By now most PR agency professionals know that Google algorithm changes over recent years have been a boon for PR by rewarding content quality over keyword-stuffed news releases or shady backlink schemes.
That’s great, but the importance of SEO in PR and content marketing and the growth of branded content means that we must learn to write for SEO. The first time I sat down to write 30 pages of SEO-enhanced web copy for my own site, it felt like a straitjacket – restrictive, un-creative, even false – the opposite of what high-quality content should be. But as I gained experience and knowledge writing for SEO and working with a great team of experts, I picked up tips and skills that are now second nature.
Here are some ways to write blog copy and other digital content to maximize searchability without sounding like a machine.
Focus on relevance
Answer questions, solve problems, and offer truly useful information. If you focus on what type of information people are likely to look for online, the keywords will follow more naturally.
Write naturally, using synonyms and word variations
Repeating the same word too many times in the first paragraph of your copy will not only cause you to be downgraded by search engines, it will probably turn off readers, because it sounds terrible. Use synonyms, related terms, and grammatical variations just as any good writer would. Don’t worry, the search engines have learned that “top PR agency” and “best public relations firm” are virtually interchangeable terms.
Write for the long tail
Writing to focus on the “fattest” or most general keywords is tempting, but it can be a tricky proposition. Those huge keywords are nearly impossible to own. Instead, try for the long tail by means of more specific phrases. It’s roughly the difference between a search term like “content marketing” and a phrase or question like “how should a B2B company get started in content marketing”?
Pay attention to headlines and subheads
This is still the toughest part for me, because I like wordplay and obscure titles that don’t contain obvious search terms. But for maximum clarity with search engines, your headline should contain your most important keyword, and you should have subheads for clarity and readability as well as SEO.
Make it shareable
The social sharing factor will only grow, so writing with an eye toward making it as shareable as possible is a worthy goal. What does that mean? There’s a great deal of good information about how to ensure your content is shareable, including my colleague Michelle’s recent post targeted to PR professionals.
Make the length appropriate to the topic
First we’re told to write short for the growing number of visitors who access content via mobile device. Then we hear that Google likes longer content (i.e., 1500+ words.) Here’s my rule: write what the topic demands, as long as it’s 300 words or more. Don’t pad, but don’t cut it short if you have valuable material to share.
Remember that images drive SEO
Images are more important than ever, mainly because they’re eye-catching. But don’t forget that alt text is a factor in searchability. Most SEO experts agreed it’s a good idea to rename the image file to include your keywords and to put them in your image title, alt text, and description.
Create new content regularly
This is probably the most important rule in writing for SEO, because even a killer post will eventually fall off the first page. The point is to show the search engine – and, more importantly, visitors to your site or blog – that someone’s home.