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Why does SEO copywriting matter? Because search optimized content alone—and copywriting alone—are insufficient to complete two tasks: get people on the page, and then get them to take action.
93% of online experiences begin with a search engine—that’s why we need search engine optimization (SEO): people have to find you first if they’re going to read your copy.
8 out of 10 people only read headlines—that’s why you need excellent copywriting: no matter how high your article ranks, if the copy isn’t compelling, it won’t be clicked or consumed.
With the right combination, you can show up in searches (SEO) and get them to click and read (copywriting). Dive into these SEO copywriting tips to see how the pros write SEO copy that gets results.
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What is SEO copywriting?
Content marketing (often in the form of blogging) is the practice of creating content that’s mostly designed to answer a question or provide information without trying to sell. Content marketing has combined with copywriting over time.
Given that even blog content is now written with the goal of moving people to act, there is a blurred line between the two. Blog posts can often be considered landing pages of sorts, designed by SEO copywriters to get someone on the page and then to take action.
SEO copywriting is a blend between writing content that search engines can understand and that people are searching for, combined with powerful copy that moves people to take action (click, read, purchase, etc.).
Gain a deep understanding of your audience
For copywriting to be effective, you need to understand your target audience. An audience persona or buyer persona is a powerful tool that you can use to understand your audience. It’s an exercise in determining their motivations, problems, and objections.
It also helps you understand demographics (where they live, how old they are, how many children they have, how much money they make) and psychographics (ideas, emotions, attitudes, values, interests).
Other tools to understand your audience include interviews with previous or existing customers or surveys of your potential clients or actual clients.
When you have this information, you’ll have a better idea of what your customers need and what might move them to action.
Study search engine results pages
Google has done all the work of figuring out what visitors want to see through testing and monitoring of user behavior on search engine results pages. The search engine’s goal is to provide the best user experience possible for the searcher, and so what you see on the first page of search engine results is the content that Google’s algorithm has found to be the most valuable. That means you can study these results to determine exactly what people are searching for and what’s working.
When you search your keyword, spend time studying the first page of results. What do the headlines (title tags) look like? What do the meta descriptions look like? What kind of content comes up (videos, blog posts, images, definitions)?
How can you create high-quality content that matches or exceeds these results? Can you improve on what you find, or can you come up with a new angle on the content that no one else has tried?
You’ll also want to look at the featured snippet. The featured snippet is critical to SEO because it’s the first organic result searchers see. What type of content can you create that has a chance at ranking as the featured snippet? Take a look at the types of content that show up in the featured snippet. It might include a definition, a video, or a list.
For example, you can see that a definition is in the featured snippet position for the phrase “what do gorillas eat.”
In the second example, where we searched “symptoms of diabetes,” we find a bulleted list in the featured snippet instead.
Creating content that mimics what Google has put in the featured snippet can give you a better chance of winning that placement yourself.
You’re not just trying to figure out what Google ranks. You’re trying to figure out what users (readers) are looking for and what Google and other search engines think are the best answers to searcher’s questions.
Publish content that aligns with your knowledge
Searchers are looking for content that answers their questions completely and accurately, and that generally only comes from experts. So, if searchers realize that your content isn’t answering the question well, or if it is written poorly and explains a concept poorly, they’re not going to find it valuable. If searchers aren’t finding your content valuable, it’s not going to rank well.
You’re not going to show up on a search engine results page (SERP) if you don’t have high-quality content. To create high-quality content, you need to understand your subject matter intimately.
If your goal is to generate organic traffic and improve conversion rate, you have to be more than an excellent SEO copywriter – you need to have content that shows you’re an authority on whatever you’re writing about.
Continually publishing content about a specific area lets Google know you’re an authority on it. It also shows your target audience and your readers/followers that you’re an authority on it. You also will appear to be an authority if your content shows that you’re an expert on it—it’s well-researched; it has clear, specific examples, it has relevant statistics, it references other experts, and it has clear, intelligent discussions of their thoughts and ideas.
Focus on quality over all else
High-quality content should be the number one priority of your content strategy. It does a number of positive things for your rankings.
First, it improves key performance metrics that Google looks for to determine whether you have satisfied the searcher. It increases your dwell time, which is “the amount of time that passes between the moment a user clicks a search result and subsequently returns back to the SERPs.” Because people are staying on your web page for long periods of time, it’s a good indicator that they’re finding the content useful and valuable.
Another signal that your content is high-quality is that it’s polished—grammar, spelling, and punctuation are precise and correct.
Yet another signal of quality content is page length/word count. Studies indicate that longer content tends to rank higher. This is likely because this content is more comprehensively covering a topic, and therefore is likely higher-quality than other search results.
Valuable content also generates backlinks—links to your web page from other websites. Backlinks are still one of Google’s most powerful ranking signals, and when you create great content, other businesses want to share it with their audience. Google treats backlinks like upvotes of your content. The more you have from quality websites, the more likely you are to be seen as a valuable source of information.
Together, the ingredients of great content can improve search engine ranking like no other SEO technique.
Optimize your content for one keyword
To conduct keyword research, start with a topic—maybe your topic is gorillas. When you put that topic into a keyword research tool, you’ll see all the specific search terms related to your target keyword. These are all potential topics you can focus your content on.
A more specific keyword is called a long-tail keyword phrase. Long-tail keywords are not necessarily better than short-tail keywords (like “gorillas” or “silverback gorilla”). Short-tail keywords are harder to rank for, but they have more traffic. Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for, but they have less traffic.
In the image, you can see a long-tail keyword phrase at the bottom: “how long do gorillas live.” This is much more specific than “gorillas” and gives you a specific topic to write on. You can write on “gorillas,” but ranking for it is going to be tough and will require a lot of content to be as comprehensive as possible.
An article on “how long do gorillas live” is likely going to be easier to rank for, but traffic is going to be lower. Which one you pick depends on your goals and how well you think you can cover the topic. The reason long-tail keywords are particularly appealing to most businesses is because they’re not only easier to rank for, but they allow a business to focus their resources on search queries that are more highly correlated with bottom-funnel metrics.
For example, someone searching “Adidas Grand Court shoes black and white size 11” are farther along in the buyer’s journey than someone searching “Adidas shoes.” The first person is ready to buy, whereas the second person is likely just browsing.
In either case, you want to pick a single keyword to target. The reason for this is that it allows you to create content specific to the searcher and what they’re looking for. You’re answering a single search query, which means search engines are more likely to serve your content to a searcher who has inputted that query.
This process starts with determining search intent. Search intent is “the primary goal a user has when searching a query in a search engine.”
For example, that long-tail keyword phrase above has a clear search intent (the searcher wants to know how long gorillas live). Think about the search query, and consider what it is the user wants to know and how they align with your goals.
If someone is searching for “how to build a shed,” their intention is likely to get a tutorial (video or written) about how to craft a shed (from scratch or otherwise). So if you make a page targeting the keyword “how to build a shed,” but your content is about sheds that your business sells, you’re not fulfilling search intent.
That content would be better targeted to a keyword phrase like “inexpensive sheds.” Someone who is searching for inexpensive sheds isn’t going to want to see a tutorial on how to build a shed—they’re going to want to see sheds that are for sale. If your goal is to sell sheds, then these align perfectly.
Make your content skimmable
Readability is a key factor in making high-quality content. The easier your content is to consume, the more likely your target audience is to read your writing and stay on the page.
Many readers will skim articles to find specific information. That’s why content — from step-by-step guides to case studies, and even landing pages — need to be optimized for skimming.
To make articles easy to skim, you need to do a few things:
- Use headings and subheadings to organize content, making it easier for your target audience to understand concepts and find answers to questions.
- Write short paragraphs so that readers aren’t scared away by giant blocks of text that are difficult to read.
- Use bullets whenever it makes sense to make lists easy to scan and understand.
Another strategy to make content easier to digest is the inverted pyramid technique. It’s an old journalism technique, but the goal is simple—draw readers in with a great headline, then give them the most important information first.
Internally link relevant content
You can make your content more useful to your readers by internally linking other pages on your website.
While you’re going to do this naturally with your web pages (your homepage, for example, is going to have a lot of internal links to deeper category and subcategory pages), you want to spend time considering your structure for two reasons:
- Internal links create a good user experience. When a reader comes across a link to more information, they can click to learn more, diving deeper into your website and hopefully leading to more actions, like signing up for an email list or purchasing a product. Good organization helps the user click tlhrough until they find the information they were looking for.
- Internal links also help crawlers. They show Google what pages or articles you consider most important. Pages linked to the homepage, for example, are looked at by Google as more important than pages deeper in your site. A comprehensive internal linking structure also helps search engines better rank your content, because crawlers find your pages by traveling through internal links on your site.
Always close with a call-to-action
A call to action (CTA) is your chance to move readers to take a specific action. For example, if you have a website about animals, and you’ve written a blog post using the long-tail keyword phrase, “how long do gorillas live,” then you can have a variety of CTAs, depending on your goals.
- If your goal is to get your reader deeper into your website, your CTA might ask readers to read another article about gorillas.
- If your goal is to get them to sign up for your email list, your CTA can invite them to trade their email address in exchange for interesting email content about animals.
- If you have an e-commerce site, and your goal is to sell a gorilla T-shirt, then you might write a CTA that shows the value of the shirt and directs them to a landing page.
To write a good CTA, you need to use your audience persona to think about what users want. What is going to be most valuable to them? How can you speak to what they want?
For example, if you’re asking users to sign up for your email list, you need to explain the value of that list. What do they get if they sign up? Why would they want that in the first place?
You also want to consider what stage of your marketing funnel your audience is in. For example, a top-of-funnel keyword, like “how long do gorillas live” might be appropriate to pair with a form asking for an email address.
However, something like “cool gorilla T-shirts” shows that a searcher is farther down the funnel and may be looking to buy. This would be better paired with a CTA that directs them to a product page.
Write compelling meta titles and meta descriptions
A meta title is the title you tell Google to display on search engine results pages, as opposed to the title that readers see once they get on your page. A meta description is the text that displays below the title. Here’s an example:
To write a compelling meta title, think about your audience and what they want. Combine this with your research on what the competition is writing. What kind of headlines do the top search results use?
Is it a list? Does it contain “How to…”? How can you improve upon what they’ve written?
You want to include your keyword, but you also want to clearly explain the value of the post. What will readers get if they click on your article instead of someone else’s? Communicate that value in combination with your target keyword when writing a meta headline.
The same principles apply to a meta description. Include keywords, include a clear CTA (learn more, keep reading, click), and communicate the value of the article.
Create SEO-friendly URLs
To create SEO-friendly URLs, you need to do two things.
First, you need to make the URLs short.
Second, you need to include the keyword phrase in the URL.
A simple example of this would be www.yoursite.com/blog/how-long-do-gorillas-live
This helps search engines understand what the article is about. It also helps people to easily see what the article is about while not cluttering up their search bar.
Invest in SEO writing tools
There are many SEO writing tools out there, but here are some of the most popular:
- Clearscope—great for seeing how relevant your content is to the keyword phrase you’re targeting
- Grammarly—great for checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation (GSP), and also a great plagiarism checker
- Hemingway App—another tool for GSP. Also great at tightening up your writing.
- Moz—a great suite of SEO tools
- Ahrefs—another full suite of SEO tools
You can also use plugins like Yoast for WordPress to examine things like keyword density and keyword placement to see how well you’re optimizing your content and to help you avoid problems like keyword stuffing. Some of these tools can be pricey, and not all are necessary, but there are free alternatives to most of them, and great SEO copywriting requires at least the basics: keyword research tools, grammar and spelling tools, and analytics tools like Google Analytics.
Get a complimentary SEO audit
SEO copywriting takes two popular high-ROI marketing tactics and makes them work together: SEO – the process of optimizing content to drive traffic through search, and copywriting – the process of writing to persuade. Combined, these two tactics become one of the most powerful growth strategies no matter your industry or size.
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