When it comes to writing digital content, there are many things you need to take into account in order to please both the reader and the search engines.
Of course, the value and quality of the information you are providing are a top priority, this goes without saying.
However, how you pack and present it is also crucial.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to properly build your articles and how to create an SEO-friendly content structure.
Read on to up your content game!
Why Is Content Structuring Important?
Simply put, content structure is important because it provides better UX and makes your articles easier to understand by search engines.
Why Is Content Structuring Important?
- Easier Scanning
- Increased Readability
- Improved Mobile-Friendliness
- Enhanced Accessibility
- Better Indexing
- Higher Rankings
- Higher Chances of Special Search Results
- Easier Scanning. Readers rarely devote their full attention to the content they are reading – they skim it.
If your article is structured well, they will be able to check at first glance whether it includes the information they need and, if so, they will be able to more easily delve into the sections they care about.
- Increased Readability. Well-structured content is easier to read and understand. It saves users from becoming overwhelmed and allows them to better follow along.
Furthermore, it breaks down the text into smaller chunks, and, more often than not, online users today feel more comfortable reading shorter snippets of text rather than endless paragraphs.
- Improved Mobile-Friendliness. On small-screen devices, content structure is vital, as it makes the text easier to interact with and follow.
It allows users to read and understand your articles without becoming lost and/or confused. Also, it provides more white space between sections and makes the text less overwhelming.
- Enhanced Accessibility. Structuring your content makes it more accessible to people with disabilities, who use specialized software, to interact with content.
Similar to search engine bots, these tools can better understand what the content is about and deliver it to users more clearly.
- Better Indexing. When your content is well-structured, it’s easier for search engines to figure out what you are talking about and properly index your pages. As a result, you are likely to obtain more traffic and engagement.
- Higher Rankings. Articles with a robust and concise structure provide a better user experience. People spend more time reading and interacting with the content in a manner that is more efficient and converts better.
This shows Google that you’ve done a good job and encourages the algorithm to show your pages to more people.
The more users who click on your link in the SERPs and remain satisfied with the results, the higher your rankings become.
- Higher Chances of Special Search Results. Google doesn’t create featured snippets and rich results manually – it pulls information from third-party websites.
If you are ranking reasonably and the information on your website is properly structured, you are more likely to be in position zero or obtain a rich result.
Content structures such as bullet points, headings and subheadings, lists and numbers, tables, and question-answer formats are eligible to become featured snippets.
For rich results, you also need to implement schema markup (more on this later).
How to Structure Your Content to Improve SEO
What type of content structure you will use depends on the topic that you are writing on, the type of information you are providing, and the preferences of your audience.
However, there are some general guidelines and rules of thumb to consider.
These will improve how both humans and robots interact with your content and can boost your SEO performance.
How to Structure Your Content to Improve SEO
- Break Down the Text with Headings and Subheadings
- Provide Answers to Long-Tail Question Keywords
- Use Bullet Points
- Use Numbers
- Optimize for NLP
- Take Advantage of Structured Data
Break Down the Text with Headings and Subheadings
HTML headings, a.k.a. titles and subtitles, or H-tags, break down the text into easily-digestible portions that allow users to better understand what topics and subtopics you are covering in your text.
They allow search engines to not only do the same but to understand the hierarchy of the information you are providing.
When writing your headings and subheadings, consider the following:
- Keep Them Short and Sweet. The rules for writing titles apply in full force here – you should keep your headings and subheadings short and sweet. It’s best that they don’t exceed 70 characters.
This way, if they show up in search results as one of the 10 blue links or in a SERP feature, the user will see the whole phrase and not just part of it. This increases the chances of users clicking on it.
Furthermore, the longer the headings and subheadings are, the more confusing they’ll look on your own website. This can, potentially, hurt the UX, especially on mobile devices – imagine your whole screen overtaken by a single headline?
- Include the Main Keywords. Your keywords should be present in the headings and/or subheadings and in the body of the text.
In addition, you can use your SEO tools to research long-tail keywords and search terms that pertain to the subtopics that users (and bots) associate with your main topic. Based on them, you can create matching subheadings.
This way, you can not only provide your readers with exhaustive information on the topic, but you can ensure that search engines give you credit for it.
Also, as mentioned, if h-tags are optimized with the proper keywords, they can show up in the search results for relevant subtopics.
- Use them to Create an Outline. When a user scrolls through your article, the headings and subheadings allow them to check if what you’re offering is what they are looking for.
Once the person starts reading, this structure helps them better understand the text.
To that end, the headings and subheadings need to represent a consistent and meaningful outline of your article.
Search engine bots benefit from this information in a similar way, but, at the same time, they can also use it to create featured snippets.
If you are using a Google Doc, you can view your outline on the left-hand side of your page. Check whether it makes sense, and, if it doesn’t, revise the headings and subheadings.
Provide Answers to Long-Tail Question Keywords
People nowadays use natural language when they key queries into search engines or conduct voice searches – in other words, more often than not, they are asking questions.
If their questions are directly answered in your content, search engines are more likely to provide eligible users with excerpts of your text.
As a content structure, these can be managed in the form of question-answer boxes, FAQ panels, and/or headings and subheadings.
For example, in their blog, HubSpot often uses both question-answer boxes and headings and subheadings:
ProfitWell is also keen on long-tail questions and ends some of its articles with a FAQ section targeting the main keyword:
Regardless of which format you choose, your questions should match up with the long-tail question keywords that your audience uses, and provide clear, concise, and comprehensive answers.
You can research what question keywords apply to your topic in Semrush or other keyword research tools.
Using this structure can not only help you show up more often in regular and voice search results, but increases your chances of appearing in Google’s “People also ask” section.
It’s a SERP feature that lists questions and answers relevant to the user’s query. The data is pulled from pages that are not necessarily on page one. If your content is structured to provide clear answers to popular questions, you have a chance of ranking in that panel.
The click-through rate of these results is not very high, because more often than not, they provide all the information the user needs at first glance. However, they can still bring in some traffic, and, what’s more important, they can contribute to your search engine branding and awareness.
Use Bullet Points
Bullet points are a small-scale version of H-tags. They make the content easier to understand in general, especially when skimming through the text. Bullet points also allow your ideas to stand out, thus, attracting the user’s attention.
By using bullets, you can break down complex information into steps and/or topics, and make it more concise and comprehensive.
Furthermore, search engines consider this kind of content structure as priority information, and may use it in featured snippets.
In addition, bullets can be used to break down large sections of text, thus, providing breathing space and increasing readability.
When using bullets in your articles, make sure to maintain consistency:
- Format all bullets within the page in the same way.
- If the bullet entries are short (i.e. they consist of one or a few words), don’t end each line with a period.
- If the bullet entries are long (i.e. they are whole sentences), end each line with a period.
- Don’t use a semicolon at the end of bullets.
- Start each bullet with a capital letter.
Search engines just love numbers.
They are the type of data that they understand as they provide a content structure that is clear and easy to follow.
Numbers can be used in content types such as listicles, step-by-step guides, tips, checklists, etc.
Also, by adding a number to the title, you can increase the post’s engagement. In fact, research shows that using numbers and statistics in your headlines increases the click-through rate.
This way you boost the traffic to your articles which can, potentially, result in better performance in the SERPs.
Furthermore, numbers can also be used in place of bullet points if the situation calls for it.
Optimize for NLP
Facilitating natural language processing is an often overlooked part of content structure.
Search engines use NLP algorithms to understand the connections between the words in a sentence and the sentence in the text, and figure out what the content is about.
However, while advanced, these algorithms are still far from perfect.
In order for them to be able to process your content properly, you need to structure your sentences accordingly.
To that end, consider using simple constructions and avoid mixing ideas. The more concise and clear your sentences are, the better the algorithm will be at understanding them.
In addition, consider using simple vocabulary wherever possible and avoid complicated terminology.
All this will not only improve how search engines interact with your content but will make it, on the whole, easier to digest by your website visitors and will, as a result, improve UX and contribute to even better SEO.
Take Advantage of Structured Data
Structured data, a.k.a. schema markup is, technically, not directly related to your on-page content structure. However, it can be of great help to search engines when they’re trying to understand what your content is about.
When crawling your website, the bots don’t need all the information available, they only want to extract important highlights such as the type of page, topic, author, short description of the content, etc.
With this data, they can accurately log the page in their index, thus providing more relevant results in search queries.
Of course, they can pull this data without you explicitly providing it to them. However, by doing this yourself, you reduce the risk of mistakes and errors, and can even save on your crawl budget.
You can read more about the different types of data in schema.org’s guide.
How you present your digital information defines how well people and search engine robots understand it. Also, it has an impact on whether or not they are able to see its value.
Without the right structure, content can be chaotic, confusing, and even misleading. Instead of bringing in traffic, retaining the attention of your visitors, and convincing them to convert, it can drive them away.
The proper content structure can help you instantly connect with your readers. This way you show them that your articles provide the information they need in a clear, logical, and well-organized format.
At the same time, it allows search engines to better index your pages. Also, a solid content structure offers indexed pages up to users who will be more likely to click on them.
In a nutshell, it’s a win-win.