SEO in 2023: Appeal to Search Engines & People

by Qhubekani Nyathi

These days the buyer’s journey starts online.

Most purchases, whether online or in-store, begin with someone entering a search query on Google or another search engine.

Think With Google pegs the number at 63%.

If your content isn’t searchable and findable to provide answers to people’s burning questions, you’ll lose leads. If you don’t have quality leads, you won’t get customers. And, without customers, you don’t have a business. 

The answer? SEO writing.

If you master writing for SEO, people will find your website, gain confidence in you because of your content and become customers.

In this post, we’ll explore the fundamentals of writing optimised SEO content that grows your business.

What is SEO Writing? 

SEO writing or writing for SEO is the design, creation, and optimisation of content so it ranks (or shows up) in search engines like Google and Bing when people look for information online.

What is an SEO Copywriter?

An SEO copywriter specialises in writing copy that improves a page’s search engine rankings. 

Not only should the copy draw search engine spiders, but it must also appeal to humans. 

Why is SEO Writing Important?

capture emails from website

We’ve already established that SEO writing helps your content rank in Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs.

When your content ranks high in search engines:

To master all SEO and digital marketing terms, check out this SEO glossary of terms.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s move on.

Put Your Virtual House in Order First

facebook ad campaign for local business

Your content lives on your online home—your website.

You wouldn’t want to bring visitors to a messy home, would you?

Similarly, you must make sure everything on your website is spick-and-span so readers have a pleasant experience as they consume your content.

There are three fundamentals that you must sort out:

#1. Get a good website host

What has that got to do with writing for SEO?


A good website host prioritises:

  • Speed– these days people are demanding and impatient. If your site doesn’t load in 3 minutes or fewer, they leave. Plus, Google has now added website page speed to their ranking algorithm. 
  • Uptime– uptime is the measure of the amount of unbroken time your web host’s servers are running smoothly ensuring your site stays online. You don’t want your site to go offline often and frustrate readers.
  • Security– a good host keeps all your content and customers safe from hackers and malware.

#2. Design your site well

Gone are the days of slapping on a free or dirt-cheap theme on your site and hoping to get by.

Be willing to fork out some money for a decent theme so visitors take you seriously.

#3. Get your technical SEO right

There are three kinds of SEO you should master to make it online.

First, there is off-page SEO, things you do outside your website to raise your rankings.

Secondly, on-page SEO where you optimise web pages on your site.

Finally, technical SEO is where you improve the technical elements of your site’s pages. It’s broad but to get started and boost your content’s chances of success work on:

  1. URL structure– make sure your URLs are short, keyword-rich, readable, and consistent.
  2. Page Structure– use a logical hierarchical structure (H1, H2, H3) to organise your content and make it easy for people (and search engines) to understand it.
  3. Page Speed– don’t slow down your pages by using bulky images or a web host that doesn’t care about site speed. optimise all images so they are light and load super-fast. Google announced that speed and mobile-friendliness are now factors for ranking results.
  4. Mobile friendly– your website theme and content must be mobile-friendly otherwise you will lose up to 52.6% of visitors who use mobile devices to browse online. 

People-first: The Foundation of Exceptional SEO Content

To write solid SEO content, forget about search engines.

This may sound counterintuitive but it’s crucial. You are primarily writing for people, not search engines.

If you use a search engine first approach to SEO writing you’ll produce unnatural-sounding copy that puts people off.

Here’s a hilarious example.

seo stuffing keywords

Source: Ranked Hard

How’s that for copy? 

Robotic. Rubbish. Ridiculous.

It’s important to remember search engines are not an end in themselves. They exist to lead people to relevant content that meets their needs. Put another way, search engines are there to serve people.

Ultimately, you are writing for people, not search engines.

SEO GOLDEN RULE: Write for people first and tweak for search engines later.” quote=”SEO GOLDEN RULE: Write for people first and tweak for search engines later.

A Crash Course on Writing for the Web

Writing for people who consume content online isn’t like regular writing.

To do it well, you must forget everything your English teacher taught you. 

If you insist on writing as if you are writing a thesis, you’ll bore people stiff. They’ll abandon your post.

Here are the cliffs notes of web writing:

  • Use short sentences and paragraphs.

Avoid long blocks of text. They look intimidating.

White space is your friend. Let your words breathe. After all, you won’t run out of paper. 😃

Lots of white space and small blocks of text make your post easy to read. 

  • Be generous with subheads

Most people don’t read seriously online, they scan—at least initially before they decide if they want to dig deeper into the post.

Come up with seductive subheads to break big chunks of text so scanners get the gist of your post fast. 

  • Use rich formatting

Break down walls of text.

Emphasise certain phrases through bold, italics, numbered, or bulleted lists.

This makes your content bite-sized and easier to read.

  • Use a simple conversational style

Write as if you are talking to a friend over a cup of coffee. You’ll connect better with readers. And, use ‘you’ a lot.

You got that, right? See what I did there?

  • Avoid jargon and complicated language like the plague

People don’t care about your fancy jargon, grammar, and grandiloquence big words. All they want is to get what you are saying—fast.

  • Use embedded quotes, call-out boxes, and images

Break down dense text. Give readers delightful eye candy. Slip in images, quotes, and call-out boxes to give readers’ eyes rest while still moving the post forward. 

In summary, use a relaxed informal style and focus on the reader, not your brand.

How to Write SEO Content: 9 Simple Tips you can try today

blogger outreach tools

Now that the foundation has been laid, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Here are the practical steps to crafting high-ranking content.

#1. Develop a Solid Content Marketing Strategy

You’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t have a documented content marketing strategy that guides their inbound marketing efforts.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 37% of businesses have a documented content strategy.

The rest?

They use the spray and pray approach. Publishing content haphazardly and hoping for the best. No wonder they aren’t getting results.

Winning SEO content rests on the foundation of a solid content strategy. Without the backdrop of a proper strategy, you are just publishing stuff that floats on the internet.

#2. Get Clarity on Who You are Writing For

In your eagerness to get many visitors to your site you may be tempted to write for everybody.

Don’t yield to the temptation.

If you write for the whole world, you will appeal to nobody.

To give your content the razor edge, make it relevant, and exciting, and write for your ideal customer. Revisit (or create) your customer persona. Make sure every piece of content you write addresses your audience’s struggles and pain points.

It’ll resonate with them and they’ll share it with their friends. Social signals will tell Google spiders your content is valuable. 

Develop a customer avatar to help target your ideal audience member.

#3. Conduct Keyword Research and Chose Relevant Keywords

Once you know who your customers are it’s time to choose topics that’ll resonate with them.

To do that, conduct keyword research.

Keywords are the phrases people use to look for info on the internet. When you are starting out or if your site has a low DA, don’t go for high-volume keywords. Popular keywords are highly competitive so it’s unlikely you will beat established sites.

What should you do instead?

Target low-volume long-tail keywords

These are keywords that are not too competitive but can yield fantastic results for your business if you rank for them. Generally speaking, the longer the keyword the higher the conversion rate.

As you can see, long-tail keywords convert at an astonishing rate of up to 36%. It makes sense when you think about it. The longer the phrase, the more descriptive and accurate people become about what they want.

Target low competition high purchase intent keywords

When picking keywords, don’t only focus on numbers. Consider how serious the searchers are about buying.

People who are ready to buy your product or service use search strings like ‘buy now’, ‘affordable’, ‘cheapest’ ‘review’ ‘discount’ and product searches.

Target primary keywords and secondary keywords

The SEO landscape is now very competitive. You can’t compete by just targeting your main keyword. You must also target similar expressions around your primary keyword.  

Got your keywords list on hand?

Let’s move on to the next step.

#4. Check Out the Competition and Spot Gaps You can Leverage

link building guide

Ranking content is a race.

An intense race at that.

You are challenging posts that are already ranking for the keyword you are targeting. To win, you must conduct competitor research. 

Check the front-page ranking posts. Look at:

  • Angle– what line of attack do they use?
  • Length– how long are the posts?
  • User intent– what type of content/answers are searchers looking for?
  • Images– do they use stock photos, screenshots, or custom images?
  • Subheads– are they long or short and how are they phrased?

Look for gaps to exploit. Think of ways to write a superior post. Perhaps you can make your post:

  • Bigger– go in-depth and provide more useful details.
  • Bolder– assert your views more forcefully.
  • Richer– support your views with a lot of data from reputable sources.

The bottom line?

Know exactly how you want to approach the post before you write a single word.

#5. Write Your Content as you Normally Would

Most beginner SEO writers think writing for SEO is cramming keywords into a post.

Not only will this repel people, but it’ll also get your site penalised by Google. Your rankings will tank as a result. 

Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. It’s all about usefulness these days. Providing value for users. That’s what Google wants and rewards.

Just go flat out and write the best piece on the subject. Produce content that helps people solve their problems. You’ll be surprised how effective that is.

Back in the day, I didn’t know much about SEO. 

Yet I got several front-page rankings. How? By simply writing helpful content.

When you forget about keywords and focus on usefulness you naturally include most of the keywords.

#6. Massage Your Keywords into Strategic Elements of the Piece

rank higher on google with content e-a-t

We’ve covered significant ground already.

Have a sound content strategy? Check

Know your target persona? Check.

Conducted keyword research? Check.

Know what you’re up against? Check.

Have you written your post naturally? Check.

Great. Now it’s time to work your keywords into important elements of your page:

  • URL

Include your keyword in the posts Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL is the address where your page lives on the web.

  • Headline

Your headline must contain your target keyword. It tells Google (and searchers) what your post is about. Put it at the beginning of your headline if possible.

  • First 100 words

Use your keyword in your introduction or lead in the first 100 words. Brownie points if you can do so in the first few lines. 

  • Subheadings

Include your keyword at least once in your subheads. Work your secondary keywords into your subheads as well.

  • Last 100 words

Finally, slip your primary keyword into your conclusion.

Use your secondary keywords wherever they fit naturally throughout your post, especially in the subheads.

Get the keyword density just right.

While you don’t want to cram keywords into your post, you must use enough. There is no perfect keyword density score.

Use free tools like GDoc SEO Assistant to check if you are on the right track. Here’s what it looks like:

gdoc seo tool

To answer all people’s questions about your subject you must reference related posts:

  • On your site
  • Off your site

Linking to supplementary posts on your site helps your readers. They can dig deeper into the subject. Importantly, they stay longer on your site.

This pleases Google spiders. And, when readers know you provide value, they keep coming back to your site for more. 

google display network guide

Also, link to excellent resources from trusted websites in your niche.

No matter how brilliant your content is you cannot exhaust everything in one piece of content. Just make sure you link to reputable sites known for great content.

#8. Optimise all Images for SEO

Your post must be image-rich.

Images break up long blocks of text. They also simplify concepts so people grasp them easily. Plus, they give readers strained eyes a much-needed rest. Lastly, they make your content shareable.

They include:

  • Featured image 
  • Screenshots 
  • Graphs and charts
  • Stock photos
  • Custom images
  • Cartoons
  • GIFs
  • Memes etc.
  • Infographics.

While these images are superb for breaking up walls of text and helping readers understand better, they are notorious for slowing down sites. Compress them so they load faster. There are plugins to help you do that easily e.g. Smush

Also, write alternative (alt) descriptions or tags for all images. This is a short text that describes what the image is about.

Alt text is important because:

  1. It helps visually impaired users who use screen readers will read alt text so they understand what the image is about.
  2. If a browser can’t load an image, it shows alt text instead so users know what the image represents.
  3. It explains images to search engines because they can’t read images.

Yes, include your keyword in your alt text. But don’t overdo it if you have many images. Use related keywords for some of them not exact match ones.

To get the most from your images, optimise them for SEO.

#9. Write a Hypnotic Keyword-rich Meta Description


Your super duper post is done. Congrats 👏. Time to celebrate, right? Not so fast my friend.

One more thing.

The meta description.

What the heck is that? 

The meta description is a 160 characters long snippet of text that summarises the content of a web page. Google bumped it up to 320 characters but they are still serving up 160 character descriptions in most results. So stick to the old limit for now.

meta description google example

While meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, they impact rankings indirectly. They affect a page’s click-through-rate (CTR) which contributes to a page’s ability to rank. 

Here are simple tips for crafting a persuasive meta description that gets clicked.

  • Include your keyword, preferably at the beginning. But don’t force it if the text doesn’t flow naturally.
  • Focus on benefits. What will the reader benefit from reading the post? What’s in it for them?
  • Highlight the pain points that your post addresses. What pressing problem does the post solve?
  • Use persuasive emotional language to lure searchers to click through to the post.

The more persuasive your description, the higher the chances of people clicking through to read your post.

Promotion: The Icing on your Content Cake

facebook ad objectives

Once you write your stellar SEO-optimised post and press publish, it magically rises to the top of SERPs, right?


Creating remarkable content isn’t enough.

You must take two more steps to give your posts the best chance to rank:

  • Promotion and distribution
    Spread your content far and wide. Share it on social media channels and submit it on curation sites.
  • Link building
    Find out who shared similar content to yours. Reach out to them via email and ask them to share your, ahem, better resource. The more links your post gets, the higher it’ll rise in the SERPs. 

There are plenty of tools to help you conduct promotion and link-building outreach.

Speaking of tools…

Here’s your SEO Toolbox

free marketing tools

To pull off everything we’ve been saying you need the right tools.

Free keyword research tools

Google itself is an excellent keyword research tool. Thankfully, it’s easy to use. You can quickly generate a lot of keyword ideas through the autocomplete feature. 

Let’s say you want to write about ‘time management’.

Just start typing the keyword into the search box. Before you finish, Google will suggest keywords for you based on what people are searching for. How cool is that?!

google search autocomplete

Next, finish typing the keyword and hit enter. On top, you will see the ‘People also ask’ section under the featured snippet. Tap from those ideas as well.

google people also ask

You can click on the questions and Google will duly load more for you. 

That’s not all. 

There’s another resource you can draw from at the bottom.

It’s the ‘Searches related’ list of ideas.

google searches related keyword research

Wow! That’s a lot of ideas to think over.

The Google autocomplete feature is great because all suggestions are based on real searches from real people who are actively looking for answers from the biggest search engine on the planet.

All-in-one SEO Tools

These are all wonderful tools with pros and cons depending on your needs. Do your homework to see which one suits you best.

Content Analysis and Promotion Tools

This is just scratching the surface. There are a bazillion sharing tools out there so you won’t be short of options.

On-page SEO Plugins

All the tools below are paid but they have a free basic version.

At the end of the day, with smart writing and the help of modern tools your content must be:

  • Readable
  • Searchable
  • Enjoyable
  • Useful
  • Audience-centered

That’s it.

You’ve done your best to appease the demanding Google gods if you followed all the steps.

Master SEO Writing for Higher Rankings, More Leads, and Customer

Search engine optimisation is not an exact science. There are a lot of factors involved in getting a post to rank in the ever-changing search algorithms.

All SEO writing can do is help you write posts worthy of ranking in search engines. 

Done right, it can generate an endless stream of leads and customers for your business.

For days, months, years even.

SEO marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.

The home of digital marketing.

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