SEO copywriting is the answer to one of the biggest challenges faced by many website owners these days. Users now have to create content that appeals to people and search engines alike.
After all, we not only want to rank well and generate traffic but also turn that traffic into buyers, customers, and subscribers, right?
These two goals used to be the responsibility of SEO specialists and copywriters and it used to be enough to be either or. However, the way search engines work today, that is no longer the case.
To be successful in today’s online market, website owners and online marketers need to master both sides of the equation and embrace what is known as SEO copywriting.
If you are unsure what hides behind that term, this article will not only explain what it is but also show you SEO copywriting best practices to start using right away.
Sounds good? Then what are we waiting for?
What Is SEO Copywriting And Why Does It Matter?
To get a clearer idea of what we are talking about when we say SEO copywriting, let’s have a quick look at the term itself. For that, let’s look at the two parts that make up the word: “SEO” and “copywriting”.
- SEO — SEO or search engine optimization is a method of optimizing your web content in order to rank higher in search engines than other web pages that target the same keywords. To do so, SEO strives to increase both the relevance and authority of your content.
- Copywriting — Copywriting, on the other hand, is the art and science of creating content that gets readers or customers to take an action. This can be buying your product or subscribing to a newsletter. Copywriters need to have an insight into what makes the people they are writing for tick and be able to craft headlines, words, and phrases that will move them toward the desired action.
SEO copywriting is a hybrid of both these areas. It has evolved in recent years as a consequence of changes to how search engines, particularly Google, rank content.
Today it’s no longer enough to stuff keywords into your post in order to achieve high search rankings. Instead, high-quality, often long-form content has become the key to dominating SERPs and winning over customers.
Consequently, SEO copywriting is about creating compelling, informative, and valuable content that also targets specific keywords and will be both appreciated by search spiders and people.
Clear so far? To understand even better, let’s break down the elements of SEO copywriting.
Elements Of SEO Copywriting
Because SEO copywriting is a hybrid, it involves a number of different disciplines of online marketing. Most importantly:
- Technical SEO — Technical site optimization forms the basis for your content’s success. It includes fast loading time, proper markup, making sure your site can be indexed (e.g. by optimizing the robots.txt file), and having responsive design in place. Luckily WordPress takes care of much of this by itself but we also have a detailed article on technical SEO.
- Audience and keyword research — SEO copywriting also includes classic SEO work like audience research and understanding user intent, finding keyphrases with enough traffic, and optimizing your content around them.
- Content creation — Creating high-quality content aimed at your audience that is well written, easy to read, and understandable, grammatically correct and free of typos as well as chock full of relevant information.
- On-page optimization — The final puzzle piece of SEO copywriting is making sure your content performs well on the web. That means strategically placing keywords, employing good linking practices, and providing all necessary information so the content is understandable for search engines and can be properly indexed.
In short, everything is aimed at making sure readers can find you in the search results and will be delighted when they do. Yet, that leaves the question, how do you do that in concrete terms? To answer this questions, let’s look at some SEO copywriting techniques.
SEO Copywriting Best Practices
Now that we better understand what SEO copywriting is about, let’s look at what kind of practices will get you there.
Research Your Audience And Keywords Thoroughly
Creating content always starts with deciding who to write for and what to write about. Researching and defining your audience is the first step in doing so.
Knowing who you are writing for gives you topic ideas that will then lead to concrete keywords and search phrases to target. Good sources for this kind of information are:
- Marketing personas — This means creating fictional versions of your ideal audience. Doing so allows you to create a profile of who you are writing for and understand them on a personal level. That way you are able to understand their needs and interests and create targeted content for them.
- Website analytics — Analytics software like Google Analytics (check out our Google Analytics guide for beginners) provide important insight into your audience. Learn what brings them to your site, where they are from, the keywords they found you under, and much more.
- Competitor analysis — Other people in your niche are also a treasure trove of information for what content works and the kind of information your audience is looking for. You can also gain valuable insights by looking at what their readers are saying in the comment section.
- Social media — Social networks are a great source of information for what your audience is interested in. Find out what kind of content and topics work best by monitoring the conversation around your topic, following hashtags, and interacting with others.
- Keyword research — Keyword research is a staple of SEO work and should definitely be a part of your effort. It’s not only important to find worthwhile keywords, but also gives you a direct glimpse into the hearts and minds of your audience. Plus, you can find related search terms to sprinkle into your content.
For more details, we have an entire article on how to do market research for blogs and websites.
Choose The Right Topic
After gathering insights into your audience, it’s time to come up with topics to write about. However, what makes a good topic? Here are the criteria:
- Relevant — Content is all about the recipient. Good blog topics are those your audience is actually interested in, addresses problems or challenges they are facing, and provides information they need. If it’s not relevant to them, why would they read it?
- Goal oriented — When deciding on a blog topic, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. Does the topic fit into the larger objective of your site? Can it help you achieve that objective? Topics that can’t answer these questions are a waste of time.
- Specific — In content marketing and blogging, it is easy to cast the net too wide. Beginners especially make the mistake of trying to tackle very broad topics with short keywords (e.g. “fitness”). A smarter approach is to pick one specific angle, one specific problem to solve, and create a piece of content that addresses exactly that.
- Evergreen — Great blog post topics should be as relevant in a few years as they are now. Evergreen content is the gift that keeps on giving because it can be clicked over and over again. For example, people will still ask “how to be more confident” in a few years, but there is a time limit on the relevance of information on this year’s election.
When you choose a topic that ticks all the above boxes, you have a true winner. After that, it’s time to move on to preparing the actual article.
Create A Clear Outline
Often, when I tell people that I am a blogger, many say “I couldn’t do that, writing is so hard”.
The funny thing is that writing is actually the easiest part and the part most bloggers spend the least time on. A lot more effort goes into other elements, most notably research, structuring, and editing.
After all, you can’t just sit down and start writing. You need to have some idea what to write about and in which sequence. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time starting and stopping, rethinking and rewriting.
So, before you get started, think through your piece first:
- What is the purpose of the article? What are you trying to achieve?
- What is the main question you want to answer or message you want to deliver?
- What information do you need to write it? What do you want to include?
- In what order will you present that information?
A good structure is important so readers can follow along. If your text flows logically, it is much easier to retain and read.
Your content structure also has bearing on SEO. Your heading tags give search engines important information about what the text is about. They also allow human readers to skim the article.
Write For Volume
Once research is done and the article structure stands, it’s time to write. As mentioned, this part is often the most effortless, especially if you have provided yourself with a clear outline. In that case, can just work your way along the scaffolding and fill in the gaps.
It’s important to keep in mind that this phase is only about volume, not creating a finished post. Many people make the mistake of thinking they need to churn out a near perfect post in the first try.
That’s boohaki! (Anyone else watch a lot of Friends?)
The first draft is for nobody but yourself and its only goal is to get words down on paper (or, in this case, the WordPress editor). You can completely ignore grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. No need to go back and correct anything, all of that is done in editing.
Make The Text Readable
Yet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an effort to make the content readable from the get-go. Here are a few tips for that:
- Write naturally — Always remember that you are writing for people and that they want to relate to a person, not read an academic paper. It’s a good idea to convey some personality, make jokes (see my earlier boohaki comment) and let the person behind the writing shine through. If you write the way you would speak to a friend, it will make your content much more relatable.
- Use paragraphs — Paragraphs break up text into more digestible pieces. That lets readers follow along easier. It also helps structure your text. Use one idea per paragraph with one core sentence and a few more to elaborate. Plus, use transition words to move readers from one paragraph to the next.
- Use headings — Like paragraphs, headings help divide the text into smaller parts. They also allow readers to scan your posts first and gain an overview before deciding whether to read on. For more information, we have an entire article on the topic of headings.
- Vary sentence length — To improve the rhythm of your text, it’s a good idea to mix longer sentences with shorter ones. The same goes for paragraph length. This keeps readers on their toes and keeps them from getting bored. Because a bored reader is a gone reader.
For more tips on how to make text more readable, check out this article.
Edit Like There’s No Tomorrow
Once you have your first draft, that’s when much of the real work begins.
Now it’s time to read and re-read your post to improve and polish it. Particularly focus on:
- Sentence structure
- Paragraph structure
- Overall text structure
See if your ideas are presented in a logical and understandable order and if the content flows. For a better understanding, read your text out loud. Hearing it with your own ears will help you spot weird formulations and bad structure.
You can also ask others for feedback. Outside perspective can improve your text immensely.
Optimize The Headline
Once satisfied with the overall article, it’s time to move to one of the most important elements: the headline. Why does it matter so much? Because a lot more people will see the headline than will see the rest of your article. Most of all, it’s the most prominent thing in the search results.
For that reason, headlines are mainly responsible for getting people to click through. It is important to spend a lot of time crafting, rewriting, and optimizing it.
Optimize After The Fact
Once you have a reader-friendly piece of content, it’s time to go over it once more, this time, to please the search engines.
Note the order. You are first creating an article that is completely geared toward solving a problem for your audience, easy to read, and bound to make their day. Only then do you see how you can improve it for search engines.
To do so, pay attention to the following key elements:
- Keyword placement — Your main keyword should appear in a number of important places: the post URL, title, introduction, main content, headings, image file names, and ALT tags. In every case try to place it in the beginning, not toward the end.
- Keyword density — Although your key phrases should appear in many places, avoid overstuffing your content as it will get you penalized. You can figure out your density with this tool. Yoast thinks it should be somewhere between 0.5% and 2.5%. Also, don’t forget to use synonyms and related keywords. Google now has a thesaurus and understand alternative words.
- Title tag — Optimize your title tag, the one that appears in Google. It can be different from your article heading (though it doesn’t have to be). Try to keep it under 55 characters to avoid having it cut off in the search results.
- Meta description — Likewise, don’t forget to set a meta description. This is the copy that will show up below article titles in search engine results. It matters for click through and if you don’t set one, Google will pull random content instead.
- Images and other visual media — Using visual media like images is always a good idea. They increase time on site, reduce bounce rate, and are a signal for content quality. Images can also add extra keywords and lead readers to your post via the Google image search.
- Linking — Link generously both to other sites and pages on your own website. This is not only helpful to readers but allows Google to better figure out the topic of your content and the relative importance of pages on your website,
Note that using SEO plugins like All-in-One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO (read our comparison here) makes many of these things much easier. Both plugins let you set an SEO title and meta description. In addition to that, Yoast SEO has a content analysis module that checks for many of the quality markers above, plus readability.
SEO copywriting is the secret weapon for website owners and marketers for high search rankings and conversions. Mastering it lets you create content loved by both Google and your readers.
Luckily, while it takes some effort to create high-quality content, it is not overly complicated. By following the SEO copywriting best practices above your are well on your way.
Let’s quickly recap:
- Invest a lot of time in researching your audience
- Choose relevant, specific, evergreen content that fits your site objectives
- Create a clear outline and structure before you start writing
- Write for sheer volume, not perfection
- Invest time in making your text readable
- Edit your content thoroughly
- Optimize the headline — it’s a central piece of your content
- Polish SEO after the fact
Following the above guidelines will help you greatly improve your content. While it’s more work than churning out shallow, low-quality content, you will reap the rewards in time. I promise.
What’s your experience with SEO copywriting? Anything to add to the above? Let us know in the comment section below.