If you’re looking for SEO tips, you are in the right place, as one of the easiest things you can do to rank better is to be better cognizant of SEO best practices while writing your quality content. This type of SEO content writing is absolutely necessary for any business, from a small business to a personal brand website to an ecommerce website or a B2B SaaS company, to increase its visibility in Google.
High-quality content always finds its audience, but if you want a larger audience, you should pay attention to SEO.
Let’s get one thing straight first: content writing, content marketing and copywriting are different concepts.
Content marketing promotes any content type (posts, videos, newsletters, etc.) aiming to attract qualified leads.
Content writing deals with creating high-quality, engaging content appealing to the audience, and includes various steps such as: performing research, adding relevant images, and, sometimes, interviewing experts on the topic as well.
Copywriting is any kind of content aimed at persuading the reader to take the desired action (usually to buy something). Whereas copywriting always targets desired actions, content writing doesn’t necessarily have to serve the same purpose. Sometimes, content writing is simply informational.
Now, to properly understand SEO writing, you should know that there is more to it than keyword implementation. While proper keywords are essential, it is paramount that content is high-quality and that it answers target search terms. Those writers that understand this and follow my advice below will be rewarded with more readers reading more of your text, sending all of the right signals to search engines that your content is of high quality and should be ranked higher in SERPs for relevant keywords.
Basic SEO Terms for Content Writers
- Organic traffic: The number of website visitors who came upon your website via a Google search and not through paid ads
- SERPs: Search engine results pages
- SERP position: Your website’s exact ranking in Google
- Search queries: Queries that people type into search engines
- Click-through rate (CTR): Percentage of clicks for a SERP result
- Conversion rate: Percentage of people who complete target action divided by the total number of web page visitors
- Long-tail keywords: A string of keywords that is more specific than a single keyword
- Call to action (CTA): the text prompting the reader to perform the desired action
- Anchor text: Hyperlinked phrases that direct traffic to other webpages
- Meta description: A short (up to 160 characters) SERP summary
- Title tag: The webpage title that appears in Google SERPs
- Backlink: A hyperlink, directed either internally or externally
Before You Start Your SEO Content Writing
There’s quite a lot to learn about SEO content writing, especially if you are just getting started and trying to get a remote job as a writer. Still, it’s not rocket science, and what matters the most is that you are, first and foremost, a good writer.
Content writers work with content marketers, and the latter are tasked with providing a proper brief. Keyword research is not a content writer’s job, but it won’t hurt to at least learn the ropes (which you certainly will, over time).
Here is a proposed order of steps to master SEO content writing:
1. The first thing for a content writer to do is — follow the set objectives and key results (OKRs). Every serious business must set OKRs, as they are crucial for achieving target goals in the desired manner and within the projected time scope.
In simple words, OKRs communicate company strategy to everyone involved, including content writers.
2. Understand your content’s target keywords. Once you know your specific target keywords, you can focus your content piece for that specific goal.
3. Create a draft. What are your target word counts, keywords and links? All of them should fit in naturally into the text, so brainstorm ideas before you start writing.
4. Think “scanning.” Sadly, only 20% of website visitors actually read the text. The overwhelming majority just scans it. While this fact can be terribly demotivating, turn it into your strength. See the tips on how to make people read your content below.
5. Brainstorm CTAs. As a rule, CTAs should be compelling and stand out from the rest of the text. Various methods can be used to achieve that purpose, the two most common ones of which are using different font colors and using a button (or a combination of both).
6. Write for the reader. Even if most people will scan your text looking for some specific information, there are always people genuinely interested in deepening their knowledge. High-quality content provides expertise and engages the reader, so always give your best.
7. Proofread your content. Even the finest of articles can fare poorly if there are spelling errors. The times when jumbled letters were difficult to spot are, luckily, long gone. Nowadays, you can use an add-on that will help you with the task (e.g., Grammarly).
How to Make People Read Your Content
First of all, if your content piece is too long, no matter its quality, the majority of people will just scan it. Look at the SEO content writing process as a first impression — you need to grab the readers’ attention at first glance.
1. This basically means that you shouldn’t beat around the bush – write directly to the point. As unfortunate as it may be, people are usually looking for immediate answers to their queries. Look up creative brief samples to get some ideas, as marketing follows the same pattern.
2. As for the specific word count, definitions of “long” vary. It all depends on the topic, but generally speaking text with up to 600 words is usually considered short, while text with 1000+ words is usually considered long.
When deciding on the article length, consider the topic. Specialized texts commonly call for a longer form since they need to actually explain a number of details. On the other hand, when writing product descriptions, a short text is a better option. Looking at the top positions of Google SERP is a good indicator for content length.
3. Use short paragraphs. Make sure that ideas are properly separated and clearly stated in short paragraphs. This will help the scanners find the specific information fast and maybe even learn something to their benefit purely by chance.
4. Highlight important parts. Words in bold are spotted first when the text is being scanned, so make sure to highlight the key points.
5. Use a Compelling CTA. CTAs are extremely important, and not only because of their obvious purpose. If you manage to motivate people to perform the action, they are likely to come back for more. That’s the best way to achieve returning visitors and a loyal customer base.
6. Choose a topic of interest and stay focused throughout. With the rise of clickbaits, the focus has become more important than ever. Even if the majority of people will just scan your text, you should always write for the audience. This means that you should choose a topic people are interested in learning more about and stick to it. If you want to attract readers’ attention to another topic, use links instead. Never ever use fake titles to attract the audience, which brings us to the next point:
7. Expand on the headline. In other words, make your article relevant. Provide only information that is linked to the topic and only trustworthy information.
8. Make your articles easily understandable. It is exactly this point that shows the whole difference between a good and a poor writer. Write simply even when dealing with complex topics and avoid technical language where possible.
9. Break larger subjects into multiple posts. When multiple points are necessary, to avoid losing focus, break larger subjects into series of posts. Do your homework with proper linking so that the visitor doesn’t have to waste time looking for additional information on the website.
10. Make use of bulleted- and numbered lists. This will help you break up the text and still allow for all vital information to be clearly visible even to scanners. This is especially important for long-form content that can be uninspiring to readers at first glance.
11. Use infographics whenever possible. Inforgraphics are extremely popular and they can be rather useful where statistics is concerned. Generally speaking, providing small chunks of information cleverly grouped is always a good idea.
12. Use nice packaging. Don’t we all know how important packaging is in terms of marketing. The same rule applies to content writing. Even if write stellar content, if it’s heavy on the eye and clumsily formatted, it will drive people away.
13. Make sure your website is responsive. When visitors are forced to switch devices to read an article, chances are, they’ll look for information elsewhere. Keep mobile users in mind – most people read your content while on the go, anyway.
14. Pay attention to website navigation. Content should be easily accessible, so do brainstorm your website navigation. Make sure that important information is easy to find and that everything is properly linked.
15. Focus on the reader. Many writers make the mistake of focusing solely on the topic, completely forgetting the most important aspect of the affair – the reader. While it is true that some people use the internet to further their research, it is more common to find people looking to relax. Think about your online habits to get the idea. Usually, people look for something new, be it an interesting and insightful article, a video clip, or a movie. Think relaxation and entertainment. Bottom line, make sure you generate appreciation rather than appearing to be a seller.
16. Write inspirational content. Always write to create hope, not to make things gloomier for the reader. Honest emotions never go unnoticed, so try to connect with the reader. As a rule, people can always sense an agenda. Therefore, don’t have one!
Further Reading: 10 Top Tips to Increase Your Blog Post SEO
How to Make the Best Out of Scanning
Quite fortunately, there are some common scanning patterns that will help you grab visitors’ attention properly by applying the steps mentioned above.
Let’s take a look at them.
1. The F-Shaped Pattern. The so-called F-shaped pattern is rather common, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it. The majority of people read horizontally, then move a bit down on the page and keep reading horizontally, and finally, they scan the left part of the page vertically. The focus is on the first lines of the text, so use your chance and brainstorm the opening line.
2. The Layer-Cake Pattern. This pattern focuses on headings and subheadings, so make sure they provide proper insights into the following paragraphs. If the reader finds the heading compelling, they will start reading the text below. It can’t get any simpler than that!
However, keep in mind that the ideal length of a heading is between 60 and 80 characters, so use them to their full potential!
3. The Spotted Pattern. This focuses on specific elements of the text and is the exact opposite of the F-Shaped pattern. The specific elements stand out from the rest of the text and may include words in bold, links, digits and/or bullet lists.
4. Committed Reading. Finally, let’s not forget the 20% of people who actually like reading whole texts. For them, quality matters more than to others and the focus should be on proper formatting. Take paper books as an example — there are margins, columns, page borders, etc. There’s a good reason why all these elements are a standard — they make reading easier, so the reader can focus solely on the content.
Last But Not Least…
Scanners will not always recognize text breaks. That’s why you will hardly find an article without a couple of images. The longer the text, the more images it will include. For some people, this practice is extremely irritating, but for the majority, it’s the right thing.
Add to that the fact that images contribute to overall SEO and you’ll get the idea. When choosing images, pay attention to copyright and always mention credits where they are due.
Overall, SEO content writing is a mixture of two things: quality writing and compromises for the masses. Fitting in keywords can be difficult (especially when they are grammatically incorrect), so you’ll need to hone your skills and find your way around all kinds of difficulties.
Still, quality always remains quality and good content writers always stand out from the rest. Bottom line, do your best, and the rest will follow.
Viola Eva is passionate about digital entrepreneurship, flow and mindful marketing. As the founder and lead SEO for Flow SEO, she is working with software startups to scale their organic traffic. She is a speaker and writer on all things SEO, known from Search Engine Journal, UnGagged, Pubcon, Wordcamp Europe and Webinale.
Hero photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash