No mat­ter how much you might wish it to be so, craft­ing savvy, SEO-friend­ly con­tent for your web­site is not a mat­ter of fill­ing in tar­get­ed blanks with strate­gi­cal­ly assigned key­words. Writ­ing for SEO is a dis­ci­pline but also an art, and every year that goes by it’s the qual­i­ty of the con­tent that mat­ters more and more.

Yes, videos and pod­casts are rapid­ly grow­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty, but amidst every­thing else your busi­ness offers, you need to make sure your website’s writ­ing remains smart. Pow­er­ful on-page SEO begins with the words you choose to share.

How to Write Search Engine Optimized Website Content

  1. Don’t just think about what you want to tell your audi­ence. Think about what they want to know. Sure, you want your audi­ence to buy now, to hire you today, and to arrive on your doorstep, but are you think­ing about what they want? What ques­tions might they have about you or your indus­try? How is it that you ful­fill their needs? How can you prove your­self to them? When writ­ing your web­site text, don’t think “me, me, me”; think “them, them, them.” The pay­off will be huge for your human audi­ence; plus, the search engine algo­rithms will take note.
  2. Research the key­words your audi­ence is already using. We live in an era of data, so find it and uti­lize it. Some web devel­op­ment com­pa­nies sup­ply key­word data to clients as a part of the devel­op­ment process, but how­ev­er this data is researched, find it. It’s SEO gold. Know­ing the exact words and phras­es your audi­ence is typ­ing into search engines enables you to write your mes­sage in the nat­ur­al lan­guage they’re expect­ing. Say­ing “search engines algo­rithms like this a lot” is a mas­sive under­state­ment.
  3. Write like a human, not like a bad­ly pro­grammed machine. Today’s search engine algo­rithms are begin­ning to under­stand the nat­ur­al flow of lan­guage with the help of new arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) tools, so don’t try to stuff as many of your key­words as pos­si­ble into your writ­ing. It will sound ter­ri­ble, and no one—human or bot—will be con­vinced of your pro­fes­sion­al­ism. Instead of key­word stuff­ing, try to make your lan­guage more organ­ic. Uti­lize a pri­ma­ry researched key­word or key­word phrase (i.e., “long-tail key­word”) through­out a web­site page and give it a sup­port­ing cast of oth­er valu­able words and phras­es. Be aware of your key­words, but not obsessed with your key­words. Your SEO will be strength­ened, and you’ll still be able to con­nect with your audi­ence.
  4. Arrange your lan­guage strate­gi­cal­ly. Use your pri­ma­ry key­word with­in your page title, meta descrip­tion, URL, and head­ers, where organ­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble. Know the pow­er of plac­ing your pri­ma­ry key­word phrase and/or sec­ondary key­words with­in your first sen­tence or para­graph, with­in bul­let points, num­bered lists, or even the lan­guage of a hyper­link. Writ­ing for the web in all CAPs is to be avoid­ed (please stop yelling), but stress­ing spe­cif­ic lan­guage through bold font catch­es human eyes and the notice of search algo­rithms too. Inter­est­ing­ly, strate­gic key­word place­ment might not be as essen­tial in com­ing years with the con­cept of user expe­ri­ence (UX) dri­ving the future of SEO; how­ev­er, as of this writ­ing, strate­gic key­word place­ment still dri­ves results.
  5. Be ready with the quick answer. Return­ing to that strate­gic place­ment, think about what you’re look­ing for when you do a voice search. You want an answer spo­ken back to you in a sen­tence or two. When craft­ing your web writ­ing, enable your text to ful­fill that same need for some­one else’s query. This is where the impor­tance of your first sen­tence or two comes in. You want to get straight to the point. You can give depth and per­son­al­i­ty lat­er, but don’t be shy about start­ing with exact­ly what your audi­ence wants to hear.
  6. Go beyond to prove your exper­tise. Of course, after you start with a bang, pro­vid­ing that sim­ple answer to the ques­tion or con­cept that you already know your audi­ence is curi­ous about—thanks to your handy key­word research—keep going. You don’t need to write thou­sands of words on a sub­ject, but you need to show your exper­tise. Avoid the jar­gon of your indus­try that might con­fuse some­one new at the table, but give enough con­tent to show with­out a doubt that you are an author­i­ty with­in your indus­try. This depth and den­si­ty of focused con­tent is a rank­ing sig­nal for search engines.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—no, seri­ous­ly, with­in your con­tent, ask away. As already implied, voice search is chang­ing SEO. Just think about what you ask Google or Siri. Do you phrase it the same way that you would type it into a search engine? Is your spo­ken query a chop­py frag­ment, or do you phrase it as a ques­tion? Google has stat­ed that twen­ty per­cent of all search­es are now voice relat­ed, and that num­ber only seems to be ris­ing. We live in a new world, where forty-one per­cent of peo­ple who own a voice-acti­vat­ed speak­er say it feels like talk­ing to a friend, also accord­ing to Google. Be con­ver­sa­tion­al in your writ­ing. Match the tone of that ques­tion you’ve found in your key­word research. Maybe you can even turn it into a Q&A sec­tion of your web­site. Then pro­vide your audi­ence with the answer they’re look­ing for.
  8. Uti­lize inter­nal and exter­nal hyper­links. Includ­ing links to oth­er pages of your web­site shows the depth of your knowl­edge and help­ful­ness. Includ­ing links to oth­er exter­nal web­sites shows that you do your research and/or that you are adding your voice to a larg­er con­ver­sa­tion. Both of these are good for your business’s rep­u­ta­tion and play into SEO algo­rithms. And while you’re think­ing about hyper­links, be sure to inte­grate the lan­guage of links direct­ly into your writ­ing. Web audi­ences under­stand what hyper­links look like these days, so there’s no need for clunky web address­es or inter­rup­tions of “click here.”
  9. Cite your research. This fol­lows the exter­nal hyper­link note but goes a step fur­ther in regard to your trust­wor­thi­ness. Fake news is abun­dant. Fake quotes from Mark Twain and Ben Franklin are abun­dant. Be sure your audi­ence can see exact­ly where your research comes from. They’ll appre­ci­ate your trans­paren­cy and your integri­ty. And again, the rank­ing algo­rithms will take note too.
  10. Opti­mize for local (if your goal audi­ence is local). How is your web­site ever going to rank well local­ly if you nev­er men­tion the name of your city? Accord­ing to a recent Bright­Lo­cal study, sev­en­ty-six per­cent of smart home speak­er users con­duct local search­es at least once a week, with fifty-three per­cent per­form­ing dai­ly search­es. A lot plays into local SEO from map inte­gra­tion to Google reviews, but don’t for­get the sim­ple step of nam­ing your location(s). Give a shout-out to your neigh­bor­hood, your town, or your region. In your foot­er where you note an address, this is good. With­in your main page con­tent, it’s even bet­ter.
  11. Inte­grate your text with visu­al ele­ments. If you want to have a mod­ern web­site, the visu­al design is essen­tial, whether you’re includ­ing images or videos. Just remem­ber your key­words when you’re craft­ing your alt text, cap­tions, or over­laid text. And as a note, web crawl­ing bots will not read text that is insert­ed into a video or image. Only text posi­tioned as a lay­er on top of an image in the devel­op­ment phase is help­ful to your SEO. The visu­al effect might be the same, but there is a dras­tic dif­fer­ence when it comes to search engine opti­miza­tion.
  12. Edit your­self care­ful­ly. And then gain a sec­ond set of eyes for good mea­sure. There are many great writ­ing ref­er­ence books worth keep­ing on your desk, but nothing—no, not even Grammarly—beats hav­ing a sec­ond pair of human eyes review­ing your con­tent before you pub­lish.
  13. Update your con­tent reg­u­lar­ly. No one likes it when a web­site feels stale or out­dat­ed, and “fresh­ness of con­tent on the page” has a major influ­ence on search rank­ing.
  14. Above all else, write for your human audi­ence first. Google’s Latent Seman­tic Index­ing algo­rithm stud­ies the rela­tion­ship between key­words and the over­all pic­ture of the con­tent. The User Intent (UI) and User Expe­ri­ence (UX) are at the core of this analy­sis. Is the text well-writ­ten, ful­fill­ing a searched for query with rel­e­vant, help­ful infor­ma­tion? Key­words have tra­di­tion­al­ly guid­ed the con­ver­sa­tion about SEO and writ­ing for the web, but authen­tic­i­ty and qual­i­ty with­in your website’s text are more impor­tant than ever.

Sure, you might have plu­g­ins to help your cause of writ­ing for SEO, but even the best of these plu­g­ins doesn’t cap­ture the full pic­ture. On-page search engine opti­miza­tion is a com­plex under­tak­ing, one that changes dra­mat­i­cal­ly from year to year. Research can guide you; spe­cif­ic strate­gies can help the cause; but in the end, it all comes back to the expe­ri­ence of the user on the page.

UX” is a hot top­ic in the web world, and it will only become more so. Be help­ful. Be thor­ough. Be strate­gic. Be smart. If you are, there’s a good chance you’ll be mul­ti­ple steps ahead of your competition—in your web writ­ing and oth­er­wise.