Writing content that engages readers and search engines can be tricky. Its a fine balance.

Here are five tips you can use to entertain, retain and engage your readers, while still incorporating SEO elements where you need to.

1. Write For The Reader

SEO copywriting has gotten a bad name because of high keyword saturation. This kind of content writing is only really good for entertaining machines. If youre actually looking to create content that engages people, you need to be SEO aware without writing mechanically.

Any text that is littered with bolded sections and links will be highly unappealing for human readers. Heavy keyword placement may get your site to the top of the search results, but no customer is going to hang around and attempt to read your copy if theres nothing to learn from it. Sometimes these keyword-heavy blogs make no attempt to inform the reader at all.

Rule number one: your readers are humans.

It is possible to work most keywords into your text subtly and without the kind of unnatural phrase repetition that humans simply wont bother to struggle through. Try keeping a list of your keywords in a separate window next to the document as you write. Bear them in mind, but dont keep a count of how many times you use them. You can insert more keywords later when proof-reading if you need to: the important thing is that your writing makes sense first and foremost.

2. Keep It Short, Keep Them Sweet


Your readers will initially scan your page, and most people will follow a set skimming shape.

Readers of English trace an F shape on the screen with their gaze. Theyll read the first few lines, quickly skim the middle section, then flick down the left hand side of the page to see if anything else is relevant. If they dont find anything, they will click the Back button and look for another site.

Always ensure that your content is snappy enough to hold a readers attention. Target the top of the screen (the top line of the F) first with a good overview. Next, place interesting detail - such a short, crafted paragraph - where the second horizontal line in the F shape would appear.

Finally, ensure you have something in the left hand side of the text to draw the eye. In this article, were using a series of numbers to mark our headings so that readers can instantly tell how long the article is likely to be. They can then decide if they want to invest more time in it.

3. Consider Your Layout


Web pages are more difficult to read than print. Any layout with wide paragraphs is hard to follow from line to line - the eye simply cant anchor itself to anything when it jumps from right to left. This is why lots of blogs have wide borders or vertical column layouts; it stops the eye from getting lost.

When writing for the web, always keep your layout tight, your font on the larger side and your paragraphs as short as is sensible. It also helps to vary the length of your sentences and use pictures to break things up if you can.

If youre writing a long piece, such as this one, place clear headings throughout the text to break it up. Never, ever write a block of text without any white space around it. Use short, snappy headings where its sensible to do so. Then, consider placing a number in the heading to give your reader an indication of how many sections they have to deal with (see point 3, above).

4. Invite (Inter)action


Try to keep in mind the purpose of your blog post or article as you write. It will affect the content, the tone and the way you structure your post.

If youre posting company news, chances are you dont really need to solicit hundreds of comments from your readers. But if you want to stir debate, have a discussion or get your readers to click through to another page, you probably want to engage them. That doesnt mean you have to be controversial for the sake of it, but you need to approach your writing in a different way.

Blog posts that stimulate a response are pointed and precise. They incorporate a call to action, or a direct question, at the end of the post. If its a question, its ideally one that requires more than a yes or no answer. Any buttons or links, such as a link to make a purchase or a button to jump to the online store, should be in a very different color to the text with plenty of space around them.

You may also experiment with being a little more opinionated to get a response. Remember: theres no need to upset anyone just to get the comment thread flowing. Good writing will get you there too.

5. Check, Check And Re-check


Seeing the post in situ can often make all the difference, and it can actually help you to proof-read.

Once your piece is finished, dont hit publish right away. Use the preview button to look at your blog on the page so that you can fix any formatting issues and make sure images are correctly positioned. WordPress is just one blog that allows you to preview the post as it would be on the page.

Even if you cant preview what youve written, its a good idea to print it out, or at least take a break and work on something else before submitting it. If you have a willing colleague or partner, nows the time to ask them to double check what youve done.

When your blog is published, make sure you go back and read it a couple of hours later to make sure you really have caught all your mistakes.

Hopefully these five quick tips will give you some new ideas when creating effective content, articles and blogs for your website. You should now have a good set of basic tools to hone and improve your blogging style.