A beginner’s guide to SEO for content writing
SEO is essential if you’re looking to get more traffic to your website and drive some kind of action from your visitors. Content writing is a vital aspect of this approach and often at the heart of any content marketing strategy.
SEO may appear to be complex and yes, there are important technical considerations, but at the heart of SEO is something very simple: understanding consumers’ behaviour, interests and motivations.
This beginner’s guide to SEO is a good place to start.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of making your content (and subsequently your website) visible to and considered valuable by search engines in order to appear in users’ search results.
One of the leading SEO software companies, Moz reveals that 95% of clicks through to a website are from the first page of search results. Being at the very top of page one is gold; a study by another SEO site, Sistrix found that 28.5% of users click the first link, with another 55% of users clicking one of the top three.
SEO’s benefits are multiple and at its heart, it plays an important role in the digital marketing funnel or the reach aspect of the (digital marketing) RACE model:
- visibility on SERPS (search engine results pages)
- traffic to our website
- brand perception
- reputation management
- cost efficiency
What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
You may have also heard the term SEM and often people use one or the other as umbrella terms, but where SEM differs is that it refers to the process of getting traffic via paid adverts.
There are a number of ways to bring traffic to your website, but for clarity, here we will focus only on the content you need to create in order to attract Google and other search engine bots.
Understanding consumers is at the heart of SEO – and particularly what users are looking for and the language they use on the internet. And if Google’s job is to provide the best solution for these types of search enquiries, our job is to outline how our business is the best answer. So naturally, being visible in SERPs requires adhering to some conventions.
Some of these conventions relate to how we write, but also to our website itself. For example, your website needs to be mobile-friendly among other things.
How does content writing help with SEO?
Written content is a key aspect of ‘on-page SEO’. The highest priority is working out ‘keywords’ and ‘keyphrases’; the words users use when conducting searches, so understanding natural language and different nuances are key. These words and phrases must then be employed in the content you create, in a natural way in order not to be penalised by Google for ‘keyword stuffing’.
For example, a luxury fashion brand will use a mix of both general keywords like ‘luxury’, ‘fashion’, ‘couture’, ‘new collection’ as well as specific ones relating to their name, product lines and store locations as well as its hero products and USPs. These keywords can also be the basis for any PPC campaign you’re running.
Research into the words your customers actually use and the questions they ask of Google is essential. Fortunately there are a number of tools, both free and paid for that helps with the process; Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), Ubersuggest, AnswerThePublic are good entry points while Moz, Semrush and Ahrefs are useful if you’re diving in on an ongoing basis. A shout out goes to AnswerThePublic which gives you insight into the types of questions and queries, users are asking of Google around keywords and phrases.
Once you have your keywords and phrases, work them into your content wherever you can that feels natural. Keywords are particularly important in titles, sub-headings, alt text and URLs because search engines place a higher priority on these when inspecting content.
There are further steps in refining your content around relevance, clarity and more, but these will depend on your unique circumstances. In the meantime, this guide from Ahrefs covers the basics well.
We can help you with any of your SEO issues, take advantage of our FREE SEO content consultation here.
Creating an SEO strategy
SEO is ongoing and needs to be part of a coherent strategy to get the best possible return on your time and effort.Find out more about creating a content strategy but these are your considerations in tackling SEO:
• Start with keyword research as outlined above. During the process, you’ll need to evaluate the competitive nature of the keywords you’re hoping to use – the tools mentioned above will give you an indication of the volume of searches a month as well as a competitive score. SEO has become increasingly saturated so thought needs to be given to the types of keyword used and answers to the problems your user is seeking in order to stand a chance of ranking on SERPs.
• The second step is about analysing the competition; what else is ranking on page one of Google using your focus keyword? Your content has to be better and different to this content to rank. However, this is an opportunity to bring your brand to life by showcasing your expertise or uniqueness; data, insight, insider knowledge, guides, infographics, how to’s, brand photography and video can all make a difference – they also make the content more shareable.
• These approaches all affect your content creation as do core design and readability basics: is the content structured in an easy to consume way? Are their headlines and subtitles to guide the user through? What images or video are you using? Is there alt text for your images? Think about accessible content.
• At this stage, you’ll also need to optimise your content for on-page SEO. Making sure you’re linking to external pages of note as well as relevant pages on your site is key. Writing content around specific subjects and its sub-topics are valuable here; think of it as making a hotspot of your expertise on the internet. There’s more via Moz's beginner's guide but great content writing is obviously an excellent foundation.
• There are, of course, a number of design and technical factors involved in the whole process to consider including ensuring short URLs, non-duplication of content, semantic mark-ups, correct labelling of elements, lazy loading. It makes sense to have an agency or technical support to help therefore.
SEO is an ongoing process, so, once everything is up and running, you’ll want to periodically review your content to update and improve it with news, latest developments and user feedback or reviews.
Brands conduct this kind of work in a variety of ways, either in-house or working with freelancers and agencies - the latter being most able in general to tackle everything from strategy, content creation and updates to the technical aspects that may be challenging for many.
Repurposing content for SEO
What about if you've been provided with content but then need to adapt it so it works into SEO? Or what about updating older content that was written in an earlier SEO environment and the original approach doesn’t work as well anymore?
• You'll still need to consider the steps above, starting with keywords, key phrases and user intent. You can simply adapt your existing content to include those where you can. Note: you can’t change what someone actually said in an interview.
• You can also review the flow of the content and design of your page. Can your existing content be adapted at the structural level to make it more SEO-friendly? An existing educational feature may lend itself to becoming a how-to guide or even a listicle. Perhaps translating data-heavy information to a shareable infographic might be feasible.
• Can you go further still and use your content as the basis for a podcast or a video? Both of those options lend themselves to reaching new audiences via search engines and are shareable – particularly as search engines are moving to prioritise these styles of content.
Other factors to SEO
How we create content is only one part of the SEO mix – and as discussed above, any content creator will benefit from the kind of design and technical support we offer at Dialogue to ensure their content is visible in SERPs.
This leads us on to technical considerations – the things that you do to make your site easier for search engines to crawl. What you do to your site needs to be part of an ongoing strategy, too.
The technical aspects to SEO can constitute a new blog in their own right, but considerations include optimising images, avoiding duplication of content, adding semantic mark-ups and labelling elements correctly with heading tags, alt text for images, etc.
Ensure your site is mobile-friendly and you’re always seeking to improve page-load times with tactics like lazy loading and addressing any cumulative layout shift – the unexpected moving of webpage elements like fonts, images, videos, contact forms and buttons while the page is still downloading.
Make sure your tech elements are in good order and enlist the help of someone with best-practice knowledge. The website needs to be secure, using ‘https’ rather than ‘http’, with a valid SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer).
It’s also important to create an XML sitemap, add structured data mark-up to your website and register your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
As discussed, due consideration also needs to be given to what you do in regard to links in and out of your site. Your backlink profile is important from how you analyse your links through to managing the process. This all contributes to a healthy domain authority score.
Having a good outreach or online PR strategy in place to help facilitate this is vital, but again, this also harks back to the quality of the content. If you’re creating something of value for users then other sites are much more likely to link back to you.
Your content writing can achieve great SEO
There’s a lot of information on the internet about SEO, but it’s ultimately straightforward; it’s about finding the best way to talk to people and provide them with the kind of solutions they’re looking for.
There are plenty of complex technical components to SEO as well, yes, but they are all there in support of a simple aim: making it easy for people to find and enjoy something useful, interesting or entertaining.
If you work in the luxury sector, you may be interested in our specialist guide to luxury SEO.
We can help you with any of your SEO issues, take advantage of our FREE SEO content consultation here.