Writing an article

How to write SEO friendly articles

Categories:
SEO

This article focuses on how to write an article that will help drive more search traffic to your website. If you write content that interests and engages visitors, you’ll keep them on your website. Always write for your visitors first, don’t just write articles for SEO.

What does ‘SEO friendly’ mean?

An “SEO friendly” article aims to rank high in search engines for one or more search terms. For example, if you have an online shop selling Japanese food, you might write a post about sushi.

Writing a good SEO friendly article requires more than mentioning some keywords. So what do you need to do?

Do your research

To write great content you need to understand your customers buying behaviour. Use keyword research to identify the search terms used at all stages of the buying journey. A buyer will go through three steps in deciding what to buy and who from.

  1. Awareness – The customer asks, “how do I solve my problem?”
  2. Consideration – What is the answer to the problem?
  3. Decision – Comparing the solutions and deciding what to buy.

How can you find the right keywords?

Use a keyword research tool to identify the sort of search terms your target audience will use. The aim is to match your content to peoples search intent. You  should also look at trends, and competition. Try not to get hung up on search volumes, this metric can be unreliable. We break keywords down into three types of intent.

Informational keywords where questions are being asked in searches. The most common searches start with “What”, “Where”, “How”, “Best” or “Near Me”. For example, “What is the best summer cocktail?”. Tools like Answer The Public are great for finding the questions people ask online. Look for questions that include your keywords, these can make great article subjects.

Customers use comparison keywords once they start looking at options. For example, “Levi 511 Jeans prices” or “Local restaurant reviews” are comparison keywords.

Buying keywords have the most obvious intent. “Samsung Galaxy S21 discounts online” is an example of a buying keyword. Use these in your articles to help answer people’s searches. This will make your article useful to people as well as being SEO friendly.

Finger on keyboard

What are the best keyword research tools?

Where can you find the best keywords to use? Here are some tools we recommend:

There are many more keyword research tools out there. If you’re on a budget, this article from Ahrefs has a list of Free Keyword Research Tools.

Check out your competition

Once you’ve decided on what to write about, it’s a good idea to Google the subject to see who else is writing about it. The internet is absolutely crammed with content. Your aim is to find an angle that will make your article both search engine friendly and unique, otherwise you're adding no value. And creating content without value is a waste of time.

 

Plan first, write second

Ask yourself what do you want your post to achieve.

  • What questions do you want to answer?
  • How will you target search intent but also interest the reader?
  • What are the main messages you want to get across?
  • What tone of voice do you want to use? 

For example, if writing about a serious B2B service then a formal approach is best. Reviewing quirky pet accessories? Then an informal style could be 'paw-fect'.

Write down a structure for your article including:

  • An introduction outlining what the article is about
  • The main headings for your body content
  • A conclusion, this might include a call to action

How to use keywords in your article

A common mistake is to stuff your article with keywords. This will make it hard to read and look spammy, which can have a negative impact on your search rankings.

Remember, you are first and foremost creating content to provide value to users. Then applying SEO best practise. Not the other way around.

The best thing is to write naturally and aim for a keyword density of about 2%. Try reading your article aloud, it'll be obvious if you've overdone the SEO.

 

How to write your meta title and meta description

Your meta title and meta description are vital for making your article SEO friendly.

What are they? Meta titles describe what your web page is about. Meta descriptions provide a longer, more in-depth description of your page. Both the meta title and description appear in search results (see example below). 

Search results for Bigfork Norwich

Example of a SERP (search engine results page). The blue links are the meta titles, and the black text is the meta descriptions.

A strong meta title and description can hugely increase your rankings and clicks. Meta titles should be 50-60 characters long. Add the most important keywords at the beginning, making sure it still makes sense. If you have a well-known brand, use it in your meta title to boost your impact in search results.

Aim for about 100–160 characters in your meta description. Anything longer will get cut off in search results. Google does not take meta descriptions into account when ranking your article. Remember, they appear in search results, so are a great opportunity to stand out and get clicks.

Write your meta title and description very much like an ad for your article. Make them compelling and entice the reader into visiting your website to find out more.

Be careful not to duplicate your meta titles and descriptions within your website. This can lead to "keyword cannibalism" and cause problems with ranking

Moz has a great, in-depth article on meta titles and descriptions which is well worth a read.

Optimise your headings (H1, H2, etc.)

Structure your article so that it has clear headings and isn't a wall of paragraphs.

Make sure to use keywords, phrases and questions in your headings. If you’re not sure what heading tags are then SEMrush has the answer. Contrary to popular belief, headings are not a direct ranking factor. They do help people and search engines understand your content though. Which then helps with engagement and rankings.

Example of HTML structure showing headings

Use synonyms

Don’t keep repeating the same keywords and phrases, it won’t help your SEO. Instead use synonyms – different phrases or words which have the same meaning.

For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “board game” then mix it up with “tabletop game” or “strategy game” in your article. Synonyms stop your copy being repetitive and give search engines more context.

Add related key phrases

You may have several keyword terms that you want to rank for that are similar. Consider our “board games” example again. Your research may show that people also search “boards games for adults” and “board games for kids”.

These related key phrases make your article more relevant to these searches. Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension is a great free tool to find related keywords. Add the extension to your browser and type in the keyword you are targeting. A list of related keywords will appear on your screen, like this:


Keywords Everywhere extension

Example of keyword suggestions from the Keywords Everywhere extension.

Using images, and how to make them SEO friendly

Most people are image led, so it’s a great idea to use images to illustrate points you are making. Images account for 20% of searches, it's well worth optimising your images for search.

There are several things you can do to optimise your images for search:

  1. Use the correct format and size for your images. If you’re using a content management system, it should take care of this for you. Oversized images can slow your site down, this is bad for SEO.
  2. Add alt text to describe your images. This helps your website’s accessibility as well as search engines. Moz have a handy article about writing alt text.
  3. Include images alongside relevant content. Search engines can use this to determine the relevancy of the image.
  4. Have an image sitemap, most content management systems can do this for you.

Where to get images for blog posts and articles.

Unique images are always best, if you have the budget. Enlist the services of a good photographer to take some shots for you. Or have a designer create graphics and diagrams for your article.

If you don’t have the budget, royalty free stock images are a good option. You can buy these from libraries such as Adobe Stock. They won't be unique, but they will be high quality.

There are also free images libraries. They can be hit or miss but will sometimes turn up some gems. If you go down this route, check on the terms of use and make sure there aren’t any copyright issues.

Be wary of using Google image search to source pictures. It can be hard to check copyrights and can land you with a hefty bill.

Do internal links help SEO?

Absolutely yes.

Internal links are links between pages on your website. As opposed to external links that go to pages on other websites.

Your internal links help search engines understand your website structure. Linking related content says "these things are related". When you create links, the link text should be relevant, for the benefit of both SEO and accessibility.

For example, this post is about SEO. So, a link to our SEO services page is an internal and relevant link.

Website pages will have different “link values”. Your home page will nearly always have the highest link value – it's the natural target for most links.

When you create a link, it passes link equity (also known as "link juice"). By passing link equity to relevant pages, you can increase the value of other pages. Do this in a planned and structure way though. Linking everything to everything doesn't create a web of equity, it creates a mess. SEO tools such as Yoast’s internal linking tool can help with this process.

 

Are longer articles better for SEO?

Google tends to like pages with lots of words in them. That said, you should focus on quality, not trying to fill screens with words. A super long post will not rank if it’s garbled and irrelevant.

Long articles for some keywords will rank higher as more questions need to be answered but this doesn’t mean it will work every time. Focus on the purpose of the article and what needs to be written rather than the number of words.

Recent research from Hubspot has shown that a blog post should have 2,100 to 2,400 words to rank well. This was based on their 50 most read blog posts, but it’s worth pointing out that 16 of those 50 blog posts had under 1,500 words.

hands on tablet

How often should you post articles?

This depends on your resources and your objectives. Develop a realistic plan that you know you can stick to.

We’d recommend publishing at least one or two good quality articles each month to maximise traffic. If you have to choose between quality or quantity, the former wins every time.

If you don’t have the resources in-house then recruit a SEO agency or a freelance content writer. They'll be able to research and write SEO friendly articles for your website.

To summarise

Writing good quality, SEO friendly articles is worth the time and effort for the return you’ll recieve. Great content means more relevant search traffic, an engaging website, and more customers. Rather than an ad hoc approach, do your research and develop a list of articles to produce over the next 3-6 months. Once you’ve finished your article, use our check list below before you hit the ‘Publish’ button.

Article SEO Checklist

  1. Have you carried out effective keyword research?
  2. Are these keywords in your copy (without overdoing it)?
  3. Is your structure correct with headings (H1, H2 etc.) and paragraphs?
  4. Have you used synonyms?
  5. Do you have images with relevant alt tags?
  6. Are there internal links in your article?
  7. Have you written a strong meta title and meta description?
  8. Is your grammar and spelling all correct?