How To Write Content for SEO
To ensure your content is reaching end-users and having a positive impact on your SEO, understanding what content writing is and why it matters is essential.
Exciting, informative and persuasive content may motivate your readers to engage with your brand, and commission your services, but how can you be sure anyone will actually read what you’re putting out there?
Even the best content will fall through the cracks if users aren’t aware of it, so publicising your content and making it easily available is vital. The vast majority of users begin their search for content on Google, so making sure your content satisfies the search engine’s requirements is a good tactic.
Of course, knowing what Google wants is key to producing compliant content, and this is where it gets trickier. Although Google has become more transparent about the factors it uses to rank content, there are still some ranking methodologies which remain hidden. In addition to this, many people are simply unaware of how and why Google ranks content in the way it does. As a result, much of the content out there is failing to satisfy Google’s requirements, and website owners are missing out on an influx of traffic.
What is Content Writing?
Content writing is a term which is used frequently, but it’s often a misunderstood concept. While content writing is linked to SEO and digital marketing, it can mean a variety of different things. A content writer typically produces content for online use, but this can be in numerous forms.
Content writing may encompass the content you see on a webpage, blog posts, articles, white papers, social media posts, PPC ads, landing pages, taglines, titles, blurbs, and headings. In addition to this, content writing may involve the production of video and audio scripts for online use.
Although content writing, in its most basic form, simply refers to the production of content for (predominantly) online use, it is intertwined with online marketing. Indeed, many people assume that the only purpose of content writing is to market a company or its products and services.
It’s fair to say, however, that content writing essential has a dual purpose. As well as providing readers with engaging, thought-provoking, and insightful content, it also enables you to promote brands, services, and products and forms an integral part of online marketing campaigns.
It was Bill Gates who first declared ‘Content is King!’ back in the nineties, and to a certain extent, this is still true in today’s climate. Despite the myriad of changes which have occurred in the tech and digital industries since then, content still reigns when it comes to SEO and online marketing.
Content writing matters because it can compel the reader to act. By showcasing the benefits of a service, for example, good quality content can entice the reader to engage with the company and directly and increase sales. Furthermore, informative content can help to increase trust in a brand and foster company loyalty.
On the other hand, content writing can also help to ensure your webpages are ranked highly for relevant keywords and that your website is highly visible to users who are searching for related information.
The Evolution of Content Writing
Traditionally, website owners often relied on content writers to produce content which satisfied Google but did little else. By stuffing keywords into a blog post, for example, it was possible to ‘trick’ Google into thinking the webpage was highly relevant to the keyword and should, therefore, rank highly for it.
Using ‘music’ as a keyword, for example, website owners might have published the following content:
‘If you like listening to music and you wear headphones to listen to music privately or share your music with speakers, you’re definitely a big music fan. Listening to pop music, grunge music, classical music or rap music, and RnB music can be fun, especially if you love music’.
The above example may have used the keyword frequently, but it doesn’t read well, it doesn’t provide useful content, and it certainly isn’t engaging. Sadly, the web was filled with similar content, as site owners were merely using content to satisfy Google, rather than engage their readers.
Fortunately, things have evolved since then. Google is now far more sophisticated when it comes to ranking pages, and keyword stuffing, as seen above, is no longer beneficial. In fact, overusing keywords can actually be harmful to your rankings!
Until relatively recently, content writers were essentially forced to either write for Google or write for readers. Content which is easy to read, engaging and insightful may have attracted readers, but it wasn’t necessarily ranking highly on Google. Conversely, content which satisfied Google was rarely useful to readers. While Google-compliant content may have ensured a webpage ranked highly when users were searching for a keyword, they would often click on highly ranked sites, only to leave swiftly when they realised the content wasn’t truly relevant, engaging or useful.
Now that Google has changed the way it ranks content, writers are more able to produce readable and exciting content. Google’s algorithms and ranking techniques now focus predominantly on users, and this has had a positive impact on the quality of content which is being published. Writers and site owners no longer have to choose between satisfying Google or the reader, because pleasing the reader means pleasing Google too.
Whilst content writing still has a major impact on your online marketing and SEO, the dual purposes of content writing are no longer competing against one another. Producing content which secures high rankings for particular keywords and propels your brand forward no longer comes at the cost of disengaging, confusing or boring the reader. Instead, content writers and digital marketers can use their digital content to entertain, inform, and entice their readers, and meet Google’s requirements at the same time.
What Tools Can I Use To Improve My Content Writing?
High-quality content is readable, engaging, and fresh. Of course, what this actually means will depend on what type of content you’re writing and where it’s going to be placed. On a contact webpage, for example, you’ll want to ensure that users can access the details they need easily, whilst a social media post needs to be short and snappy.
Keep your readers, and Google, in mind at all times when you’re preparing content. From the moment you begin brainstorming ideas and choosing topics to the final edit, your audience and your rankings should be of paramount importance.
Google values original content, and your readers will too. Whilst hundreds of music sites may feature content about digital music, for example, find a way for your content to stand out from the crowd. Incorporating topical issues is a great way to enhance the quality of your content, for both your readers and your SEO. Current issues and the latest news are things your audience will be interested in, and Google values new content highly as well. Using industry updates or breaking news also gives you the opportunity to have an opinion on issues that matter to your readers and provide them with new insights and information.
Researching For Content Writers
Once you have a topic, you’ll want to carry out an appropriate amount of research into it. You’ll need to understand the core concepts behind it, differing views and what impact it will have on your target demographic, for example.
However, research shouldn’t start after you’ve chosen a topic to write about. Instead, carry out research beforehand and allow your findings to influence what you choose to write about. If you’re a content writer producing articles for a number of different websites, for example, you’ll need to follow relevant industry news and understand your client’s business in order to determine what will be relevant to readers.
Similarly, conducting keyword research can be extremely useful for content writers. Google provides a range of tools which can be used to find out which keywords or terms are most popular, in relation to a particular topic or industry. This enables you to find out exactly what users are searching for and how they’re searching for it.
Let’s imagine you’re writing content for a plumbing company. Keyword research may show that popular search terms relating to the plumbing industry are ‘residential drains,’ ‘home drain repairs’ and ‘cheap drain replacement.’
A blog post about residential drains could certainly be relevant and informative, but are there ways to make it more engaging and topical? Are there new regulations which limit what plumbing works homeowners can carry out? Can businesses claim tax relief on plumbing maintenance? Are there grants to motivate homeowners to switch to more eco-friendly plumbing and drainage options? Which drains are the most cost-effective? What innovative new products improve drainage? How do you respond to a plumbing emergency?
Whilst all of the above examples can contain relevant content about residential, combining this content with industry news, product releases and mainstream bulleting makes it fresher and more topical.
Furthermore, evaluating why users are searching for a particular topic or keyword will help you to produce useful and relevant content. When users search for ‘residential drains,’ for example, the vast majority probably aren’t doing so because it’s their hobby. It’s more likely to be because their kitchen is under three inches of water or they want to know how much a plumbing job is likely to cost!
Writing an article about residential drains might be relevant to their search terms, but is it relevant to their search intent? By assessing why users are searching for these terms, you can put the information into context and produce content which is inherently more useful and informative.
By explaining how plumbing options A, B or C can save homeowners money or reduce the risk of leaks you’re giving readers critical information, but you’re providing it to them in way that’s highly relevant to their search intent.
Suddenly, a somewhat dry topic has become highly relevant, informative, topical, helpful, and even amusing. As well as providing readers with great content, this type of approach will keep Google happy too. Ensuring relevancy to likely search intent, as well as search terms and keywords, will be increasingly favoured by search engines, so it’s a good idea to start adopting this approach now.
As Google begins to use AI to unpack exactly what users are looking for when they enter search terms and to predict and pre-empt user behaviour, producing content that looks beyond the key term to the user’s intent will be inherently valuable and, therefore, result in high ranking pages.
How Does Content Writing Affect SEO
Effective SEO, or search engine optimisation, will help to get your webpages rank highly for particular search terms and keywords. However, there are a variety of techniques which should be combined in order to develop a comprehensive and effective SEO campaign.
After conducting initial keyword research and determining what key terms your users are actually searching for, you can begin your SEO campaign. Although there are various SEO methodologies you can apply, they can be broadly split into two areas; on-page and off-page SEO. Off-page SEO are things that, predictably, occur off of the webpage, so they aren’t visible to users. These may include backlinks, social media marketing, etc. On-page SEO tactics are things which happen on a webpage to enhance your rankings, and these are typically visible to your users.
Content plays a significant role in your on-page SEO. In order to appear in a high position on search engine results pages (SERPs), you’ll need to assess how every element on a page is optimised so as to comply with Google’s Guidelines.
As well as ensuring your content is relevant, informative, and engaging, it should contain relevant keywords where possible. However, keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs. Not only can it turn great content into incomprehensible gibberish, it can actually harm your SEO rankings too. Whilst keywords should be added to your content; they should be subtle and placed strategically and sparingly. Furthermore, keywords should always be used in an appropriate context.
When you proofread your content, it shouldn’t be obvious which words or phrases are keywords or terms. Both your audience and Google will quickly pick up on content which has been published solely to get keywords on the page, and they’ll punish you for it. Keep keywords minimal and contextual but ensure they’re there.
Creating Original Content
Good quality content is of paramount importance when it comes to SEO, but originality is a close second. If you produce content for the purpose of boosting your rankings on SERPs, ensure it’s placed on your website first. If you publish your content anywhere else before it goes on your website, this will devalue it and reduce the impact it has on your rankings, even if it’s content you produced yourself.
Whilst a canonical tag can be used to retain some of the value when content is published elsewhere first, it’s best to publish SEO-inspired content on your website before it’s placed anywhere else. Of course, alternative content can be produced for the express purpose of publishing on alternative websites, such as guest blog posts, for example. However, if you’re creating content because you want to improve your SEO performance, keep it solely for your website or ensure it’s published there first.
When it comes to creating content, people have mixed views about how much of your own opinion you should incorporate. If you’re a content writer producing articles on behalf of clients, for example, it’s best to leave your opinion out altogether! However, the client’s opinion may be important to the reader, and it could form part of your content. Alternatively, if you’re writing for your own website, you may feel more comfortable sharing your opinion with your readers. However, strong opinions can be divisive, so you’ll need to bear this in mind if you don’t want to risk alienating a segment of your audience.
Basic SEO Content
Although your articles, text, and blog posts are valuable content, everything on your site is technically considered content. It should, therefore, be optimised for search engines. Creating a suitable page title and an excerpt describing what the content is about may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many webpages are lacking these straightforward SEO features.
In order to index webpages, search engines crawl the internet and use the information they come across to build their index and rank pages in relation to relevant key terms. By adding a relevant page title and meta description, you’re giving Google’s crawler, Googlebot, the information it needs to index and subsequently rank your webpages.
Similarly, adding a text description to video content and images is vital if you want your SEO to be effective. An increasing number of websites are incorporating video content into their digital marketing strategies, but forgetting to add a text description decreases the value of the content straight away. You could create an original, innovative, and funny video, only to miss out on the SEO benefits it brings because you haven’t added a text description.
Googlebot won’t pick up on the actual content of the video, but it will recognise the text description and the presence of the video content. As a result, an appropriate text description will ensure that your video content and images are counted when your site is indexed and ranked.
In addition to this, headings and subtitles should also be written with SEO in mind. These will reinforce the page’s purpose and relevancy to Google and other search engines, so keeping them keyword focused but natural and readable is important. Make sure you only use one Heading 1 (H1) title in your content. Google reads the H1 as the page title, so using more than one makes it confusing for the bots and devalues your content from an SEO perspective.
Writing Effective Page Titles
Every webpage on your site should have its own, unique page title, and how you write them will have an impact too. Where possible, use your target keywords at the start of your page title. This ensures that Google will immediately identify what your page is about.
Of course, you don’t get a lot of scope when you’re writing page titles. Google only usually displays a limited number of characters of a page title, so anything over this is likely to be wasted. Keep your page titles to less than the limit and you can be sure that they’ll be displayed properly. Whilst page titles used to be limited to around 50-60 characters, Google has now increased this to approximately 70-71 characters. Whilst this does give you a little extra room, it’s still a great opportunity to practice your short and snappy content writing!
In most cases, adding your domain to your page title is unnecessary. As Google displays your domain anyway, you’ll simply be wasting characters if you try to include it. However, if you’re writing for a well-known brand or a highly recognisable company, including the domain in the page title may be acceptable. The page title for this page for example is ‘How To Write SEO-Optimised Content For Google | Digimark Australia’. This is 66 characters long, includes a good title, informing the reader what the article is about, and includes our branding.
Creating Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions give you a great opportunity to advertise your webpages, tell users why they’re relevant and persuade them to click through to your site. However, there are some basic guidelines you should employ. Meta descriptions are generally limited to around 150-160 characters because Google will simply cut any additional characters off. Furthermore, as Google only usually displays the first couple of lines of a meta description, anything longer than this isn’t seen by users anyway.
Despite increasing the pixel size of meta descriptions, Google has muddied the waters somewhat when it comes to the optimal length. Some SEO commentators suggest that meta descriptions exceeding 200 words are now being published without being cut off, whilst others maintain that a 158 character limit is appropriate for the new SERPs design. To play safe, keep your meta descriptions to the usual 150-160 character limit until further clarification has been given.
In the meantime, remember that Google will switch your meta description out for its own dynamic description if it doesn’t think yours is relevant enough or provides a useful answer to the user’s search query. To avoid this, spend time writing effective meta descriptions for each webpage, and ensure they’re unique.
Google used to give priority to desktop sites when it came to indexing web pages, but this has changed over the past twelve months. As more users now rely on mobile devices to get online, Google is using mobile-first indexing. Essentially, this means that it will use the mobile version of a website to index and rank it if there is one available.
If you’re using responsive web design, this shouldn’t make any difference to the content of your web pages in terms of blog posts or articles, because every web page will be displayed appropriately, depending on what device and screen size the user is visiting your site from.
However, the page title and meta description character limits are slightly different on mobile devices, so it’s worth bearing this in mind. Again, there are mixed reports regarding the recent design changes and the impact they’re having on character limitations. Whilst some commentators have claimed that searches on mobile devices are showing more page title and meta description characters than desktop versions, others insist that a lower character maximum is still employed on mobile devices.
In reality, there is likely to be some discrepancies here, as mobile devices can vary significantly. An 11” tablet and a 5” smartphone are both mobile devices but will obviously display things differently. Although Google may truncate descriptions and titles which are too long, working to the usual minimums shouldn’t harm your SEO. Of course, should Google announce further changes in the future, you may need to update or modify your content in response.
Creating Headline That Attract Clicks
Articles and blog posts will only be read by users if they can find them, but a catchy headline will compel them to click on your links instead of a competitor’s. In fact, headlines are so important that content writers will often spend as long creating them as they do on the rest of the article!
A headline which makes the reader curious is always a good way to increase click rates. Your headline should give users a glimpse into what they’re about to read, see or hear, but you don’t want to give too much away.
In addition to this, promising your readers value will give them a solid reason to click on your link and read the article. If you can identify a common problem users face and then promise a solution in your headline, readers will have enough of a reason to click that link.
Numbered headlines may be ubiquitous, but they’re everywhere for a reason; they work! ’10 ways to…’, ‘7 reasons why…’ or ‘5 strategies to…’, are common examples, but they tell your reader what to expect and give them a variety of options. Whilst one solution may not suit some readers, another one in the list will, and this ensures that every reader will get value from the post, thus increasing the number of users which are likely to click through your headline.
Formatting Content For SEO
When you use headings and subheadings on your web pages, you’ll need to forward them appropriately. Titles are wrapped in h1 tags, for example, so look something like this:
Although the tag itself isn’t shown on the web page, using headings and subheadings helps to break up content and enables readers to skim through an article or web page to see where the content is heading.
Furthermore, content tags, such as <h1>, <h2> etc., are beneficial for SEO purposes. Whilst readers won’t be able to see the tags, Google will. What’s contained in the tags, (i.e. your headings and SEO subheadings) will tell Google what the content is about, which enables the search engine to index and rank the page accordingly.
Due to this, it can be helpful to include keywords and key terms in your headings and subheading, providing it is natural to do so, and they remain in context. Keyword stuffing is just as harmful if it’s done in relation to subheadings as it is within blog posts and articles, so be sure to make your key terms read naturally and use them appropriately.
Blog Post Architecture
Blog posts are extremely important when it comes to content. The main pages of your website may contain service or product information, as well as contact details and information about your team, but this content won’t necessarily be updated on a daily or even a weekly basis. This limits the amount of fresh, new content on your site, which could harm your rankings.
By adding a blog to your website, however, you can add fresh content whenever you like. This keeps users happy by giving them new content to absorb and keeps them returning to your site and it also satisfies Google’s indexing algorithms.
However, your blog post architecture should be optimised to ensure you get the best results from it. Currently, Google is favouring long-form content over shorter posts, so more in-depth articles and posts can be beneficial. In any blog post, using subheadings and short paragraphs helps to make the content more readable, but this is particularly important when you’re producing long-form content.
If readers are faced with a wall of text, they may automatically disengage. However, if you use subheadings, short paragraphs, bullet points, and numbered lists, this breaks the wall of text down and makes it far more manageable and attractive to read.
It is also important to remember to link to other articles that help the reader get a better understanding of the topic you are writing about. This helps to keep your content connected through internal linking, as well as covering the topic more thoroughly without actually writing about it through external linking.
Honing Your Content Strategy
Content production and search engine optimisation aren’t one-off tasks; they need to be consistently enhanced and improved in order to be effective. Whilst websites will need to produce and publish regular high-quality content in order to rank highly on SERPs; you will also need to be aware of upcoming changes to Google’s policies and algorithms.
If, or when, Google makes modifications to its current strategy, this may have a significant impact on what type of content you produce or how its optimised. By keeping up-to-date with Google’s strategies, you can ensure that your content remains high-quality for both your readers and your rankings.
30 Point Content Checklist
We’ve created a helpful tool for you to use to better optimise your content. The Checklist contains 7 sections to assess your content on.
Search Engine Optimisation
Determine whether your content is searchable or not. Have you considered a keyword strategy and are you using your keywords as intended? Have you provided contextual metadata?
Measure the relevance of your content from topic title to ending remarks. Also, is it easy to understand?
Are your readers likely to be satisfied with what they have just read? Do they feel more informed having read your content and are they likely to continue reading your content? Are they engaged?
What is the purpose of the content? Does it put your reader’s needs first or your own? The primary focus should always be on the audience first, then on a blog subscription or other call to action.
How trustworthy is your content? Are your readers likely to trust it, or will they find it deceptive and unclear as to whether the content is fake or not?
Is the content a source of truth beyond your own blog. Are other websites linking to it?
Is the blog post written for someone who is a beginner on the topic, or is it written for someone who has more knowledge and is able to understand what came before?