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9 SEO-friendly content writing tips for outdoing your competitors

Search engine optimization has come a long way in the last 25 years. Gone are the days of publishing masses of low-quality, paper-thin content and hoping to improve search engine rankings. Today, SEO is a lot an art as it is a science. Content writers and digital marketers must understand search engine ranking factors, prioritize searcher intent, and publish valuable, high-quality content that appeals to both users and Google’s algorithms

This blog post is about nine SEO-friendly content writing tips to improve rankings. But before we reach that, I have a piece of advice for all the digital marketers and content writers out there. When developing a technique to drive organic traffic to your website, remember that content writing and SEO go hand in hand. SEO is not a magical skill that only techies can perform adequately. Search engine optimization is about writing content better than the competition – and, yes, using on-page and technical search engine optimization best practices

So without further trouble, here are nine strategies you can use to outrank your competitors in search engine results.

  • Understand search engine ranking factors.
  • Use the right keywords.
  • Identify and capture search intent.
  • Optimize content to get Google Featured Snippets.
  • Update old content.
  • Apply the skyscraper method.
  • Prioritize high-value inbound and outbound links.
  • Boost user signals with on-page best practices.
  • Pay attention to website structure and technical SEO best practices.

1. Understand search engine ranking factors

Before you outrank your competitors, you need to understand the essential signals search engines look for when evaluating and ranking content. Content, links, site structure, and HTML tags are the four most important ranking factors.


Since the Panda algorithm update in 2011, Google has prioritized content as a ranking factor. When you publish any content – be it a blog, a web page, or a pillar pageit should cover a specific topic in detail, be well-written and, most importantly, give value to the reader. 

According to Search Engine Land’s Table of SEO elements, the seven most heavily weighted content ranking factors are as follows.

  • Quality: Well-written and valuable
  • Research: Shows authority 
  • Keywords: Appropriately incorporates search terms
  • Freshness: Is timely and relevant 
  • Multimedia: Includes images, video, or audio to enhance user experience
  • Answers: Direct response to the search query
  • In-depth: Covers a subject thoroughly

Understanding these components and how to apply them is the first step to writing competitive content.  

Links, website structure, and HTML tags

Besides content, the second, third, and fourth most important ranking factors are links, website architecture (how your website is developed), and HTML tags

When a search engine creeps and indexes your website, it also considers factors other than content, such as inbound and outbound links, URL structure, page load speed, time spent on the page, and keywords in tags. 

Search engine algorithms are designed to provide users with the best content from the best websites. The faster and more accurately a search engine crawls and indexes your content, the faster you can increase your rankings and traffic. Implementing linking, website structure, and HTML best practices in your content makes it less complicated for search engines to creep and index your content.

2. Use the right keywords

Although there is debate in the digital marketing community about whether or not keyword research is dead, keywords are still an essential part of search engine optimization. 

Keyword research helps you:

  • Find out what topics people are talking about.
  • Determine the search volume for topics.
  • Understand how challenging it can be to rank for a topic.

Any crawlable content you create should have a unique primary keyword target and use LSI keywords (natural variations of your primary keyword) throughout.

Before you start writing, brainstorm topics that you know will interest your buyer personas. Then, conduct keyword research to determine the best options. The kind of keyword you target will depend on the kind of content you create.

Blog posts should target long-tail keywords with medium to low volume and low competition. In contrast, comprehensive resources like pillar pages can target short-tail keywords with high volume and competition. When creating blog posts, remember that long-tail keywords with lower competition have higher conversion rates and are easier to rank.

3. Identify and capture search intent

Once you have found a viable primary keyword target, validate and decide how you will write about it by examining the searcher’s search intent. Determine what the searcher is looking for when they type the query into a search bar and then address the topic in a way that directly meets their needs.

According to Google’s search quality guidelines, there are four categories of search intent:

  • Knowledge: The searcher wants to find data on a topic to answer a question.
  • Do: The searcher intends to learn how to perform a specific action.
  • Website: The searcher intends to find a specific resource.
  • Visit in person: the searcher intends to find a place to visit.

Before you start writing, determine which of these four categories your primary keyword target falls into. Then, verify the category by looking at the content that currently ranks for the keyword. Are your competitors targeting the same search intent you identified for the query? Look at how they have structured their content to meet searchers’ requirements. Structure your content in a comparable and better method. 

Pro tip: Use SERP features to fulfill the search intent better than your competitors.

How can you fulfill search intent better than your competitors? Identify the aspects of search intent that the items in the top ranks are not meeting. 

Are there essential nuggets your competitors are leaving out that your readers might want to know about? You can uncover these gaps by looking at the “Other People Ask” and “Related Search Queries” sections of the search engine results from a web page (SERP). Add answers to the relevant questions in your content.

4. Optimize your content to get Google Featured Snippets

A relatively new feature of the search engine is the Google Featured Snippet. This SERP function aims to answer a user’s question immediately. You can optimize your content to increase your chances of getting this feature. Here’s how:

Use SEMrush or another SERP analytics tool to determine if a featured snippet exists for the search term you’re targeting. Only 12.3 percent of search queries have one. 

  • Determine how the featured snippet is structured. Is it a paragraph, a list, or a table?
  • Ask the queries the snippet answers in one of the subheadings of your blog post. 

Answer the question immediately after the subheading. Write a concise answer that is better than the current answer in the featured snippet. Ensure to use the same structure as the current snippet.

Other tips for getting the featured snippet

There are numerous other techniques you can utilize to increase your chances of getting the featured snippet: 

Optimize content you already rank highly for; with a Featured Snippet response, 99.58 percent of snippets originated from pages already on page 1 of a SERP.

Use facts and figures in your answers. 

Answer multiple “people also ask” questions in your content. Ahrefs discovered that most Featured Snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords, like those in this SERP section.

5. Update old content

Search engines prefer fresh content. As mentioned earlier, freshness is content’s fourth most crucial ranking element. Updating old blog posts with better, more valuable, and meaningful information can increase rankings and traffic. 

When HubSpot made upgrading old content a priority on its editorial calendar (and optimized multiple posts per week), it saw an average 106 percent increase in organic search views per post.

Here’s how you can implement this strategy yourself:

  • Identify blog posts that have the potential to rank better for high-search volume keywords.
  • Upgrade or rewrite the post to improve accuracy and thoroughness.
  • Implement on-page SEO best practices and optimize conversion with relevant CTAs in the line and at the end of the post.
  • Publish the optimized article, changing the publish date so search engines can re-crawl and index the content.

6. Apply the Skyscraper method

The Skyscraper method identifies the content you want to outperform and creates something better. It’s both a content writing and link-building strategy, but in this blog post, we’ll focus on execution in terms of writing.

Once you find the content you want to outperform, you should:

  • Consider why Google prioritizes this page in its results. The ranked content is comprehensive, in-depth, and provides excellent value to the reader. Understand why the web content is performing well so you can take your content to the next level.
  • create something better than the ranking article. You can do this by lengthening, deepening, updating, and improving the user experience of the content.
  • Be practical and intentional about the improvements you make. Everything you create should add value first and foremost. Ahrefs warns authors that “adding 25 mediocre tips to an existing list of 25 excellent tips is not an improvement. Your new version may be longer, but you’re not adding value.”

When done correctly, the Skyscraper method gets results. Brian Dean of Backlinko doubled organic traffic in 14 days using this method.

7. Prioritize top-quality inbound and outbound links

Links inform search engines and users about your content’s value, reputation, and quality. When linking to outbound resources in your blog posts and pillar pages, ensure they are trusted, high-quality sites. When looking for backlinks, target authoritative websites on the topic you are writing about. 

Remember that backlinks to your content are one of the most heavily weighted Google ranking factors: They determine 20.94 percent of what gets ranked and what doesn’t. High-quality links can boost rankings and traffic just as much as low-quality and spammy links that can hurt your rankings. 

8. Boost user signals with on-page good practices

In recent years, Google has started incorporating customer experience signals into its search algorithms. Using HTML tags in your content can indirectly impact these types of signals. 

Since HTML tags are among the first things search engines crawl to understand what your content is about, content authors need to know the importance of utilizing the target keyword and LSI keywords phrases in the title, meta description, headings, and first 100 words of a piece of content. Keyword placement in these HTML tags can enhance user experience, bounce rate, dwell time, and click-through rate. High performance in these areas has been revealed to correlate with better search engine rankings.

9. Pay attention to website structure and technical SEO best practices

While optimizing website structure and improving technical SEO may not be part of a content writer’s job description, knowing how these factors can affect your content’s rankings is essential. 

Your website’s structure, loading speed, security, and crawlability directly impact a search engine’s ability to quickly and accurately index and rank your content. Recently, search engines have started to favor websites that use a theme-based website structure. This structure combines blog posts targeting longer-content keywords with comprehensive resources or pillar pages targeting shorter-content, high-volume keywords. 

If you have poor website structure and technical SEO errors, it’s almost impossible to rank your content – no matter how well it’s written. If you’re having a hard time getting organic traffic results from your well-written content, deal with a developer or technical SEO professional to monitor site health and fix errors that can significantly impact crawlability. start implementing an SEO-friendly content strategy today.

Whether you want to create your blog posts, or require the services of professional corporate blog writers to produce regular, quality content for your website, has you covered.