Are you graduating soon? Or, are you simply new to the idea of SEO writing? Academic vs. SEO writing is currently one of the biggest challenges writers face, so if you’re feeling a bit unsure of how to proceed, you’re not alone!
Students right out of college, as well as many people who haven’t written a lot of online content, are used to academic writing. This is the formal, impersonal writing that teachers and professors expect in the context of their classrooms from middle school all the way up through university.
But if you get a job writing online content, like websites or blog posts, you’ll have to learn a new style of writing that is very different from academic writing: SEO (search engine optimization) content. When writing for the internet, you have to keep in mind that in order for people to read your web page, it is going to have to be a top search result (because let’s face it, most people don’t go to page 2 of Google, let alone page 50!) and you’ll have to make your writing choices accordingly.
Search engine optimization or SEO = making your webpage appear higher on search engine results
The higher your website ranks on search results, the more people will visit your website. With SEO, rather than impressing a professor, you’re aiming to impress a search engine. Here are some basic tips that will make it easier to write SEO-style!
Writing SEO Content: Tips & Tricks
Use a Casual Tone and Easy-to-Understand Style
The tone of SEO content should be casual and conversational. The vocabulary should be easier to understand and appeal to a wider range of readers than academic content. Do not try to impress your audience with big words or fancy language!
If you’re writing to a more specific audience, you might need to make it more formal – but if you are writing towards the general public, keep in mind that not everyone is a great reader, a college graduate, or a native English speaker. Keep it simple so that your whole audience can read and understand it.
Here’s how to accomplish this:
- Use common words
- Write similarly to the way you would speak in a casual, friendly conversation
- Try to keep the majority of your words 3 syllables or less
- Break it up with headings and bullet points
- Keep your sentences relatively short and simple
- Sprinkle in some contractions here and there (example: “you’ll” instead of “you will”)
- Try reading it out loud – if it sounds stiff or formal, make adjustments.
Use Keywords – Just Enough, Not Too Many
Keyword usage is the #1 thing to remember when it comes to SEO! Here’s how to get started using SEO keywords.
First, find other web content with the same type of information and see what keywords are being repeated. Come up with two or three specific keywords that someone will search for. Use these keywords in your title, your headings, and two or three times in variation in the body of your text. (NOTE: keywords are often phrases of 2-5 words, not just single words).
Keep in mind, it is possible to over-saturate your SEO content with keywords. If you use the same couple of keywords tons of times in the same piece, it’s called “keyword stuffing” and it’s a bad SEO technique that can actually get you in trouble. Google penalizes any website that it suspects of keyword stuffing. That means that if you get caught by Google’s algorithms, your webpage will be knocked off the search results. Yes, Google can – and will – do that!
Your keywords/keyphrases need to be specific. If they are too general, people will have a more difficult time finding your web page because there will be too much competition for the keyword. In other words, if 5,000 different blog posts are all trying to rank for a super-general keyword, you don’t have much of a shot for ranking on the first page! The competition is too steep. But if you choose something less-common that only, say, 50 people are using, then you have a shot.
It is possible to sound robotic while trying to use keywords/keyphrases on your webpage. Make sure you use your keywords naturally to the best of your abilities. Sound human! Google isn’t fond of websites that are written by robots, and readers don’t appreciate it, either.
Balance Concise Language with In-Depth Content
Search engines also prioritize by length. When it comes to academic writing, a student expects that their professor will read their entire essay religiously. Internet users rarely read the same way. They would rather skim your content, and, thus, concise sentences and paragraphs that are easy to understand are important. However, search engines will prioritize content that appears to be more in-depth based on its longer length. Aim for writing at least 600 words.
The structure of a webpage is also very different from academic writing. Because people browsing the web want to easily understand and skim through your text, you should emphasize important parts of your text and break it up into sections. There are several ways you can do this, including:
- Bullet points
- Numbered lists
- Bold words
Stay Engaged with Your Guests
Another way search engines prioritize information is based on how many people are interacting with your site. This means you should be constantly checking your own content to reply to users’ comments and interacting with guests online. You should also link to your own related content so that once a person finds your website, they are more likely to look at additional web pages.
Hyperlinking additional web pages can also help SEO. This is similar to citing your sources in an academic paper, but instead of using a formal bibliography, you directly link to the source you’re talking about. Not only does it show that you as a content writer value integrity, but it actually strengthens your SEO, because Google’s algorithms favor web pages that have links in them.
If you follow these SEO guidelines, your website should be much easier to find! It’s hard to get away from academic writing right out of college, but with practice, you’ll learn how to make your content succeed on the internet.