The ultimate guide to online content – Part four

preparing copy

As we explored earlier, there are many factors that Google uses to determine how well a website ranks in Google. They range from the quality of the code on your website, to how well your content spreads on social media! It also involves the actual content on your site: how it is structured and what sorts of things it includes (links, subheadings, keywords etc).

Now, a lot of people think SEO is too complicated to take on yourself. But the truth is, it’s a lot simpler than it first appears. There are some very easy ways you can start optimising your articles for search, and we’re going to show you!

First things first

It’s important to approach this preparation as a natural part of the writing process – after all, when crafting content for the web, linking and keywords are essential.

Searching for these links and keywords are part of the planning and researching phase of writing. So, refrain from doing any writing until this research is completed.

Why? Well, the second biggest myth about SEO (the first being that it’s too tricky) is that it will mean sacrificing the quality of your writing. The way to avoid writing gimmicky content stuffed with keywords and oddly-placed links is to plan beforehand. This way, you can work your links (and keywords, when we come to these) into the text more naturally, rather than trying to add them later.

Allons-y !

1. Validate your topic

a. Ask yourself whether our audience will be interested

Revisit ‘Your Guide to My French Life™ and our community’ for an overview of who our audience is, and what sort of content we’re after.

b. Search for that topic on our website.

Has it already been covered? If so, make a list of all the articles written on this topic.

Then, be sure to find a fresh angle from which to approach the topic.

(NB: the list above should inform your writing. You will reference and link to at least a few of these articles from your own. Remember how we said earlier that internal links are the most important factor when it comes to SEO in content? If you already have these in your mind, you’ll find it easier to write them into your article naturally)

c. Find out if people are already searching for this topic and coming to our website.

You’ll need to access analytics and webmaster tools for this. So, our in-house editorial team will have to help you out here. We’ll be able to send you a list of the appropriate search terms that are bringing users to our site, and perhaps some articles that are high or low performers.

We’ll use two tools:

i. Webmaster tools

In Webmaster tools, click on search queries, and review the list of keywords/phrases. Which send the most people to our site? Which have potential but need building upon? Make a list of the ones that will be relevant to you and your topic.

Next, have a look at ‘top pages’ – which articles for this topic are already being clicked on? Make a list of these – see if they correspond with the list you made above.

ii. Google Analytics

Go to Acquisition > Keywords OR SEO – this should give you much the same as you found in step b.i. but it’s good to check for anomalies.

Next, go to Behaviour > site content > all pages.

Use your list of articles above, and record the stats for each. Which have a large amount of views? What’s the bounce and exit rate? How long does a reader spend on this page?

If these results are very poor, we need to focus on why the article isn’t meeting the needs of searchers. What questions haven’t been answered? What were the readers looking for that they didn’t get? How can we improve upon this?

Now that you have this background information, it’s time to do some more research on the ranking and power of certain keywords.

2. Researching keywords & phrases

There are two ways to get an idea for which keywords rate well, and what phrases people are searching for. This research will already be informed by the research you did in step one.

a. Wordtracker – using the list of keywords you generated above in Webmaster Tools, type each into Wordtracker and record the ‘volume’. Search alternatives and find which words have more klout than others. For example: does ‘french woman’ or ‘french women’ rank higher? What about ‘parisian’? Make a list and record your findings.

b. Intuitive search on Google – start typing a long-tail search query (that is, ask a question: type ‘why are french people rude’ rather than ‘french people rude’) into Google and see what suggestions it gives. Write these down and note the wording – try mixing up this wording and incorporate words from step 2a.

c. Google AdWords – as Wordtracker has a limit on the amount of queries you can make, AdWords is a good tool to use. It’s free to sign-up and will be linked to your existing Google account. It’s designed to help people create those big ‘sponsored listings’ in Google searches, but it has some keyword planning tools that are designed to help you pick the right terms to target. We can use it to work out which terms or phrases are searched for!

Click on ‘Tools and Analysis’ in the top menu bar, then go to the Keyword planner. Select ‘Get traffic estimates for a list of keywords’ then enter your keywords or phrases into the text box and click ‘Get estimates’. The best thing to do here is type in every possible variation on phrasing and word choice you can think of, to discover exactly which combination is the most effective. Scroll down to the bottom of the next page, and look in the table. Your keywords should be listed, with numbers of clicks, impressions etc. The higher the better!

3. Researching further afield

Now, you have a list of keywords, longtail phrases and already existing articles on our website.

Next, we need to research the actual content! What we’re looking for here is good quality information but also links to high-ranking websites. Double check that every external article you plan to link to has a reasonable Alexa ranking (less than 500 000, preferably 300 000). We don’t want to be linking to poor quality websites.

4. Time to write!

With this information at hand you’ll know:

a. What keywords and phrases to include in your article. Don’t use too many, it’s better to optimise for one or two, rather than ten. For example, ‘French language’ and ‘french accent’ might be good if your article is on these two topic. NB: try to use long-tail search queries as sub-headings if possible (e.g. ‘How to get a perfect French accent’), and place a strong keyword at the start of your title (e.g. ‘French accent: make yours perfect’).

b. What other My French Life™ articles you will be linking to.

c. What external, well-ranked websites you will be linking to.

Having this before-hand means you can incorporate these into the text naturally – it shouldn’t feel forced! If you’d like to revisit some examples of the best ways to incorporate links into the text, click here to return to our section on internal and external links.

Always refer to our article checklist & style guide, and keep our audience in mind as you write (more here: Your guide to My French Life™ and our community).

About the Contributor

Hannah Duke

“I’m a Melbourne-based journalist, editor, photographer, and blogger dreaming of la vie européenne. I love all things French except for the pigeons: film, food, literature, fashion, and I indulge in this passion as often as possible! Find me on Twitter, or Google+.”

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