Writing for the web - Part 2: SEO

Part 2: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

For the second part of Top Tips in Writing for the Web, I'm going to cover SEO, (Search Engine Optimisation). One of the main goals for businesses at the moment is ranking at the top of the search listing. I aim to cover the basic principles of SEO to ensure your website is fully optimised from the start.

Keywords

Keywords are individual words or a set of phrases that you want your website to be searchable for. The rules have evolved over time to prevent underhand tactics to boost search rankings, but the general consensus for best practice at the moment is to integrate your search term into your page copy, in the same way, someone would type a search into Google to find your business.

e.g. Affordable web designer in Brighton

The key areas to incorporate such search terms are:

  • Metadata (page details),
  • Header 1 (Main heading),
  • and in the first sentence of the web page.

It has to look like a natural piece of copy. If it looks like deliberate keyword stuffing, then Google will penalise you and it will have the reverse effects in search rankings.

Image optimization

Image information for SEO is often overlooked because the details sit behind the scenes. However, that doesn't mean they aren't important!

Quick wins include:

Ensure all your images have been saved with titles that best describe what it shows e.g. 'Dog-running-in-field.jpg'.

Make sure you save the image size that you intend to use on your page. If you upload a large file, but only use the image as a thumbnail, it will slow your page load. No one likes waiting, so you will risk readers getting frustrated and going elsewhere.

I recently wrote a guest post for photographer Clare Murthy: How to Optimise Photos for SEO where you can read in more detail what to do, and just as important, what not to do when working with imagery on your website.

Headers are crucial in SEO

The importance of headers is twofold: To tell the reader what that page is about, with the main heading (Also known as Header/Heading 1) being the most informative summary, followed by the sub-headers which provide further breakdown summaries in order of importance (These are known as H2, H3 etc…).

The second reason why Headers are crucial is down to search engines, (such as Google), needing to be able to scan your pages for the information within these headers. These indicate the importance of the keywords and phrase used for indexing in the search listing.

Careful thought is needed to craft attention grabbing headings that are still able to meet SEO best practice.

Links embedded in the text

Keep traffic flowing through your website by adding links to other (credible) websites. But they must be relevant and back up the text it is referring to. This shows that traffic flows in and out of your website, therefore remaining making you relevant and popular enough to be indexed by search engines.

Remember to set the link to open in new window if it is pointing to a third party website.

Be natural - Keyword stuffing is forbidden   If you are caught repeatedly using keywords just for the sake of it, you will be penalized by the search engines and not be considered a credible website.  The hard sell will also put off the user who has come to you as a trusted source of information, therefore you must connecting to your audience.  Don't ignore their needs over your wants.

Be natural - Keyword stuffing is forbidden

If you are caught repeatedly using keywords just for the sake of it, you will be penalized by the search engines and not be considered a credible website.

The hard sell will also put off the user who has come to you as a trusted source of information, therefore you must connecting to your audience.

Don't ignore their needs over your wants.

Website metadata

You may have heard this term banded around like some magic formula for search, but website metadata is just a summary overview for each page that sits on your website.

When you first set up a page, you will need to provide the following:

Page title
(Not to be confused with Header 1 or Browser title.)
This will be the title shown in your search results, and you will be prompted for the details when you first set up your new page.
As a rule of thumb, you should keep it short, include your website name, and the keywords you are targeting.

e.g. Bright Little Pixel | Affordable Website designer

Page description
This is a snippet of information shown in the search results. It should provide a summary of what you are offering and the inclusion of your keywords. But don’t be repetitive.

e.g. Bright Little Pixel is a Brighton based affordable website and content design service, for individuals and small businesses wanting to launch online.

Take a look at websites that rank highly in Google and you will see they all follow a similar formula.

Keep adding new content!

The easiest way to do this is to have a blog on your website. Following the rules above and building up your fan-base of readers, will be a surefire way of climbing up the search rankings!

Bonus tip:

Try to have regular themes such as 'Mood-board Monday' so your readers will know when to visit for the latest content.

That concludes my Writing for the Web quick wins. It's been a real pleasure writing these tips for you to follow. I hope it has been helpful and informative and I look forward to seeing the results!

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Writing for the web - Part 1: Tone of voice

Part 1: Tone of voice

Writing for the web may look easy, but there are many factors to consider if you want to do it well. So much so, I've had to divide it into two parts!

In this post, I'd like to cover the more creative element of how to talk to your reader. No doubt you have already got an idea in your head of who they are, but do you know how to talk to them? I have put together some advice to help you finesse your content and identify any areas of improvement.

Be more direct

When writing web copy, always make sure you are using an active voice. It sounds more direct and encourages the reader to be involved in what you are talking about.

An example of an active voice is:
We generously donate a percentage of money to charity.

An example of a passive voice is:
A percentage of money is generously donated by us to charity.

You can see the first sentence gets straight to the point and uses fewer words.

Keep paragraphs short

As more people are accessing the internet on their phones, scrolling is now second nature. To keep web copy easy to follow, you should keep paragraphs short to break up the text and make it easier for the reader to scan for information.

Don’t over complicate things

Keep your sentences simple! Get to the point and your readers will thank you for it.

An example of overly complicated copy:

Ben was on his way back home and decided to pick up some delicious treats for his family.

Short and to the point:

Ben brought home some delicious treats for the family.

The second sentence is less waffle but still tells you all you need to know.

Use language that is right for your reader

You already know who you want to target, now how do you resonate with them? What are they into? Lifestyle choice, rather than age and demographic, plays a big part in how we communicate with each other.

Bear in mind it also has to be true to you, as well as your company's culture and values. If you try and be something you're not, it will show. Let your personality shine in how you write. The chances are your reader is into what you are into, that is why they are on your website.

When writing for the web, consider the following:  Who is your ideal reader? (Think on a more human level, not just age, income, demographic).  If they were a friend, what would your conversational style be like? (Forward? Reserved? Tongue-in-cheek?)  What is their personality like? (Understand the type of language they would use and what appeals to them).

When writing for the web, consider the following:

Who is your ideal reader? (Think on a more human level, not just age, income, demographic).

If they were a friend, what would your conversational style be like? (Forward? Reserved? Tongue-in-cheek?)

What is their personality like? (Understand the type of language they would use and what appeals to them).

Grammar and spelling

You will lose the respect of your reader if there are bad grammar and spelling mistakes on your website. Always double check your work before publishing, or get someone else to do it for you.
There are a number of free tools to do the job. I like Grammarly.com for its ease of use. You can upgrade to access more tools, but the free version is ideal for standard editing.

Give the reader what they want, and quickly

People are more clued up when it comes to searching for what they need, so creating a connection with them is more likely to keep users on your website, rather than the hard sell. Chances are they are ready to make a purchase, so you need to make sure they can easily find all the information they need. Take out any unnecessary fluffy talk where it’s not needed. Try to bullet-point key information. Make titles clear and provide easy instructions for your customer to follow the end-to-end process. If you divert your customer from their path, then you risk losing their focus and they may go elsewhere.

Simplify for a younger reading age

We have shorter attention spans when browsing the web, and tend to scan copy. It’s important to keep your copy simple and easy to follow.

Think of your target reader and aim to write slightly more simplified copy without compromising your brand values.

Take into account a number of syllables used, the length of sentences, the complexity of vocabulary. If you want your copy to appeal to the masses, aim for a lower reading age to ensure it’s shareable.

And finally...

Be exciting!

The website is very much a visual medium, so why not create the same effect with copy? Try to use more attention grabbing words that evoke emotion or paints a visual picture for the reader. It'll make your copy more memorable.

An example of bland copy:
Our sales growth were significant in the first year

An example of exciting copy:
Our sales were astronomical in our first year!

See the difference? The first version sounds like a dry finance report, and I'm already yawning before the rest of the text follows. The latter wants to share the excitement with you and you can feel the buzz from it!

It's the little details that will transform your copy from blah to ooh la la!

I hope this has helped clear up some of the mystery behind writing clear and concise copy for the web. The best advice I can give is to write as naturally as you can as if you were explaining to a friend. Don't overthink it! Then go back and edit your copy from there.

Happy writing! x

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How to Choose The Right Photographer For Your Business

I am really pleased to have professional photographer Clare Murthy guest blogging about a subject that I'm often asked about when starting a website project. Choosing the right photographer is such an important decision to make, as they will be representing the essence of your entire website. Clare has put together some crucial pointers to consider when making such an important decision... Enjoy!

You’ve invested in a shiny new website, perhaps a new logo or some copy. Have you consideredthe photography? Good quality photos that match your brand and ‘feel like you’ can really make your website shine, and importantly help you to feel proud of how you present yourself online.

Finding a photographer can be a bit of a minefield; how much should you expect to pay, and how do you make sure you walk away with photos you love? These 5 questions can help you make the right choice.

1. Do you like the photographs?

Every photographer has a different style and whilst any photographer can most likely photograph anything if they put their mind to it, we all gravitate towards, and do our best work in a particular style.

Before you even start contacting photographers, check out their portfolios - usually found on their website. You’ll find that each of us has a different style and you’ll probably gravitate more towards some than others - some will just be a better fit for your brand.

Photo 2.jpg

2. Is there chemistry?

When you hire a photographer you’re putting your trust in them to represent you and your brand in a way that makes you proud. Chemistry is important and it’s much easier to get a feel for people by speaking to them than via email. Pick up the phone to talk to the photographers on your shortlist.

Notice whether the photographer is interested in you and what you do - are they asking questions about what you do, your business and your brand? Does it feel like they understand the way you want your brand to be represented? As one of my friends puts it “are they talking to me or at me?”

3. What’s the process?

Find out what the photographer’s process is for business shoots. Is there an opportunity for the two of you to discuss ideas or create a mood board together before the session? What happens afterwards - how long will you need to wait to see the photographs, and what’s the process for choosing which ones you’ll keep? How will images be presented to you? Does the photographer edit and retouch the photos before showing them to you, or do you see unedited photos and only the ones you choose are edited?

Is the photographer making suggestions about the number and type of photos you’ll need, possible locations or how to look your best in photographs? This blog post by Phil Pallen gives an excellent overview of the kind of things you should be looking for such as left and right justified photographs.

4. How much does it cost?

Photography pricing can seem complicated. Some photographers charge a fixed fee that includes a certain number of images, others charge a fee for the shoot and then images are extra on top. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, but talking to a few photographers will give you an idea of your options and which ones will be within budget.

Once you’ve decided on a photographer make sure all of the costs are agreed in writing so you’re clear on your expected spend upfront.

5. What are the image licensing terms?

It might be helpful if I step back a bit, and give you an overview of image licensing. Whenever a photographer takes a photo they own the copyright, not the person who commissioned it. So when you buy a photo or package of photos from a photographer (whether they are family photos, wedding photos, or business photos) you are buying a license to use the photos. The photographer still owns the copyright.

Most of the time you’ll just want a very basic license - perhaps the permission to use the photographs on your website, on social media or to accompany features in the press. But if you’re planning on using the photographs for other uses - for example print or digital advertising you should expect to pay more. Make sure you discuss this upfront, so that there are no nasty surprises afterwards.

Over to you

By the end of this exercise you should know a lot about the different options open to you, and be in a place to make a well informed decision about which photographer you want to book, and on your way to a set of photographs that make your brand shine!

I regularly share photography tips, and answers to questions just like this over on my website. Come and say hello at www.claremurthy.com

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Starting a new business

We've all had the dream of being our own boss, working hours to suit our family's needs and doing something we truly feel passionate about. But what holds us back?

For me it was the fear of failure. I'd come up with an idea, do the research, get plans in place, then when it came time to take the next step, I'd stop. I'd suffer from a crisis of confidence. I would compare my idea to other more successful models. I would worry about having to promote myself. How could I do this if I was full of self doubt? What makes me so special?

I would also think I'd fail because I didn't have a fully realised brand and slick process like other more established brands do. How could my idea work?

But then I finally snapped out of this negative thinking and realised that even Starbucks started as a small coffee shop in Seattle. We all have to start somewhere in life. The best business people are ones that can learn on the job. If you make a mistake? It's a learning curve. You'll be more aware of those pit fall in the future. Each experience makes us wiser, and in turn better at what we do.

My advise to anyone wanting to start a new business... Just do it. Everything can be modified or changed at some point. Take a look at Google's first incarnation... It's definitely not the slick machine it is now. Check out how some of the biggest brands in the world and what they first looked like:

How 20 popular websites looked when they launched - The Telegraph

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