SEO Copywriting Guide
Writing to inform, engage, and entertain your target audience is already challenging. If you also want to optimize for search, that adds a new layer of complexity. You have to combine SEO strategy with quality writing. That can be a challenging balance to achieve, to do so you’ll have to incorporate some SEO copywriting best practices.
We’ve created this guide as a way to help with this. These 19 actionable SEO writing tips will help you improve your search engine rankings while maintaining high-quality writing standards.
How Does Copywriting Help with SEO?
Copywriting is the foundation of search engine optimization. As Google has refined its algorithms over the years, pages with relevant, high-quality content that matches user intent are rewarded with better search rankings.
When you produce great content for your website, landing pages, and blog, you’ll maximize the engagement metrics that search engines prioritize.
So think of great writing as being the foundation of SEO for copywriting. It’s something you must have. Once you do, you can focus on optimizing even further. These 19 tips will help you build on that foundation and teach you how to implement SEO into your copywriting:
1. Conduct Keyword Research
A good SEO copywriter uses keywords that are relevant to their products and services and that match what their target audience is searching for. The best way to do this is to conduct keyword research. This work includes:
- Listing topics related to your products and services
- Writing down questions that your audience might ask
- Brainstorming keywords and searching for them to ensure they match search intent
Finally, do some competitive analysis to see which keywords other businesses in your niche are using to reach customers.
2. Target Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are more specific phrases than standard keywords and are slightly longer. If you use these in your content, you will be competing with a smaller selection of websites. Long Tail keywords also tend to draw a more relevant audience. You can also use long tail keywords to optimize for local search.
Here are a few examples of standard keywords next to some long-tail alternatives:
- Roofing companies — Roofing companies in Phoenix
- Web developers — WordPress web developers
- Coffee and tea — Fairtrade coffee and tea
Look for ways to integrate long tail keywords that make your products and services more clear to potential customers.
3. Analyze the Top-Ranking Pages
Look at the top-ranking pages in your industry, and for the keywords you’ve chosen. Identify the elements on these pages that are leading to those top-of-page rankings. Then, don’t copy those techniques. Instead, build on them and make them better.
4. Identify Search Intent
Search intent refers to what the user is truly trying to accomplish by searching. It’s just as important to optimize for intent as it is to simply rank for a specific keyword phrase. Otherwise, your page may rank temporarily but drop off due to high bounce rates or low traffic.
Imagine that you own a business that restores antique cars. So you write blog posts and web content about your services and some of your best projects. You decide to optimize for the keyword phrase “antique car projects.”
The only problem is that most people searching for that phrase are looking for older cars to purchase and restore themselves. You have optimized for a powerful keyword but failed to identify the right intent.
User intent is often influenced by the person’s position in the sales funnel. People near the top of the funnel are often searching with the intent of gathering information and doing research.
Those who are at or near the bottom of the funnel may be more interested in specific products, price comparisons, and special deals. Make sure you are presenting content that is relevant for each.
5. Create an SEO Content Outline
An SEO outline provides the framework for your content and ensures that your copywriting is:
- Structured for readability
- Uses primary and secondary keywords
- Organized using H1, H2, and H3 headers
- Answering questions that align with user search intent
This framework will allow you to create SEO-optimized content at a faster rate than before. You will also end up with a more structured post that is easier for Google to index.
6. Track Your Rankings
It helps to know how your content ranks for the keywords you target before, during, and after implementing these SEO best practices. This insight will let you know if progress is being made. Then, you can adjust your strategy as you go. There are free tools to help with this, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
7. Optimize Your H1 Article Title
The H1 tag is used to indicate the main headline of your article. Google uses it to crawl your page and determine what your content is about. Visitors will check your H1 title. Then, they will use it to decide whether they want to continue reading.
For the sake of engagement, write a headline that is between five and seven words long. Use power words, and focus on the value proposition. That means telling the reader what they will get from reading your article.
To focus on SEO, take these actions:
- Include only one H1 tag
- Add a long tail keyword in that header
- Make the H1 title between 50 and 70 characters long
- Focus on user intent
If your H1 tags are user-friendly and optimized for SEO, you will see improved rankings.
8. Optimize Your Title Tag and Meta Description
The title tag and meta description are what appear on the search engine results page. It’s what people will read and use to determine whether they want to click on your page. Also, Google reads these titles to determine what your content is about and whether it should rank for certain keywords.
To optimize your title and meta description, start with title length. Keep it at 160 characters or fewer. Then, make sure you describe the page in the first few words. Do this just in case your title is truncated. Use a keyword phrase in the meta description and title, but don’t try to stuff in as many as possible.
9. Use Short URLs that Contain Your Target Keywords
Google prefers short, clear URLs that indicate what your page is about. Your URL should contain your focus keyword. Avoid using dynamically created URLs. Also, structure your website so your pages aren’t buried under several layers of folders.
Finally, focus on user experience. A person should be able to glance at your URL and know what they are about to read.
10. Break up Content into Easily Digestible Sections
Long paragraphs create a “wall of text” effect. That makes content difficult to read on a laptop or desktop. On a mobile device, it’s virtually impossible. This design can increase your bounce rates and lower your search page ranking.
Make your copy easy to read by breaking it down into logical sections. Use headers, bullet points, and numbered lists. Make important text stand out with bold print.
11. Create a Clickable Table of Contents
Google appreciates longer posts. So do readers, except when they have to struggle to find the information they need. Most won’t scroll and search for very long until they bounce.
You can help them find the content they want and improve the user experience. Just add a clickable table of contents at the top of the page. Visitors can simply click on the heading they want and go right to that section.
12. Use Appropriate H1, H2, and H3 Tags Throughout the Article
The header tags you use throughout your content help search engine crawlers index your pages correctly, so they rank for the right keywords. Additionally, tags break your content into logical sections. These help readers consume your content easily and scan for the information they need.
When you use tags, make sure to follow the appropriate structure. H2 tags should come after the H1 tag. Then H3 tags should be below H2 tags, etc. Here’s an example:
- H1 — Main page heading
- H2 — First topic
- H3 — More details on the first topic
- H2 — Second topic
- H3 — More details on the second topic
- H3 — More details on the second topic
If you use the technique for creating an SEO outline, you should have this structure worked out before you start writing.
13. Write for Featured Snippets
A featured snippet is often referred to as position zero on the search results page. It’s that box of content that appears above all of the other organic search results to answer the user’s questions.
This snippet might be a paragraph, a list of instructions, or other content. Each featured snippet is taken from the web page that Google determines to have the best answer for user intent and accuracy. The featured snippet also contains a link to the page it’s taken from.
If you earn a featured snippet placement, people will see your content before anything else. That’s as high as you can get in organic search ranking.
How do you write for featured snippets? There are a few things you can do:
- Use a question and answer format in your text
- Look at existing featured snippets and address those topics better
- Write posts that answer the listed ‘People also ask’ questions
- Structure answers or recipes in list or bullet format
- Use images and video
- Add a how-to section
Finally, work to optimize your page using other techniques. Most pages that earn a featured snippets position are already ranked on page one of search results.
14. Include LSI Keywords in Your Content
In addition to your primary and secondary keywords, you should add LSI words to your content. These are words that are related to your focus keywords. They help provide search engines with additional information about your topic, the questions you are answering, and your target audience.
What is LSI? It stands for “latent semantic indexing.” LSI is an SEO process that Google uses to identify words that are related to a core topic. The purpose of this is to verify relevance and ensure there aren’t keywords inserted in a page simply to gain ranking on a popular subject.
For example, if the world series is coming up, that will become a very popular keyword phrase. Content writers might use “world series” in content that has nothing to do with baseball or the championship event. So Google searches for other words to determine whether the content is related to baseball or something else, such as:
- National league
- American league
In some cases, the LSI words aren’t what you expect. They aren’t necessarily synonyms or even words you would associate with a topic. Sometimes they are just words that repeatedly appear in content on the same subject. There are LSI keyword generators. You can also identify LSI keywords when you conduct keyword research.
15. Include Internal Links that Add Value
You may have heard that internal links help Google crawl and index your site. It’s true, but you want to be strategic about it. First, your internal links should be used to pass internal “link juice” from one page to another. You also want your links to teach Google about the structure of your site and how different topic pages relate.
As a copywriter, you want the links you use to add to the user experience. Link to internal content that helps provide better clarity to your writing. It’s okay to include the occasional link to a product page or landing page. However, it should be related to the subject and be something that the reader can use to solve their problem.
16. Use Visuals to Enhance Your Article
Visuals help to keep people engaged and on your page for longer periods. This increases page dwell time. Google uses this metric to determine that your page is highly relevant, so it will help your rankings. Additionally, visuals enhance your content and help you explain concepts more clearly.
This approach improves the perception of the value of your content. As a result, you may see increased conversions, social shares, and earned backlinks. All three of these will increase traffic to your pages, which also helps with search engine optimization.
17. Optimize Images According to Accessibility Guidelines
There are some best practices to follow when you use images on your web pages. These ensure you create a better user experience and help earn the search engine rankings you want. Here are some best practices to implement:
- Place images close to the relevant text in your posts
- Use evocative alt text descriptors for relevant images
- If there is text embedded in an image, repeat that text in the content
- Don’t add alt text for images that aren’t relevant to the content
You also want to optimize images for mobile devices, fast page loading time, and quality.
There are a few reasons for doing all of these things. Google recommends these steps as things you can do to improve page performance. You also create a better user experience by making the images you use more valuable to the people who read your content.
Most importantly, these approaches align with accessibility guidelines. When you add descriptive alt text, that can be read by screen readers, which helps users understand and contextualize your images.
Placing visuals next to relevant content also adds more context. Text readers can’t read text embedded in images, so you can make that text accessible by repeating it within your content.
When you follow accessibility guidelines, you make content available and useful to a wider audience. This approach helps to improve several metrics that directly or indirectly impact SEO.
18. Connect with the Reader and Add Unique Value
The content that performs best over time is going to be well-written, have high production values, and be relevant to your target audience. Additionally, that content will add unique value.
Remember that other companies are writing content on the same topics. To stand out, you have to find a way to add more value. You can do this by teaching something, providing a useful tool, or including unique insights.
19. Include a Call to Action that Matches User Intent
Your ultimate goal is to get visitors to answer your call to action (CTA). If you’ve followed SEO copywriting best practices, you are off to a great start. However, that’s not a guarantee that people will convert. If your CTA doesn’t align with user intent, people will bounce before they convert. They may even feel frustrated or tricked.
A lost conversion isn’t just a lost sale or lead. It’s also a lost opportunity to improve SEO. Conversions are one of the metrics that Google tracks because they show that your content matches user intent.
Don’t Forget that SEO Takes Time
These SEO copywriting tips will definitely help improve your search rankings, increase traffic to your site, and boost your conversion rates. Just know that legitimate SEO optimization doesn’t work overnight.
It takes time for optimized content to be indexed, for people to find your content, and for search engines to respond to your optimization efforts. However, the long-term results will be worth the effort you put in.
Making the Most of the Opportunities SEO Can Provide
Are you using these best practices in your content? If not, you probably aren’t achieving the search rankings you need to reach your marketing goals. We can help you identify areas to improve your content. Contact the team at AOU Creative to schedule a free content audit today.