SEO and Readability: The Real Story

Writing Blogs for Humans and Google

Mention writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to a writer and eyes will roll. “Oh great,” they think. “Now, I’ll have to cram key words into my articles like the Grinch stuffing stolen Christmas presents up a chimney in Whoville.”

I thought that way too, at first. It’s not like that. Presumably, you’re writing for a company website and that company would like to sell its product. If this company makes snow globes depicting scenes from Shakespearean plays, you might mention English literature, iambic pentameter, gift ideas, or, well, snow globes. Writing for SEO just means using the word or words describing the subject of the article in the article. It just makes sense. Since you create your pieces to showcase Shakespearean Snow Globes, LLC., you should use key words in all your copy. Here are some titles you might use. They all include the term snow globe and refer to a specific play and characters from it.

“The Snow Globe’s the Thing: The Play Scene in Hamlet”

“Lady Macbeth in a Snow Globe”
(When you shake it, blood appears on her hands.)

“The Cordelia Snow Globe: King Lear Immortalized”

With some thought, you can use appropriate key words throughout your articles without the prose sounding clunky.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

We often use Yoast, a tool that lives on the back end of many WordPress websites. Yoast measures readability and SEO. It scores SEO-rich and readable articles with red, orange, and green faces. If Yoast is displeased, it gives you a red frown. But, when you follow its rules, you get a green, happy face. The faces and colors change as you edit successfully.

Readability

The goal is to make your writing accessible. You want readers to get the point. You also want them to read the entire article.

  • Vary sentence lengths and types.
  • Use active versus passive voice.
  • Use transition words, but not in every sentence.
  • Break up the copy with subheads and bullets.

SEO

The goal here is to make the Google algorithms like the article without making it unreadable for humans.

  • Select a keyword or key phrase and use it in the title, the first sentence, and throughout the article.
  • Add alt text to any images.
  • Use tags and categories.
  • Link to other articles on the site and on other sites. Google likes that.

For the actual writing, here are a few simple tips.

  • Leave one space after a period.
  • Start proper nouns, and nothing else, with capital letters.
  • Italicize words for emphasis. That’s it. Don’t bold, italicize and underline the same word.
  • Be direct.
  • Avoid the passive voice.
    • Frankenstein was played by Boris Karloff. (passive)
    • Boris Karloff played Frankenstein. (active)
  • Vary sentence structure. Make some sentences simple and declarative, others, more complex.
  • Get to the point. Your readers are busy too.
  • Be strong.
    • Dracula began to think about the best way to approach Lucy. (wishy-washy)
    • Dracula planned his approach to Lucy. (ok)
    • Dracula approached Lucy. (better)
    • Dracula bit Lucy. (oooh)
  • Add bullets to break up the copy.
    • Start bullets with the same part of speech. Verbs are action words, so they make each bullet livelier.
    • Break up facts into digestible bites.
    • Show actual data.
    • Provide a quick take-away.
  • Make the copy robust. Expository writing can be interesting and informative.
  • Keep it short.
  • Avoid over explaining.
  • Limber up. Stiff, formal writing is a turn off.
  • Save some material for next time. You don’t have to exhaust the subject in every piece.
  • Use contractions.
  • Ask interviewees something fun. Go off on a tangent if they mention something unusual.
  • Write the quote, then improve it. This is not journalism.
    • Make it more succinct.
    • Remove grammatical errors.
    • Take out ‘you know’ or ‘like’.
    • Tell the interviewee you’ll be doing that or show it to them.
    • Let the interviewee talk and grab tidbits.
  • Write in a more conversational tone. Pretend you’re talking to an intelligent person without your expertise.
  • Let your excitement, passion, and knowledge show. You’re interested in the subject. Don’t hide it.

Write for SEO and people

You can be a professional and write like a human being. Blog like you’re describing a film you loved, a book you’d recommend, or an amazing play you saw on the field. There is excitement in every industry. Maybe it’s the thrill of a new discovery. It might be a new method of doing an old task, or the relief this new product or method gives people facing challenges. It might be the options that come to light for your audience when they understand what you’re writing about.

The article is not about you. It’s about the knowledge you can impart to the reader. If the reader walks away with more information or a desire to learn more about a given subject, hooray! They might remember the company’s name and read the next article they publish. Maybe they’ll contact the company for more data. They might even buy “A Midsummer Night’s Snow Globe.”

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