How to Become An SEO Expert by Structuring Your Content
To become an SEO expert you will need to understand that search engine optimization (SEO) is trending more toward content strategy and is less focused on its former practice of link building. In order to be an SEO expert you will have to understand the user voice, and how to structure your content with this in mind. This article is for those who are familiar with some of the core concepts of SEO and for those who are trying to become an SEO expert when either writing their own content or when evaluating and editing others’ content. In today’s world, if you are not writing and designing your sites with SEO at the core, you are not writing enterprise level web applications, design or content.
SEO experts will start planning their content by defining their SEO strategy. The SEO strategy should center on understanding the user voice. A SEO expert knows terminologies used while searching are often different than how you normally speak. It is generally more unrefined, direct thoughts than formal English. Your SEO strategy should focus on finding what your potential audience is interested in and the volumes of users interested in topics, as well as the way in which they speak and which words they use when searching for topics you are interested in writing about.
There are several tools to help your SEO strategy phase better understand the user voice and assist anyone in becoming an SEO expert.
Google Adwords Keyword Tool
Google Keyword Tool should be at the heart of any SEO strategy, and has been relocated from an independent tool to a subset of the new Google Adwords Suite. To access this free tool, you will need to create an Adwords account.
Once you have created an Adwords account, simply click on the “Tools & Analysis” tab and click the “Keyword Planner” sub navigation menu. Then when asked, “What would you like to do?” click the option that refers to Search Volume. (Note: Google is notorious for changing things in their tools and making life hard for all of us, so if they have changed the layout of the tool since this publication, you will have to poke around.)
Once you access the Search Volume tool you can start entering multiple keyword ideas for topics you would like to write about. These should be main topics or primary underlying key points to your topic. SEO experts will spend a lot of time here to best understand the user voice, and how to structure their content in order to yield the greatest possible search audience. More primary keywords should yield larger audiences, but coming up with the structure of supporting phrases will help create better performing long tail keywords.
Below is an example of a quick keyword analysis around the term “SEO” that someone might search for when trying to find an SEO consultant. Here you can see that you would want to focus on phrases yielding higher monthly searches, but the ones you choose may vary depending on the desired purpose of the content. If you were writing a post to attract customers to a firm, using terms like “SEO consultant,” or “SEO agency,” or “SEO companies,” might convert better. However, if you wanted to write more of a supportive article to best practices of SEO and how to excel in it, “SEO expert” would probably drive more relevant traffic to you. Keep in mind that higher numbers are not always better numbers, and often keywords with lower numbers will have a higher chance at converting users to your desired outcome. This should all be considered during your SEO strategy phase.
A SEO strategy can help you plan for the historical trends of keywords. Google Trends will allow you to see trends for keywords over time and geographies. An entire blog post could be written about the depths and usefulness of this tool, but for now we will merely state than when starting out, make sure you take note of a historical comparison of your keywords. Here we can see that “SEO expert” has predominantly led these key terms, but is not competing for the most volume against “SEO agency.” If you were writing an article around this topic, you would want to use these two terms as supporting keywords in your content as often as it makes sense and naturally flows.
Google Auto Complete
You can also use Google’s auto complete feature to find some popularly searched terms around certain keywords. Doing a quick search for “SEO” (and making sure to enter a space after your keyword to narrow down on relevancy) I found a few new related keywords to include in my content.
An SEO expert would also tell you to use Firefox or Safari for this, as they give more recommendation spaces than Chrome.
Not all of your results will be ideal to use in your current post’s topic. Some might be good to focus on, while others might give you ideas for your next blog post. Some valuable keywords I took away from this search are:
- seo tools
- seo companies
- seo tips
- seo services
- seo optimization
Once you have completed your SEO strategy phase, you should have defined what keyword topics you want to write about, and how that topic translates into other keywords that provide the highest search audience. When you have all of this, you are ready to move into implementation or writing of your content. But to be an SEO expert you are going to need to understand the structured writing format of SEO in HTML.
How SEO Experts Structure Their Content For SEO Value
Now you are ready to start writing. But wait a minute. You need to understand where values lie in order to make the most of the keywords you have selected.
Depending on where you place your keywords, and how often you place them, the search engines will assign value to your URL for those keywords. Value is generally ranked from top to bottom and from left to right. Another way to look at this is search engines assign value according to the priority you give keywords in your post.
When you are writing about a focused topic, it should be the heart of your content. It should be repeated with a regular frequency and should come early and often. In other words, keywords should come to the top of your articles and paragraphs, and as far left as you can fit them.
SEO Value of Keywords in URLs & Title Tags
Let’s start at the top. SEO experts know there is nowhere higher in value than the URL’s title tag. If your web application is designed correctly for SEO, your title tag will also be included in the page’s URL. The URL holds incredibly high SEO value, which is why the title is considered by almost all SEO experts to be the best place to gain the highest keyword value.
Check here, for more info on the hows and whys of structuring your URLs for SEO value.
Make sure you title your page or article with the keywords in mind. Place them as far left as you can. Each word will divide SEO value among all of them, and the assigned SEO value is unevenly distributed to words to the left. Keywords in the number one spot are exponentially more valuable than keywords in the second spot and so on.
Also, title tags are going to (generally) be used by Google and Bing to display your page’s title in the search engine results page (SERP) listing. Keep in mind that this is generally the first contact point that users have with you and your message, so while it should be written to attract users to the theme of your content, it should also be written in an appealing, user friendly format to inspire click throughs and increase conversion.
The SERPs generally display anywhere from 60-70 characters, depending on the length of the individual character’s pixel width. Going over slightly will not heavily impact you, but keep in mind that users will not see anything past 70 characters, and that could lead to lower conversion if your main topic does not come early. Also be warned that your site might be set up to include other parameters such as site name which could send you over the 70 characters. Make sure to test this and see how much space you have to work keyword value into.
Take a look at one of my own bad examples:
See the title of the SERP above: “Part 5: Building a Comprehensive Online Marketing & Digital…” It is clearly not optimized for SEO value, as the only valuable keyword that made it into a call to action might be “Online Marketing.” The title of this piece should have included the keyword earlier and the entire structure reworked.
If your title is over 70 characters, you can probably do a better job at structuring your keywords and get your point across with something shorter.
SEO Value of Meta Descriptions
While a URL’s meta description is probably not the second thing you are going to write, it is one of the more important things to focus on when considering SEO value and keyword placement. Here are a few points an SEO expert will think about when designing a meta description.
- The meta description should be a naturally flowing description that includes as many of your focal point keywords as possible.
- It is OK to repeat keywords if it makes sense in context. This can increase your keyword value, but be careful not to do this excessively or you could lower your conversion from SERP to on site.
- Meta description length should not be more that 150-160 characters, and all the same rules and rationale for title length apply here.
- Meta descriptions might not always appear as you listed them. It is at the search engines’ discretion as to how they display your summary, and could be replaced with other factors, some of which we will talk about in a future post.
SEO Value of Header Tags
Header tags are the stylistic HTML tags that help add format and structure to your content for readers. They also provide structure for search engines to understand how you are breaking down your topics. Headers tags (example: h1, h2, h3, etc.) come out of the box in most content management system WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, and are generally depicted under a formats tab that labels them “Header 1,” “Header 2,” etc.,
If you are writing a paragraph of content it is best to find the theme of what you are trying to say, locate your keywords, and create a header tag that encompasses the two. Implementing and structuring headers tags this way will help your readers and search engines understand you, which will add SEO value to your content.
SEO Value of Links
You can also get SEO value from linking to other internal pages. HTML links replace a messy URL with a useful set of words. A SEO expert knows the value of creating internal network links throughout your content, as this makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and validate topic keywords for pages and posts.
Earlier in this post I linked to an article with the words “Structuring your URLs for SEO value.” These linked words generate keyword value toward the destination page. The logic here is that the page you’re linking to should be good content for the actual keywords you use in the link. Links are a great way to focus your keywords, link your content together, and gain SEO value.
SEO Value of Images & Alt Tags
Search engines can’t see images. They can see there is an image there, but without context they have no idea what it is. If you’re including images in your content (and SEO experts include images) make sure you’re using alt tag to correctly represent what is in the image. Hopefully you are using images that not only correctly visualize what your content is trying to say, but also include meaning that correlates to the keywords you are trying to focus on for SEO rank. You can inspect an alt tag of the images on this page in your browser’s inspection tool for an example of an optimized alt tag.
It would be an error on my part if I did not mention the SEO benefits of video implementation here. An SEO expert will recommend including video in your content wherever you can. Videos contribute a lot of SEO value if done correctly, but the details of how to implement video SEO are so immense that I’ll have to leave video SEO for another day.
The examples given here are just some of the many things you can do to improve your writing capabilities and content structure to help you rise to the top of the search results like an SEO expert. If you have questions on anything above, please feel free to ask me in the comments below, or contact me directly at email@example.com.