Certified SEO: How to Create Killer Content
Who are you writing for? For most writers, the answer is dictated by the type of publication and their target audience. If you write for a site like Certified Forgotten, you must be trying to capture the attention of horror fans. This means you can assume a certain level of knowledge on the part of your readers about horror films in general.
But human readers are only half the equation. If you want your content to withstand the test of time, you also need to write content that meets the demands of Google’s search algorithms. Google positions itself as a kind of curator between writer and audience, using on-page indicators to decide which articles are the most helpful for specific topics.
The good news? By publishing content that is polished for both horror fans and Google, Certified Forgotten is able to take your hard work and ensure that it will be delivered to thousands of readers who care deeply about the thing you write.
And all we need is a little help from you. Here are the three things we ask our writers to do as they sit down and work on their pieces.
• Use the name of the movie in the first paragraph.
• Keep your article around 1,200 words.
• Aim for shorter sentences and paragraphs.
Use the Title of the Movie in the First Paragraph
As writers, we often want to organically build to our premise. It isn’t uncommon to see some of our contributors wait two or even three paragraphs to introduce the topic of their article. While this kind of writing might make sense in a lot of contexts, in the world of SEO, waiting longer to reinforce your keywords is a bad idea.
Where you put your keywords – aka the title of the film you are writing about – takes a lot of the guesswork out of Google’s algorithm. If Google has to go three paragraphs deep to look for your target keyword, it may have a hard time recommending your piece to future readers. So it is always a best practice to work the title of the movie into your first paragraph.
This doesn’t mean you have to follow a set format in your articles – we aren’t asking you to structure each piece with some rigid intro-plot-analysis breakdown. But knowing this ahead of time can make it easier for you to organically work the mention of the film into your opening paragraph.
Longer Content Is Good
Given the general push for shorter content in our culture – RIP, Quibi – you may think that the best SEO content should be short, too. And you’d be wrong! According to Hubspot, the average word count for blog content is over 2,000 words. And while we might not angle for that length of writing at Certified Forgotten, we do ask our writers to aim for 1,200 words (plus or minus 100 on either side).
Study after study have shown that longer content tends to get more backlinks, and backlinks remain one of Google’s highest indicators of quality. The more people who link to an article or blog post, the more valuable that content must be. Lengthier pieces are not always more authoritative, but there’s a strong correlation between people who take the time to write in-depth and the content that is most valuable.
That said, we are far more forgiving of shorter pieces than longer pieces. A sharp, 900-word article is more valuable than an unfocused, 1600-word article, for reasons you will soon see.
Shorter Sentences and Paragraphs Are Better
As much as Google might like longer articles, nothing matters more to SEO rankings than crafting readable content. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but in this context, “readable” is a very loaded word. Search engine algorithms are built on machine learning, and their definition of “readable” has a lot of baked-in assumptions about your intended audience.
We’ve broken this down into two specific sections: sentences and paragraphs.
What the Experts Say: Yoast, which offers a popular SEO WordPress plug-in, operates by the 25/20 rule: less than 25% of the sentences in your article should contain 20 or more words. Readable also uses a variation of this rule, suggesting that your sentences should be 20 syllables or less.
How to Adapt Your Writing: We don’t expect you to measure the syllables or word counts of each sentence in your articles. But what you can do is proactively look for opportunities to shorten your sentences. Can you turn that semicolon or comma into a period and turn one long sentence into two shorter ones? Can you restructure a parenthetical statement so it exists as a separate sentence? It may sound like you are “dumbing down” your voice, but these little choices make a big difference.
What the Experts Say: Yoast recommends keeping your paragraphs shorter than 150 words each. For a frame of reference, here is that amount of text visualized:
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How to Adapt Your Writing: Your paragraph sizes should vary in length and size as part of your writing process, but keep 150 in mind as an upper limit. Also, remember that keeping your sentences clear and concise will undoubtedly impact your paragraph size, too. If you feel yourself straining to write more, err on the side of less.
SEO content and quality film criticism do not require two different skill sets. Our goal is to provide a framework for you to succeed. If you follow the rules outlined in this article, you are making changes to your content that will make it easier for readers to engage with your insights.
This is the virtuous cycle of SEO. The more your article is seen – through social sharing, backlinks, and organic searches – the more Google will share your article with others. And our job is to make sure people read your articles for a long, long time.
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