Creating Content That Ranks: A Guide to SEO-Friendly Content Creation

SEO Ireland

Table of Contents

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) content is on the rise. ChatGPT has disrupted a lot of businesses, and marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) is no different. The way you create content and how search engines now look at it is changing — and will continue to change.

Smart content creators and marketers can easily stand out from the crowd by creating and publishing high-quality SEO-friendly content. But how can you do it?

Here is a list of my top tips for creating SEO-friendly content that has a better chance of beating AI content and low-quality content.

1. Create Topical Authority

The road ahead is all about topical authority. You become an authority on a topic if you cover it in detail thoroughly and with expertise. You can have great content but if it’s isolated, sparse and off-topic, it won’t be appreciated by search engines.

Here is an example of how to earn topical authority:

Compare two websites:

  1. A niche website on knitting that has covered all the knitting topics (as in the above image)
  2. An authority business blog that has an article on how to start a knitting business.

Search engines are more likely to favor the niche blog in SERPs for knitting-related queries than the business blog. This is because it has established itself as an expert in knitting and search engines consider the niche site a reputable source of knitting information.

Here is how to develop topical authority:

  • Define a clear niche for your website and stick with it.
  • Identify broad topics that you want to cover and are related to your business.
  • Find keywords for these topics.
  • Create pillars and clusters using topics and keywords.
  • Interlink individual articles to pillar pages.
  • Avoid publishing content off-topic.
  • Write content in the form of series and in-depth articles.

2. Develop Your Content Voice and Tone

A part of SEO-friendly content is your content’s voice and tone. If there is one thing that differentiates human content from AI content, it is voice. AI content often misses personality and consistency.

You need to create a unique voice and tone for your content. Content voice defines the personality and values of your brand and it is consistent with (and stems from) your brand voice. The content tone is the emotional context of the article and is more like an attitude. Voice remains consistent while content tone varies from article to article.

This will set you apart and make it easier for search engines and your target audience to identify and differentiate your content. You need to create a content style guide for your company with a clearly defined voice and tone.

MailChimp has a well-defined content style guide. 

Follow these best practices to create content voice and tone for writers, editors, and everyone on the team:

  • Look at the mission, vision and philosophy of your business to derive the content voice.
  • Check the best content on your site or the web and use it as a sample.
  • Set clear rules with do’s and don’ts for your team.
  • Make the content style guide easy to read and understand.
  • Define what tones are allowed and how to incorporate them into content (friendly, witty, professional, etc.).

3. Write People-First Content

The meaning of helpful content keeps changing. Google now uses E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) instead of just E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness), and it relies heavily on people-first content rather than search engine-first content.

If you are writing content for people (aka your target audience), it is sure to rank high in SERPs. The question is how to create people-first content as the line between people and search engines is quite blurred and most content marketers specifically write for search engines.

Google has clearly defined instructions for webmasters on  how to write people-first content. The three basic pillars are:

  1. Niche-based content that’s consistent with your brand. It also means you don’t write content based on specific keywords (for example, a keyword has low competition, so you cover it despite its irrelevance to your site’s theme).
  2. In-depth content that showcases your expertise on the topic. This calls for highly researched content with a focus on primary research and a distinct point of view.
  3. The content addresses customer queries completely. The visitor doesn’t have to go to another site to find definitions or to look for additional information. You need to cover the topic fully by understanding search intent — and not just the keyword.

4. Use Structured Data

Schema markup or structured data is the language that search engines understand and it helps search engines better understand your content. All the leading search engines use structured data in SERPs to make results user-friendly and visually pleasing.

Here is an example of schema markup that makes search results prominent:

Schema markup

For example, if you are reviewing a product, you need to add a review markup in the article so search engines understand you are reviewing a product and then reflect this in SERPs.

You can add structured data to review articles, FAQs, how-to articles, products and more. You can view the complete list here. If you are using a CMS, use a plugin like Schema or an on-page SEO plugin like Yoast.

5. Don’t Ignore On-Page SEO

On-page SEO isn’t going anywhere and it is the backbone of SEO-friendly content. Even if you create a ton of high-quality content, if it isn’t optimized for search, it won’t be understandable for search engines and will be the least likely to rank.

On-page SEO is aimed at making content search-friendly so crawlers can understand and index content. A lot of on-page SEO factors are directly related to content writing, formatting and publishing, so it is easier to incorporate them in content creation.

Here are the major on-page SEO variables you need to use in content writing:

  • Optimized page title
  • Heading tags to properly structure content
  • Relevant meta description for every page
  • User-friendly and simple URLs
  • Structured and formated content with different sections and subsections
  • Alt-text for images
  • Internal links to provide crawlers with more assets.

6. Structure and Format Content Accurately

Gone are the days when chunks of content used to work. Content formatting and structuring play a major role in SERP ranking and branding. Search engines use featured snippets to provide an instant answer to the user query.

Here is an example of a featured snippet in action:

featured snippet example

This is the first search result that directly addresses customer queries within the SERPs. The answer to the query is highlighted and the snippet also has an image.

Despite controversies, featured snippets are a reality and you need to optimize your content for these snippets to drive clicks, improve brand awareness, and average organic CTR and rankings.

You don’t have to rewrite your content, but minor formatting and structuring tweaks will make it easy for search engine crawlers to find the answer and use it as featured snippets (often known as zero position).

Your content must address (or answer) the primary search query clearly in one to three sentences. The first few sentences of the introduction and every heading should address or summarize the crux.

Using the inverted pyramid writing and formatting technique is quite helpful. It calls for adding the most important details at the top of the content:

inverted pyramid writing and formatting technique

When you answer a query upfront, it has two benefits:

  1. You are more likely to get to the featured snippet, which boosts organic CTR, visibility and brand awareness.
  2. It significantly improves readability and user experience. Your target audience will find the answer right away without having to go through the entire article. This is especially helpful for people who skim content (instead of reading it).

Follow these formatting and structuring techniques for SEO-friendly content:

  • Answer the search query in the first paragraph clearly without any ifs and buts.
  • Start a heading and subheading with a short summary and then jump to details.
  • Use short paragraphs and short sentences.
  • Use bullets, lists, headings and subheadings as much as you can. Distribute your content into several sections to make it easy to read and comprehend.

7. Add Author Details

Add author details to tell search engines and readers who created the content; it is an important factor that search engines (especially Google) now use to determine expertise and experience. It also helps search engines differentiate human-written content from AI content.

Adding the author name isn’t enough. You must add a byline with links to the author’s social media accounts and other work to showcase their experience and expertise.

Google recommends adding accurate author information with their experience and other details in the helpful content guide here.

This information is helpful for web crawlers and readers both. While your target audience might not be interested in knowing about the author (as they are more concerned about your brand), search engines are.

Content with author information and accurate details means it is authored by a human, and this makes it easy to outrank AI-generated content in SERPs.

Here are advanced tips for using authorship to improve the search visibility of your content:

  • Have accurate author names with real photos.
  • Create a detailed byline for authors, preferably towards the end of the article.
  • Cross-link the author’s name with the author byline towards the end of the page.
  • Add links to social media accounts in the byline.
  • Avoid pen names.
  • Add external links in bylines that showcase the author’s experience.
  • The name of the author should be consistent across social networks and other sites.

Final Thoughts

Writing SEO-friendly content doesn’t mean you have to write content for search engines, it means you have to write content for people and optimize it for search engines. The optimization techniques are changing rapidly, and this is where it gets hard for businesses to consistently create SEO-friendly content. Hiring an SEO agency is a better option if publishing search engine-friendly content is becoming a challenge for your in-house team. 

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