How to write articles that rank on Google

The first thing to learn when you’re writing text that you want to rank on Google is that quality is often brushed off as less important than being ‘optimised’. Of course, your text needs to have the right keywords in, but we’ll get to explaining this later. However, one of the most crucial points is to remember that Google likes quality content. Your content needs to be easily digestible, informative and most importantly, have incredibly high value for the user.

Why does this matter? Can you not write text that has relevant keywords in, irrelevant of how the copy sounds? If you want to rank on Google, no. The more value and practicality your page holds for your reader, the more Google will reward you. That means avoid creating articles for the sake of publishing new content. Create useful how-to guides and provide insightful industry knowledge with updated statistics. Write articles your reader will enjoy, and Google will like this.

How do you make sure your readers will like your content?

When you’re planning articles, you need to get into the mindset of your reader. What content articles would you be looking for, and what information would help and entertain you? What would you share on social media? (https://buffer.com/resources/shareable-content-social-media-research/). Readers probably don’t share dull, outdated articles that are really difficult to read with small text. You’ll need to do some research first, so look at what your competitors are writing about to engage with their audience.

Get some research under your belt and find out what questions your audience are asking. If you have a chat bot on your website, why not use the data to give you insight into what your potential customers are really asking? You could add a poll of topics to the end of your chat to encourage users to tell you what topic they are most interested in. This will give you more content ideas as to the type of information your readers want.

Optimise your articles for keywords

The last thing you want is to write a cracking article that’s everything you want it to be… A huge dollop of information, a splash of entertainment to keep people engaged, topped off with just the right tone of voice – and then realise it’s not written properly for Google, and it doesn’t rank. First things first, learn how to do ‘keyword research’ (https://ahrefs.com/blog/keyword-research/). That means how to find the right words you want Google to rank you for.

It’s a simple but sometimes time-consuming process. Have a brainstorm and think about what the ideal keyword you would like Google to rank you for in the results is. Once you’ve got one, put it into Google Keyword Planner (https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/) or a similar tool, and see what search terms people are looking for. You’re not done just yet though! You might need to think creatively to find more keywords that people are searching for on Google. This can take time.

Don’t forget incognito search!

What makes incognito search great, and useful? It’s a sneaky, easy and effective way you can test and check for what websites are currently on pages 1, 2 and so on, for the keyword you want to rank for. Open an ‘Incognito Tab’ on the internet and search for something. Ask yourself, what types of articles are appearing at the top? What keywords do their titles use and how short or long are they? Then, use this as inspiration to compete with them.

The bonus of using Incognito mode is that when you search for your ideal term, Google doesn’t ‘count’ you in the current search volume. Eg, if ‘how to find the right online casino’ has a search volume, which means how many people enter this into Google, of 1000, your search to check for competitors won’t make it 1001. Another handy tip is to look at what pages your competitors rank for. It might be a fresh article, not their home page!

Look at what your successful, ranking competitors are doing

Don’t forget the traditional technique of pretending to be a real user on your competitor’s website too (https://www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/keep-tabs-competition.html). When did they last post an article that’s working really well for them? How long is it? How many keywords has it got in it? Remember to actually read it too. If Google is ranking it on page 1, it’s probably really good. And you should take some quality ideas from it if you’re going to compete.

Go one step further than just visiting the competition’s websites and reading their oh-so great articles. Get your hands on a tool that allows you to enter their URL, which is their page link, and it will tell you specifically what keywords the page actually ranks for. This will help give you more keyword ideas that you want to add to your own piece to help it rank, and it will show you the level of competition of those terms too. Handy!

Add keywords to the page

There is a best practice to this process that experts have developed over the 21st century. So, we hate to break it to you, but blindly chucking in some of those keywords you’ve found everywhere and anywhere into your new article will not work. It gets a little technical here, but stick with it, and you might just rank. You’ll need to access your H tags, all of your text, and your meta data – that’s your page title and the description too.

What are H tags? They’re the headings on your page, and Google’s just given them a fancy name. But they’re actually pretty important. When Google is deciding where to rank a page for a keyword, it reads the H tags of a page to gather an understanding of what the page is about, and what keyword the website wants the page to rank for. So, don’t miss the trick, and ensure you put your priority keyword in the H1, which is your title.

Optimising the rest of your text

Next up, the rest of your copy! Depending on how long your lovely, informative article is, you’ll have more H tags. They should be, if it’s done right, H2s, H3s, and if it’s really long, H4s and so on. Now, this is where things can get fiddly. If you did lots of keyword research, you’ll find that as well as your ideal keyword, you’ve got lots of other keywords too. That’s great news, because you can now add them in.

Don’t be fooled by the ability to rank and the number of H tags on a page though. Remember, it’s about value. For example, if Google has decided that a really good page has an H1 and only one H2 and no other H tags, it might be because the content is super concise as it is, or has lots of imagery or a video on it. This is where competitor research will show you what to aim for.

How not to add your keywords in

We said that the worst thing is to write a great article, and not optimise it. That’s bad, but it’s even more of a shame if you put all your efforts into the article and actually end up piling your text with way too many keywords, because that won’t work either. This is called ‘keyword stuffing’ (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/03/21/dangers-of-keyword-stuffing). But why is it bad to add lots of keywords? Keyword stuffing is bad because it sounds unnatural and clunky.

Your user won’t like it because it will sound odd to read, and Google won’t because it will look like you’re trying to cheat your way up the rankings by overloading the copy. So it won’t rank your article. Instead, thread in natural mentions of your most important, and then other, keywords throughout the main body of the text, as well as your H tags. It will sound much more user-friendly, still have your keywords in, and Google will rank you better.

Optimise your pictures

What does that even mean? Image optimisation is another subtle, but completely above-board, way you can try to create your articles so that they get ranked by Google. Here’s how to do it. Each image will have an ‘alt text’, which is what Google reads to understand what the image is. The best practice is to always have an alt text, which simply describes the picture accurately, and you don’t need to put ‘picture of…’, because Google knows it’s a picture.

But because your user won’t see the alt text, just the actual image – you can add in a cheeky keyword to increase mentions, and not get penalised. In fact, website experts are now shouting from the rooftops that images can and do appear in the search results, so shouldn’t be overlooked (https://www.fatrank.com/seo-for-images/). Include high-quality appealing images and compress them so they don’t slow your page down – and add an optimised alt text to rank!

But choose good images

Don’t make the mistake of grabbing any old generic image filed away in a 2002 drive, or even a 2012 and hoping that’ll do it. For Google to rank your image and it to then be clicked on by a user who’ll then land on your article, it needs to be top-notch. That means stay as far away from stock images as you can. Anyone can get these, which means it’s not unique or valuable.

If you can, use your own images. That might mean dedicating time to taking photographs of real people with consent; either staff or customers. Then, upload it in the right form so it doesn’t lose any quality and loads pretty fast on your page. Experts say to stick to either JPEG or PNG (https://yoast.com/image-seo/#:~:text=In%20short%2C%20we%20recommend%20to,instead%20of%20JPEG%20and%20PNG.) because these are the most commonly used, and means your image should load relatively quickly – so you can focus on optimising the alt text to get it to rank.

Remember that updated, new content ranks

We can’t stress this enough. No, really. Creating updated articles can be the easiest way to get Google on your side, and rank you better than your competition. How do you do it? You’ll need to use that Incognito search we mentioned earlier on, or at least get your hands on a tool that shows you what the current listings display. Put your keyword into Google. Look at the dates where each listing has been published or updated.

If this is new to you, you might be surprised to see that the date published really can have an impact on ranking ability. Say the results number 2 to 11 all have relatively recent dates, being uploaded this year or a year ago. But, the number one result states it was updated as of the current month, or even in the last few months, and there are no other differences compared to the other listings; that could be why it’s number one.

Learn how to compete with your competition

There is often a best practice to knowing how to write articles that rank on Google, as we explained earlier on in this article. But think outside of the box, and check the current listings in Incognito. Instead of simply chasing the same keywords by uploading similar content, you need to actually upload content that is better too. Instead of banging your head against the wall for ideas, it’s easier to spot than you might think.

If the position 1 result is ‘top 3 reasons to join an online casino’ and it was published last year, what article would be better and more useful than this? Read the article first, so you don’t just say the same thing and make a fool of yourself. Create an article with better quality images that lists the top 10 reasons, and bulk them out. Add updated statistics, and you could be well on your way to knocking your competition down a position.

How not to write your meta data

Your meta what? Meta data is comprised of your meta title and your meta description. The title, as explained by web specialists, is the heading text that you see in the search listings, and the meta description is the sentence or two that’s right underneath that (https://ahrefs.com/blog/seo-meta-tags/). It’s the first thing you see before you click on a website. So, we can’t tell you how important it is to get this right. But we will anyway!

There are so many common mistakes companies make that mess up their meta title (https://www.thebalancesmb.com/mistakes-with-meta-titles-3515320). Want to know how to get it right? Don’t leave it blank and miss it out altogether. Don’t write any old title that’s really long and leaves a little ellipsis, like this “…”, at the end because that just looks messy and you’ll get fewer people clicking on it. Don’t write a boring, irrelevant, rushed meta title because you don’t know how to write it. We’ll explain that now.

How to write your meta data

Your meta data is one of the first bits of information Google will assess before it decides if and where to rank your article. Include your ideal keyword and put it at the start, so readers see it straight away. If you’re a well-known brand in your industry, include your brand name at the end if it fits in the space to add some people-pleasing brand awareness. Google might recognise the reputable brand and rank you higher.

It’s also the first copy your reader will see before they decide if they’ll click on you, so make it fabulous. Use adjectives and make it enticing. It needs to be understandable, and not jibberish. You only have a set number of characters you’re allowed before you get that ellipsis (https://moz.com/learn/seo/meta-description#:~:text=Meta%20descriptions%20can%20be%20any,descriptions%20between%2050%E2%80%93160%20characters). Google also tends to prefer exciting meta titles to unappealing ones, so give your reader something to get hyped about and your article might rank higher up and actually get clicked on.

What about meta descriptions?

Meta descriptions are often the dark horse when it comes to writing articles that rank well in the listings. That’s because Google actually has the ability to re-write it. In a study, it was found that this occurs 62% of the time (https://ahrefs.com/blog/meta-description-study/). Why does Google do this? If it thinks that the relevancy between the search intent (which means what the user is looking for when they enter their keyword) and your content is low, it’s more likely to re-write (https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-google-rewrites-meta-descriptions/370452/#:~:text=Google’s%20algorithm%20rewrites%20meta%20descriptions,to%20the%20on%2Dpage%20content.).

Based on that, the key to writing meta descriptions so that Google doesn’t re-write and does rank you is as follows. Get in the head of your user, and ensure that your content specifically answers the question that they’re looking for. Include the keyword in the description because this can make it emboldened too. Write something compelling and add a Call To Action to encourage them to click it, and if it’s genuinely good content, Google will theoretically rank your article.

Add links to your new page on other pages of your website

Links? Won’t Google just rank you for great content? No, it’s not that simple. You’ve got a new exciting article with great H tags and meta data. But to rank, Google needs to understand how the page relates to the rest of your website. In practice, this is called internal linking, and is successful by using an optimised ‘anchor text’. That means when you add a link to your text, the words you’re adding the link to is your anchor text.

It’s super simple to optimise this. Instead of adding an anchor text like ‘click here’ or ‘read this article’, make sure your anchor texts that link to your new article include your ideal keyword, the one you want the article to rank for. This helps Google understand the page better, rather than generic words. Add these links that go to your new page on to multiple pages across your website with that quality anchor text, and this will help you rank.

Target different types of results, like Quick Answers

We’ve mentioned that Google can rank your images in what’s called ‘image search’. But did you know that this is just the tip of the iceberg? There are multiple types of Google search listings known by the pros in web (https://www.link-assistant.com/news/serp-guide.html). Learning what these are and how to write your articles to target them can massively help you try and rank for them. One of the best ones is a ‘Quick Answer’, talked about by web experts Bright Edge (https://www.brightedge.com/blog/google-quick-answers).

A ‘Quick Answer’ appears above the first standard Google result, in its own little white space. It’s classed as position zero, and is known for having an exceptionally high click-through rate. That means when people see a ‘Quick Answer’, they are more likely to click that website than any other result further down. How do you try to get Google to rank you as this type of result? Write copy that asks a question, and then answers it in the next sentence.

Or, target Featured Snippets

A featured snippet is similar in that it can really help you rank your article at the top of the Google search. A Quick Answer is actually a type of a featured snippet (https://backlinko.com/hub/seo/featured-snippets). But there are other variations of these snippets. For example, you can rank as a numbered step by step list, or a video from your YouTube account if you have one, or a tidy table with relevant, accurate data that answers the question your user has asked.

To get your articles to rank as any of these, you need to optimise them effectively in a particular way. For example, if you’ve seen that a competitor appears as a Featured Snippet in the form of a table, you could do the same. Add a table with simple columns for Google to understand. You might need to ask your technical team, like a developer or web expert, to tag the table up in a special code so that Google recognises it too.

Slow pages won’t rank

There are even things behind the screen, or behind the scenes, that can hugely affect your article’s ability to rank. Site or page speed is one of these factors. Google only ranks articles that are easy to load and easy to read for your user. So, you need to run checks, with the help of a technical specialist if you need to, to ensure your page is fast enough. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) to check your page’s performance.

This will tell you how fast your page is loading. You want it to be no slower than 3 seconds to fully load, or at least for the main text to start appearing. Google calls this the ‘First Contentful Paint’. If your page is slower than this, it will tell you suggested instructions you and your technical team to try out to improve the speed. Common causes of poor page load include images in the wrong format. But Google’s report will tell you.

Get the technical basics right

Here are the technical steps you cannot afford to ignore, otherwise your article won’t rank. Google needs to be able to find and read your page. Add it to your sitemap, which is a list of all your site pages that Google understands. To find this, enter your website into Google search and add “/sitemap.xml” at the end. If you get an error page, ask a technical specialist to build you a sitemap. Then, get them to add your page to it.

The final task is to make sure it is being indexed. That means Google must be able to read your page and store it to rank your article. If it can’t read it, it can’t rank it. You can ask a tech specialist to do this, but you should find your ‘SEO settings’ in your CMS and find the ‘Indexing’ option. It needs to be ticked to indicate Google can find your page, and you’ve got the basics to a well-ranking article.