SEO Content Writing: Best Practices

The equation for successful SEO content writing is a simple one.

Provide your website visitor with concise, informative and useful content + present it in a way that is easy to use = more traffic and more sales! $$$

Effective content writing isn’t just for your online visitors though, you’re writing with another audience in mind…the almighty Google. Filling your website with content that your visitors find useful and helpful will also improve your overall Google rankings, in turn making your business more visible in the big wide web world.

Well written SEO copy is a balance between ensuring both website visitors and Google can comprehend your site.

It must allow people to easily scan the page and find any information they are looking for, while also satisfying search engines so they can rank and index it, which is necessary in order for people to find it in the first place.

The best SEO is when you write high quality, authentic, helpful content, as it is naturally more likely to contain the search terms people organically use anyway.

Writing to satisfy search engines

How do search engines work?

Search engines aim to provide people with the best webpages that are most relevant to what they are searching for. They do this by crawling your website pages and weighing up which attributes are more relevant and displaying them in search results accordingly.

For instance, if someone types in “learn to jive” and the text content on your site does not accurately display authority for “how to jive” you will not be displayed high (or at all) in their search results.

Search engines tend to prefer:

  • Proper keyword density, about 3-5 percent
  • Accurate grammar and punctuation (Try Grammarly)
  • Quality, detailed copy in short, easy-to-digest paragraphs
  • Original content that is organised by headers and subheaders
  • Pages focused on a single specific topic rather than on a larger or more general topic
  • Numerous, up-to-date pages throughout site (the more, the better)
  • A high word count. We recommend 800 to 1500 words per page whenever possible.

Writing to satisfy search visitors

Notice your behaviour when you are researching on the internet. Do you read everything on a page, or do you feel overwhelmed by large chunks of text? Do you take the time to read text full of jargon, do you leave the page if feels like a university textbook?

The science behind how people read on the internet is fascinating and unique to how they read a newspaper, magazine or any other text. In today’s world people are so busy that they want to find information on the web quickly and easily.

Studies have shown that after just three seconds, your visitors decide if they will stay on your page or leave. If processing the information creates strain for them, chances are they will bounce. That’s why it’s so crucial to make it easy for people to find and consume your website content.

Remember: 3 seconds is all you have to keep their attention.

A fascinating eye tracking study by Dr. Jakob Nielsen shows us that on web pages, people tend to skim mostly in a fast, top heavy “F” shape pattern, and then engage with what is relevant to them. At fast speed their eyes move through your text, working out what is and isn’t relevant.

They start by reading across the top of the page content. Then, they scan down the left hand side of the page, moving in across the page from time to time to read things that catch their eye

This means that whole blocks of text can be missed completely. In fact, on average, people only read 20% of the information on the page.

Your content needs to be informative and useful, but if it takes extra effort to find the information a visitor is looking for, you’ve lost them – and for good.

Because visitors are more likely to stay on your page if it is easier to scan for relevance, we use attention grabbing sign posts that guide readers to content of interest.

Online, just like in real life, your visitors need sign posts to point them in the right direction.  Whilst scanning down the left side of your content page in an F shape, we can help them find their way by using these strategies:

  • A clear headline
  • Information rich “front loaded” summaries
  • Descriptive subheadings
  • Summaries
  • Well formatted link text

A clear headline

Your headline is the most important thing. It must clearly articulate in a few words what the article or page is about.

Headlines should be accurate and helpful. They should make sense separate from the content, as they may be seen independently (for instance, in lists of similar articles). A good headline lets people know that they’re in the right place and encourages them to stick around to learn more of the detail.

David Ogilvy, an expert in advertising and copy writing,

once said: “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

If you want to learn more about the work of David Ogilvy’s, here is an excerpt from one of books ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’.

His premise, is that you should invest more time on your headline because it helps people determine if they should keep reading,or walk away.

His advice is prevalent today. In fact, the MarketingSherpa 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report states that headline copy is one of the top 5 most impacting elements for lead generation.

Teaser headlines or click bait are annoying because people may click on them but then wind up frustrated that the article isn’t what they thought it would be. Facebook has even started detecting and deleting click-bait headlines in user’s timelines.

It is so much better to authentically connect with your visitors instead of tricking them. Give them accurate headlines with the information they want as quickly as possible. That way you build a relationship based on trust and authenticity.

Information rich “front loaded” summaries

Reading a novel wouldn’t be much fun if the author gave away the ending in the first paragraph.

On the other hand, for our online readers, this is exactly what we do. This way your readers can quickly gauge if the text is relevant to them, or not. We call this front-loading.

Journalists often utilise this method as they are not always sure how much space they will have for their article.  When they front load the article, the editor could chop it off at any point and it would still make sense.

Descriptive subheadings

By organising the content into bite sized pieces, each with a descriptive label , readers can digest the information more easily.

A good subheading clearly describes the content in the section directly beneath. It lets your readers evaluate if that content will be helpful to them or if they should skip forward to the next subheading to find the information they are looking for. It’s much easier to process information when it is presented in bite sized chunks.

Descriptive link text that is helpful to the reader

Your link text (or anchor text) is the text you use to label a link that describes what happens when a reader clicks it. So it’s imperative that it clearly and accurately convey the link’s purpose.

Your link text can act as a sign post and remember, if readers can’t find the sign posts, they can’t use them. Not only that, a link’s anchor text is informative to Google and contributes to how the web page gets ranked in search results.

Sometimes, visitors come to your page and don’t find what they were looking for. Instead they find a link that takes them to another page with a treasure trove of information. You have a satisfied customer – they had an itch and you scratched it. If the link text can’t be found easily and quickly, your customer may leave, itchy, so to speak.

The worst link text to use are phases that have no information value

Here are some things you never want to do with your links:

  • Using “For more information, click here” or “Learn more” as anchor text
  • Attaching a series of links to a series of words
  • Writing out the URL and attaching the link to it (e.g.
  • Less common: using an entire paragraph-long quotation as link text.

There are several reasons for this:

  • They waste valuable sign post space as your reader gets lost
  • They don’t facilitate a great user experience
  • Are confusing for visually impaired people who use a software to read the text aloud – just imagine the program reading out each letter and punctuation of a URL!!!
  • They have a negative impact on Google rankings. Part of Google’s ranking algorithm is link text. If all the links to a given page use the word “click here” etc.” or the page’s URL, then it’s not telling Google what the page or link is about.

If you would like to learn more – a helpful resource is the developer documentation style guide..

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