Are you looking for a complete guide to writing SEO articles? Of course you are… Many guides are full of technical information you will never use as a writer. This guide tells you everything you need to know as a writer producing SEO content.
Nothing technical, just practical information. There’s a range of useful on-page SEO optimisations and writing tips that will improve your Google search rankings when followed correctly. Bookmark this page so you can use it as a blueprint for your next article. Are you ready to learn how to write SEO articles that convert? Aye aye captain…
What is an SEO article?
An SEO friendly article is one that provides valuable content in the eyes of Google. It’s content that most closely matches what the user is looking for. Content that shows up in the top 10 results, in theory, should be the highest quality content that matches what the user is searching for when they enter a query.
The trick to writing a good SEO article is understanding how Google interprets the data on your page. After all, it is an algorithm. Using clear language, accurately researched information, and keywords is the best way to increase your chances of getting to a top spot.
How does Google measure the quality of your content? One way is by judging your page on its “E-A-T” (Expertise, Authority and Trust)…
Optimise content for E-A-T
You’ve probably heard it before: “just write quality content”, “make sure the content is really high quality“.
Tired of hearing inane rubbish like that? Aren’t we all. The term “high quality” has lost all meaning in this age. Thankfully, Google has done a pretty good job at removing useless advice from the top search results. That’s partly because of E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust), and some clever algorithms.
Knowing what you are talking about is crucial for getting long-term, high-ranking search engine results. So, while the “just write quality content” advice is as vacuous as a polar bear’s lunch (thanks David Attenborough), it’s important that you have done your research, or have extensive experience in the field you are writing about. Here’s how to satisfy the algorithms…
How to optimise your articles for E-A-T…
- Write about topics you are knowledgeable about, or hire people who are.
- Develop a clear tone of voice and style.
- Understand best practices when it comes to on-page SEO.
- Don’t be afraid to show off your credentials. Having a writers bio and “about us” page tells Google that you have the authority to write from a position of experience.
- Make sure content is proofread and edited. Mistakes never look good and undermine your authority and trust.
- Build guides that are genuinely useful and intended to help and inform, rather than content that is obviously devised for sales.
- Use authoritative sources to back up your claims (tabloid papers and random blogs are not credible).
- Provide content that is helpful to users.
- Ensure your website is secure, HTTPS is a minimum.
- Avoid bad SEO practices like keyword stuffing and blackhat SEO techniques.
One thing that applies to all the above is ensuring content is well-written and accurate. Poor quality writing, especially with multiple mistakes, undermines everything E-A-T.
Why optimising your content for EAT matters now more than ever…
In November 2019, Google released an algorithm update, which they call “the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.”
This update is called BERT, and to keep things concise, we’ll only talk about how it affects you. BERT is an AI that allows Google to understand search queries as a whole rather than as a string of words, so that they can show more relevant results to searchers.
What does that mean for you? Well, if you write clear, valuable content that’s accurate — you’re doing good chief. The meta-game is evolving, so it’s important that you take the time to provide value to readers. You should be answering what people are searching for as accurately as possible.
If you’re a business owner or webmaster, you should be hiring professional writers who have a natural affinity for writing, not someone who will bang up a 1000 word article in 30 minutes to make a quick $10… If you want to know more, you should read Google’s own words on the BERT update.
SEO best practices for writers
Keyword research is more than just putting a phrase into your copy a few times. It’s one of the few ways you can influence rankings with text alone, which is what makes it an SEO best practice for writers. If you don’t really think about how to use keywords; or use them at all, now is a good time to build a framework and make a habit of using it when writing. Mass producing short, poorly written content could bring you a short-lived boost in traffic, but it will do nothing good for you in the long run. Keep reading to learn what kind of data and research you should be collecting to build useful, SEO friendly content for your blog…
1. Target longer keywords
These are called long-tail keywords. They are easier to rank for because the search volume tends to be lower and there often isn’t as much competition.
For example, the search term “SEO” gets 823,000 searches a month and there are 629,000,000 results for that word. There’s not much chance of getting anywhere near page 1.
However, “how to write SEO articles” yields 480 searches per month and brings up 45,100,000 results. Competition score on Keywords Everywhere is 0.17 which is quite low. It’s still no guarantee, but it at least increases the odds in my favour.
2. Find your focus keyword
Collect all of your keyword data and choose a focus keyword; this is the keyword you think will perform best, based on the website you’re writing for. You’ll be putting it in the title, around the page and ideally in headers, permitting it reads well. Most keyword tools allow you to export keywords to a spreadsheet (CSV), but I prefer to choose the best ones and compile a spreadsheet of my own.
3. Choose keywords that are low competition
High competition keyphrases are ones that are being heavily targeted by other pages already, indicating difficulty ranking in the organic results. What you want are low competition keywords. Many keyword tools produce a “Search Difficulty” or “competition” rating for each page in the top search results.
If you don’t have a competition tool — which at best are just an estimate, you can always just look at the top search results and see what domains are ranking there. If you see big names, and grade A content, you might not be showing on the first page for that keyword.
4. Include your keywords naturally in the copy
There has been a lot of talk about keyword density when it comes to SEO. Back in the late 1990’s, pages full of keywords were used to manipulate the primal search engine algorithms. Nowadays however, it is generally recommended to keep your keyword density between 1 – 3%, lest your website be considered spam. It is recommended that you include the focus keyword in the paragraphs of your article. There is no specific number, but starting with “at least twice” should be good enough.
The most important thing you can do is read your content, and honestly ask yourself whether it reads naturally. If there is unnecessary repetition of keywords, in close proximity to each other, you should tone it down. Going from a keyword density percentage that only looks at the whole page won’t tell you that, which is why you should proofread your writing, multiple times. Never rely solely on SEO tools to tell you your content is “SEO friendly”.
5. Include keywords in headers
Placing keywords in headers is a universally accepted SEO best practice. Ideally, your focus keyword will be included once in a H1 and H2 header. It’s essential that your focus keyword is in the H1 title, at a minimum.
Headers are a place where you can include semantically related keywords, queries and LSI keywords. Semantically related keywords are keywords that relate to the main topic, such as “what are the best SEO keyword tools?”. It answers the query “best SEO keyword tools”, and “keywords” is related to the main topic “SEO”.
By using language commonly used in the SEO space, it helps Google understand what your content is about. Clear, relevant language from within one’s professional field signifies that you are qualified to speak on a particular topic.
6. Write GOOD alt text
Again, it’s all about the details. A common misconception is that alt text shows when you hover over an image. Not true. Alt text is used to describe the image to people who may be blind or have impaired vision. It also provides a text-based explanation of the image to Google.
Some people incorrectly think this is a place to jam keywords. It’s primary purpose is to describe the image. If it makes sense to, include keywords in one image on your article. You should include alt tags on all images that are there for a purpose.
Let’s use this image as an example:
What would be some examples of alt text we could use? Here’s a few ideas:
- Yoga (bad)
- Yoga on the beach (okay)
- Man doing yoga on the beach (good)
- Man doing yoga on the beach looking towards the ocean (excellent)
Just remember, you aren’t writing a story about the picture, but it should be descriptive enough to include all the important details of the image.
7. Compress images
Page loading speed is something we haven’t really covered here. But it’s critical for SEO, where every millisecond counts. Research conducted by Google shows that 53% percent of mobile users will leave the site if the page takes more than 3 seconds to load. Compressing your images improves SEO by reducing page loading time.
Content Management Systems like Wordpress have plugins that automatically compress images when uploaded. This is of course, super convenient. I use Optimole to compress my images. This doesn’t just compress images, it optimises them with features like lazy load, which loads images as you scroll, rather than loading them all at once.
If you’re writing for a client, you can always check how well their page speed is optimised by running PageSpeed Insights on their website.
Make the most of your keyword research
Everyone has their own approach on how to research keywords and what to do with the data.
The main topic for this guide is “how to write SEO articles”, but there are many other components of this subject. There are subtopics within, like: SEO best practices, how to write SEO headlines, optimising images for SEO — all of which have associated keywords that people search for.
I put all of those keywords into a spreadsheet, with basic data like volume, competition, related topics and queries. Getting into the habit of structuring your SEO data gives you a clear picture of how you want to position your article.
Some people don’t use spreadsheets, but that’s my process. If anything, it gives you a clear picture of how you’re going to structure your article before writing the content. When I’ve selected the main keywords I want to use, I use the data to build headers, including the H1 headline and meta title, then go from there.
You need to develop a system of work to follow, so you don’t end up sitting there with your head in the clouds, when you could be working more efficiently with your time.
How do I know what keywords to target?
So, you’ve found some long-tail keywords you like the look of. But low volume keywords that look easy to rank for aren’t always great. Some are nonsensical, don’t read very well, or don’t match the intent of the individual searching that query. Although keywords are important, they aren’t everything. It’s even more important that you’re targeting the right topic. A topic that hasn’t been thoroughly covered by millions of other websites.
Make sure you’re targeting keywords you can rank for
This expands slightly on the “target long-tail keywords” part, as that in itself isn’t really enough. It’s equally important that you’re targeting keywords that will be easy/medium difficulty to rank for based on the website you are writing for.
There are metrics in most keyword tools like:
- Domain Authority,
- Number of backlinks.
You should look at this data for the first few pages of results. If all of these are high for the first page, it’s going to be difficult to rank alongside these results, unless your DA (Domain Authority) is similar and you can get good backlinks.
You can also use your own eye by Googling the keyword and looking at the first page. If the results are all high quality pages on domains you recognise, that’s at least an indication that ranking on the first page may be out of reach if you’re a small business.
The main point we’re leaning towards here is: aim for topics you have a good shot at ranking well for.
It’s not just about keywords in an explicit sense. Google is smart enough to know that one difference in semantics doesn’t make an entirely new topic. Check out their Cloud Natural Language AI for an idea on how Google’s AI could interpret your page. They are sophisticated enough to assess what the whole page is about, so just putting keywords in without thinking about the whole article, has minimal effect.
To illustrate what I’m talking about; imagine you want to write an article on “how to make good pizza”, but the volume is just too high for that keyword. Instead, you target “how to make a very good pizza” or “how to make a great pizza”, because they are lower volume. Despite the difference in semantics, they are all the same thing. So targeting one over the other would have a minimal effect on where you’re going to rank. The SERP will be virtually the same.
Change your approach and find another little niche to focus on; not just one keyword, but a specific topic or “angle” that is relatively untapped or within your grasp to rank for based on competitor’s websites. Start from the topic and work your way up, not the other way around.
Then, when you find something you have a really good shot for, not only will you rank for your focus keyword, but you will likely also rank well for keywords that are synonymous with your focus keyword, too. Don’t just jump at the first low-volume keyword that you see.
Target keywords that match user search intent
Search intent is what the user expects to find based on the query they are searching. Sometimes Google can produce a mash up of completely different results, especially with words or phrases that can have multiple popular meanings. Take this mash-up between consumer goods speakers and the Speaker of the House of Commons:
This is likely how it should be, as if you were searching videos or news articles for “speaker”, you would probably have a different intent than if you were to type it into Google shopping. This is probably Google’s way of matching two likely intents. Having said that, this kind of mixed user intent isn’t really our concern. What’s important is that our content matches the primary intent of those searching for our keyword, as it is usually much more clear than the above.
The four types of search intent
It’s important that the information you’re writing matches the search intent of the keyword you’re targeting. For example, if someone searches “Samsung S10 contract”, they are most likely looking to buy a Samsung S10 on contract, not learn about the phone. If you’re writing an article, you’ll likely be targeting informational queries like “how to, who, where, why”.
You should think about whether your content is going to fulfill the needs of the person searching your focus keyword, before committing to it. Otherwise, people may just leave your page confused, or Google will see it as weakly matching user intent. A clear data point you can use to measure the value of your page to users is the CTR (Click Through Rate) metric. A very low CTR could indicate that your page does not strongly match what searchers are looking for.
Examples of search intent
- Informational intent queries (to know something)
- Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth
- What is a bitcoin
- Are we living in a simulation?
- Navigational intent queries (to go somewhere)
- BBC News
- York Uni login
- Material Wonders
- Commercial Investigation queries (to research a product or service)
- OnePlus 7 Pro vs Samsung S10
- Best flagship killer phones
- Top restaurants nearby
- Transactional intent queries (I want to buy things)
- Buy headphones
- Nando’s Perinaise
- Vodafone SIM only contract
This may seem obvious, but it’s not always completely clear the impact intent can have on your page.
For example, if you wrote an article about the “best BT broadband deals”, it wouldn’t matter how well optimised the page was, BT would always be in the top organic spot, followed by other high domain authority websites. That’s because BT’s official website matches the searcher’s intent most accurately. If organic ranking is going to be the main source of traffic for your website, you should be smart about what angle you are going to take to get your own slice of traffic.
Make a headline that’s:
- Includes your focus keyword
- Features two keywords if possible
- Scores well in the EMV headline analyser
Those first three are interdependent. Having one over the other is a nope! It must be readable, relevant and include your focus keyword. Otherwise it’s in the bin.
There’s much more to writing headlines than ensuring they are SEO friendly. Writing compelling headlines might be a guide for another time, so I’ll just leave this great headline guide here if you want to learn more about the copy side.
Your SEO content tips so far…
Before we jump into what on-page optimisations you can use in your own SEO articles, here’s all that is salient from the SEO content guide’s previous sections:
- Be patient and spend time on research
- Have a strong focus keyword that’s in demand and easy to rank for
- Cover multiple long-tail keywords
- Strongly match user intent by staying on topic
- Make sure you utilise everything you can under EAT
- Don’t gun for keywords like “BT broadband” even if they appear easy to rank for
You might think taking a few shortcuts doesn’t matter, but when you need to get such a temperamental balance of elements correct, you should be doing everything you can with the time that you have.
Optimise your copy for long-term ranking
There’s a lot to take in with this SEO content guide. It would be virtually impossible for you to keep all this information in your brain after one read. I recommend bookmarking it to come back to whenever you need to know something.
This section covers the on-page optimisations you should be using to build your SEO articles. These are specific techniques you can include in your writing process.
Use clear language
I consider this to be important above all. Why? Because Google is using all the words on your page to determine what your content is about. Not just straightforward keywords. If you use vague, abstract language, you are going to make it hard for Google to understand your page properly.
If you write an article about cars, it could be interpreted in multiple ways (credit to Nikolay for this example).
Those could be:
- Cars (vehicle)
- Cars (Disney movie)
- CARS (Canadian Association for Rally Sports)
- CARs, (Canadian Aviation Regulations)
- (The) Cars, (the band)
With all those different meanings, how does Google know what your page is about? It uses other words from your page to determine which Cars you are taking about. For example, if your page was about the band “The Cars”, you would be using language like “1970s American band”, mentioning album names and band members names, and ensuring these are included clearly throughout the copy. Not referring to them as “the band” or “they” too much.
Reiterate your point with clarity. That’s not just how Google understands you, it’s how you teach humans too.
Write SEO friendly headlines
Although not explicitly SEO, the headline is arguably the most important part. A good headline will invoke a sense of curiosity that must be satiated by clicking on your article. Killer headlines don’t come easy though.
The headline affects the CTR. But it’s also a valuable space to include your focus keyword, which is common practice. Ideally, you can slip two rankable keywords into one title, like my article:
“The 16 most fulfilling hobbies to do after work”
This title features two long-tail keywords, and it’s readable too. The keywords are “most fulfilling hobbies” and “hobbies to do after work”. As a result, those are the queries the article ranks best for. It also scores very highly on the EMV headline analyser, which I strongly recommend checking out.
The headline analyser has been an invaluable tool for creating headlines that spur an emotional response. Just keep trying variations until you get in the 30% range at least. I’m not sure what arcane science is behind the headline analyser, but it seems to work.
What if my keywords don’t make sense…
Sometimes, keyword placement may not feel natural. But that’s probably because you are trying too much to force keywords in, or your keyword doesn’t make sense.
If it doesn’t fit, just let it go. There are times where you will want to intentionally place keywords, but the main focus should be on writing stand-out content. If writing is your main focus, it’s inevitable that you will come across opportunities to include your keyword naturally as you write the copy, without the need to do it with forceful intent.
Craft compelling meta data
This is where you want to reel people in for that CTR. Craft a meta title that persuades you to read the meta description. Craft a meta description that persuades you to click and read the article.
Meta titles and descriptions don’t directly affect your ranking on Google, but they do affect how often people click on your page, which subsequently will affect ranking. So make sure you use those writing skills to put something clever there. Make sure it’s relevant and open-ended too.
There is a character limit for meta titles and descriptions. Once they get too long, the text will be cut short and look something like this…
Why was that the first query that came to mind? No idea. Although it isn’t a huge sin, it’s relatively easy to fix meta descriptions and titles that are too long. If you have quite a few pages, you can do an SEO audit on your website to bring up all of your meta description and title lengths.
Optimise links for crawlers
How to structure internal links
Google’s crawler navigates through your website via internal links. Internal links are hyperlinks that link to other pages within your website.
Without internal links, Google would have a hard time finding the rest of your pages. The primary benefits of using internal links in your SEO articles are so Google can understand your site architecture, and for something called link juice (or link equity).
If you are writing an article, and you mention a topic that has been covered elsewhere on the website, you should link to that page using a hyperlink.
The hyperlink should include text that directly relates to the page you are linking to. This is the anchor text.
Anchor text should be:
- Not keyword heavy
- Relevant to the page you’re linking
- Not generic (ie; “click here”)
How to structure external links
If you are linking to an external website, the page you’re linking to should be at least somewhat related to the topic your article is about. If you have a number of links on your page leading to completely random, unrelated topics, Google could deem your content unusual and worthy of a good spanking.
The rules for external linking are the same as for internal links. But in addition to that, you should be linking to reputable websites, especially if you are using information from that page to back up what you’re saying.
Remember when we spoke about EAT all them years ago? Well, using reputable sources of information was an important part of the “Trust” component. Make sure you’re using authoritative sources to support your claims.
What am I supposed to do with all this information?
If you’re just starting out, or relatively new to SEO content writing, the sheer volume of information can be quite overwhelming. With so many different tools, terms and strategies, you’ll find your own creative ways to attract the attention of search engines the more you write.
On-page SEO is more of a creative field than technical SEO. You should use these ideas creatively to develop your own way of writing articles. There’s no single “correct” way to do it, and you don’t have to do everything mentioned above, other than the SEO best practices. Just start with the things that are easiest to start doing, and build your way up from there.
Hire an expert
What better time than to plug my own writing services? There are no affiliate links on this page, so I do it shamelessly. If you don’t have time to do all of the above, send me a message.