SEO Copywriting, the complete and definitive guide to strategic writing
SEO writing has now become synonymous with very low quality writing, articles that are almost unreadable, with keywords almost always forced in, redundant in sentences and blatantly written for the sole purpose of gaining traffic from Google searches. In short, over time, the real purpose of any kind of information has been lost sight of: to address people in order to communicate something in the most readable and easy-to-understand way. So wrote Ivano Di Biasi in the introduction to the ebook “Modern SEO Copywriting,” but in fact it is Google itself that confirms that there is a need for a new approach to SEO copywriting, and the Helpful Content System goes precisely in this direction, favoring content written by people for people and downgrading texts created with the overriding goal to please search engines and gain visibility positions in SERPs, without utility for users. Our guide will therefore try to analyze what SEO copywriting means today, what are the basics of result-oriented writing, and what tools are useful to support the SEO copywriter’s daily work.
What SEO copywriting is (or what it should be)
In modern terms, SEO copywriting is a set of techniques and skills needed to write text that is optimized to try to intercept the right audience at the right time in the right place.
While SEO in general is the holistic work to improve a website in order to achieve high rankings on search engines, particularly Google, the SEO copywriter focuses specifically on the content creation process, ensuring that the text offers maximum value and readability for both Google and regular users searching for information.
We must always keep in mind, in fact, that SEO means thinking about Google and search engines, but also delivering value to real human users, who are the real reference of all online activity. Google is the storefront that allows our content to find readers and people to find our content: our ultimate goal is to be read and to lead the reader to complete the action we have in mind, conversion – whatever that may be.
In the most current sense, then, writing SEO is not just focusing on keywords and topics searched for according to analytics tools, but taking a series of user-centered strategic actions, trying to satisfy the search intent – the original need that moves people’s searches – better than other online pages. It means thinking about the end user (of all types, customer, consumer, reader and so on) by presenting interesting and readable articles, not taking away valuable time from their browsing but rather enriching their experience and possibly solving the particular problem that brought them to the search engine first, and to our site later.
Understanding what users are looking for through the search engine and why they launch queries will help us meet them exactly where they are with what they need and in the most useful format: this translates not just into organic traffic, but into quality traffic, of users who are already targeted and interested in what we can offer at that precise moment.
Who is the SEO copywriter today and what are their challenges
When we talk about SEO copywriting we refer to a real “art” (and often in fact foreign experts use this very term) that combines the ability to write in such a way as to attract readers and, at the same time, find favor with search engines, to help the site rank better in search results.
To hit the targets, it is not enough simply to know superficially the search intent, distinguishing whether the intent is Informational, Transactional, Commercial or Navigational; what we need is to know what we have to offer users with needs and how to do it in the right way, trying to understand what Google has learned from the many queries made to it every day.
This all has to be done in real time, to boot!
For this reason, given also the extreme breadth of text possibilities for the Web – newspaper article, broad informational content, flash news, product sheets, and so on and so forth – it makes little sense to offer practical and generic advice on how to write content, because that is a personal and subjective process, which also depends on the type of article we are called upon to produce. Rather, it is more useful to provide insights on how to develop the right approach to result-oriented writing, valid for all types of content and work, that can help us achieve our goals.
The tasks of the SEO copywriter
Trying to summarize as much as possible, the SEO copywriter’s job involves creating content that:
- Google can understand and index.
- Provide answers or relevant information for search queries.
- People find engaging enough to read and share.
- Are structured and organized so that users and search engines can both read and understand easily.
- They target keywords, phrases, and topics that users are searching for on Google.
- They encourage readers to take a specific action, such as buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, and so on-this persuasive ability is, so to speak, an additional goal of SEO
Writing for the web keeping an eye on SEO does not then mean uncritically following guidelines, best practices, the famous tool semaphores, or thinking of inserting all the suggested keywords regardless of context, but being able to make a dash to first of all produce an article capable of responding to readers’ doubts and needs.
The first thing to do – trivial only in appearance – is to write well, that is, not to dwell solely on keywords, but to pay attention to concordances and punctuation, not to trample on syntax and, above all, not to commit grammatical errors.
The ability of the modern copywriter is therefore in finding the right way to respond to a user’s need and accompany him or her in discovering information through the form and structure of the article, but also with the language, which should be neither too cathedratic, difficult and technical, nor too banal and common. In order to persuade people to take an action, the copy must be able to be read, must retain and entertain the reader, offering novel insights, stories he or she is eager to learn about, content that also stimulates further exploration.
The writing professional must also cultivate and develop his or her “language,” which means not only word choice, but awareness of where, how, when, and how much must be written in order to get a message that has meaningful responses in terms of results and achievement of goals.
Writing SEO today: strategic and results-oriented writing
Modern SEO copywriting is therefore a mix of analysis, on-page SEO skills, keyword research skills, and creativity. The focus must always be on the visitors, trying to understand and meet their needs first without ever forgetting the look necessary to intercept search engine preferences.
Until a few years ago, a clear distinction was made between pure copywriting and SEO, considering these two fields somewhat related but not complementary. Nothing could be more wrong, because content writing is a fundamental (and often underestimated) aspect of a website’s success, regardless of its type. To give an example, writing text that is “artistic” or “poetic” may be fine from a grammatical point of view, but it is unlikely to serve users; on the other hand, fixating only on the good practices of optimizing a web page (and thus almost schematically compiling content by title, meta description, URL, heading tags, and so on) risks not offering added value compared to other sites.
Whether it is a personal or corporate blog, an informational masthead or an eCommerce, websites tend toward one goal: to get visits, leads and thus conversions in order to make money. And the means to reach users is the content offered, which is scanned, indexed and evaluated by search engines with their mysterious and mathematical criteria.
In this sense, there can be no distinction between technique (SEO) and creativity (copywriting), because only by combining these two souls can a winning project be created, with pages and articles that are optimized for search engines, generate organic traffic, make available to visitors the information they need, and are easy to use and understand.
Wanting to use a provocative formula, we can then say that in an absolute sense “there is no such thing as SEO copywriting“, because we cannot think of writing only by complying with the list of more or less canonized SEO rules without, however, really taking care of the way we offer information to the reader, who expects and demands quality content (which he or she will otherwise look for on other sites). This is also why other formulations to define this activity, such as strategic writing or result-oriented copy, are spreading, which, however, do not change the substance: content writing for a website must produce texts that are perfect for the search engine and that adequately meet the needs of our readers at every stage of their search path or search journey.
We can go even further with the provocation, trying to put the human factor back in the foreground: for sure, technique and techniques count, but it is then the creativity, ingenuity and personal skills of the copywriter that really make the difference. Reasoning by paradoxes, if only the technical part counted and if strategic writing was just “perfectly applying the rules to place a piece of content,” all sites pertaining to a certain theme (described by some defined parameters and concepts) would be basically the same, equally attractive to the reader, in line with the answers the user is looking for. The reality is quite different – and copying is also an art! – and the downward leveling noticed in Google’s SERPs depends precisely on the poor care of content creation.
But writing SEO articles is not a mechanical process, because the copywriter must engineer himself to achieve two goals: to create something interesting for users, to satisfy their questions and curiosities, and at the same time to pander to search engine criteria, Google’s rules, and to be able to anticipate the intent of the searcher.
SEO Copywriting is more than just placing an article.
Only if texts are persuasive, high-performing, and SEO-optimized can they succeed in convincing the audience and be suitable for gaining top positions on Google.Therefore, online writers must learn to think from an SEO perspective and, at the same time, those working to improve site performance cannot neglect the importance of content.
What is needed, then, is a strategic approach to text creation, understanding that strategy also means having an awareness of one’s industry, users, and the content of one’s website, because only in this way can we manage each aspect in a timely manner and, indeed, anticipating what might happen and when (i.e., intercepting seasonal trends in order to be ready at the time of peak traffic).
As content authors, we must therefore ask ourselves how our web page can provide a useful response to users, considering the beneficial purpose we can offer that also distinguishes us from competitors. Ideally, before typing words on the text editor we should already have clear in mind the goals to be achieved and the answers to questions such as:
- Who am I writing this content for?
- How would I search for what I am writing if I were a Google user?
- Will Google understand that I am answering a specific user question?
- What keywords are really needed in the text? What keywords, on the other hand, may take my article off topic and thus achieve the opposite effect in SERPs?
- What topics did my competitors talk about on similar pages? And why did Google reward their content?
- When will this topic be searched? And how soon should I work on it?
Passion and scripted writing alone are not enough to ensure the success of an article and a page, because rather a change of perspective is needed: knowing exactly what our content needs in order to become competitive and have a better chance of ranking on a wide range of keywords.
Small spoiler: we can do all these operations thanks to SEOZoom’s SEO copywriting tools, which are precisely tools that speed up the analysis of every aspect related to the production of strategic content, simplify the writing work and reduce the margins of error. In particular, the SEOZoom engine manages to process the intent for all topics in real time, thanks to an algorithm capable of capturing the search intent of users at the precise moment when we need the information, precisely in real time, with all the useful indications to create adequate content.
Thanks (in part) to this, it is still possible to write quality content and approach SEO Copywriting from the perspective of quality, stopping keyword writing and producing in spades and instead starting to curate each piece of content with the reader and the usefulness of it in mind. A copywriter who knows how to be both technical and creative is definitely an added value for those who have online projects, and from a personal point of view may be able to offer himself and his business more effectively as a “producer” of articles, texts and web pages, also working on inbound marketing.
Have great content, the importance of quality
Wanting to try to encapsulate all this information and considerations in one expression, we can return to refer to the classic formula “quality content“, which returns again and again even in Google communications and encapsulates everything a text should be and have in order to please search engines and users.
To be precise, Mountain View’s official sources use the phrase “have great content“, which we can precisely translate into writing quality articles and content: an example we have in the communication of Google’s periodic broad core updates, with Danny Sullivan (the company’s public voice on social) punctually relaunching an old tweet of his in which he calls producing quality content the only secret to not worrying (too much) about being hit and still getting good results.
Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content. Yeah, the same boring answer. But if you want a better idea of what we consider great content, read our raters guidelines. That’s like almost 200 pages of things to consider: https://t.co/pO3AHxFVrV
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) 1 agosto 2018
Despite a different and much more technical approach, even for Martin Splitt, developer advocate at Google, content is the first of the SEO factors to be taken care of on sites: in particular, Splitt says that, based on his experience and expertise, content must be good and quality, with a purpose (purpose) for the user. For him, the ideal content ” says where you are, what you do, how you help me with what I’m trying to achieve,” and above all it must understand what users are looking for and what they need, speaking their own language. It is what we can define as user intent, search intent, the spark that moves people’s action on the search engine.
So we should not limit copywriting or the profession of writing SEO texts to trying to produce something for the robots of Google and other search engines: the ultimate target is always the “human” user, the reader, who will reward or penalize an article based on the content he or she finds in it and how well it responds (or doesn’t) to his or her original queries that got him or her there.
It is again Google’s Danny Sullivan who emphasizes this point, which is the golden rule for those who want to become SEO copywriters and beyond: the goal is not to write for robots, but to produce content in a language that meets the language used and demanded by readers, which according to Google’s public Search Liaison should also be the philosophy that guides “good journalism.”
This part of the article is entirely wrong about SEO, by the way. Good SEO is not about writing for “Google robots.” It’s about writing in a language that matches what your readers are using. For publishers, that’s called, um, good journalism. pic.twitter.com/vTs33wMFKh
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) 14 agosto 2018
Pleasing users and Google
But we can further broaden our scope of analysis to reread in this light even the latest and most recent changes to the search engine’s official documentations, in which the call to care, think and respect the reader clearly emerges: the page experience, the product reviews system, the aforementioned helpful content system, but above all the SEO guidelines and the guidelines for quality raters put the user, the satisfaction of his or her needs and the fulfillment of the purpose that led that person to use Google at the center.
Trying to simplify and summarize, writing specifically for Google almost inevitably makes for rigid and repetitive writing, with keywords stuffed into every sentence and at every opportunity to try to maximize results. But that is not how humans naturally talk, and it’s not how Google looks for the quality of pages to show in SERPs, and in fact today if we work that way we don’t have profitable returns. On the other hand, however, writing specifically for the audience without any consideration for Google can also lead to poor results, because the content will probably not rank well because it is not sufficiently SEO-oriented and in topic on search intentions and interests.
It is therefore necessary to look for the right compromise, to write with both Google and human audiences in mind, to try to achieve maximum SEO potential.
In the background, then, remains the issue related to the search engine’s perception of our site and us as authors, which is summarized in the so-called EAT paradigm: the main parameters that need to be met in order to write an article that has potential to rank are those of quality, relevance, meaning, usability and context (as clarified by the guide to Search ranking systems), but in addition to these are evaluations on such as the competence, authority and reliability of site and content creators, which serve Google to increase the level of security in providing an effective response to the user and as close as possible to the initial request.
How to write an SEO article
Persuasion, but not only: SEO copywriting is, in short, a complex and delicate activity, and those tasked with writing articles for the Web are therefore called upon to make substantial and constant efforts. Also because, despite what often occurs, the work does not end when you put the last stitch to the piece or when you publish online: optimization of an article can also take place at a later time, to precisely check the performance and response of users and search engine to the content and try to improve the performance using online writing tools, such as SEOZoom’s assistant.
Entering the strategic writing perspective means understanding that, regardless of the type of website for which they are produced, content is one of the key aspects of achieving good rankings, and that it must always try to respond to specific user needs, in the way that is most pleasing to the search engine.
As we have tried to clarify, the creation of good content is the result of creativity, research, and analysis: if texts are persuasive, high-performing, and SEO-optimized, they will convince the audience and be suitable for gaining top positions on search engines. Therefore, the right approach to results-oriented writing starts with awareness: simplifying, before creating any text, from an e-Commerce product sheet to a newspaper article, it is important to know and understand what the real intent behind the specific query that interests our business is, or we risk publishing online pages that do not get the desired results and writing articles that do not rank.
Looking specifically at a single editorial page, we can try to define a potential process-type of writing, which follows this path:
- Strategic keyword research.
- Identification of the focus to be given to the article.
- Competitor analysis.
- Source research.
- Writing the article.
- Dividing the piece into paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.
- Insertion of internal links, to useful pages on one’s own site.
- Insertion of any external links, to authoritative and reliable sources.
- Optimization of the title and other headings.
- URL optimization.
- Optimization of the meta description.
- Insertion of the right category within the site.
- Correct and consistent selection of tags.
- Image selection and curation.
- Promotion of the article on social or other channels.
- Checking the performance and optimizing the content after a period of time.
Tips for writing a strategic article
In a very concise way, in order to write from an SEO perspective, it is essential to perform keyword research, a reasoned list of keywords on which to “act” in order to position the content, which is practically the basis of online strategy because it allows you to find out what online users’ intentions are, the questions they ask and the relevant topics, and thus to have practical directions for producing an interesting article. From a modern perspective, for keyword research one must learn to evaluate seasonality, potential, competition of the topic, favor long tail keywords and not vanity keywords, which are ephemeral, and so on.
Having carried out this activity, the path in web copywriting can begin, because only after identifying the audience’s search intent can we try to “translate” it into written form in the best possible way, touching on the points and topics that are essential to people and not butchering the grammar.
A sign of authoritativeness and usefulness of the text can also come from the use of synonyms, linguistic variations, plurals, and words that belong to the same semantic field as the main keyword and other keywords in the article, to offer the reader a more complex article and demonstrate a broad vocabulary relevant to the topic. Also included in this activity is the optimization of keywords, secondary and related, that help the semantic extension of the content.
As in old journalism, then, the central phase of an SEO copywriter‘s work is that of researching sources: finding a theme for an article and overcoming the “white paper syndrome” can be quite a daunting task, but the most experienced professionals know how to find online references to locate studies, statistics, news, trends, and research that can be the initial cue for general or industry-related texts.
No less useful is to study online competitors, monitor their work in general and on certain trending topics, find out what results Google rewards for the keyword you are working on. This allows us not only to learn about the competition, but also to begin to see how the search engine treats the topic, what content it rewards, what kind of slant it prefers, and what information it considers crucial for users.
That is, we must go in search of the focus to give to the content, remembering that Google analyzes and evaluates all related competitors by topic in order to position a piece of content, and so it is important to know what we are addressing, both to actually understand our potential and to be able to hit the right buttons and not go out of focus.
Ultimately, writing an article for a website is not too different from doing it for a print newspaper: the medium changes and, in some cases, you have to adapt the tone to the speed required by the Web, but in principle the purposes are the same.
That is, to produce content that provides added value for the site, that gives information to the reader, that is interesting, original, useful, with keywords that are well contextualized and not used out of context, that gets read, and that can incentivize people to come back later to discover new contributions.
A guide to SEO copywriting
These goals can also be achieved with the right approach to content organization: we should never forget to also look out for the form and syntax of the content offered, because perhaps Google has not yet learned to penalize poorly written texts, but quality and competitiveness can also come through details such as grammatical appearance, as well as the originality of the topic and words. In truth, search engines are already moving in a more humane direction, so to speak, to the point that today it is no longer necessary to force text with the specific combination of a keyword you intend to rank for, because it is better to aim for fluent and understandable writing; from a practical point of view, an ungrammatical key such as “SEO copywriting what is” should not be inserted unnaturally into the text, but can be diluted because Google and its competitors have become smart enough to understand what you are writing and, at most, you can employ that precise string in a title tag, without bending syntax and grammar to the reasons of SEO writing at all costs.
With a view to content optimization, then, it is useful to pay attention to technical details such as title tags, H1s and URLs, learning how to translate the information you get from SEOZoom’s tools into meaningful words in order to write quality content and meet the needs of your audience. It bears repeating: without understanding the needs of the target audience and without proper analytics, it is more difficult to get hits in terms of search engine rankings, and it is certainly more complex to be able to choose the right keywords for the end goal.
It starts with the title or title tag, which should as much as possible clarify and immediately describe the topic of the text, also proposing the keyword considered to be the main one, and then continues with a mix of rules that refer not only to SEO techniques, but also to copywriting and writing in a general sense, and therefore have an eye on readability. And therefore, attention must be paid to the quality of the content, without repeating random words or doing “keyword stuffing” (uncritical and massive repetition of keywords within the text, usually used in a forced and unnatural way), inserting bold type, worrying about the length and originality of the article, taking care of the permalink, making a clear and exhaustive meta description, thinking about internal links to facilitate users’ navigation and increase their stay on the site, optimizing images and possibly also inserting other media that can represent an added value.
The myths of SEO copywriting: word count and keyword density
Speaking of SEO copywriting, over the years some beliefs or real myths have been established regarding some parameters that would guarantee content ranking, and in particular word count and keyword density (the percentage of presence of the target keyword in relation to the total number of words in the text).
On the first front, it is usually believed that the length of the text may matter, because Google likes extensive and information-rich texts; however, it is still Splitt who states categorically that word count is not a ranking factor, because the only criterion to refer to is to understand the user’s search intent. In an episode of the series on YouTube SEO Mythbusting season 2, devoted precisely to content and the many false myths surrounding this topic, the Developer Advocate explains that we can “say what the user needs to know in 50 words, 100 or 2000, these are all perfectly acceptable amounts depending on people’s real needs,” he says, and we should not try to reach a precise quota in a forced way, “repeating the same concepts over and over again without any benefit to the reader.”
But what do you do when “you’ve written a 500-word piece of content on a specific topic or keyword for which you intend to rank, and you see that all the competitors are ranking with four-thousand-word articles?” asks SEO expert Lily Ray, host of the episode: while not technically a ranking factor, word count could therefore be a good indicator that users (and Google) expect longer content, she adds. Splitt does not comment directly on the issue, commenting simply with a “it depends: if you see them at the top, it’s not just because they have pages with a high word count,” and then reiterating that, again, it is necessary to understand “what users need.” Thus, if a person is looking for a question that can be answered quickly, shorter content should be the best match, and in any case it makes no sense to extend the length of the content to reach a certain word count.
On the so-called keyword density front, the days of Google rewarding sites that maximize keyword usage are probably over, preferring quality over quantity instead; thanks in part to evolutions in the algorithm, which now seems able to recognize authoritative and relevant content more naturally. At the same time, however, it remains important to use keywords appropriately, that is, without exaggerating or sinning in the opposite direction: it is, of course, difficult to give a specific number of the value of occurrences of the main keyword in the text (although a common trend identifies the range between 1 and 3 percent with respect to the total), but it is still much more important that such keywords are used naturally within the content.
To obtain this information, we can use, for example, SEOZoom’s Keyword Relevance Analysis tool, which helps us to deepen the study of the keyword we are working on: starting from the entry of a keyword, in fact, the tool analyzes the competitors present in Google’s TOP10 and reports how relevant the use of each word was within the text and which other terms are crucial for the topic, with information divided into three tables (main topics, relevant keywords and TF IDF analysis).
The first, Main Topics, shows all the relevant topics for the chosen topic, with various usage statistics, and in particular shows the percentage of top ten competitors who used these terms, the average number of occurrences of the keyword in their texts, the percentage of top ten competitors who used these specific terms in the elements of H1, H2 and H3, allowing one to understand at a glance whether the term was little, a lot or not at all used and, consequently, which terms are the most relevant in SERP for the starting keyword, and which ones have less centrality.
Relevant Keywords performs a similar analysis, but focused on keywords that have the same intent as the one you enter, with percentage indication of their use within competitor content and, in particular, at the level of text, H1, H2 and H3 headings, anchor text for links, alt text of images or character emphasis tags (bold and italic).
Finally, TF-IDF Analysis refers precisely to the statistics of the Term Frequency – Inverse Document Frequency algorithm, which is used to determine the mere relevance of a text in relation to the terms of a search query through a purely textual analysis of documents in SERPs. This information can help us understand the value and relevance of certain terms with respect to the keyword of interest, although we should not look for a direct causal relationship between the data and ranking: SEOZoom does not suggest that we consider keyword density in content creation or focus our work to comply precisely with the algorithm’s directions, but it does provide data to be interpreted to analyze the context of the keyword, understand how specific terms were used and how much weight they have within the various pages ranked on Google, so that we can compose an overall analysis – with relevant keywords and main topics-that will help us refine and make content more competitive.
This is the evolution of semantic SEO, capable of going beyond simple query character strings to focus on the user’s intent, no longer rewarding (at least in theory) content with lots of keywords or that relies on parameters such as keyword density and the like, but pages that know how to respond to people’s needs for information and entertainment.
On the practical side, however, these aspects can still make sense in the production of content: it is a matter of understanding that we should not think in terms of causality, but in terms of correlation; that is, that content and pages are better positioned on Google not because they have used certain techniques and complied with certain criteria and best practices (causality), but because they possess certain elements in common that the search engine evidently considers important characteristics (correlation).
Therefore, the most correct approach is not to have a minimum or maximum word count in terms of a pre-set standard, but to dynamically observe what competitors write on the topic, identify the main nodes of the topic and, based on these analyses, identify a possible optimal length of content.
Post-publication interventions: content review and optimization
As we said before, the modern SEO copywriter also intervenes at the post-publication stage, and indeed this is where his work becomes crucial, because he can actually check whether the strategy applied to the creation of the content has paid off or whether, on the contrary, Google has not rewarded the page in a desired manner. Taking it for granted that no mistakes were made in the previous steps – i.e., implementation of proper keyword research, optimal choice of title and heading, correctly inserted meta description, and so on, which represent almost the abc of copywriting and SEO copywriting-the aspects that are generally most overlooked or are otherwise most problematic are three, namely satisfaction of search intent, page links, and gap with better-performing competitors.
Sometimes, however, we feel that we have found good keywords (when used appropriately), that we have chosen a solid title, meta description, and heading, and that we have therefore written quality content but, in spite of everything, we miss the goal of ranking: in these cases, the problem may be in the low weight of our domain compared to the strength of the competitors, and therefore the solution may be to strengthen the page through links, maximizing the reach of users from social, and to aim to achieve natural link building, that is, obtaining links and mentions from other sites that evaluate as authoritative (here comes back this adjective) the proposed content, promoting it on their own pages as interesting and useful insights.
Lastly, the content review also passes through the comparison with the competitors, analyzing the focus deficiencies that our web page denotes compared to those that are performing better on Google, conquering the highest positions in the SERPs, and in this SEOZoom accompanies us to optimization through various tools, and in particular with the original algorithm that allows us to discover and highlight what are the “holes” present in our articles compared to the best positioned pages on Google: relevant topics and priority keywords that our competitors in Google’s Top10 have chosen and that work and that we may not have considered, so that we can correct the shot and try to improve the work. Already by simply integrating these keywords, placed in a well-researched and reasoned context, we might be able to better hit the user’s (and search engine’s) search intent and ultimately make the page more useful and improve its performance.
The copywriter’s job does not end with publication
In short, today the work for a copywriter does not end when the article is published, but continues with reviewing, updating, and analyzing the reception of the content, especially after making changes.
This is true for (at least) two reasons: on the one hand, relevancy itself is evolving, because Google is constantly updating its algorithms to try to improve the user experience and show more and more accurately the content that best meets the needs of the searcher.
But it’s not just about staying abreast of search engine algorithm changes; it’s very important to offer up-to-date information to stay in the piece against competitors as well. Today, with the ability to be able to get our hands on our content at any time, we have a huge opportunity to provide users with adequate and timely information with respect to inevitable changes.
For example, if we have set to optimize an article for a certain keyword, but it is receiving more traffic a different variant, we can go back and optimize the content following this new direction. Or we can find out what our content is missing to be “in focus” on that topic by analyzing competitors.
With SEOZoom we have a complete picture of the performance of each individual page, with an indication of the points on which to intervene to reach the true potential of the content: we can go deeper into certain topics, correct small inaccuracies, or even go back to some point and make it more understandable.
We say it right away: even for content revision we must never forget to act critically and in a balanced way. The tools accompany us or in some cases guide us, simplify our work, but we need to reason in order to apply the directions in the best way.
Therefore, even when we analyze potential keywords not present in a text, used instead by competitors already positioned or otherwise considered relevant to the topic treated, the evaluation of “if, how and where” to insert these keywords must be the result of reflection, because we need to assess well how relevant they are with our content or if they are terms that make us end up out of focus.
Monitoring the pages on which we have intervened with more or less sensitive corrections is crucial for several reasons: first, it helps us understand whether we have operated in the right way, whether our strategy has proven adequate or whether gaps remain to be filled to finally satisfy readers and Google.
Delving into these issues allows us to replicate successful strategies and increase the likelihood that subsequent articles will also meet with user and search engine approval, or conversely, to figure out how to adjust when returns fall short of expectations.
There is always a BUT: the Web context and the problem of underperforming content
A final parenthesis. All of this still remains theoretical unless we understand an important point-which partly explains why sometimes our content does not perform well, or not as well as we would like.
Even applying all the advice and following all the directions, it is not “automatic” to achieve the desired results and the first page. We must never forget that:
- The final judge is always Google, which sometimes follows mysterious paths and criteria.
- We are not alone on the Web and we act within a context.
That is, we must have the ability, lucidity, and also the humility to evaluate our site and our work as objectively as possible, and remember that there are competitors who may have histories, experiences, skills, size, and budgets far superior to ours, who “inevitably” may achieve better results.
The other myths about content: how to manage the various aspects
We must then also have the ability to shy away from other clichés and false myths about SEO copywriting, which can actually lead us away from our goals and cause us to waste energy and time on aspects that are then not crucial to performance.
Referring back to the old episode of SEO Mythbusting season 2 in which Martin Splitt and Lily Ray address topics such as “more content equals better quality” and word count as a ranking factor, offering advice on what to do about underperforming content and more.
Ray’s first question concerns what is the best strategy for a publisher who regularly publishes on the same topic every year, with only slightly different content: is it better to create new articles or update old ones?
Lily Ray cites a concrete example to clarify the question, that of a site that publishes an article describing “a certain type of beauty treatment, and it talks in 2017 and 2018 and 2019. So what is Google’s recommended best practice? “Take that content and update it every year, or publish three different pages on the same topic?”
According to Splitt, the best answer is that as a general rule-unless there are twists and turns in the news-it would be better to work on updating content that has already been published and avoid publishing articles on very similar topics or that say essentially the same thing, not least because this risks being seen as a case of duplicate content by Google, which will operate a canonicalization regardless of the settings indicated by the publisher.
To avoid this problem, therefore-which could lead to having only one “visible” article and the others relegated to mere reproductions discarded by the search engine-it is better to make an effort to update the existing page, intervening with changes to the phrases to make them more current, and above all repositioning it better to make it more visible on the site, perhaps bringing it closer to the home page.
How much content is needed for SEO?
We then move on to address another hot topic in SEO, which is the minimum amount of content that is needed to perform well on Google. It is again Lily Ray who introduces the discussion, bringing back the views of many companies who think that it is necessary to produce a lot of content because “this will help rank for a lot of different keywords,” and so they decide to “publish a new blog post every single week, to the point where their site has thousands of blog posts that don’t perform well, though.”
Therefore, his question is “how much content should I have on the site and to what extent does this really help my performance?”
Google’s Developer Advocate responds by urging (everyone) to take a step back and remember what is really essential: providing useful information to users. So determining how much content is good for this purpose “depends a little bit on what you’re doing.”
On the practical side, “if you’re a news site, then yes, it’s useful to cover as many events as possible, but if your website is about a specific product, then there’s not much you can say about that,” and forcibly stretching the broth in article after article doesn’t help much.
In contrast, producing a lot of content on a regular basis is especially recommended for industry blogs, where new information is constantly coming out. What is important is not to publish just for the sake of publishing or for the belief that this will somehow help performance, because in fact in this way only thin content is produced and the crawl budget is wasted, wasting resources on items that do not yield results.
Does having a blog and publishing content help Google ranking?
Also very straightforward is the next question posed to the Googler: is the presence of a blog and the periodic publication of new content a kind of site-side ranking factor and can it help overall performance?
Martin Splitt first denies that these aspects can be site-wide ranking signals, but then explains that frequently updating the blog with items such as industry news (or otherwise relevant and useful content for visitors to users) can improve reputation with users and thus result (more or less indirectly) in performance growth, though without changing ranking or organic performance.
Tips for updating performing content
And what to do with performing content? Lily Ray specifically asks how to manage quality articles over time to prevent them from aging too much: is it better to make periodic updates or only put hands on the text when significant changes occur?
The position expressed by the Googler is very practical and is good onpage optimization advice: it is preferable to update this quality content that performs (still) well only when there is substantial and particular news, and-“if not much has changed”-to spend time and effort writing new content that links to this resource, thereby linking the old article to the new ones. This does not have a direct impact on ranking, but it is useful for site visitors who can thus learn more about the topic in which they are interested.
Too much and under-performing content, how to intervene
The SEO expert then tries to find out whether Google’s crawling statistics can be an indication of whether a site publishes too much content or whether its pages are under-performing: Splitt is first of all very clear in saying that for Google there is no quantity limit to publications (he literally states that “there is no such thing as too much content”).
Then, he argues that those cited are the wrong metrics to have insights on such items, because the frequency with which Googlebot crawls content does not indicate that this content is good or bad or that there is too much of it.
More targeted for this purpose is the Google Search Console performance report, and if you are experiencing a lot of impressions but few clicks, intervene with improvement measures, first trying to assess the situation (and the value of the content) from the user’s point of view and what they intend to gain from visiting that page.
The relationship between poor content and site authority
Still on the subject of underperforming content, the next “myth” to dispel concerns the relationship between so many poorly performing pages and the site’s level of trust and authority from Google’s perspective. According to Splitt, it all depends on why the content is underperforming: for example, if the poor performance depends on the detection of spam or thin content, this can reflect negatively on the entire site, leading to penalties or manual actions.
Consolidate and group content
Thus, regardless of why content is underperforming, it is always a good idea to do cleanup operations and assess whether it needs to be updated or removed to safeguard the total project.
One strategy in this regard could be to search for thin content that is related in theme, to be bundled into one longer, more in-depth informative article, provided it makes sense to do so.
This is the advice that Splitt offers-as a direct response to a concern of his guest-to sites that have numerous pages of very short content consisting of “only a sentence or two” (e.g., help or support pages that provide answers to very specific questions), which then risk being considered as “not very useful” by Google and cause a negative impact on search rankings.
Therefore, Mountain View’s Developer Advocate explains, one can try to group these pages by topic and structure them in a meaningful way: for example, bringing together all questions about a specific product range, troubleshooting, or methods of using the product into a “denser, more useful” page.
Consolidating multiple pieces of relevant information in one place is something that reflects positively on Google Search, not least because it reduces the crawling load for the bot and gives users useful and relevant content on one page.
Lily Ray has another issue for Google’s attention, concerning the consideration of auto-generated content, such as several location pages with virtually the same content on each. Specifically, the expert refers to 50 location pages for the 50 U.S. states where the business is discussed, which is essentially the same for each location, and then the content varies by small details (you change the name of the location and maybe add a few specific details about the location), to find out if Google is capable of discovering these “tricks” and how it evaluates them.
For Splitt, it is a 50/50 situation: “Either they work or they don’t“, and specifically these types of pages may work if there is at least some unique information relevant to each position, while conversely they may not work if the content is too similar.
Indeed, by changing only “a handful of words and keeping the rest of the content identical, Google might consider one page duplicative of the other and not include it in the Index,” and therefore the advice for those in these situations is to invest in producing pages that are truly unique, relevant, and useful, even if they are similar.
Google and duplicate content
The last topic addressed in this episode is specifically about content duplication and the ways in which Google determines which pages present content that is “too similar.”
Splitt says he is not sure if there is an actual threshold, but explains that Google relies on the content fingerprinting system to determine whether there is duplication: that is, each page has its own fingerprint that is used to determine how similar one piece of content is to another. The Googler also mentions “similarity metrics” that Google uses for this task, but provides no further specifics.
SEOZoom’s writing tools
So, to recap: today, writing content for the web while respecting SEO criteria means acting on two fronts, because on the one hand we have to pay attention to the “grammar” of the Internet, and thus learn the rules related to titles, captions, meta descriptions, images and various tags, while on the other front there is the syntax of our language.
It is in this meeting point that the power of quality in web writing lies, in the ability to write articles that rank best on search engines and are engaging at the same time, taking care of the rules and respecting the criteria described so far.
To simplify the management of these aspects and facilitate every stage of content writing for all types of websites, there is a whole set of editorial tools within SEOZoom that meet the needs of editors and copywriters who want to write Google-optimized articles and, above all, satisfy users to generate organic traffic and increase site revenue.
In fact, with the use of the various proposed tools, it is possible to manage an editorial plan, discover the most relevant terms for a given topic, read the main news in one’s industry, perform an OnPage keyword analysis, and know the relevance of a keyword in the top ten ranked sites.
In a nutshell, SEOZoom helps to manage editorial work in a planned and strategic way, to produce texts that are perfect for the search engine and able to adequately meet the needs of our readers at every stage of their search journey.
SEOZoom’s Editorial Assistant for SEO-oriented writing.
The “heart” of this approach is the Editorial Assistant, a comprehensive editor that assists us in content creation, bringing together text editing tools, SEO tips and usage directions to be followed in writing, all in real time, with directions that update at the very moment we compile the article.
Being a tool, it is nevertheless based on an automatism and should be used, precisely, as an assistant in content strategies: in other words, in order to achieve the best results one should always put one’s personal experience first, especially when faced with choices, and not mechanically follow the given directions.
For example, the figure about the average length of the content of competitors placed in TOP10 should be interpreted not as a mere limitation (as we said before, Google does not use word count as a ranking factor and therefore it is not obligatory that our content respects this length), but as a reference of the fact that the user intent identified by Google requires a certain type of treatment and depth, which should be considered when evaluating the composition of the content.
Instead, by clicking on the balloon icon, available for both Title and Meta Description, we can quickly check how the respective tag has been handled by the Competitors in TOP10 in SERPs, and then try to draw some useful hints for the compilation of the two fields. It goes without saying, but snippets must stand out from competitors in order to win clicks from the user: so, as is easy to guess, there is little point in mechanically copying a competitor’s text, which could, however, serve as inspiration for the wording of the snippet texts chosen by Google in its SERPs.
The most important parts of the tool are those we find in the tables on the right, which perform a comprehensive analysis to build quality content, reporting a series of suggestions divided into sections:
In the Optimizations tab there is a summary table with points to consider in order to have a well-optimized article, based on the most widely used SEO best practices, separated into “mistakes,” “to be improved,” and “okay.” Of course, these are always “automatic” references and, depending on what we are writing about, the goal we have in mind and our experience, some points might be more important than others while some aspects are simply to be ignored. However, having a checklist to follow could be a great place to start.
In the Topic tab we have an analysis related to the recurring topics related to the chosen keyword, which then we should use (or at least keep in mind) to write a complete and relevant content on the topic. The next Keyword tab, on the other hand, focuses on keywords, flagging those potentially inherent to the target keyword under analysis: SEOZoom scans the SERP related to the keyword we are working on and identifies the other keywords on which the present competitors are positioned. In both cases, SEOZoom provides you with the average search volume and the level of relevance of the topic or keyword, highlighting how the competitors use this type of information (divided into All, Fundamental, Recommended, Optional, Additional, Missing) in the various elements of the page (topic, heading, phrases, images or anchor text), in direct comparison with our content, to always provide all the tools to make our work more strategic.
More specifically, the difference between the various recommended keywords always relates to search intent: based on the word being analyzed, the various indications tend to suggest keywords that are recommended, essential to use or unnecessary, which based on our personal assessment we can add to the content or avoid including. These elements are defined in relation to competitor analysis, and in practice:
- unnecessary (useless) keywords are those that no one has used;
- the optional ones are those that have a low average threshold of use;
- the additional ones are those that some competitors have used and that could perhaps be a plus to evaluate for content.
- the recommended ones are the ones used in most competitor content.
- the fundamental ones are those that all placed competitors have worked on.
- the missing ones are the ones that are missing in our text (compared to all keywords).
In the FAQ tab, SEOZoom i reports users’ frequently asked questions about the topic, collecting all the main questions that emerge within Google’s “people also asked” panels, which can be useful informative insights to include in the content.
Finally, in the Correlated tab are show keywords that are not part of the main intent, but that can be useful to deepen the main topic with new content, to be linked with an appropriate internal link structure.
In the last three tabs there are three extra features that give direct access to a database with which to refine the article, namely Synonyms, Free Images, and Videos from YouTube, which we can consider including in the content to enrich the reader’s experience and better meet their needs.
By clicking on the dictionary icon, in particular, we can find suggested synonyms for any term, with the possibility of contextualizing the required meaning and delving deeper into the proposed term. The photo icon, on the other hand, helps us choose free-to-use images to insert directly within our text, searching for those most relevant to the keyword or topic we are working on. Similarly, the media player icon allows us to find videos from youtube to embed in the content, searching for the most appropriate and in topic ones.
SEO copywriting tool: analyzing the text of a page
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the relevant role that content plays in a site’s ranking, but in fact it has been at least since 2011 with the Panda algorithm and its subsequent updates that Google has penalized sites with thin, short and very poor quality content by sending them to the margins of the SERPs.
It turns out that it is indeed essential to write quality content that offers added value for users who are looking for answers, and in this sense. knowing the basics of SEO copywriting to optimize our texts is certainly important, although we must never overdo the interventions in order not to obtain the opposite result, of a negative over-optimization.
The following mirror helps us understand how we can analyze the text of a page and find out where to place our keywords strategically.
How to use keywords in the text
Once we have chosen the keywords to use within our content through the preliminary stage of keyword research, we have several places to take advantage of to use keywords effectively.
- Title tag: the page title is a key element to include in the head section of the document. The length of the title should be between 40 and 70 characters, which is the maximum size to be displayed in Google SERPs.
- Meta tag description: the page description is a factor that Google does not directly consider for ranking purposes, but a concise and persuasive description (containing the keyword) can entice the user to click on the result when it appears in the SERPs of organic search results. Again, there is a maximum length, which is about 156 characters.
- ALT tag: this is the alternative text for images. The visual part is always more central and every page or blog post should contain at least one image.
- URL: the keyword we have chosen should always be present in the page address. This is why it is useful to manage and set permalinks correctly so that they are readable.
- Headings tags: represent the tags for formatting text into paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. It is advisable to use only one h1, but the management and insertion of paragraphs depends very much on the structure of the layout.
- Keyword: classic best practices suggest inserting the main keyword within the first paragraph and repeating it several times within the text, with various semantic declinations and without, however, overdoing it and resulting in keyword stuffing.
Il seguente specchietto ci aiuta a capire come si può analizzare il testo di una pagina e scoprire dove inserire le nostre parole chiave in maniera strategica.