May 28th, 2020

SEO Copywriting Best Practices

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Written by Copycat Copywriters

SEO Copywriting Best Practices: Everything You Need to Know

It’s 3am and you can’t sleep. You just finished reading Fight Club, and now you’re wondering if your life is going to descend into anarchy, and at what point does the voice inside your head make you crazy.

Like right now.

You’re listening to a voice inside your head read these words. Is that your voice? Is this normal? Also… do you need to learn how to fight?

Maybe it’s best you turn your attention elsewhere. How about learning SEO copywriting best practices? It’s okay. Copycat will help take your mind off this.

I Am Jack’s Reassuring Hand.

The First Rule of SEO Copywriting Is…

Never talk about SEO copywriting rules.

The Second Rule of SEO Copywriting Is…

You do not. Talk. About. SEO Copywriting rules.

Seriously, there are no rules. There would be rules if marketers had access to Google’s search ranking algorithm, but they don’t. Google doesn’t release that information.

Instead, marketers have “best practices” when it comes to SEO content writing. Guidelines that arise from lots of testing, trial and error, and keeping up with the changes that Google does announce.

And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

  • Part 1: Theory – What it means to create SEO-driven content
  • Part 2: Practice – How to accomplish what you’ve learned in theory
  • Part 3: SEO Cheat Sheet – Some call it cheating; others call it working smarter

(Aka skip to Part 3 if you just want a quick list of best practices—oh, don’t we know our audience?)

Part 1: Theory – A Tangled Web of Humans and Robotic Spiders

Let’s break down the words: Search Engine Optimization.

You’re optimizing (improving, designing, streamlining) your content so that search engines (Google, Bing, Duckduckgo) place your web page in the top ranks of the search query, thus in front of people.

To do this, you have to appease two groups:

  1. Robotic Spiders
  2. Humans

Appeasing Google’s Robotic Spiders

For Google (or any search engine) to know what a web page or website is about and what search queries are relevant to it, they have “spiders” crawl a page and index it. The spiders scan the written content and create maps of relevant keywords, phrases, and their context to string together the purpose of a given web page. When a user searches something on Google, the search engine will pull up the most relevant pages.

This is why you’ll need to understand the technical aspect of modern SEO, including:

  1. Keywords research
  2. Title tag and meta description
  3. Internal linking and external linking

These (and more) will be discussed in length in Part 2: Practice.

Appeasing the Hoomans

As a company made up primarily of cats, we understand the necessity of humans. Scratching that one spot behind the neck, food, and unwanted-but-accepted affection, to name a few.

The few non-feline team members also seem to understand the necessity of humans. Without a readership, someone to read your content about mufflers, FinTech services, surfboards for dogs—whatever it is—all your SEO writing practices will fall flat.

What you need is good copywriting.

This isn’t just the desperation of a writer hopeful hoping to have a job, either. “Human factors” are inscribed into the SEO algorithm. You may have heard of these:

  1. Click-through rate (CTR)
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Dwell time

Putting these together (among others), Google understands how Readers interact with your content. Are they taking one look and “noping” right out of the page? Are they engaged, scrolling from top to bottom, and then clicking through links to other pages on the site?

If the former is true, Google is going to realize that your content is not what people are looking for and push your rank down.

If the latter is true, Google is going to notice that you are producing compelling content and push it up. Continue to do this, and you’ll start to build some authority in the space in the form of page authority and, even better, domain authority.

Again, these will be discussed in Part 2: Practice.

Speaking of…

Part 2: Practice – Content Made of Left Brain & Right Brain

They say that left-brained individuals are statistical, systematic, and data-oriented, while right-brain dominant individuals are more creative and intuitive. While it looks like this proverbial “they” in “they say” got it wrong, it’s still useful for an analogy about SEO content. Thus, we’ll use it.

See, SEO copywriting best practices use the best of both types of writing. It’s a few teaspoons of methodical, mixed with a helping of creative to bake the perfect content cake—and everybody loves cake.

Even robotic spiders.

Left Brain Content for 8-legged Arachno-Bots

Data-sucking octo-bots (like the ones that crawl websites) love spinning a geometrically pristine web between search queries and relevant search results. To communicate with them, ensure each of your web pages have…

Hold on, I’m going to copy and paste the list we made earlier:

  1. Keywords
  2. Title tag and meta description
  3. Internal linking and external linking

There we go.

Keyword best practices

The simplest way to think about “keywords” is to equate them with what search engine users are searching for. In other words, if there is a specific keyword that people are using to search for a given topic, you can use it as your primary keyword in your writing to improve your SEO copy.

If you wanted to find a good mouse, you might search “Best computer mouse” or even “Who makes the best wireless mouse for tablets.” To find this page, you might’ve searched “SEO copywriting best practices” or “SEO copywriting checklist.”

For marketers, keywords are separated into one of two categories:

  • Short-tail keywords – For search queries that are broad and ambiguous: short-tail keywords are one, two, or three words long. “Shoes” or “Running shoes” are short-tail.
  • Long-tail keywords – For search queries that are specific: long-tail keywords are closer to phrases. “Red running shoes with extra padding” or “running shoes for bad ankles” are long-tail.

When you’re new to a space (i.e., you haven’t established domain or page authority), you’ll find it hard to rank for short-tail keywords. The SEO market is flooded with short-tail, and in the shoe examples above, you’d be competing against Nike, Adidas, etc. Long-tail keywords have less competition in the top results but are less frequently searched.

Long-Tail Bonus Tip: Long-tail keywords are highly specific, which means that when a User searches that keyword phrase, they know what they want. Should your product rank high for long-tail keywords, you’re more likely to be their answer and convert a sale.

To find what relevant keywords to rank for, you can use platforms like SEMRush or Google Analytics. Performing this keyword research is a vital component of creating SEO-friendly content.

For a full comprehensive SEO strategy, you’ll need to optimize these keywords across multiple different search engines. For smaller teams, focusing your efforts on Google will return 90% of market share.

Title Tag and Meta Description Best Practices

When you look on a Google search results page, you’ll see the title of the page and then a quick description below. These are your Title Tag and Meta Description and they’re an important SEO strategy.

  • Title Tag – The title tag will usually be the name of the company or website in combination with the name of the specific page, “About” or “Contact Us,” or (if it’s a blog post) the title of the blog post, “SEO Copywriting Best Practices: Everything You Need to Know.” To optimize, include your main keyword, make it contextually relevant to your page, and no more than 50 characters.
  • Meta Description – This is a summary of what the User would read if they were to click on your page. To optimize, include your main keyword, make it contextually relevant, and no more than 156 characters.
  • H1 – Your first header (H1) is less important than these two but follows the same guidelines. Include a keyword you’re trying to rank for and keep it relevant to your content strategy.

Ensure that your title tag and meta description are not cut off. Do your own Google search and look at from a User’s perspective. If it is cut off, rewrite to fit.

Linking Best Practices

There are three types of linking to be aware of for SEO optimization:

  • External Linking – These are links to other websites.

    If your product reads brain waves while sleeping, you’ll need to establish thought leadership and authority within the space to create trust with Readers. Thus, you’ll need to link out to credible sources and published papers: This is where external linking comes in. Linking out to primary sources tells Data Araneae that your web page is credible.
  • Internal Linking – These are links to other parts of your website.

    When a Reader lands on your web page, you ultimately want them to convert, right? Internal linking is a content strategy to keep your Reader interested and traveling down the sales funnel. For example, let’s say you’re enjoying this piece and you think the writing is quality. I might write something like, that’s Copycat’s promise. Then link to our SEO writing page—considering it’s relevant to the current page.
  • Backlinks – These are links from other websites to your website.

    The most coveted of the three types of linking—backlinks are when another company links to your company as a resource. While you can actively reach out to other companies and blogs to use your site as a resource, this is largely outside of your control. As far as 8-legged robotic nightmares go, backlinks are the most effective for SEO copy.

Consider your industry when thinking about each of these types of linking. While it’s not one-to-one, here’s a good rule of thumb: external for thought leadership, internal for sales funnel, backlinks for everyone.

Right Brain Content for Cat-Scratching Humans

Remember, spiders aren’t the only ones you’re trying to please. There’s also the audience with one-fourth of the legs: bipedal, cat-scratchin’ humans.

This part of SEO is a lot more fun to consider—if you enjoy dealing in the creative, that is. The human factors mentioned earlier will greatly influence your website content… which, those are… hold on… copying… and… pasting… now:

  1. Click-through rate (CTR)
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Dwell time

CTR and Quality Writing

“Click-throughs” are when someone accesses your page and then clicks on a link you have embedded to dive deeper into your website content. This tells the search engine that the information provided to the Reader was correct, and that the website was what the Reader was looking for when they typed in their search.

Google rewards you with a higher rank.

To gain click-throughs, you need your Reader to trust you and enjoy what you’re writing. To do this, as a content writer, you must swear an oath to high-quality content. Quality content is:

  • Proofread and error-free – Take the time to comb through your prose and information to ensure you’re offering your Reader the cleanest material you possibly can.
  • Digestible – Don’t throw all your text into giant blocks or use unreadable fonts. Utilize white space on the page. Make the content digestible.
  • Backed up by sources – Don’t just say that the market demands your product or service, demonstrate it through facts and statistics.
  • Informative first – Offer an informative piece of writing as your first objective. By leading with professionalism, your product or service will inherently be viewed as professional.

Build trust with quality, compelling content and your brand (and SEO ranking) will be rewarded.

Bounce Rate and Not Burying the Lede

“Bounces” are when someone clicks on your title tag and then after a few seconds closes the tab or goes back to the search engine page. This tells the search engine that the information was not what the Reader was looking for.

Google demotes your search rank for that keyword.

To avoid this, give your Readers what they want, and don’t make them work for it.

Burying the lede is when you intentionally funnel a Reader down the page by hiding the answer to their question deep in the article, while continually hyping up the answer. It’s frustrating as a Reader.

Example of Burying the Lede

You might be tempted to bury the lede, considering it’s been shown to double sales and convert as much as 16% of COLD traffic.

But if you do decide to use this tactic, there’s one crucial piece you have to integrate into your content writing.

If you do this ONE thing right, you’ll enjoy double the sale.

Don’t believe it? Here’s how it’s done.

…see what’s happening?

Don’t you hate articles that read like this? Or maybe you’re a masochist who loves them. Either way, they existed for a reason—they were effective. Now, Readers are attuned to this and they’ll lose interest like that* (I snapped my fingers, but you couldn’t see).

By the way, those stats were made up.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Take this article’s structure as an example. While yes, the checklist of SEO content writing tips is technically in part 3, it’s not burying the lede for two reasons.

One, the full article is “SEO Copywriting Best Practices: Everything You Need to Know.” This means beyond the practice, you’re also going to learn the theory behind it. This isn’t meant to be a sugary snack; it’s meant to be a comprehensive meal.

Two, right in the beginning, the entire article was outlined. If all you wanted was an SEO copywriting checklist, it was stated that you should skip to Part 3. It’s the opposite of burying; it’s honest content.

And that’s the point.

Dwell Time and Knowing Your Audience

“Dwell time” tells the search engine how engaged the Reader is when on your site (i.e., how long they dwelled). If a user clicks on the rank 1 article and after 30 seconds returns (bounces) to the search result page and clicks on rank 2 article and reads for 5 minutes, this is going to positively boost rank 2’s article.

One way to keep Readers on your page? Write to them, for them.

You wouldn’t speak to your parents how you would to your children or friends. You cater your language, your topic of conversation, and even your mannerisms to match your recipient.

Do the same for your SEO content. Know who you’re targeting; know their interests, wants, needs. Write to those interests; write for their wants and needs.

Consider:

  • The age of your audience: Do they like memes? Or do they like references to the Wall Street Journal?
  • The demographics of your audience: Do they want to be empowered in their bodies? Or do they want to be externally stronger?
  • The personality of your audience: Do they like funny quips? Or would they rather get down to brass tax?

Know whom you’re speaking to, give them what they searched for, and do so in a professional, honest manner. This is how you appeal to people when writing content.

Copycat’s Guide to SEO Copywriting Best Practices

SEO copywriting is both yin and yang. It’s part form, part function. Part technical, part creative. You must appease the 8-legged robots and the 2-legged cat lovers.

So, ready for your SEO copywriting cheat sheet? Great.

  1. Keywords are Users’ search queries – Consider what a User would search to find your product or service, then begin writing content around this.
  1. Don’t skimp on the little details – After going through all the trouble of perfecting an article, don’t forget to optimize Title Tag, Meta Descriptions, H1, and everything else you can optimize.
  1. Link within your articles – Link to primary sources to incite credibility, link internally to deepen the sales funnel, and secure backlinks to build authority.
  1. Swear an oath to quality – Be professional in your written content and Readers will assume you place the same professionalism and integrity in your product or service.
  1. Don’t bury the lede – Don’t trick your Reader into reading your content. Be honest, straightforward, and informative.
  1. Understand your audience and speak to them – Be relatable. Know who you’re talking to and consider their wants and needs when you write.

These SEO copywriting tips are not dissimilar to the fundamentals every content writer understands. In some capacity, it’s the form and function of narrative. It’s the same building blocks that keep you up at 3am, unable to put down the last chapter despite it completely messing with your head.

When in Doubt: Let Narrative Be Your Guide

Reading a good book—one that takes you on a breathtaking, sleep-robbing journey late into the night—is a reminder of something buried deep within ourselves. The want, or even need, of a narrative. The power of story is something discussed between writers. It’s the well from which we draw our strength.

It’s the God behind the craft of Writing. Always driving writers to mastery. Or to madness.

This doesn’t disappear in content marketing—narrative, that is. Though it can sometimes hide amongst the weeds of search engine optimization, it’s always there. Because everyone…

I mean everyone…

Needs a good story.

For that, there’s Copycat Copywriters.

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