When you use a search engine like Google, the most relevant results will appear on the first results page. This is a prestigious place for businesses to appear because it significantly increases the chances that you will click on their article and be taken to their website. So, if you own a business and you’re wondering how to ensure your articles appear on this elusive first page, then the answer is this: search engine optimisation (SEO).
Articles that are search engine optimised means they are written in such a way that search engine algorithms favour them. This doesn’t mean you must be an engineer or write special code to generate an article that ranks. Instead, your articles need to incorporate some specific features that will increase the likelihood of your article being regarded favourably by the search engine.
The good news is that these features also mean your content will be easier to read and understand, which in turn benefits the reader. The reader is far more likely to turn to your business for help if they know you can explain a topic in a way that makes sense to them and demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about.
Search engine optimisation is also a very cost-effective way of marketing your business. Unlike paid advertising, there is no cost per click or impression. Once your content and website begin to rank, it will continue to do so long term, providing ongoing traffic to your website and benefits to your business.
Here are the 8 key features of articles that rank with search engines:
1. Have a subject matter expert write the article.
The person who writes the article should have expertise in the subject area. This will increase your content’s credibility and is regarded favourably by search engines. Add the author’s name to the article, and provide a link to their bio, which should briefly explain their experience and relevant qualifications.
2. Write in plain English, using active voice and short sentences.
Writing in plain English means keeping it simple. Don’t use convoluted sentences and complicated terminology that the average person will find difficult to understand and follow. Keep your sentences short (20 words is a rough guide), and where possible, use active voice.
3. Utilise subheadings, bullet points and boxes to break up the content.
When you start a new sub-topic within an article, consider using a subheading. This signposts the content for the reader, making it clear what that section is about. It also makes it easier to scan the article to find relevant information. Use bullet points to break up lists, and highlight key points by placing them in an information box.
4. Articles should be a minimum of 800 words.
Search engines like longer articles. The sweet spot is somewhere between 800 and 1200 words. This gives you the opportunity to explain your topic in detail – but remember, no convoluted sentences and avoid padding with unnecessary information. If you are having trouble reaching the minimum word count, consider adding examples that demonstrate your point.
5. Incorporate ranking keywords.
Keywords are search terms that people use when searching for information on a topic. For example, if you are searching for information on how to make your website rank, you’ll undoubtedly use the words ‘website’ and ‘rank’. To increase the chances of your article ranking, it should include keywords that people are likely to use when searching on that topic. There are keyword search tools you can use to help you identify which terms are ranking for specific topics which you can incorporate into your article (however, avoid stuffing your article with keywords – this is regarded unfavourably by search engines). It’s worth noting that Google relies on search intent rather than keywords to rank websites, which leads to my next point…
6. Write articles that are informative, educational, and helpful.
While you want your article to drive traffic to your website, you will put people off if your article is one big long advertorial. Google also prefers articles that help people and align with their ‘search intent’, ranking them higher as a result. So, write informative articles that explain a topic clearly. This not only helps the reader, but will provide your website with authority and credibility. If, for example, you are a business consultant, you could write on topics that demonstrate your knowledge about the challenges businesses face. Your only promotion should be a call to action at the end. A ‘call to action’ is designed to drive an action from the reader. In this case, it may be to seek you out for further assistance with the topic.
7. Embed links to relevant websites
To provide your reader with access to additional, relevant information, embed links to other articles or sites. Start by embedding links to relevant content on your site to encourage the user to stay local. Then incorporate links to 3rd-party sites that genuinely add value by providing further insights into your topic.
8. Add two FAQs to the end of your article.
A Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) is a great way to increase your article’s chances of appearing in search results. They speak to ‘search intent’. In other words, they are more likely to reflect the reason behind someone’s search. Also, they are more likely to appear in Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ section on the front page of search results, which in turn will increase the likelihood of click-through to your website. The question should be based on the content of your article. The answer shouldn’t be long – one or two succinct sentences will suffice. However, ensure you use an FAQ schema. Most content management systems either offer one or have a plugin for one.
© Laini Bennett, MBA