Writing a steady stream of content for your website or blog can get monotonous, discouraging, even overwhelming. You must come up with new topics, add
insights that bring value to the conversation, and write so your content ranks in the search engines.
Content creation shows no signs of slowing down. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing report, 70
percent of businesses say they’ll ramp up content creation in 2016.
recently released their 2015 Search Ranking Factors report,
offering insights into how to write and structure content for best rankings. If you spend time and money in your content strategy, make sure your content
ranks. Here’s how:
1. Word count
Optimal word count is a tricky subject. Because more content is created for mobile users, short-form content is increasingly important. The problem: It’s
difficult for this content to get high rankings on desktop searches, which favors longer copy.
According to Buffer, 1,600 words taking six minutes to read is the
ideal length for a blog post. The folks at Medium found
that blog posts taking seven minutes to read had the best chance of ranking. This also works out to about 1,600 words.
According to Searchmetrics, Google shows a preference for longer content, even more than in 2014. It found the word count for pages in the top 30 search
results averaged 1,140. This number was higher for the top 10 results, averaging 1,285.
But the report authors warn against writing longer content to enjoy better rankings. It must provide valuable insights, or it won’t rank, regardless of its
When writing content, cover all aspects of your topic. Know what’s been written on the subject, then do a better job than everyone else. If you do this,
you needn’t get hung up on word count. Comprehensive quality posts will be at least 1,000 words—usually longer.
2. Keywords in description
The meta description, a technical component rather than pure content, must figure in your ranking strategy. Your description acts as your ad copy in the
search engine, and can significantly affect your click-through rates.
Searchmetrics says a meta description attached to your content improves your chances of ranking. Of the top 30 highest ranking pages, 99 percent had a meta
What about keywords? Is it old-school to incorporate our keywords into our description? Keywords in the description are no longer as important for ranking;
their number continues to fall. In fact, the correlation between rankings and keywords in the description is now negative. But don’t forget keywords yet.
Searchmetrics says it best:
“Good pages get rankings for hundreds or even thousands of keywords—but do you want to write them all into your meta title? Forget it – concentrate on an
optimally formulated description with relevant content instead!”
3. Keywords in body
While plug-ins like Yoast SEO provide structure for your SEO, they propagate the
old-school idea that you must have x-number of keywords in your copy to rank. And, you’ve probably seen overused keywords lead to clumsy, over-optimized
The importance of keywords for ranking continues to decrease. Minimum keyword density and placement within content (e. g., in the first sentence of a post)
are no longer so important, as Google gets better at deciphering content.
True, Searchmetrics found that the number of keywords within top-ranking pages increased this year, likely due more to the increased word count in
top-ranking pages, than keywords becoming more important in ranking.
While keywords likely always will be important for rankings, Google gets better at using other factors—related terms and semantic destiny—to identify the
subject of your content. You’re better off creating comprehensive content, rather than using keywords x-number of times.
4. Proof and relevant terms
One way Google deciphers the subject of content is through “proof” terms, words or phrases typically used in articles covering that topic. For instance, in
a blog post about SEO, you would use words like Google, search, rankings and optimization. The use of these words proves that you’re covering the topic.
Searchmetrics says that 78% of top-ranking sites use proof terms.
Relevant terms are words and phrases often used to supplement a topic. In their
2014 Search Rankings report
, Searchmetrics states that relevant terms are “semantically removed relatives of the main keywords, usually part of a subordinate topic cluster, not
mandatory but often included in the main copy.” In the example above, relevant terms might be content, keywords, or headings. 51% of the top 30 ranking
websites contained relevant terms.
When you cover your topic thoroughly, you will use many proof terms and relevant keywords. Create a list of topics and subtopics you want to cover before
you start writing, and include these in your copy. Structure your content on these topics. Don’t just incorporate them into your copy.
5. Keywords in links
Internal links remain an important element in high rankings, but keyword-rich external links dilute your own rankings for that keyword. If I write an
article I hope will rank for “organic dog treats,” I make sure I don’t link externally using that anchor text.
The importance of internal linking decreased slightly in the last year, Searchmetrics still recommends using keyword-rich anchor text to connect your
content. Maintain a strong internal link structure that leads to high rankings.
Improve your site navigation and user experience by linking internally. Use keyword-rich anchor text. A rule when deciding which anchor text to use: What
anchor text will make the most sense to my readers? Avoid linking to external pages using the anchor text you yourself would like to rank for. Doing so
will hurt your own rankings, and build up someone else’s.
6. Flesch readability
Often business owners and writers use their own level of writing and reading to measure the complexity of their content. What they don’t realize
is that readability plays a role in how their content ranks.
Searchmetrics, says the content of high-ranking URLs has become slightly less complex since 2014; the average Flesch result is about 76. Pages in the top
10 results have a slightly higher rating, meaning they are even less complex.
Match the readability of your content to the reading level of your audience. Content meant for a general audience should be less complicated; however, if
you write for a niche—CEOs or academics—your content can be more complex. Use a tool like Readability-Score to determine how complicated your content is.
High ranking for your content isn’t rocket science. There’s no magic formula that guarantees high rankings. Know your audience and write content they’re hungry for is always a good strategy; good strategy comes from content that meets most of the
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John Rampton is an entrepreneur, blogger and the founder of
. A version of this story originally appeared on