Learning how to write for SEO is a must in today’s crowded digital space.
There have been lots of search engine optimization changes over the years. We’ve gone from keyword stuffing and gaming the system to shifting our focus to more user-friendly content. So what’s still relevant?
Here are nine tips to creating SEO-friendly copy that actually works in the year 2021.
What is SEO Copywriting?
SEO copywriting refers to writing content that is search engine optimized to achieve a high ranking for particular keywords.
But SEO copywriting can also be (and often is) used as a synonym for linkbait or long-form content marketing.
Once upon a time, you could write pages and pages of web forum spam in order to boost your search engine rankings. Google learned how to detect web spam in the early 2000s and began penalizing sites for excessively keyword-laden content.
To avoid being penalized, SEO copywriters shifted their focus from keyword stuffing to creating content that was actually interesting, helpful, and engaging.
SEO copywriting is now focused on producing quality content for users. You want to create something valuable that will attract links from other websites and drive traffic back to your own website or blog.
How to Write for SEO: 9 Tips to Help You Get Started
Now that you have an idea of what SEO copywriting is, here are some tips on writing for SEO, without sacrificing reader experience.
1) Research your keyword and search intent.
Google is always releasing new features, and it’s more important now than ever to stay on top of trends in SEO copywriting. One way you can do this is by knowing what type of keywords you’re optimizing for.
For example, is the keyword long-tail, or is it head? Generally speaking, if your keyword/phrase has over five words in it then it’s a long-tail keyword. Head keywords are broad, often with high search volume. These are typically no more than three words.
Long-tail keywords are generally used for searches that are longer and more specific. These tend to have a lower search volume but are easier to rank for and drive targeted traffic. According to Moz, these make up 70% of all search traffic.
But here’s the most important part of keyword research: understanding search intent. Search intent is the purpose behind each of these searches. What do people want when they search for a keyword or phrase?
If you get this right, then you can create amazingly SEO-friendly copy. Here are the common search intents:
This is typically a head keyword and usually has the highest search volume.
People searching with informational keywords want to know more about something specific. They have a need, and you must fulfill it by providing them with clear, concise information.
Take note of how you can use variations of informational keywords in your content to cater to different segments of your audience or target market.
These are short queries such as “where,” “how,” or “what.” People that type in navigational keywords want to find a specific resource.
Make sure your copy is clear and provides direction to your target page or resource. It’s especially important to include your target keyword or phrase in the link’s anchor text.
These keywords are usually longer, specific, and contain descriptive information such as “best,” “recommended,” or “cheapest.” You know you’re optimizing for commercial keywords when you see words that are more subjective rather than objective.
Transactional and commercial search intent is similar, but there is one key difference.
Where “commercial” intent seeks to do a bit more research on a product they’re considering, “transactional” intent suggests that a searcher is ready to buy now. They’ve already done the research and are in the final stages of their buying process.
2) Focus on quality over quantity.
You’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again: the quality of your content is more important than the sheer volume of words you write.
Don’t add anything that doesn’t contribute to the value of your content. While long-form content often outperforms shorter pieces, that only holds true for quality content.
Remember: SEO isn’t the only goal of your content. You need to create great user experiences, too.
3) Structure your post.
The structure is important in more than just the layout of your content. You need to structure your content so it’s easy for search engines to understand and read. That means using appropriate headings, subheadings, and lists.
Make sure the information you’re including makes sense and flows from section to section. Keep things organized so people can very easily scan through and find what they’re looking for.
You should also include keywords in the headers of your content as well. These headers are visible in your browser, so make sure they’re both accurate and interesting to read.
4) Write for related keywords and phrases.
Repeated use of exact-match keywords has become less relevant and stuffing your article with the same keyword is a thing of the past. You still see it, but as search engines have gotten smarter, over-optimization is less effective and sometimes even harmful.
Don’t only try to optimize for your main keyword; think about related keywords and phrases as well. These can help you get more traffic from searchers and improve your rankings in search engines.
Creating a piece of content that includes related terms helps create a more comprehensive article and addresses your reader’s other questions. You can also use it as an opportunity to link to other relevant content on your site.
Not sure where to find related keywords and phrases?
Most keyword explorer tools have a feature that will help you find clusters of topics and keywords. But if you’re not using these tools, look no further than the search engine results page (SERP) for your search term.
Just head over to Google, type in your search term and look for the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the SERP.
5) Create appealing & useful visuals.
Google has already started to favor images in the SERP, so you want to make sure yours are appealing. If you’re hosting your own images, make sure they’re optimized for SEO by using the appropriate alt text and alt attributes.
Another way you can improve your brand’s perception online is by creating infographics and using them as a piece of content on your site. These can help make complex information visually appealing and easier to digest. (They also make great “cheat sheets” for future reference!)
Making your content visually appealing isn’t just limited to images and graphics. Formatting also plays a key part in optimizing for readability.
Use bold and italics (in moderation) to draw attention to the most important parts of your content. Make sure you don’t have lots of super lengthy paragraphs (no longer than 3 lines). Alternate between paragraphs and one-line statements.
Make sure your formatting is consistent throughout your content.
And finally, take advantage of visuals like subheadings, charts, tables, and graphs to organize your content. This helps your readers scan through the information and figure out which parts are the most important for them to read.
6) Write for your audience first.
While writing for SEO is important, the focus should always be on writing for your audience.
Search engines like Google aim to optimize content and search results for readers and to provide them with the high-quality content they’re seeking. So if your audience is always your focus when it comes to content creation, you can’t go wrong.
Google is also getting better at understanding context, so SEO is slowly becoming a lot more flexible. Rather than focusing on exact match keywords and similar words, Google looks for related keywords that provide a more complete picture, or “keyword clusters.”
So while we do want to make sure our content is SEO friendly, it should never detract from readers’ experiences. Always write for your audience first, then make minor optimizations and adjustments for the search engines.
7) Write a compelling title and meta description.
The title of your post should be clear, descriptive, and include your target keyword. It should accurately and succinctly sum up what the piece of content is about.
What you don’t want to do is mislead readers with a clickbait-y title. If you make a bold promise with your headline, make sure your content can live up to expectations. Otherwise, don’t expect readers to come back.
Your meta description should also be relevant to the post. Use it to give readers a better idea of what to expect or just summarize what’s in the post. This description will show up in search results on Google, Bing, and other search engines (depending on where you’re hosting your content).
Don’t forget to include your keyword in the meta description. Your keyword will show up in bold when readers are looking through the search results.
While things like including a keyword in the meta description and having a keyword at the very beginning of your title don’t directly impact SEO, it can increase your click-through rate (CTR). If the first thing readers see is what they’re searching for (along with bold text to help stand out), they’re more likely to visit that page.
8) Write to encourage readers to take action.
If you’re in the business of writing direct response copy, you already know how to encourage your audience to take action.
I’m not talking about writing sales copy, though.
Regardless of what your blog is about, your readers want to take action. If you’ve captivated them and they like what they are reading, they will want to go on to the next post in your series, sign up for your email list, or whatever else you suggest at the end of your blog post.
The best way to encourage them to take some type of action is by asking them a question or inviting them to join the conversation and share their thoughts.
9) Promote your content.
Your content isn’t useful to anyone if nobody sees it. So make sure you take the time to promote it.
There are plenty of ways to do this, and you don’t have to do them all. But at the very least, you should:
- Promote across your own (relevant) social media accounts.
- Syndicate content on Medium, with a backlink to the original piece.
- Email anyone mentioned in the article to let them know they’re in your post.
- Let your email list know. Start a list if you haven’t already!
- Share in relevant groups or with clients or associates who could benefit from your post.
These are the bare essentials, but you can also leverage things like guest posts, paid ads, giveaways, and other tactics to promote your content.
This list should give you some ideas on how to write for SEO without sacrificing content quality or reader experience. These tips aren’t an exhaustive list, but a starting point for making SEO optimizations.
As you write more, you’ll get a better idea of how to find and understand keywords, as well as how best to optimize your content.
It takes time in the beginning, but practice makes perfect. These optimizations become much easier and more intuitive the more you put them into practice.
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