If you’ve spent any time at all researching digital marketing strategies, you’ll have most definitely encountered the acronym: SEO. The first time we ever heard it, our first reaction was to reply gesundheit and offer the poor guy a tissue.
Yet all joking aside, SEO is a vital component of any effective 21st-century digital marketing strategy. SEO copywriting even more so.
By definition SEO, which stands for search engine optimisation, is the name given to strategic writing and coding practices that aim to increase a website’s ranking on search engines such as Google.
SEO copywriting, as you may then guess, is digging a level deeper; it is the skill of combining targeted keywords (the words and phrases the assist with search engine visibility) with compelling, audience-engaging content.
It is the perfect blend of an analytical mindset and creative capability.
Today, we’re going to spend some time unpacking what SEO copywriting is in further detail, how you can integrate this invaluable skill into your digital marketing strategy & the best SEO copywriting practices to benefit your business.
Best of all, we’re going to give you all the essential information and our top tips in as simple and straightforward a way as we possibly can. Because nobody needs the hassle of wading through a deluge of jargon, do they?
(If you want more techy SEO copywriting guidelines and articles, we’ve included a selection of our favourite resources at the bottom of this blog.)
Ready? Then let’s dive in.
In a way, we’ve already begun answering this question in our introduction. But that definition really scratched the surface of what SEO copywriting is.
Copywriting, simply put, it is the art or skill of creating content which nurtures your target audience into taking specific action to benefit your business. SEO copywriting combines this skill with deliberate, strategic digital positioning achieved through targeted keywords.
But the very best SEO copywriting – which ranks the highest in search engine results – places the audience before the algorithm, focusing more so on ensuring that the content is of top quality, relevant and compelling to the audience…
… As opposed to selecting a keyword and cramming it as many times as possible into a piece of digital content.
Consider it this way: technology is the mechanism through which we communicate, but copywriting and content is the medium through which we truly connect.
So whilst we’re not disputing that keyword research is crucial to the visibility of your web page, search engine algorithms have evolved to take many more contributing factors into account – specifically, the behaviour both on and off your web pages; how your audience interacts with your content on the site itself and how they interact with it off the site too.
For example, when we say how they interact with your content ‘off’ your site, we’re talking about how many times your content has been shared. Or how many times your audience have linked through to your content on their own websites/blogs. How many times they’ve bookmarked or tweeted it.
Because the more that people share and/or endorse a piece of your content, the more powerfully you’re positioned as an authority in your industry, field or niche.
And search engines pick up on all the little details; what kind of phrases or words your audience uses when endorsing your content, whether your content is indicated as relevant or not. Why? Because search engines want to create a positive user experience and to achieve this they need to ‘give the people what they want’. And to do this… you guessed it… they need to offer their users relevant, quality content.
Ergo, if all arrows point towards your content being genuinely useful and engaging, it’s going to point more people in your direction.
If you’ve ever felt the frustration of creating content which failed to reach your ideal audience, then this is where SEO copywriting becomes truly paramount, as chances are that you failed to incorporate it when creating your content in the first place.
We’d hope that this would be obvious by now, but in case there’s any lingering doubt… SEO copywriting ensures that your content (whether it be an advertisement, promotion or something else) is as technically and creatively effective as it can be.
That it is both visible and irresistible.
After all, any copywriter who knows their craft will be able to create content which appeals to your target audience – understanding what tone of voice and language selection will engage, interest or inspire them. An SEO copywriter doubly understands the importance of combining content which resonates with the words and phrases that likewise appeal to search engines and will work to ensure your content is placed in front of even more eyes.
See? Both visible and irresistible to man and machine alike.
Here’s another way to visualise the benefits of SEO copywriting:
Useful, compelling and valuable content + targeted, specific keywords to aid your visibility = more people gladly promoting your content
And the more people promoting your content through social media, for instance, the more search engines will bump your content up their search results. So even if some of your audience doesn’t encounter your content through social media, they are still more likely to come across your site as a result of searching a certain phrase or query.
As you’ll see from the table below, in 2019 Google was ranked #1 in the world’s most visited websites:
Long story short? SEO copywriting ensures you are more visible on one of the world’s most popular websites, and as a result, visible to an even larger audience.
So now that we’ve established what SEO copywriting is and how it can benefit your business, it’s important to understand the best practices when it comes to utilising it within your digital marketing strategy.
A compelling headline will work wonders for your search engine ranking results; a well-crafted headline grabs attention and demands focus, drawing interest and intrigue so your audience can’t help but click through to discover your content
Keep in mind that your headline can’t be click-bait nonsense, it still needs to communicate a message or idea. Common headline practices/structures which perform well are: leading with numbers, a direct address, ‘how to’ guides, straight-to-the-point and leading questions.
For example, let’s take a blog that is focusing on SEO *ahem*.
Our top tips for headlines include: ensure your headlines are optimised by including your target keyword (in the example above, SEO), that they are clickable, spark some form of intrigue interest, are user-friendly and are catchy.
Neil Patel’s advice: If you want your whole title to be visible in search engine results, keep it under 72 characters. This will also increase your click-through rates.
If you ever find yourself completely stumped for inspiration, we’d also recommend this nifty website – which generates different blog/article title ideas for you to tailor to your audience.
Which leads us neatly onto…
If there’s one sentence we want you to remember from this blog it’s the following: You must consistently update your site with useful, valuable content which targets keyword phrases. But more than ensuring your content is relevant and top quality stuff, you also need to ensure that it actually solves a problem for your customers, clients or target audience… whatever you want to call them.
It can’t be empty words and platitudes; you need to inform, educate, entertain and inspire. Your audience needs to leave having gained something for spending time digesting your content.
But what makes content valuable and compelling? It can be factors such as visual appeal and timeliness (aka. how much your finger is on the pulse), the power of your storytelling, use of humour and/or illuminating case studies, or it can be knowing the searchers’ intent… in other words, why your audience is coming to your page and what they’re looking to gain.
We love this article by Quicksprout which outlines ‘17 Types of Content That Will Drive More Traffic’ and we definitely recommend checking it out for ideas of how to spice up your SEO copywriting content.
Additionally, remember to implement SEO best practices consistently throughout your content to achieve the most consistency across your website and best collective results.
As we’ve touched upon before, keywords are the words or phrases through which you want to target your ideal audience. Rather than plucking terminology out of thin air, it is important to understand what keywords your target audience are inputting into search engines… as then you can meet them where they’re at.
Once you’ve identified your primary keyword, you can then research other relevant keywords to that industry – the tangential words or phrases that your audience may likewise be searching for – creating a kind of spiderweb to snag your audience from all those indirect angles, as you are covering as many bases as possible.
For example, if you’re a cafe and want to create a piece of content around the many uses of coffee, some additional keywords to utilise in your SEO copywriting could be: coffee shop, bulletproof coffee, coffee cake recipe, recipes for coffee cakes, coffee and desserts… you get the picture.
Here’s a simplified keyword-to-content-creation process: research your keywords (our favourite tools are Google keyword planner, Soovle, Ubersuggest), select your focus keyword, use this keyword to inform and shape your content (think of this keyword as the molten core of your content, with the copy and graphics and design elements the layers of earth encasing it), then structure your content to be user-friendly and shareable.
Hey, we did say it would be simplified…
Additional advice is to focus on long-tail keywords, purely because top brands are not targeting these keywords. When selecting which keywords to include in your content, be aware that there may be varying degrees of competition, and the more niched down you can get the less pushing and shoving you’ll have to do to get to the top of the search engine rankings.
To explain what a meta description is in the simplest way possible… this is the text you input, to help search engines understand the topic of your content and what keywords or phrases are targeted and why they appear in your copy.
Even if you’ve never stumbled across the term ‘meta description’ before, you’ll have encountered the end-product on Google; it is the description which appears as a snippet on the search results (think of it as the window through to your content, offering viewers a frame of reference for what’s inside the room.)
A good rule of thumb when crafting your meta description is aiming for between 150 to 160 characters. It’ll appear something like this…
Other top tips include: ensure your meta description is relevant and appeals to your target audience, include a CTA to entice your audience to click through to your site, don’t duplicate meta descriptions across your site – personalise for each page – as otherwise you’ll be penalised.
Also remember that you don’t necessarily need to cram your exact keyword into your meta description if it doesn’t flow. For example, although your target keyword may be ‘social media marketing manager’ the words included in your meta description can be ‘social media’ and ‘marketing’, as these will be just as relevant.
You may want to strap in, as we’re going to get a bit techy here. But don’t worry, we’re sticking to our word and keeping it as simple and straightforward as we possibly can.
Like we discussed with the meta description, title tags are what first appear in those search engine snippets. Title tags should be concise, clear and accurate descriptions of your web page.
Remember that Google typically displays 50 – 60 characters of your title tag in their search results, so aim to remain within this character count for the sake of clarity and appearance of professionalism.
Moz recommends the following as the optimal format for a title: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
And the example Moz cites is for ‘Widget World: 8-foot Green Widgets – Widgets & Tools | Widget World’
In addition, remember to properly organise your header tags. These are labelled H1-H6 on your site and heading tags can be used to enlarge headings/subheadings (1 being the largest, 6 the smallest.)
Header tags should be implemented to structure your content to ensure a logical flow and make longer pieces of content aesthetically appealing, but they are also integral for SEO purposes – as they communicate to search engines what your website/content is all about. And in terms of hierarchy; just as 1 is typically the largest font size and 6 the smallest, selecting H1 indicates this as the most important information and H6 the least on this list.
Think of header tags as you taking a bright yellow highlighter and drawing Google’s attention to most major topics you’re discussing.
No man is an island and your web page shouldn’t be either. By linking through to other blogs, websites and articles this indicates to search engines that you are interactive and connected within the community, that you’re offering valuable resources and being sociable.
Consider this… If Google’s primary goal is to organise all the information in the world, and through linking out to all these websites you’re essentially creating a library of resources pulling together various pieces of information – Google will reward you for giving it a helping hand, bumping you up the search results.
You scratch our back, we scratch yours.
But remember that if you are going to link out to other pages, you need to ensure their content is relevant, provides additional information/guidance/tools not supplied by your own content, that the link is anchored in a way that flows with the rest of your copy (in other words: don’t just bolt it on to the end of a sentence), and most importantly that it actually works.
Because we’ve all been there, haven’t we? You’ve landed on a website which suggests a certain link for xyz information and you think ‘amazing, just what I needed’, but when you click the link you’re taken to an Error 404 page instead…
And even if it’s a small hiccup in the scheme of things, it can definitely damage your confidence in the brand that recommended this resource. If they can’t even sort out their links properly, why would you trust them with your custom?
Also, when pulling together your third-party links remember to read the room… what does your target audience want, what kind of resources/information are they searching for, what value can you offer them to solve their problem? There’s no point linking out to an article on ‘How to make the perfect minestrone soup’ if your audience is looking for top BBQ tips, right?
So now that we’ve covered some of the best SEO copywriting practices (we could have gone on forever, it’s a serious rabbit hole…) we think it’s time to outline the worst SEO copywriting practices. Knowledge is power, after all, and you will easily be able to avoid these pitfalls moving forward.
Our friends over at Moz have once again smashed it out of the park with their Beginner’s Guide to SEO, where they detail both the basics of SEO and the cardinal sins. We’d definitely suggest checking out their guide too, when you have the chance.
But in the meantime, here’s our breakdown of what we consider the top 4 worst SEO copywriting practices:
Can you tell how queasy we are just from writing this term? To summarise, autogenerated content is utilising a robot or computer program to ‘write’ content for your website; it is garbled, impersonal, confused and focuses only on including keywords.
Sure, it may save you time but the damage it does is irreparable. Your audience won’t be tricked by this spammy approach and search engines will seriously penalise you for trying to cut this corner.
Be authentic, be creative and be original – invest your time, attention and energy into your content and you will be rewarded tenfold.
Autogenerated content can go straight in the trash, as far as we’re concerned.
Even if it’s your own original piece of content, duplicating it over and over is going to get you exactly… nowhere. You might not think Google cares or notices a good old copy and paste job, but Google cares a lot if the same paragraphs appear multiple times on your site… it won’t reward you just because you’re repeatedly publishing the same keywords in the same combination.
Even worse is duplicating someone else’s content. Plagiarism is lazy, unethical and shows zero imagination. Why deliberately put yourself in hot water with your target audience (who will feel cheated) and the law (who take copyright infringement very seriously), when instead you can funnel your focus into creating unique content of your very own – which develops your brand identity and nurtures audience trust? To us, it’s a no brainer.
As sneaky as it sounds, cloaking is the act of deliberately misleading search crawlers. In other words… it’s saying to search engines ‘my content is about X’ but when visitors click through they are actually presented with ‘Y’.
Usually, someone who adopts cloaking is trying to hide the fact their page is either A) spammy, B) choked with ads, C) autogenerated content or D) all of the above.
Don’t do it kids; deceitfulness achieves nothing in the long-run.
‘Keyword stuffing’ is essentially the act of taking your keyword and hitting your audience over the head with it until they have a concussion. It’s jamming your keywords or phrases into your content, titles and metadata in a way that appears laboured, discordant and nonsensical, all for the sake of improving your search engine rankings (which it won’t… see Content is King).
Appearing spammy by cramming your keyword in as many times as possible will be ineffective and off-putting to your audience. In fact, keyword stuffing will mean Google actually penalises you. So consider instead the quality and frequency of your keywords, rather than focusing on excessive quantity.
What you should instead do is include keywords in a way that is natural, seamless but most of all – functions effectively to communicate your topic of discussion.
Easy, you’ve already taken the first step by diving into this blog today. That shows to us that you’re already conscious of the importance of SEO and are looking for ways to incorporate it into your own digital marketing strategy.
We realise there’s a lot of information to digest here, but implementing SEO copywriting practices is totally ‘do-able’ if you have the commitment, time and focus to ensure it is implemented consistently and effectively.
But if you don’t have the time to be able to dedicate to this… a lot of businesses actually look to outsource this responsibility to expert SEO copywriters, because as you’ve probably already guessed it is pretty much a full-time job. There’s no shame in delegating.
In fact, we work with a number of businesses (from B2B to B2C) to ensure all their content and copywriting is search engine optimised, as we believe it is one of the most important strategies for any successful digital marketing.
When bringing any client on board, we also recommend completing a thorough SEO health analysis of their website and content. We find that more often than not, there are easy opportunities to increase their SEO which they would have otherwise never noticed. Yet that’s why we’re here… it’s what we love to do. No joke, we’re like little kids in a playground when we’re let loose with SEO.
If you believe that you could use some assistance with your SEO copywriting, we’d love to chat about your requirements and see exactly how we can help strengthen your strategy in 2020 and beyond.
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Crazyegg, 20 ways to speed up your site
Inboundnow, the blog title idea generator
Pingdom, website speed test tool
Copyblogger, SEO copywriting made simple
Copyblogger, On page SEO
Copyblogger, Does SEO copywriting still matter
Copyblogger, Simple SEO copywriting
Searchengineland, What is SEO/search engine optimisation
Matthewwoodward, 180 SEO copywriting hacks
Staffvirtual, 10 SEO copywriting tips
WordPress, SEO add-on for your own site
Thenextweb, Digital trends in 2019