Marketers just want to be noticed, whether that be by potential customers, search engines, or both. That’s why it’s vital that you know how to write for SEO, or search engine optimization. This practice involves strategically creating content for specific keywords or phrases in order to boost the relevance of your post for consumers, and thus, rank higher with search engines and higher qualified traffic to your website.
Seems easy enough, right? The truth is knowing how to write for SEO is a skill that takes time and practice to perfect. With the ever-changing algorithms and best practices, it’s important to always be learning and figuring out how to create the best-ranking content possible.
In this blog, we’ll show you how to improve your SEO writing to best set your content up for success, before, during, and after you start creating.
Table of contents
- SEO starts before you begin writing
- (Literally) setting your content up for SEO success
SEO starts before you begin writing
Writing for SEO begins before you even take pen to paper (or, more accurately, keyboard to Google Doc). There are three key steps you should take.
Conducting keyword research
This step is essential. If you don’t know what keyword you’re trying to rank for, how can you craft a perfectly optimized blog, webpage, or content offer? There are a few different ways to conduct keyword research, but one of our favorites is to use a tool like Semrush to see what keywords your site currently ranks for so you know what to focus on to improve and where there might be any gaps for you to fill. When looking at keywords or phrases you want to rank for, make sure you’re finding ones with a higher search volume, but lower difficulty.
This process also requires that you know exactly what potential consumers would be coming to your site for and what kind of questions you should be answering for them. This is where having buyer personas can really help. As semi-fictional representations of your ideal audience, you can really dive into what their wants and needs are and plan your keywords (and content) accordingly.
Checking out your competitors
Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but in marketing, it can also help you outperform your competitors. Now, we’re not saying that you should copy everything they do, but knowing what keywords or phrases they are (or aren’t) ranking for it’s important. It shows where you can create better content to push them out of a top position or grab an easy win that they might not be going for. Not sure who your competitors are? We’ll show you how (and why) to conduct competitive analysis to help you gain a better understanding of those working in your sphere.
Finding internal and external links
One of the best ways to show search engines that your content is relevant is to have a healthy amount of links, whether they be external or internal (though, ideally, you would have a mix). External links show how your content is relevant to larger audiences outside of your site and that the information they contain is valuable, while internal ones show the strength of different pages and highlight which ones are the most important.
(Literally) setting your content up for SEO success
Knowing how to write for SEO goes beyond the words themselves; formatting plays a huge role in how well your content can perform. Here are some of the top elements to keep in mind when publishing any content on your website:
It all starts with your URL
A clean URL structure is essential to creating an optimized post that will be attractive to both search engines and users, telling both parties exactly what they can expect to find when they visit your page. It should contain not only the root domain, but reference the specific page you own and any other identifying information (such as the keyword you’re trying to rank for). Take your blog, for example. Your URL structure might look something like this: www.yourwebsite.com/blog/your-keyword-and-other-words-here.
Be smart with title tags
Title tags are the blue links on a search engine results page (SERP) and inform both users and search engines what they can expect when they click your link. Title tags should be less than 60 characters (including spaces), and you should place your keyword as close to the beginning of the title if possible.
Follow the header hierarchy
Header tags (usually used as page and paragraph headers) assign values to the related content through a hierarchy. Google says that H1, H2, and H3 tags help their search engine understand the priorities of a website’s content. As a general rule, your H1 tag should be your page (or post) title (not to be confused with your title tag), and H2s and H3s should be used as paragraph or section subheads. Don’t be afraid to throw your keyword in there as well. This will only boost your SEO value.
Photo names and alt text matter
Every image you include in your blog post should include a descriptive, keyword-rich file name as well as an attribute, known as alternative text or an alt tag. An alt tag describes the images to users when it can’t be displayed and helps visually-impaired users understand what’s on a page. They also tell search engines what an image is all about. Including the keyword in both the file name and alt tag also allows your images to show up in search results.
Don’t forget your meta description
Meta descriptions are short sentences (or “snippets”) you see displayed beneath the title tags on SERPs. These will also populate the text excerpts that display on social platforms when you share your post. Google limits your description to 155 characters (including spaces) and should include your focus keyword along with a brief explanation enticing users to visit your page.
While this may seem like a lot, this guide is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in learning more about how to write for SEO, you can download our white paper on ensuring your content is found and shared online. Our free website grader will take a look at your site’s overall health, including SEO, and show you what’s working well and where you can improve. And, as always, if you need any more information or have any questions, we’re only a quick call away.