SEO Content Writing 101: How to Create SEO Articles

Woman typing an SEO article on a computer

An SEO content writer works on an article on her computer.

We’ve given people plenty of guidance about writing over the years, from how to use a semicolon to how to avoid common typos to how to write title tags and meta descriptions. But we’ve never addressed the entire process of SEO content writing from start to finish, adding up all of the factors that make for high-quality content. So if you’ve ever wondered how to write online content that grabs readers’ attention and makes clients happy, grab a pad and pencil: Let’s go back to basics with a step-by-step approach to how to write SEO content for a website.

What Is an SEO Article?

At its heart, an SEO article is one that’s written to help a website attract readers. It can take the form of an informational page or a blog post. Informational pages can also be broken down into types: Some are educational, while others aim to tell the reader about a product and get them to buy it.
“SEO” stands for “search engine optimization,” which is an entire profession devoted to making websites easier to find and easier to use for readers: SEO writing is just one part of it, but it’s one of the most important parts.

What Skills Should a Content Writer Have?

A hand writes the word Quality with a pen

The key to being a good SEO content writer is being able to produce high-quality, reader-focused writing.

Years ago, an SEO content writer didn’t need to be much of a writer at all: In fact, some websites even used computer-generated content. But today, clients need content that’s actually good: interesting, relevant content that tells the reader what they want to know. An SEO content writer needs to be able to write concise, engaging content, just like any other kind of writer.

How to Write Content for Websites

Here are the major SEO content writing best practices:

  1. Tell the reader what they want to know.
  2. Write clear, engaging content.
  3. Use keywords in a natural-sounding way.
  4. Don’t add fluff to increase the word count.
  5. Use formatting to improve readability.
  6. Link to other good resources.
  7. Use photos to help tell the story.
  8. Create a good title tag and meta description.
  9. Always read it one more time before you let it go.

Let’s break down these tips for SEO content writing one by one.

1. Tell the reader what they want to know.

To write high-quality content, SEO writers need to start by making sure that the piece says what it needs to say. Look at the title of the piece and the keyword phrases you’ll need to use, and think about the user intent behind them. If you read that title at the top of an article, what would you expect the article below it to tell you? If you were searching in Google using those keyword phrases, what would you be hoping to find?

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes for a minute. If you’re searching for “vinyl vs. wood siding,” for instance, what might you be looking to learn? It might be, “Which type of siding is more durable?” Or it might be, “What’s the difference in cost between these two things?” Maybe it’s, “Which one of these is more eco-friendly?” Make sure that you answer the reader’s questions, both directly stated and implied.

2. Write clear, engaging content.

Don’t bore the reader. Write in the active voice, avoiding passive sentences and the expletive construction (“There are ___ that ___”). Aim to be clear and direct; don’t bog your writing down with fluff. Use effective transitions to guide the reader through the piece. And make sure to write in a tone that fits your audience: Not everything should sound like a college research paper. If you’re writing for children, use age-appropriate language; if you’re writing a blog post, make it sound casual, like a real person would sound if they were writing for their blog.

3. Use keywords in a natural-sounding way.

The word Keywords emerges from the word SEO, which emerges from the word Web

Within the Web are pages with good SEO, and within pages with good SEO are well-placed keywords.

Keyword phrases are important because they help people searching in Google to find your page. But it’s crucial that you use them in a way that sounds like a real human being would sound. That means making sure that they’re grammatical: Go ahead and add punctuation to them if you need to to make this happen, or add a stop word, like an article or preposition, if that’s what you have to do.

Also, remember that more is not always better. While you’ll want to use high-value keyword phrases multiple times if you can, that doesn’t mean that you should shove them in in a redundant-sounding way. If you can’t fit in a keyword phrase without having it sound forced, add more content to give you somewhere to put it. Don’t sacrifice readability for keywords.

4. Don’t add fluff to increase the word count.

If you’ve been given a word count to meet, don’t write with that in mind: Just write the amount that you need to tell the reader what they want to know. If you come up short, don’t ramble, repeat yourself, or add pointless fluff. Instead, think of something else to add, something that makes the article more informative or interesting, not just longer.

5. Use formatting to improve readability.

One big block of text can be daunting to read, and most people won’t have the patience to wade through it looking for the bits of information they wanted to know. Instead, use headings to break up the text and make it easier to navigate for the reader. Using headings can also help you to make sure that your writing is well-organized. And incidentally, headings are great places to use keyword phrases, too.

Lists can also be great tools to help make text more scannable for the reader, as can tables. Consider the type of information you’re presenting, and if it makes sense to format it as a list or a table, do so.

6. Link to other good resources.

Once you’re done writing and formatting your piece, think about some of the resources you used to write it. Would any of these also be helpful for the reader? If so, think about adding links to them within the text. Also, if you’ve specifically mentioned a website or organization that readers will want to know more about, link to that, too. Linking to good resources further helps the reader find the information they want, and helping the reader should always be your goal.

7. Use photos to help tell the story.

Images like charts and diagrams can help you convey data or draw conclusions in an easy-to-digest way. And a simple photograph or two can add to the overall visual appeal of the page. Just remember to think about copyright when choosing photos to use.

8. Create a good title tag and meta description.

These elements, if the client requires them, should help the reader find your article with Google and encourage them to click through to read what you’ve written. They should include keyword phrases and any selling points that might compel someone to want to read more.

9. Always read it one more time before you let it go.

Approaching an article with fresh eyes can help you catch mistakes you didn’t notice the first time around. Also, you’ll be more able to spot places where you didn’t really answer the question being asked or you used a keyword in a redundant-sounding way.

Interested in putting these tips for SEO content writing into practice? Apply to join our freelance writing staff. We’d love to have you!

Mindy Young, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, got her start as a newspaper copy editor after earning her B.A. from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She spent nearly 13 years editing stories, writing headlines, and putting together pages for daily newspapers, and along the way, she also had the opportunity to write food columns and restaurant reviews. After earning a pair of Associated Press awards and a Suburban Newspaper Association award, she left journalism for the world of content marketing, where she puts her skills to work every day for OWJ clients and writers.

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