The art of writing content for SEO has changed over the years. Even though there’s loads of resource and guidance out there to help people get it right, so many people still get it so, so wrong.
Here are five bad SEO content habits that need kicking into touch, and five ways to do it now.
Ignoring Semantic Search
Instead of taking your search query literally, search engines can apply meaning and intent to the words you’ve typed (or yelled) into search.
Basically, it’s a better understanding of the context of a search query, arguably driven by the rise in voice commands for the all the devices we’re now surrounding ourselves with.
Once upon a time, it was common practice to be writing content for a page to target one precious keyword, applying variations or relevant phrases on separate pages. But because semantic search takes into account a page’s topic, not just the frequency of certain words, it pays to include those supporting phrases and synonyms to cover a topic more thoroughly.
Break the bad habit: Don’t stuff your content with one keyword over and over in the hopes that you’ll rank for it. Instead, work in the supporting phrases. Keyword research will help you determine what those phrases are – you can use Google’s own suggestions for that:
Skimping on Word Count
I get it; you know Google likes “fresh content” and a short blog post won’t take long to write. But a short blog post is thin content, and thin content doesn’t work for SEO. Think about it; it’s difficult to truly cover a topic if you’ve only got 300 words, it’s easy to make it spammy if you try and optimise it, and publishing heftier pieces implies more due care/attention/research has been put into the piece – and that denotes quality.
Truthfully, I don’t have a definitive answer as to why Google favours longer content, but if we’re thinking about semantic search (and we absolutely are), long-form content gives search engines the opportunity to really understand what a page is about.
More Words = More Context
So how short is short? Well, Backlinko found that the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words:
Break the bad habit: Don’t just post a blog post because you feel like you have to. I mean, you sort of do, but you need to make it serve a purpose. If it’s useful, helpful, topical, and interesting, your readers will enjoy it (which’ll pump up those social share numbers – another thing Google lurves) and search engines will see it’s a thorough, well-researched bit of content.
Putting Quantity before Quality
Along the same lines as the above, search engines are striving to serve users the best experience in search, and that means offering the best search results. How do they determine what constitutes the “best” search results? Well, Google employs “Search Quality Raters”.
These raters use Google’s “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines” to evaluate the quality of search results for a heap of queries and then feedback their findings to Google. They don’t get to determine whether a website ranks or not, but can offer a score up for a website based against the guidelines.
High quality pages, according to the guidelines, have a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T):
It must also include a descriptive/helpful title, details about the website and/or who is responsible for the website, and the website or writer of the content should have a “positive reputation”.
So, yeah. A handful of blog posts showcasing limited expertise that don’t communicate trustworthiness or authority aren’t going to cut it.
Break the bad habit: Make a list or schedule of the topics you want to cover and do your research. If you’re scratching around for ideas, and rushing to churn out a post, maybe you shouldn’t be bothering at all.
Google wants to gobble up your fresh content, but you have to serve it regularly. I know, I know, I just said, don’t publish just for the sake of it, but if you go back and check, I think you’ll also find I said you should make a schedule.
Hubspot gathered data from their customers to establish how the number of blog posts published monthly and in total can affect traffic and leads.
They found that the more blog posts a company publishes monthly, the more traffic they get to their website. Companies that published 16 or more times a month got almost three and a half times more traffic, and four and a half times for leads, than companies that didn’t post, or posted no more than four times a month.
Break the bad habit: Go make that schedule. Recruit your staff, plan your posts, and start publishing great content consistently.
Neglecting the Technical Tick Boxes
SEM Rush’s study in 2017 revealed the most common technical SEO mistakes we’re making. Issues such as crawlability, internal linking, site structure, and page speed were all highlighted, as was “on page optimization”:
Optimising title tags, writing compelling meta descriptions, and media optimisation are simple little tasks that can give your content the edge. If you’ve gone to the trouble of drafting a schedule, writing a long-form piece, and weaving your keywords and variants into it, it seems a shame to miss these last few nuggets of SEO gold.
Break the bad habit: Make an SEO checklist. Or copy the one below…
Your Quick SEO Checklist:
Use your main keyword in the slug of your user-friendly url
Use your main keyword in the the Page Title (60ish characters long)
Use your main keyword and/or variants in your Meta Description (150ish characters long)
Use your main keyword and/or variants in your Headers
Good, relevant, well-researched topic
Chunky word count
Unique copy with no duplication
Use of Media
Use alt tags to optimise images
Use alt tags to optimise video
Make old school SEO content a thing of the past
A good website is constantly changing, updating, and growing. Fresh, well-written content is key to that process, and that requires planning and strategy.
A sloppy post with a few keywords but not much thought chucked in will get you nowhere fast, and is just a waste of resource. The volume of crap published online these days makes organic search a crowded place, and to stand a chance in SERPs, you need to apply quality and quantity with a bit of technical know-how on top.