How to format the text for optimum SEO benefits

The way that the text of an article is formatted affects not only how readable it is by the visitors to your website, but also how readable it is to search engines. Make it simple for readers and search engines to understand.

Use headings in the text

There are several ways to make an article easier to read and understand and one way is to break the article up into small sections. Each of these should have a subheading.

WordPress has six heading heading styles numbered one to six and you just position the cursor on a line and select the heading from the list.

Normally the text is set to Paragraph, but selecting a heading from the list sets the style. Normally styles are applied to selected text, but headings apply to the whole paragraph the cursor is on.

Select a heading when editing a WordPress post

If you cannot see this menu, click the Toolbar Toggle button at the right side of the toolbar to get the second row of editing functions.

The importance of headings

The WordPress theme determines the style of the heading, but whatever the style, Heading 1 is the biggest and is therefore regarded as the most important. It is used for the page title.

Heading 2 is the second most important, then Heading 3, 4 and so on. They progressively get smaller as they become less important.

Search engines take note of the heading style and the importance. With headings you aren’t just telling readers what is important, but search engines too.

Keep headings short

Keep headings short enough to fit on one line (except the page title). This means three to five words.

Here is an example. At the top of the page is the main heading, and this might be “How to make the best apple pie ever.

The text below might have a list of ingredients, so you would have a subheading called “Ingredients for apple pie”. This could be a heading 2, 3 or 4 according to your preferences. Just make it a heading that stands out on the page.

There could be another heading called “Equipment you need” and another “Method” or “Preparation.

The idea is to break down the whole content into small bites that are easy to digest (a bit like apple pie). Search engines will read the headings and they help them to understand the content that follows.

Use short sentences

Long paragraphs of text are hard to read on the computer screen. For some reason we find that reading the screen is completely different to reading a book and while a book might have paragraphs made up of 10 or more sentences, a web page should have paragraphs with two or at most, three, sentences.

Some sentences might even be on their own.

Short sentences and paragraphs work well on web pages, so use this formatting technique to make your posts more readable.

It is not clear whether short sentences are better for SEO, but they could be. The readability score for the text could easily be calculated and used as one of the 200 or so contributing factors to SEO. Short and simple sentences are more readable, so use them.

Use bullet points

Use bullet points whenever you can. They draw the eye to them and they are easy to read. Short bullet points are great for lists.

To create a bulleted list in WordPress:

  • Write the text of the first bullet point
  • Click the Bulleted List button in the toolbar
  • New bullets are automatically inserted when Enter is pressed
  • Press Enter on a blank line to end the bullet list

Create bullet lists in WordPress

Use numbered lists

Lists are also great and numbered lists are even better. The button to the right of the Bulleted List button in the toolbar can be used to create an automatically numbered list. Search engines like numbered lists.

It works the same as bullets, but there are numbers instead of black blobs.

  1. Enter the text for the first item in the numbered list
  2. Click the Numbered List button in the formatting toolbar
  3. Write the next item in the list
  4. Numbers are automatically added
  5. Press Enter twice to end the numbered list

The numbered list above is not the only way to create numbered lists. You can manually add numbers to headings, so each section of the article is numbered.

Action points

  • Add a subheading every few paragraphs
  • Keep headings short
  • Use short sentences that are easy to read
  • Use bullet points
  • Use numbered lists
  • Break up large amounts of text into small sections


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