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SEO Writing Tools (Do You Really Need Them?)

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SEO Writing Tools (Do You Really Need Them?)

SEO writing tools help you improve your content. Here are the top reasons why you need them and the tools I use to improve my writing.

1. To find the best keywords to target

If your goal is to rank high on Google, writing content without targeting any keywords is risky. You can get lucky, but ranking in Google without proper targeting will be hard.

A better approach is to analyze keyword data using a tool like Ahrefs and write your content using that knowledge. 

Below, I’ll outline four ways you can use Ahrefs to help identify the best keywords to target.

1. To understand the keyword difficulty and competition 

The first method I’d suggest is to add your keyword to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and look at the Keyword Difficulty (KD) of the keyword. 

For this example, I’ve used the keyword “typewriter.”

KD data for "typewriter," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Ahrefs estimates it’s a hard keyword to rank for. We’ll need backlinks from ~77 websites just to rank on the first page of Google for this keyword.

Let’s contrast this with a more specific search. Let’s say we’re looking for this typewriter song; we might then enter “leroy anderson typewriter.” 

KD data for "leroy anderson typewriter," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Ahrefs estimates that this is a much easier keyword to rank for. We’ll need backlinks from only ~two websites to rank on the first page of Google.

The bottom line here is that not all keywords are created equal. So choose your battles (and your keywords) carefully. 

2. To identify low-competition keywords

Let’s return to Keywords Explorer, plug in a keyword phrase, and head over to the Matching terms report. 

Matching terms report results for "kimchi recipe," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

In this example, for the keyword “kimchi recipe,” we can’t see many low-competition keywords. 

To get the lowest competition keywords, we’ll need to add a filter and set the KD to 20. 

Keyword Difficulty filter, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once we have applied the filter, we can see more green KD scores—meaning these keywords are lower competition.

Keywords with lower KD scores, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If we wrote articles about these specific keyword topics, we’d have a better chance of ranking than simply writing about “kimchi recipe” and all the initial matching terms.

3. To identify high traffic potential keywords

Open up a new instance of Keywords Explorer, plug in the keyword “kimchi recipe,” and head over to the Matching terms report.

Then add a Traffic Potential filter from 0 to 30,000.

Traffic Potential filter, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once we have done this, we can see the keywords with the highest organic TP.

Keywords with the highest Traffic Potential, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Let’s say we wanted to take it further and filter for the lowest KD keywords in this list.

We can do that by adding a KD filter with a max score of 20. Once we have done that, we’ll get the following list.

Results with KD filter applied, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Having keywords to target that have a low KD and a high TP means that you will stand a good chance of ranking for them in Google.

4. To identify content gaps

Another way you can find opportunities for content is to use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool

For the next example, I’m going to stick with the “kimchi recipes” keyword. I’ll pretend I’m the BBC Good Food website, and I want to expand the Korean food content.

To do this, I’ve entered the top competitors of the “kimchi recipes” SERP into the Content Gap report and clicked the “Show keywords” button.

Content Gap tool, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Once the report has been generated, I’ll filter it again using the keyword “korean,” as I only want to filter by Korean food content.

Here’s what it looks like:

Content Gap report results with filter applied, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We can see how easy it is to find keyword opportunities that other websites rank for, but your website doesn’t.

2. To write basic content

Should you use SEO writing tools to create content? Well, it depends.

Writing content with SEO writing tools is still a contentious topic—especially if we are talking about AI tools like ChatGPT

Here’s why I think you should be cautious when using these tools:

  • They don’t always fact-check.
  • They make up the data sometimes.
  • Sometimes they’ll lie if they don’t know the answer.
  • They draw from internet sources that are often incorrect themselves.
  • They aren’t always good with technical content.

If these bullet points were describing a potential content writer—you probably wouldn’t hire them.

But before you cancel your AI subscriptions, it’s worth noting that there’s a place for tools like these. But they are best used cautiously, in my opinion.

Here are three examples of where I would use SEO writing tools to help write basic content.

1. To create article outlines

SEO writing tools can help give you a framework to build your content around, but they typically need a lot of tweaking. 

Here’s an example of me using NeuralText to create an article outline:

NeuralText's article outline example

And let’s repeat this with ChatGPT:

ChatGPT's article outline example

We can see that with NeuralText, it’s gone for a standard structure. With ChatGPT, it’s not that different but provides a bit more detail. 

If we compare this against the structure of the top-ranking pages in Google, we can see that the structure of the top-ranking pages is different. 

Top-ranking pages analysis, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

In this particular example, it’s ~2000 words on the best SEO content writing tools. There’s no definition or importance of the tools; it’s just straight into the list of the top tools.

So should you use AI tools for outlines? Or is it better to write your own from scratch? It depends on how technical the writing is. 

If your writing is non-technical, then an outline that covers the definition, importance of, and role of may be more than enough. But more specific details are often needed for more technical topics like SEO.

2. To create meta descriptions at scale

When it comes to writing basic content like meta descriptions, tools like ChatGPT—and, more specifically, the OpenAI API can help you speed up the content creation process. 

Here’s a quick example of some meta descriptions I generated programmatically using a Google Apps script I found on GitHub.

Assuming your content is in cell A2, you can drag the formula below down, and it will automatically generate the meta descriptions for you using the API.

Place the following code in cell B2 after running the script:

=AI("write an interesting meta description for cell("&[TITLE CELL NUMBER]&"))")

Replace [TITLE CELL NUMBER] with your cell reference. You can change the part stating “write an interesting meta description for cell” to any prompt, but I’ve kept it very basic.

Here’s the output:

Title Meta description
How many seats does a Tesla have? Find out how many seats are in a Tesla car! Learn about the different models and their seating capacity to determine the perfect car for your needs.
How many seats does a Tesla Model X have? Discover how many seats the Tesla Model X has and learn more about this revolutionary electric vehicle. Get the facts and find out why the Tesla Model X is the perfect car for your family.
How many teeth does a megalodon have? This article explores the fascinating world of the megalodon, the largest shark to ever exist. Learn about how many teeth it had and how it compares to modern sharks.
How many numbers does a credit card have? This article answers the question of how many numbers are on a credit card. Learn the answer, plus other interesting facts about credit cards and their uses.
How many parameters does a normal distribution have? Discover the answer to the question “How many parameters does a normal distribution have?” and learn more about the fascinating world of cell distributions.

Again, I’m not saying these are the greatest meta descriptions in the world, but if you have a large website, this can be an efficient (and cost-effective) way to write them at scale.

But what does Google think about this? Well, it is completely fine with programmatically made meta descriptions. But as always, remember to follow its general guidelines around this topic.

3. To create newsletters or email templates

Another example of basic content is newsletters and email templates. Creating structured newsletters or emails with a tool like ChatGPT is a breeze. 

Here’s an example of it in action:

Newsletter template example, via ChatGPT

And you can also use it for email templates as well. 

Here’s a quick example:

Email template example, via ChatGPT

As we saw with the outlines, the content here is basic and likely needs improving. But for simple frameworks, it can be useful.

3. To make your content more readable

My favorite SEO writing tool for making my content more readable is Grammarly.

Here’s what I like about it.

Grammarly

It’s a paid tool that helps improve your grammar. I find it helpful to use while writing or editing my content.

When creating a new document, you are encouraged to set goals. This allows the tool to tailor its suggestions based on your goals and audience.

Setting goals, via Grammarly

Once you’ve set your preferences, Grammarly will score your writing and provide suggestions on clarity, engagement, style, delivery, and correctness.

Demo document and suggestions, via Grammarly

It’s a helpful writing tool that many content teams have built into their proofreading process.

Once you have checked a few documents using Grammarly, you can get an analytics breakdown. 

Analytics breakdown of sessions, via Grammarly

It shows how many sessions you have improved. It has helped me improve 68% of my sessions—quite a lot.

I’ve used Grammarly a lot in the last year or so, and I can testify that it’s usually accurate. But I noticed once that it suggested replacing “links” with “sausages.” 

This is a good example of where you still have to moderate the output and not blindly accept the AI suggestions all of the time.

Hemingway

Hemingway App editor example

Hemingway is another SEO writing tool you can use to help make your writing clearer and more concise. To get started, head over to Hemingway’s website, paste in your content, and it will analyze it for readability.

What I like about this tool is that it is clean, clear, and simple to use. Also, all the key information I need is in the right-hand column, meaning I don’t have to check word count through a menu or use other tools to analyze the writing.

In my opinion, any SEO writing tool that significantly helps improve your content’s quality is worth learning how to use.

4. To get creative inspiration

Another use for SEO writing tools is as a creative sparring partner.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get that spark of inspiration when writing. 

But what if you could ask someone influential to write for you? Well, you can do this with AI—almost.

Get some tone of voice inspiration

Here’s an example of me asking ChatGPT to write in the style of David Ogilvy:

Copywriting example in the style of David Ogilvy, via ChatGPT

Using this type of prompt in ChatGPT allows you to get creative inspiration from famous copywriters or any other distinctive personalities you can think of. 

Here’s a more extreme example of the same prompt in the style of Gordon Ramsay:

Copywriting example in the style of Gordon Ramsay, via ChatGPT

The options here are limitless, and your writing’s tone of voice is only limited by your imagination and creativity. 

The bottom line is that ChatGPT can help you develop interesting ideas you might not have thought of initially.

5. To level up your content process

Traditional content writing can be slow. It can sometimes be painful. 

And it can take a lot of time. 

But using SEO writing tools helps keep the momentum going.

You’ll likely get better results if you target your keywords correctly, write basic content, and proofread it using SEO writing tools.

Become the “content cyborg”

The folks at Animalz were the first to coin this phrase, to my knowledge. And it’s one that has been stuck in my head this past year.

The content cyborg refers to the use of AI tools, but my definition goes broader—to SEO writing tools in general. 

I think you should use tools that help you improve your content process and make it more efficient without sacrificing your overall content quality.

If you can speed up your content process, you will increase your output and work more efficiently.

Most of you won’t dream of using a typewriter to write blog content these days—it just doesn’t make sense. It’s too slow, inefficient, and not connected to the internet! 

So when it comes to SEO writing tools, the question is not whether you should or should not use them, in my opinion. It’s more about how you can use them to increase the efficiency of your work to achieve better quality output.

6. To get more organic traffic

Ahrefs’ blog has had an impressive increase in organic traffic over the past year. 

Ahrefs Blog's organic traffic 2022–2023, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Looking at last year’s Organic traffic report in Site Explorer, we can see we have increased our blog traffic by ~108% year on year.

But how much of this success is due to the SEO writing tools we use? Well, it’s hard to say exactly. But we do know that we use them to help create our content.

The most measurable example of us using SEO writing tools to improve our content is likely Grammarly.

Grammarly analytics showing stats on writing sessions

According to its analytics report, its suggestions have positively impacted 65% of our writers’ sessions in the last month alone. 

Although we can’t directly attribute any traffic increase to any particular SEO writing tool, it’s likely to have contributed to a positive experience for our readers. This, in turn, might have helped to drive more traffic to the site in the last year.

Final thoughts

SEO writing tools are useful for many tasks. But you need to know how to use them effectively to get results.

But do you really need SEO writing tools? Well, yes, you do. But only if you use them properly. They can help you become more efficient at writing, increase output, and enhance content in ways you wouldn’t have thought of before.

Got more questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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