By Gaurav Belani
Content creators are writers at heart. They strive to be creative. Writing for the web, however, introduces a new term called optimization, which seems to be the kind of jargon a marketer would have to deal with, but writers have to get on with it anyway, if they wish to get their content masterpieces read by the right audience at least.
So how does the creative mind strike a pact with keywords, character limits and backlinks? Well it’s not all that hard. The truth is that we’re no longer in the pre-panda era of content marketing anymore. Keyword stuffing is out for good and the cringeworthy SEO rules that forced writers to ‘naturally’ include unnatural sounding keywords in content are long gone.
Today, SEO is smart, because the search engines are smart. Google looks for quality in content. It looks for useful information and value for readers. As a good content writer, that’s what you are all about right? Great, then we’re on the same page.
If you can understand the true requirements of modern SEO, you’ll find it incredibly easy to blend it swiftly along with your creativity.
1. Keyword Research
For those who swear by creativity, think of this as topic research. After all, that’s the real idea, right?
Search engine optimization begins with keyword research, where you use some sophisticated online keyword research tools to determine what topics are in trend and highly sought after right now. Every time you create content, the idea is to make sure that you publish something that your readers or viewers will enjoy, share with their friends and come back for more. When performing keyword research, you’re essentially doing the same thing. Look for topics that are being talked about right now.
Monitor social media conversations, hashtags, tag clouds and other methods to gauge the mood of the audience. Use Google trends, follow the popular blogs in your niche – all of those are ways to not only perform reliable keyword research but also spark your creativity. When you chance upon a keyword that is trending, as well as grabs your attention, you can create a truly fantastic piece of content that you as well as your audience will love.
2. Use Those Keywords in the Content
This particularly, used to be the biggest challenge for creative souls a few years ago. Today though, fortunately, things have changed. Digital marketing has evolved tremendously and no one is talking about 1% or 2% keyword density anymore. As long as you mention the keyword in the content one or two times, preferably once in the title, that’s enough.
It’s quite possible that you sometimes want to use a title that doesn’t include the keyword, but that’s a fairly good challenge for your creativity. When you know that including the keyword in the title could make sure your article finds the right readers, you could make way for it.
3. Make Content Easy for Skimmers
Yes, most web content readers are skimmers. No, not all, there are those of us who like to pore over every word, but that’s only for immaculately written opinion pieces on matters that are dear to us. Most other web content is usually skimmed. That is why writers try to make it easy for readers to skim through content, but at the same time, they try to highlight their main arguments using sub-headings that are big, bold and catchy.
They try to break down the content into small, chewable chunks that are easy to digest. They try to focus on one point at a time, instead of creating a Nobel winning layered piece of literature.
Now if you come to think of it, that’s all that SEO asks you to do anyway. So you see, optimization aligns perfectly with your personal goals as a writer to make content reader friendly.
4. Build Backlinks
This here is a true blue SEO activity that creative writers wouldn’t take much heart to, if it wasn’t for the marketers asking them to. However, this too need not hinder your creativity, and can instead supplement it. Link building is one of the main aims of search engine optimization so every writer inevitably has to wrap his/her head around it. The good writers however, find ways to perfectly align this with creativity and in fact, that is the kind of content that is best rewarded by Google.
When building links in your content, keep things natural and organic. Weave the link into your content, introduce it gently and think about how this would make sense to your readers. After all, with every link you tie in, you are trying to show the readers something that you think will add value to their life.
So instead of being gimmicky, be honest and open. Don’t push in too many links at once. Build consistently, slowly. That’s what digital marketing experts mean when they say don’t be overly promotional.
5. Include Credible Facts, Graphics and Visuals
Once again, shrouded in the cloak of optimization best practice, this is quite simply a good way to make your content richer and more interesting for your readers. When you supplement your argument with facts, figures and statistics sourced from credible research, readers not only trust you more but also appreciate your authenticity. In the same vein, Google rewards such content and your rankings see a boost.
See how creativity and optimization go swiftly hand in hand right there? Similarly, using images to better explain your ideas, graphs, figures and visuals to better clarify your perspective are all ways that make your content look better and more reliable, show the true authenticity of your writer self as well as bring in the right kind of attention from search engines, helping you rank higher and attract more visitors.
So as you can see, the most basic and important search engine optimization principles are quite simply, ways to make your content more interesting, trustworthy and authentic. So you never have to struggle to find a balance between optimization and creativity again. If you follow the above points, you are playing for both teams at once, which are in fact, the same team really.
Gaurav Belani is a Senior SEO and Content Marketing Analyst at The 20 Media, a Content Marketing agency that specializes in data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in Digital Marketing and loves to write about Blogging, Link Building, and Content Strategy to help clients grow their search visibility. In his spare time, he enjoys watching movies and listening to music. Connect with him on Twitter: @belanigaurav.