SEO content writing makes it possible to build authority, gain an audience, and increase conversions, all without a huge budget.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is SEO content writing?
  2. SEO content writing vs. regular content writing
  3. 3 steps to get started with SEO content writing
  4. 9 best practices for SEO content creation
  5. How to track the performance of your SEO content writing
  6. How SEO content can benefit your digital marketing efforts

To increase your online visibility and engage both search engines and readers effectively, mastering SEO content writing is essential. 

SEO content writing focuses on optimizing written content to rank higher in search engine results, while also addressing the interests and queries of your target audience. 

We spoke with HawkSEM’s SEO Manager, Hayden Pochop, and Senior Content Marketing Manager, Caroline Cox, to discuss best practices for SEO content writing.

Young female blogger working at home.She sitting in her working

Creating SEO-friendly content can bring tons of benefits to your business, even beyond the increase in organic traffic you can expect. (Image: Adobe Stock)

What is SEO content writing?

SEO content writing is the process of writing content with the goal of ranking highly on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Now, let’s back up and quickly define SEO, or search engine optimization.

SEO is an essential part of any marketing plan. It’s all about leveraging strategies to improve your website’s ranking on SERPs. When a web user searches Google or another search engine for a keyword or phrase that your website is targeting, the hope is that your website will appear near the top of the results. Your SEO efforts can help make it happen.

You can apply SEO concepts to countless types of content in your content strategy, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Landing pages
  • Infographics
  • Featured snippets
  • Social media posts

SEO content writing vs. regular content writing

While regular content writing is explicitly written for humans to read, SEO content writing focuses on appealing to humans and search engines in order to get ranked highly on the SERP. 

The kicker is search engines rank content by what they deem to be most useful and appealing to readers. So it’s always good practice to create content with the user in mind first.

It’s also worth asking: What’s the difference between SEO content writing and typical copywriting?

SEO content is traditionally created to inform or educate the reader (while improving search engine rankings). On the other hand, copywriting is intended to convert readers into buyers. SEO copywriting includes elements of both traditional copywriting and SEO-focused content.

SEO content writers often have experience in multiple facets of content creation and know how to tweak a piece’s terminology and tone depending on the campaign’s ultimate goal.

3 steps to get started with SEO content writing

  1. Verify that you’re on Google
  2. Explore plugins
  3. Decide between in-house or agency writers

Now that we know what SEO content is and why it’s important, how do you actually create it? 

There are plenty of SEO agencies out there that can assist with everything from research and strategy to creation and distribution. But it’s entirely possible to handle your content needs in-house as well.

If you’re handling your own content creation needs, here’s how to get started.

1. Verify that you’re on Google

First, make sure your website is in Google’s index.

To do this, just perform a search for your website’s main URL. If your website shows up, you’re good to go. If not, you may have to help Google find your website.

Google uses automated software called “crawlers” to find and index pages from across the web. If your site isn’t in Google SERPs yet, it could mean that your website is difficult to navigate or isn’t connected to many other websites.

Often, companies with new websites simply have to wait until Google can crawl the site and index it accordingly. In other cases, you may need to adjust your permissions or adjust the layout of your site to make it easier to get around. Google offers insights on their crawling process if you want to learn more.

2. Explore plugins

When you’re creating SEO content on a platform like WordPress, you can often find helpful plugins to improve your writing in a snap.

Plugins work similarly to extensions on your browser. They can help with everything from optimizing your descriptions to ensuring you use keywords effectively. 

You can also find plugins to help track your metrics, analyze your backlinks, and even identify gaps in your site that could be preventing you from ranking.

Yoast SEO is among the most popular WordPress plugins, and for good reason. It offers features like on-page SEO insights, SERP previews, meta description ratings, and more. Plus, it’s free!

Pochop explains, “As a digital marketer and SEO, I try to find any way possible to optimize my time and make daily tasks easier, and plug-ins provide just that.” He says a few of his favorite plug-ins include:

  • Keywords Everywhere: Keywords Everywhere is a valuable tool that provides in-depth keyword research data directly in SERPs in real-time.
  • META SEO Inspector: Made for web developers, this plug-in allows you to easily inspect the metadata found inside web pages in one click, saving countless steps in the process.
  • SEO Minion: The Swiss army knife of SEO plug-ins, SEO Minion helps in daily SEO tasks such as On-Page SEO analysis, Broken Link Checking, SERP Preview and more.

3. Decide between in-house or agency writers

Many companies choose to write all their content themselves. But if writing isn’t your strong suit, or you simply don’t have the time to create your own content, it may be time to consider working with an SEO agency to outsource your writing needs.

Not sure whether you should work with an agency? Consider this tip Cox:

“If you’re having trouble with content-related tasks like coming up with topic ideas, quality content writing, maximizing your content’s reach, promotion, or publishing consistently, then these are all things that an SEO content agency can assist with.”

laptop open on a table

SEO requires more than good content. It also involves improving your website itself and making it quick and easy to navigate. (Image: Unsplash)

9 best practices for SEO content creation

  1. Keep your audience top of mind
  2. Take keyword research seriously
  3. Create a content calendar
  4. Pay attention to on-page SEO
  5. Build relationships and authority with backlinks
  6. Leverage topic clusters and pillar pages
  7. Implement voice search optimization
  8. Focus on content freshness and updates
  9. Stay informed on algorithm updates

If you’re diving in and creating content independently, here are some best practices.

1. Keep your audience top of mind

We mentioned that SEO content writing is designed to appeal to search engines, while regular content writing is focused on humans. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about your human readers while you’re focused on SEO. You need your content to have a good readability score and easily be followed by your target audience. You can do this by breaking up sections and giving clear headers, as well as using bullet points and other formatting options that help readers scan your content. 

In fact, search engines are discouraging content marketers from writing only for them. In late 2022, Google announced its “helpful content update,” saying content that seems to be targeted at search engines (instead of content aimed at helping or informing people) would be penalized. 

Struggling to create content that audiences are actively seeking out? “Consistency, refreshing, quality, and relevance are all crucial to the success of SEO content,” Cox explains. “To maintain good spots on the SERP, your content needs to be accurate, thorough, and well-written.”

She adds that it’s also key for your content to speak to your target audience and help them in some way, whether that’s solving a problem, answering a question, or educating them about a subject.

“If you’re having trouble with SEO content creation,” Cox adds, “then partnering with an agency or consultant could help you get things back on track so you can stay competitive and gain or maintain good SERP visibility.”

2. Take keyword research seriously

To get your content in front of your target audience, you first have to know what they’re searching for. That’s why keyword research is so important – it helps you find relevant keywords for your SEO content to target. There are plenty of SEO tools to help you with your research, many of which are free or low-priced. You can find a wide range of keyword research tools across the web, and many content management systems like WordPress have SEO assistance features.

When compiling your initial keyword list, consider:

  • Search intent – What is your ideal prospect trying to achieve when they perform a search, and do your keywords align with that intent?
  • Search volume – How many searches does the keyword or phrase get each day, week, or month? Is the search volume too high to give you a decent chance of ranking?
  • Striking distance – Which keywords are you ranking semi-decently for, and how can you give them an extra boost?
  • Usability – Can you create relevant and engaging content to match each keyword?
  • Variety – Are you targeting a combination of short- and long-tail keywords? Have you also included keyword variants to cover all your bases?
  • Competition – who are currently ranking on the first page of Google for those keywords. How good is their content, and will it be easy to outrank them?

When you start writing your content, choose a target keyword for the piece. You should also pick a few related keywords to incorporate throughout.

Strategically incorporate keywords in the H1 tags, page titles, introductions, alt text for images, and anchor text for internal links. This approach ensures search engines and users can easily understand the relevance of your content, improving its visibility and ranking on SERPs. Proper keyword placement helps signal the main topics of your website content, enhancing its SEO performance and user engagement.

Pro tip: While including keywords throughout your content is important, avoid keyword stuffing. When you put too many keywords in a blog post or on a webpage, Google may believe that you’re trying to manipulate the algorithm, which they consider a “black-hat” or unethical tactic. Your page could wind up being recommended lower in SERPs as a result.

3. Create a content calendar

You’ve got enough to do in a day without having to remember where you are in the content process. That’s where a content marketing calendar can come in handy.

Creating a piece of content is so much more than firing off some thoughts and posting it to your social media channels. Besides the actual writing, content creation requires keyword research, outlining, finding and adding links, including visuals, editing, posting, engaging with readers… the list goes on.

A content calendar can keep your team on the same page and ensure consistent content is produced. You can schedule every aspect of the creation process and include everyone from your content writers to your editors, social media team, and more.

Overwhelmed at the prospect of having to publish new content constantly? Good news! You don’t always have to create brand-new content to keep delivering information and insights to your audience.

Cox offers some strategies for repurposing content:

“There are many ways to repurpose SEO content. If you’ve got a blog post that’s getting a good amount of traffic, you can consider turning that topic into a podcast episode, a more in-depth downloadable guide, or taking a quote and turning it into a graphic for a social media post,” she says.

“You can also take webinar clips and upload them onto video platforms like YouTube and even embed the clips into relevant blogs.”

4. Pay attention to on-page SEO

SEO requires more than good content. It also involves improving your website itself and making it quick and easy to navigate.

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your webpages to earn those precious organic searches and higher SERP ranking. Several SEO ranking factors fall into the “on-page SEO” category, including:

  • Mobile performance
  • Page speed
  • Security
  • Proper URL structure
  • Image optimization

When you’re thinking about optimizing your website, you’ve got more to consider than the body of your content. Include your keywords of choice in your headings, subheadings, meta title (also called a title tag), meta description, and image descriptions.

5. Build relationships and authority with backlinks

Now, let’s discuss off-page SEO.

As you might be able to guess, off-page SEO refers to strategies deployed outside of your own website. The goal remains the same: improving your performance within search engine rankings.

One of the most common ways to improve off-page SEO is through link building. Backlinks (or inbound links) are links on other websites that lead back to your website.

Let’s say you’ve produced an in-depth blog post on a common industry topic. An influencer in your industry refers to your blog post when they’re creating content, and they include a link to your original post. When readers click the link, they’re taken from the influencer’s website to yours, increasing your traffic.

When other websites link to your content, it proves to search engines that your work is valuable and relevant to your audience. As you gain more backlinks from trusted industry sources, you’ll see your SEO rankings continue to improve.

Pochop, says, “The most trusted way of obtaining backlinks is by producing informative and engaging content that adds value and naturally attracts backlinks. The goal is to provide value to others!”

He goes on to say there are several other great ways to build quality backlinks, such as:

  • Resource Link Building: Create comprehensive guides, tools, or resources that others will want to link to as references in their own content.
  • Guest Blogging: Contribute guest posts to reputable websites in your industry, including a backlink to your site within the content
  • Online Outreach: Reach out to webmasters or bloggers in your niche via email or social media, offering your content as a valuable resource for their audience and requesting a backlink.

If you’re interested in learning more about backlinks, Semrush has a comprehensive guide that may prove helpful. (See? That’s a backlink right there!)

6. Leverage topic clusters and pillar pages

Organize your content into topic clusters that revolve around a central pillar page, enhancing your site’s architecture and making it easier for search engines to understand and rank your content. 

This approach helps cover a topic thoroughly, gives you plenty of opportunities to create internal links, and establish your site as an authority on specific subjects.

Additionally, you can focus on crafting high-quality content that offers in-depth insights into a subject. Instead of scratching the surface of several aspects of a topic in one article, delve deeper into each area with their own separate articles. 

This approach not only positions your content as a valuable resource for readers seeking thorough understanding but also enhances your authority in the subject matter. 

By providing detailed analyses, case studies, or how-to guides, you can address your audience’s needs more effectively and improve your content’s performance in search rankings. This depth of information encourages longer engagement times, increases the likelihood of backlinks, and can lead to higher visibility and credibility in your niche.

7. Implement voice search optimization

According to NPR and Edison Research, 62% of Americans use a voice assistant on any device. With the rise of voice-activated devices, optimize your content for voice search by including conversational keywords and phrases that people are likely to use when speaking. 

This involves targeting question-based queries and long-tail keywords that reflect natural language usage, improving your visibility in voice search results.

8. Focus on content freshness and updates

Regularly update your existing content to keep it relevant and current. This ensures that the valuable content you created doesn’t lose its shine – or its rankings.

Search engines favor up-to-date information, and revising older posts with new data, links, and information can significantly boost your rankings. 

Additionally, refreshing your content encourages repeat visits, signaling to search engines that your site remains a valuable resource over time.

9. Stay informed on algorithm updates

Search engines like Google and Bing frequently update their algorithms to improve user experience and deliver more relevant results. 

Staying up-to-date on these changes allows you to adapt your SEO strategy accordingly. Regularly review your SEO practices and content to ensure you are keeping in line with the latest guidelines and leverage new opportunities for ranking improvements. 

This proactive approach can safeguard your site against potential penalties and helps you capitalize on shifts in search trends, ensuring your content continues to perform well in SERPs.

How to track the performance of your SEO content writing

You can’t know if your content marketing efforts are successful if you aren’t tracking the right metrics. Determine what you’re trying to accomplish with a specific piece of content (or content campaign) to help you decide which metrics are worth paying attention to.

Some of the most common metrics to track include:

  • Organic traffic growth: This metric indicates the number of visitors coming to your site from search engines. A steady increase in organic traffic suggests your content resonates with your target audience, and your SEO strategies are effective. Tracking organic traffic helps identify trends, peak interest areas, and potential content gaps.
  • Keyword rankings: Understanding where your content ranks for targeted keywords in search results can offer insights into visibility and competitiveness. You can check your rankings on Google Search Console, with high rankings often meaning that your content is deemed relevant and authoritative by search engines, driving more traffic to your site.
  • Engagement metrics: Metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session provide insights into how users interact with your content. High engagement indicates that your content is relevant, valuable, and meets the audience’s needs, contributing positively to SEO performance.
  • Conversion rate: This measures the effectiveness of your content in converting visitors into leads or customers. A high conversion rate indicates that your content is not only attracting quality traffic but also compelling enough to encourage actionable outcomes aligned with your business goals.

“There are a few key metrics you should be monitoring if you want to continually grow your online presence organically through content marketing,” says Pochop. He says the most important include:

  • Organic Traffic: An easy indicator of quality content is when more people are attracted to it! Track the volume of website visitors coming from organic search results to measure content’s impact on driving traffic. “Focus on retaining existing visitors while continuing to attract new ones,” says Pochop.
  • Keyword Rankings: Monitor the positions of target keywords in SERPs to assess content visibility and effectiveness. The more value you provide the end user through content, the more likely you’ll climb to the top spots on search engines like Google for key terms.
  • Click-Through-Rate (CTR): Analyze the percentage of users who click on your content’s link in search results compared to the number of users who saw it. “Outperforming competitors in organic CTR can lead to higher visibility and market share on SERPs, as well as potentially lower advertising costs for those running PPC campaigns as organic traffic is at no additional cost,” explains Pochop.

Many of these metrics can be tracked in Google Analytics or Google Search Console, which are both free tools. By keeping an eye on these metrics, you can gain valuable insights about the effectiveness of your content. For instance, if your bounce rate is particularly high on one blog post, it could indicate that you’re not targeting the right keywords (meaning that your post isn’t reaching the best audience). 

How SEO content can benefit your digital marketing efforts

SEO content is about more than ranking in the search engines. It’s about creating helpful content that enhances the user’s experience. Here are some ways SEO content is beneficial for your marketing campaigns.

Maximize your SERP visibility

SEO content writing directly influences your website’s ranking, capitalizing on the fact that the first Google result attracts over 25% of clicks. This steep drop-off in click-through rate emphasizes how important it is to secure a top spot to maximize visibility and organic traffic.

Drive qualified traffic

By focusing on user intent and crafting content that answers specific queries, SEO content writing attracts visitors who are more likely to convert. This enhances the effectiveness of your digital marketing funnel.

Build brand authority

High-quality, SEO-optimized content establishes your brand as a thought leader in your industry. This fosters trust and credibility among your target audience.

Enhances user engagement

Well-researched and engaging SEO content increases the time visitors spend on your site. This signals that your website provides value to search engines, further boosting your rankings.

Supports long-term growth

Unlike PPC campaigns that offer immediate but temporary results, SEO content writing delivers sustained organic growth, making it a pivotal strategy for long-term success in digital marketing.

The takeaway

There’s a way to create content that keeps both the SERP and your target audience top of mind. The key is to focus on the right keywords, high-quality writing, and proper optimization.


This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2023.

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