The beginner’s guide to content SEO

SEO is a term that gets thrown around a lot by marketers.

“Do you have an on-page SEO strategy? How are you ranking off-page? Is your local SEO fully optimised? What are your technical SEO skills like?”


In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what content SEO is and why it’s important for your business, sharing best practices to get quick results.

What is content SEO?

You’ve got two types of SEO: content and technical. We’re focusing on the content side, which is all about posting stuff on your website to help you rank higher in search engines. Oh, and ‘content’ can be anything from landing pages to blogs, to videos and think pieces.

The website IMPACT published a report on 2021 SEO statistics. In it, 57% of marketing executives say on-page content development was the most effective SEO tactic. You can read the rest of the report here.

Now, what is “on-page content development” we hear you ask?

On-page SEO (or “on-site SEO”) is the optimisation of content on your web pages for search engines and users. You’ll know the most common methods when we say them- you probably do them without even thinking.

It’s putting thought into your title tags, content, internal links, and URLs.

In contrast, off-page SEO is where you optimise signals which focus on leaving your website. Like backlinks!

Why is SEO important?

You know how utterly integral the 11 secret herbs and spices are to Colonel Sanders’ delicious KFC?

That’s how important SEO is to your website.

When you create helpful content, using the words people are searching for (keywords), your website will be found much more easily on Google. Meaning your target customers will find you faster and your competitors will sink to the lower pages… and really, who searches beyond page 1 of the search results?!

The search engine algorithms are ever-changing. If you don’t understand the way the mystical algorithm works (which is admittedly, easier said than done), it will always feel like you’re struggling against the tide.

Social media algorithms provide the platform with a way to organise your feed, timeline, dashboard, etc. with posts that are relevant to you. It saves you sifting through hundreds of thousands of posts, to find the one that you might be interested in.

However, as marketers, they don’t always work in our favour.

Social media platforms are notoriously vague when it comes to giving us clues on how to decode the ways they sort their content. What we think might do well can flop at the last hurdle and something a little lacklustre can become a viral hit seemingly out of nowhere.

Search engines work in much the same way. We rely on them to decide what to show users, by picking apart our content to find something they recognise as relevant.

By employing a bit of SEO, it puts the power back in our hands, to work in tandem with the algorithm instead of battling against it.

Creating new content is also a much better way to experiment with new developments than completely redoing a web page every time.

I mean, who has the time to be remaking entire webpages every time there’s a shiny new trend on the rise?

Search engines are starved for content. That’s why it’s so important to keep them coming back for more. On-page SEO (webpages) is valuable, but SEO articles and blogs take the absolute cake. Read more about the impact content can have on your website and SEO here.

In 2022, writing an SEO blog or creating an SEO-centred landing page is now on the growing list of website maintenance, along with improving the technical design, monitoring user experience, and keeping your security up.

But, on the bright side, SEO is the marketing industry’s worst kept secret because we’re all too keen to share our own methods and journeys.

Us in particular.

So, without further ado, we’re going to take you along as we prepare a blog for one of our clients.

Keyword research

Keyword research is the process of finding and analysing search terms that people enter into search engines.

You know when you type something into Google, like “marketing agency near me”?

Well, we use keyword research to find out:

  • When you typed this in, what was your intent behind it? This will inform what kind of content we should create around the keyword- whether it’s better in an educational blog or as part of a sales pitch on a webpage.
  • How many other people are asking this question? Maybe there’s a high search volume but not many relevant links are coming up, in which case we would hop on the keyword. If the search volume is high but there are also a ton of helpful pages already, we might pick our battles and decide on a more attainable phrase instead.
  • A ton of other super informative metrics like how much it would cost per click to put money behind this phrase, or how much competition we’re up against to rank for it.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to find yourself an SEO tool. Let us tell you – it makes life SO much easier.

If you’re like us and you’re juggling a few clients on the go, having an SEO platform means that you have one place to keep all your data.

Personally, we use a tool called SEMRUSH, a platform designed to integrate all of your SEO, content marketing, competitor research, PPC and social media marketing all in one place.

Once you’ve found the SEO tool of your dreams, it’s time to build a keyword manager list (which is actually already a service in SEMRUSH). The keyword manager list is a dynamic list of all the keywords you plan to rank for.

Creating your master list

The keyword master list is the most important part of all.

However, knowing where to start can feel a bit like staring into the void. Out of every word in the English language, how do you choose which ones to rank for?

With our not-so-secret trick, is your answer.

The first thing we do is plug our website URL into the “domain overview” on SEMRUSH, to comb through the domain as it currently stands. This will give you a list of organic keywords that you’re currently ranking for (maybe without realising).

Your next job is to read through all of these and determine which ones are the most relevant. If you’re not consciously trying to rank for certain words, search engines will pull whichever one they think is appropriate.

With varying degrees of success.

With a combination of random phrases from articles and site-wide words to choose from, you’ll need to narrow your options down. Anything you could create an article topic from or answers a question is a word to keep!

Once you’ve got your list sorted from a personal branding perspective, it’s time to branch out. We then make use of the “keyword gap” tool to bulk out our options with more topical keywords and phrases.

This works by choosing 2-3 competitors and popping in their website URLs as well as your own.

SEMRUSH then compares the words you’re all currently ranking for and gives you an inventory of phrases that aren’t already included in your master list. We use this to provide us with a little more context about the industry and possible topics. For more information on keyword research, read Yoast’s article here on Content SEO.

Finding a topic

Your keyword research is almost complete!

To find a topic for your blog, article, or landing page, you have two options.

You could analyse the master list of keywords that you’ve just pulled together. Comb through these and see which word or phrase ignites that spark of inspiration.

Finding a topic

This is a great method if you’re interested in building pillar pages. Pillar pages are landing pages created for the specific purpose of anchoring your content.

Say you create a page on your website about the topic of diversity.

It’s a broad subject, right?

Well, the idea is that you use this page as a “jumping off” point, to then structure and link to any other article that might feature the subject of diversity. This way you can increase your inter-site backlinks and have a clear content journey for your user.

The second way to decide on a topic for your content is to use the “content marketing” and then “topic research” options on your SEO tool. Many SEO platforms include this feature, and it makes life so much easier for us marketers.

The tool does a lot of the hard work for you, coming up with research, context, and specific keywords to help you narrow it down. It even produces a list of “semantically-related keywords” which you’ll also be able to rank for!

Using SERP to your advantage

With your topic in hand, it’s time to arm yourself with a bit of context (a seriously underrated step in content SEO).

Make sure to have a quick glance at the intent behind each of your keywords, as this will help structure the way you use them. You’ll be able to find these in the data/analytics alongside your chosen keywords.

SEO keywords have four types of intent:

  • Navigational: when a user has entered a term into a search engine, wanting to visit a specific website.

  • Informational: a user has typed in a question or is looking for further information on a specific topic.

  • Commercial: users are doing a bit of research in the lead up to making a purchase.

  • Transactional: users have done their research and are now looking to make a purchase.

For ideas on how to present your content, it’s a good idea to make use of the SERP features (something that should also be present in your keywords data).

By trawling through search engine results pages, you can see the intent behind your keywords for yourself. It will help you to decide on a clear purpose for your content.

The brief

We know, we know. Briefs are boring.

It feels like they take away any spontaneity or free thought when you have to stick to a pre-determined set of bullet points.

Unfortunately, SEO optimised content thrives on structure.

To ensure that we’re including as many keywords as possible (as naturally as possible), briefs are a must for us.

This is where we collate as much of our research as possible and begin to organise it into talking points. It’s good to have your list of keywords somewhere in that brief, as well as a general word count, and a couple of headings for good measure.

It may sound a bit dull but it’s a sure-fire way of eliminating waffle and maintaining a clear direction (is it working?).

Keeping your content funky and fresh

Although there is (mercifully) little maths involved in content SEO, there is an equation that all marketers keep in mind when creating content.

“Something people want to read = trending topics x a few relevant keywords/phrases from your master list”

Of course, we’d all love to be churning out original ideas like they were giving them away. However, sometimes you can achieve just as much by simply adding to an already existing conversation.

The trick is the topic doesn’t have to be new, but what you produce should be new to you and your audience. No one wants to read the same rehashed opinions.

Use the intent behind your keywords to keep your take fresh and relevant!

Who are you talking to?

Going into any piece of content creation, you need to have an audience in mind. You can’t just project into the universe; you’re trying to attract a specific type of person.

The best way to do this is to think of the big picture.

What are you trying to say to your audience? What’s the big takeaway from your piece of content? What’s the point of it? What’s your call to action going to be at the end?

Keeping these, and your keywords in mind will help you to write with a clear purpose in mind.

The writing begins

After what we’re sure has felt like an eternity, the preparation is finally over.

To avoid sounding too artificial with your keyword placements, we’ve found that the best method is to simply free write as much as possible.

You can always tidy up in editing.

Prioritise readability

The most important thing to keep in mind whilst writing is readability.

Twenty years ago, you were just writing for people. Now, an equally important audience member is Google.

The search engine has gotten really good at mimicking a human reader. It now recognises synonyms and semantically related keywords and phrases. It can also make an educated guess as to what a user wants to read, based on the intent behind the keywords they’ve used.

Creepy, right?

Clever algorithms aside, this is important to keep in mind when thinking about your human readers as well. Gone are the days when you could just stuff your articles full of keywords like cream cheese in a pepper.     

People want a bit of nuance these days, a splash of subtlety.

A few more tips for readability and accessibility purposes:  

  • Short and snappy sentences are a must! Not only to retain readers’ attention but for screen readers and voice search users as well.

  • Limit your big and difficult words. We get it, you were a spelling bee kid (just our Jess, then?) but there’s no need to show off your thesaurus skills. It can be alienating to audiences.

  • Steer clear of complicated sentences.

  • Avoid using a passive voice. The bossier you sound, the more enjoyable the read (it’s science, we promise).

If you’re interested in a more general view of how to write content SEO, read Yoast’s article “SEO Copywriting: The ultimate guide” here.

Why was SEO so important again?

So, to sum up, what have we learnt today?

Something about SEO and the KFC recipe?

Just kidding.

Creating SEO content is definitely a bit of an art form. There’s a certain glint in veteran SEO’er’s eyes when they pick the perfect keyword out of a long list of rubbish.

But it’s definitely an art form that can be taught.

Our main takeaway is that if you do anything today, research a reliable SEO tool. They offer the perfect amount of hand-holding for beginners.

You could also give us a call to chat through your SEO options. This article may be comprehensive, but we kept a couple of our RedSprout secrets!

P.S. Did you notice the words in bold?


Well, your search engine certainly did.

Want to learn more about how you can create the best B2B social content? Read our post here


Partner with a content marketing agency

Want to know more about how we can work with you to drive results using content? Get in touch for a casual chat. 


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