5 SEO Writing Skills to Help Your Content Rank Higher
Top notch content that’s well-rounded, correctly formatted, and benefits an audience is what Google demands. Unfortunately, that’s just the base requirements. If we want to rank higher in SERPs, we need to produce high-quality content that focuses on SEO as well.
This is where the idea of SEO writing comes into play.
Good search engine optimization is important, being more than just having a lot of keywords embedded in the content. SEO writers need to develop ways to take content to the next level, ranking higher than the competition.
This article will demonstrate five practical strategies designed to help take content writing further and achieve better SEO.
SEO Writing: What is it?
Before we begin, let’s cover the basics. Ask the question, “What is SEO writing?” and then ask, “why does it matter so much when creating content?”
SEO writing is simply a method of creating (writing) content that has a higher likelihood of being seen by people that use a search engine. SEO writing covers all stages of content creation: writing ideas, planning content, the actual writing, and optimizing to increase web traffic, engagement, and conversion.
SEO writing can help achieve higher rankings by:
- Creating better content visibility – As reported by CTR studies, more than half of all clicks tied to a search query go to the three highest SERP results. The closer your content is to the top; the more people will interact with it.
- Building more backlinks – Well-written content that’s also well-optimized, draws in backlinks. The more backlinks, the more say you have in your content’s ranking.
- Completing a Search Task Accomplishment (STA) by using keywords - As Oneupweb clarifies, STA is the belief that search results should work to reflect the user’s goals and offer a satisfying experience. SEO writing achieves this goal.
Tips for writing quality SEO content in 2022
Now, let’s get into those strategies to develop and write quality SEO content and achieve a higher SERP ranking. 2022’s top five SEO writing tips include:
1. Have an Interesting Hook
Users click on interesting headlines, but it’s the introduction that makes them stay. If the introduction meets their search criteria and has an interesting hook, readers are more likely to continue to engage with your content.
Simply put, you can lower your bounce rate and increase your dwell time with a good hook.
Let’s look at how to start writing effective introductions.
Firstly, keep intros short. Remember that page visitors are likely to only read 20-28% of your content at a rate 25% slower than if they were reading print. Hooking a reader right away is imperative to higher engagement.
Next, make introductions attention-getting and related to the topic. Set up hooks as a question the user needs to answer, an interesting fact, or a pain point the reader can relate with. Use previews so the reader can understand where they are in the content.
Here’s an example of a poorly written introduction:
Why doesn’t it work? The author’s language is too long, and doesn’t have clear, concise keywords making it confusing and dull to read.
Here’s another example to compare to:
This introduction’s structure is clear, concise, and inviting to the reader. The author, Brian Dean, is the owner of Backlinko, and a well-known SEO expert. Mr. Dean has created two formulas for drafting SEO-rich introductions:
1. “Agree, Promise, Preview,” aka the APP method
2. “Preview, Proof, Bridge,” aka the PPB method
Both methods let SEO writers keep their introductions concise, straightforward, and appealing to the reader. Both methods are quick and easy to read and make it clear to the reader if the content is worth finishing.
2. Use Topic Clusters to Organize Content
A topic cluster is defined as a group of web pages that are interlinked and semantically related to one another, while covering a wide subject area. HubSpot offers one of the best examples:
A topic cluster is made up of a pillar content page and several content pieces related to it. The pillar page targets keywords with a high search volume, with the other content pages targeting specific keywords.
It’s imperative to correctly interlink the cluster together: It’s a two-way street with the pillar content and the related content linking back to one another. You can boost organic traffic and conversion by keeping SEO content organized into clusters.
Topic clusters work with SEO by:
- Helping target whole topics, rather than one keyword.
- Installing a hierarchy of content, making it simpler to navigate.
- Propelling a topic higher in rankings by helping Google understand the linguistic relationship between the pages in a cluster.
- Generate an increased number of backlinks by having more insightful content.
SEO writers are tasked with finding topics with the potential to generate traffic and using that topic to create an effective cluster. A topic needs to always work within larger content strategy, utilize essential keywords, and meet users’ search expectations.
It’s critical to be aware of the search volume and obstacles for each keyword:
Prioritize a main keyword in the pillar content, and focus on related keywords in the interlinked content, creating a better chance for your topic cluster to rise through the ranks.
Terakeet's Guide to eCommerce SEO provides an excellent example of how to build strong topic clusters:
There’s more than one way to publish a topic cluster:
- Post pillar pages as blogs, and separately post the cluster pages.
- Publish a pillar page that appears as a root domain on your site, and cluster pages as subdomains for the pillar.
- Publish a pillar page as a root domain for your site and use the cluster pages as blogs.
Regardless of how the cluster is published, always measure its SEO and adjust as necessary. Resources like HubSpot’s Content Strategy or Google Analytics can be helpful.
3. Optimize Content to be Featured for Google Snippets
Google's Featured Snippets, aka Position 0, are the SERP results that appear at the very top of the page, answering search queries without forcing users to actually click on a website. Snippets are usually depicted as lists, definitions, simple bullet points, images, and sometimes video clips.
Here's what a SERP Featured Snippet looks like to a user:
There are considerable SEO benefits when your content is featured in a Google Snippet, for instance, a boost in your site’s credibility, an increase in traffic, and more visibility for your site and your brand.
Accurately optimizing content to appear in the Snippet can increase the likelihood of getting featured, but there’s no universal method of obtaining a Snippet. Optimizing content like so:
- Add any necessary FAQ formats: Creating an FAQ page, or a topic cluster for questions, can increase your visibility and answer exact search queries.
- Call back to the retro HTML formatting: Use different headers and sub-headers in your content with paragraphs between each one. (Make sure to use the proper tags (<p>)). When formatting lists use the <div> element along with an id attribute: <div id="featured-snippet">text</div>.
Here’s an example:
4. Catch all formatting mistakes
Achieve more visibility, better readability, and increase engagement by correctly formatting all content. If readers enjoy your page, they stay longer, indicating to Google that your content is of high quality and deserving of a higher rank. Ways to guarantee proper SEO formatting include:
- Consistently left-align your texts: This helps minimize unwanted spacing between words.
- Be mindful of the color combination between the text and page background: The best option is black text with white backgrounds, however, a good rule of thumb is to adjust your site for no less than a 5:1 color-contrast ratio.
- Utilize correct spacing around subheads: It’s easier for readers to know which section a paragraph belongs to if the spacing before a subhead is wider than the spacing coming after.
- Use simple text structure: The simpler the structure, the better; Title-H2-H2 is optimal, though Title-H2-H3-H3-H2 also works well. Avoid having more than four levels of structures to maintain a clean look.
- Leverage font size for easier readability: Use a minimum of 14px and stick to less than three different sizes on a page.
Utilizing transition words throughout your content is an additional SEO tip, making content enjoyable to read too.
SEO writers call transitionary words/phrases “bucket brigades”: Their purpose is to connect the thoughts in your content, engaging the readers’ interest and daring them to continue. Transition words can better your writing, and as a result, better your SEO.
5. Optimize content to answer common questions
Search queries are considerably more casual and conversation than ever before, thanks to the rise of voice search. Google needs to thoroughly optimize semantic search features to make better use of voice search and provide relevant SERP results:
Semantic search factors help Google answer the initial query, while additionally providing more context (like related topics and questions) to better understand user intent. Creating optimized content that also answers common questions considerably improves your chances of increasing your rank and getting featured as a Google Snippet. It also makes it better for the user, increasing your conversion over time.
Optimizing your content to answer questions includes:
1. Find the questions related to your content.
Learn what your audience is asking by using resources like search engines, third-party sites, and Google Suggest. Keep track of every related question and answer it in your content.
2. Know what type of question needs answering.
Consider the three elemental types of question that sway traffic and choose which best fit your strategy:
- Basic questions – offer simple, concise answers like definitions. Example: What is search intent? Answer these questions on your FAQ pages.
- How-to questions – offer more detailed answers the provide insightful instruction. Example: How to optimize page load time? Use FAQs, blogs, and videos to answer these questions.
- Branded questions – offer a name drop of a brand or product in your answer. Example: How does WooRank work? Answer these questions in landing pages, written and video tutorials, and blog posts.
3. Optimize your content based on the type of answers you provide.
The content providing a direct answer to a common question starting with the five Ws (What, Who, When, or Where), can be optimized for SEO by using a question as a headline, having a direct answer immediately after, and building on the answer so Google can rank it higher.
When answering “Why” and “Can” questions, offer shorter answers that could be used as Featured Snippets. Optimize this content for SEO by inserting questions in subheads to represent a Q&A section, keep sentences short, and don’t use industry-specific terminology.
When answering “How,” questions, it’s better to use long answers to explain methodology and procedure. Optimize this content by creating a list, using questions relevant to your answer, structuring each step with a subhead, and using brief sentences and visual aids to answer.
Begin Ranking Higher with These SEO Writing Tips
As you are now fully aware of how vital optimizing content is for your marketing success, it’s time to apply these skills in the real world.
Now, all your content should be well-rounded and helpful to your target audience, while also abiding by the SEO rules laid out in this article. Avoid mistakes, format content for features like Snippets, answer common questions, and create topic clusters to stay ahead.
But most importantly, practice, for when these tips are executed correctly, the top of the SERP page awaits, and all the new lead generation along with it.