Believe it or not, copywriting has been around for centuries and although we might more readily associate it with the pop-culture of Mad Men and the modern professional era, how it fits into the working world is very different as we go further into the digital age.
One reason for this, is that in order for present-day organisations to put what they have to offer out there, they must now have the internet in mind at all times and prioritise web and SEO-friendly content, specifically.
Where to begin?
Put simply, SEO copywriting is the combination of the two well-established disciplines of copywriting and creating content optimised for SEO. If you were to sit down and look at what most contemporary clients want when they come to a digital marketing company, it is to increase their conversions by drawing more people to their website.
This, of course, takes the form of updating existing pages and posts, as well as writing new ones where there may be a content gap or opportunities to be had. But to write anything for an online platform effectively, SEO must be at the heart of your content – otherwise, very few are likely to even find their way too it.
But, before we can dig down into the defining features of SEO copywriting, we must first get into a more base definition of what copywriting is; only after establishing a foundation of knowledge can we come to understand how the two schools dovetail to create what we know as SEO copywriting.
As mentioned, copywriting has been around since the 15th century and, at its root, is the process of producing written content with the aim of promoting and/or selling a product or service. Whether it be the words on a billboard, the script in a TV advert or, in this case, the text on a website – these are all forms of copywriting.
Of course, the latter is the more recent and relevant example that we’ll be looking at, but a common objective can be tracked throughout the history of copywriting and, therefore, many of the core copywriting principles have not changed since its conception:
- Your copy should inform and persuade at the same time.
- It should explain to the audience how this product/service is unique to others.
- You should have a particular audience in mind when writing it.
- It should be easy to read: scannable, with good signposting and a clear CTA (call to action).
- The best copy tells a story etc.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor are they solely limited to copywriting: a lot of these might sound like common sense – and that’s the point; copy should sound natural, even conversational at times and speak to its reader on their level.
When writing for SEO, specifically, many people make the mistake of trying to write for Google first and their audience second, but as the saying goes: ‘the customer is always right’. Ok, this might not translate perfectly here but, in this context, it simply means that your audience and their wants/needs come first, with the purpose of copywriting being to supplement this overarching goal.
So, if copywriting is about prioritising the audience, where does SEO content writing come in and how does it differ? Well, it doesn’t – not much anyway…
Writing for SEO
This was more of a rhetorical question, as just like more traditional forms of copywriting, proper SEO content should start out with pretty much the same objectives: identify who your specific audience is, what they are after and how you can address it.
Admittedly, this is a bit of an oversimplification – there is a lot of planning and keyword research that goes into good SEO, as well as the technical audit and framework toward the backend of your website – but the key aspects of SEO writing ring true with copywriting also. As well as identifying your target audience, you should always have their search intent in mind and strive to create not only relevant, but engaging and trustworthy copy.
Trustworthy information goes both ways, too; to help you rank on SERPs (search engine results pages), you must provide relative and authoritative information to your audience in order for Google to see you as such. This leads to other sites finding your content and, hopefully, linking to your page(s) on their website.
However, this is only likely to happen if you display the relevant on-page content to begin with. Ultimately, the better you address a person’s search queries – whether that be a prospective customer or a potentially referring domain – the more site authority you gain and, therefore, the better your SEO results overall.
Not to be too reductionist, but the underlying point is that although SEO leans into the more digital, systematic side of things, its success is still underpinned by good writing above all else. This is often referred to as holistic SEO, which essentially operates on the premise that creating the best website and quality content possible, instead of trying to outfox the Google algorithms etc., typically results in good rankings and SEO performance anyway.
So, if there is a natural overlap between traditional copywriting and SEO content, how do we condense things down into a succinct understanding of what SEO copywriting is? Well, here are some tips that we think help to summarise this heavily intertwined facet of digital marketing.
SEO copywriting tips
1. Know who’s searching and what for
Firstly—and we can’t stress this enough (hence why we’ve mentioned it twice already)—you need to know who you’re writing for just as much as what you’re writing about. You can’t create a proper keyword strategy and plan of attack without knowing who you’re trying to appeal to and what kind of searches they are going to make.
Once again, isolating your audience(s) comes down to identifying their search intent: what is the question are they looking to ask Google and how are you going to be the one to answer it? In terms of SEO copywriting, not only does this help you start tobuild a list of keywords and content ideas, but it also helps you narrow down the style you want to write too. Study your competitors too, if they’re getting the traffic then they doing something right, whether its technically or tonally.
2. Plan every piece
As mentioned before, a crucial step in both good copywriting and good SEO is preparation. So, as well as completing the essential tasks of doing your keyword research and identifying your demographic(s), you should plan each and every part of each and every piece, from headline to conclusion.
Plotting out a piece of writing is something you’re taught from an early age: beginning, middle, end being the most basic structure. Obviously, your plan should go much deeper than this – think about the key points you want to make, dedicate specific paragraphs for each and write copy that fits keywords into them organically – but the overall idea is, essentially, the same.
If you start writing a piece or even a singular paragraph without an idea of where you want it to go, you’ll find yourself not only missing out on those appropriate places to put keywords, but taking much longer to finish things and with much less flow from one point to the next.
3. Make it accessible
You never want to barrage people with too much information all at once. On the other hand, you don’t want it to feel like you’re talking down to someone either – they can always Google a quick bit of terminology etc. However, if your paragraphs are too dense and your sentences are too long, or you simply don’t get the point quick enough, they’ll find it tiresome to read.
Therefore, one of the best things to do is break up your main bodies of text into smaller chunks. Use headings, strong punctuation and bullet points – like we have in this blog – to condense sections into more manageable pieces and sum up larger points. You have to remember that most of the time, people are scan-reading and good copy caters to that, whilst still having depth.
Fortunately, keywords and scan-reading often go hand in hand. As they are usually umbrella terms for the topic you are discussing, sprinkling them in helps reinforce what you are writing about, as well as how your more detailed points fit into that topic. So, make it scannable, easy to read and to the point – a good tip is to establish what this is at the start of a paragraph and reiterate it again at the end.
4. Strike a balance
Lastly, looping back around to an earlier point on SEO writing, rather than falling into the same trap as others and chasing Google rankings and keywords without much thought given to the reader, your most important tasks is to consider both.
As Heather Lloyd-Martin of SuccessWorks so aptly puts it, “SEO copywriting serves two masters”: the audience and Google. Although you might presume prioritising the stuff that Google does is best, we know that things aren’t that simple – the repercussions of keyword stuffing alone proves that. There is a lot of nuance to good SEO copywriting and if we keep the holistic approach in mind, the idea is that focusing on good quality content is the best way to start seeing results.
You have to remember that although it is an algorithm, Google is designed to better align itself with human thinking with every update, so there’s no sense in desperately trying to write for or like a robot. Keywords themselves are derived from human input, so there’s no need to shoehorn them in and ruin good writing by taking away any personality or style.
Choose ActiveWin for your SEO copywriting services
As with all of these kinds of topics, it’ll take more than just one blog to cover everything there is to know about SEO copywriting. Nevertheless, hopefully you found this guide helpful and have a better understanding of what it is than you did before, even if it is more than a starting point.
Still feel like you might not know exactly how to merge these two techniques together? Don’t worry, there’s experts for that – like us! Get in touch with ActiveWin now, if you’re looking for help with your SEO copywriting, or any other digital marketing services.
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