As someone who reads a lot of websites, I’ve read a lot of blogs that make me cringe. This post will be about SEO writing practices to avoid and how to improve your writing while SEO optimizing.
Over optimizing for a keyword
Is there too much of a good thing? Yes, there is. One of the worst habits that I see with people diving headfirst into SEO writing is that they get overeager when it comes to using keywords. This has a couple of implications as Google can penalize people who over optimize for keywords and it can also impact the reader experience.
I typically will not use keywords more than 10 times in a given post although sometimes I do it unintentionally. I try to use a thesaurus to find better ways of phrasing something. Google has the capacity of processing natural language thanks to machine learning algorithms and you might end up ranking for a lot more related keywords to a topic if you vary up your language. I suspect the reputation of SEO optimized writing for being boring to read might disappear if people tried to write about a topic well rather than use a keyword repetitively.
Not using your keywords at all
I love good writing as much as the next person, but if you want to get into SEO optimized writing, it’s a good idea to include your keywords at least once. Google is pretty smart, but if you never use a single keyword within your article, your article can rank, but it’s harder. I recommend using a keyword in meta description, your actual text, possibly your title, and image alt text at least once. You don’t need to go crazy.
This drives me crazy. Let’s say that you’re writing about Christmas in Munich and you see that a lot of people search for “Christmas Munich.” A lot of people think that you need an exact match and will throw this without the in into their article. Some people will make sure that there’s a period between the words as they’re so unnatural together.
If it’s a really unnatural keyword, write it naturally with the extra bits added onto to make it logical to a human. Google can detect unnatural keyword writing and this definitely falls into this camp. Write like a human.
Sometimes, there’s a ton of great keywords and people get excited about 20+ keywords. The issue is that your article is only so long and you decide to put all of the keywords into the article. I recommend topping out your keywords at around 10 if you’re writing an article that is 2,000 words long and 3 if you’re writing something that is only 800 words long. Beyond that, it can get a bit painful as every other sentence is a new keyword. In all honesty, many keywords can be used naturally without making a big effort.
What I like to do is handpick a number of keywords that I think might be related to a topic that I’m writing about where my post might be able to rank and put them into a notepad. I usually just glance at it while writing. Beyond that, I don’t usually count keywords at this point.
Content does not address the keywords
This is a big one. You might be writing about Christmas markets in Munich, however you see a keyword related to travel tips for Munich. The reality is that although there might be lots of great keywords that you might want to use, I recommend staying more niche and picking one that actually fit the content that you’re writing.
Even if you end up ranking for these keywords, Google is all about giving its users the best experience possible. If I’m looking for general travel tips for Germany, I do not want to read a guide to Christmas markets in one city. The moment that I leave your website, go back to the search results, and pick the next result down the list, your website receives a ranking penalty making it less likely to rank for that keyword.
As a result, I recommend avoiding overly broad keywords as you might be surprised how much traffic that niche searches can generate. They’ll also satisfy the queries of the people coming to your website through organic search!
Writing a short article for the sake of ranking
A lot of people will publish very short articles with keywords within only a paragraph that addresses the topic. In general, a top ranking post on a topic is typically 1,500+ words. If you only have a paragraph tailored to a competitive keyword or you intend to publish only 500 words about topic, you can imagine that when someone who writes a more complete article that really addresses the topic well will outrank you.
In general, I recommend writing about a topic in-depth to the best of your ability. If you’re writing having doubts if you can even write 500 words about a topic without resorting to fluff, I beg you to consider if that article will stand a chance against the other articles on the topic that are written by experts and/or more complete.
I usually just pick a topic that I want to focus on, do some light keyword research for the sake of snippets/titles, and write what I think will be the best article on the topic. Having the top ranking article is not always about having the longest article, but simply the best one that answers people’s’ questions.
On a related note, I’m currently testing out Keysearch’s new tool that shows you questions related to your topic on forums, which is a great way to assess what people want to read about when searching for a keyword.