How to Write SEO-Friendly Content That Ranks in Google
SEO Content Writing 101
You have killer content. It’s well-researched, eloquently written, and equipped with beautiful visuals. But your traffic is tragically low. What the fudge? 🍫
The critical element that your content plan may be missing is search engine optimization. SEO is a way to make your content visible to people looking for your product or service on a search engine like Google.
In this post, you'll get an in-depth look at SEO content writing, the processes behind creating SEO-friendly blogs, and tips to optimize your content for Google.
The 7 steps to writing SEO-friendly content
Marketing teams create, publish, and discover some of the most highly tailored and specific content out there. This content might take the form of articles, infographics, online polls or surveys, short animations, slide shows, or e-books. While the following seven tips apply to all of these content types, we’ll specifically focus on blog articles and how you can optimize your posts to drive traffic to your website.
1. Make sure your topic is relevant
Every time you search for something online, Google will calculate which websites in its index apply to your query. Search engines look at various factors to make this decision, such as content, content type, load time, site map, and link structures. Considering these factors, the best matches will make up the rankings in the search engine results page (SERP).
Relevant text within your blog is arguably the most important factor to Google. Overall, the better a text or your blog's content matches a search query, the more likely it is to achieve a good ranking.
There are a few things that search engines look at to determine content relevance for a particular search query, including:
- Overall blog language
- Page title
- Body text and headers
- Terms that correspond with a specific region
But the question that arises is how do you know if people are searching for your content? Keyword research, of course!
2. Keyword research
Conducting SEO keyword research is the best way to know if the content you’re writing is relevant, and it helps you brainstorm blog ideas, too!
If you look at the early 2000s, keyword research consisted of finding a keyword with a high search volume and 'stuffing' that term as many times as you could in your blog post. Thankfully, times have changed (and so have the algorithms), and keyword research is about finding the right keyword and using it in the right places.
The easiest way to find relevant keywords is by using an SEO tool, such as Ahrefs, Moz, or Google Keyword Planner. These platforms will present the metrics of each term so you can understand the keyword difficulty, search volume, traffic potential, and related terms and parent topics. Given this data, you can decide which keywords you're most likely to rank for in SERPs.
SEO Terms, defined
Keyword difficulty: How difficult it is for a word or phrase to rank in organic search results.
Organic traffic: The number of visitors to your website from unpaid sources, like search engines.
Search volume: A number that shows approximately how many people are searching for a particular keyword per month.
SERPs: Stands for 'search engine result pages.' It shows the search results for a keyword or phrase in a headline, a short description, and a link.
3. Use headers to your advantage
You're probably familiar with headers: they're HTML elements that structure the content of your blog. They have a significant impact on technical SEO because they give search engines context on what your blog is about. If your blog is titled "The Best Dog Breeds Ever," and your headers are of different types of dogs, search engines can factor those semantically related keywords into ranking your blog site.
Headers within your blog post are also crucial to the reader's experience. If the reader can't quickly find the information they're looking for, they'll probably leave your blog and search for an alternative source of information. And actually, Google detects these bounce rates and can penalize your blog if it believes your content is irrelevant to a particular keyword or phrase.
When writing headers for an SEO-friendly blog, you should always put the reader first. Think about how the section will help someone get the information they need. It will help both your audience and your ranking!
Here's an example:
4. Optimize the length of your blog post
Content marketers have long been asking, "how many words should content be?" Generally, Google tends to favor long-form content because it has more relevant information for the user. This content length is more likely to rank higher on search engines and receive more social shares and backlinks.
If you're writing a blog post, 1,500- 2,500 words is the sweet spot.
But there's no 'one length fits all' solution because topics require different depths of research. Here's what the studies show, according to WiX.com:
- 1-600 words: Short-form content is rarely recommended. It is mainly used to start a discussion to get comments, but it doesn't receive social shares or rank.
- 600-800 words: This content length is the most common range in professional journalism and newspaper articles. It is the starting point to show authority to rank on search engines. Product descriptions often fall under this category as well.
- 1,300- 1,700 words: Content within this range tends to get more traffic and social shares because they're educational and contain valuable content. It is the length most commonly used by influencers, bloggers, and promotional posts.
- 1,700-2,100 words: The ideal length for long-form content like blog posts. They cover topics in-depth, which opens many opportunities for organic traffic.
- 2,300 - 2,500 words: Content that would fall under this category are listicles or 'ultimate guide to…" posts. These blogs are educational and have a high chance of ranking on Google.
- 4,000 words or more: Typically, content at this length are blog pillar pieces. They cover a topic or conversation in extreme detail to build authority.
While long-form content and blog posts are better for SEO, remember that Google also looks for quality content. If you compose a 4,000+ word blog that's poorly written and not optimized, it won't matter how long your post is, Google won't rank you. It's all about the right combination of quality content, SEO optimization, and word length.
5. Take advantage of SEO optimized images
According to SeoClarity, more than a third of all search keywords contain Google Images, and of the two, when the images are in the ten first results, they rank in the top three positions. And with more than 1 billion search queries made on Google Images every day, optimizing the images within your blog can help you rank on SERPs.
How to name images for SEO
SEO is all about helping your viewers and search engines understand your content, so your image names should also reflect that. Image names should be short, between 7 and 14 characters, and include one relevant keyword.
What is an image alternative text?
An image alternative text (aka ALT text, ALT Tag, ALT attribute, or ALT) is a written description of your image. Remember, this is not your title, but it helps Google improve the semantic meaning of your page. It also assists readers who may be visually impaired or use a screen reader.
How to write an image alternative text
Your image alternative text should contain two elements: your keyword and its function. It should articulate the link between an image and the rest of the content on your page. For example:
Image title: English bulldog
ALT text: Female English bulldog with colorful harness posing on grass.
6. Link to existing content
Search engines consider many different things when presenting search results, but backlinks are one of the most significant elements. A backlink is a link one website receives from another. Google tends to reward sites with many backlinks, and some SEO tools (like Ahrefs) exclusively use backlink data to calculate keyword difficulty ratings. The more backlinks your article or landing page receives from reliable external sources, the higher you will likely rank in search engines.
While backlinks are often difficult to come by for new websites or small brands, you can still build up your internal linking structure on your own website to prove your content’s relevance to search engines. An internal link bridges one page of your website to another page of your website. They have the same domain and target domain. For instance, if you write about a topic you've previously covered in your blog, you should link it, so readers are encouraged to stay on your site.
Internal linking is beneficial to SEO content writing because it aids with website navigation, defines the website’s architecture, and distributes page authority and ranking power. Pages without internal links are called "orphan pages." They hurt your SEO game because Google has difficulty associating your post with relevant content, therefore lowering your overall page rank.
7. Add and update blog content often
As content creators, we love to produce fresh and engaging new content. But you can generate more results by giving attention to the content already published on your blog. Here are three reasons why you should update your published content blog posts:
- Improve link structure: You can likely add more internal links from newer posts to older posts if you've been creating more content. If your older post is already ranking, this can improve the SEO performance of your new pages that it links to!
- Reader loyalty: Keeping your blogs up to date provides brand trust and loyalty because it shows that you're focused on distributing accurate and up-to-date information.
- Stay in the SEO loop: Google keeps things interesting in SEO. What worked before might not work now (remember word stuffing?). You have more opportunities to update your content to rank with current SEO best practices by optimizing your content.
Writing content metadata for SEO
Content writers often underestimate the power of titles, headers, and meta descriptions if they’re not aware of SEO best practices. These HTML tags are a great way to aid readers and search engines in finding the content they need right off the bat.
1️⃣ Title tags
The title tag (also called a meta title, SEO title, SEO page title, or site title) is a web page title. It's displayed on SERPs in blue font.
You also see the title tag at the top of web browsers.
Why do title tags matter for SEO?
Your target keyword should be in your title tag. Google recommends this because it's the first place search engines look for relevant information on a given topic.
Title tag tips:
- Your primary blog keyword should be in the title tag.
- It's paramount that you front-load your keyword in the title tag. In other words, make sure that your primary keyword is at the beginning of your title. Studies have shown that this increases SERP rankings.
- On average, shorter title lengths rank better. It is easier for viewers and Google to understand the blog's content.
Another way to improve your SEO is to use numbers in title tags. Blog articles with number headlines tend to have a higher click rate. For example, "7 different ways to cook tofu for dinner."
2️⃣ Meta descriptions
Meta descriptions describe the content of your webpage. When you google something, it's the short paragraph that shows up under the title and URL.
Why do meta descriptions matter for SEO?
Since meta descriptions appear on the search results pages, they can either help or hurt your result's click-through rates. Research has shown that having your primary keyword in your meta description is a signal to search engines that your content is relevant, thus increasing your SERP rankings.
How to write meta descriptions
The best way to write SEO-friendly meta descriptions is with the intention of getting more clicks. So think of it as an advertising pitch for your blog content; you want people to read the description and think, "Wow, that sounds interesting" or, "Perfect, that's exactly what I was looking for."
Let's look at an example:
From this blog description in the SERP, we can see that the blog's topic is creating a content calendar. More importantly, we can see that this blog comes with all the information needed to develop our own and includes a free template.
Meta descriptions tips:
- The perfect length: You have about 160 characters to write a killer meta description. That's only about two short sentences! In this space, you should convince the reader to visit your blog, either through a call to action (CTA), by addressing an emotional pain point, or by offering a specific benefit to visitors.
- Don't forget: If you leave your meta description blank, Google will grab random content from within your blog. This could hurt your click rate because the description might not make sense with the blog content, and readers will likely choose another blog over yours.
A slug is the last part of a URL. It comes after the second slash. It's what directs a user to a specific page of your blog or website. It'll look something like this:
Why do slugs matter for SEO?
Slugs can help your SEO because keywords in the URL tell Google that your blog post should be included on the SERP. Additionally, a slug helps your blog look more reliable. It may look suspicious if you see a URL with a long list of numbers and letters. Site visitors may hesitate to click on your post right from the get-go.
- Add your primary keyword into your slug
- Don't add a year or date in your slug. That way, you can update your post without changing the URL.
- Make it short, sweet, and readable.
Tools to supercharge your SEO content writing
To write a killer blog post for your intended audience and Google, you might consider using some tools to help you out. We've compiled a list of resources that will help you at every step of the blog writing process, from the research stage to the final version.
Recognizing trending topics can keep your blog content ahead of the competition. It also gives you more insight into your audience and leads you to produce helpful and relevant content. But how do you find the latest trends?
- Social media - Refer to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok to see what people are talking about now. Get inspiration and speak to audience members directly.
- Quora - Find out the questions people are asking without filtered search engines or algorithmic suggestions. It's a gold mine for predicting upcoming trends, topics, and discussions on an infinite number of topics.
- Reddit - Gauge the popularity of a topic by checking out Reddit. It's a way to get context, tone, and intent from a massive and diverse audience.
- AnswerThePublic - Know every phrase and question people are asking around a keyword. It's conducive for customer insights and creating super helpful content.
- Google Trends - See hard data on the popularity of searches from Google and YouTube. You can even find out 'related topics' to give you inspiration for content creation.
📈 Tools to optimize content
Selecting the right keywords is essential to writing SEO content. Most tools illustrate the same data, but they may analyze the numbers differently. For instance, when calculating the keyword difficulty, Ahrefs only assesses backlinks. On the other hand, Moz looks at a combination of factors to compute that same metric. It depends on what's important to you and your marketing team. Here are the most popular tools for SEO research:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Search Console
- Keywords Everywhere
Whether it's a draft or the final version, where you write a blog depends on personal preference. Some opt for Word or Google Docs, and others may choose another desktop application. But when it comes to composing the right tone of voice and sticking with grammar rules, there are some pretty nifty tools out there.
These tools help you avoid small mistakes like forgetting an oxford comma or misusing a hyphen. It can help your blog posts read flawlessly for your readers.
🖼️ Create visuals
Visuals break up your blog into readable sections and make content more digestible for the viewer. Here are the best free visual sources:
- Unsplash - Download free photographs and images.
- Meme Generator - Create memes from your own pictures or with your own copy.
- Giffy.com - Add movement and humor to your blog with a gif. Giffy has hundreds of thousands to choose from.
- Canva - Design infographics for your blog that visually reflect your brand.
🍦Organize in one space
Keeping tabs on all this information can be a real brainfreeze, from the blog brainstorm phase to the final published content. But Collato's got you covered! Our customizable templates let you plan your content, assign tasks to teammates, set publication dates, give and receive feedback, and store files and digital assets all in one place. That way, you can focus on writing the best content for SEO without worrying about an over-complicated marketing workflow. Click the link below to start using our editorial calendar template!