I used to think SEO was silly, just a thing people liked to talk about to sound geeky and smart. I thought if people liked what I wrote about, they would read it. If they don’t like it, they won’t. Well, I’ve been converted. Now I realize that they can’t get the chance to realize they like it if they can’t find it in the first place. I need to do what I can to help make that happen.
#WCFay 2015 Writing online for beginners (WordPress emphasis)
The Beginner’s Guide to Writing in
Don’t worry about writing this all
down word for word. I will tweet
out a copy of my presentation
later or I can email it to you. I
make them wordy so you can
understand the notes later.
• Good writing should go relatively
• Bad writing stands out and diminishes
• A few people will read a good bit of the
• Google frequently changes its algorithms to
make sure legitimate content ranks higher
in its search results.
• Even if your SEO is great, many people
won’t come back if the writing is bad.
Good writing always matters
Writing for the web includes a
multitude of considerations that
aren’t a factor in print:
• Effective layout and styles for
the online environment
• People’s online reading habits
How is online writing different?
SEO is important for getting your
content found. So why talk about it
in a writing class? A part of SEO is
in how you write including the
format and words you choose.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Writing for search engines and people
Traditional writing is for one audience: the
Online writing is for two audiences: the reader
and the search engines, like Google. This is
where SEO becomes vital because it’s the food
for the search engines.
Without good search engine food, the human
readers will never find your content.
What is SEO? How do I get it?
SEO is more than just a subject of spam
email you receive.
SEO increases the search engine’s ability
to find your site and its content compared
to all the other “stuff” out there.
Certain techniques both in your writing and
behind the scenes will improve your SEO,
thus meaning the chance for more people
to see your site.
Tips Keywords are the
might use to find
something on your
Keywords can be
artfully. Don’t just
repeat it a bunch
Make a list of potential keywords
Think of terms and words your target
audience would most likely use when
searching for what you offer.
During editing, add keywords where
they make sense.
Use keywords in the main copy, in the
headlines, subheads and in the SEO
plug-in (we’ll get to that in a minute).
Tips: Hyperlinks provide
information for your
reader on the topic.
Link to the website of an organization or
company if you mention it.
Link to your own blog posts or website
pages if you refer to a topic you’ve already
Use the hyperlink tool (looks like a
sideways 8) instead of listing the actual link.
Don’t feel the need to link to every single
thing. It is irritating to the reader’s eyes and
will tell the search engines that you’re trying
If you put links too close together Google
will probably read that as not “mobile ready”
and knock you down in the rankings.
Behind the scenes
Plugins and formatting help!
SEO in WordPress is
easy because there
are built-in tools for
Keywords are easily
seen but a few
“tricks of the trade”
help you get the
most out of your
Use plug-ins like “All in One
SEO Pack” or “Yoast” and
make sure you keep it
Actually take the time to fill
out the information on every
page and every post for the
Pay attention to character
limits (160 for description).
Use keywords in the
Layout and design of your writing affects
SEO but it more deeply affects the reader.
Layout, design and formatting
A few formatting tricks to help
Format helps spiders and
Tips: In each post, different tools help
increase SEO and make the
content easier human readers.
These tools are located at the
top of the page in the
Remember the outlines you had
to do in high school? It’s the
same concept, but easier. Using
subheads and lists can help
you organize your writing.
Features like the
bulleted/number lists and
changing the format style make
great spider food.
Using a picture increases SEO
and makes the post more
interesting to look at.
Break up the copy into
sections using subheads
Use bold print and at least
one of the headline html
options for subheads.
Use number or bulleted
lists instead of long
Use numbers when the
order matters, bullets
when it does not.
A few more technical “stuffs”
Categories vs tags-categories are a way of
dividing all of your content and tags describe the
specific post. (Example: in a catalog you have
“housewares” and then you can choose items by
color or brand, etc.)
Never “shout” online by using ALL CAPS. Use
italics and/or bold instead.
Readers read from left to right and their attention
span fades the farther to the right they go. So
generally set your copy (words) to the left instead
of the right or center. An exception would be
We read online content much differently
than print. Here are tips for a successful
Online reading habits
Online readers have short attention
When we read online, we really just skim. This
means you need to make it easier to skim the
content and have the readers still absorb the
Writing the blog post
Key components of a blog post:
350 – 700 words
Attention-getting, key-worded title
Open paragraph has to go immediately to the point
Relevant image(s) with keyworded names when
Main body – make it easy to skim using
subheadings, bullet points, etc.
Close with a discussion question/call to action (what
do you want them to do with this new info?)
Better writing is easier to read
Use strong, active sentences
Cut out “there are” and “it is.”
Avoid using “crutch” words such as “OK,” “So,” and
“anyways.” We see this in social media and it’s not
necessary, especially in a blog post or webpage.
Make sure the subject of the sentence is a noun doing
the action indicated in the verb. (This forces the writer to
find interesting verbs!)
Avoid passive voice
Okay: There are many ways to get to the store.
Better: Many routes to the store exist.
Cut out wordiness, which is sometimes hard to
Okay: The website content writers are
accustomed to writing for search engines and
Better: Content developers often write for
Ditch the qualifiers! Be assertive!
Consider the difference between these three
We believe that customer service is our most important
Customer service is our most important value.
Our company values customer service.
You don’t have to qualify that it’s your opinion. It’s
your blog or your company’s website. It’s obviously
your opinion. Own it!
Use respectful, inclusive word choices
Extreme political correctness will irritate most
readers but remember to be kind and inclusive.
Remember simple considerations such as people-
first language, gender neutral where appropriate,
and using audience-appropriate titles/labels
Person with a disability vs handicapped person
Firefighter vs Fireman
Do not use semi-colons at the end of each list point
Journalism rule of commas applies online: do not use a
comma before the last item in a series (no Oxford
For example: I like trees, butterflies and flowers.
Exclamation points – perhaps the most overused
punctuation mark online. Very few occasions actually
call for an exclamation point
Contractions: not acceptable in formal writing;
acceptable for less formal, especially in a personal blog
or writing that sounds personal. Whether or not you use
contractions is part of establishing your online voice.
Avoid fallacies of logic or inappropriate “if then”
Example: If you are hungry, there’s food in the kitchen.
Better: There’s food in the kitchen for anyone who wants to
The first implies that if a person isn’t hungry that the food magically
Example: Are you going to the concert? Because I’m going.
Better: I’m going to the concert, are you?
The first implies that the answer to the question has something to
do with whether or not the second part is true. If the two are
correlated, then it should be: “I’ll go to the concert if you’re going.”
A few more miscellaneous ideas to
remember when writing online in
A few more things to consider
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a schedule of who writes
each post, the post topic, the blog category, the
resources needed, images needed (and where
they’re coming from), deadlines involved, and
publish date. Examples are available online or
you can create your own. I like using Google
Calendar or the project management system
What are editorial guidelines?
An editorial style guide is a list of “rules” that
are followed when writing to provide
consistency. This is especially important when
more than one person is writing for the site.
Examples of what to consider are how to refer
to people in regards to titles, how to refer to a
location or program on first reference, or how
to list dates and times of events. Most
guidelines start with a major guide such as the
AP style guide or Chicago style then the
guideline outlines the deviations from that
Stay out of trouble
Avoid plagiarism (even copying and
pasting your own work-messes with
SEO). This includes only using
images with permission
Represent yourself or your company
Avoid vague or false claims
Reputable sources for finding ideas, help and other
Zemanta.com (has an extension you can use to get free pics)
Commons.Wikimedia.org (free pics)
Canva and Picmonkey are great for editing, creating graphics
The WordPress forums also provide great information and help.