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Best free SEO tools #2: writing for the web

Last time out, we looked at using the Keyword Planner to find out what search terms your potential customers are using to find businesses like yours. We introduced the idea of deploying your keyword on unique pages for each service or product to give you a stronger chance of being found online.

What we only touched on is that you require good original content to actually fill your pages. The Panda algorithm that came out in 2011 was intentionally designed to weed out websites with “poor quality” and “thin” content.

That means you’re going to want at least 300-400 words of quality content on each product or service that your company offers. So strap yourself in for the facts about writing good basic web copy, because your content is your advertising and sales assistant in one.


Good web copy: the basics

There’s three particularly important factors to consider when you are writing text for a website: quality, clarity, and originality. We’ll go into each factor in more detail shortly, but for an initial idea, here’s a summary of the reasons:

  • Quality: essential for search engine assessment and user confidence
  • Clarity: important for the diverse range of readers you will (hopefully!) attract
  • Originality: vital for reducing search competition and ranking better

With those concepts introduced, let’s get cracking on how you can optimise your content.


How to write “quality” web content

You don’t need to worry if you aren’t a particularly gifted writer. The idea of “quality” content is simply tied to the trustworthiness of your site.

If you follow this link to the Google Webmaster Central Blog on “high-quality websites”, you’ll find a bullet point list midway down your page. These bullets explain what Google are looking for in terms of content, and it’s basically the question “does the content describe a professional company?”

So, bust out the spellchecker or ask for help from someone you know who has a half-decent eye for typos and you’ll be okay. Just remember the basic structure of the perfectly optimised page (below) and write natural content about your services.

The Perfectly Optimised Page

In this case, the keyword phrase is “dog grooming”:

 The Perfectly Optimised Page

Clarity: the importance of structure and simplicity

So, how do you write clearly for an online audience? In the digital age, we quickly learned a couple of simple facts about Internet users:

  1. They have very little patience (see “tl;dr” for details)
  2. More and more of them are online every year

These two facts have two repercussions for you as a website owner. First, you have to get to the point quickly and clearly. Second, you have to write in a way that is accessible by a large number of people.


Facts: Britain and the Internet

  • 76% of adults in Great Britain accessed the Internet every day in 2014
  • 84% of households had Internet access in 2014
  • 16% of adults in England are “functionally illiterate” and read at the level of an 11-year-old

Sources: 

Office for National Statistics

National Literacy Trust

These figures show that a huge majority of the UK population are online, and a significant percentage of British Internet users are not great at reading. There are several things that can be done to help low-literacy readers, but the two most important actions are:

  1. Simplify the text
  2. Prioritise information

How to write simpler web content with Hemingway

Create some text for your new page and paste it into Hemingway. In the screengrab below, I’ve used some writing by Victorian-era novelist Henry James ( The New Novel, 1914) because he’s known for writing very wordy text.

Hemingway screen 1

What you’ll see is your text highlighted in several different colours. The main areas to watch for are the yellow and red blocks. These highlight sentences that are “complex”, typically because there are too many subjects or clauses for clear reading.

Let’s look at the first sentence by Mr James – I’ve bolded the nouns to show how complex the sentence is:

“The effect, if not the prime office, of criticism is to make our absorption and our enjoyment of the things that feed the mind as aware of itself as possible, since that awareness quickens the mental demand, which thus in turn wanders further and further for pasture.”

In that one (incredibly long) sentence, we see around 11 nouns jostling for the reader’s attention. Someone who is dyslexic or speaks English as a second language may have a really difficult time pulling out the meaning. So let’s try simplifying the text a little, like this:

“The main purpose of criticism is to sharpen our understanding of why we enjoy intellectual pursuits. If we increase this awareness, our mind learns to embrace more concepts.”

Hemingway screen grade 10

It’s maybe not as elegant as Henry James, but we see an instant improvement. Now, the text is split over two sentences, and neither of them are rated “complex” even though they still describe some quite lofty ideas.


Avoiding plagiarism: web content writer tips

Okay: we’ve looked at clarity. But what about originality? Well, an unfortunate practice of some small business owners is to “copy-and-paste” text from another source into their website. There are a variety of reasons for using third-party content:

  • Lack of time
  • Poor writing ability
  • Downright laziness!

People sometimes take info they like from a competitor and alter the company name to “make it their own”. Or perhaps they use brochure content because nobody can describe a product better than the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, by using content from elsewhere, you are automatically encouraging a lower ranking than original content. To paraphrase what a Google employee said in their Webmaster Central Blog, “how the heck are you going to outrank Amazon if you’re providing the exact same listing?”

Using the Plagiarism Checker by Small Seo Tools will let you ensure that your page content does not accidentally resemble content on another website. Once you finish your new page content (now with added clarity!) simply paste it into the window of the app:

Plagiarism Checker

After that, you just need to fill out the Captcha form (between the heavy advertising) and click “Check for Plagiarism”…

 Captcha

You’ll then see the Plagiarism Checker swing into action. It will scan select lines of text one by one, and finally deliver an assessment of the percentage of “Unique content”. 100% is good, 0% is bad.

        Plagiarism Checker 0 results

As an added bonus, you can also verify any claim that content is “Existing” by clicking on the text that is flagged in red. In this case, I have clicked on the first sentence about criticism’s “prime office”:

Google search

You’ll then get a list of Google results of the offending text. Here, it has found the Henry James quote on both Wikiquote (where I took it from) and an online journal of lit crit. Notice how both results carry the date of publication – this is why copying content simply will not work.

If you find duplicate content in your page copy, all it takes after that is to rework the text into something that still carries a similar message but uses different words. Then check again and again until you get a result of “100% Unique”.


Coming soon: our guide to Google Webmaster Tools

Thanks for reading part two of our blog on the best free SEO tools. Next time, we’ll look at how to get the most out of Google Webmaster Tools. Feel free to bookmark our blog page or check in on our social media pages.

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