Just because you write something doesn't mean it will rank well or be visible in search results. How an article is structured can make all the difference. This article outlines how to write an article both people and search engines will appreciate.
- Publish on the right website
- Choose the right title
- Technical and psychological/clickbait headlines
- The Description gets people to click
- The first paragraph is important
- Page length advice
- Bullets and numbered lists (like this one)
- How rich media increases dwell-time
Where it's published is key
When you want an article to rank well in search results for a branded search phrase the place you publish the article is important. The ideal location for an article is on a site that is topically relevant to the entity being written about. For example, if your industry is manufacturing then a good place to post would be a website about manufacturing, but if you can post on an even more niche site that would be even better. For example, if your brand is an automobile manufacturer, then a site specifically about the manufacture of automobiles is the best place to post.
While topical relevance between the content being posted, the industry your brand operates within, and the website publisher is important, another facet is the strength of the site. Site strength can be measured in a few ways. One of the ways sites strength can be measured is that using something called Domain Authority. Domain Authority is a way of measuring the relative strength of various websites. It is based on a scale of one to one-hundred. Higher numbers are better. The objective is to use topically relevant websites with the highest possible strength (Domain Authority) on which to publish your articles.
For example, a website with a domain authority of 80 is far more powerful in search results than a similar website with a domain authority of only 20. In other words a website with a high domain authority has a much higher probability of ranking very well in search results compared to a website with a low domain authority. You can measure the domain authority of various websites using a chrome browser add-in called Mozbar.
The title of the page is very important
When you are creating branded content that intended to rank well in search results it is very important to use the branded search term in the title of the webpage. The title of the webpage is the part that shows up in the browser tab at the top of the search page. It is not the Headline (more about that below). Google and other search engines use the search terms found in the title of the webpage is a very strong indicator as to what the page is all about.
This is what the title of a webpage looks like in HTML: <title>Example</title>. If the name of your branded entity is Blue Widgets Incorporated, you would want the words "Blue Widgets Incorporated" in the Title of the webpage.
The headline is second most important
While the website the content is published upon is very important, and the title of the content itself is also very important, the Headline within the content is of great importance as well. The Headline usually is normally the largest text at the top of an article. Headlines are classified as H1, H2, H3, etc. An H1 headline is the most important, and then nested within that is the H2 headline and of course the H3 headline is usually nested within the H2. They relate to each other like this:
Headlines provide an information hierarchy for the page. They tell people and search engines what is most important, second, third, etc. There are also H4, H5 and others, but H1, 2, and 3 are most widely used.
Headlines should contain primary, secondary, and tertiary search terms. For example, if the name of your brand is Blue Widgets Incorporated, and you want the article to rank well for your brand, your page headlines might look like this:
Blue Widget Inc. Saves Kitten from Tree
The good folks at Blue Widget saved a kitten from a tree today using their new Feline Rescuometer. The kitten had been stuck in the tree for two weeks! Thanks to the...
The Origin of the Blue Widget Feline Rescuometer
The Feline Rescuometer was the brainchild of Blue Widget founder Kent Campbell. One day while walking his cat, Mr. Campbell heard mewling from high in a eucalyptus tree. He looked up and noticed a kitten high above - but he had no way to reach it. So he went to his garage and began work. Two weeks later he returned to the tree with the Feline Rescuometer and rescued the poor starving animal...
How to Build Your Own Rescuometer
The first step is to get a long stick...
A "clickbait" headline is one that seems almost irresistible to click. Examples of clickbait headlines include:
- This Is Why You Shouldn't Try To Outrun A Bear
- This Is What Happens After You Die
- Does It Drink the Blood of Its Enemies?
A Headline is like a direct-mail envelope. It's only job is to get people to click. Clickbait headlines can be annoying, but they do work. While we aren't suggesting you go full-clickbait, think about what you can do to your headlines that might make people really want to click on them.
The description also gets people to click
The Description is not very important for search engine optimization purposes because search engines pay little attention to it -but it is still important as a way to get people to click on your article.
When people look at search results they see a list of links. Below each Headline they see the description. The description is called a "snippet" in search results and is usually pulled from the Description you create. Sometimes Google makes up its own description, but that is beyond your control.
The description and the headline together are what "sell" your article to the person browsing. Think about how you search - when you perform a search you scan the search results looking for the information that will best fit your needs. When you scan search results you read the headline and you read that little snippet below the Headline in search results - the Description - and from there you make your decision as to which result you should click on. The same is true for everyone else as well, they scan the search results and the description you create is what motivates people to click on your search result rather than someone else's.
The Description should always include the branded search phrase in the description so that people can identify it as being relevant to their search query. If the search phrase contains the phrase they are looking for people are more likely to click it.
The first paragraph tells people and search engines a lot
The first paragraph of any article you create, whether on your own site or someone else's, should summarize the content of the page so people quickly know whether they want to invest time in reading your content.
It is also important that the first paragraph include any secondary search phrases. For example, if the name of your company is Blue Widgets Incorporated and you want the article to rank well for that phrase - include it in the first paragraph in a place that makes sense. There may be a secondary search phrase as well. For example "Blue Widget Incorporated reviews" or some similar search phrase that supports the main one. This is because the first paragraph seems to be weighted more than others. The further down the page content is placed, the less likely it is to rank.
Page length is also important
According to SEMRush, the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words. Does that mean all of your articles should have that many words? Not necessarily, but when you have the option to make an article that long, or longer, you probably should. In other words, it doesn't hurt.
Sub-headings and bullets for people and bots
Bullets make things easier and faster to read. They're also included in Featured Snippets (Position Zero) many times. When possible, and when it makes sense, a best-practice is to start an article with a summary and a few bullet points so people can scan the content easily. It's something like a table of contents. Aside from making things easier to read for people, Google also responds well to bullets and numbered lists. The example below shows an article that uses a numbered list to show how to tie a tie:
A numbered list on the webpage...
Sometimes shows up in search results like this:
Note how a numbered list is used. Now, see how Google shows this page in search results:
Rich media can increase dwell-time
The time people spend on your article is important. Google measures the amount of time someone performing search stays on the page. For example, if you perform a search and then click on a specific result, browse the page for a few seconds and then click back to your search - you've "bounced". That tells Google that whatever was on that page probably wasn't a good match to the search query because you "bounced" away from the result without spending time on it.
However if you can provide rich content such as video or compelling long-form content that we'll keep someone on the page for extended period of time it can often send positive signals to Google thatMay result in higher rankings for your article.
So, do what you can to get people to"stick" on the page for as long as possible. It's an indicator that your article is of high quality and deserves higher rankings.
Finally, Build Links
Once an article has been created that meets the guidelines discussed above, you can begin link building. Each link coming to your article from a different website, especially websites that are topically relevant to the content you created, is considered a "vote" by Google that your article is worthwhile. The more very high quality inbound links you can cause to be created to your article, the better.
You can learn more about how to run a successful SEO campaign here.