If you want to learn how to write SEO-optimized content to grant yourself a better chance of ranking high on search engines, this guide is for you.
In fact, you’ll find the step-by-step instructions I use for my website to rank content (and I’m ranking several articles based on these tips). Although this article doesn’t cover every detail of SEO (getting backlinks, for example), it addresses all the essential aspects of the writing process.
So, whether you’re a novice in the blog world and want to write great content or battling yourself to increase your rankings, be sure to learn the SEO writing best practices I’m sharing with you.
What is SEO?
If you want to learn how to write SEO-optimized content for higher rankings on search engines, we should understand what SEO means. SEO is the abbreviation of Search Engine Optimization—as the name implies, it relates to any optimization process we do to make our content more search engine-friendly.
SEO writing is the process of creating content intended to secure a spot on the first page (preferably on the top) of search engine results.
Search engines like Google or Bing want to return the best results for the query we introduce in the search box. When you improve your search engine visibility, you’ll increase your chances of getting more organic traffic.
And this, my friend, is what every webmaster seeks—traffic. The more traffic you have on your website, the more money you can make.
In today’s world, neglecting SEO techniques would be akin to owning a shop but failing to inform people about its location, products, or opening hours. Imagine having a high-quality product that no one can purchase simply because they cannot find your store. This is precisely what happens when you disregard SEO in an environment where everyone competes for attention—you become lost among others.
Search Engine Algorithms
Search engines are machines; as such, they rely on powerful algorithms to sift through millions of websites to identify and decide what to rank. These algorithms are responsible for the search engine results pages (SERPs) you see on any given query, which fluctuates over time as new articles emerge and old ones are updated.
While it’s important to understand algorithms like Google’s RankBrain, focusing on creating content that’s optimized for higher rankings is your best bet.
Search engines have many ranking factors (Brian Dean from Backlinko states there are over 200 ranking factors), such as page loading times, mobile-friendliness, Core Web Vitals, image SEO optimization, backlinks, user intent, and many more. But the most important one is content—high-quality content.
Why Keyword Research is Vital for Great SEO Writing
One crucial factor that affects search engine algorithms is the use of keywords. They tell the algorithms what your page is about.
Let’s say you’re searching for graph generators powered by artificial intelligence. You might type in “best AI graph generator” in your search engine. That’s the primary keyword you’re using.
But the question is, how do you use keywords in your article? More on that later.
If your website has content that aligns well with these keywords and is also considered of high quality by the search engine, it will rank higher. You can look at keywords as signposts search engines use to show your content.
However, it’s important to note that simply stuffing keywords into your text won’t be effective anymore (like it used to be). Search engines have become more intelligent. They can detect if you’re trying to manipulate the system by using keywords without regard for context.
How Search Intent Relates to Writing SEO Content
Before you start writing blog posts or any other type of content for your website, you should consider the search intent or user intent.
Put simply, search intent is the intention behind the query the user types in Google Search or any other search engine.
There are four leading categories of user intent:
- Informational (“how to” blog posts, “ultimate guides,” etc.)
- Transactional (“buy shoes”)
- Commercial (“best shoes”)
- Navigational (Nike website)
Besides writing SEO-friendly content with the right keywords, it must meet your user intent if you want to grow traffic to your website exponentially.
For example, I wrote an article with an informational intent on downloading Onlyfans videos currently ranking on Google’s top pages.
In that article, I discuss various methods that allow the reader to perform the action his query refers to—downloading videos from the network. I did not focus solely on the keywords but addressed the user’s primary concern. Ultimately, this leads to a higher engagement time, signaling to Google that my article addresses the user’s intent.
The same goes for the commercial search intent, where the user seeks a product to buy. In the following example, the user might have tested or used a product called Synthesia, and now he’s looking for an alternative.
By addressing that intent and displaying a list of potential alternatives while proving why they’re a great alternative to the tool, I’m meeting the criteria for helping the user with that query. When the user clicks the link, goes to my page, and doesn’t return to the SERPs, it signals the search engine that the intent has been met.
Again, this leads to more engagement, allowing me, over time, to increase my rankings, ending up on the first page of Google—which is the ultimate goal of an SEO strategy.
How to Write SEO-Optimized Content for Higher Rankings on Search Engines
When writing content for your website, having a content strategy can help you streamline the whole process. But if you’re a solo blogger and only develop a piece of content now and then, learning to optimize your content correctly is much more fruitful than creating a business strategy.
Whatever the type of content you have, there are some best practices you should employ to make your content stand out from the rest of the pack.
Here, I’ll explore the SEO copywriting best practices to help you create content that ranks while helping search engines understand what it’s all about.
1. Keyword Research
Before you start writing anything, you must know your main keyword. What’s the keyword you’re targeting? That’s the question you must answer right from the start.
Let’s say we want to write an article on AI profile picture generators.
A good SEO content writer knows that the following two keywords are pretty much the same:
- AI profile picture generator
- AI profile picture maker
Why do I say they are the same? Because search engine algorithms treat them basically as the same since the user intent is the same. Google knows that “generator” and “maker” have the same meaning in this regard.
So, how would you choose which keyword to target? Easy—focus on search volume.
Using the free keyword research tool provided by Ahrefs, let’s see which keyword has a higher search volume.
The keyword “AI profile picture generator” is clearly the winner, with 1.5k monthly searches over only 100 by the other keyword.
As you can see in the Ahrefs report, the main keyword, “AI profile picture generator,” has a keyword difficulty of 21. This means there are more chances for a new site to rank for that particular keyword since there’s not much competition. The higher the number (from 0 to 100), the harder it is to rank for.
Another way of looking at potential keywords is to check similar search terms that Google displays at the bottom of the search results.
You can even get insights on which terms are being more searched when typing in the search box.
In essence, focus on finding keywords with a high search volume and low keyword difficulty score to boost your chances of being noticed by search engines.
2. Use AI SEO Tools
Now that you have your target keyword, how do you know what topics to cover? You can do it the old school way of typing that keyword on Google and browsing through the top pages to see what they have written about, or you can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help you in this matter.
The best AI SEO tools offer a unique advantage over writing the content yourself. They can analyze the top-ranking pages for your target keyword and give you insights into what you should write to be able to compete with those pages for the same keyword. And what’s their trick? Natural Language Processing keywords.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the tool Google employs to understand essential words or phrases on websites better. Like when trying to decipher unknown sentences by looking at the content around them for clues, Google uses NLP similarly by studying words surrounding main terms to deduce meaning from them.
Here’s an example of NLP keywords in Surfer SEO.
Surfer SEO analyzes the top-ranking pages for a particular keyword and extracts those NLP keywords. By inserting them into your content in a natural way, there’s a good chance it will help Google understand your article better, leading to potential higher rankings over time.
These tools not only give you insights into NLP keywords but also:
- Examples of how the NLP keyword was used.
- The length of the article.
- Keywords to introduce in the headings.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
- Images alt tags.
Based on all this information, you receive a content score from these tools to help you compare the SEO and content optimization of your article versus your competitors.
While using these tools does not guarantee you’ll rank high, it sure helps for a great content creation process, as you’ll receive information on what topics to incorporate in the content you write. Not to mention that search engines will better understand the content on the page.
But don’t get fooled by these platforms. While they’re excellent in ensuring your content stands a chance to rank, creating high-quality content is paramount. Is your grammar good? Does it all make sense all the way through? Is the user intent met? Along with NLP, your content needs to meet all these criteria.
Other SEO tools include AI SEO writers, which can generate entire articles based on your keyword. The best part is that they’re already highly optimized for rankings, which is great if you’re a lazy writer.
But humor aside, an AI SEO writing tool like Surfer AI can significantly help when generating your first draft. While the AI-generated article is pretty much ready to be published, you should incorporate your own views, make some tweaks to personalize it, and add important information the AI may have missed.
3. Proper Formatting
For better-optimized content, formatting is also vital. Instead of writing big chunks of text, make sure to include the following:
- Bulleted lists
- Bold text
This helps break the monotony of reading a webpage. Because let’s face it, most people don’t read your content from start to finish, word by word—they skim through or pick out just the exact information they need.
Also, a big chunk of text with no formatting is harder to read, making for a terrible user experience, meaning the reader may go back to the search results and choose another site.
When you format your text in a more reader-friendly way, two things happen. First, engagement goes up—people find the information they need and stick around to read it. Second, they also tend to notice and appreciate the effort to clarify the content, enhancing their overall experience on your website.
4. Internal Links
When creating SEO-optimized content, don’t underestimate the power of internal links. They serve more than simply as links between webpages—they form part of SEO best practices, which could make a critical difference to how well your article ranks in searches.
Internal links provide search engines and audiences a means of exploring more of what you have created. When keywords are embedded within content through internal links, search queries can go deeper within your website’s pages.
But how exactly does this work? Consider writing a blog post on “SEO content writing tips.” In that post, you might link back to an earlier “SEO writing guide” or article that provides a more in-depth discussion of that topic, thus providing extra value and showing off your expertise in your field.
Understanding the process of writing SEO content doesn’t just involve producing compelling and informative text—it requires taking a holistic view. Each piece should fit seamlessly into its environment like pieces in a puzzle; each should link back to others to build networks that search engines will appreciate and reward with higher rankings. That’s what the experts call topical authority.
5. Image Optimization
A blog post without images is less appealing than one that includes them. We’re visual creatures and like to see images that prove what we’re reading. SEO writers not only have the skills for SEO and content marketing but also for choosing the right images to accompany that content.
Image SEO has its own specifics, such as descriptive alt tags or alt text, proper sizes and formats, and captions. Without overextending myself here, you can refer to my article on Image SEO tips to better format them to include in your content.
But very briefly, here’s what you should be aware of when including images in your blog post:
- Use unique images.
- Include your target keyword in the file’s name (if appropriate).
- Write a descriptive alt tag so crawl bots know what it’s all about.
- Resize the image so it’s not bigger than the size of your website’s content area.
- Compress your images, preferably in WebP format, to reduce size without compromising on quality. This makes your website load faster while saving space on your server.
6. Use an SEO Plugin
If you’re using WordPress to publish content on the web, you already know that it comes with tons of third-party plugins to help you in various areas.
Rank Math is an SEO plugin designed to help you generate keywords, analyze competition, create sitemaps, auto-index your pages, and create links using its own internal linking system. But one of the most valuable features of this SEO plugin is to give you insights into your on-page SEO.
It provides a checklist to guide you on optimizing your article for best practices. However, don’t panic if you don’t tick all those little green lights. They only serve as a guide. But it is a handy guide, as we sometimes forget to check essential aspects before hitting the “Publish” button.
Another helpful feature of Rank Math is the preview snippet editor that shows you how your page appears in Google search results and social media.
Here, you can change your article’s title and meta description. As a rule of thumb, include your main keyword in the title, URL, and meta description.
Don’t worry if Google doesn’t display the info you wrote. When you see your article in the SERPs, you’ll find that Google often suggests different descriptions depending on the query. But you must write a good meta description because that’s what the Google bot will read when scraping your page.
Writing for SEO is Different than Writing a Novel
Writing for SEO is different from penning a novel. Where a book invites readers to meander through a story at leisure, a piece written with SEO in mind guides readers to the specific information they want.
SEO writing relates to the process of writing content designed to rank higher on search engines. It’s a specialized kind of content that has distinct rules you need to follow.
To become an SEO writer, you need to know how to write—yes—but that’s only half of it! You must also know how to select and incorporate relevant keywords in your content. Keywords help search engines understand your content’s subject and, importantly, help your content to rank in search results.
But it’s not just about stuffing your content with keywords. The best SEO features content designed to rank and content that provides value. In other words, you need to create content that ranks well and is a resource for readers.
This is where SEO copywriters make their mark. They always write content with the goal of helping the reader—guiding them to the exact answers and information they’re looking for. But these talented folks also understand that every piece of content they create must serve a dual function—entertain the reader and please the search engines.
Creating content that answers readers’ questions and includes relevant key phrases is essential for SEO. Without SEO, your content might flounder, struggling to reach its intended audience. But, by using SEO copywriting best practices, you’ll improve your content’s visibility, making it easier for people to find and interact with your material.
So keep in mind, while content writing for SEO may be a different kind of beast than penning your next great novel, both are about stories. The former is about the user’s story—and how your content can help them on their journey—while the latter might transport users to a whole new world. In the end, both need to engage, and both need to inform, but when you’re targeting SEO, the strategy becomes a fundamental part of the writing process.
Content Writing for SEO: Create Content that Ranks
Learning how to write SEO-optimized content is a skill that comes with time—mostly from practice and improving your content.
If you’re a business with a budget, you can create a content strategy plan and hire successful SEO copywriters to make sure your content is of high quality and has the chance to rank on search engines.
On the other hand, if you’re a blogger with a team of one (that is, yourself), you have to do the heavy lifting. Ensure you incorporate all the tips provided in this guide, and you’ll grant yourself a ticket to higher rankings.