Consensus was never the strong suit of the SEO world. Ask five experts what it takes to rank and you’ll get five different answers. Better yet, the frequent Google algorithm updates complicate things further. Heck, even Google itself, through the voices of its C-suite execs, sometime gives contradictory answers and tips on what works and what doesn’t.
Here’s the thing: it’s not an exact science. Ranking in search engines is something that happens through a lot of trial and error. Through my agency, my team and I have helped dozens of customers rank their content and copy. Every time, the process was a bit different and it took different things to get each of them ranking.
But there are a few things that must be present in every piece of copy or content you publish – if you want it to rank.
These are five of them:
The Right Keywords
You can’t rank for every keyword you may want. And you shouldn’t, either. Ranking is the first part; your copy also needs to convince and convert. So what good does it do if you rank for short, generic keywords that aren’t correlated with user intent?
Contrary to popular belief, keyword research isn’t the first step of choosing the proper keywords. The first step is looking closely at your customers’ needs and at your business goals.
Let’s say you have a bakery. What do your customers want? Awesome cakes, right?
What do you want? To sell those cakes as fast as possible.
In this case, ranking for keywords like ‘chocolate cake’ or ‘best chocolate cake’ wouldn’t help too much. People who search for such terms are typically looking for a recipe or for inspiration on perfecting their own.
Keywords like ‘best chocolate cake in Tampa Bay’, ‘anniversary cake shop near me’ are a whole different story. Users who search for these keywords know what they want: to buy the cake you want to sell. A match made in SEO heaven!
Now that you have your keywords, a few thoughts on how to place them. Thankfully, keyword stuffing is no longer a thing, so you can write naturally and produce copy that’s not just readable, but also enjoyable.
You do need to place your main keyword in a few strategic places, though:
- Title and meta title
- Meta description
- First paragraph or first 100 words
- Last paragraph or last one hundred words
- At least one of your H2s and H3s
- Peppered over your copy, but don’t overdo it!
Great Meta Content
Meta content has two major components: the meta title and the meta description. This is what one of our best-ranking articles looks like in search engines:
The keyword it ranks for is, among others, ‘how to hire SEO copywriters’. You can see that this keyword is in both the meta title and the meta description.
More importantly, the meta title and the meta description are actionable. They are inviting. They give the user a sneak peek that announces they will learn something with practical applicability if they click on this result.
This is what you want to achieve with your meta content: both rankings and conversions. If a piece of content ranks on the first page of search engines but your meta content detracts users from clicking on it, your ranking will not rank that high for long. Much like you (should), search engines aim for user satisfaction. If the users aren’t clicking on your copy, then they’re not satisfied, which means it’s time to move your content lower. Yikes!
Readability and User-Friendliness
When your content starts ranking you want it to keep its rankings for as long as possible, right? Then readability is one of the most important features you need.
Even if the piece of content is in-depth, well-researched, and has flawless grammar it will do you no good if it bores the readers out of their skulls. A good headline can only take you so far: the user will click on your article, but go back to search results as soon as they realize that your content is hard to read.
What can you do?
Keep it engaging. Don’t be afraid to throw in a joke or a personal anecdote.
Create short paragraphs and short phrases that are easy to read at a glance. Like this one.
Briefly put: make the text easily digestible. Long-form pieces are rarely read in their entirety. But a solid three minutes or more on your pages will give search engines all the right signals.
Speaking of making the text easy to digest: add relevant photos, videos, and infographics whenever possible or relevant. They make the text look friendlier. Plus, it’s been proven that humans process visual data easier, so you’d be helping your readers retain information faster.
Better yet, photos in your articles give you a great opportunity to add some alt tags and descriptions that help boost your rankings. Make sure that at least one of the alt tags you use has your main keyword!
A CTA: What Are You Selling?
This is an omission I’ve been guilty of myself: the CTA. As content marketers or copywriters we spend so much time making sure that the topic is in-demand, that the piece is written well, and that it aligns with our business goals that we forget the most important thing, the ROI generator.
Yes, I’m talking about the CTA. In the early days of our agency, we were publishing new pieces of content or copy every day. They performed well in search engines, but we got no leads.
We didn’t bother to say we were selling something – content writing services, in this case. As soon as we got back and added CTAs to the best performing pieces, things shifted. We started getting inquiries and even signing up new customers.
After all, ranking doesn’t mean anything to your bottom line (unless you have ads on your website). If you run a business, excellent SEO is the beginning of the sales funnel. Help your readers advance through that funnel with clear calls-to-action that guide them to the next step. It can be an eBook download, signing up to your newsletter, or even placing an order – it all depends on the type of business you run and your goals. But don’t leave any piece of content without a CTA. How are people supposed to know you’re selling something?
Speaking of CTAs, if you need help with content or copy that ranks well in search engines, reads well, and converts like a powerhouse, my team of expert writers and I are just a click away. Let’s talk!