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What is SEO copywriting? From keyword research to getting results

Read Time 11 mins | Written by: Wendy Woodhead

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. In this article, we provide the ultimate guide to SEO copywriting, including a definition, why SEO copywriting is important, how to write SEO copy and we share examples.

Table of contents

  1. What is SEO copywriting?
  2. What is an SEO copywriter?
  3. Why is SEO important?
  4. Are there any drawbacks to SEO copywriting?
  5. What does SEO copywriting mean in practical terms: how do I do it?
  6. What makes good SEO copywriting?
  7. Examples of bad SEO
  8. How do I know what keywords to use?
    i. Short-tail vs long-tail keywords
  9. Tracking your SEO copywriting success
  10. Where to start with SEO?
    i. Affordable SEO copywriting services

What is SEO copywriting?

SEO copywriting means carefully writing and structuring web content with the aim of helping the webpage appear as high in the search engine results page (SERPs) as possible, whether that’s Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other. Think of it as putting in place the most optimum conditions when creating a piece of text to help you position your business in front of your target audience online with few obstacles.

A primary component of SEO copywriting is subtly weaving keywords and phrases into your website’s content that your target audience will use to find you. That said, there are a number of other web design and content creation factors that influence how successfully a page ranks.

You see, copywriting for search success is part of a larger practice of search engine optimisation. This includes utilising 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:


Credit:
YouTube/Start Copywriting

 

What is an SEO copywriter?

So, if SEO copywriting is about optimising your position in the search results, then it follows that an SEO copywriter is a professional who can help you achieve that goal. SEO writers specialise in creating written content such as web pages, blog posts, product descriptions and other forms of online copy designed to improve a website's visibility in the SERPs.

An SEO copywriter has a deep understanding of both copywriting techniques and SEO best practices, allowing them to produce high-quality content that ranks well in search results while also engaging readers. Their main goal is to help businesses increase their online visibility for certain search terms, attract more organic traffic and ultimately drive more conversions and sales through persuasive content.

Read More: What is an SEO copywriter?

Why is SEO important?

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

Here’s why, according to Moz:

"In a nutshell: SEO has ~20X more traffic opportunity than PPC on both mobile and desktop.

SEO is also one of the only online marketing channels that, when set up correctly, can continue to pay dividends over time."

What that means is SEO copywriting is effective at driving organic traffic. This is traffic that you haven't paid to have sent to your site, such as using ads. And because you haven't paid for it, it sits around online long after you've created it, meaning you don't have to pay for its upkeep and max out your budget.

Search engines take organic traffic very seriously. They use it as a hallmark that your content is providing real use and value to the reader, so your website overall is going to be treated more favourably with higher rankings. Audiences also trust pages that are ranking under their own steam rather than paying for a top spot.

Are there any drawbacks to SEO copywriting?

Although a primary benefit of SEO is that it's free, it’s also time-consuming. You’ll either need to have a member of your team look 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 overnight and can take months to be effective. As the experts at SEMrush advise:

"There's no getting away from the fact that it takes time to improve your SEO. [...] But with the right strategy in place, 6 to 12 months is a long enough period to be able to see the impact of SEO efforts and to be able to justify ongoing investment into growth." 

Going back to our original point: although SEO copywriting is a slow-burn process, it's actually one that provides greater fruits overall.

What does SEO copywriting mean in practical terms: how do I do it?

Good SEO content strategies start with keyword research (more on this further down). Once you know the search terms you want to target, there are a few areas of a web page where you should aim to use SEO copywriting techniques, including:

  • header title/page title
  • subheadings
  • page URL slug 
  • meta description
  • alt text on images
  • content body 

Here are some tips to follow when writing these:

  1. Header title/page title: The header title or page title is one of the most important on-page SEO factors. It should be a clear and concise description of the content on the page, including the primary keyword. It's important to keep it under 60 characters to ensure it's fully displayed in search results.
  2. Subheadings: Subheadings are used to break up content into smaller, more manageable sections. They should be descriptive and include relevant keywords to help search engines understand the content of the page. They should also be formatted as H2 or H3 tags to show a hierarchy in sizing, making them easy to identify for both users and search engines.
  3. Page URL slug: The page URL slug should be short, descriptive and include the primary keyword. It should be easy to read and remember for users and search engines. Avoid using symbols or special characters and use hyphens to separate words.
  4. Meta description: The meta description is a brief summary of the page's content that search engines use to display entries relevant to a user's search query. It should be under 155 characters and include the primary keyword. It should also be engaging and persuasive to entice users to click through to the page.
  5. Alt text on images: Alt text is used to describe images for users who cannot see them. It should be concise and descriptive, including the primary keyword if relevant. It should also accurately describe the image and its context on the page.
  6. Content body: The content body should be well-written and engaging, with a clear structure that includes subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists. It should include relevant keywords, but not at the expense of readability or quality. The content should be valuable to the reader and answer their questions or provide solutions to their problems.

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 that operates like a traffic-light system from red to green, telling you when you’ve included your focus keyword in enough places.

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

Read More: How to use SEO in content writing

What makes good SEO copywriting?

Chessplayer

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 is a strategic practice of copywriting.

So although SEO content is optimised with the use of keywords and layout elements to make content more appealing (to users and search algorithms), the copy itself should read naturally, not stuffed with unnatural terms or waffle.

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

In the early days of search engine marketing, content creators used to stuff their content with keywords or hide them in invisible text and tags.

Thankfully, smart copywriters and business owners today 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 for using 'black hat' techniques such as these.

It's not just about using underhand tactics either. Content that is plagiarised, poorly written with typos and errors or simply doesn't offer anything unique to your readers is unlikely to make it to the top spots.

It also goes without saying that 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?

The golden question: how do you get started with keyword research? Broadly speaking, your keywords will be related to your USPs, industry, 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. ‘SEO copywriting’). By contrast, long-tail keywords are over three words (e.g. ‘what is SEO copywriting'). 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.”

The graph they share also illustrates how this works:

Graph showing how as keywords get longer, search volume is lower - What is SEO copywriting - Copify blog

Credit: Traffic & Conversion Rate by Keyword Length: SEO Pressor


This is because long-tail keywords are more specific, so you’re more likely to strike gold in the form of being put in front of a searcher who is looking for exactly what you have to offer. 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, solely targeting these can mean higher bounce rates, lower conversion rates and make it less likely you’ll score a place on the first page since the competition is fiercer.

That said, these ‘head terms’ are good for sprinkling throughout category pages. On the other hand, long-tail keywords would be better used for individual product pages or guides to better describe what you stock/offer.

Long-tail keywords are increasingly recommended by the likes of Yoast and WordStream since they’re more focused and more likely to be successful when using voice search.

Read More: How to do a comprehensive keyword audit

Tracking your SEO copywriting success

You can track the success of your SEO efforts through the usual content analytics routes. A great starting point is Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These provide 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.

Beyond that, you might also find that your content management system, such as WordPress or Shopify, provides you with useful metrics about how visitors are finding you online.

Read More: How to measure SEO effectiveness

Where to start with SEO?

If you've read our tips above and are considering taking up the challenge of writing your own SEO content, then there are some great resources to help you:

  • Medium has an easy-to-comprehend SEO tutorial for beginners
  • Hobo offers a more in-depth tutorial
  • Entrepreneur also offers a handy 4-step SEO checklist

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 Success Works.

Main image: Ricardo Arce 

Additional images: YouTube/Start Copywriting, JESHOOTS.COMSEO Pressor

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.