In most cases when you’re writing something, your aim is to engage the reader. With SEO, you have to balance that goal with also pleasing Google’s algorithm.
The question, of course, is how? We have quite a few guides on SEO content writing — but there’s a lot to read, to say the least. So we wanted to create a slimmed-down guide to point people in the right direction.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to get you started:
Step 1: Let Your Audience Choose The Topic
The best content writers bring creative genius to the table, but the most successful ones — the ones who are ranking for killer keywords — they’re stepping up with a fully thought-out keywords strategy. They find the right keywords — and more importantly — the seemingly perfect topic.
Your audience already knows what’s relevant to them. Instead of guessing, just let them tell you.
Do keyword research to figure out what your audience is searching for. Start with what you think they’re typing into the search bar, and let the tool you’re using guide you along the way.
Not sure which keyword tool to use? We suggest Google’s own Keyword Tool, or even Ubersuggest — both of which are free. If you want to go up to the big leagues, SEMrush is our cup of tea.
The best keywords are going to differ from business to business, and website to website. Finding the right keywords is a challenge in and of itself. Luckily, we’ve got you covered if you want to learn how to do keyword research and analysis.
Once you find some solid keywords to turn into a topic of discussion or a question, you have something relevant to bring to the table in your content. It’s time to move to the next step.
Step 2: Craft Your Headline
Headlines are critical to your reader. It’s the first thing they see, and usually the only thing they take into consideration before clicking or scrolling past. Google knows this, so the algorithm is designed accordingly.
You’ll want to place your primary keyword in your headline. But do it without losing elements like pain points, benefits, and curiosity that will compel your target audience to actually click it.
Buzzsumo is a really great tool for seeing how other popular articles are already doing this. Just plug your keyword into the search, see what pops up, and let it inspire you.
If you get stuck, remember there are some tried and true headline formulas you can toy around with, like:
- “How to [Goal] Without [Pain Point]”
- Listicle headlines, or “X Ways to Accomplish Y”
- And the good old “How to [Get the Desired Result]”
It never hurts to come back to these, since they’ve been proven time and again to get the job done.
Step 3: Time to Do the Actual Article Writing
Now that you have your keywords and headline in place, it’s time to write the actual article. You’ll want to keep a couple of things in mind, though.
Word Count, Counts
Take a look at what your ranking competitors shot for word count. Was it 500 words? 2,500? 3,000? It matters. When comparing your article to others, Google’s going to take length and depth into account.
(As a note: length isn’t necessarily a ranking factor — but how useful your content is absolutely plays a role!)
One of the fastest ways to get your article to flop against the competition is to write it like an essay. Look at this one that you’re reading. It’s broken up into smaller sections with varying levels of subtitles within the sections. This makes it easier to read. Google (and your audience) like articles that are easy to read. Give them what they want.
If you think you might struggle with this, start with an outline. Use it to lay your concept out into an easy to follow format with your own major sections and sub-points.
Write for the Reader, Then Optimize for Google
Ultimately, Google’s algorithm is intended to prioritize the reader. With that in mind, the best way to make Google happy is to prioritize the reader as well. So, now that you’ve got your word count down and a structure in mind, go ahead and write for your reader first. Move on to optimizing afterward.
Step 4: Optimize It
Alright, is your article written for your reader? Great, now it’s time to dress it up for Google’s algorithm a little more with some finishing touches.
Link to Other Articles
Google doesn’t just like it when you get backlinks — it likes it when you give some love too. Choose a couple of high-authority articles and sites to link to in your own article. Be careful linking your competition, but ultimately just use your best judgment here.
The trick here is to not turn “keyword density” into a bad word. A lot of article writers do this by stuffing keywords redundantly throughout the article in a way that lowers the quality of the piece. Or they use a key phrase verbatim where it doesn’t naturally fit in a sentence or sub-head. Remember: Google wants to know what you’re writing about, but not at the expense of the reader.
So, while blatantly keyword stuffing works against you in that way, it’s still important to use the keyword a few times. Especially in some key places like your section headers if it works with the context of the piece.
If you ever question your keyword density, use Live Keyword Analysis to double-check.
Once you’ve got your links and keywords in place, it’s time to check the article’s readability. Readability basically asks how readable your article is. Is it grammatically sound? Does it use a lot of complex words and sentences? How about passive voice and long, dense paragraphs?
Google wants readers to be able to easily consume the information they’re searching for.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to grade yourself. There are plenty of tools that help, like Hemingway (free) and SEMrush’s own SEO Writing Assistant.
Note: when in doubt on what kind of readability score will cut it, check the competition.
Step 5: Publish
Once you’re all done, time to publish! But the fun doesn’t have to end here (nor should it).
Remember to promote the article on your social media channels and to your email list. If you cited any high authority sites, send your article to the author of the one you linked and let them know you featured them. There’s a chance they’ll promote it on their social channels too.
Still not quite sure what you’re doing? Our Rise & Convert course can get you fully up to speed. Not quite sure if you want to do this all on your own? Contact us and we’ll help you through the whole process.