Here are five things that make your content easy to digest for search engines so you can rank as well as possible.
1. Title Whether you optimize up-front or later, you at minimum need to know what keywords you’re targeting and include them in the title of your content. It’s generally accepted that the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. But the key is that they appear in the title somewhere. It’s important that your CMS or blogging software allow you to serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google pulls to display a title in search results) than the headline that appears on the page. If you use WordPress, Thesis builds this and many other SEO functions directly into your posting interface, in addition to all its design controls. So, let’s say I decide that the most compelling headline for prompting readership, sharing, and linking for an article is: Five Areas to Focus On for Effective SEO Copywriting That title contains my keyword phrase (SEO copywriting), but they might not be in the best location for ranking or even for quick-scanning searchers compared with regular readers. By using an alternate title tag, I can enter a more search-optimized title for Google and searchers only, such as: SEO Copywriting: The 5 Essential Elements The emphasis on keywords in the title makes practical sense from a search engine standpoint. When people search for something, they’re going to want to see the language they used reflected back at them in the results. Nothing mysterious about that. Having keywords in your title is also important when people link to you. When your keywords are there, people are more likely to link to you with the keywords in the anchor text. This is an important factor for Google to determine that a particular page is in fact about a particular subject. You should try to keep the length of your title under 72 characters for search purposes. This will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.
2. Meta-Description SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about what your content looks like on a search engine results page (SERP). The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether or not you get the click. It’s debatable whether keywords in your meta-description influence rank, but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t. You want to lead off your meta-description with the keyword phrase and succinctly summarize the page as a reassurance to the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for. Try to keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result. Again, you can create a meta description in WordPress right in the posting area with Thesis and other themes and plugins that add SEO functionality.
3. Content Unique and frequently updated content makes search engines happy. But you know that. For search optimization purposes (and just general reader-friendliness) your content should be tightly on-topic and strongly centered on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases (this goes back to the spoon feeding analogy). It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words. It might also help to bold or italicize the first occurrence of a keyword phrase, or include it in a bulleted list, but I usually don’t get hung up on that. It’s also debatable whether including keywords in subheads helps with ranking, but again, it doesn’t matter – subheads are simply a smart and natural place to include your keyword phrase, since that’s what the page (and each section) is about. Which brings us to . . .
4. Keyword Frequency Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears on the page. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page. It’s generally accepted that keyword frequency affects ranking (and that makes logical sense). Keyword density, as some sort of “golden” ratio, probably doesn’t. But the only way to make sense of an appropriate frequency is via the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the content, so density is still a metric you need. In other words, the only way to tell if your repetition of keywords is super or spammy is to measure that frequency against the overall length of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of what’s called keyword stuffing, which tends to make Google think you’re trying to trick them. Bad idea. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to mindlessly repeat keywords to optimize. In fact, if you do, you’ll probably get the opposite result.
5. Linking Out Linking is the fundamental basis of the web. Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages matters when it comes to search engine optimization. Here are some rules of thumb for linking based on generally accepted best practices: Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites Link with naturally relevant anchor text Again, these are guidelines related to current best practices. Don’t get hung up on rules; focus on the intent behind what search engines are looking for – giving those human searchers quality results.