Essentials of SEO Writing
You have probably seen a ton of articles expressing the importance of effective SEO writing to your digital marketing strategy, but do you really understand what it even means? Unfortunately, a lot of people misunderstand what SEO writing entails, and their bottom line suffers as a result. Before you can create effective SEO content, or recognize it when you see it, you need to understand what is SEO content writing and what is not.
Basic Concepts Behind SEO Writing
Before you can understand SEO writing, there are two basic concepts you need to grasp first. The first is search engine optimization, and the other is organic searches.
Search Engine Optimization
You may already know that SEO stands for search engine optimization, but you may have only a vague idea of what that really means. On his website, Neil Patel gives both a very good definition of SEO and an illustration of the process involved:
As you can see, SEO writing is only part of the overall process, albeit a large part. Our objective is to focus on that part and explain what it involves, but it’s important to point out that there’s a lot more to search engine optimization than just creating and publishing content.
The other concept you have to understand before any meaningful discussion of SEO writing can take place is organic searching. Organic searches represent one of several traffic sources by which visitors may access your site. Basically, an organic search result is one that was returned because it was relevant to the term or keyword someone entered into a search engine.
Google offers a definition of organic search traffic that is a bit more involved. Its analytics only recognize traffic that comes from certain default search engines as organic traffic. Traffic generated by other search engines is identified as referral traffic, the same as someone clicking on a link from another website might be. When paid advertisements at the top of a search page are clicked on, regardless of relevance to the search term, they are not considered organic searches.
Organic web searches capture over 40% of all revenue, making them extremely powerful. The goal of search engine optimization is to create content that will rank highly in organic searches. In other words, the search engine algorithms must recognize the content as valuable and relative to the terms entered. SEO writing involves creating optimized content that will show up in search results.
Essential Elements of SEO Writing
A lot of people try to boil SEO content down to keywords. Yes, it is true that keywords are an essential element, but they represent only one aspect of search engine optimization. For SEO content to be truly effective, it has to be useful to the audience. Here are a few of the elements your content has to have in order to connect to your audience and convert to sales.
1. SEO Content Has Relevance
Part of what makes a piece of SEO writing relevant is the keyword used, but there are other aspects that are at least as important, if not more so, than keywords. A study of Searchmetrics General Ranking Factors demonstrated that keywords and word count, both frequently touted as important ranking factors, were less significant than the overall relevance of the content.
So if relevance isn’t synonymous with keywords, then what does it mean? Relevant SEO content offers information that is valuable to your intended audience, and it is written in a way that is comprehensible to them.
Google makes hundreds of changes and updates to its search algorithm every year with the goal of improving access to useful content. The Penguin and Panda updates are famous for penalizing content that emphasizes keywords over quality content. At one point, it was easier to rank in Google search results by just stuffing your articles with a lot of keywords without regard for how well-written or informational they were, but pages such as these have been penalized since the updates.
However, even if Google was not penalizing pages that lack useful content, it wouldn’t be a good SEO strategy to publish blogs stuffed with keywords and very little else. Audiences know, or at least have a pretty good idea about, what they are looking for when they perform a web search. They can tell right away which content is useful to them, and they don’t have patience with incomprehensible, worthless content. They are unlikely to linger long on the page, and they certainly aren’t going to trust the goods and services of the company.
2. SEO Writing Is Authoritative
This one is a little tricky. In the wider context of search engine optimization, the authority of a web page refers to how many other sites are linking to it, as well as the quality of those sites. Once again, you can’t just work with your friends to create a bunch of links to boost your authority. Google has caught onto that scam and has updated its algorithms to detect and penalize sites that attempt this shortcut at granting a website authority.
In the narrower sense of SEO writing, authoritative writing is content created by a writer who knows what he or she is talking about. The writer is either an expert in the field or has done the necessary research to be able to speak confidently and accurately about the topic.
While the two definitions are different, there is an important relationship between the two of them. At least in theory, writing that is authoritative will receive more links from quality websites, thereby making it more authoritative according to search engine algorithms, which will presumably reward it with higher rankings.
3. SEO Content Includes Business-Relevant Keywords
SEO content is frequently misunderstood to be writing that is meant to be read by computers. In fact, it is primarily content created for humans, by humans. The keywords are to attract the attention of the algorithm so that the search engine will point your audience to the content. To put it another way, if search engine optimization was an automobile, the keywords would be the fuel that makes it go.
In the past, I’ve written in detail about how to find effective keywords for your SEO content. Here, I’d just like to review a few important qualities that keywords should have:
- Relevance to your business
- High monthly search volumes
- Low keyword difficulty
The keywords you choose should relate to what your business does in some meaningful way. For example, assume that you run a business that sells umbrellas. “Umbrellas” is a good seed keyword to start with as you do your research to find a more valuable keyword.
However, “umbrellas” alone probably isn’t a good keyword because it is too general to rank well for you. You will probably need to add something to the keyword to make it more specific, maybe the type of umbrellas you sell or the location of your store. While looking for more marketable keywords, you should pay attention to the search volume and the keyword difficulty.
The search volume shows how many people are looking for that particular term on a monthly basis. The higher the volume is, the more people are looking for it. The keyword difficulty shows how easy or hard the search term is to rank for. A keyword with low difficulty is easier to rank for, making it potentially more valuable to you.
Once you’ve chosen your keyword, don’t confine it to your main content alone. It is at least as important to include your keyword in your metadata, i.e., the title tag and meta description, because these are the elements the search engine looks at first to determine relevance.
4. SEO Writing Is Original
Original content may be the most essential aspect of any writing created for purposes of search engine optimization. Search engines typically penalize articles that contain duplicate content so that it doesn’t rank at all. Keep in mind that in an SEO context, duplication doesn’t just mean plagiarism from someone else. Your content is also unlikely to rank if it contains content copied from another blog that you wrote. Fortunately, there are multiple online tools available that help you check for plagiarism in your own writing as well as identifying pages that may have been copied from you.
Resources Available for Effective SEO Content
When you know about the essentials of good SEO writing, you can tell that creating it takes a lot of hard work. Many business owners find that they don’t have the time to focus on content creation themselves and run their companies at the same time. Outsourcing to a content company assures quality SEO content written by people who understand the essentials, freeing you up to take care of other business matters.