22 tips for SEO content writing: optimization guidelines

This guide includes a list of SEO content writing tips.

Below, you’ll find the best SEO writing tips and techniques you can use to better optimize your articles for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. As a result of following these SEO content writing guidelines, you should experience higher keyword rankings and organic search traffic for your website.

SEO Content Writing Tips

1. Write Helpful SEO Content for Humans, Not Search Engines

If you only follow one of these best practices for SEO content writing, this one should be it. And with each subsequent Google algorithm update, writing content for humans, not search engines, is becoming vastly more important for SEO.

Focusing all your efforts on achieving keyword rankings without regard to your actual users will often create the opposite result as Google prioritizes helpful, people-first content in search results.

In the screenshot below, you’ll see the search giant’s official explanation of what “people-first content” actually means:

Write Helpful SEO Content for Humans, Not Search Engines: Google's official explanation

Here are two more tips for writing helpful, human-first content.

  • Become Your Audience: Put yourself in the mindset of your target reader. What would you want to know? What would make the biggest difference in terms of finding the information you need? Then, focus your SEO content on satisfying those needs.
  • Engage and Empathize: Basing your content on personal experiences not only helps to satisfy Google’s E-E-A-T requirements (more on this later) but also shows readers that you empathize with their situation, meaning they’re more likely to trust you to help them.

2. Focus Your Writing On 2-3 Keywords

Keywords are the foundation of SEO content writing, sending signals to search engines and search users about the subject of your content.

To use them effectively, focus on one primary keyword and two closely related secondary or supporting keywords. That way, your content is tightly focused on that cluster of keywords, which, ultimately, helps your web page rank higher for all of those terms and their variations.

3. Make Sure the Content Meets User Search Intent

Matching the user’s search intent should be a pivotal component of your SEO content strategy. This SEO writing tip means understanding the underlying motivation or purpose behind a specific search query. This critical factor will influence the type of content you create and how you create it.

For example, suppose your audience is looking for practical instructions on how to mow a lawn, which would include step-by-step instructions. In that case, you’d naturally create different content than if your readers wanted to research the best lawnmower to purchase, which would include a list of products along with your personal review of each one.

Make Sure the Content Meets User Search Intent

Consider the following best practices to ensure your content meets users’ search intent:

  • Use SEO Tools: Platforms like Semrush allow you to check a specific keyword’s main search intent category (e.g., informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial). Use this to get a basic understanding of the type of content you’ll need to create so you match user search intent for SEO.
  • Analyze Top Search Results: Run a Google search for your target keywords and check out the top-ranking results. These are the pages Google feels best to meet the user intent, making them invaluable for determining the most effective way to create and structure your SEO content.

4. Aim for a Competitive Word Count

Word count is one of the most misunderstood of all SEO writing best practices. Google doesn’t consider word count as a ranking factor but rather how informative and comprehensive the content is. See the image below for the official Google documentation on this matter.

Aim for a Competitive Word Count

For example, if you’ve sufficiently answered a search query in 1,000 words, adding an extra 1,000 of superfluous fluff won’t give you any extra benefits. And, in some cases, can dilute the topical relevance of the target keyword; making it harder to rank for that query.

A better strategy for content writing is to examine the length of existing top-ranking content on Google. This will allow you to more accurately determine how long your article needs to be to stand a good chance of a high ranking.

You can run those top-ranking URLs through a tool like Word Counter to get a good idea of how long your content should be to cover the subject and meet user intent fully.

Aim for a Competitive Word Count1

As you can see in the image above, the word count for the example article is around 1,700 words. After conducting competitor analysis, we discovered that an article of that length would be sufficient to rank in the top 10 positions on Google for its target keyword phrase. Writing a 5,000-word guide on the topic was not necessary, and would mostly likely not be worth the extra time or effort for SEO rankings.

5. Keep Paragraphs Short and Concise

Large chunks of text make your content harder to follow and cause unnecessary challenges for users scanning your content to find a key piece of information.

For this reason, you’ll benefit from keeping your paragraphs short and concise. A best practice is to limit your paragraphs to a maximum of two or three sentences. Also, use bullet points when you can to make the content more scannable and digestible for the reader.

6. Optimize the Title Tag for the Top Keywords

Your page’s title tag should be written to send clear signals to search engines and users about the subject and context of your posts. Therefore, you should place your primary keyword at the beginning of your post title to ensure there’s no doubt about the main SEO topic of your content.

From there, incorporate secondary keywords or keyword variations towards the end of your title tag in a natural-sounding way that provides more context about the post’s contents.

For example, we are targeting the following keywords for this SEO writing guide:

  • SEO content writing tips
  • best practices for SEO content writing
  • SEO content writing guidelines

As a result, we created this optimized title tag to cover all of the top keywords and their variations without repeating the same words over and over again (i.e., over-optimization): SEO Content Writing Tips (22 Best Practices & Guidelines)

7. Use Proper Heading Structure

Header tags (H1-H6) improve your page’s user-friendliness by organizing your content into easily-digestible sections. They also help search engine crawlers understand the main topic and subtopics of the content for proper indexing in the SERPs.

Your H1 tag should be the main title of your article, with each of the main topics separated by H2 tags. These H2 sections can then be broken down into subsections using H3 tags. H3 sections can be further divided into subsections with H4 tags, and so forth down the line with H5s under H4s and H6s under H5s.

For example, in a product review, you might have one main H2 section titled, “Key Features”, that you divide into three smaller H3 subsections; one for each feature. See the image below for an example of this SEO content writing tip in practice.

User proper heading structure: Example H2 header followed by H3 subheadings

8. Ensure the H1 and Title Tag Are the Same

Your title tag is what users see in search results for your web page listing and ultimately click on to access your content. Therefore, it’s essential that your H1 tag matches your title tag, as this helps users feel confident that they’ve landed in the right place.

As a result of following this SEO writing tip, your users are more likely to stay on your page rather than hit the back button, which will negatively impact your bounce rates. Also, matching your title tag to the H1 tag improves the keyword relevancy for SEO (and rankings) because these two HTML elements confirm to the search engine crawlers what the target keywords are for on-page SEO.

9. Include Keywords In the H2 Subheadings

H2 tags give further signals to search engines about the topics covered within your content. To improve your chance of ranking well in the SERPs, it pays to ensure each H2 subheading incorporates one of your primary or secondary keywords.

In our experience, we’ve found that the best practice to follow for SEO content writing looks something like this:

  • Primary Keyword: Include it in the first and last H2 subheadings on the page.
  • Secondary Keywords: Include each supporting keyword one time in their own H2 tags on the page.
  • Keyword Variations: If you’ve already used your primary and secondary keywords as above, include keyword variations in any remaining H2s. (If appropriate and natural.)

10. Boost Topical Relevance With H3 Subheadings

Topical relevance is a term used to describe how much the content aligns with and covers a specific topic comprehensively.

One way to boost your topical relevance is to incorporate any keyword variations you still need to use on the page into your H3 tags as well as any relevant semantic keywords. Together, this improves topical relevance for SEO rankings.

However, as with all keyword placements, what matters most here isn’t the keywords themselves but that they fit into your H3s in a way that has a natural flow for the reader.

11. Put Your Top Keywords In the Introduction

Your introduction is one of the first on-page elements search crawlers use to learn about your content. It’s also your last opportunity to convince your users to stick around by making it clear that you have what they’re looking for.

With that in mind, aim to add your primary keyword within the first 100 words of your post. Ideally, this should be within the first sentence or the first paragraph.

As you continue writing, seamlessly weave in supporting keywords throughout the introduction, further strengthening your message to readers that your content aligns with their search intent and improving keyword prominence for SEO.

12. Repeat All Keywords In the Body Content

Adding keywords in the body content is one of the easiest SEO writing techniques to get wrong.

Although you’ll benefit from repeating both your primary, secondary, and variation keyword types throughout your content, it pays to exercise caution, adding each keyword only when it fits seamlessly within the context of its surrounding paragraph.

As explained in our other post on how many keywords per page for SEO, the number of times you use a keyword in the body text depends on the length of the content.

For example, a 500-word blog post can easily be optimized for two or three keywords, but trying to fit five or six keywords into a short article like that will likely sound unnatural. However, focusing on five or six keywords in a 2,000-word blog post is a common practice and you can spread out the usage of those phrases so the content sounds natural.

A good rule of thumb for SEO content writing is to use 1-2 keywords for every 100 words of text. This results in a keyword density of around 1-2% which is considered to be a good percentage for on-page SEO without keyword stuffing.

13. Add Keywords to the Summary

Adding your primary and secondary keywords to the summary (or conclusion) of your article doesn’t just provide a sense of coherence and clarity for readers, it also plays a significant role in strengthening your topical relevance for SEO keywords.

Once you reach this stage of your post, a good SEO writing technique is to include your top three keywords one time each within the last 100 words on the page.

14. Include Long-Tail Keywords & Relevant Entities for Semantic SEO

Long-tail keywords are specific phrases and questions that target longer search queries (e.g., four or more words). Relevant entities, on the other hand, are mentions of people, places, or other specific terms relating to your subject.

Including both together on the page helps search engines understand the context and semantic meaning of your content in a way that can positively impact your keyword rankings.

This SEO writing guideline also helps you establish your expertise and authority on your chosen topic because you’re improving the overall semantic relevance and knowledge on the subject matter.

15. Optimize the Content for Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets are stand-out search results that feature prominently above regular, organic search listings, typically providing a short answer to a specific question.

Featured Snippets provide the benefits of enhanced website credibility and improved organic search visibility, which can increase your click-through rates.

Optimize the Content for Featured Snippets: Example snippet in Google

To earn these snippets, optimize your content by using an exact match keyword you want to target in an H2 subheading that is high up on the page. Underneath that heading, directly answer the question in 45-50 words, which is the most common snippet length.

Follow this SEO writing tip for as many relevant keywords that apply to the page and display a Featured Snippet. You can uncover more ideas by doing a Google search for your target keywords and copying the questions that appear inside the People Also Ask box. Put those questions in their own H2 tags followed by a short and concise answer.

16. Include E-E-A-T Signals

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, all of which are factors that Google’s human Quality Raters look for in content when evaluating search results.

The best ways to showcase these E-E-A-T factors for SEO writing include:

  • Include an author byline with a link to the author’s bio page.
  • Include an author bio box (optional; and a good substitute if a byline is not present).
  • Include the published date and time (time is optional for evergreen content but essential for news-related content)
  • Demonstrate expert knowledge and/or first-hand experience on the subject by sharing in-depth information, personal opinions, original photos, and self-produced videos.
  • Referencing relevant credentials, qualifications, or industry affiliations.
  • Make sure all information is accurate and up to date.
  • Include 1-2 unique elements (minimum) not found in the top-ranking URLs (e.g., tables, charts, infographics, videos, more list items, industry expert quotes, FAQs).

For more tips like these visit our on-page SEO checklist which lists all of the top factors to focus on for on-page optimization signals.

17. Include At Least 3-5 Internal Links

These next two SEO content writing tips encompass other essential elements of on-page search engine optimization beyond the words on the page.

Internal links can enhance website navigation, improve user experience, and help spread link equity throughout your site, but only if you stick to the following recommended SEO content writing guidelines:

  • Use no more than 3-5 internal links per post to prevent diluting link equity.
  • Ensure links are highly relevant to the subject and provide additional value to your readers.
  • Place links strategically within your content, using relevant anchor text in a way that fits naturally within the surrounding content.

18. Link Out to High-Quality Sites

External linking to reputable sources can significantly elevate your credibility, creating subtle associations between your site and respected, high-authority publications within your niche.

Use external links to provide evidence of your claims, provide greater context, or add value to your content by giving readers additional tools and information.

To make the most of external links in SEO writing:

  • Link to sources with high Domain Authority (DA) and/or high Page Authority (PA) scores.
  • Ensure links fit naturally within your content using relevant anchor text.
  • Set links to open in a new tab or window to prevent users from leaving your page.

19. Add Keyword-Optimized Images

Images are crucial for breaking up large pages of text, making it easier to read, and illustrating specific key points. Images can also be optimized to improve the on-page SEO relevancy for your target keywords.

Additionally, some articles will require more images than others. For example, a page targeting “bathroom vanity ideas” would be image heavy because users want to see pictures of bathroom vanities to get a better idea of which style to use during a home renovation.

To achieve the most SEO gains from your images, ensure that the file name, ALT text, and captions are all optimized for your highest-priority keywords. Focus on one keyword per image while making sure it fits naturally with the picture.

20. Write a Compelling & Optimized Meta Description

Meta descriptions (the short blurbs beneath search listings that describe the content) are another good area to focus on for SEO content writing.

Write a Compelling & Optimized Meta Description: Example in Google

A good meta description includes your primary keyword and at least one secondary keyword (in that order). Google, for example, will bold those keywords when they match the user’s search query, which can improve click-through rates.

21. Write an SEO-Friendly URL

An SEO-friendly URL provides clear information about the content of the page. It also improves the chances of ranking higher in search results as it is one of the top-ranking factors for on-page SEO.

Many SEO experts agree that the URL is the third most important factor for SEO content writing. The other two factors are the title tag and the H1 heading.

A good SEO writing best practice is to keep your URL short (under 60 characters) and include your primary keyword as an exact match keyword phrase. For example, the URL for this guide is simply, /seo-content-writing-tips/.

22. Add Relevant Schema Markup to the Content

The last of our SEO writing techniques involves using specific tags known as Schema Markup to help search engines learn more about the most appropriate search terms to rank your content for.

Add Relevant Schema Markup to the Content

You can generate these tags easily without needing to know much technical SEO using any one of these free Schema Markup generators.

Learn More About SEO Content Writing

The links below explain more about SEO content writing. Use these resources to expand your knowledge on the subject.

SEO Content Writing Tips & Guidelines Summary

We hope you enjoyed this list of SEO content writing tips.

As you discovered, these SEO writing tips and techniques allow you to better optimize your articles for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The more you can incorporate these SEO content writing guidelines into your publishing process, the higher keyword rankings and organic search traffic you can achieve for your website.

Boost SEO With Google Stacking! Learn how to use free Google assets to climb the SERPs.