In this digital age, writing for SEO is like a secret recipe for businesses to spice up their online presence. But, with algorithms that are always on the move and AI-generated content coming in hot, we need to adjust how we write for SEO to continue seeing results.
With search engines becoming smarter every day, simply stuffing keywords in the text is more likely to get you penalized than achieve a page one ranking.
In this article, I’m exploring how to write for SEO in 2023 and beyond, taking into account the latest trends and developments in the field. Let's get started!
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Changes in the SEO Landscape
The past couple of years have been a wild ride in the world of SEO. Google's algorithm has undergone some major changes, and the common thread running through all of them is a laser focus on the user.
For example, take Core Web Vitals – this 2021 update made it clear that factors like page speed and user experience are essential to ranking well on search engine result pages (SERPs). And with the 2022 Helpful Content Update, Google emphasized the importance of content that provides value and relevance to users.
Then there's E.E.A.T. (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). This 2022 update is all about making sure websites are delivering trustworthy, high-quality information to users.
But it's not just about keeping up with the algorithm updates. As a business owner or marketing strategist, you need to pay attention to new technologies too – like voice search and AI-generated content.
With voice search, users tend to ask longer, more conversational questions, so it's essential to optimize content for long-tail keywords and provide answers to common questions. And with AI-generated content on the rise, you need to focus on creating unique and valuable content that delivers a better user experience than what machines can churn out.
By staying ahead of the game and keeping up with the latest trends in SEO, you can stay visible and relevant in a crowded online marketplace.
9 Best Practices for SEO-Friendly Content
Alright, the suspense is killing me too, so let me cut to the chase! Here are nine, highly-effective SEO writing tips to help you create content that search engines and users will love:
- Research and optimize the right keywords
- Strategically place your keywords
- Capture the searcher's intent
- Prioritize content density over length
- Get to the “meat” of your topic right away
- Use the skyscraper technique
- Improve content quality
- Implement topic clusters
- Assess post-click user behavior
1. Research and Optimize the Right Keywords
The first step of a good SEO strategy is selecting the right keywords.
Your keywords should be relevant to your offering and your audience, but unique enough that you won’t be competing with dozens of high-authority industry giants.
Use keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz, SEMrush or SpyFu to brainstorm new keyword ideas and gauge the competition. Look for low to medium competition. The best keyword opportunities are those with higher search volume but low competition.
You can also review Google’s related searches or the “People Also Ask” section to see what else people are asking. These results provide a great starting point for outlining the information you’ll want to address.
Pro-tip: Conduct Google keyword research in incognito or private mode to garner the most accurate, unskewed results.
2. Strategically Place Your Keywords
Once you choose a focus keyword that you have a decent chance at ranking for, insert it strategically within your content. Place your keyword in these spots:
- Blog title
- Meta description
- Image alt text
- Naturally throughout the content
Aim for 1-2% keyword density, but don’t overstuff your content with keywords – this will hurt your page authority.
If you have a WordPress site, the Yoast WordPress plugin is a great keyword optimization tool.
However, don’t stop at just one keyword target.
To fully capture the context and intent of the topic, identify the full range of related search phrases and topics that would be worth writing about in your content.
By looking at the topic as a whole — and not just the individual keyword — you can create a more well-rounded article and avoid competing with yourself in other posts.
3. Capture the Search Intent
While keywords can guide your content structure and research process, they won’t matter unless you’ve captured the search intent of the topic.
Remember: The goal of search engines is to deliver results that best match the reader’s search query and the “why” behind it.
Tapping into the searcher’s mindset can help you better understand the intent of that query and craft content that gets ranked.
Before you begin writing, always ask these questions:
- As a searcher, what information would I be looking for?
- How would I like that information to be delivered?
- How are search engines delivering the answer to this query (list, paragraph, etc.)?
- How are the top-ranking pages interpreting the search intent?
- How can I better structure my page to address the query and give searchers what they’re looking for faster?
4. Prioritize Content Density Over Length
“Quality over quantity” rings true when it comes to SEO-friendly content.
Readers have decreasing attention spans. To adapt, content marketers need to deliver valuable content in as few words as possible.
Content density refers to the “per word value” of your blog or webpage. Prioritizing high value over length will help you produce content that actually delivers on its promise.
For example, you could write a 3,000+ word article on your topic but include little ingenuity or few fresh ideas. If you can prioritize function over form and cut out the fluff, you can deliver the same (or higher) value in fewer words.
Pro-tip: Use tools like SEMrush’s SEO Content Template to determine the ideal length for your target topic.
5. Get to the “Meat” of Your Topic Right Away
Ultimately, to write an SEO-friendly blog post, you should prioritize educational value by answering users’ search intent first. What information is your audience looking for (based on your topic or title), and what do they really want to know? Then, reference your product, service or call-to-action second (and only when it adds value to the conversation).
To make it even easier for readers to navigate to the information that's most relevant to them, you can also include jump links within your blog post. This allows readers to quickly jump to different sections of your post rather than having to scroll through the entire article to find what they're looking for.
Pro-tip: Make sure your title, meta description and H2s are not only optimized for SEO but also offer the same educational value that you’re trying to provide to your audience.
6. Use the Skyscraper Technique
To rank higher, you need to write better content than your competitors. One way to accomplish this is by using the skyscraper technique.
Using this method, you analyze the top-performing content around the keywords you want to rank for. Then you write a better piece of content to rise above the competition.
The skyscraper technique has three steps:
Find top-performing content.
Search for heavily-shared articles that rank for the target keyword. Review the first page of search results for your primary keyword, and read through the highest-ranked articles – especially those that own the Featured Snippet.
Create something better.
Look for gaps in the competing articles to analyze how and where you can improve. Don't just copy the competition — the goal is to provide more value while staying focused and fluff-free. Add more detailed, up-to-date information and research, and back up your content with engaging visuals, such as an infographic or video.
Reach out to the right people.
Once you’ve written a killer piece, you need to find the right people to promote it. Build a list of influencer websites that have links to competing content. Email the influencers and let them know you have a new piece of content that they may find useful and relevant to their audience.
The cold emailing process takes time, but the payoff can be well worth it.
In one example, a content marketer sent 160 cold emails and generated 17 new links to his content – an 11 percent success rate that increased his organic traffic by 110% in two weeks.
Remember to focus only on the most achievable keyword opportunities. If you're aiming to rank for a keyword that's already being dominated by big guns like Forbes, Microsoft or BuzzFeed, it might be tough to compete.
Instead, focus on a less competitive topic that's still relevant to your business. That way, you can put your energy into achievable keyword opportunities and start seeing results you can be proud of.
7. Improve Content Quality
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating.
Copy editing is a critical step in the content creation process. Readers won’t stick around on a page full of typos and lazy editing – and a high bounce rate hurts SEO.
Keep your writing free of wordiness, redundancy and grammatical errors. If you don’t have an experienced content editor on your team, online tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App point out grammar errors and offer suggestions to improve readability.
Grammarly also features a plagiarism tool that checks your work against thousands of online publications and highlights sentences that you should revise.
You’ll also want to examine your content from a high-level perspective to ensure it’s well-organized and easy on the eyes. Do the structure and flow make sense? Will your audience find it challenging to read through the content?
Pro-tip: Allow enough time (at least 2 to 3 days) between writing and revising. This gives you opportunities to review your work through a fresh lens.
8. Implement Topic Clusters
SEO best practices are shifting to topic clusters.
In a traditional website structure, the bigger your content library, the more spread out and complex your site becomes. You often end up with dozens of web pages and blogs that cover similar topics.
Topic clusters rearrange your site architecture to form organized groups of content around a central page, also known as a “pillar” page, which acts as the main source of content for a broad topic.
Related Content: Building Content Clusters For Organic Authority
A pillar page can be a product page, long-form blog article or ungated white paper. It just needs to be a high-quality, comprehensive resource focused on your target topic.
Various articles related to that topic link back to the pillar page and each other, forming a cluster.
The topic cluster model tells search engines that your pillar page is an authority on the topic. By linking all content within that topic to one page, you signal to search engines that your content has significant coverage and depth around the subject.
Ready to get started with topic clusters and pillar content? Check out our eBook on Converting to Topic Clusters: How to Categorize Content to 10X Your SEO Efforts.
According to HubSpot, creating topic clusters with lots of internal links can lead to a higher placement in search engine result pages (SERPs). And the best part? The more links you create, the more impressions you'll get. So, if you want to boost your website's ranking and visibility, it's all about creating a well-structured site with plenty of internal links.
Pro-tip: As you build your topic clusters, make sure your newer pieces of content don’t overlap too much with your pillar page content. This can cannibalize and hurt your current SEO and rankings.
Free Resource: Converting to Topic Clusters: How to 10x Your SEO Efforts
9. Assess Post-Click User Behavior
In response to increasing user expectations, Google is rewarding sites that focus on the user, making post-click behavior an important SEO metric.
These metrics notify Google that your content generates a positive user experience:
- Fast load time
- Mobile optimization
- High click-through rate
- Low bounce rate
- High average time on page
- Social shares
It's not just about the page metrics. It applies to writing SEO-friendly content too. Let’s recap the best ways to make your content easier to digest:
- Write concisely: Use shorter sentences and paragraphs (1-3 sentences per paragraph)
- Keep the structure simple: Use subject headings to break up content (Keep sections to 300 words or less). Include bulleted or numbered lists whenever possible.
- Be engaging: Include more images and graphics to illustrate points
Related content: How to Increase Blog Traffic to Existing Content
Still Lost on How to Write for SEO?
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Struggling to generate results from your SEO strategy? Let's chat.