When the art of SEO and the art of writing is combined, true digital success – for search engine rankings, user experience, and the overall brand, whether personal or business – occurs.
The best SEO writing is a perfect combination of:
- Expertise/knowledge on a specific topic.
- Deep understanding
- SEO best practices in writing.
SEO is essential for any online writing, particularly in terms of keyword research and correctly mapping those keywords to pages/posts.
Readers can tell the difference between an authoritative voice and a fake voice almost immediately.
Whether you’re looking for conversions, brand awareness, or something else, your writing must be authoritative (and authentic).
With that in mind, here are the top 42 writing tips for any content writer in any company, from billion-dollar software designers to small-town pest control companies.
The emphasis is shifting more toward the craft of writing itself, which will inevitably lead to the creation of high-quality content that search engines require.
Writing for SEO: The Essentials
1. Consider keywords first
Before you can have an impact on your target audience, your writing must be found. This is why keyword research should always come before any other type of research or writing.
This keyword research will also have a significant impact on your research because you will discover other ways your target audience is searching for your topic.
Search engine algorithms, no matter how intelligent they become, cannot recognize the best voice in a piece of writing. However, if you include keywords, you have a better chance of being heard.
Are you new to keywords? Check out this keyword research for beginners guide.
2. Treat keyword research as if it were an art form
Thousands of keyword research articles are available. Investigate, discover, and put to the test what works best for you.
As an example…
Make this a cyclical process. I create content calendars in three-month increments, conducting new keyword research at the start of each cycle.
Industries change, and new keywords become popular faster than you might think.
3. Examine Keyword Competition
There are numerous tools available to assist you in locating competitor keywords.
Take only keywords – don’t look at your competitors’ actual writing. Once you’ve done that, you’ll sound like them and struggle to come up with something unique. You’ll be heard if you have a unique voice.
4. Select one or two keywords for each page or blog (Except Homepage)
Always use broader terms on your main “parent” pages and longer terms on the “child” pages that follow.
Targeting searcher intent first and volume second will help you understand what your target customer wants.
5. Emphasize keywords where they are most important
Use your keyword in the following (in order of importance) to send strong signals of the content’s intent to search engines:
- The title tag.
- Internal hyperlinks within the content
- Image alt attribute
- Headline tags (always include an H1)
- Description of the meta.
6. Make use of bold and bullet points. Whenever It Is Possible
Google takes these into account, including when awarding featured snippets.
When possible, use target keywords in bold and bullet points.
7. The Title Tag: The Most Potent Element
Make sure your target keyword is included in the title tag, preferably near the beginning.
Also, keep in mind that title tags should be about 60 characters long, so devote as much time to this as you do to content creation.
Target three of the most important keywords that describe the business/website for the homepage title tag.
Always consider storytelling. Maintain a straightforward approach. Speak your target audience’s language. And write to sway that click-through.
8. Include Related Keywords
Don’t just stuff keywords in after you’ve finished writing.
If you’ve done your keyword research thoroughly, keep a list of topically related keywords handy as you write.
If you stay on topic, you will naturally insert related keywords.
9. Incorporate Your Target Keyword Into Your Meta Description
According to Google, the meta description is not a ranking factor.
However, if someone searches for that specific keyword or phrase, those words will be highlighted.
Bolding draws attention – and may persuade a searcher to click rather than scroll by.
Also, write your meta description in the style of ad copy. The goal is to pique the audience’s interest to persuade them to click (your title tag should be the first influencer, immediately backed by your meta description).
Writing for SEO: Techniques and Routines
10. Write. Rewrite. Then Rewrite Again. Until It’s Right.
It all comes down to routine and process.
As William Zinsser states in his book “Writing to Learn:”
“Only by applying the process repeatedly – writing and rewriting, pruning and shaping – can we hammer out clear and simple product.”
11. Outline and Strategy
It’s much easier for a mind to think (and a search engine to read) in chunks, and for those chunks to be seen coherently.
Most people naturally want to write in the style of Jack Kerouac – but this isn’t novel writing. The majority of us are writing for a business to help that business succeed.
Organize headlines and fill in the blanks (for SEO with keywords!).
The headlines are sometimes more important than the words beneath them. Make those headlines scream ideas, and the words shout to back up those screams.
12. Compose a Sentence by Sentence
For the first draft, open Word or Google Docs in landscape mode and write sentence by sentence.
Don’t start writing paragraphs until you’ve completed your first round of edits.
Charles Euchner, author of “The Elements of Writing,” taught me this tip.
Single-line sentences help to keep the mind sharp. They’ll aid in the organization of your thoughts as you begin editing.
Consider each sentence to be short – like a 140-character tweet – and embrace short writing.
13. Write every day
When the input is combined with corresponding relaxing points, a muscle grows.
Accept that your mind works in the same way.
Again, write every day to strengthen your writing muscles, followed by some relaxation.
Never put a stop to the development of your writing muscles.
14. Turn off your Wi-Fi
Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” offers this advice.
This simple practice maintains focus and prevents the mind from responding to anything outside of your focus.
Distractions change the mood. Make those distractions disappear.
15. Have any questions? Inquire with Your Digital Assistant
The Wi-Fi may be turned off, but there are times when you need immediate answers to questions that are bothering you. Some people can’t work unless they answer questions.
The solution is straightforward: simply ask Alexa, Siri, or your Google Assistant.
I keep an Amazon Echo Dot near my desk for quick research.
I have an Echo Show, but it doesn’t belong in the office, where the video factor can quickly distract you. That one is still downstairs, away from the office.
16. Read Everything You Can
Read the writers who simplify everything in particular.
People may dislike Hunter S. Thompson because of his politics or his wild lifestyle, but his prose is crisp and straightforward. “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was read in one sitting by me.
(And not just once, but perhaps ten times when I needed a push into something I couldn’t possibly finish and needed to take a mental breath.)
If you’re interested in business, Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth” is also a quick read. It’s straightforward and informative.
17. Don’t Wait For Inspiration
There is no such thing as inspiration unless you prefer to talk about writing rather than do it.
True writers write every day, making it a way of life that contributes to the development of “art.” It takes discipline and practice to make things happen.
After practice and discipline, words simply flow better and easier. Nothing happens unless the practice is kept simple.
18. Go over The Essentials
Read William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” for more on traditional writing. Don’t read it just once. Once a year, reread it.
Read Roy Peter Clark’s “How to Write Short” for “short” writing that has an impact in the digital age.
Don’t just stop there. “The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher” and “Ernest Hemingway On Writing” are two books to read.
19. Experiment with Longhand Writing
This article was inspired by notes I took while flying over the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Valencia, Spain.
Flying is an excellent time to think and use longhand. It also takes your attention away from the snoring passenger next to you.
Write in longhand in cabs, buses, meetings, and so on. Try it, and go over your notes again before you start typing.
20. Write About What You Are Passionate About
To truly master the written word, embrace writing that makes you happy – regardless of whether it will make you money. The more you write, the better your writing will become.
Short writing inspires (regardless of how ridiculous it feels or reads at times!).
21. Ask questions on a daily basis
Friends, family, wife, children, or anyone else. Ask questions all the time.
Regardless of your industry, the more you learn, the more you can provide readers (potential business prospects).
The highlights of learning are questions. Allow people to express themselves.
Consider the 80/20 rule: let others speak for 80 percent of the time while you listen, and you can speak for the remaining 20% of the time.
One day, your readers will thank you.
22. Understand Your Audience and Write For Them
Remember to maintain your voice and style.
That’s how you distinguish yourself from the zillions of other content writers out there.
23. Do You Work Better Under Pressure?
The pressure of a deadline can drive creativity out of some people.
If this is the case for you, request that project managers move your deadlines up.
This is something I do with my teams, sometimes as far ahead as four weeks.
24. Base Your Work on Questions
Always ask, “What’s the problem, and how can I provide a clear solution?”
It’s equally important to consider, “Will readers care?”
This helps to keep your voice credible and authoritative, which pleases both search engines and readers.
25. Break Down Large Projects Into Smaller Tasks
Write all of the headlines first (remember to include target keywords in them), then fill in the blanks.
This applies equally well whether you’re writing a 2,500-word piece on writing craft or a 750-word piece for a client discussing technical aspects of a product.
26. Always Keep the End in Mind
Knowing where your content is leading will help you keep your writing focus sharp and will help you achieve the ultimate goal of most online writing – a conversion – more frequently.
27. Examine Your Spelling and Grammar
If a name is misspelled, the article immediately loses credibility.
If you use sloppy grammar in your content, the reader will question your authority.
Check again after you’ve checked for spelling and grammar errors.
28. Pursue Credibility
You will lose any chance of capturing an audience’s attention if you lack credibility.
Spreading false information exacerbates the situation.
Allow extra time for research and fact-checking.
29. Keep The 10-Second Rule in Mind When Editing
This applies to every paragraph, especially the first paragraph and meta description.
You want to immediately capture — and hold — the reader’s attention.
Is the article deserving of further discussion? If this is the case, and you have appropriate CTAs, this can help move readers one step closer to conversion.
30. Write Strong Sentences and Paragraphs for SEO
The strongest words should be used to start and end a sentence.
The most powerful sentences should appear at the beginning and end of a paragraph.
This keeps the slower, more in-depth material in the middle and the most important ideas in front of the reader.
31. Become Obsessed With Voice Clarity
Clean writing reflects a clear mindset, which people (clients!) require.
Starbucks, for example, uses both functional and expressive language in its marketing to clarify its voice.
Or Mailchimp’s voice is straightforward with a dash of dry humor.
32. Maintain a Clutter-Free Writing Environment
Maintain a straightforward approach.
Get right to the point of what you’re saying.
Remove all unnecessary words.
Reduce sentences to their most basic form.
33. Avoid Using Excess Adverbs and Adjectives
If the verb or noun cannot perform the explanation, it is not strong enough. More information on writing with adverbs and adjectives can be found here.
34. Use Both Long and Short Sentences
A variety of sentence lengths aids in the creation of rhythm in your content.
This is popular with readers.
35. Brief paragraphs Allow Your Mind to Breathe
Short paragraphs should be used frequently.
Psychologically, space between paragraphs requires less energy to read, saving that prospect’s energy for the sale/lead.
36. Use Active Verbs Whenever Possible
The active verb in this sentence is “Use.”
The mind shifts in the absence of active verbs. It strays.
You have lost an audience… or a sale.
Make it clear what action the reader should take next.
37. Avoid Clichés at all costs
Do you get what I’m saying?
Favorite SEO Tricks
38. Listen to Your Favorite Music
Why not send a letter to it? Some types of music will elicit a wide range of emotions on the page before you realize it, so the more the merrier.
I went from Coltrane to Infected Mushroom to Hendrix to SRV to Dimmu Borgir to Breaking Benjamin to Chopin while writing this.
Wes Montgomery was my go-to guy for editing.
Music can aid in the flow of words, so embrace it all.
39. Dedicate Yourself To The Most Serious Writing
In the morning, I’m usually awake by 5:30 a.m. That is when my mind is at its most alert.
Every morning, I set aside a few hours for my most serious writing.
40. Carry a tablet with you to jot down ideas
If you think better in longhand, carry a small tablet to jot down ideas rather than relying on your phone.
My favorite tablets are Moleskine because they are thin and fit into books, which I always have with me when traveling.
A book only has so much margin space for ideas; a tablet solves this problem while keeping you off the phone.
41. For Clients: Consider an 80/20 split for the first few engagements
Concentrate on the 20% of your writing that will produce 80% of the results for the client’s sales. How?
Simple: always start a content strategy with the highest ROI products. This demonstrates the value and will contribute to the overall qualified keywords you want them to rank for.
42. Remember to Get Away From It All Writers
who have the true minds to create and provide value to clients require a break from time to time.
“Half-day Wednesday” is one of my weekly strategies for rest and reenergizing. I tune out and either play guitar, hike or ride motorcycles… whatever is required.
This mid-week break keeps the mind fresh and clear, resulting in positive workflow and, ultimately, happy clients.
Creating conversion-oriented content necessitates not only the art of SEO but also the craft of writing.
Accept both if you’re serious about providing the most value to your readers or the readers of your clients, whom you naturally want to convert from prospects to customers.
Also, keep in mind that the appeal and popularity of strong content will only grow over time online.
Consider SEO writing to a business as compounding interest to an investor – if you have the patience and discipline to do it right, the results should speak for themselves.
Learn more from SEO and read SEO Best Practices: How to Write Outstanding Meta Descriptions.