February 1, 2023 | Robert Campbell
Experienced writers with over a hundred pieces of published content will probably have one article that outperforms all others. Throw spaghetti at the wall and some of it will stick. But once you’ve learned what works you don’t need to toss wet noodles around anymore. You can be more strategic with your content marketing.
Publishing a story that becomes a busy webpage has the added bonus of teaching the author what worked so they can replicate their success in the future. Their Google Analytics’ data will have clues to help them pinpoint what caused the content to rank so well in search engines?
Very often the answer boils down to one word – usability. The SEO Department at KPDI shares these tips to help writers craft viral content.
- What characterizes a popular magazine article?
- How does Google measure usability?
- Focus on delivering solutions to problems.
- Structure content with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
- Employ transition words like first, and finally.
- Use related keywords rather than keyword stuffing
- Expert articles are often longer than readers expect.
- Hint at archetypal stories that pique human interest.
What characterizes a successful magazine article?
Some of the basic tenants and common denominators of popular content include,
- 1) Title tag that’s curiously intriguing but contains the query most readers will search to find the piece.
- 2) Sub headers that are equally compelling but also accurately reflect the information being offered.
- 3) Original images and how they’re promoted after the article is published can garner more readers.
- 4) Other attractions like data-rich charts, quotes, and video embeds can keep readers occupied a few minutes longer than competitors’ web pages on the same subject.
- 5) Reader’s behaviour should be enthusiastic. Top ranked articles have lots of comments and interactivity. Whatever actions the readers take while engaging with the page and how they leave the web page are probably the most important factors.
Search engines appreciate original pictures and informative header in attractive layouts, but the real secret is human usability. If readers spend more time and take more actions consuming your content than other submissions on the same subject, than your offering will soon rank higher and be found for more and better queries. Success begets success. Once an article is a top ranked ‘solution’ on pg1 of Google for a popular query, it’s hard to dislodge because it becomes a known quantity with lots of positive usability data attributing to its presence..
After twenty years of serving up high quality search results, Google knows what it’s doing and so it’s no longer possible to exploit loopholes with anything except good content. Keyword stuffing, comment spam, and link farming to make false domain authority are Black Hat tactics that will fail and cost the publisher their time, money and reputation. Making synthetic social media accreditations (10,000 fake Twitter users will tweet a link to your article), or cloaking (a bait & switch) by using sneaky redirects will not succeed. The takeaway is that if the article is terrible, there isn’t much anyone can do to increase its performance except by rewriting and improving the offering. Content was King, twenty years ago, but now the internet is so saturated with information on every subject it’s usability that reigns supreme.
How does Google measure Usability?
Once the search engine’s cache bots and corresponding central processor have determined your article’s focus, another system checks to see if your writing pleases anyone searching for the proferred information. To make this determination, Google applies the hard test of usability. It asks, does the content satisfy search queries? Which queries? Three top factors Google considers when determining a page’s usability are,
Time-on-Page is core to user experience. Any webmaster can view their user’s behaviour in their monthly Google Analytics report to determine if the article is being read and how well its being digested. If the users’ time on page is less than thirty-seconds, it’s unlikely they are consuming much of the content. Good articles should keep readers on the page for five minutes or more, but then what?
Pages per Visit tells Google if the web visitor has taken any other action on the magazine’s website, and whether they found any other page as exciting. Did they leave a comment? Watch a video? Download a PDF? Sign-up for an email newsletter? Or visit any other page? Or did they simply come back to the search engine and continue their hunt for information? This data is reflected in the Behaviour section of Google Analytics as the average Pages-per-Visit score. SEO practitioners like to see any number above 1.33 pages per visit.
Bounce Rate is a real acid test in our frenetic society. Users are finicky and will know if what they’re seeking is available on the page in a few seconds. If they leave in a hurry without taking any actions, it’s considered a Bounce, and this is what Google most hopes to avoid. The search giant likes to satisfy users quickly and save people from endlessly querying. The rate at which visitors leave your website unsatisfied is measured out of 100 and listed as a percentage Bounce Rate. If your content has greater than eighty percent Bounce Rate, it’s unlikely it will rank on pg1 of Google for popular queries unless all your competitors are also serving up equally repellant material.
Conversion rate, as a Key Performance Indicator is not something magazine authors are usually forced to consider, but it’s the primary factor in Google’s calculations regarding the quality of the solution being offered. Seeking the best answer to trending queries is what Google does in its spare time. There exists a well-known sub-routine wherein the search giant promotes and then measures pages.
Some SEO agencies call this test period The Ride. Webmasters with lots of content may notice readership spike on stories they have recently improved and promoted in social media. They are thrilled and want to believe their web improvements were successful, only to find, ten days later, the piece has returned to its regular spot and accrues the same amount of readers as before the work. What happened? The content was probably given The Ride and after being promoted, and tested, it failed to outperform the other contenders and was summarily returned to its usual habitat.
Google gives sites The Ride as part of its own mandate to find and serve the best solutions to queries. The Ride has caused many web marketing agencies to dispense premature high-fives, only to have their SEO heroes hang their heads in shame later that same month.
All tactics employed to increase the success of published material in search engines can be boiled down to two fundamental considerations; raising human satisfaction with the text, or, making it easier for Google to categorize and quantify the content. Doing both is optimal.
Adding a proper Meta Description is a good example of doing both; composing a perfect 156-character synopsis for an article and listing all the juicy parts will attract more potential readers when displayed in search engines, and thus beget more data which could show Google that the article has a higher usability score and is therefore a better solution than competitors’ content.
Focus on Delivering Solutions to Problems
In our modern age, nobody has time to mess around, and both humans and cache bots respect articles that state their intentions earlier in the text and deliver on their promises. Inside the document, each paragraph or section should also have a defined purpose. Glossy magazine commentaries that once tried to impart an emotion, or a human experience, must now dispense more practical information like original quotes, data charts and price guides – expert considerations related to people, places, and products. Furthermore, writers should hint at all this rare and special information in the subtitles.
Focusing content usually means adding specific words – so for example, an article for an outdoors magazine entitled Fishing the Trent would attract more readers by adding for Muskellunge and a better geographic identifier like Stirling, Ontario. The new title: Fishing for Musky in the Trent River near Stirling, would exponentially broaden the search market. Cute titles carry no favor at all; in the old days that same piece might have been styled, Sunny Days on the Trent and be more experience-driven, but that headline would get no traffic from search engines as few people hunt online for sunny days.
Beyond the article’s main focus, writers should ask, what nuances are probably also popular queries? One good and free way to see what people are asking is to simply search popular keywords in Google followed by a question mark. Try it. Search: Fishing for Musky? And scroll down to the People also ask featured content window on Google:
People also ask helps the article write itself. The questions posed here can shape the piece with regards to the sport and the public’s appetite for details. The writer is
made aware of a demand for information about the bait required, and the boat’s placement in the river, and proper fishing techniques. Each of these facets will become the focus of a
paragraph with a sub header which addresses the specific information. To lengthen the piece, and thereby become an authority on the subject, repeat the inspirational search with a question
mark behind Trent River, Stirling, and musky baits in order to find out what people most ask with regards to those sub topics.
Structure content with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
To write satisfying and highly digestible content, writers should stick to the essay structure they learned in high school. This means that every article should have,
- 1. Introduction to the topic, problem, or intriguing scenario.
- 2. Body text where solutions are presented under sub headers.
- 3. Conclusion where solutions are summarized.
A good exercise for writers to perform before they begin an editorial is to record in a few sentences, the contents of all three sections. This is essentially the third phase because it becomes the summary of the article. Doing this helps writers craft a structured and readable document from inception.
Proper headings help humans navigate text and help robots categorize the content so they can serve it up as a possible solution to a user query in the future. Writing for humans and robots requires real skill because the author must keep human readers interested while dressing in keywords related to popular search queries in the article’s sub-headers and in ALT text behind the photos.
Good copywriters know that headers have weight, and they respect header hierarchies; the h1 headline is always followed by an h2 sub header, and never an h3 or h4 (check the pop-up as poorly formatted messages can break the header hierarchy). The headers should descend naturally. because any jumps confuse the cache bot scraping information and prioritizing data. Some web designers erroneously lay out pages aesthetically, using h2’s wantonly because of their size and shape, but this destroys the hierarchy being presented and the result is that readers and bots become confused and Google will seek alternative sources.
Employ transition words like first, and finally.
Good copywriters employ well-known transition words and clauses which are slightly cliché but that aspect goes unnoticed because they work to help readers navigate the text. Common signals like, ‘first of all’; ‘secondly’ and ‘finally’ and also words like ‘however’, ‘similarly’ and ‘for example,’ give clear signals to readers where they are in the grand scheme of things. Users expect a conclusion to follow words like ‘therefore’, or ‘in summary’. Transition words help structure text. But they don’t help robots per say. They do however increase human satisfaction, and that leads to longer read-times which begets a higher usability score.
Use related keywords rather than keyword stuffing.
Stuffing the body copy of your document with your SEO focus words makes the article harder to read and lowers usability which hurts search engine rankings. Do not deploy the focus keyword in every other sentence. One of the ways that Google contextually processes text is by recognizing synonyms and other words that are related to the subject. That’s why writers should use synonyms and related terms throughout the copy while reserving the best and most searched words for the title and sub headers. Synonyms are relatively easy to generate, but selecting the right focus is more challenging.
Expert articles are usually longer than readers expect
To be considered the authority on any subject requires a minimum twelve-hundred words. Google likes longer articles but there must be breaks and sub headers because big blocks of text will discourage time-sensitive readers. Use pictures and headers and block quotes to break up the presentation. Academic writers should study a sports’ writers approach and learn how to compose short sentences to make clear impactful writing. If creating sponsored content with an eye on click-through-rate, put the paid links near related pictures at the top of the document.
To lengthen articles, explore the nuances of a subject without diluting the focus. Crafting longer articles could mean changing the title to be more accommodating. Fishing the Trent for Musky might need to be surgically altered to include Pike in order to add another six hundred words. The takeaway is that success is measured by keeping readers on page for more than five minutes.
If the magazine has already published content on the same topic as your current article, it’s helpful to root out and link to the older document and additionally, to go into that aged content and add a link to your new piece. This cross-connection sends a strong signal to Google that the latest submission is part of a content community which is authoritative. Plus it shares page authority which begets a higher overall domain authority score. SEO practitioners call the practice Internal Linking, and both the magazine’s readers and Google will appreciate the extra effort. The search giant likes it because it helps them manage content and understand the relationship between different subjects.
Hint at archetypal stories to pique human interest.
Sometimes SEO is about sparking human interest to compel visitors to read everything to the end. This is done by adding some spicy notes and channeling the power of Story. Human brains need stories like our bodies need food and water. Dry stock reports benefit from a hint of conflict, or a rags-to-riches beat, or suggestions of a fall from grace, or a boy-meets-girl corporate merger. The universal appeal of a good archetypal narrative never dies, and curious readers will slough through all manner of data-rich text to learn if the oppressed get vengeance, or if s lonely man wins love, or the fate of the monster. Even the driest content can benefit from a hint of Story, and this is where real writers shine.
To report Acme’s annual revenue as X is okay, but to say they’re beating Y and losing to Z, makes the information far more interesting, and possibly more useful. A previously overlooked destination that’s now thriving is more worthy of press than a plain jane commercial success without any real context. Don’t ignore the rags-to-riches story lying just under the surface. Readers will consume everything while looking for more clues to better understand the root-myth. Knowing and teasing readers with classic set-ups will engender more satisfaction in the payoff.
Promotion is critical for breathing life into valuable content.
Publishing is not the end of the job. Social media is more than just a catalyst for getting readers and gathering data (hopefully positive). Social signals validate content in terms of its authenticity and usefulness. If several well-known social entities retweet, like, and share the URL to your article, it signals Google that the content has real value for that audience.
YouTube is especially good at adding another layer of information to text documents. Linking from the descriptions is fine but embedding videos transforms contextual presentations into rich media. The videos usability is added to the page score.
Good web writers deliver solutions in well-conceived, easy digested packages with original images and which are longer than competitor’s offerings and which they promote afterwards.