What is SEO Writing & How to Write Strategically

Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

What is SEO Writing?

SEO writing is the art of writing with search engine results in mind. It is content curated with an emphasis on the features and attributes that will put it at the top of an organic search in Google or Bing.

While some may argue that there’s no such thing as SEO writing for the purpose of a search engine—that there’s only strong writing written for people …who use search engines—there are some best practices that should be considered as you work. These habits can give already-strong content a leg up. There is a lot of strategy that goes into writing quality content beyond keyword research and competitor analysis. Having a SEO content analysis tool can definitely help you with your semantic search optimization.

How to Write for SEO and People

One could argue that writing for SEO and writing for people—in 2018—are one in the same now. Google has gotten so good at delivering top-notch results that solid content will organically rise to the top of search results. The days of keyword stuffing and keyword density are over. Now the focus is more on quality content with language that has lexical similarity and includes sub-words with compound words and phrases that all correlate with each other. Whoa, wait a minute. SEO content writing just got really complicated, didn’t it? These days if you want to be extremely competitive with your content it’s recommended to get some professional search engine optimization services.

So start your SEO blog posts with people in mind and write high-quality content to inform and educate users. Writing for your audience should always be your primary focus.

Offer relevant, informative, useful content that is practical.

That’s more than half the battle.

Indirectly, starting with this motivation will only aid your SEO friendly content. Strong high-quality content offers your audience solutions making them feel validated for taking the time to read your work, and may even pass it on to others before hopefully converting. And Google uses machine learning called RankBrain to understand the on-page activity of a user. at. Their robots are constantly analyzing time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rates to measure the quality of the content.  They note click-through rates when readers are pulled deeper into your site. Having a strong on-page SEO strategy using target keywords for internal linking is a way to increase your click through rates and overall behavior metrics.

In a nutshell? Begin with “who.”

That said, there is a numbers game to it all. More eyes on your content means that the same 1% of conversions, for example, is a greater number of people. So, having a strategy for SEO is the important final element—icing on top of the smart content cake.

SEO_Checklist

Keyword Research & Competitor Analysis

Starting with keyword research is one of the most high-return activities you can add to your marketing workflow. A good question before writing a blog post is, is there search volume around this? Are people searching this topic and how are they searching for it? What are some related searches that we can incorporate into the blog posts? It hones in on the precise wording your readers are searching with. That aids in SEO copywriting, of course, but also gives you direction and an overall strategy instead of just writing something and hoping it sticks.

Sorted by search volume, keywords are a strong indicator of the priorities of your audience. It’s like a backstage pass to your clientele.

For example, if “teacher” is searched for eight times more frequently than “educator,” a simple replacement of the word “educator” for “teacher” may make a world of difference in search result placement—and is likely harmless enough to swap out.

In fact, the switch may also give credibility to your content – as you’re talking the talk of your readers. As they say, when in Rome…

That’s a rudimentary example, of course. Always keep your audience in mind and proceed with caution when considering keyword changes. Ask yourself these questions:  Am I honing in on a niche search or going for rankings on the first page of results? What is the objective of this content? Is this keyword relevant to my business? Will searchers be satisfied with what they find on my page after they click? Can my website compete in this space if I tweak the language?

Secondly, balance the results of keyword research with additional resources that allow you yet another “sneak peek” into your clients’ language choices. For example, if customer reviews, forums, testimonials, and surveys contradict keyword findings, give that some merit too.

Next, take the time to browse your competitors’ content. What wording are they using? Does it behoove you to use the same language they are? Or do alternate word choices distinctly set your work apart?

Lastly, do a search yourself for the keyword. Are there lots of ads along the side? That—and paid results above the organic results—indicate you’ve landed on an especially lucrative keyword.

Perhaps most importantly, though, ensure that your keyword substitutions sound natural and do not take away from your copy. You don’t want to bring more visitors to your page only to jeopardize your credibility, reputation, and time-on-page rates. Not only will that will hurt your Google rankings—it’ll hurt your bottom line.

Header Structure

Let’s face it. Header structure is an important on-page SEO factor that helps Google (and readers)  summarize, organize, and understand your content.

Therefore, create a solid sub-header structure to ensure your webpage is solid SEO-friendly content. To break that down, H1 is the largest and is reserved for your title header. Only use it once. Here’s an example of what this tagging looks like on the back end:

<h1 class=”entry-title” itemprop=”headline”>What is SEO writing?</h1>

These tags indicate to your browser (and Google) that this is the largest, and most significant, text on the page.

From there, subheaders, like book chapters, may be used multiple times within a hierarchical format. Make smart use of H1 and H2.

Not only do they make your article more accessible for your reader, but research suggests headers are likely used by search engines too. They utilize these flags to make sense of the bite-sized chunks of your article and rank it accordingly.

If, however, search engines have moved on to more sophisticated measures of summarizing and ranking a website, they are still certainly paying attention to time-on-page and bounce rates. Those rates, logically, are affected by the quality of the experience your readers are having when they visit your pages. And that experience is affected by having clean, logical headings that allow them to navigate your content with ease.

So, any way you cut it, optimizing a header structure will benefit your SEO.

Best practices include having descriptive headers and using H2 sparingly. Make them count.

Use Numbered Lists and Bullets

Remember that Google and similar search engines are good at their mission: They want to find the most high-quality material out there and put it at that top.

That means they’re searching for articles that get people right to the crux of their search. Therefore, you want to write highly “skimmable” pieces.

Numbered lists and bullets allow you to do this. They break up clunky text and add an aesthetic appeal. Additionally, as they’re easily read, they draw the eye to them. (So don’t waste this space. Put your important links or take away’s in this format.)

The “easy to digest” quality of your work will shine through in strong bounce rates, time on page statistics, and external links back to your work. That’s a dual perk: better SEO and better user experience.

Word to the wise: Think of each bullet with headline-qualities and you’ll have people running down your article, eager for more.

Use Video

This is the most under-utilized SEO tactic. Too often, content marketers opt for alternative visuals—charts, infographics, or pictures and avoid the seemingly-daunting task of crafting video.

And it can be daunting because, to put it bluntly, you must go big or home here. No one will share mediocre videos these days.

You have to offer something original, something entertaining, and something catchy. This level of originality will ensure shares, external linking to your business, and organic site traffic.

But video cannot be underestimated. 89 million people are going to watch a video online today (and that’s a conservative estimate).

It has the dual perk of potentially keeping your visitors on your page longer than text and increasing conversions. In fact, 52% of online shoppers said a video makes them feel more confident in their purchase.

So let’s get filming, right?

Hold on.

Before you invest in the effort quality video will require, think through your SEO strategy. Video can be a large drain on your resources—time and money. You want to ensure a strong ROI from the start. Perhaps the most important differentiating factor you must ask yourself is this: Does your site have enough traffic already to distribute the link? Or are you going to have to do the outreach yourself?

Prepare yourself for the lift this may take. And don’t cut corners when producing the video itself. Remember, you’re going for gold here. Would you retweet or share something that didn’t evoke a strong emotional response? Likely not. And neither will your readers.

It’s got to strike a chord.

When it’s complete, consider hosting the video on your site. Not YouTube. While it will decrease exposure, it encourages viewers to click back to your site.

If you do go with YouTube, do not miss the easiest opportunity of all: include a direct link to your content on your YouTube video.

Semantic Search Optimization

Semantic search allows Google to understand a user’s intent based on contextual information. It means they’re looking for what may not be explicitly said—but they knew the searcher wanted.

For example, a search for “Will Smith” will bring up the actor’s personal life, movie and music career, and latest sightings. It will not bring up every pedestrian, unknown Will Smith out there. In other words, Google said, “I know what you mean.” (Insert the winking emoji).

The benefits of this type of optimization, from a search engine’s perspective, are enormous. It means more data, less spam, a richer compatibility with user intent, and more natural language (i.e. conversational) search experience for users. In other words, they’re disqualifying low-quality content.

So how do you play in this space?

Decide what you want to be known for and fill your space with a clear question and answer format.

  • Answer “how to” “why” or “what is” questions that appear in your keyword research.
  • Talk naturally. Speak so that users and search engines know what you’re saying.
  • Discuss related or supporting topics. Don’t know what’s semantically connected? Start by slowly typing your keyword into Google’s search bar and see what else the drop down suggests. There’s your first clue. Google Keyword Planner is another helpful tool.
  • Get specific. Write about long-tail keywords—those that are 3 or 4 words. These will be very specific to what you’re selling—and what your searcher is aiming to purchase.

As a whole, remember you’re targeting a topic, not simply keywords. Keywords play their part, of course, but to “win” in 2018, you must go one step further.

Internal Linking

In layman’s terms, this is a link that points back to the same website that’s mentioning the link.

They help your users navigate your website, which betters their experience on your site and funnels them deeper into your content.

Additionally, internal links spread the wealth. They move visitors across your site to keep the page visits and time on page statistics strong across the board.

Search engines use internal linking to “crawl” through your website. Think of a pyramid. You want search engines to land on your homepage (the tip) and crawl, logically downward, through the categories and subcategories within the website.

Smart internal linking structure makes your website “crawlable” for search engines. Beware, however, that you are not including these links only within internal search boxes, submission-required forms like surveys, or within Flash. Opt for HTML instead of Javascript links. These mistakes can block search engines from crawling your links.

Title Tags and Meta Data

A title tag is the first tag and the most important one for your on-page SEO ranking factor. It’s important to know that the title tag appears in blue on the homepage andi s only 70 characters long. That means you don’t want to write a title tag that is too long but you also want to maximize the character limit.

Think of your meta description as short ad copy that offers your value proposition and a call to action encouraging users to click on your result. Every writer that’s publishing online needs to know how to write clean and catchy title tags and meta descriptions. There are great tools out there to help you up your SEO article writing game. We highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to help you write title tags, meta descriptions, and score your on-page SEO.

Summary

A word to the wise: Don’t bet against Google. They want strong content to make its way to the top, not content written with SEO algorithms in mind. And Google will win. Strong content will continue to bubble to the surface of any search result. Period. Google is getting better and better at fine-tuning this.

However, as you write pertinent, relevant, and interesting content, do consider minor tweaks and the aforementioned improvements to give your material an edge among the vast array of search results.

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Nicole is a Senior SEO Strategist with experience in technical SEO, SEO keyword strategy, content strategy, and Local SEO. She has experience with enterprise level Local SEO initiatives that manages multiple business locations up to over 300 stores nationwide. Her Local SEO expertise is in managing Google My Business accounts and building local citations to create an authoritative local presence for business owners.