In today’s digital landscape, the most common approach to SEO content writing – focusing on search demand for a keyword, on-page optimization, and limiting content to a single aspect of the topic – has become insufficient to drive significant rankings and traffic.
Both users and search engines alike prioritize pages that promise in-depth and extensive information, often going beyond the subject matter expertise of a typical content team.
And here lies your challenge. How do you write content that signals authority and expertise on one end and focuses on the right search intent and relevant key phrases on the other?
That’s what you’re going to learn from this post. These steps demonstrate how to create authoritative content and how to use this knowledge to write content for pages that are more visible in a search.
What is SEO Content Writing?
SEO writing is a branch of copywriting that focuses on prioritizing the experience of an organic visitor. It achieves this by ensuring the copy is relevant to the keywords or search phrases a person has searched for and matches their search intent appropriately.
But SEO writing involves more than just adding a handful of keywords to the copy. In fact, the work on SEO content begins far before any words have been written. SEO writers must consider who is searching for this information and why, and leverage that in the writing process. It doesn’t even consider the latest updates to the search algorithms, because those factors will catch up to quality SEO writing, not the other way around. Overall, quality SEO writing is built for the long term and focuses on the searchers' experience.
Why We Must Change How We Write Content
Well, the answer is simple – because both users’, and search engines' expectations of content quality have changed significantly.
In the past, we could create a short page targeting a single keyword, and use it to drive traffic.
(If you happened to be involved in search engine optimization back then, then I’m sure you remember the average length of a piece of content sufficient to deliver rankings and visitors – around 300 words.)
To do the same today, not only do we need to provide more information that a) confirms our authority and expertise, and b) provides users with in-depth answers, we also need to consider the multitude of ways users search for it.
And here are just some of them.
Google's RankBrain has completely changed the way we look for information. For one, it allows us to provide the search engine with scraps of information about our problem and it delivers the results we want.
Here’s an example I often use to illustrate this point:
Note that, in spite of receiving only some ambiguous information, the search engine still retrieved the right content.
Here’s another example.
And here’s a proof that the result is correct:
2. Voice Search
We can also ask search engines or voice assistants like Amazon Echo questions and receive the answer immediately.
3. Featured Snippets
In many instances, we don’t even need to click on any listing at all and still get the answer we’re looking for through the Answer Box.
And as a result, the way we search has also changed.
For one, we use different queries, often including phrases we’re the most comfortable with (but aren’t necessarily relevant to the information we search).
Let’s take voice search for example. Being able to ask Google or voice assistants for information has changed the length of the query, and what goes with it, also its nature.
To guarantee rankings, the content you write must consider all of the above. And then, you also must provide expert and authoritative advice for which your users are searching.
What Makes Content Authoritative
To deliver content that provides insights and targets a myriad of different search phrases, you need to ensure that:
- It conveys authority on the topic,
- Presents in-depth information that covers the breadth of the topic space, and
- Matches the audience’s intent for this information.
Let’s look at those in turn.
To better understand how it applies to content, let’s first review the overall concept of authority and influence.
In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini describes the mechanism we use to identify someone (or something) as authoritative – through various clues that denote it as such.
In the case of authoritative figures, such clues typically include a job title, a uniform or any other clothes that signify their position.
Those cues, in turn, affect how we approach and respond to such people.
It’s no different with content. Readers and search engines alike identify content as more authoritative based on certain elements.
These elements include:
- Length – Longer content often conveys greater topic expertise.
- Topic depth – The breadth of information covered.
- References – For example, research findings, data or quotes from influential figures signify the author’s knowledge authority on the topic.
- Visuals – particularly graphs and visual data or statistics.
#2. Topic Space
A factor that immediately confirms the content’s authority is this – it exhausts the topic.
Such pages or articles typically provide more information than a person unaccustomed to a topic would expect to learn about it.
They contain references to scraps of information a person has already learned about it and then, introduce new aspects they haven’t thought of yet.
In short, such content anticipates, and then, over-delivers on the reader’s needs.
Let me illustrate this with a quick example.
Imagine that you create content targeting the phrase “credit cards.”
Naturally, such page would include information on different types of credit cards and their use.
But your users might also want to learn about other aspects of the topic – credit history, credit limits, balance transfers - and so on.
Including sections relating to that information will make the content far more authoritative on the topic, and relevant to their different queries. Not to mention that search engines will also perceive it as more important and propagate for more search queries.
But the only way to create it is to first, realize the entire topic space and all of its aspects. Naturally, one way to do it is with complex keyword research. The challenge with such research would rely on your knowledge about the topic.
The alternative? Leverage AI from Content Fusion, an AI-driven content authority writer that leverages multiple data sources to provide complete coverage of the desired topic.
With Content Fusion, you can integrate semantically related topics and identify relevant, connected topics associated to search demand. From there, users can also optimize current content to improve their authority, all through the AI-driven insights of this content writer.
Finally, authoritative content also matches the reason why a person’s been searching for this information in the first place. And this could be to learn something new, go somewhere, or make a purchase.
Such content takes their search behavior into consideration, and targets semantically-related words and phrases, making it not only more relevant to the user but easier for search engines to rank.
Take the phrase “gaming desktop”, for example. A person looking to buy new gaming equipment might also be researching phrases such as “gaming rig” or “gaming performance".
Targeting those in your content will make it more relevant and engaging to a greater number of searchers. And what goes with it, increases its chances to appear in SERPs more often.
How to Write SEO Content: 3-Step SEO Content Writing Workflow
To write solid SEO-focused content that ensures its authority, topic space, and intent you must do three things.
#1. Conduct keyword research to find the words users search for.
It is common for writers to begin with a generic idea regarding what they want to write about, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, before writing even a single word, you must conduct thorough keyword research to identify how the audience searches for information online.
We've covered the process in detail in this guide to keyword research. I recommend you review it for detailed instructions on how to identify the best keywords to target so your content is relevant along the buyers' journey.
seoClarity operates the world's most competitive data set, Research Grid, which reveals content gaps and content ideas that ensure you cover all angles of what users search for.
#2. Take a strategic approach to those keywords.
This is a critical yet greatly overlooked step.
Keywords provide structure to many aspects of SEO content. They guide the structure for the content, the type of information that should be included, and even determine its ideal length. However, more information is needed to create SEO-focused content.
As mentioned above, a writer should consider the search intent. What drives the users' search? Consider the reason why the readers search for this information. All search queries can be categorized as one or more intent types: informational, transactional, navigational, and/or local.
User intent determines the type of content, and what you should focus on in the copy. For example, a blog post or article is best suited for a search with informational intent, while a while buyers guide is more appropriate for transactional intent.
You should also consider whether this particular piece of content stands a chance to appear in the Answer Box. The first step to determine this is to evaluate whether Google actually displays a Featured Snippet for the keyword. You can also evaluate the search intent to gauge whether an Answer Box is likely. (Informational intent-based keywords are more likely to trigger the Answer Box.)
When you evaluate what to write about, you should also consider the "People Also Ask" section of the SERP. This is a great way to determine what other, relevant information users search for in relation to the keyword. Not only that, but if you answer those questions in your content, portions of your content can appear in the "People Also Ask" drop-down.
Finally, content writers should review the top-ranking content, looking for patterns that could reveal what Google considers the best piece on the topic. This can inform you of topic ideas that you overlooked to make sure your content covers the subject in its entirety, which proves the authoritativeness of your page.
#3. Defining the writing criteria
With all that information at hand, you need to define the criteria for writing the content. I recommend that you leverage and optimize the following:
- Semantic must-use keywords related to your target keyword that help Google understand the topic of the page better (and show the searcher that you've covered the topic completely).
- An ideal word count, based on the analysis of the top-ranking content.
- Optimized title and meta descriptions. Be sure to have targeted title and meta descriptions for the landing page. Consider leveraging the OpenGraph tags as well to create alternate versions of these tags to display when shared on social media. These versions could be more enticing to draw attention than meta tags intended for SEO.
Interlinking opportunities. Consider your topic clusters and interlink appropriately to boost your authority on the overall topic.
All of the above is possible to do at scale with Content Fusion. But for those who operate a CMS that offers plug-ins, like WordPress, the Yoast plug-in is a favorite for SEO optimization efforts too (such as keyword optimization and content).
When it comes to SEO content writing in today’s digital landscape, only highly authoritative content can boost engagement and significantly improve search visibility.
In this post, you’ve learned the core elements of such content, and how to use them to write pages that convey authority and expertise.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.