SEO Copywriting is a delicate balance between writing for readers and optimizing for search engines. Or as another marketer put it, “Copywriting in SEO is the art and science of striking a fine balance between content that persuades and content Google can find.” Each side of that equation requires careful research and a well-thought out strategy.
Keyword-stuffed copy that’s backed with no reader-friendly strategy will just give your site a high bounce rate. And reader-focused content that’s not optimized will never be found. You need to give attention to both sides of the SEO copywriting coin to achieve the results you want. Doing this step right will determine whether your page succeeds or fails.
- The only way search engines can discover and crawl your site is through the words on it. They don’t come to your site based on its graphics, videos, maps, social media links, or anything else.
- You can’t just focus on getting people to your site; you must also focus on converting them once they’re there. The right kind of SEO copywriting will not only improve rankings but conversions too.
Throughout my freelance copywriting experience, I’ve realized just how much work it can be to both write well for readers and optimize well for search engines. You really have to be on top of your game to keep up with all the details involved.
But along the way, I’ve discovered some useful online guides and resources to make the SEO writing journey a little easier. And, yes, they’re all free! Also—to help me remember all the little details, I created a simple SEO copywriting checklist. If you’re interested, you can download it at the end of this post.
( If you just want to learn what SEO copywriting is, read Neil Patel’s article: SEO Copywriting: How to Write Content For People and Optimize For Google. And if you want to learn the basics of “how to do” SEO copywriting, start with my post: Why Your Readers Should Come First.)
Now, let’s dive in.
Tools for Writing Compelling Headlines
You may have heard the disturbing statistic before. Whether that specific number is accurate or not, I know I personally choose whether or not to read an article based largely on its title. That’s why compelling headlines that prompt the reader to click are so important.
To be clear:
Clickbait headlines that don’t actually match what the page or article delivers does not qualify as a compelling title.
But—if you know what kind of titles people are clicking most today and build a similar title for an authentic, super-helpful piece of content. . . that’s a different story.
Moz has created a useful article to help you know how to craft your headline: 5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click.
Here’s one golden snippet from Moz’s article:
For more brainstorming ideas, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger has put together 6 months’ worth of blog post ideas that can also serve as customizable title templates.
- A Beginner’s Guide to ___________________
- How to make an inexpensive _________________
- 5 apps every _________________ should use
Tools for Writing Expert Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
If you want higher search rankings and more conversions, you can’t afford to ignore title tags and metas. Your keywords should be in both of them.
Yoast, known for its handy SEO plugin, also has several thorough guides about writing title tags and meta descriptions.
As a general rule, your title tag should be between 55-60 characters to make sure your whole title appears, even on smaller screens. And meta descriptions should generally be between 135-160 characters.
My favorite tool to help you determine the length of your titles and metas is Word Counter. It shows you both word and character count. You can write in the counter or paste text into it.
Another useful tool for writing title tags is Moz’s title preview tool. Type in your title to see how it will appear in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Tools for Doing Epic Keyword Research
I’m amazed at how many tools there are to help with keyword research. Some of the most helpful ones weren’t even created for this purpose, but they’re still incredibly valuable.
A few of my personal favorites:
- Forums, such as Quora
- Answer the Public (also handy for creating titles and headlines)
- Google AdWords (even though I don’t run ads)
- Google Search itself!
If you’re new to keyword research, don’t despair. I personally put off learning how to do keyword research as long as possible, because it seemed so large and daunting. But just like with anything else, the process seemed less scary the more I learned about it and experimented with it.
Choose a few tools and techniques to start with and only focus on them. After you go through the whole keyword research process once, you’ll be ready to explore new tools. You’ll also know how to adjust the process to make it work better for you.
Brian Dean, creator of Backlinko, has written a comprehensive guide to keyword research. It’s the resource I used to learn how to do keyword research.
Read through his Definitive Guide to Keyword Research to see ideas for finding valuable keywords no one else knows about, step-by-step instructions, and plenty of screenshots to guide you.
Here’s a sneak peek of the chapters in his guide:
Tools for Using Keywords Effectively
Once you know which keywords to use, you need to know how to use them.
Most marketers know by now that you can’t throw the same keyword into your content every 100 words and call it a day. Unfortunately, not all businesses who write their own blogs have gotten the memo.
Too often, I see business blogs where every post reads like this:
7 Reasons to Hire a Professional Carpet Cleaner in Houston, Texas
Then the word Houston gets tossed around several more times inside the content, almost like an afterthought.
Even before I got into copywriting, I knew that this tactic was fishy—I just didn’t know why. But I did know I didn’t like it and, as a result, didn’t trust the company.
You can (and should!) use your keywords in your content. But they should be used strategically and naturally, for the sake of your readers.
Your keyword density is the percentage of your content that is made up of your keywords. Again, for the sake of your readers, your density should be low. Aim for a density between 1% and 2.5%
If you have a WordPress site, you can use Yoast’s free plugin to measure your keyword density for one keyword. (To measure up to 5 keywords, you’ll need the paid version.)
Using Synonyms & Related Words
There are other ways to tell search engines what your page is about besides using your primary keyword over and over. You can use synonyms and words related to your keyword.
Search engines are smart. They can piece together what your page is about when you have relevant terms sprinkled throughout. And, if you’re writing to help your readers and using the language they would use, then you’ll naturally include the relevant terms you’ll need. They won’t all be the same, but they’ll work together to give Google insight into the page as a whole.
If your keyword is BMW Series 2, you can also use word like: car, automobile, luxury car, engine, etc.
If your keyword is cardiovascular health, you can use: heart health, healthy heart, artery, blood vessel, cardio workout, etc.
Use forums to see what specific words your audience is using to search your topic. Type “your keyword here” + “forum” into Google to find the right forums. (For example, reading + forum.)
You cam also find synonyms and closely related words with Thesaurus.com— a vastly underrated tool that I use frequently.
It shows synonyms of the word you searched:
It also shows you other words related to (but not exact synonyms of) the word you searched:
Never Stop Learning
Trust me, there are many more tools out there I wasn’t able to include in this post. And there are plenty more online guides to help you learn how to write for you readers well and optimize for search engines too.
With SEO, the guidelines change from time to time. And with writing, readers change—their attention spans change, what they want changes, how they want to view it changes. . . you get the idea.
If you’re an SEO copywriter (or an aspiring one), the most valuable lesson you can learn is to keep learning. Keep researching your competition. Keep evaluating your audience. Stay in the loop with industry trends and changes. Read, practice, attend webinars and in-person workshops, listen to podcasts, watch videos—just keep growing.
You aren’t the only one who will be doing all this learning. Every SEO copywriter out there needs to be doing this to stay up-to-date with any changes in SEO best practices or with their readers.
Good things come to those who grow.
Earlier, I promised a downloadable checklist. It includes all the questions I reference in my post SEO Copywriting: 13 Questions to Ask Before Publishing Your Content. This checklist can serve as a handy reference tool to help you remember all the important details that go into SEO copywriting.
To request it, fill out this super quick form, and I’ll email the checklist to you myself! (Full disclosure: I’ll also send you my most recent posts about copywriting & marketing twice a month – but that’s it!)