For anyone wondering how to use modern techniques to write content for better search engine placements, this article is for you.
Today I'm sharing an in-depth guide on SEO article writing & how to write optimized content efficiently in 2023 (and beyond)—starting with the basics.
Writing with search engines in mind
As a successful SEO copywriter who frequently works on content for my clients, I've seen SEO article writing significantly change over the decade.
What used to involve a simple writing brief instructing me to use specific keywords, "several times, distributed evenly throughout the content," has now transitioned to high-tech writing tools.
Rather than spamming ctrl+f to find how many times I somehow managed to include the keyword "Attorney San Fransisco" in my content (without the reader questioning my sanity), the art of writing for SEO involves technology that instantly compares my text with sites on the first page of Google for any given search term.
And while some still rely on the simple keyword-stuffed article completed in a Google Document, an SEO-friendly content strategy rarely starts and ends there.
But how does it work in 2023 for people truly aiming to crank out high-quality content and unlock new SEO achievements?
That's what we're uncovering together, right here, right now.
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
SEO is a technique that helps your website become more visible when people use search engines like Google.
Imagine search engine optimization as the unique spice blend in a chef's kitchen.
Just like a chef uses different spices to make a dish truly delicious and unique, you can use a variety of SEO strategies to make your website more visible in search results.
It's like having a spice rack full of different 'flavors' that, when combined correctly, result in a standout digital presence.
These ingredients include researching the right keywords, building helpful links, making your content the best, having good page titles, and ensuring your website loads quickly.
But here's the thing - search engines change how they decide which websites appear first.
No one knows exactly how these search engines make their decisions, so you can't just set up your site once and leave it.
But generally, the link (no pun intended) that ties SEO together involves creating fresh and valuable content.
With that in mind, let's explore how to create high-quality content that helps you progress your content marketing strategy.
What is SEO writing?
At its core, SEO and writing content is a unique blend of creativity and strategy.
It involves creating valuable content for the reader that is structured in a way that search engines can understand.
Think of it as a conversation where you're engaging with two audiences simultaneously—the human reader and the search engine.
You're telling a story that both can follow and appreciate, and in doing so, you're making your content more likely to be discovered online.
Why is SEO writing important?
Why is creating SEO content important?
Well, consider this: about 75% of people using the internet don't go past the first page of search results on Google.
Your website must appear on the first page if you want to be seen.
SEO content writing, which includes content optimization and targeting the appropriate keywords help you achieve that goal.
Here's how SEO article writing works
Back before Google, search engines were the wild, wild west.
To take the top result spots for a commercial keyword, a writer could perform keyword stuffing by cramming their text full of the words they hoped to rank for.
In the past, it was common for websites to use tactics like white text on white backgrounds and keyword spamming to improve their search rankings.
Your website's search results were influenced by how much more you spammed keywords on a webpage than your competitors.
But nowadays, search algorithms are more intelligent and sophisticated, with giants like Google emphasizing user experience.
Instead, writers must follow SEO content writing tips that increase your odds of getting (and staying) on relevant result pages.
Thus, the keyword-stuffing tactics of the 90s are no longer relevant and have been replaced by a more nuanced approach to SEO writing.
Writing SEO-friendly content now involves considering relevant keywords and including neurolinguistic programming (NLP).
And don't forget about adding quality links to increase the credibility of the content.
There are also tasks like optimizing each blog post's title tag and improving your meta tags and headlines to make them more attractive.
Plus, your audience needs to see multimedia elements like images, videos, and infographics in your content.
Oh—and then there's article structure.
When you write SEO content, there are a million little things to consider, like using headings and subheadings for improved readability.
Consider creating a content hierarchy, and remember to write content in short and easy-to-digest paragraphs.
Being an SEO copywriter requires another subset of skills since exceptional copywriters must understand how to craft content that drives people to act, such as subscribing to a social page or buying a product.
In addition to what we've discussed, SEO copywriting requires periodic SEO-friendly content improvements and conversion rate optimization to capture the traffic your site attracts.
Now that you know the critical tasks of SEO copywriting and article writing, let's get into a step-by-step writing guide that is workable in your content strategy.
Writing for higher SERP placement: a step-by-step guide
If you want to build organic traffic to your website rather than running ads to have people see your content, it's best to follow a process that will get you the best returns.
Here's the step-by-step guide to SEO copywriting that will help you rank for relevant search queries for the target audience in your niche.
Keywords for SEO articles: research and selection
To start SEO copywriting, conduct keyword research to locate a search term you believe your business can rank for.
In the photo above I show some keywords I found in Surfer SEO.
Make a list of keyword ideas, being on the lookout for informational and commercial keywords to target in your blog post.
Factors like site authority and relevance, as well as the search volume and competition for any given keyword, will dictate whether or not you can rank for it.
Typically, you can locate and select the most relevant keywords for your content using Surfer, Frase, Page Optimizer Pro, or other SEO keyword research tools.
After locating a primary topic, you'll create cornerstone content (pillar content) targeting a particular keyword and link to cluster content for related topics.
"Clusters" are related keywords to your top keyword phrases and create in-depth, comprehensive content on each topic.
Usually, cornerstone content covers a complete topic in-depth, ranging from 4,000 to 10,000+ words.
Cluster content supports the cornerstone content and usually ranges from 1,000 to 2,500 words, depending on your niche.
Each cluster article should link to related topics within the cluster and the cornerstone content links to all cluster resources.
Creating pillar pages and cluster content is called a pyramid or silo structure, depending on how you hyperlink your writing.
This structure helps ensure that your website provides helpful, in-depth information and allows users to navigate your content easily, so I like to consider that while I write.
By planning your website structure (or that of your client's) ahead of time, you can consider the overall navigation and design it to benefit searchers.
The foundation of SEO writing: crafting an SEO-friendly outline
After locating keywords and NLP terms to include in your content, it's time to create an outline for your page.
While creating an outline, you determine your content's specific headings and subheadings.
You'll also want to use your target keyword or something similar in your title.
To create an optimized body outline for search engines, prioritize your reader's comprehension.
This involves designing a heading structure that leads readers through the material.
The SEO tools I shared earlier should share a list of keywords to include in your headings.
I like to think about the heading structure like writing a book outline to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic.
You can also compare your outline to competitors who rank for the same target keyword and determine if you're missing something.
After reviewing other websites and creating your outline, the creation process begins, and it's time to start writing content.
Breathing life into your article: the drafting process
After you have an outline, the next step is to start on your blog post.
You don't want to be too technical with your language, which will turn off potential readers.
The tone of your piece should be conversational yet authoritative, and all information should be factual and accurate.
The way I commonly hear people describe writing in a conversational tone is like having a convo with your close friend.
Keep things simple by writing how you speak.
Most people have reading comprehension levels between 6th and 8th grade, so writing at that level should be your goal.
SEO copywriting also requires you to use simple language and include target keywords and any related keywords while ensuring that your article follows the best practices for digital content.
If you're unsure whether your writing is clear, read it aloud and double-check that you're using a primary keyword and any related keyword in a way that still makes sense to the reader.
Be sure to include a conclusion at the end of your article.
This is where you can sum up your main points and leave the reader with a sense of closure.
It's also a great place to include a call-to-action, providing the next steps for the reader to learn about your products & services or discover more content on the topic.
Now that you know about writing blog posts and the structure to increase organic traffic, let's discuss the next step after you write content—editing and optimizing it make it SEO-friendly.
Refining your masterpiece: editing and optimization
With the basic blog post is written, it's time to edit your web page content and add any informational keywords that attract other search engines.
First, check that your target keyword use matches suggestions from SEO writing tools.
Afterward, use Grammarly or Hemingway App to revise your writing.
These tools detect grammar, spelling, and plagiarism issues in your content before publishing it online. They're all great for keeping your blog updated.
Adding internal links and external links: why and how?
The next step of SEO copywriting is to add both internal links and external links to your web page that direct readers to content that's thematically related to the topic.
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct readers to content within your website.
External links, on the other hand, are hyperlinks that direct readers to content outside of your website.
Consider the user intent of someone searching for a blog post on any specific topic.
The goal is to create a web page that includes everything the user wants about that topic.
Try to include external and internal links within your content to relevant resources.
After setting the external and internal links, you have completed all the essential SEO writing tasks.
Pat yourself on the back because SEO copywriting in a way that drives significant benefits to your web pages is no small task!
The final steps include turning an article into a rich-resource page by adding images, finalizing optimization processes by writing a meta description and promoting your content to increase your click-through rate.
Let's discuss these elements now.
The quest for appropriate images
Now that you have the key points of your article, from a title tag to your conclusion, all written, it's time to consider the visual appeal of your content.
Images help break up large chunks of text while creating interest and understanding by providing visual representations of concepts.
Today's SEO writing tools even compare the top 10 SERP results for your chosen seed keyword and explain how many images they use in their content.
You'll find that to rank at the top of some long tail keywords requires up to 80 images depending on search intent.
Creating your images is another way to ensure all your content is original. They'll be shared on social media featured snippets, so focus on the visual elements.
With AI-generated imaging & illustrations in Canva now, there are plenty of options to create your website or blog images with minimal effort.
And don't forget the good old screen capture.
If you're writing "how to" or listicle content, a screenshot of the process or steps can be an invaluable asset to help illustrate your points.
Using a combination of free sources, AI-generated images, and screenshots should ensure your content is entirely original and stands out from the competition.
After collecting the images and locating where each fits in your content, it's time to prepare your document for upload in your CRM.
Tailoring images for SEO impact: preparing and integrating
Most people download pictures and keep the same image title when uploading them to their website.
This is not ideal for SEO, as image titles should be descriptive and include key phrases related to the content.
Therefore, you'll want to update the title tag of all your images, especially any main images that appear in featured snippets and showcase in social media marketing promotions.
Search crawlers use an image's title tag and target keyword to determine whether a page provides comprehensive, relevant information—don't forget to add this valuable information.
Alt-tags: tiny details, big impact
When preparing your images for SEO, add alt text and captions to any visuals containing necessary information.
Use the alt decision tree to determine when to use alt tags.
An image's alt text describes the contents of an image in a way that search engine crawlers and readers can understand.
This is often an overlooked step of ranking for the proper keywords, so if you want to improve your search intent, you can do it by adding relevant alt-tags to your visuals.
Writing a meta description & article title for search engine results
Meta descriptions and article titles are like the glamorous storefront of your SEO article.
Your title tags and meta description are the first things potential readers see in SERPs, and this sneak preview helps searchers decide whether or not they click on your article.
The focus should be on not just incorporating a main long tail keyword but also creating a compelling snippet that directly speaks to the search intent of your target audience.
An adequate meta description should succinctly encapsulate what the content offers, integrate the main keywords, and inspire curiosity.
Exceptional meta descriptions are one way to build an audience, even from lower search volume terms.
For instance, what could your meta description sound like if you were writing about healthy baking substitutes?
How about: "Uncover the best healthy substitutes for baking and transform your guilty pleasures into guilt-free indulgences."
It may drive more organic traffic to your article than a boring, generic description.
The same principle applies to article titles. Titles should be informative, exciting, and keyword-focused—explaining your primary keyword.
Incorporating numbers, power words, and emotional language also helps increase the click-through rate.
Tools of the trade: streamlining your SEO writing process
There's no shortage of tools that help SEO writers streamline processes.
Here are some of my favorites:
Notion, a powerful productivity application, serves as the digital workspace where you can organize your content plans, research, and keyword strategy all in one place.
Then, there's ChatGPT. It is a sophisticated AI developed by OpenAI.
This conversational model can generate creative content, brainstorm ideas, and even provide first drafts.
Lastly, we have Jasper, an AI writing assistant for copywriting & content writing.
Jasper excels in creating content drafts (with a Surfer SEO subscription) that cater to your unique needs.
You can significantly streamline your SEO writing process using tools like Notion for planning, ChatGPT, and Jasper for drafting and refining content.
SEO writing tools in the age of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significantly transformed the SEO writing landscape.
AI platforms use machine learning algorithms to analyze high-performing content in your niche, helping you better understand what your audience is looking for and how you can outrank competitors.
Additionally, these tools help with topic clustering, semantic SEO, and conversion rate optimization, all of which contribute to a more effective and efficient SEO writing process.
SEO website plugin suggestions
Yoast SEO, Rank Math, and All in One SEO Pack are great WordPress site options.
These plugins offer comprehensive suites of SEO tools within your WordPress-powered website, helping you optimize your content as you create it.
They guide you through optimizing meta descriptions, title tags, and URLs and offer real-time suggestions for improving your content's SEO score.
Without them, it's impossible to input meta descriptions and other data into your blog posts.
Make sure to install one of these options so search engines properly index your content.
The investment perspective: time and cost factors in SEO writing
Although SEO article writing requires a significant investment of time and resources, the payoff of increased organic traffic and enhanced brand visibility is well worth it.
Conversion rate optimization, article updating, locating new target keywords, and sharing posts on social media are all activities you'll want to do regularly to improve your SERP results.
It also takes time to periodically monitor your content's progress in search engine rankings to measure your efforts' return on investment (ROI).
But remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
It might take several months to a year to see significant results.
But over time, it'll pay off!
Conclusion - Achieving first-page search engine results in page rankings through effective SEO writing
Despite constant evolution in the industry, content remains king!
Quality SEO writing is essential for achieving a successful organic search engine ranking, so start creating it today.
With the practices I outlined here, you should have no problem building authority sites high in search intent relevance that drives organic traffic to your business.
So what are you waiting for?
Start implementing these strategies today so your website stays at the top of your targeted search engine results page!