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Creating Readable SEO Content for Your Blog
Structure, along with words that make searches engines happy
If you have trouble building blog content that gets noticed, you might need help with structure and SEO. Structure, along with words that make searches engines happy is what Linda tackles in this article.
So You're Not an English Major...
Over the years I've written for many blog owners who are SEO specialists. Sometimes the guidelines for writing their content becomes so restrictive that the content no longer makes sense. And, after watching how these SEO-specific articles rank in Google and other search engines, I've come to the conclusion that keywords and key phrases – although necessary – do not need to occupy your time and concentration.
Instead, if I create useful (see previous article) and if I market that article to the right audience (upcoming article), then keywords and keyword phrases rank third on my list. But, as a writer, I also take some pride in getting my articles "right." In other words, I need to protect my writing reputation by using correct grammar as well as a way to present the material in an engaging manner.
This article focuses on what I learned about what I call "SEO writing" – just the parts that work. Additionally, if you don't think you can put two words together to write a blog, I've got some solutions for you. I don't intend to teach English as a second (or, even first) language here. Learning how to write in English (either American or British) is something that you can take on in your own time. But, I hope you'll learn some tips that might make your life a bit more tolerable and that may increase your readership.
How to Structure Your Blog Entry
These tips can help you to create a blog entry, even if you don't have a clue how to begin.
- Title: I usually wait to create the title after I build the article, as that article often provides me with the title from its content. Make the title short and snappy and think about using a keyword or key phrase in that title. This is a time when the keyword or keyword phrase does count in SEO.
- First Sentence: Make sure this is a strong sentence. Often, you can begin with a question that pulls the reader into the first paragraph. Or make a strong (but true) assertion. Be sure to back up that assertion with fact(s) or statistic(s) that can grab readers' attentions.
- Paragraphs: Try to keep the first paragraph to three sentences. Make an assertion or ask a question, back that first sentence up with a source and end the paragraph with a strong sentence or question. Do not use two questions, though – the question can go at the beginning or the end of that paragraph. Don't get all caught up with three sentences, though – four sentences are fine. Five becomes a turn off and six sentences in that first paragraph could become pedantic. In each paragraph following the introductory paragraph, make the first sentence a topic sentence.
- Subheads: If you plan to write an article that is longer than three paragraphs, add subtitles or subheads. These subtitles can help the reader skim through the article and maintain interest in your work. As with the title, try to use keywords or keyword phrases in those subtitles.
- Lists: Lists are the best thing that a writer can use (and you might notice I use them a lot). If you can't put two sentences together (although you should, at least for an introductory paragraph), lists can save your day. Be sure to create at least one link per line to another blog or source (the more credible, the better). One thing I look for in a link for a list is that site's Google ranking. If it is three or better, then that's the link you want to use in any bullet or number within that list. That said, a blog or other site that is totally appropriate often is better. Use your judgement.
- Get Perspective: If you can think about writing a blog entry as telling a story, all the better. Talk to your reader as if you are talking to a person in the room. Remember, thought, that many people may not stick around long enough to digest long sentences, complex sentences or unusual words. Read your article out loud before you publish, so you can catch any writing that might be difficult for your readers to scan.
- Talk To Your Audience: As with telling any story, use a mix of an impersonal voice and the word, "you." Using "I" is good when you are remembering a topic or an issue and you were involved in that issue. Avoid, totally, using the imperial "we." You are not the Queen, and you don't have the power to include everyone in any given country in your perspective.
- Statistics/Facts/Quotes: Always include authoritative voices to back up your claims. As with links in lists discussed above, you need to look for appropriate voices and links to back up your article. You do not need to interview people unless they do not offer information on their blog or Web site that pertains to your information. But, do not "steal" a quote from another site, especially from a news article, without permission.
- Use Your Inner Attorney: When you use the word, "will," you are making a promise that may never come true. You do not know (nor does anyone else) whether anything "will" cause something else to happen. Instead, use the words, "could, may, might."
- Use Correct Grammar and Punctuation: Use a single space after a period, be aware of the difference between "which" and "that" as well as when to use "that" and "who." Learn more about these grammatical rules at Grammar Book. Use the " --" instead of the "-" when you want to separate a comment in your sentence. The reason behind this use is that blogs transform the "--" into the long dash, which is appropriate for well-turned writing.
- Keywords and Keyword Phrases: Write your article first, then go back through it to add keywords and keyword phrases where it makes sense to use them. Don't muddy up your content merely to add keywords and keyword phrases. Instead, use your title and subtitles to help you in that realm. That said, it does help to use keywords and keyword phrases at least once in your article, to show that you had a reason to use them in your title and subheads.
If you write interesting and usable content and market that article to the audience you want to attract, the keyword phrases become a secondary issue...while you need them, you don't need to become obsessed with them. Your readership, if your readers enjoy your article, could do more to bring in more readers than any search engine might.
Finally, you may wonder why some blogs create foreign characters out of your dashes, quotes and other punctuation (example: isnâ€â„¢t ). The reason behind this is that you are using a writing platform that uses curly-cue quotes and other punctuation that isn't in the realm of the ISO character set. One way to avoid this problem is to use HTML codes for characters outside the ISO character set, like apostrophes('), ampersands (&) etc. In Dreamweaver go to Insert -> HTML Special Character -> Other.
Other resources to use to avoid that code insertion include notepad, the actual blog platform within WordPress, or BlogDesk (I use the latter and love it).
Linda Goin carries an A.A. in graphic design, a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in social media experiments.
Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.
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