The Ultimate Guide To Copywriting For SEO
SEO copywriting is crucial for every business online (which is everyone).
Copywriting is essentially the art of highly-persuasive writing that compels prospects to take a specific action. Everything you publish needs purpose by speaking to a specific audience to compel them to a specific action.
Then, there’s the SEO element. If you’re not on Google, then you’re invisible to most people.
That’s why 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing organic presence is a top inbound marketing priority. — HubSpot
The challenge is this: Google’s algorithm is now so insanely fine-tuned that it can spot poorly written copy from a mile away.
That’s where your SEO copywriting comes into play.
You need to write for humans, optimise for search engines.
That’s how you can make sure your content strategy and web pages rank for the right search terms to reach the right audience and compel them to act.
Get this right, and you’ll drive tons of high-converting traffic to your content.
Our Ultimate Guide to SEO Copywriting is here to help. Use this step-by-step guide to hone your SEO copywriting skills in no time.
First, some basics.
What is SEO Copywriting?
SEO copywriting is the practice of writing content or webpage copy that aligns with search queries.
In reality, this means focusing your copy on the user intent, aka solving your audience’s problems.
Because that’s what Google is all about.
Google’s goal is to deliver high-quality and high-relevance answers for any query - so great copywriting that uses proven SEO principles is the best answer to amplify your online presence.
Sounds simple, right?
There are some key tactics and tools you need to use to get this right. You can’t just cram in lots of keywords and expect Google to rank your site in the search results. Google’s Penguin update means that strategy is seen as a black hat tactic.
Remember this one golden rule:
Don’t focus on RANKING in search engines - focus on providing SOLUTIONS for your audience’s problems.
Do this properly and the rankings will come organically because Google will see that you’re providing value and relevance for its users.
Bottom line? SEO copywriting hinges on you always putting your audience first.
Use this step-by-step SEO copywriting guide:
Step 1: Work out your marketing funnel
You thought we were going to launch into tons of writing tips, but the fact is SEO copywriting starts with the marketing funnel.
Marketing funnels map user intent to different stages of the buying process. It typically includes three stages:
Top of Funnel (TOFU): Customers are unaware of your brand or product.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Customers know they need a product or solution, but may or may not be considering your brand.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Customers are ready to make a purchase.
Image credit: CoSchedule
When you’re writing copy for your site, it’s critical to understand which stage you're writing for. Does your audience know anything about the product? Are they at a stage where they’re comparing solutions and want detailed features and benefits?
Consider this content marketing statistic:
47% of B2B buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson. — Demand Gen Report
Lots of content for SEO targets the top of the funnel - the stage where you’re building awareness of the problem and building trust with the audience.
But you need to equally focus on the bottom of the funnel content, such as landing pages, case studies and product descriptions.
Here’s a great example of bottom of the funnel content (case studies) by Marketo:
Another brand who does this brilliantly is outdoor adventure brand, REI:
If you’re in the market for binoculars, this article provides all the information to help you make your decision:
See the well-placed call to action button? This takes the reader directly through to the range of binoculars to make a purchase.
Step 2. Get to know your target audience. And we mean really know them...
All good SEO copywriting starts with the audience. How can you expect to engage your audience if you don’t know who you’re writing for?
Start by creating a buyer persona.
Think of this as a detailed description of a fictitious buyer - your perfect customer.
Use market research, data and sales information to find out information on your target audience.
It might look something like this:
Image credit: Single Grain
The more you know who you’re talking to and what their goals and pain points are, the more you can tune into these with your content.
Deloitte is a brilliant example of this in action. The company has a wide-scale audience, making it easy to be unfocused. So what did they do?
Create content microsites that focus on each buyer persona.
Knowing your audience can help you really speak their language and build your authority. For example, when you click on the Financial Services industry on the Deloitte Insights site, you see articles specifically targeted to your unique problems and challenges:
At the other end of the spectrum, check out how denim company Hiut Denim talks to its customers like they’re already friends:
We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We just do our best to conquer our bit of it. So each day we come in and make the best jeans we know how. Use the best quality denims. Cut them with an expert eye. And then let our ‘Grand Masters’ behind the sewing machines do the rest.
Something else we love about this piece? It uses short sentences to keep you reading. But more on that later...
Step 3. Nail your keyword research
Okay, so now you know your marketing funnel stage and your buyer persona. Bring it together to do keyword research.
Your keywords research is really the crux of your SEO copywriting.
With your funnel stage and buyer persona, you should be able to come up with a good starter list of terms (keywords) your buyers will be searching. The trick is to really get inside the heads of your audience. What would they search on Google?
Now, use these keyword research tools to help refine your list and find other relevant keywords, variations and combinations:
Google Ads Keyword Planner: Don’t be put off by the words “ads”. This free tool provides valuable keyword insights for your SEO content.
Moz Keyword Explorer: Use this tool to find heaps of information around keyword volume, related terms and more.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer: Similar to the Moz tool, Ahrefs provides awesome insights into keywords you should target
Image credit: Ahrefs
Once you have your list of keywords, choose which ones to tackle first.
Spoiler Alert! Focusing on long-tail keywords is a great tactic for SEO writing. Long-tail keywords are longer phrases (often questions) that are more specific. They get less search traffic, but the traffic will be more likely to convert.
Take this example from Wordstream:
See how the average monthly searches drops when the keywords is more specific? Yet, if you target your website content creation around “antique love seat”, the potential for a conversion soars.
Step 4: Plan your outline
That’s right - we’re still not at the actual writing stage. Your final planning step is to plan your outline.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a blog, case study or landing page copy, you need to take time to work out WHAT you are going to write and how it will FLOW.
Answer these questions:
What’s the purpose of your article? What do you want to achieve with this piece? Go back to your marketing funnel to work out which stage you’re aligning with.
What is the one key message you want to provide? What’s the one question you want to answer? That’s right, just focus on ONE. This will keep your piece focused and stop you from trying to get across too many messages.
What structure are you using?
For the last question, our recommended structure to create content is the PAS, which is Problem / Agitate / Solve.
This classic formula is tried-and-tested. It gives you a solid template to keep your writing on track, while leading your readers through a story.
Here’s how it works:
First, identify the PROBLEM.
Take this example from bookkeeping software Xero. They have worked out that the problem small businesses need to solve is getting a start up loan. That’s the problem.
Next, AGITATE the anxiety and stress around that problem.
In the Xero example, they use this as the intro:
Do you need money to get a business idea off paper and into reality? Then you probably need a startup loan. But do they even exist? We answer your big questions about loans for new businesses.
Finally, offer a SOLUTION.
How does your product or service solve this problem for the audience?
The Xero article offers lots of tips to help solve the problem, which ultimately builds their authority in the finance niche:
Step 5: Build your structure to make it flow
Armed with your outline, go a step further and give your piece a structure.
Create a skeleton, including:
Conclusion / Summary
Setting up the structure is essential to SEO copywriting. Google LOVES copywriting that has a clear structure.
Always, start with the most important content. Draw your readers in from the start, so even if this is the only part they read, they have the most important information.
Step 6. Write for super scanners
People scan. They just do.
We’d love to share some incredible secrets to get people to read the whole piece...but most of the time, they just won’t.
Research shows that:
A user will only read 20% of the content on your page. — NNGroup
So, stop fighting it.
Instead, make it easy for users to scan and get to the main points faster.
Here are key ways to make your copywriting scannable:
A. Break up your content with subheadings.
Make your subheadings really descriptive, so people can skim the article and get the key message.
B. Create a contents list
Make it easy for readers to see what you’re going to cover, like this one by HubSpot:
Better yet, make it clickable so people can skip to the section they want.
C. Create bulleted lists
Bullet lists help you present multiple points in an easy-scan way. Plus, they look different from the rest of your copy, which provides a visual break for your reader.
D. Use deep captions
Studies have shown that image captions are consistently some of the most-read copy on a page. So, consider using deep captions which are 2-3 sentences long.
E. Highlight the main points
Emphasise key points so the scanner can quickly pick them out. Use bold, highlights, CAPS, italics, or breakout boxes.
F. Write in short paragraph of 1-2 sentences.
This makes your copy easier to read, while also creating lots of white space.
Use different font sizes – people scan large text first.
Step 6: Use the Four C’s
It’s easy to get carried away once you start writing, so how do you keep your copy on track?
Use the Four Cs:
Clear. Make your point really clear.
Concise. Cut anything out of your content that doesn’t directly answer your reader’s problem.
Compelling. Make it really interesting. Work in stats, quotes and anecdotes.
Credible. Back it up with high quality sources and references.
All of this helps you create an incredible user experience with your copywriting.
HubSpot is excellent at putting this to work:
Let’s see how they tick the Four C’s:
Clear. The headline and intro make the point clear from the outset.
Concise. Everything in the article points back to the goal - providing tips to start a real estate business.
Compelling. Stats, tips and quotes are used throughout the article to make it engaging.
Credible. Stats are backed up with references and sources.
Step 7. Write a killer headline
Make your headline absolutely irresistible.
Headlines are the not-so-secret sauce to getting more clicks, shares, and conversions.
They are one element of SEO copywriting you need to spend some time on. Writing your headline isn’t necessarily the first thing you do. You might write the whole article, then go back to the headline at the end. But you must spend time getting it right.
So how do you make your headlines grab users in search engines?
BuzzSumo’s study of over 100 million headlines reveals some helpful tips:
Include a number. Headlines with numbers tend to get more clicks in the SERPs. On Facebook, the highest engagement came from headlines that began with the numbers 10, 5, 15 and 7.
Aim for a headline between 12-18 words. These receive the highest number of Facebook engagements on average.
Use power phrases. Certain phrases really grab people’s attention. For B2B, this is things like “the future of”, “X ways to” and “need to know”. For B2C, use phrases like “this is what”, “X reasons why”, and “X things to”.
Image credit: Single Grain
Another essential ingredient for your headlines?
Adding your keyword to your headline serves two major SEO purposes.
It helps your copywriting rank for your target keyword
It immediately tells the searcher that your content is relevant to their search intent.
Take this example. We searched for “how to get a business loan” and these were the organic results:
See how “business loans” is in all the content headlines? This makes the results highly relevant to the searcher.
Step 8. Craft an Intro that Makes the Reader Want More
If your headline has done its job, people will click through to read the rest of the piece. Now is where you need to hook them in with an incredible intro.
Remember the Problem, Agitate, Solution structure?
This is where you need to zone in on the problem.
Tell them the whole reason the post or page exists. Explain how the post will address the problem they are here for.
And do this in a way that engages them.
As advertising expert Joseph Sugarman explains in The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook:
The purpose of the first sentence is to get your reader to read the second sentence.
The purpose of your second sentence is to get them to read the third.
The purpose of the third sentence?
You get the gist.
We love how Dropbox writes its intros. Look at this one for an article about decision fatigue:
The introduction draws in the reader, making them want to read more, and more, and more.
Step 9. Use Bucket Brigades to Lead People Deeper
What’s bucket brigades, you ask?
And then there’s this…
A bucket brigade is a ridiculously short phrase that breaks up the text and forces the reader to read on to get some context.
Here at OMG, we use bucket brigades A LOT.
Here are some you can use in your copywriting:
Here’s what you need to know.
That’s a fact!
You’ll never believe why...
Something like this:
As well as breaking up the text, bucket brigades force your reader to fall down your article until, before they know it, they’re at the end. Ultimately, they’re a tool to increase time on page and engagement, which are both metrics that Google pays attention to when ranking your content.
Step 10. Use your keywords strategically
Keep an eye on keyword density.
Yes, you need to use your target keywords, but don’t fall into the trap of cramming tons of keywords into your copywriting with the aim of ranking higher.
Including too many keywords can actually cause Google to penalise you.
So make sure your target keyword is in the most important places:
Another way to use keywords is with LSI keywords - that stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. LSI keywords are those keywords that are related to the main keyword that users search for.
Google relies on LSI keywords to understand content at a deeper level.
Let’s say you are writing a landing page about business loans.
Google will scan your page to see if you use the target keyword “business loans” in your headline, title tags, content, etc.
But it will also scan to see if there are LSI keywords like finance, small business, funding, budget, and so on.
Step 11. Edit, edit, edit
Now, you’ve finished writing your content, you’re done right?
The final step is to EDIT.
Editing is just as important as the copywriting.
Everything you write, whether it’s a social post, blog or landing page, has a possibility of generating business for you.
So, spend that final amount of time to get it right.
Look for these things:
Throw out the points you don’t need.
Correct any awkward or unclear sentences.
Check for misspellings and typos.
Make sure sentences aren’t too long - read it aloud. If you have to stop to breathe, it’s too long!
Here’s the challenge with editing. You can be too close to your copywriting to see any mistakes. That’s why it’s worth using an SEO plugin like Yoast, SEMrush or Grammarly.
These tools can check your copywriting for things like plagiarism, typos, grammar errors, long sentences, keyword density, and more.
Another really important step in the editing process?
Ask for feedback.
Find out what people love and hate about your copywriting - especially if the people fit your buyer persona.
There you have it! All the SEO copywriting steps to get great rankings and engage your target audience audience.
Use the tips and tools in this article to hone your copywriting mastery. These are the tips used by the best content writers around the world to create copy that Google and customers LOVE.
Good SEO copywriting is one of the fundamental skills you need as part of your Digital Marketing Game Plan. You need it to craft landing pages that convert, ad copy that drives sales, content that nurtures and drives your conversion rate sky-high.
Make SEO copywriting the cornerstone of your strategy - download your free Digital Marketing Game Plan.
skyrocket your growth.
@ Toast Creative