As a digital marketing professional, I know it’s important to give bosses and clients what they want and also to stay current with the times, so I can craft my writing to fit whatever requirements are requested. In doing so though, I have discovered that there are a lot of misconceptions about what is good for content from an SEO-perspective.
So, I’m here to tell you today, that the following 15 “rules” for SEO-friendly content are absolutely bogus! (And yes, these are all requirements that I have either had personally or heard about from colleagues while they were writing content for various audiences.)
Using keywords too frequently will be viewed by search engines as keyword stuffing and can actually really hurt your SEO efforts.
2. Each keyword cannot be used more than once in each blog post.
While you don’t want to keyword stuff, if you have good keywords that are relevant to your content, the odds are that there will be more than one opportunity to use them in your content. The goal is to find a good balance between readability and SEO – using keywords where they naturally fit in without keeping a strict count is the best way to do that.
3. Keywords have to be used exactly as listed.
A keyword like “maid service Grand Rapids” is great, but it’s impossible to use in a sentence naturally. It’s not grammatically correct to say “This holiday season, call your local maid service Grand Rapids to clean your home!” When it comes to your SEO efforts, the search engines understand that while someone might search for “maid service Grand Rapids,” it isn’t likely to appear that way in content. Subsequently, they’ll give you credit for slight variations like “maid services in Grand Rapids” and “maid service of Grand Rapids.”
4. Language must be varied to avoid using the same words too often.
In the first point I cautioned against the perils of overusing keywords, but there are times when one term is just necessary to use frequently to convey your point. This is most often the case when talking about technology. For instance, one time I wrote a blog post for a client about the benefits of blogging and was given the feedback that I used the words “blog,” “blogging,” and “bloggers” too often in the article. But, there’s just no substitute for the word blog! So, if you look at your content and notice you use the same word, acronym or abbreviation frequently throughout the article because there’s just no better way to say it, then don’t worry about it because your target audience won’t mind and the search engines aren’t going to judge your creativity.
5. Keywords have to be spread perfectly throughout the content.
Obviously, you don’t want to use all of your keywords in the first or last couple of sentences. However, the notion that you have to use exactly 2 keywords per paragraph or ome other hard and fast rule when writing optimized content isn’t accurate.
6. Bulleted or numbered lists may not be used.
Unlike images, bulleted and numbered lists are just like any other text and can be read by search engines. Not only that, but readers like seeing information broken out into lists because it makes it easier for them to read and skim. Now that’s not to say that you should only have content in list form, but there’s no harm at all in using them from time to time.
7. Content should not be broken up by section headers.
Again, readers like anything that makes content easier to read. Section headers have the added benefit of not only breaking content into bite-sized pieces, but also informing readers at first glance of what the page is all about. This is why content headers are a win-win!
8. There cannot be more than two sentences per paragraph.
Two sentences does not a paragraph make! A famous philosopher once said that. Okay, so that was a lie, but this is just common sense. Like anything else, you don’t want to go too far. Breaking up content is important to entice readers by making it seem less scary. However, if you break up your content too much, then it won’t flow. Again, moderation is key.
9. Other informational sources cannot be quoted to avoid creating duplicate content.
I think this is the biggest content creation misconception today. Google has made such a point of cracking down on duplicate content that site owners are now afraid to have anything from anywhere else. Quoting a source is definitely allowed (provided that you cite it properly) and is a great way to enrich your content by bringing in another perspective to offer something valuable to readers.
10. At least three official sources must be referenced and linked to in every blog post.
Again, this is an example of taking an idea that is good in concept and adding a strict rule to it, which then makes it silly. Using official sources is great, but you don’t need to set a rule that it must always be the same number of sources. Do what feels natural for the particular piece that you’re writing. If it feels natural to just have one source – do it!
11. External linking should be to official government sources only.
This misconception is rooted in Google announcing that links to/from scholarly sources and official sites are viewed as valuable. However, while linking to a government page makes a lot of sense if you’re writing for a home builder, lawyer or tax preparation office, linking to a government page isn’t for everybody. Unless you have a real reason to be linking there, don’t do it just for the SEO benefit because it won’t fit your message.
12. Blog posts cannot be longer than 300 words.
Some people think blog posts have to be short or people won’t read them. However, the most important thing is to make sure that you use enough words to say what needs to be said. Don’t end your post just because you’re trying to hit an artificial word count cut-off. If you find your blog post getting really long, you can always break it up into segments and run a series!
13. Blog posts cannot be shorter than 600 words.
Alternatively, some people think that blog posts that are too short look like a cop out and couldn’t possibly add value for readers. Again, don’t stress about the word count. Find a topic you think would be beneficial to write about, and then… write about it. No matter how many words that takes, if it’s a good topic, then people will read it!
14. The primary intent of every piece of content should be to sell.
Content that is overly sales, tends to get ignored by readers. Instead, educate and inform your readers because by providing something of value to them, you’re more likely to earn their business.
15. A conclusion summarizing and recapitulating the post should be used to end it.
This is a leftover from the days of writing school reports where you had to have an introduction, the body and a conclusion. As my 8th grade Social Studies teacher used to say “#1 Tell us what you’re going to tell us. #2 Tell us. #3 Then tell us what you just told us.” If you have a conclusion, have one because you want to wrap up your piece with some key takeaways for readers or one last interesting thought. Don’t waste your time saying what you already said a second time, because readers will just skip it.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!