The history of human civilization is really the history of writing.
I mean this literally: Our species’ ability to maintain consistent historical records across generations is tied directly to our ability to write. The invention of writing (which most scholars agree first appeared in Mesopotamia around 3400 BCE) opened up new possibilities for humanity. No longer were our thoughts, feelings, and actions destined to be forgotten in the slow march of time. With writing, we could reach across the ages and touch the future, bridging the gaps of human experience and connecting people in a way that was never before possible.
And today we write for search engines.
Don’t misunderstand me; I have a great love for search engine optimization (SEO). Used properly, SEO copywriting can help users navigate the often-murky stormy seas of the internet. What I want to highlight here is just how unprecedented SEO writing is. For the first time in 5000+ years, we’re writing (at least partially) for an audience that is not human.
This creates a unique puzzle for SEOs and content marketers: How do you create engaging, informative content that entertains, educates, or inspires readers, while also crafting something that a Google crawler will recognize as top-result worthy?
Here, we’re going to do our best to answer that question as we discuss SEO copywriting — and how you can write for readers without neglecting the robots.
What Is SEO Copywriting?
On the surface, SEO copywriting is not that much different from traditional writing. It’s about creating compelling written content so that when someone lands on your page, they don’t instantly reach for the ‘go back’ button. But where SEO copywriting differs from standard writing is in its double audience. The SEO copywriter writes to entice human readers, yes, but must also follow SEO best practices and apply data insights to help their content stand out to search engine algorithms.
To put it a different way, SEO copywriting is about writing something that Google will recognize as rank-worthy, and that people will want to read, share, and link to.
Unfortunately, these two priorities don’t always play nicely together.
Have you ever clicked on a promising search result only to end up with a mismatched jumble of unrelated headers, awkward phrases, disjointed tone, and thin content? If so, there’s a good chance that the page’s creator looked at some analytical data that told them they needed a certain number of long-tail keyword inclusions and a specific minimum word count, and they did whatever they could to make it happen. They were writing for the robots, not the readers.
On the other hand, have you ever landed on a page that was incredibly well written but extremely poorly optimized for SEO? Probably not, because content that refuses to speak to the algorithm can end up so buried in the search results that you’d need a pickaxe and a canary just to find it.
What I’m trying to say is that if you want to make successful online content capable of capturing attention and inspiring action, then you need to balance the needs of readers with the key signals Google (and other search engines) use to quantify page value and relevance.
Sounds difficult? It can be. After all, it’s hard enough to write something that will resonate with another human being; it’s even harder to do it in a way that a cold-hearted robot can get excited about.
Why bother? Because high-quality, SEO-optimized content hits that sweet spot, landing your page where it can be seen by the right people, and then inspiring them to do something about it. And for modern businesses, this makes SEO one of the most effective (and cost-effective) ways to stand out from the competition.
Benefits of SEO Copywriting
SEO is organic. Readers come to your page because it offers them something they want. And because they are the ones who initiate contact, the relationship that develops is so much more natural than the sit-still-while-I-tell-you-what-to-buy interactions so common in advertising.
The right SEO copywriting not only casts a wide net but also a targeted one that speaks directly to the people who are most ready to become your customers. Well-written and thoroughly researched web content, built on accurate analytical data and optimized for search engine algorithms, brings with it a range of advantages. These benefits often include:
- Increased ROI over paid advertising
- Improved search engine rankings without the risk of penalization
- Enhanced organic website traffic
- Decreased bounce rates
- Improved conversion rates
- Enhanced brand recognition and customer trust
Simply put, SEO copywriting done right can make a major difference to your business. But the caveat here is that it really must be done right. And with the twin critics of readability and crawlability breathing down your neck, it takes more than a shot in the dark to make that happen.
What Makes Great SEO Copywriting?
While it’s certainly true that different audiences want different things, it’s also true that all of your readers and all of the search engine bots actually want the same thing: High-quality content. The trick to making effective SEO content is in understanding what “high-quality” means for humans, what it means for robots, and how to fit both considerations into your content-creation process.
So, here’s how to do it:
Start with Solid Keyword Research
Although SEO has come a long way in the past several decades, at its heart it’s still heavily built on the idea of keywords. Keywords help Google (et. all) better classify online content to match search queries, but they also provide vital insight into user intent. What do your readers want, and how do they expect to find it? The answer is in the keywords.
Keyword research helps you understand the questions, concerns, interests, and needs of your human audience. As such, keyword research should be more than just a cursory review of terms to shoehorn in your content — it should be the foundation of your creative process.
But don’t overdo it. Instead of trying to optimize your content for all the keywords that come to mind, locate and focus on a single primary keyword that demonstrates a balance of difficulty and cost-per-click (which is an indication of conversion potential). This keyword should become the main focus of your content piece. You can then radiate outward to find additional related keywords that support your topic in a way that won’t distract the reader. Backed by the right keyword research, your article should have the foundation it needs to be both engaging and search engine friendly.
Focus on Keyword Intention
The same words don’t always mean the same thing — “consulting,” for example, can mean either seeking advice or giving it (two very different actions). Therefore, understanding the context of a keyword is just as important as identifying the keyword in the first place. But keyword intention goes further than just knowing what a reader means when they type “consulting” into Google. Your keywords can tell you what a reader plans to do next, provided their needs are met.
Based on user intent, keywords can be divided into four different categories:
- Informational. Users are seeking general information or an answer to a specific question.
- Navigational. Users are trying to locate a specific page or site.
- Commercial. Users want more information about services, products, or brands.
- Transactional. Users are trying to complete a purchase or take a specific action.
See where we’re going with this? Keyword phrases that fall into the commercial or transactional categories (such as ones that include the words ‘affordable,’ ‘review,’ ‘best,’ ‘get,’ and ‘buy’) indicate the searcher is near the end of the sales funnel. By being aware of the intent behind the keywords, you can create content that answers their questions, resolves their concerns, and guides them to take action.
Don’t Ever, Ever (Ever) Keyword Stuff
It’s not 1996, so I hesitate to even bring up keyword stuffing. But the unfortunate reality is that some people still think the best way to make it to the top of the search engine results page is by cramming as many keywords into their content as possible. This is a bad idea. Not only does it lead to staggeringly high bounce rates as users quickly discover that your page is all search terms and no substance, but it also sets off alarms with Google.
Today’s search engine algorithms are scary advanced, and they all cut their teeth on finding and penalizing keyword stuffers. So, unless you want to do the exact opposite of what this entire article assumes you want to do, keep the keywords relevant and at a reasonable level.
Speak in Your Audience’s Language
Tone matters. Voice matters. The phrasing you chose to convey meaning in your content matters. This is why it’s so important to understand who your audience is when you develop your digital marketing strategy. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, you need to speak a language they understand. Of course, this may be easier said than done.
Creating audience personas can be a valuable first step. Take things further by exploring the sites and media that your readers care about. Discover the kinds of content they like and share. Determine whether they prefer no-frills content that is concise and to the point, or if they’d rather take their time on the journey. This will not only help your audience feel at home on your site; it will also signal to the search engine that your page understands the niche it inhabits, and thus deserves a better ranking.
At the end of the day, the effectiveness of your content will depend on the value it brings to the table. Knowing what your audience wants, acknowledging that need, and then fulfilling the promise will help ensure that the interaction is a positive one. This isn’t exactly news — making customers happy has always been essentially the same thing as making money. But what may be more surprising is that modern search engines also rank content based on the value it delivers to the user.
Without getting too deep into Google’s sometimes-secretive algorithm, suffice it to say that with every update that Google rolls out the search engine adds more weight to user experience and value. So, when you meet the needs of your audience, you’re also giving your page a boost to help it climb the rankings. That’s about as win-win as you can get.
Bring It All Together with Internal Linking
No page is an island — at least, it shouldn’t be. In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of inbound links from other sites in sharing page authority and establishing topic relevance. That’s all well and good, but internal links can be just as important.
Like so many of these points, internal linking is doubly advantageous. Links between your pages help show users and crawlers how to navigate your site, find interesting and related content, and establish which pages are most important. Search engine algorithms use this information to prioritize pages for increased ranking. By following the links, Google establishes relationships between your content pages and can share link value between them to help boost the overall rankings of your entire site.
SEO Copywriting with BASE
Writing has always been central to human civilization. But today, writing is taking on new significance as we create content that has to be capable of speaking to algorithms as well as human users. But SEO copywriting is so much more complex than just writing about the right topics and sprinkling in a few keywords. If you’re struggling to find the right way to engage your audiences and expand your online presence, consider SEO copywriting services from BASE.
Providing top-quality content that users and search engines can agree on, BASE content writers have the tools, talent, and expertise you need to take your digital marketing strategy further. Contact us today, and well keep your readers (and Google’s robots) happy.