SEO copywriting is the art and science of writing articles that rank well in search engines for the keyword phrase you are targeting. It’s a science in that search engines use complex algorithms to rank the search results when a web surfer types in a keyword phrase. While search engines like Google do not publicize their ranking formulas, trial and error allows us to have a very good understanding of how these algorithms work.
SEO copywriting is an art in that the article must read exquisitely for the human reader, too, not just Google’s complex mathematical formulas. In this article, we will examine the elements of effective search engine optimization copywriting. And we will use this article as our SEO template.
SEO Copywriting Step By Step
SEO copywriting is just one aspect of a holistic approach to search engine rankings. Even the most optimized blog article will be banished to the back pages of Google if it is not part of a well optimized site. Of course, with enough backlinks from the right authority sites, even a poorly written article in a poorly optimized site can obtain a #1 ranking. But hoping for such backlinks is not realistic. So make sure you have a well optimized blog or website. With that in place, we can turn to the steps to follow to write well optimized copy.
Always Pick a Target
Picking a keyword phrase to target with your article is the most important step. If you want your post to rank well in search results, you must know what you want it to rank well for. Picking the right keywords is a separate topic that itself could fill many articles. But the key for today is that you must pick a primary keyword, and you should pick a secondary keyword. Any guess what the primary keyword is for this article about SEO copywriting?
Use your keyword in the article’s title
If you take nothing else from this article, remember to use your keyword in the title. And it is preferable to have the keyword at the start of the title. Not only do search engines use the title tag to understand what an article is about, but others linking to your article often use the title in the anchor text. Furthermore, web searchers are more likely to click on your article if its title includes one or more of their search keywords.
SEO aside, however, your title should compel people to read your article. And there are plenty of articles on how to write attention grabbing titles.
Use your keyword in the article’s URL
In addition to the title tag, it is best to use your keywords in the URL. For WordPress, if you use a custom permalink that includes the post’s title, than the title of the post will be in the URL. My permalink structure is /%category%/%postname%/, so my typical URL looks like the following: www.doughroller.net/category/postname. Having your keywords in the URL is not the most important aspect of SEO copywriting, but it helps and it encourages readers to click on your article when they find it in the SERPs (search engine result page).
Also remember that you can change the URL of a post so that it is different from the post title. You will notice that the URL of this article ends in “seo-copywriting”, which is different than the post title. This can be changed just below the title box in WordPress when you are writing or editing the post.
Use your keyword in the first paragraph
Prominence of keywords is one factor in the SEO equation. Generally speaking, we put the more important parts of an article first. The title should describe the whole article. The first paragraph should summarize the article. The first sentence in a paragraph is generally the topic sentence, and so on. Placing the targeted keyword in the firs paragraph identifies the keyword to search engines as an important part of the article.
Boldface the keyword once
Using the “strong” html tag, boldface the keyword phrase once in the article. This is a good practice from the reader’s standpoint, and it further identifies the keyword as important to search engines.
Use the keyword phrase 3 or 4 times in the article
The importance of keyword density (how many times the keyword in used in relation to the total words in the article) is a matter of diverse opinion. In my experience, a higher keyword density is important for some search engines (e.g., Yahoo! and MSN), but can actually hurt rankings if overdone in other search engines (e.g., Google). In a typical article of 300 to 500 words, I tend to use the targeted keyword 3 to 4 times, with emphasis on how the article reads over SEO copywriting.
Use the keyword in an alt tag of an image
Ideally, it’s best to include an image in each article that uses the keyword in the image’s alt tag. I’ve found over time that image searches in Google can generate significant traffic. To take the image to the next level, overlay text on the image that relates to the subject of the article. This does not impact rankings as the text is part of the image, but it does increase the likelihood that a web surfer will click on the image.
Use the keyword in one h2 tag and h3 tags
In most WordPress themes, the h1 tag is defined in the header, not in the article. In the header, it is often best to define the h1 tag to include the article’s title. If you’ve written an optimized title that includes your targeted keywords, than your h1 tag will include the keywords automatically. In addition, I generally include my keyword in one h2 heading tag and variations of the keyword in multiple h3 tags.
Include external links to quality sites with related anchor text
Linking to external sites that have related content is great for readers and improves your relationship with other bloggers. If the site allows trackbacks, it also generates a link back to your article with the title of your article as the anchor text. The anchor text you use is important both to the site you are linking to, as well as the SEO of your own article. The link text is just one additional factor a search engine can use to understand the topic of your article.
For example, this article is about SEO copywriting, but of course you have to decide on a topic to write about before you can turn to optimization. So if you are suffering from writer’s block, here are 30 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block for Bloggers. That article is relevant to the topic of this article, and I’ve linked to it with relevant keywords. Blogthority is also a great site about blogging.
Use internal links to relevant pages on your site
Internal links in EVERY post are critical to your overall blog optimization. The key point to remember is that you should not limit internal links to other posts. Linking to the home page or the category page that contains the article improves navigation and further supports the siloing or theming architecture. Internal linking improves the SEO of a site, which in turn can go a long way toward making money blogging.
SEO is a lot of work. After reading this article, you may have concluded that SEO copywriting is just too much work. For some it is, it just depends on your goals. But whether you are a realtor trying to drive potential home buyers and sellers to your site, a church trying to promote your website, or a blogger trying to promote an affiliate product, even minimal effort toward optimizing your site and your posts can go a long way.
SEO best practices change over time as the search algorithms change. What worked yesterday no longer works today (or as well), and what works today will change tomorrow. The good news is that this change creates opportunities. If you look at my older posts, you’ll see that I made no effort to optimize my posts. I had never heard of SEO when I started this site in May 2007. But I am slowly going back to my more important posts and editing them to improve their search rankings. It is a lot of work, but it is paying off.
Finally, recognize that nobody writing about SEO knows everything there is to know about SEO. Even the self-proclaimed experts don’t know it all. There is always more to learn, and to harken back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in the end all we can really see are the shadows cast by the ever changing, never sleeping search engines.
Published or updated March 30, 2012.