It’s easy, right?
Find a keyword, get it into your SEO copy, and write up some great content.
The truth is, there’s a lot more to it than that.
And if you want the best chance of getting your content ranked high in a search result, you’ll need to read this ultimate guide to SEO copywriting in 2023.
SEO Copywriting Strategies for Beginners 2023
SEO copywriting and SEO content writing are both ways of writing for a search engine.
So, before we dive deep into these, let’s start with the basics.
Sell your Content in your Meta Description
Writing meta descriptions is a great way to hone your SEO writing chops.
If you’re an SEO content writer, consider meta descriptions as an opportunity to perfect your skills and sell your content. Of course, they must include a keyword or keyword phrase for higher ranking, but they also need to entice readers into reading the content.
So, use them to sell your content. Use action words, or verbs, to give your readers a sense of what they can do with your content.
What’s even better is to include a CTA (Call-To-Action) telling readers what they need to do.
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Look at Search Intent
Understanding what people are searching for is the basis of all good SEO copywriting.
After all, all great marketing requires you to understand your target audience.
To help with creating a successful SEO strategy, search intent or keyword intent is grouped into three categories:
- Transactional: This is when someone wants to buy a product, like a new pair of sneakers. And they’ll use Google to help them find the best deals on running shoes before they part with their cash.
- Informational: Search engines give users a way to share and get hold of information. After all, this is why the internet was born. Informational intent drives ‘how-to’ blogs and even journalistic content.
- Navigational: Are you someone who punches a URL into the search bar to find the site they want? I didn’t think so. Most people struggle to recall the URL for their favorite web page. So, instead, a search engine will do the work by scanning for the right pages based on the entered keywords.
When you’re working as an SEO content writer, understanding a user’s search intent before writing any content gives your copywriting a higher chance of success.
Plus, if your content solves their problem then you’re golden.
Conduct Keyword Research
Once you have a firm grip on what your users are searching for, it’s time to get focused on the best keywords.
And while you shouldn’t just rely on keyword planning to get results, keyword research remains a critical part of any approach to copywriting.
So, how should you conduct keyword research?
Well, you need to start with the right tool.
And there are some great ones out there:
- Ubersuggest: Neil Patel knows a thing or two about SEO, which is why his keyword research tool – Ubersuggest – is one of the best around. With it, you’ll gain insights into monthly search volumes, SEO difficulty, and CPC (Cost-Per-Click) on your chosen keywords.
- Ahrefs: With a massive database of billions of keywords, Ahref’s Keyword Explorer is a premium keyword research tool for any serious SEO copywriter. It offers extensive analytics on SEO keywords and is one of five planning tools in Ahref’s portfolio.
- SEMRush: SEMRush claims it holds the largest keyword database out there. And it’s most useful for displaying the top keywords for each website and how much traffic they drive.
- Google Keyword Planner: With so much data available coming directly from the source, Google Keyword Planner is worth considering. And while it’s designed for finding the right keywords for a Google Ad, it’s also useful if you’re an SEO copywriter.
We recommend choosing around five or six keywords, per piece of content. This should include short keywords but at least one long-tail keyword made up of at least 3-5 words.
Then, within your selection, you’ll want to select a primary keyword and a secondary keyword.
Plan and Outline your Article
Whatever you plan to do as a content writer or copywriter, it’s always better to have a plan.
Any high-performing piece of SEO content got there because the SEO copywriter planned their work first. And it’s easier to aim for search engine optimization if you sketch out your content first.
Your outline sketch should include things like:
- Your chosen keywords and how often you’ll include them
- The search intent you’ll structure your article around
- The number of words you’ll use
- The headline
- Any relevant internal and external links
- Key pieces of relevant research you plan to include, like statistics
- Your meta description (for including in the SERP snippets)
Remember – you want your readers to be engaged with your SEO content writing, not just Google. More often than not, that means providing additional value to your website copy.
Structure your Article
Once you’ve started to sketch things out in a plan, you’ll want to include the right structure for your article.
Because website content is worthless if it’s not formatted correctly.
One of the most important aspects of the structure is choosing your headline.
In fact, headlines help Google decide how relevant your content will be to a reader.
And while this helps with your rankings, a good headline also improves your chance of it being clicked on and read.
Your headline is tagged as ‘H1’.
Then, you’ll need a number of subheadings to break up the information.
These are classed as ‘H2’.
Then, within each sub-category, use ‘H3’s’ to subdivide your words further.
Structuring your content writing in this way will help you to plan where your keywords should go. But this kind of structure also improves the experience for the reader.
Finally, after doing all that planning on user intent, then finding the best keywords and structuring your article, you’re ready to create some SEO content.
And this is exactly the point where any content writer or copywriter needs to find that ‘killer flow.’
So what do we mean by that?
Well, you may have done all the planning, agreed on how often you’ll include your keyword, and set out the perfect structure. But without a high-quality, well-researched, entertaining, or enticing piece of content, you’ll have wasted your time.
And that’s because great SEO copywriting consists of a perfect blend between SEO planning and great writing. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare.
But you do need to create some original, compelling content that makes readers move into action.
Fresh ideas are a scarcity nowadays, so think hard about how you can be original.
You have to ask yourself, whenever you are producing any type of content, Who will amplify this and why? – Rand Fishkin
Nothing is more off-putting to readers, and to Google’s algorithms than poorly worded content.
Spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and incorrect use of words are all aspects that Google’s bots will mark you down for.
And that’s surely shameful for any respectable SEO writer.
Instead, use tools to help you with editing, formatting, grammar, and punctuation.
There are plenty of online tools to help you produce effective copywriting:
- Grammarly: As a plug-in, Grammarly can edit your work as you go. By highlighting any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors, you’ll find it easier to proofread your work.
- Hemingway App: This highlights where you could improve your writing. From passive language to overuse of adverbs, Hemingway App can lift your writing up.
- Ginger: Ginger software uses AI technology to show you where you could make improvements and bring your words to life.
And, of course, nothing beats a good proofread from the human eye. This is an essential part of all copywriting services.
So, make sure you spot-check every piece of content writing before you post it.
SEO Copywriting Best Practices
With the basics covered, let’s move on to what you should or shouldn’t be doing when creating great SEO copy.
Be Natural with Keyword Usage
When it comes to effective SEO copywriting, knowing that you’ll need to include a certain number of keywords can sometimes work against you.
After all, you’ll have set yourself a target to include a number of specific keywords. And within your selection, you’ll want to include the right amount to get picked up in the SERP.
And this is where the art of copywriting comes into play.
You have to meet your targets for the number of keywords, but only where it feels natural. For instance, you should include your focus keyword in your H1 and at least one of your H2s.
You may also want to include them in your conclusion. But stuffing them into every sentence is the wrong thing to do and will hurt your rankings.
In fact, keyword stuffing is probably the worst thing you can do for any content.
If you’re unsure whether your keyword-rich copy reads naturally, try reading it out loud.
It’s a great way to determine if your flow sounds smooth or unnatural and contrived.
Choose Keywords Based on Your Audience
To attract the right audience to your blog, or even get more social media followers, you don’t need to be an SEO expert.
But you do need to be able to find relevant keywords.
So how do you do that?
One way is to empathize with the audience you want to attract by asking some questions:
What are they searching for?
What kind of information would be useful to them?
Which type of content will add value to them or help them decide which of your products to buy or invest in?
So start with search intent and choose which of the three categories your content applies to. Then create a list of your top 10 keywords.
Ultimately, you want to select a focus keyword, and a secondary keyword, and the remaining can be used as semantic keywords. That is, they can be used sporadically.
Once you understand what your audience is looking for, you’ll be more likely to choose the best-related keywords that engage or even convert them.
Include Internal Links
When you’re writing content, you must add internal links. That is links to other pages on your site.
For all types of content marketing–including social media–the need for internal linking can’t be overstated. It’s a basic requirement for almost all aspects of digital marketing.
If you want a search engine to crawl your web pages, you need to let search engines find your content.
And adding internal links will help Google become more familiar with your pages when they ‘crawl.’
As a rule, you’ll also boost your SEO rankings when you include two to three internal links to pages deep within your own site.
Avoid the homepage, or ‘contact us’, and try to include pages that aren’t obvious at first sight.
Create the Best Content by Analyzing the Top-Ranking Pages
SEO copywriters will always want to know how to write high-quality content.
So, the best place to start is by tracking down the content that’s already performing well.
High-ranking pages not only contain the right number and variety of carefully placed keywords, but they also offer a depth of valuable content that readers want to learn from.
And there are some great tools out there to help with analyzing a site, like Alexa.com.
But creating original, impactful SEO writing that ranks high and builds momentum with audiences requires the ability to do two things:
- Assimilate information from other sources
- Add your take with original resources, information, or creative ideas
Great SEO copy is about adding value.
So if your content strategy doesn’t aim to add anything to what’s already out there, don’t expect it to be highly valued by any readers.
It is also critical for any copywriter to be passionate about the content they write. And they need to write for their audiences, not themselves.
“If you want to be interesting, be interested”
Think Hard About Your Headline
As we’ve already mentioned, one of the most, if not the most, important technical aspects of SEO copywriting is the headline.
But why is it so important?
Well, without a clickable headline based on search intent, your content won’t get read.
The headline is what hooks your audience and gets them excited to read more.
And headlines that include numbers like “10 ways to impress your partner” usually get more attention than others.
But it’s also worth noting that around 70% of science articles shared on social media aren’t even read.
Instead, sharers act on just the headline and send it to others without reading through every aspect of the content.
Don’t forget, to rank high in a search result, you also need a great title tag. And where most browsers limit these to no more than 60 characters, you may need to amend your headline to fit.
If you do have to squeeze your headline into a title tag, then make sure you include your primary keyword. Plus, try to hold onto the specific context of your headline.
What’s even better is to use your title tag to ask a question.
Advanced SEO Copywriting Strategies
Want to know how to take your copy to the next level? Here are our advanced strategies for anyone providing an SEO copywriting service:
Rank for “Journalist Keywords”
What are “Journalist Keywords?”
They’re keywords that bloggers, content creators, writers, and journalists use to search for marketing statistics.
So, if the content you’ve produced features a hit list of original and useful data, by including a journalist keyword in your search you’ll be more likely to increase your rate of backlinks.
For example, take my blog post on ‘Blogging stats’.
It’s packed full of statistics that others could link to like 70% of users prefer learning about a brand through an article instead of an ad.
And by using the keyword ‘Blogging statistics’ in the headline and throughout the article, I’ve increased the chance of content producers finding my content online.
What’s more, I’m more likely to get high-quality backlinks while offering a huge amount of valuable content for readers.
Use Short URLs with Keywords you Rank for
Search engines say it themselves – when given a choice, they will choose a short URL over a long one.
So if your URL is longer than others, you’ll have a far lower chance of getting your blog post into the SERP.
Generally, URLs should feature no more than 2000 characters. But, in reality, you want to create the shortest URL possible.
You know, like those super-short ones you find on social media channels?
And search engines really don’t like stop words.
These are usually pronouns, prepositions, articles, and conjunctions. Think ‘for’ ‘at’ ‘in’ ‘and’ ‘the.’
So leave them out of your URL.
After all, keeping it tight is simply good copywriting.
Plus, you’ll want your URL to extend from a website address. So keep your content URL to just two or three words and as short as possible.
Target Comparison Keywords
Most of us could say we’re pretty competitive, couldn’t we?
Even those who wouldn’t want to admit it.
When you’re copywriting, it’s worth taking advantage of our universal need for competition. And you can do this by including comparison keywords in a blog post.
This is when you compare a product or service with something similar.
Think about it.
When you’re looking to find ‘the best’ there is of something, you’ll want to compare it to the rest, right?
Mac versus PC
Google versus Bing
Ahrefs versus SEMRush
BMW versus Mercedes
You get the picture.
Take advantage of comparison keywords in your SEO content. You can do this by creating an effective comparison to another brand that weighs up the pros and cons of each.
In general, there’s low competition for these keywords. Plus, you’ll give your audiences something interesting and useful to digest.
Break up your Content with ‘Bucket Brigades’
This one is purely for engagement purposes. But then, if you’re getting more engagement with your content, you’ll be getting better SEO.
Bucket brigades are short, one-liner sentences used to keep the attention of readers, move them onto another topic, and slowly drip-feed information in a captivating way.
Plus, this one goes way back to an advertising copywriter called Joseph Sugarman.
But wait, there’s more…
On the other hand…
But we don’t stop there…
Think about it…
Wanna know how?
Bucket brigades may be an old tactic, but they’re very effective for SEO writing.
By giving the reader one sentence to read, then another, and another, bucket brigades slowly trickle the reader through the article so they stay with it and digest all the information they need.
This keeps the reader on the content for longer. But it also goes some way to boost engagement rates and keep readers on your pages for longer.
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How many keywords should I use for SEO?
Choose between 4 to 6 keywords for each piece of content. Don’t focus only on one target keyword.
By limiting yourself to one keyword, you lose the opportunity to optimize page visitors.
Also, ensure keyword density (the number of times you use it in the copy) comes in at around 1-2%.
Do subheadings help SEO?
Your H1 (Header) is the most important and should include your focus keyword.
But to get a ranking in the SERP, your first H2 (your main subheading) should also include your keyword.
As it’s easier to read, Google prefers to seek out content that includes several subheadings, e.g. (H1, H2, and H3).
Are subtitles good for SEO?
If you plan to embed or include video in your SEO copy, adding subtitles can widen accessibility. And this will boost your rankings.
Plus, subtitled videos are more engaging, which means others will be more likely to share them.
How do I use H tags for SEO?
H tags are essential for letting a search engine know you’ve created an appealing blog post.
And you can use them in the following ways:
- H1 – Once for your headline.
- H2 – For your subheaders.
- H3 – To tag subtopics within your H2 subheaders.
- H4 – Use only to divide information within your H3s.
How many H2 tags are acceptable?
There is no limit on the number of H2 tags you can use. But for a short, single page of copy, up to three H2s are recommended.
Make sure to consider the conclusion of your article within your H2s as well.
The idea is you need an expert to write content, not just a good copywriter. I think the biggest step here is that for lots of businesses, the business owner and/or “resident expert(s)” needs to take part in writing the copy. You can’t just outsource it to an agency. – Joost de Valk
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Every content strategy should include a focus on quality content writing. So whether that’s SEO copywriting or content writing, compelling content won’t just appear on the page.
It takes the skill of a trained copywriter, the right strategy, and a well-planned approach to succeed.