If you’re going to be creating content for a living – as a webmaster, blogger, copywriter or internet marketer – then one of the fundamental things you will need to know is how to write original ‘SEO articles’. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) articles are articles designed specifically to rank in Google and thus they are somewhat different from other types of content that are written purely for the purpose of being entertaining and interesting to the audience.
Of course they still need to be interesting to the audience as well. In fact, that’s even more important if you want to rank seeing as Google’s job is to help its users find content that will be interesting, relevant and high value. As such, the rules of writing SEO articles will generally overlap with the rules of writing more broadly. To write a good SEO article, you must first be able to write a good article (we wrote a post on this very subject recently). The difference though is that you then need to do a few things on top of that in order to make your content more SEO friendly. Here we will look at some steps to take to ensure your content will be loved by Google. Read these and you should be adept in providing your clients or your own blog with effective ‘SEO’ content.
1. Understanding Keywords
Perhaps the most talked-about factor when it comes to writing SEO articles, is the use of keywords. Keywords are essentially the terms that a company wants their articles to rank for, so that when someone searches for a particular service, product or piece of information, their site will show up at the top.
Keywords need to be researched first however to ensure that they a) are being searched for and b) don’t have too much competition. Once a company finds a ‘sweet spot’ they will identify the keywords and pass them on to you as the writer.
This then means you have to insert the keywords into your article in a subtle way – repeating the term that your clients have selected or that your research has identified but without making it seem awkward or forced.
Your keywords should be used throughout your content but they also need to appear in the headings and titles and at the start and end of paragraphs. These spots are considered more important as far as Google is concerned, so consider it ‘bonus points’ if you get them in there.
2. Correct Keyword Density
While doing this you need to maintain the correct ‘keyword density’, which is about 1-2%. In other words, your content should consist of 1-2% keywords with the rest being natural content as you would normally write. If you include your keywords more frequently than that 1-2% then you will find that Google actually penalizes the content because it will look as though you’re trying to ‘play the system’.
Unfortunately, some clients who have done just a minimal amount of reading on the subject will think that 1-2% isn’t enough and will urge you to repeat the keywords more frequently. As they say, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!
So what do you do? Well, if you’re providing a writing service then you should normally go along with your clients’ requests. They know best and as long as you perform the job you’re given, you should be fine. If you’re providing SEO services though, then your value is going to be judged by the results you get so argue your case strongly.
Lastly, if it’s for your own site, make sure that you are writing for your users first and for Google second. Monitoring precisely 1-2% density is actually missing the point – instead just write naturally on your subject and let the keywords arrive naturally.
3. Dealing With Awkward Keywords
Sometimes you will come across articles online that have attempted to ‘stuff’ awkward and specific keywords and this is what results in awkward phrasing like this:
“Have you ever wondered ‘where can I buy hats online’? Now you know the answer to ‘where can I buy hats online’!”
Hardly Shakespeare is it?
More awkward still are ‘local keywords’ which include place names. Some clients will find that people search for terms like ‘buy hats Minneapolis’ and this then results in phrasing like:
“And that’s why you should always shop around before you buy hats Minneapolis!”
The best thing to do here from a purely ‘results’ standpoint is to ignore the requests of the client and to remove ‘Minneapolis’ from their keyword. Instead, the local aspect can come from the keyword being used elsewhere on the site – even in the URL or header.
Again though, you’ll find that some clients don’t take kindly to this. If you’re providing copywriting services then your job isn’t to second guess the client. You can always express your concern prior to writing but otherwise just carry out your instructions.
4. LSI Optimization
LSI optimization is a relatively new term that stands for ‘latent semantic indexing’. While it sounds very fancy though, it’s essentially just jargon for what you should always have been doing in the first place.
Point is, Google is getting smarter. These days, Google can actually understand the content on your page and thus is able to look for synonyms and related words. It can likewise do the same with the search strings that users are looking for to second guess what they actually mean versus what they say.
For instance, when you search for ‘LSI Optimization’ you’ll find that ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’ is also highlighted in the search results because Google knows that they are one and the same thing. Likewise, they’ll be looking for words like ‘SEO’ and ‘Google’ in your content to make sure that they don’t bring up articles on: ‘Lemon Sifting Index’. That’s not a thing… but you get the point.
So to ensure that your content is actually relevant to the topic and to ensure that you are a good writer, Google will look for synonyms and related terms. You should write around the subject for this reason and make sure that these terms come up whenever possible.
This is really just a matter of writing naturally but brushing up on your vocabulary won’t hurt either.
It’s also another reason why the smarter clients won’t try and force the issue with their specific search terms.
5. Content Length
The length of your content should be ‘as long as it needs to be’ as again you should be serving the reader and not Google (ironically, in order to impress Google).
That said, research tells us that Google prefers longer content. Longer content inherently provides more value and it has also been shown to generate more backlinks from other users (the more people link to your content, the higher it will rank as well).
Delivering quality and value is your first port of call and writing long-form content is a means to this end. At the same time, longer content is more likely to include more repetitions of your keyphrase (while maintaining ~1-2% density) and it is likely to include more natural LSI optimization. It’s also more likely to include ‘long tail keywords’ which are the random phrases like ‘how do I dye my blue hat red?’ that can provide a lot of benefit when you have enough of them. You also give yourself a chance of being featured as an ‘in-depth article’ on the SERPs this way.
When you do write long-form content, make sure you include lots of headers and paragraphs to break up the text and to ensure the visitors can skim read your content if they want to.
The only problem is that most clients pay by the word. This then means that you will be given a word count to stick to in the majority of cases. If you’re writing for yourself, go long. If you’re writing for a client… do what you’re told. Some clients though will have the good sense to let you write as much or as little as is needed.
6. Accuracy and Links
The other main way to provide value in an article is with accurate and useful information. Google is reportedly beginning to fact-check content against a ‘knowledge vault’ in order to ensure it’s returning correct answers. Make sure then that you are doing your research!
Linking out to other resources can also be useful for improving the apparent value of your content. This helps Google to more accurately identify the subject you’re writing on, it provides the users with more information and turns your article into an even better resource in itself.
7. Other Forms of Marketing
SEO is one form of digital marketing with social media marketing being another of the most popular ones. Most clients and bloggers are going to want to combine SEO with social marketing and other techniques in order to get the best results.
Thus an SEO article should also be a social article. This means that your content needs to easy to read, engaging and original. It also means that you should use titles and images that will be conducive to sharing. Think BuzzFeed but without the trashiness.
This is also directly beneficial from an SEO standpoint as it means more people are more likely to link to your content for you. This is called ‘link bait’ and it results in a natural and organic links profile.
So there you have it: the basics of writing SEO articles. There is a little more to it than that and it’s also important to remember that Google’s algorithms are constantly learning and evolving. The main take-home message though is use keywords in a subtle manner and to focus primarily on long, well-researched content that delivers real value to the readers.