Make it Count: Optimising Your Content

You’ve written a great article, but is it really ready for publishing? Well that all depends on if you are willing to go the extra mile to make it better than great. To make it awesome.

Below is a checklist you can use to optimise your content for both your readers and search engines.

Headline

Did you know approximately 8 out of 10 people will read headlines, but only 2 out of 10 go on to read the rest of the article? Your headline needs to entice your reader, to catch their attention and draw them into your article. Here are some basic things to look out for:

    1. Is too long? Will your reader be bored before they even get to your intro?
    2. Does the body of your article match the headline? People read a headline and click through because they are interested in what that headline offers. If your article does not deliver the information they expect, you run the risk of disappointing your reader. Watch them bounce.
    3. Is it going to annoy people? Unless you have a certain audience, you probably want to avoid falling into the trap of writing “Upworthy” headlines. Although these types of headlines have worked wonders for Buzzfeed and Upworthy, many people respond to them with frustration and annoyance.

The URL

In content management systems like WordPress, the URL will automatically take the text from your headline, which means you can end up with a pretty long link sometimes. You can change the URL by editing the Permalink directly beneath the headline (see below).

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Typos

Have you ever had one of those moments where you carefully proof your work 3 times, only to publish and have someone point out a painfully obvious typo? The subsequent face palm hurts. But, it’s not necessarily because we have had a break in concentration or a bad day. According to Tom Stafford, Lecturer in Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Sheffield:

“We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases […] Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”

Get a grammar-savvy friend to take a look at your writing before you hit publish. After all, what have you got to lose? Your friend may pick up a mistake, and maybe you will be embarrassed, but it’s better than your whole readership seeing it and then emailing you or leaving a comment about it (*cringe*).

Images and video

Do you have any visuals to complement your text? Adding at least one image or graphic to your article is an important part of optimising your article. Why?

      • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and your brain processes visuals approximately 60,000 times faster than text. (source: Kissmetrics)
      • 40% of people respond to visual information better than text. (Zabisco)
      • Visuals drive engagement: an increasing amount of people are uploading, sharing and finding videos on Facebook. Since June this year there have been more than 1 billion video views on Facebook each day (source: Facebook).

Some details to look out for:

    1. Are your images the right size or do they look wonky and uneven?
    2. If your text is getting a bit too cuddly with your graphics use padding to separate them.
    3. Use good quality images.

Formatting

Don’t be lazy when it comes to formatting. It may seem small, but fixing it can make a big difference:

      1. Are there spaces before your headings, are the hyperlinks across spaces like this: example
      2. Is it a bit subjective… does it actually look good?
      3. Does anything look broken, e.g. social share buttons, images, videos.
      4. Is it easily scannable? Can you scan the article and find different sections easily?

Keywords

Use the Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest to find phrases that have high search volumes and match the topic of your article. You can also use these tools to brainstorm article ideas. Taking this extra little step means you will be using terms that people are actually searching for, therefore improving your chances of being found in Google search results. Use keywords and key phrases naturally in your text (and consider adding it to the page title tag). Be careful not to overuse keywords and avoid fitting them into sentences if they reduce the impact or read awkwardly.

Rand Fishkin’s “What Bloggers Need to Know About SEO in 2014″ talk from Problogger 2014 gives some fantastic tips if you want to learn more:

Internal and External Linking

Have you included some useful external links to add more value to your post? Perhaps you have read a really awesome article that relates to an idea you touch on – don’t be afraid to link out to it to give your reader the option to go into more depth. External links are also a great way to build relationships with other writers.

Don’t forget to look for opportunities to link to your own content – no it’s not narcissistic if you are sensible about it. It’s natural to link to your own content if, for example, you are writing about a topic you have written about before. If in doubt, put yourself in the reader’s shoes to decide whether it’s really helpful.

Is it too long or too short?

Personally I don’t think this is the right question to ask. There is no magic number. It’s about saying what you want to say in the best way possible. By all means, edit and find ways to say something more powerfully with less words, but don’t fall into the trap of culling words or padding out an article for the sake of making it a certain length.

Engage

What do you want people to do when they have finished reading your article? Make sure they know! Make it easy for your reader to comment, read a related article, share on social media, sign up to a newsletter or subscribe to your blog.

Write, proof, edit, repeat

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” -C. J. Cherryh.

I mentioned this in a previous post, and I stick to it every time I write. Why? Because the first draft is often okay, but with some careful tweaking it can be fantastic. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to writing, I don’t settle for okay.

What publishing rules do you live by?

Suggest a topic below or on our Facebook and Twitter (@mattersolutions) pages using the #bloggerhelp tag for more great tips.