SEO Writing in 2018
Everyone’s always telling you content is king and that you need more written content in order to improve your SEO. But knowing that you need SEO content is one thing and knowing how to do it is another. With so much available information, and with Google constantly changing its algorithm (often more than once every day), navigating the perplexing, often-complex world of SEO writing can be a daunting task for even the best writers! Not to worry. In this article, I’ll tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about SEO writing and give you some SEO writing basics to help you write your way to the top of Google’s SERPs in 2018.
Common Questions About SEO Writing
- What is SEO Writing?
- Why is SEO writing important?
- What are the most important elements in SEO writing?
- Which experts and resources should I use to learn more about writing for SEO?
- Is there anything else I should know about SEO writing?
What is SEO Writing?
First we need to answer the question, “what does SEO mean?” SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” SEO writing generally refers to pieces of written content that are optimized for search engines; in other words, content or an article that is specifically structured to facilitate easy crawling and understanding by Google. For our purposes, we’ll be talking specifically about optimizing for the Google search engine.
Why is SEO writing important?
Quite simply, SEO writing and copywriting is important because search engines are becoming the place people go to find information, products, and answers to questions. In fact, it’s said there are over 3.5 billion searches on Google every day. If you want your website to be found, you need to make it as easy as possible for Google to crawl and favor your content and serve it to the user. Whether you’re freelancing and trying to get your blog off the ground, or you are a company looking to get your site to rank for certain keywords, there are a number of ways you can help the Google engine find and serve up your content. Let’s dive into some SEO writing tips.
What are the most important elements in SEO writing?
This is a broad question, and there are boatloads of information out there. From my experience and from the sifting I’ve done, successful SEO pieces contain some common elements. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are what I’ve seen to be some of the most important elements in SEO writing in 2018 (in no particular order):
Factors to Consider in SEO Writing
- Serving the user
- Focusing content around a main theme or keyword
- Using a relevant and descriptive title tag
- Using headings effectively
- Answering users’ questions
- Having deep and engaging content
- Providing holistic content
- Using internal links
- Getting off-page wins
Serving the user
Google has become more sophisticated. So while title tags, URL structure, and H1 tags are still important, they’re now only a piece of the ever-growing SEO puzzle. What’s the biggest focus now? Serving the user’s intent. Over the last few years, search engine optimizers have documented Google’s added focus on this through algorithm updates that favor content targeted at giving relevant, accessible, and valuable content to the user and not simply at gaining revenue. There’s also been a recent adoption of mobile-first indexing as users are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to search. So if you want to be rewarded by Google, provide relevant and engaging content that serves the user’s search intent and that is also compatible with the way they are searching.
Focusing content around a main theme or keyword
Yes, keywords are still important and they are still very relevant in Google search, but for more reasons than just pleasing the machine. See keywords more as a way to guide your content. Use keywords and keyword phrases as starting points. To put it simply, Google aims to serve the best information to the user. It follows that if your pages have that same goal, Google’s more likely to reward them and rank them higher. Serving the searcher’s intent and offering content that pertains to the phrase they enter in Google means higher click-through rates. It means more time spent on your page. Both of these are key elements the Google search engine takes into account when ranking pages.
Using a relevant and descriptive title tag
The title tag is still pretty important for a number of reasons. One of the most important reasons is that it is the first thing that readers see in regards to your result on the SERP. It’s the headline that entices readers to click. And, as mentioned, click-through rates are a key part of the way Google ranks pages. Another critical reason to have a strong title tag or headline is that it makes it easier for Google to understand what your page is about and rank it accordingly. Best practice is to make sure the title tag accurately describes the content of the page, and then to include your primary and secondary keywords if natural and possible.
Using headings effectively
Be sure you only have one H1 and that it clearly communicates to both Google and the user what the content is about. Your other headings can be H2s or H3s depending on hierarchy. Using headings effectively will not only send helpful signals to Google as to what’s important on your page; it will also help users navigate your page, get what they need, and have an overall positive experience with your content. Since they’ll be able to find the information they need on your site, they’ll be less likely to leave quickly, thus improving dwell time while decreasing bounce rate. Serve the user through headings; it’ll help Google and the user, and you’ll find yourself performing better in the SERPs.
Answering users’ questions
I can’t stress this enough. Answering the user’s specific question or search query is vital. This ties back into serving user intent. Interestingly, Google also seems to be shifting toward giving quick answers to questions in the form of featured snippets (the little box that often pops up on the Google search results page when you type in a question). Ask a question in a header and answer it for a chance to grab some real estate at the very top of a SERP. Here’s more information on how to find featured snippet opportunities and how to then optimize for featured snippets.
Having deep and engaging content
When in doubt, the longer the better when it comes to content, as long as it’s focused on providing relevant value and serving user intent. While each SERP may have pages with a different average word count, in general, providing more content can only help your cause. In fact, a study of one million Google search results found that first page results on Google have an average of 1,890 words. Focus on serving the user and answering their questions or providing what they need in the most thorough and comprehensive way possible.
Providing holistic content
Deep and engaging content should also be holistic, meaning that it’s comprehensive and complete. There are a few ways to make sure you are providing holistic content. One great tool we use at 97th Floor is Ryte.com. It performs an in-depth semantic analysis that essentially takes a keyword and finds the top ranking pages for that keyword and tells you what other words those pages are also using. This can help you find themes and sections to include in your writing. Another great way to find subtopics is to simply search your main keyword in Google and scroll all the way to the bottom of the search page. There you will find searches related to your keyword. Use those to guide your content.
Using internal links
Using internal links within your content will not only enhance user experience by providing helpful and rich content, it will also help pass authority and link juice around within your site. Use your rich and engaging content to link to relevant pages within your site using the keywords you want the target page to rank for. It’s an easy way to get some quick wins and spread the love.
Getting off-page wins
While off-page signals (like backlinks) are extremely important, it’s best to focus on creating great content first. The ultimate goal is to create content that is so helpful and engaging that people naturally want to share it and link back to it. Some promotion in the form of guest posting or other methods is almost always required in order to gain links back to your content (ongoing authorship on third-party sites, for example, is a huge win for any writer, as it allows them to link back to their own site content). But to make it easier to get off-page wins, aim to create shareable content that includes infographics, expert advice, and unique value. Generally, the more backlinks and the higher the number of high-quality linking domains you obtain, the better your site’s ranking will be.
Which experts and resources should I use to learn more about writing for SEO?
Here’s a great list of some helpful sources if you want to learn more about SEO:
While there are hundreds, here are a few SEO experts I look to that you may consider following:
Is there anything else I should know about SEO writing?
You should know that learning to write for SEO is a process that takes continual learning in order to become and remain an expert, especially as the Google search engine is constantly evolving, learning, and changing. Also, keep in mind that your SEO efforts often take some time to bear fruits. Be patient and do your homework, and success will eventually come. That said, I hope these tips give you a solid starting point. Best of luck in all your SEO writing!