Do you think there’s nothing more to SEO copywriting than inserting keywords here and there in your copy? Think again.
Over the years, writing SEO copy has become a little more complicated. However, on-page SEO is still considered to be the easy part of SEO.
You can never have full control over your off-page SEO, because it depends on if, when and how other websites link to your website.
But on-page SEO is a different beast. It depends on your website content and structure. Hence, it is possible to write a fully optimized SEO copy. Let’s see how in this guide.
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What is SEO Copywriting?
As you might know, SEO is about the efforts you make to ensure that the pages of your website are discoverable by search engines.
In addition, we want these pages to rank as high as possible when people search for queries related to the content of your pages.
When your pages rank near the top in Google search results, your website gets more exposure and traffic, leading to better brand awareness, lead generation or sales.
There are two types of factors you take care of when doing SEO: on-page factors and off-page factors.
- On-page factors all have to do with elements of your own website and each of its pages. For example, these include your quality of your content, website sitemap, headlines, URLs and more.
- Off-page factors are aspects outside of your website or direct control. These include links from other websites, social media shares and more.
Writing copy with a focus on on-page SEO is known as SEO copywriting. SEO copywriting also increases the likelihood of success for your off-page activities.
This is because no one prefers to link to or share a website with poor user-experience or content.
Since the on-page factors are fully under your control, you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned in ensuring that all of them have been fully optimized. That’s what this guide is about.
Optimize Copy For SEO
We’ll take a look at all steps you should take to ensure your web copy gets maximum exposure from search engines. So let’s begin with the first step.
Pick Primary Keywords
If you care about SEO copywriting, keyword research is a crucial component of your content writing strategy. In a survey of marketers, 50% said keyword research is the most effective SEO tactic.
Based on the topic of your content, pick one or two primary keywords, and some secondary keywords.
There are many keyword research tools, free and paid, which can help you brainstorm and discover keywords to target with your content.
My personal favorite is a premium tool known as KWFinder, for its great user experience, affordability and quality of data. But you can also go with a free tool such as UberSuggest or Answer The Public.
Input your main keyword in the tool of your choice and you’ll get hundreds of related keywords, and their associated data. You can also view how many searches happen for a keyword per month (also known as search volume).
If you’re using a premium tool, it will show another useful metric known as difficulty score. This score can give you a good general idea of how easy or difficult it is to rank for a keyword.
Ideally to write SEO copy, you want to find and target keywords with high search volume and low difficulty score.
In most cases, these are long tail keywords (keywords with 3 or more words), which is fine because 50% of search queries are four words or longer.
By targeting long tail keywords, you’ll have a better chance at ranking quickly and easily to top of search engine results.
Long-tail keywords are also more likely to turn into qualified leads. To learn more about keyword research, see my guide to find rankable SEO keywords.
Write Remarkable Content
If you want your content to rank above the competition in search engine results, it has to be worth it. None of the other best practices are going to make a difference if your content is shoddy to begin with.
SEO content is original, valuable and optimized for search intent. It should deliver on its promise and cover all the aspects searchers care about.
You can learn more about what those aspects are by going over the top ranking pages for your target keywords. Moreover, you can also take a look at featured snippets and People Also Ask (PAA) boxes.
However, SEO copywriting is not just about content comprehensiveness and length. A number of factors go into writing a strong piece of content. These include:
- Making It Actionable: Add specific details and steps with screenshots, videos and other visuals to make it easy for the reader to put the advice into use.
- Improve Readability: Make sure to use simple language, short paragraphs, and short sentences so your content is easy to skim through.
- Know About Your Topic: Most content is written by content writers who don’t have any expertise, formal education or experience in the subject they are writing about. A piece written from experience or based on actual research data is always going to be more credible.
These tips are good to begin on-page SEO but there’s a lot more to writing great content than what can be covered within the scope of this article. I have covered some more details below.
Satisfy Search Intent
Relevance is a crucial part of SEO copywriting. It’s important to get to know your target audience, and write SEO copy based on what their intent might be behind the search.
When searching for something using a search engine, a person usually has one of the following intents.
For the keywords you are targeting, it’s not just enough to embed those keywords in your content.
You must also analyze the intent behind those keywords, and try your best to satisfy that need.
To understand this better, let’s say you are writing content for a travel brand and you realize a lot of their target audience search Google for “things to do in Melbourne”.
So you decide to create content on this topic. But the problem is that there are hundreds of other articles/videos on the same topic.
To optimize content for SEO, it has to be the best piece on this topic. And for it to be the best on this topic, it should deeply satisfy the search intent.
Sure, you can create a bullet list of things to do in Melbourne like some of the other websites have done, but could there be something better?
You’ll really need to get inside the mind-set of people who search this term in Google and give them what they really want.
One way could be to narrow the items in your to do list by who the readers are. So the reader would be able to filter the list based on things to do for solo travelers, families, couples etc.
In other words, you’re not just giving them a list, but also helping them decide what activities would be better suited for them.
Say Something Original
Original content is loved by both search engines and your visitors. Copying phrases, sentences or paragraphs from other people’s content will not just tarnish your brand in the eyes of your audience, but also result in a penalty from Google.
There are a number of plagiarism checker tools you can use to make sure there is no duplicate material in your content.
However, originality doesn’t just mean to ensure your content isn’t copied from elsewhere. It also means original thoughts and information.
Providing the same information that’s already been covered elsewhere will not be enough to write SEO copy. You need to have unique ideas and angles to add to the discussion. These could be:
- Something better organized or more comprehensive
- A new tactic or strategy
- Improved design/user experience
- Original research or case study
If there is nothing new and useful that you have to say, don’t say it. Only high quality content yields good returns in the long term.
Get To The Point
When someone clicks on a search result pointing to your content, you want to make sure the page loads right away and that you give the information they are looking for as quickly as possible.
Most people on the web have really low attention spans. They are not going to wait around for the page to load, or to scroll down to get to the information they need.
If they can’t see what they want, they’d just leave without taking any further action. The percentage of people who do that is known as bounce rate. And a high bounce rate signals to search engines that your page doesn’t have what the searcher was looking for.
For example, search Google for the top or best products in any niche. You’ll see that the top ranking pages almost always show a table listing the products, before covering each product in more detail.
Similarly, let’s say you’re writing an in-depth article on the difference between JPEG and PNG file formats. And there’s a lot of ground to cover.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t quickly summarize the main differences in the first few paragraphs. Because that’s what most searchers would be looking for.
Use Keyword In Main Title
Your page title, wrapped in the H1 tag, has more weightage for search engines than other elements of your page content.
In fact, a study by Backlinko found a strong correlation between keyword-rich title tags and first page rankings.
Most content management systems (like WordPress) automatically enclose your title with H1 tag. If you’re not sure about your case, you can check your page’s source code to see if the title is in H1 tags.
Also make sure you have a catchy headline, and that your main keyword is included in your headline. It’s one of the main on-page SEO factors to determine the intent of your page and match it with a searcher’s intent.
Even better if the keyword is near the beginning of the title, instead of later. For example, instead of writing your heading like this:
The Ultimate Guide To Weight Loss
Consider modifying it to this:
Weight Loss: The Ultimate Guide
Having said that, it may not always make sense to include the exact target keyword in your title. In those cases, a close variant would also work just fine.
For example, even if your main target keyword is “wedding plan,” you may come up with a title like “How to plan a wedding.”
Make sure that your titles sound natural. Make use of conjunctions and stop words as necessary.
To get an inspiration for how others are doing it, you can search and scan the SERPs of the keyword you are targeting and analyze the titles used by your competitors’ SEO content pages.
Use Keyword In Intro & Meta Description
Meta description is a short description used by search engines to provide more information for a result in the SERPs.
It is also displayed by social networks when someone shares your page on social media.
So a great meta description can help your content stand out, getting more clicks from searchers.
In fact, a study by Baclinko found that pages with a meta description got approximately 6% more clicks vs. pages with a missing meta description.
In addition, search engines put more weightage on the terms that appear in the beginning.
If the meta description is not specified, a search engine usually picks up the first paragraph or a few lines around the keyword which was searched by the user.
So to optimize content for SEO, it’s important to write an exciting meta description and intro paragraph, along with your main keyword. Here’s an example of a good meta description:
Here’s all you need to know about making apple pie. Learn to bake apple pie, even if you’ve never baked before, with easy to follow steps and videos.
Depending on the CMS you use to publish your content and plugins you use for SEO, you can either specify a meta description separately in the editor, or add the meta tags in the HTML code.
Use Keyword In One Or More Subheadings
If you’re familiar with a little HTML, you might be aware that a page has a main heading, which is wrapped in H1 tags. Then there are 2nd level subheadings wrapped in H2 tags. And so on.
For best SEO content, I recommend that you Include your focus keyword in at least one of the H2 subheadings as well. For example, let’s say you are writing a guide to the Keto Diet. Then your heading and subheadings may look like this:
[H1] Keto Diet: A Beginner’s Guide
[H2] Why Keto Diet?
[H2] How Keto Diet Works?
[H2] Keto Diet Plan
[H2] Final Thoughts
As you can see I used the keyword “Keto Diet” in not just the headline, but also in the subheadings.
It’s not a deal breaker but I believe it does help to some extent. In the world of on-page SEO, you want to take every advantage you can get, no matter how small.
Use Keywords In Content Body
Include primary and secondary keywords in the body of your article.
Embedding your keyword so many times that it looks unnatural to the reader is bad for SEO. Never compromise on correct grammar and flow of ideas, just to embed some more keywords.
That being said, you also need to make sure that you use your target keywords in a way to give enough evidence to the search engines to be sure what your article is about.
Don’t worry about maintaining a specific keyword density, but ensure your keywords are sprinkled naturally throughout the content.
Your main focus should be giving value to readers, not to please search engine robots.
Use Keyword In Conclusion
For writing SEO copy, your target keyword phrase should be used at least once in your closing paragraph.
A conclusion or ending is usually supposed to summarize the contents of a page. So it won’t make sense if your summary doesn’t mention your focus keyword even once.
Having your target keyword near the end is further proof for search engines that your content is about a given topic.
Use Categories & Tags
Depending on the CMS you use to publish your blog posts, there will certainly be options to add relevant categories, and tag or label your content.
Search engines can usually crawl and understand the context of your content better based on these. So make sure to utilize them if you can. The posts which show up as uncategorized are lost opportunities for content SEO.
Image Naming For On-Page SEO
Making your images “SEO-ready” is another important step in order to optimize content for SEO which is not to be missed.
First of all, make sure to have a short but descriptive file name before you upload an image to include in your content.
For example, based on what the image depicts, instead of using filename such as “Photo123.jpg,” name it as “blue-whale.jpg.”
Also, remember to use dashes (-) between words when naming your image. This is an official recommendation from Google.
Descriptive Image Alt Texts With Keywords
Alt text (alternative text) is an HTML attribute used for tags to provide a description of the image. It’s not visible on the page but readable by search engine bots.
The main objective of alt text is accessibility for visitors who are using a screen reader. These devices convert contents of the page, including images, to audio format.
In addition, a web browser shows alt text in place of an image in case the image fails to load.
To optimize for SEO, add descriptive alt text to each image with your keyword in it.
If your alt text doesn’t allow for including a keyword because the image shows something else, you can put a hyphen and then the keyword at the end.
For example, consider this image which shows how to view the source code of a page.
Now, the alt text is supposed to describe what’s in the image. So for this image, it could be something like:
View page source option that appears when you right-click in browser
This is descriptive enough, but doesn’t have our target keyword. So I can make it like this:
View page source option that appears when you right-click in browser - via SEO copywriting
So now we have described what’s in the image and also added a keyword “SEO copywriting” in the end. However, don’t try to stuff the alt text with too many keywords.
Also remember to be descriptive and keep things concise. You don’t need to say things like “Screenshot showing,” or “Photo of…” in alt text descriptions. Search engines and screen readers can work out that information by themselves.
To learn more about how to add or edit alt texts, check the documentation associated with the CMS software you use to publish your content.
Image Size Optimization
When adding photos to your content, ensure minimum impact to loading time when it will be published.
If the images you have added are huge in size, the page will take more time to load, which is bad for both search engines and visitors. So it’s bad for on-page SEO.
You can reduce the file size of images before uploading them by using free online compression tools.
However, the size should not be reduced to such an extent that compromises on resolution quality.
Embed Internal Links
Internal linking improves SEO and provides useful guidelines to visitors regarding where to click next.
They connect your different pieces of content and help search engines get an idea of how your website is organized.
Hence, your blog post must include 4-5 links to other relevant pages on your website. Link often to important pages you’d like to rank better in search, as well as other pages of your site, as long as it makes sense contextually.
For example, you can create a few pillar pages and then the subpages which link to those pillar pages. For more information, refer to our article on content architecture.
Embed External Links
External links to high quality pages on related topics help search engines understand your page.
In fact, Reboot, a digital marketing company, conducted an experiment to test if external links impact SEO rankings. They created 10 websites.
5 of these websites had external links to authority sources (like Cambridge University). And the other 5 did not.
The websites with external links outranked the websites without them.
In addition, external links are a way for you to give a nod to other content in your niche. They are used for adding supplementary information in your content.
They guide readers to useful resources that back up your claims and provide details that couldn’t be included in your post. So any SEO content must have them where relevant.
Also make your external links open in a new window. This will ensure readers don’t leave your site when they click on such a link, and reduce your bounce rate.
Keyword In Page Permalink/URL
Though the extent of this is debatable, the URL or permalink of a page does have an impact on article SEO.
In general, you want the permalink to satisfy the following 3 conditions:
It should include your main keywords for search engines.
It should be easy to read and remember for people.
It should be short and concise.
When I say “readable,” I mean when someone looks at the URL, they should get a good guess of what the page is about.
For example, this is how a bad URL looks like:
And this is how a good URL looks like:
Most content management systems will let you change the URL slug (the part after the domain and subfolders). So you can set it to your target keyword.
As you can see from the example, the idea is not to include the entire title in your permalink, but just the main keywords. So just from the URL, a visitor would know about what to expect.
Analyze Competitors’ On-Page SEO
When working on your on-page SEO elements discussed in this article, what if you could see how the top ranking pages have structured their on-page elements?
It would be a big advantage. These insights will serve as a reference to configure your on-page elements and build your success on top of competitors.
For each of your target keywords, you can go through the top 10 Google search results and analyze aspects like:
But doing all this work manually can be very time consuming. This is where a tool like On-Page Champ can help. And the best part is that it’s free for upto 10 SERP (search engine result page) audits.
Sign up for a free account and complete the steps. Once you reach your account dashboard, select SERP Audit from the left-menu.
On the audit page, just enter the keyword for which you want to analyze the top 10 Google search results. Then click the Analyze button.
On-Page Champ will take a few seconds to do its thing and present with a comparison of all the on-page SEO elements of the top 10 pages.
HTTPS In Page Permalink/URL
An SSL certificate wasn’t essential, up until a few years ago. It was meant to be taken seriously only for high profile websites which prioritize security, like banks, defence etc.
But as ecommerce grew rapidly, lots of transactions started taking place on all kinds of websites, like SAAS, online shops etc.
As a result, the security of sensitive information getting passed on like contact details and credit card information has become an important issue.
Google announced that website security will now be a ranking factor and websites with SSL certificate will get preference over those without. So it became an important part of on-page SEO.
Even the chrome browser shows a warning to users if a webpage doesn’t follow https protocol.
So this step is about making your website more secure. I won’t go into technical details but in simple words, what you are doing is changing the protocol used when someone accesses your website. You’re changing it from http to https.
So your website will have an additional layer of security. In addition, how your domain name appears in a user’s browser will also change.
To achieve this effect, you are required to install something called an SSL certificate. Not having an SSL certificate can have a negative impact on on-page SEO.
The instructions on how to install this certificate will vary based on the web hosting and CMS you are using for your website. So check their documentation or contact the support team.
Update Often & Show It Off
For many topics in fast-growing/evolving niches, what’s true today may not be that way a year or more from now. When people are searching for these topics, they want to see the most current content.
So that’s what search engines want to show them. Your SEO content can take advantage of this fact in multiple ways.
First, see if you can add the current year in your title and meta description. For example, let’s say someone is searching for a guide to using social media, and they come across these search results:
Which of these you think they are more likely to click on?
Obviously, the one which mentions the current year. This is because social media is a rapidly changing niche. And people want to know what’s working now.
2nd, always make sure to have the date metadata on your page, somewhere it can be noticed easily.
Also, it’s better for SEO copywriting to show the last updated date instead of the published date. Because the last modified date will always be at a later time. And it will better reflect the currentness of your content.
As you can see, optimizing your content for SEO is not a piece of cake. There are so many factors to consider, and each factor has to maintain a balance between too much and too little to write an SEO copy that gets exposure.
The good news is by following the steps we covered above, you can exercise control over a lot of these aspects. Following this SEO copywriting checklist will help ensure each piece of content you write is up to speed.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.