You may have heard about “SEO” copywriting, with emphasis on its effectiveness and how it influences a website’s ranking in search results from engines like Google and Bing, but what does SEO actually mean and how can you use it to improve traffic on your site?
The short answer is that SEO is a process called “Search Engine Optimization,” or the concept of understanding and capitalizing on the algorithm search engines use to find and list results. SEO copywriters use that understanding to meet specific criteria and include common keywords to be featured prominently in that engine’s results for relevant searches.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization incorporates the core concept that you must provide value to gain value. That is to say that by providing free and regular written, visual, and/or audible content, you will cultivate an audience who will support your site as a resource to be trusted. This audience will then help bring new traffic to your site by linking to it and recommending your products, services and methods as reliable.
This practice of increasing links to your site from outside sources is called “building backlinks.” In addition to backlinks, you can guide new readers to your site by embedding keywords in the body of your text, such that they appear organically woven into the narrative of your subject. This is done to tick more boxes in a search engine’s algorithm, each of which increases your standing in search engine result pages, or SERPs.
If you want to understand best practices of SEO copywriting, this will get you started.
Stages of SEO Writing
The stages of SEO writing can be broken down into
● 40% preparation
● 20% writing
● 40% editing
The preparation stage is composed primarily of research into the sorts of keywords and links to include and what audience you want to reach. This is in many ways the most important stage, as it will shape the rest of your approach and inform the writing and editing choices you make.
Altogether, writing the content should take up the shortest amount of time, stringing together the concepts and keywords you found in the research stage to create a coherent message. Editing the entire content will take time to improve the readability, visual, or listening experience, as well as ensuring the prominence and priority of specific keywords.
Research the Subject Matter
SEO relies primarily on providing quality content on a regular basis. To build a loyal following, it’s important to be sure you know your stuff. Consider your primary focus; whether it’s a product or service, and look for keywords associated with it. According tomultipleadvertising sources, the two common mistakes made in keyword research are:
● Only doing keyword research once
Over time, language and the focus of most services will shift, resulting in different “head” keywords (high volume and competitive keywords which result in longer SERPs) and “long-tailed” keywords (niche and extremely specific keywords which result in shorter SERPs). By looking into which keywords are trending, both popular and niche, prior to writing new content you will be able to garner a higher rate of new traffic and avoid stagnation.
● Using too many “head,” and not enough “long-tailed” keywords
It’s better to be at the top of a short list of results than to be in the middle or bottom of a long one. “Head” keywords are popular search engine terms and phrases, which means that although you will show up in the list of search results you will be competing for standing among a large field of competitors. “Long-tailed” keywords are less popular, niche or related terms and phrases, which are more specific than a wide-scatter catch-all approach. While a search for “shoes” will result in countless SERPs, a search for “green shoes in women’s 6” will result in a significantly smaller number of result pages, and “pale green high-heeled shoes in women’s 6” will result in fewer still. Know your audience, know your target demographic, and build your list of keyword phrases carefully.
Narrow Your Focus and Look at Your Audience’s Intent
Once you have an idea of primary keywords used in reference to your subject, consider the following:
Look at search intent - Wordstream identifies that search engine queries can be grouped into a short list of categories.
● Informational intent - queries answering questions and gaining more knowledge.
● Navigational intent - queries with a goal of gaining access to a specific site through searching for part of its name or content.
● Commercial intent - queries looking for information about products before buying them.
● Transactional intent - queries searching for products with intent to purchase them after a commercial intent search.
Consider which intent matches best with your content, and adjust the phrasing and writing style to suit. The consumer's own level of information and specificity matters. A long-tail keyword phrase relating to a specific product which fits a “big and tall” clothing store when the consumer already knows to hit those keywords will not be the same long-tail keyword phrases as someone with the general problem of looking for recommendations for clothes to fit someone whose measurements fall outside national averages. Be aware of this when finding and tailoring keywords to your site’s purpose, and always bear the following considerations in mind:
● Why are you writing the content? What is your goal?
● Are you matching your keywords to the intent you are targeting?
● What is the main message of the content?
● Consider expected vs desired audience of content (intent).
● Research material: what info do you need?
● Structure of article: what is the ideal order of presentation? Keep in mind that keywords used earlier on a page have more impact on SERPs.
Edit Copy to Convert Keywords into Hits
In your final pass, decide on a goal for your SEO writing. Make a list of keywords you truly need to be associated with or lead to your blog or marketing content, including long-tail keywords, and make sure you are including them as early as possible. Consider variations on the same concept or term to capture searches aimed at your content but not necessarily using your base keywords.
Rank your keywords based on priority of association, and make combinations and variations of keywords to catch a variety of different searches. While some people might write whole sentences into a search engine, others will only include the primary concepts, not to mention that everyone writes their words in the same order or with the same phrasing.
In the end, SEO is about identifying your audience and how they frame ideas when searching. Understanding search engine algorithms will guide you in structuring your content to rank your results higher and serve your audience better.