It’s what everyone wants to know – how to get people from Google to their website. While the specific variables behind Google’s ranking algorithms are known only to those behind the Googleplex doors, most search engine experts worth their beans will agree on a number of best practices, most of which are founded in one thing… content. Lots of high quality, customer targeted, SEO friendly content. Without content for your site, your site is dead in the water. Without content, your site ceases to be an effective arm of marketing, and simply becomes a charade – a digital paper weight for your business card.
A little dramatic? Yeah, I know. But you get the point.
So, how do you write SEO friendly content that Google loves?
The Key to Writing SEO Friendly Content – Ask “What Does Google Want?”
We already know what you want – you want to draw more people to your website from Google. Good for you. But as your mother should have told you, it’s not all about you. In order to get traffic from Google, you have to ask “what does Google want?” and “how does it work?”, because, if you’re able to give Google what it wants, and your able to present that in a format that Google understands, you will be rewarded with a consistent stream of customers, and/or clients.
Don’t worry. Understanding Google isn’t as difficult as some SEO experts would have you believe and I won’t make you learn any black magic along the way.
It’s actually pretty simple because Google has been fairly straight forward with people. For instance, their company philosophy consists of a list of “ten things we know to be true”. Number one on that list is “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.
Matt Cutts, the former Head of Webspam at Google has also said on multiple occasions:
“Instead of chasing after the search engines, chase after the user experience because the search engines are chasing after the user experience” ~ Matt Cutts, former Head of Webspam at Google
So, what does that mean “Chase after the user experience”?
Essentially Google is saying “forget about us. Pretend we’re not even here. Focus on the people you serve, and help them. There is no Tyler Durden.”
Google wants it’s users to have a pleasant experience, and the only way for it to do that is to send it’s users to quality websites that satisfy their search queries. The more quickly and seamlessly Google can do that, the happier its users are, and the more likely they are to continue using their search engine.
Think about it this way – How happy are you when you do a search and end up on a webpage that’s completely irrelevant, and doesn’t answer your original question? You’re not happy at all right? In fact, you’re probably annoyed and pissed of at how stupid technology can be (or maybe I’m the only techcurmudgeon here). And if this were to happen to you over and over again you’d probably try a different search engine.
Google doesn’t want you to use another search engine. Google’s ad revenue is dependent on having people use their search engine. In 2015, advertising revenue accounted for a majority of the company’s total revenues, at just under 67.39 billion dollars…
So… let’s just say it’s in Google’s best interest to serve you quality results and keep you using their search engine. From a blogger or website owner perspective that means you need to create quality content that serves your target audience… who also happen to be Google users (or any search engine really).
Creating quality content is simple in principle and theory. We all know lousy content when we read it. And, we all know really helpful good content when we read it. It informs, educates, and fulfills our questions. But creating that quality content is trickier when it actually comes to sitting down to write it.
Creating quality content takes research, time, and… what do you even write about? Where do you begin?
Do Your Keyword Research
Keywords… it’s what most of us immediately think of when we think of SEO. And that’s because SEO is really about keywords, right? Lots and lots of keywords… the more the better, everywhere across your site. Preferably in the thousands.
We already covered this. What’s SEO about?
Yes – the user, and the wonderful experience that user’s about to have on your website.
How to Think About Keywords
Imagine that you’re a detective trying to solve a crime. You start with the little information you have, and place it up on a whiteboard. Then you begin searching for clues to fill in the gaps in your information. As those gaps are filled in a path begins to emerge that leads you right to the culprit’s front door.
Keywords are your clues that lead you to your customers and clients. They also serve as clues to the search engines, cluing them into what your website is about. But let’s focus on the former first, and discuss how keywords can actually lead you to your customer.
You need to ask….
How Do Your Potential Customers, Clients or Patients Search?
As a blogger or website operator, this is where you want to put yourself into the shoes of the people you serve. What are the questions they’re asking? If you’re a therapist you probably have some specific areas of specialty. Maybe you specialize in social anxiety, depression, or marriage counseling. Each of those are keywords. It’s likely that lots of potential customers are in your metro area searching for “social anxiety therapist”, or “marriage counselor Seattle”, but we don’t want to stop there. We want to take it to the next level.
If you’re a therapist you probably have a few common questions or topics that your patients frequently ask. Are there common questions people have about social anxiety? Are there common issues you encounter in marriage counseling? What are the subtopics that frequently come up in sessions? Think about it for a few minutes, and write down what you come up with.
I’m willing to bet that your patients and other potential patients are asking these same questions of Google, before you ever meet them, and have an appointment together. Our goal with SEO is to reach and connect with your audience on these questions and subtopics before they even call to schedule an appointment. If you can help provide value to them before they even schedule an appointment, you’ll begin establishing trust, and increase the likelihood of them scheduling that appointment.
How to Find Keywords
Identifying your keywords begins with the exercise I outlined above – brainstorming your specialty areas, subtopics in those areas, and the questions people face in each of those. Now I’m going to introduce you to some additional tools to identify keywords, and how people are actually searching in Google.
There’s a number of free tools that Google provides, and you can utilize to perform keyword research and identify what your audience is looking for. Listed below are three of my favorites resources to use.
- Adwords Keyword Planner
This is a free tool intended for Google Adwords, but it also works great for identifying keyword search phrases, and assessing the search volume for each phrase. To use this, you’ll basically want to enter each of the topics from your brainstorm session above.
- Google Autocomplete
This is super simple. Take a few of your subtopics and specialty areas and begin typing them into the Google search bar… then see what pops up. Google automatically suggests some searches based on what others have searched for – this is a great place to get some content and keyword ideas.
- Google Related Search
This is also super simple. Take a few of your subtopics and search for them in Google. Then scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see a list of other related searches. So, if you search for “social anxiety” Google will provide a couple of other related searches.
I’m not going to go any further in-depth on each of these here, because it’s beyond the scope of this article. But, when it comes time to plan out some content and do your keyword research, you’ll want to check out this article, 3 Keyword Research Basis for SEO Success.
Keyword Research Takeaways
Okay, so to summarize keywords real quick:
- Keywords provide clues to what information your audience is looking for.
- Identifying keywords begins with brainstorming your specialty areas and common questions and subtopics you encounter.
- Use Google’s resources to identify other subtopics and search phrases people use related to your topics.
Oh… and remember when I said that keywords also provide clues to Google? It turns out that Google looks for keywords in certain areas of a webpage to assess what that page is about. So, doing some keyword research and then including those keywords in the proper areas will help you increase the amount of exposure you receive in the search results.
Take a deep breath – we’ll make this simple.
Where do You Put Your Keywords?
Okay – like I said, there’s a couple of important areas to include your keywords on a webpage. Most website platforms such as WordPress, and Squarespace make this super simple, by the way. But, before I tell you where to insert or include your keywords, it’s helpful to know a little bit about how Google works. After all, it is the middleman between you and your audience.
How Google Works
Don’t worry, we’re not going to get dirty, and discuss algorithms or anything like that. But we will take a high level overview, to help you get the right perspective.
When a page is published, it is then crawled and indexed by Googlebot, or often referred to as a spider. Googlebot accesses pages via links, so it can only access pages that you yourself can access with a mouse, by clicking a link. It can’t type searches, or enter login information.
When Googlebot crawls your webpages, it indexes the words used in links to your pages, the page titles, words used throughout your content, subheadings, and the page’s URL address. From this information, Google tries to assess what the content is about, and what the main topic of your page is about. It can then determine your page’s relevance to different search phrases.
If you want to throw Google a bone, here’s where it’s most important to include your main keywords or search phrases:
- Page Title / Meta Title
- Page URL
- Page Heading (H1 tag)
- Subheadings (H2 and H3 tags)
- Several times throughout your content
There’s a few other areas that are also handy, but these are the highest priorities to focus on. These are considered on-page SEO factors, which are only a small portion of Google’s overall search algorithm. But these are also the best place to start, and one of the areas you have the most control over.
The End… and Yet Just the Beginning
So, how was that?
Do you feel like you have a better idea of how search engines work? Do you understand what makes content SEO friendly?
Obviously, there’s far more complexities to Google than what we covered here. But in order to do well with SEO, you must be familiar with the concepts above. In fact, if you took these concepts to heart and began consistently writing quality content with a laser focus on serving your audience, you would probably be highly successful at SEO without reading anything else.
- Always Write for People. Ask yourself “what would help my clients?” or “how can I provide value?”
- Perform Keyword research to identify new topics and find what questions people are asking.
- Include relevant keywords in the proper places on your page.
Still confused? Need more details?
We didn’t dig too deep into all of the subjects discussed here, so I’d expect some of these topics to be somewhat foggy still. My goal here was to introduce you to some of the most important variables to think about when trying to write SEO friendly content. In the next few posts, I’ll be revealing more details on how to actually do keyword research, and optimize your on-page factors for SEO.
Until next time, leave any questions you have in the comments and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.