On-page SEO optimisation is the practice of ensuring that your onsite content, whether that be a blog post or a home page, is created with the purpose to rank as highly as possible on search engines like Google.
As Google is not entirely transparent about its algorithm which is constantly being updated, there’s no one set best practice for on-page SEO optimisation which means everyone has their own approach.
There are various factors that can impact a website’s ranking potential, including:
- Site traffic
- Bounce rate
- User experience
Optimising your onsite content should improve these factors, making your content as engaging and digestible as possible. While there are other parameters that are important for on-page SEO, the quality of your writing itself is crucial.
In this blog post, we explain how and why you should optimise your writing style for SEO.
Why is writing style important for SEO?
Your writing style is a core element of the user experience of your website as it determines how easily a user can find and understand the information they are looking for.
If a user can easily discover and digest the information they’re seeking on your web page, they are more likely to return to it or share it. The consequences of this are:
- Bounce rate decreases because users stay on your site page for longer
- Backlinks increase because your website copy is more useful and informative
- Site traffic increases as users are more inclined to visit your page
Our digital PR team create onsite content as an asset that journalists can link to. Journalists are far more likely to include a link to our onsite content if they can clearly see that it provides additional value.
Furthermore, providing content that is better optimised for SEO (even though this is not our core KPI) provides additional value to our clients. This means we are not only providing an asset which will gain backlinks from the media but also contributing to the website’s overall search engine rankings because the page appears more authoritative and trustworthy.
How to optimise your writing style
While everyone has their own methods for optimising their writing, there are several tools and habits that you may find useful. Making the following factors a part of your writing habits will ensure your copy is more readable, and therefore more user-friendly, each time you begin a new project.
Use the Flesch readability score
The Flesch readability score was originally developed back in the 1940s to help improve the readability of newspapers. Now, the Flesch formula is used by many SEOs to ensure their copy is as readable as possible.
It is important to note that studies have shown that optimising your web content’s Flesch readability score does not directly impact rankings. However, as mentioned above, the readability of your content impacts various other factors that are essential to search engine rankings.
If your writing isn’t user friendly, site visitors won’t spend a long time on your page or come back to it which can decrease your site traffic and increase your bounce rate. Using a scoring system like Flesch is a useful extra step after proofreading that ensures your writing is as clear as possible.
The Flesch readability score is calculated using this formula:
0.39 (total words / total sentences) + 11.8 (total syllables / total words) – 15.59
But don’t worry about having to dust off your calculator – there are plenty of free online tools that will calculate your score for you.
The grade that you should aim for should depend upon your intended audience. If your intended audience is the general public, you should aim for grade 8, which is equivalent to age 13 to 14.
Of course, depending on your subject matter, you may need to include more complicated jargon and longer words, which will increase your score. If your writing style is in line with your intended audience, there is no need to worry about this.
Flesch readability with CMS plug-ins
There are various SEO plug-ins available that can be added onto a website’s CMS (content management system) to check your copy’s Flesch score before upload. For example, Yoast SEO analyses your copy and lets you know which elements of your writing need changing to improve your score. However, it’s worthwhile knowing how to optimise your own work without using a CMS plug-in from time to time.
Considering the following factors should help you to improve your work’s readability, without using a CMS plug-in.
Vocabulary and sentence length
These two factors are the only ones listed that directly impact your Flesch score. This is because according to the formula, the more words and syllables you have in each sentence, the higher you will score.
When you are in the flow of writing, it can be easy to rattle off a three-line long sentence without even realising. It’s important to go back, review your work and break these up, or your writing can quickly become hard to follow.
On top of this, consider whether there are any unnecessarily long or complicated words you could replace with shorter, simpler ones. While it might feel like flexing a larger vocabulary is better, keeping things simple will ensure readers easily flow through your text. Of course, your vocabulary should be specific to your audience. For example, if you are writing a blog post aimed at legal professionals, you will need to include jargon that would be out of place or unfamiliar to a reader outside of the industry.
On average, a user will only stay on a web page for 54 seconds before moving on. If you fill that time with unnecessary passages, a user may leave the page prematurely as they can’t find the information they’re looking for fast enough.
Use the active voice
The active voice is more direct and authoritative than the passive voice, which is useful when you are posing yourself as an expert on a subject. In the active voice, the subject acts. In the passive voice, the subject receives the action instead. For example:
- Active voice: Ingenuity Digital won the pitch
- Passive voice: The pitch was won by Ingenuity Digital
The passive version of the sentence adds unnecessary words and doesn’t get directly to the point. This can make your writing more difficult and less pleasant to read.
You may be using passive voice frequently without realising it. You can check for unnecessary passive voice by running your work through this free Passive Voice Checker, which will tell you what percentage of your sentences are in passive voice.
According to Yoast, you should aim to have no more than 1 in 10 of your sentences in passive voice. There will be rare instances where the passive voice is necessary, but where it isn’t, restructure your sentences to be active.
Connectives, or transition words, link sentences and paragraphs together. This can help users connect related information and clarify your argument. For example:
- Without a connective: If a user can’t understand your text easily, they won’t stay on your website. It is important to optimise your writing style to keep them exploring your website.
- With a connective: If a user can’t understand your text easily, they won’t stay on your website. Therefore, it is important to optimise your writing style to keep them exploring your website.
This may seem simple, but it can be easy to forget connectives when there are so many other aspects of your writing to focus on in the proofreading stage.
Yoast recommends that 30 percent of your sentences should include a connective – that’s every third sentence. However, user experience should always come above percentages and formulas. There’s no need to calculate your precise connectives frequency every time you write. Our audience are humans, not robots. If connectives seem unnecessary and out of place in a sentence, this will only harm user experience.
Headings and sub-headings
According to Google’s search advocate, John Mueller, Google’s website crawlers use H1-H4 headings and subheadings to learn more about your content. This is because headers indicate how content is prioritised and broken down into topics.
Your H1 title should explain your blog post’s primary objective. From there, the key ideas and topics you need to cover will then make up your H2s. Any smaller topics that the reader needs to know to understand your H2 topics should then be covered in your H3s and so on with H4 headings.
Optimise your content for SEO
Hopefully this blog post will help you to look at your writing with fresh eyes and identify any bad habits that could be hampering your copy’s readability.
While considering factors such as Flesch readability score and the percentage of passive voice within your work can help you get user experience down to a science, it is crucial to keep in mind that these steps are intended to optimise your work for other humans.
Optimising your writing style for SEO is a fancy way of saying ‘optimise for other humans’: user experience is at the core of on-page optimisation and so should always be a top priority when writing. If you want to find out more about our copywriting services and how we can improve your website’s content, don’t hesitate to get in touch.