From an SEO perspective content is the number one most important thing for achieving a good ranking on a search engine, and although it seems elusive it makes perfect sense; as humans we want the best information and we want it instantly. But what can you do to bump your article against the billions out there?
In the second post of the series we will be looking at what Google looks for in the body of your article and quick wins you can do to optimise your text and images.
Optimising your text
Traditionally articles will be a mixture of text and images, with text taking the lead. So let’s look at things you need to bear in mind to optimise your content:
Including keywords in your text
This seems like a bit of a no-brainer - of course you’d want to include keyword in your text - but you have to be careful to ensure it’s a natural use. Google’s getting smarter everyday and the days of keyword stuffing are long gone. In fact that’s a one-way ticket to penalisation.
What you want to do is firstly work out the keywords or key phrases you want to rank for. This will most likely be your subject matter, but think of the human way to search for this and note those words or phrases down. What you then want to do is write your article as you normally would. Once you’ve completed go through your list of keywords and make sure they are all covered. If they aren’t you can re-work a couple of sentences to add them in, but by defining them to begin with you should have the majority covered without even realising.
One extra tip here is to make sure your main keywords are included in your first paragraph alongside your title. This is what Google is giving priority to within the article body, so you want to make sure they are consistent and natural within there. We have a great article on what Google looks for in your header and titles so take a look at that too! [link to article]
Long vs short form is a question that always comes up. Does Google prioritise one over the other? Well the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Again it all comes down to how useful a contribution it is to Google’s users.
So how do you choose between the two? Easy - it’s all based on your subject.
What is your subject type?
Is it an evergreen topic that people will always search for or more of a throwaway piece on current news or trends? Evergreen topics allow you more space for long form, whereas a more disposable piece you might want to keep short, especially if this is more for social media. If it’s also a topic that needs more detail you might need to go into long-form to allow for that as a short post just won’t cut it.
As an extra tip rumour has is there is a sweet spot that Google identifies for content length. This is as follows:
- Short form: >400 or <750 words.
E.g. How can your business benefit by using video?
- Long form: 3000-4000 words
E.g. Raspberry Pi: what is it and why do i need one?
This has yet to be proven and even the experts can’t agree, so our advice is to throw that out of the window and concentrate on your reader. If you are writing the best content you can for them then that will be the optimum length.
Most Recently Updated
With the billions of articles out there Google has to find a way to prioritise them and one way it does that is through assessing the ‘freshness’ of the piece i.e how long ago was it last updated?
Think about it from a human perspective: it’s much better for us to get recent up-to-date content on what we are searching for rather than something from 2012, and that’s exactly the way Google thinks also. But some older content can still be relevant so the best way to keep these performing well is to keep updating them.
This doesn’t need to be a complete rewrite, it can be a tweak here or there to add in new information and keep it relevant. You can then add a ‘last published’ date at the top to inform your user and Google, like we do on our blog [image and link]. Or if you have a new article that covers a similar subject to an old one you can link from the older article to the new one. This then updates the freshness of the old article while including more ranking for the new.
This method works for general ranking but does exclude Google News, as the very nature of that is to have a constant stream of new articles. This means it will effectively ignore old articles, even if they’ve been updated.
Internal linking is a great tool to keep a user on your website and gently guide them through a journey. A great example of this is in this article: we’ve written another blog post in this series so you can find out more about What does Google look for in my article headlines & titles? That’s an internal link!
Now when you’re thinking about this you need to make sure your anchor text is right. This is the text the user is clicking on to go to the other article and also what Google is looking at to see where you’re linking to. So this needs to be rich and informative and not 'click here' or the actual URL. It's ugly and has accessibility problems! You want the user and Google to know exactly where they are going and what they are viewing.
Optimising your images
We’ve covered text so let’s move onto images. How can you optimise your images for Google?
Alt text (alternative text) is a word or phrase that is added as an attribute in the HTML to tell users and search engines what that image is. It’s origins come from accessibility, from allowing screen readers to read what that image is to tell a visually impaired visitor. However now it’s become a tool to tell the search engines also and is present as a field in most Content Management Systems that you can fill out, such as in Typo3 [link to landing page].
So when you’re thinking about what to put in your alt text field you want to be thinking ‘what is this image and how do I describe it?’. Google doesn’t want to see a lot of keywords stuffed in and neither do people who are using screen readers. They just want an honest description of what the image is and in theory that should be enough, as the image should be relevant to your article.
In the future this might not be so important, as Google might move into image recognition, but for now this is still a key point.
Just like with alt text above Google is now looking at the filenames of your images to understand what it is. This means no more ‘picture_1’ or ‘img1028’ - it wants to see clear and concise filenames. Again you want this to be honest and not too long, no one likes a long filename!
And that’s it...
So in conclusion, with the right mix of optimisation and great content you’ll not only keep Google happy but you’ll create an engaging piece that users will want to share and interact with. Everyone’s a winner!