Writers in the world of digital marketing spend a lot of time writing for SEO. And that means writing content around specific search terms with the aim of ranking for that search term, writing to specific H2 and H3s, ensuring your keyword or phrases are in the text and doing on-page SEO.

This takes time and effort, so you really want to know if the page you’re writing will rank or not. Sometimes it is a golden opportunity, other times it is a complete waste of time.

When To Write For SEO

Considering that writing for specific search terms is time consuming you have to be sure it’s worth the effort. One way we do this is by not only researching what search terms people are looking for and finding a decent volume, but also looking at keyword difficulty. Whatever SEO tool you use, you’ll see a ranking (usually out of 100). This ranking tells us if we have a chance of ranking for that search term or not.

The closer to 100 the ranking difficulty is, the hard to rank for that search term. I use SEMrush and the sweet spot is anything below 60. Beneath this figure the search term is up for grabs and getting onto the 1st, 2nd or 3rd page of SERPs soon after indexing is very doable. Close to 50 and it’s pretty easy even with undeveloped link profiles – it means the competitors haven’t got much content, or it’s not performing well in terms of engagement metrics, and they likely haven’t done on-page SEO.

If you see any search terms under 60 that are relevant to your site, you should be writing content about it using SEO best practice. Anything below 50 and you should definitely be writing content about it – do it now!

Anything above 60, don’t bother.

Real Life Example Of Finding Search Terms Worth Writing For

Below you’ll see a real-life example of search terms I’ve be targeting for a travel marketplace client. Looking at volume, ideally we’d rank for the first one, “iceland torus”, because it has very high volume and it’s a search term that can convert well for us. But with keyword difficulty above 60, it means I am up against bigger sites with better link profiles, in this case companies like Trip Advisor. Can I beat Trip Advisor? No. Displacing them from the first page of Google just isn’t going to happen.

But there is a search term here I can target. “Ice cave tour iceland” is also a convertible search term for us, and with it’s very low keyword difficulty of 46.71, we can compete. If you see any keywords relevant to your site under 60 keyword difficulty, or whatever the threshold is for for search tool, it is worth creating content around that search term.

Here you can see two search terms, one newer sites can you compete for, the other you can’t.

The downside is the lower the keyword difficulty score, usually the lower the search volume because other people have targeted the higher volume search terms already (but not always). But as you can see above, there are search terms that have both decent volume and low keyword difficulty.

Now, let’s imagine you’re a new site less than 2 years old. You don’t have many backlinks so your link profile is poor. Your preferred search terms have keyword difficulty of 70 plus. Is it worth the time/expense of creating content to hit those search terms?

No. Definitely not.

If your search terms are not “low hanging fruit”, do not bother targeting them. It means your niche is crowded and your competitors have SEO profiles you cannot compete against.

Here’s what to do instead.

When To Forget About writing For SEO & Write For Writing

Over the last few years, there has emerged a real alternative to SEO for new sites and budding writers looking to build an audience.

All hail content syndication platforms. You can find an audience on sites like Medium and Flipboard by writing real content that people want to consume. These sites attract people who want real writing on specific topics by people who really know their stuff.

The same, to some extent, applies to social media platforms – in my experience for business writing, LinkedIn groups have been a gold mine in engaging with target demographics with content they really want.

You don’t need to know any SEO. You just need to know how to write, know your topic and how to publish on your CMS. If the content is good, and you put effort into putting in front of people, you will find an audience.

Writing For SEO Is Getting Harder & Harder

SEO is hard. It takes time and, usually, money. Ultimately, you’re spending a lot of time writing a lot of content in the hope you might hit some keywords and rank. Writing for SEO is like throwing 10 things at a wall and hoping 2 or 3 stick. You never know what you’ll rank for, no matter how hard you try. That means inevitably a lot of your effort in writing will be a waste.

And it’s getting harder and harder because more and more people are doing it. There just aren’t so many search terms out there you can compete for anymore (at least not in English; you’d be amazed at the opportunities in some foreign markets.)

Now, I implement SEO writing strategies a lot based on careful keyword research. And it works to some extent. But more and more, I think the best thing is writing quality content and publish it on syndication platforms and social groups/forums where you can find an audience interested in your niche. Create great content you care about, and go to where your demographic is and stick it under their nose.

That way you can direct people to your site, build some genuine followers and importantly, build your brand which SEO doesn’t really do. Of course publish on your site as well with on-page SEO, and maybe it’ll rank for some search terms as a bonus.

And after all, don’t you want to write about things you care about, instead of writing for whatever search term you found? If you do, your content will be a lot better for it.

And content, as they say, is King.