How to Write Content Google Loves
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”
The quote above, taken from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, makes it clear how important content now is for SEO. At the heart of a site that works for both search engines and visitors is great content. Without that, no amount of SEO or social media marketing will help.
What is great content?
Successful sites consistently produce content that is:
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Not only does your content have to be something people will want to read, it has to be easy to read.
Good ways to boost readability include breaking up sub-topics within your content, using images and videos to help explain difficult concepts, and visually highlighting one or two quotable “sound bites” that illustrate key points.
Avoid long, dense sentences and paragraphs. Short and punchy works best.
Most visitors need information.
Check forums, online communities and Q&A sites to find the questions people in your niche are asking. Providing clear answers with actionable points is a sure-fire way of creating content your target audience will love.
It’s also a highly effective SEO strategy. When you think about it, search engine queries are real questions and if people are asking something on a forum, they’re also asking it on Google.
Provide comprehensive, accurate answers and you’ll rank highly.
Getting content shared through social networks is vital for SEO.
As well as being original and well-written, the posts that get shared the most also have a killer headline (one that’s challenging, thought-provoking, shocking, funny, or intriguing), and a striking, relevant image.
Page Titles & Keywords
The title of your post or page is the single most important element of on-page SEO.
Not only do pages with keywords in the title rank better, taking the time to write a great title will make the difference between a moderate click-through rate and a great one.
The reason is simple. The title is the first thing users see in search results.
In fact, aside from the text snippet underneath, it’s pretty much the only thing users can see. That means page titles have a huge influence on whether a link is clicked.
Make sure everything you publish has a title that:
1. Has relevant keywords so it shows up in the right search results
2. Tempts users to click the link to go to your site
Take the title 5 Writing Tips to Jumpstart Your Business Blog as an example. It has the keywords blog writing tips buy also sounds inviting by promising five nuggets of info that could have a big impact on a blog. It’s hard not to click it.
Examples of great headlines
One of the best places to see compelling headlines in action is the content marketing blog Copyblogger.com. Take a look at the example headlines below, all taken from Copyblogger posts, and notice how each has both a clear subject and practically begs you to click it.
11 Common Blogging Mistakes That Are Wasting Your Audience’s Time
The 5 Things Every (Great) Marketing Story Needs
How to Write Interesting Content for a “Boring” Topic
7 Scientifically-Backed Copywriting Tips
Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+
9 Persuasion Lessons from a 4-Year-Old
The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language
10 Steps to a Secure WordPress Website
22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue
Remember to be punchy and concise. You don’t have unlimited space because search engines allow 65-75 characters before cutting off a title.
Optimizing Images for SEO
Taking the time to find striking images to use in your content will bring extra traffic in two ways:
1. Direct traffic from image searches
2. Increased clicks from social networks updates about the post
Here’s how to get the most out of each.
Optimizing for Google, Bing and Yahoo image search
When optimizing sites for SEO most people concentrate on text searches, ignoring the vast number of image searches performed each day.
While accurate, up-to-date figures on the popularity of image search are hard to find, it’s known that by 2010 Google Images alone was generating one billion views a day. Even without exact figures, it’s clear that image search is huge.
Every time an image on your site appears in a Google Images search, the Visit page button that appears next to the enlarged version is a direct link back to your site. If you have a site with plenty of appealing imagery, image searches can be a substantial source of visitors.
Because Google is by far the biggest search engine, we’ll focus on how their image search option works but Bing and Yahoo! are similar.
Search engines decide which words an image should rank for based on three things:
1. Name of the image file
Give your image file an appropriate, descriptive name and separate each word with a dash. A name like Trafalgar-square-london.jpg is much more effective than DSC_3697.jpg.
2. Text that links to the image or describes it
When you add an image to a post, take a few extra seconds to make sure the alt and title part of the HTML image tag use a phrase describing the image.
In WordPress, you can do this by filling in the Title, Alternate Text and Caption boxes that appear when you insert an image into a post. WordPress generates the HTML code for you automatically when you add the image to your content.
If you add image tags manually, they should follow this format:
<img src=”central-park.jpg” width=”850″ height=”420″ alt=”Central Park, New York City” title=”Winter Morning in Central Park, New York City”/>
Don’t make tags too long. Alt tags should be no more than a few words. Title tags can be longer, up to around 70 characters.
3. Text in the area of the page near the image
Try to add some descriptive text in the post near the image or as a caption.
Important: to get the benefit of image search optimization, images must be hosted on your website. If you link to an image on Flickr, for example, Flickr will get the link to Google, not you.
Using images to get more social shares
You’ve probably heard that posts and updates with good images get shared on social networks more than those that have a dull or cliched image, or worse, none at all.
But you might be surprised at just how much better they do. According to a survey by Kissmetrics, Facebook posts with photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs than posts without images.
For best results, use images related to the subject that are truly striking, funny or beautiful. Be sure to check the image still looks good even when reduced to thumbnail size.
Remember that you don’t have to use a photo, a good illustration can be equally effective.
When you share a link on Google+ or Facebook, the update from automatically includes images published in the post. If you don’t see the correct image in the preview of the update, click the arrows near the image preview to select which image is used.
If your site uses a lot of imagery, consider adding a Pin It Button to allow Pinterest users to easily add images to their boards. For a site with lots of high-quality product, inspirational or instructional images, Pinterest can be a major driver of Traffic – especially given that every Pin and Repin of your image includes a link back to your site.
Finding good images
One of the best places to find images that are free to use is the Creative Commons section of Flickr:
A link back is a condition of use for most Creative Commons photos, so you need to make sure you include it with the images or at the end of the post.
You can also use this as a way of getting extra links by visiting the Flickr photo page and adding a comment thanking the photographer for the image, including a link where they can see their image in use.
As well as generating a link to your site, it’s an extra courtesy that many photographers appreciate.
Create Viral Infographics, Even if You’re Not a Designer
If you ever doubted we’re living in a visual age, the continued popularity of the infographic should put you straight. It seems you can’t login to a social network without seeing at least one link to an infographic that’s doing the rounds.
Infographics are like blog posts – some are lame beyond belief but good ones generate a ton of traffic for the creators and are worth every bit of the time taken to create them.
If you’re an artist or designer you can probably whip one up over your morning coffee. But even those of us lacking graphic design skills can still rustle up a decent looking infographic using one of the apps listed below.
It’s as simple as selecting a template and adding the data, facts, and headings you want the infographic to illustrate.
The sources you use for your data will depend on your site niche, but industry associations, authority websites, and non-profit organizations are usually a good start. The more surprising the figures are the more attention your infographic is likely to get.
Don’t forget you can combine facts from a number of different sourced into a single infographic.
If you’re really stuck for an idea, take a look at the big blogs that cover your topic for mentions of recent surveys and studies.
Make sure you credit data sources at the bottom of the infographic. You’ll also want to add a Created by… credit with your web address. Many of the services below also allow you to create an embeddable version, making it easier for people to be able to share the infographic along with a link back to your site.
Free web apps for creating infographics
Creating List Posts & How-To Articles That Get Links
Creating a truly indispensable resource list takes time. But a good one will generate a huge number of links of links and social activity, bringing you a lot of visitors for years to come.
Take a look at these examples, with the number of inbound links, and at the time of writing:
50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business
Blogging Tips for Beginners
How to Write Magnetic Headlines
Those are some pretty good numbers.
Indispensable resources usually take the form of either a list post or an in-depth how-to.
Creating a list post
The key to a successful list post is no more complicated than including a large number of quality items.
If you publish a post called the 5 Best Photographers Ever it’ll be forgotten in no time. But create an epic called the 100 Best Portrait, Landscape, Architectural and Street Photographers of All Time, featuring twenty-five of each type of photographer with links, a bio, and examples of their work and you’ll have a fascinating resource readers will love.
List posts don’t have to be based on links A post like 101 Tips for Self-Published Authors would also do well, provided each tip was useful, well-thought-out and actionable.
The power of power lists
Creating a list of the top 10, 20 or 50 most powerful or influential blogs and websites in your niche creates plenty of room for discussion, debate, and controversy – not to mention links as other bloggers write posts telling you-you’ve got it wrong, or who you’ve missed out.
Once your list starts gaining a bit of traction and fame, you’ll find the people listed will naturally start mentioning and linking to you because everyone likes to Bragg a little now and then.
You might want to create an I’m on the Top 20 Power List of…badge to let people boast a bit more.
To kick-start things after publishing your first list, contact everyone featured to let them know the link and why they’re on the list.
How to choose who goes on the list
That’s up to you. It could be straight science using the number of Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, etc. Or it could be more subjective, looking at things like influence or quality of content.
If you’re looking to stir up a bit of controversy, never a bad thing if you want to generate links and traffic, then you can decide the list based on nothing more than your own opinion.
For best result, update the list regularly (monthly, quarterly or yearly) to keep it interesting and in people’s minds.
You can use this same technique for products related to your niche. By combining reviews with the Amazon Best Sellers list for a corresponding category, you can create a definitive list of the current best cameras, kitchen gadgets, or other products related to your niche.
Use an Amazon affiliate link for each product and you’ve also got yourself an extra income stream.
In-depth how-to posts
Take an aspect of your niche that people find difficult create the most comprehensive tutorial there is on the subject. This could be an advanced
topic or a fundamental skill that needs to be mastered before you can really become proficient at something.
Include step-by-step instructions walk the reader through the entire process. Use images and videos if they make the concept or skill you’re explaining clearer.
As with list posts, the aim is to come up with an absolutely compelling go-to resource.