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How To Create SEO Content That Ranks

If you want to increase brand awareness and make it easier for customers to find you, you need to create content that ranks well. Follow these steps for writing SEO content your target audience actually wants to read — and Google ranks on page one.

Jan 9, 2024

12 m read

No one likes investing hours in a piece only to see it fail to bring in traffic. Not only is it disheartening, but it can lead you to question the efficacy of SEO content marketing. However, SEO content marketing does work — it just requires a rigorous process, knowledge about your audience, and some SEO skills.

To help you integrate SEO content into your existing strategy, I’m going to answer some common questions like:

Plus, I’ll outline 9 steps to help you flesh out your own SEO content creation process and provide you with examples of quality SEO content.

SEO content guide

What is SEO Content? Download Our Guide to Find Out.

Are you ready to rank? Download this ebook & learn how to craft content that hits the top spot in Google Search.

What Is SEO Content?

SEO content is any content created for your target audience in an effort to attract organic search traffic.

Does this mean keyword stuffing and overoptimization in hopes of seducing search crawlers? Nope. Not only will this not work, but it could have the opposite effect.

Instead, SEO content is quality content. It isn’t written with only SEO in mind. It provides value to your target audience — those wonderful humans you want to entice to check out your website — by answering a question or solving a problem, and it also happens to be optimized for search engines (though the humans are top-of-mind).

Why Does SEO Content Matter?

SEO content is a critical component of online marketing. When done right, it can:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Drive conversions
  • Earn backlinks
  • Build brand awareness

SEO content helps improve the effectiveness of your SEO strategy and build momentum for content marketing campaigns.

If you’re working with an SEO agency and aren’t partnering on an SEO content strategy, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your search visibility and your website’s authority more quickly. 

How Do You Write SEO Content?

Too many people think SEO content is boring, dry copy chock-full of keywords. While this hard-to-read text may have been a hallmark of SEO eras now passed, today’s SEO content is a new beast. It’s enjoyable to read, it’s helpful, and, depending on the keyword, it’s comprehensive. 

That’s a lot for one piece of content! So how do you do it?

First, SEO content should answer a searcher’s query. How it does that will depend on the keyword and its search intent, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

Think about all the different searches you’ve run this week and the content Google surfaced. They likely covered the topics you were interested into different degrees, depending on your query. Some may have led to detailed web pages covering a topic from A to Z, while others focused on quick answers, products, or videos. 

I mention this because there’s no one ideal length for SEO content — 500 words, 800 words, 2k words… It’s what you say and how you say it that matters, not how many words it takes you to get your point across. However, looking at the word count or content currently being featured for your desired keywords can help you identify how comprehensively you need to tackle a topic and reach competitive parity.

Writing SEO content is practically the same as writing high-quality content, except you want to optimize your SEO content for search and be mindful of both E-E-A-T and Google’s helpful content system. 


E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Google’s Search Quality Raters use E-E-A-T as a framework to assess the quality of a piece of content. While this is a manual assessment, Google engineers then use the data to tweak its search algorithm to better rank high quality content.

Read our E-E-A-T guide to learn more about what this entails. (Bottom line: Write about what you know.)

Helpful Content System

Google released the helpful content system in late 2022, and boy, did some SEOs throw a fit. 

The helpful content system aims to elevate people-first content that provides value to searchers and deprecates pages and sites viewed as unhelpful. Many spammy sites saw huge declines upon its release, as did some reputable sites. If you follow SEO content best practices, you should be fine. Just keep your audience top of mind and write for them instead of search crawlers.

Learn more about writing for the helpful content system here.

Is All SEO Content Written?

No! Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on SERPs will tell you Google continues to diversify what it ranks on page one. During your keyword research, you may find particular queries tend to favor video or product results.

For video results, you can follow most of the same guidelines for written SEO content. However, you’ll need to decide where you want your video content to rank. Are you hoping to show up in SERPs, or do you want to rank on YouTube? This affects how you do keyword research since, for the former, you’ll need to identify search terms that have video SERPs, and for the latter, you’ll need to investigate search terms and search volume for YouTube.

Learn more about video SEO here.

For product results, I recommend following product page best practices, implementing product schema, and using Google Merchant Center if possible. This can improve your chances of being featured.

For the purposes of this post, though, I’m primarily focused on written content.

9 Steps To Writing SEO Content People Want To Read

Ready for an inside look at how I create SEO content that gets read and ranks well? I’ve used the following tactics to outrank Google and triple the amount of page one keywords we rank for in one year from 669 to 2004.

outrank google example

(If you’re wondering why this Google screenshot looks different, it’s because I have two Chrome plugins for SEO installed, Keyword Surfer and MST SERP Counter. Keyword Surfer provides monthly search volume estimates right beneath the page title, while MST SERP Counter makes it easy to see where a page is ranking.)

1. Identify Niche-Appropriate Topics 

Because of E-E-A-T and the helpful content system, it’s important to stick to writing content that’s:

  • Relevant to your audience.
  • Related to your area of expertise.

I find topics by:

  • Brainstorming tangential pieces related to what we’ve already published and our services.
  • Researching what the competition is doing.
  • Using keyword research prompts on ChatGPT.
  • Investigating related topics with keyword research tools.
  • Asking team members what questions they’re hearing from customers and prospects.
  • Reading SEO and content marketing news.

If you’re having trouble thinking up topics, run a content gap analysis using a tool like Ahrefs. A content gap analysis highlights ranking discrepancies between you and your competitors. 

To run a content gap analysis, first go to Site Explorer and enter your URL. Then, select ‘Content gap’ from the ‘Organic search’ section of the left-hand menu.

how to do content gap analysis in ahrefs to create seo content

Input your competitors’ URLs and click ‘Show keywords.”

choose competitors to run content gap analysis

Ahrefs will return a list of keywords that your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t. But what I like most are the filters at the top.

content gap keywords

You can use the filters to find keywords with certain search volumes, keyword difficulties, and cost per click. You can also search for particular words or exclude certain keywords.

filter keywords in ahrefs

In the above example, I searched for keywords containing “b2b” and asked Ahrefs to filter out those with a keyword difficulty above 30. Assuming I work for an email marketing platform, I can see three good potential blog posts from this content gap analysis (keywords bolded):

  • B2B email marketing examples to increase conversions
  • How to generate b2b leads with an email nurture sequence
  • Building your b2b email lists (target keywords: b2b lists, b2b contacts list, b2b list, b2b contact list, b2b marketing list)

2. Complete Keyword Research

Next, you’ll want to identify potential keywords related to your topic (if you don’t already have them). 

Not every topic you come up with will have a clear keyword to target, nor will you be able to find search volume or keyword difficulty for each potential keyword. This is especially true when you’re writing about new products, new technologies, new concepts, etc. 

One easy way to find keyword ideas for a potential topic is to use ChatGPT. Use a prompt like “List 10 keywords a b2b marketer might google when wanting to create an email list.” ChatGPT will give you some potential keywords you can then run through your favorite keyword research tool.

chatgpt keyword research

Another way to find potential keywords is to search variations on your topic. 

search variations

If your topic has been covered, you can use Ahrefs Site Explorer to uncover the keywords someone is ranking for. Simply copy the URL and paste it into Site Explorer.

how to get competitor keywords

Click on the number under “Keywords” in the “Organic search” section to see what keywords the page is ranking for.

keyword examples 1

You can now use these to create a keyword theme with semantically related terms.

3. Asses Rankability

Since part of the goal of SEO content is to rank for your target keyword, you need to assess whether that’s feasible.

For example, let’s say I want to rank for the generic term “SEO.” After using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, I see that it has a keyword difficulty of 97 and an estimated monthly search volume of 119k.

keyword difficulty

Now, I could get distracted by that search volume, which is amazingly high. Imagine all that traffic!

But take a closer look at the keyword difficulty. Ahrefs says I would need over 2,000 referring domains to rank on page one for “SEO.” That’s a lot of backlinks! Just looking at that, I feel like there’s no way I could break that top ten any time soon, so I probably wouldn’t add the topic to my content calendar. 

Let’s say the keyword difficulty is lower, though, and you only need 30 referring domains. What other factors can help you determine whether you’ll be able to rank for a particular keyword (or how long it may take to rank for certain keywords)?

If you scroll down in Ahrefs, you can take a look at the position history for the keyword’s SERP.

serp position

These are the top 10 sites ranking for SEO in the past year. There’s some variability in the keyword, but many of the same sites are still ranking for the keyword. Google has two of the search results, while other well-known websites own the other spots. 

Knowing all this, would I create content targeting this keyword? 

Maybe, but I wouldn’t do it with the expectation of ranking any time soon. If I chose to pursue creating content targeting “SEO,” I would do so to flesh out our resources section or to power our newsletters and social channels. 

Note: If you don’t have access to Ahrefs, you can get similar info with Semrush with a free trial.

semrush example

4. Pinpoint Search Intent

Ok, so you have your topic and keywords, and you think you can rank for a piece of content based on the keyword difficulty and SERP trends. Next, you want to finetune your topic by identifying the search intent of your keywords.

Search intent is the “why” behind a search. It points to the type of answer that searchers are looking for. Do they want a product? More information about something? Reviews? (Our search intent blog post dives into this idea much deeper, so check it out.)

In the Semrush screenshot above, there’s a box called “intent,” and it suggests the search intent for “SEO” is informational.

This tells me that I shouldn’t target this keyword with a page selling SEO services. Rather, if I want to target that keyword, I would need to create an informative piece covering what SEO is.

To find the search intent of your primary keyword, you can simply google it and see what type of pages appear in search results. Many times, there will be a clear intent, though you may encounter some mixed search intent. This is when Google is showcasing a mix of results in an effort to better assess what users are looking for when searching that particular term. When creating content for a keyword with mixed intent, be sure to periodically monitor its performance and update the content to match the intent as needed.

5. Create a Brief & Outline

Your brief and blog outline highlight the topics you want to cover in your post and provide you or your writers with a framework in which to work. They’re also useful for systematizing your content creation process.

The briefing and outlining process is the perfect time to identify your unique viewpoint or other differentiator. How will your content answer the search query while showcasing your company? What are you bringing to the table to evolve the conversation?

With AI-embedded search (SGE) and the helpful content system, these questions are critical for setting your content apart and increasing your chances of ranking. 

If you use our content brief template, you’ll notice there are spots for your h1, page title, meta description, and URL slug. While you can create these later, I do recommend integrating them into your process so you have all the information you need in one place when it’s time to upload your content to your CMS.

6. Write or Outsource the Copy

Time to flesh out your ideas and transform your outline into a full piece.

Whether you, someone on your team, or a freelancer writes your copy doesn’t matter, as long as they know what they’re writing about.

If your piece isn’t written by someone with deep knowledge of the topic, have a subject matter expert QA it. This helps ensure your content is accurate and provides value. Plus, it’s a great way to incorporate first-person perspectives. Ask your SME for a quote or story you can integrate into the content to illustrate its point and provide information gain.

7. Edit and Optimize

With the copy done, it’s time to improve it!

Check readability and formatting. Are you overusing certain words? Do you have very long paragraphs? Is it skimmable?  

Make sure to stay away from jargon and use language your target audience understands. Break up paragraphs so they’re just a few sentences long (or even shorter, if appropriate). Integrate bullets and lists where possible, or plan to use call-out boxes or text formatting to highlight important points.

During this process, you also want to be looking to see whether your keyword theme is naturally integrated into the content. Is your primary keyword in the h1 and an h2? Are related words included in the copy? Do any of these instances feel forced? 

If you have access to a tool like Surfer SEO, you can use it to determine whether you’ve incorporated your primary and related keywords. It will give you a score based on how frequently those terms are used. Other plugins offer similar features. The goal is to incorporate your keywords in a way that is unobtrusive to readers but makes it clear what your content is about for search crawlers. 

For more content optimization tips, check out this post. It’ll walk you through everything from meta descriptions to schema.

8. Publish & Promote

Finally, it’s time to hit publish! Once your content is live, promote it if appropriate. Share it across relevant social media channels, include it in your newsletter, and highlight it in your company communications so your team members know they can share it as well. 

Also make a point to link back to your new content from older content. If it’s a page, do your best to use the primary keyword as your anchor text. For example, when I point to our content writing page, I always try to link to it as “SEO content writing services.”

If it’s a blog post, do a site search to see where else you’ve mentioned the topic and link those mentions to your new post.

9. Create a Regular Cadence

To gain momentum and improve your search visibility, you’ll want to publish content regularly. Depending on your resources, this may be twice a month, once a week, or even twice a week. 

When starting out, choose a cadence based on your resources and plan to have multiple pieces in the works at once.  

At Victorious, we generally publish content two to three times a week. We didn’t start with that many posts, though. We worked our way up as our team and resources grew. Also, we don’t always publish brand-new pieces. Reworking and refreshing older content is a valuable part of your SEO content strategy!

Can I Use Generative AI To Write SEO Content?

Generative AI (GenAI) is a great tool. It’s not always consistent, reliable, or accurate, but it can improve your workflows, support ideation, and help you workshop your content.

If you haven’t used a tool like ChatGPT before, the first step is to play around with it. We have some resources for using it. However, there’s nothing like first-hand experience! 

By testing out the tool, you can get a sense of how you like to prompt it. Some people use crafted prompts like the ones covered here, while others prefer to have a conversation with the AI and iterate. Either is fine as long as you’re getting the results you want.

✅ What to use GenAI for:  

  • Brainstorming
  • Fine-tuning voice
  • Exploring topics
  • Finding possible metaphors
  • Distilling content into first drafts of social posts

❌ What not to use GenAI for:

  • Quickly generating cookie-cutter content
  • Paraphrasing other’s content
  • Fact-checking
  • Gathering statistics 

If you want to explore ChatGPT as a possible writing partner, be sure to check out our posts on the topic:

💡 Remember: Google wants people-first content. It’s looking for experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. While AI can help you check off some of those boxes, it isn’t able to check them all off. That means you really need to bring a distinct viewpoint to your pieces 

Examples of SEO Content

If you prefer to learn from SEO content examples rather than steps, check out some of the following posts. You’ll notice that they have a clear topic based on their target keyword, they match the search intent of the keyword, and they aim to provide helpful information to the reader. 

Kickstart Your Content With Victorious

Need to supplement your content creation? Whether you’re just getting started or looking to improve the search visibility of your content, Victorious can help! 

Our SEO content writing services can support your writing team with in-depth briefs, or we can handle everything from keyword research to publishing. Learn more about how our content services can support your goals — schedule a free consultation today.

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