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SEO writing - Search Engine Optimisation

Why read this? : We explore how to improve the reach and engagement of your online writing using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Learn how SEO makes your writing easier to find online and more relevant to customer needs. Read this to boost your SEO writing skills. 

SEO writing

How this guide raises your game :-

  1. Define the role of search and SEO writing for marketing.
  2. Research customer needs based on search behaviour for writing topic ideas.
  3. How to write and publish website content in an SEO-friendly way.

What sets good business writing apart, is that it’s driven by a clear objective and aimed at a specific target audience.

The target audience is who the writing is for. A group of people whose attitude or behaviour you want to influence. You want them to think, feel or do something different based on the writing. 

The objective is what you want this change to be, and how many of the target audience you want to influence. So, it’s key you consider the reach of your writing, as well as the message itself. 

Reaching a target audience usually means using push or pull digital media to make people aware of the content.

Google hmne page on a Samsung phone lores

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Push vs pull media

Advertising and social are “push” media. You create short messages and push them out in front of customers to capture attention. 

With “push” channels, YOU take the first step in the process. You create an advert or post, then pay for it to go out in front of customers. You plan for it to reach enough of the right audience. That it finds them at the right time. And that it’s relevant and captures their attention.

Customers don’t choose to see this. They see it because it’s part of the media they consume. If it’s not relevant or meaningful, they ignore it. 

Boy with short hair shouting into microphone in a plain white room

Push media is like shouting at the audience and hoping they’ll stop and listen. There’s a lot of wastage in push media when messages reach the wrong people, at the wrong time, and aren’t relevant.

Pull media

Search, on the other hand, is more of a “pull” approach.

The customer starts the process this time, as they have a question. They go online and search.

If your website has search engine friendly content, up pops your writing to answer their query. Your content pulls them towards you. 

The real strength of search is it’s customer-driven. What customers search for tells you about their issues. About what they need. This insight into their need helps you create solutions to meet those needs.

laptop google search

Search reveals customer needs

ALL marketing starts with understanding customer needs. Great and profitable marketing meets those needs in the most relevant way. That’s what drives a healthy marketing-led profit and loss

When writing content is part of meeting those needs in the customer journey, that’s where SEO writing comes into play. You write website content based on finding out customer needs from their search behaviours. This helps your brand pull in and engage those customers when they search.

SEO writing meets customer needs

So, search and SEO writing makes that process of understanding needs easier and faster.

You use SEO tools like Google Trends and Google Ads Keyword Research to access what customers search for. You analyse this to understand what they need. This is free, up-to-date secondary research available to everyone.

From a content writing point of view, this research gives you ideas and topics to write about. Writing content which solves customer issues creates a positive experience with your brand. And positive customer experience makes customers more likely to choose your brand when they buy.

Man's hand holding a camera lens in front of a lake with mountains and blue skies in the background

Search is often where the customer experience starts. It’s the first point of contact. If people can’t find you, they’ll never engage. Plus, constantly pushing out advertising and media is expensive. Search is often more cost-effective. It connects with customers when they’re most interested in what you have to say. So, this all all “why” you do SEO. Let’s now look at “where” it fits in. 

Where SEO writing fits in

SEO writing comes into play as a skill within 3 key areas of your marketing activity :-

SEO writing - key skills - Venn diagram of secondary research, media and website and writing skills to show where SEO writing sits

You use these skills to increase the reach and engagement of your online writing. You write to meet customer needs and that pulls in more customers. But your writing still has to be good writing so let’s now focus on the writing part of SEO. 

Get started writing SEO content

Keyword research helps you identify the most relevant terms for your target audience. You use this to create a list of ideas and topics to write about. You can use this for many writing tasks such as advertising copy, blogging, general website content and sales copy

At this stage, you also set your business objectives. These are usually about changing the way customers think, feel or act. You measure this with website data or market research. For SEO writing objectives, you want the biggest number of relevant customers to find and read that content. You define how many people you want to see the search summary (impressions) and visit the site (Click Through Rate).

You also have to decide if you’ll write your own copy, or use a freelancer or agency. For this guide, we’ll assume you’re writing your own copy for a blog or website page. But you can apply the same principles to review and approve someone else’s writing. 

How to write with SEO in mind

The way you write should fit with your brand identity and tone of voice, the business objectives and the target audience‘s needs. But from an SEO writing point of view, there are more specific writing factors to consider. 

Avoid keyword stuffing

When you’ve done the research and identified a keyword or keyword phrase, you then have to work out how and how often to include that keyword in your writing.

You should include it often enough so Google’s search algorithm recognises it as an important part of the purpose of the article.

Writing - person typing text into a laptop

But you should avoid using it too much, as you run the risk of keyword stuffing. This practice dates back to the early days of Google. To get your webpage to appear for a search term, you’d use the same keyword over and over on a page. Even if the content on that page didn’t serve the purpose of what people were looking for. Not a good experience for the searcher.

So, Google has worked hard to cut this out. To make sure search results point to better quality content which meets a searcher’s needs. Google tries to make sure searchers see results from credible websites which meet user needs. Pages stuffed with keywords which don’t meet user needs, get penalised and don’t appear in searches.

It’s a fine balance when you write website content to include the keyword enough times, but not so much it feels unnatural. You should include it in the right context so the searcher finds it relevant to what they searched for.

Use exact match

When you choose a keyword or phrase, make sure you match the way it’s phrased from your research. From a pure writing point of view, it’s fine to use a synonym or paraphrase, but the search algorithms may not recognise this.

This can be challenging to avoid sounding repetitive. You have to be careful in the keywords and phrases you choose to highlight. So for example, “writing blogs” as we cover in that guide was fairly easy to work naturally into the copy.

But “how to get started with writing” which we had in a now-deleted article was much more challenging to use without it sounding forced and unnatural. 

SEO and punctuation

Note that the search algorithms usually ignore punctuation. This can sometimes help you overcome repetition issues. For example, if your keyword phrase was “business writing”, you could split those 2 words across 2 sentences and it’d still count as a key phrase. e.g. This skill is important for your business. Writing can add a lot of value. 

Linking - internal and external

Another point to consider when SEO writing is how you link the text to other parts of the internet. If you reference a particular point or think the reader might want to find out more about a particular topic, you should set up hyperlinks to that content when you publish the article.

These links can be internal to your website. They can point to another part of your website where the reader can find out more about a topic. Or they can be external and point to another website if your website doesn’t have the right information.

Search engines see links as positive because they’re there to help the reader. They essentially ‘glue’ content together across websites. Google likes you to have a combination of both internal and external links on your pages.

These links should feel natural where you can. It’s considered better practice to have them embedded into the text rather than overtly called out as links. For example, it’s better to say, “We could talk about how to improve advertising copy” than, “Click on this link to read about advertising copy”.

Follow and Nofollow links

For external links, you should decide whether to make these “Follow” or “Nofollow” links. 

When you set a link as Follow, it tells the Google search bots to register your link between your website and the external website. If you’re a popular website, this effectively boosts the popularity of the linked website by authenticating the authority of the link. But if you don’t wish to pass on this popularity or link juice as it’s sometimes known, you can set the link to NoFollow. 

To the website user, they won’t see any difference, the link will still work, but Google won’t recognise the value of the NoFollow link. 

The more other sites link to your site, the higher your perceived Site Authority is. In the world of SEO, this is called Domain Authority and sites like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush can help you identity your site authority and that of your competitors. 

Publishing and technical set-up

When you’ve written the content for your webpage, there are several additional steps you have to cover when you publish the content on the webpage.

These steps also help to boost your SEO performance. They make the content more search engine friendly. 

So, even though you included the keywords or phrases when you wrote the content, you have to make sure this also sits in the right places in the Content Management Systems to make it super clear to the search bots.

This information is called the Metadata for the page.

The word Google spelled out with blue, red and yellow M&Ms with a M&M bag and a laptop also in the image

For example, you should aim to include the exact keyword or keyphrase in the title of your page, in the opening paragraph and use it in at least some of the sub-headlines of the text.

The search bots look in these key places. When you place the keyword or keyphrases there, the search algorithm will be more likely to recognise the link between the keyword and the content.

The snippet

Make sure you include the keyword or phrase in the snippet. The snippet is the short text description of the content that appears in the search results.

If you don’t complete the snippet information, Google will automatically try to make the best 160-character description from your text. But these may not be what you want to appear in the search results.

You should write your snippet to make the content sound interesting and relevant. You aim to encourage searchers to click on your link. It should reflect your brand identity and have a strong call to action. Ask yourself if you would click on it if it was you. If not keep refining it until you can’t make it any better. 

Post or article length

While there are no specific limits on how many words to use, you should avoid writing that’s too short. Anything under 300 words won’t appear in search results. As per our writing blogs guide, blog content seems to optimise at between 1,500 and 2,000 words. (Ours usually runs slightly longer – that’s OK too). 

Articles such as this one can go longer. But make sure they contain enough interesting and relevant content all the way through. If people click on the page but then quickly leave, long content won’t help boost search ranking. But if your SEO writing content keeps people reading to the end, Google’s search algorithm sees that as a positive. This helps that page go up the search rankings as Google will see it as a better quality page.

Images and videos

While not strictly SEO writing, it’s also worth considering if you can use photography or video content to make the overall article more interesting or appealing. When you can break up large blocks of text with relevant images or videos, this creates more engagement. Google sees this as a positive. 

Make sure images or videos you use have appropriate ALT tags when you publish them. These are written descriptions of what’s on the image. They’re useful for accessibility e.g. for blind people who depend on voice readers to read out website content. And they’re useful for when users might have wifi or mobile data coverage issues. The ALT tag will display when image file sizes are too large to download.

Publishing tools - Metadata

Depending on your website Content Management System (CMS), you should be able to access more online tools to help refine your metadata inputs. 

On WordPress sites like this one, you can use Yoast to audit your metadata on every page. It will flag issues and recommend improvements. 

Tools like these check the focus keyword or phrase appears in the title, for example. They check it appears early enough in the writing and in enough of the sub-headlines.

They also check the keyword or phrase appears in the URL address of the page.

These tools will also look at the length of the total article. They will tell you if the keyword appears too little, too often or is about right. And, similarly, they will also check the number of internal and external links. They will direct you, and tell you if the number of links is in the right range for the length of the article.

Publishing tools - Readability

Tools like Yoast will also run readability checks on the content you write.

While Google’s search algorithm won’t directly audit the readability of your site, it audits how people interact and engage with the content. And the more “readable” the content is, the more readers interact and engage with it. This can boost your “quality” score with Google.

These basic readability checks act as a kind of robot editing for your writing. They won’t audit the context of what you say. But they can point out any obvious challenges in the way that you write it.

Woman wearing a grey sweatshirt and looking at her phone in a dark room

For example, Yoast will flag if sections are too long without being broken up by sub-headlines. It’ll flag if you start too many sentences with the same word. Or use sentences and words which are long and difficult to read. 

If you overuse the passive voice when writing, it will direct you to use the active voice more. Writing in the active voice creates sharper and easier-to-read writing. (Check out Yoast’s guide to passive and active writing, well worth a read).

Tools like Yoast are often free or bundled in with your CMS. But they also come with additional paid features for more advanced users. But the basic free tool is good for most purposes. 

For non-Wordpress users, check what’s available on your website CMS system. Or use an online tool such as the one at WebFX. We haven’t tested too many of the competitors to Yoast, as we’ve found it pretty straightforward to use. But if you check it out and it’s not the right tool for you, you can look at alternative search tools.

Don’t forget you're still writing for an actual person

While all this technology helps you understand what customers need, and how to make it more search-friendly, you must still remember that you’re writing for an actual person. Your business objective depends on an actual person thinking, feeling or doing something different. 

You should use your business writing skills and keep working on being a better writer so that your SEO-filtered content is still interesting, relevant and engaging enough for the target audience to want to read it.

Young woman on train station platform looking at her mobile phone

The technology, particularly the research tools, helps you understand the phrasing that searchers use. This is a particularly strong way to boost the impact of your writing skills. You can use the same language and syntax when you write. So you will be playing back the words that readers use themselves. This makes it more likely that what you write will be relevant and understood better. 

Writing in a style that matches how your target audience thinks or articulates ideas is good practice. It creates empathy and engagement. It makes it more likely the reader will enjoy and engage with your writing. You’ll reach more customers and have a better chance of hitting your business writing objectives. 

Measuring your business writing objectives

The final area of SEO writing is to track and measure how your writing performs against its objectives.

You should include measurement of key pages as part of your digital data and analytics plan. Set goals in Google Analytics and check how the pages perform in your SEO Webmaster Console reporting. 

Typical measures would include the number of visits, the time spent on the page, the bounce rate and the number of clicks or other interactions.

Compare the different topics and subject areas that you cover. Build a dashboard to work out which ones are more popular than others.

What learnings can you take from what worked and what didn’t to improve your future business writing?

Consider how to include your business writing in your overall digital media plan and the set-up of your website. These key areas interact to help you drive the content’s reach and engagement. They help you deliver your business objectives. 

Conclusion - SEO writing

In very simple terms, SEO writing is a way of applying the basic process of marketing. Find out what people want and then give it to them. 

You use secondary research; digital media and website skills, and solid business writing skills to create positive experiences between your brand and its target audience. 

Online tools help you research customer needs based on what they search for.

Then you write content that meets those needs and creates experiences for customers.

This generates more data you can use to create even better writing experiences in the future. 

SEO writing - key skills - Venn diagram of secondary research, media and website and writing skills to show where SEO writing sits

When you apply SEO writing skills like setting focus keywords or phrases, metadata and performance tracking help you deliver more reach and engagement for your brand through your website.

But, remember search is also a way for customers to find you. It’s a way to create exposure for your brand by delivering answers to questions and issues customers have. It’s part of your digital media plan and how you set your website up. You need to understand how search engines ‘read’ your website to make sure what you publish is search-friendly.

Remember you’re writing for 2 audiences when you publish online. You want your ‘real’ audience to enjoy and get value out of the content. But if you use the right SEO writing tools and techniques, you make it more likely readers will actually find your content in the first place.

Three-Brains and Business Writing

We have a lot of experience and expertise in blogs and business writing. From creating and commissioning writing to editing and refining it to deliver on marketing and e-Commerce objectives. Get in touch to learn how our coaching and consulting services can help you raise your business writing game. 

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