SEO Copywriting Best Practices: Asking the Experts.
Optimizing your web pages and blog posts isn’t something you can ignore. Quality content is still king and will reward you with high rankings. Here’s where SEO copywriting plays an important role. It’s not just writing for search engines. SEO copywriting is about persuasive, readable and web-friendly content. There are fundamental rules on how to write good copy, but the Google algorithms are constantly changing. Due to this constant state of change, learning to adapt becomes an essential skill for any SEO specialist or marketer.
So we’ve decided to collect actual SEO copywriting best practices. Here you will find proven methods and practices that will make your content not only engaging but also make Google pleased. We have reached out to experts with years of experience in content marketing and SEO copywriting to get the best hands-on tips. Let’s dive in!
Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO copywriter and SEO consultant and speaker with over two decades of experience in all things advertising, digital and writing. Author of ‘Confessions of Misfit Entrepreneur.’
David Hartshorne is a freelance tech copywriter working with personal brands, marketing teams, and digital agencies to create detailed, actionable content that resonates with their audience.
Jessica Foster is SEO content writer and content strategist. Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land contributor.
Toomas Kaupmees is SEO Copywriter & SEO Specialist. He helps international and local online casinos, travel websites and e-commerce stores to succeed with SEO Copywriting, Content Writing and SEO.
What are the best practices in SEO copywriting for 2020?
Kate: “It still all starts with understanding your customer, their deepest desires, preconceived beliefs, darkest fears – by digging beyond the standard demographics into more subtle insights we can truly understand the search intent.
The problem that needs solving, the pain point that needs soothing. Then we can create warm, easy to ready content that genuinely helps.
To improve our Expertise, Authority and Trust (E.A.T.) we need to back up our writing with solid sources, quotes and references. We need to clearly articulate why we’re worth reading, what our credentials are and back this up with solid proof and testimonials.
Most of all we must never forget that we’re writing for humans first and Google second, never sacrifice a warm intro for a keyword stuffed paragraph. A snappy headline for some over-optimized gobbledygook.”
David: “1. Start with search intent.
It’s essential to write about the topics people are searching for and match their intent. For instance, are they searching for a particular website, some background information, the best deals, or do they want to buy a product?
2. Choose the right type of content
Once you know what people are searching for, you need to create the correct type of content to answer their query. Analyze the SERPs to see what type of content Google is displaying for the search term. For example, if it’s blog content, is it a list type post, a how-to guide, an expert roundup, or a case study?”
3. Build the outline and structure
Building the framework and structure for your post is time well-spent. Research your content, get all the sections mapped out, and then you’re ready to go.
4. Write your first draft
Follow your outline and get everything written down. There’s no point in trying to be clever with words. Write like you talk and make the content easy to read. And most importantly, make the content engaging and actionable by including reference points and examples.
5. Edit your content
You won’t get everything correct the first time, so allow time for editing. If possible, leave an overnight gap between writing the first draft and editing.
Does editing really matter? Yes, sloppy writing puts people off, and Google expects quality content. So use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to eliminate mistakes and sharpen your content.
Use this editing time to:
- Turn your working title into a killer headline – try the Capitalize My Title Headline Analyzer.
- Make sure your intro gets to the point quickly – like Social Media Examiner’s 2-question intro:
- Check you’ve included any CTAs in the body and/or the conclusion.
6. Optimize your content
The final step is to optimize your content and focus on some on-page SEO.
A) Include your target keyword in the following places:
- URL (Breadcrumbs)
- Page Title
- Meta Description
- Main Heading (H1)
- Opening sentence/paragraph of the page
- Page subheadings (H2/H3 etc.)
B) Add “Bucket Brigades” to reduce bounce rate and boost time on page:
- Let’s dive in:
- Here’s the deal:
- For example:
- Guess what?
- What’s the bottom line?
- You might be wondering?
- Want to know the best part?
- It gets better/worse:
C) Add images and visuals (Quote boxes and Callout boxes) to break up the text and get your reader’s attention. For example, research by the Nielsen Group says:
D) Add a Table of Contents (TOC) so readers can quickly jump to sections:
- “Get started with market research: Survey your target audience to better understand what they are searching for, what their pain points are, and what their goals are when it comes to what you have to offer. Use this information to inform your keyword research strategy and write content suited to your audience’s interests.
- Structure your content: Google your target keyword to see how the top-ranking pages have organized their content. You can also use content optimization tools like Surfer SEO to identify key H2 headings to use, ideal word count length, and LSI keywords. This will help you lay out a great content outline, ensuring that you’re covering all the topics your audience is likely searching for.
- Avoid overuse of target keyword: Since the BERT update, Google has gotten smarter about understanding the context of your content. Exact keyword usage throughout your title, headings, URL, body content, etc. is not required. Write for the user first (cover your topic in detail) and use your target keywords naturally.
- Follow on-page SEO best practices: On-page SEO best practices still apply. Use descriptive headings, include internal links, organize your body content in bite-sized chunks, write a click-worthy page title, etc. to make your content optimized for search. Overall, you should try to make your content 3X better than what’s currently ranking for your target keyword.”
Toomas: “Focus on user intent: Make sure to always focus on your users’. You should understand the search intent behind your users’ keyword and be able to provide the best possible answer (s) to your users’ search query.
Write first, optimize later: Always write your piece of content for your users, before you think about SEO. Once you are happy with your piece of content, you can begin to optimize it for SEO.
It is never a good idea to both SEO optimize and write your piece of content at the same time. Otherwise, your piece of content will sound unnatural and your users’ will easily spot the unnatural flow in your writing.
Use simple words: Use the same words as when you talk with a person. Use simple, short and emotional words that a 7th grader can understand.
Use bullet points: Use bullet points when you need to list important features, benefits or facts.
Use short paragraphs: Write a maximum of 4 sentences per paragraph and variate between short and long sentences to make it easier for your users’ to read and understand your piece of content.
Do not care about word count: You should not think too much about the number of words you use for your piece of content. It does not matter if you write your piece of content with 500 words, 1000 words, or 2000 words.
The most important thing is that you always provide the best possible answer(s) to your users’ search intent.
Stay on topic: Always stay on topic and focus on facts and relevant information. Do not be vague or use filler words.
Be direct: Always write in first person and use the word “you” when you address your reader.
Cite your sources: When you state facts or figures, you should always include links to facts or figures from credible sources to boost your trust factor, both for your readers and Google.
Do you research: A well-written article consists of 70% research and 30% writing. Make sure that you have done enough research for your piece of content.”
What’s your personal tip or lifehack on how to create a perfect piece of SEO-friendly content?
Kate: “While I love a good copy toolkit and a nifty copy checking software, the best hack I have when it comes to copywriting is simply to read the copy aloud.
Record it on speak pipe and listen back.
Where does it jar, which sentences are hard to read, when do you lose your breath?
Does the copy sound like something that fits the brand, or does it sound stiff and overly formal?
Hearing your copy is often the best way to see if it truly reads well.”
Toomas: “I always target 1 long-tail keyword per article, with low or medium competition and a reasonable monthly search volume. My main keyword research tool is Moz.
After that, I use Google auto suggest, AnswerThePublic and forums related to my keyword to find out what my users want to know about the topic I target with my keyword.
Once I know that, I structure my piece of content with relevant headers and subheaders to get an overview of what I will write about. Then I focus on providing the best possible answers to every question in my piece of content.”
David: “There’s no single tip or hack to creating a perfect piece of SEO-friendly content. It’s a case of following the steps outlined above.
Aside from that, I spend time reading fiction and non-fiction to subconsciously help improve my writing. Anything I come across that jumps out gets saved to my swipe file or Pocket for future reference.”
Jessica: “To create the perfect piece of content (in the eyes of Google and users), you should be looking for clues as to what Google is “rewarding” in the search results. This means Googling your target keyword and analyzing what’s already ranking. Are there any common H2s being used? What topics are being covered? Do the pages contain infographics, images, or videos? Do they have numbered or bulleted lists? Look for what’s similar between these pages and make sure your content is ticking all of these boxes and then some. Then, write original content that’s tailored to the interests of your unique audience. Are you addressing their pain points and offering a solution? Helping your audience solve a problem (their “zero to hero” journey) is the surest way to increase rankings and, ultimately, conversions.”
Whilst great content usually ages well, SEO copywriting rules are like perishables. That’s why we have collected best practices from current industry experts, which will help you to create even better content in 2020.
What SEO copywriting strategies do you use? As always, we’re glad to hear your opinion and suggestions.