How to Write SEO Content That Ranks & Engages in 2022

SEO Content Writing Guide - Write Content That Ranks

SEO Content Writing

As an expert in your industry, you offer a valuable product or service for your target demographic. Unfortunately, you probably aren’t the only person offering your product or service. Even if you are, you’d need to be pretty unique to organically rank high in SERPs (search engine results pages).

This is where SEO content writing comes into play.

In this post, we’ll explain what SEO content writing is and how to put it to work for your business in 2022.

What is SEO Content Writing?

SEO content writing is ensuring that your written content is optimized for search engines. It includes various on-page SEO tactics (which we’ll get into below). Remember though, you must create content that engages your readers while sending the right signals to search engines. Otherwise, you will have plenty of traffic and few if any conversions.

Typical Formats for SEO Content

It’s usually done in the form of blog posts, articles, case studies, and other pieces of content you house on your site. Optimizing that content sends signals to Google that your page (unlike the others in the SERP) has what the searcher wants.

Why is SEO Writing Important?

According to Google, quality content is a determining factor for SEO. So, we know SEO content writing helps Google know your site answers questions from searchers, but how?

Google looks for specific words (known as keywords or keyword phrases) as one factor in determining how useful your website will be for people searching those keywords. This explains why over 50% of content marketers cite keyword ranking and organic traffic as the top ways they measure the success of their SEO strategies.

But, you can’t just plaster a bunch of keywords all over your website. Instead, you’ll want to make it fit into a blog post or an article covering a related topic on your site.

So, think of creating content as a logical way to house keywords on your site.

And if a little bit is good, surely a lot is better–right? That means that if having a few keywords on your site is good for organic traffic, then having a lot (in the form of several pieces of content) is ideal. Having all those keywords on your site factors into how useful Google determines your site to be for a given search.

SEO content is one powerful way to drive traffic to your website.

Don’t have the time or resources to handle this in-house? Check out our on-page SEO & content writing services.

Length of Content

Does it matter how long your blog posts are? Our sources say Yes.

seo content writing length impact on rankings

SerpIQ did a study analyzing the average length of pieces of content that ranked in the top 10 spots. The pieces in the number 1 spot consistently had over 2,416 words.

People may have short attention spans but when it comes to reading content, they’re after longer pieces.

Best Practices for SEO Writing

We’ve laid out how important on-page SEO is for your site, so now let’s talk about how to implement best practices as you’re writing content so you can have the best, most optimized content.

  • Use your keyword in your URL – You don’t only want to use your keyword in your content (and H1 heading). You should also use it in your actual URL. After all, your URL helps Google know what your page is about.
  • SEO-friendly URLs – Speaking of URLs, make sure your URLs are simple and don’t contain underscores. Instead, you should be using hyphens to separate words.
  • Location, location, location – Almost as important as having your keyword in your title is where your keyword is in your title. Specifically, you should front-load your keyword in your H1 (title) tag.
  • Use your keyword in the first 150 words – Did you know that Google weighs the first 100-150 words of your page the heaviest? It’s important to have your primary keyword fall within the first 150 words.
  • Internal linking – Incorporate links that direct traffic to other pages/posts on your own site.
  • Use your keyword in the H1, H2s or H3s – Including your keyword in either your H1, your H2s or your H3s can help you rank higher for that keyword.
  • Keep titles between 50 and 60 characters – In August 2021, Google released an update to title tags where they’ll now “rewrite” your titles for different reasons. (“Rewrite” isn’t exactly accurate as they’re not completely redoing them but they’re adjusting and tweaking titles for different reasons, one of which has to do with length.)
  • Optimize images – Optimizing your image alt tags, file names, and descriptions. Be sure to include your keyword in the meta description box and only use a filename that accurately describes what the image is. Also, complete the image alt text information for accessibility. So, no “screenshot2–final copy” names. Something simple and accurate like “laughing_child.png” is best. Bonus: optimizing images will help you rank in image searches!
  • E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) – One thing Google uses to determine your page rankings is the authority of your site as we’ve mentioned. Along with that, Google also looks at your site’s “expertise” and your overall “trustworthiness.” Most SEOs refer to this as E.A.T. principles.
  • Use synonyms for your keyword(s) – We can’t stress this enough: keyword stuffing is so 2002. These days, Google is much smarter than that and will punish you by not showing your content to very many people if you use the same keyword 500 times. Instead, start incorporating synonyms for your keyword when you write content.

For instance, if you wanted to rank for “SEO writing,” you could also use some of the following:

  • SEO content
  • SEO writing
  • SEO copywriting
  • SEO copywriters
  • SEO content writers
  • SEO content strategy

You get the picture.

  • Use modifiers in your page title – Words such as “best,” “the current year,” “guide,” “review,” “top,” “checklist,” etc. can improve your on-page SEO rankings because they help your page rank for various long-tail keyword phrases.
  • Make sure every page has a title – Page titles tell readers (and Google) what your pages are about. They’re what is visible in search engine results and aren’t the same thing as your H1 (which is what readers see after they’ve clicked the link). Ensuring every page has a title not only helps readers to be certain what it’s about but also helps Google index your site and compare your page with other pages on the web with similar content.
  • Only use one H1 per page – Using more than one H1 on your page can confuse search engines as they attempt to index your page.
  • Fix Keyword Cannibalization – When multiple pages at the same site are competing (with one another) to rank for the same keywords, it can decrease the impact of the other SEO strategies you’re deploying. The best way to fix this issue is to combine similar pages, delete pages (we’d recommend the older pages), or change the angle for all except one (the one you’re going to keep for the topic).

Meta Descriptions

pages-with-a-meta-description-have-a-higher-average-ctr-vs-pages-without-a-descriptionBacklinko Study Finds Having A Meta Description Improves CTR

Remember, your title and your meta descriptions are what show up in search results, so be sure to optimize your meta descriptions and write them well. Some people won’t open your link at all without a convincing meta description, since the meta description is a sneak peak into your content. Having even a basic description has been shown to boost click-through-rates, so imagine what an optimized one can do.

The Importance of Meta Descriptions

Think of it like ad copy–it’s what will convince people to click your link in a sea of links where you’re vying for a searcher’s attention. Search engines stopped using meta descriptions many years ago, but people will still be more enticed to click on your link, which affects your click-through rate (CTR). Therefore, it’s still important to optimize your meta descriptions.

Checklist for SEO Writing

Since you now know best practices for SEO writing, here’s a simple checklist you can use to make sure your on-page SEO is up to par:

  • Keyword is in the URL
  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Content length determined by top ranking content averages
  • Primary keyword is at the beginning in H1/title tag
  • Keyword contained within the first 150 words
  • Keyword within H1, H2s, or H3
  • Title is between 50 and 60 characters
  • Images optimized
  • E.A.T. principles followed
  • Synonyms for keywords
  • Meta description
  • Modifiers in page title
  • Every page has a title
  • Only one H1 per page
  • Check for (and fix) keyword cannibalization

Choosing SEO Content Topics

Understanding best practices for creating high-quality content is critical but now that you do, how can you choose what to write about? There are several things you can do, but some of the best ways to rank in search engines involve doing competitive analysis and scouring the web for UGC (user-generated content) ideas.

Competitive Analysis

Looking at what your competitors are doing will give you a good idea of what keywords they’re ranking for in search engines that you are not, as well as how receptive the general public is to certain topics. For instance, using the “Top Pages” tool in Ahrefs allows you to see how search engines are reading some of their pages of content, which keywords are working well for them, and how the public enjoys content on a specific topic…all in one shot.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

You might be a creative wordsmith capable of coming up with some awesome ideas for content, but if your target audience doesn’t care about that topic, you probably won’t get very many views – which means all your efforts at developing quality content (and optimizing it for SEO) might be in vain.

How can you avoid this? By looking at what the people want and answering their questions with your quality content.

One great resource for this is Answer the Public, which you can use for free! Just enter a topic, idea, theme, etc. and the site will generate results for you, including questions people are asking about your topic.

For example, suppose you’re a real estate attorney who wants to write content in your area of law. You know all about this sector, of course, but you want your content to be useful to readers who may or may not be attorneys.

Entering “real estate law” at Answer the Public generates 49 questions, including:

  • How to study real estate law
  • Is real estate law a good career?
  • Why study real estate law?
  • What is real estate law like?
  • What does a real estate law clerk do?
  • Real estate law tenancy at will

…and several more ideas to get you going.

And that’s only the beginning of the results you’ll get! If you keep scrolling down, you’ll find 41 prepositions (where “real estate law” is used with prepositions or in questions/statements that have a prepositional phrase), 33 comparisons (such as “real estate attorney vs. an agent”), and so much more!

Another excellent resource for UGC ideas is Quora. You can either use Quora directly or do a Boolean keyword search in Google and type in something like “link building AND Quora” or “link building site: Quora” to get questions people are asking in real-time on Quora about your topic.

Keyword Research and Competitor Research

Now that you know how to optimize your content and why it’s important, where do you even begin? One word: research.

Research isn’t just about digging up facts to include in your content. It’s also done before you even type the first word so you’ll know what words you should be typing in your quest to develop quality content.

Once you’ve decided on a topic, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner (free) or Ahrefs to determine which relevant keywords you should have as your target keyword and some secondary keywords. Choosing target keywords isn’t difficult, but ranking for them isn’t easy. Actually ranking for any keywords is a combination of at least a few things.

First, your own site’s demographics matter.

Second, the age of your site and its authority in Google’s eyes will also impact your search result rankings. That’s why it’s important to think of SEO as a part of a bigger, holistic approach but certainly not the be all and end all solution to catapult you to the top of search results.

Another thing that will impact whether you stand a chance at ranking for any particular keywords is your competition and what they’re doing or what keywords they’re ranking for. If you’re a brand new site with very few pieces of content, there’s no way you’re going to rank for the same keywords as a much larger site that’s older and has already established itself as authoritative in Google’s eyes. That’s not to say you should just throw in the towel, but it does mean you’re going to want to adjust your strategies and the keywords you try to rank for.

Strategic tip:

    • Start by trying to rank for keywords with little competition so your web page can start ranking in the first place. Targeting these “quick win” keywords will allow you to build up traffic, leads, and revenue. In turn, you can re-invest those earnings into targeting more popular and valuable keywords. Over time, you will build up topical authority by posting relevant content, as well as site authority from any inbound links you earn, making this a rinse and repeat process that can be scaled for exponential growth.

Here is a good overview of how to use Ahrefs to find low difficulty keywords:

Benefits of SEO Content for Your Brand

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of SEO in general, how content writing can help you, and even some best practices for SEO writing, let’s talk about how it can help your brand.

  • Thought leadership. Establishing yourself as an authority in your industry is important for the product you sell or service you provide. With plenty of content on your page, you’ll have a chance to tell prospective customers what you know about the things that interest them the most but without coming across as being pushy and sales-y.
  • Traffic and conversion. Optimizing that content for SEO can ensure that people see your content. After all, what’s the point in having plenty of quality content that you’ve worked hard to put together if no one’s going to see it? As you can see, optimizing content for search engines can also serve to drive traffic to your website, which is probably one of your ultimate goals. As part of an overall strategy, SEO writing can help to convert prospects into customers.
  • It’s often less costly. We’ve laid out several of the reasons why you should implement an SEO-based writing strategy into your overall content marketing plan for your business.For something so powerful, you’d think you’d need to pay a large chunk of money but in fact, SEO optimization is 100% FREE (though finding someone to implement the strategies properly will cost money–especially when you factor in the opportunity cost your mistakes might be costing you). It’s one of the few content marketing things you can do for your own business that can have a great ROI.
  • Inclusion in “featured snippets”. Have you ever searched for something and noticed that Google returned a definition of that exact thing right at the top of search results in a larger font, almost as though you’d clicked it yourself? These are called “featured snippets.” Having your content appear as a Featured Snippet has a huge impact on SEO–so much so that many SEO experts refer to it as position #0 as it’s considered above the #1 spot! Properly optimizing your content greatly increases your chances becoming one.

Is It Too Late?

What if you already have a ton of content on your site but you’re only just now learning about SEO? It’s important to start writing SEO-friendly content for the future, but thankfully, it’s not too late; you can also go back and optimize old content and spruce it up some to “refresh” it for search engine results. Here’s how:

  1. Look at your site’s analytics and determine your best-performing pieces.
  2. Determine which pieces seem to get the most views and engagement. (If you have more than one piece that is doing exceptionally well, see if there’s a common theme between them and use that as a topic for new content!)
  3. Choose the top 10-15 pieces (for now) and make sure they’re optimized for SEO.
  4. Implement the things outlined under the “best practices” heading above, as well as other on-page SEO tactics like updating the dates and years, changing titles, etc. Updating blog posts can increase traffic by as much as 96%.
  5. If you’d rather not have to bother with this, we have great news: On-page SEO services, including content strategy & writing is one of our main services. If all of this sounds incredibly overwhelming to you, you’ll be happy to know that we LOVE on-page optimization!

Getting Started with Your On Page SEO Journey

Now you know just how important on-page SEO is and how best to leverage it for strong organic traffic growth in 2022.

Like most things in life, on-page SEO is very much a matter of getting out what you put in. Be it through new content creation, breathing life into old posts, or a combination of the two, optimizing your pages is a great return on your time and resources.

Do it yourself or hire an agency like us to handle it for you, just make sure it gets done!

SEO Content Writing FAQs

Having plenty of content that’s optimized for search engines available on your page is definitely a win-win for you: it’s free marketing and you’ll naturally drive more traffic to your site! But what else should you know about SEO writing and is that all there is to driving organic traffic to your site?

Why Is SEO Content Important?

Think of SEO-optimized content as a signal for search engines that directs the world to your site and to choose you for the product or service you have. By signaling to people searching that you have the answers, the content on your site serves a double purpose: it brings people to your site and it answers the questions they had. Bonus: you get to pull people to your site without seeming pushy about it and without spending money on ad campaigns!

Is SEO Content the Best in the Long Run?

If you’re going to have content on your site–and there should be no “if” about it–then SEO optimized content is by far the best option for the long run. Why? As we’ve discussed above, you can’t beat a FREE marketing initiative! Plus, you can have content on your site that’s evergreen and that won’t go out of date along with SEO optimized content; you don’t have to choose one or the other.

What Other Factors Determine a Site’s Ranking in Search Engines?

Quality content and link building are by and large THE biggest determining factors in how well your site can rank. But, it’s not the only thing Google looks at. While it’s very important to have SEO content on your page, be sure these other things aren’t working against you:

Low-quality backlinks. One of the biggest red flags to Google is your site having several low-quality links directing readers to it. Make sure you are getting quality links back to your content.

As we mentioned earlier, this is a time-consuming process that should be done meticulously and thoroughly, otherwise, you run the risk of being punished. If you’re at all concerned about shooting yourself in the foot and inadvertently finding yourself on Google’s naughty list, then don’t take your chances. Instead, leave it in the hands of link-building experts who will take time building quality links for your brand.

The more quality links you have pointing back to your webpage, the more authoritative Google will consider your site to be. The more authoritative, the easier it is to rank for valuable keywords.

Site speed. If your site is slow, it’ll impact your page’s rankings, according to Google’s Page Speed update, especially in mobile searches. There are things you can do–such as compressing images or reducing the number of page redirects your site has–that can help speed up your page’s performance. But, if your site is slow and you have no idea why, consider using Google’s own PageInsights tool to help you figure out what’s slowing down its performance.

Duplicate pages. If you have duplicated content/pages on your site, it’ll lower your ranking because Google will try to split rankings between both pages, giving each page fewer views and hurting your overall page rankings in the process.

Still have questions? Contact us today and we would be happy to help you develop an effective strategy.

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