2023 is outside, and most digital marketing specialists understand that today’s SEO is more than keywords in content and tons of backlinks from other resources. Search engines get smarter every day:
Behavioral factors and user search intent call the shots, and today SEO writers take a step further to bring their content to the next level if they want it to rank higher than the competition.
To win SERPs in 2023, we need to write content for people but, at the same time, make it look high-quality for search engines.
In this article, you’ll find SEO writing tricks to use in content for both a user and a search engine to love it.
What is “High-Quality” Content in 2023?
First and foremost, a content writer needs to understand the factors behind high-quality assets. What does Google consider a reliable source, good enough to rank high?
In short, it’s about generating expert content that meets semantic search. In more detail, three factors of high-quality content in 2023 are:
At the end of 2022, Google updated its QRG (Quality Rater Guidelines), where the most critical change was about the E-A-T. All content creators knew it as “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness,” the criteria for content optimization to influence page quality:
- Content comes from an expert source
- Optimization for semantic search
- Content is valuable for users and, thus, worth their trust
The E-A-T has turned into the E-E-A-T, with the first “E” being about “Experience.” Now Google also evaluates content based on the extent to which its creator has first-hand experience in the topic.
Plus, they say “Trust” is the center of this concept now: Based on how users interact with a page, Google decides if it’s worth ranking higher. For a positive interaction with your content, craft it to match user search intent.
2. Search Intent
In plain English, search intent is the reason behind a query:
What do users expect to see in results after they’ve typed that particular keyword or phrase in a search tab? Were they looking for general information on the topic, comparison to navigate them and help them choose, or a place to purchase a particular item?
The dwell time and bounce rate of your page help Google understand if it meets search intent:
If a user clicks and spends a relatively long time on your page, interacting with its content, algorithms will see it valuable and worth ranking higher. So, optimize content for users to find what they expect.
This factor is also critical: Craft 10x content that solves problems; make it the only source a user will need to get answers to all questions they might have on the topic.
- Use facts, not claims with no background: Back up your information with relevant data and research: use industry studies, surveys, insights, expert quotes, etc.
- Remember content usability: Use visuals (graphs, brand images, videos, etc.) and format content pieces for better scannability.
- Encourage shares and comments: The more users interact with your content, the better; it signals to Google that you have a community, so you’re worth trusting.
How to Write SEO Texts to Win SERPs in 2023
And now, to practice:
With the above three factors in mind, you still need actionable strategies for crafting quality SEO content and achieving a higher SERP ranking, right? How to write and format those comprehensive articles?
2023’s top nine SEO writing tricks are:
Include Hidden Keywords
I’ve been working with SEO texts since 2010. All the time, it’s been about keywords, aka signals for search engines to understand the content and rank it accordingly.
But while it was enough to place a few product-defining and short-term keywords in texts in 2011, this approach has drastically changed now:
In 2023, search engines use semantic factors to understand queries and their search intent. These semantic factors are natural language processing (NLP), entity recognition, user context, and query stream context. Now your target keyword isn’t enough to include; so-called hidden keywords will come in handy, either:
- Niche: We also know them as LSI, lexical items related to your target keyword, helping Google understand the context of your content asset.
- Long-tail: About 40% of all search traffic comes from them. You can find these keywords in Related Searches or tools like KeywordTool.io.
- User-generated: Long-tail queries users type when looking for answers to questions. Q&A websites and topical forums are the best places to find them.
- Exclusive: It’s your brand name or a concept helping Google associate you with the niche. A primary example is Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique.
- Vertical: They are keywords that come from closely related niches but still can connect to your target audience.
Use Emotional Titles with Tag Modifiers
SEO writers know it’s critical to include a target keyword in a title for search engines to “see” it. That’s right, but what about users?
A title is the first thing they see in search results. And while a keyword helps them understand the topic of your content, it’s not enough to influence their motivation to click and read it.
Consider emotional headlines addressing the psychology and encouraging users to click and learn more. Tons of corresponding headline formulas exist, and here go a few of my favorite ones:
- Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise (It’s the most common one working for SEO purposes). Example: 100 Exclusive Writing Ideas If You Don’t Know What to Write About.
- The Ultimate List/Guide to ___ (It works because it promises users to get all the information on their search topic in one place). Example: The (Most) Ultimate Guide on Freewriting You Ever Met Online.
- Headline + Little Extra (Informative enough yet intriguing to increase curiosity and motivate users to click). Example: How to Write a Killer Blog Post (+ Little Tricks Most Authors Ignore).
As for tag modifiers, they are words that make your headline more specific and allow it to get more traffic from long-tail keywords. Examples: how to, top, easy, best, fast, checklist, simple, tips, guide, etc.
In the article you’re reading right now, “2023” serves as a tag modifier, making the title specific: Readers understand they’ll get up-to-date information.
Craft Introductions with Hooks
So, a user clicks on your emotional headline. Now what?
They scan the introduction to see if the article meets their search criteria and if they want to keep reading it. Your task here is to hook them to stay on the page, thus lowering its bounce rate and increasing its dwell time.
Here go the tips:
Keep introductions short. Online users read 20-28% of your content, and their attention span is short today. The sooner you grab their interest, the better.
Keep intros concise, straightforward, and appealing to readers. I’m a big fan of Brian Dean’s APP and PPB formulas:
It doesn’t mean you should use only these two approaches in content writing. The point is to make intros clear yet compelling for users to understand what they will find in the article and why they need it.
Avoid Readability and Usability Blunders
Do you know that reading online is 25% slower than reading from print?
That is why it’s critical to format your SEO content for more visibility, better readability, and increased engagement. Help users enjoy your page and find it comfortable to examine: Avoid the most common blunders when structuring it.
- Make sentences and paragraphs short.
- Always align your texts left to minimize unwanted spaces between words.
- Use simple text structure: Avoid having more than four (H4) content levels in content to maintain a clean look. Title-H2-H2 is the best structure; Title-H2-H3-H3-H2 is also an appropriate one.
- Consider your page design: Use the correct color-contrast ratio (no less than 5:1) between your text and page background.
- Use a minimum of 14px font size, and do not use more than three different font sizes on one page.
- Write texts with transition words and phrases (SEO writers and copywriters also know them as “bucket brigades“) to keep readers engaged and make content enjoyable to read.
Proper formatting helps hook users and hold their attention. The longer they stay, the better behavioral factors (dwell time, bounce rate, etc.) search engines see to indicate your content as high-quality and worth ranking.
Optimize for Featured Snippets
When formatting your content accordingly, you can increase your content’s chances of winning Google’s Position Zero and “steal” a lot of clicks from your competitor from the #1 in SERP.
Two rules here:
- Choose a keyword right: It should be the one you already rank for in the SERP’s top 10.
- Add a corresponding content block to your page, designing it as a snippet. It can be a definition, a list, a table, etc.
Optimize for Voice Search
More than 40% of adult users perform voice search at least once per day. So you might want to get them by optimizing content accordingly:
Most voice searches are long-tail and question-based, so include questions in your text and answer them immediately. A critical detail: Do that with your content that already ranks in the top three search results.
Optimize for Common Questions
When in Google, people expect to find answers to all possible questions there:
Their queries get longer, more specific, and more conversational. With that in mind, Google goes insane with understanding questions and featuring them in SERPs, making content optimization for questions a constant quest for SEO writers.
Yeap, content optimization for common questions benefits SEO:
It improves organic search visibility, gives more chances to get to Featured Snippets or “People Also Ask,” and influences behavioral factors. Questions are a part of optimization for voice search: They improve user experience and help rank higher by providing structured information (Google loves it!).
And yet, how to know which questions to include in your content? Where to find them and how to optimize your SEO articles for them?
- Go to the “People Also Ask,” “People Also Search For,” and “Searches Related To” sections to get question ideas.
- Google Suggest can help, either.
- Research Reddit, Quora, and Twitter to see what the audience asks about your topics and keywords.
- Ask SEO platforms.
Once you decide on the questions for your content, define the answer type you’ll provide: a direct one (for the What, When, Who, and Where questions), a short one (for Why and Can), or a long one (for How questions). Optimize your content accordingly.
Remember About Image SEO
Image SEO is not about alt-tags only. It’s a set of techniques to get your visual content crawled, indexed, and ranked on Google Images results. Please don’t underestimate it:
Proper image optimization will help you influence load time and drive significant traffic to your website. In my guest article for SurferSEO, I covered practical tips on it:
- Craft custom images and use proper names for them.
- Write SEO-friendly alt-texts.
- Resize images before publishing if necessary and use proper formats: JPG and PNG, but also WebP (for animated pics) or SVG (for logos and icons).
- Place visual content near the most relevant paragraph in your text.
- Create an image sitemap and add structured data.
Use Topic Clusters and Update Content Regularly
A topic cluster is a group of web pages interlinked and semantically related to one another, covering a broader subject area. Made of a pillar page (the one targeting a keyword with a high search volume) and several cluster content pages (those targeting more specific keywords), such content blocks benefit SEO greatly:
- You target whole topics, not one keyword.
- Google understands the relationship between the pages in a cluster, so it has more chances to rise through the ranks.
- The content hierarchy in clusters makes it easier for users and search engines to navigate.
- Stellar topic clusters get more backlinks because of their insightful nature.
Backlinko’s Content Marketing Hub can be an example of an efficient topic cluster.
And last but not least:
Remember to update your SEO content regularly: It helps save time on new content creation, build trust, and get more backlinks. Update the pages that still generate organic traffic and are relevant to your content strategy.
Now that you know all the details of SEO content optimization, it’s time to revise your texts accordingly. Consider the E-E-A-T concept and craft comprehensive content assets that satisfy your target audience’s search intent and help them find answers to their questions.
Focus on content usability and readability, engage users, and consider tiny SEO tricks for search engines to understand the context of your page and rank it high. And remember:
Be useful. You write for people, and modern search engines are smart enough to distinguish decent content.