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SEO Basics: 1. What does SEO content writing mean?

In this first post in our series on SEO Basics, we’re going to deep dive into just what is SEO content, share some tips for best practice and four steps to get started.

As a business owner, you know SEO is important. You may have heard it’s about ‘engineering’ the search engines to help you rank more highly. But in reality, it’s about engineering your content so that it engages, informs and performs well.

So in practical terms: what does SEO content writing mean? Read on as we take a holistic look at SEO content.

What does SEO content writing mean? – Table of contents

  1. What does SEO content writing mean? 
  2. Why is SEO content writing important?
  3. What is organic traffic and why does it matter?
  4. SEO content writing on Google vs Bing vs everyone else
  5. SEO content writing best practice
    i. Keywords
    ii. Layout
    iii. Information
    iv. Quality
    v. Intent
    vi. Links and navigation
    vii. Meta data
  6. Is SEO content writing worth it?

What does SEO content writing mean?

Let’s break it down.

SEO – or Search Engine Optimisation – is a method of trying to get yourself featured highly up the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific search terms. The aim is to increase not only the volume of organic traffic (or visits) to your website, but the relevancy of that traffic too.

Content is any text, imagery and other media you publish on your site (and other online channels) for consumption by your audience.

If we put those two definitions together:

SEO content writing can be defined as the creation of written content that meets certain quality and formatting standards to rank well in search results pages and attract, engage and inform readers.

In other words?

SEO content writing means creating compelling, well-informed, well-written content your audience wants to know about.

Remember, search engines are all about making life easier for their users by serving up relevant, insightful pages that meet their needs. So if you develop content that ticks all those boxes, it’ll satisfy your readers as well as the search engines. And that is what we call a win-win!

Why is SEO content writing important?

Search engines use content published on websites as a way to rank pages in order of how well they meet a searcher’s query.

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By the point at which someone searches for something via a search engine, it will deliver up a list of webpages which have already been frequently crawled by its bots and indexed to identify the most relevant.

Search engines are constantly indexing webpages (so the more you update your content, the more frequently you’ll be indexed), using over 200 criteria such as use of keywords, layout and quality of content, links from other sites pointing to it (called ‘inbound’ links) and the overall reputation or ‘authority’ of the host site – plus many more.

All this is processed, filtered and ranked according to the current algorithm the engine uses. Because we constantly adapt the way we search for things and our use of language, these algorithms are being updated all the time. They’re even being tweaked to accommodate a rise in voice search and the way we may speak our queries as opposed to write them.

Updates can cause fluctuations to your ranking, so it pays to stay tuned to the latest changes so that your content can stay ahead of the game. Thankfully Moz has a handy page on Google algorithm updates.

Essentially, the pages that best meet the standards criteria appear higher up in the search results. You want to aim to be on the first page and (ideally) even snag a top spot with a Featured Snippet. More on that later.

What is organic traffic and why does it matter?

At the start of this article, we mentioned that SEO is focused on increasing your organic traffic. This is distinct from paid traffic.

Organic traffic is the number of people visiting your site because they’ve seen it appear in search results. It’s free and comes from natural user behaviour. And that’s what SEO content writing does – helps you rank higher for certain keywords so more people see your site organically when they’re searching on Google or other search engines.

Paid traffic means any visitors delivered to your site by clicking on advertising. Although useful to drive traffic, it doesn’t reflect how well your content marketing is working, so if you stop placing ads, guess what, traffic dries up. That’s why 70% of marketers consider SEO to be more effective than PPC ads.

It’s also why an SEO-based content marketing plan is essential to maintain consistent organic traffic. In fact, SEMrush found that in 2020, organic traffic came out top in terms of key metrics to measure successful content, with 83% of respondents citing it.

SEO content writing on Google vs Bing vs everyone else

Google is often what most businesses are concerned about when it comes to SEO. But usually it is used as shorthand for search engines in general. And it’s fair, considering Google has a 92.47% share of the market.

But it’s not just Google that uses SEO standards and algorithms to determine your ranking. There are a number of search engines – Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, AOL and so on – with some search engines more popular than others in different countries.

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They’re all useful for your business in different ways. Some will rank you higher for certain keywords than others; some offer paid advertising opportunities or other promotional options which can be beneficial if budget is an issue or because your brand wants to appear above-the-line in a prominent position.

Although it’s not all about Google, this most popular search engine should be top of your thoughts if you’re marketing in the west, especially if you’re just starting out in SEO.

SEO content writing best practice

As we’ve discussed, SEO content writing is the practice of engineering your content to help you rank better in search engines. In our next post in the series, we’ll look at how to write SEO optimised content, but here’s a taster on some of the best practice tips you can start implementing now:

Keywords

Keywords are essentially why your content is being written, so you need to identify the primary and secondary ones you’d like to be found for and sprinkle them into your content strategically.

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Don’t cram your keywords in unnaturally, but make sure they’re used around 2-3 times for a 1000-word page of content. They need to be included in some key places too:

  • Title and at least one heading
  • URL where possible
  • Meta content
  • Alt tags
  • Introduction

Layout

White space is considered key to holding readers’ attention and not overwhelming them with text, so some tips to organise your content includes using:

  • A list of contents for easy navigation
  • Headings
  • Short paragraphs and sentences
  • Block quotes or boxes for important information
  • Images, videos, infographics or screenshots to break up text
  • Numbered or bullet point lists for key points
  • Bold, italics and underline to identify takeaways and improve flow

Information

Your content needs to answer your readers’ questions. To ensure your content is deemed high quality, follow Google’s E-A-T criteria by offering Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. This is particularly important with the move to the Core algorithm update.

Your content doesn’t need to be exhaustive. Signposting to other content for further reading – either on your site (internal) or someone else’s (external) – is also a signal to Google that you want to help your reader.

Quality

Use (and link to) reputable sources, provide accuracy and ensure your content is free of errors. You may want to think about continuously updating old posts every six months to ensure they’re still accurate and up to date.

Intent

Perhaps most importantly, your content should not only have intent but understand user intent. If you’re using specific keywords, are you providing the kind of answer your reader is genuinely looking for?

Links and navigation

As above, links help your reader navigate to other relevant pages, take the next step they need to complete their journey and provide the level of insight they need. Links must be reputable and relevant and try to use them sparingly to back up your points.

Meta data

This includes the meta title and meta description you see in the Google results pages and which should be optimised for your target keyword. It also includes things like alt tags.

Is SEO content writing worth it?

Sounds like a lot of effort doesn’t it. And we won’t lie, it is. But there’s a reason the SEO industry is booming, and that’s because not only does it work, but more and more businesses are being forced online due to the pandemic (and let’s face it, the unstoppable digital revolution).

All this means it’s no longer possible to be complacent about the importance of SEO content writing.

To really make an impact, you’ll want to perform an SEO content audit and put together an effective SEO content marketing strategy. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through these steps later in this SEO Basics blog series.

✏️ Next week we’re looking at how to write SEO optimised content, so don’t forget to check back!

Header image: Myriam Jessier on Unsplash
Embedded images: Edho Pratama on Unsplash, Google.com, Bing.com

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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