Do you want to become a content marketer or a writer in the marketing niche? Ranking on SERPs has become one of the most highly-demanded assets worldwide.
If you’ve been on the lookout for writing jobs, then most probably you already know that almost all job descriptions require extensive knowledge about at least SEO writing and on-page SEO.
While learning how to write SEO-optimized posts can sound daunting to a lot of writers and content marketers, it’s not as complicated as you think.
With the following steps, you’ll set yourself up for ranking in the first SERPs.
So, let’s dive in!
Structuring Your Content
Before any writing process, you want to determine two core factors:
- The core message you want to discuss with your audience and where it falls within your funnel; and
- The format you need to make your topic easily digestible as you get your message across.
Pro tip: Before picking the layout of your content, be sure to gather all the information necessary to fully discuss your topic. After all, what determines the format of your message is the type of information you have available as well as the quantity of that information.
For example, if you have information that has a sort of hierarchy where every broad piece of that information branches into different categories, then according to the context you’re in and the audience you’re addressing, you might want to cover these pieces of information in an infographic or a blog post with different headings and subheadings.
That’s when your content brief comes into play.
When you’re in still the initial phase of sorting your information, creating a content brief will make you more aligned, organized, and clear as you roadmap how you’ll balance fulfilling the search intent (and creating a frictionless experience for your reader) with satisfying Google crawlers.
Your content brief should mainly include your:
- Headline and SEO title;
- Excerpt and meta description;
- Primary keyword; and
- Secondary and related keywords.
Creating Your Headline & SEO Title
As we’ve just said, your readers started by skimming through your headings. But there’s much more to how important your headings and subheadings are. In fact, your headings are also a major factor for ranking on SERPs.
Your heading is your article’s title. This title shows up on your article’s webpage as well as search results.
Sometimes, the title that shows up for your article on the search result is different from the title that shows up when you get into your article. To better differentiate between both titles, we refer to the title that shows up on the search result as the “SEO Title,” or “Meta Title.”
You might now wonder why we sometimes have two different titles for our blog posts.
Because as we mentioned earlier, you want to satisfy Google just as you’re trying to satisfy your reader.
To create an enticing SEO title, consider the following elements:
- Your primary keyword. You want to include the keyword you’re targeting in your SEO title where appropriate. (No you don’t have to stick it in the very beginning.)
- Your power words. Power words add emotion to your title, which is necessary to grab the attention of your reader and tempt them to choose you from the crowd.
- Your benefit. What’s the benefit that your reader will get from your post? Why should they choose your article in particular and not those of your competitors’? Mentioning the benefit that the audience will walk away with shows the reader that you understand what they are looking for. It also helps Google as they rank your article according to the search intent.
- Your CTR booster. CTR boosters are elements that can influence your SEO positioning and entice the searcher and tempt them to click on your article. CTR boosters can be a number, percentage, year, or separator (such as brackets “”, plus signs “+”, colons “:”, hyphens “-“, parentheses “()”, or vertical bars “|”).
- Your character count. Your SEO title should be within 50 to 70 characters. Otherwise, it can get cut off.
For instance, while your article’s title can simply be, “How to Write SEO-optimized Posts,” your SEO title can sound more like, “SEO Writing: The Latest Guide on How to Write SEO-Optimized Posts.”
In this example, we have:
- The primary keyword: Write SEO-Optimized Posts.
- The Benefit: The Latest Guide (inferring that It’s not just a guide; they’ll actually get the most updated information. In other words, we’re setting the expectation for them that the strategy is 100% working).
- The power word: The Latest
- The CTR booster: [+ Examples] An added benefits that encourage users to click
- Character count: 65 characters
- The secondary keyword (Optional): SEO Writing
Another option can be focusing more on CTR boosters instead of adding a secondary keyword. For example, you can write an SEO title such as: “The Ultimate Guide on How to Write SEO-Optimized Posts [+ Examples].”
Now you get the point.
Formulating Your Subheadings
Also referred to as your H2 headings, your subheadings (and their subtopics) are your reader’s best friends.
Like we said, readers have a lot of options available for them to get their information. And with too little much on their plate, they don’t have time to waste reading an article fully unless they’re 100% sure it solves their problem or answers their question. As a result, they start going through your subheadings to familiarize themselves with your content.
If your subheadings satisfy them, they’ll be more than happy to listen to what you have to say. If not, they’ll switch to another article to see if it has the answers they’re looking for.
But that’s not it. Google also benefits from your subheadings as they provide a roadmap for crawlers to understand your message and display it to the matching search intent.
Crafting Your Excerpt & Meta Description
our excerpt is different than your meta description. To pinpoint the difference without causing any confusion, take a look at the following screenshots from SBKITS’ blog.
Can you see these little blocks of text? This is your excerpt. Your excerpt serves as a preview of what you have inside your posts for your blog readers.
On the contrary, your meta description is what shows up on SERPs under the article’s SEO title.
In essence, your meta description targets searchers who don’t necessarily know your service.
Now even though they’re different, both your excerpt and meta description should pique the interest of your target audience.
And because you might now be wondering how you can possibly write a meta description that attracts searchers, consider the following DOs and DONTs:
|Keep your character limit to 155 characters.||Write a four-line meta description.|
|Write in an active voice.||Depend on passive voice.|
|Add your CTA.||Assume the reader will know your CTA without your spelling it out.|
|Include your primary keyword (optional).||Include information that isn’t covered inside the article.|
|Add your product specifications.||Presume that your readers don’t care about your product specifications.|
|Include your secondary and related keywords.||Stuff your keywords inside your meta description.|
Choosing a Winning Primary Keyword
Also known as “Target Keyword,” and “Focus Keyword,” your primary keyword refers to a word or phrase that you’re trying to rank for on the SERP. Now the topic that you’re trying to cover most probably has more than one primary keyword.
What you essentially want to do in this process is select the keyword that will help you match your audience’s search intent.
Put differently, you want to target the keyword that your readers put in their Google search bar when they think of the topic you’re covering.
That way, you have better chances of ranking on the first SERP. (Which you must rank on because searchers don’t go beyond the first results page; they’d rather change the wording of their query than look into the second results page.)
We know this sounds like ranking would require some level of sorcery or some sort of mindreading, but it’s more feasible than you think. To figure out the primary keyword that makes sense to your audience and your business, you need to do what we call “Keyword Research.”
Keyword research enables you to determine whether or not your audience searches for your keyword, whether or not you have the potential to rank if you target that specific keyword, and whether or not there’s high competition with this keyword that can potentially impede all your attempts to rank on the first SERP.
There are so many third-party keyword tools that can help you generate keyword ideas. (We’ll cover our Editors’ Picks in another post.)
If you don’t have access to any keyword tool, a simple Google search (along with tapping into a deep analysis of the search results) can do the job for you. (We’ll cover this in detail in another guide.)
For now, you know that you can have more than one primary keyword and that you need to study the language of your audience to target the keywords they’re using.
Identifying Your Secondary and Related Keywords
Your secondary keywords can be synonyms of your primary keyword, they can be different variants of your primary keyword.
However, our related keywords (also known as tangential keywords) are keywords that aren’t necessarily directly related to your primary keyword.
Take this article as an example. Our focus keyword is: How to Write SEO-Optimized Posts.
Some of our secondary keywords are:
- SEO Writing;
- SEO-Friendly Blog Posts;
- SEO-Optimized Content;
- Write Well-Optimized Blog Posts;
- Ranking on Search Engines;
- Matching Search Queries; and
- On-Page SEO.
Our related keywords can be:
- The Best Tools for Target Keywords;
- How to Produce Quality Content; or
- Using Yoast SEO.
In all, you should have a list of keywords you want to target, whether they’re your primary, secondary, or tangential.
Note: Your secondary and related keywords can be your gate to adding more content to your content strategy, so you don’t want to skip digging for them.
Though we don’t cover keyword research tools here, we know that a searcher looking for the best keyword research tools would be also interested in on-page SEO.
Pro tip: Since you’ll be competing with other articles that are already ranking on the first SERP, be sure to see what they’re doing right that enabled them to secure their positions. We call this conducting a “Competitor Analysis.” But because there’s only so much to cover here, we’ll tackle this topic in another guide. So stay tuned.
Now that we’re done with our first phase, let’s move on to our second one.
Writing Your Content
Once you start writing your content, keep in mind that your end goal is to have your audience read the next sentence as you cover the topic that you want to address.
We already know that your reader starts by skimming through your article before they actually read. So the moment they exit your page before reading attentively, you lose the competition.
Because it’s much more likely to convince your audience to take the action you want them to take if they’ve shown interest in your message from the start to the end.
So let’s tap into the elements that can make or break your post.
First things first, your introduction is what determines whether or not your reader is willing to take the action you want them to take.
This is where you want to do some mindreading to show your reader that you understand their problems and can provide them with the solution they’ve been looking for.
How? Act like you’re their mirror. You want to tap into the emotions that resonate with their pain points and give them hope that by being on your webpage, they’re moving in the right direction.
Pro tip: Use different copywriting formulas such as PAS (problem, Agitate, solution), AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), Before/After/Bridge, and so forth.
You also want to please Google, so we recommend that you include your primary keyword in your introduction — specifically within the first 150 words.
Your body content is where you want to maximize your reader’s engagement with your core message.
You want it to be so magnetic that they don’t feel time passing while they’re getting through the gem of information that you’re giving them.
To effectively keep your reader’s interest and flare up their desire to take the action without thinking twice, you want to give them premium content. This is what we call “value.”
Your middle is not the place to promote your service (at least just yet). You want to educate them — so much so, they’re convinced you’re one of the industry’s leaders. That way, they’ll become more receptive to your message because they know that you actually care about their success.
You also want to be aware of your reader’s journey: Are they aware that they have a certain problem with specific solutions and are looking through the pros and cons of each solution? Or are they still figuring out what their problem is and want to educate themself about the situation so that they can navigate through it?
For example, if your reader is in the consideration stage, then they’re looking for posts that lay out all the options available, such as roundups, as well as comparison and listicle posts.
With that being said, if they’re still in the awareness stage, then they’re certainly looking for educational, informative posts that can guide them from start to finish.
Disclaimer: Avoid targeting topics that directly compete with your business. For instance, your business offers comprehensive online English courses and you’re writing a roundup post for readers looking for options to learn English at home.
In that case, you don’t want to refer them to other platforms that offer English courses in your roundup.
Instead, you can make a roundup of the best mobile apps for learning survival English, for example, and then recommend your comprehensive courses as a more directed approach that is more guaranteed to yield tangible results.
Pro tip: As you write your body text, you may find yourself drifting off your main topic because of how rich the topic is.
In that case, because you want your reader to stay focused, you can let them know that they can find more details about a specific point in another article that you’ve already written.
That’s exactly where you have much opportunity to insert internal links (and external links) within your article.
This section is where most writers and content marketers come up short. Your reader doesn’t just want you to wrap your message up for them; they want to know the answer to a specific question: “Now what?”
Because if someone has got through all the details you’ve discussed in your article, then they’re expecting you to personalize all these details with actionable steps that suit their situation. (Yes, you want to do some mindreading here as well.)
The good news is that your close is where you can include your call to action. (Remember your desired goal that you had to write all this content originally for?)
But you don’t want to turn them off with your sudden shift in tone, so try to avoid sounding too sale-sy. Think of your mentioning of the CTA as if you’re casually flexing yourself to a friend in a coffee shop.
Pro tip: While hard CTAs work perfectly well in this section, we sometimes recommend using soft CTAs — especially if it’s someone who’s still in the awareness stage.
Let’s just state the obvious: Your first draft won’t be the best; perhaps it will even be the worst.
In fact, even the best writers and content marketers have to edit the structure of their content until they’re sure it can satisfy their readers and Google.
Now, copy editing is different from proofreading. Proofreading is where you check your spelling and grammar, whereas copy editing goes a step further.
With copy editing, you want to optimize your words and sentences for readability. Are you using some grandiose language in your content?
Do you feel your language is unnatural? It can be a sign of keyword stuffing.
Are your sentences too long with so much embedded information in them that your reader has to read every sentence at least twice?
Are you writing large blocks of text without allowing room for white space?
When you’re copy editing your post, keep in mind that you want to simplify your message to your reader as much as possible so that they can make the most out of it.
Optimizing for SEO
Now that you’re done with writing your post and copy editing your language, let’s shift our focus to optimizing our on-page SEO.
Optimizing for SEO is all about covering what Google expects to see so that it gives your content a top-ranking position on its results page.
So let’s dig into all the elements you want to optimize for SEO.
Adding Your Visuals & Alt Texts
If you’ve been reading about SEO writing for a while, you’ve most probably heard from different content marketers that including visuals is a must so that your reader doesn’t feel bored.
And guess what? Visuals can contribute to your ranking — especially because visuals (i.e., images) come with alt texts.
Also known as “Alternative Texts,” alt texts can be a good opportunity for you to insert your primary and secondary keywords. Now that doesn’t mean that you just type your keywords as the alt-text.
You want your alt text to be a description of what the image entails and in the middle of that description, there’s an opportunity to include one of your keywords.
For example, let’s write an alt text for the following image.
In this case, our alt text can be something to the effect of, “A screenshot of a meta description that defines what a meta description is and how significant it is for on-page SEO.”
To break it down:
- We gave a description of what the image entails: a screenshot of a meta description that defines what a meta description is and how significant it is; and
- We included one of the keywords we’re targeting: on-page SEO.
Looking into Your Keyword Score & Heat Map
Your keyword score and heat map are more relevant if you’re using a third-party SEO tool like Frase, where you’ll have the option to see if you need to include more of your keywords in your article to match your competitors’.
But since not everyone uses third-party tools, our recommendation is to sprinkle your keywords inside your body, introduction, and conclusion where appropriate.
Because after all, you want to avoid keyword stuffing because you don’t want to sound unnatural and awkward to your reader.
Editing Your Slug
Before you hit publish or schedule your post, make sure you look at your article’s slug. The slug is the latter part of your article’s URL.
Now bear in mind that your slug is sometimes known as “permalink.” There’s a little difference between them which we’ll touch base on.
Let’s say you’re using WordPress and you have Yoast’s SEO plugin integrated into your interface. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll find a slot for your Slug.
By default, your slug will be something like this: “www.yourwebsitedomain.com/blog/12940517.”
Once you add your article’s title, the plugin will automatically reflect it in your slug. So if you’re title is How to Write SEO Optimized Posts, your slug will automatically become: “www.yourwebsitedomain.com/blog/how-to-write-seo-optimized-posts.”
The problem is that not all SEO tools are the same. That’s why you want to make sure that your slug has your primary keyword in it.
Pro tip: If your URL has become so long, consider shortening it so that it’s easier for your reader to remember.
Now, to understand the difference between your permalink and slug, consider the following scenario. Let’s say you’ve published an article and you’ve noticed that there’s a typo in your headline.
So you go into your article, fix the typo in your headline, and update the post. Is that it? Nope. Your slug has the typo in it. Maybe you forgot to include your keyword as well.
In this case, updating the URL after it’s published from Yoast’s slug option won’t do the job. Instead, you want to go to the slot called “Permalink” to update the URL so that it reflects in your published article.
Next Steps: Nailing Your SEO-Optimized Posts
Congratulations on making it to the finish line! Now let’s get into putting all these concepts into practice so that you nail your SEO writing the next time you write your posts.
Choose a topic that you’d like to cover and keep this post in handy as you move through each section — one phase at a time.
We also recommend that you bookmark this article so that you easily access it from either your desktop or mobile device.
Just for the record, we’ve made a PDF version of this article so that you can access it offline. Just add your contact information so that we can forward it to your email inbox.