The pros make it look easy—cranking out gorgeous and compelling copy like there’s no tomorrow; the kind of SEO-friendly content that makes search bots drool and readers click. So what’s their secret, and how can you do it too?
Thankfully, it’s no secret at all. Pros write in a way that makes sense to humans and search engines alike. In other words, they use SEO copywriting techniques.
Whether you’re a total newbie looking to score a few tips and tricks of the trade, or a veteran wordsmith keeping up with industry trends, this guide is for you. We’re unpacking the essentials of SEO copywriting—from what it is and why it matters, to how you can get in on the action to improve your results.
Intro to SEO writing
You’ve probably heard the term “SEO copywriting” before, but what exactly does it mean? To help shed some light, let’s start by looking at the purpose of content and copy in general.
The goal of most content is to inform, while the primary purpose of copy is to persuade. As a result, content pieces are generally longer (like blog posts, articles, and ebooks), whereas copy is shorter and to the point (such as on landing pages or in advertisements). But how does that relate to SEO?
Related content: The difference between content and copy.
SEO stands for search engine optimization—the process by which you make sure your website ranks high in search engine results pages (SERPs) whenever users search for keywords related to your business.
The moment someone types one of those keywords into Google or Bing, they expect to see the most relevant websites pop up quickly and easily—and that’s where SEO copywriting comes in.
It’s not enough just to write good content—you also have to think about how people will find it when they’re searching for things online.
Putting it all together, SEO copywriting artfully blends copy and content writing principles in a way that helps search engines understand, index, and rank websites easier—ensuring your content gets noticed by all the right people (and robots) at the right time.
Content writing vs. writing for SEO: what’s the difference?
The most significant difference between traditional content writing and SEO-optimized writing is the way the writing is consumed.
With other writing forms—such as those that appear in print media—the consumer of the content is typically looking for one of two things: entertainment or education.
SEO writing, on the other hand, is first consumed by an algorithm—and this algorithm needs to be convinced that your website or content has the best possible chance of answering the searchers query quickly and accurately.
Copywriting is writing that gets us to take action. Though SEO copywriting accomplishes the same mission, it has a few added technical considerations, such as ensuring that your content uses relevant keywords to your business and industry.
It’s a skill that can be practiced but it’s also a mindset: you need to think about how robots (also known as spiders and crawlers) will see your content, not just how humans will.
The technical side is important because search engines uses these keywords to determine your site’s relevance for certain searches.
For instance, if you’re the owner of an Italian restaurant, you’ll probably want to use keywords like “pasta” or “pizza” throughout your site as well as geographical terms related to the area your restaurant serves. Not just thrown in haphazardly, of course—you need to make sure each word serves a purpose and that the context makes sense.
In addition to writing for body copy, you’ll also need to write for other places on your site where text appears—such as title tags (the titles of web pages), meta descriptions (what appears under search engine links), and CTAs (buttons and hyperlinks).
Ultimately, you want your writing to be engaging, but you also want it to be search-engine friendly. You want your content to be easy for people to read and understand, but you also want it to have enough keywords so that it shows up in the search results in the first place. It’s a balancing act that gets easier with practice.
But with so much to write about and so many ways to do it, it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re writing an article, a blog post, or a landing page, there are many basic SEO copywriting principles you can use that will make your content shine. We’ll start with just ten.
1. Understand your objective
The first step to creating powerful SEO copy is understanding your business objective.
Before you start writing, you should have a clear purpose for each piece of content you create, whether it’s website copy, a product description, on-site navigation instructions, advertising content, etc. When you can clearly state what you hope to accomplish with each piece of content, you’ll know exactly what words will help you get there.
Whatever the use case, ensure that every word works toward attaining your goal. Think of it as a roadmap—each sentence should lead to the next step in the process. This will help you focus on what you’re trying to achieve with each piece of content and keep it relevant to your audience.
For example, if you’re writing a product description for your e-commerce site, you want people to click on the link and buy that product—so every word in that description should be working toward that goal.
Although it may appear simple at first, it’s good to remember that every word counts when it comes to SEO copywriting.
2. Know your audience
The more acquainted you are with your audience, the better equipped you’ll be to write content that speaks directly and specifically to them—and the more likely they’ll be receptive to what you have to say.
Whether through surveys, customer interviews, or just observing how people interact with your brand online and in person, knowing who they are helps tremendously when writing for them.
When we say “knowing,” we mean really digging deep into who they are and what they care about so that their interests, and values shine through in everything you write for them.
This means learning how they talk, how they feel about specific topics related to your business, what makes them happy or upset—right down to their motivations and desires.
Getting to know your audience in this way gives you a solid picture of who they are as individuals, enabling you to create content that resonates with them on an emotional level.
Additionally, you can also look at traditional demographics like age range, gender breakdowns across different platforms (i.e., Facebook vs. Twitter), geographical location data (if available), etc. However, these numbers often feed into assumptions and biases rather than true motivation and desire the way psychographics do.
3. Find the right keywords and phrases
Savvy SEO writers know how to craft content that is keyword-rich and relevant, using slight variations of key phrases to avoid sounding too spammy or unnatural. This process begins with keyword research.
So, how many different kinds of keywords are there? Most SEO pros say there are at least four fundamental categories of keywords: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.
- Informational keywords are used by searchers looking for answers to specific questions or general information
- Navigational keywords are used by searchers intending to find a particular site or page
- Commercial keywords are used by searchers wanting to explore brands or services
- Transactional keywords are used by searchers planning to complete an action or purchase
Start with a list of broad, high-level keywords and phrases related to your business, products, or services. These can be found by searching for similar companies in your area or industry, then looking at the keywords those businesses use—you’ll often see them on their homepages or in their bios.
You can also utilize free tools like Google’s popular Keyword Planner to find out what people actually search for when they’re looking for something similar to what you offer. Then make sure those terms are sprinkled throughout your content so people can find them easily when they search for relevant information online.
4. Gather original data
You’ll want to include some original data in your content as well—that means interviews, surveys, or some other kind of research that you (or someone else at your organization) did yourself. There are a number of ways to gather original data for your copywriting. For starters, you can incorporate user-generated content, leverage social media polls, or uncover patterns in sales data.
- Incorporate user-generated content: Ask customers to share success stories on your website and social networks. These are great ways to get testimonials and case studies that you can use in your copywriting. These can’t be copied or replicated because they’re by your unique customers about your unique product or service.
- Leverage social media: Set up response-prompting polls on social networks and ask users what they want from your products and services. This will give you insights into their problems with those products/services and how they want them improved.
- Uncover patterns in sales data: If you have access to sales numbers from previous years or months, analyze them to identify any trends that may correlate with certain keywords or phrases. You can then use this info to craft new content for SEO purposes.
Original data helps you create more relatable and authoritative content, making it more likely to be shared across social media platforms and increasing your visibility in search engines.
5. Write meta descriptions
When looking at the SERPs, readers first see the page’s meta title and description. This is your chance to hook them into clicking through to your site—and ultimately becoming a customer.
You may not think of meta descriptions as part of your content marketing strategy, but they’re actually a vital part of the user experience, especially on mobile devices.
A meta description is a short description of your page that appears under its title in search results. They’re an opportunity to convince searchers that visiting your site is worth their time.
Make sure your meta descriptions are clear, concise, and compelling so that people know what they’ll get when they click on your link.
6. Write CTAs
Calls to action (CTAs) are just as important as the rest of your content—if not more so. They tell readers what they should do next and give them an incentive.
The best CTAs leverage these strategies:
- Use strong verbs and action words such as “buy,” “donate,” and “subscribe.”
- Evoke emotions. For example, “don’t miss out” might inspire FOMO (fear of missing out) in readers.
- Make it low risk. For example, a CTA to a trial might work better than a CTA to make a purchase.
This will help boost engagement and encourage more clicks from readers who don’t want to leave the page before they’ve gotten what they came for.
7. Structure your content
It’s a fact: people skim online. They don’t immediately read every word of a web page—they first scan the information, looking for signs to engage or move on.
For this reason, it really pays off to think about the structure or information architecture of your piece before you begin. Think of your outline as the skeleton of your text: it will help the reader grasp the article’s main points.
Well structured content guides readers and search engines through your content as smoothly as possible. Use bulleted and numbered lists as well as proper H1, H2, and H3 headings to break up text and make it easier to read. You can incorporate helpful frameworks like:
- The inverted pyramid: One common way of structuring an article starts with the most critical information at the top of the page and then goes into more nice-to-have detail as you move down—helping readers quickly grasp what they need to know.
- The f-shaped pattern: Based on the idea that readers tend to scan content in an F-shaped pattern: they start by reading the headline at the top, then scan down until they reach an interesting paragraph or line of text, and then keep reading from there.
These patterns for reading on the web gives users what they need right off the bat—the information they want right away—while also giving them enough information to determine whether to keep reading.
8. Write simply
Your writing should be simple enough for anyone to understand without too much effort. The closer you get to a 5th-grade reading level, the better off you’ll be in Google search results.
If you’re an SEO copywriter, you know that your job is to make people click. You want to draw them in, get them excited about a product or service, and get them to take the next step.
But it can be frustrating when you’ve written something that makes sense to you but doesn’t quite work for your audience. To help you out, here are several ways to simplify your writing for readers:
- Write at a 5th-8th grade reading level
- Use shorter sentences, breaking down compound and complex sentences where possible
- Use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate
- Limit paragraphs to three sentences or less
- Use natural variations of keywords
- Unless called for, avoid jargon or industry-specific terms
- Use headings to entice readers and remind them that they’re on the right track
- Break up large areas of text into manageable chunks for readers
Learning to keep your work simple is key. We all know the importance of good, clean copywriting. It’s what makes your website look polished, your social media posts grab attention, and your blog posts sound like they were written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
9. Write for featured snippets
Google often shows featured snippets in search results, so it’s important that your website or development team structures rich snippets correctly so they’ll show up when relevant searches are made on Google.
Short text passages called featured snippets or paragraph snippets are displayed at the top of Google search results to provide rapid answers to popular search queries. Acknowledging the searcher’s intent and giving short, clear answers will help you get the placement.
List snippets, also known as listicles, are excerpts created for posts that outline how to complete a task from beginning to end—often for “How To” searches. Writing posts with concise, unambiguous instructions and proper formatting can help you land this placement.
For instance, if someone searches for “Best places to visit in New York City,” a list of places might look like “Empire State Building, Central Park Zoo, Brooklyn Bridge.”
Marketers have mixed feelings about rich snippets. One the one hand, they surface your content to searchers in a more visible way. On the otherhand, searchers get your answer directly in the search engine result page and have less reason to actually click into your website or blog page. Regardless of how you feel, earning a coveted featured snippet spot can mean increasing click-through rates (CTR) by 677% and drive 20-40% more traffic.
10. Get feedback
When it comes to writing, sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone and get some feedback on what you’ve written. Whether it’s from a Draft proofreader, a colleague at work, or even your mom—get feedback on your writing.
- Ask a friend or colleague: You’re probably not going to get the most objective feedback from someone close to you. So aim for a friend who’s at least an avid reader of the genre you’re writing in.
- Listen to your readers: Your readers are the people consuming your content the most. If they don’t understand something, then it’s probably time for a rewrite.
- Join a writer’s community: Thousands of great local and online communities exist that can help writers hone their craft and get honest feedback on their work!
- Find a mentor: Mentors are wonderful because they’re usually more experienced than you are as a writer and can offer lots of advice about how best to improve your skillset over time.
- Ask a non-fan: Looking for an unbiased perspective? Ask someone who isn’t a fan! Taking a non-fan out to lunch is one of the best ways to get honest feedback on your writing because it cuts through a lot of fluff and gets straight to the cold hard truth, which can be quite refreshing.
Hire an SEO content service
Freelancers, agencies, and marketplaces like Draft’s writer marketplace can help you create excellent SEO-friendly content faster and with greater results.
Considering the above, from keyword density to schema for rich snippets, writing effective SEO copy can be a full-time job. Not to mention the overhead of keeping up with search engine’s constant algorithm changes. If you’re already busy running a business, you can simplify your workflows by teaming up with pros.
Learn more about Content Marketing and SEO in the Draft Resource Center.