Content Writing Basics: The 7 Keys to Content That Ranks
Content Writing Basics: The 7 Keys to Content That Ranks
Content writing is the backbone of any SEO strategy. Great content can improve your visibility in search, generate leads, build your brand and help you form lasting relationships with customers.
However, simply churning out content is not enough. If content marketing were that simple, everyone would excel at it — and if everyone excelled at it, no one would benefit from it. So, what separates the good content writing from the great? Quite a few things, actually.
What Is Content Writing?
In the most basic sense, SEO content is content that is designed to rank in the search engines. Though any type of content can be SEO content — think blog posts, landing pages, static website pages, e-books and even videos — not all content is SEO content. SEO content writing is designed specifically to help visitors find your website.
Think about how you conduct a search … First, you type in a specific term, word or phrase. Google will then deliver hundreds of thousands to millions of results.
However, it is unlikely that you’ll get through even 20 of those results. In fact, most people only ever make it through the first page (which equates to 10 results). If they don’t find what they’re looking for there, they’ll typically rephrase their inquiry.
SEO helps Google deliver the best possible customer service to searchers. Though the search engine uses several different factors to determine rank, content relevancy carries the most weight.
But how does Google determine which content is relevant and which is not so much? That’s the question we hope to answer here today.
Why Should You Care About SEO Content Writing?
Once upon a time, content writing was a way for businesses to set themselves apart from the competition. Today, however, content writing is a crucial element of any successful digital marketing strategy. You can take our word for it, or you can just look at the numbers:
- 78% of consumers say they prefer to get to know a brand through content rather than paid advertisements.
- 70% of consumers believe that brands that regularly publish relevant content are interested in forming authentic relationships with them.
- More than 75% of internet users say they regularly read blogs, though 43% admit to skimming articles (the reason why lists, headers and bullet points are key).
- Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid advertising.
- Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to see a positive ROI than those who put content writing on the back burner.
Leads and sales are just the tip of the iceberg, though. If converting leads into paying customers was all SEO content writing could do for you, you may as well pay for pay-per-click ads or social media advertising.
What sets content marketing apart from standard marketing is its ability to work for you long after its publication date.
Long-Term Benefits of Consistent SEO Content Writing Efforts
Consistent website content writing efforts can yield impressive and long-term results, all of which can contribute to your bottom line. Below are five things high-quality content can do for you:
1. Content Writing Builds Links
Have you ever wondered why some sites with seemingly no reputation are commonly cited by industry experts and major news publications? The answer is simple: The website owner built a reputation for being an industry expert through authoritative content.
Great content has the potential to earn you backlinks from other industry professionals and insiders. While all relevant (read: relevant) backlinks are helpful, those from popular domains can lead to a surge of traffic in little time.
Not only can backlinks earn you traffic, but they can also earn you Google’s esteem, as backlinks are one of the criteria that the search engine uses to rank sites. This, in turn, leads to more traffic as people start to find your website organically – all thanks to your article writing endeavors.
2. Content Writing Increases Brand Awareness
Content marketing is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to target new audiences, increase brand awareness and generate new leads.
When you create informative article content that is optimized for relevant search terms, you increase the likelihood that Google will place your site before new audiences that are interested in what you have to say and offer. High quality website content writing also increases the likelihood that other industry professionals will link to your content.
3. Content Writing Helps Form Relationships and Build Brand Loyalty
Great content writing educates, engages, entertains and builds trust. Each of these traits is a cornerstone of any great relationship, so it makes sense that investing in quality content writing services is one of the best and easiest ways to form and strengthen relationships with customers and to build brand loyalty.
4. Content Writing Can Be Evergreen
While it’s true that many pieces of content are time-sensitive, just as many will still be relevant years into the future. This type of article is called “evergreen content,” which means it can continue to drive traffic for years after its publication date, depending on the relevancy and quality of a piece.
And when you start to see a dip in traffic, you can boost it again with little effort on your part, such as by sharing that still-relevant article on social media or linking to it through one of your more recent articles.
5. Content Writing Generates New Leads
The real reason anyone hires a content writing company is because content generates leads and drives traffic. Businesses always need new sources of leads so they can generate revenue.
SEO content writing is the best way to ensure people searching for your products or services can find your site and, once there, decide to do business with you.
Creative Content Writing That Ranks: What’s the Secret?
Not just any old blog post or landing page can help you realize the benefits mentioned above. To rank in Google, Yahoo and Bing, you need to engage in blog content writing that appeals to both your audience and the search engine spiders.
Though every marketer has his or her own step-by-step content marketing strategy, some elements are more common across the board than others. Those elements are as follows:
- Blog post anatomy
- Practicality and relevance (i.e., value)
- On-page SEO
- Meta title and description
1. Understand the Anatomy of a Great Blog Post
Think of a successful blog post as you would a successful business endeavor — it’s backed by a deliberate and proven strategy. Though the content of each blog will vary, each should follow the same structure. (This structure has been generously provided by Neil Patel.)
Your headline is the first thing people will see, both in the search results and on your page. Make sure it’s click-worthy, meaning it’s interesting enough to make people want to see what you have to say.
It can be depressing to have great SEO content writing that was overlooked because of a poor headline. In fact, you may have great content out there currently marred by bad headlines. It may be time for a content audit… 🙂
A stunning visual is a great way to capture readers’ interest and set the stage for what’s to come. It also breaks up big blocks of text, which can appear daunting to some.
Finally, and most importantly, images add to your on-page SEO and are shareable across image sharing sites, such as Pinterest. You can add SEO keywords in image alt-text, improving your ability to be found by search engines.
The headline encourages people to click on your article. The introduction, however, convinces them to stay and keep reading.
Don’t try to tell your whole story in the intro, as this will overwhelm visitors. Rather, make sure the intro to each article is short, sweet and to the point.
Intros should always conclude with a lead into the main points. If you just jump right in without creating some context or explaining that you’re about to jump in, you may confuse your audience.
A decent lead in can be something simple and straightforward, such as, “The main points are,” while a strong lead in may read something like, “We’ve compiled a list of the top tips for creating content that ranks.”
Your Main Points
This is the nitty-gritty of your article, the section in which you can let loose and speak on the given topic without reserve. The more info you can share on a topic, the better. However, stay organized.
Use headers, paragraphs, numbered lists and bullet points to break your website content writing into subtopics. Write in a clear, concise and engaging manner. Write to inform, not to impress the search engines (the latter will happen naturally if you can accomplish the former).
Your blog post is not a college essay, so no need to reiterate every point you covered. However, it’s always nice to wrap up your post with a brief closing paragraph.
A strong goodbye will prevent readers from feeling as if you left them hanging.
Invitation for Engagement
It’s common practice to encourage readers to contact you, comment, ask questions or leave their two cents. This call to action (CTA) creates an opportunity for engagement with your content writing with little extra effort on your part.
2. Great Content Writing Requires Research
Now that we’ve gone over the basic skeleton of great content, let’s get into how you produce the meat of it. When it comes to website content writing, there are three stages of research you should conduct: topic research, search intent research and keyword research.
Sometimes, topics will just come to you, in which case, you can skip this step. In many others, however, you may find yourself hard-pressed for things to write about. In these instances, you may need to turn to Google.
Writing for the sake of writing won’t do you any good. You need to find a relevant topic with “traffic potential.” Begin by thinking of broad topics your customers want to learn more about.
For instance, say you sell LED lightbulbs online. Don’t write about the bulbs themselves, as that would be a snooze fest. Instead, write about energy saving tips, how homeowners can decorate with LED Edison bulbs or how creatives can use LED bulbs in their next craft projects.
Depending on your industry and what you sell, you may have to get more creative than others when it comes to SEO content writing. However, a great way to find topics is to think of your customers’ frequently asked questions, their pain points and ways in which they might use your products or services.
There are also TONS of topic creation tools online to help you find a great topic. One that we love to use is answerthepublic.com, where you can get an ideation wheel of different search queries involving that topic.
You’ll also definitely want to have your topics based in keyword research so you’re maximizing your potential when writing articles, blogs, or any other type of content. We’ll get to that in just a minute.
When it comes to SEO content writing, search intent is key, as if your content doesn’t align with searchers’ intent, it won’t perform well.
So, how can you identify intent? Take clues from the top-ranking results by analyzing the three Cs of search intent:
- Content Type: When you type in your given topic, what type of content fills the first page of results? Is it blog posts, product descriptions, category pages or something else? Align your topic with your findings.
- Content Format: Next, determine what type of posts rank. Are they listicles, opinion pieces, news articles or how-tos?
- Content Angle: Finally, decide on an angle. Who is conducting the search? What do they value? Do they want a quick fix or something more elaborate? For instance, are people searching for LED lightbulbs because they want to save money, or do they want to redecorate using high-end bulbs that cast a warm ambiance?
Finally, conduct keyword research. Some marketers use this as the first phase of research in their content writing and let the results dictate the topic. You, however, may decide to base your topic off your marketing goals (to sell more LED light bulbs) and choose popular keywords based on it. Either method works.
There are dozens of free keyword planning tools you can use, including Google AdWords Keywords Planner.
These tools not only tell you what your target audience is searching for but also what their intent is — i.e., comparison shopping, just browsing or ready to purchase.
3. The Best Content Writing Has Useful and Practical Value
Great content writing delivers value to your audience and inspires them. Audiences these days aren’t just looking for answers to their questions but rather a nudge to get them to act on an idea or impulse that they’ve been harboring for a while.
A great way to deliver value to your audience is by using the AIDA model of marketing: Attention (or Awareness), Interest, Desire, Action. In terms of content marketing, the AIDA model might go something like this:
Grab your audience’s attention with an engaging article headline that promises to solve its problems. The headline is so crucial that it dictates nearly 75% of consumers’ buying decisions.The headline of your content is so critical that it dictates nearly 75% of consumers' buying decisions. 🛒 #ContentMarketing #SmallBusiness Click To Tweet
Successful headlines, like blog posts themselves, use proven elements. The top five are as follows:
- Numbers: Headlines with numbers generate 36% more engagement than those without. Odd numbers are particularly effective.
- Addressing the Reader: Addressing the reader by using “you” generates 21% more clicks than other types of headlines.
- How To: How-to article content writing sees 17% more clicks than other types of content.
- Normal: Standard headlines without numbers, the use of “you” or questions get 15% more clicks than other headline formulas.
- Questions: Headlines that pose questions generate 11% more clicks than non-question headlines.
Once you attract a reader, you need to hold his or her interest. Build readers’ interest immediately after they click on your article via a secondary headline. Continue to build interest throughout the page with subheadings that also drive home the benefits of reading your content.
You can build desire with your SEO content writing by using bullet points, which are a copywriter’s best friend when it comes to building search engine rankings. In fact, you may notice that any type of persuasive copy — whether in print or on the web — will contain bullet points.
Bear in mind that bullet points are only effective in moderation. Use them sparingly and limit the number of bullets in a list to eight.
Bullet points also make your content more scannable, which is crucial for web writing. If you’re discussing a complicated topic, bullet points can make your content more easily digestible and understandable.
Finally, conclude your article content writing with a call to action. The CTA tells the reader of your article which action to take next. Your CTA may vary from content type to content type.
For instance, your product pages may have a more straightforward CTA, such as “Order Now,” whereas your blog posts may end with a soft call to action, such as “Sign up for our email newsletter to get more product information and discount.”
Whatever CTA you choose to use, note that readers want to take action. That’s why they’re on your site in the first place. Don’t disappoint them, instead use website content writing as a way for them to engage further with your brand.
4. Conduct On-Page SEO
The purpose of SEO content writing is to increase your presence in organic search. One way you can do this is by performing on-page SEO.
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your content for maximum efficacy and improving the user experience.
If the user is happy, the search bots are happy, which means you’re happy. When it comes to effective on-page SEO, five elements carry considerable weight:
- Use and repetition of the primary keyword (40%)
- User experience (30%)
- Depth and value of content (15%)
- Use of related keywords (7.5%)
- Theme of page/topic (7.5%)
Use tips one through three to satisfy the final four elements. For this section, we will focus on keyword usage.
How To Use Keywords in Online Content Writing
Keyword best practices dictate that you use your primary keyword naturally throughout your blog post or webpage. If you’re doing that, you should be fine.
However, if you overuse your primary keyword, Google might penalize you for “keyword stuffing.” A penalty could mean your page falls to the bottom of the search results, thereby undoing all of your hard work.
Moral of the story: Don’t overuse your keywords!
So, what does natural usage of keywords look like? You should use keywords in your content in the six main elements of your page:
- Content of page
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Image alt text
Keyword usage shouldn’t disrupt the flow of your article writing or make your reader go, “What?” Ideally, the keyword should flow naturally from your fingertips when typing out a thought.
Using the keyword in other on-page elements, such as your meta title, meta tag, URL and image alt tags simply serve to help the search engines categorize your page.
These elements help to clearly communicate your topic to Google and your audience without either having to perform a thorough audit or read of your page.
The bottom line is, optimize your page within reason and with your audience in mind. Your job is to answer users’ questions and solve their problems. Obtaining rankings in Google is just an added benefit.
5. Make Your Content Writing Visually Appealing
Go through your article, landing page, blog post, or website and break up the content into readable sections. Depending on your writing style, this may be something you do as you write, or it may be something you save for after you get your thoughts on the page.
We’ve already discussed using short paragraphs, subheadings, numbers and bullet lists, so let’s talk about images.
Webpages and blog posts with visuals garner 94% more page views than those without.
Images effectively do three things: They make your content skimmable, they make it more visually appealing and they help to explain complex subject matter.
The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text, which may explain why webpages with visuals garner 94% more page views than those without!
Including visuals of any kind in your blog content writing — such as standard photos, videos, infographics and graphs — can drastically increase readability of your article writing, improve reader satisfaction and, ultimately, make Google happy. All this leads to one thing: increased rankings.
6. Create a Compelling Meta Title and Meta Description
We already discussed the importance of meta tags and descriptions when writing articles in point four (they help Google index your page and briefly tell audiences what your page is about). However, for a meta description and title tag to be effective, they need to contain more than just a string of keywords.
Both of these elements serve as your sales pitch to readers and should tell them precisely why they should click on your page.
The meta title and meta description are two elements in which your research from step two will come in handy, particularly your findings regarding searcher intent.
Whatever your searchers value — affordability, ease, convenience, fast results, savings, etc. — pitch it in your meta and title tags when engaging in SEO content writing. In doing so, you can entice clicks to your page, and more traffic almost always equates to increased rankings.
However, do not be deceptive in your page descriptions. Doing so can backfire. If your promises prove false, visitors will quickly click away. This will increase your bounce rate, and a high bounce rate is bad for your rankings.
Optimal Title Tag Format
Creating an effective title tag doesn’t require much creativity. The optimal title tag format is as follows:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
However, some brands like to change it up and use the title tag as another opportunity to garner attention. Those brands use this format:
Alternate Title Using Primary Keyword | Brand Name
Whichever format you choose to use when writing content, note that title tags should not exceed 60 characters. Ideally, you should keep your title tag between 50 and 60 characters.
Optimal Meta Description Format
Creating a meta description requires a little bit more creativity than writing a title tag. The meta description should tell searchers what your page is about in an enticing way. This is a creative content writing example that has direct SEO and reader implications.
It should not exceed 160 characters, though it can be as short as 50 characters. You should use the primary keyword once and, if it fits in naturally, a secondary keyword.
Many brands like to use action verbs at the start of their meta descriptions, such as “learn about” or “read.” However, the ultimate goal is to create a readable, compelling description of what’s beyond the link, so don’t stress too much over format.
7. Invest in Content Writing Services
If you read this (or skimmed it — we won’t be offended!) and thought to yourself, that is a lot of work for a single piece of content, you’re right, it is.
Website content writing is an art form, and it requires considerable experience and strategy. It’s why so many marketers outsource the actual writing portion to an SEO content writing services company.
Outsourcing content writing does not make a brand lazy or frivolous with its spending or whatever other stigma might be holding you back. In fact, successful brands know that by investing in content writing services, they can count on receiving the copy they need to rank, all while being able to continue to direct their resources to other crucial business aspects.
At BKA Content, we offer everything from a la carte content pieces to managed content writing services. Whether you’re just testing the waters or are ready to begin a full-scale content marketing campaign, browse our content shop today!
- Thinking About Hiring a Review Writer? Read This First - July 20, 2020
- Is It Time To Hire a Copywriting Agency for Your Brand? - July 13, 2020
- 6 Ways to Improve Your Digital Presence With Authoritative Marketing - July 12, 2020