A no nonsense guide to SEO copywriting

Here is a very complete guide to SEO copywriting.

SEO copywriting is all about creating content that is captivating, persuasive, and easy to read. It also helps to increase rankings for content on all major search engines.Writers need to understand what information humans seek as well as how bots work when processing and evaluating content.

What is SEO copywriting?

SEO encompasses all activities undertaken to improve organic traffic to a website. The three key pillars of SEO are code, content, and links. 

Ensuring your site ranks as high as possible in the search engine result pages (SERPs) takes time, expertise, and talent. A website's text should be relevant, easy-to-read, and tweaked to meet the demands of search engines. 

SEO copywriting is writing information that Google understands while meeting the user intent to promote interactions, linking, and sharing of the provided information. SEO copywriting integrates keyword-optimized content to serve both the search algorithms and organic search.  

How does Google read a website?

  • Crawling whereby the bot fetches pages on the web depending on an algorithmic process. The web is an ever-growing public library without a centralized filing system. Google crawlers look at web pages and follow links on these pages and add them to Google servers. 
  • Indexing is the phase where Google processes each page according to its content (text, images, videos and code) and meaning. The pages are then added to the Google index. 
  • Serving results means Google assesses and served your content based on how relevant it is to the user intent as it is expressed by a person when they type a query in the search bar. This is dependent on hundreds of factors but it all boils down to providing useful information to users.

Key Insights for SEO copywriters

On average, people read 25% slower on screens. Developing content that aligns with such dynamics improves and appeals to user experience (UX). Here are a few nuggets to writing high-quality text:

  • Be firm and direct. Go straight to the point by summing up your content in paragraphs of 40 or so words.
  • Key information (read user intent) should be met in the first two or three titles of the text. That is why we recommend you use your target keyword early on.
  • Capture the reader's attention. Be creative without making concessions on the quality and pertinence of the information.
  • Site visitors spend 30 seconds on a piece of content. Offering value with less than 30% of the information consumed by most site visitors requires detail and ingenuity. 

Is SEO part of copywriting?

The short answer is YES, SEO content writing is an absolute must to bring in qualified traffic. Search engine algorithms have evolved beyond keyword density. You won't be rewarded by stuffing keywords in articles. Google is more intelligent than ever and that means more high-quality content is rewarded by better search engine rankings. Digital marketing is more challenging than ever. You’ll rarely see spammy titles and descriptions in Google results anymore.

Content for people first: creating compelling content is key

SEO content aims to increase visibility in search engines and to increase organic traffic. Copywriting and sales copy, the end goal is to convert that traffic into leads and sales. Without SEO copywriting, your content may not rank or the traffic you attract isn’t qualified and won’t convert into buyers. The goal of SEO Copywriting is to strike a balance between search engine and the end user perspective.

Excellent SEO copywriting combines passion and infinite ability to learn, adapt and keep up with the dynamics of Google algorithms. 

How do you use SEO as a copywriter?

SEO copywriting is focused on valuable informational content. From a user’s perspective, this means providing content that matches their search intent in the proper format. The same unwanted rehashed marketing speech everyone delivers online won’t cut it. Provide great insights and information to boost your online visibility and conversions.

Always hold user intent as a guiding principle in copywriting. 

One of the key elements of SEO copywriting is to start by breaking down the user intent. Then, you can conduct keyword research, which aims to gather a list of keywords that humans use to express their intent. Your keyword strategy is basically a list of relevant keywords in your niche or industry. Each piece of content should have a focus keyword, also called a primary keyword.

12 Advanced SEO Copywriting Tips

Developing content that appeals to readers and fully optimized is a tough balancing act. Failure to implement a proper SEO copywriting process means an inability to rank and difficulties converting site visitors into potential customers. Still doubtful of the impact of SEO copywriting? Read the Moz case study on optimization that led to 32% increase in organic traffic boost. Let's go over some actionable tips that you can implement:

1. Use intent-relevant action words

Your content should always clearly state how you answer a need or a question. Then, you should make sure you showcase that you are providing the best solution to the person's search query and finally, lead them to the action you want them to take. This call-to-action should be framed as the next logical step in the journey. Provide clear calls to action to tell folks what they should be doing. Make your intentions clear. If you use "Click Here", you need to rethink your approach. Use phrases that describe why people should click and what awaits them.

Telling the person what you want them to do is only part of your job. Depending on the business and offer, the action you want them to take can vary. Here is a brief list of action words to help you craft a CTA that includes the next step you expect prospective customers to take: 

  • Buy 
  • Get 
  • Try 
  • Call 
  • Fill 
  • Save 
  • Shop 
  • Order 
  • Start 
  • Visit 
  • Contact 
  • Purchase 
  • Register 

2. Let search intent inform your copywriting

Sometimes, content marketing forgets that its primary goals are to generate leads, not organic rankings. Determine your primary and secondary keywords but do not allow the drive to optimize your content right away to clog the flow of your content. If you cannot coherently read the content out loud to someone else and have it make sense, you should lay off the optimization and focus on crafting content for engagement. 

3. Favor a long-tail keyword over a head term

Focus on relevant terms, not overly competitive keywords. This should guide your whole writing process. Rather than crafting content nobody wants, create content your audience is actively looking for. To quote John Muller from the Google Search Liaison team: "Pro tip: pick the niche you want to be active in thoughtfully. Do you want to compete with *everyone* else?"

source : https://twitter.com/myriamjessier/status/1448620011925422083

A single search intent can be expressed in a variety of ways. For example, if someone is looking for a beach that accepts dogs in Quebec, this could mean multiple queries for the same type of content:

  • beaches that accept dogs
  • beaches where dogs are permitted
  • Can I bring my dog to beaches in Québec?
  • dog-friendly beaches
  • beach vacation with dog

You need to pick your niches and figure out alternative keywords that are more long-tail as they will bring in organic traffic instead of fighting to gain visibility on head terms that are super competitive for which you have little chance of being ranked.

4. Embrace the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ technique

Steal this journalist technique if you want to optimize your content for humans and search engines. Google’s bot was created to imitate human behavior. It places more emphasis on content that humans would pay more attention to. The notion of the inverted pyramid used by journalist means making sure the most important points of the text loaded at the start of content pieces.

Semantically speaking, the first 2 or 3 sentences of a text are the most important ones and hold a greater weight in terms of SEO. Most humans will place emphasis on the beginning of a text to determine if it is worth reading. Robots that crawl your website place a greater importance on these sentences to replicate human behavior. 

Another important element that should deliver the most informative value are your main title (H1) and subtitles (H2, H3 tags). 

5. Take the time to outline your content

A great way to ensure you product relevant content is to have proper content structure. SEO copywriting doesn’t depend on hitting the word count. Don’t just wing it! Spend reasonable time conducting research on what’s ranking, the recurring subheadings, and understanding new trends and insights on a topic. Combined, these helps greatly improve your content. Having a content outline refines the writing process further and keeps one grounded on the relevant issues. Frase is a great tool to enable you to determine outlines based on what already ranks well in SERPs. SEMRush also has a writing assistant you can rely on. 

6. The right content angle makes a huge difference when it comes to SEO content writing

The main selling point of a product, a service or simply online content should be your starting point. The search engine result pages (SERPs) provide a hint on the content angle. Aligning your content with the types of content you see favored in organic rankings is a way to improve your relevance  great such a paradigm further improves your relevance for a search term. For example, a quick check shows that the query ‘how to play chess’ shows an emphasis on beginners. Angles or search intents can be informational, local, visual, video, branded, etc. 

7. Build upon the best ranking content 

Simply put, search engines look for the most relevant and useful result on the first page. Google wants to offer its visitors the best answer to their query by addressing all the key areas readers are curious about and expect to see.

For example, a simple search on ‘SEO copywriting’ brings about SERPs with unique topics such as how to learn SEO copywriting and definitive guides. You can see some top-ranking pages by Brian Dean, Heather Lloyd-Martin and a few other specialists in this domain. These folks offer comprehensive guides so we inferred that our content format should be long form and highly useful.

Also look out for SERP Features such as PAA (People Also Ask) box to further increase the utility of your content. We included many of the pertinent questions that aligned with the keyword intent clearly displayed in the results.

Get ahead by learning, not copying, from the best in your niche.

8. Link, link, link

Internal links, external links, link, link, link! Linking as an important ranking factor in Google's eyes. If you need to know more, Google has a beginner's guide into how search rankings work. A study of over one billion pages by Ahrefs established a clear correlation between links and organic traffic. Linking validates your site’s depth on top of pushing overall rankings. Make sure your provide incoming links to other content on the site you are writing for and that your new content has a few links coming from other pages in the site.

9. Use PAS Formula as a great SEO copywriting strategy

Here's the formula in one sentence: focus on the problem, agitate and offer a solution. Identify the problem your audience has, explain it in terms that resonates with your readers and offer a solution to said problem. The formula is key in pulling your readers to the content. 

Here's an example:

PROBLEM: Finding a hotel that accepts dog can be stressful. 

AGITATE: Hunting down all your options is difficult, the dog filter on travel websites is not accurate, policies change, prices vary. 

And all of this when travel restrictions are constantly changing? Mission impossible!

SOLVE: It's not impossible, bringfido.com helps you find a dog-friendly hotel in a few clicks.

10. Write like Hemingway 

Did you know that 50% of the US population read below the 8th grade level? 

Now you know. The Washington Post article highlights this reality.

This means that using complex language in writing probably pushes half of your target audience away. In SEO terms, this affects conversion rates, click through rates (CTR) and link sharing. Ernest Hemingway offered a writing roadmap; use simple words and phrases, a tight prose and uncomplicated syntax. You can use Hemingway app to help you achieve this writing style faster. It's free and helps you ensure your content is more readable.

11. Create loops to make binge-worthy content

Have you found yourself binge watching on Netflix? 

Film producers build continuous curiosity to an extent that the audience cannot have enough of it. These are known as cliffhangers. The same applies to SEO copywriting. Keep your audience glued and connected to the content without comprising on quality and relevance.

Make them want more and spend time on your site! 

Here's how to create content loops:

social media content loop

Source: Miikka Leinonen (Slideshare)

  • Create content based on your target audience.
  • Get the eyeballs of the target audience. 
  • Elicit the desire to click by arousing an emotional connection with their audience by leveraging their knowledge and understanding of the topic. 
  • Participate in discussions and include viral elements that can be reshared baked into your content.
  • Reading and sharing are two distinct aspects.
  • The goal is to promote sharing of the content by integrating interactive elements coupled with a strong call-to-action (CTA) that enhances sharing of the content. 
  • Motivate readers into sharing the content. It's the final element of a content loop that validates the efficiency of other elements mentioned above. 

12. Craft kick ass title tags that Google won't want to rewrite

Optimize the title tags as they are the headlines in the search results.

A recommended title tag includes:

  • A target key word
  • Set an expectation
  • Entice clicks from users

 As a copywriter remember to include sensationalism, brand name-dropping, power words, numbers and percentages to captivate your audience from the onset. It’s a click-through-rate business, and organic traffic is the ultimate goal.

Spin your content following Neil Patel's advice here.

How do I learn SEO copywriting for beginners?

Follow the above tips and…

Become a story teller

Stories are an effective way to connect with the audience. Research indicates that when people read, hear or watch a story, neural activity increases five-fold, and triggers production of oxytocin (the empathy drug). Empathy allows people to simulate their conditions to other people’s situation. Create a persona that harnesses these feelings, and offer solutions to their concerns and desires. Stories help make an optimized article read more naturally and memorable. Invoke as much feelings as possible to stretch the odds of capturing a reader’s attention.

Voice of Customer (VOC)

Imagine you want to buy a smartphone. Visualize on the journey you undertake for such a process, and put it in words. Aspects such as pricing, affordability, and availability are likely to dominate the query. Integrate the same paradigm by focusing on the voice of customer. Thoroughly figure out the voice of customer and apply it in the content angle, keyword research and storytelling. Look at this superb piece to understand the power of voice of customer and its value in guiding SEO copywriting.

Common SEO Copywriting Mistakes

Personally, I have fallen short at times. This type of copywriting is a valuable skill that develops over time. Don’t worry, you will eventually get there.

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid.

  • Keyword stuffing – Yes, relevant keywords must be present in your text in order to rank on search engines but it is imperative that all of your texts remain clear and readable for human visitors. Repeating the same keyword in a very unnatural manner makes search engines to penalize you for what they call “keyword stuffing”
  • Uninspiring titles – Entice users to click to view your landing pages as Google algorithms interpret as strong brand personality. Be creative.
  • Plagiarized content – Learn from the best but don’t copy their content. Original content promotes white hat SEO and makes your brand stand out. In the face of competition, be unique and original. Otherwise, duplication ruins a brand’s reputation and search rankings.
  • Ignoring voice search – Siri and other voice search services are gaining prominences. SEO copywriting is all about leveraging on emerging trends to rank higher. Literally, the voice of customer includes tapping in the growing use of voice search.


Hacks and Tricks to SEO Copywriting

As a parting gift, here are a few tricks to help you in your SEO copywriting journey. Everyone wants hacks, tips and tricks. Let's give the people what they seek!

  • Find pages on your site ranking higher on Google and improve the title tags. This ensures you rank higher without necessarily writing new content. Read this guide to further understand this pro tip.
  • Use action words. Be direct and call people to action. Avoid unnecessary filler words.
  • Engage with your audience. Always leave a space for users to offer opinions on the issue under consideration. It builds trust and offers room for future organic traffic.
  • Write in the audience’s language. International SEO is complex but as much as possible, localize your content. Compel the audience to consume your content by showing you understand their language. Go through the target’s audience community as this can also form great blog post ideas to further connect with them. Use social media, Slack and other tools to research on the target audience.

SEO copywriting is enjoyable but requires deliberate effort to drive traffic, increase engagements and convert. Nobody reads a garbage piece – no matter its ranking.

Hoping this piece sets you off on a fulfilling SEO copywriting journey.


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