Your Essential 7-Step SEO Content Writing Checklist

How to Write SEO Content That Ranks in Google: The Essential Guide to Great SEO Content Writing

by | Mar 12, 2019 | Website Content

Are you a marketer, entrepreneur, or agency with content creation and publishing high up on your to-do list? 

To truly stand out and make an impact in a sea of over five million blogs published per day, your content needs to be visible online.

Visibility means traffic. And traffic means leads and down the road, even conversions. 

But… how do you create content that gets there?

Well, that goes back to the beginning, before you even write your content piece. And it’s called the SEO content strategy behind your awesome content piece.

No matter how long you’ve been in the field of content creation and copywriting, you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization, also known as SEO.

The technique of optimizing content for search engines is critical for ranking highly.

But, here’s the thing: today, you can’t earn Google rankings anymore with just any old content. Organic Google rankings are incredibly hard to earn, with the cannibilization of clicks and zero-click searches up by 30% in the past two years. The crux of earning a spot? 

Great content, laser-focused to your audience. 

Great SEO content writing requires you to focus on the keywords while making sure your content is still beautifully crafted and reads like a human wrote it. It means knowing what your audience is looking for and optimizing it well.

Unless you know how to optimize your content around the anomaly that is Google’s search engine, you’re fighting a losing battle with SERP-focused content.

But, good news – we’ve compiled plenty of information to guide you on your journey right here, right now. Ready?

Need to learn how to write great #SEO content? Read @JuliaEMcCoy's blog primer to SEO writing Click To Tweet

how to write seo content

The 7-Step SEO Content Writing Checklist

  1. Get Familiar with What Works: Effective SEO Content Writing Samples
  2. Complete Your Industry-Specific Keyword Research
  3. Analyze Your Audience and Competitors
  4. Consider SEO Content Writing Services
  5. Format First, Then Write Your Content
  6. Revise and Polish Your Work
  7. Analyze Your Results and Adapt Accordingly

1. Get Inspiration from What Works: SEO Content Writing Samples That Work

When you’re looking to score leads and find followers, Google is an absolute goldmine.

SEO content writing samples

Image from SimilarWeb

The same could arguably be said about any search engine, but Google is easily the top choice. In 2017, Google accounted for just under 80% of all global desktop search traffic.

A part of that traffic can be yours if you have proper SEO content writing practices.

With so many great content types searchable via Google, you have plenty of competition. But you also have plenty of inspiration.

Before we cover step one, we’ll preface it with step zero. Remember this point before starting on anything, and keep it in your mind throughout the entire process.

Be original.

Copying work will alienate your customers and tank your brand. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting inspired by the work of others.

If you look at a lot of the top-ranking content types in any given web search, you’ll see that a lot of SEO content writing looks similar. It isn’t copied, and there is variety, but there’s a certain approach that has been proven to work.

Worried your content is a little too inspired? Luckily, there are handy tools out there you can use to tell if you’re content is original enough, including Copyscape, Copyleaks, and EduBirdie.

SEO content writing

Image from Copyscape

If you’re a beginner, think of SEO content writing as a way of crafting content so it reaches the person it’s intended to help. Don’t think of SEO like ‘SEO’; think of the end human reading your content optimized for their search.

Don't think of SEO like SEO; think of the end human reading your content optimized for their search. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

And when you’re looking to put out great content, it pays to see what your competition is doing first.  You aren’t just looking to see what they are doing – you want to see what they aren’t doing. If you have an idea they haven’t covered, you can use that to your advantage.

Free download cheat sheet for SEO content writers

A lot of this involves doing research before you write a single word.

You may decide to write some drafts, or a loose format just to make sure you are starting out with your own, fresh ideas. But when we’re talking about the research portion of SEO content writing, we aren’t just talking about finding out what else is out there.

You need to understand the value of high-volume keywords, industry-specific long-tail terms, and low-competition opportunities to rank higher.

2. Learning SEO Content Guidelines for Keyword Selection

Ranking highly in Google may seem like a far-off, nearly impossible goal. After all, there are countless people pushing for that coveted first-page rank.

It’s easy to see why – over 90% of shared traffic comes from the first page of Google search results.

shared Google traffic quote

If you can just get there, you’ll build the buzz you want for your content. You’ll elicit engagement like a pro. You’ll finally have the audience you dream of.

But to get that audience, you have to ask one question – what are they searching for?

And beyond the philosophical interpretation of what they hope to get out of their search results, we’re asking for a much more literal answer. What specific keywords are they searching, via voice or keyboard?

If you have these keywords in your content according to best industry practices, you will rank higher. You may not land on page one overnight, but with perseverance, you’ll climb steadily.

SEO content writing

See what happens when we Google the term “finance copy”? We’re ranked in the top spot thanks to proper keyword practices.

Now look at that result again, and see if there’s anything that sticks out about the way it’s written. Let’s look at another example and see what the two have in common.

finance copy screenshot

Not only are the keywords used, but they’re used in the right places. This is one of a few best-practices you’ll want to go by. Keep these in mind when you’re picking keywords for your content.

  • Use Them Naturally, Not Excessively: Google’s algorithm is smart enough to know when users are stuffing keywords for the sake of it. Use your keywords often (1-3x per 500 words), but use them naturally. Your content should still be conversational, even with keywords in place.
  • Consider Placement, Not Just Frequency: As we showed, there are some places where your focus keyword should be. These include the main header, at least one subheader, and multiple times in the body depending on your word count.
  • Use the Proper Tools: You may know some keywords you want to rank for. But if you need a little more inspiration, there are several great tools out there to use, including SEMRush, KWFinder, and Ahrefs.

These tools aren’t just useful for searching up keywords. They’re also handy for learning more about your audience and what they like.

seo writing guide quote

Consider placement, not frequency, when it comes to SEO keyword placement. Your focus keyword should be in the main header, at least one subheader, and multiple times in the body depending on your word count. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

3. Know Your Competitors & Your Audience

The SEO tools we mentioned above are mainly used for keyword research. But some of these tools also have additional functions.

They can show you the trending topics for particular industries, and allow you to see which pieces get the most action. This is a great way to understand your industry, but in terms of the people you are looking to attract and the ones you’re up against.

We already discussed the value of understanding your competitors, but let’s delve into how tools can help. Mangools (the company behind KWFinder) offers a full set of products including a SERP (search engine results page) checker.

Entering the keyword of “gardening tips for beginners,” for example, we can see who ranks in the top spots for that keyword.

If you look at the bottom bar outlined in red, you’ll see a space where you can input your own link and see how your rankings stack up to your competitors’.

SEO content writing

Seeing the top content pieces for your industry also lets you know what your audience likes. Your company and brand may be unique, but you will likely share audience members with competitors. Finding out what that audience likes gives you a wealth of information to use moving forward.

When you’re making an SEO content writing checklist, audience research should always be a part of it. Knowing how to use keywords in content writing is a matter of attracting the audience who your content would appeal to most. This is what’s meant by organic traffic.

There are plenty of advantages to focusing on organic traffic through SEO content writing and keyword research.

Over half of all traffic comes from organic searches – that means SEO can be more effective (and more affordable) than paid searches. This traffic also accounts for over 40% of revenue.

Over half of all traffic comes from organic searches – that means SEO can be more effective (and more affordable) than paid searches. - @JuliaEMcCoy on #seocontentwriting Click To Tweet

SEO content writing

Image from Sparktoro

With content marketing and SEO being the highest reported source of clients beyond existing clients, there’s never been a better time to invest in this type of strategy.

4. Consider SEO Content Writing Services for Writing & Research

Many people simply want a way to kickstart their website before they begin their quest to rank with their own content.

The solution? Sign up for SEO content writing services. You can pay companies to do your keyword research, your copywriting, and even advanced services like content monitoring – more on that one later. (Psst – we do that!)

Shopping for these services has several advantages.

For one, you get a piece optimized by the professionals to kickstart your site and/or blog. You also get a template you can use to follow moving forward.

Professional writing services are well researched, expertly crafted, and have all the extras you could ask for – including images. Studies suggest posts with images can get more social media shares. For example, roughly 1 image per 75-100 words has proven to be a winning formula in certain forms of copy.

SEO content writing

Image from Forbes

One way to improve your SEO content writing skillset is to follow SEO writing exercises based on the pieces you buy.  Those who do SEO content writing jobs on a regular basis can also get you your content quicker in most cases.

Consider investing in different content types. You may think of ordering blogs, web pages, eBooks, and anything else you’re looking to create yourself.  Better yet, go by the master list to get it all – planning, creation, and promotion.

Another advantage of outsourcing some of your needs is that the pros are more likely trained in the modern landscape of content marketing. This is a changing industry – knowing how to write SEO content in 2018 isn’t necessarily a recipe for success today.

When you learn now certainly won’t be obsolete tomorrow. But if you want content that works right now and in the foreseeable future, delegate to a specialist agency.

Once you have an idea on how the professionals do it, you’ll be on your way to creating similar content. How exactly do those professionals create winning content?

Many people simply want a way to kickstart their website before they begin their quest to rank with their own content. The solution? Sign up for #SEOcontentwriting services. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

seo content writing

5. Why Formatting Matters in SEO Content Writing

When you’re writing your content, what should come first?

You already know you need to be conversational. We’ve covered how important it is to use proper keywords, in the right frequency and places. But what else can impact your content’s success?

The format.

If your post isn’t formatted, your traffic may leave as soon as it arrives. Text blocks can repel even those who were drawn by your expert keyword placement. Most people will stay on a website less than 15 seconds.

SEO content writing

Image from CoSchedule

The easier your post is to read, the longer your reader will stick around. And there’s no way to make your post more readable and engaging than by formatting before you start delving into the meat of the writing.

Also known as the outline, this rough draft of your topics and sub-topics will give you a clear path to follow for content that flows well and keeps the reader glued to the page.

When you’re crafting your format, the following are staples for almost any type of writing:

  • A Well-Structured Header: Your title, or header, will be one of the most important aspects of your piece. Good headers can convince people to click, and convince them to stick around. Not sure if your header is good enough? Consider using tools like the AMI Headliner Analyzer.
  • Clear Subheaders That Flow: Your subheaders help you divide your piece up into smaller sections, and also give it a direction. Each should cover a different aspect of the topic, and they all should logically flow with one another.
  • Short, Punchy Paragraphs: While the topic of paragraph length is subject to debate depending on what kind of writing you’re doing. But in most cases, shorter paragraphs are good. They make your sentences punchier, and more impactful. They’re also much easier to read.

SEO content guidelines for writing and formatting may vary depending on your industry and what type of content you’re writing.

The key to mastering SEO content writing that ranks highly lies in writing legitimately good content. It’s memorable. It’s informative. It’s pleasant to the eye. The page looks like a work of art, and the copy itself reads like an expert manuscript.

Your title, or header, will be one of the most important aspects of your piece. Good headers can convince people to click, and convince them to stick around. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

6. Editing, Revising, & Polishing Your Work Before Publishing

Beyond formatting, which occurs before the actual writing is done, there’s another mainstay of good content writing best-practices that comes after the writing is done. If you want your content to succeed, you need to learn to edit like a professional.

SEO content writing

Image from PR Daily

Just like formatting, editing practices can sometimes vary depending on what kind of content you’re working on. But the above checklist is an example of how thorough and in-depth you should be if you want your content to rank highly.

Many people are so eager to finish their writing and hit the publish button they rarely take time to read over their work. Others are apprehensive about reading back their own writing due to shyness. But you need to get comfortable editing your writing. The best way to do that? Read it.

If you want to make sure your writing flows, read it out loud. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable reciting it to an audience as is, you may want to touch it up.

There’s also the matter of grammar. Luckily, tools like Grammarly can help you if things like to-too-and-two, or the dreaded passive voice cause you problems.

You don’t just edit to find typos and awkward wording choices, though those are both important to catch. You edit your copy to see if there’s anything you can add.

Are all your points made clear enough? Could you use a few more sources? Does your conclusion encompass everything you said previously, in an impactful, memorable way?

Editing and revising gives you the chance to polish up your post and make sure it is everything it needs to be to rank highly.

As Stephen King once said:

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Also remember – all these steps tie in together. A post written according to a well-crafted format will not only read much better. It will be much easier to edit.

7. Study Your Results, Use Them Moving Forward

After you’ve got your post edited and sent out into cyberspace, you’re done – right?

Not quite. Of course, you’re still going to keep writing, and moving toward the high ranking you know you deserve. But you’ll also be tracking your post. The tools we mentioned earlier can help with this.

SEO content writing

Image from Mangools SiteProfiler

You can track your site, as well as individual posts to see how well they’re doing. Tools like BuzzSumo can help you track social media shares as well.

When you track your posts, you get a better understanding of whether your current strategies are completely effective. The benefit to this is you can tweak things in the future. SEO content writing isn’t about finding one solution – it’s about framing your creativity with good habits, in perpetuity.

As a content creator chasing rankings, you’ll be keeping track of how each of your posts was different than the last and how that affected their performance.

Maybe you started using long-tail keywords over shorter ones. Perhaps you decided to use more subheaders in one post over another. While simple changes may seem miniscule, monitoring these changes lets you know if you’ve found a winning approach.

Monitoring your content is especially useful when you’re trying out low-competition keywords. Given 15% of daily Google searches have never been searched prior to now (that’s incredible and means there are still killer keywords available for you to find), you don’t want to miss out if you find a killer keyword that helps you jump up in the rankings.

15% of daily Google searches have never been searched prior to now. That's incredible and means there are still killer keywords available for you to find. - @JuliaEMcCoy on #seocontentwriting Click To Tweet

Likewise, monitoring your progress helps keep you involved in the process of SEO content writing. From start to finish, there’s always something to learn.

You may also find certain writing strategies are more beneficial now than they’ve been in the past, or vice versa.

But you may be asking – how can you be expected to handle this? If you’re dedicating your time to writing and research, how can you constantly monitor your content?

SEO content writing

Image from Moz

Toolbars and addons like this one can put you on track to monitor your rankings and key metrics constantly. As you load pages, you’ll get the numbers you need in real time. And once you have an idea of how these numbers are moving, you can track them more easily moving forward.

Free SEO cheat sheet

Master SEO Content Writing & Realize Ranking Success

With the billions of Google searches happening every day, it’s easy to think you’ll never improve rankings for your content.

But from what we know about Google’s algorithm, you can put yourself on track to success. All it takes is proper keyword research, an understanding of what constitutes quality content, and a work ethic for tracking your metrics as you go.

All it takes is proper keyword research, an understanding of what constitutes quality content, and a work ethic for tracking your metrics as you go.- @JuliaEMcCoy on #seocontentwriting Click To Tweet

And if you need step-by-step help, my course on SEO writing is currently enrolling new students and could be a huge help to shedding mentored guidance light on your journey.

Once you have the game plan, it gets much more exciting.

You’re no longer just crafting content and setting it loose into the vastness of Google’s search engine. Instead, you’re going by proven metrics to achieve your goal and get your content the attention you know it deserves.

You may not always end up on the front page right away. It may even take a lot of consistency and a lot of diligence.

SEO content writing

The more you invest in SEO content writing, the better you’ll do. This doesn’t mean paying for traffic, or even paying for writing services on a regular basis. It means investing your time, your energy, and your patience into the process.

The search engine, particularly Google, remains arguably the greatest tool marketers have at their disposal. In the beginning, we referred to it as a goldmine – but it could be more accurate to call it a treasure trove.

You can see what your competitors are doing, what your audience is reading, and how your own content is faring. But, most importantly, you can see possibilities for ranking potential and all the things that come with it.

Those things include traffic, leads, followers, subscribers, and customers. But, most importantly, good SEO content writing practices bring you results, in every form.

Even if you start slow, it’s okay as long as you keep on the right track. Do the research, get the tools, and put the time in – when your ranking starts climbing, you’ll know it was worth it.

seo content writing

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