By Matt Burda
Authentic yet effective writing for search engine optimization (SEO) means crafting content that is informative and ranks well on search engines. Striking a balance between quality and SEO elements can be a tricky task. Using the correct keywords can bring more visitors to your website—but using them inappropriately can harm your site's reputation.
Quality content is only part of the puzzle. Integrating SEO into your writing to meet readers' needs and boost your page's search ranking isn't as hard as it seems. To create SEO-friendly content, incorporate SEO elements into your writing while maintaining your natural style. Here are some strategies for achieving that balance.
Identify Your SEO Goals
The first step is identifying your target keywords. Your keywords should be relevant, have high search volume, and be within your ranking capabilities. Relying on “popular” keywords can harm your ranking—think about the stiff competition you’ll face from people who might have more budget or resources than you do. Set achievable goals with realistic keywords to improve your chances.
Set Your Keywords Aside
This may sound counterintuitive, but you should start writing without focusing on making it SEO-friendly. Instead, stick to your tried-and-true, natural writing style in the first draft, writing exactly what you want to say without trying to incorporate SEO terms you wouldn’t otherwise use.
Authentic copy keeps readers engaged. When you write to build trust and genuinely connect with your audience, they’ll notice and be more likely to read the entire article. That leads to a decreased bounce rate, which can impact your ranking. Ask yourself these questions as you write:
- Does your content meet your readers’ needs?
- Is your content appropriate and accurate?
- Does your content inspire your readers and not bore them?
Once you’ve written your authentic first draft, you can start reworking your copy to meet your SEO goals.
Bring in Your Keywords
The key to bringing SEO elements into your content is to incorporate keywords organically. Just like readers will notice if you write genuinely, they’ll notice if you’re prioritizing SEO over readability. Ensure you're using correct grammar with keywords and the cadence of your content flows naturally. If a keyword ruins the flow of a sentence or feels out of place, remove it. Sacrificing quality for higher SEO value will harm you in the long run.
Avoid Overusing SEO Terms
When you over-prioritize SEO-friendly content, your credibility may suffer. Focusing too much on SEO terms may make your content appear inauthentic, even if it helps you rank higher in search results. That can lead to increased bounce rates, and because search engine algorithms prioritize user-friendly content, your rankings may decrease.
Therefore, you must weigh readability against on-page SEO elements. Using too many SEO keywords to rank higher won’t help you if your audience can't engage with your content.
Don’t Forget the Title
Including your primary keyword in the title of your blog article or headline of your webpage is a best practice for enhancing SEO. However, you still need your headline to be compelling, inviting people to click on the link and inspiring them to read beyond the title. Sometimes, achieving both goals is tricky, but it’s worth a few extra minutes of brainstorming to write a title that includes your keyword while catching your readers’ attention.
Also, if possible, incorporate the primary keyword into the blog URL, metadescription and at least one H2 (subheader) on your page—again, making it read as natural and authentic as possible.
Read Your SEO-Friendly Draft Out Loud
The practice of reading your own copy out loud isn’t a new idea, but it’s a vital element of this process. Your content needs to focus on quality instead of ranking, keeping readability in mind—and sometimes, actually hearing what you’ve written in your own voice can make all the difference.
Overstuffing keywords often becomes obvious when you read copy aloud—and if you’re noticing it, your readers will too and be turned off by the lack of authenticity. Also, pay attention to the cadence of your target keywords. Do they appear more than once in a single paragraph, or even multiple times in a sentence? If keywords are making your copy clunky, you’re wasting the SEO capital they’re giving you.
Use SEO Tools Sparingly
With so many SEO writing tools available, it’s easy to become overly dependent on them. Instead of hyperfocusing on tools, use common sense and best practices when crafting your content. Although such resources can be helpful, nothing can replace your writing expertise. You know what makes a good piece of content. Let your skills inform how you achieve your SEO goals—not the other way around.
The Power of Balance
SEO is so important when drawing prospects to your content, but that content must deliver the goods so first-time website visitors become repeat visitors—subscribing to your blog, converting on gated content, and moving down the funnel toward becoming customers.
Your SEO goals and content goals don’t need to be at odds with each other. The balance is not only possible but also potentially instinctive. It may take some practice, but incorporating great SEO into great copy eventually can become easy—and, ultimately, lead to great results.
About the author
Matt Burda is a Copywriter based out of Portland, Oregon. With over six years of experience in content creation, he enjoys writing copy that explores the connection between brands and people. In his spare time you’ll find him playing with motorcycles, reading, and trying to not move when his cat falls asleep in his lap. Read more articles by Matt Burda.