I recently talked to Ian Poole, editor of Radio-electronics and Electronics Notes and he started to mention the lack of search engine optimisation (SEO) that is done on contributed articles. He told me, “As a general comment, virtually all articles sent in by companies and agencies are not optimised sufficiently, if at all. As a result they do not do well on the web.”

This is a scary thought: agencies are writing thought leadership pieces that are not going to get seen because no one will find them through search. Ian was pretty clear what the cause was: authors are too focused on corporate messages, and don’t consider the needs of the readers:

They look only at the company message and not what people are looking for.

This is a pretty damming indictment of article writing. So what can we do to get better?

SEO for Contributed Articles

SEO is pretty straightforward. Target relevant keywords and write content about them. But the problem is that contributed articles are sometimes still written using the same process that was used for print publications: think of a topic, write an article and cap it with a clever headline. This, however, doesn’t work for articles that are being placed online. You’ve really got to think about the content and the headlines to make sure it is likely to appear in the SERPs.

Even with good SEO, you might not see immediate results: Ian cautioned that, “Any submitted articles will not gain traction with Google for a while.”

The Importance of Mobile

Interestingly, Ian thought that there was a lot of opportunity to get engagement on mobile devices. He saw people reading articles on small screens, but there is one thing that can kill the enthusiam of a mobile reader: overly complex diagrams. Ian believes that, “Any images for web articles must be able to be viewed on a mobile device,” which he defines as being able to be read when compressed to 320 pixels.

Social is Important too!

With SEO likely to take some time before it bears fruit, social media is important to get initial traction. Here’s where things get a bit more complicated: effective headlines on social media are much more like headlines that would have been written for print: it’s not about getting an algorithm to rank the story highly, it’s about getting a reader to click. So have fun on social media: be creative and think of clever ways to encourage people to read your content.

One bugbear of Ian’s is the lack of enthusiasm for sharing content on social. He says few people in the companies for whom the article is written (and sometimes in the agency who represents them) share articles. There’s such an opportunity to increase visibility by getting more people to share your content, particularly those in sales, applications and engineering.


Next time you write an article, think about what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s to enable people to find the content when searching, make SEO a priority and not an afterthought!