Freelance Blog + special

Guest Post: Writing Engaging SEO-Friendly Content

By Christian Arno

Writing content for the web that is both search engine friendly and informative for readers is a skill that differs from other areas of both writing and marketing. It's no use writing wonderful prose or engaging copy if no one ever finds it in the first place. Equally, it's not very useful having content that ranks high on search engines but is so stilted or badly written that it puts readers and/or potential customers off. A balance must be struck between the two aspects but more emphasis may be required on one side or the other, depending on the purpose of the content being written.

Consider your audienceYou should remember, even when SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a high priority, that you are still writing for other people and there may be a difference in how you will want to write depending on your audience. A blog demonstrating your expertise or informed opinion on a certain topic – whether it's reviewing the newest CD of your favourite death metal band or discussing the writings of Sartre – will require a different format and style than a list of company services or a quick guide on how to change a fuse.

An informed audience will generally be more willing to plough through more prose on a topic they are interested in. Information and ideas can therefore be more involved, and more complex language can be used. However, unless you're writing predominantly for such an audience, try not to alienate casual readers with technical jargon and overly complex ideas. In addition, even if you are writing for an expert audience, content may need to be presented in another way than it would on the printed page as people process online information differently.

Present organized web contentIt's harder on the eyes to read from a computer monitor than the printed page. It's easy to get lost in an unbroken block of text and people often don't like scrolling through text. Unless they have gone to a specific website or page for a particular purpose, the viewer will scan it for relevant information rather than read it thoroughly, initially at least.

In short:

  • People tend to scan website content
  • Single line statements are often effective
  • Bullet points can help to organise your information
  • Keep running copy to good, manageable chunks
Catch the eye with sub-headingsYou see what we did there? Sub-headings are important not only when it comes to optimisation of content for the web, but also in breaking up blocks of text and directing your reader to the appropriate section of copy. If writing for a general web readership you should keep paragraphs short and language simple.

It can also help to start with a conclusion rather than a general introduction. People often place more importance on the information at the top of a page and may be unwilling to trawl further down to check if the page is actually what they were after. This is known as the 'inverted pyramid style', which allows you to expand on your various points further down on the page.

Employ SEO techniquesPut in its simplest terms, SEO is the process of boosting the ranking of a website on Google and other big search engines. If you have a company specialising in ballet equipment, you want your website to be as close to the top of the list as possible when somebody searches for 'ballet flats', 'children's dancewear' or the more specific 'tutu girl age 7-8'.

Keywords are the single most important aspect of SEO. Basically, these are the terms that people put into search engines when they want to find something. There are various paid tools that may be useful if you are charging for SEO or running your own SEO campaign. Otherwise, you may want to use Google tools or other free tools.

Brainstorm keywords and then test them to see how popular they are (how often they are used by search engine users) and how much competition they have (how many other websites are using the terms as keywords).

Keyword placement. Place keywords in your title, sub-headings and in the first line or first couple of lines of your content. Repeat them throughout the text but, as mentioned previously, don't go overboard. Also, keep the keywords relevant to the content. Search engine bots are becoming sophisticated enough to tell if keywords are placed inappropriately and this could harm your rankings or even lead to a blacklist.

The balance between SEO and readability can be a tricky one to maintain but, with a little thought and clear planning, content that is search engine friendly can also be made engaging and informative for the reader.

Christian Arno is the founder of professional translations agency Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.

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Guest Post: Writing Engaging SEO-Friendly Content + special