SEO copywriting: What it is – and what it definitely is not
I’ve noticed something interesting recently, and it’s happened on more than one occasion.
I’ve mentioned SEO (search engine optimisation) to a client and they’ve immediately shaken their heads.
“We don’t want to improve our SEO because we have enough work at the moment.”
“We’re already busy, we don’t want clients beating the doors down!”
This struck me for several reasons. Firstly, I wondered what their impressions of SEO actually were. Did they think it was instant, add a few keywords into the copy and bam! Top spot on page 1 of Google! (Oh how I wish it were that easy…)
I know there are unscrupulous SEOs out there who promise these kind of results (Spoiler: if it seems too good to be true…). These tend to be the guys who over promise, under deliver and disappear into thin air when you start asking questions.
In a way, it’s pretty funny that those lofty claims might actually be putting people off!
And secondly, you might be busy now, but what happens if the work dries up? Can you really guarantee that your client stream will stay consistent throughout, say, a pandemic? While word of mouth referrals and repeat custom are gold for small businesses, future proofing your income is always a good idea.
So, does working on your copy really have these miraculous results? Will a few blog posts containing your chosen keywords, some new title tags or specific alt text, catapult your site from the obscurity of page 12 to the heady heights of page 1?
Nope, doesn’t work like that.
SEO is a marathon not a sprint
You’re in it for the long haul. Even a well optimised site that’s not regularly updated will start to slip down the search engine results page (SERP).
SEO has seeded an entire, multi billion dollar industry – that wouldn’t be the case if it was a one shot does the trick kinda deal.
Not only do the Google gods demand regularly updated content, but their algorithms are constantly changing – even the SEO experts at the top of their game aren’t 100% sure how they work – so at best, you’re building your SEO strategy on shifting sands.
Google loves content for humans, not Google
Google might use its Googlebots – tiny virtual spiders that scuttle across the web, exploring every last piece of content – to catalogue your content, but they don’t want you writing for robots.
Essentially, Google – and all search engines, but we’ll use Google as a catch-all, since they’re the biggest – want to provide the best possible experience for people searching the internet. They make their revenue from paid advertising, so being the biggest and the best means happy searchers, more clicks on paid ads, more money in Google’s gigantic pocket.
People use Google, so the content needs to be exactly what people want to see. It needs to answer their questions, inform and entertain them, and be 10x better than anything else out there.
So, no pressure.
Content is King but Consistency is Queen
Bill Gates might have said “Content is King” back in 1996, but it’s never been truer or more relevant than it is today.
Content itself isn’t enough though, and even the best content needs to be fresh, up to date and regularly released. A stunning blog post once or twice a year won’t cut it.
Writing brilliant content that human love is key to Google’s heart but it still needs to be findable – and that’s where DIY SEO comes into it’s own.
Well Chosen Keywords
OK, so imagine your business sells shoes. Type “shoes” into Google and I’m willing to bet you’re not on the first 100 pages. And that’s OK.
Make the keywords you target specific – “shoes” is a non starter, but “sustainable leather children’s winter boots in Bognor Regis” is going to take you places.
Keyword research is a topic all it’s own, and one I cover in more detail here. For now, think about the questions your potential clients ask, and keep specificity in mind.
When you’ve chosen the specific keywords you want to target, you can start to plan your content around them. You might want to write about how the boots are made, their features, or how you stock the largest range of children’s winter boots in all of Bognor Regis (assuming you do, you won’t get away with fibbing).
While your keywords do need to be present in the copy – Google won’t think your content answers questions on those keywords unless they’re actually mentioned – don’t try keyword stuffing. Remember that you’re writing for humans, and humans will take a dim view of copy that reads: “Looking for children’s shoes in Bognor Regis? We have the best Bognor Regis children’s shoes! Visit our Bognor Regis shoe shop for children’s shoes in Bognor Regis!!!”
Place your keywords naturally throughout the copy, so it reads well, answers the question and makes sense.
Once your copy is sorted, you can move on to the other, often neglected areas of keyword placement.
The 7 areas for keyword placement
- Title tags – These are the first things the search engines see so make sure you’re using them to your full advantage. They’re also what search engine visitors see when looking at the SERP, so make sure they’re enticing to humans as well
- Meta descriptions – This is the short chunk of text below the title tag on the SERP. It needs to incorporate your chosen keywords, while also encouraging humans to click through and read more
- Headers and sub-headers – Every piece of content and page on your site should have headers to tell readers what to expect, and sub-headers to give structure, break up the text, and allow easier skim reading. Getting your keywords in here is easy enough, just make sure they make sense for the reader as well. Use H1 as your main heading, and nowhere else, as it signals the most important THING about the content. Use H2 as your sub-headers for the sections of your page or blog. You might also use H3 or H4 as sub sections within the main sections.
- Link text – When you use links in your content (as you should, internal links help those Googlebots navigate your site, and external links to trustworthy and authoritative sites show Google that you care about delivering a great user experience), avoid using “click here” as your link text. Make the text relevant to the page it’s linking to, and your chosen keyword.
- Alt text – Alt text was originally designed to make the web easier for people using screen readers. While it makes sense to get your keywords in there too, don’t abuse it – keep accessibility as your main concern. An example might be “Child with brown hair wearing a red coat and sustainable leather winter boots in a Bognor Regis park”
- File names – Similar to alt text, not getting keywords in here is a lost opportunity. Name image and other files something sensible that also relates to your keyword. “Logo.jpg”? Could do better.
- Page content – Once again for the people in the back: No keyword stuffing! Write for humans, make sure your copy flows and that you’ve answered the question you set out to. And remember the 1:1 rule – write one page of content for each of your chosen keyword topics.
Other SEO considerations to get your site ranking higher
Again, each of these deserves its own post (and will get one soon!) but briefly, some points to consider include:
- Internal links – Each page on your site should contain relevant links to other pages on your site. This helps the Googlebot find its way though – picture the links as little doors with a neon arrow showing them where to go – and it makes sense for your site visitors too. You’ll probably want a link on your About page to your Contact page, for example, and a blog post that talks about SEO might link to a previous post on a similar topic.
- External links – You’ll want to link to other sites from your own, perhaps to back up your content or to provide further information for your readers. Choose reputable sites that are bigger and better established than your own.
- Site speed – I don’t buy the idea that we all have zero attention span these days, but when it comes to site loading times, speed is everything. People will only wait around 3 seconds before bouncing and going elsewhere so test your site speed and don’t forget the mobile version
- Site security – We’ve all heard horror stories of hackers and identity theft – the internet isn’t always a shiny, happy place. Making your site secure protects your visitors and lets Google know that you care about their safety. If you build or commission a site today, it will probably automatically include the SSL certificate that gives you the reassuring HTTPS domain. If you’ve got an older site, it’s really worth updating as you could end up on Google’s blacklist
- Back links – Links to your site from elsewhere on the internet show Google that you’re Expert, Trustworthy and Authoritative in your field, so building your back link profile is great for your SEO. But a word of caution here: Google takes a very dim view of buying or trading links or other blackhat tactics, these will get your site blacklisted. In fact, it’s better to think about link earning than link building. Write the kind of content that other sites love and want to link to!
- Submit your URL to Google – Once you’ve published your 10x content to your site, Google will automatically crawl it – but not straightaway. It can take days, or even weeks for the Googlebots to get round to it, so use Google Search Console to accelerate the process and start getting organic traffic ASAP
what really happens when you work on your seo?
Well, you won’t instantly get customers beating your door down, I’m afraid.
But if you get the basics right, and then consistently create the excellent content that your potential clients need, you will start to move up in the SERP.
You’ll stay top of mind for clients and potential clients, you’ll create a consistent stream of organic traffic to your site, maximise conversions.
So, do the work, show up (and keep showing up) and remember:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
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