How to write good content
In this article, you can read about different approaches to writing good, searchable and sustainable content. Writing a good and well-thought-out text, which is so interesting and rewarding for the person reading it that the person actually reads the whole thing, is not super easy. In addition to the fact that you need an interesting topic to write about, you also need to think about how the text is structured, headings, the length of your paragraphs (paragraphs of the body text), spelling, sentence structure and much more.
This article is not so much about different topics to write about, how to build mood, tickle the imagination or anything else that belongs to fiction writing. By reading this article, however, you may get a better understanding of how a text should be formatted correctly to be easy to read without a lot of unnecessary friction in the form of strange headlines, incoherent, long and unreadable paragraphs and similar things that annoys the reader. Hopefully you also get a better understanding of how you can get your content to rank better in the search engines.
Write for the visitor, not the search engine
The most common thing many people do wrong is that they write for the search engines rather than for the visitor. By visitors i mean the people who are actually meant to read the text and after reading it have some form of retention of the content. Anyone who reads your text should be a little wiser after reading it.
Somewhere down the last line, it is actually completely irrelevant to the reader what position your content has in the hit lists in the search engines. What really is, or at least should be most relevant to the reader, is whether he or she has been able to gain any new information or have received answers to his or her questions and concerns. That the text content generated some form of added value.
Imagine that you have written a really long and useful text for your new website that is intended to generate some form of conversions, perhaps a new service you offer, a service that will generate revenue for you. Your new page gets 1,000 visitors but none of them stop to read the whole text but instead leave the page after reading a few sentences without getting any wiser in any way. Then we have not created any added value for the visitor and you have not received the revenue the site was supposed to bring. Sure, we may have climbed some in ranking among the search results for some keywords but that’s not really what you wanted, you wanted those 1,000 visitors to generate revenue for you, didn’t you?
If an overwhelming majority of these 1,000 visitors we talked about leave the page quickly and without converting or coming to any kind of conclusion, this will leave traces behind for the search engine. It tells the search engine that the page is simply not relevant, the content does not answer the questions or thoughts the person who visited it had. Thus, the search engine will eventually let another page climb before yours page instead, someone who is probably more relevant and actually answers the visitor’s questions. Google’s sole purpose is to show as relevant content as possible and will put a lot of resources into showing the page that has the most relevant content in front of the pages that do not.
So. Write for the visitor, not for the search engine, it will pay off in the long run.
The key to success is to think of keywords as a context, not just search phrases
Another common mistake many people make is that they think of the word “keyword” as “search phrase”. It does not really have to be the same thing at all. Keyword should be the context the content revolves around while search phrases can be the words and phrases users search for in the search engines. Most of us often think that keywords and search phrases are the same when we optimize our texts but search engines are radically more advanced than they were just a few years ago and the introduction of “Voice search” has changed their algorithms quite radically as well. The type of keywords or search phrases users are searching for today have also changed in nature.
We are not simply searching as we have done before. We need to think about semantics.
Keywords or search phrases?
If we imagine the keyword “Hairdresser” and have optimized the text for that and only that word – then there is a great risk that we lose a lot of visitors, it’s not at all certain that they write the word “Hairdresser” in the search engine. They might as well look for “hair salon”, “cut my hair”, “hairstylist”, “barber” or whatever it may be. Of course, these visitors are just as valuable as those who searched for the specific word “hairdresser”. In this case, the word “Hairdresser” is our keyword, the text is about a hairdresser. We have placed our page or our text content in a context, we could call it a category. The other search phrases i mentioned fit into the same context or category. See example below:
- Hairdresser (keyword)
- barber (search phrase)
- hair salon (search phrase)
- cut my hair (search phrase)
- hairstylist (search phrase)
As you understand from the example above, all search phrases originate – and lead – from and to the same keyword. It’s just a matter of semantics.
Variety gives more visitors
The conclusion of the paragraph above is that a variation of search phrases that have a common keyword is only good. If we were to put only the search phrase “Hairdresser” in our text in about 10 places, it would potentially have various negative consequences:
- The text looks unnatural, remember we write for the visitor, not for the search engine.
- The content of the text is perceived as repetitive.
- You may lose a large portion of the visitors who are actually searching for the same thing but in different words.
- You risk being penalized for “Keyword stuffing”, meaning that a keyword appears unnaturally often with the intention of “cheating the search engine”.
As part of trying to avoid the above scenarios, one should use a lot of synonyms and / or related words. In this case, we can thus vary the word “Hairdresser” with just hairstylist, hair salon, barber and other words. It is better for the reader who probably won’t experience the text as equally repetitive, it’s also better for increasing the number of visitors as we expand the context to be able to capture more search phrases and there is less risk of punishment of various kinds.
It is also a good idea to use related words and phrases rather than just synonyms. Related phrases that would fit well with a page with the keyword “Hairdresser” could be, for example, “Cut your hair” or “Get a new hairstyle” and similar terms. They are close, related, and somewhere along the way, such a user is likely to end their journey with a hairdresser. They fall within the same context, so to speak.
Keyword density is a myth, but it still shows you something valuable
Previously, the keyword density in a text may have had some form of impact, however, this is not proven anywhere and never recognized by Google either. If it has ever been a factor to take into account, it is not so today at least. In 2013, Google released the “Hummingbird” algorithm that focuses on naturally written texts rather than keywords.
Despite this, I think it might be a good idea to measure or at least estimate the density. Not to find the optimal ration such as 3% or similar. But only as an indicator of how often a particular keyword or phrase appears in your text. This indicator tells you when it might be time to replace the specific word with synonyms or related words. It says that it may be time to read the text again to see if it is really perceived as natural, that it is not perceived as repetitive. The reader may find that he or she reads the same thing over and over again which can be perceived as annoying. Avoiding to annoy the reader with that kind of thing should be of great interest to you as the reader can instantly end his reading because of such a thing.
If the keyword occurs frequently but that it is still perceived as completely natural, there is no major danger, the search engine will not care and the reader accepts it. If it is clear that you have inserted the keyword many times in an unnatural way just to try to “cheat” the search engine, you risk, as mentioned earlier, being punished for “Keyword stuffing”.
There is no optimal or magic limit to keyword density, but if it starts to approach 2-3%, you should consider whether you can rephrase the text a bit.
The most important thing in my opinion is that the keyword is in the meta title and early in the text content itself. It also does not hurt if it is in the title, the web address (also called permalink or url) and in the meta description. In other respects, I recommend using synonyms, related words and other things that fall within the same context.
Text length is quite important to rank well
We often talk about the length of the text and that it should be X number of words long, etc. This is not completely out of the air but it actually matters. It does not matter from the aspect that it should be just X number of words and that there is a magic limit to what the search engine wants. It’s really again just about the content and its character. A longer text has almost by definition more content and thus more search terms and phrases to rank on or match against.
There is constant research where you examine a certain number of pages that rank well, you try to find common denominators for these in comparison with such pages that do not rank well and the length of the texts often seems to be just such a common denominator. The whole thing is really very logical, see the bullet list below:
- The search engine gets more clues to what your text is about the more content there is.
- You get space with more keywords that occur naturally in your text if it is longer.
- If you have some text, you signal to the search engine that you have a “thin” content that probably offers the user few answers.
- You have greater opportunities for Long tail searches if you have more text.
What is the optimal length of a text?
This is a difficult question to answer. Fortunately, there are other players who are constantly testing this and one of them is Yoast, those who have developed one of the most used search engine optimization tools for the popular WordPress platform. According to them, a regular blog post should be at least 300 words to have any chance of ranking. However, I think that 300 words is relatively small and would probably say that it should be between 600-800 words to be able to rank reasonably well.
The longer the text, the better, but it is also an art to write an interesting post that passes 1000 words. Even harder to write a post that passes 2500 words. However, an article of 2,500 words that is actually perceived as natural, contains many answers, has good headings, contains images and other things will in all probability rank very much better on very many more keywords than a post that consists of only 300 words. A plain text for the web should, as I wrote earlier, contain at least between 600 – 800 words. If it is an “important” text, it should contain 1000 – 1200 words.
Of course, there are many exceptions. If we take an e-store as an example. They often have a category text for each product category that describes the type of products the category contains and it should of course not be 800 words long, then the visitor will never reach the products. Where maybe 100-200 words are enough, the products themselves tell both the visitor and the search engine what the page is about.
In other cases, the subject you are writing about is simply of a nature that makes it impossible to write long texts and then you simply have to adapt. A good start, if you are looking to rank high, is to examine the competition. If those in the top 3 of the hit list have a content that is 1,200 words, the chances are small that your text that reaches 200 words will pass them in the ranking.
Another key to success regarding the length of the content is to try to understand what the visitor’s intention with their visit and reading is. Where in the process the visitor may be. Does the visitor want to make some kind of conclusion or does the visitor just want to read about the subject to make a conclusion at a later time? In the first case, ie if the visitor wants to make an end immediately, less text is required and the way to the end should be as simple and frictionless as possible. If the visitor instead wants to read about the topic to make a decision later, of course more text and more detailed content is required that answers as many questions as possible.
Increase text readability with proper text formatting and markup
Writing an interesting text with a good readability is an art. Succeeding in keeping the reader interested throughout the text is much gained. Of course, it is mainly the content that is absolutely most important, but you should also think about the formatting of the text and thus increase readability. No one likes to read long and heavy body texts without paragraph breaks with no or very few headings.
It probably has no direct effect on the ranking but it has an indirect effect, if the visitor reads the entire text he or she is further on the current page, which in all probability tells the search engines that the page is so interesting that people actually stop and read the content . It is again the visitor we write for in the first place, better rankings are only a positive consequence of what we write. Below is an example of a clear structure that is a good starting point when writing your text.
The main headline is most important, it tells what the text is about
The main headline is very important to quickly capture the reader’s interest, it tells the reader what the whole text or content is about. Already here, one should try to give clues to what answers can be expected to be in the text that follows. A good and clear main heading whose directly related paragraph provides answers to direct questions also has the chance to be seen directly in the search engine via a so-called “Featured snippet”.
You only use one main heading per page. You thus never choose the type of heading based on the appearance of the headline. Unfortunately, it is quite common that you, for example, want a slightly larger font size in a certain place in the text and then mark it as, for example, “heading 1” because it is the largest and looks nicer. You should never do that, appearance and styling are handled via CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in cases where the text is to be available on the web.
The main title is what is most clearly seen in a text, so make sure it actually means something. It does not hurt to include the keyword or some semantically related keyword in the main heading.
The length of a headline is not really the most important thing but it should be between 30-70 characters long. There is no magic limit here either, but we do not want it to be so short that we waste valuable space and we do not want it to be so long that it loses its concrete meaning and becomes difficult to read.
Summary of main headings:
- The main headline is important as it provides clues as to what the text is about.
- Only one main heading per page.
- It should be between 30-70 characters long.
- Can advantageously contain the keyword or any keyword.
Headings and subheadings sort and clarify the content
The purpose of the headings and subheadings is to divide the content into clear paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to decide what exactly the text in that paragraph will focus on. It must of course be relevant to the main title and context, but with a text that is more centered around a specific part of the main subject.
If we take the example of the hairdresser again, it could be divided into the following headings:
- Hair wraps
- Hair dyes
- Hair care products
Where each heading focuses more on the individual topic, the content is distinguished, so to speak. All subheadings should be related to the main heading. For example, “Hairstyles” in the list above tells a bit about the different types of hairstyles the hairdresser offers to give you, “Coloring the hair” is more about just coloring hair, how it works, what techniques the hairdresser uses to achieve a certain shade, etc. It could also be broken down into additional subheadings, if we take for example the heading “Hair Care Products”, it could be broken down into the following subheadings; Hair spray, shampoo, conditioner, etc. The subheading tells you what the connecting piece of text will focus on.
The headings in a text should follow a clear hierarchy that always begins with a headline (H1, Heading 1). After main headings, the text is broken down into headings of type H2 (Heading 2) and these can be further broken down into subheadings of type H3, and so on.
Example of heading structure:
- Main headline (H1)
- Heading (H2)
- Subheading (H3)
- Subheading (H3)
- Subheading (H4)
- Heading (H2)
- Heading (H2)
Paragraphs provide clarity and makes the text easier to read
A paragraph or a paragraph break is a certain amount of coherent text. The running body text is simply divided into shorter and easier-to-understand pieces. When the paragraph changes direction or begins to describe something new, you should start a new paragraph. This is done to increase readability and divide the text in a clear way.
Large heavy texts without paragraph breaks are difficult and strenuous to read and scare the reader away. The text becomes quite difficult to follow for the eye if it is not divided into shorter paragraphs. Each time a paragraph ends, the reader is also given a short micro-break and time to reflect on what they have just read before the person begins to read the next paragraph.
The first sentence of each paragraph should contain a kind of key sentence that summarizes the whole paragraph. This will make it easier for the reader to scan the text and find what is interesting to read more about. It gives, so to speak, a clue as to what the specific paragraph will be about.
A paragraph should contain between 3-5 sentences and preferably be no longer than about 200 words. You must of course take into account the nature of the sentences and not stare blindly at the number of sentences, some sentences can only be a few words long and then there is room for more. The important thing is that you start a new paragraph when you notice that what you write about takes a slightly different direction.
Summary of paragraphs and paragraph breaks:
- Avoid long paragraphs to increase readability.
- Each paragraph shall have a kind of key sentence if summarizes the paragraph.
- The paragraph addresses one aspect of the subject, the next aspect should be in a separate paragraph.
- Try to keep the paragraphs to 3-5 sentences and no longer than 200 words.
Links in your text are good and give your text an identity
Links are a good thing in most cases, at least if your text is to be available online. The Internet is made up of links and all rankings are based on links of various kinds in one way or another. Without links of any kind, it would be completely impossible for the search engines to even be able to find your text.
No matter how good your text is, it will probably never contain exactly all the information every given reader or visitor is interested in. Your readers are different as people and thus have completely different questions, needs and thoughts. Linking from your text to other related content can enhance the experience for your readers. The links in your text should create some kind of added value for the reader. Your text may be about cars, but you are not necessarily an expert on gearboxes for that. Then it can be a positive experience for your reader that you link from your text to another text that contains more detailed and in-depth information about gearboxes, so that the reader can choose whether he or she wants to read more about gearboxes or not.
People often talk about links from an outside text or website to your text as a pure SEO measure, that the more links that lead to your text is a kind of proof that your text is dominant and important. This is often true, but the fact is that links from your text or website to external texts can also have some significance. Not in the way that X number of outbound links gives your content better rankings but a more indirect effect. Outgoing links from your text to other texts (good texts must be added) place your text in a certain “social circle” or what you should call it. Your text about cars in general wants to be associated with other good texts about cars and the cars’ various components, such as the useful text about gearboxes we talked about earlier.
There are two different types of outbound links and they are internal links or external links. Both types lead the visitor or the search engine to a new page with new information. The difference is that the external links lead to a completely new website on a new domain, while the internal links lead to other parts of the existing website where your text is visible, such as another subpage or the like.
Internal links show more of your site
Internal links are good for a couple of different reasons, one is that you can guide the visitor to the page or pages you want it to visit. After the visitor has read your informative and in-depth text about, for example, “Hair treatments”, you probably want the same visitor to be able to book a visit to the salon you run afterwards. An internal link to the booking page of course increases the chance that the visitor actually goes to that page and books a visit that generates an income for you.
The second reason is that the search engines “spin” the internet by following the links it finds. If you then have links in your text that lead to other pages on your site, you will help the search engine find them and thereby increase the chances that it will index them. You help the search engine understand the structure of your website better.
External links show who you want to be associated with
External links to your site are very important for your authority as well as ranking and definitely something that is taken into consideration by the search engines. What about external links from your site?
Opinions differ and it is difficult to determine whether or how much it affects, but many are inclined to believe that it affects or at least that it can affect. Studies have been done on this where it is concluded that it actually affects. You can find one of these here: https: // www.rebootonline.com/blog/long-term-outgoing-link-experiment/
No matter how much it affects the ranking or even if it affects the ranking, it is often a good idea to link to other relevant content from your text / page. If you sell different hair care products, you can, for example, link to the product’s manufacturer. It still gives some kind of serious impression to the reader that they want to be seen together with a good brand. It also gives the visitor the opportunity to find more detailed information about that particular brand or that particular product. The link provides added value to the visitor quite simply and it is after all the visitor or reader we are writing to, not for the sake of the search engine.
If you yourself link to relevant information on external websites from your content, links that provide added value to the reader, there is also a greater chance that they or someone else links to your content.
Keep in mind that the external links must be natural and, as said before, relevant. The anchor texts, ie the link text itself, should be natural and relevant to both your content and the content that can be read if you follow the link. Since 2016, for example, Google can punish one for what they consider to be irrelevant linking power. This when it was discovered that people tried to climb artificially in the ranking by creating large amounts of unnatural links to a specific website which would thus in an unnatural way appear to be more relevant than it actually was.
Summary of links in your text:
- Outbound links may have an indirect effect on the ranking according to some surveys.
- Outbound links create added value for the visitor who may want to read more about a specific topic.
- Outbound links show who you want to be associated with.
- Outbound links should lead to other related and relevant content