Eat five servings of vegetables. Exercise for 30 minutes a day. Drink eight glasses of water. And …
Optimize your website content for search engines.
Writing content for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) might feel like drudgery.
After all, where’s the fun in keyword research? What’s inspiring about writing meta descriptions?
I get it — I resented SEO tasks for years. Search engine optimization seemed so-not-creative. So scientific. So cold and clinical.
But then I started using tools that made search engine optimization a game.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to start playing the SEO game with easy-to-use (free!) tools.
Read on to learn the basics.
Want them all in one place?
Grab my free SEO Content Template.
Why does writing content for SEO matter?
You want your content to be consumed, right?
Writing content for SEO helps your online content get found by the people who need it.
Optimizing content for search engines is an exercise in curiosity and puzzle solving.
Curiosity: What words (keyword phrases) are people using to describe my content topic?
Puzzle-solving: How can I use those keyword phrases artfully and naturally in the content I create?
6 tips for SEO content writing
Choose a content topic and use the six powerful SEO habits below to help people find the content you create.
Not sure what to write about? In my book Master Content Marketing, I share a technique for organize the information you share into categories that fit under one main topic.
You can learn more from articles I’ve written here:
The six tips for SEO content writing that we’ll talk about in this article are:
- Get curious as you search for keywords
- Research keyword phrases
- Pick a winning keyword phrase
- Make a keyword phrase target list
- Add keywords in all the right places
- Boost your SEO score
Writing content for SEO: Grab these tools to start
You’ll need two tools to make your SEO content marketing strategy work feel like a game:
- A keyword research tool
- An SEO performance grader
Read on for my recommendations for each of these tools.
Why do you need a keyword research tool for SEO?
Do you know the exact words people are typing into search engines to find your topic?
Let’s take the article you’re reading right now, which is about writing content for SEO.
Let’s say I thought, “I’ll use the keyword phrase, make my content show up in search engines.“
The only problem is that no one is typing that phrase into search engines.
If I had used that phrase to describe this topic, this article would be floating around the internet alone, with no readers — and no one searching for it at all.
Instead, we want to use the phrases that people are actually typing into search engines. When people want to learn how to write content for SEO, they search for:
- SEO content marketing strategy
- Tips for SEO content writing
- SEO content template
- Writing content for SEO
That, my friend, is why you’ll see all of the phrases above carefully woven into this article.
You can do this, too.
Start by picking a tool for keyword research.
My favorite keyword research tools
Keyword research is Step 1 in any SEO content marketing strategy. It’s how you discover the words and phrases people type into search engines to find the topic your content will cover.
The best keyword research tools make finding keyword phrases easy and fast.
Ubersuggest: This is Neil Patel’s easy-to-use and powerful tool. Ubersuggest has free and low-cost paid versions. It features a handy Chrome extension that allows you to see search data right in your browser window. This is my preferred tool for writing content for SEO.
Keywords Everywhere: This is a browser add-on for Chrome and Firefox. You search for a keyword phrase and it populates your browser window with data about how the phrase is trending over time. You’ll get lots of alternative phrases you can explore, matched up with additional data that’ll help you choose the best ones. Free and paid versions.
Keyword Surfer: This is an extension for Chrome that is similar to Keywords Everywhere. Free and paid versions.
Pick one of the tools above. Start with the free version so you can try it out before paying for it.
Depending on how often you publish content, the limited free versions may be all you need.
How to do keyword research
Here’s the best way to evaluate keyword phrase results.
Know your current website authority. Websites with high authority rankings are like 900-lb gorillas — they can successfully target high-volume keywords. If you’re just starting out, you should aim for low-volume keywords. Check your website authority for free here.
My friend Erik Wardell of Pathfinder SEO (affiliate link) shared this rule of thumb for website authority and keyword volume. If your website authority number is:
- Less than 25, target low-volume keywords
- Between 25-75, target medium-volume keywords
- More than 75, target high-volume keywords
Aim for a search volume where you can be competitive. You want to find a keyword phrase that people are actually searching for and you need to be able to compete. Every keyword tool measures search volume differently, so look at the volume results as Low, Medium, and High.
- For some tools, Low is 0-10 searches. Medium is 100-500. High is 1,000 or more.
- For other tools, Low may be 100 searches. Medium is 1,000. High is 10,000 or more.
Don’t get caught up in the exact numbers. Instead, check your website authority as mentioned above, look at the common volume ranges in the keyword search tool you use, and don’t punch above your weight. Aim for a keyword volume you can win.
Target easier phrases. Most keyword research tools share an “SEO difficulty” grade. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably just learning about writing content for SEO. Choose phrases that are easier and leave the harder ones for people with well-established websites and lots of search engine optimization experience.
Can’t decide? Look at Cost per Click. This can be a tie-breaker, so look at this if you can’t decide. A higher Cost per Click number means the keyword phrase is seen as more valuable by people using paid ads.
Once you have a solid keyword research tool you enjoy using, you can keep playing the SEO game as you add your chosen keywords to your content.
For that, you need to use an SEO performance grader.
My favorite SEO performance graders
Do you play to win?
If so, you’ll love optimizing your content for search engines when you use one of the tools below.
Rank Math: I love this WordPress plugin. It was a game changer for me!
It puts the content you create through a comprehensive SEO performance grader. It shows your current SEO grade in real time.
The higher your grade, the better your content should perform in search results.
Rank Math gives you simple prompts about what you should change to improve your score. You can watch your grade rise with every improvement you make. Free and paid versions are available. This is the plugin I use when writing content for SEO.
Yoast: The original SEO optimization plugin, Yoast is a solid alternative and works in a similar fashion. If you use it and love it, there’s no need to change. But if you’re not enjoying optimizing your content, you might want to give Rank Math’s streamlined interface a try. Yoast has free and paid versions available.
(If your website is on Squarespace, here’s a comprehensive article on optimizing your content for search engines on Squarespace.)
Install a keyword research tool and an SEO performance grader and read on!
The 6-step method for writing content for SEO
Get started writing content for SEO with these steps.
Want them all in one place? Grab my free SEO Content Template. [opt-in form]
Step 1: Get curious as you search for keywords
Think about all the different ways your audience might describe your content topic. Make a short list of words and phrases you can investigate.
Google Search can be helpful for this.
Go to Google.com and type in the first keyword phrase that comes to mind. Listed below your search terms, you’ll see alternate phrases you can explore:
Step 2: Research keyword phrases
Become a scientist and test your hypotheses.
Explore alternative ways your reader might search using your keyword research tool using your keyword research tool.
Here’s what to look at to decide which keyword phrase to choose:
- The suggested keyword phrase itself: Does it make sense? Will you be able to use it in a sentence as is? When writing content for SEO, the final product needs to be pleasing to your human readers!
- Volume: How many people search for that phrase each month? Aim for at least 100 — higher is better.
- Search difficulty: How competitive is the keyword? Lower numbers are better here, especially if your site is newer or you don’t have a lot of search engine optimization experience.
- Cost per click: This is a tie breaker! If you can’t decide between two phrases, the one with a higher Cost per Click number is the best one to target. The higher the Cost per Click, the more valuable that phrase is perceived to be.
Step 3: Pick a winning keyword phrase
Find the best combination of a natural phrase + volume + difficulty + cost per click.
This will be your focus keyword — the primary keyword phrase you’ll weave into your headline, your subheads, your content, your meta description, and more.
More on this in Step 5.
But first …
Step 4: Make a keyword phrase target list
Save the winning keyword phrase at the top of a list and bold it so it stands out.
Then, add the “runners up” directly below. Aim for 3-5 additional phrases.
Using both the focus keyword phrase and the short list of supporting phrases will help your content to rank higher in search engines. You’re casting a wide net giving searchers lots of different ways to find your piece of content.
Step 5: Add keywords in all the right places
When writing content for SEO, use my “Power 6” method to weave in your keyword phrases naturally.
Even better, grab my free SEO Content Template so you can keep these tips on hand whenever you’re creating content for your online business.
Step 6: Boost your SEO score
Play the game of SEO by making small tweaks that boost your overall score before you hit publish.
Your SEO performance grader will help with this!
Where to add your keyword phrase: The Power 6 Method
In a piece of written content, tools like Yoast SEO and Rank Math will prompt you to add your keyword phrase in these places:
- Your headline.
- Your first paragraph.
- Your body copy and subheads.
- Your permalink.
- Your images, in the file names and alt text.
- Your meta information: Content title and description.*
*Edit these inside your SEO plugin. They’re important when writing content for SEO! They impact how your content appears in search engines.
Practice writing content for SEO until it feels natural
I started to write “practice makes perfect.” But honestly? There’s no such thing as “perfect” search engine optimization. Writing content for SEO is an exercise in curiosity and puzzle solving.
Practice the steps here to give your content a fighting chance to stand out in search engines.
It may feel like a lot to master, but think of it as a game! It’ll feel natural and easier the more you practice.
Want this information in one handy worksheet? Grab my free SEO Content Template.