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Learn the art of writing for SEO in this comprehensive guide. Get ready to become a confident SEO copywriter in no time!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has never been an exact science. In fact, depending on who you ask, it might even be considered an art form.
It’s also a long tail game, involving hard work and a lot of patience.
But if you thought SEO was tough, writing for SEO is a whole different ball-game.
From endless Google algorithm updates that shift the goalposts, to riding that fine line between writing for search engines and writing for the human reader — copywriting for SEO successfully is no small feat.
But it’s not impossible.
In fact, with the right knowledge, strategies, and tools, you can go from absolute beginner to writing like a professional SEO copywriter in a matter of days.
That’s exactly why we created Scribly’s ultimate guide to SEO writing.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s jump into the good stuff — and begin, quite fittingly, at the beginning.
Part I: What is SEO writing?
There’s a phrase which is forever emblazoned in the mind of any SEO copywriter: content is king.
It’s as true today as it was in the very early days of those gif-laden, super-cheesy, yet somehow oddly nostalgic, GeoCities websites of the 90s.
And it’s the very reason that SEO copywriters exist.
The internet is built on written content, or ‘copy’, and somebody’s got to write it. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a step back and consider the two different goals of SEO writing:
- To inform, engage, and answer the questions of readers when they visit the website.
- To signal to search engines like Google exactly what the website is about and how well it might address a potential search query.
At this point, you might be starting to see the dilemma that all SEO copywriters have wrestled with since the birth of the internet…
“How do I write content which appeals to search engines and human readers?”
For a long time, this question didn’t really have an answer, and that led to a few bad habits in SEO copywriting which, mercifully, are no longer effective.
These bad habits included things like stuffing as many keywords as possible into web content or even hiding keywords on a page by making them the same colour as the background. These are what’s known as ‘black hat’ tactics, meaning that — while not necessarily forbidden — they are frowned upon by Google and may result in ranking penalties if detected.
Tactics like these squarely targeted — and almost gamed — the Google algorithm, meaning the SEO writing was always, to be blunt, simply terrible to read as a human. Luckily for every single person on the internet, it didn’t take Google very long to cotton on to such black hat tactics, and they’re now much more uncommon — if not entirely eliminated.
Instead, in recent years, Google’s ranking algorithms have shifted more towards quality and volume as positive ranking signals, using concepts such as semantic search and RankBrain to power these efforts. Don’t worry — we’ll go over all of this technical SEO stuff in more depth shortly.
Oh, and just to reassure you, here at Scribly, we’re firm believers in the ‘white hat’ school of SEO — and that’s what we’ll focus on for the duration of this guide.
Part II: Why writing for SEO really matters
Now that you’ve got a solid understanding of what SEO writing is, let’s get a bit more theoretical: why is it so important?
To answer this comprehensively, we first need to think about what a business is trying to achieve when they invest in SEO copywriting. Naturally, these will differ between companies, but there are definitely some common goals across the board.
Here are 3 reasons why a business might invest in writing for SEO:
- To inform or entertain an audience
- To sell a product or service
- To boost rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs)
Of course, from a business standpoint, it’s really the latter two points that matter most — but content marketing is really about all three. After all, finding the balance between being informative and making a sale is part of the delicate dance all SEO copywriters take part in.
SEO writing is also highly valuable as a long-term strategy — especially if you’re looking to bring advertising and marketing costs down (and who isn’t?) It all comes down to whether you’re renting your search rankings… or owning them.
Allow us to explain.
Renting vs. owning: The house that SEO writing built
When it comes to getting your foot in the door of digital marketing, one of the most common options is the use of PPC (Pay Per Click) programs like Google Ads.
These are great, because they allow you to pay a certain amount to have your result shown right at the top of Google.
Sounds great, right?
It can be, but the problem is that there are many other advertisers also bidding on that coveted top spot. That drives the price of the click up, and your costs can quickly grow — reducing your return-on-investment.
So, in a nutshell, while you’re paying to sit at the top of Google, you’re essentially renting that digital real estate.
Now let’s consider the alternative: organic listings.
Essentially, these are all results other than ads, and having yours at or near the top can bring in just as many — if not more — leads than using PPC.
So, how do you get there?
That’s where SEO writing comes in. If you can produce content which is highly relevant, well-optimised, and encourages linking from other sites, you stand an excellent chance of being ranked highly in the organic results. And all it will cost you is the time it takes to write the content.
So, rather than paying to sit at the top of Google, you’re getting there almost for free — indefinitely. You effectively own that digital real estate.
Sounds good, right?
This might give you an insight into why so many businesses are now pouring time (and money) into developing full content marketing campaigns rather than PPC ones.
In fact, one of the most effective strategies is to start with PPC while publishing great content at the same time. Eventually, you’ll reach a tipping point where your organic traffic pays the bills — but it’ll take time, and it’ll take great SEO writing.
So let’s learn how to create that, shall we?
Part III: The fundamentals of SEO writing
Okay, so we’ve looked at the what and the why of SEO writing, so let’s start digging into the how.
Later in this guide, we’ll go through the process of creating SEO optimised content step by step in a super granular way, but, before we do that, it’s essential that you understand the fundamentals of SEO copywriting.
Let’s think of well-crafted SEO writing like building a house; the key is getting everything in order: from the foundations to the tip of the chimney. It’s also vitally important that it’s crafted by someone who knows what they’re doing, because, well, you don’t want your SEO rankings crumbling beneath you, right?
If you really want to start writing for SEO like a pro, you’ll need to first ask some basic questions about how it all works. And, luckily for you, we’ve got answers.
So, let’s get into a short Q&A on the fundamentals of SEO writing.
What is an SEO copywriter?
An SEO copywriter is somebody who creates text content for a website with the goal of achieving a high search ranking with search engines like Google.
That’s the elevator pitch, but we can go deeper.
The copywriter role actually began in the advertising space and came to prominence during the advertising boom of the 60s. Since then, the terms ‘copywriter’ and ‘content writer’ have become broadly synonymous, as copywriters spend less time on short-form slogan work and more time on long-form copy such as blog articles. There’s some debate about these role definitions, but that’s the lay of the land.
Where does SEO come in?
Well, an SEO copywriter has an additional set of skills related to search engine marketing. These skills will help the SEO writer to optimise the content so that it’s more likely to rank highly in search results for certain targeted terms.
An SEO copywriter’s skills may include keyword research, an understanding of search engine algorithms, semantic variation, and other things.
Don’t worry — we’ll cover all of these in depth during the next part of this guide.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of discovering the words and phrases that people use to find information on search engines like Google.
At risk of overplaying it, the concept of the ‘keyword’ underpins the entire SEO industry. Put simply, a keyword or phrase is (or, at least, was) the only means by which a search engine could interpret the intent of a user when carrying out a search.
For example, if someone types in ‘buy red golf shoes’, the search engine will rightly try to show websites which are focused on this topic — and that feature some variation of these keywords across the site.
In the past, sheer volume of keywords was all that mattered, but changes to semantic search now means the search algorithms are far more sophisticated.
As SEO has developed over the years, handy tools like Ubersuggest and the Google Keyword Planner have been developed to surface keyword data. This is like gold dust to an SEO writer, because it tells them just how many people are searching for a particular topic, and even offers other similar keywords which they may want to target.
How does quality SEO writing impact search rankings?
Because search engines like Google have only limited data sources with which to make decisions, the ways it selects which content to surface first are a little obscure. That really speaks to the fabled Google algorithm, which we’ll cover in detail in the next section.
Having said that, there are definitely a few common factors at play in any high-ranking piece of content — and quality is certainly one of them.
The problem is that ‘quality’ is a highly subjective term. What one person loves, another might hate — so how does Google make the distinction between what’s great and what’s not?
Well, it’s here that Google’s so-called ‘ranking signals’ kick in. Some of these are outside of content (like page speed, mobile-friendliness, etc.), but we’ll stick specifically to the ranking signals which let Google know that a piece of content is worth a high ranking:
- Backlinks might just be the biggest indicator to Google that a piece of content is of high quality. This is especially the case if the site linking to the content has a high Domain Authority (DA). There’s a trickle-down effect in place, meaning the SEO juice from the larger site will, in turn, give the linked site a boost.
- Keyword and phrase usage is still an important ranking factor, even if it’s perhaps not as important as it once was. These days, the main thing is that Google sees the relevant keyword in the right places. For example, in the title tag, at least one <h2> heading tag, and the meta description tag. This may not be the human definition of ‘quality’, but it’s definitely one of Google’s content ranking factors — so it’s important to bear in mind.
- Time on site is another way that Google can tell whether the content it’s delivering in its search results is high enough quality to answer the user’s question. In fact, they’ve even developed a dedicated tool for this called RankBrain which we’ll cover later on — so stick around.
How can I ensure my content is indexed on Google?
Spending time creating high quality content and ensuring it’s well-optimised from a technical SEO standpoint is one thing, but it’s not everything.
You may follow all the rules, write the world’s greatest article (tantamount to genius, really), and use all the right keywords — and you still might not see your content anywhere near page 1 of Google.
Why is this?
Well, sometimes it’s a matter of luck — Google may simply not visit your website and thus not index it. Or, on the flipside, it may index the page without you even requesting it. The Googlebot works in mysterious ways.
That said, there are a few things you can do to encourage the Googlebot to visit and add your site to Google’s index.
- Be sure you have a sitemap set up for your website. This is usually found at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml and it’s a readout of all of the pages on your website. Most modern website builders, and CMS platforms like WordPress, will create your sitemap by default. Once you’ve found it, you’ll need to submit it to Google via the Google Search Console.
- Ask Google to index (or re-index) your page. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Once you have a Google Search Console account, you’ll be able to use the URL Inspection tool to run a scan of your website. If the scan doesn’t find your website already in Google’s index, you’ll see a nice helpful Request Indexing button. Just click there, sit back, and hope for the best.
As with all things in SEO (and writing for SEO), there are no guarantees, but taking care of the basics in Google Search Console is an excellent place for you to start getting your content seen organically in the Google search results.
Part IV: A (brief) introduction to Search Engine Optimisation
As you’ve learned in this guide so far, writing for SEO can be something of a science — but it can also be a bit of an art-form, too. It’s complicated like that.
Because, unlike creative writing, the goal of writing for search engines isn’t only to engage the human reader, but also to check the right boxes for search engines like Google, too. It’s this latter part that we’re going to focus on in this section: the basics of Search Engine Optimisation.
Sadly, we don’t quite have the time to share a full-blown course on SEO from top to bottom, so we’re going to keep this laser-focused on copywriting. We’ll cover the essential aspects of SEO — both technical and not-so-technical — that you should be aware of if you’re planning to create any SEO content whatsoever.
On-page and off-page SEO
SEO can broadly be broken down into two key areas: on-page and off-page.
Off-page tactics are strategies you deploy outside of your website to boost its rankings on Google. The best example is probably backlink generation, which refers to the process of encouraging (or sometimes even requesting via guest posts) other websites to link to yours.
On-page tactics — what we’re most concerned about with this guide — comprises anything you do on your website. That includes the written SEO content, the meta-tags in your site’s backend code (i.e. page descriptions and titles), and even your use of HTML headings and subheadings (h1, h2, h3, and so on).
The on-page tactics an SEO copywriter will need to be most au fait with are the use of keywords in content, how best to construct titles, headers, and subheaders, and even considerations on content length. (Here’s a hint: not too short, but not too long).
Google search is powered by a form of technical chemistry, all centred around the mysterious “algorithm”.
Nobody (other than Google themselves) truly knows exactly what the algorithm looks like or how it works, so any information about it is naturally reverse-engineered or pieced together through tidbits shared by the Google team.
What we do know is this:
- The job of the algorithm is to quickly search the database of websites indexed by Google and deliver relevant results as quickly as possible.
- The algorithm is updated regularly through scheduled “Core” updates as well as smaller, less predictable updates. Once an algorithm update goes live, sites may see their traffic volumes shift and change as a result — for better or worse. Individual algorithm updates can number into the thousands per year.
- The algorithm uses a number of ranking signals to decide which websites are placed in which position at point-of-search. These signals aren’t published, but we know they include keyword relevancy and backlinks (especially those from high authority sites).
Due to the mystery surrounding the mechanics of the Google Search algorithm, there are no straight answers when it comes to what each algorithm update will do to search results. Naturally, this results in a little trepidation from the SEO and digital marketing community every time one takes place.
That said, you can get a little ahead of the curve by following Google’s SearchLiaison account on Twitter. This account advises of any upcoming algorithm updates (although not on any particular schedule), as well as other updates to the Search experience which may impact your content’s performance in the SERPs.
One of the guiding principles of Google Search has always been to help people find what they need quickly and accurately. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need search results, because Google would be able to deliver a single result which answers the question perfectly.
But we don’t live in a perfect world — and it’s here that SEO copywriters stand a fighting chance at SERP success.
Back when Google started, in the heady days of 1998, search engines had very few signals to use as indicators of a user’s intent. If they search ‘golf shoes’, does that mean they want to buy golf shoes, or do they just want information about them? Google’s search algorithm was a blunt instrument, which is why black hat tactics like keyword stuffing became so widespread in those early ‘wild west’ days.
Today, though? It’s all about two words: search intent.
Google’s goal now is to understand exactly what a user wants to find and deliver it to them instantly, without multiple searches. This is why they introduced what’s known as semantic search.
Essentially, semantic search refers to the idea that a single keyword or phrase may have several other meanings (or intents), and so Google expands the search radius.
So, to use our example from earlier, if a user searches for ‘golf shoes’, Google may also deliver results for ‘buy golf shoes’ or ‘best golf shoes’. It’ll also leverage other data, such as local results to display shops with stock nearby. None of this was possible back in the day, and it’s all thanks to semantic search.
Here’s a top tip: want to see expanded semantically linked ideas for a certain keyword? Just scroll to the bottom of the search results and Google will show you the goods.
Another key aspect of Search Engine Optimisation, at least when it comes to content, is a tool known as Google RankBrain.
Just as mysterious in its workings as the almighty algorithm, RankBrain is an internal tool which is technically a component of the algorithm, in the sense that it helps decide which results should be placed where.
How does RankBrain work? Well, there’s some dispute about exactly what it does (and how), but here’s what we think we know:
- RankBrain is built on machine learning technology which observes the way users interact with the search results and uses this data to assign weight to certain results.
- RankBrain can adjust results dynamically based on what users click on after making a certain query. For example, if users are continuously searching for ‘world cup’ and clicking on a site about the dates of the world cup, RankBrain may begin to deliver tailored results about the time and date of the event.
Another signal RankBrain is able to consider is how quickly a user clicks on — and then off — a certain result. Here’s where great content can come in handy, because if a user immediately bounces back to the results page, it’s a good indicator to Google that the site might not deserve to be ranked highly.
The great news? If you can create content that truly engages — and keeps people on site — you’ll gain a tangible SEO benefit.
The final aspect of SEO for copywriters we’d like to cover is a newer addition to the SERPs: featured snippets.
A featured snippet is a short extract of content taken from a website which directly answers a question or query for a user. Even better, it appears right at the very top of the SERPs, giving you the ultimate, most sought-after positioning in all of SEO.
So, how do you get a featured snippet? Well, as you’ve probably come to expect, this is yet another feature which nobody truly understands.
That means we can’t tell you the exact formula to be chosen for a featured snippet, other than the fact that they’re often used to answer direct questions. It stands to reason that Q&A style content, optimised for SEO, is a good route to earning a featured snippet.
Part V: The process of writing for SEO — a step-by-step guide
So far, we’ve covered all of the foundational knowledge you need to really understand how to write for SEO. You should also have a pretty solid grasp of those areas of SEO which apply directly to content writing and SEO copywriting.
Now let’s take a step toward the practical by covering the precise steps an SEO copywriter would take in order to craft some SEO content — be it a blog post, web page, landing page, or anything else.
We’ll aim to cover every base here, from research to writing to surfacing content on Google.
So, without further ado, let’s start with the first step.
Step 1: Topic keyword research
It’s easy to assume that writing for SEO begins with the writing, but, in fact, that’s probably the thing you’ll do least of.
Ironic, we know.
But trust us — it’s all about the groundwork.
The very first step for any SEO copywriter is to understand the topic they’re approaching with their content. But there are actually two types of topic research you’ll need to do: keyword research and factual research. We’ll start with keywords.
Before you type a single word of copy as an SEO copywriter, you’ll need to know exactly which keywords and phrases to include in that copy.
Back in the day, when things were a little more ‘black hat’ than they are today, it was all about something called keyword density. Essentially this just came down to: ‘How many times can you use this word or phrase within the content?’ This was often talked about as a percentage — so, aiming for a keyword density of 5% would mean you mention your keyword 5 times for every 100 words you write.
As we’ve seen, modern SEO is much more about semantics and intent and far less about frequency. In fact, having a high keyword density today might lead to Google seeing your site as a little too spammy and thus not ranking it so highly.
So how do you find the keywords and phrases to pepper throughout your SEO writing?
Here’s a step by step using a tool we like called Ubersuggest.
1. First, open up Ubersuggest.
2. Next, type in your root keyword or phrase. In our example, (of course), we’ll use ‘golf shoes’.
3. Choose your locale, then click Search.
4. As soon as you do this, you’re going to see a dashboard packed with super useful metrics. Search Volume tells you how many users are actively searching for your phrase, SEO Difficulty (out of 100) gives you a sense of how many other people are targeting this with organic SEO work, and you can even see the cost for a front-page ad click via PPC.
5. Take some time here to look around and familiarise yourself with the information that’s available. There’s some really valuable insights tucked away here — and it’s all free. If you want even more data — straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak — you can also use the Google Keyword Planner for this.
6. Scroll down to the Keyword Ideas section and you’ll see a grid with some high-level info. Below this you’ll see a View All Keyword Ideas button. Click here and you’ll open a treasure trove of keyword research ideas.
7. Use the toggles — Related, Questions, Prepositions, etc. — to discover a wide range of related keyword ideas which you might not have thought of. This is the perfect way to ensure your SEO copywriting checks the semantic search box.
Feel free to use any of the exporting tools to document your target keywords, and then get ready to move on… to do even more research! Yay!
Step 2: Topic factual research
Okay, the next step is the other side of the research we talked about. It may not be so important for the technical SEO side of your writing project, but it’s here that the human reader part kicks in.
After all, writing for SEO won’t be any good unless people actually want to read it. With all of the advancements in the Google algorithm, the only truly reliable way to make sure your content performs (and not just for a few days) is to make it genuinely useful.
To do this, you’ll need to do your research. Here are our top tips:
- Don’t be afraid to peek at your competitors. One of the best techniques you can use when writing for SEO is to Google the term you’re targeting, then take note of what’s already ranking. Never plagiarise — that’s a golden rule — but there’s no harm in seeing what you’re up against.
- It’s okay to use Wikipedia. If you were at school during the age of the internet, you probably have an aversion to leaning on Wikipedia too much, but it’s actually a bit of a lifesaver for SEO copywriters. So long as you cite sources where necessary, you can get a lot of great (and accurate) info here.
- Look up statistics (and link back to them). Backlinks are often reciprocal, meaning if someone else sees you’ve linked to them, they might return the favour. When researching your topics, it’s always good to mention numbers and statistics, so be sure to link back to where you found them. It might just pay off double.
Step 3: The writing and publishing
Remember how we said the actual writing part of SEO writing makes up just a teeny-tiny percentage of the whole job? Well — here we are. And we meant it.
At this point, you should have at least a couple of pages of notes about your topic and perhaps a spreadsheet or two packed with keyword research ideas. From here, it’s really over to you and your creativity.
The actual writing itself can be done using any platform with which you’re comfortable, but most SEO copywriters will use the Google Docs cloud app or old-reliable, Microsoft Word. From here, it’s easy enough to adapt the content to any Content Management System, like WordPress or Webflow, for publishing.
When you do come to publish your content, here’s a quick summary of what to keep in mind:
- Include keywords and phrases in your headline and subheadline(s)
- Be sure to populate your metatags (title, description, keywords)
- Make use of bolding and italicising on certain keywords. (This might be an urban myth, but hey! Gotta cover all the bases).
- If you’re using images, make use of ‘alt text’ with your target keywords or phrases. Every little helps!
Step 4: Indexing and tracking performance
Now that your magnum opus of digital marketing is let loose upon the world… it’s time to take a deep breath. Because here comes a hard truth.
Getting results from SEO copywriting takes a long, long time.
It’s true, but don’t worry. A little patience goes a long way. Once you are being indexed and Google sees your site as an active source of fresh content, you’ll get up to speed real fast and results can be transformative.
But how do you track them?
That’s where Google Search Console comes in very handy.
This free tool allows you to link your website’s domain and will then track your organic search progress. Unlike Google Analytics, which no longer provides organic data with any depth, GSC will give you an in-depth understanding of:
- Which pieces of content are performing best.
- Which keywords or phrases are bringing visitors to your site.
- Which pages are under-performing and could thus do with an SEO spruce-up.
Once you’ve signed up for the free tool, you’ll be able to link your site and — over time — it’ll build up a picture of your organic visits.
You can use the Performance tab from the left menu to see a breakdown of your Total Clicks, Total Impressions (how many times your site appeared in the SERPs), Average CTR (Click Through Rate), Average Position, and more.
More importantly, you’ll also be able to see all of the queries people have used to find your site, and this is an excellent guide for your SEO content writing strategy.
Seeing words and phrases you didn’t want to target? Then it might be time to revisit your web content and re-optimise it for a different keyword.
If organic search success is your goal, Google Search Console is the key that’ll unlock the door.
Part VI: The best practices for SEO writing in 2020 — 8 tips for search success
At this point, you’re almost ready to take your figurative pen in hand and begin crafting content which is sure to skyrocket your site to search success.
Before you do, though, we’ve got a few key best practices we’d like to share. You’ve got the fundamentals down pat, but these pointers will really set you in good stead for kickstarting a successful content marketing strategy — from scratch — for 2020 and beyond.
1. Understand the role of search intent
We’ve already talked a lot about search intent in this guide, in reference to the technical side of SEO. But there’s another way to look at search intent, and you can encapsulate it in a single question: “What is the user looking for when they land on your website?”
Whenever you’re crafting SEO writing, it’s vital to keep in mind who you’re speaking to and why they’re visiting.
For most businesses, a user’s search intent will be to solve a problem they’re facing. In the B2C space, this might be that they need a new pair of shoes to play golf. For B2B, it could be that they need a way to manage their customer enquiries. Whatever the case, the core intent of your target audience should be at the heart of your SEO copywriting strategy, and will inform the keyword research phase of the process we detailed above.
2. Consider Google’s “mobile-first” indexing
It’s been clear for a while that mobile is going to be a big slice of internet traffic as we move forward. The Google Search team realised this back in 2018 when they introduced a change to the way they index websites — known as “mobile-first indexing”.
Put simply, Google now sees the mobile version of your site as the primary version — and the Googlebot will crawl it first. If you check your site’s stats regularly, you’ve probably seen a quick visit from a mobile user every now and then; this is usually the Googlebot doing its rounds.
Of course, this doesn’t mean your desktop site is redundant — far from it. It’s simply the order in which Google indexes your site, and it reinforces why it’s so important to have a mobile-friendly or responsive website.
Google has actually gone a little further than simply recommending that all sites are mobile-friendly. For a few years now, Google has given an SEO ranking boost to mobile-friendly websites — so there’s another reason it’s so important to get your site on the move.
3. Avoid duplicate content
There are a few different ways that Google decides what it should include in its index — and what it shouldn’t. Even once a site is indexed, there are still plenty of other factors which influence its position in the SERPs. One very important factor is duplicate content.
Google is all about helping the end user find answers, which means all of the content it serves up should be unique. If you’re publishing content you’ve already published in the past, Google will do one of two things: either ignore it as a ranking signal, or potentially even lower your site’s rank. The latter is quite unusual, and generally applies only to sites who are stealing other people’s content.
But what if you want to signal boost your content on a website like Medium? That’s a smart SEO strategy, but isn’t the content duplicated? Yes, it is — but you can use an HTML tag called rel=canonical, which is a way of telling Google: ‘Hey, this is the master version of this content, so don’t penalise me’. It’s quick and easy to add in to your site, and Medium even has a dedicated option for it in its settings screen.
4. Leverage the power of ‘evergreen’ content
Whenever you’re casually browsing the web over lunch, you’ll usually come across two types of content: topical and evergreen.
Topical content is what you’ll find in Google’s News section: time-sensitive reports about current events. Evergreen content, on the other hand, are articles expected to have a much longer lifespan.
Just like the name suggests, evergreen content is designed to be useful to people no matter when they come across it. Hey — it might even be an ultimate guide to writing for SEO like a pro… wouldn’t that be something?
If you’re looking to make an impact on SEO rankings, planning as many evergreen content topics as possible is a great place to start. No matter your niche, there are always aspects of any industry which are permanent fixtures — and there will always be people looking for information about them.
That’s where your opportunity lives.
5. Build your content with the pillar and cluster method
Speaking of evergreen content leads us very neatly onto a very specific model for SEO writing and content marketing: the pillar and cluster method.
As we’ve discussed, all industries will have certain topic areas which are ideal for covering with content — big concepts or ideas which underpin the entire niche. In addition to these big topics, there are also smaller pieces which could easily form offshoot articles of their own. It’s this concept which defines pillar and cluster.
A pillar article is a big, long, and hugely detailed article covering a specific topic. So, taking the example we’ve used so far, we might choose to write a pillar article covering the history of golf or sportswear.
From that single piece, we could then build cluster articles covering the best golf shoes, the best golf clubs — even the best golf courses in the world. It’s easy to see how content can beget content when you really start digging into the possibilities.
6. Optimize your tags and metadata
We’ve touched on this already during this guide, but modern SEO copywriting is built on a foundation of techniques dating back a couple of decades.
Most of these techniques are on the technical side of SEO, relating to keywords and the use of HTML tags to meet the criteria which used to be all-important for ranking with search engines. These days? Even without this stuff, Google is still pretty smart about what it ranks and what it doesn’t — but there’s still no reason not to do these things.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is the use of metadata and heading tags. Within the code of your website, there’s a tag for page title, description, and keywords. While there’s some debate as to whether or not the Googlebot even checks these anymore, it’s still absolutely best practice to populate them. If the competition is doing it, you probably should too.
In addition to the metadata in your site’s source code, when you’re actually crafting your SEO copy, you should also try to include your keywords or phrases in at least one <h1> heading tag (i.e. a headline) and a couple of <h2> and <h3> tags, too (sub-headlines).
Even to this day, following these basic best practices for tagging form the foundations of a successful SEO strategy.
7. Track your progress with the Google Search Console
As we discovered in our step-by-step section above, it’s tough to make real progress if you don’t actively track how you’re doing.
We strongly recommend that you mark a day in your calendar at least once per month to visit the Google Search Console in order to track how well your content is performing. Just click into that ‘Performance’ tab on the left menu and you’ll see all the relevant metrics for your content. From there, you can drill down to your heart’s content.
That said — and this part is super important — content marketing and SEO copywriting can take a long time to produce results. Just because you don’t see an uptick in your clicks in impressions within the first month does not mean you should give up and try something else — quite the opposite. Once you’ve put enough fuel (SEO content) in your digital marketing engine, and depending on the competition in your niche, you should see your numbers steadily rise the more you publish.
8. Find out who you’re trying to beat
No matter what you do in business, there’s always competition.
Writing for SEO is no different. But — unlike in other businesses — it’s super easy to find out exactly what you’re up against. Before you start work on any piece of SEO content, especially long-form pillar articles, it’s essential that you Google your target keyword and take a look at what’s currently ranking at the top.
Whatever you see in organic position #1? That’s what your article has to beat. Now, get to it champ.
Part VII: The road ahead — how to manage and nurture your SEO content strategy
Phew! Still with us? We’ve covered quite a bit, but we’re not quite done just yet.
The last thing we’d like to cover in this guide to writing SEO like a pro is how to manage your content marketing strategy going forward.
Writing one or two high-performing pieces and rising through the ranks of Google’s SERPs is quite an achievement — but how do you make it sustainable? How do you reduce your reliance on paid search platforms like Google Ads and instead take control of your own marketing through organic content?
For that, you’ll need a long-term plan — and that’s known in the business as a content calendar.
Here’s how to create one.
Step 1: Choose the scale of your content calendar
The aim of your content calendar is to plot out a consistent flow organic content to fuel your content marketing strategy. It stands to reason, then, that the place to start is with a timeline.
The scope of your content calendar is entirely up to you, and to some extent will depend on your business and industry, but planning up to a quarter (3 months) in advance seems to be the sweet spot.
Step 2: Consider your cadence
Using a spreadsheet tool like Excel or Google Sheets, create a timeline spanning the scale you’ve chosen.
Next, break the timeline down into slots based on the cadence you’d like to publish your content. There’s no right or wrong here, and it’ll all depend on your business, how much time you can dedicate to writing for SEO, and the results you’re looking to achieve.
Generally speaking, you should aim to publish at least once per week, but a two-weekly or even a monthly cadence is an option too. You do you.
Step 3: Populate your content calendar
Now it’s time for the fun part.
In each of the slots you’ve built into your content calendar, start adding in ideas for articles which might work well for those dates. Here you want to think about seasonality: is it the holidays? Valentine’s Day? Winter? Summer? Is there something big (and not too serious) going on in the world you can cover?
All of these angles will help you hit a more topical note, but you also want to mix in some more SEO-led pieces too, depending on your goals.
When you’re building your content calendar in this way, there’s one thing you should always remember: be adaptable. Sometimes you might plan something a month in advance, then the world changes in an unpredictable way, and that content just won’t work anymore.
Think of your content calendar as a “living” document, and it’ll steer you in the right direction.
With any luck, it’ll be on the first page of Google (but no promises).
Step 4: Even if you ignore everything else, be consistent
If there’s one thing that the Google algorithm loves more than anything else, it’s regular content.
If the Googlebot knows that it’ll find fresh content every time it crawls your site, you’ll find it’ll visit much more often. This means that more of your pages will be added to the index, topical pieces will receive a boost for relevancy, and you’ll benefit from the sheer volume factor, too.
How many times have you visited a website, headed to its ‘blog’ page, then found a ghost town? No updates since April 2014? Oh dear. That’s not the way to SEO success.
So, even if you ignore every other piece of advice we’ve given in this guide, just be sure to publish content regularly and consistently.
One last thing…
That’s really all there is to it. From here, you simply need to prepare for launch, hit the big red button, and you’re off.
Before we leave you to your own SEO writing odyssey, here are a couple of parting tips for keeping things on course:
- If you’re having a tough time thinking of ideas for your content calendar, don’t be afraid to rope in colleagues from other departments. Sometimes something as seemingly simple as a founder interview can net big gains in SEO terms.
- Mix in some evergreen content where possible. Just like we discussed above, evergreen content is the foundation of a great content strategy. If you’re able to take a position of authority with content like this, you’ll find yourself in a very cosy position in the SERPs.
- Feel free to update your content when it goes a bit stale. There’s a rumour out there that editing existing content on your site might affect SEO rankings — but that’s just not true. In fact, Google now factors in content ‘freshness’, meaning if you make a change to an older article with new information, Google may notice that and give you a boost. This is why you’ll see a lot of “(Updated for 2020)” tacked on to the end of titles at the moment.
Next steps: Where will your content strategy take you?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but — with a little luck — you’ve got everything you need to begin creating the high-quality content Google looks for and start ranking your site more highly in the SERPs.
Not only that, but you should also have some of the technical fundamentals of SEO down too — so you’ll be whipping up meta-descriptions and posting sitemaps in no time.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned here at Scribly, it’s that content marketing works. We’re living proof, after all.
But it also takes time — and it takes effort.
If you love the idea of content marketing, and you understand exactly how powerful it can be for rocketing your site up the organic listings, it might be time to say hello to the Scribly team.
For more information about how our bespoke content marketing packages could help you supercharge your digital strategy — drop us a line today.