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Here Are My Top Tips For Writing & Editing Articles. What Are Yours?

Since we develop a lot of content, and work with various writers, I've been compiling a list of guidelines, tips, best practices, etc.

Figured I'd share it here. Please share yours here too.

Also what tools do you use to manage content development & workflow?

Questions?

Understanding Intent

When writing new articles or editing existing articles, as it pertains to ranking in SERPS it's important to understand the searcher's intent.

There are distinct differences between

  • Intent to buy
  • Intent to learn
  • Intent to use

If a search term is a "intent to buy" or "intent to use" one, it will be hard for your informational content/article to rank, unless you build the content to align with the searcher's intent. So be sure to understand the search term's intent as you're building out your content.

User @BradleySPS shared some helpful info about intent here.

Instructions to new writers

  • SEO-optimized articles
  • All original content (no spinning)
  • Copyscape checked
  • Not bloated or keyword-stuffed
  • Proper use of keywords/phrases and synonyms
  • Research-backed, accurate content
  • Proper of use of Heading tags (H2, H3, H4)
  • Optimized for mobile reading (no long paragraphs)
  • Include at least one royalty free photo
  • Recommend compelling article title
  • Recommend meta description
  • Reference links to 1-2 authoritative sites
  • No SEO keyword/phrase links (i.e. "sponsored links")

Writer requirements

  • You must be a native English speaker
  • Writer must provide content in either Google Doc format, or as clean HTML (so we can copy/paste into Wordpress)

Editing Existing Articles: Optimizations (not all inclusive list):

  • Check readability, grammar, flow
  • SEO (If Yoast is available, use it as a guideline. No need to follow every recommendation)
  • Good to use synonyms for main focus term -- ones that have good search volume
  • Formatting (make sure it reads well on desktop/mobile)
  • Update SLUG/URL (keep it short, but logical. if changing, make sure old page URLs auto forward to new URL via 301 redirect)
  • Ensure Feature Image is present and of correct size (check other recently edited articles to see correct size)
  • Create article excerpt if one does not exist (possibly shortened version of Meta Description)
  • Determine whether we publish as new (i.e. notable article update), or keep original publish date (i.e. cleaned up formatting mostly)
  • Use Headings properly, in logical hierarchy to break-up article
  • Shorten long paragraphs
  • Clean-up / Simplify Tables (also determine readability on mobile)
  • Add photos if necessary (with alt tags)
  • Add alt tags to existing photos
  • Generally set photo alignment to None, and make them bigger to improve UEX of reading article. Many articles have images sized small and aligned right, left, or center.

Deleting Articles With Low Pageviews

I wrote-up some information about content purging in this Reddit thread in the r/bigSEO subreddit.

Other Tools & Tips:

  • Use the term (and its practical synonyms) naturally. Do just repeat the term over and over. Google wouldn't like that ;)
  • The idea is to understand the searcher's intent and write an article that addresses their search intent
  • Use Google Auto Suggest to see what other variations of the term/phrase shows up when you type the above
  • Possibly compare different terms in Google Trends to see which one has more relative volume
  • Do the actual search, and see what websites/articles show up in the first 10-12 SERPS. See the type of articles/pages that show up, and let's create an article that provides better and more thorough information
  • Make sure the article is easy to read (Flesh-Kincaid readability). Available in Yoast SEO and here > https://www.webfx.com/tools/read-able/
  • Limit the use of passive voice (available in Yoast SEO) and other places online
    https://www.google.com/search?q=passive+sentence+checker
  • Readability Checker: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ (thanks @growthbites!)

Use Google Search Console To Grow Article Traffic

This is an important one.

Be sure to look at GSC regularly to see what terms are driving traffic to different article.

If the search term's intent is not addressed in the article, either:

  1. Update the article to include helpful/thoughtful information about the search term
    or
  2. Create a new article that thoughtfully addresses the search term

I've done this several times, and it's resulted in a notable growth in search impressions and traffic.

traffic growth on our blog

  1. 4

    More of a general writing tip, but after you're finished with a draft, read it aloud. If it sounds awkward as hell in spoken word, it's a signal you need to edit.

    1. 1

      Great suggestion! Thanks for sharing.

  2. 3

    My 15 writing tips.
    #1 Write with an eraser
    #2 Don't exaggerate
    #3 No one cares on what you can do they all care on what you can do for them
    #4 Avoid passive voice
    #5 Write with personality- be real
    #6 Avoid " landing page words" unlock, unleash, enhance, exceed, supercharge
    #7 Find tension-pleasant get forgotten and conflict creates interest
    #8 Write how you talk
    #9 Write scannable copy
    #10 Polish your title and " don't bury the lede- Nice intro
    #11 Stories make you memorable
    #12 More period less comma
    #13 Kill adjective, kill adverbs
    #14 Think slippery slide
    # 15 Fence seaters don't buy- Tell as it is

    1. 1

      Those are great tips @BelindaKendi :) Really appreciate you sharing them here.

  3. 1

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for sharing these tips and well done.
    Please how can one understand some of the very technical details involved in optimising articles and websites? I will appreciate any assistance.
    Kingsley

    1. 1

      Hey Kingsley, I'm not technical in the sense where I know exactly what to do to implement page and site speed improvements. You'd need a developer or server/stack expert to look at your site to determine what was needed.

      There are plenty of tools available (like https://web.dev/) where you can test different pages on your site to see how each currently performs. But testing one page really isn't enough. My recommendation would be to test the top 10-20 visited pages your site, and if you can get them optimized, you'll be off to a good start.

      Lots of things impact site and page speed, like your server performance, page size, image size, how images load, remote js calls, ad networks, embedded videos, etc.

      You do need to test for mobile & desktop. I'd say mobile is more important because Google is doing mobile-first indexing on many sites now -- but be sure both perform reasonably well. You can get a sense for Core Web Vital performance inside Google Search Console (under Enhancements).

      What I can tell you is that many people recommend using CDNs in front of a site, but it depends on your site traffic, etc.

      Fine tuning your site & pages isn't always straight forward. I've tried to work with devs to work through performance issues on a few of my sites, and TBH, I still haven't gotten my sites fully optimized.

      Outside of speed/performance, you also want to make sure your site pages have the proper schemas/structure/mark-up.

      If it's an article, it's likely better to ensure it's using the Article schema. Same for web pages, product pages, review pages, FAQ, etc. The more you tell Google about a page, the less it has to guess, and the more likely you can get rich results in the SERPs.

      All the above said, I can say that even after we've implemented some performance improvements, I've never seen any recognizable traffic increases.

      In fact, on one of my eCom sites, Google Search Console shows a "poor" Core Web Vitals rating on both mobile & desktop for all of our /blog/ pages. Yet our blog has seen 4x more clicks and 3x more search impressions in the last 6 months (the image above).

      What that tells me is content is king. If you're writing good quality, thoughtful content, that addresses the searcher's intent, it doesn't really matter if your site isn't as optimized as it can be.

      Though, if another site provides similar content, that equally addresses the searcher's intent, and their site has better performance than yours, they might rank higher in SERPs than you.

      I'm not sure if that addresses your question, but do hope it helps some.

  4. 1

    Thanks for sharing! Definitely agree that GSC can be a goldmine for finding optimization/new content ideas.

    Here are a few of the guidelines I use at Contentbulb to make sure our client content is high-quality:

    • Write like you talk and read articles out loud before publishing
    • Fulfill the search intent (but don't just copy what other top ranking articles are doing)
    • Make articles better than the competition by giving a new take using your domain expertise
    • Back up your points with evidence. Data, quotes, screenshots, tweets from influencers
    • Benefits-driven headings
    • Break up paragraphs and use bullet points to improve readability
    • Don't start an introduction by repeating things that your reader already knows (e.g. "Everyone knows that...", "It's no secret that...)"
  5. 1

    Hi Mike

    H think my first objective is to write great content then optimize it for search engine later. Then SEO is a long term thing its not a one hit wonder you have to countinously produce remarkable content that with no doubt people will see as valuable then Google will have no option than to rank you on its #1 page

    1. 1

      Very true, and I agree. It's always important for me to write the most thoughtful/helpful information first. But I suppose I've been writing long enough to automatically think "SEO" while I am writing.

      Main thing is that I want people to leave feeling they got value from reading the article.

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