Are you struggling to rank your web pages in Google? Wondering how to write SEO content that will get picked up by search engines and drive your organic growth?
FACT: For today’s startup, content is no longer a good-to-have, and that’s for so many reasons.
You need content to appear in the search results and accompany your target audience along their entire buyer’s journey.
You also need it to outrank the competition and break into a competitive market.
Hell, there’s absolutely zero chance for a modern startup to connect and engage with potential customers without content.
But there’s a little problem – How do you write content that ranks well for relevant keywords?
Well, that’s what you’re going to learn from this guide. In fact, after reading it, you’ll know everything about SEO content, and the only thing left for you to do will be to start writing it.
What is SEO Content?
The simplest way to define SEO content is as one created with the sole intention to rank well in search engines like Google.
But naturally, there’s more to it than this.
SEO content isn’t something artificial that’s stuffed with keywords and phrases just to get it to the top of the SERP. Quite the contrary in fact.
SEO content is helpful, useful, and focuses on answering users’ questions. But at the same time, it’s also designed to reach those people in the search results.
Why is there such distinction?
Well, because, for one, not all content is intended to rank. Take case studies, for example. This is a great middle and bottom of the funnel content. Case studies provide valuable information to anyone evaluating your product. But they aren’t the most sought-after information in the search engines. As a result, you don’t create those pages with the intention to rank. Your goals for them are quite different, aren’t they?
The situation is quite different with blog posts. Whenever you publish a blog post, you hope that it ends up ranking well and drive traffic from Google.
Again, you, probably, don’t create the content just with that intention. You want to provide valuable information to users, answer questions they have, and so on. But you also want it to rank, and that makes it SEO content.
This brings us to the next aspect of SEO content – What content types work best for this purpose?
Types of SEO Content
First things first, any content type could, potentially, become SEO content. The main characteristic of such an asset is that it’s been designed to rank well, after all.
This suggests that any content you create with such an intention is SEO-friendly.
In reality, though, some content types work better for such purposes than others. Here are the most effective types of SEO content:
- Blog posts,
- Pillar pages,
- Content hubs,
- Articles, interviews, or feature pieces
- Landing pages,
- Infographics and other visual assets,
- Product or feature pages, providing their target keyword matches the user intent (more on that in just a moment.)
- Podcast show notes, and more.
There are others, of course. But for the most part, when you create SEO content, you’ll focus your efforts on writing any of the assets I listed above.
Now, we’ve covered quite a lot about what SEO content is. I guess it’s time we touch on another aspect – the importance of creating it in the first place.
Why is SEO Content Important?
Oh, there’s a whole bunch of reasons:
For one, publishing SEO content expands your search visibility.
This means that the more pieces of content optimized to rank well you have, the greater pool of keywords you’re going to rank for.
That, in turn, means that you’re going to connect with and engage far more people than you could be able to do with fewer pages.
Think about it; if the only content you aim to rank in search engines is your website – the homepage, and perhaps a couple of feature pages – then, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.
Why? Because most of your potential customers do not start their buyer’s journey by researching products. They go online to find answers instead. It’s only later in the process they become interested in evaluating potential solutions, like your product.
Creating SEO content allows you to accompany them along this journey, and do by sharing information, offering advice, and being helpful in general.
But for that to happen, you need to publish content designed to rank.
The argument above is particularly important for SaaS startups.
You see, SaaS SEO is primarily a content-led strategy.
Other verticals rely on different SEO techniques to drive traffic. Ecommerce stores put a lof emphasis on schema and making their category and product pages more visible in the SERP.
Professional services firms stick to local SEO.
But as a SaaS startup, you must publish content to rank, and that’s because, as a content marketer, you aim to attract visitors with four specific buyer intents:
- People not looking for any software but struggling with problems that your software helps eliminate. This customer group is at the early stages of its buyer journey. These people don’t think about software yet. Instead, they focus their attention on understanding the problem and potential solutions available. Much of your blog content, for example, will gear towards these people.
- People evaluating different software solutions. These customers know that various software solutions exist and can help them. But they haven’t decided which one is best for them yet.
- People who are ready to buy a software solution to solve their problem. These people know exactly what problem they need to overcome. They also know that to do it, they need software like yours.
- People looking for you, specifically. Those customers have selected your software as the solution to their problem.
These people search for content. They scout the web for blog posts that can help them understand their problem better. They search for software listicles, landing pages, or comparison pages to discover the different software options on the market. They might even google alternatives to your (or your competitor’s) product.
SEO content gives you the opportunity to connect with them and start building connections that, over time, might develop into a business relationship.
In short – SEO content helps you find and turn those people into customers.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Well, before I show you exactly how to write SEO content and achieve similar results, we need to cover one more thing – What makes such content rank.
What Factors Determine That Content Ends Up Ranking Well
I’m sure you’ve heard of ranking factors already.
You know that Google uses various criteria to determine how to rank a particular page of content. Factors like domain authority, links, and more affect whether it appears on the first page of Google or ends up somewhere far below, where no one would ever see it.
What’s interesting for us is that a whole bunch of those factors relate to the content. These factors determine how Google perceives your pages, and whether it even sees them fit for inclusion in the search results.
NOTE: The search engine makes that final statement quite clear, actually. Test any new live URL on your site in Google Search Console and you’ll see an interesting statement – Google will tell you that the URL can be indexed, providing certain criteria are met.
What are those criteria? Here’s the explanation from Google:
Incredible, right? The search engine openly admits it – Unless the content is high quality, it’s not even going to bother including it in the index.
So, what makes content high quality in Google’s eyes?
- It comes from a website with topical authority.
- It’s relevant to the target keyword and matches the user intent.
- Such content is well optimized, without using any shady strategies like keyword stuffing, for example.
- It provides users with valuable information.
- The person optimizing the content followed all the on-page optimization practices, including using correct headings, adding alt tags to images, and more.
- It’s optimized to be read comfortably on mobile devices, and the page loads fast for users.
- It uses internal linking to provide additional information to users.
- Finally, it has backlinks pointing to it and confirming its value.
Let’s bring it all together, shall we? Here’s how to write content that matches all the above criteria.
How to Write SEO Content
If there’s one thing that all the ranking factors above tell you is that creating SEO content takes far more than writing a blog post.
In fact, even if your post reads so well that no one wants it to end, you might still find it lagging somewhere on the edge of obscurity in Google.
Why, because to write content that ranks, you must also focus on specific SEO factors, and in this section, you’re going to learn exactly what those factors are.
You see, I write SEO content for a living. My SEO content marketing agency specializes in helping SaaS companies build their search visibility with content.
What you’re about to read below is our very own framework for writing SEO content. This is how we do it for clients, and this is what we recommend that you do as well.
The framework includes 11 steps in three categories:
- Evaluating the topic’s search potential.
- Analyzing the SERP to discern the search intent
- Conducting additional keyword research
- Evaluating top-ranking content
Content Creation and Optimization
- Outlining the content and defining how you’re going to achieve rankings with this post
- Writing a killer draft
- Adding visuals and other engaging elements
- Optimizing the post using on-page SEO practices
- Optimizing the post to covert blog traffic
Publishing and monitoring
- Setting up rank tracking to monitor performance.
There’s a lot to cover, so, let’s get right to it.
Part One. Research
#1. Evaluate the search potential
There’s one question you should ask when considering writing SEO content, and that question is…
Does my idea or topic have the search potential to drive organic traffic from Google?
Or, to put it differently – Do enough people search for this topic to make it worth your time and effort?
You see, it’s easy to consider the topic you came up with as interesting. You came up with it, after all. It’s something you know about and want to share. And since the topic relates to your product, there’s a big chance that your target audience wants to read about it too, right?
Well, not always.
Sometimes, the topics we think of are things we’d like to talk about. But that doesn’t mean that there are people who want to listen.
So, how do you evaluate the traffic potential of your topic?
You conduct preliminary keyword research.
Keep in mind that at this stage, you’re not looking for additional phrases to target. Your only goal is to find out whether the topic has any search volume at all.
Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate this.
Let’s say that your SaaS helps customers streamline bookkeeping. Naturally, that’s what you want to write SEO content about. Specifically, you want to help customers understand the process of paying themselves from their companies.
Quick keyword research shows me that the topic has a good search volume. Sure, it’s not spectacular but you have to remember that this is only the topic keyword, not the only phrase you’re going to rank for.
#2. Analyze the search intent
The next thing you need to find out is what information customers are looking for, specifically, when typing that, and similar keywords in Google.
We refer to that reason as the user intent and understanding it is one of the most important elements of writing SEO content. Here’s why.
When you think about it; Google has quite a job to do. It needs to show the most relevant results for any search query. This also means that if you have to go back and forth and refine your query to get the results you want, the search engine has failed.
So, to prevent that, Google developers work hard at making its algorithm be able to understand why we search for specific information and also be able to match that with relevant pages in its index.
The bottom line? Well, the search engine will not rank any content that does not match the user intent for the keyword. It’s that simple.
How do you evaluate the user intent?
Well, the simplest way is to look at the search results for your target keyword.
(Note, in the example below, I’m using dedicated software that also gives me various metrics about each page. But you can simply search for your keyword in Google, and look at who’s ranking to understand the intent.)
Look at patterns in those results and consider:
- What content types Google has included on the first page? Are these all blog posts, product pages, or maybe commercial landing pages?
- What content format do those pages use? Are they listicles, how-to guides, ultimate guides, or maybe opinion pieces?
- What is the most common angle for the top-ranking content? Look at those title tags again, and try to understand how these companies position the content? Do they all use specific words to describe the information? Are they all targeting the same audience, like beginners or advanced users?
Then, to ensure that you match the user intent as well, use a similar format, type, and angle in your content.
#3. Conduct additional keyword research
Most pages rank for more than a single keyword.
For example, the top-ranking page for the keyword we used in the example above ranks for over 370 phrases.
A lot of those phrases would just be variations of the main keyword, of course.
But it always pays to do a bit more keyword research to uncover other phrases you could also rank for.
You can conduct this research in two ways:
If your SEO platform offers such functionality – Paste top-ranking URLs there to see what keywords they rank for.
Or use the keyword research feature to evaluate related your primary keyword’s related phrases.
#4. Evaluate top-ranking content
The last thing to do to prepare for writing is to figure out what helped the top-ranking content end up on the first page.
Of course, part of this would relate to those domains’ authority, age, their topical authority, or the number of external links pointing to them.
But there’s more, and that thing ties in with the user intent we discussed earlier.
So, your goal for this step is to figure out how those pages deliver on the user intent.
Luckily, this is quite simple to do.
- Open the first five top-ranking pages in separate tabs.
- Note each page’s word count. You can do it manually by copying its content to a text editor and checking the word count. This way you’ll get a precise length of the actual content. Or you could use a browser extension like Detailed SEO. However, keep in mind that the extension will also include common page elements like navigation or sidebar content in the report, slightly increasing the actual word count.
- Read each piece, and make note of any common sections those pages include. These common sections are, most likely, the foundation your piece should also include.
- See with what individual information those pages expand the content. These sections might be worth considering for your piece as well.
- Finally, identify what else you could bring to the table to make your content better than those pages.
The purpose of the process above is to help you identify the foundation for your content, and also figure out how you’re going to outdo the top-ranking competition.
And with that information, you can move on to actually creating the piece.
Part Two. Content Creation and Optimization
#5. Outline your piece
I need to be upfront about something here – There are so many approaches to outlining SEO content that it’s almost impossible for me to describe the process.
But I can give you general suggestions for creating the outline.
Use the outline to list all the sections you’re going to include in the content.
Specify what information you want to cover in each section. I like to mention the objective for every section. This helps me stay on topic when writing.
Here’s an example of how I define objectives and content for specific sections of the content.
Write the introduction while outlining. Or at least, define what information you will focus on in the opening. Doing so at the outlining stage will help you focus on the SEO in the piece.
You see, your introduction is not just supposed to engage a reader. It should also make the topic clear to the search engines, so they can better understand what the page is about.
Defining how you’re going to start the piece will make you think about it in the terms of keywords and information that will make the topic clear.
#6. Write the first draft
The outline defines:
- What you’re going to write about, and
- How you’re going to structure the piece.
And that, plus all the research you’ve done earlier, is what you need to start writing.
Now, the writing process is the same whether you create SEO content, a web page, or any other online asset.
There are simple rules that you should follow:
- Write the way you speak.
- Don’t worry about making mistakes. Your first draft should be ugly. Its purpose is to get all the information down on the paper not to be the finished masterpiece. You turn it into one by editing and cleaning it up later.
- Get to the end as quickly as possible. Again, your goal isn’t to finish the piece, just write the first draft.
Here are a few more SEO-related rules to keep in mind when writing:
- Include the target keyword or its close variation in the first paragraph.
- Follow the same format, type, and angle as top-ranking content.
- Use target keywords in subheadings. Not too much but make sure that at least one or two subheadings feature them.
- Add internal links to other pages on your site.
#7. Add visuals and other engaging elements to the content
There’s an important, and somewhat overlooked, content-related ranking factor – engagement.
In the simplest terms, it means that if people stay on your page, it must be good.
This also suggests that if they leave right away, the content is poor, and not worth ranking well.
Adding visuals helps you combat a potential lack of engagement.
- First of all, images or videos will break the monotony of a wall of text. They make the content easier to skim and also, provide a nice distraction from just the copy.
- Secondly, they might capture the person’s attention and hold them longer on a page.
You don’t have to add many visuals, of course. There are no SEO guidelines as to how many images to add per a certain amount of copy.
But a nice image or illustration every now and then will definitely make a difference to your engagement metrics.
#8. Optimize the page for on-page SEO
At this stage, your draft is ready. You’ve also edited it, and it’s now good to go.
Before you hit publish, there are two things to do, actually. And the first one is ensuring that the page is properly optimized.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that Google will have no problems with identifying what keywords to rank the content for. Its crawler will be able to identify the page’s topic, and you’ll leave plenty of on-page signals to help it understand how what you’ve written about is going to help users.
In practical terms, on-page SEO means optimizing certain elements of the piece:
- Writing an SEO-friendly headline
- Including keywords in the meta title and meta description tags
- Adding keywords to alt tags of relevant images
- Using a correct URL slug that also features the keyword, ideally without any stop words
- Including the keyword in the opening paragraph and at least one subheading
- Using keywords and their variations throughout the copy at least a couple of times. Not too often, though!
- Adding links to external resources on the topic.
#9. Optimize the content for conversions too
The other thing you should do is decide how you’re going to convert traffic this piece of content will attract.
You have two options here:
- Create a dedicated resource like an ebook or content upgrade,
- Include calls to action to relevant product feature pages.
Either option works well. The main reason you’d use one over the other is what I call the buying proximity of the topic.
Buying proximity defines how likely a person searching for this topic is to consider buying your product right now.
Let’s say you run a CRM SaaS. Writing content on recovering stale leads is likely to attract customers who might have a CRM problem. But it’s unlikely that content offering tips on small business branding, an equally important aspect of running a successful company, is going to attract people looking for such software right now.
Of course, they might become customers later. However, right now, suggesting any product feature pages to them would be pointless. These people aren’t ready to have that kind of a conversation with you.
So, for them, you need to create a downloadable resource to add them to your funnel.
TIP: I explain this issue in more detail in this guide to converting blog traffic.
Part Three. Publishing
#10. Push the content live
You’re done. The content is good to go.
Add it to your CMS, ensure that everything is set up properly, and hit publish.
#11. Final checks
- Check Google Search Console whether the content got indexed. You don’t have to check it every day. Depending on how often you’ve been publishing content so far, Google might be crawling your site often or not. Give it some time but also, keep monitoring whether the search engine has indexed your page.
- Add target keywords to your rank tracker to monitor progress. I do it right after publishing the content. Naturally, you won’t see any rankings until the search engine crawls and indexes your page. But I find that doing it right away means this I don’t forget about it.
And once you’ve done that, you’re done!
About the Author
Pawel Grabowski is the founder, SEO strategist, and principal content creator at Smashing Copy.
Pawel specializes in building roadmaps that help our clients deliver more targeted organic traffic and website conversions. He also creates and optimizes our clients’ content and has been known for being able to breathe new life and rankings into any old content asset.