Updated June 17, 2021

How to Write an SEO Friendly Article The Right Way and The Truth About Word Count - Always Updated To Keep You On Top

The requirements for search engine optimization changes regularly as the search giants (particularly Google) tweak and update the algorithm to provide better results for users. Fifteen years ago, keyword heavy paragraphs that made little to no sense were enough to skyrocket your site to page one. Luckily Google adjusted and got wiser and ten years ago those same keyword-laden paragraphs that no one wanted to read wasn’t enough.

Be Meaningful

Now, content must be meaningful. The days of being able to use an article spinner to create what may seem like original content are long gone. I tell clients to think of it this way – the top five results on the first page of Google is valuable, if you want it you have to supply equally-valuable content. Tricks don’t work anymore – quality and scope are what matters.

Google is the search king for a reason. No other company has put as much effort into developing and continuously updating their search algorithm to provide the best possible results for their users. That’s why people choose to search on Google nine out of ten times, and why Google holds the lion’s share of the entire global search industry.

Google Search Algorithm Has Leveled the Field in Your Favor

In the past, any heavyweight in your niche or sector that was willing to (and could) spend $50,000 a month on content creation and sneaky SEO optimization was assured to rank within the top three of results on every relative Google search.

$50,000 may seem a lot to spend for high rankings but consider the benefit; people automatically have more trust in any company ranked within the top three and if you’re selling a $197 product you only need to make two sales a day to recoup that SEO and content creation investment.

Most companies appearing in the top of all their related searches tend not to spend much money on other digital marketing because they feel it unnecessary (and at that point they’re probably right).

But Google realized that wasn’t fair to small and local businesses, who simply couldn’t afford to manipulate and buy their way to the top (in a round-a-bout way).

So, Google shrewdly updated their search bots and gave them new instructions to seek out real authority content that actual people enjoy reading. To count conversational expertise with a low bounce rate higher than any other content. And to pay attention to keyword density because if the content includes the related keywords (long-tail included) in more than 2% of the article, well, that’s going to be a strike against you.

After all, that most likely means that an article high in keyword density wasn’t written for real people.

These changes evened the playing field and sent all those big corporations that spent tens of thousands on search engine optimized content designed to manipulate the Googlebot from top three in the results to oftentimes page three. Every major company scrambled to rewrite their content and reclaim their page rankings. Some did, but not all.

External Links Must Be Relevant and Authoritative

Previously, the Google search bot scanned your content for external links and checked them against blacklisted domains. If the domain wasn’t blacklisted, the bot counted the links in your favor if you didn’t craft an article with mostly links. Link farming (as it was known) is frowned upon by Google and basically everyone else.

Now, the external links embedded in your content must be relevant to the content itself. And the search bot is going to give you the disapproving side-eye if you have more than two external links to the same source domain.

The Only Points That Matter for External Links

  • Do the external URLs support the statements you made in your content?
  • Are the external URLs high-quality websites with authoritative content?
  • Do the sources you’re linking to prove the accuracy of your content?
  • Are the links necessary and 100% related to your site and content?
  • In short, you only want to include external links when they’re helpful and valuable to those reading your content.
  • Never be repetitive. All external sources must be highly related to that specific content on that specific page. Think of it as a content-by-content decision and not a website-by-website choice.
  • Try to keep the number of external links to only two highly targeted and relevant links per article.

The Word Count Makes A Difference for Different Reasons Now

Previously, the notorious Google search bot wanted to see lengthy keyword-laden content, but it couldn’t differentiate the good content written for real people by a caring and informed copywriter over the keyword heavy bulk trash that no one reads but has a high concentration of keywords.

The Google search algorithm has since grown up, and now it checks for authenticity and originality, keyword density, repeated phrasing or concepts (is your article essentially saying the same thing three times?) and word count. While it’s true that Google wants lengthy content of at least 800 words but these days, 1,200+ is considered the sweet spot for optimal SEO length.

Does my content really have to be 800+ words?

It’s math! You want to keep your keyword density to 1% preferably and never over 2%, so if you have a short article of only 500 words that mean you can only use your relevant keywords no more than five to ten times throughout the content. With 800 words, you’ve nearly doubled your keyword density without sacrificing your rankings or content.

After all the article needs to be natural with organic keyword use and most importantly you want readers to enjoy it and read most, if not all, of it to keep your bounce rate low.

What About Google News?

Getting featured in Google News results is an undertaking and challenge onto itself. It’s doable, and we’ve certainly helped some of our clients achieve strong Google News rankings. In short, if you want your content to stand a chance of being picked up by Google News you’ll need articles of 1,800 words with no more than two very related external links and double-check any photos or images you use because Google will verify their copyright status automatically.

What About Synonyms for Keywords?

Synonyms and associated terms are, if not more, just as essential, but they have to be natural. Your customers will search for sofa and couch, but it’s highly unlikely they’re going to search for davenport. When you’re writing, let the associated words naturally flow. Try not to look up synonyms online for your keywords, after all, Google search users don’t do that when searching. Don’t get too creative here – keep it conversational and realistic.

I don’t search for synonyms for keywords that I don’t immediately know off the top of my head because I figure no one is searching using those words, with one exception.

When I’m writing content, I will occasionally look up the most common British or Australian words for my commonly used American keywords. Keep in mind that you may be writing for a mostly local or regional audience (depending on your product, service, or client) but your readers will be coming to you from all over the globe, and you never know – one day you may decide to grow your market and expand into other nations.

What To Look For In High-Quality Content or My Tips to Improve Your Copywriting From a Copywriter

Does the content include resources that support the claims made throughout the article?

You should include useful resources in your content, whether that means a quick infographic (also posted to Pinterest), a data chart or two, numbers or bulleted list (like I have in this article). People like resources and as copywriters (or business owners) we want to give the people what they like because that’s how we keep them coming back for more.

Is the content easily actionable?

You want to make it easy for your readers (and buyer demographic) to use the information you’re providing. Besides, it took you hours to write up that piece of original content and just like any writer you want those who enjoy it to really use it. This is your chance to showcase your knowledge and level of expertise by offering actionable content for free. After all, if you’re giving away something valuable, imagine what a person gets when they order or sign-up.

Does the content have an alternate perspective on the topic, allowing you to use the comments section or social media to encourage debate on the issue.

This increases reader engagement, which will fundamentally increase your page rank.

Was the article written by a person that comes across as someone with a real personality?

Let yourself be a real person with real opinions. Tailor your content and your writing style to your readers first and foremost, but also to yourself. As a copywriter I do as the client requests, but writing is always easiest when it’s from your own natural perspective and I think readers can sense that.

Does the article include valuable and original resources that are properly sourced?

If you’re using facts or statistics anywhere in your article (and readers love some good visual data) make sure to source it by including a link to the study. These such sourcing links tell Google that you’re backing up your information, and that increases your credibility.

Is the content updated frequently?

I cannot stress this enough! Those articles you have on your blog from three years ago can still product strong SEO results for you today, and all you must do is freshen them a bit by making them current. If the screenshots you’re using show an outdated dashboard, you’ll want to replace that. If you’re using data from 2015 it’s time to update that data to 2020. Make sure to include the last date the article was updated at the top so your readers (and more importantly) and the Googlebot are aware.

Surefire Signs You Have Poor Content or In Other Words… Guaranteed Ways to Hurt Your SEO

Affiliate Links

Google doesn’t like or trust an article heavy with affiliate links – it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not writing content for people, but rather for sales. Keep any affiliate links to a minimum.


Search engines have become sensitive to repetitive content. Readers won’t waste time reading the same thing two or three times in an article and the search bots know this, so make sure every sentence in your article is unique. Don’t repeat yourself. Make a point, back it up and move on to the next point.

Sales Language

Search engines want fresh and relevant content. The keyword in that statement is CONTENT meaning people don’t want another sales page posing as an article or an affiliate marketer pretending to run a blog. Write real and helpful articles and include only one link to your product or service, and your sales will grow over time as your credibility improves.

Guest Posting

Now this is something that people struggle with to understand because at face value (and 10 years ago this was true) any guest post that exchanged links was going to be help your SEO. The catch is simple – you can’t guest blog on a completely unrelated site. The content you offer on your site must be related to the content on the guest site and vice versa.

You have a site dedicated to women’s empowerment and entrepreneurial success. Your close friend runs a popular blog for gamers that receives two million visitors a month. Should you guest blog? Absolutely not!

Your niches and audiences are not related – in fact, from a demographic standpoint, they’re not even slightly similar. Google will see trading guest posts in this situation as a greedy attempt to manipulate site ranking. Not a good look and never worth it!

Picture of J. Fleischmann
J. Fleischmann
James is a content strategist, sites manager and copywriter for ServerWise. He's written 51 e-books for clients resulting in over 600,000 new leads as a ghostwriter. James lives in Texas with three dogs and has a Longhorn as a neighbor.