SEO Content Writing: Benefits & 5 Best Practices for Success

AI pencils in rows: SEO content writing

Every day, millions of people turn to search engines to answer their burning questions—questions your brand may be uniquely positioned to answer. A search engine optimization (SEO) strategy involves writing content that aligns with what your target audience is searching for on Google, and it drives organic traffic to your website or ecommerce store. You do this by publishing articles or blog posts that register with search engine algorithms and appear on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Here’s a primer on how to do some SEO content writing that improves your Google search visibility.

What is SEO content writing?

SEO content writing is the practice of creating high-quality content that aligns with internet users’ search intent—i.e., it delivers the answers they’re looking for when they type search queries into the search bar. The goal of SEO writing is to land your content on a search engine results page. 

For instance, if you have an ecommerce store that sells pet food, you might create blog posts about the best food for various breeds and age ranges of dogs and cats, with the intent to reach pet owners who try to answer these questions on Google. If your content is good, it will align with relevant search queries, and you’ll have the opportunity to build awareness and trust with readers—and potentially convert them to customers. 

Benefits of SEO content writing for your ecommerce business

Why do so many small business owners and ecommerce merchants embrace SEO content writing to drive traffic to their website? The answer boils down to three main benefits:

  1. You reach an audience with high intent. Showing up in search queries improves your odds of reaching people who might already have an intent to buy your goods or pay for your services. They’ve already made the active choice to search for certain content, so your SEO article or blog post is likely to align with their interests.
  2. It can be more cost-effective than running paid ads. You have to pay for every click you get from an ad. The cost per click (or impression) on a paid ad fluctuates, but the cost of Facebook ads or Google ads can add up quickly. With SEO, you make an investment upfront by paying a writer to write content. Once the article or blog post is published, every click it gets from organic search is free; if the article ranks on the first page of Google search results, it can become a steady driver of traffic to your website, eventually allowing you to recoup the upfront cost. 
  3. Useful content helps you connect with customers. You can immediately build goodwill with potential clients by providing useful, accurate, entertaining content. A well-written SEO article may resonate more deeply with a reader than paid ads or paid social media posts, and this goodwill can lead to customer conversions.

5 SEO content writing best practices

  1. Do keyword research
  2. Create high-quality, unique, relevant content
  3. Use header tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags
  4. Use internal and external links
  5. Strive to win featured snippets

SEO content writing is an artful form of SEO marketing. SEO marketers work to maximize their websites’ exposure by providing content that will be interesting, engaging, and helpful to the target audience. When you implement an SEO content strategy, focus on these five best practices:

1. Do keyword research

Keyword research is the act of examining online search trends related to your industry. This work answers the question: What is my target audience searching for on Google that’s relevant to my business? You can use SEO tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, WordStream, and Moz to identify your target keywords—i.e., the keywords you want to try to rank for with blog posts.

There is an art to picking a target keyword. A short, commonly searched phrase (for instance, “running shoes”) can be a good starting point, but short keywords appear on many different websites, and it can be hard to outrank competitors on the SERP for those keywords. A more strategic option is focusing on long-tail keywords, which are longer phrases that don’t get as much search traffic (for example, “best running shoes for wide feet” or “how to choose running shoes”). The idea is that when users search for those longer phrases, you have a better shot of turning up in their search results. Keyword research tools can help you find long-tail related keywords that match user intent.

2. Create high-quality, unique, relevant content

SEO content is most effective when it’s legitimately informative with clear, cogent sentences and accurate information. Novice SEO content writers may make the mistake of keyword stuffing, where they pack their text with keywords at the expense of readability. While you want to include as many relevant keywords as possible, make sure they flow organically in the sentences you construct.

3. Use header tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags

One of the most valuable SEO article writing tips has less to do with actual writing than the structure of your articles. Proper formatting helps ensure that your articles rank on search engine results pages. Use your website builder to add elements like:

  • Meta descriptions. The meta description is the text under a page title in a search result. It’s best to write these yourself; if you don’t, Google will choose a line from your text to excerpt on the SERP. Aim to keep your meta description between 150 and 160 characters so the text doesn’t get cut off.
  • A title tag. A title tag is the webpage title that appears in a search engine result. Usually, the title tag includes the primary keyword. Google caps titles at a width of around 600 pixels, so keep your title tags under 50 to 60 characters to ensure that they appear in full on the SERP.
  • Header tags. Header tags are headings that separate sections in an article or blog post, like “H2,” “H3,” and so on. Headings can be picked up by search engines, so they should include target keywords as well.

If manually adding these elements seems intimidating, the Shopify App Store features products like the Plug In SEO Optimizer to speed you through the process.

4. Use internal and external links

Your SEO checklist should also include links to various pages on your website. Google’s search engine favors web pages that outside sources link to because it implies that someone considers the page worthy of a referral. The more your site becomes a valuable resource, the higher your chances of gaining external links. 

But you can also strengthen your content by providing internal linking to other pages on your own website. This works best if the text you link matches the title tag of the page it links to. For instance, a hyperlink attached to the phrase “muffin recipes” might link to a page titled “5 Easy Muffin Recipes.” Robust internal linking helps search engine crawlers find and index pages on your site. It also demonstrates that you have a comprehensive library of relevant content, establishing your brand’s authority on the subject.

5. Strive to win featured snippets

A featured snippet is a short text excerpt that appears at the top of a Google SERP before the list of search results. It contains a few sentences pulled directly from an article, and it provides a link to the article right below the text.

Featured snippets are very prominent on the SERP, so they can drive a lot of website traffic. One of the best ways to get a featured snippet is to include a heading (using H2 formatting) that poses a “what is” question, such as “What is a shoe bag?” Follow that heading with two to three to-the-point sentences that answer the question, i.e., “A shoe bag is a small bag designed to hold shoes and keep them clean.” With luck and the right target keywords, you can win a featured snippet in a Google search result.

SEO content writing FAQ

How do keywords play a role in SEO content writing?

Using keywords appropriately helps ensure that Google understands what your article is about, so it can surface it in search results. A search engine provides content to users based on the kinds of words and phrases they type into a search bar. If the keywords you use are closely related to the user’s search query, your article is likely to provide the information they’re looking for. SEO best practices help you pepper your writing with relevant keywords that appeal to your potential audience while maintaining the overall quality of the content.

What’s the difference between thin and thick content?

In the world of SEO writing, “thin content” describes writing that lacks substance and useful information. It may contain a slew of keywords (known as “keyword packing” or “keyword stuffing”), but it doesn’t teach the reader anything useful. “Thick content” may also contain plenty of keywords, but those keywords fit into prose that is educational, insightful, entertaining, or all of the above.

How can I make sure my content is both SEO-friendly and readable?

SEO-friendly content contains relevant keywords, strong title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions. You can learn more about them in Shopify’s SEO marketing guide. Readable content requires solid sentence construction, careful organization, and a firm grasp of the topic you’re writing about. Your process will typically start with a good deal of research, including reading content published by your competitors. Outlining your blog posts in advance and giving each section a proper heading can also boost search engine visibility.

How often should I update my website’s content for SEO purposes?

Update your website whenever you see user traffic flagging. You can keep an eye on this with the help of Google Analytics, a tool that helps you learn how many people are visiting your site and what marketing channels brought them there. For many ecommerce store owners, the best way to update your website’s content is to add new articles or blog posts on topics related to your business. Completely upending your site and changing all the sections can temporarily “confuse” search engines and remove pages from SERPs for a period of time. Subtle changes are usually better.

How does internal linking affect SEO content writing?

Internal links take users from one of your site’s pages to another. This accomplishes a few things: First, it helps you cement authority within a given subject area by showcasing a range of related content. Second, internal linking makes your content more accessible to search engine crawlers, allowing them to index pages on your website and display them on SERPs. In addition to boosting your SEO, internal links can keep visitors on the site longer and may lead to more customer conversions.