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SEO Writing Tips for Higher Rankings

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SEO content writing

SEO writing is a strategy that focuses an article on its potential for higher rankings in search engines.

Writing content with search engine optimization mind is a craft that takes time to develop. Different writers have different backgrounds and training experiences.

Journalists focus on the angle of the story. English majors think about themes. Marketing types think about brand. Web people think about keywords. But they sometimes overlook quality and run the risk of not writing in a style that benefits readers.

As a professional journalist and online publisher, I find that starting with the most essential keywords of the article is the right thing to do. But a few important tips combine SEO and good writing principles.

SEO Keywords

Yes, the process starts with the keywords. Use the Google Ads Keyword Tool to research good keywords. Anyone who doesn’t have a Google Ads account will find free tools such as Semrush with the same capabilities.

Keywords for most SEO people really means one or more words. The more words in the phrase, the greater the targeting, but also the smaller the audience. An optimal keyword phrase is two to four words.

Pick no more than two or three possibilities, but make one of them dominant. The more narrowly targeted the keyword the better.

Don’t try to go for keywords that generate large amounts of traffic. The competition is usually too intense. Aim for the sky when rankings improve.

The File Name

Use the dominant keyword in the file name when you first sit at the computer and create the file before starting to write.

Sounds simple, right? Yes, but it also is an important part of content writing for SEO.

When the article is published online, the file name becomes an essential part of the URL (Web address).

The URL is an important factor in rankings that helps search engines understand the dominant topic.

It also appears in the search results. Search engines typically bold the keyword in the address, which makes it more prominent and increases the odds of a click.

The Slug

Some publishing systems — especially in news media — have a field they call a slug, which is essentially the same thing as the keyword.

Putting the keyword in the slug field places more awareness of the importance of the keyword, especially in future edits of the article.

Further, larger operations may have a separate editor who writes article headlines.

Even smaller websites that have a single employee who hires contractors to write stories can require a slug / keyword appear at the top of the story.

Having the keyword in the slug may raise the editor’s awareness of its importance and lead her or him to use it in the article headline.

Slugs also can be used in online content management systems to organize and display stories.

SEO Content Writing

The Headline

If an operation has a separate editor, the writer can put a proposed headline on the article using the keyword.

The editor (if there is one) will see the proposed headline and either use it, modify it or change it entirely.

Let’s hope the change will keep the dominant keyword in the article intact. Otherwise, the editor will need to find a new one.

In the end, the headline shows up on the published page in a prominent position, again improving the SEO and potential search rankings of the page.

The Title

Putting a keyword in the headline has an additional advantage. Many content management systems use the headline as part of the document title (shown at the top of the browser bar).

For those of you with limited experience in SEO, the document title — and not the headline that visitors to the site see at the beginning of the article — is what visitors to the search engines see in their search results.

Like a keyword in the URL, the keyword in the title is usually bolded, which potentially increases the click rate because of its prominence.

The Article

Prominence is an important concept in SEO. Making the keyword prominent increases the chances of a higher ranking.

At the least, the keyword should appear in the first paragraph of the article.

Even better is putting it as close as possible to the beginning of the paragraph.

How often to put the keyword in the article is a matter of debate. But two to three times is a good target.

Avoid using it too many times or run the risk of a penalty from the search engines for “keyword stuffing”.

Keep in mind that the keyword is appearing not only in the article but also in the headline, title and the next opportunity on our list.

Images and Captions

Yet another opportunity can be found with images — either photos or graphics. Simply name them with the keyword phrase as long as the image is a good representation of the phrase.

The file name of the image as it appears on the published page will again emphasize that keyword to the search engines.

Note that the alt tag is a highly recommended tag in content management systems for identifying the subject of the photo. It also is a keyword opportunity. It is best to name the image with one keyword phrase and the alt tag with a variant.

If the image has a caption, the opportunity exists again.

Putting It Together

When the page is ready to go, count the number of times the keyword appears in all of these options. Some experts say that a keyword should appear in a ratio of about 1 to 2 percent of the total words.

Do the keywords appear naturally? Do they appear contextually?

The page is being seen by search engines — and also by human beings. They are both audiences in their own way. Appealing to both will ultimately deliver good results.

SEO content writing that builds a quality article around a valuable keyword is an acquired skill but easy to learn.

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