There’s an art to writing for an online audience these days. Not only do you need to produce content that is engaging and interesting to your intended audience, but you need to know the latest SEO trends and at least be aware of Google algorithms to ensure your well-written content is actually found.
The folks at Google are pretty transparent with how the search engine works but that doesn’t mean creating optimised copy is easy. In fact, keeping Google happy without making your article confusing to humans can be quite a challenge.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): This refers to any activity used to improve search engine rankings for a website. The aim is to improve organic (unpaid) results.
How does Google actually decide what sites are delivered to searchers?
Phase 1: Crawlers analyse your site
This is far less creepy than it sounds, and just describes any program used to automatically discover and scan websites by following links. Crawling happens automatically, and all websites will eventually be crawled by these programs. If you want to be found, crawling is the first step that needs to take place.
Phase 2: Google will index sites that seem useful
All indexed sites have been crawled, but not all crawled sites get indexed.
Indexing is the process of Google adding sites to its search database. The information gathered in the crawling phase determines what attributes apply to your site within the index.
Once your page is indexed, it can then be shown in the search results when people look for certain terms. Google decides how your page should be found in its search by recording what the crawlers have identified as important.
Google looks at the words you have used, the metadata contained in the site and the details of the pages you link to (and what links to your site). If your site is confusing, the indexing won’t be great.
If you’ve got great content and your site functions well, you’ve got a good chance of it being indexed by Google and subsequently found by searchers.
Phase 3: Human customers have the chance to consume your content
If you’ve been given the tick of approval by Google, you’re then more likely to be seen by actual people. However, humans are as unforgiving as Google when it comes to wanting a good website, they don’t stay on a site full of junk.
Your site must have original, well-written, and useful content in order to stand out from the online crowd. This is important for both indexing purposes and for actual humans to make use of your work.
The only sustainable, long-term SEO strategy that works online is to have content that humans want to read. Google’s ultimate goal is to deliver users the best and most relevant articles so people keep using them as a search engine. Content that humans don’t like will always fail.
Tips to help Google rank you
Optimise your images
People like pictures so you’ll need to include them on your site, but they can also be a nightmare for the crawlers trying to index your page. Slow loading images without relevant file names make Google less likely to rank you.
Here are some things to keep in mind when using images on your site:
- Reduce the file size to optimise for web rather than print
- Choose a descriptive file name that relates to your business, product and services
- Include a caption for your image, which helps humans and programs alike make sense of what you’re showing
- Add an alt tag to your image purely for the benefit of the search engines
- Where appropriate, include a title for your image to provide another signpost for readers and crawlers who scan your page
Build quality backlinks
Backlinks are links from other sites to your site, and Google places a high value on them when deciding how high to rank a page. Here’s the good news; so do real people!
The more places that link to your site, the more chance you have of people, and potential customers, discovering your content.
Produce good content that people want to share and your backlinks will grow organically.
Post high quality content
At the end of the day, you should be creating content for humans to consume. What’s the point in creating content only for machines? They’re not your potential customers. The key is to produce quality, relevant content for your warm-blooded audience while also understanding how search engines work, so that it gets delivered in the results at appropriate times.
If you’re not sure how to do this, or your website is failing to attract the audience it deserves, enlist some help. Producing this kind of content takes time to master and it’s not something that can easily be tacked on to the job description of someone else in the organisation.
Is your website Google-friendly?
If your website isn’t optimised for both humans and search engines, chances are you’re missing out on traffic. Improve your search rankings with tips from our free guide, Keeping Google happy: Writing SEO copy your readers don’t hate.