SEO 101 for Content Writers

Kyle’s Note: This is a guest article by Will Boucek, Co-Founder, Open Book SEO. Will is a friend of mine who I’ve seen get amazing results in SEO over the years. I recently had him review this site and he gave me a few tips that made a dramatic impact on how much search traffic I was getting. Which is why I am so excited to share his strategies with you here. Over to Will:

Content creators are incredibly valuable to an online business. They can make a campaign go viral… They educate your audience about your product [SELL!]… And they help build your brand.

But, over and over again, I see amazing creators with awesome content that NEVER gets seen! You might have the best content in your industry, but if it’s not set up and distributed the right way, you’re missing out on an opportunity. In fact, Ahrefs recently found that over 91% of content never gets a single visit from Google!

For our own clients, we don’t recommend more than 2 posts per month for this reason. 2 good posts are 10X better than 4 mediocre posts (and 1 amazing post per month can be 100X better!)

Below we’re going to cover the basics for content creators who have never put much effort into SEO. This will be your end-to-end SEO process for creating a blog post that will get more traffic. Following these 5 easy steps will take less than 20 minutes per post and can increase the number of visitors by 10x or more!


If you’re already well versed, then see a more comprehensive on-page SEO guide written by my partner Cory

Coming Up With Content Ideas

The first thing we have to do is come up with our idea. We won’t go deep into this because you and Kyle know more about this than me, but the one thing I will say is to make sure you have one single purpose, theme, or story for each post, that your audience is searching for. If you want more traffic from Google, you need to be a resource for something that people are actually typing into that little search box.

If people aren’t already searching for your post, then SEO may not be for you. For example, if you’re trying to create the next “The Martian,” most of your traffic will be through social or people telling each other. Only after people know the name of your book, and start typing it into Google, will you start getting organic traffic.

That said, you should still structure your content well [skip to step 3]. But for most people, you’re probably trying to answer a question, provide a resource, or solve a problem that people already know they have. That’s where keyword research becomes critical.

How to do Keyword Research In Less Than 5 Minutes [For Free]

You’ve probably heard of keyword research before, and may even know a little bit about it. The point of keyword research is essentially to figure out what people are typing into Google, and how hard it will be to get to page 1 for the thing that they are typing [the keyword].

First a few definitions:

  • Keyword = the words your audience types into Google.
  • Volume = the number of people typing the keyword into Google [usually per month]
  • Difficulty = the competition of the keyword. This is usually on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being impossible to rank on page 1.

Let’s use an example from one of my personal sites, where I write about tennis and review tennis racquets. When I first started creating the topics, some of my ideas included the following keywords:

  • What is the best tennis racket?
  • Best Wilson tennis racket
  • Best tennis racket for power

Finding What Your Market Is Searching

I used a keyword research tool called KW Finder to figure out that 1000’s more people use the spelling “racquet” instead of “racket.” So I created my pages and content with racquet.

Finding out that twice as many people search for “racquet” rather than “racket” through KW Finder, doubled my organic search opportunity


I also figured out that people don’t search for brands of racquets as much. They typically are looking for the best racquet at a certain skill level. So “best beginner racquet” and “best tennis racquet for intermediate players” were two of my first review posts.

Using Google as a Keyword Research Tool

But the best place for KW research is Google itself. There are two features of Google I go to first for keyword research.

Google’s Related Searches

If you type in your keyword and go to the bottom of page 1, you’ll see 10 other keywords that Google is associating with your keyword. Google is telling you “people who searched your term also want to know about these things.” INCLUDE IT IN YOUR CONTENT!!! This is where I get most of my H2’s [see next section].

When I searched for “best tennis racquet” I found through Google that people are also searching for best tennis racquet by skill level (beginner, intermediate, advanced).


People also ask…

Google won’t always have this, but for most searches related to problem solving and answering a question, they will. Again… ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS IN YOUR POST!!!

When I search “how to hit a forehand in tennis” this little box pops up near the top. Google is giving me other questions people are searching for that I should answer in my article. Obviously, I won’t use the frisbee question, but the other 3 are perfect.


Pull Up the Top 3ish Listings for Your Keyword

Analyzing the top 3-5 pages for your keyword will help you see what Google is looking for. It will also help you identify opportunity to make BETTER content than what is already out there. Maybe including a video, or a graph will help explain better, or maybe there’s a related topic that the competition is missing. You can also find good joint venture opportunities through this competitor research.

Other Free Keyword Research Tools

KW finder will let you do 5 searches a day for free. This is my favorite keyword research tool so I pay for it, around $50 per month.

LSI Graph is another free tool that will give you related terms. Other great ideas for subtopics come from this tool.

Google Search Console is possibly the best way to do keyword research when you’re optimizing an older post. This only works if you already have data (traffic), but the data you can get it incredibly valuable.

Our Open Book SEO on-page audit tool on our homepage will run your page through a checklist for your primary keyword and give you action steps you can take to better optimize your page for that keyword.

Hint: You can also add your competitors pages 😉

Content Structure for Your Blog

Structuring your content is pretty straightforward. You need to do what is best for the user. Make it easy for the user to find the answer to what they are looking for.

Breaking your page up into smaller, more digestible pieces is usually a good idea. But, again, look at the top listings to see what structure Google is already ranking.

How To Use Header Tags – H1, H2, H3

For headers, here are your new rules to follow.

Only use one H1.

You’re H1 is the title of your post. In WordPress, most themes will automatically make your post or page title to an H1. So you shouldn’t add any H1’s into the content. You’re H1 needs to include the primary keyword you are trying to rank for, while telling Google and the user what your page is about.

Use multiple H2’s.

These are subtopics for your primary topic. I usually decide on these during my content idea creation and keyword research stages. Use the question boxes and searches related for good H2 ideas.

H3’s are for lists under H2’s.

These are sub-sub-topics. For example, if I’m writing a guide on “how to make a deep dish pizza,” I may have an H2 for “Finding the right pizza dish” followed by a few H3’s with the top 5 pizza dishes that I recommend.

Don’t use anything beyond H3’s. If you need more subtopics, you’re probably making the content too confusing, or you can just use bolded or underlined text.

Basic Technical Optimization for SEO

You’re site must be technically setup correctly for search engines, or you won’t get traffic. There are no exceptions to this rule because Google doesn’t want to deliver a result that will load slowly, or be difficult to read on a certain device.

Use these tools to make sure your site checks all the boxes.

The Best WordPress Plugin for SEO

Plugins make it easier to manage your site for search engines, and the best plugin for this is Yoast. The Yoast SEO plugin will set up a sitemap for you, and allow you to easily manage the title tags and meta descriptions for each page and post.

For Shopify users check out this guide to higher rankings on Shopify.

How To Write Your Title Tag

Title tags are similar to page titles in that they should tell Google as well as the user what the page is about, but it’s also a chance for you to “advertise” your page. It needs to stand out among all the other listings in the search engines.

The Title Tags are in blue. The Meta Description is below the URL in small text. You should search for your keyword and look at the listings. Figure out how to make your title & description stand out.


Edit your title tag and meta description in WordPress by going to the edit page/post screen and scrolling to the bottom. You will find your Yoast SEO plugin there where you can manipulate these fields for every URL on your site.

Writing Your Meta Description

The meta description should also entice the user to click. You’ll want to include your primary keyword, and related terms here because Google will bold the words that the user searches for. I like to ask questions in the meta description, like “Do you struggle to hit a consistent forehand?”

What to Do About Images

Images are simple. Include them where it makes sense and adds value. I usually do about 3-5 images, sometimes more if it’s a really long article.

Google is getting better at identifying images and knowing what they’re about. However, you should help the Google bots and make the title of the image descriptive of the image. The alt-text should be the same as the title. Try to fit your keyword into 1-2 of the image titles and alt-text if you can.

Links – Internal, External & Backlinks

There are 3 types of links we’ll briefly cover.

Internal links are links you create from one page on your website to another. You should link to pages within your site that you want to rank higher. I usually include 3-5 internal links per article, but again, do what makes sense for the user.

External links are links from your article to other websites, blogs, and articles. It’s good to link to 2-3 other websites that add value to your article and are related to what you’re writing about. This will tell Google what your article is related to.

Backlinks are when another website links to your website. These are the fuel that will boost your ranking to the top. If, for example, linked to my tennis website, then Google would think my tennis website is awesome and push my rankings higher. This is because ESPN is a very high authority domain.

SEO Without The Confusion

As we discussed in the beginning, adding a little bit of SEO effort to your content can go a long way in getting more visitors to your site. Following the basic strategies above will put you ahead of 95% of your competitors, and over time, you will see better and better results.

If you have questions about what to do on your site, always ask yourself “what makes the most sense for the user?” When people ask about using too many keywords, or over optimizing their site, I always go back to that question. If you provide an amazing resource and experience for your audience, Google will recognize that, and provide you with free traffic as a result.

Remember to:

  1. Keep your website simple and clean.
  2. Provide valuable content that your audience is looking for.
  3. When in doubt, do what’s best for the user!

Then, watch your traffic climb!

Before you go… get the On-Page SEO Checklist that we use to find the best SEO boosting opportunities fast!

Will is the Co-Founder of Open Book SEO. You can email him at Will [at] or through the contact form on their website.