How do you go about writing a post or article that is search engine optimized (SEO) and easy to read? Truthfully, as search engines become more advanced, that question becomes less of an issue. In fact, to write well for SEO, you must write well for humans. Why is that so?

SEO Writing for Dummies

I recently read a rather complex online guide to On-Page SEO that discussed a variety of machine learning methods used by search engines to understand what your online article or post is really about. It was eloquently written and sprinkled with high-sounding professional terms like Latent-Semantic Indexing (LSI) and term-frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) and co-occurrence. It was a well-informed piece of content if you spoke the vocabulary of the online search industry. However, it was a bit much for anyone who was not familiar with those industry-specific terms. For that reason, the article did not make its point clearly to the average layperson.

How Search Engines Understand What You Write

However, at the end of that article was a comment posted by a reader.  In it, she beautifully explained how search engines 'read and understand' with a simple, clear illustration. She compared Google's search engine to a person who speaks English very poorly as a second language. How do you communicate with that person in English? Typically, you will be using words and terms they will not understand. However, if you take words they do not know and connect them to words they do, they may understand. Contextual words give your keyword meaning.

Here's an example: Suppose your listener does not understand the meaning of the English word 'auto.' The word auto, depending on how it is used, can refer to a car or to something starting on its own without outside help. You want you listener to know that you are using the word auto to mean a car or vehicle. So, you mention words like drive, gas, engine, wheels, road, highway, Chevy... Those words, a number of which your listener does know, by their context, makes the meaning of the word auto apparent.

Fundamentally, this is how search engines understand what you write. They look for related words and synonyms in the body of your article or post. If you use the keyword auto in your post, most likely you will also use commonly related words like drive or road or even a brand name like Chevy. Search engines make the connections between those related words and terms to figure out that your article or post is about a car. This is a surprisingly reliable way of getting search engines to understand what your online post is about.

How To Write For Good SEO

So, with this in mind, how should you write for SEO? It's quite simple. Use synonyms and related words and terms to support, explain and elaborate on your main keywords. Make sure that what you write is easy to understand. If your article is meant for the general public, then it should read at the high school level. Explaining matters simply benefit both readers and search engines. The more connections a search engine can make between related words and terms in your online post, the better equipped it is to index it for relevant search results.

Repeating your main keyword often in a post is not good SEO writing. Use synonyms and related terms to help Google better understand your content.

Simply repeating your main keyword often in the body of your content is not a good way to write for SEO. You limit the search engines ability to make those critical connections between related terms. Vary your vocabulary. Use a thesaurus to discover words of similar meaning along with related descriptive terms that are commonly used when discussing your topic. Use of your main keywords must be supported by words and terms in the context that search engines expect to see when your topic is discussed.

Sometimes (especially in Google), you may find your post in a search result for a term not found in your writing. How is that possible? Google has determined that your article uses synonyms or words related to the search term. For example, I have written articles that only use the term Manhattan and found them returned as search results on Google for New York or NYC.

That, in a nutshell, is how to write content that is clear and understandable both to search engines and to your audience.


SEO Writing for Dummies