How to Master SEO

  • What is SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

  • How SEO works

You might think of a search engine as a website you visit to type (or speak) a question into a box and Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or whatever search engine you’re using magically replies with a long list of links to webpages that could potentially answer your question.

That’s true. But have you ever stopped to consider what’s behind those magical lists of links?

Here’s how it works: Google (or any search engine you’re using) has a crawler that goes out and gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all those 1s and 0s back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query.

Incorporating basic principles of SEO into your writing is not difficult, but it does require practice and preparation. Here are seven tips for SEO-friendly writing:

1. Find your keywords

Once you’ve settled on a topic, use a site such as Google Trends or Buzzsumo to research what specifically people are searching for related to that topic. Make a list of consistently popular words and phrases you can target.

To save time down the road, compile relevant topic-keyword lists to pull from in the future.

2. Use your keywords

As you write your content, make sure your keywords appear regularly—but not too frequently. Google frowns on keyword stuffing and could rank your website lower if you jam in keywords all over the place.

Using keywords in headlines, in subheads and in the opening sentences of paragraphs can bump you up Google’s rankings.

3. Use your own words, too

Google tweaks its website ranking algorithm frequently, but one constant is the need to write content with human beings in mind. SEO is not all about pleasing mysterious Google robots.

Writing high-quality content that people link to, engage with and share will boost your SEO.

4. Length matters

Bite-size content is easy to read, but search engines such as blogs and articles with substance. Long-form articles tend to garner more shares and engagement, but longer isn’t always better.

For blogs, between 300 and 600 words is a happy medium. That gives you plenty of scope to include robust detail (and keywords) without giving turning off visitors seeking a quick read.

5. Use an optimizing tool

If you’re publishing on a platform like WordPress, there are free plug-ins that will get you SEO-friendly in no time. Tools like Yoast are easy to use and give you real-time analysis on your content, images and meta descriptions.

6. Take a last look

This isn’t just an SEO tip; it’s one of the most fundamental principles of all writing: When you think your article is complete, read through it again—and then again.

[Free guide: 10 ways to improve your writing today.]

You will always find things to improve, for SEO purposes and for the benefit of your readers. Never settle for the first draft.

7. Give it a push

Once your optimized content has been published, share it on social media. If your content is evergreen and timeless, you can continue sharing it—thereby continuing to reap SEO benefits—for years to come.