that, you’re probably gaining very little, no matter how much content you have placed out in cyberspace. You’re absolutely, for sure, wasting your time.
Here are some points to remember about writing in general, and writing for search.
Do You Know Who You’re Writing For?
When writing for the Internet you need to understand your audience and know WHO you are writing to. So, use some analytic demographics to help you. Figure out whether your audience is male or female, well-heeled or needing healed, how much education they have, and what their interests are, both primary and ancillary. All of this can be found in Google Analytics, IF you have the Analytics code set up to track demographics.
Once you’ve figured that part out, create an avatar of your perfect customer.
Let’s say you know your audience is women, aged 35-50, and are mainly business people. They have zero to 1 child, and enjoy movies but another hobby is kick boxing. OK, pretty specific, but let’s go with it…
Mary Jane Proctor works for Bank of America as a VP in the Trust department. She lives alone with one cat, a Russian Blue named Igor. Every night after work, she goes back to her two bedroom apartment (her parents sometimes visit), leaves a check for her cleaning woman, fires up a Lean Cuisine, and kicks back to watch the latest pay-per-view flick.
Can you see her? Not yet?
OK, she has blonde hair, which is shoulder length, blunt cut, and she usually wears it up at work just to keep it out of her eyes. How about now?
I could go on for pages, but I think you understand what I mean. Make up someone — anyone you see in your mind with what you’ve learned from Google stats and write to that one person, specifically. Just be very sure you know just who they are.
Which Person Are You Writing In?
Person refers to your point of view when writing. Are you writing from first person (I, me, my…), to someone else in second person (you, yours) or to a nebulous third person (he, she, it, theirs)? And how are you writing? Familiarly or formally? These things are important!
For the Internet and any other less formal publication, your best choice for articles is “second person familiar.” That means you’re writing directly to your avatar — the “you.” You’re thinking about Mary Jane now, and writing informally with contractions and less stilted vocabulary.
Do you know how to write well for search engines? If you’re shaking your head “no,” then here are some killer tips to help you.
Deliver your message just like you’re talking to one of your friends. Leave out the expletives and you should be good to go.
What’s Your Focus?
The purpose of your content may be to teach, to sell, to announce, etc. You have to figure out what your content is intended to do. This article, for example, is a teaching article. Professional writers probably aren’t reading, but let’s face it: If you’re a small business owner, a tech person or even a mommy blogger, you need to understand the basics of writing well.
Focus is high on that importance list. If you’re writing to teach someone something, write about that, not about your trip to Mt. Shasta, unless you’re using it to illustrate a point.
If you’re writing to announce something, such as you would in a press release, stick to that event alone. Don’t drag anything into your writing that shouldn’t be there. Focus on your purpose and intent.
Are You Using “White Space”?
Don’t you hate to see very long blocks of text online or even in an email? NOBODY will read those! They look like work, and they are!
Having more “white space” in your piece is uber-important because when paragraphs aren’t huge, they just look easier to read. Break paragraphs up so that they’re no longer than five lines, tops. Just forget what you learned in school! One-sentence paragraphs are acceptable, if you use them to make a point. Heck one word paragraphs sometimes work well, too.
You realize that Google is watching you, right? I mean, you give them permission just by allowing spiders to crawl your pages. So, here’s the deal:
If you don’t know how to punctuate properly, either get someone who knows how to do it and pay them to edit or even to write for you, or bone up! There are tons of punctuation books out there.
I’m not going to mention the "AP Style Book" or the "Chicago Manual of Style." But books like "Woe Is I" by Patricia T. O’Connor will help a lot.
Or, just search for grammar coaching online. There are tons of sites to help you. The only caveat is to be sure that you’re on a site that knows its stuff. You should probably stick to .edu sites or authority sites in the writing niche.
But remember… You heard it here: Prepare yourself! Google is headed toward forcing us to use those professional style guides. They want the Web to be professional, and I see a day where usage and punctuation and all the other aspects of good writing will not just be important, but imperative.
Yes, the days of garbage content with no purpose except AdSense ads are over.
Is What You Write Interesting or Helpful?
Be sure that whatever you write is interesting. And if it’s not terribly interesting, make it terribly useful.
One easy way to write some content about a field you should be expert in is by giving people 5, 7, or 10 tips to follow. It’s the easiest format of all.
But here’s the thing: If you’re passionate about your subject, people will feel that in your writing. And, if you’re giving them information they aren’t picking up anywhere else, guess what? They’ll love you for it!
Even if your topic is a tad dry and boring, if people are learning, they’ll overlook it.
You want your audience to be engaged. That’s the most important part of all. Keep them reading!
And, if you can write with a little humor, guess what? You’ll keep them coming back. Just try not to make lame jokes that don’t really work, or you’ll come off looking like a fool. That’s the LAST thing you want.
If you’re going to inject humor, be sure to get someone who you can trust to read what you’ve written first and see if they smile. No smiles? You failed. Try again or hire a humorist to jazz up the piece for you. Humor writing is very hard to do.
The MOST important thing you can do is to rewrite what you’ve written. Allow whatever it is to sit for a while and then (overnight, if possible), go back to it and read it again. Unless you’re perfect, you are going to find passages that need your attention to make them stronger. Never think that you can write and hit the “send” button, no matter how good you think you are.
Don’t be afraid to completely rewrite what you’ve written, either. For example, I once wrote a book chapter while I had the flu. When I went back to it a couple of days later, I read it and thought, Who wrote this crap? And had to start over. Lesson learned. Only write when you’re well and feel like writing.
If you don’t feel like writing, read. Read everything you can get your hands on about the topic at hand. At some point, you’ll stop wanting to read and be ready to write.
If you’re still going keyword crazy, STOP IT! That’s NOT what search engines want to see anymore. They want you to write naturally and if you do, the keywords surrounding your niche will automatically pop up in your text.
Use a keyword in your page title. Use one in your page description. Use a couple in your text. That’s it!
You should do some quick keyword research before beginning, no doubt, because “natural SEO” is less popular than “SEO” alone, for instance.
If you can find some keywords that aren’t so generic and can be used easily in what you’ve written, either write with a keyword in mind or go back and see where it might seem natural to swap one keyword out for another. NEVER stuff or use a keyword where it doesn’t belong. That way lies madness!
The Bottom Line
If you’re a webmaster or a small business owner who writes his or her own content, you need to start thinking about writing more professionally. It’s what Google expects, and you know when the Big Dog barks, everyone listens. So, bone up, beef up and polish up. The better your article is, the more search oomph it will have and the better off you’ll be.