Best practices for writing SEO (Search Engine Optimised) content

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an important part of getting your website noticed by Google and other search engines. However, the landscape of SEO has changed dramatically over the past few years. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and endless link building, the focus these days is on making sure that the website author is writing good quality and relevant content for the target audience with a large emphasis on user experience.

With the latest Google Algorithm released on May 19th 2014, code-named Panda 4.0, now is a great time to reflect on your website and potentially attract new users and increase traffic to your website. However the question still remains as to how best to write optimised content. So, to help you out, we have compiled some guidelines for writing content.

Page Title

The page title is arguably the most important ranking factor available in terms of “on page” SEO.

The title tag is the headline of your page; it should highlight what the page is about, and should be a very brief summary. Ideally your title tag should be below 70 characters long as anything longer than this and search engines will not display it in its entirety within the search results.

You should also aim to put your target keywords as early as possible in the page title. This is for two reasons:

  1. Search engines put more weight on the early words – so if your keywords are near the start of the page title you are more likely to rank well.
  2. People scanning result pages see the early words first – if your keywords are at the start of your listing, your page is more likely to get clicked on.

The below is an example of the Wikipedia page for t-shirt which appears when you search for the term “tshirt”. The page title of this Wikipedia page is “T-shirt – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”, and it is a clear,concise summary of the page and website which enables users to clearly see what the page is about and the website which is serving this information.

Google Search result for t-shirt

Wikipedia result in Google serach results when searching for keyword “tshirt”

Page Title Best Practices from Google’s SEO Guide

  • Accurately describe the page’s content
    • Avoid choosing a title that has no relation to the content on the page.
    • Avoid using default or vague titles “untitled” or “New Page 1”.
  • Create unique title tags for each page
    • Avoid using a single title tag across your entire site’s page or a large group of pages.
  • Use brief, but descriptive titles
    • Avoid using extremely length titles that are unhelpful to users.
    • Avoid stuffing unneeded keywords into your title tags.


SEO Meta Description

The page’s description Meta tag is a summary of what the page is all about. Where this differs from the page title is the length – the description is intended to be there as a brief overview of the page, which provides more detail than the page title.

The description should ideally be around 160 characters and this description can be used as the content snippet below the search result. In the previous example, this is the text below the link which starts with “A T-shirt (T shirt or tee)….”

The description should be considered to be a brief, concise description which should be relevant to a user’s search and should give clues to the user as to the content of page so they can see whether or not your page matches what they are looking for.

Meta Description Best Practices from Google’s SEO Guide

  • Accurately summarise the page’s content
    • Avoid writing a Meta Description that has no relation to the content on the page.
    • Avoid using generic Meta Descriptions like “This is a web page” or “Page about…”.
    • Avoid filling the Meta Description with only keywords.
    • Avoid copying and pasting the entire content of the document into the Meta Description.
  • Use unique descriptions for each page
    • Avoid using the same Meta Description across all your site’s pages or a large group of pages.

On Page Content

The main content of the web page is the reason that people come to your website and the more interesting the content is and the more relevant it is, the more likely people are to revisit the website and the more likely they are to recommend your website to others.

The goal of this is to increase the amount of organic (not paid for) click throughs from search engine results and the best way to do this is with good quality content.

It is important to tailor your content to your target audience, so if there is any specialised terminology or content specific phrases or acronyms then be sure to include them where relevant.

On Page Content Best Practices from Google’s SEO Guide

  • Write easy-to-read text
    • Avoid writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes.
    • Avoid embedding text in images for textual content. Users may want to use the text and search engines cannot read the text.
  • Stay organised around the topic
    • Avoid dumping large amounts of text on varying topics on a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation.
  • Create fresh, unique content
    • Avoid rehashing or copying existing content as it will bring little extra value to other users.
    • Avoid having duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site.
  • Create content primarily for your users, not search engines
    • Avoid inserting numerous unnecessary keywords aimed at search engines which are annoying or nonsensical to users.
    • Avoid having blocks of text like “frequent misspellings used to reach this page” that add little value for users.
    • Avoid deceptively hiding text from users, but displaying it to search engines.

Other On Page Content

In addition to the main textual content, search engines also place a high level of importance on the headings.

There are six sizes of headings starting with H1 down to H6 with H1 being the most important.

Since these headings are displayed within the main content of the page, you should consider their function in regards to how search engines view them as well as how users would use the headings to find any relevant pieces of content on the page.

Google’s SEO guide suggests that headings are “a visual cue to users that this text is important and could help them understand something about the type of content underneath the heading text”.

It is advisable to use multiple heading sizes on your page to create a hierarchy to your content, which should make it easier for users to navigate through your written content.

Page Structure Best Practices from Google’s SEO Guide

  • Imagine you’re writing an outline
    • Avoid placing text in heading tags that wouldn’t be helpful in defining the structure of the page.
    • Avoid using headings where making them bold or more emphasised would be more appropriate.
    • Avoid erratically moving from one heading tag size to another.
  • Use headings sparingly across the page
    • Avoid excessively using heading tags throughout the page.
    • Avoid putting all of the page’s text into a heading tag.
    • Avoid using heading tags only for styling text and not presenting structure.

The general theme of all of the above guidelines is that you should be writing good content aimed at the customer rather than writing specific content for Search Engines, nearly all of the best ranked articles on the majority of any given topic will be written with the customer first with SEO as an after thought and this appears to be the route that Google would like everyone to take.

External Resources

Google’s SEO guide