SEO writing is perhaps one of the most crucial—and most misunderstood—concepts in the world of blogging and content marketing. In an increasingly digital world, understanding how to write for SEO is a game-changer for any business or project.
The world has evolved at an incredible pace in recent times. There’s been radical change in the ways customers interact with each other, shop, browse, and seek recommendations. Modern users are savvier, and less inclined to engage with conventional advertising.
We’re in an era where most people dodge half a dozen ads before breakfast. They barely register them, and deliberately avoid them. Users have begun to value their privacy as well. The looming presence of Big Data algorithms behind hyper-targeted ads makes them uneasy.
In this environment, marketing requires a creative approach. Influence rules customer decisions, and that requires trust. The most successful bloggers and marketers today develop relationships with their audiences that transcend products.
It’s all about content. Relevant, high-value content, directly or tangentially connecting to your audience, their interests, lifestyle, burning questions, or passing musings. Using the SEO writing process, you ensure your copy has maximized visibility across search pages.
Gain their ear on neutral grounds, and you’ll have them when they’re looking to spend. That’s the goal of SEO writing.
What is SEO Copywriting?
So, what is SEO writing, exactly? In short, it’s a perfect marriage of the SEO process with the craft of copywriting. Let’s define each of these briefly, and see where they naturally meet.
On one hand, you have SEO. It’s short for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a series of techniques used to improve the performance of a website in search engines. Top-ranking websites get exponentially more traffic than lower-ranking or second-page results.
The SEO writing process is a continuous improvement cycle. SEO analysts monitor rankings and traffic, research relevant keywords, optimize site content, build backlinks, and go back to monitoring.
On the other hand, you have the art (and science) of copywriting. It’s a uniquely critical tool in the arsenal of any marketing effort. Copywriters are professional persuaders. They carefully word sentences, paragraphs and phrases to maximize their impact on a given audience.
The ultimate goal of copywriting is convincing. Copy can sell a product or service. Copy can also promote positions or ideas.
SEO writing consists of combining the requisites and recommendations of the SEO process with professional copywriting*. It’s carefully crafting a text in a way that seamlessly integrates keywords while being uniquely compelling to its target audience.
Elements of Good SEO Copy
Every piece of quality SEO writing will be completely unique. However, all well-crafted SEO copy will share a few essential elements*. They’re necessary for your copy to be effective, both in regard to SEO, and in terms of persuasiveness.
There’s no amount of good content that can save you from a bad title. Your headlines will always receive several times the exposure your content ever will.
In the click-oriented digital world, titles need to be powerful and provocative. Incorporating keywords is crucial, but not enough. A first-rate title will immediately catch the eye, then prompt readers to click on to keep reading. It’s a delicate balance to strike.
The best SEO writing copy is content so valuable, readers will never know that it’s selling them something. With users wising up to thinly-veiled marketing efforts, that’s a tall order.
You’ll need to create innovative content that adds value to the lives or businesses of your users. Content so informative and on point, your audience can’t help but nod in agreement as they read. This means you’ll need to know your audience better than they know themselves.
Robust Meta Values
Never, ever publish a site without filling out meta values. That means Title Tag and Meta Description, for each and every page. Meta values are a pillar of your website’s search ranking.
They’re the way your site is presented to the public on the search results page. Crafting meta values that convert requires some know-how. In general, remember to incorporate your keyword, and always consider user intent. Aim your descriptions at answering searchers’ questions.
Good SEO copy has to perform well, and that means getting the technical details straightened out. For instance, page load speeds are an easy way to lose traffic. A sluggish website will lose half its visitors before it finishes loading. Ideally, you want loading times under 2 seconds.
Researching keywords, building a keyword structure and fine-tuning densities are all part of the technical aspects of SEO writing. They’re just as crucial as eloquent wording and captivating prose.
Writing High-Value Content for SEO Step by Step
Composing engaging text that can draw readers in, add value, and meet SEO writing requirements, is easier said than done. It’s a complicated task that requires several steps. We’ll walk you through the basics of how to write for SEO and discerning audiences, up next.
Get to Know your Audience
In order to write effective SEO copy, you have to know your audience like the back of your hand. Copywriting is a detailed, extremely targeted process. Copywriters need an intimate understanding of the desires, priorities and interests of their audience.
There’s more than one possible approach here. Some blogs or brands already have an audience, but are unfamiliar with its demographics. In these cases, reaching out to users and getting to know your audience through surveys may be a reasonable strategy.
Other brands may be trying to create a market segment from scratch. In that case, market research can help narrow down a target. The brand or blog can then begin studying that segment, and pin down its attributes.
Getting to know your audience can be a painstaking, time-consuming, and expensive process. An intuitive understanding is good, but nothing beats data, and data takes time and money. It’s all worth it in the end, though.
A profound understanding of your public helps you steer your content in the right direction. It’s by no means a guarantee—the market is famously fickle. However, without that understanding, you’re up a creek and without a paddle.
Do Your Research
Any copywriter worth their salt will tell you: there’s no such thing as too much research. Research should be the basis of every single decision you make.
It’s not that there’s no place for intuition; there always will be. There’s only so much you can learn about a market or an audience through study. When interpreting your data, you’ll always rely on intuition to make sense of things.
SEO copywriters need to research their industry, their sector, their market, and their niche. They have to research competitors, both local and global, for benchmarking purposes. Most of all, SEO copywriters have to do keyword research.
Keyword research consists of getting your hands dirty with search engines. It can be done manually, or using one of the dozens of tools available for this purpose. Targeting the right set of keywords is half the battle.
Certain keywords will simply be too competitive to go after. Notice how first page results for the most common, high-volume keywords are dominated by highly reputable websites. Secondary keywords may be more open, or just as competitive, depending on the market in question.
Long-tail keywords tend to provide the most value for your efforts. Less targeted by mainstream competitors, these long-tail keywords provide easier opportunities to get to that front page.
Create Engaging Headlines
Titles are one of the essential elements of good SEO writing. And there are plenty of reasons for that. We’re all told not to judge a book by its cover. But more often than not, that’s precisely what the average user will tend to do.
There’s a certain number of people that your ad campaigns or SEO efforts will manage to expose to your content. Sadly, the vast majority of those people won’t click on your content. By creating extremely engaging headlines, you maximize your click-through rate (CTR).
This means that headlines are directly connected to the effectiveness of your content marketing campaigns. Keep that in mind when you sit down to come up with headlines. Spending a few extra minutes to craft the perfect one is a sound strategy.
Engaging headlines shouldn’t be overly vague. Readers need to know, at a glance, what your page is about. Being descriptive is ideal, but you shouldn’t give it all away, either. If readers feel they can glean the information they came looking for without clicking, that’s what they’ll do.
You need a headline that is specifically and directly interesting to your audience, yet open-ended enough to warrant a click. Don’t show all your cards in the title: begin a story that continues in your content.
Don’t Overdo The Keywords
Overdoing the keywords is a classic rookie mistake. SEO writing is a relatively new game, and most people don’t really know how to play it yet. Many webmasters simply stuff as many keywords as possible into their content, cross their fingers, and hope for the best.
This approach is virtually guaranteed not to work. A huge part of knowing how to write for SEO is understanding search engine algorithms. And search engine algorithms definitely understand you; the would-be SEO copywriter. They’re prepared for your keyword-stuffing ways!
In fact, overdoing keywords on a page will actually hurt your search engine rank, rather than help it. The obvious attempt to game the system is promptly rejected by the algorithms. You want keywords to be present and plentiful, up to a point. Excessive keyword density is a major faux-pas.
The perfect keyword density for SEO writing depends on who you ask. Different experts cite different ranges. Frequent figures go from 0.1% all the way up to 3%. Keep in mind these densities are cumulative. Ten keywords at 0.1% density add up to 1% keyword density.
The smartest move is always to research the top-ranked pages for your targeted keywords. Check their keyword density, and work from there.
Consider Linking Opportunities
Having a reasonable amount of trusted domains linking back to your page is a crucial part of good SEO writing. Building a strong and reputable backlink catalog is a foundation for long-lasting increases in page rank.
The process isn’t fast, though. Backlinks can be one of the biggest hurdles to clear when it comes to SEO writing. Creating ties and connections with reputable domains isn’t something you can achieve overnight.
Your SEO copywriting will come in handy in the process, though. The easiest way of achieving a strong network of backlinks is to build it yourself. That means chasing down linking opportunities, wherever they may appear.
Many websites with considerable domain power and reputation are willing to partner with content marketers and publish their copy. Properly executed, it’s a particularly effective way to capture organic traffic, while linking back to your page from reputable domains.
This will require a significant amount of research, though. You need to know the domain power and respectability that your potential partners command. Paid posts are always available, but mutually beneficial partnerships are out there as well.
No matter the strategy you pursue, remember to make backlinks a priority. It’s one of the main aspects that search engines use to determine page rank.
Stay Away from Fluff
While all copywriting should be eloquent, there’s a difference between eloquence and ornament. Producing high-value content means dealing in relevant information. Stuffing your pages with fluff—needlessly flowery language—is the exact opposite of high-value content.
In these times, attention spans are short, and concentration is scarce. SEO writing is an endless battle against the eventual loss of your audience. The fact is, the longer your copy, the more people you’ll lose along the way. Very few people will ever make it to the end of a long piece.
This doesn’t mean you should steer away from longer articles, though. A well-written primer on a hot topic is an excellent way to corner the market on a keyword. However, every part of your copy should be adding value to readers in some way.
Fluff does the opposite. An article full of “filler” content goes on and on without adding new information. Readers don’t simply skip ahead to what’s relevant to them—they merely skim through and close the tab in frustration.
You can think of articles full of fluff as the unwanted email marketing of the SEO writing world. No one likes getting spam. No one likes reading halfway through an email before realizing it’s junk mail. The same goes for your copy.
The importance of Keyword Research for SEO Copy
Keyword research is a crucial component of any SEO writing strategy. That said, it’s also a wildly misunderstood area.
For example, many SEO specialists spend countless hours researching keywords. In a proper SEO process, keyword research should be frequent, but only a fraction of overall project man-hours.
You don’t need to spend days scouring the web for keywords. However, you can’t simply copy the ones your competitors are using and hope they work. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Keywords can be roughly divided into primary, secondary or alternative, and long-tail keywords. While primary (or “seed”) keywords command an impressive share of total searches, they’re usually very saturated markets. A few major players dominate the search, and it’s a tough top to crack.
Alternative keywords are different wordings or spellings of primary keywords. They provide less traffic than primary keywords, but their top pages are less competitive. They also help you improve your rank for seed keywords. However, alternative keywords for many industries can be as saturated as primary keywords.
Conversely, long-tail keywords* are highly specific, longer searches. They’re far easier to dominate for less-established contenders. They do generate far less traffic than seed keywords, but that traffic is considerably more qualified. Higher specificity translates to stronger user intent.
SEO Copy Proper Formatting Techniques
Beyond the matters of content, SEO writing must consider layout as well. Humans consume content in certain ways, and quality copy is optimized for them.
The general goal is to retain the attention of the audience for as long as possible. To achieve this, SEO copy is particularly mindful of readability*. Many formulas and apps online allow you to gauge the readability of your writing. While none are definitive, all are informative.
Some basic principles apply universally. Most users are on mobile, so optimizing your writing for mobile devices works best. This means breaking up your paragraphs, so they occupy no more than a single screen at a time on mobile. Blocks of text fare poorly with mobile readers.
Effective use of titles, headings and subheadings is also important. These elements help structure your page, and take users, browsers and search engines to where they need to go. They make your content more readable and more navigable at the same time.
For similar reasons, you should avoid sections of more than 300 words when performing SEO writing. Anything exceeding that length needs extra subheadings for organization. Choose simple sentence structures wherever possible. Choose shorter words over longer ones. This helps give your content mass appeal.
Visuals are important too. An endless stream of paragraphs is hard to parse for many readers. Infographics, charts, tables and pictures make content easier to digest.
Content Updates for Best SEO Results
Every time you invest resources in SEO writing, you see a corresponding boost in your traffic. Later on, though, as time goes by and posts age, the traffic generated begins to falter, noticeably. This is part of the endless cycle of search engine algorithms.
At any given time, the top results for a popular search will be links posted in the past year. A great post that climbs to the top of the search will peter out in the coming years. That’s where content updates and renewals come into the picture.
By updating your content, you give search engines reason to rank them anew. It’s as simple as sprucing up your old content, removing errors, updating information, or improving graphics. As long as the date on the post is updated, search engines will pick it up in due time.
This can effectively double your traffic overnight. Content updates are a low-cost, high-output technique for websites to squeeze more traffic out of old copy. Do the work, though. Remove broken links, refresh content, add helpful new information.
Show the algorithms you’re still relevant and still have something to bring to the conversation. Your efforts will be handsomely rewarded!
So, do you feel confident about what is SEO writing now? If you still find it all a tad overwhelming, that’s okay! It’s quite a lot of information to wrap your head around. SEO writing is a complex subject, and it’s constantly evolving. Staying on top of it all is a full-time job.
In this guide, we’ve gone over the meaning of SEO copywriting, and the fundamental elements of good SEO copy. We broke down the four pillars of headline, content, meta values and technical aspects.
We also dove deep into the process of how to write for SEO. With a step-by-step analysis, we explored elements that make for great copywriting, and how to use them to your advantage. In addition, we explained the basics of keyword researching, and the different types of keywords.
Finally, we shared the guidelines for formatting SEO copy, rooted in the concept of readability. We closed off this primer with recommendations regarding content renewal as a low-cost avenue to boost traffic.
With this information, you’re more than ready to dip your toes into the world of SEO writing. This can be your first step towards more impactful digital marketing. Keep in mind that you still have a lot to learn, though! Do your own research, and always be willing to learn.