By now all good online writers know that the days of writing for the bots, or writing for SEO purposes only, are over. Nowadays, anything you write online needs to be published in order to help readers, so it has to be completely relevant to the audience and high quality. If you’re a good writer, this comes naturally to you and always has, so not much has changed. However, this brings about the discussion of SEO writing techniques. Should you abandon all of your keyword density knowledge and research in favor of more “natural” writing? What if your writing was always high quality and for readers before any of the spammers got involved?
What so many don’t talk about is the idea that you can still write and publish online with SEO in mind. Readers should be your first consideration and should be at the top of your mind as you’re writing, but that doesn’t mean that your second thought can’t be related to SEO. There are SEO techniques that are OK by Google’s standards; you just have to know what they are and how to be smart about your writing.
Tips to Writing with SEO in Mind While Still Writing for Readers First
Part of understanding what SEO techniques will not get you penalized and will still put readers first is understanding how search engines work and how the way that they index and crawl content has changed over the years. In the past it was as easy and looking for keywords and keyword rich links, but those days are over.
Today, there are a few different ways that you should write with SEO in mind that will get you praised and not penalized:
Semantic SEO Considerations
This is probably the number one aspect of SEO writing to understand in today. Google is starting to catch on to keyword tactics and those working hard at SEO only, so they recently changed their algorithm to pick up on more than just keywords. Now, the Google bots offer results based on words that are similar to the words that someone types into a search query (synonyms, essentially). This means that websites need to start thinking more like the typical searcher and get more creative with content. Take the following example from an Uberflip article:
Let’s say someone typed the word “syrup” into the search bar. The idea of semantic search is that instead of Google only showing results with the terms “syrup,” they will also show results about how to make pancakes, where you can buy molasses, or maybe even general information about maple trees depending on the query.
So what does this mean for writing with SEO in mind? Your keyword terms are no longer just keywords, so use creative language and start thinking like a searcher. Continue to do your keyword research, but the come up with a list of modifiers and try and incorporate those words into your content. The same can be said about your h1 and h2 tags, titles, and descriptions. Check out this article to learn about some tools to help you with semantic SEO.
SEO Cocitation Strategies
This is another practice that has recently emerged because the Google algorithms are changing the way they analyze content. In short, cocitation is all about what is happening around a link that you include in your content whether that is an internal, external link, or a backlink you earned by publishing content somewhere else on the web. According to a Search Engine Journal article, there are two different ways to think about cocitation:
- Transitive Property. This idea works when you have three websites and you pass link juice backwards and forwards. In other words, even an indirect link can affect you, so you can see positives or negatives come from this. For example:
A webpage on Website A links to a webpage on Website C. The webpage on Website A also links to a Website B. This means that the authority connected with Website C will also affect the SEO weight that Website B earns.
- Semantic Similarity. This is not to be confused with the semantic SEO discussed above, although the overall idea is similar. You do not want to include keyword rich anchor text with your link, but you do want to include keywords around the link within a piece of content. For example:
Someone should say “Visit this article for more information about SEO cocitation,” as opposed to “Visit this article to learn more.” In the first sentence there is a keyword phrase (SEO cocitation) in the same sentence as a link, so the idea of cocitation is you may rank for that term whereas you would not if it was absent entirely.
So what this means for writing with SEO in mind: You should never use keyword-rich anchor text, but you should be mindful of all the links associated with the websites you’re linking to and who are linking to you. Even indirect links matter! Stay away from poor websites entirely and link generously to authoritative websites.
This is an easy one, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. When it comes to writing content for readers first while still thinking about SEO second, it’s not always going to have to be about how you write—it can also be about when you write. One thing that readers have in common with the Google bots is the idea that they like to see fresh content regularly. Never skimp on quality, but if you can publish a new piece of content three to four times per week, that’s going to bode well for you all around.
Keywords are Still OK
Remember, doing keyword research is still OK. Thinking about what keyword you’d like to rank for is OK. What isn’t OK is keyword stuffing and writing with the intention of using a lot of keywords. Your keyword density doesn’t matter anymore, and trying to sound natural isn’t going to work for you. Your best tactic is to come up with a topic and write about it with your audience in mind. After you’ve written your piece, you can go through and make small edits if necessary.
Just remember never to keyword stuff, meaning you should never try and insert a keyword for the sake of inserting a keyword. As discussed in the semantics section, the Google bots are smarter these days, so they’ll know if you’re using keywords unnaturally because they can now pick up on synonyms and whether or not they fit into a piece of content.
As an article on Luna Metrics brilliantly stated, “SEO need not be the enemy of good writing.” It is possible to do both, and editors are beginning to understand this more and more. It can definitely be difficult to find opportunities around the web because so many are afraid of spammers and of giving away a free link, but if you know how to write for readers while still keeping SEO in the back of your mind you should find success much quicker. It’s definitely a skill, but for good online writers truly not much has changed!
If you’re looking for more advice about what to write about and how to understand audience to create more engaging content, check out this article from Monitor Backlinks.
Do you have any more ideas about how to write with SEO in mind while still writing for readers first? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.
This article was written by Michael Hernandez. He is the Founder & President of Rocket Marketing and Design, a full service Internet marketing and web design company in Miami, FL. His main focus is helping both local and nationwide businesses get more customers from the internet. He enjoys reading countless articles and sharing his knowledge through writing for industry websites.