SEO copywriting will often determine whether your SEO and content marketing strategy will be a success or a flop.
Your website is judged by the quality, authority and regularity of the content you produce. When search engines crawl your web pages they’re looking for a couple of things:
- How relevant is your content to the searches being made around it?
- How useful is it to your audience and does it provide a user experience search engines will want to share?
But your website is also being judged by your users. Simply writing for SEO risks stuffing your website with keywords that copy that doesn’t make sense.
Today, search engines are less interested in ‘keyword density’ and are more interested in the things we’ve just mentioned.
Meeting these requirements means your SEO copywriting needs to be on point, with some SEO structure in place, and then written to answer questions or provide information in the best possible way for your audience.
In this guide we’ll take you through the stages of planning, writing and promoting your SEO copywriting so you rank higher in search results and stand out above all the other content on the internet.
Start with your audience
Before you start any writing, you have a lot of research to do.
In any good content writing, research should take up about 70% of your time to make sure you’re focussing your writing as much as possible on what your prospects need to know.
A good place to start your research is figuring out who you’re writing for.
Knowing your audience is the most important thing you can do in writing, or marketing as a whole.
This doesn’t just mean knowing they’re job title, who they work for and a rough outline of how they spend their days.
That’s what a lot of buyer personas focus on, and that’s why a lot of them don’t work – as we go into in this blog.
What you should focus on instead is finding out your audience’s problems and the things they’re trying to figure out.
Are they looking for the perfect software to improve their accounts function so they can spend more time running their business?
Are they trying to make it easier to find a new car and are worried about getting ripped off by some shady dealer.
Are they in dire need of holiday recommendations to get away for a bit?
What outcomes would make their lives so much better, and how can you provide them.
This is something you need to nail down at the start. It will mean a lot of research.
Ask your existing customers. Ask prospects who didn’t choose you in the past. Run research groups or market research.
Do whatever you need to to figure out who you’re writing for and what kind of things they need or want to know.
In journalism there’s a saying that the job of a reporter is to tell people something that someone else doesn’t want them to know.
For your marketing, your job is to tell people something they need to know to make their jobs or lives better.
Keywords for SEO copywriting
There’s a couple of things you should be looking at when it comes to keywords for SEO copywriting.
- Long-tail keywords – These are going to make up the majority of your SEO content. Long-tail keywords (as the name suggests) are searches using more words. These are searches like:
- Best running trainers for men
- SEO copywriting guide
- How to do digital marketing in 2021
2. Short-tail keywords – These are typically more general searches, things like:
- Digital Marketing
- SEO Agency
- Running Shoes
Long-tail keywords make up most of your SEO copywriting because they’re usually easier to rank for.
We’ve got a full article that goes into the difference between long and short-tail keywords here.
Creating keyword pillars
What you don’t want to do with your SEO copywriting is take a scattergun approach to what you write.
There’s a tonne of content on the internet nowadays from marketing departments (90% of it is pretty rubbish) so the days of writing a 500 word article on a competitive subject and expecting it to rank are over.
Today, you need to have a strategy and bring some order to what you’re writing. These are commonly known as “content pillars”.
Basically you look at your business, the products or services you sell, and you pick 3-5 topics that capture everything you do.
So for us, our content pillars are:
- Content Marketing/ Copywriting
- Website design and development
So all the content we create will sit under these pillars and will be a range of long form guides (like this one) and shorter articles that go into more depth around a specific topic.
For example, we’ve written a long-form guide on SEO and content marketing strategy.
Within that guide are links to other pieces that cover specific parts of the guide in more detail.
If you want more specific information about content pillars and how to use them, you can read this blog.
Search intent for SEO copywriting
The next thing you’ll need to consider before typing anything, is what is the search intent of the person making this enquiry?
This is important to know because it will help you figure out what kind of content they’re expecting to find.
Generally speaking there are four kinds of search intent:
- Informational: When the reader is looking to find specific information on a topic. These are searches like (How to…, What is…,) and are usually suited to articles, blogs or long form pages like this one, which gives a lot of information so someone can go away and put what they’ve learned into action.
- Navigational: This is when someone searches for a specific website on a search engine. These are known as ‘brand’ searches and this is why it’s important to have branded keywords as part of your strategy. So for example, someone might search for “McDonalds”.
- Commercial: Your reader is in the research process of buying something, but hasn’t yet decided which product is best, or where to get it from. These are searches like “best….” “Top 10…” and give you the opportunity to get more sales and marketing content in front of your audience.
- Transactional: Now your audience is ready to buy so is looking for content that offers some social proof of your product or service (like case studies) and pricing information.
The reason it’s important to work out the search intent behind different types of searches, is because putting the wrong information in front of your audience at the wrong time will reduce the chance of them coming to you when they’re ready to buy something.
For example a user looking for information on what to look for in the best types of running shoes for a marathon isn’t going to respond well to your article that promises information, but instead gives them a list of products that you sell.
What’s your SEO copywriting adding?
Here’s one final question to ask yourself before you get into your writing.
What is your article going to add to what is already out there? Remember there is a lot of content out there already.
If you’re just writing something so you’ve got an article with a specific keyword in it, then take a minute and rethink.
Unless what you’re producing now is better than what’s already been written, it’s not going to stand out on search engines or be any use to your audience.
So, what can you bring that’s different?
Do you have a different take on an existing idea that you think everyone is getting wrong?
Can you produce an article that is more in-depth, better researched, pulling from more sources or providing something different like a video or interactive content.
These kinds of things are particularly important if you’re a new business trying to rank a new website.
Unless you’re the Guardian, The Times or Apple you’re not likely to get away with just writing a 500 word article and ranking for it.
You won’t have the website authority for that.
But if you can produce something that’s bigger and better than everyone else, then you’ll have a chance.
You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to produce that kind of content.
Writing your SEO content
So, now let’s get into the good bit, actually writing your article.
Writing your SEO headline
The first thing you’ll need is the headline.
Don’t dismiss the importance of a good headline. If this doesn’t draw your readers in, then they’ll never get people to the contents of your article in the first place.
There’s some SEO copywriting specific things to consider for these kinds of headlines.
For example, you’ll need to use your keyword in the headline. That’s because this is what search engines will use to match your article to searches people are making.
If your keyword isn’t in the headline, search engines will have a harder time matching it, and you won’t rank as high.
There’s a few tricks you can use that can make your headline a bit more exciting. Some examples of successful headlines include:
Top 10 ways to improve…
How to use/do/start….
Why you need to focus on X to improve your business
X things no-one ever told you about this subject
18 easy to use tips to improve X….
Find out how this company grew X% using these methods….
There are a tonne of these headlines that you can write. What you’re aiming for is something that will entice a reader to read the article, without giving so much away that they feel like they don’t have to read it.
How to structure your SEO content
Next is the structure of your SEO article.
The main thing to consider here is that people don’t really read online article word for word.
They’re more likely to skim the article and pick out the bits that they find most interesting or useful.
Journalists use something called an inverted pyramid to structure their articles, and you should do the same for your SEO copywriting.
What this means is putting all the main information towards the top of the article and having all the background and supporting information moving down towards the bottom.
Remember, the chances of anyone reading everything to the bottom of an article are slim, so give them the information they need as quickly as possible. This will also help to grab their attention for longer.
Here’s some other things to think about when writing your articles:
Use short sentences
People get lost in long sentences. By the time they get to the end they’ve forgot what they read at the beginning.
A good average for sentence length is 16 words per sentence across the entire article.
Have a read of Gary Provosts “this sentence has five words” to see how varying sentence length can help with the flow of your article.
Write to one person
People are more engaged with writing when they feel like it’s been written specifically for them.
So use words like “I” instead of “we”.
Also, count the number of times “I” appears in your writing against the amount of times you say “you”.
“You” should appear more often than “I” because your writing should focus on the reader, not yourself.
And the thing about writing to one person, is that you’ll actually make your writing more appealing to a bigger audience.
Don’t use long words when a short one will do
In an essay on writing, George Orwell gave six rules for better writing, and this is one of them.
People aren’t impressed because you know lot’s of jargon or long, complicated words.
If anything these words just get in the way and, worse, risk confusing people.
So if you find yourself using corporate jargon or long words, go back, see if you can replace them with a shorter one.
Here’s a few examples:
Utilise = Use
Complimentary = Free
Anticipate = Expect
Purchase = Buy
Expectations = Hopes
Cut out cluttering words
These are words which, when you take them out of a sentence, doesn’t change the meaning of it.
All they do is clutter what you’re saying.
The most common is “that”. Whenever you see “that” in a sentence you can be 99% sure you can remove it and the sentence will read the same, just shorter and better.
Sentences with the word “and” can usually be broken up into two sentences, or edited slightly.
A lot of this is to do with editing, which we’ll come on to in a minute.
Use active voice
Active sentences are far more effective at keeping your reader engaged than passive ones.
Sentences like “Sue ate the apple” work better than “the apple was eaten by Sue”.
One, they’re shorter and get to the point. Plus, they move your reader along at a quicker pace and stop them getting bored.
Use subheadings and bullet points
Subheadings are great for breaking up long blocks of text and keeping people engaged.
They can also add some structure and make it easier for readers to move through your copy, rather than forcing them to read everything to find the information they need halfway down the page.
Bullet points do much the same thing and should be used when you’re using a lot of numbers or when you have lists.
It’s much easier to read things as shorter bullet points than 10 sentences.
This is one thing a lot of people forget to do when they’re doing SEO copywriting, they forget that the object is to get someone to take an action at some point.
This is why you need to add Calls to Action into your SEO content.
CTAs are clear instructions to your readers, telling them what they should do at certain points.
It doesn’t have to be big red buttons that say CLICK HERE.
In fact they’re not the best CTAs to use at all.
You might have noticed a few CTAs scattered around this article (hopefully you clicked them and came back).
They can be links to other articles that you think people should read. They can be links to downloadable content.
And they can be links to buy something or book a free call.
Just be sure to add them. And just at the end. Remember, a lot of people aren’t going to get to the end of your article and if your only CTA is right at the bottom, that’s a lot of people who’ll never see it or get the chance to click it.
One final thing.
Don’t sweat the first draft. Everyone from experienced writers to complete novices often get caught up staring at a blank screen worrying about why nothing is coming to them.
The best advice for content writing? Just, start, writing.
Get your ideas down on the screen.
If you’ve got an outline, just fill in the blanks with as much of a brain dump you can muster.
Just so long as you get something down.
This then takes us onto the final but of your copywriting.
Editing your SEO copywriting
If 70% of copywriting is research, another 20% is in the editing process.
Yes, only 10% of your writing is actually about the writing.
Your article, guide, web page, email, video script, anything will start coming together properly when you get to editing.
There’s a few stages to the editing process and sometimes it’s easier to break them down so you’re only focusing on one thing at a time.
First, run through the article to make sure everything makes sense. If ideas are thought out properly, can you do some more research to add context or expand on anything.
Are you cutting out those clutter words and making sentences short?
Read your copy out loud. Yes, out loud.
This is the easiest way to figure out where the problems are. If you start to trip up over long sentences, cut them. If you don’t understand something, you need to explain it better.
If it doesn’t sound like you’re having a conversation with some, check the tone.
If you need it, create a checklist of everything you need to look at in the editing process and go through them one at a time. If you spot something, mark it up and come back to it.
Don’t try and edit your writing as you’re writing.
That’s a sure way to slow yourself down.
Also, be aware that nothing you write will ever be perfect. You can always go back and see something that you think should be changed. But doing this only stops you from publishing anything.
And that defies the point completely.
If you’re really struggling and you can, ask someone else to read what you’ve written.
We have a whole team of SEO copywriters and we all read each other’s work.
Final word about SEO copywriting
One thing to take away from this, is that you should always focus on creating quality work rather than just pumping out short articles everyday.
By taking some time to think about your audience, what problems they’re having, and thinking about how you can say something different to everyone else you’ll start creating SEO content that stands out in search engines and turns you into a go-to source for your audience.
Or, if you don’t have the time do to it consistent, quality SEO copywriting for your business, get in touch with us and we can help you level up the content on your website to get found in search and win more customers.
Interested in winning more business through your website?