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SEO Content: The Complete Beginner's Guide

If you want your content to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible, your content NEEDS to be optimized for search. Learn everything you need to know with go-to beginner's tutorial to improve results fast!

Want to skyrocket to the top of search engine results and bring qualified traffic in, time and time again? 

Content marketing and SEO are like yin and yang.

If you want to rank well on Google, you need to engineer a high-quality content SEO strategy.

With 67% of marketers saying SEO is the most effective marketing tactic, and 70% of all marketers actively investing in content marketing, you’re shorting your rankings AND your revenue if you don’t bet on these two tactics.

So, how do you create content that your customers will love — and that Google loves too?

That’s exactly what we’re here to help you do.

Keep reading to learn:

  • How to create superpower content that will boost rankings, traffic, and revenue.

  • All the basics of content marketing, including what it is and the different types of SEO content that are out there.

  • The EXACT steps to building a killer content for SEO, to ensure that every piece of content has exactly what it takes to rocket to the top of organic search. 

Let's go.

 

What is SEO content?

SEO content is any type of content that’s created specifically with the goal to rank and drive traffic from search engines. 

First things first: not all content marketing is SEO content marketing.

Some content is designed with a different objective in mind — for example, a branded video that promotes your products and services, or a brochure that provides important product information. 

SEO content is a specific breed of content that is designed first and foremost to get your website to rank higher in results pages. 

It uses content marketing strategies specifically for SEO and integrates best practices from Google. 

This type of content is optimized for target keywords that your website is trying to rank for, structured in a way that Google likes, and written with user intent in mind. 

So why does this matter? We're glad you asked.

 

Is content important for SEO?

Absolutely. 

Although content isn’t the only factor that Google takes into account, it plays a MASSIVE part in determining where your website lands in search results.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king” bouncing around a LOT — and that’s not by chance. This phrase sums up exactly how important content is to your SEO efforts.

Google’s mission is to deliver “useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.”

These “useful and relevant results” that Google is talking about? 

That’s content. 

In fact, Google themselves have identified the quality of content as one of the top ranking factors that their algorithm takes into account when returning results to users.

The more useful and relevant your content is to your audience’s search query, the higher your site will rank on search engine results pages. And the higher you rank, the more visitors you’ll get — the websites on the top 3 positions in Google win a whopping 75.1% of all traffic.

High-quality content also earns backlinks for your website, which is another major component of SEO. Backlinks are inbound links from other external websites back to your website, and Google uses them to determine whether your website is an authority in the space. 

If a trusted website like Forbes or  links back to your site, Google views your content as more trustworthy and valuable — and pushes you up in results.

And despite content marketers saying link building matter less and less for rankings, the truth is that external link building is closely correlated with where your website lands in search.

A study by Backlinko found that the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10: 

High-quality content is also optimized for keywords — another CRITICAL component to ranking well in search engine results. 

Keywords are one of the pillars of search engine marketing: they help Google identify the themes, ideas, and topics that your content is based on, so it can show your website to users searching for those topics.

The takeaway? Good content matters a LOT for SEO. But it goes the other way as well.  

Poor quality content will turn users away, which in turn sends your web pages spiralling to the netherworld of Google search results (also known as page 2). If Google sees people aren’t getting what they need from your content, they’ll rank your pages lower as a result. If you've "stuffed" keywords into your pages you'll also be at risk of a penalty. 

And, worse yet, if you have a minimal amount of SEO content called "thin content" on your website, you’ll be out of the running before the race even begins. 

By now, hopefully it's pretty clear that content marketing is one of the MOST important parts of SEO. But it's not just about writing a blog post and calling it a day. It's also about understanding the different types of SEO content that you have at your disposal, and knowing when to use them to make optimal SEO gains.

See the strategic value but are time-poor? Ready to dive in and start skyrocketing results? Get your free audit: all for free with no strings attached.

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Which brings us to...

 

The 8 best types of content for SEO

SEO content can take many forms, from blog posts to videos, infographics, listicles, product pages...and the list goes on.

The key is to identify which content marketing tactics are most effective, so your business can use them to achieve your SEO goals.

Here are some of the most effective types of content for search engines like Google:

1. Blog posts

Text is, and always will be, the foundation of search engine results pages — which is why blog posts will forever be one of the foundational elements of any successful SEO content strategy. 

Blog posts are a great way to create relevant content for target keywords, in order to help you rank higher in search results. They’re also a great way to drive traffic back to your website from social media and email marketing, increase backlinks to your website, and build your reputation as an industry leader.

If you need even more proof, take a look at this graph:

This data from Hubspot shows that sites that publish regular blog posts win more traffic than those that post sporadically, or not at all.

2. Articles

Articles are content pieces that you’d find in a media publication, like The New York Times or WIRED. These articles may include recent company news or developments, interviews with your customers or partners, feature-length content, opinion pieces, and more. 

Beyond informing your target audience of the latest happenings in your company or industry, articles are also an effective way to consistently churn out fresh content, which Google LOVES. 

3. Listicles

Listicles have rapidly become one of THE most popular forms of SEO content marketing out there. List-based content, such as “The 100 best sneakers of all time, ranked” or “50 bucket-list destinations to visit before you die”, are more enticing for users because they offer a tangible outcome and are easy to scan. 

These can also help you rank in one of the featured snippets for some keywords, which in turn increases clickthrough for your content:

4. How-To Guides

A guide is a long-form type of content marketing that’s designed to help your target audience achieve a goal (like this one!). These can be broken up into multiple pages, or clustered into sections on one long page, like our A-Z SEO Guide:

Guides are picking up in popularity, particularly as Google is prioritizing long-form content over short-form content. In fact, the mean word count of a Google first page result is 1,447 words, according to Backlinko.

5. Video content

Text is a foundational format of SEO content, but it’s not the only one. Google is integrating more visual elements into search results, including video and images.

As the owners of YouTube, Google features video results directly within the top 10 results for relevant keyword searches, like so:

Given that 87% of video marketers say that video has increased traffic to their website, and a whopping 80% say that video has directly increased sales (Wyzowl, 2020), this type of content is a must-have as part of an SEO content strategy.

It can sometimes be easier to rank on page one with a video for certain keyword searches including "tutorial" or "how to" based queries, as there are generally fewer videos competing for keywords than there are text-based pieces of content.

6. Infographics

Beyond video content, infographics are another great type of content that can help you rank higher in search engine results. Infographics present complex information or instructions in a visual way using elements such as graphs, charts, and icons. 

When optimized effectively, these can help you appear in Google Image Search:

7. Image galleries or slideshows

Slideshows can be incredibly effective for ranking on Google for certain searches. These types of content typically feature an image gallery embedded within a page, like this article that ranks in position #1 for “best Emmy dresses”:

Keep in mind that this type of content doesn’t work well for every keyword. However, if the keyword lends itself to visual content, such as “best floral arrangements” or “most beautiful cakes”, then Google is more likely to prioritize image galleries and slideshows over other forms of content.

8. Product or category landing pages

If you’re an eCommerce website, then your product or service landing pages are a crucial piece of SEO content marketing.  This can either be an individual product page designed to capture highly targeted keywords, such as “coffee beans in new jersey”, or a category/collection landing page such as “living room furniture”:

 

How do you write SEO content that ranks?

We’ve covered off the importance of SEO content, and the different types of content out there.

Now it’s time for the most important part...

Creating killer SEO content that ranks in organic search, drives organic traffic to your website, builds brand awareness, generates leads, and connects with your audience.

Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure you create content that your users love, and that search engines rank.

Step 1: Know your target audience

Before you dive headfirst into writing, you need to know WHO you’re writing for — and that means your target audience.

A lot of marketers skip over this stage, but it’s critical to designing content that ranks.

Why?

Remember what we said before? Google prioritizes useful and relevant.

To achieve this, you first need to know who your content is relevant to and how it will help your audience. 

Start by creating a buyer persona (or personas) for your target audience. It might look something like this:

Image credit: Single Grain

Once you know your audience, you can create content that addresses their goals and interests, or solves their pain points. 

This also informs the tone that you’ll take in your content marketing — another factor that’s crucial if you want your audience to engage with your content once they land on your site.

Step 2: Work out your marketing funnel

Once you’ve got your target audience locked down, it’s time to work out your marketing funnel.

Your marketing funnel maps user intent to different stages of the buying process. This is also known as the customer journey, and typically includes covers the following:

  • Awareness, or Top of Funnel (TOFU): This is where your audience is completely unaware of your brand or product.

  • Consideration, or Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Your target audience knows who your brand is or what product or service they’re after, but are still considering their next step. 

  • Decision, or Bottom of Funnel (BOFU): Your audience is ready to make a purchase. 

Understanding your marketing funnel, and where your SEO content falls within that funnel, is essential if you want your content to rank on page one.

See, people use different search phrases depending where they’re at in their buying journey. For example, searchers tend to use long-tail keywords (longer, more detailed search phrases) when they are deeper into the journey, as they have a better idea of what they’re looking for. 

They’re also expecting different information and different content types at different stages.

If a user is in the awareness stage and you serve up a sales-heavy piece of content, that’s a surefire way to get them clicking the “back button” — and a clear signal to Google that your content isn’t useful or relevant.

On the other hand, if a user is in the decision stage and runs a search for “buy Nike Air Jordan 1”, they’re expecting to land on a product or category page. If you create a piece of long-form SEO content explaining the history of the shoe with no direct link to buy the product in question, you’ve just lost a sale — and lost any chance at ranking in the top 3.

Once you’ve mapped out your customer journey, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Identify the best keywords to target

Your keywords are the crux of your SEO content marketing. 

They’re what you’re hoping to rank for and will guide the type of content you create, as well as the information you include within your content.

Once you have your customer journey and your target audience in place, you should be able to come up with a starter list of seed keywords. These could be themes, topics or even phrases, and will guide your keyword research and content creation.

Get inside the head of your target audience. What are they searching for? What are they interested in? 

Write down a list of 4-5 broad topics that are relevant to your products or services. After this, it’s time to hit the keyword research tools to find relevant keywords, variations, and combinations, and look at search volume.

Note: keyword research is a huge topic in and of itself, so we’ve put together a separate guide to Smart Keyword Research for SEO.

After you’ve found these keywords, it’s time to choose the ones to tackle first with content. These could be long-tail keywords with lower search volume, or keywords where you want to increase your existing ranking.

A final word of advice before the next step: each piece of SEO content should focus on one primary target keyword, as well as relevant secondary keywords or variations. If you try to target too many keywords in a single piece of content, you’ll dilute your efforts and likely not rank for any keywords. 

Step 4: Identify the best type of SEO content based on user search intent

As we touched on earlier, different types of SEO content work at different stages of the funnel, and for different keywords. 

Once you’ve got your funnel and keyword research, it’s time to consider the best content format for your target audience — and the best content to help you rank.

To do this, you need to consider user search intent.

User search intent is the objective behind a search. It’s what your audience is looking to achieve when they run a keyword, and they generally fall into one of four categories:

  • Informational, such as “what is the capital of Pennsylvania?”

  • Navigational, such as “Online Marketing Gurus blog”

  • Commercial, such as “best Apple accessories” 

  • Transactional, such as “buy black shoes”

These different forms of user intent can be used to enhance your marketing funnel, and guide your SEO content strategy. 

When you understand the intention behind a search and where it fits within the sales funnel, it becomes far easier to identify the type of SEO content you should create to answer that intent.

Image credit: CoSchedule

If you’re creating content marketing assets for top- to middle-of-funnel informational searches, then blog posts, guides, image galleries and videos are the way to go. As you get lower through the funnel, your SEO content focus will likely shift to product pages, listicles or articles. 

Step 5: Conduct competitor research

That’s right — we’re still not onto the content creation stage yet. There’s a whole heap of research that goes on behind the scenes, before you even get into the act of creating content. But these stages are critical and what sets the high-performing SEO content apart from the rest.

If you want your content to rank above the competition, you need to know who the competition is.

Run a search for your primary target keyword, and take note of what appears on the top 10 results. This should give you a clear indication of the type of content that Google favors for those keywords.

Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “floral print dresses”. A quick Google search shows the following results:

 

In this case, you can see that product pages rank highest for this type of search.

On the other hand, a keyword like “best floral dresses” returns article and list-type content:

 

Doing this will also give you an idea of the level of competition for each type of content. 

For example, there might be pages and pages of articles or blog posts ranking for a certain keyword, but only a handful of videos. 

In this scenario, creating video content may be the most efficient route to ranking quickly for that keyword.

Step 6: Nail your headlines

The art of writing an effective headline is one of THE biggest keys to SEO content marketing success. In fact, 80% of people never make it past the headline of a piece of content.

The headline hooks people in.

It gets people reading.

And let’s be honest — if nobody clicks through to your content, then you may as well not write content altogether.

Here’s an example of this in action. Have a look at these two headlines:

  1. Content tips for SEO marketers in 2020

  2. The only SEO content guide you’ll ever need for 2020

Which one would you click on?

Make sure you spend time crafting the perfect headline. Come up with a few different ideas and test them with your colleagues or friends, and see which one they would click on.

It also helps to consider the headlines that are currently ranking in the top position for those keywords. If you want people to click on your post, your headline needs to stand out from the rest, 

Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to help, like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.

This tool helps you to craft your headlines so they grab people’s attention and keep them reading. 

Simply pop your headline in, like so:

 

 

The tool then analyzes a number of metrics, including grammar, structure, and the use of powerful/emotional words in your headline, and returns a result:

 

 

This doesn’t just apply to a blog post or articles. 

Headlines are critical for all types of SEO content, from YouTube videos to infographics, how-to guides, and more.

Step 7: Create the right structure for your content

Most people believe that keywords are the most critical part of content marketing with SEO.

This might have been the case 10 years ago. However, today, what matters to Google is that your content is readable and useful to your audience.

The longer a person spends reading your page, the more likely you are to rank higher in Google results.

Think about the user intent of your audience when they land on your page, and what they’re hoping to gain — then structure your content in a way that compels them to keep reading.

Before you start to write content, spend time structuring your information. Here are some tips:

  • Start with a question to engage the reader and encourage discussion.

  • Use your Meta Title and Meta Data to tell the searcher what your content will deliver.

  • Use bucket brigades to keep people reading. A bucket brigade is a ridiculously short phrase that breaks up the text and forces the reader to read on to get some context (hint: we’ve used them a LOT in this post).

  • Use stats to capture attention and make it relevant.

  • Answer the question that your introduction poses.

Do this and your content has a structure that makes it more likely to rank and engage.

Step 8: Design content for super scanners

People have a much shorter attention span online.

There’s no way around it.

With so much information out there, our brains have become more prone to scanning content to get the general gist of what’s being communicated.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post or a video — your audience wants the information, and they want it now.

In fact...

A user will only read 20% of the content on your page. — NNGroup

 

Don’t fight it. Instead, make it easier for your audience to scan your content and glean the key points as quickly as possible.

You can do this by:

  • Breaking up your content with subheadings, so people can skim the article and get the key message. If you have a YouTube video, consider adding links to different sections of the video in the description.

  • Create a contents list that allows people to jump to the section they’re interested in.

  • Using bulleted lists, so it’s easier for your audience to digest.

  • Breaking up your content with media, such as imagery or videos. 

Step 9: Be strategic with your keywords

Remember that point that we touched on earlier?

Keyword research is important to SEO marketing BUT...it’s not the be all and end all. 

The goal is first and foremost to make your content useful and relevant for your audience.

In fact, when you start stuffing keywords into every single sentence in your post, you can bet that Google will notice it — and penalize you as a result.

Make sure your target keyword is in the most important places, such as your headline, subheadings, introduction, meta title and meta description. 

After that, try to keep your keyword density at 1-2%. This means there should be 1 keyword for every 50-100 words.

Step 10: Use the right content marketing SEO tools

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry — you don't have to go at it alone.

There are heaps of tools out there to help you in creating content that ranks, such as BuzzSumo.

 

 

BuzzSumo is an INCREDIBLY useful platform if you’re searching for SEO content topics.

You can use BuzzSumo to run a search for your target keywords, in order to see who’s creating content about your niche.

More importantly, BuzzSumo shows you HOW people are engaging with that content.

Use this information to understand what’s trending, and time the release of your content for maximum engagement.

BuzzSumo also has a ton of other useful features, such as a keyword tool, a forum search tool, influencer search, content monitoring on social media, and content analysis.

 

Ready to create superpower content?

Creating superpower SEO content is all about research and engagement. 

When you create well-researched content that is useful and relevant to your audience, you’ll create content that people can actually use — and that’s how you earn great rankings on search engines, great traffic AND a great reputation.

But of course, SEO content marketing is only one piece of the puzzle.

To truly NAIL your SEO and dominate the rankings, you need to ensure your website is optimized, target the right keywords, generate backlinks, and obtain qualified organic traffic that converts at your bottom line.

That’s where we come in.

We’ll help you rank higher and unlock fast growth — and it’s absolutely free to get started.

Claim your FREE digital audit today. You’ll get a free 30-minute strategy call with one of our Growth Gurus, as well as a free audit of your current online marketing AND a 6-month multichannel game plan.

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