When it comes to SEO copywriting, the content that ranks best in search engine results pages (SERPS) is written with an SEO mindset, but it’s not written JUST for Google. It may sound like a subtle distinction, but it’s one that really matters.
Google wants you to write quality content that its users trust will answer their search query. Google doesn’t want you to write content for it (and it definitely doesn’t want you to try to game its search).
You need to be writing for your audience first – however they arrive on your site. Then optimise your content to make it easy for Google’s algorithm to pick up the SEO signals that your content is high quality and answers search intent. This is fundamental to good SEO copywriting.
What is SEO copywriting?
SEO copywriting consists of creating unique, valuable content that targets specific keywords and compels people to read, link to and share it. When you look at the top ranking signals that Google uses, you can see that it’s your audience, how they engage with your content, their UX and what they do next that does most of the heavy lifting to help you improve your SEO.
So, how does Google rank website pages?
There are 200+ ranking factors. These are the top ten – in no particular order – that you should pay close attention to according to Ahrefs:
- Content freshness
- Topical authority
- Search intent
- Content depth
- Page speed
- HTTPS (web page security)
- User experience
- Content accuracy
Keeping your readers happy
As an SEO copywriter, if keep your readers happy then you’re keeping Google happy. That’s because when it sends a user your way, Google is confident they will find the information they are searching for on your website pages and blog posts.
Let’s start by thinking about your readers:
- Audience – who are you writing for?
- Keywords and topics – which keywords do you want to rank for, and what will you write about?
- Search intent – what types of queries do they make, and how will your content answer these?
Who are you writing for?
You need to know about the types of people that you want to reach. Everything will flow from there. Once you have defined your audience, you will better understand the content that they will find most useful.
What are you going to write about?
Once you know who you are writing for, you need to think about the types of keywords that you should target and the topics you will write about (we’re still thinking about quality content here – we get onto tips for optimising the page or post later).
Do your keyword research
You want to make it easy for people to find your article or page when they are searching. The keywords you use – and the topicality of your copy – then helps Google better understand what your content is about.
Building your list of target keywords
Try Google’s auto-suggest feature to find out what specific words or phrases people search for. There are also tools that will help you find the right keywords for your content and campaigns. Try a free tool like Ahrefs Keyword Generator to discover keyword ideas, and gauge monthly search volumes and keyword difficulty (how competitive the keyword is – usually a score out of 100).
Which keywords should you target?
Prioritise long-tail keywords (keywords/phrases that are three words or longer). Short tail keywords are notoriously hard to rank for if you are not a high authority website. Long-tail keywords often better match search intent and tend to have a lower keyword difficulty score.
Here’s the thing though. Different keyword research tools have different methodologies in measuring keyword difficulty. The exact same keyword can have a different score. Find a tool that works for you and use that.
You want to target low-difficulty or moderate-difficulty keywords with good search volumes. Here’s a really helpful guide from SpyFu on how to find the best keywords.
Think about search intent
What types of search queries does your audience make? How can you align your content with this intent? You want to be the most relevant result in Google for a query.
There are four main types of search intent:
- Informational – the user is seeking information (“beginner’s guitar”)
- Navigational – the user knows where they want to go (they use Google to find a “guitar shop in Brighton”)
- Commercial – the user has a specific product or service in mind but is doing their research on the best options (like “best acoustic guitar”)
- Transactional – the user is in buying mode (“buy beginner’s guitar fender acoustic”)
Do your research to find out the topics that will resonate with your target audience.
- Crowdsource ideas – using a social media monitoring tool to listen to conversations on your brand pages and beyond can give powerful insights into what’s being said about your brand, products and services to produce content that cuts through. Don’t forget to set up keyword searches for industry topics to listen to the conversation beyond your brand mentions.
- Content idea generator tools – if your ideas well starts to run dry, using a tool like HubSpot can help you discover content ideas. Most content is drawn from the same ideas well, but you’ll need to work out how to write about a topic in a fresh, engaging way to encourage your audience to drink. From your well, that is.
How important is content length?
There is no defined word count for pages that rank highly. You won’t find any specific advice from Google on it either. Its SEO Starter Guide states that ‘Content should be factually accurate, clearly written and comprehensive’. An article is as long as it needs to be to solve a problem.
Having said that, as an SEO copywriter, you should be mindful that content length still matters to Google.
- It’s one of the 200+ ranking factors that it uses
- Longer articles get more links (and shares)
Content length is fiercely debated among SEO specialists that analyse millions of pages and posts. We’re going with Hook Agency on this. According to studies of the top ten results over the past decade, the best blog length for SEO is between 1,760 and 2,400 words. Blog posts that are 1,000+ also tend to do better than shorter posts. Don’t stick to this like glue though. Your readers will enjoy shorter posts too.
When it comes to website pages – you should aim for 300+ words minimum.
Now you’re ready to start writing …
How to write killer copy that converts
SEO copywriters write persuasive content that sells. They pay close attention to how they write and structure their copy to do this.
- Title – using a ‘power word’ in the title is an effective way to draw people in. You then need to persuade them to keep reading and do something. There’s an art to how you use the body of the article to connect with your readers.
- Hooks – grab attention early with an irresistible hook.
- Write in short bursts – keep sentences and paragraphs short – use plain English and avoid jargon.
- Bucket brigades – use bucket brigades which are bridging phrases between sentences that encourage a reader to keep reading. Blog posts should be conversational, so these are perfect for asking direct questions to establish an emotional connection. Examples: ‘Here’s the thing’. ‘Does that sound like you?’
- Rapport – speak your reader’s language to build trust and rapport.
- Empathy – show readers that you understand their problem and that you are offering solutions. This will help you build empathy and credibility. Don’t tell your reader that you are an expert. Let them decide.
- Action – tell people what to do next.
Including a call to action (CTA) is a critical part of your SEO copywriting. How many should you place? It really does depend on the desired action that you want readers to take – sign up, download, buy?
There’s an argument for placing CTAs above the fold on website pages. ‘Above the fold’ harks back to the days when newspapers editors put the content to grab readers’ attention on the top part of the paper that could be seen when folded on a newspaper stand.
The content that is above the fold on web pages is the part that fills the screen. The fold is the bottom of the screen. For blog posts, your visitor is arriving with the expectation that there is something valuable that they will want to read. If it makes sense, try to include a CTA before the halfway mark on the page because not everyone will read/scan your whole article. Be sure to include a CTA at the end of the article.
Include internal links
Including internal links to other useful, relevant content or specific pages can also help boost your SEO by keeping visitors on your site for longer. Try to include at least one internal link. This will improve your score for dwell time – the time that passes between when a user clicks on a search result and their return to the SERPs. This a ranking factor.
A quick note: dwell time shouldn’t be confused with bounce rate, which is the percentage of single-page sessions by visitors that only visit one page before leaving your website. For bounces, the time they spend on the page is irrelevant.
Images create visual interest in a sea of words. They also help readers to visualise what you’re writing about. They are important for boosting SEO because you can include your keyword in the description for the image when you publish (see below).
Where should you place your keywords?
- Page or post titles – these are your H1 titles, which users see in their search results.
- Subheadings – use your target keyword at least once in an H2 header (these are the main headers that divide your post into ‘chapters’ and break up the text.) Don’t overstuff your keywords in the article -neither your readers or Google will be impressed. Just use them at a natural tempo where it makes sense to.
- Alt text – include your keywords in text descriptions for images that you upload for a post. This is called an image alt attribute (also called alt text/alternative text). It helps Google understand the image context for visual searches. Text descriptions also make your content more accessible to screen reader users.
- URLs – use your main keyword in the page URL and use a simple, short structure so the user can quickly see what the post is about (avoid capitals and special characters) and use a hyphen to separate terms.
- Meta titles – include your keyword in the meta title. Your meta title should be between 50 – 60 characters long, according to Yoast. Google will truncate anything that is longer. Yoast also suggests putting your keyword first in the title – but remember the title has to tell the searcher what the content is about and how it matches their search intent. So don’t sound like Yoda. Write a title that is in natural word order.
- Meta description – your meta description, the snippet that Google shows its users and summarises the content, should also contain your keyword and be no longer than 155 characters. Give people a compelling reason to visit the page.
What about keyword density?
In some corners of the SEOsphere (yes, the SEOsphere is one of the few spheres with corners), keyword density is a byword for keyword stuffing and all the negative connotations of trying to game Google. This is going back to the bad old days when writers used keywords as many times as they could get away with to convince the search engine that the content was super relevant on a specific topic. Anyone who was writing for search before around 2007 knows exactly what I mean – a simpler time, in many ways: easy to get ranked but not so great for customers who had to wade through pages of nonsense.
As a writer, you want to use your keywords throughout your article because if you are not, you’ve gone off-topic and just rambling on. This is a waste of time for you and the website visitor that clicks on your post and finds something completely different. And if you waste their time, they will bounce off the page. Google also cares about the topicality of the copy of the page to make sure it answers its searchers’ queries. Keywords help you keep on track.
Checking your on-page SEO
You don’t need to be an expert in HTML or code or any of that difficult stuff to check your on-page SEO. WordPress plug-in tools like Yoast or All In One SEO have done their homework and built sophisticated tools to help you check your SEO. Copywriters (and just about anybody else who is posting content) can optimise it before posting and improve what they do next time.
That’s a wrap
We’ve talked you through the reasons why effective SEO copywriting is not a tick box exercise to keep Google happy.
- Write unique, high-quality content that answers search intent
- Do your audience and keyword search
- Offer visitors a great UX and fresh, valuable content when they land on your site
- Don’t forget to check that you have optimised your content using an SEO plug-in tool to make it easy for Google to pick up your SEO signals that your content matches its users’ search queries
You will improve your chances of ranking highly in Google’s SERPs.
To summarise – write for people first, machines second. They’ve not quite replaced us yet. If you’d like help taking your SEO copywriting to the next level, check out our SEO copywriting service here and enquire today.