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How to Write Content that Ranks Well

Writing great content doesn’t automatically mean it will rank well in search engines. There are guidelines to follow if you want your content to be visible in relevant organic searches. Here’s how.

Know Your Keyword

The first step is to know what your content should rank for. These days, that is usually “keyphrase” rather than a keyword, since most users search for something more specific than a single word. Do some research using a keyword tool or even just some online searches to understand how your target reader searches for content like yours. You want to know the best keyphrase to use.

Good places to find the right keywords include Answer the Public, SEM Rush’s Keyword Magic Tool, and Google’s Keyword Planner.

Use Keywords in the Right Places

To rank, you need to place your target keyphrase in all the right spots through the text, while being careful not to use too much of it. Too many uses of the keyword is called “keyword stuffing” and that is something that will actually hurt your search rank.

In general, use your keyword:

  • In the title of your content
  • In the first sentence or two of your content
  • In subheads
  • As link text
  • In the alt text for any images
  • In the meta description for the content

Make Sure Your Text Is Worthy

Keywords alone will not get your text a high rank. It needs to be something that people value – that they click on and read. Make sure that you are saying something that is worthwhile. Write your content in a way that is easy to read and understand online, especially on small screens.

The other day I needed to find out if the buttermilk in my fridge was still fresh enough to use. (True story!) I did a search, picked a top result and scrolled and scrolled. Never did get a good answer to the question. There were a lot of words and keywords used, but the content was valueless. That content won’t be highly ranked for long.

In addition to the content, pay attention to your writing style. Keep your writing to the point. Use words that are easy to understand. Keep punctuation to a minimum. Don’t justify text and make paragraphs short. Make sure your content is easy to read.

Add Links

Be sure to link your content to related content for readers who want to know more, and for search engines that want to understand where your content fits in the world wide web. Link to content within your site (internal links) that is related and enhances the content. Link to external authoritative sites when you think such links will help the user get what they need.

Write for Online Readers

The rules you followed to make your print newsletter grab readers don’t work anymore. As we have transitioned to reading online, how we read and the time we are willing to give have changed. You need to change the way you present your communications to successfully compete for time and attention.

You Get 10 Seconds

Yup, just 10 seconds. Most people give your content 10 seconds (or less) to convince them to read on or they move on. Even your top readers likely spend about two minutes on your content.

Capture Readers With the Headline

The headline of your content is the first thing that will be read. This is where decisions will be made to proceed or move on. Spend the most time writing headlines that are meaningful to your target audience.

Next in importance:

  • Subheads
  • Bullet points
  • Pullout quote

Online Readers Are Scanners

It’s more accurate to think of people scanning your content than reading it. They look for key takeaways and don’t read all your text. And, they don’t necessarily review your content in a linear fashion.

You need to tell your story in the headline and subheads. Add more in the bullets. Consider a pullout quote if there is a statement or sentence that is compelling.

Use an illustrative image. Caption it in a way that relays the key message of the content.

Elements of Great B2B Headlines

All of your business-to-business (B2B) content starts with a headline or title. Those words are the most important part of your writing. The right headline captures the reader’s interest. Without it, the rest of the content will never be seen.

Focus on Your Audience

As you review the advice below, remember that your headline and content needs to speak to your audience. Some of the advice may be more or less applicable to the audience you need to reach.

Know your audience. What do they like? Need? Get turned off by? Make sure all of your content is written with the needs and interests of your audience in mind.

The Best Headlines…

Research shows:

  • The words that come first in the headline have the most impact on reader interest
  • Headlines that introduce steps (“How to”) and lists (“x Tips/Ideas/Ways/Things”) get the most attention
  • The numbers 3, 5 and 7 create interest
  • Headlines that suggest forward-looking and predictive content provoke curiosity about industry developments
  • For B2B headlines, a focus on practicality and industry insights wins out over emotional appeals

7-12 Word Headlines Are Best

Headlines that are 7 to 12 words get the most B2B engagement. Shorter headlines work best for B2B messages.

SEO Considerations

To build in search engine optimization (SEO) know the focus keyword for your content and make sure that is part of the headline.

Do some research to understand the words that your target audience uses when looking for the content you are providing. Sometimes these are a little different than the words you would naturally use. Whenever possible, factor keyword vocabulary in your writing.

The words of the headline are a strong signal to search engines about the topic of content. Using the keyword first or nearly first in the headline is best.