SEO content writing is a key skill for business writers. The ability to get content on the top of the Google search results is in huge demand and people pay well for it.
Businesses now invest a lot more in organic marketing channels than they did half a decade back – now everyone needs writers who can rank.
That’s because SEO content tends to drive higher RoI over a long time. Of course there are variables like the ever changing Google algorithm, competition, etc, but SEO, in general, generates stable and relevant traffic that converts better than any other source.
In this blog post, you will access beginner information that will help you become an SEO content writer. We will cover everything starting from learning SEO content writing to securing income through the skill by getting clients.
What is a SEO content writer?
An SEO content writer is a specialist who understands how search engines work and uses that knowledge to optimize content to make it rank at the top of the search results. The writer combines the knowledge of the niche, product, audience, and the marketing funnel to make content useful for visitors who consume series relevant assets before turning into paying customers.
Here are 20 tested tips to becoming an SEO content writer:
1. Learn the SEO content writing terminology
Keep the end goal in mind. Once you become a successful SEO writer, you will get into many conversations with clients, your team, other SEO writers, and other marketing folks, in general.
Be sure that everyone knows a bit about SEO, at least most like to think so. With you being the expert in SEO content writing, you must be aware of the terms that people use.
Here are some terms that we will use in this blog post:
1. Meta title
Meta title is the post prominent text you see for a page on Google search results. The text you see in blue below is the meta title for the page created by coschedule.
2. Featured snippets
Featured snippet is a type of rich result that provides the top ranking page higher visibility. Coschedule has scored a paragraph list snippet in the above image. There are other types of snippets too.
3. Marketing funnel
Marketing funnel is a diagrammatic representation of a buyer’s journey starting from the first time they visit a webpage to them converting into a lead. It captures the list of assets a potential buyer consumes before becoming a lead.
Marketers plan and optimize funnels to minimize drop-offs. Marketing funnels come in a variety of shapes and sizes but they are commonly split into 3 parts – Top of the funnel, Middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel. We’ll discuss more about them in subsequent sections.
Monetization is not specifically an SEO term but it ties tight with SEO content writing. A website’s monetization is the strategy adopted by the website owners to turn visitors into buyers.
A website can be monetized in many different ways. It can be done through:
- Affiliate marketing
- Digital products
- SaaS products (MRR products)
- Or a combination of above
5. Keyword & Search intent
A keyword is what people type into the Google search bar for finding anything. The keyword is supposed to determine the search intent of the searcher but it doesn’t always work that way.
For example, if someone just looks up ice cream. There’s no way to tell if they are looking for ice cream shops, recipes, books, kitchen appliances, or anything else. In this case, the keyword is ice cream but the search intent is unclear.
However, if someone were to type best ice cream maker, the keyword clearly indicates a purchase intent. The search wants to check out a few machines before making the choice. Google search results are always in accordance with the search intent.
6. Search engine bots
Or Google bots is essentially an algorithm designed to help search engines like Google identify new pages, categorize content on those pages, index pages for relevant keywords, and serve them when they meet search intent.
You can imagine them as spiders crawling the web. You want to make your page easily readable and navigable for bots.
7. Internal links
Internal links are links to other pages of a website from another page(s) of a website. It ties pages related to a particular topic together and helps visitors discover more useful content. It also tells search engine bots about how content is structured and helps them discover new pages.
8. SERPs (Search Result Pages)
SERPs are the search results page served by Google for a specific keyword. If someone asks you to share what the SERP looks like, they want you to share the screenshot of the first page of Google search for the target keyword.
9. Alt Text
Alternate text is the phrase of text that sits in the backend of an image hosted on a website. It tells the search engines what the image is about and also helps the visually impaired in listening to what the image displays. It’s usually a good place to insert relevant keywords
10. Google updates
With the intent to provide its users with better search results, Google regularly updates its algorithm to rank better quality pages higher up the SERPs. Each such update causes a huge splash in the SEO industry because Google’s definition of quality content is subject to interpretation and no one knows exactly what works.
Google updates its algorithm many times every year but it often makes one or two core updates which usually causes huge entropy in the search results.
11. Conversion rate optimization
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a set of activities that help the aforementioned marketing funnel convert better. It aims at increasing the percentage of people who click on the call to action (CTA) on a page and move to the next one.
12. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is a malpractice adopted by inexperienced SEO content writers in which they insert the primary keyword in the text too many times. This triggers the search bots and can get a website penalized in the worst case.
Sitemap is a file which has links to all pages of a website. It can be submitted with search engines to tell them about new pages published on a domain, it helps with website discoverability. Google bots parse the sitemap and visit each link listed there to discover what those pages and website is about.
When Google bots discover a website through the sitemap or links from other websites, they go through the website replicating a human being with the goal to understand what the pages and website is about. The process of this discovery is called crawling.
Schema is a piece of code that sets up certain sections of text on the website for higher visibility to Google bots and better representation on the search results page. FAQ, Review, Recipe, etc. are some types of schema that website owners can use.
Schema helps highlight those aspects of the page that a potential searcher might be interested in and would want to access without having to go through the complete text. Improved visibility increases click-through-rate which is a win-win for both Google and the website owners.
Domain is the name of the website combined with the extension. For example, the domain of this website is https://digigrow.co
Sitelinks are the additional links that show up on Google SERPs along with a website’s homepage when someone searches the domain name. The below image shows the sitelinks for Facebook.
Sitelinks show up only for websites with repute. There is no way to manually set them up.
18. Domain Rating (DR)
Domain rating is an inaccurate metric that measures the authority of a website. As a rule of thumb, websites with high DR rank higher on Google SERPs compared to those with low DR – for the same or lesser content quality and volume.
19. Search volume
Search volume is the count of searches for a keyword per month.
2. Learn how Google search algorithm works
Google search algorithm is a cutting-edge secret document of code that is designed to find new content online, analyze what it is about, bucket it under the right dataset, and serve it when someone types in a relevant search query.
Essentially, Google bots crawl known pages on the web to discover new content. Those pages often link to other pages under the same domain or a different one – the bots crawl them too.
The bots next analyze the new-found information and bucket it under relevant datasets. For example, if a blog post talks about coffee mugs, the bots put the page under different buckets – coffee, mugs, coffee mugs, mugs coffee. You guess it right, these are potential keywords someone may type into Google.
Finally, when someone looks up specific keywords, the bots go back to the dataset and pull pages under it, assign it a rank and serve it on the SERPs.
Here’s a simplified account of how Google search algorithm works.
3. Understand search intent
Search intent is the purpose behind a search. It’s about the problem that people intend to solve through a Google search. For example, if someone were to look for the best hiking shoes, their search intent is mostly to purchase a pair.
However, if the search query were: How to keep shoes dry? The searcher is most likely looking for informational content – tips on keeping shoes dry.
When you plan on writing an SEO post, you must get the search intent and primary keyword right. To establish the difference between both better, let’s use the same example – How to keep shoes dry. The primary keyword in this case is – Keeping shoes dry – while the intent of the search is to get information to solve a problem.
Google takes search intent very seriously. It constantly updates its algorithm to meet the search intent better through pages with better quality information. It also offers a variety of search results and features to make content more helpful for searchers.
4. Analyze the different types of search results
Over the years, Google has observed closely how people behave on search, it has run experiments on what people like to see. The current Google SERP is testimonial to that.
Instead of 10 plain links, Google now serves a variety of search results which includes:
- Paid listings
- Featured snippets
- People Also Ask
- Related searches
- Google Auto-suggest
- Variety of schema
- And so much more.
Even though this makes it super-helpful for searchers, as SEOs, our job becomes complicated. We need to aim for all types of search results. From an SEO content writing perspective, however, featured snippets and people also ask are the most important search result types.
Other items either don’t come under textual content or they fall completely under the technical SEO perview.
5. Develop in-depth knowledge of keyword research
Keyword research is the first step of writing a content piece. In this step, you identify the phrase that people key into the Google search bar to see your page. Your keyword should encapsulate search intent too.
There are two broad types of keywords: brand and non-brand. Brand keywords are phrases that include your brand name. For example, the brand name for this blog is digigrow. We would want to rank at the top for it – along with all the brand pages like the About page.
A product based website can have many brand pages, such as pricing, signup, features, etc. You would want those pages to appear as sitelinks.
Non-brand keywords are those phrases that are relevant to your website. For example, a ticket management software will find how to manage tickets as an important keyword. Further, non-branded keywords have 3 subtypes – TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU.
BOFU or bottom of the funnel keywords are high conversion long-tail keywords that are super-close to the product. Sticking to the same example as above, best ticket management software is a BOFU keyword.
How to manage tickets, however, is a MOFU (Middle of the funnel) keyword which is one level above the software based keywords. Finally, customer support is a TOFU (Top of the funnel) keyword as it doesn’t necessarily speak about any feature of the software but about the industry itself.
You need to cover all keywords as a part of your marketing funnel. You visitors can visit any type of page from Google but they should ideally move to the next level of page to drive conversions.
The process of finding relevant non-brand keywords that have enough search volume, clear search intent, and proximity to the product is termed as keyword research.
As an SEO writer your job is to find the right keywords and cover them comprehensively through quality content.
6. Discover ranking signals
Content is king, however, there are many other factors that go into ranking a page on the top of Google SERPs. These factors, known as ranking signals, are an indication of the quality of a website. Google bots analyze the signals while assigning where a page ranks.
This means, no matter how good your content is, you can’t rank until you have the whole house in order. It is important to know all the ranking signals to ensure that SEO success, or the lack of it, is attributed to the right root cause. Here are some ranking signals that you must know of.
1. Backlinks/ off-page SEO
Backlinks are links from one domain to another. If domain A links to a page on domain B, domain B gets a backlink from domain A. Backlinks are a token of approval from a website that Google trusts for another website.
Ideally, you want backlinks from domains with a better domain rating than yours and in the same or a related niche as yours. The more quality and relevant backlinks you secure, the stronger the signal to Google that your website is trustworthy enough to be shown to its users.
When a website gets many backlinks from reputed websites, it builds up its domain rating. A website with a high DR ranks better, faster, and easier on the SERPs for competitive keywords.
This means, if your client has a low DR, it is difficult to rank high-volume keywords for them just by the virtue of the content you write.
2. Page Speed
Page speed is a measure of how fast your webpages load. The faster they load, the stronger the signal to Google about the website’s robustness.
Websites lose visitors if their pages load slow which makes it important for website owners to improve page speed. And not just from a UX perspective, page speed can also determine where the website ranks.
3. Mobile Friendliness
Google prefers to rank pages that look good and load fast on mobile. Websites need to be responsive, meaning, the screen layout should adjust based on the device.
Often different pages rank at the top based on the location. US based ranking is often more competitive and demands more backlinks than any other location. So when your client wants you to rank a keyword at the top of SERPs, they should also specify the location.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness are buzzwords in the SEO industry. The website that maxes all 3 gets to rank at the top, theoretically. But everyone has different definitions for EAT.
However, everyone agrees that creating best quality content is the fastest way to improve EAT
6. Domain Age
Older domains build EAT over time and rank faster than new websites. If your client has a brand new website, you can expect anywhere between 6 months to an year for content to show real results.
7. Align SEO content with website’s monetization methods
As discussed earlier, there are many ways to optimize a website. SEO content must align with the strategy.
The most straightforward way to monetize a website is through Ads. In this method, the goal of the website is to get traffic and show them relevant Ads. For these websites, often TOFU content suffices. TOFU content often has a high search volume.
For other forms of monetization – Affiliate, Product, or consultation, SEO content must dig into MOFU and BOFU content too.
SEO content writers must craft content that is inter-connected and has clear CTAs.
8. Dig into the pillar-cluster structure
TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content is required to get people to the sales page. However, from an SEO perspective, you need to create content to develop topical authority too.
Topical authority of a website is the measure of how well and how vastly it covers content around a particular topic.
The more varied content pieces you have the more avenues to get traffic to the website and build authority in that topic. Now these pages can be TOFU, MOFU, or BOFU, but they have to be on one topic.
Pillar-cluster structure helps you build topical authority fast. This theory puts the pillar page at the center and connects cluster pages through it. The one pillar page is supposed to rank for a competitive keyword and the cluster pages add more context around it to boost its authority. Cluster pages also contribute to the pillar page’s internal page rank.
The cluster pages to the main pillar page can have their own cluster!
9. Make use of internal links
Internal links is how visitors to a page find their way to other pages on the same domain. It encourages people to click through and consume more content – the more time they spend on your domain, the greater the probability of them converting into a client.
By using internal linking effectively, you can tell the Google bots how the content of a website is structured. It also creates the pillar-cluster structure and develops topical authority.
The lines you see in the image displayed in the previous sections are all internal links.
10. Study what type of content ranks for the primary keyword
The type of content that Google ranks depends on the search intent. You may see snippets of different kinds or a variety of content structures for every keyword.
For instance, the keyword best software for graphic design will show results with listicles. It gives an indication that Google believes that people who search for that keyword are actually looking for a list of tools to explore and choose from.
Similarly, the search query – what is industrial design engineering – returns a paragraph snippet.
As an SEO content writer, you want to create the same type of results that currently rank.
11. Analyze competition
Alright, by now you know what type of content ranks. But before you go ahead and create the content, make sure you see how competitive the keyword is.
There are two ways to do that. One, use SEO SaaS products like Semrush or Ahrefs and see the keyword difficulty score. Or, if you want to do it for free, just do a simple search for the target keyword. Observe the quality and domain rating of the top ranking keywords.
If the pages at the top are industry leaders who have been around for a while, it’s best to skip that keyword or choose its long-tail version.
12. Get the meta title right
Meta title is the first thing that people see about your website. You want it to be enticing and click-worthy. The best way to do that is by adding a value proposition to it. It must clearly state what problems of your potential readers you solve.
Additionally, you must include the primary keyword in the meta title. It’s a hotspot for Google bots – they read the meta title to determine what the page is all about.
13. Write content for people first, then search engines
People-first content is what Google officially prefers to rank. However, in spite of many algorithm updates, Google finds it hard to identify content that fits the description. That’s because Google search algorithm is essentially a piece of code that can only estimate the usefulness of a piece of text.
Yet, Google can gauge effectiveness based on how much time people spend on a page, how often they click-through, and how many pages they visit on every instance they land on the said page. All these metrics can be tracked on Google Analytics.
However, to get people to do anything on your page, you first need to get them there. And that’s why you need to write for search engines too. That’s what you bring to the table as an SEO content writer.
What this means is, you tell Google what your page is about by placing keywords at the right spots, and yet not overdoing it. This way, you get indexed for the right phrases while not triggering Google’s spam filters.
14. Understand the impact of page structure on SEO
Every page that Google believes is helpful is tested rigorously. Google temporarily ranks it high for select keywords just to get enough visitors to the website to conduct engagement tests.
What this means is, Google runs an experiment with a small sample to determine if the page is actually useful.
If Google discovers that a lot of people leave the website as soon as they visit that page, it gets a strong signal that the page doesn’t offer the value that Google thought it would. As a result, Google demotes the page in rankings.
Now, people may leave websites, not because the content is useless, but also because the page doesn’t offer a good UX. Though page design has a big role to play, as an SEO writer, you may have control only over written text.
By structuring your content right you can do your bit in improving UX. You can do that by:
- Using the right header tags
- Ensuring that there’s enough white space but not too much of it
- Making CTAs stand out
- Keeping sentences short
- Limiting paragraphs to a maximum of 3 lines
15. Learn how images tie into SEO
With designing images becoming easier by the day, many businesses have started to consider marketing around design as an asset. You, as an SEO writer, may not design images, but you may want to include that as an add-on while looking for clients.
As a rule of thumb, images should be of the right dimensions specific to the theme used by the website. They should also occupy less disk space to allow for faster loading. But SEO content writers need to worry primarily about the on-page aspect of images.
Make sure that your images have the primary keyword or a variation of it in the file name and the alt text. You need not do this for every image but make sure you have at least 1-2 such images per page.
What is alt text? It’s the phrase that tells Google what the image is about. Additionally, alt text is what gets read by different apps to the visually challenged visitors.
16. Write long-form comprehensive content
Over the years, Google has focused on ranking pages that act like a one-stop-shop for everything related to a keyword. In a bid to eliminate thin content, Google has launched many algorithm updates to weed out low quality content.
To rank on Google for a particular keyword, you must write everything relevant to that keyword without straying too far off.
For example, if your blog post is on how to bake a cake, you must cover the type of mix to use, what temperature to set the oven on, etc. but writing about how to bake muffins is way off topic.
Once you gauge how much content is required to rank for a keyword, you can recommend your future clients to increase or decrease the word count goal.
17. Access tools to aid SEO writing
Most SEO tools are an overkill. Google tools are often sufficient to guide you with keyword research, but it’s necessary to have experience with industry standard tools like Semrush and Ahrefs. That’s because most clients would have an account with them and expect to hire writers who know how to use them.
From a purely writing perspective, Grammarly suffices.
18. Learn how to measure performance
Measuring performance of your SEO content is as important as creating it. You must know what metrics to report to your clients and how to track numbers.
Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) are two free popular tools to measure the performance of your content.
GSC will help you track page performance on Google SERPs. It helps you measure page-wise position, keyword position, impressions, clicks, and click through rate. You can also filter results based on country.
Google Analytics will help you track website performance across all sources of traffic. It will also show how long people stay on your webpages, how often they click through, and more.
19. Brace yourself for Google Algorithm updates
Google updates its search algorithm quite regularly to ensure that its users see the best content available on the internet. What that means is, irrespective of how good your content is, it will be hit by one update or another.
That means, the page ranking will go down, you may lose featured snippets, or even the whole website might go down – and you have no control over it. On the flip side, you may also see a hike in traffic as low quality pages get knocked off the ranking.
But if your content is solid and your website’s technical health is optimal, you will recover often without any efforts.
You must know this to let clients know in advance of any upcoming updates. They must know that the loss in traffic is not because of what you did but because of external factors. Additionally, you must learn how to measure the drop (or rise) and come up with a plan to recover the positions and traffic.
20. Find clients or jobs
We have so far discussed skills related to SEO content writing, but what equally matters is finding clients or securing jobs relevant to the trade.
If you are looking for first clients, Fiverr may be the first place you want to try. It’s fairly easy to secure your first gig on Fiverr. But use that marketplace only till you build a solid portfolio because the competition there is high and pay is low.
You can also sign up to some SEO slack channels (I am working on a list, comment below if you need it). It’s the best way to directly reach people looking to hire SEO writers. Finally, you can look for job openings on LinkedIn and other job boards.
Is SEO writing in demand?
SEO writing is in vogue, the demand for good SEO content writers is increasing because only a few people truly know the craft and have the skill to rank content predominantly based on written content alone. Businesses now realize the need to have a sustainable channel of lead generation that SEO brings. They need quality SEO writers, in addition to technical SEO experts to get niche traffic that converts well.
Is SEO content writing a good career?
SEO content writing is a good skill addition for business writers, however, it’s a skill that is usually a bit away from the product, which means it often gets lower salaries than say a product marketing manager. However, if you add in more copywriting skills or train others in SEO writing skills, you may make more by growing vertically.
Do content writers need to know SEO?
SEO writing is a useful add-on for content writers in the business world because many freelancing gigs and writing jobs today require writers to promote their content too – SEO is the most organic and sustainable way to do that.
For instance, if businesses can find writers who can passively bring traffic to their product or services pages, they would hire them over copywriters who create content for the sake of keeping a blog updated.
How much do SEO writers get paid?
SEO content writers’ salary varies greatly based on their skillset, location, years of experience, niche, and portfolio. However, as per salary.com, SEO writers make up to $50,000 annually in the US. The pay goes up the more experience one gains.
How do SEO writers make money?
SEO writers make money by getting relevant traffic from Google to a website’s page. Upon conversion, the website makes money, a share of which goes to the SEO writer. Some writers also work on a payscale or a retainer model, wherein, they get paid a certain amount every month in return for their services.
Is SEO and content writing the same?
Content writing is only a subset of SEO while SEO content writing is a subset of content marketing. SEO includes many things other than writing – backlinking, technical SEO, etc.