The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO Content Writing: How to Write for SEO

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Digital marketers swear by search engine optimization (SEO) content writing. With an effective SEO content strategy, it's possible to increase search traffic, reach a larger target audience, and improve the conversion rate for your site. Learn how to write high-quality content for SEO to reach your marketing goals in our guide.

What is SEO Content Writing?

SEO content writing is the use of copywriting techniques and optimization tricks to make content rank better on search engine results pages and drive targeted traffic.

Unfortunately, major changes to search engine algorithms have given rise to several misconceptions about what kind of content it favors. As a result, many websites still use outdated SEO practices to improve search engine rankings.

The Do's and Don't of SEO Content Writing

There are several SEO best practices to keep in mind when writing content. From choosing the right primary keyword to creating relevant content, below is our guide on what to do and not do for SEO writing.

Do: Answer your readers' search queries

Google's mission is to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” How does this relate to you and your content?

It means that you must create relevant, compelling content. This requires thinking about users' search intent when brainstorming content ideas. That is, what are users trying to accomplish when they Google something?

High-ranking content tends to be reader-centric. It isn't focused on making a sale; instead, it caters to readers' needs.

For instance, the keyword phrase “cheap vacation ideas” is searched over 8,000 times a month. If you wanted to target this phrase, it wouldn't make sense to create a blog post about expensive trips or worse, something completely unrelated, like garden spades.

Try searching the phrase yourself you'll see that the top-ranking pages for this keyword are indeed about budget-friendly vacations and cheap getaway ideas.

Google search results for cheap vacation ideas
Google does its best to give users the most useful, search-relevant results.

Sometimes companies attempt to get more organic traffic by mislabeling their content with popular but irrelevant keywords in their titles. This kind of mismatch is a no-go for Google, as it misleads users and doesn’t answer their search queries.

Don’t: Ignore the competition

You want your content to rank over hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of competitors.

But getting your website to outperform your rivals requires understanding what exactly they're doing.

Studying the competition can clue you in on what kind of content Google favors. Moreover, it'll help you see your competitors' SEO strategies as well as their weaknesses.

When studying your competition, pay attention to:

  • The number of words their articles have
  • How and where they insert keywords, e.g., title tags, headers, meta descriptions
  • Their use of images and alt text
  • How frequently do they link internally and externally

This can give you an idea of how to structure your content. Of course, you shouldn't plagiarize your competitors' work. Think of your competitive analysis instead as a way to learn from the best … and then outdo them.

Do: Conduct keyword research

Which sounds better: 1,000 users who don't care about what your website sells or 100 who know and care about your product/service?

If you're drawn to the higher number, remember that it'll be harder to sell to them. The hundred who care specifically about your product, on the other hand, will be easier to convert.

In other words, quality is more important than quantity. When it comes to traffic, you want the right visitors to click on your website.

To get the right visitors, you need to rank for the keywords they're searching for. That's where keyword research comes in.

How to Find the Right Keywords for SEO Content

  • High-volume keywords: These are relevant keywords to your business with several thousand searches a month. They're great for generating traffic, but may not always be the most relevant to your business
  • Low-volume keywords: Low-volume keywords are typically more specific long-tail keywords. These keywords don't generate a ton of traffic, but the users are much more targeted.
  • Relevant Keywords: While volume is a factor, it's important to identify relevant keywords for your business. Consider the keyword intent. Are users looking for information? To make a purchase? Use intent to identify the exact keywords to target for your business.
  • Competitor Keywords: One of the most effective ways to generate keyword ideas is through competitive analysis. Identify what keywords your competitors are targeting. Use that information to expand on your website's content.

There are dozens of keyword research tools at your disposal, including SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Trends. Though they vary in terms of their free and premium features, they all provide the same general functions.

With SEMrush, you can see a keyword phrase's top organic search results as well as related queries.

SEMrush keyword research example
With SEMrush, you can see a keyword phrase’s top organic search results as well as related queries.

Not everyone likes to go through search query data, but it’s an absolute must.

Think of it like this: studying your competitors gives you just one piece of the content puzzle, and search volume data behind keyword research provides another. Combined, you’ll be better prepared to build a targeted content strategy.

Don’t: Keyword stuff

Keyword stuffing is an outdated SEO practice in which webmasters load as many keywords as they can on a page, regardless of how unnatural it sounds. Take a look at this example:

Looking for really yummy cupcakes? We've got really yummy cupcakes for great prices. Check out our website to order really yummy cupcakes today.

Can you tell which keyword phrase is being stuffed?

It's “really yummy cupcakes,” which sounds odd when used so frequently in a short piece of text.

Both Matt Cutts and John Mueller of Google have advised webmasters to avoid fixating on keyword density. According to them, there is no optimal number of times a keyword should appear on a page.

Instead, content writers should place their target keyword and variations of the keyword in the content naturally. Make sure to strategically use your primary keyword in areas such as your subheadings and meta description.

Do: Improve your content’s readability

Your content might have perfect grammar and zero typos, but if it's not readable, neither users nor search engines will like it.

What's readability?

It's how easy it is for readers to understand a piece of content. Scientifically, readability is calculated based on text visibility, reader eye movements, and other similarly quantifiable factors. Readability is important to SEO because human behavior contributes to a page's ranking.

Imagine a website with tiny fonts, neon colors, and an overload of images and animations. Do you think readers would be compelled to explore such a website?

Probably not.

These low-readability websites usually cause readers to exit immediately and thus result in high bounce rates and low pages per session. To Google, these pages look spammy and useless.

Screenshot of Arngren's homepage
Websites that are visual eyesores have low readability.

On the flip side, websites with high readability which tend to be websites that see more user engagement appear useful to Google.

Tips to Improve Readability of SEO Content

Thus, to make your content easier to read, try the following techniques:

  • Choose clear typography for your website.
  • Bold important words and phrases to emphasize them.
  • Incorporate visual content to break up long blocks of text.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate.
  • Write a variety of both long and short sentences.
  • Shorten your paragraphs.
  • Proofread and spell-check.

Readability is an easily overlooked aspect of the user experience. Informative content should be easily scannable so readers can find the answers they need.

Don’t: Neglect your content

You’ve published your content and that means you never have to deal with it again, right? Wrong.

Don’t let articles gather dust in your archives. Instead:

  • Check site analytics. Regularly monitor your content to see what’s performing well and what isn’t doing so hot. All that data has rich insight about your website; although it might be tedious to go through, you can use it to find out what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t.
  • Test your content. Your content strategy decisions shouldn’t be made on a hunch. If a piece of content isn’t doing well, try testing different aspects of it. For instance, rewrite the title, insert new CTAs, or swap out your feature image. Just remember to test one variable at a time to avoid confounding effects.
  • Update and republish old pieces of content. Notice any older pieces of content performing poorly? Try re-optimizing and republishing them. This will give them a new chance at life, aka traffic. Doing this can also give you a break from producing entirely new content.

<div class="tip">It's best to perform a content audit every few months or at least once a year for your website. It allows you to find out what pages are and aren't working for your site.</div>

Just as Google's algorithm changes, so should your SEO strategy through periodic content updates. Old content ultimately presents an opportunity to learn from your successes and failures as well as an opportunity for further improvement.

How to Write Good Content for SEO

SEO best practices are constantly changing. There are new trends that come and go. However, there is one constant and that is the importance of good SEO content. When writing for SEO, the most important thing is to create amazing content. Do that and so many other things will fall into place. Learn more about SEO or get help with your next content marketing campaign through our SEO services.

Got any other do's and don'ts for the content writing aspect of SEO? Share them with us in a comment below.

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