SEO Writing Tips for Better Ranking Content
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to help it rank high in search engine result pages (SERPs), and one of the core aspects of SEO is writing great content. Whether it’s a blog post, or even copy on a product or landing page — using SEO best practices when writing will help your pages rank higher and improve the user experience when reading.
In this guide, we’ll provide a clear explanation of what SEO is and how to write for SEO to boost your organic rankings and traffic.
Why Good SEO Content Writing Matters
A 2020 study of over 80 million keywords and billions of search results revealed that the first organic Google search result has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 28.5%, and CTR drops dramatically after position one. In fact, positions two and three have a CTR of 15.7% and 11% respectively, while the tenth position has a CTR of only 2.5%. Furthermore, all results beyond page one combine for only 12% of clicks.
For businesses, this means it’s essential to get the pages on your site ranking as high as possible to maximize your traffic. Because CTR drops with each corresponding position, you want your pages to rank higher than your competitors so people purchase your offerings instead of theirs.
What is SEO?
SEO is a culmination of efforts to help a website consistently rank near the top of search engine result pages. There are three core areas of SEO:
The common saying in SEO is “content is king,” and this is because it’s absolutely essential for you to have great content in order to rank. You can have a better product or service than your competitors, but if the content on your page isn’t on-par or superior, then they will consistently outrank you for valuable keywords. This doesn’t mean having the longest content will get you the top position.
Google’s ultimate goal is to show the most helpful and relevant content to people, so when writing for SEO you want to make sure that your content is easy to understand and comprehensive, but not unnecessarily long (rambling to increase word count won’t help you rank higher). It’s important to note that content includes the copy you have on your landing and product pages, as well as your blog posts. The unique images and videos you have on your site are also content that can help your pages rank.
The technical aspect of SEO focuses on ensuring your site is working properly and is utilizing practices recommended by Google to maximize your ranking potential. When an SEO specialist looks at the technical side of a website, they’ll first look for potential issues that can affect users such as broken pages and long load times among other factors. They’ll also check that you’re utilizing things like a sitemap and robots.txt file, which don’t affect the user experience but are important for ranking.
One of the most important signals for Google that your page is good, is having other good websites link back to it. In SEO, these are called backlinks, and link-building is focused on getting highly relevant backlinks from other authoritative websites. There are several processes SEO specialists use to get backlinks, such as reaching out to websites and sharing your content to see if it can be included, or identifying broken competitor links on other websites and providing your page as a working replacement.
Top SEO Writing Tips
When it comes to writing for SEO, think about what you can do to make sure the content you’re writing is better than your competition’s. Search for some of the topics or themes related to what you’ll be writing about and look at a few relevant Google results at the top of the SERPs. What do they lack, and how will you fill in the gaps with your content? Furthermore, look at what they do well, and think about how you can improve upon that. Your goal is to create a great piece of content that Google thinks will be more helpful to the user.
Whether you’re writing copy for product and landing pages or a blog post, keep these SEO writing tips in mind to help maximize your ranking potential.
1) Do keyword research to see what your audience is searching for
The first thing you should do when writing content is perform keyword research to see what your audience is searching for. Keyword research is the process of utilizing online tools to find commonly searched queries which are known as keywords. Keyword research can help you determine what to write about in order to attract new customers, such as blog topics related to your industry or common questions that you’ll want to address on product and landing pages.
Types of keywords
There are two types of keywords, short-tail (1-3 words) and long-tail (4+ words). For example, a short keyword might be “red sneakers” while a long-tail keyword would be “red high top air jordans.”
In general, long-tail keywords have more direct intent than short-tail keywords. In the example above, someone searching for “red sneakers” is likely early on in the research phase of the buying cycle. The person may ultimately end up buying red sneakers from one of several brands. However, someone searching for “red high top air jordans” already has a brand and style in mind, making it much more likely that they will ultimately purchase this specific type of shoe.
How to find and choose keywords
To find which keywords to target, use keyword research tools to find queries related to what you’ll be writing about. You’ll want to find synonyms and variations for specific terms, and commonly asked questions that you can answer in your content. For example, a page that sells athletic shoes would want to target queries like “sneakers”, “tennis shoes”, “running shoes”, etc… as well as questions like “how should athletic shoes fit?”
Furthermore, you’ll also want to examine the monthly search volume and the keyword difficulty (KD) for each keyword. The monthly search volume refers to how many times that keyword is searched each month, while the keyword difficulty indicates how hard it is to rank for that keyword on a scale from 0-100. Keywords with a difficulty of 0 are considered easy to rank for because there aren’t as many competing pages, and the difficulty goes up based on how competitive the term is (with 100 being the most competitive). Here’s a screenshot from the keyword research tool ahrefs showing what this looks like for the keyword “running shoes”.
To organize your keywords and writing topics, we recommend creating a spreadsheet like the example shown below. The spreadsheet has everything you’ll need to write the post, or assign it to someone else on your team as needed. As shown, we typically recommend providing at least one example of similar content that you’re trying to outrank.
2) Use query-based headings for each section
Once you have a list of target keywords, you can create an outline for your post. The first step is dividing your post into sections, and the heading for each important section should be based on a query that people would likely search for when looking for information on the subject you discuss. For example, in this post the main topic is “SEO Writing Tips,” and the proceeding sections are “Why Good SEO Content Writing Matters” and “Top SEO Writing Tips,” which are both relevant subjects that someone reading the post might consider searching for.
In many cases, we see brands use section headings that are more ambiguous and conversational in nature. For example, in a blog post review of a laptop it’s better to have sections like “Features of Laptop X” and “Pros/Cons of Laptop X” instead of sections like “You Won’t Believe What We Found” or “Wait Till You See This.”
Query-based section headings make it easier for people to skim content and quickly find information, resulting in a better user experience. Additionally, the search engine robots that crawl the web are better able to understand the overarching purpose of each section when you use query-based headings, which helps boost rankings for the keywords you’re targeting when writing for SEO. In some cases, answering a commonly asked question may land you a featured snippet at the top of the SERPs, such as the example below for the query “how to clean suede shoes.” In Google’s eyes, achieving the ranking of a SERP’s featured snippet is more valuable than the first organic position.
3) Utilize the right header tags
For each section heading, you’ll need to determine which header tag to use depending on the importance of that section or sub-section. There are six header tags, ranging from an h1 to an h6. The h1 tag should be used exclusively for the page title, with descending importance for tags that follow (h6 is the least important). Google will use these header tags to understand which sections are most important on the page.
In this post, the h1 is the article title, the h2’s are the main sections, the h3’s are sub-sections, and there are h4’s for more specific areas within sub-sections. The actual body text is just normal text, as it should be with all content. In most cases, you likely won’t need to use beyond an h3 or h4. You can see what heading is used by highlighting a heading, right-clicking, and selecting “Inspect” from your menu on a webpage.
In the example below, we right-clicked and inspected to see that this section heading uses an h3 header tag.
4) Make sure your content is long enough
In general, your pages should have at least 500 words of content to have a shot at ranking. For blog posts, you should aim to have at least 1,000 words or more. Keep in mind, a longer word count doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank higher than competitors. Don’t needlessly ramble and fill your content with fluff just to extend the length, focus on providing content that’s sufficient, but succinct. The best way to do this is by thinking about common questions people will have on the subject you’re writing about.
5) Add images and videos
For the user experience, images and videos are a great way to prevent your content from becoming a wall of text. For the search engine, having unique assets such as infographics, screenshots, or video walkthroughs adds to the value of your page. When adding images and videos, don’t go overboard because overuse of these assets can slow down your page load times. With either case, compress these files to make them as small as possible. For images, it’s best to keep all images under 100kb, whereas video sizes will vary depending on the length. If possible, avoid endlessly looping videos which can further slow down load times (such as the case with GIFs).
With images and videos, you should use alt text that describes the asset, and if possible, incorporates some of your target keywords. This helps search engine robots understand what the asset is and how it pertains to the topic of your content.
6) Incorporate internal links to other pages on your site
When writing content, make sure to link out to other relevant pages throughout your site. For example, if you’re a shoe retailer writing a blog post about the history of air jordans — it’s a great idea to include links to the air jordans you currently sell along with some product recommendations for shoe care. On the same note, you should try to link to important pages such as the air jordans release dates page and relevant blog posts such as a guide to cleaning air jordans.
7) Sprinkle calls to action throughout
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal for writing content should be to bring people onto your site and generate conversions. We discussed adding internal links, but we wanted to emphasize that you should also use a call to action (CTA) that encourage users to click onto product pages or take steps that lead them further down the sales funnel. Do this several times throughout the content, but make sure not to spam users with too much salesy text.
Additionally, consider what page this content is for. If it’s a blog post, then the main goal should be to direct people to product pages. However, if the user is already on a product page, be cautious about adding CTAs for other pages that could direct users away and potentially cost you conversions.
It’s easy to write compelling text-based CTAs that you can add throughout content, but at some point you may also want to consider creating banners and buttons that have more visual flair to attract attention.
Boost Your Organic Traffic by Writing SEO-Optimized Content
Keep these SEO writing tips in mind for all future content you plan on adding to your site. SEO can help your website rank high for keywords relevant to your products or services, which brings new customers to your website and ultimately increases conversions. Beyond writing content for SEO, you’ll also need to optimize it on a regular basis to ensure your pages are competitive with other top SERP listings.