SEO Copywriting Best Practices
Google doesn’t disclose specifics about how it ranks web content. It tells us it uses over 200 criterion, but the ranking algorithm itself is a well-kept secret.
For that reason and others, SEO copywriting best practices can’t and don’t guarantee a top ranking in Google’s search results. Nor can they promise a high click-thru or conversion rate.
That said, SEO best practices, like the best practices employed by the world’s best athletes, do demonstrate a pattern of repeated success over time. They’re the next best thing to specific direction from Google. It makes sense to embrace them.
Best Practice Sources
The SEO copywriting best practices in this post are derived from:
- published SEO industry expert research and opinion;
- Google’s published search engine guidelines.
They’re intended primarily for small business owners, website developers and SEO copywriters although anyone that writes content for the Web should find them useful.
SEO copywriting isn’t the same as on-page SEO. On-page SEO is a bit broader in scope including things like URLs, meta and image alt tags. These guidelines are for content only.
SEO isn’t rocket science but it is complex. It’s about a lot of seemingly small things that add up over time to create a synergistic outcome. Pay attention to these guidelines. Some may seem like a nit, but when you’re in a competition – and that’s what SEO is, after all – small things can add up to make a BIG difference.
SEO Copywriting Best Practices
In no particular order:
- Write content consistent with the overall theme of your site. If your site is about pizza, write about pizza and complementary products and services. Don’t write about pet waste removal.
- Focus on one topic per page or post. If you need to expand on a related topic, write a separate post and link to it much like I did above (“SEO isn’t rocket science”). Or link to an external source. Linking to outside relevant and respected sources helps you rank higher.
- Create only one page or post per specific topic so you don’t confuse search engines about which to rank higher. Don’t, for example, create multiple pages that all contain the same or very similar content but are aimed at different audiences or geographic locations. Make sure each page or post is uniquely valuable. (Notice how I linked to a relevant and respected external source here?)
- In terms of length, aim for a minimum of 300 words per page, excluding menu items, sidebars, comments and footer text. While substance and clarity should be your primary concern, longer is usually better. Content with 1,500+ words tends to earn the most exposure.
- Make the page easy to scan by using lots of white space, headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Draw attention to key points by using a bold and/or italic font (but don’t overdo it).
- Include visuals – charts, images, photos and/or videos. It improves reader enjoyment, understanding, retention, and clickthru rates.
- Feature your most important keywords high on the page (in the first sentence or paragraph if possible), in the middle and towards the end. (Notice where I’ve used “seo copywriting best practices” in this post – top, middle, end.)
- Use your primary keyword phrase (the one you most want to rank for):
– 2-3 times on short pages;
– 4-6 times on longer ones;
– once in the H1 heading;
– in H2-6 headings (however many times it makes sense without overdoing it); and
– if possible, once in bullet points, bold and/or italicized text.
- Use secondary (less important) keyword phrases at least once in the visible text on the page.
- And lastly (repeated for emphasis), link to related and helpful, internal and external content using your keywords in the link text, so long as it doesn’t sound forced or unnatural.
Some people think linking out to external sources causes you to bleed link juice, to rank lower. Not so. It’s more important to be helpful. Google’s advice is to give “visitors the information they’re looking for” and to “provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage.” They even go so far as to say it is “the single most important thing to do.”
When You’re Done Writing
When you’re all done writing, ask a friend or colleague to provide feedback before you publish. If that’s not an option, let it sit for a day or two and then read it aloud for a renewed perspective. Taking a pause or asking for an objective option helps surface forced or unnatural language as well as logic gaps, inconsistencies and spelling and/or grammatical errors.
SEO copywriting doesn’t become fluid overnight. Nor does it produce immediate results. Stick with it! Michael Phelps lost his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, at the 2002 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Yokohama, Japan because he “did not take butterfly training seriously”. Take SEO copywriting seriously. Be consistent. You will see results.
Other Helpful Resources
Don’t know about keyword phrases or how to identify them? Check out SEO Industry Leader Moz’s Guide to Keyword Research. Or go directly to Google’s keyword research tool (Google Planner) and use this Youtube video or guide from the Search Engine Journal to help.
Using WordPress? This article provides a 12-step process and checklist for optimizing a blog post using WordPress and the popular and well-respected WordPress For SEO Yoast plugin. It’s a good example of full on-page SEO because it also talks about things like URLs and meta tags. It also includes some helpful tips (and resources) for keyword research and image optimization.
A shorter, PDF version of this SEO Copywriting Best Practices post can be found by clicking here.
What has been your experience with SEO copywriting? Do you have a particular technique that works best for you? Please share in the comments below.