This article was written by a robot. It took me (the robot) about two milliseconds to do. A source here, a source there, add some artificial intelligence and done. You can also hire me to write articles for your website. Then together we can fool Google and get you higher in the ranking. Are you still hiring content creators? That’s a thing of the past! I am much faster, cheaper, and I never miss a deadline.
The content robots are coming
To be clear, the paragraph above was actually written by a flesh and blood human. But the idea isn’t completely fabricated. So-called content creation robots are slowly gaining traction. They are artificial intelligence apps that create coherent stories based on data input. For example, they might create a recap of a sports event or report on a company’s stock performance.
Stories that follow a formula
So what does one of those robot articles look like? A great example is this football game summary in The Washington Post. The sentences make sense, the grammar is solid, and the story has a logical structure.
For now, that’s the strong suit of content creation robots: they can take standardized data and turn it into a neutral and coherent story. It’s bots like these that allow media sources like news agency AP to boost their editorial output for the web with dozens of additional reports each day.
What about creative writing?
Writing sports coverage is one thing, but what about stories that follow a less rigid formula? What if the article requires more substance? I (a human) decided to test it out using one of many automated content creators: Articoolo. I entered “What is love?”
I was hoping the bot would respond with “Baby, don’t hurt me” (here’s that 90’s hit, in case you missed it), then I would have packed up my pen and left the writing to our automated friends. Instead, the app produced a mediocre article about how to get rid of your love handles.
How do automated content creators affect your SEO?
My “What is love?” question was admittedly a bit cheesy. There plenty of humans who wouldn’t be able to answer it either. Perhaps a content robot is better suited to answer practical questions, like “How can I get rid of my love handles?”
Definitely don’t use the robot article listed above, though. I googled the first sentence (“To think that the flabby area on the sides of your tummy…”) and saw the exact same thing on six different websites. Google mercilessly punishes that kind of plagiarism: your article won’t appear in the top 20 results of a search query.
There are definitely content robots that are able to pass the plagiarism test, especially when creating content in English.
What does that mean for your content marketing? Soon, bots should be able to create (low quality) SEO articles to help boost your Google ranking. It’s a way to trick the search engine. Of course, the company’s mission is to offer its users the best possible results, not old content that has been rehashed without any new insights.
Use automation as a boost for your own creativity
Neither Google nor your visitors care whether a mediocre article was written by a robot or a human. Either way, it’s a boring piece of content.
Website owners who still rely on content mills will begin to experience competition from content robots. In the battle for attention, giants like Amazon will take an even bigger lead, since their sheer scale makes it easy to take advantage of content automation.
A smarter move is to consider the human side of your organization when creating your content marketing strategy. What kind of unique insights and experiences are your employees willing to share? That could lead to fewer, but stronger articles.
Of course, it’s wise to use artificial intelligence to improve the quality of your human-written articles. During the writing process, Textmetrics offers live insights and tips about the readability and discoverability of your text. The tool can also help you identify keywords that are of interest to your target audience. That way you let a robot handle what it does best, while you stay in control of content and creativity.
Curious to know how Textmetrics used big data-analysis to create better content and to draw more traffic to your website? Get a 30-day free trial.
Very few people read a text from A to Z. They scan. And if they don’t find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible, they’ll tune out. As a marketer, writer, or owner of a webshop, it’s in your best interest to write straightforward content that is compelling and easy to scan. In this article, you’ll discover a simple checklist to help you improve the readability of your web texts.
Basic rule: write for your typical visitor
Of course, it’s important for people to find your content via Google. But ultimately it’s your typical visitor who decides whether to buy your product or service. That’s why you should always write with your visitors in mind:
- Who are your visitors?
- How do your visitors want to be addressed?
- What kind of questions do your visitors have?
- How can you answer them as quickly as possible?
Tip: Focus completely on your visitors, but use a helpful tool to make sure your text complies with SEO requirements.
Lay out your article’s subject
A novel might have a pages-long and mysterious opening scene, but the average website visitor tends to tune out after an incoherent intro.
Make sure you always lay out clearly what the reader can expect. And be honest. Making promises in the intro that you don’t follow through on, is bound to backfire.
Pay attention to typography
‘Goofy’ fonts are distracting, so be sure not to use them unless they serve a clear purpose. The website fontpair.co offers beautiful font combinations that are easy to read on any device. Even better is to call upon a designer to help you out.
Font size, line spacing, and paragraph width are all important factors in readability. It’s often better to steal something good than invent something bad, so find inspiration on other websites with great typography, like medium.com or aiga.org.
Visitors scanning your website want to see what an article is about in the blink of an eye. That makes it important to use subtitles.
For longer text, it’s important to add some hierarchy:
- Announce chapters with a subtitle (H2).
- Chapter sections call for a smaller subtitle (H3).
Keep paragraphs short
Big chunks of text are hard to scan. The book A Writer’s Reference suggests an average paragraph length of 100 to 200 words. That should be much shorter for online text! Many of your visitors will be reading your content on their smartphones. In that case, a paragraph length of three to five sentences is ideal.
Use bullet points
The benefits of using bullet points:
- scannable for your readers;
- easier to differentiate;
- information is easier to retain.
But make sure only to use bullet point lists when they add value to the content!
Avoid passive voice
Describe ‘who’ is doing what.
The gutter will be cleaned.
Our specialist will clean your gutter.
Using words like ‘maybe’ or ‘a little’ tend to tone down your message to your readers. Aim to avoid soft language as much as possible.
Alternate shorter and longer sentences
No one loves to read endless meandering sentences loaded with commas. But too short can be equally hard to read. Be sure to alternate short and long sentences to avoid those issues. Consider reading your text out loud to yourself. That can be a great way to decide whether it has a good flow.
This article covered how to compose a clear-cut text for the web.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
- An intro that explains what the article is about.
- Easy-to-read letter type, font size, and line spacing.
- Use subtitles for each new topic.
- Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of 3-5 sentences.
- Use bullet points when they add value.
- Avoid passive voice (should/would/could).
- Avoid weak language (maybe/a little).
- Alternate short and long sentences.
And most importantly of all:
Always write with your typical visitor in mind.
(And leave the SEO part up to Textmetrics! Our editor offers automated hints to help optimize your pages for Google. The Text Conversion Optimizer module
analyses your content and helps you increase the readability of your text and improves the chance of conversion.)
Have you ever stumbled upon a website with endless paragraphs of text, hard-to-complete forms (information incomplete – what do you mean?!), unclear navigation (where am I supposed to click?!), or annoying pop-ups?
Sometimes – for example on some government websites – you have no other option but to click and scroll your way through the chaos in frustration. On other (commercial) sites there is less room for grace: high time to go check out the competition.
That means that user-friendliness – often called UX (User Experience) – is essential to any website’s success. Not only because you want visitors to stick around and explore your website, but also to increase the number of people finding your website in Google searches.
In this article, you’ll read the five most important reasons why UX has a huge impact on your SEO (search engine optimization – a way to rank as high as possible in organic search results.)
1. Google is getting smarter every day
Google likes to offer its searchers the best possible results. That’s their way to guarantee that people will keep using their search engine, in turn allowing the company to sell more ads.
Traditionally the search engine powerhouse would aim for two criteria to determine how high a page would rank in search results:
- How relevant is the content on a page to the search query? Is the search term featured on the page?
- How many other pages link contain links to this particular page? Are they trustworthy sources (for example news organizations)?
These factors are still in play. But Google’s artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms (like RankBrain) are becoming more sophisticated and now take page layout and time spent on a page into consideration. Google hasn’t released the exact number of criteria or how they are weighted, but the company has hinted in a variety of publications that user-friendliness is a significant factor.
2. Visitors want a website that’s quick to navigate
A user-friendly site starts with accessibility. Nobody wants to wait multiple seconds for a website to fully load. As mobile internet (with its often slower connections) continues to grow in popularity, a website’s load speed has become an even more important ranking factor.
Equally important is that visitors find it intuitive to navigate to other relevant pages on your site.
3. Visitors want a beautiful and structured page layout
The user-friendliness of each individual page is even more important. A few points to keep in mind:
- Is the page content visually attractive?
- Is the layout distracting from the content?
- Is the text pleasant to read (font size, spacing)?
- Is the text easy to scan thanks to paragraph headers?
- Are visitors encouraged to click through (call-to-action, links to other pages)?
4. Ask your visitors for feedback & test the changes you make
There isn’t one golden rule for the ideal user-friendly website. There are just too many differences between sectors and user preferences for the solution to be straightforward. That’s why there are two ways to find out what your website’s visitors want.
Ask (potential) customers what they think about your site
The easiest way is simply to ask. How do they experience your site? Are they having an easy time finding information? Is the content attractive, do they want to return for more? For large-scale research, you can use e-mail campaigns and feedback widgets like UserVoice of Getsatisfaction.
A more affordable and small-scale solution is to approach customers in person. A few good conversations can quickly lead you to several points of improvement.
Test out changes to your site
Have you changed your site navigation or the design of your blogs? Test out how that impacts the average visitor time, the number of clicks on your call-to-action (for example a “contact us” button), and your ranking in Google search results. That way you can find out whether the changes you make have their desired effect.
TIP: Textmetrics analyzes data from tens of thousands of texts and compares them to Google search results. That way you get real-time tips about what does and doesn’t work in the optimisation of website texts.
5. UX is for your customer, not the search engine
We’ll leave you with a reminder that you should never optimize your website with Google in mind. Do it for your customers in the first place, because:
- they are the ones who decide whether your website is user-friendly and whether they want to make a purchase (or click on any other CTA);
- if you try to get by using tricks and hacks, any future update of the Google algorithm could potentially destroy your ranking.
Conclusion: a user-friendly website will rank higher on Google
Don’t postpone any efforts to make your website more user-friendly, because:
- your customers will make purchases sooner and rate your brand more highly;
- Google will reward you with a higher ranking.
Essentials for UX:
- a quick page load speed;
- clarity in navigation;
- well-structured page content;
- a visually attractive layout.
Don’t forget to ask your visitors what they do and don’t like about your site and test the results whenever you make changes.
Textmetrics is a great place to get started: as you write, this smart tool gives you live tips on how to optimize your content for Google. You don’t need any prior knowledge of SEO. And… you can try Textmetrics for free for the first 30 days!
Sometimes it seems like you need to invest significant capital to rank even the slightest bit higher in Google’s search results. And while quality costs money, of course, the complexity of search engine optimization tends to get over-exaggerated by marketing agencies: there’s actually plenty you can do on your own as a small business owner. In this article, you’ll read more about the most pervasive SEO myths and how to debunk them.
What is SEO and what can I use it for?
Before we tackle the myths, let’s get a little background on the term.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy to get (certain pages of) your website to rank higher in the search results of relevant queries.
The effects of SEO can take months or even a year to become apparent. That is quite the opposite to paid advertising with Google (SEA). The advantage of SEO is that the results are much more long-term. Once your website holds a certain ‘authority’, you’ll benefit from that continuously.
Scoring in relevant searches
‘Ranking high on Google’ is too vague. What you really want is to rank high in searches that are relevant to your business.
For a building company in Paris, for example, you would want to reach the top 5 for ‘home renovation Paris’. That query indicates a high intent to purchase. But you can also create content for searches with the intent to inform. For example, a blog post titled ‘How do I renovate my home myself?’ Anyone who then still considers it too difficult can hire your company after all.
Ready for the SEO myths?
Every business owner or website operator can start their search engine optimization today. How did the notion develop that SEO is “too complicated” or “doesn’t yield enough results”? The pervasive myths below play a major role in those misconceptions:
Myth #1: Google has stopped paying attention to search terms
If we had a euro for every time we heard someone declare the death of SEO, we would be millionaires many times over by now. Where did that myth originate? It likely has something to do with this:
Keyword stuffing died (forever ago!)
Once upon a time, when MySpace still reigned over the social media landscape, when you could still get away with building a website in Flash, some webmasters discovered a clever trick to rank as high as possible in Google searches.
You would simply include your chosen keyword as often as possible on one page in a piece of text that was mostly quite difficult to read. For example:
“Renovate home in Paris? We renovate homes in Paris! Renovating your home is very important to have a beautifully renovated home.”
Thankfully these kinds of texts no longer work. Website visitors aren’t waiting for that, so Google now penalizes those practices.
Use search terms in a relevant way
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should no longer use search terms at all. Simply use them in the context they were originally meant for: to indicate an article’s content. It’s also clever to incorporate a few synonyms in the body of your text. You might want to make use of handy software that indicates whether you’re implementing search terms correctly, real-time while you write.
Myth #2: Search term analysis is too complicated
With a search term or search word analysis you investigate how often your potential customers search for a specific term and how much competition that word has. It’s a combination of psychology and technique. It doesn’t actually call for any magic, despite what some marketing agencies might try to tell you. The myth likely grew out of those agencies’ revenue models.
A savvy business owner understands what his customers want to know. Consider the questions you encounter through contact with your clients or on social media. Have you addressed those in a blog post yet?
The psychological element of search term analysis is not exactly complicated. You might enjoy a little extra help with the technical side of things, though. (How often do people search for a certain term? What are potential alternative search words?) But it doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive external party. A simple tool for search query analysis can make a significant difference.
Myth #3: Search term analysis doesn’t yield enough results
Anyone starting out with SEO can get easily discouraged by the enormous competition. As a small web shop or business owner, your chances of getting ahead of a major competitor are quite slim.
SEO is much more involved than just the objective of your article. Your website’s ‘authority’ is also an important factor. How often do you feature high-quality content? How long has your website been around? How many other trustworthy websites reference your content?
In that sense, it’s tricky to get ahead of mega companies like Bol.com, for example. That doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel. It’s precisely in niche areas that you have plenty of options.
Let’s say you sell athletic shoes:
‘Adidas soccer shoes’
You’ll run into quite a lot of competition for that one.
‘Which soccer shoes does Messi wear?’
Your odds are higher already.
‘Which soccer shoes does Robben wear?’
The power of smart search query analysis as a small business owner lies in identifying so-called long tail keywords. Those are search terms that are less frequently searched, but that can help you rank above your competitors.
Conclusion: SEO is still relevant and can be DIYed
Google still pays attention to SEO, you can use a practical tool to conduct your own keyword analysis, and the results are worthwhile, even for small business owners. That means we can all happily banish these common SEO myths to the realm of fairy tales.
Have you ever posted an article on LinkedIn, your website, or newsletter that reached hundreds or even thousands of people? And did that lead to more messages from (potential) clients than usual? Then you understand how strong the influence of content marketing can be.
For many entrepreneurs, things never get beyond this type of one-hit wonder. They don’t really have a structured plan to lift their content to a higher level. But that’s exactly the kind of thing that leads to more clients and higher revenue.
Luckily content marketing isn’t rocket science. If you follow the steps outlined here, you can easily reach your commercial goals as a website owner, online marketer, or writer.
Stop being noncommittal
‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.’ – Stephen King.
Perhaps one of the most important misconceptions about coming up with great content: you need to wait for inspiration to come to you. Creative ideas come and go. Often they pop up once you’ve already started the work. But before we get to the creative process, first consider your reasons for doing this.
What’s the goal of your content marketing? Do you want to:
- Directly sell products or services through your website?
- Connect with new clients or prospects?
- Collect more information about your customers?
- Create loyalty with existing clients?
- Increase name recognition or brand recognition?
Chances are that you’re aiming for a combination of the goals listed above. Consider which of these objectives are most important for you at this moment and which part of your content should reinforce that goal.
Create time to create content
The next step is to estimate how much time this is going to cost you. Great articles, infographics, social media posts, and videos aren’t just quickly created as an aside.
Will you be creating your own content? Free up a full day exclusively for content creation. At the end of the day, evaluate how much you’ve created. You can even request the same of your colleagues and employees.
If you’re planning to hire a professional (copywriter, illustrator, voice-over talent), they’ll be able to give you a sense of the timing involved. Ideally, you’ll be working ahead a bit, so you can avoid stress as you approach your deadline.
Anticipate important moments in your sector
Which month of the year is your busiest time? December? Chances are pretty high you won’t have the time to create much content that month. Too bad, since it’s probably also a time that draws new clients. That makes it extra important to plan ahead. Make a list of all the important events and times in your field, then brainstorm ways to create content in advance.
Make a (provisional) content calendar
Now you know your objectives for content and the time involved in creating it. Time to make a (temporary) content calendar with built-in deadlines. No more vague plans. Date by date, write down what kind of content (article/infographic/blog/podcast) you’re planning to make and what its objective is.
Always prepared with good ideas
Where do you find the inspiration to fill your content calendar? Trying to come up with ideas at the last minute (a day before the deadline) is not a great idea. Keep a large supply of ideas handy that you can draw from as needed.
Store interesting articles
You’re probably already interested in and following a diverse selection of media, connected to your field or sector (and if not: start doing so right away!). You’ll often run into an article that makes you stop and think, “Hey, that’s interesting.” It’s the perfect input for you to write something about. But will you still remember it months later? Bookmark every interesting article with tools like Pocket or Google Keep. Make a little note about why it was interesting to you and what you’d like to do with it down the line.
Start with your clients’ problems
Your product or service resolves an issue for your clients. So instead of bragging about how amazing your products are, dive a little deeper into your clients’ perspective. Pinpoint one aspect that occupies them. Not coming up with any great ideas off the top of your head? Take a look around on the Facebook groups, review sites, YouTube channels, or online forums where your target audience spends their time.
Don’t forget to look outside the border. For example, what kinds of questions are people asking on Quora about your line of business?
Keep an eye on the competition
It’s wrong to steal content, of course. But it can’t hurt to look around at your biggest competitors and which search terms they’re aiming for. Textmetrics can give you an automatic overview of your main competition. Thanks to the ‘inspiration module’, you’ll find popular articles about your subject matter. That will likely inspire you to write about your own experiences or to record a video with a slightly different perspective.
Don’t get stuck in your own vocabulary
A significant stumbling block for experts writing about their area of expertise: using words that are too difficult to understand. What you call an ‘operational lease’, your client might just call a ‘company car’.
That’s why it’s important to always research alternative search terms for your content. With Textmetrics keyword analysis, you can easily find alternatives, and you’ll get an immediate overview of how often people search for a certain term and how much competition you have from other websites.
Conclusion: great content starts with great preparation
Everyone writes a great blog post once in a while. But business owners who want to stay top-of-mind with their clients:
- Formulate goals for their content marketing.
- Make time, or hire the right people for the job.
- Create a publishing schedule (content calendar).
- Collect ideas 24/7.
- Use tools to identify their clients’ search queries.
Don’t forget to make your content SEO-proof!
Textmetrics offers you tips to optimize your content for Google real-time while you’re writing. So prior knowledge of SEO isn’t necessary. And… you can try out Textmetrics free of charge for the first 30 days!