Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content are the conjoined twins of marketing. Without content marketing, there can be no SEO. Without SEO, there can be content—but nobody is going to read it.
The irony about most guides to SEO content is that the guide itself is usually a piece of SEO content. This guide is no different.
We systematically created this piece of content using a variety of SEO best practices with the goal of having it rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs), and we’re going to show you how to do the exact same thing.
Here’s what you need to know to master SEO content creation.
What is SEO Content?
To explain SEO content marketing, it helps to first explain the terms “SEO” and “content marketing” separately.
SEO is a series of best practices and protocols around the structure and creation of web pages to increase the likelihood that the web pages will be found by the people looking for the information in major search engines.
“There are over a billion websites crowding the internet, and most of the information they contain is hidden away,” explains Ryan Law, a content strategist at the marketing firm Animalz. “SEO is a way to surface that information, and create your content in a way that makes it easy for search engines to discover it and show it to people likely to benefit from it.”
So, for example, our goal for this piece of content you’re reading is to make sure that people looking for information about SEO can find our page before all the other pages about this same topic on the internet.
Content Marketing Defined
Content marketing is a strategy in which a brand creates educational and engaging content (blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.) designed to answer a prospective customer’s question, foster engagement, and ultimately generate a sales lead.
In order to accomplish all of these objectives, a piece of content needs to be created using SEO best practices—hence the term SEO content. In other words, if your goal is to drive leads, the content your brand creates should utilize SEO.
Said another way, SEO is the set of instructions that tell you what you should create, and how you should create it—content is the finished product.
“By systematically addressing queries that are relevant to the type of customer you typically sell your product or service to, you can create a steady stream of relevant visitors to your website, and provide value to them in the process,” says Law.
In this piece of content we aimed to answer questions around the term “seo content.” We did this because our research told us that the customers we’re interested in selling to are seeking information on this topic (when we say “major search engines,” we usually mean Google, because 75% of searches begin there). If our content answers their questions, we could potentially turn them into a lead.
So now you know what SEO is, what content marketing is, how they intersect, and how SEO content can help your business. But just how important is SEO content? Let’s explain with an example.
Why Use SEO Content?
Say you’re a content marketer who works for a car company. One day, you decide to write a blog post titled “How to Change a Tire.”
After the post is published, you promote it on social media, email it to your subscribers, and share it with the niche communities that are fans of your service. Even better, the folks you share the content with then share it with their friends.
Right about now, your traffic should be looking something like this:
But what happens to that piece of content over a longer period of time once your audience has read it and moved on? For most, it looks something like this:
One solution is to keep producing new blog content, so that even when your traffic starts to dip, you have new traffic to replace it with. In which case, your traffic will look something like this:
But even this isn’t a sustainable long-term strategy. It requires constantly churning out high-quality content, and having your audience consistently engage with it—which is easier said than done.
There’s another way, and it looks like this:
As you probably guessed, the newest line represents SEO content. With SEO content, you don’t have to publish a lot of content to get a lot of traffic. Instead, you post one piece of high quality content, get it to rank in search engines using SEO, and enjoy a steady stream of consistent traffic.
And just how valuable can this be? According to the keyword research tool SEMrush, the top ranking page for the keyword “how to change a tire” is this post by Bridgestone Tire that averages 24,800 sessions per month. Even if your conversion rate on this page is only 0.5% (the industry average is 2.35%), you’re still looking at 1,240 new customers per month.
What could that do for your business?
How to Write SEO Content
At this point you’re probably wondering exactly what it is you need to do to start getting your content ranking highly on Google SERPs. If you’ve been following closely, you might have already picked up some tips, but now we’re going to take you step-by-step through how to create SEO content.
Step 1: Keyword Research
Keyword research could be an SEO article in-and-of itself—the term generates 26,200 searches per month on Google. But we’ll try to keep it simple.
In a word, keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms people enter into search engines, with the goal of finding content topics to write about. This blog post, for instance, started when we entered “seo content” into SEMrush and found that it generated 10,000 search results per month.
From this we can infer that SEO is a topic people care about and want more information on. To get started with your keyword research, you should do the following:
- Create a list of 5-10 keywords related to your business (i.e. things you think your customers might be searching for on Google). These are your primary keywords.
- Next, think of other terms related to your primary keywords that are more granular. There are a couple of ways to do this:
Consider some questions your customers might have related to your primary keywords (if your keyword is “content marketing,” a question might be “how to do content marketing”).
Look at blog content on competitor websites to try and find keywords to target.
Type your keyword into Google then scroll down to the bottom of the page where the “searches related” section is. Here, you will find a handful of related keywords.
Use a keyword research tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs, which can identify related keywords for you.
- Once you have a good mix of primary and secondary keywords, research the search volume of each keyword using a tool like UberSuggest or SEMrush. The higher the search volume, the more valuable the keyword. Keep in mind that keywords with high search volumes are more difficult to rank for because lots of other websites are likely targeting them as well.
- Determine which keywords to target based on the search volume and your level of competition. If you’re just starting out, we recommend targeting secondary keywords that have lower search volumes and less competition. This will help you grab some initial traffic. For instance, we’re targeting the keyword “seo content” in this piece, which has significantly less search volume than “seo,” but also has less competition.
- If you’re not sure how to rate your competition, SEMrush provides data on the domain authority of the content (a metric Google uses to rate how authoritative a website is), as well as the number of third-party websites linking to that piece of content. The higher the domain authority and number of links, the more difficult it will be to outrank that page.
- Regardless of which keyword you target, you also need to find associated keywords to include in the article. Targeting multiple closely-related keywords in one article offers you the opportunity to rank for multiple terms. For this article we found that people who search for “seo content” also search for “seo content marketing,” “what is seo content,” “how to write seo content,” and “how to create seo content.” You might notice we used all of these keywords in this article.
Keep in mind that the number one search result in Google generates 30% of the clicks for that search. So if you factor in the search volume for the keyword you’re targeting, you should have a pretty accurate idea of how much traffic you can generate from ranking number one. This is a good way to determine if the keyword is worth targeting or not.
One last thing we should mention is searcher intent. Regardless of which keyword you’re targeting, you must make sure that the search results Google provides for that keyword relate to your business. To verify user intent, it’s important to perform an incognito Google search to see what results come up. It’s important the search is in incognito mode so the results won’t be personalized.
“Say I’m targeting the term ‘one-on-one meetings.’ When you search ‘one-on-one’ on Google, a lot of the content that pops up is political or sports-related. Search intent isn’t there,” says Hiba Amin, content marketing manager at the tech startup Soapbox. “With the term ‘one-on-one meetings’ though, we see a lot of related search results. Therefore we know that the search intent matches the content we're producing.”
If you followed all these steps, you should have a spreadsheet of a few dozen keywords your business can target. Next, we’re going to put those keywords to use.
Step 2: Create SEO Content
As we said in the beginning, there is no SEO without content. But if you create bad content, all your SEO efforts will be wasted.
That’s because Google is smart. It can differentiate a quality piece of content from a poor piece of content by looking at performance metrics like time on page, click-through rate, bounce rate, as well as the number of third-party websites linking to your piece of content.
If your content is poor, no amount of SEO best practices can save you.
You might have heard some marketers complain that writing for SEO and writing for quality are competing interests. They say you can’t create content that an algorithm will like and a human will enjoy.
We disagree. If you’re thoughtful about how and when to use your keywords, rather than just jamming them into the text as many times as possible, you can create a high-quality piece of content that is SEO-friendly.
“Over-optimising content for a keyword can result in articles that are stilted, repetitive and plain bad to read,” says Law. “Never forget that a real-life human is on the receiving end of your article—great search articles include strong narratives, unexpected ideas, and novel information. Generating a thousand visitors to your website means nothing if they all hit ‘back’ because your article just wasn’t interesting.”
We recommend starting by outlining your blog post using the keyword you’re targeting. Next, create subheadings around your associated keywords, as we’ve done in this post.
Then it’s all about good writing and research.
To stand out from all the noise, Law recommends taking an angle your competitors haven’t. Also try and offer something others can’t provide, such as your own perspective, proprietary data, quotes from experts, sleek graphics, or downloadable assets. Implementing these types of components makes your content harder to replicate, which can attract searchers who are tired of reading the same article over and over.
Amin says that she also makes sure to include an actionable takeaway in every piece of content she creates.
“I provide a new tip, an agenda template, a question they can ask—anything that they can take away from the article that addresses the problem they were initially looking to solve.”
These are just some of the approaches you can take when writing SEO content. Don’t be afraid to get creative and insert your own unique voice or your brand’s voice into the content, as this will also differentiate your content from all the other articles on the same topic.
Step 3: Implement SEO Best Practices
Once you’ve gotten your piece to a place that feels good, the last step is to make a handful of tweaks that will make the content more SEO-friendly.
There are many things you can do to make your page more SEO-friendly. We’ve already mentioned a few: increasing on-page performance, getting more backlinks, and increasing your domain authority.
However, none of these are things you can control when putting out a new piece of content. Instead, focus on the structure of your article, as this will make it easier for Google to “crawl” it. “Crawlability,” also known as “indexability,” describes a search engine’s ability to access and review the content on your page, and add the page to its index (i.e. make it appear in Google search results).
Things you can do on-page to make your content easier to crawl include the following:
- Title tags: Most blogs are broken down into sections and subsections (and if yours isn’t, we recommend you change it). For instance, in this guide you’re currently reading the subsection “Implement SEO Best Practices” within the section “How to Use SEO for Content Marketing.” In most major content management systems (as well as Google Docs), it’s possible to tag these titles with the HTML element Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, or Heading 4. At Knotch we use Heading 2 for section titles and Heading 3 for subsection titles. This makes it easier for Google to understand what we are talking about in each section. Moz recommends your title tags be between 50-60 characters, and contain your focus keyword.
- Links: Having a good link structure in each article is an essential part of making your website SEO-friendly. Ideally, you should have one link for every 100 words of text and a mix of both internal links (links to other parts of your website) and external links (links to authoritative third-party websites). Internal links direct Google to other parts of your site as they crawl your page, and the hyperlinked text should be the keyword of the page you’re directing the user to.
- Direct answers: Providing direct answers to questions is another way to get your content to rank highly. Similar to keyword research, this means finding questions people have related to your content, and answering them directly. To do this, use the “People Ask” feature on Google search engine results pages, and seek to write specific answers to those questions somewhere in your content.
In your content management system, it’s also important to include a meta description for your article (we recommend it be between 50-160 characters) and create alt tags for any images on the page (a short description of the image).
Lastly, your content management system should allow you to create a custom URL for your page using the blog domain followed by a forward slash, then custom text based on the subject matter covered on the page. Here, we recommend using your keyword as the text after the forward slash. If your keyword contains multiple terms, separate them with dashes. For example, the URL for this page is prosandcontent.knotch.com/posts/seo-content.
Also keep in mind that Google cares about the “freshness” of content. This means content published more recently, or content that was recently updated with new information, will be crawled more often. That’s why many content marketers make sure to consistently go back and update old content whenever they can.
Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the technical side of SEO. This factors in things like the user experience of the content page, the amount of time it takes the page to load, the mobile responsiveness of the page, and the site structure of your content hub. For these SEO aspects, it’s important for marketers and developers to work together to create high-performing branded web pages that offer a good user-experience.
How to Determine SEO Content Marketing Success
As we all know by now, the ultimate goal of SEO is to rank at the top of Google search engine results. The top ranking page usually gets what’s called the featured snippet. This is a selected search result with a text box aimed at answering the searcher’s query.
According to Ahrefs, owning a featured snippet results in 31% more traffic to your content than if you just had the top search result.
However, earning a featured snippet is hard. The truth is, most pieces of content never earn the featured snippet, or even the top search result. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Just ranking on the first page of search results can be extremely valuable.
But that too takes time. Ahrefs found that only 5.7% of newly published pages will rank in the top 10 search results of Google in their first year. So as you can see, SEO is a long-term strategy.
The most important thing you can do to increase the search ranking of your page is build links to it. If other high-quality sites are linking to your page, it tells Google that your content is good and worthy of recognition.
To generate links, it’s important to promote every new piece of content so that other outlets can find and share it. Here it helps to have a good understanding of who your readers are and what type of content they like to share. It also means that your content needs to be of exceptional quality so others will want to endorse it.
Outside of page rank and links, look at your organic search traffic, as this tells you how many people are finding your content through Google.
Knotch Can Help Measure Your SEO Content Marketing
If you’re looking to accurately measure the impact your SEO content efforts are having, Knotch can help. Using Knotch, you can measure a variety of key metrics related to SEO, including organic search traffic, time on page, and click-through rate.
We can also collect qualitative and demographic data from readers, and provide you with competitor research so you know exactly who you need to target and how you should appeal to them.
To learn more, visit our website.