Maybe you know how to hook a reader from the first line with well-written, interesting web content – but all this Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) stuff is alien territory to you. Or maybe you’re a boss at structuring pages to make Google happy, but you’re unsure whether the stuff you write to please Google will also appeal to human users.
Here are some tips for writing web content that both your users and Google will be happy with. The good news is, content that works well for your users is usually content that works well for Google, too – and what works for us here in Wellington can work for you anywhere.
How do you write user-friendly web content?
Exactly what your website users want depends on the nature of your site and your users, but in general, website users want content that speaks to them in language they can understand. They need content that’s concise, current, consistent, and accurate – with a clear header and a legible structure. If the page contains a call to action, then they want that call to action to be prominent and unambiguous.
Happily, that’s what your business wants from its website content as well. The pages on your website shouldn’t just be there to take up space or even to look nice – they are there to do a job for you. The heading, paragraphs (most of all the first paragraph), sentences and words in your web pages are there to persuade or to inform.
And by ‘persuade’, you’re trying to persuade users to take a specific action. So it needs to be absolutely clear to the user what that action is and how they can take it.
How do you write search engine optimised content?
Search Engine Optimisation is a big field, and there are plenty of great SEO resources on the Webstruxure site. But the core of SEO is very simple: you want your site to rank highly in Google for keywords that are relevant to your users.
How do you do that?
- You find out what those relevant keywords are.
- You choose a small number of these keywords for which you have a good chance of ranking on the first page of search results – which is a whole lot easier in New Zealand than it is in the US or other large countries.
- You make sure that you use those keywords in your content (especially in the page title, header and first paragraph) in a way that clearly signals to Google that the page is about the keyword or keywords that you have chosen for it.
Users are going to notice if you stuff your page with keywords in an effort to improve your search rankings – and Google is going to notice too, and penalise you accordingly. In fact, what Google wants and what users want aren’t so different. Google just wants some things that users may not notice right away, as discussed below.
What else can I do to improve my site’s search performance?
The Google search algorithm is understood to have around 200 different ranking elements – so there is a lot you can tweak! But here are five key elements you can optimise to make your pages perform better for Google and work better for your users.
1. Page Header
The page header is the H1 header at the top of your page content. Page headers are vital for your users, because they are the most prominent clue about what the page contains – and because many users don’t read further than the header. They are also a very important signal to Google about what the page contains. The H1 header will normally contain the primary keyword for your page, and our advice is that you write the header before you write the content – in other words, the content should follow the direction set by the header, not the other way around.
2. Body Content
In general, both your page header and your meta title (see below) should contain your primary keyword. While your body content may also contain your primary and secondary keywords, we certainly don’t advise stuffing your content with keywords. If you are going to include them in body content, include them in your first paragraph, or as close to the first paragraph as possible.
After that, body content should be all about the users:
- What problem are they trying to solve?
- How can you help them?
- What action do you want them to take?
- And how can you make it easy for them to take it?
A clearly worded page with a clear purpose: achieve that, and both your users and Google will be happy.
3. Meta Title
You see the page header at the top of the page content, but the meta title shows up in the tab header above your browser window. If the user has a number of tab headers open, only the first few characters of the page title may show, but Google can see the whole thing.
Here’s a page title format that Google appears to like:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Your Company
In other words, the name of your company should go at the end of the page title, after the “pipe” symbol.
This makes sense for users as well as for Google – the ‘primary keyword’ is the main thing the page is about, so if that goes first, it’s what the user will see in the limited real estate afforded by the top of the page tab.
4. Meta Description
The meta description is an HTML attribute that doesn’t appear anywhere on your web page. But it still plays a critical role, because the meta description is what is displayed as a snippet beneath the link to your page in Google search results.
In other words, the meta description is the content that tells searchers what your page is about. No matter how high your page appears in Google’s search rankings, they are less likely to visit the page if its meta description doesn’t appeal to your audience.
For SEO purposes, the meta description should be 150-160 characters, so it needs to be accurate, informative and concise.
5. Site Speed
Users don’t like sites that take a long time to load – and they’re all too willing to give up on your wonderfully written pages if they don’t load fast enough. So site speed matters.
Google dislikes slow page load speeds, too, and will penalise your search rankings accordingly. If your site’s pages take more than 2 seconds to load, then it’s time to talk to a knowledgeable web company about how to improve page load times on your site.
We hope this article has helped you see that what your users want and what Google wants have a lot in common. If you need help putting it all together, Webstruxure has a lot of experience in writing content that performs well both for Google and for users, so please contact us to discuss what you need.
Also published on Medium.