WRITING SEO CONTENT ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE!
The whole process of composing SEO-optimized content is shrouded in mystery. It shouldn’t be. The good news is that SEO content writing isn’t rocket science! But, before you begin typing, you need to do a little keyword research and think about your goals.
Writing for search engines: a quick guide
When you draft SEO-optimized texts, you need to bear three key questions in mind:
- What is my core message?
This is the key message you want to convey to your readers – the main thing you want them to take away after reading your text.
- Who will read my text?
Who is your target audience? Creating a target persona can help you address this specific audience.
- Which target keyword(s) or key phrase (s) am I optimizing my text for?
This is crucial. For example, there is little point in optimizing text for keywords or key phrases that have very little search traffic or very high competition. We’ll look into this a bit more below.
Always keep in mind that you need to create content for a human audience rather than just for algorithms.
Make sure your target keyword is also in your ALT text, title tag, and file name.
Good keyword research
It’s worth spending some time doing
for your blog post, article, or general web content. This way, you can ensure you’re writing SEO-friendly content.
SEO keyword research tools
There are plenty of paid and free tools you can use, for example:
Ideally, you should use more than one tool to compare results. With these tools, you can search for the most relevant and popular keywords and see which ones you may have a good chance of ranking for (i.e. those which have low competition while having a reasonable monthly search volume).
Write content for the correct search intent
Also, bear the user’s search intent in mind. In general, there are 4 types of search intent:
- Informational intent (users looking for information, e.g. “Weather in New York today”)
- Navigational intent (users looking for a specific website or service, e.g. “Netflix”)
- Commercial investigation (users looking to compare a range of items so they can make an informed buying decision, e.g. “Best office desks 2022”)
- Transactional intent (users looking for a specific item to buy, e.g. “Cheapest Nivea Q10 face cream”)
It’s important to check if the keywords suggested by your SEO tools actually bring relevant search results that focus on your desired user intent in the SERPs.
Check your keywords in a search engine
It’s always a good idea to check any keywords yourself before optimizing for them (e.g. in a Google incognito search). Some keywords may be too general or have too much competition, and others may not have the same user intent and relevancy you think they do.
Let’s say an Italian translator would like to optimize their homepage for the key phrase “Italian translator”. This wouldn’t be a good idea. Why? When you look at the Google search results for this term on page 1, they mostly feature online dictionaries or job boards for this term.
Google’s algorithm seems to have concluded that users searching for “Italian translator” are much more interested in quick and free machine translation options and dictionaries rather than the services of a specific human translator. But, don’t worry: there will be better, more specific keywords and phrases the translator can use instead. They just have to spend some time searching for them, and checking the users’ search intent.
Using a free Google Search Console account (in combination with Google Analytics), you can also check for which keywords your site is already ranking well.
Search engine optimization of your headline, URL and meta description
Search engine rankings also consider various elements on the page. For example, you should brainstorm good headlines. The words your headlines contain must grab your readers’ attention. Your main keyword should be used as close to the beginning of the headline as possible. The headline also should be short enough so it can serve as a URL, especially if your keyword alone doesn’t make sense as a URL. A good tool to check the character limit and impact of your headline is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Now, you have to give careful consideration to the very first sentences of your text. Whet your readers’ appetite by raising the most important question in their minds without completely answering it.
Ideally, relevant phrases in your opening sentences will be included in your meta descriptions. This is the section that will steer the user to your search result in the first place. After all, your meta description is the road sign that leads users to click your link and not somebody else’s.
Be unique when creating content
Generally, your content should stand out from the crowd. Google and other search engines favor fresh content. Having said that, there are instances when you might post very similar or even the same content across different channels (e.g. blog posts on your website could be repurposed as LinkedIn articles). In many cases, a content cluster will be necessary to signal authority. In such instances, you must give Google a little helping hand, so it deals correctly with this duplicate content.
Important: never just copy and paste from other pages! Not only are you breaching copyright, but Google and other search engines don’t look favorably on articles that have been cobbled together from other sources and don’t add extra value. Just listen to what Matt Cutts from Google has to say on the subject:
Matt Cutts from Google warns about plagiarisng and producing low-value content.
Content writers also wrestle with another nagging question: just how long should the text be?
Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule on this. The magical number for Google you often hear is 300 – 500 words. Perhaps this is the sweet spot in some cases. However, to come up with the best figure, you must always size up your competition.
Let’s say you are going up against a group of competitors (essentially the first 10 results of an organic search) who have posted texts of about 2,000 words to 3,000 words. Here, a mere 500 words may not do the trick. However, your text quality and the right keywords can make a difference.
Page structure and clarity
Professionally designed pages have a clear structure that helps people read the content. Your pages should use:
clear subheads (ideally including your keyword(s) at least once),
words or phrases in italic type and bold text,
clear, brief sentences and short paragraphs.
It’s also important to write as naturally as possible. Your reader shouldn’t notice that your content has been optimized for certain keywords.
Good content creation isn’t difficult. Use a clear structure and answer relevant search queries to produce valuable content.
Google works on the assumption that a well-researched text will include outbound (i.e. external) links. Just like the work of academics, the writer of the text is expected to use external sources and to quote correctly from them. In the online world, external links are the equivalent of quotations.
When you draft SEO texts, make sure you provide internal cross-references, too. Google expects plenty of high-quality content from a website that’s an authority in its field. So, you should ensure to cross-link to relevant internal pages at least a few times in your post.
Pictures / graphics
In addition to composing the perfect text, you should use photographs and graphics to improve readability and enhance understanding of your topic. Images and graphics can easily and quickly highlight the key message(s) of your blog post.
Keep the following guidelines in mind:
File size: you should work with medium data-file sizes optimized for the web. Tiny images have no impact, and photos of several MB will be too large and overwhelming.
File name: this plays an important role in the ranking of an image search. It should describe precisely what you can see in the photo, image, or graphic.
- ALT tag: this was once primarily used to describe the content of a photograph when the photo could not be loaded correctly. It still does this job and is important for accessibility reasons. However, its role in search-machine rankings has become just as important, so bear your SEO keywords in mind when crafting your ALT text.
- Title tag: you should also use relevant keyword(s) in the meta title.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
These days, SEO is not just about keywords. That’s because Google and other search engines have become more sophisticated in determining the context and syntax of high-quality web pages.
It all started with Google’s BERT algorithm update, which introduced AI/machine learning to better understand the natural language used in web pages, as well as the context, user intent (e.g. informational, transactional, navigational or commercial), and sentiment (e.g. positive, negative, neutral).
The good news is that AI writing tools like Surfer SEO, which draw info from the Google NLP API, can help content writers discover additional words and phrases that Google feels are relevant.
It’s important, however, to use common sense when using these tools. Some of the suggested words or phrases may simply not make sense for your particular text. It’s far more important to write well-researched, high-quality content that reads well than blindly satisfying AI tools.
That’s enough technical talk for now. Let’s get back to the real task at hand: writing good content.
Compose a text that your users will enjoy and hopefully read to the very end. This, too, is tracked by Google. Users who jump off a page soon after entering it will increase the bounce rate, which can drive down your ranking.
Write yourself a mental post-it: whenever you sit down to write SEO content, apply the formula SEO = UX (user experience). Check your analytics and see what your users liked to read, then write more about similar topics.
Also, always avoid keyword stuffing! While keyword density is an important consideration, Google doesn’t look kindly on web pages that use too many of the same SEO keywords. Plus, your content will start to sound artificial and read badly.
Have you stuck with us until the end? If so, please tell us what you think!
Which tips were new to you?
Which ones do you think will most likely improve your ranking?