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 visibility on the SERP let alone 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. To achieve this, the copy must be 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: both users’ and search engines' expectations of quality content 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.
And here are just some of the changes that have impacted how people search:
1. RankBrain and BERT
Google's RankBrain and BERT updates have completely changed the way we look for information. For one, they allow 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. It understands the context of this search query beyond the explicit individual words used.
2. Voice Search
We can also ask search engines or voice assistants like Amazon Echo questions and receive the answer immediately. When we looked at voice search, we saw that the ability to ask Google or voice assistants for information has changed the length of the query, what goes with it, and its nature.
3. Answer Box/Featured Snippets
In many instances, we don’t even need to click on a listing to get the answer we’re looking for thanks to the Answer Box.
And as a result, the way we search has 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. (Remember, Google is smarter now, which means our queries can be ambiguous but still understood.)
These changes mean we must also adjust the way in which we create content.
To guarantee rankings, the content you write must consider all of the above. Then, you must provide expert and authoritative advice on what your users are searching.
What Types of SEO Content Can You Create?
The simplest answer is: any assets that Google includes in the search results. But to be more specific, the most common SEO-driven content types include:
- Blog posts and long-form articles
- Evergreen content – long-form assets that target the audience’s universal interests
- Videos – Google is likely to showcase them in the search results
- Tutorials that offer a potential to appear in the Answer Box
- Podcasts (the search engine has been experimenting recently with including them in the SERP)
- Product and category page content that targets transactional intent
Now that you know what types of content you can create and optimize over time, let's finally learn how to write content for SEO.
How to Write Authoritative SEO Content
What makes something authoritative? 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.
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 how to accomplish that …
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.
A part of Research Grid, Topic Explorer makes it easy to find semantically related keywords based on your seed keyword. Multiple filtering options (such as intent, industry, keyword patterns, and search volume) narrow down the list so you can select the keyword that is most relevant to your content creation.
Take a Strategic Approach to Those Keywords
This is a critical yet greatly overlooked step. You need to understand what questions the searchers have around this topic.
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.
#1. Search Intent
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 buyer's guide is more appropriate for transactional intent.
Authoritative 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.
Consider the phrase “gaming desktop.” A person looking to buy new gaming equipment may also research 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.
#2. Analyze the SERP
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.
#4. Goals and Performance
To write great SEO-driven content, you also must understand why you’re doing it in the first place, and you must answer this from the user perspective.
What is your content doing for your users? How is it helping them, specifically? Remember, your first objective is to engage readers. The better you do it, the greater the chance that Google will want to include your content high in SERP.
Finally, you need sufficient data to measure the overall performance of your content. When data supports your content creation process, you’ll know if you’ve met your goals, or what needs to be adjusted to get you there.
Define 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.
Recommended Reading: SEO Content Writing: Creating Copy That Both Google and Users Love
Semantic must-use keywords
A factor that immediately confirms the content is authoritative: 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 a 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.
Length and Type of Content
You can find an ideal word count based on the analysis of the top-ranking content. Do note that longer content often conveys greater topic expertise. Also try to break up the long text with visuals such as graphs, infographics, or block quotes. These elements both strengthen authority and enhance user experience.
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.
Consider your topic clusters and interlink appropriately to boost your authority on the overall topic. When you cover a topic from multiple angles, it shows the user (and Google) that you have an overall authority and understanding on that topic.
Authoritative Content at Scale
We do realize that all of the above may take some time in order to optimize a single piece of content. That’s why we introduced Content Fusion, our AI-driven content writer.
(Get content recommendations for a keyword or specific page with Content Fusion.)
With Content Fusion, you can integrate semantically related topics and identify relevant, connected topics associated with search demand (pictured below). From there, users can also optimize current content to improve their authority, all through the AI-driven insights of this content writer.
(Must-use topics for the keyword "iPhone 11.")
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).
In SEO, content binds everything together. For that reason, you must ensure producing exceptional and highly relevant content that meets your users’ needs and expectations. In doing so, you increase the chances of Google rewarding it with high rankings.
To continued being rewarded with better search visibility than you've ever imagined possible (and to recap my approach), continue to follow my complete SEO content writing process with your team, which covers:
- Why you must target a specific keyword,
- Why you must write content for the user first and target intent,
- What are the elements of well-optimized SEO copy
- Which on-page SEO factors to focus on to improve the user experience.
Want to see how our platform will help your content level up?
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.