To say that the internet is a great equalizer is not totally accurate. While it allows everybody to have a digital presence, a mere internet presence alone does not guarantee that people and organizations can reach their target audience. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) may be useful and you will need to learn how to write for SEO in order to excell.
SEO practices have created an entire industry of digital marketers. Today, it is worth about $80 billion and it is still growing exponentially. Since the late 2000s, people have been predicting the death of SEO but it is still very much a force.
When we say SEO, we often mean the search engine Google. More than 9 in 10 people worldwide use Google for their online queries. The search engine giant is so dominant that other websites are just fighting over the scraps.
How Does Google Display Results?
After you type your query in Google’s search box, Google will display search results according to your search parameters. Even though it may take the search engine less than a second to find a million results, there is actually a long technical process to obtain those results. Google uses algorithms known as bots, crawlers, or spiders to:
- Consider your query
- Parse your query using algorithms
- Decipher the order of the keywords used in the search
- Comb databases for information
- Customize the results by examining your previous queries and your digital footprint
- Rank the results
Google then displays the search results on the search engine results page (SERP). The search engine classifies the search results according to three variables:
- How relevant are the web pages in connection to your keywords?
- How authoritative are the web pages according to the number of links?
- How trustworthy are the anchor links (i.e., the quality of the links)?
In the past, online copywriters stuffed a lot of keywords into blog posts to try to trick Google into ranking the pages high on the SERPs. This is no longer true today, especially with the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. Instead of ranking such pages, Google will flag your site for spamming.
SEO writing is the process of creating content that aims to produce a particular action. This action could be encouraging users to subscribe to your mailing list, promoting products, generating sales, or creating awareness.
Copywriting is an acquired skill. It may be easier for companies to hire a third-party SEO service rather than train their employees to learn and assume copywriting duties.
A SEO writer creates content to advertise and promote a product or engage the target audience. He or she not only knows how to write — using correct grammar, proper sentence construction, and the logical flow of ideas — but should also have a basic knowledge of the psychology of the audience.
It is about using the appropriate words and employing them to create interesting content while at the same time appealing to the emotion or logic of the reader.
Copywriters should also know how Google’s algorithms work. Not all keywords are created equal. There is an art and science to choosing the right keywords and using them properly.
Google’s algorithms rank some keywords higher than others. The trick is to figure out what the audience wants and what Google is thinking. Writers who want to use SEO tactics need to consider these things.
MOZ broke down what it means to write for SEO with this Whitebaord video:
By updating its algorithms, Google has made it challenging for SEO writers. Writers will no longer produce high search rankings if they use tactics such as stuffing the words “Taylor Swift songs” throughout their blog posts.
Algorithms will judge your article according to the quality of its content, the number of times it is shared by others, and whether it could be useful to audience members.
The essence of copywriting is that you need to provide answers to readers’ questions. Some elements of good copywriting include the
- Quality of your headline and subheadings
- Usefulness and relevance of your content
- Meta descriptions (summaries of websites)
- Keyword density (not to be confused with keyword stuffing)
- Number of quality links
The operative word here is acquired. While copywriting is a skill, it can be learned. Here are some quick tips to improve your copywriting techniques:
1. Write to solve problems – Users type queries into Google’s search box. You need to show Google that you can answer these queries and offer the best solutions to their problems. This can help you rank high on SERPs and stay on top for a long time.
2. Incorporate keywords in the title and first paragraph – While Google frowns upon the practice of keyword stuffing, keyword density is still very important. People are likely to read pieces with their keywords in the headlines and the meta descriptions that appear on the SERPs.
3. Use words related to the main query – This involves using keywords more judiciously than repeating the same keywords over and over again. If you are writing about Taylor Swift, you may want to discuss some people associated with her, such as Kanye West or the men in her life, for instance. If you are writing about Texas cities, you could mention Houston, Dallas, Arlington, Galveston, Katy, and the like.
4. Make content interesting – If you solved your readers’ problems but reading your article is as boring as watching paint dry, readers will not come back. Google’s algorithms record how long users spend reading your articles or websites, then check whether those same users return. This return rate may have an impact on your site’s credibility.
5. Forget the keywords – Instead of writing something specifically to include keywords, write your content first, then add your keywords later. Creating content around keywords is not only difficult but may also kill the flow of your article. So, forget the keywords, at least at the outset. You can add them, along with related phrases and words, later on in the article.
6. Don’t forget the hook – Fishing is a good analogy for SEO tactics. You cannot catch target audiences without using bait and hooks. Your headline and content should contain hooks to make them more memorable. Know your target audiences’ problems and offer solutions: “Tired of Telemarketers? Beat Them at Their Own Game!” “Termite Problem? Here’s One Simple DIY Solution Insect Control Companies Don’t Want You to Know.”
Companies without skilled writers may want to entrust their digital marketing needs to SEO experts so they can focus more on their core expertise. They can also encourage their employees to develop their SEO skills.
Excellence is correct information and consistent repetition. This is true with SEO writing. You need to practice your craft in order to be good at it. The above tips can point you in the right direction. The internet also has a rich trove of information that may help you hone your SEO writing skills. SEO tactics can be valuable tools worth considering.