As a freelance copywriter, writing SEO content is a big part of my job. Online copywriting involves much more than telling your brand’s story; we copywriters have to make sure your content is ranking in search engines to give you the best chance of being discovered by your target audience.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s the process of making sure each element of your website, whether that’s the site structure or written content, is search-engine-friendly. The better your SEO, the higher you’ll rank in search engines, or SERPS (search engine results pages) as they’re sometimes called.
With SEO, you’re looking to build rank, relevance and authority with search engines, and in turn, be easily discoverable by your target audience.
There are tons of ways you can optimise your website, including building backlinks, and optimising site structure and loading speed, and there are experts out there that can go into a huge amount of depth on the subject. But from the point of view of a copywriter, the tips in this blog are a good place to start.
Find your keywords
Step number one in how to write a well-optimised webpage or blog is to know what your readers will be searching for. This is so you can make sure search engines pick out your website as something that’s going to be just right for them.
Keywords are what searchers type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. There are various free and paid tools you can use to research which keywords are right for you. Once you’ve chosen which ones will work best, try expanding your search with the suggestions below:
- See what the top results on Google are for your keyword, then look at which other keywords are used in their meta-titles (the snippet of text that’s displayed underneath the page title)
- When performing a search for your keyword on Google, see what the search suggestions are as you’re typing. For example, if I type ‘best restaurants in…’ the search might suggest ‘best restaurants in London’, or ‘best restaurants in New York’ and so on
- Once you’ve performed the search on Google, look at the ‘people also ask’ function on the results page to get an idea of how else you can add value to the searcher. This is so you can ensure your blog or landing page is covering the subject in more depth – I’ll cover this later when we come to ‘topics’
Who are you talking to?
When choosing your keywords, bear in mind it’s better to have a niche than just be generalist. For example, if you’re a travel company, figure out which types of travellers you want to attract. Are they solo travellers that want to do a meaningful volunteering holiday? Or retired couples looking to spend five figures on a fortnight at a luxury hotel?
The more you can drill down into who your target audience is, the better you’ll be able to delve into your niche and come up with keywords you’re going to stand a better chance of ranking for.
So you’ve decided on your keywords – that’s all your research out of the way, right? Time to start writing.
Well, not quite.
These days, SEO isn’t as easy as choosing a few short-syllabled keywords such as ‘handbags’ or ‘face cream’ and peppering them throughout your copy.
To really differentiate yourself, you want to pick a long-tail keyword to go alongside the broader keywords you’ve already picked out.
The broader keyword you’ve already picked out by this point is known as a head term.
Head terms are shorter words or phrases and they often come with a lot of competition. Everyone that sells bicycles wants to be ranked for the word ‘bicycle’, so you can imagine the level of competition for that head term.
Long-tail keywords typically have three or more words, and are easier to rank for as they’re more specific and have lower competition.
For example, you might want to blog about garden landscaping (head term) so you’ll come up with the long-tail keyword ‘garden landscaping for complete beginners’ or ‘garden landscaping on a budget’.
It’s best to include both head terms and long-tail keywords in your blogs because the short-term SEO gains from your long-tail keyword will be easier to accomplish and, over time, you should be able to build up your ranking for your head term through your long-term SEO strategy.
Less is more
So we’ve established that keywords are a vital first step in any SEO strategy, but overusing them, in the hopes it will make your site perform better and climb above the competition, can do two things.
One – search engines are wise to it and will penalise you for ‘keyword stuffing’.
And two – it will damage the user experience. Who’s going to take the time to read a blog that sounds unnatural?
Anyway, Google’s becoming more and more intelligent, and will now rank a page based on whether it satisfies a searcher’s intent, rather than how many times a certain word is repeated.
As a guide, you should mention your keywords in the URL, page title, very first sentence, again in the first paragraph depending on how long it is, and then a few times throughout the rest of the content, ensuring it sounds natural and flows well each time.
This is also where the authority I mentioned earlier comes into play. If you’ve used a particular keyword many times, you might think you’re fooling Google into thinking you’re a fountain of knowledge on that particular keyword – but if you haven’t covered the wider topic in more depth, you’re not likely to be an actual authority on that topic.
Which brings us to the next point:
Is it all about keywords?
These days, no.
While keywords are still important, search engines now also want to know if your blog or web page is relevant to the wider subject area, and if it provides value to the searcher.
In that case, you actually want to think about ranking for a topic rather than just specific words.
The more depth you go into around the topic, the more you’ll position yourself as a real expert in your field.
Try to add value to your topic with a new point of view, perhaps by expanding upon what’s already been blogged about on your competitors’ websites to give yourself an edge.
The key is to ensure you’re actually answering a question or solving a problem for whoever lands on your site. Don’t simply think of SEO as ticking off a box by stuffing keywords in so you can rank higher. Think about providing real value to whoever lands on your page.
Solve your readers’ problems and they’ll gain trust in you, so that when they’re ready to move forward with buying your product or service, they’ll have faith that you know what you’re talking about.
That’s the value of content marketing – no, it might not always clinch the sales straight away, but it builds up a relationship with your audience by giving them added value and building up their confidence in you.
Quality over quantity
Search engines also care about the quality of the content your posting.
If your website’s littered with spelling mistakes and in dire need of a few commas, you won’t be helping yourself in your quest to rank at page one.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking complicated verbs and lengthy sentences are going to help you, though. The best content is easy to read – think straightforward sentences, uncomplex paragraphs and simple words. You’re not writing a novel, you’re writing a piece of online content that people are a) most likely reading on their mobile phone, and b) not planning on dedicating excess amounts of time to reading.
Read my blog on writing for the web for tips on how to present your online copy.
Churning out short and simple blogs won’t do much for your ranking, though. Longer-form content (around 2,000 words) that has been well written and thought out, answers the readers’ questions, and provides value beyond the initial search terms, in the scope of the wider topic area, does best.
That’s because you can’t expand much on an entire topic in just 400 or so words. Though it may be tempting to write short and sharp blogs every couple of days to improve your SEO, it isn’t going to pay off as much as putting real time and effort into longer-form content that delves into the wider subject area beyond your few chosen keywords.
It should also go without saying that all of your content should be original. That means writing it yourself from scratch, or hiring a freelance copywriter to do it for you.
Ready to write
So, you’ve got your keywords – both head terms and long-tail – you know who your target audience is, you’ve researched your topic in depth, and you’re ready to provide real value to your readers with a well-written blog or informative landing page structured around a key topic.
It’s time for the fun bit – the writing!
If that part fills you with dread or you just don’t have the time, you can always hire me as a freelance copywriter, and I’ll make sure I draft you some captivating copy that not only makes your brand shine, but is written with SEO in mind.