Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques designed to increase traffic to your website. Put another way, it’s a process of optimizing the content on your website to make it rank higher on search engine result pages.
These two statistics will give you an idea of just how crucial search engine ranking is:
- Less than 1% of users click a link that is not on page 1 of Google search results.
- Using an SEO-optimized title tag to replace an existing one can increase page clicks by over 400%.
The first and most important element in the SEO universe is content. More specifically, SEO content—content designed to rank higher in search engines. High-quality content is the foundation upon which all other SEO tools, tactics, and strategies are built.
However, all content does not automatically attract visitor traffic. It has to be crafted in a way that gives consumers what they’re looking for. Your content must have tangible value in terms of relevance, insight, or expertise for it to make any difference in SEO. Only then will your website get visibility and traffic from organic search results.
Top SEO content writing tips:
- Research your content
- Determine the ideal length of the article
- Write a concise meta description
- Write growth-focused content
- Write compelling headings
- Target featured snippets
- Add images with ALT text
- Use links strategically
1. Research your content
Research is what gives content its validity. From an SEO perspective, content includes everything from blog posts, product descriptions, and testimonials to captions, interactive elements, and landing pages.
Search engine visibility comes with creating content that is original, informative, and engaging. The type of content you want to create, the audience you want to target, and the impact you want your content to have are decisions that must be made based on solid research.
In terms of SEO content strategy, your research should focus on answering the following questions:
- What is your target audience likely to search for? Answering this will require keyword research—the process of analyzing words and phrases that users enter into a search engine. Keyword research will give you a list of potential keywords, including long-tail keywords (specific phrases), to include in your content. Including all relevant keywords in your content will enhance its ranking in search results.
- What does your competitor’s content look like? Competitor content will give you an idea of where you need to be in terms of content value. Find gaps in information that competing websites have left out and try to plug them with your content. The idea here is to find ways of going further than the competition and creating better content.
- What kind of content is currently trending? Knowing what people are searching for can help you connect with them. Analyzing popular search queries across regions and languages is easy with tools like Google Trends. Curate your content accordingly to meet consumer needs and expectations to drive organic traffic to your website.
2. Determine the ideal length of the article
You’ll need to consider two main factors when deciding how long a post or article should be:
- Subject matter. What your article is about plays a part in deciding how long it needs to be. For instance, a DIY article may need to be pretty exhaustive to cover all steps in a project. A general interest topic like a movie review, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be as long.
- Reader intent. Is the reader looking for a straightforward factual answer to a question, or are they looking for context or a deeper understanding of a particular issue?
The science is still fuzzy on the topic of content size, as far as SEO is concerned. Common sense says that quantity is no indication of quality. You can have entire pages of text with little substance, while a few short paragraphs may end up saying a lot.
Google has repeatedly insisted that the number of words is not taken into account while ranking search results.
However, other facts should be considered. A 2021 internal study by HubSpot came up with the conclusion that the ideal blog post length should be between 2,100 to 2,400 words. While that may be true for blog posts and other long-form articles, it says very little about other content formats.
Your best bet at leveraging ranking factors is making sure your content is substance-rich. Keyword stuffing and unnecessary elaboration are unlikely to help.
3. Write a concise meta description
A meta description is a summary of a web page that appears as part of search results. This snippet of text gives users an idea of the content they will find on a page and whether that content is going to be relevant to their search.
Theoretically, meta descriptions can be any length. However, search engines usually cut them down to a size of 150-160 characters for optimal readability. Mobile devices usually show only about 120 characters. Putting your message across while keeping within the 120-160 character limit is an important part of your SEO efforts.
Use these three tips to help you write concise and effective meta descriptions:
- Include focus keywords. Google returns results based on the number of search keywords contained in your meta description. Try to include as many of the most relevant keywords as possible based on your research. Keep in mind that the description will still need to read well for users to click through.
- Make sure the description matches the content. Inaccurate or misleading descriptions will increase bounce rates and make you lose the trust of your readers. Keep your descriptions strictly aligned with the scope of your content. Your descriptions should not promise any more than your content can deliver.
- Include a CTA. Executed smartly, a call to action (CTA) can be very persuasive in making searchers click on your website. As long as it’s relevant, a CTA like “find out more” or “get it now” can help visitors take a certain action. CTAs work especially well as part of a sales pitch for retail stores and e-commerce sites.
4. Write growth-focused content
Growth-focused content is what you need to steadily climb up in search rankings. This involves creating content related to your industry specifically for search engine optimization.
Growth-focused content is built around a specific digital marketing objective, like increasing traffic to a website as quickly as possible. Start by zeroing in on a list of SEO-friendly content topics relevant to your website. Then, create content around those topics with the express goal of satisfying search demands.
This SEO and content marketing strategy will help you connect with your target audience, engage them with informative and insightful content, and keep them returning for more. These three actions will help you create effective growth-focused content.
- Know your audience. Knowing what your audience wants is the first priority in content creation. You can improve your understanding of your audience by doing market research, collecting demographic information, analyzing customer feedback and testimonials, and creating audience personas.
- Create valuable content. You can expect positive SEO results only when your content has implicit value for a large section of your audience. Cite reliable sources to back up your facts and include charts and figures wherever applicable. Develop authority in your subject matter by making your content credible, unique, and interesting.
- Be consistent. In the context of SEO, consistency cuts across several dimensions. Quality is the most important of them. The general tone and attitude of your content are another. Maintaining the right frequency of new posts is also important. Ideally, create a content schedule of regular publication and have your content writers stick to it.
5. Write compelling headings
Headlines are the SEO element that makes the all-important first impression with potential readers. A good headline is one that is smart and makes the writer feel good about it.
A great headline is one that grabs the audience, leads them through your content, and gently shows them out with a reminder to come back. The most brilliant content on a webpage or social media will get no attention without a compelling headline.
These best practices can help you develop your headline-writing skills:
- Include a value proposition. That means answering the unspoken question, “What’s in it for me?” A value proposition ideally gives the reader a reason to read your content. That reason could be the chance to know something they were not aware of or the promise of a tangible benefit (like a discount or freebie), anything that incites them to click through.
- Ask a question. Converting headline statements into questions piques reader curiosity. It’s also a way to include the reader in the direction of your article. All search queries are eventually questions, even if they may not be framed as such. Using a headline with a question mark at the end comes with the automatic promise of answers for consumers.
- Use numbers. You may not be reading this article at all if we’d just said “a few tips and techniques” in the headline instead of “8 tips and techniques.” Using relevant numbers in headlines is a way of quantifying the value of a piece of content. It tells readers exactly what to expect. Figures, statistics, and percentages can all add value to your headline.
6. Target featured snippets
A featured snippet is a portion of highlighted text that appears at the very top of a Google search engine results page (SERP). Google refers to this space as “Position 0.” A featured snippet answers a search query directly with relevant information from the top-ranking page. Featured snippets are placed above the organic search results so searchers can get a gist of the information directly from the results page.
Because snippets only provide an excerpt, visitors will need to click through to the website for the full information they’re looking for. As a result, websites that appear as featured snippets may expect more traffic and higher click-through rates.
Featured snippets come in four forms: paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos. Here’s how you can optimize your website for featured snippets:
- Learn from competitor snippets. Use a keyword research tool like Semrush to identify target keyword groups linked to snippets. Use these specific keywords to optimize your content to rank for featured snippets.
- Know search intent. Identify the intent behind each search query that returns a snippet. Searchers are looking for answers in one of four formats: a factual answer (data), a detailed answer (information), a comparison, or a video.
- Create better content. Add more value to your content than competing websites by including references, statistics, and examples. Focus on research-backed content rather than opinion. Choose content quality over quantity.
7. Add images with alt text
Alt text (short for alternative text) is a part of HTML code that is used to describe the appearance or function of website images or infographics. Alt text is not only essential for SEO but also for enhancing accessibility and user experience. It is read aloud by screen readers, making it easy for the visually impaired to access online resources.
Images account for more than 22% of all search queries. That makes alt text an important component of your SEO strategy. Here are our top tips for writing effective alt text:
- Keep it brief. Screen readers and other assistive technologies do not read alt text beyond 125 characters. So get your description across within that limit.
- Include the main keyword. This provides context about the image and the page it’s on. Ideally, use keyword variations or synonyms of the main keyword in the alt text.
- Avoid filler text. Standard descriptions like “image of” or “picture of” are unnecessary in alt text because that is already implied.
- Do not repeat the caption. Use alt text to add information about an image instead of repeating what’s already written in the caption. This helps avoid redundancy.
Check out this tutorial for more insights about writing effective alt text.
8. Use links strategically
One of the chief metrics Google’s algorithm initially used to rank search results was the number of links on a web page. Times have changed, but links still remain an important SEO factor after content and keyword density.
Internal links (connecting one page on your website with another) help Google understand the relevance, relationship, and value of different pages on your website. External links or backlinks (connecting your website with other websites) determine the SEO relevance and popularity of a website or page.
Having a strategic combination of both is a crucial part of your SEO arsenal. The value of a link is determined by three factors:
- Relevance. Links related to your industry are more relevant for search engines to figure out what your website is about and rank it higher.
- Authority. Links from reputed or popular websites are more valuable than those from lesser-known ones.
- Variety. Having a naturally diverse link profile (from blogs, website directories, review sites, and so on) is also key to higher SEO rankings.
Finally, use a short, relevant, and sensible anchor text for your links. Anchors are clickable text that is often blue and underlined. The anchor should automatically convey the value of the link. For instance, “latest data” or “research findings.”
Also, try to avoid outdated and generic phrases like “click here” or “press this button.”
Find professional SEO writers on Upwork
As you may have gathered by now, SEO is not something you can gain mastery over in a day or two. Unlike other forms of writing, SEO writers have to match their writing skills with sound technical knowledge.
Just browse through our list of top SEO writers to find one that’s perfect for you.
And if you’re a freelancer who’s keen to help a company rank higher on search engines, you can find SEO writing jobs on Upwork.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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