Duncan - 31 July 2014 in Uncategorized

A guide to SEO copywriting

What is SEO copywriting?

Writing copy that sells has always been something that has fascinated me, back to the days of scalable, high volume direct mail. This article looks into how to write copy with an appreciation for the SEO opportunities for your website.

Why is it important?
Whilst the major search engines mutate, the data we provide on our websites help construct ‘the index’. Making your content and website architecture is still very much key in search marketing and it’s just an ongoing task to keep ahead of the curve.

One of my biggest weaknesses is clearly explaining the background and history of the weird and wonderful world of SEO to businesses that I am honoured to work with. SEO copywriting used to be formulaic, based on correlation analyses carried out in the SEO community. This paved the way for widespread spammy SEO copywriting activity when combined with paying webmasters to link to yours could build huge volumes of relevant organic traffic. To be honest, it was kinda fun but was always going to end.

Like with anything, complexities have accumulated in search marketing but practical, project managed SEO will help you get to grips with getting your SEO copy rocking in the results. These are things that you can work on and get some decent steer on using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

On page factors SEO – the journey
The background starts with understanding the copy that the search engines are ram primarily interested in. The page’s URL, title and meta description are 3 elements that you and/or your SEO consultant should have a defined strategy on their creation. If you didn’t know, these are the 3 elements that make the traditional search engine result. I say ‘traditional’ because in some instances Google algorithmically selects other data to make up the results. For instance if you create a web page within your website without this data it could well be the case that Google snippets 150-160 characters of paragraph text for the description and perhaps your ‘brand’ + ‘breadcrumb’ for the page title.

Where do I start?
Understanding user search queries and their volume will always be base 1 of SEO: keyword research.

If you are working on an existing website, then there might be some historic keyword relevancy in the title and description that have driven some rankings. You can use this as the platform of your initial keyword list if there seems to have been some original thought into defining pages with decent, commercially led keywords. If you wanted you could dip into the world of SEO software and rank check your performance currently. Or you could use Google Webmaster Tools (which is free) to give you useful information on user search queries and your average rankings.

Is AdWords Keyword tool good?
Having recently stated on Twitter that I still yearn for the Adwords Keyword Tool interface, some recent project work has shown me that the heavy UI of the new AdWords planner is worth persisting with. You get your method down after a few hours and control the variables such as location and keyword match type with no mistakes after a short amount of time. My recommended approach would be:

1. Start with the most simple ‘search for keywords and ideas’. Carefully watch out for the search volume within ‘ideas’ as you don’t want to miss any great terms. Ensure that you’ve got the appropriate location (and perhaps ‘language’) selected prior to finalising your list. By default, you are looking at ‘broad match’ data which includes synonyms and close variants of the keyword in question. This is totally fine for your initial research because it shows the top level trends relevant to your website (or client’s) website.

AdWords Planner: search for new keyword and ad group ideas

AdWords Planner: search for new keyword and ad group ideas

2. This is my favourite part of the AdWords keyword tool: keyword estimates. At this point, introduce keyword matching – I would recommend phrase match for SEO to allow for successful SEO generating visibility for concepts and tranches of search terms as opposed to specific (exact match) keywords. Finally, factor in a really high cost per click and daily budget to give the highest possible results.

Keyword planner: get detailed estimates

Keyword planner: get detailed estimates

Keyword planner enter bid and daily budget for click targets


3. Cross fertilise the results with SEO keyword difficulty. Within the Moz.com suite, they algorithmically assess how competitive a keyword is which can unravel great opportunities for quicker SEO gains on slightly lower volume / competition keywords.

Moz.com's 'cool as' keyword-difficulty-tool

Moz.com’s ‘cool as’ keyword-difficulty-tool


You are now in a position to start SEO copywriting.

How do I write a title, description and header?
The title is the hyperlink in your search result and should be written with your number 1 target term included but in a fluid, advertorial manner with a mention of the website brand name. All within 165 characters…as after that point the text could well truncate due to the new format of Google’s search results. A bit like writing a tweet, you are looking to create attention and entice….and put your ‘money’ term at the beginning of the title.

The description can be a build on your key phrase and call to action. Providing statistical data, accreditation or other factual points can cut through very well in a description – providing uniqueness and helpfulness to the user. Experiment with capitalisation as a method of differentiating a meta description from the competing pack of websites.

Finally, the header, or h1. I would recommend using both a headline (with a h1 html tag) and a strap line (h2 tag) and write them like a classic old press or TV ad. Use of statements, short sentences and well thought out calls to action will massively aid conversion

Don’t repeat or stuff keywords in unnaturally to any of these three elements.

What is keyword stuffing?
This is an example of dodgy keyword stuffing. You’ll have no doubt seen this type of thing as a search engine user:

‘<SEO>, <SEO> Services <SEO> Consultant, <SEO>, <Search Engine Optimisation>’

This approach is likely to be both unsuccessful and risky – you could trigger a Google penalty as in recent years this search engine giant has successfully clamped down on search engine manipulation, which in turn rewards white hat, ‘good guy’ SEO.

URLs
A uniform resource locator (URL) is an unique address to a page on your website. The more simple and relevant the URL structure is the better – you can hear it from the horse’s mouth: here.

Main body text
Finally, paragraph text. You don’t need to write exclusively for search engines and if you attempt to do so by dangling keywords on pages you could get hit by penalty based algorithms such as Panda or Penguin. Write any text with purpose and steer away from writing a monotonous, useless paragraph at the top of the page because if it’s useless to the user then it most probably is to the search engine spider.


Duncan Colman


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