SEO Copywriting: The Key-phrase de Rigueur
Yes! Search engine optimised copy involves key-phrases. No! That’s not all.
So I had a couple’o moments up my sleeve and thought I’d do myself some Googling.
I started with ‘copywriters + <major city>'. Up came this list of ‘SEO Copywriters’.
Who knew there were so many?
It appears that ‘SEO Copywriter’ is the phrase de rigueur. Everyone’s doing it. Or at least, saying they can. And sure, if you’re a decent writer and you’ve heard of keywords and this SEO thing on the Googles, you can’t blame people for vaguely suggesting they can tick the SEO copywriting box, too. But it’s a bit cheeky. Because there’s a lot to this stuff - and they’re letting the industry down.
(Granted, there are some people out there doing lots of good quality work, so props to them)
But here’s the thing: While it helps to include key-phrases in your writing, a good SEO copywriter does a lot more. That’s why it’s exceedingly important to find a professional that understands the industry.
What does an SEO copywriter do?
A good SEO copywriter can make a profound difference to your ranking and can be a sound investment if you want to succeed in your online marketing efforts. They cover the following:
Ok, let’s sort this now:
• Yes, writing good SEO copy does involve key phrases.
• No, that’s not all - and there is no correct keyword density. That myth went out years ago. So if someone sounds all flashy and talks about percentages, please don’t take them seriously. (I know how some people love numbers, but sometimes numbers don’t matter and this is a prime example where they Seriously Do Not Matter.)
And yes, a good quality SEO writer will carefully weave in key phrases without it appearing obvious. But we know that. Every copywriter mentions this on their website. It’s a given. Let’s move on.
“A man walked into a bar, and ordered a drink, whiskey, shot, spirits, wine, red wine, white wine, sherry, rosé, cognac, sherry, sticky, brandy...”
Yes, please let’s move on.
Before a decent SEO copywriter starts, they’ll use professional tools to research the key phrases and find other relevant phrases, carefully weighing up the popularity and competitive metrics, then deciding which would be appropriate to include. How do they know? They are trained to know. And they have particular writing techniques.
Headlines, sub-headers, cross-heads
Your SEO writer will know what needs to be included in the headline, what doesn’t, (e.g., if it’s unnecessary or spammy) and, they’ll know which phrases should be included in sub headers (aka cross heads to copywriters) further down the page. There’s a pattern to this, although lately, the rules have become a little looser, which is nice.
Web page layout
Your writer will also know how Google’s robots likes to read pages on the web and will have more than a handful of tips on how to make it easier for the spiders to read the page. Your copywriter will understand certain basics – like putting the most important content at the top of the page, and so on.
Hyperlinks & anchor text
If you have a junior SEO copywriter, they must be given firm instructions as to where and what to hyperlink. Because you don’t want hyperlinks added willy-nilly. Hyperlinking needs to adhere to an overall strategy that is intelligently thought out by a senior player.
An advanced SEO copywriter will also know which phrases should be used as anchor text in links to achieve the best results. This is a classic example of why I’d advise against hiring an ex-journalist or creative writing graduate, who may be an excellent writer, to write your content. Not unless they understand this work thoroughly. (Sorry excellent writers and ex- journalists – I’m sure you are excellent, but you have to pay your dues before you claim your stake on this terrain)
Good web writers will understand that bullet lists:
highlight important information
help clarify writing
make it easier for the reader to digest material
makes for a better user experience
See what I did there?
And remember, UXP is an important part of SEO. These things flow together. There are hundreds of ranking signal that Google uses – not just a couple. A page that’s easy-to-read and provides a good user experience is important.
Images (gorgeous images!)
Images are an important part of the on-page experience - they bring the topic to life and make sense of all those words. A good writer will often (but not always) suggest to the web developer where at least one or two images should go, along with suggesting appropriate alt tags. (Alt tags are the tags originally created for visually impaired people on the web. They describe what the image is showing, e.g. young girl on blue bicycle).
The writer should also make sure that relevant key phrases are near these images to strengthen the message to the robots that this is an important phrase on the page. (Meaning: close to the photo there will be a bit of a blurb about, for example, kids riding bicycles)
Meta data is something that not all SEO copywriters know, but, frankly, they should. The meta data is part of the source code and is the content you see at the top of your browser after you’ve typed in a search query on Google. There’s the title tag (the length, at time of writing this article, is still contentious, but let’s just say keep it under 65 characters). It’s also the words you see in the tab of any page opened in your browser.
Again, there’s a fair amount of skill in knowing which phrase is to be used, and where. It’s not a matter of popping a key-phrase in and hoping for the best. It’s both art and science.
The meta description is the content that appears below the title of the page on search engine results pages (SERPS). Sometimes, Google will extract what they want and override your description, but it’s best practice that you write your own. The meta description is not a ranking factor, despite many thinking the contrary, but it’s highly visible, so you should take advantage of it to create a short, enticing, click-worthy advertisement in the search engine results.
Yes, good quality content rises to the top, blah, blah, blah. You may be sick of hearing it, but it’s true – much to the aggravation of the poor confused clients understandably nervous about not seeing an immediate ROI. Good quality writing is enormously important. But what does that mean? This is a topic within itself, but make sure your content is:
Unique (no duplication, please)
Relevant – is it what people need to know? See if you can totally nail it on its head and give the reader exactly what they need.
Well-written with good grammar with no spelling mistakes
Authoritative – do you know what you’re talking about? Can you claim to be an expert – and if so, make note of that on the page. (E.g. your degree, training, university) And if you’re not an authority, reference the authorities where you’ve gained your information. This one’s extremely important. Especially with Google’s recent algorithmic updates.
Easy to read. Although it’s easy to think the good quality must mean sounding smarty-pants clever, it’s no good to warble on with dense, difficult sentences that the average punter won’t understand. Keep your sentences short. And clear. There are many plug-ins around, such as WordPress Yoast that will have a built-in SEO scorer, which includes a Flesch-Kinkaid reading score which make the task a little easier for you.
‘How-To’ mark-ups are just one of several rich snippets and they are fabulous! Learn how to write them & how to mark them up.
Rich snippets are where the fun starts. Rich snippets are enhanced search engine results displayed by search engines after you’ve entered a query. Remember how, not long ago, you would type in a search phrase, and there’d be a couple of ads at the top, some ads on the side, then 10 search results in blue? Things have changed a lot, lately. And Google is slowly morphing from a search engine to a portal.
Enter: rich snippets. These snippets give Google’s pages more visual appeal, but they require a webmaster to implement structured data. There’s a bunch of them available, with popular ones being:
local business features
search query features
To implement these snippets, the writer will need to know what your client qualifies for. For example, a recipe site can have different mark-up to a medical clinic. Your SEO content writer will need to know how to format the wording to optimise your results, and communicate clearly with the Webmaster.
A good content writer today will understand that citations are imperative. Google values authority and trustworthiness. Citations make you far more believable.
Once your writer has carefully created your SEO content, they or you’ll need to get the word out. This can happen in a number of ways – preferably several. You can link to the article from high-ranking pages, post it on social media platforms, shout out to influencers and authorities and ask them to share it, advertise the page on Facebook to get more action on the page, and so on. Amplification is another blog post in itself but it’s an integral part of the SEO content writing process.
So there you have it. I hope this clears a few things up for you. SEO copywriting is a bit more than just keywords, isn’t it? So, when choosing a consultant, ask them what they know and where they’ve worked.
But if you’d rather me help you, give me a call. Hit the button below and we’ll talk.