How to Merge AP Style and SEO into High Caliber Web Content
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Rachel Perez examines the fundamentals of SEO writing, blogging for businesses, and how to marry AP style and SEO-compliant tactics in a happy union.
Blogging is more than appeasing the Google gods. What many bloggers (ironically) forget in the SEO scramble is their articles are made to be read by real people, not just algorithms. If optimization is what motivates you to type, that’s fine, but you must never squander your voice for the sake of the search engines.
Regardless of industry or passion, there is a way to write blogs with conviction and purpose. It starts with the AP writing style and ends with SEO.
AP style, often associated with journalism, consists of national guidelines that lend itself to a uniform writing style accepted as today’s norm.
It’s the difference between how jarring 6 looks in a sentence versus six or how reading 7/4/2018 feels stilted versus July 4, 2018. Copy that adheres to this style flows more naturally, making it more reader-friendly. This is one of the most notable reasons the AP style lives beyond your bachelor’s degree.
Blogs and articles that adhere to the AP style sound more confident, professional, and blend in with other quality writers as part of a high caliber standard.
Does the idea of marrying the AP writing style with SEO sound complicated? Don’t panic. You don’t need a journalism degree to adopt the AP style.
All you need is an open mind, pen and paper. I’ll provide the compass.
After all, it was the great Henry Miller who said, “Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.”
A Quick Guide to AP Style Writing
Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the AP style or spent far too many nights nursing red Solo cups rather than cracking open a textbook (Hey, no judgments here).
Regardless of how the AP style slipped by you, it never hurts to have a brief refresher.
The Associated Press (AP) style is the style for journalists. There are a few common stylistic rules which I’ll briefly go over.
Abbreviations. Common abbreviations like NASA, CIA, and FBI can be used as is, but for less well-known abbreviations spell out the complete phrase adding the abbreviations in parentheses.
Apostrophes. Abbreviate junior and senior following a name (Robert Downey Jr.), state names that exceed seven letters and are preceded by a city name (Scranton, Penn.), months that exceed five letters when used in a specific date (Sept. 16), titles that precede a name (Sen. Boxer), specific addresses (42 N. Buchanan St.). Do NOT abbreviate days of the week, use symbols (ex. percent as %)
Capitalization. Capitalize common nouns when part of a proper name (Mississippi River), specific regions (the Midwest), formal titles (President Obama). As a rule, if it’s not in the stylebook, use a lowercase.
Numbers. Spell out numbers one through nine, use figures for number 10 and higher (seven times), use numbers for ages except for objects (27-year-old woman, two-year-old laptop), use figures for dollar amounts ($2), use cardinal numbers for dates (May 31).
This is just a short snippet of the AP guidelines. Consult the official stylebook for more specific concerns.
When AP Style and SEO Say “I Do”
“If you’re publishing online, Google-style (i.e. SEO) always trumps AP style.” Robert Niles suggests in the University of Southern California’s online journal review.
Not to throw stones, but I have a bit of a bone to pick with this. You don’t have to forsake AP in favor of SEO. Merging the two is not only possible, but this writer encourages it!
Too often, so-called SEO gurus write articles with the sole purpose of optimization in mind. While it may do well in regards to clicks and traffic, the articles are often written with no substance in mind.
While you’re writing, you need to be asking yourself one monumental question: “Why should someone read this?”
Answer this question throughout the blog. Offer insightful tidbits and include relevant helpful information. At the end of the day, AP style is for the format and SEO is for ranking purposes. Everything in between is up to you, the writer.
Below are a few helpful tips and tricks to help jog your creativity in order to merge the two.
Consider your audience. Who is your target audience? What is the demographic you’re hoping to reach? Flesh out who you’re writing for and hone your voice to reach that audience.
Pick an interesting topic. I know, I know, this is an obvious one, but it bears repeating. You may find the perfect keyword, but did you pair it with an interesting topic? It’s easy to gear your entire blog towards a ranking term but fight the urge to take the easy way out. Consider whether or not you would read about the topic yourself. No? Workshop until you find a topic you’d actually click on.
Write one heck of an intro. You have a mere handful of seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Make every word count with a compelling first line, intriguing introductory paragraph, and seal the deal with a “problem and solution” model. Blogs predominantly address an issue. Regardless of what issue you’re solving, give the solution quickly and use the rest of your article to expand on it.
Will This Union Be Happily Ever After?
Much like a marriage, the relationship between SEO and AP will require a lot of continuous work. The AP style continues to change and SEO evolves with every new Google algorithm update. If you’re feeling out of your league, you can always call in an SEO and AP marriage counselor, more formally known as a content creator.
Content creators, copywriters, bloggers—we go by many names—are well-versed in the latest trends, best practices, and methods to keep your copy consistent, engaging, and crawlable.
Rachel Perez is a Spotify-obsessed Copywriter and Social Media Strategist in Brooklyn, New York. Connect with her on LinkedIn.