How to write for SEO

Even if you’ve read through all the articles about SEO and you’re ready to start creating your next content piece, there’s one question that still might bug you:

Which techniques should you use when writing the content for your website? What will ensure you rank well, and your traffic and conversion numbers are higher than before?

Read on to find out.

What is SEO writing?

SEO copywriting is the delicate art of ensuring the content you put on your website performs well in Google without alienating the searchers who come to read it.

In darker times, 'SEO writing' could bring up memories of awful, keyword stuffed content. Copywriters would gasp in horror at the language crimes, while conversion rate optimization gurus would facepalm.

But nowadays it's no longer a case of 'SEO writing VS copywriting'. Google's understanding of natural language has dramatically improved, and it is harder than ever to succeed with keyword stuffing or other abusive techniques.

How to do 'SEO friendly content writing' in 2020

Nowadays 'SEO friendly content' is not the kind of keyword soup you might buy off Fiverr, but content that meets the need of the searcher. In short - and in order of priority - it needs to be:

  1. Readable, and easy to understand
  2. Well formatted to help people scan for the details they need
  3. Comprehensive enough to demonstrate your authority
  4. Lightly sprinkled with synonyms and modifiers to increase long tail reach
  5. Accompanied by supporting content to help users dig deeper into a topic

Whether you're writing content for a blog, a newspaper article or an ecommerce product description, you need to put the customer first. After all, even if you manage to get a visitor to your site with low quality content you will struggle to convert them if you cannot hold their attention.

Why Google's BERT algorithm has transformed SEO, again

Google's BERT model is a result of their intesive work applying machine learning to the understanding of natural language. In the simplest terms possible, the development of BERT means Google no longer looks at pages as a list of words, but instead it is actually beginning to understand the text.

By analyzing the text in terms of the 'entities' (or 'things' - think people, places, dates and organizations) and how they relate together Google builds a much better idea of the subject of a page, its depth and its relevance.

My favourite way to demonstrate the impact of entities in SEO is to think about what would make an article 'incomplete'.
For example, in 'old school' SEO writing you might optimize a page on sightseeing in Paris by including lots of subheadings such as 'Things to Do', 'Best Places To Visit' etc.
But now Google understands the Paris is a City. Inside that are Places, such as museums and attractions.
Having read literally thousands of articles that link 'Paris Sightseeing' with 'Eiffle Tower', 'The Lourve' and 'Notre Dame', Google can be pretty confident that an article that neglects to mention these 3 major sights is probably not relevant enough to justify ranking for such a major term.

At the same time, BERT goes to work on the keywords a user uses to search, helping Google understand subtle differences in the searcher's 'intent' - quite simply, what they actually are looking for. This helps Google understand that 'things to do in Paris', 'Sightseeing in Paris' and 'Paris Attractions' are all very much the same question.

Google’s algorithm BERT had a major impact on how we write for the online community. As a result, some of the approaches you will find on the Internet are outdated or simply insufficient in today’s digital environment.

This is why it’s recommended to write naturally instead of obsessing about keyword placement and optimizing your website too aggressively - which could cause more harm than having a non-optimised content. So, what should you do?

The simple answer is to write high quality content. Content that is both engaging and rich in detail, covering a topic from nose to tail. If you're already a subject matter expert this is easy, but frequently as SEOs or bloggers we are exploring new topics we may not have sufficient depth of knowlege for.

This is why we build our topic research tool. By analyzing search results using the same Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques that Google employ we can discover first hand what the most relevant topics, entities and things are to a subject. By ensuring we explore these in our content we can increase its overall depth and quality

Want to know more? Read our guide to Entities and NLP for SEO

Best Practice Tips For SEO Copywriting in 2020

1. The Basics: Focus on humans not machines

Before the digital marketing world started talking about the Natural Language Processing, we were all so focused on writing for SEO that some of us forgot this content is actually created for real people. Thinking about the number of times you’ve used a certain keyword should never be more important than the information you are giving to the visitor on your website. 

Luckily, the keyword stuffing idea was suddenly crushed when Google introduced us to BERT, a neural network-based technique. It led to content marketers acknowledging the fact that the writing process needs to be done with the consumer in mind, not the search engine crawlers. After all, Google has started to look for content that is beneficial for its users, and content that’s only optimized but doesn’t provide value to its audience, will not be rewarded with a good ranking position. 

2. Conduct a thorough analysis of the SERPs

SERP (Search Engine Results Page) analysis is a process of reviewing top ranking websites on the search engine results page. Your goal is to evaluate if the keyword you wish to rank for is relevant for your site, and whether you have the authority to outrank your competitors or not. It’s a vital element of quality keyword research. 

When doing a SERP analysis, you may find that a keyword you assumed is relevant turns out to be the wrong phrase as it is does not have the precise semantic meaning.

One of the more visible impacts of BERT is Google now being able to distinguish subtle differences in a search term that changes the intent of the search completely.

That’s why semantic keyword research is a perfect way to find additional related keyword ideas, but you will also have to analyze SERPs of these keywords individually before you start the content optimisation process. 

Once you start your SERP analysis, you will notice different pieces of information related to domain authority, page authority, content types, link metrics, SERP volatility and user intent. However, before you start, these are the tips that might come in handy:

  • You should target the right terms
  • You should check if you are getting a lot of traffic from the given term
  • You should target terms with the right pieces of content
  • You should check if you can outrank your competition
  • You should see if you can maintain top rankings 

3. Determine the intent of the searcher

To understand why people are looking for a specific search query, you will need to focus on user intent. If you don’t create the content that matches the reasons why users are searching for something, don’t expect it to rank on Google.

Search intent is often  divided into four categories to help you determine what type of search your target users are performing:

  • Informational: Are users wanting to learn something?  
  • Navigational: Are users looking for a certain website?
  • Commercial: Are users looking for product or service reviews?
  • Transactional: Are users looking to make a purchase of a certain product or service?

Just by answering these questions above, you will be able to tell what the search intent of your target audience is. For instance, if the keyword is “best SEO tool,” it suggests that the user is searching for product reviews (commercial) before they make a purchase. On the other hand, the keyword ‘’what is an SEO tool” suggests that the user is looking for an answer to a question (informational). 

4. What type of content  best fits the searcher's intent?

Besides thinking about the search intent and creating your content according to that information, you will need to think about one more thing - what type of content best suits the searcher for this keyword?

You can create the best content there is, but if it’s not what Google thinks the searcher wants, you will most likely not end in the top 10 results on Google. 

To avoid creating the wrong kind of content you should analyse the search results that Google is showing.

For example, if all of the articles are in depth, long form content, writing a short article is unlikely to get you the ranking position you want. If Google is showing a lot of video results then it is likely video content will perform better than yet another article. And if all Google wants is a quick definition of term? It's unlikely your Odyssean epic will make the c ut.

To use the example above, a search for 'best free keyword reseach tools' is likely to return ten results from various blogs that list the tools. On the flip side, a search for just 'keyword research tool' is likely to show the landing pages of the tools themselves - even landing pages that have very little content compared to articles on 'how to do keyword research'.

Here Google has clearly identified a big difference in intent between two very similar keywords - the first is looking for comparison and reviews, the second just wants to get to work and the third 'how to' question is looking for beginner level content. To succeed as an authority in the 'keyword research' niche you will need to think about creating different pieces of  content that meet the need of all searchers - not just the 'buyer' keywords.

Of course, the content you decide to create will need to be optimised as well. By using an entity-based approach to seo, your article will be highly ranked by the search engines. Combining that with the right type of content will surely move your website a few numbers up!

Readability and SEO

Traditionally, search engines would rank your articles based on meta tags, keyword density, image alt tags, URL, page title, … So what's the point of a 'readability score'? How it is useful when writing for SEO?

To answer this we again need to remind ourselves that when Google is prioritising user experience above all else, we must ensure our content is accessible and easy to digest.

Readability scores are calculated by analyzing content to determine how difficult it is to read. Often this can be expressed as an overall 'Reading Ease' score or percentage, or as a 'grade level'.  In short, a 'grade level' equates to the number of years' schooling you'd need to study to be able to read the text.

In general, a lower grade level or higher 'Reading Ease' score is better than a high one. It's not that we should be dumbing down or that we believe the average searcher is of low IQ - but more  a reflection of how we read online.

Many studies have shown that the default mode for most online readers is to skim, to hop around the page trying to glean the nuggets of information people are looking for without committing to reading the whole thing. When you consider the majority of online reading is done on a phone, perhaps on a commute or on the sofa at the end of a long day, it makes sense that you should make your content as accessible as possible.

So, if you want to improve the behavior score of your website audience, you will also need to think about readability. If you manage to do that successfully, you should notice improvement in these areas: 

  • Time on page
  • Social sharing rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Total number of sessions
  • Exit rate
  • Bounce rate

The time users spend on your website will increase if you give them quality content. Stuffing in too many keywords and overly-optimised content will result in people not wanting to stay on your website.

Besides having a low score for time spent on a page, your exit and bounce rate will increase, sending Google one simple message: your website is not good enough for its users!

This isn't to say all content should be overly simplistic -  again it is important to consider your audience. Consider a topic like divorce. If you are writing for people going through a difficult time in their lives you want to make your content clear, accessible and easy to digest. But if you are writing an article for legal professionals working on family law, then naturally your article is more likely to contain industry jargon and is likely to require a higher grade level.

This is why at SEO Scout our topic research tool makes it easy to understand the average readability of your competitor's content. It is not a hard and fast rule, but it is sensible to ensure your content is not an outlier - either much more complex or much more simplistic than the other articles Google has chosen to feature for your keywords

Check your content for SEO potential

To ensure your content is of best quality, you will need the right tools. Sometimes it pays to start the optimisation process before your writing process begins. Add your keyphrase in our tool to get the best recommendations to optimize your content for top rankings:

  • Comprehensiveness Score: Find out what you need to improve and what topics and entities to add to have rich content that is ready to rank well
  • Word Count: See the ideal content length you should write to properly target the topic
  • Grade Level: See what grade your content should have and what grade it currently has.
  • Recommended Entities: With a list of entities, you can see what your content should cover and use it for your supporting content pieces as well. 
  • Questions to Answer: See which questions your target audience ask when searching for this topic and try to answer them in your article, or use them as supplementary content to help users higher or lower in the funnel
  • Supporting Content Ideas: If you’re looking to produce more than one article on this topic or you’ve decided to write an extensive guide, this feature will help you create a good structure. 
  • Related Keywords: Decide which keywords you will add to your piece and use them throughout your article but avoid keyword stuffing.

The Future of SEO 

There’s no doubt that the future of SEO will be enormously impacted by NLP. Your content shouldn’t be optimised just for rankings, but for your audience. If they are benefiting from the content you are publishing on your website, we assure you that Google will notice that. Start focusing more on entity SEO and Natural Language Processing as they will dominate the SEO world for years to come.

Luckily, with tools like SEO Scout it will be easy to publish content that will satisfy the needs of your target audience and ensure you have a good ranking position on Google.