There’s an old SEO joke. (It’s not very funny.)
“An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, a tavern, watering hole, pub, grill, public house, bartender, drinks, wine, liquor…”
Whilst not funny, it does do a pretty good job of illustrating what comes to mind when most people think of SEO copywriting.
However, things have changed a lot when it comes to the way search engines work to rank content and fortunately, modern SEO copywriting does not have to be quite so predictable, templated, repetitive, repeating, synonyms… ahem, sorry, old habits. I mean to say, SEO copywriting has changed a lot too.
In this article, we will take you through the current practices smart SEO copywriters can apply to combine solid content marketing techniques that real people love to read with technical SEO writing that search engines will rank. And most importantly, ensure that your content won’t ever become the butt of a bad joke.
What is SEO?
If you’re reading this then you probably have a pretty good idea of what SEO is already. But just so that we are all on the same page, here’s a quick definition. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of developing and improving a specific webpage so that search engine bots can understand and rank it within a search engine results page for specific search queries.
In other words, if you create a web page that search engine bots can understand and the content on that page is relevant to the intent of specific search queries, then search engines may choose to surface it to their users.
If your content is surfaced regularly within search engines, then your website traffic will increase, your website conversions will rise, revenue will grow, your CEO will be jolly, you’ll get a big pay rise and the world will be a happy place.
Why is it important to write for SEO?
The first and most important thing to understand is that your ultimate target audience should be… your audience. If your content doesn’t first speak to your target audience then nothing that is to follow will be of any importance. But, with that in mind, it’s still important to write and structure your content so that a search engine like Google can understand it.
If a search engine can’t understand what’s on your page, your page will not rank. In fact, Google may not even index it. So you should always remember what search engines require to understand and rank your page while not compromising the quality of your writing or the fact you’re writing for humans.
Writing for SEO (Best Practices)
Believe it or not, there was once a time when the internet was not quite as filled with content as it is today. Early content marketing operated on the basis that if you write content on a subject that is unrepresented or underrepresented, it will rank in Google and you will attract traffic to your site. Today, however, it’s not enough to just write content on a subject; if you want to rank highly, your content must also be considerably better than what is already ranked online.
We have compiled a list of six key strategies you can follow to write better content than your competitors.
1. Define your target audience and their search intent
Before you write a single word, think carefully about who you are writing for and what they want to find when they search.
It’s tempting to write about what you want to write about or what you think people should be searching for. However, if you want to rank in Google, you must consider what people are actually searching for and then write content that meets their needs.
If you’re writing about gardening tools, for example, your target audience might be people brand new to gardening looking for a list of essentials. Another target audience might be experienced gardeners looking for specific reviews of new products before making purchases. These two articles would look quite different.
As part of this, keep in mind that target audiences with different levels of knowledge may search for content using different types of queries or keywords. Always consider this when planning your content and adjust your tone and terminology accordingly.
If you’re not sure who your target audience is or what your potential site visitors are searching for, use keyword research tools like AnswerThePublic or Google Trends. Others also recommend Reddit and Quora because users on these platforms tend to ask very specific questions that can help you understand and meet search intent.
2. Do your keyword research
Another thing you should already have before writing is a list of target keywords. These are the phrases you want to rank for in Google, and they should be included throughout your content.
You can use many keyword research tools to do this, such as ahrefs Keyword Explorer, Semrush Keyword Research and Ubersuggest. These tools will show you how popular a given keyword is and how difficult it would be to rank for it.
You can also consider using “long tail” keywords. These are longer, more specific phrases that are less competitive and easier to rank for.
Once you have your list of target keywords, use them throughout your content in the following ways:
- In the title and headline of your article
- In the body of your text
- In the alt text of images
- In the meta tags
- In the URL of your page
But the key here is to sound natural; don’t force keywords into your content just for the sake of using them. Tools like Rankmath can tell you if you’re on the right track.
3. Always write for people first, search engines second
Your content must be well-written, accurate, informative and engaging if you want people to read and share your content. If you try to stuff your content full of keywords in an attempt to manipulate your way to the top of search engine rankings, you will not only fail but also alienate your target audience.
But if you write only for your readers and rarely use keywords, you will have a hard time ranking because search engines will not be able to understand what your page is about.
The key, then, is to find a happy medium: write for your audience first, but be sure to use keywords throughout your content for the search engines to understand.
How do you find that balance? Here are some tips:
- Write naturally, using keyword phrases only where they make sense. Don’t repeat keywords unnecessarily just to meet an arbitrary keyword count. If you’re struggling to hit your target keyword count adding FAQs or a glossary at the end of your article can provide some keyword insertion opportunities. Make your content easy to read. Use short paragraphs, clear headlines and bulleted or numbered lists.
- Use images, infographics and videos to break up your text and add visual interest. Use keyword-friendly file names and alt text for these media.
- Use links to other pages to help search engines understand your content’s structure and give readers more information on related topics.
Don’t forget to stay on top of Google’s content updates. This will help you ensure your site is visible and accessible to Google.
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. These are what Google looks for when assessing the quality of your content. It’s a large topic in and of itself and too big to cover here, but the important points to keep in mind are the following.
Although Google dismisses the notion that there is a formal EAT score, they acknowledge that EAT factors are used by Google’s quality raters, who are real people that evaluate the quality of search results. This evaluation is then used to help improve Google’s algorithms.
How do you make your content EAT-friendly?
- Ensure that your content conveys expertise and is unique and differentiated from what has already been published online. Roger Montti of Search Engine Journal reports that “Google is using AI to understand if web content is superficial or if it has the contours and features typical of “in-depth research” and other qualities typical of sites that are useful to users.”
- Be a reliable source of information. Make sure your content is well-researched, include links to your sources and make sure that your sources are acquired from credible publications.
- Be transparent about who you are and what your motives are. If you have any biases, disclose them. For example, if you are paid to write a product review, say so.
5. Include SEO- and reader-friendly titles.
Your page title is one of the first things people will see when they find your article in a search engine. So make sure it’s catchy and accurately reflects the content of your article.
A good title will:
- Be attention-grabbing
- Use keyword phrases
- Be 50 to 60 characters long, no wider than 600 pixels
A great title will also:
- Use emotional words
- Trigger reaction in the reader
- Be easy to understand
- Incorporate the 4 U’s: unique, ultra-specific, urgent and useful
For example, a good title for this article could be “How to write for SEO: A guide for small business owners”.
A great title might be “Writing for SEO: How to make your content Google-friendly without sacrificing quality”.
Other title tips that work:
- Use numbers. “10 Reasons Your Page is Not Ranking”
- Use little known. “10 Little Known Reasons Your Page is Not Ranking”
- Use power trigrams such as “will make you”, “this is why” and “can we guess”
Once you have a page title that you think will work well, you could run it through a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to get a score. It will give you an idea of your title’s effectiveness and whether you need to make changes.
6. Keep your content current.
Freshness is one of the factors that Google looks at when deciding how to rank content in search results. But the factor plays a bigger role in some types of content. News sites should obviously write up-to-date articles about recent events and provide regular updates. Fresh content is also crucial for websites providing information in fast-evolving fields like medicine, health, and science.
Other queries that demand the most recent information are
- Breaking news
- Current information (such as statistics, holidays, airfare etc)
- Product-related (phone specifications, car price, Windows operating system and so on)
But even if you’re not writing about something that’s happening in the news or anything related to the queries above, it’s best to keep your content up to date. Fresh content is a sign of an active, well-maintained website and Google will reward fresh and current content more often than not.
Writing for SEO may be tricky but once you get the hang of it, it will be easier for you to create content that both Google and your readers will love! Just remember to focus on creating quality content, use the right keywords, and keep your work up-to-date. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help.