Good ole Wikipedia has this to say about transition words: “A transition or linking word is a word or phrase that shows the relationship between paragraphs or sections of a text or speech.”
Transition words thus improve the readability of your content if you use them wisely. In this post, we’re going to know what exactly are these transition words, why should we use them in our writing and how best to use them. All from the SEO point of view of course.
What Are Transition Words
To make the Wiki definition better or more relevant, we can say that transition words are those words or phrases that helps the reader to know about your thought process. Words like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘because’ are just some of them.
Transition word at the beginning of a sentence
You can use any of the transition words or phrases at the beginning of a sentence. For example, read the first two sentences in this section itself. I was talking about placement of the transition words or phrases in the first sentence. I followed that with the next sentence starting with “For example”. Whenever I start a sentence in this manner, you can easily understand that I’m going to provide an example in support of my argument.
Without the transition words, your article is nothing but a collection of sentences. But when you’re using them, it provides meaning and logic to your whole text.
Transition word at the end of a sentence
He was so tired that he collapsed into a deep slumber in the evening. He was late in giving his daily reports to his supervisor as a result.
“As a result” is used at the end of the second sentence above. Still it clearly conveys the relation between the two sentences, in this case, a simple cause and effect relation.
Transition word in the middle of a sentence
The last sentence from the previous section gives an example of that. In that sentence, ‘still’ and ‘in this case’ both are transition phrases. While ‘still’ is used at the beginning, ‘in this case’ is used in the middle. A single sentence can have multiple transition phrases.
Why to Use Transition Words
- Readability is a very important SEO factor because it tells you how easily your content can be read and understood by your users. Using transition words enhance readability of any text, thus helping in SEO.
- You’re following the three basic building blocks of writing a text, that is to use an introduction followed by the main body and lastly a conclusion. That’s fine but still you want to provide the richest possible experience to your readers. That’s where transition words help because they don’t just increase readability but also make the text more interesting to read.
- As stated before, using transition words help your readers getting a peak into your thought processes. So they also build and maintain a healthy engagement. A text with proper transition words at the proper places is more likely to be read in whole and being commented upon.
You can see that all these points point to one thing actually. That is using the transition words properly will make your content more readable and engaging. Some might argue that they don’t have any direct link with SEO but when your content is read in its whole by your readers, commented upon and getting shared, then the search engines have no choice but to rank your content higher than your competitors. Just because you’ve created a quality content that is attractive to the readers.
How to Use Transition Words (General Tips)
Understand the Context
The same transition words such as the most common ones like ‘and’, ‘so’ and ‘but’ can be used differently depending upon the different contexts of your content. So understanding the context is very important in order to be able to use them wisely.
Use Them as the Introduction to New Ideas
Whenever you’re introducing some new ideas or concepts to your readers, try to use some transition words. This will ensure that the readers understand your point.
Use Different Transition Words
Using the same transition words over and over can certainly be boring for your readers. To avoid this, you have to acquire a good vocabulary of such words and understand the context of using each of them. Doing this will make sure that your readers will find your text enjoyable to read.
Understand Your Own Thought Process
The better you understand what you’re trying to say in a particular article, the better you’ll be able to convey that understanding to your readers. For this purpose, I think the greatest help will be your outline. Your outline consists of all the fine points that you’re trying to make with your article. When creating that outline, you’ve already arranged the points in a way that’ll make the most sense to the readers, right? So just follow the same basic logical structure of your outline and you’ll be able to find out exactly where to use which transition word.
How to Use Transition Words (SEO Tips)
All the tips discussed above will work perfectly fine with any kind of text. But when making your content more friendly for the search engines, you need to keep in mind the following points:
- According to Yoast SEO plugin, at least 30% of your text should be transition words. That means you’re to use some of them in roughly every third sentence. Keeping it between 40-50% will be considered great.
You can see how Yoast is explaining the methodical choices in their readability analysis here.
- Notice how the transition words themselves have different number of syllables in them? While choosing your transition words, you need to pick those with the lower number of syllables. This is because there is another very important readability scale used universally known as the Flesch Reading Ease where the syllables play much larger roles. As a best practice, you can try to get a Flesch score of 60-70 (easily understood by a 13-15 year old).
- Headings and Subheadings are equally important when it comes to SEO. No amount of transition words will be of any use if you mess them up. Always make sure that they are following the logical structure of your content above anything else. Because the crawlers will ignore an otherwise excellent article that is not complying this rule, even when using a lot of transition words properly.
In this post, a lot of technical tips were discussed like following the Yoast 30% rule or maintaining the 60-70 Flesch score. But always remember that writing should be a happy experience above all. Given a topic of your particular interest, you can’t help but be exhilarated at the opportunity to tell everything there is to know about it. You feel an inherent sense of duty to make your points be understood by your readers, irrespective of their knowledge, age or experience. My humble suggestion to all of you will be to never lose that instinct. The whole point of using transition words properly throughout your content can be best summed up in a quote by Gautama Buddha:
“When watching over yourself, you watch after others. When watching others, you watch after yourself.”
If you watch your own thought process and understand it better, you’ll be able to come up with the proper transition words and that’ll in turn be making your content easily readable and understandable by everyone else. It’s just the same as undertaking a journey of a serene, all-knowing, happy circle of thoughts.