101 Content Writing Tips for SEO and Beyond

101 Content Writing Tips for SEO and Beyond

Website content is a common afterthought for many website launches. It is not uncommon for website launches to focus on design and functionality, with Lorem Ipsum text filling in the space for copy until just before a site goes live. Design and functionality are important, but what about the copy to compel your audience to do business with you? In a traditional bricks and mortar business, this would be equivalent to setting up your shops layout, fitting it out, decorating the interior, showcasing your stock and then not bothering to spend time finding the right shop assistant. If you want your website to work towards your business goals and objectives, you’ll need to find the right formula in your copy – whether it be for your blog posts, web pages or e-newsletters. From an initial idea to publishing, the following tips are a great way to get started on writing copy that converts.

Read them in order or skip straight to a section:

16 Content Writing Ideas

  1. Source from your customers – They’re the ones who ask you the questions, so why not write for them? Break down all your most Frequently Asked Questions into a lengthier explanation on your blog.
  2. Seek inspiration – Subscribe to RSS feeds from other blogs  in the same industry, as well as online marketing blogs to see which topics are on people’s minds.
  3. Look at trends – Predict rising trends in your industry with Google Trends. Discover topics that are growing in search volume and be the first to provide valuable information about it.
  4. Be more niche – Search for alternate sub-topics from your keyword. Tools such as soovle.com return the top 10 key phrases related to your keywords in an instant.
  5. Tweet Search – Use Advanced Twitter search to look for people asking questions about your keyword.
  6. Use Google Analytics – Create a regex filter for the ‘who, what, where, why and how’ questions that users may be using to visit your site. Use questions from the filtered results that have been asked but are not adequately addressed on your landing pages
  7. Look at online conversations Social Mention is a great tool to find out top related keywords, analyse sentiment and online conversations about your keyword.
  8. Mix things up – try alternate content styles for your blog and newsletters. Styles may include news, reviews, interviews and lists to name a few.
  9. Stay alert! – Use Google Alerts to monitor brand and/or product sentiment across the web or analyse sentiment around your keywords. What are people saying about you? Do they have any pain points you could be addressing?
  10.  Source questions – There are thousands of unanswered questions appearing on Quora. Build your blog post around a question, and when you’re done – go back to answer it with a link back to your blog post.
  11. Interviews – Conduct and interview with a known identity or an up and comer in your industry. People are social and love relating to key figures in their industry. The more well known, the better for your traffic.
  12. Ask your workmates – Sales and anyone that deals with clients will deal with questions about your business the most. Ask your employees if they have been noticing any trends in questions asked.
  13. Use experiences – Talk about your own experiences, good or bad in blog posts and newsletters. This makes your business more personable.
  14. Reference famous names – Say you’re in the fashion industry, which works better: ‘7 Tips for This Autumn’ or ‘7 Fashion Tips You Can Learn from Karl Lagerfeld’?
  15. Compare items – People in the research phase commonly shortlist the product or service they’re after. Help them decide with a ‘Product A vs. Product B’ type posts listing the benefits of each.
  16. Read and research the way your customers do – What other sites do your readers look at? Where are their native reading environments? Source out that content they already like and get inspired by the style, tone and delivery of the message.

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10 Ways to Use Keywords

  1. Don’t write for the search engines! –  I’m beating a dead horse with this point, but in the end – who will want to share an article with their friends that is stuffed with keywords and irrelevant content? Social matters in SEO, and so should the value of your content.
  2. Using keywords is OK – Point one being said, it’s good practice to include the keyword at least once in the title and once in the main body of content. Both search engines and users will instantly know what your page is about and reaffirms that they are reading the right page for their search.
  3. Forget keyword density –  Unless you want to create copy that’s hard to digest.
  4. Be original – Copying and pasting from other sites will only be seen as duplicate content. And you know what kind of content users love to share the most? Unique content.
  5. Research monthly searches – Use Google Adwords keyword tool to see how much search traffic and competition your keyword receives based on AdWords data. Remember to use exact phrase and to select the right country you’re targeting.
  6. Don’t get hung up on exact match – Mix it up with related search terms. I recommend using a tool such as ubersuggest.com in conjunction with Google Adwords to find alternate keyword choices.
  7. Source keywords from internal site searches – If you have a search function on your blog, set up and configure site search in analytics. This will help uncover keywords/content that users are looking for once they are on your site.
  8. Love the long tail – If your keywords are broad and competitive, creating new content will be an uphill journey. Add more search traction by going for the longer tail search. For example, instead of ‘SEO Company’, be more specific and expand to ‘How to Find a Good SEO Company’
  9. Use keywords in the URI – If your blogging platform allows you to alter blog post URLs, change your URIs to be more keyword specific. Just remember the URI needs to reflect the content in your post, so sometimes exact match keywords may not be appropriate. Use your judgement here.
  10. Source existing keywords – Use a search tool like SEM Rush to analyse keywords that you currently rank for. You can also perform searches on your competitors to see what keywords they’re ranking for.

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9 Ways to Plan Your Writing

  1. Set goals for each piece of content – What action do you want them to take? Read your page, leave a comment, sign up, enquire or download are some content goal examples.
  2. Set KPIs for each goal – once your goal is set, measure its performance. For example, downloading and other ‘events’ can easily be tracked in Google Analytics with a few snippets of code.
  3. Plan your posts in advance with an editorial calendar – If you have multiple categories, products or services, creating an editorial calendar is a great way to evenly publish content based on your core products/services. You can download my content calendar plan here .
  4. Use existing dates on the calendar – Look up key dates in your industry calendar and any other public or special holidays and schedule content based around those holidays ahead of time.
  5. Use personas -Writing comes easier when you know who your audience is. By creating personas, you can set the a consistent tone in your messaging and appeal to a broad range of readers. HubSpot wrote a great piece about creating marketing personas for content marketing.
  6. Consult with stakeholders – which areas of the business do they want to be pushing through content writing and SEO?
  7. Research – It’s great to read other blogs for inspiration, but be sure to double check your facts before sharing what another blog has told you. If you want to be authoritative, don’t make the mistake of not cross checking facts with credible sources in your industry.
  8. Plan for devices – With the rising use of mobile and tablet devices, it is more important than ever to ensure that your website and other pieces of content are accessible and responsive to the various screen resolutions.
  9. Plan Structure – Start with the headings to list the topics you want to write about, and then fill the content in between. This is to ensure you stay on topic and relevant to your title.

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11 Ways to Structure Content

  1. Never discount old school SEO – Headings still matter and are also more aesthetically pleasing to the reader when breaking down large blocks of text. Use tags for your title, for sub-headings and for any headings within the sub-headings. For more detailed information, I recommend having a read of Yoast’s post on Blog Heading Structure.
  2. Use inline media – Text can be valueable, but when published for the screen, can be hard for readers to consume in one go. To use the urban phrase, TL:DR. Give your content more substance and context with the use of images, videos and other interactive mediums.
  3. Use lists! – Makes content more consumable if broken down into little chunk size bites. Ever notice at birthday parties how people love eating slices of cake, but no-one ever rushes to be the first to cut it? Be the cake slicer!
  4. Link to your references – If you are referring to another source, link to it. Crawlers will see that you are linking to related content and it removes the search process for readers who want to know more about what you’re on about.
  5. Landing Page content writing formula step 1 – List a problem. Hit your audience’s pain points. What frustrates them?
  6. Landing Page content writing formula step 2 – Aggravate the problem. Continue to hit that nerve and get them nodding while reading your copy and saying in their head, “Yup, that’s me!”
  7. Landing Page content writing formula step 3 – Provide a solution. Think of a blistering hot day and the feeling of relief when you walk into an air conditioned supermarket. Invoke that same sense of relief when you introduce your offering.
  8. Landing Page content writing formula step 4 – Show proof that your solution works. Use testimonials, statistics, ANYTHING that shows you’re good at what you do and why others should think so too.
  9. Landing Page content writing formula step 5 – End with a call to action to encourage the reader to take action. If the previous steps are done well, this is the only encouragement they’ll need.
  10. Incorporate site design – Heavy content doesn’t look appealing in one huge block. Use design to make content more easily digestible  Check out these 25 website layouts that structure content beautifully.
  11. Highlight key words (note: not ‘keywords’) – Helps users identify the relevancy of your posts in one scan.

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9 Tips for Outsourcing Your Content

Hire writers – don’t have the time to write yourself?

  1. Use reputable companies – Consider outsourcing your writing to freelancers on Elance or Guru.com.
  2. Look for SEO experience – This will save you extra time and cost training someone how to write for SEO.
  3. Use writing briefs – Whether you write the content yourself or not, have a brief filled out for each page of content. What will its purpose be for the overall business goal? Are there any messages you want to explicitly express? This will help keep revisions down.
  4. Don’t be cheap – With content, you generally get what you pay for. Keep in mind that quality trumps quantity, so if you have a tight budget, it’s better to get one piece of well written continually converting piece of content over 5 poor pages that don’t convert at all.
  5. Communicate with your writers – Your messaging needs to come across in your writing, so the more the writer gets to know your company’s personality, style and business sense – the better. Skype is your friend here.
  6. Stay local – Look for writers who are based in your country – or have a vast experience in writing in your country. This is not only important for spelling and grammar, but also because they will be more aware of national/government issues relating to your industry.
  7. Ask students – Seek out uni undergraduates who exhibit a passion for your industry and writing. They will earn extra income and a portfolio, you get the traffic and stronger online presence. Everyone wins! (Thank you to Riley Batchelor at General Assemb.ly for this tip).
  8. Use your employees – Who else knows your business better than your employees?
  9. Create a style template – As well as a writing brief, give your writers a style guideline to ensure they stay true to the appropriate style of writing for your website.

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33 Tips for Writing Content

  1. Start with why – If you can’t answer why your piece of content needs to be written other than to build your sites content, back away from the computer… NOW. If you can’t answer why, your readers will question why would they need to bother reading your content too.
  2. Think outside the square – Mix your keyword with an outlandish statement to envoke curiosity. E.g.: Why Finding Home Insurance Quotes is Like Giving Birth.
  3. Use numbers – Too much content? Turn it into a list (much like this post) to make content more easily consumable. By indicating how many items you’re writing about in your post, you also give an impression on how much of the readers time it will take and how much value they will receive.
  4. Ask a question – Open the conversation to your readers and encourage responses through comments or social media.
  5. Proofread your work! – Nothing disrupts the reading experience more than a misspelled word. In addition, poor spelling and grammar is a sure way to lose credibility. Don’t have the time to proofread? Try a tool like After the Deadline.
  6. Stay on topic – Keep to your title and keyword throughout your post to stay as relevant as possible to your users search. Have a read of your post before publishing to make sure you haven’t strayed from your point. This also improves the Latent Semantic Indexing of your content.
  7. Tell a Story – Storytelling is bound to be the buzzword of 2013, but the truth is, it works. Users scan pages for headings to first see if a piece of content is worth reading and then read the first paragraph to see whether or not the rest of the content is worth their time. Keep them guessing on what’s going to happen next, and the next thing they know they’re at the end of your article.
  8. Be transparent and deliver – If you are promising something in your title, then deliver in your content. Users won’t forgive you for using misleading titles and also lose trust with your brand.
  9. Show examples – You’ve talked the talk, now walk the walk. By showing examples, you are reinforcing your content and giving your body of text some extra context.
  10. Create emotion in your headlines – Try using some of Copyblogger’s Trigger Words to invoke feelings inside your content.
  11. Benefits over features – What’s more compelling when writing about an ice-block: 100mL of Frozen Ice or a delicious summer treat guaranteed to cool you down?
  12. Curate – This is about finding the best resources there are on a topic that are aligned with the values of your brand and your audience. Compile links on a topic and share them with your audience with additional commentary about why you have selected the source.
  13. Use images – some things are best communicated with an image. The art of content writing is knowing when to use text and when to use images.
  14. Use ALT tags – Images require text as well in the form of ALT tags. These tags are useful for search engines, as well as readers with accessibility issues that require screen readers.
  15. Use your USPs – Back your SEO efforts with Unique Selling Points. Once a user has clicked through to your site, show them why you were worthy of that click, and not your competitors.
  16. Solve a Problem – Users use search engines to research, whether it be for information or to buy. They click through to your website hoping to find the answer they’re looking for. Always keep this in mind when you’ve finished writing. Read it back to yourself and ask, have I solved a problem here?
  17. Consult experts – Not having the best of luck with your content? Seek further advice from SEO specialists in agencies. They’re immersed in creating strategies from keywords for a wide range of industries.
  18. Show love to your other content – Do this by using internal links. It will allow search engines to see pieces of content on your blog that relate to each other and also works to increase time on site for your users.
  19. Anchor away! – Use descriptive anchor text for your links to make your content flow. It also saves you the time from writing about it and then having to say, “click here to read more”.
  20. Use appropriate tone – Use the personas as discussed in the Planning stage to base your style of messaging. What language is appropriate for your demographic?
  21. Take your time – Use your calendar to plan writing well in advance. Leaving your content until the last minute is a fast way to lose your core message.
  22. Format your content #1 – No point in creating well written content if it can’t be read. Make sure your font is a minimum of 12pt.
  23. Format your content #2 – Choose a san-serif font for your website text. It is much easier for users to read online.
  24. Format your content #3 – Select a font colour that is darker than your container background and your background overall. Let readers focus on your message rather than trying to read your text.
  25. Format your content #4 – According to Smashing Magazine, optimal number of characters per line for reading on the web is between 55 and 75.
  26. Be succinct – If you can get your message out in fewer words, do so. Spending time waffling to get a word count high could make answers for your readers harder to find causing them to bounce and exit from your site.
  27. Show consistency – If you are writing for product descriptions or other types of repetitive content, ensure that all descriptions follow the same formula (E.g.: Product Name/Model, Rating, Description, Price).
  28. Use Quotes – As Dorothy L. Sayers said, “I always have a quotation for everything – it saves for original thinking“. Also a great way to break up content, resulting in a longer reading experience.
  29. P.S. – No, there’s no postscript here. The P.S. function used in blogs and email marketing is powerful. You can use it to remind, persuade and create a stronger sense of urgency. Read more about the powers of postscript here.
  30. Be Helpful – The web is full of junk content from writers on their own soap boxes. It could be entertaining, but in the end – opinion style posts do not turn into evergreen, link attracting pages. Want more links? Be helpful.
  31. Understand the law – You don’t want attention for the wrong reasons. Just because you have the ability to write does not mean you can say anything you like (under Australian Law). Stay informed with a legal resource for online writing.
  32. Don’t talk nonsense – Use language that your readers understand. Don’t use words just because they’re the buzzword of the day. If your persona’s don’t use them, either should you.
  33. Your readers are #1 – Readers are visiting you to learn more about how you can help them. Keep your ego out of your copy for a better reading experience (and time on site!).

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13 Tips for Publishing Content

  1. Set a minimum – Aim to publish at least one piece of content once a week. This will encourage crawlers to revisit your site to see if you have any new content to be indexed. The more you post, the faster your content will be indexed.
  2. Timing is everything – Look at your Google Analytics to determine which days receive the most unique visitors. Publish your content the day before that peak period to give your readers the latest news. Or try SocialBro to see when your Twitter followers are active by the HOUR!
  3. Use medium sharing sites – Using your own images or an infographic? Share your images on third party sites with links back to your content. Try: Pinterest and Visual.ly!
  4. Share your posts! –  Share your post on your social media channels, creating a custom message to fit the tone of each channel.
  5. Share via RSS – Submit your RSS feed to content sourcing sites like Alltop.com for extra exposure for people who are searching for topical content.
  6. Utilise blog tools – There are many plugins and widgets that can be used on blogging platforms like related posts, related products, what other customers bought and so on. Use these tools to encourage a longer time on site (or item in the basket!).
  7. Do update your posts – If there is an update in the industry, make sure you maintain your older posts to include a link to any updates that post may have.
  8. Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon Your Content – Have a great post that you think is worthy of being shared? Share it with the online community and let them decide
  9. Ask others to share it – Reach out to other bloggers you have a connection with and get them to review your content. This works well with E-Book, Infographics and other heavy pieces of content.
  10. Proofread Again! – Double, triple, quadruple proofread your work! No explanation necessary.
  11. Keep it short – According to Facebook, posts shorter than 250 characters receive 60% more likes, comments and shares than longer posts.
  12. Use it for lead generation – Readers won’t part with their emails so easily. Write content that is of equal value or more for the price of their details and create a dedicated download form for it.
  13. Slow and steady wins the race – Content is versatile enough to give you big wins in a short amount of time, but it also has the ability to stand the test of time if it is an authoritative and helpful resource.

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If you would love to share your tips, drop them in the comments below!

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We’ve been in the digital marketing field for over 18 years and worked with hundreds of Australian (and international) businesses to grow their web presence. Specialising in SEO, search ads (PPC), social media, content marketing, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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