SEO Copywriting tips: how to optimize content
Why doesn’t my content rank well on Google and perform as expected? How many times have we repeated this phrase, analyzing the underwhelming performance of pages to which we have devoted work and attention, looking for the right insight to lift their performance and give the site a positive shake. Often, the answer is hidden behind the expression quality content, which is a bit of a formula that defines the goals of creating texts and articles for our own or a client’s site: however, it is not easy to go from theory to practice, that is, to be able to create (or even better, have a copywriter create) a piece that can then actually have visibility on search engines and that respects the canons of SEO copywriting. In short, it is time to figure out how to write content that is perfect for the search engine, using the editorial assistant and other SEOZoom tools, and that adequately meets the needs of our readers at every stage of their search journey.
SEO copy, tips for optimizing content
There are many causes of the problem of underperforming content, starting with a communication gap that often exists between “editors” who assign the work and creative copywriters who are called upon to execute it, not least because it can be difficult to find specialists who can both produce quality content and understand SEO concepts. On the contrary, as it is easy to guess, finding a meeting point between these two “worlds” is crucial for the success of a project, and therefore we propose to indicate below set of rules, tips and guidelines that have a “simple” goal: to start an optimized process for the creation of an SEO Oriented content, which can not only refer to SEO strategies, but also intercept the true needs of the audience and to connect with the audience, generating traffic and conversions.
So let’s try to provide some practical pointers to those involved in strategic writing, without presuming to define rules on how to write an article (a personal and subjective process, which also depends on the type of article we are called upon to produce), but rather to push toward the right approach to result-oriented writing, valid for any type of article and work, that can help us achieve our goals.
Google’s guidance on content
In this work, we can only start from Google‘s public guidance, which is a crucial reference for understanding what is the way forward.
There are in fact two kinds of quality, we can say: on the one hand, there is the quality for the human being, the one we perceive individually and personally, which is subjective and changeable. On the other hand, there is the quality decided by Google following its sometimes mysterious criteria (what we call 200 ranking factors).
Google’s algorithm evolves to identify high quality content that is also useful and relevant to users’ search intentions, as seen recently with Helpful Content System or the updated guidelines for quality raters, and therefore the way to rank a content and acquire organic traffic passes (simplifying) by the evaluations that Google’s algorithm makes on the published content, but also by the ability to understand what people are looking for, how they speak, what semantic language they use, because we must never forget that the final reference of our site remains the people who will read and navigate it.
Our job as SEO copywriters is therefore to produce content that brings together SEO best practices and canons of good writing, completeness and clarity of information provided to our readers.
Google also values the human factor
The first piece of advice we can offer to those who need to write an SEO article or text for the Web in general is an old “adage”: to improve your writing you need to practice, read and write more. That is, one must be curious and continue to educate oneself and train one’s style, keep one’s eyes open to the latest trends, take a look at news and social media, perhaps try to glean the writing secrets of other professionals and then test oneself and file one’s mistakes.
Focusing on self-improvement is important not only for the obvious issues, but also to be able to properly cultivate and demonstrate the criteria of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, which for Google are the cornerstones for determining the quality of content and also of those who actually create and sign it. More precisely, the EEAT paradigm, from the initials in English for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust, precisely, is enshrined in the guidelines for quality raters, the document that serves as a compass for the work of assessing the quality of Search results (without direct effects on ranking, the search engine specifies), which probably trains Search algorithms in some way as well.
So it seems clear that Google also strongly values the “human factor” in ranking content, to the point that many have summarized this process with the expression “Google doesn’t seem to give as much importance to what you say anymore, but rewards those who say it so much more”. In short, even in the digital age and the virtual world, the human aspect still has an important value and can make a difference in achieving the ultimate goal of each article or Web page: increased site and keyword rankings, improved organic traffic, revenue.
All of this should therefore prompt us to work on incorporating real expertise into our content strategy, because we can revamp content and improve perceived EEAT levels by following Google’s official best practices and guidelines for site owners, specifically adhering to:
- better demonstrate direct, first-hand experience;
- deepen expertise in particular areas;
- do more to make themselves known to others as experts (e.g., good content marketing and PR);
- find ways to make content as valuable as possible to users;
- focus on understanding what the reader intends and finding and delivering content that meets that need-that is, writing to adequately meet the search intent.
How to write an SEO article
Working on oneself, specializing as a copywriter and, even more specifically, as an SEO copywriter can therefore also be an important outlet for a professional career. So let us return to SEO Copywriting tips, in the belief that writing a winning piece of content that works that is pleasing to users also to Google starts first of all from what are the skills on the topic we need to develop, and then from the creativity with which we approach the topic, which is inevitably linked to the study and in-depth study of the topic to be covered.
Public danger number one is the classic “blank page” panic, which often strikes aspiring writers but also the more seasoned professionals, namely, not knowing how to start approaching the article. To overcome it, we can start with a programmatic task, i.e., planning the work wisely, assuming a standard outline and structure that will lead us to the creation of the SEO-oriented article, paying attention to four priority aspects:
- A title, to communicate the topic in a concise but precise manner.
- An introduction, to summarize the content of the page from the beginning.
- A text structured by thematic sections.
- External citations and additional resources to provide the reader with insights.
In order to make this work strategic, we need to add more attention to some technical details, that is, to familiarize ourselves with the basic concepts of on-page SEO, an extensive and complex activity that refers to the optimization of all the elements within a web page for search engine rankings: in addition to covering a long series of components such as titles, meta descriptions, URLs, it also deals with parameters of the architecture, readability and usability of the page, all the way down to keywords, links and content.
Just the actual content and the HTML elements are the two main aspects on which we can intervene with corrections and changes to try to relaunch an underperforming page in Search.
The word content includes all the written, visual, and video resources posted on the page: ideally, everything we write and incorporate on the page should be geared toward providing added value for the audience. In fact, when content does not have a clear goal and does not respond to a specific search intent, we miss a huge opportunity to present the target audience with the information they need and lose relevance in the eyes of Google.
Supporting this goal is also a good keyword research, which should identify relevant keywords for the audience and allow us to build appropriate page content to meet their needs.
Instead, HTML components include any part of the web page defined in HTML, the behind the scenes default code: we are talking about elements such as the title, meta description, and image alt text, but also HTML elements that render the page. All of this plays a crucial role in telling Google what the page is about and gives signals about how it should be ranked in search results. Therefore, if we do not use these elements correctly we expose ourselves to a potential negative impact on ranking.
SEO Copy: the useful mirror for content optimization
Without having to recall the old saying that content is king, the first element to turn attention to in optimization work is still the written content of the page. In this sense, the ability of those involved in writing for the web lies in finding the right way to respond to a user’s need and accompany them in the discovery of information through the form and structure of the article, but also with the language, which should be neither too cathartic, difficult and technical, nor too trivial and common, while also taking care of “technical” factors such as the use of keywords within the content, which should never be forced, and the optimization of title, description, URL and heading, among other fields.
From the perspective of SEO copywriting and with reference to a single editorial page, a typical process of result-oriented writing could be as follows:
● Strategic keyword research.
● Identification of search intent.
● Identification of the focus to be given to the article based on the intent.
● Competitor analysis.
● Source research, to make sure to provide useful, valid and truthful information.
● Organization of the piece structure, table of content, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.
● Article writing.
● Optimization of the title and other headings.
● Optimization of meta decription.
● URL optimization.
● Insertion of internal links to useful pages on one’s own site.
● Insertion of any external links to authoritative and reliable sources.
● Placement of the right category within the site.
● Correct and consistent selection of WordPress tags.
● Choosing and curating images.
● Promotion of the article on social or other channels.
● Periodic review, to check Google rankings and any change in search intent, and subsequent corrections.
Intervening on the on-page SEO to relaunch underperforming content
With respect to the last point, the SEO landscape is constantly evolving, on-page SEO itself is very dynamic, users’ interests change, and new and stronger competitors emerge: in short, it is not enough for the SEO copy to simply take action on the title and meta description to think he or she has completed the optimization job.
If the main purpose of content writing is to convert audiences into paying customers, expert Matt Bertram also tells us, we need to make sure “that every page focuses on providing value to the audience“, crafting text that rests on solid keyword research, has clear goals to facilitate user interaction, and also takes care of all aspects of HTML optimization.
This means, in particular, properly using headings to structure content and call out signals of relevance on the topic for both readers and search engines – breaking down paragraphs in a specific and reasoned structure, using H2, H3 subheadings, and so on – and trying to optimize the E-E-A-T parameters communicated by the content, an especially important aspect in YMYL topics, although all web content can benefit from being crafted to demonstrate greater experience, expertise, authority, and reliability.
Improving written content: the elements to take care of
The title tag is the “title” of the page and is an element that search engines use to determine what the page is about. It is a slight ranking factor, as clarified by Google, but it can be useful to focus it on the exact keyword to which the page is addressed, so as to immediately define its context and usefulness, making it easier for the audience to find it among the search results and immediately understand the possible information found there-and it can be useful to learn more about the difference between title tag and H1, by reading some tips on optimizing these elements.
The second aspect to work on is URLs, which play an essential role in both SEO and user experience: each web page generates a unique URL, and it may be useful to set up a structure of talking URLs, which contain the right keywords to make sense to the target audience. One of the most classic optimization tactics is to create SEO-friendly URLs, i.e., addresses that are short and precise-long, complicated addresses can be difficult for search engines to understand, but more importantly pose a challenge to users-and possibly contain a keyword, which is an easy way to help Google determine the content of the page.
Most of all, URLs should be easy to decipher, remember, or recognize, because this makes it easier for people to type the address into the search bar in case they need to return to a specific page, and it also simplifies sharing (including sharing on social).
Insert appropriate alt text of images
Visual elements are increasingly vital within a website-we are in the age of the attention economy, we said some time ago, and it is often visual creativity rather than words alone that makes the difference-and although content creators devote attention to this aspect, there is still one factor of on-page SEO that is greatly overlooked, namely the inclusion of alt-text for images and videos.
Alternate text is the description of the image or video that is displayed behind the visual element itself.Typically, on a well-functioning Web site it does not appear because it serves as an alternate way of informing readers of what that resource contains.
For example, if a photo is not displayed properly once when the page is fully loaded, the alt-text will take its place so that people can still understand what we were trying to show them. More importantly, alt-text ensures that content is accessible to all who view it, making certain types of content understandable even to users with visual or hearing disabilities: in fact, the screen readers used by these people read precisely the alt-text to explain the audio or video associated with a page.
In addition to the accessibility aspect, alt-text can be an SEO factor because it allows us to insert target keywords that search engines can use to better understand and index visual elements, allowing us to get good rankings on Google Images in addition to the standard Google Search. To optimize images, we also need to add a title and description, taking advantage of these fields to insert the chosen keywords, and take care not to use too heavy files that can slow down page loading, even from mobile.
Managing the internal and external linking
Never be afraid to link, because links are the very basis of the concept (and functioning) of the Web.
As we know, there are two types of linking: internal links are those that intuitively point to pages within the same domain, while external links are those that take readers to different target sites.
Internal links can help Google understand the context of a page and how it relates to other pages on the site, and allow it to build an ideal path to guide a user between the various pages of the site, leading them to useful resources for our business.
External links, commonly referred to as backlinks, on the other hand, can serve to boost readers’ trust by linking to reliable sources and offering more information on complex topics or topics that need to be explored more thoroughly.
SEO Copy, how to optimize content
Returning then to the steps that really characterize strategic SEO copy versus simply writing for the Web, to identify the focus to give to the article based on intent we can analyze SERPs and use SEO tools, so as to find out what is the primary intent recognized by Google for the relevant keyword and then adjust our strategy. In terms of SEO and page returns, it is difficult-sometimes impossible-to succeed in ranking a product sales page in a SERP that Google has identified and marked as informative, just as it is conversely a “how-to” guide page will fail to stand out in a batch of purely transactional results. There’s more: even if we succeed in this task, such an objective is likely to be useless or counterproductive for our site: if people are interested in buying (if the search intent glimpsed by Google is transactional and the SERPs are unambiguous, with only such results), they are at a point in the funnel where they do not want to read additional information and-even if they click-then they will go right back to find more appropriate answers. Likewise, if they want to read insights they will not be interested in buying, and thus the page will not bring conversions.
Analyzing Google’s SERP also allows us to study online competitors, monitor their work in general and on certain trending topics, find out what results Google rewards for the keyword we are working on. In this way we can precisely get to know 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.
All content, then, needs to be reviewed periodically, to check ranking and make sure it retains Google’s liking: new information discoveries, Google algorithmic changes, and search intent transformations can make even the best articles obsolete and thus cause loss of positions and traffic to the site. Refreshing articles requires only a few steps, most notably checking that the information provided is up-to-date and valid, checking whether links still work, adding paragraphs or deleting those that have become redundant. When we intervene with these corrections, we do not necessarily need to update the date of the content (to be done only for substantial revisions), but still, it can be useful to use the appropriate markup to indicate the last update of the text on sight.
Directions and tips for managing SEO copywriters
If these are the main aspects on which to focus our attention in order to turn around and relaunch underperforming content by working as a copywriter or site factotum, slightly different is the situation if we operate only as editors and have to manage one or more copywriters instead.
In this case, in fact, our first task is to put the content writers engaged in the project on the right track, directing them from the beginning to the right goals, so that the time needed for content creation is reduced, because a standard schema is offered to refer to, aimed at SEO-type strategies.
U.S. experts, such as Jessica Foster on Search Engine Land, recommend in this regard to try to draft a “Standard Operating Procedure“, or guidelines that are well-organized, described and focused on the goals to which copy can refer. Specifically, we can list a number of essential rules to follow when creating such a document, which represent an all-encompassing but concise “manual” of how to dictate the line for writing SEO-friendly content for one’s own or a client’s site, without going overboard with information or words. The basic concept is that you have to convey to the copywriter an idea of what the brand/project is, what kind of language should be used, what the target audience is, and so on, in order to engage and inform him or her about the work he or she has to carry out.
It is not enough just to point out the information
Let’s stop for a moment and think about the typical process of researching and engaging a copywriter: in most cases, you find a professional online and forward him or her information about site URL, number of words required, topic, main keyword, and delivery date. That’s it: it’s up to the copywriter to come up with ideas for the article, because on the other side they simply wait for the content to be received and edit the text until it is suitable and SEO oriented as per the publisher’s hopes, perhaps completely distorting the piece and wasting additional time and effort.
In short, an absolutely not ideal situation. Not least because a crucial step is missing, namely to remember that copywriters cannot read the editor’s mind, and therefore-if not properly instructed-it is unlikely that they will be able to produce the perfect text we hope for. Giving them limited information and few guiding details almost inevitably leads to a suboptimal result, entrusting the production of the content only to the copywriter’s experience, creativity, and skill: the result may be excellent, but more frequently it is far from the expectations and requirements, which poses problems for the business.
The publisher’s duties
Instead, it is the publisher’s responsibility to outline expectations, brand details, procedures, SEO strategy, and the desired format for the article, thus giving copywriters the right information to be in a position to perform their job to the best of their ability, the first time as well as the umpteenth. Another critical point is that in many cases you do not perform adequate market research to understand your audience or your clients’ audience: this means that, beyond typical SEO data, you are essentially groping in the dark when you need to write content that “sells.” As we know, having SEO-friendly articles is only one part of the equation that leads to the desired end result, because content must also be able to generate conversions.
In short, before implementing a copy model you need to ask yourself precisely about the project, answering about ten essential questions that serve to define the context in which you are operating. These are practical questions, such as what is the mission of the site, and then move on to identifying the content (what are the key taglines, words, phrases, opinions and ideas used and associated with the brand and which ones should be avoided), identifying the objective of the article, the focus audience, the type of tone and style that it is appropriate to use in order to be in tune with the audience, but also the solution that is proposed to the readers through the article. In addition, it would also be good to clarify in advance what platforms will be used to bring traffic to the content and what kind of conversions the content is aimed at, to give the copywriter a way to know all the useful information.
How to identify a good copywriter using the Standard Operating Procedure model
A good copywriter “knows how to incorporate these elements into the creative process; if he can’t, perhaps it’s time to look for another profile,” the article says. Most writers will be able to adhere to the basics of SEO, but it is much more complex to teach them the psychology behind so-called persuasive copywriting, which is why, when looking for copywriters, one should also focus on their abilities in cultivating an “on-brand” message rather than just SEO knowledge.
Ultimately, the SOP for copy includes (at least) 12 pivotal points and can be summarized as follows:
- Title: guidance on title structuring for the page or post.
- Metadata: Guidance on format and length required for title tag and meta description.
- Words: Terms and words to use and phrases to avoid in conjunction with the client.
- Keywords: Number (approximate) of keywords required per page.
- Keyword Implementation: Where and how to use focus keywords.
- Internal Linking: Number of internal links to be placed per page.
- External Linking: Number of external links to be used (if any).
- Headings: Total number and format for H2 and H3 tags.
- Content Placement: Guidance on Above/below-the-fold content and content structuring.
- Length: Number of sentences per paragraph (useful for mobile optimization, for example).
- Calls-to-action (CTA): Total number of CTAs and positioning required.
- Other: Guidance on the structure of any featured snippets, anchor links, bullet points and so on.
In addition, it would also be good to indicate other points central to the activity, such as whether the keywords are provided by the client or will derive from keyword research by the copy, or even an indication of the channel for proofreading, whether an SEO tool will be used to achieve the desired results, and finally, the time period after final delivery within which the copy should be available to revise the content according to the requirements.
Tools for copywriters in SEOZoom
The crucial point, as we said earlier, is to reduce the communication and information gap between editors and copywriters, which arises, for example, because the former are deficient in fully reporting “intentions” and the latter do not have truly effective SEO skills.
SEOZoom’s Editorial Tools, and in particular the Editorial Plan Management platform, was created precisely to make the management of copywriters easy and effective, because it allows the editor to set up the ideal structure of each article (with a real “workbench” to also monitor the status of the project, the number of articles assigned, and copy responses) and the content creator to receive all the guidance. In addition, it integrates data and insights from SEOZoom’s Editorial Assistant, which helps us at every stage of the text creation process, from identifying the focus to be given to the article to suggested best practices to always write while remaining perfectly focused on the topic exactly as it is pleasing Google and readers.
For the publisher, the platform represents the practical translation of the SOP, because it allows you to enter all the information needed to guide the creation of the content: in practice, you can indicate the title of the article, the main keyword and secondary keywords (with estimates on the monthly traffic volume, in full SEOZoom style), the reference project, the minimum required length and, of course, the delivery date. In addition, you can also empower the copy to edit the keywords, as well as include any editorial notes that you think are important to the objective.
The copywriter, on the other hand, can count on tools that basically automate the whole analysis and control part in the writing phase, and this can help limit errors and focus more carefully on the aspects that remain in his hands, namely the actual writing, source research, and content management, which remain (and perhaps fortunately) entrusted to individual experience and ability, although without neglecting the fundamental support that can come from new technologies, such as the Artificial Intelligence integrated in the Editorial Assistant tool.
SEO writing support in the Editorial Plan
The specific platform for copywriters – which allows freelancers to sign up and apply as an expert in a given field, competing (so to speak) in the selection by a publisher who needs content for their projects-allows not only to operationally manage the workflow, but also precisely to take advantage of SEOZoom’s advanced tools for content production.
The tool leads the copywriter during the whole creation of the article, also offering him or her a series of text optimization SEO tools, functioning in effect as an editorial assistant, which also provides suggestions on the length of the title or description to be used, signals the inclusion within articles of h1, h2 headings and so on, the satisfaction of the search intent and so on, but also gives indications more specifically related to the needs of the editor: the latter can indeed point out all the specifications to which the article must adhere, and the text editor verifies that the author is meeting the delivery to write in an SEO-oriented way.
How to optimize a text for the web
To recap, we have seen the various reasons why it is increasingly important to optimize a text in the best way possible, so that we can offer our readers useful and effective content that, therefore, can increase our chances of ranking better on Google.
We may therefore need a little mirror to help us remember what are the main aspects to focus on in our copywriting activities.
First of all, the form
Although it is not a fundamental rule for actual SEO, it is important first of all to write grammatically and semantically well. In fact, the web is full of terribly written texts: knowing how to write is instead the first step to make the concepts we want to convey clearer and to increase the chances that the content will be understandable and ultimately useful.
Classically, in setting up an article we should usually try to answer the famous 5 W’s of Anglo-Saxon journalism – who, what, when, when, where, why, while also adding the how-from the introduction, which should never be longer than a paragraph. Closely related is another theory of old journalism that is still widely followed, referred to as the “inverted pyramid,” which in short calls for specifying the intentions of the article right away and then going deeper into the other paragraphs. More precisely, the inverted pyramid involves a story structure in which the most important information is presented first (sometimes even what might even be considered the conclusion), followed by supporting details and background information.
Then pay attention to syntax and not being long-winded: what matters is to write clearly, with sentences that are short, direct, and simple. This makes it easier to read, because readers on the web may be lazy and leave the page quickly, and anyway-especially from mobile-reading time is getting shorter and shorter.
The importance of the title
Much care should be given to titles, which should be chosen by studying the keywords that interest us and at the same time the reader’s intentions. To write a good title we need to ask ourselves how a user would search for it and especially what wording would be most attractive, always remembering that the title should be consistent with the text and should never be too long.
How to build content
To make content construction easier, it can be very useful to divide the text into several paragraphs, because in this way it is easier to follow a logical line for both the writer and the reader. According to the classic “laws of SEO,” each paragraph should contain only a central notion or theme and be preceded by a short title, a subtitle of progressive hierarchical level, containing the main keyword. Obviously today these rules are more nuanced and fluid, but nevertheless in some cases they might prove useful.
Also because these stratagems mainly help the SEO copy to structure, organize and manage the content he or she is working on, and thus lay the groundwork for him or her to write well, as well as being a support for the reader, making the text faster to enjoy.
Finally, we must not forget the importance of bold type, with which we can first of all highlight a key word (obviously not every time it appears) and some central passages of the text. Using bold makes it easier for the user to read, who can quickly reach the points that should be most revealing for his or her understanding and satisfaction of his or her intent.
In short, there are many aspects to be evaluated, which is precisely why it can be useful to let SEOZoom help you build content and understand at each step of the process whether we are doing a good job on the SEO plan.
Content improvement is an ongoing task
Ensuring that content and on-page SEO are effective and live up to ambitions is an ongoing process that should always be integrated into our SEO strategy, and to check the progress of optimizations, it is crucial to conduct regular audits on the site, which highlight errors and where to take action to direct our efforts.
With the right support and a few fixes (not even too complicated, usually) we can succeed in improving these aspects and allow our pages to generate leads and conversions that live up to our expectations, thanks to work on creating and optimizing quality articles and content.
In this way we can deal with the “quality for Google” aspect, while the copy is left with another fundamental role, intercepting quality for the human being and the plus to be given to the content, always with the awareness that this effort will have to reckon with algorithmic evaluations, context and other uncontrollable variables.
This should not discourage SEO copywriters, but become a spur to roll up their sleeves and work hard to improve results, optimizing processes and strategies, perhaps starting to use the right tools to accompany their professional activity!