What is SEO copywriting? Copify blog

What is SEO copywriting?

Have you sat through many a meeting listening to the head of marketing drone on about search engine optimisation? Perhaps you’re confused about long-tail and short-tail keywords? Or you just don’t know your PPC from your SERP?

In fact, just what is SEO copywriting anyway?

Well, fear no more: we provide the ultimate introduction to SEO copywriting.

In a nutshell: SEO copywriting definition

SEO is the means of helping a website appear as high up as possible in the search engine results page (otherwise known as SERP), whether that’s Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other.  There are a number of web design and development factors which influence this. However, SEO copywriting involves weaving keywords and phrases that your target audience would use to find you into your website’s content.

SEO copywriting fits into the larger field of search engine optimisation which utilises a range of tactics, including link building, mobile optimisation, load speeds, and content strategy techniques to ensure your site is device and user-friendly, promotes unique and insightful content and provides essential details.

Take a look at this great SEO explainer video from Start Copywriting:

(Courtesy of YouTube/Start Copywriting)

Why is SEO important?

Whether you’re an ecommerce site or an online magazine, SEO is a pretty important piece of digital marketing you should be conducting.

Here’s why: “most people who use search engines only look at the first page or two of the search results, so for a page to get high traffic from a search engine, it has to be listed in those first two pages. If your business is selling products or services over the internet, you want your website to be listed before your competitor’s websites.” (The Balance)

One benefit of SEO is that in and of itself it’s free. Unfortunately, it’s also time consuming. You’ll either need to have a member of your team looking after your SEO, which includes optimising your web and blog content, or you’ll need to hire a freelancer content marketer or outsource your content marketing to an agency. That means there will be an unavoidable cost to you in the long run.

It also doesn’t work over night and can take months to be effective. According to Josh Steimle, “many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That’s generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time. Whatever results you’re getting at 6 months should be considerably less than what you’re getting at 12 months. At some point, you may see your results taper off, and then it may be a matter of maintaining results rather than growing them.”

Where should I include SEO?

There are a few places you should aim to use SEO. Here are some:

  • Header title/page title
  • Subheadings
  • URL address for that specific page
  • Meta description
  • Alt text on images
  • Content body of your landing pages, product descriptions & blog posts

If you publish content through a platform like WordPress, you will find there are plenty of tools to help you optimise your content. Yoast is one such plugin which operates like a traffic-light system from red to green, telling you when you’ve included your focus keyword in enough places.

What is SEO copywriting? Copify blog
Danard Vincente (Flickr)

However, we recommend not going OTT. So long as you get your keyword into your content at least once and in the meta descriptions/URL/heading, you should be covered.

What makes good SEO copywriting?

You shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between good copywriting and good SEO copywriting. That’s because both should be error-free, benefits-led and appeal to the audience. The only difference is that SEO content is optimised with the use of keywords – but this should read natural, not stuffed and artificial.

According to The Balance, “Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not ‘thin’ or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users.”

We’ve also mentioned that SEO copywriting goes hand in hand with quality link building with reputable sites. WordStream says that, when it comes to getting SEO, “The most important concept to understand is that, as Google says, you’re more likely to have your content rank higher for keywords you’re targeting if you can get external websites to link to you.”

Therefore, your wider content strategy needs to think about interacting with other influencers on the net and through social media, whether through networking or guest blogging.

You can also use a PPC (pay-per-click) strategy to complement your organic (non-paid-for) SEO, which means you feature an ad to a specific keyword on search engines and pay a fee each time it’s clicked. This enables you to rank on the first page of a set of results easily but is quite costly and is only effective for as long as the ad is there. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same longevity as organic SEO that is incorporated throughout your online presence.

Examples of bad SEO

The Balance notes how “Search engine optimization has evolved greatly over the years. In the early days of SEO web designers would ‘stuff’ keywords into web page keyword meta tags to improve search engine rankings”.

 

What is SEO copywriting? Copify blog
Jerry Bunkers (Flickr)

 

Thankfully, smart copywriters and business owners know how to stay ahead of the Google curve and are aware that keyword stuffing just won’t make the grade. In fact, you’re more likely to be penalised with a lower ranking or being blacklisted altogether.

What’s more, “Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines.” And you’ll want to avoid simply buying links to back up your SEO – these are usually offered in return for payment but can come from poor-quality, spammy sites which only devalues your rating. Find out what other SEO ‘sins’ to avoid from Smart Blogger.

How do I know what keywords to use?

Starting broad, your keywords will be related to your USPs, industry field, service/product, and location. You’ll need to conduct research to see the kinds of things your customers are searching for. However, there are a number of great SEO keyword tools available to use. To get you started, here are some of the best free ones:

Short-tail vs long-tail keywords?

SEO Pressor defines short-tail keywords as comprising three words and under (e.g. ‘content creation’). By contrast, long-tail keywords are over three words (e.g. ‘SEO content creation agency). The difference? “As keywords get longer, search volume becomes lower. However, all other metrics such as conversion rates go in favor of long tail keywords.”

What is SEO copywriting? Copify blog
Traffic & Conversion Rate by Keyword Length: SEO Pressor

That’s because long-tail keywords are more specific, so you’re more likely to strike gold in the form of being matched with a customer who is looking for exactly what you have to sell. They’re particularly useful as you narrow down the focus of your website.

While a short-tail keyword is great for driving lots of traffic, it can also see a higher bounce rate, lower conversion rate, and make it less likely you’ll score a place on the first page since you’ll face stiffer competition. However, these ‘head terms’ are good for category pages. On the other hand, long-tail keywords would be better used for individual product pages to better describe what you stock/offer.

Long-tail keywords are increasingly being recommended for use by the likes of Yoast and WordStream since they’re more focused and because they’re more likely to be successful when using voice search – a popular method in the age of voice assist devices.

How can you track your SEO copywriting?

You can track the success of your SEO efforts through the usual content analytics routes. A great starting point is Google Analytics, which provides comprehensive data, including which search terms are most used. The multi-channel report also helps you to compare organic SEO and PPC to check they’re working together.

Learn how to write SEO copy

Considering taking up the challenge of writing your own SEO content? There are some great tools to help you. Medium has an easy to comprehend SEO tutorial for beginners, or there’s a more in-depth tutorial at Hobo. You can even get a handy 4-step SEO checklist from Entrepreneur to help you optimise your website.

If you’re looking to send your staff on an intensive course, or want to learn SEO from a pro, consider signing up for an online course, such as that from Success Works.

Get SEO copy

Want to get SEO content for your website or blog the easy, cost-effective way? Just create a brief with Copify and get access to thousands of copywriters.

 

Image credit: Perzon SEO, ‘Entrepreneur working on his Macbook 2’

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How to use HARO and JournoRequests to build links

TLDR; How to build DA55+ links in just over 40 minutes using HARO & JournoRequests.

Building links, or rather, building the type of links that make the needle move in terms of rankings has never been harder.

There is, however, a major source of untapped links that I believe many people are missing out on – JournoRequests.

What are JournoRequests?

Journalists need quotable sources to make their stories credible. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier for them to find commenters on even the most obscure subjects.

This is great news for you and your clients, as it means there are thousands of people out there who are willing to quote you, and crucially give you some powerful links!

I’m going to show you how I have built a number of links from high authority sites using a very simple, 3 step process.

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Tweetdeck #journorequest column

Step 1 – finding JournoRequest opportunities

There are 2 main ways of finding JournoRequest opportunities:

Twitter – follow the hashtag #JournoRequest for the most up to date requests. Many of these requests can be quite obscure, so you way want to add another relevant keyword to find the most relevant enquiries to your vertical.

Tip: I recommend setting up columns for your #JournoRequest columns in your Tweetdeck account and checking these daily.

Sourcing services – There are several services you can join which connect you with journalists who are seeking sources. The most popular, and the one I have had the greatest success with is HARO (Help a Reporter Out).

Tip: Subscribe to HARO’s free email digests which are sent out twice daily.

 

HARO Digest email
HARO Digest email

 

Step 2 – Identifying the right opportunities

Once you have a steady flow of requests, it’s time to start responding to them. It may be tempting at first to respond to every single one, but it is unlikely that this will lead to a good response rate. Read each request carefully and if you are confident you can offer some decent insight then respond.

Tip: quickly scan through this list every day to see if there are opportunities in areas you have expertise in.

 

Step 3 – Writing your pitch

You’ve found an opportunity, and you have something worthwhile to say, now it’s time to write your pitch. Make sure you have fully read the request in full and responded accordingly. For example, if it requests a picture, make sure one is attached.

Tip: I have found that the following template for pitch emails works particularly well – offer your initial comment and any further comments if required.

Hi [FNAME],

Please find a response to your request below:

“Response goes here…“

If published, I will share with 5000+ social media followers etc.

Happy to comment further.

The results

The following are articles I have gained links from by following this process:

Bitly.com – Social Media PredictionsDA 93

Businesszone.co.uk – When should you take on your first employee? – DA 59

Docurated.com – 63 sales, marketing, and content professionals share examples of great content marketing – DA 48

Altushost.com – $500 Per Month Marketing Budget – How Would You Spend It?DA 45

Businessadvice.co.uk – Fraud lessons: How the owner of one ecommerce platform is fighting payment fraud on a daily basis – DA 32

 

Stats

  • Pitches sent – 20
  • Time spent on each pitch (approx) – 10 minutes
  • Total time spent – 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Comments/links placed – 5
  • Success rate – 25%
  • Minutes per link – 40 
  • Average DA of link – 55.4

 

 

Takeouts and top #JournoRequest tips

  • Check comments before sending – The easier you make it for the journalist to cut and paste your comments the greater your chances of success. Be sure to spell/grammar check your copy before sending.
  • Don’t ask specifically for links – Include links strategically in your comment or in a bio but don’t demand them. In all of the examples listed above the links were implemented as sent without request.
  • If you don’t have any genuine insight, don’t respond – Don’t waste your time, or theirs, by commenting on things you have little comprehension of.
  • Utilise the knowledge of your team – If you have a member of your team who is qualified to comment, refer the request on. This article was commented on by my colleague who is experienced in payment fraud.
  • Offer leverage – By offering to share published work with your own social media audience, you can make yourself more attractive to publishers.

 

Image Credit: ‘Land of the Tabloids‘ courtesy of Daniel Novta

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The truth about duplicate content

There are many myths and rumours surrounding duplicate content. In this post we’ll separate the fact from the fiction in terms of its potential impact on your website.

What is ‘duplicate content’?

Where better to start than with Google’s definition?

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

• Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
• Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
• Printer-only versions of web pages”

There is a common misconception that any amount of duplication on a web page is a bad thing – this is not the case. Generally, some duplicate content is OK if the source is credited, adds value and it doesn’t make up a disproportionate amount of your content.

The quoted copy above is a good example of this, we are not passing this off as our own opinion, we are very clearly referencing and linking to the original source.

So what’s wrong with duplicate content?

Problems with duplicate content arise if its intent is seen as malicious. Once upon a time, black hat SEO practitioners could copy content across sites to manipulate search engine rankings. But algorithms are much smarter now, so having a large amount of duplicate content on your site will do more hard than good.

Also, if your site has a significant amount of duplicate content, search engines will have the following problems:

– They won’t know which version(s) to show in search results – and what order to rank them in.
– They won’t know which version of the content to include/exclude from their results.
– With internal duplication in particular, search engines won’t know if they should direct the link metrics to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions – essentially diluting the ‘link juice’. But if the content is on only one URL, each link will point to that single page, enhancing its authority.

Can you be penalised by Google for using duplicate content?

There’s a common myth floating around that you can receive a formal penalty for duplicate content. However, in a recent video, Lipattsev was adamant that if Google discovers your site’s content isn’t unique and doesn’t rank your page above a competing page, it isn’t a penalty – it’s simply Google trying to give the end user the best experience. Depending on the search terms and the quality of your content, your page containing duplicate content could appear higher in another relevant search.

In the following video, Cutts makes it clear that duplicate content won’t raise a red flag with the search engine giant, unless it is spammy or involves keyword stuffing.

Although you may not be penalised by Google for duplicate content specifically, there are issues surrounding duplication which can hurt your rankings – namely the three points mentioned earlier.

Google and the other search engines love uniqueness, added value and high quality content, so sites providing this will be rewarded, while sites providing a high amount of copied content won’t be.

What about plagiarism?

Content scraping is not protected by copyright law if the person who’s using the content on their site gives credit to the original source. However, if an acknowledgement of the source is not included, this is classed as plagiarism; if you’re the victim, you could file a Digital Millennium Copyright complaint against the person who has stolen your content. Take a look at this real-life story of website plagiarism, including steps you might want to take if you’re in a similar situation.

How can you avoid duplicate content issues?

Although duplicate content may not be as deadly as many people believe, it’s still important to take steps to minimise its negative effects on your site. As a first step, tools such as Siteliner and Copyscape can help you to discover any obvious issues. You’ll find lots of helpful, up-to-date tips from the folks at Hobo Web and if you have an ecommerce site, US agency Inflow have also produced a handy guide.

If your website contains a lot of internal duplication, which is particularly common on ecommerce sites, you should indicate preferred URLs to Google via Canonicalisation.

Image courtesy of Andrew Mager.

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SEO content best practices for 2016 and beyond

The nature of SEO has changed beyond all recognition in the past few years and, as a result, content writing has also undergone a radical shift. Low quality, keyword-stuffed articles are no longer enough to achieve those all important rankings; today you need informative, insightful content that delivers genuine value to the reader. In this article, I’m going to show you some of the best SEO practices you should be following in order to get results, both in 2016 and well into the future.

1. Keywords should be strategically included, not stuffed

Long gone are the days when businesses could stuff their websites with a few choice keywords and expect to soar on to the first page of Google in no time at all. Updates to the search engine’s algorithm, most notably Penguin in 2012 and Panda in 2014, were designed to reward sites offering genuine information to help visitors, while penalising those attempting to falsely inflate their position. So, how can you keep the Google happy and still attract the right people to your domain?

Wordstream recommend that you “include relevant keywords in a number of high-attention areas on your site”, including in page titles, meta descriptions and body copy. As your site will have hundreds, and potentially thousands, of short and long-tail keywords to target, you’ll have to be intelligent in terms of how you do this – for Searchmetrics, “Keywords are, of course, an organic part of good content, but are meaningless without relevance and structure.”

In their 2016 SEO checklist, Web Runner advise utilising several methods for keyword research, so you end up with a definitive and relevant list you can use “to provide answers to your visitors’ questions, as well as to position [yourself] as an authority who can help them if they need even more.” Integrate your keyword research into your existing content calendar, so you are focusing on a few key terms for each piece of content, rather than over-extending and trying to cram everything in in an artificial manner. As long as you’ve done your homework and your content includes a smattering of key search terms in all the right places, you’re abiding by the rules and should start to see evidence of success sooner rather than later.

2. Let the link juice flow

Links have always been an important factor in determining the provenance and relevance of a site, but the way in which search engines view linking has changed over the years. In 2016, it’s vital that your content contains a mixture of internal links to other articles or pages on your domain, to help visitors navigate through your site, and external links to authority sites. For your audience, this shows evidence of where you got your information from, but in terms of SEO, external links are a powerful ranking factor.

Internal links – According to Forbes, “the number of internal links on high-ranking pages has increased since 2014.”  However, as with most current SEO best practices, the key here is quality, not quantity: links should be provided in an intelligent and non-intrusive way, “ensuring that the user stays on the page and is satisfied.” KISSMetrics recommend not over-optimising by including keyword-rich anchor text; instead, links should be spread naturally, over longer anchors.

External links – Link juice is a term used by SEO specialists to communicate the increased authority granted to sites receiving lots of links from other sites. Although the benefit to your ranking will naturally come from other websites liking your content and deciding to link to it, you should always be linking to authoritative sites yourself; outbound links to toxic sites could see you penalised. Again, differentiate your anchor text, and make sure the reader can find value in whatever it is you’re linking to.

3. Include headings and sub-headings & use tags correctly

Large blocks of unbroken text are a big no-no in modern SEO. Just as your audience is likely to be disconcerted when confronted with a huge body of text, search engines also struggle to extract the main points of a long post with no discernible structure. An easy way around this is to incorporate headings and sub-headings into your content, as plenty of SEO experts, such as Yoast, recommend.

Headings and sub-headings are a useful way of including variations of your key search terms, enabling people to find your site, but again, you should ensure that any titles you do include are relevant to the copy itself and guide the reader through your content. Header tags should also be used correctly – Google itself recommends “multiple heading sizes in order to create a hierarchical structure for your content” – which, if you’re using HTML, involves you knowing the difference between H1 and H6 tags.

4. Aim for longer posts

Ten years ago, 300 word posts were considered long and effective, in terms of SEO. In 2016, however, the benchmark is around five times that length, with Martin Laetsch recommending a focus on long-term content, between 1,200 and 1,500 words, as ideal. John Lincoln found that longer articles targeting competitive keywords rank higher and attract more backlinks, while Google’s own Pandu Nayak has said that one of the key thought processes behind the Panda update was “to help users find in-depth articles.”

It’s not a given, but as long as you’re following the three SEO best practice tips outlined above, you could well see more benefit in posting a weekly 1,500 word blog than you would from daily 300 word offerings.

Key takeaways

• Research and organically include keywords in your content to please a human audience, not search engine bots.

• Internal links help readers and search engines navigate through your site, while external links build authority – so use them!

• Always break up content into easy-to-read chunks with relevant headings and sub-headings containing a selection of your target keywords.

• In modern SEO, long-form content is king: the more in-depth you can go with your topic, the better.

These are just a few on-page SEO tips to guide your content writing over the next few months and beyond – do you have any further suggestions?

Image courtesy of Andy Roberts

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