Writing Content for Search Engines

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I have avoided writing this article for probably eight years now, maybe more. We get asked a lot about the skills needs to write pages that rank. It is such a spammy topic and one that seems like you only write if you yourself are trying to get traffic from search engines and claim you know everything there is to know about SEO because you have this one page that ranks first to prove it. Sorry for the rant. We do know how to do this, but we aren’t the only ones. And while there are lots of things that affect ranking that don’t have much to do with the writing on the page, there are a lot of things that you should be doing, on any topic, whenever you are trying to rank for something. We will go through those here and hope that you find them useful.


Lookit, these are the things we find valuable. We are not interested in any of the ways you find disagreement. If you disagree, great. Go with God. There is content created by a digital marketing agnecy to rank for keywords and there are bloggers looking to get more traffic. For us, this is what we do and what we teach. It comes from us doing this since 2006 and getting a lot of traffic for various pages and websites over the last 14 years. We are certain this isn’t perfect. We are also certain that it works if you follow it; the same is true today as it was even a decade ago.

1. Choose a Keyword

There are a lot of tools out there. We use Google Keyword Planner when we start with a new topic to find the right keywords. The trick is to find the highest volume terms that line up with what you are writing about.

Pro tip. If you can find additional terms that “nest” well into a bigger term, you can get double the pleasure. For example, let’s say you are writing about vinyl siding for your installation business. You search on the keyword planner and see that “vinyl siding” is the biggest term at (making up numbers here) 50,000 searches/month. But you also notice that “vinyl siding contractor” gets 3500 searches/month. Within “vinyl siding contractor” is the bigger term. So any time you write “vinyl siding contractor” you are also writing “vinvyl siding” (not to mention “siding contractor”). By looking over the whole list, you are able to get two terms for the price of 1.

Always aim to find nested terms that you can target.

2. Write Your Piece

Don’t think about keywords or how many times you mention them, just create a good piece of writing.

Pro tip. Write for two different readers: people who read and people who scroll/skim. Most people are skimming, and in order to reach them, you need to have good headers that aren’t too creative or cryptic, that allow people to quickly find the thing they want to read about. So quality headers, and lots of them, are the key. Take note of what we are doing in this article.

Then the piece also needs to read well and be well-constructed for persons who are actually reading. You know that.

3. Edit for SEO

As you go back and edit your piece, you’ll want to make sure your term “vinyl siding contractor” is mentioned about 1% of the time. There are lots of tools out there to check density. Here is one that we use when we don’t have admin access. If we do have admin access, we have Yoast installed and it has density baked into the application.

You are aiming for around 1% and that can’t always be possible to be 1.0%. It doesn’t much matter if yours is 1.2% or .8%, just get as close as you can. Go over or under. It doesn’t matter. We will come back to this.

4. Tactics for Optimal Targeting

Google’s algorithm and crawlers are machines or programs. They run on certain logic. They are scanning millions of sites every minute and placing a 1 or 0 in tons of queries to understand, programmatically, if your page is better than all the others for “vinyl siding contractor”. So you have to help them understand that your page is best, by doing more than just having your 500 word article mention your target keyword 5 times.

A. Mention your term in the first sentence, if possible, and certainly in the first paragraph. Only works of fiction can get away with hiding the ball in the first paragraph. For webpages, they need this obvious structure. It won’t make sense to a search engine for your piece to be able a particular thing, if you don’t mention it until partway through the article.

B. Use it as a to be verb. “Seafood delivery companies are….” “A vinyl siding contractor is” etc etc. This is an old relic, but we are old and this used to be meaningful back when google believed every keyword was in search of a definition. It isn’t true today, at least not that we can tell, but we still do it. Old habit. But our pages still rank.

C. Use your term in your headers. Headers are typically a different font size and they are bolded. It is a signal to the reader and to the search engine that these few words are just a little more important than everything else on the page. If your keyword is in a header, it validates the rationale for this page. Don’t overdo this, though. If it’s not natural to a reader, it won’t be to google.

D. Spread your terms fairly evenly throughout the article. It just won’t look right if your 500 word article has a 100 word paragraph that contains all of your terms. If the whole page is about a specific thing, that specific thing should appear throughout. This isn’t a black and white rule, but it is dark gray.

5. Return to the Scene – Re-Edit

After you publish your piece, give it some time, say 6-8 weeks and see how it is performing. If it ranks well and is getting traffic, great. If it doesn’t, make some changes. If you went with .8% density, now maybe you bump it up some. If you went with 1.2% density, maybe you reduce it. Depending on the industry and the term and the competition, sometimes you want more, sometimes less, thus it doesn’t matter if you go heavy or light. Just go and correct later if you need to. Once you learn the habits if your industry and site and competitors, you’ll have a better read on if more or less is best. However, at the beginning, go with your gut and correct if it doesn’t work.

6. Template Trick for Pros

Once you are pretty good at writing for this, you will take a different path at the beginning. You will first select your keyword, and then you will search for it to see not only who is ranking but what is ranking. By what we mean what type of content. When you get a SERP, you’ll see that google has determined an intent behind this term, and they are serving up the kinds of content that they believe people are looking for when they search for this.

Your keyword might be “fresh albacore tuna“, but if it isn’t a recipe, you aren’t likely to rank, as this SERP is mainly recipes. If you want to write a post about “how to get the battery out of your Chevy Volt fob” you might find the results are all videos. Those are some blunt examples, but there is also more nuance.

Sometimes google is going to rank pages that have photos on them sometimes they are looking for short videos with lots of text around it. Sometimes graphs for data, sometimes bullets. The ggerat thing about this test is that it’s open book. You can see the answers any time you want. Google isn’t hiding anything. They are showing you exactly the type of content they want to see, the amount of keyword density, the length of content, the strength of site, etc. You don’t have to reinvent anything if your ultimate goal is to just write for traffic.

That is what we know.