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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 do demonstrate a pattern of repeated success over time. They’re the next best thing to getting specific direction from Google and 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 and SEO copywriters although anyone that writes content for the Web should find them useful.
SEO Copywriting Best Practices
- Write content for your human audience, not search engines. Make sure it is well-organized, clear, complete, accurate, and uniquely valuable. Google says give “visitors the information they’re looking for”; it is “the single most important thing to do.”
- Focus on one topic per page or post. If you want to expand upon a related topic, write a separate page or post and link to it or link to a reputable third-party source. Contrary to popular belief, linking to external resources does not harm your SEO. If link to high-quality, relevant and respected sources, it can actually help your rankings and your audience.
- Create only one page or post per specific topic so you don’t confuse search engines about which one to rank. Why compete with yourself? It’s enough having to compete with millions of other authors.
- Aim for a minimum of 300 words per page including menu items, sidebars, comments, and footer text. Write enough to do justice to your topic and no more. While substance and clarity should be your primary concern, longer is usually better. Content with 1,500+ words tends to earn the most exposure but there really is no “ideal” number of words per page or post. Your goal should be to write content that satisfies your readers using as many words as it takes and not more. Don’t write extra just to hit some “magic” quota. That will waste visitor’s time and they won’t appreciate it.
- Make the page easy to scan by using lots of white space, headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Draw attention to key points using bold and/or italicized fonts.
- Hierarchically structure your headings so visitors can quickly determine whether your content will be able to help them. Look at the top 10 pages ranking for your focus keyword and consider discussing the same or topics and more, if appropriate.
- Include visuals – high-quality, relevant charts, images, photos, and/or videos. It improves reader enjoyment, understanding, retention, and clickthru rates. Original images are always best but. if that’s not possible, there are lots of high-quality, licensed to use, and some even free image sources on the Internet.
- Feature your most important (focus) keyword phrase high on the page (in the first sentence or paragraph if possible), in the middle, and towards the end. Use it:
– 2-3 times on short pages;
– 4-6 times on longer ones;
– once in the main (H1) heading;
– in subheadings (H2-6) however many times it makes sense.
Use your focus keyword phrase in a way that is natural and helpful. Don’t stuff it. It will be immediately obvious to everyone, including Google. It will turn off your readers and won’t help your rankings.
- Use synonyms and related keywords and phrases where it makes sense. It strengthens the relevance of your content and helps boost your rankings.
- When your content is published, link to it from other internal and external pages and posts using your keywords in the link text.
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. I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to keyword research for small businesses. There are a variety of helpful posts referenced there.
SEO copywriting isn’t the same as on-page SEO. On-page SEO is broader in scope and includes things like URL, meta tag, and image optimization best practices. SEO copywriting and on-page optimization improve your ranking potential. Read how to optimize a page or blog post using WordPress and the popular WordPress For SEO Yoast plugin to learn a 12-step process for on-page SEO.
Here is a shorter, PDF-version of this SEO Copywriting Best Practices post.
Lastly, have questions? Use the comment section below and I will respond.