How would you feel if you spent a ton of time putting a large event together and no one showed up? What about spending a fortune on a present for someone who never even opens it, or working a full-time salaried job but never receiving compensation? You get the idea. If you’re going to make the effort to create excellent content, you need to write for SEO purposes to make sure people can find your content through search engines.
Newbies may hear SEO terms like bots, algorithms, and schema markup, and feel intimidated, thinking that optimizing your content for search requires technical knowledge and ability.
Writing for SEO doesn’t mean complicated technical maneuvering, but it does involve a little forethought and research.
In this post, we’ll break down the process of creating content in ways that keep both humans and search engines happy.
This definition of SEO writing from Ahrefs explains it nicely:
SEO writing is the process of researching, outlining, creating, and optimizing content to rank for a target keyword in Google and other search engines.
Write your content for people and optimize it for search. Your web presence won’t get far without quality content, but it’s equally important to add the elements that make it consumable for search engines.
Start with good writing. Crap, I got a D in English class, you think. Well, don’t worry. We have plenty of free advice about copywriting and creating quality content. In this post, we want to focus more on the optimization part.
Other than writing well, choosing a keyword is probably the most important part of this process because it’s essential for getting found on search engines.
To attract your target customer when you’re searching for a term, you need to stand out against the crowd of competitors and other businesses. Keywords, in a sense, act like banners that say, “Hey! Hello? I’m over here, and this is what my web page is about” and drive visitors to your site. They are terms and phrases that help humans and search engines identify the topics that your content covers.
One way to narrow down on a primary keyword for your piece of content is to check how competitive certain search terms are. In your favorite keyword tool enter the keyword or phrase you’re thinking of and see what comes up. The keywords and phrases with the higher search volume numbers are the more competitive ones and therefore harder to rank for. Singular keywords like “shoes” are usually the most competitive.
Therefore, you’re probably better off with long-tail keywords, which are usually more specific and less common than other keywords. An example of this would be choosing “striped rubber ducks” over “rubber ducks.”
To narrow in on a keyword choice and serve up the most relevant content for your searchers, you need to get into your audience’s head. When someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a hunt for something. What do you think your prospective customer is looking for?
Typically, according to Yoast, there are four kinds of intent searchers can have:
You’ve probably heard of (and are hopefully referencing) the different stages of marketing funnels: Top of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU). Once you determine the intent of your content, you can map it to the appropriate stage of the funnel.
For example, TOFU pieces are about generating awareness and introducing a reader to a topic which means informational intent. For this stage, you might want to try a “how-to” piece. Use your keyword tool to see how competitive a “how-to” piece with your keyphrase would be.
Now that you’ve chosen a primary keyword and what stage of the funnel it maps to, you’ll want to consider the subtopics you’ll want to cover in your piece. It’s not a bad idea to check out the competition to get inspiration (not duplicate, of course) for ideas. Look at your competitor’s high-ranking pages and the headings on their pages and note common topics. This is also a time to check out in your SEO tool what keywords your competitors are ranking for so you can strategize about how to out-optimize them.
You can also get ideas from the People Also Ask boxes to see common questions people are searching for the answers to. You want evergreen content—content with topics that will always be relevant and compelling and don’t have an expiration date.
An outline keeps you organized and provides a useful frame of reference. You can keep it high-level or granular. Highlight the main points your content will cover, and determine subheadings and sub-points.
In our outline, make sure you answer the questions:
Next, go forth and draft! This is where you empathize with the user’s pain points. Paint a picture of where they’ve been, where they are, and how you’ll help them get there. Give tangible examples and guide them with practical steps at each point in their journey.
We’ve discussed the importance of keywords, but that doesn’t mean you should “stuff” your pages with your keywords. Keyword stuffing may cause you to be hit with a Google penalty that could remove you from the SERPs all together. Weave your keyword so that it appears naturally in your content—four or five times is a good number to strive for. Make sure it appears a couple of times in your subheadings as well.
There are certain other elements you need to incorporate when you write for SEO.
1. Don’t listen to Megan and Harry—titles are important. Create a compelling title is critical for search engine traction. Your title tag will be what’s most visible on search engines, and it needs to incorporate your primary keyword.
2. Slugs are gross, except in URLs. What the heck do slugs have to do with SEO? Consider the URL “seo.co/digital-marking-trends.” The slug is the end part that says “digital-marketing-trends” and must feature your primary keyword. Your URL should be also short and straightforward because long URLs get cut off in the SERPs. Also, stay away from using numbers and dates in your URLs because they’re hard to change if you want to update your content in the future.
3. This preview is brought to you by… Optimize your piece of content for how it would look in featured snippets. These are the short summaries that appear when you search organically in Google. Structure your article so that the answers to your searcher’s questions and/or a summary can easily be extracted and the user at a glimpse will know the subject of your article.
4. “Me and you, and you and me. We’re happy together…” Internal links are great for SEO because they connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. Use anchor text as a gateway to link to other pages. It’s best if the anchor text matches the keyword in the URL of the page you want to link to. For example, anchor text is awesome.
5. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Consider the user’s experience as they interact with your page and structure your page accordingly. Do you really think they’d want to read paragraphs with large blocks of text? Smaller paragraphs are best for user engagement and search engine viability.
Images also help break up the text, draw users in, and help users and search engines understand what your content is about. From an SEO standpoint, images can also rank in image search and lead to more visitors to your web page. For maximum readability add captions and alt text—descriptive text in place if the image can’t be displayed for any reason. The alt text should contain your keyword to signal search engines.
6. It’s go-time. You want your readers to take action when they consume your content, and closing it with a call-to-action (CTA) is the right opportunity to do it. You can link to other content or encourage them to book a call with a sales team member. Keep the language in your CTA basic and concise with a keyword if possible. The idea is to move your reader along to the next phase of their buyer’s journey.
You should write your content for humans, but it also needs mileage from search engines.
Following the process we’ve described will help you strategically write content that can get discovered on search engines. Then you can reach your target audience by providing answers and solutions to the questions they’re looking for.
If you’re looking to hire SEO writers, we’re your team. Get in touch!