A small business owner recently asked me for a template, or at least some SEO writing tips, to help him with content writing for his website. I told him there is no magic template—and that’s a good thing.
Back in the early 2000s when search engine optimization (SEO) was mostly about keyword stuffing and “tricking” search algorithms, you couldn’t have paid me to work in this field. It was too boring and soul-killing! What writer wants to spend her days cranking out fast, terrible copy that only computers would bother reading?
These days, however, SEO is more about content than keywords. Keywords are still important, but the real focus is creating consistent content that’s useful and unique. As Google algorithms get smarter, SEO writing gets more human. (See my earlier post about this, plus more SEO tips)
Which means that not only are professional writers drawn back to the field—writing SEO is now accessible for entrepreneurs and business owners! For those that have (and are willing to take) the time, it’s a great way to engage with potential new customers while boosting your Google ranking.
Ready to get writing? Here are my top SEO writing tips:
Write what you know and love
This writing advice is as old as the hills, but it’s true! As a business owner, you are the expert in your field, so use content writing as a way to share your knowledge and experience.
I recently had the pleasure of working as part of a team on a new website for Ace’s Place Bar & Grill in the Guildwood. The new website, which launched this past Friday, was built by talented local designer Jack Henry of OmniWorx and I was brought on board for SEO copywriting. (Not all of the writing on the new site is mine, but a lot of it is)
Working with the owner, Arthur, was a pleasure because he’s obviously very interested in his work. For almost every item on the menu, he had a story about how they’d sourced the right ingredients or experimented to find the right recipe. That’s interesting stuff! My main focus was just capturing as much of Arthur’s enthusiasm and natural storytelling ability as I could for the site.
At the end of the project, my parting advice to him was to use the site to share his stories—passion is infectious, in writing as much as in person. And most of the time, the keywords will be in there naturally.
So, what exactly should you write about?
- Tell a story about a client you helped with a problem recently (you don’t necessarily need to use their personal name/details). What lessons from this experience are useful for other people in the same situation?
- Write about a new product you’re carrying, service you’re offering or menu item you’ve added. Why are you excited about this? What problems does it solve? How did you decide to add it?
- What questions do you get asked most often? What problems do your customers come to you with all the time? These are some of the best things to write about, because you know people will be looking for advice about them.
- Sometimes you’ll help customers who don’t want your good advice, and it’s frustrating. You’ll get some katharsis by putting the advice you would have given out into the world—where it can help someone else.
- What have you learned since you started working in your field or business? What have been some of the biggest surprises? If you could go back in time, what would you advise yourself? (These are the kinds of articles I usually save for my LinkedIn account)
- Did something happen that made you laugh? These kinds of stories and photos are a great way to liven up your social media feed now and then! #FridayFun
Short and consistent is better than long and sporadic
Often, I check out a website’s blog and find really great posts that were written in 2016. In many cases, this happens because the site owner is using a WordPress template that comes with a built-in blog they can’t remove (Is this a problem you have? Contact me and I’ll take the blog down!). In other cases, someone started off with good intentions but got burned out.
Google values sites that produce fresh, useful content. That means writing regular content is best thing you can do—even if that content is not as thorough, polished or even as frequent as you really want.
Part of the reason I limit myself to writing one blog post a month is that it’s doable. After all, we self-employed people don’t collect an hourly wage to write these articles for ourselves! Another important reason is so I can point to my blog and say, “See? Look what posting just one article a month can do.”
What can it do?
- Build trust with people who visit my website by showing them my expertise.
- Boost my SEO by pumping out regular new content and building a back-catalogue of shareable older content.
- Make creating content for social media easier—I’m going to cut up this post into little pieces and tweet them. I can admit and own that!
- Contribute something of value to the larger community. Here’s some free advice—you’re welcome! 🙂
What’s a good strategy for creating regular content?
- Be realistic about how much and how often you can post, and set a concrete goal. Writing 500 words once a month is better than 1000 words weekly for three weeks and then giving up entirely.
- Do yourself a favour and have one or two back-up posts or articles ready to go for when you’re too busy to write. This is ESPECIALLY important for seasonal industries! If you’re a tax accountant, you know you’re not going to have time to write in late winter/early spring, so write and schedule those articles in the fall.
- If your time is worth more than your money, pay someone else. A good content specialist will work with you to get your knowledge and experience out into the world without taking up a lot of your time. I have some clients that even like to do their own writing, but hire me to format and schedule it to go out in their e-newsletter, blog and social media platforms.
SEO writing tips: the technical stuff
I’ve included this point toward the end of this article, because that’s when I think you should be thinking about it—at the end of writing your content. Write first, then worry about this stuff while you proofread.
When you’ve finished writing, you can go back over what you’ve written and make some tweaks to punch up your SEO. If you’re using WordPress, there are some good free SEO plugins like Yoast that you can use to help you.
Technical SEO stuff to watch for:
- Search engine algorithms are searching for accessible, readable text. How do they do that? They watch for things like paragraph lengths, sentence lengths and using too many big words. No one wants to read a huge wall of text, so break your article into shorter paragraphs. You can make your content easier to skim by breaking it into sections with descriptive headers. Unless you’re particularly targeting people at an academic reading level, try to keep your words simple enough for everyone to enjoy.
- If you’re a business that operates locally, location words are some of the most important keywords you can use! Mention the city your restaurant is in. Tell us what neighbourhoods you provide service to. Most of us only want to hear about amazing plumbers and Thai restaurants in our own city!
- The best place to worry about keywords is in the title of an article or page. This the time to think about what people might be typing into google. My best advice is to keep things simple and to the point. This article is for people who want to write their own website content to improve their search engine rankings. I didn’t get creative with the title—I chose this one to target people googling “SEO writing tips”.
- Don’t go too wild overusing your target keywords over and over again. This is called “keyword stuffing”—Google sees what you’re trying to do and it doesn’t work.
Should you hire a content creator?
If you’re a good writer and have the time to do it (or have someone on your staff who can), producing your own content in-house is the way to go. After all, you’re the expert—a content writer really just funnels your experience and tone.
Many people are simply too busy to create their own content. Either it’s a continual source of stress, or it doesn’t get produced at all.
Some others like to write, but are overwhelmed by the publishing of content. Learning how to format content for a blog, e-newsletter and various social media platforms takes time. If you’re in a place where your time (or sanity) is in higher demand than your money, it makes sense to offload some of the work to someone else.
Writing is powerful—it’s an art and it’s part of our human history and experience. Content writing transcendence traditional advertising by sharing information, connecting people and building community. And unlike an ad in a newspaper that gets tossed out, your back catalogue of written work will remain and grow over time.
An old blog post may no longer boost your SEO the same way it used to, but as historical written works show us, meaningful content can remain valuable over time in its own right. If this blog post has taught or made you consider anything, then I’ve already proven my point.