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How to write for SEO: A step-by-step guide for beginners

We often collaborate with writers and build sites for clients that have limited experience writing with SEO in mind. We decided to make this overview to help get an understanding of how to optimize your content for search engines.

Writing for SEO involves creating content that people enjoy reading and that helps them solve their problems as fast as possible. Search engines are designed to identify and rank that type of content. There are various details to consider when writing in order to improve your chances of achieving higher rankings.

a man sitting at a desk in an office

Our suggested approach for starting out with a new article or blog post is this process:

  1. Choose a keyword to target with your content.
  2. Research what type of content already ranks well for that keyword.
  3. Consider the intent of the person searching for the keyword.
  4. Create an outline for your content that covers the topic and meets the searcher's needs.
  5. Write a compelling introduction that clearly explains the value of reading the rest of your content.
  6. Write for people first, then for search engines
  7. Add/update internal links on existing posts to feature the new content
  8. Submit to Google Search Console to make sure indexation happens instantly

There's a lot that goes into SEO, but some key things to keep in mind include using relevant keywords, making sure your website is easy to navigate, and having high-quality content.

In addition to the above, we will also discuss general SEO tips such as:

  • Onpage optimization
  • URL Structure
  • Internal and external linking
  • Common technical SEO issues & best practices
  • Helpful tools for SEO writing

I hope you find this article useful and consider sharing it with someone who could benefit from learning SEO writing too.

Choose a keyword to target with your content

Keyword research

When creating content for your website, it's important to first choose a keyword to target. This keyword should be relevant to your website's content and something that people are frequently searching for.

If you are a professional writer, you will probably get the keyword from your client, but I thought I would give you some information on this topic in case you are tasked with keyword research too.

Google Trends

To find the right keyword, you can use keyword research tools. These tools allow you to see what keywords people are searching for, and some of them allow you to see how often they are being searched for.

  • Google Keyword Planner: This tool shows you how often people search for certain keywords and gives you ideas for related keywords to use.
  • Ahrefs Keyword Generator: This tool generates a list of keywords related to your topic and also provides data on search volume, CPC, and competition.
  • Spyfu: This tool shows you the keywords that a specific website or domain is ranking for, as well as the keywords that their competitors are ranking for. Spyfu is well known for their insights on how companies advertise in search results. Therefore it can be a great tool for finding commercial keywords.
  • Google Trends: This tool shows you how popular a keyword is and can help you find new and trending keywords for your website.
  • Answer the Public: This tool generates a list of questions related to your keyword, which can be useful for creating content that answers those questions.
  • Keyword Surfer: This is a browser extension that helps you find keywords related to the website you're currently viewing.
  • Keyworddit: This tool generates a list of keywords from Reddit, which can be useful for finding niche keywords. Reddit is constantly moderated, so if you find a good discussion there, you can be quite certain that it is real people discussing topics they care about, and thus it can be a real gem for research.
  • Google Search Console: This tool gives you data on how your website is performing in Google search results and helps you identify keywords that your website ranks for. This tool is mostly useful when you have already started ranking for some keywords.
  • Questiondb: This tool generates a list of questions related to your keyword, which can be useful for creating content that answers those questions.

If you are writing for a small website with little authority, it can make sense to target a less popular keyword with less competition so you have a higher chance of ranking.

It is more fun to rank position 1 for a keyword that gets 100 searches a month than rank page 3 for a keyword that gets 1000 searches a month.

On the other hand, if the website you are writing for is authoritative, you can go for more popular keywords.

If you are diving into keyword research, you might also find exploring the topic of LSI keywords useful.

Clustering is the secret to topic authority

If you only work on one article, you can skip this section.

But if you are working on an elaborate SEO strategy for a website, it makes sense to keep topic silos and clustering of content in mind.

Once you have chosen a keyword to target, you can use keyword clustering to group related keywords together. This creates a more organized and deliberate site architecture which can help improve your SEO strategy and allow your website to rise up in the rankings.

To create topic clusters, you need a large set of keywords you want to rank for:

  1. Make a keyword list
  2. Segment keywords into groups based on topic
  3. Create and optimize pillar pages for clusters
  4. Create internal links between pages in the same cluster and the pillar page in the same cluster

Start with the most niche topics that have the least overlap with other topics.

For example, if you have a blog about gardening, you may choose the keyword "organic gardening" to target. You can then use keyword clustering to group related keywords such as "natural gardening," "sustainable gardening," and "green gardening" together. This will make it easier for search engines and users to understand the content on your website and improve your chances of showing up in search results.

Here is an example of how topic clustering could be done for a blog about “writing for beginners”:

Keyword ClusterKeywordSearch Intent
Writing FundamentalsWriting for beginnersInformational
Writing FundamentalsBasic writing skillsInformational
Writing FundamentalsWriting tips for beginnersInformational
Writing FundamentalsWriting exercises for beginnersInformational
Writing FundamentalsHow to improve writing skillsInformational
Writing StylesCreative writing for beginnersInformational
Writing StylesTechnical writing for beginnersInformational
Writing StylesPersuasive writing for beginnersInformational
Writing StylesBusiness writing for beginnersInformational
Writing StylesNarrative writing for beginnersInformational
Writing ToolsWriting software for beginnersTransactional
Writing ToolsWriting apps for beginnersTransactional
Writing ToolsWriting templates for beginnersTransactional
Writing ToolsWriting books for beginnersTransactional
Writing ToolsWriting courses for beginnersTransactional
Writing ResourcesWriting blogs for beginnersInformational
Writing ResourcesWriting podcasts for beginnersInformational
Writing ResourcesWriting communities for beginnersInformational
Writing ResourcesWriting workshops for beginnersInformational
Writing ResourcesWriting challenges for beginnersInformational

If you would like to make a good cluster based on the keywords you are targeting, I recommend collaborating with an SEO agency.

Agencies typically have experience from many industries and a set of professional tools to help them make keyword analyses based on multiple data sources.

If you don’t currently have an agency helping you out, feel free to reach out to us and see if we are a good fit for your project.

Search intent

Consider the intent of the person searching for the keyword.

When you're writing for SEO, it's important to think about why people are searching for a certain keyword. This is called "search intent." It's what the person who types a keyword into a search engine is looking for. Understanding search intent can help you create content that meets the needs of the people searching for that keyword.

To research search intent, you can start by searching for your target keyword to see what kind of content is ranking well and try to understand the intent behind those searches.

You can also analyze the keywords you want to target by looking at the words and phrases in the keyword and trying to understand what the person searching for that keyword is looking for.

screenshot of ahrefs interface

Additionally, use tools like Google's Keyword Planner and Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer to see what related keywords and phrases are being searched for.

As you can see, this is not really rocket science, but something that is often overlooked or forgotten. Especially when you get into the flow of writing it is important to zoom out and double check you continue to keep the search intent in mind.

Create an outline

Creating an outline for a blog post involves researching what's already out there, figuring out key points, organizing content, deciding on an article angle, choosing a content format, and analyzing top-ranking articles.

It can be a good tactic to identify websites in the top 10 results that rank despite having a low domain and page authority and few referring domains, as this basically tells you that google ranked them based on the quality of their content and not the site authority. You can use a tool like MozBar (linked below) to get this kind of insight directly on the search results page.

When you have found pages that are performing well against all odds (low authority), load them up in your browser and see how the are structured and take inspiration from that.

Blog posts should have only one h1, the main title of the post, but can have multiple h2 and h3.

Each h2 can be followed by a number of nested sections that each have an h3. It is important to be structured and logical in the way you use h1, h2, and h3.

I have seen examples of sites that started with multiple h3 headers followed by more than one h1 header without any obvious structure.

screenshot of Detailed chrome extension

To verify you set the outline up correctly, you can use a tool such as Detailed SEO Extension (linked below). This chrome extension allows you to analyze on-page SEO and get suggestions for improving your website's ranking.

Click-through rate and attention

Search engines rank content that:

  1. Gets clicked in search results
  2. Gets read once you have clicked it

The average organic CTR forThey can measure this easily. If you click on a search result and immediately go back and click another result they know that the first result didn’t answer your question.

On the other hand, if you keep reading the page you clicked, it must mean it is useful.

Based on these two metrics, it is important to grab people's attention in the search results and afterward hook the reader by writing a compelling introduction that clearly explains the value of reading the rest of your content.

Here is a statistic for your reference when it comes to CTR (Click-Through Rate):

SEO is 2%, though the #1 result in Google's organic search results has an average CTR of 27.6% and the first position typically has a CTR of 39.6%. A good CTR for organic searches is anything above 3%, and the first result in Google's organic search results had an average CTR of 31.7%

To grab people's attention in the search results, you can make an effort to write compelling SEO titles and Meta descriptions as they are the texts that search engines will feature on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). These two will only be considered as input for the search engine as they often make their own using machine learning, so you don’t have full control over what the searcher will see in the end. But it is still worth it to optimize for clicks.

When people click the link and land on the website, you need to get their attention and prove the worth of the article instantly.

You can use persuasive writing frameworks to improve the conversion rate and time spent on each article.

Here are a few examples of persuasive writing frameworks you can look into.

AIDA Model: This framework helps grab attention, build interest, create desire, and make a CTA. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. For example, if you're selling a product that helps with weight loss, you would first grab attention by highlighting the problem of being overweight, build interest by explaining how your product works, create desire by emphasizing the benefits of using it and make a CTA for the reader to buy the product.

Pain-Agitate-Relief: This framework helps identify customer pain points, amplify the consequences of those pain points, and offer a solution. For example, if you're selling a product that helps with back pain, you would first identify the pain of back pain, agitate it by emphasizing how it affects daily activities, and then offer relief through your product.

Solution-Savings-Social Proof: This framework focuses on stating the problem, emphasizing the savings that come with the solution, and using testimonials from satisfied customers. For example, if you're selling a product that helps with energy efficiency, you would first state the problem of high energy bills, then highlight the money saved by using the product, and finally, include testimonials from happy customers.

Story-Solve-Sell: This framework helps you tell a compelling story, demonstrate the solution your product offers, and make a call to action (CTA). For example, if you're selling a product that helps with productivity, you could tell a story of a person who struggled with time management, show how your product helped them solve that problem, and then make a CTA for the reader to buy the product.

Now that you have started writing your text we can move onto a bit more technical suggestions.

Write for people first, then for search engines

SEO writing is a special kind of writing that helps websites rank higher on search engines like Google. It's different from regular writing because it includes optimizing the content for search engines.

To write SEO copy well, it's important to consider keywords, create content that answers the user's intent, and use techniques like structuring posts and keyword-rich phrases.

It's also important to remember that SEO writing is for humans first and search engines second, and to always create compelling and informative content.

Some general tips:

  • Consider your writing style - make sure it is clear and easy to understand for your target audience.
  • Build credibility by linking to high-authority websites and citing sources.
  • Keep your content short and mobile-friendly for easy reading on-the-go.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing - it is not helpful and can harm your SEO; instead, use LSI keywords.
  • Make your content engaging by adding imagery and using an appropriate tone.
  • Use eye-catching titles to grab attention and make your content more shareable.
  • Keep in mind that scannable, longer posts tend to perform better than short ones.
  • Link to other posts on your site to keep readers engaged and on your site longer.
  • Make sure your content is easy to read by focusing on terrific readability.
  • End your post with a call-to-action, such as "Sign up to our newsletter" or "Download our free guide on SEO writing."

SEO-friendly headlines

The key to writing SEO-friendly headlines is to be straightforward, written for humans, include keywords, and use emotional and attention-grabbing vocabulary. Furthermore, keep the headlines short and easy to read, with simple wording.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization is all about making sure your website is easily understood by search engines and users.

This includes optimizing elements like title tags, meta descriptions, body content, alt attributes, and URL structure to ensure they are relevant and accurately represent your website's content.

  • Use H1, H2, and H3 tags to organize content and make it easy to read.
  • Include keywords in headings whenever it makes sense (more often than not)
  • Make important text stand out by using strong tags (bold text).
  • Make your page H1 header fairly short and super catchy, and include the main keyword in the beginning. Examples: "SEO Tips for Beginners - An easy start"

Here are some examples of H1 headers that are two ends of the scale when it comes to length. Ideally, you would come up with some middle ground of 4-6 words that grabs the attention of and includes the keyword in the beginning.

A bit too short H1A bit too long H1
"SEO Tips for Beginners""Learn How to Optimize Your Website: A Guide for Beginners"
"Best Running Shoes for Women""Top 10 Running Shoes for Women: A Review"
"Healthy Breakfast Ideas""10 Delicious and Nutritious Breakfast Recipes to Start Your Day"
"DIY Home Decor Ideas""Design Your Dream Home: Creative and Affordable Decorating Ideas"
"Gardening for Beginners""How to Start a Garden: A Comprehensive Guide for Novice Gardeners"
  • SEO titles are typically similar to the H1 header. However, I often see people using slightly longer SEO titles than H1 headers. You should aim for max 60 characters since longer titles will get cut off in the search results on mobile devices.
  • Make your meta description informative, max 160 characters, and include keywords. Examples: "Learn simple ways to improve your website's visibility in search results"
  • Describe your images using alt texts and include keywords. The ideal length of alt text is around 125 characters or less. This is because screen readers typically stop reading after this point. Alt text should be as concise as possible, providing a short phrase or sentence that accurately describes the image's purpose.
Better Alt Text ExamplesBad Alt Text Examples
SEO Guide for BeginnersSEO Tips
Organic Gardening TechniquesGarden
Professional HeadshotMy Profile Picture
Modern Kitchen DesignKitchen
Hiking Trail MapMap
  • Make your links relevant and descriptive by using keywords in anchor texts. Examples: "Learn more about easy SEO techniques"
  • Use nofollow and follow attributes to tell search engines which links to follow and which to ignore. This means the link will not affect search engine rankings or help a page's placement in search results. It is a good idea to use nofollow on links to untrusted content.
  • Use structured data to help search engines understand your content and improve visibility in search results. Examples of adding structured data could be like adding FAQ schema, recipe schema, book schema, product schema and video schema to your website.

Create a logical URL structure

Along with the SEO title and meta description, the URL is one of the first things people see in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

A short and logical URL structure will help search engines understand what your website is all about and make it easier for users to navigate.

  • Use clear and descriptive words in your URL.
  • Keep it short and separate words with hyphens.
  • Use keywords in your URL.
  • Don't use numbers, special characters, or underscores in your URL.
  • Avoid using “stop” words like "a", "to", "for" in your URLs. (its like “uhm” for computers)

Examples of good and bad URLs:

Good URL StructureBad URL Structure

Now that you have created a nice and short URL you can link to and from this page on the website. In the next section, we will discuss internal linking.

Internal linking and information architecture

A well-structured website with logical information architecture and internal linking makes it easier for users and search engines to understand and navigate your website.

Make sure your internal links are relevant and provide value. Link to other pages on your website that have relevant information, which will help keep visitors on your page and improve your SEO.

Be mindful of the anchor texts when linking both internally and externally. Use a descriptive anchor text that accurately reflects the content of the page you’re linking to. This way, your readers will get a better understanding of what the link is about, and search engines will recognize the relevance of the page to your website.

With your new page optimized and crosslinked on the site, you need to make sure that Google indexes it. If you link from existing indexed pages to this new page, it will probably be noticed fairly quickly, but it is always good to be on the save side. In the next section, we will discuss getting indexed on Google.

Getting on Google

Submitting your website to Google is important in order for search engines to find and index your content. This will increase the chances of your website appearing in search results and drive more traffic to your site.

screenshot of Google Search Console interface

Here are the steps to submit your website to Google:

  1. Register your website with Google Search Console: This will give you access to tools and insights to improve your website's visibility in search results.
  2. Create a sitemap: A sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website. You can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to create a sitemap for your website.
  3. Submit your sitemap to Google: Go to the "Sitemaps" section in Google Search Console and enter the URL of your sitemap. This will help Google understand the structure of your website and index your content.
  4. Use the URL Inspection tool: This tool allows you to submit individual URLs to Google for indexing. You can use it for new pages or content that you want to be indexed quickly.

It's worth noting that Google may already have found your site, so you can check if your site is already indexed by searching on Google.

If you want a higher chance of ranking and getting indexed, it can be helpful to get a backlink from an existing authoritative page.

When you start ranking, you want to make sure that your efforts across the site makes a the difference, and luckily you can easily track your SEO performance. We will look at this in the next section.

How to Track SEO Success

Measuring organic traffic and keyword rankings is essential for SEO success. This will help you understand how your website is performing and make adjustments as needed.

Tracking visibility is also essential for SEO success. This will help you understand how your website is performing and make adjustments as needed.

You can track your visibility for free inside Google Search Console (GSC).

Setting up GSC is a great way to track your website's SEO performance for free. It provides valuable insights into how your website is performing in organic search results and how users are interacting with your website.

With GSC, you can find the right keywords to target, monitor your rankings, analyze the performance of your website, and set up tracking to make sure that you are getting the best results possible.

GSC also allows you to identify technical issues and make sure that your website is optimized for SEO. With all of these features, GSC is an essential tool for any writer looking to improve their SEO performance.

Common technical SEO issues & best practices

Along with your content, there a multiple technical roadblocks that can lower your chances of SEO success.

Let's address some common issues like page speed, mobile friendliness, and security to ensure your website is easily understood by search engines and users.

screenshot of google lighthouse

Implementing best practices for these issues can improve visibility in search results and provide a better user experience.

  • Make images smaller to increase page speed
  • Minify code to make it faster to load
  • Use a CDN to deliver content quickly (For example, Cloudflare)
  • Make the website responsive to work on mobile devices
  • Optimize for small screens and touch navigation
  • Fix broken links to avoid 404 errors
  • Use redirects to send users to the right page
  • Use robots.txt to block search engines from unwanted pages
  • Use meta noindex and meta nofollow tags to block search engines from certain pages
  • Use schema and markup to help search engines understand content
  • Use HTTPS to secure website and protect against hacking
  • Eliminate duplicate content
  • Monitor technical issues and track website performance using Google Search Console and other tools.

If you find the list above overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are experts in auditing websites for issues like the ones above and finding ways to solve them so your website doesn't rank worse than your competition.

Helpful tools for your writing process

As with anything else, having great tools can be game-changing. Here is a list of tools you might find useful in your SEO writing process.

  • Hemingway App: A tool that helps you improve the readability of your writing by identifying common errors and complex sentences.
  • Grammarly: A tool that helps improve your grammar, spelling, and delivery and also checks for plagiarism.
  • Wordtune: An AI-powered writing companion that offers features such as a “sentence rephraser”, style editor, and suggestions for new sentences to enhance your text.
  • ChatGPT: A chatbot that can be used for SEO purposes such as generating content, clustering keywords, and checking grammar and spelling.
  • Detailed SEO Extension: A chrome extension that allows you to analyze on-page SEO and get suggestions for improving your website's ranking.
  • Jasper AI: An AI-based writing tool that offers features such as a Sentence Rephraser, Style Editor, and suggestions for new sentences to enhance the text. It is designed to help users improve the readability and overall quality of their writing. It can also identify common errors and suggest ways to fix them, which can help improve SEO and increase credibility and user experience.
  • MozBar: A browser extension that provides SEO metrics about a website, such as Domain authority and amount of referring links, directly on the search results page.

If you use a cool tool that is missing from the list, please let us know.


As you can see, there is a lot that goes into SEO writing, but it is definitely possible to create quality content that serves the reader so well that Google rewards you for it with a good ranking.

If you feel this is a piece of cake and would like to collaborate with us on writing other articles, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Maybe you are on the other side of the table and need help improving your company website and the rankings of your content. We would love to help you out.

I hope you found this article interesting and helpful.

portrait of Kim Dofler

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