Mastering the Basics of SEO Content Writing
When done correctly, an SEO strategy can reduce the cost of acquiring new customers by 87.41%. SEO can also provide an ROI of 12.2x the money you put into it.
Having said that, vanilla on-page SEO tactics will only get you so far.
If you want to rank on page one of Google and other search engines, you MUST produce high-quality content relevant to your target audience.
That's where it truly pays to have talented content writers on your team that can write blogs, video scripts, whitepapers, and eBooks.
Yet, you'll also want the content they create to be SEO-friendly, so it helps if they have a basic understanding of search engine optimization.
Marrying excellent writing with SEO tactics is SEO copywriting, a special type of writing with unique requirements. For example, SEO content writers need to be able to use relevant keywords in their content in a way that doesn't feel forced or robotic.
You've come to the right place if you want to learn more about what it takes to write stellar, SEO-friendly content. Read on to learn how to incorporate SEO best practices into your copywriting so that you can rank your content on the first page of Google.
What is an SEO Copywriter?
An SEO copywriter is well-versed in writing excellent ad copy and creating content that ranks on the search engine results pages.
SEO copywriters have to master:
• Writing meta descriptions and title tags (and not exceeding character limits)
• Avoid keyword stuffing while still injecting the main keywords in the right spots
• Properly using header tags (H1, H2, H3) to break up the content into scannable portion
• Paying attention to the readability of the content (copy that's too hard to read will alienate some readers)
• Discovering opportunities for internal and external links
• Using bullet points, bold, italics, and numbered lists to break up the content
• Optimizing content for featured snippets
• Conducting keyword research
SEO copywriting in action
Let's take a look at an example of SEO copywriting so you can visualize how it works.
In this scenario, we have to write a meta description for a blog post. The primary keyword is guitar guide, and the blog is about learning basic guitar chords. If we can, we also want to include the long-tail keyword open-position guitar chords.
For the meta description, we want to include the primary keyword in a natural way while not exceeding 150 characters.
Here's a poor example:
'Guitar guide for open-position guitar chords to learn your favorite guitar songs with this guitar guide.'
As you can see, the sentence is clunky and unnatural due to the poor use of keywords. It's also a bit spammy with the second use of the main keyword, and it looks out of place.
It's only 103 characters long, which is a bit short. Your best bet is to get as close to 150 characters as possible to get the most value out of the space.
Now here's what an optimized meta description looks like:
'In this detailed guitar guide, you'll learn how to master all the basic open-position guitar chords so you can start playing real songs.'
Perfect! We've included the primary and secondary keywords, and we only used 135 characters. Not only that, but the sentence appears natural and doesn't feel forced or spammy.
That's what great SEO copywriting is all about - including crucial SEO elements without drawing attention to them or sacrificing the clarity of your copy.
Breaking down key SEO content writing terms
If you're new to the world of SEO writing, you're probably confused by a lot of the terminology that you see online.
After all, what are SERPs, backlinks, bounce rates, and click-through rates?
There's certainly a lot of jargon in SEO, so here's a cipher to help you make sense of it.
• SERPs: Short for search engine results pages, this abbreviation shows up all over SEO blogs and articles. You'll see sentences like, "Learn how to rank higher on Google's SERPs."
• Backlinks: It's not an internal or an external link, but rather a link on another page that points' back' to your web page. In SEO, backlinks are valuable because they make your website more authoritative and trustworthy (if the backlinks you have are reputable, that is).
• Organic traffic: This refers to users that visit your page by clicking on your 'organic' (not paid ad) link in the SERPs. Organic traffic means that you didn't pay a dime for the customer to visit your page. SEO is the #1 way to generate organic traffic since it increases your visibility on search engines.
• Bounce rate: Your bounce rate refers to how many people click off your page after clicking on it. In other words, they 'bounce' after a few seconds to meet their needs elsewhere online. Reasons for a poor bounce rate include slow loading speeds and low-quality content that isn't relevant.
• Link building: This refers to the process of acquiring backlinks (either by paid or organic means).
• Search intent: Every query typed into a search engine has intent behind it. That intent could be informational, transactional, navigational, or commercial.
• Click-through rate: This metric measures how many users' clicked through' to your website compared to how many users saw it appear in their results.
• Conversion rates: An evolution of the click-through rate, your conversion rate measures how many clicks 'converted' into customers. In other words, it's the number of users that performed the desired action you wanted them to - which could be making a sale, signing up for your newsletter, or something else.
These are by no means all the terms related to SEO, but they're the most common. By understanding these, you'll be able to make sense of most SEO-related blogs online.
SEO Content Writing Best Practices
Now that you know more about SEO writing, it's time to learn how to put it into practice on your website. That way, you can start generating more organic traffic so more people will get the chance to view your awesome content.
Create a content marketing strategy
Content creation is at the heart of nearly every SEO strategy, which it shares in common with content marketing.
You'll want to develop a content strategy to target the best search terms and release new content regularly. Blogging at least two to four times a week is recommended to find success, although that number will vary depending on your niche.
By steadily releasing SEO-friendly content valuable to your audience - you'll increase your chances of ranking higher, generating more organic traffic, and improving conversion rates.
Start by clearly defining a goal for your content. For example:
• Do you want to rank higher in the SERPs for a particular set of keywords?
• Is your goal to become a thought leader in your field to build customer trust?
• Do you want to generate backlinks from your content creation?
The more specific you can be with your goal, the better. Besides clearly stating the results you want, your goal serves as a guide for how you'll create and present your content.
If you want to become a thought leader, you should focus on educational and informative blogs and videos.
If your goal is to obtain backlinks, focus on guest blogging, the skyscraper technique, and infographics (i.e., creating an infographic with statistics that other bloggers want to link to).
Conduct informed keyword research
All right, so there's been a lot of talk about keywords so far, but how do you find them?
You can start with a free keyword planner tool and plain old Google search.
An old SEO trick to uncover keywords is to start typing words related to your niche into the Google search bar.
For example, if you type guitar into Google, you get a handful of keyword suggestions. These are great options because they're actual keywords people frequently type into Google.
So a quick (and free) way to do keyword research is to use Google's suggestions to find a target keyword and then run it through our planner tool to see if it's a viable option.
Another option is to use Google Trends to find relevant keywords for your business. It allows you to view the interest for a keyword over time to see if it's gaining or waning in popularity.
What makes a keyword worth targeting?
Here's what to look for in a keyword:
• Search volume. For a keyword to be worth the effort of creating content, it needs to have a considerable search volume. That means that many people search for it, so if you rank on page one for it, you'll likely see a lot of traffic.
• Relevancy. Next, you'll want to ensure that the keyword is relevant to your audience and the products and services you provide. Otherwise, you'll rank for keywords that don't relate to your ideal customers - which won't lead to much traffic or new sales.
• Search intent. What's the purpose behind the keyword? For example, keywords containing the words buy, get, coupon, and supplier all have buyer intent. If you want to increase your conversion rates above all else, you'll want to target buyer intent keywords.
• Competition. Also called keyword difficulty, the amount of competition surrounding a keyword makes a huge difference. Ideally, you want to target keywords that don't have too much competition, as it's easier to rank higher that way.
Once you have a list of two to three strong target keywords for each page, you can begin creating content.
Use header tags for SEO and to make your posts' scannable'
A key aspect of making your writing SEO-friendly is the proper use of headers and subheadings.
Doing so will help Google better understand your content and its relation to your keywords.
There's also the bonus of making your articles much easier to read. Also, some readers are 'scanners,' meaning they like to scan the headings and subheadings of an article first to see if it's something they'd feel like reading.
In a nutshell, it works like this - you use an H1 tag to serve as the overview of what your entire article will cover. From there, your H2s, H3s, and H4s break down all the subtopics.
Pro tip: As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed 250 words before breaking up the piece with another header. An H2 section containing 1,000 words is too long and will make your content harder to digest.
Here's a general skeleton outline you can use for your blog post headers:
• H1: A catchy and relevant title that encompasses the topic and contains your primary keyword. You can follow it up with a 250-word (or less) overview of everything.
• H2: Introduce your first subtopic and include relevant keywords.
• H3: Further explain the subtopic introduced by the H2 while using at least one keyword.
• H4: Further explain the subtopic introduced by the H3, and so on.
You should always include keywords in your headers as that's one of the first places web crawlers will look for them.
Write for your audience first, and for search engines after
Many SEO copywriters get caught up with the search engine side of writing rather than the human side. In other words, they place too much emphasis on using keywords, tweaking technical factors, and using internal linking/external linking in their blogs.
As a result, their content is extremely well optimized, but it speaks to no one.
SEO tweaks are meant to enhance great copywriting, not replace it.
That's why you should write for your audience first. Focus on learning more about your target audience, such as their interests, challenges, and motivations. That will help you uncover what type of content they're craving.
As an example, if your audience is amiss on how to do something, creating a step-by-step tutorial blog or video is just what the doctor ordered.
When writing, don't even think about SEO, but focus on writing an exceptional piece of content that educates readers. Once that's done, THEN you can insert your target keywords, links, and technical SEO tweaks. That's the best way to ensure that you wind up with a helpful post instead of robotic SEO fluff. The best content will always win, so keep that in mind when writing for SEO.
Don't forget your metadata
Metadata is a crucial aspect of SEO that you shouldn't neglect. You'll want to optimize the title tag and meta description for each new post that you create.
What are those?
They both have to do with how your content will display in the SERPs. If you've ever typed search queries into Google, you've seen title tags and meta descriptions.
The title tag is the 'blue' text that contains the hyperlink to your landing page - and the meta description is the brief snippet of text that appears underneath.
Your metadata is crucial for both SEO and reaching your audience. Both should concisely describe what your content covers and why it's valuable for users.
Your title tag shouldn't exceed 60 characters, and your meta description should hit around 150 characters, and both should contain your main keywords. Whenever Google or another search engine crawls your website, your metadata is what they see first, so you'll want to hit them with your keywords right off the bat.
Ensure every image has an 'alt tag'
You can and should use high-resolution images on your blog to enhance the visual appeal of your posts.
You can use branded images, stock images, or photos you take and upload.
Pictures are a great way to break up the text and enhance your user experience.
Having said that, you shouldn't grab any image and throw it into your post. Instead, make sure that each image has a purpose and relates to your post somehow. For example, if an H2 section is about finding success, you can use a picture of people cheering or crossing over the finish line.
Also, don't forget to include an 'alt tag' for each image you use. An alt tag is a short line of text that visually describes what an image displays.
An alt tag has two purposes.
For one, it lets the visually impaired know what the image shows. Secondly, Google's crawler bots can't see images, so it has to read the alt tag to infer what the image is about.
You can use this to your advantage by using keywords in alt tags and weaving a narrative that aligns with your topic.
An example of an alt tag
Let's say you're writing a post about dogs competing against each other, and your primary keyword is dog competition.
You do some digging on stock photo websites and find a picture of a dog sitting and posing for the camera. In writing the alt tag, you could tell it like it is and describe a dull photo of a dog sitting by itself.
Or you could write an alt tag like this:
"A dog sits proudly after winning first prize in a dog competition."
Since the Googlebot can't see the image, it won't know that it's simply a stock photo of a dog sitting alone. Instead, you've now created a narrative that relates to your topic, and you've included your primary keyword. Not bad!
Use external linking in your posts
Link building is one of the core elements of SEO, and it has its place in SEO writing, too. In particular, you'll want to include a healthy amount of external links in your writing.
Which type of external links should you use?
Great question, as the last thing you want is to link to your competitors externally. Instead, it would be best to link to reputable websites that enhance your content.
As a rule of thumb, never link to a page that can serve as a replacement for your post. For example, if you're writing about how to train a puppy, you would never want to link to other articles explaining the same thing.
What you could link to, on the other hand, is a psychology website breaking down classical conditioning and Pavlov.
Now your readers have a valuable resource they can use to expand their knowledge. At the same time, a reputable psychology website will have lots of 'link juice' - or authority that they can spread to you via a link. That will increase your domain authority and help you rank higher in the SERPs.
The external links that matter most are:
• Educational websites (.edu)
• Studies and statistics
• Government sites (.gov)
• Reputable organizations (.org)
Conversely, you should avoid linking to:
• Competitor product and service pages
• Link farms
• Spam pages
• Websites with poor trust and domain authority
To check your website's domain authority and others, you can use Moz’s chrome extension.
Use internal linking in your posts
Equally as important as external links are internal links. These are links that point to existing pages on your website. They're great because they help search engines form an accurate sitemap for all your content.
They're also great for readers because they can keep them on your website for longer, thus improving your bounce rate.
Also, internal links help you spread your own 'link juice' to your other pages.
It would be best if you strived to have internal links for every page on your website. That's because 'orphan pages,' or pages with no internal links, aren't good for SEO. Not only that, but you spent money creating these pages, so you might as well link to them to improve their visibility.
When creating internal links, use natural anchor text. It's best to avoid hard-sell tactics like 'click here for the cheapest dog food.' Instead, provide a realistic preview of the page, so readers know what to expect.
While it may be tempting to always link to your top-selling products and services, it's best to resist. You'll find more success by linking to internal pages that hold real relevance to your discussion topic.
Create long-form blogs that go in-depth on the topic
To a search engine's crawling algorithm, a longer, more in-depth blog is:
• A: More valuable and relevant to the searcher
• B: Easier to infer what your blog is about
That's why it's better to create lengthier blogs that provide lots of rich, detailed content.
Shoot for 2,000 to 2,250 words for general topics and even longer for others (5,000 - 6,000+), such as guides for complicated issues.
If you aren't careful, you risk overwhelming readers with too much information. That's why you should write in short paragraphs with lots of headers, images, and lists to break things up.
Another necessity for any long-form blog post is a table of contents with hyperlinks to each subtopic on the page. That makes it effortless for readers to jump to the exact section they want or need to read the most.
Some quick stats: Hubspot found that articles with word counts of 2,000 to 2,250 words do best in the organic search. According to ContentStudio, blogs longer than 2,500 words got more shares on social media.
Compress large images to improve loading speed
There are a few elements of technical SEO that you can include in your writing - the biggest of which is optimizing page speed. While this is separate from content creation and copywriting, it will help further optimize your content for search engines.
An example would be compressing the file sizes of any images you use in the post. Loading speed is one of the most critical technical ranking factors, and oversized images are often guilty of slowing things down.
As a rule of thumb, images should be under 70kb to prevent them from delaying your loading times. If you have images over 100kb, you can compress them using a tool like Squoosh.app - which won't sacrifice image quality.
Google uses the Core Web Vitals test to judge the loading speed of a website. If you don't pass this test, you won't receive a boost in your rankings.
Are you curious about how you stack up?
PageSpeed Insights will audit your site to see how fast your pages load. Compressing your images is a great starting point for gaining speed if things are a little slow.
Final Thoughts: SEO Content Writing
Those are the basics of how to merge copywriting with SEO. If there's one major takeaway from this article, it should be that the quality of your content matters most.
So as a copywriter, your primary goal should be to create content that has significant value to your audience.
The other side of the coin is SEO, where you use keywords, headers, alt tags, links, and metadata to improve your content's visibility on search engines.
It's a match made in heaven when done right and a robotic mess when done wrong. Follow this guide, and you'll be well on your way to becoming an excellent SEO copywriter.
If you want excellent SEO writing for your company but don't have the time to do it yourself, iWriter has thousands of freelancers ready to help you rank more by creating SEO content.
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