Learn how to write SEO content – The rules (according to 42group)

SEO content with personality and purpose

So, you want your website to rank in Google search and understand you need to start optimising content for SEO. But are you sat their scratching your head and wondering what to do? We’re going to break down the process of how to write SEO content, provide examples of excellent content that’s been optimised for SEO and give you tips in each section to write more effectively.

Writing SEO content isn’t about stuffing keywords or adhering to an automatically generated template from an AI programme.

We’re not going to do what every other guide does and take you through how you identify an audience, target keywords and develop content themes because we’re going to assume you know that stuff already. Instead, we’re going to walk you through how we write content when we have all that information in hand. Some of this might seem strange and against conventional wisdom, but it’s our approach – it may not work for you.

Like Dua Lipa, we’ve got some rules and we’re going to count them… (There are 5)

Rule #1: Look forward, not back

SEO writing tools analyse the most successful pages currently displayed for your search term. The logic here is that by copying them, you’ll be able to rank somewhere close and secure some of that traffic.


This assumes that what people are searching for tomorrow will be the same as today – and it won’t.

When identifying content ideas, content themes and creating your SEO content strategy think about what your audience will want to read tomorrow, not today.

Some of the best performing posts of today will disappear tomorrow. Instead of following others, aim to lead. This is about solving your audience’s problems – something at the core of effective SEO content. 

By considering, asking and answering their questions through your content, you’ll be able to establish a position of leadership through content.

Rule #2: Don’t let keywords kill creativity

The first rule for writing for SEO is not to let keywords kill creativity.

You must have read a blog or guide that’s stuck as many keywords in as possible to the H1, intro copy, body copy and more. If you’ve ever received a brief from an SEO agency, you’ll know what we mean.

SEO writing assistants like SEMRush go one step further and provide you with a huge list of keywords and associated words and phrases, including the number of times you should aim to use them.

If you are simply following an SEO writing assistant you’re going to produce the one thing the internet doesn’t need more of: generic and derivative content.

If you’re writing for your own brand, think big. If you’re writing for a client, explain that value comes through validation – and knowing that you’re answering customer questions.

Rule #3: Think audience, not algorithm when creating content

So many SEO writing guides try and second guess how the Google algorithm works. The truth is, we don’t know – but it doesn’t matter.

Google itself says that content written for the algorithm rather than the audience is pointless. Simply put, the most successful SEO content is based on a deep understanding of the audience and can be done without any consideration of the algorithm at all.

Close down the writing assistant, grab a cup of copy and think about your customers.

  • What information do they want?
  • What’s a logical structure for them?
  • Do the headings make logical sense?
  • Have you included links to relevant and reliable sources that add value?
  • By the end of the article, will they get the information they need?

If you can use this checklist for your content and answer yes to everything, it stands a great chance of ranking. There’s no need for it to be 2000 words, contain 3 external links and 4 key phrase variations in the headings.

Answer the question your audience is asking.

Rule #4: Start simple, get more sophistcated

The pyramid principle (where you start with the most important point first and then add layers of complexity) is at the core of the best SEO content writing.

Your content is battling for time in an attention economy and if you’re not clear about who the content is for, the question you’re answering and what yur audience can get from it, you’ll lose them. Grabbing their attention and keeping it sends a strong signal that your content has value. They’re also more likely to share it too.

By writing for your audience this way, you’re also going to ensure your content works better for the Google algorithm. Why? Because it too favours content that’s clear, well structured, logical and progressively more complex.

(OK, so we told you not to write for the Google algorithm but by writing content for your audience, you’ll be feeding it what it wants so we’re OK with this recommendation.)

A good way to consider this is to view each heading as a question. (It doesn’t need to be written that way, but you’re looking for the logical flow of how the majority of humans would approach a problem.)

Let’s take SEO content writing for example. Someone new to SEO might want to know:

  • What the article is about and why I should care
  • What is SEO?
  • Why does it matter to me?
  • How can doing SEO correctly benefit me/my business/my clients?
  • How do I do SEO?
  • How can I measure success?
  • How can I deal with problems?
  • What tools and technologies exist to help me?

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but you can see how content gets progressively deeper into the subject matter. Were we writing this for a client, we’d ensure the first sentence under each heading clearly asked the explicitly asked question (or the implied one).

SEO isn’t about being smart, clever, or crazy – it’s about clarity, simplicity and logic.

Rule #5: Avoid AI for anything (apart from editing, referencing and basic planning)

Google won’t stand for AI-generated SEO content. You can see the latest algorithm update – and the stiff penalties dished out to AI content sites that it considers no better than spam.

AI is going to transform copywriting or say the new apostles of the AI writing revolution. The problem is that this is not true. This isn’t our belief or hope, it’s the reality.

Think about it this way. Google’s entire reputation is built on its ability to sift through billions of results and display those that are most meaningful and relevant. If the almighty algorithm can be usurped by an SEO nerd with a Chat GPT subscription, it’s hardly worth almost a trillion dollars is it.

If the power of the Google algorithm fails, so does its revenue stream. (And we’re talking about $237bn in 2023.) It will do all it can to ensure that this doesn’t happen – and that means penalising poor-quality AI-generated content.

Any company or content agency that uses AI software to generate AI content risks damaging your reputation and fatally harming your website ranking. You can use tools like Originality AI to check content for machine-generated content, but most capable writers will be able to tell.

Ultimately, using AI to generate content illustrates how little respect you have for your readers (and your clients and customers).

Where AI can help is in helping to build briefs, provide insights into personas and do some of the time-consuming and joyless admin out of the writing process. 

But, if you’re using AI to get creative, your content will never deliver a sustainable SEO impact. That’s the truth.

Create SEO content at-scale with 42group

It doesn’t matter if you want one post, or a hundred, we can deliver for you. By following these clear SEO content rules, we create blogs and articles with personality and purpose – providing a sustainable boost to your search engine performance.

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