The introduction and increasing development of Google’s semantic search – otherwise known as the Hummingbird algorithm update – has not so much thrown the SEO rulebook out the window (despite what many online marketers are saying) as made the rules less black-and-white, and more intelligent.
In light of this era of enhanced search engine marketing, we’ve created a set of updated website content writing tips that are sure to not only appease Google’s increasingly intuitive robots, but also (and more importantly) satisfy the information needs of your target market on your website. And it’s not as hard as you’d think, because these two factors are gradually becoming the same.
Please note: These are tips for writing on-page web content and not necessarily apply to things like content marketing or social media strategy.
The first thing you need to know is that this update is great for those with genuine expertise and industry insights, but a pain for those pointedly just writing for the sake of optimisation.
So, beyond keeping your grammar and spelling in check, always make sure your content is attractive to read. Don’t over explain things, never use 20 words where 5 will do and make sure what you’re saying provides useful information on your product, company and industry, rather than just sharing unnecessary or common knowledge.
Answer The Right Questions
You may think a visitor to your About Us page is looking to be assuaged by your claims of “peerless professionalism” and “world-class products” but what they mainly want to see is that they aren’t going to be in business with someone who lives in their van.
Include specific and measurable information about your company: When it became established, the kind of clients you’ve worked with, and the experience your staff has are good starting points.
Pictures of your team, offices or even past projects do more for your company’s credibility than a hundred superlative adjectives ever could.
Be Keyword Aware
While semantic search is essentially a more conversational way of searching, old-fashioned keywords are still a big deal. You don’t have to pepper them in your content anymore but derive the tone and direction of your content from the most relevant keywords. Also, you need to be aware of when the differences don’t really matter.
For instance, at the time of writing this article ‘used cars’ had about 3,000 more searches than ‘second hand cars’. So your first instinct would be to optimise around ‘used cars’ and insert the term ‘used’ more generally than ‘second hand’. However a quick search reveals that Google sees these two words as exactly the same anyway, which they are, so it’s a bit of a pointless strategy.
But if we look at the runner up keywords, we see that many which relate to ‘used cars’ are brand specific (Toyota, VW, BMW), showing where the searchers mind is at. An insight like this can affect how you lay out your catalogue, what type of content you write, and the images you’d include on the site.
Target Content to Your Audience
Be aware of how your target market might behave when using a search engine. What type of phrases or questions would they use? Short brief ones, or long expansive searches? What type of information would they be interested in, technical or broad strokes? Where do you want to catch them in the buying cycle? Under what context are they likely to look for your site? Are they using their work PC, mobile voice search (such as Siri or Google Now), home tablet, Google Maps local search, etc.?
These types of factors give you an idea what diction to use, how in-depth your content should be and how it can be structured. They can be hard questions to answer, but your sales force can be helpful in giving insights on customer psychology. Also, examine your visitor analytics, assess how people are behaving on certain pages. and adjust accordingly.
For example, if your page has a lot of content but people are dropping off the page quite quickly, it means you should probably make it more brief and to the point.
Integrate Design and Content
Design your site for the modern distracted mind. A mind that values images and videos over text, and will skim right over your seemingly precious sales copy if it doesn’t find information attractively laid-out. For example, entertainment site BuzzFeed gets a 53% higher share-rate (a really important SEO indicator) for their pictorial articles than for their long-form ones.
So try to include pictures where you can to keep readers interested, lay out content in more digestible ways, and even consider creating infographics and graphs to replace some content.
Always Be Calling to Action
Every page on your site should prompt the visitor to move forward in their query. You can include something like:
- Copy that promotes a sales page on your site, with an anchor link. Example: Click here for more information.
- A contact or request-a-quote form in the sidebar that users can fill out anytime.
- A motivational piece of copy. Example: “So don’t waste anymore of your time and money on solutions that don’t work, give us call today for a no-obligation assessment.”
The point is that you give your visitors an opportunity to convert if they want to and to give your site a natural narrative that derives itself from the content, as well as the navigation. It will also create a natural network of internal links, improving your SEO.
Readers will be divided in how they interpret Hummingbird. Some think that the rules are more relaxed now, less technical and more accessible. Others see this update as a ramping up of competitive intensity in online marketing.
But both of these are true. If you’re successful at marketing in the physical world, it’s easier to be successful in your online presence now, rather than needing to game the system. Because the borders between these two realms of marketing are not only becoming thinner, but also increasingly difficult to separate.