Last year's Google algorithm updates made it abundantly clear that 'Google-friendly' and 'reader-friendly' are starting to mean the same thing.
This is very pleasing news for content writers. It means we needn't ruin nice pieces of writing for the sake of SEO protocol anymore. With this in mind, we have five content-writing tips that we'd like to share with you.
1. Write for the audience, not for Google
Google wants our content to stop desperately trying to impress its search engine. It wants us to impress our audiences.
The goal of all content should be to encourage enquiries and conversions, so ultimately it doesn't matter what Google thinks about it. Your audience's perception of you is far more important, so address your readers directly.
2. Embrace the subject's wider lexicon, not just its most-searched keywords
A lazy content writer will identify a subject's keywords and write a piece of content around those. They'll maybe use a few clever rhythmic techniques, perhaps even incorporate a bit of alliteration, but that won't change the fact that it's just a few hundred words of filler. Readers can spot waffle, and so can Google.
Furthermore, Google is no longer impressed by generic keywords - because anyone can use them.
So, demonstrating topic-specific vocabulary is now crucial. In September, Moz said content should concentrate on comprehensive topics rather than keywords.
You need to show your readers that you know what you're talking about. The best way to do that? Genuinely know what you're talking about. Carry out research, talk to experts.
Dedicate a good amount of time to your research. Don't just summarise what the reader can find out on Wikipedia.
Instead, talk about why suede is a nice material to have shoes made out of, mention that shoe protector can help preserve the suede, recommend cleaning methods and miscellaneous care products. Discuss the soles, heels, insoles and tongues of the shoes you're talking about. The more relevant information you can include, the better.
3. Aim to inform and provide answers
Written website content, whether it's service-page copy or an events blog, is supposed to inform the reader – to tell them something they don't know yet.
By providing answers to readers' questions within your content, you'll gain their attention and their trust.
Going back to the suede shoes example, tell your readers where suede comes from (not everyone knows it's a type of leather), explain how it's softer and therefore often more comfortable than traditional leather, tell them how it can be cleaned.
With any topic, just think about what questions you'd be asking if you were the reader. Then go and find out the answers and make sure your finished content includes them.
4. Don't always go for the obvious anchor text
Using generic keywords for anchor text can look a bit suspect - as though your links have been inserted by a spammy program rather than a person.
Write the content first, and then go through it to see where your links can go. Don't write a sentence purely to house anchor text.
Yes: "There are a few different ways you can go about cleaning suede shoes, it's just a case of trying them out yourself and seeing which works best for you."
No: "There are a few different ways you can clean suede shoes. Click here for a suede shoe cleaning guide." (While we're on the topic, just don't use the expression "click here" in any anchor text.)
If you were to remove the hyperlink, would the sentence still make sense? If not, something's wrong.
5. Write relevant and convincing calls to action
Obvious calls to action can make readers feel cheated. The purpose of the call to action is to tell the reader what they should do after they've read your content – moreover, where they should go.
If your call to action is clichéd and robotic, the only one place your readers will want to go is through the closest exit.
For now at least, it appears that the way to impress Google is by not trying so hard to. Save your energy for your audience. As our MD Dan Nolan suggested the other week, 2015 needs to be the year of the customer.
What's your biggest marketing challenge?
We understand that writing great content is just one part of the bigger marketing picture. To have a truly successful campaign, you need insights to inform the type of content you create and what channels would be best to use for your campaign.
With that in mind, we'd love to know what your top marketing challenge is this year? Let us know using the form below, we'll share our top tips with you and we may even have a handy guide or download to ease the pain: