Over the past couple of years building websites for folks, I’ve encountered quite a
few that want to write their own website content. Here’s the pros and cons list of
the content writing world:
Client Developed Content pros
-Less work for me
-Less cost for clients with budget issues
Client Developed Content cons
– Clients have no knowledge of search engines and the way Google finds content
– Clients don’t always have the best writing and grammar skills
– Clients often don’t know what is important to write about
All of these cons add up to me having to do significant revisions on client-written content, thereby negating the cost savings that I gave them up front.
The bottom line is that without quality written content, the client’s new website is going to be ineffective at converting site visitors to customers – and that’s if the content is even good enough to get new visitors. Because of the challenges and confusion involved with writing content, I am writing this article about content writing for websites and search engines, based on best practices in 2015. This article can be a great refresher course for web developers who are writing content for clients, and can be used as a reference tool that developers can point clients to. Here’s the down low on content writing for the internet:
Content Writing For Optimal Search Engine Performance – For Developers and Clients.
Here are the major elements that go into a page of web content, from top to bottom:
1. Page URL:
Page or Post URLs (permalinks) should be set to “Post Name” so that when you visit the page or post relating to “best marketing practices” it should look like: www.test.com/best-marketing-practices
The URL is the first step (but not the most important) in how Google matches a search query with content on the web.
2. Page Title:
The Page Title is what shows up in the tab at the top of your browser when you are on a given page. The page title is the second piece of information search engines look at when matching a search query with content. The page title should include the major keywords that you would like people to find your site for. For example, if you are selling a marketing program, and you have used the Google Keyword Planner to establish that a large number of people are searching for “effective marketing techniques in 2015″ and you wish to have your page of content show up in search engines when someone types that phrase in the search bar, then your page title should read something like “The Most Effective Marketing Techniques in 2015″.
3. Meta Description:
The meta description is the portion of a page that gets pulled up in search results, along with the page title and page URL. Search engines use the meta-description heavily when matching queries with search. Make sure that you use variations of the keywords you are wanting to get ranked for in your meta-description. If you are using WordPress for your site, you can download Yoast SEO which allows you to make a custom meta description. If you don’t specify the meta description, the search engine will generally just pull the first 150 characters from the page to show in search results.
4. Page Headings:
Headings used to be a lot more important in search engine algorithms that they are now. I still include them but in order to not over-optimize* keywords, in the previous example, I might make the primary heading on the page (using H1-4):
Best Modern Practices For Marketing Your Business
5. Page Content – The Meat and Potatoes
Picture the content on your page as an advertisement for the product you are writing about. It can be difficult to accept, but the reality is that 90% of the people who visit the page will never read past the first paragraph (so congratulations if you’re still reading, you’re a champ). What does this mean for you? Make a list of the top five points you want to communicate to the target audience. These top five points should also be researched in the Google Keyword Planner so that you can make sure you are using the words and phrases the potential clients are using while searching the internet for information. Here is an example of the top five subjects I wish to communicate about the page named “effective marketing techniques”
1. Marketing for Small Businesses
2. Social Media Marketing for the Tech Industry
3. Email Marketing Best Practices
4. How to Use LinkedIn for Marketing your Business
5. Does Twitter and Facebook Really Work For Manufacturing Businesses?
I normally start the page off with a short attention grabbing sentence or two then lead into a bullet point list that would involve my top 5 concepts. Immediately after this segment, I provide my call to action. In this case, my call to action might be “Get Instant Access to Our 2015 Marketing Guide.” This would possibly forward to an auto-respond email that adds them to your list and gives them a link to the e-book.
6. Above the Fold – A Very Important Concept
Above the fold refers to the area of a web page someone can read without scrolling down. It is extremely important to communicate your most important points in this area, so that it takes no extra effort.
What should you write pages of content for, and how many pages is the right amount?
I get this question frequently and the answer is different for different types of businesses, but I’ll try to generalize so that the information applies to as many types of businesses as possible.
Example of Content Pages for Manufacturing Companies (applicable to others):
Many of the manufacturing companies I work with have fairly complex product lines. My conversation about content writing usually starts with the question: “What is the main profit producing component of your business?” I follow this question with “What do you consider the biggest area of growth or opportunity for your company?” The general goal of these questions is to find primary, secondary, and tertiary areas of specialization for the company. The products and services identified are to be leveraged for online searches. The point in writing the content is to ensure that search engines will be able to match OEMs and sourcing personnel with the content they are looking for. Let me give you a brief example:
A company that manufactures molds for injection molding would first identify the largest components of their business. This company may provide molds for the automobile industry, signage, and for children’s toys. Clearly they want to be able to be identified on their website with these industries, so the main pages of the website should involve these topics. Subcategories of these industries, or specific types of molds relating to these individual industries would also have pages, usually in a drop-down. As a general rule to streamline the process, I find around 5 main categories for pages, then 5 sub-pages that break off of these.
Content Pages for Other Industries:
The general model outlined above can be expanded upon for more complex business models and product lines, it can also be simplified for more simple businesses. The end result should be that the content written for the site should be generated to ensure that the company is being found online for the most important aspects of their businesses.
*Over Optimization and Keyword Concentration
In years past the best case scenario for content writing was to stuff as many keywords and phrases into a page of content. Google has caught on to this shady method of keyword stuffing. Even two or three years ago, the recommendations I was getting was to have up to 3% keyword concentration in a piece of content. I personally think that this is way too much, and have seen evidence to suggest that beyond strategically placing the keyword in a couple of major spots, heading, url, meta description, etc., you shouldn’t be focusing on just that one keyword. Search engines are now smart enough to understand the topic of a piece content, and to match searches up with content that may not even contain the exact words typed in. This doesn’t mean that you ignore the phrase that you want to optimize for, but just don’t use it more than a couple of times.