No content marketing plan is complete without SEO. Getting your content to the front page of Google is the best way to increase organic traffic, but keeping up Google’s ever-changing search algorithms can feel like a full-time job.
With a little creativity and lots of consistent content creation, you can improve your search ranking and drive more new prospects to your site.
Here’s how to write SEO-friendly blog posts that will put your business on the front page – and keep you there.
SEO Content Writing Best Practices
Ready to get started? Here are our top SEO writing tips to help you create content that search engines and users will love:
- Research and optimize the right keywords
- Capture the searcher intent
- Prioritize content density over length
- 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.
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.
2. Capture the Searcher Intent
While keywords can guide your content structure and research process, they won’t matter unless you’ve captured the searcher 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 searcher intent?
- How can I better structure my page to address the query and give searchers what they’re looking for faster?
3. 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 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.
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).
It’s also a good idea to link or point to highly authoritative sources that are experts on your topic. For example, cite a medical journal when referencing a health condition in your article.
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.
4. 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 rank as 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 the top search results are dominated by highly trafficked or reputable sources like Forbes, Microsoft or BuzzFeed for example, it’s probably not realistic to rank for that specific keyword. Instead, your efforts might be better spent on a less competitive topic.
5. 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. Does 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.
6. 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.
But without a uniform linking structure, it’s hard for search engines to crawl through your pages quickly — not to mention confusing for your readers.
Topic clusters rearrange your site architecture to form organized groups of content around a central page, also known as a “pillar” page. The pillar page acts as the main source of content for a broad topic.
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. Ensure your pillar pages address the main points of interest or answer the biggest overarching questions your audience has.
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.
Search engine algorithms reward this structured arrangement with a higher ranking. HubSpot performed topic cluster experiments — they found that having more internal links gives you higher placement in search engine results pages (SERPs). Impressions also increase with the number of links you create.
Pro-tip: As you build your topic clusters, make sure your newer pieces of content don’t overlap extensively with your pillar page content. This can cannibalize and hurt your current SEO and rankings.
7. Assess Post-Click User Behavior
Getting people to click on your link is one thing. But how do you make sure their experience on your page is a positive one?
The average user expects instantaneous load time and super simple navigation. Unoptimized page content prompts 79% of readers to leave the page and search elsewhere.
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 Content for SEO?
At Human, we understand the importance (and challenge) of generating traffic from content and SEO. We help companies leverage SEO-friendly content strategies to lift search engine rankings and win more qualified leads.
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