Once upon a time, Google relied largely on keywords, meta tags, and copy in which chosen keywords were placed several times in various parts of the text. While Google does still weigh these factors, they continue to become more sophisticated in their search engine rankings.
Now, it’s best to do the following:
Google likes to present website content that best answers the searcher’s query. It has to be understandable to the searcher and to Google (and other search engines). Bulleted and numbered lists alert Google that the content is organized and covers the stated topics.
Often, articles and other content with lists come up first in the results. The “snippet,” as it’s called, is when a website reaches the top of the results and is, therefore, clicked more often than a paid ad. More often than not, this is generated by a query in question format. It looks something like this:
One tool that can help you find popular questions that apply to your copy is Outranking’s Questions Research Tool. This site is super easy to use, and there is no limit on the number of keywords you can explore.
Using the format of answering a question is also important for voice search. Voice searches have grown dramatically thanks to Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and other voice search tools. This is also the easiest way to search for something using a mobile device. Here are some notable Google statistics from 2020*:
It’s critical that your site be mobile-friendly. One way to gauge this is to submit the site to Google Search Console (another must). It will tell you exactly how many pages are mobile-friendly and how many are not. You will need to create an account to connect your site. Another way to check is, obviously, to view the site on your mobile device. You can also shrink the size of your browser window just to get a good idea—although looking on the phone is best. There is a chance that Google will overlook your site if it isn’t mobile-friendly. Check it out here: Mobile-Friendly Test – Google Search Console.
In each article, there is a main headline (H1), with headings that get smaller and smaller until the bottom level (H6). It is important that the H1 heading be keyword-friendly. There should only be one per page, and it should be at the top. Neil Patel’s site, which is a resource I highly recommend, has a nice article on H1 tags here.
Empowering writers, not replacing them.
The best advice I can give you is to write from the heart. Write as if you were explaining something to a friend or business colleague. It’s even better if you can use a somewhat conversational tone. If I want to find the best plants that require full sunlight, I’m not looking for a definition of plants, and I’m not looking for the number of times the article says “best plants.”
So, we see here that the rules for SEO keywords should be considered, but you should not write solely for Google to pick up those keywords. Using the keyword too many times (more than two or three) is considered “keyword stuffing.” That was the way sites used to increase their search engine ranking in the past. Again, Google is now looking for answers to the questions proposed by the searcher.
You might open with something like this:
Whatever your climate, the best plants for full sunlight bring a beautiful addition to your patio and add curb appeal to your home. You might want to try flowered plants that flourish in the summer. Of course, if you are in a location with warm weather year-round, you can consider these plants to last through several seasons. If you live in a place that has distinct seasons, be sure to pick out your plants after Mother’s Day, when the chance of frost usually goes away. That does depend on your location. Assuming you’ve taken that into consideration, the best plants for full sun can include:
[bulleted list, perhaps with information about annuals and perennials]
As you can see, there are many beautiful choices for flowers and plants to fill your home with lovely accents.
The example above uses the keyword that you are targeting. It also offers an explanation, with almost an air of a definition, in a conversational tone. You can even pick a secondary keyword. While the competition is steep for such an article, this post is set up to be a snippet. It asks and answers a question. Another point is that, while it is a short example, there is some factual value. If the article went on, I’d use sources and pictures to make it an interesting read.
To summarize, everything matters with an SEO-rich article. There is no way to skimp or take shortcuts. Following the suggestions in this and other articles will get your site ranking higher on Google and other search engines. Remember to:
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Sonia McSweeney has a degree in advertising copywriting from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. She has held various writing and graphic design positions. Notably, Sonia was the lead for the interactive team at Texaco, Inc. She currently owns her own business in website marketing. Her clients have included Westchester Community College, several ecommerce company websites, non-profits, and several websites for stores and schools.
Sonia uses her knowledge of writing with an understanding of search engine optimization for websites and articles to increase organic traffic and ultimately promote conversions. She uses analytics to boost her understanding of website performance. She’s a resource for social media marketing, again, using SEO-driven copy.