Here’s a tip to start with: there’s no writing for Google without writing for your audience.
There’s no math formula to apply and make the search engine happy. Rather it’s a mix of science and art to become relevant for your audience, and Google, with its intelligent algorithm, will like your website too.
Here’s the 10-point checklist to help you rank higher in the Google search results.
1. Give answers to your audience
Your prospects reach your website looking for an answer to their specific questions, worries or problems. For instance, users don’t search for ‘sagrada familia’ if they want to visit the famous church in Barcelona. They search for ‘waiting times sagrada familia’ or ‘sagrada which tour to take’. Pay attention to their queries and develop content around them. The more directly you answer to their needs, the happier they will be with your website, and the more visits you’ll receive in time.
2. Research for keywords
Even if writing for the web now means publishing quality content, it’s still important to take the time to research for optimal keywords. Just the reasons have changed. Decide on a maximum of 2 to 3 keywords per page, and work them in your text naturally. Don’t force an unnatural sounding sentence or title just for the sake of the keyword. Give Google some indication on what the page is about, but making the text readable and engaging is your most important task.
3. Edit and re-edit your content
Perhaps now more than ever, your website texts must be highly edited. The perfect spelling, grammar and structure are the just the basics. Thanks to Google’s move towards semantic search, you can also replace some repetitive keywords with their synonyms. Also, follow your tone and voice guidelines and incorporate the users’ questions, as detailed in the first point. If they are relevant, Google will pick them up and show them on the results page more prominently, with a link to your website, as illustrated in the snapshot below.
4. Keep your eye on the syntax
Remember syntax from English grammar class? That talk about sentence structure that gives rhythm to your web texts and articles. Alternate between long sentences, medium and short ones. Vary the length of the paragraphs. You can even play with one-line paragraphs to make a point and draw attention. Play with the structure and you’ll get a livelier text and will pull the reader into it.
5. Page formatting
Whether it’s a landing page, a blog article or a product description, the content on the page must be quickly scanable. Use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate, for instance for instructions or lists of features. Use sub-headers to split the chunk of text into sections. Format the headers by logic, using the H1, H2 or H3 formatting tools. Google will understand easier the structure of the page, and will even display prominently in the search results some of your lists if they are relevant to users’ questions. Check this snapshot below: a portion of the relevant list is shown, with a direct link to that website.
6. Use internal links
Internal links are direct links to your other pages. If you use them right, they will pull your readers deeper into the website. The readers will browse more and more of your pages, staying longer on the site. And a longer visit means higher chances of remembering your brand and returning for a potential purchase. Link a relevant blog article to your sales page, or link to a couple of related blog posts into a new one, to help detail the topic. Internal linking – also called contextual linking – is a powerful tool that pleases Google too, but make sure to use it only where truly relevant.
7. Always include a CTA
A CTA doesn’t stand for ‘Certified Travel Associate’, nor for ‘Cover Thy Ass’.
It refers to a Call to Action. Each page of a website should have one. Remember, your website is a marketing tool, and you want your visitors to do something after reading a page. A call to action can be to invite them to subscribe to your newsletter, to follow your social media channels, to sign up for a free trial, to review your business on Tripadvisor, to download an e-book. There are countless CTAs you can use, depending on the objective of each page.
8. Put the main keyword in the title
If you use an important keyword in the title of each page, that will send a ‘signal’ to Google of how relevant that page is for the mentioned keyword. This is part of the on-page SEO strategies that make Google happy. And it will make your visitors happy too. When they search for that keyword, your site will appear in their results with the word in the title in bold, making it easier for them to choose your website to find their answer.
9. Make the title compact, clickable and shareable
You have a couple of seconds for the user to scan your title, decide if it’s relevant and click on it. First, it should have maximum 55 characters, including spaces, so that Google can display it complete on the results page. Titles longer than that are cut in the middle and the users won’t understand what the page is about.
Then, make it clickable. That is: relevant for the audience you want to attract, using powerful adjectives. Trigger their emotions related to their problem, like finding a hotel in a desired area, or getting those premium tickets. Get the readers excited about finding your page, that they’ll want to share it with their networks too.
10. Is the page truly valuable?
You have the freedom to include as many pages on your website as you wish. But more is not always better. Each page must help your prospects, solve their issue at least partially. Besides being clear, structured and including keywords naturally, the page must bring added value. Google now measures the quality of the content, its uniqueness (don’t have multiple pages presenting the same topic) and compares it to all your competitors out there on the web. Stick to helping your readers, avoiding self promotion, and Google will pick up the real value of your page.
Print out this checklist and use it every time you write a website page or a blog article.
In time, you’ll accumulate a stack of pages with truly useful content, relevant to your audience. Google will be happy too and will start showing your stuff more.