Insights / SEO

PUBLISHED: Dec 11, 2019 14 min read

5 Tips For Writing Killer SEO Content That Ranks

Bambi Frazier

Bambi Frazier

Sr. Manager, Local SEO & Content

So, you spent hours upon hours writing a great piece of content on a specific subject.  It’s well written and gets your point across beautifully. You upload it to your website and wait patiently to see the life-changing results that will happen because so many people are going to see and soak up your life’s work and everything you have to offer in this one magnificent piece. 

Except for one thing: that doesn’t happen. Why? Because although your work is well written for pretty much anyone to read, they’ll never see it because you didn’t apply SEO best practices to the content creation process. If you want anyone to see what you wrote (besides you and your mom), your content should follow a carefully structured process.

Getting Started With Creating Content

If you don’t know where to start, kick off your next content creation strategy by checking off each one of the tips below before you click “upload.” Alternatively, if you’re a seasoned writer and/or are familiar with SEO, read through these recommendations anyway. Even the most seasoned content writers and SEO professionals can miss some of these key tips as they post content day-to-day.  

NOTE: these are listed in no particular order; they’re all equally valuable. Also, this is, by no means, the “content creation/SEO bible.” Just as quickly as ranking algorithms can change, so can these suggestions, so stay on top of your own content game by reading up on the latest and greatest SEO tips.  

SEO Writing Tip #1: Let’s E-A-T

Being a trusted and reputable source for readers carries a lot of SEO weight—also known as E-A-T. 

  • ‘E’ stands for EXPERTISE: Who is the expert who you can attribute your content to in your piece?  
  • ‘A’ stands for AUTHORSHIP: Who is the person sharing the content? In other words, who authored the words you are reading?  Do they carry any “weight” in the field related to the topic you’re reading? 
  • ‘T’ stands for TRUSTWORTHINESS: Is the website a trustworthy site with a reputation for being reliable?

Google specifically wrote about the importance of E-A-T in its Search Quality Guidelines and how it is used to determine the overall quality rating of a web page:

“Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the lowest rating.”

On the contrary, pages with high E-A-T are given a higher-quality rating. 

One good method of creating content that is E-A-T compliant is to ensure you list the names of your author and their credentials to write about that topic. 

When a piece of content checks all the boxes of E-A-T, the content will likely reap the SEO benefits in Google’s rankings. For additional reading about potential ideas on how to improve E-A-T, visit Lily Ray’s presentation from BrightonSEO or learn more about What it means to have good E-A-T.

SEO Writing Tip #2: Avoid Certain Words That Could Be Perceived as “Hate Speech”

Google has become increasingly focused on reducing “Hate Speech” in the search results, so it’s good to know if some words may draw a “red flag” and negatively impact your rankings. 

Google’s User Content and Conduct Policy states that there is no tolerance for hate speech: 

Our products are platforms for free expression, but we don’t permit hate speech. Hate speech is content that promotes or condones violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.”

It may be worth reviewing your content for words that may be classified as promoting intolerance. 

Emily Triplett Lentz wrote about this very subject on a blog post published in late 2018. In July of 2019, she was a speaker at MozCon. She presented a new list, which included a more in-depth version of her original blog post with the following “trigger” words that could lead to microaggressions.

  • blind 
  • crazy
  • cripple/crippled/crippling
  • deaf
  • dumb
  • insane/insanity
  • lame
  • manpower
  • slave/slaved/slavish/slavery
  • stupid
  • lame
  • mental
  • minority
  • moron
  • bipolar
  • duh
  • grandfathering
  • guys 
  • Handicap

Though this may not be a direct ranking factor, it’s a good approach to making sure your content aligns with Google’s policies. Aim to ensure your content isn’t offensive and serves a genuine purpose for your audience.

SEO Writing Tip #3: Proofread. Proofread Differently. Repeat. 

Google knows if your content isn’t well written, and one of the ways your rankings can be negatively affected is by publishing content that is heavy on grammatical and contextual errors.  Minimize the chances of this happening to you by following these steps:

Step 1:  Write the content

Step 2: Do a Grammarly check (premium version preferred).

Step 3: Run a grammar and spelling check in the document. This is typically found under the “Tools” or “Review” tab.

Step 4: Read it yourself and make necessary edits.

Step 5: Send it to someone else to read with an eye for grammatical errors.

Step 6: Read it again and make final edits.

Why this order?  

Once your content is created, you’ll save yourself a lot of editing if you let the tools do the bulk of the work for you first. Why use both Grammarly AND a spelling/grammar tool? Because they catch different errors. Yes, it’s true!  But don’t just click aimlessly to make corrections. There are many times when the suggestions from Grammarly AND your document’s tool are wrong, so read thoroughly before you click to make a change.  

Now it’s time to read the content yourself. Make your edits and then send it off to someone to edit with tracked changes. Bonus points if you can get them to make comments as well to further explain their suggested change. 

Once that’s done, give it another read for some fine-tuning. You can call it “done” here, but if you want to repeat any of the steps above just for peace of mind, that’s always a good idea. 

SEO Writing Tip #4: Link Strategically

It’s no longer as simple as embedding a link and moving on to the next paragraph. Follow these tips to make sure you’re using links for maximum SEO benefits:

  • Link to content on the website you’re posting on, which is called internal linking.  This practice can pass SEO value to the page you are linking to, so why not pass on some link equity at the same time you’re posting content?
  • Use anchor text strategically to provide context about the page that is being linked to in your content.
  • Link to other websites, which is called “external linking.”  Ideally, these links should be from highly regarded websites. Those carry more SEO weight. Learn more about the recommended criteria for linking to high-authority publications.
  • Link only where it flows naturally to do so. 
  • Link only when the page you’re linking to can genuinely benefit the reader with more information that directly correlates with the words that have the content embedded within.
  • Make sure the links you’re using aren’t broken.
  • Link high in your content. Google gives more SEO weight to links that are placed higher on a page/post.
  • Make sure your links aren’t too close together; as more and more people use mobile devices to surf the internet, links that are too close to one another could make for a challenging user experience. Given that Google has openly prioritized user experience, avoid this problem, and be sure there is ample space between each link you use. 

SEO Writing Tip #5: Analyze Competitor Content

Two tools we recommend using for analyzing competitor content are SearchMetrics and SEMRush. SearchMetrics has a “Content Tool” that provides recommendations on what you need to do to make your content rank with that of your competitors. SEMrush offers a similar tool called “Content Template” that provides some of the same recommendations.  

If you don’t have access to these tools, you can emulate this process manually, it’ll just take a little more time. 

Step 1:  Google your topic.

Step 2:  Take Note of the Top Rankings. You can look at the top 3, 5, or 10 (or as many as you prefer), depending on how in-depth you want to go.  Note the keywords being used in their title tag.  

Step 3:  Also look at the Featured Snippet.  What keywords are standing out in that content that   contributed to that highly acclaimed “Featured Snippet” spot above all the rest?

Step 4: What is the word count in each piece of content you’ve chosen to analyze? Word count is not a ranking factor, but comparing your word count to that of high ranking content on the same subject gives you a good frame of reference for how long and in-depth your content should be.

Step 5: What other aspects do the highest-ranking search results have? Is there a video? Are there links to other webpages, and if so, how are they structured? Is it a sales/product page (transactional), or is it informational? Are there images? Are those images optimized for SEO

Step 6: Note the headlines. Are they using H1 and H2 tags throughout their content? Do the headlines reflect the page hierarchy and do they contain important supporting keywords?

Step 7: Are they using external links, and if so, where do they point? 

Now, use the data you gather as a measuring stick for the content you’ll be creating.  While Google uses hundreds of ranking factors in its organic algorithm, it can be challenging to know precisely why it chose to rank a specific piece of content over another. However, use the adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” by following in your top-performing competitor’s footsteps and analyze what they are doing well as you create your unique content on the same subject. 

Don’t Forget Traditional SEO Methods

While you’re busy employing some of the cutting-edge SEO strategies listed above, don’t forget about other more commonly known “Do and Don’t Rules of SEO:”

  • Do Keyword Research

Over the years, keyword research has remained one of the most important tactics when it comes to SEO content creation. Don’t ever skip this step. Something as small as one word can make a HUGE difference in how your content ranks – aka will it rank high or will it be filed under “stuff that never gets seen?” 

For example, let’s use the search “ice cream.”  Go to Google, type in those words, and you’ll likely get a list of nearby places where you can get a delicious scoop or two of your favorite flavor.  But, what if instead, you’re looking for a recipe for ice cream? Type in the word “recipe” and you’ll get page after page of recipe options for homemade ice cream.  

Simply adding the word “recipe” will bring on a totally different set of search results, and keyword research will help determine which words will serve your audience – and your web traffic best. 

Also, consider not just who will find your content, but HOW they will find it.  What are they typing into Google to find answers and/or information like what you’re creating? Use keyword research as a guide to determine how you will optimize the different page elements, such as your title tag, headlines, body copy, and internal links.  

  • Do Use A Great Title Tag 

Make sure your Title Tag – which remains one of the most important ranking factors—is carefully targeting the most important keywords to the page, and is well-formatted to read well on Google. 

The best way to do this is to use the free Moz Title Tag. It’s the easiest, most accurate way to create a title tag that is the proper length, so the user’s first glance at what you’re sharing (and who it’s from) is fully visible. If the title is too long, it can create an ellipsis or the words can be rearranged by Google, which may not make for great user experiences. 

The preferred format is to use the title of your piece, followed by the website/business name. This order allows your title (and keyword) to be visible as well as the name of your company/website.

  • Don’t Keyword Stuff

Enough already! Google is totally onto all you keyword stuffers out there, so just stop.  It doesn’t work anymore, and you’re wasting your time. Focus on creating great, valuable, and informative content that truly helps people and utilize the latest SEO strategies that truly make a difference. 

  • Do Write Your Meta Descriptions Clearly

Meta descriptions all too often get a cold shoulder – whether it is intentional or not.  Descriptions matter! Although they are not a ranking factor, descriptions serve as a sneak peek into what readers will get before they get to your content.  

How do you make sure your meta description is done right? Start with the length: keep it under 160 characters. Beyond that, and your meta description will likely get cut off by the Google metadata police department. Just kidding… there’s no such thing as the GMDPD but keep it under 160 characters so all of what you have to say can be seen. It makes for better user experiences and improved click-through-rates.

Also, be sure to add your keyword to your meta description.  Doing this allows it to be shown in bold when the user types it, which ultimately helps draw that person’s eye to your content.

  • Do Use H1 And H2 Tags 

  These can get a little confusing if you don’t use them every day, so read closely: The H1 will be the primary headline on your page and is commonly confused with the “Title” tag.  The H1 is, essentially, the “title” of your piece that the user can see on the page, whereas Title tags are displayed at the top of the browser and as the linked text in the search results.  

If your website is listed in Google News, your H1 tag will become the headline of your article in the search results.  If you want your H1’s to help you with SEO, aim to keep the character count – including spaces – under 110 characters and between 2 and 22 words.

Next, separate the following paragraphs with H2-H6 Tags.  Don’t go crazy with them, but utilize H2s to break up your content in a way that “sections” each group of paragraphs according to the topic. And do yourself an SEO favor and toss a keyword or semantic keyword in one or two of those H2’s. It could help your SEO.  Just like the meta description, the jury is still out on how much H1 and H2 tags affect your rankings but play it safe and toss it a strategically placed keyword that naturally flows with your content. 

So how do you use the other headlines? H3-H6 will serve a purpose in the same way sections of an outline do. They are great to improve readability, so content can be broken up into smaller pieces. Use your headlines to help place your content into easy-to-read sections for things like questions or lists.  

A Final SEO Writing Tip

Perhaps the best advice of all: stay up to date. What works today may not work tomorrow, so stay in the loop, follow the highly regarded SEO experts, read up on the latest SEO news, follow the digital marketing leaders, don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from your mistakes. That’s the only way you’ll continue to grow as you begin to create killer content that soon enough, will actually rank.

If all of that intimidates you, or you don’t have time for it, talk to our SEO and content experts. We specialize in content creation that can rank — and we’re happy to put our expertise and creativity to work for you.