Best Practices for SEO Content Writing (Updated)
If you are a newcomer in the world of content writing with vivid dreams and aspirations to create magnificent articles and attract the right number of readers each month for your new blog, then welcome to this competitive, overwhelming and formidable industry!
Are you deterred by too many adjectives? Don’t be. When aspirational writers enter this field, they fail to understand one fundamental reality- content writing is futile without SEO. In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of SEO content writing and its trajectory in 2021.
SEO content writing extends the idea of SEO-compatible content that ranks high on a search engine and drives traffic for your website. While content writing is the art of writing compelling web content generally for digital marketing (but not limited to it), SEO content writing aims to rank high on search engines like Google or Bing and derive value by engaging maximum readership or users. Therefore, content writing with SEO compatibility is the best way to establish yourself in the content writing industry.
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Before we delve into the best practices for SEO content writing, let’s familiarize with the basics of SEO:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your content, such as blog posts articles, or listicles to rank them high in the organic listings of a search engine such as Google. Organic listings refer to non-paid results that Google shows as opposed to advertised products.
As a process, SEO has three primary feature:
● To bring in quality traffic which means people who are interested in reading your blog post or the product page. For example, if you sell origami roses, you would want people interested in origami roses, not roses per se.
● To build more traffic for your website.
● To grab the best position in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) as organic listings, particularly page 1 of any search engine. ( To illustrate this point, Neil Patel rightly pointed out that any content showing up on the second page of Google can be considered as dead.
At the heart of SEO resides, high-quality content that answers a specific search query (like what is an origami flower?) which a search engine can easily find and display on the first page after determining its suitability. To understand how that works here is a brief description:
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Crawlers and algorithms
Search engines such as Google use a web crawler which is an internet bot to browse all the content available on the internet and build an index specific to the query a user has asked. An algorithm is applied to the index containing potential search results to match the best ones that answer a question. Your goal is to feature in that best results category after successfully qualifying Google’s algorithm analysis. Here comes the importance of your knowledge of SEO content writing.
A combination of Keywords, content, and links make up on-site SEO. To bring the desired traffic and to rank high on SERPs, relevant keywords that cater to the users’ intent are necessary. Keywords are phrases and words that users enter into a search engine. They can be termed search queries.
Therefore, using relevant keywords in well-researched and in-depth content that provides user satisfaction is the norm in on-site SEO. Apart from keywords and content, on-site SEO includes components like links, speed of the page, the structure of the page URL, user-friendliness, and metadata. The aim is to customize your website and content to be amicable and beneficial to the end-user.
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This part of the SEO involves practices that enhance your website’s trustworthiness, popularity, and authority. Again, this is linked to rank your websites high on the SERPs and to gain quality traffic. This is accomplished by creating appropriate backlinks which are links created between websites.
They can be internally linked to other contents of your website or externally connected to high-value websites other than your own. If a high-value website grants a backlink to your website, it effectively confers a “vote of confidence” that is highly regarded by a search engine. Apart from this, practices that help to enhance the popularity of your website include social media marketing and guest blogging. Mostly they work as referrals to your website and content.
Simply put, Domain authority is the reputation score of your website that determines how Google perceives the value of the content or product you provide to its users. High domain authority helps to rank your website better, though it is not an indicator of the quality of your content. The higher the domain authority you have on a scale of 1-100, the better chances you have to rank in Google. The number and quality of backlinks are significant determinants of domain authority.
Having a comprehensive grasp of SEO is essential to practice these in your writing to achieve the best results. Like, handwork and perseverance pay off in the long run, incorporating ethical SEO practices will reward you with your desired income and traffic in the long run.
Such practices call for consistency and a bit of advice to consider the following-
The loading speed of your website
Given that millions of content are generated every single day; you would want to grab the short attention span of your readers. The ideal leading speed of your website should be one sec or two max. Anything beyond would be termed as a bad user experience. Therefore, optimizing the loading speed is a priority.
Crafting relevant headlines
The headline is the gateway to your hidden content. This means that a compelling and appropriate headline with proper keywords could compel the readers to click on your article. Alternatively, a mediocre and ill-thought headline would scram away your potential traffic. Headlines have a direct bearing on the click-through rate of your website.
The value derived content
This indicates content that is updated to SEO trends like semantics, proper keyword phrases aligned in the headings, and geared towards providing solutions to a problem (or explanations in your academic articles) to address users’ intent.
This refers to a short description of your content or website that Google displays in search results to users. Meta description influences the decisions of users to visit your website ultimately or not. This short snippet, usually of 50 to 155 characters has to be well crafted to reflect the purpose of the content suited to answer the query of a user.
This refers to the number of times a keyword is used on the web page. Limiting the number of keyword phrases that appear in the content is critical since Google has branded keyword stuffing and excessive use of keywords as invalid. At the same time, there is a lack of complete consensus about the ideal keyword density; most SEO experts advise around 0.5% of keyword density per 1000 words or one to two percent density per 100 words.
However, SEO strategies will go only so far as to give you click-through rates. The ultimate learning point is to value the user’s experience. This would mean creating content not only for visibility but to provide benefit to the user who has clicked on your web page after SEO optimization. To create good intention, useful, and call-to-action content that applies SEO optimization techniques is the final aim.
Let’s understand that SEO and content are complementary to each other. While SEO is required to promote or exhibit your content to the optimum traffic, however, the quality of your content will finally determine if the users will convert or bounce away from your web page. Therefore, generating excellent quality would require you to devise a careful strategy that applies to SEO optimization and user satisfaction.
Here are the best SEO content writing practices for 2021-
1. Create your niche
Knowing your niche would permit you the opportunity to build a strategy to garner an audience in that field, and establish your expertise. Users value reputation and content that can help them. Knowing who you will write for will give you ideas to write.
If you want customers for your product or service, your primary focus would be to create an engaging and informative product page for conversation, and the secondary focus would be to write descriptive articles explaining how to use the product or the benefits of the service. If you are interested in amassing a large reader base, your focus would be to write long, in-depth articles or create entertaining and informative videos or both such that your readers are compelled to stay longer on your web page and return.
2. Search for the right question
Most of the search queries are in the form of questions. Hence you would want to create content that directly addresses such queries.
Such as for how to make an origami rose? you can write a well researched, in-depth article/listicle about “10 easiest ways to create an origami rose”.
While Quora and Reddit are helpful websites, you might invest plenty of valuable time for too little output. Here, the advantages of SEO websites like Answer The Public, SEMrush, or Ahrefs are immense. They scour through the internet, indexing popular questions asked about a topic of your interest, and present them to you with a consistent result that you can transform into your focus keywords.
Undoubtedly, an essential base for SEO-compatible content writing is keyword research. Keywords are the building blocks of your content. They have to judiciously and cautiously used the headlines and the body of the content to generate a favorable outcome in the SERPs.
Basically, there are two types of keywords- short tail and long-tail keywords. Short tail keywords or “head terms” refers to concise phrases having three words or less and suggest queries like “chocolate bars”, “Protestant Church” which seem incoherently targeted. A long-tail keyword, however, is a phrase having more than three words. They are more coherent and specifically targeted such as “Cadbury milk chocolate bars” or “Protestant Church during Reformation”.
With keyword research comes the idea of competition. Keyword competition indicates the level of difficulty in the ranking of a keyword. It provides the sense of the game you are against say another website with high domain authority or minimum competition of the keyword that is relatively less used.
While both of these keyword types have their pros and cons, long-tail keywords with low competition are ideal for beginners with new websites to work with. Short tail keywords have higher volumes, therefore have higher competition and an expensive cost factor. In contrast, long-tail keywords have low volumes, which means less competition (compared to short tail) and more focus on the needs of the users. It is ideal for businesses to expand with a direct concentration on customers who demand that service or to create a reader base on your selected niche.
The first step would be to use a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest to derive a string of competent keywords or phrases and determine its level of competition. The motive is not only to gather the most suitable keywords but to look for the user’s search intent. In 2021, your understanding of the user’s search intent is given that Google’s primary intention is to satisfy a user’s search intent.
The second is to identify the areas where you have to use the keywords. In the title of the URL, headings, meta description, body of the content, and report of the graphics included, all the while keeping in mind not to exceed the desired keyword density.
4. Create relevant content
A comprehensive, long-form, thorough researched content created to satisfy user’s search intent, is the relevant content in the content writing industry. For any SEO content writing, identifying suitable keywords and keyword competition is the first step. It is vital to present keywords with neutrality and coherence. The content must always be grammatically accurate, well structured, and finally uncomplicated. To make the keywords sound more neutral, you can use punctuations or prepositions and articles. This will not only make the phrases grammatically accurate but coherent.
It is advisable to use keywords in the first paragraph of the content body after the heading. Since headings (and there are different types of titles) are scrutinized by Google, highlighting these keywords would help Google read them and later rank your article.
Here is a list of rules you can follow for persuasive writing-
a. User’s Search Intent–
To align your content to the user’s search intent, you can follow the direction of three C’s of which are content type, content format, and content angle.
Understanding if keywords addressing vague queries such as ‘orange cake’ are blog posts or category pages or product pages will help you decide if you should write a blog post or a product page.
Similarly, understand which content format ranks best for a given keyword, is it a listicle or op-eds, and accordingly, write that format.
Again, understand the intention and of the top-ranking content. If they comment on ‘easy’, ‘best’, or ‘least time consuming’ ways of baking an orange cake, it will give you the idea to approach the topic accordingly. Top ranking articles express uses intent; therefore, to study them is always helpful.
b. Draft and edit
Every desirable content with numerous drafts and rigorous editing. Instead of becoming disappointed with the first lousy draft, rewrite it for the tenth time (if need be) to create the best possible final draft. The importance of editing cannot be emphasized enough. It enhances user experience such as time spent on reading your articles, reduces bounce rates, and ultimately affects good rankings.
A well-written content reads smoothly because there is grammatical accuracy. And, the tone of engagement is kept according to the occasion, either formal, conversational, or informal.
d. Meta Description Title
This step is very crucial since it directly impacts the click-through rates. A good pitch would include the focus keywords, call to action phrases written in the active voice to create a conversational impression stuffed in about 155 characters.
Since the web hosts a wide variety of users, it is always advisable to use simple words to convey meaning. Complex sentences confuse readers; thereby, they refrain from returning to the website. A simple, easy-to-read format such as short paragraphs, bullet points, breaks on-screen help readers to engage with the content better.
f. Images and Videos:
Images and videos make any content visually appealing. It also gives a much-required break from a regular reading session. However, it is essential to adhere to the rules of providing credit to the sources wherever due in the correct format.
As mentioned earlier, giving external or internal links is a critical SEO practice to build the credibility of your website and content. It also works as feedback to or from a better ranking website.
h. Authentic and unique content:
Plagiarized content is the doom of any burgeoning writer (or for that matter any writer), but beginners are more prone to plagiarism however unintentional. Therefore it is essential to check for plagiarism and only post 100% unique content.
5. On-Page SEO
While the importance of on-page SEO has been detailed earlier, let’s talk about how to implement them-
1. For optimum site speed, check on any available speed test websites like Pingdom, Gtmetrix, or Speed Test, and check on the history tab to evaluate previous site load speed. The idea speed is one to two seconds max.
2. While headlines can be SEO friendly, to make them click-worthy would require extra effort, reports suggest that headlines that have numbers have a more excellent click-through rate. However, emotionally appealing and catchy phrases are other ways to generate some clicks.
3. Be careful about keyword density. As earlier mentioned, keyword stuffing is highly frowned upon by Google. It is always advisable to check keyword density in websites designed to prevent it such as an SEO book.
4. Optimizing headings- There are six heading types from Heading 1 to Heading 6, and each serves different purposes. Heading one that includes your title is under the direct spotlight of Google, so does Heading two and Heading 3. Therefore to craft appropriate tags would help rank your content better.
If you are wondering the type of content, you can create to apply and master and SEO skills, below are the most popular content on the web-
You can start with the most popular content, which is a blog post. It is an efficient way of creating content adhering to SEO norms and develop a broad reader base and affecting social media updates. Writing high-quality blogs every week for businesses is an assured way to enlarge your hold on digital marketing, convert potential users into customers, and rank high on Google.
Having your domain boosts your chance for a better ranking. Blogs can be adapted and modified to suit any purpose- as a market strategy to sell a product or promotion e-book. You have multiple choices. Within your blog, you can host articles, lists, and infographics.
Articles are an informative piece of content mainly for formal purposes that has a well-defined structure to present useful information, explanation, or description of any topic or product. Articles are not only popular amongst customers (such as to-do guides) but also students who seek academic papers. So essay writing is a practical exercise to create structured format content for an enormous reader base.
Lists are articles but differently structured, which is easy to understand and follow, hence very popular.
Infographics are a pictorial representation of any topic with minimal descriptions and have great industrial utility, especially in a digital forum. They have charts, graphs, and images to give information about a topic. Take Pinterest infographics; they are visually attractive, simple to understand, and generate a lot of traffic.
All In One SEO and Writing Tools
1. SEMrush Writing Assistant
Considered as one of the centerpieces in the SEO industry in general, SEMrush breaks your entered text into four main areas:
– Tone of voice
SEMrush then delivers you with suggestions on how to facilitate the elements mentioned above. Writing Assistant utilizes SEMrush’s formidable Search Engine Optimization assets to provide you optimized tips. From providing you with additional keywords to prompting the user to add target keywords to a title, it covers everything.
2. Yoast’s Real-Time Content Analysis
Recognized as the most significant Search Engine Optimization plug-in for WordPress currently, Yoast’s SEO content modeling tool incorporates a myriad of SEO advice along with writing processor attributes. Yoast’s Real-Time Content Analysis is a cloud service like SEMrush’s Writing Assistant talked about above.
The user can design and revise the perfect respective title and meta description, and can promptly check how they will display on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). If integrated with an on-page analysis, it is one of the best tools for on-the-fly text analysis and editing.
3. Google Keyword Planner
One of the very first things to do while writing your SEO content is to research trending keywords that are remotely related to a topic chosen by the user. Google Keyword Planner is a reliable tool that can be utilized for this purpose of keyword research.
The corresponding website displays the most popular keywords within a specific topic. The user has to type in a keyword or phrase, and the website’s algorithm will exhibit a chart that exemplifies the popularity of the keyword/phrase over a given period of time. The user also has the option to view the average monthly searches along with the suggested bid for a particular keyword.
4. WebSite Auditor Content Editor
Developed by SEO PowerSuite, Content Editor is a word processor augmented by the SEO competence of WebSite Auditor. The user gets a sample SERP when filling out the title and meta description, and the user can check how the title and meta description will look like.
This allows the user to adjust their HTML tags to follow the most satisfactory SEO implementation. Content Editor provides a keyword counter that lets the user check if they have added all the target keywords. The page that is being written is also continuously scrutinized for on-page SEO issues. Content Editor also presents the user with the problems they have overlooked and effective ways to solve them. The tool also provides a curated and fully customizable list of niche competitors at hand.
5. Keyword Density Checker
Keyword Density Checker was specifically designed to avoid the snag of keyword stuffing. The tool works by taking the user’s text (up to 2,000 characters) or a URL as an input and displays a comprehensive report on SEO writing.
Density Checker provides a breakdown of the most general keywords, and whether the user has put them in the HTML tags. Above all, the keywords the user has used will be enumerated along with their density or frequency, so that keyword overstuffing on the user’s page can be avoided and reduced chances of penalties.
A list of do’s that will boost your SEO content writing-
1. It is always advisable to check for the word count of your competition and always write more words than your competitors’ websites such as in WordCounter.
2. Write cornerstone articles that have a complete source of information about any topic. They are relatively very long and exceptionally detailed. They are especially helpful in rank in highly competitive keywords with the credit of sheer volume and information. Ultimately Google values genuine and maximum content.
3. Use plug-ins such as Yoast SEO and websites like SmallSEO Tools that help to optimize your website and content to the best standards of SEO.
4. Use Google Analytics. It is the best tool available to analyze the quality and quantity of your web traffic, gives you comprehensive data for market strategies, an idea about the best-liked blog content, and much more. Your goals will be monitored by Analytics that can inform you of Important data like conversation rates etc.
5. Another tip to look for plausible user queries is the Wikipedia content list. It turns out you can create entire articles taking inspiration from the number of features mentioned in the content list of an item.
6. It is advisable to change the name of the images you put in the content. Match it to the keywords used.
A list of don’ts that will help you avoid silly mistakes
1. Don’t forget to optimize your content on mobile. Since Google has now updated its SEO optimization policies for mobile websites, you might want to capitalize on it now.
2. Don’t forget to optimize the size of images and videos. Without this, the website load speed will increase, which is detrimental for any content writer.
3. Don’t create unnatural backlinks where there is little to no relevance of your content with the desirable webpage. Google can flag your webpage for link stuffing and reduce your ranking. A maximum of four links is the safest option.
4. Avoid using jargon at all costs, especially while framing your headlines. Terminologies will confuse your readers and create a negative image of your web page.
5. Don’t forget to redirect web pages when necessary with a 301 or 302 redirect request. Failing to do this, Google shall penalize your web page.
These were some best practices and guidelines you can follow for your content writing journey in 2021.