Why can’t you have it all?
Great content that makes you laugh, and teaches you something new without sacrificing search engine ranking.
Most SaaS owners I’ve spoken to have a preconceived notion that SEO content is boring. Yes, it gets the job done. If you call ranking on Google search a goal on its own.
But what happens after the click?
Shouldn’t the ultimate goal be click-throughs that achieve a conversion goal?
When done right, SEO content is engaging. You can have organic rankings and convert visitors into buying customers.
You don’t have to choose one or the other.
I spoke to 23 SEO specialists and copywriters. I asked them for SEO copywriting tips to help you write copy that satisfies Google’s thirst for valuable content and the reader’s need for helpful information.
But first, the basics…
What Is SEO Copywriting?
In a previous article, I defined SEO copywriting as:
The process of conducting keyword research to understand what your target audience wants as it relates to the product or service you’re offering. You use the target keywords to write engaging content that thoroughly satisfies the reader’s search intent.
So, SEO copywriting includes two factors. Keyword research to determine search intent, and engaging content that satisfies the user’s search intent.
Google bots understand the context in your copy. I’ve seen sites like Copyblogger, Search Engine Watch, and Jeff Bullas rank for a plethora of relevant keywords that weren’t mentioned in the copy?
As an SEO copywriting example, I’ll like to share data from a guest post that Henneke Duistermaat wrote on Neil Patel’s blog. It ranks for 641 keywords.
4 keywords in featured snippets
21 keywords in People Also Ask
9 Keywords in image pack
I’ve read this copy at least 10 times in the past year and I keep coming back because it’s so good. This is the perfect example of great content that is optimized for search while remaining engaging.
It’s been years since the article was published but I reckon it still drives a decent amount of traffic to Neil Patel’s site.
I don’t think Henneke or Neil went about adding each keyword in the copy. Or it wouldn’t read well. She wrote naturally, optimized for the primary and secondary keywords and Google bots did the rest.
Why Is SEO an Important Skill for a Content Writer?
No one knows more about the importance of SEO skills for content writers than Jamie Pitman, the Head of Content at BrightLocal. I reached out to him for some insight.
Here’s what he had to say:
1. Create a Compelling Argument Without Sacrificing Keywords
SEO is a core skill for every copywriter because it involves balancing the emotional needs of the reader with the more rational and ever-changing functions of search engines.
Writing for SEO is a great way to create a compelling argument without diluting the keywords.
The twin modes of emotional and informational ensure that you never have to forgo key messaging to over-serve a more emotional argument.
2. Appeal to a Wider Spectrum of Readers
Knowing how to write for both man and machine means that your copy will likely appeal to those with a more rational mindset and those who prefer a more entertaining proposition.
3. Help Google Understand Your Content
Another aspect of SEO that can contribute to your copy is structure. Search engines need to be able to understand what you’re writing about.
It helps them scan web pages for headings, step-by-steps, bullet points, FAQs and more, in order to pull out the key information for searchers.
Keeping this approach in mind as you write makes your copy easier for readers to digest.
Whether it’s the attentive reader who reads your copy word-for-word or inattentive readers who prefer to skim the text for the key information they need.
4. What Is Good for the Reader is Good for Search Engines
Ultimately, the goal of search engines is to define the best piece of content for the reader at any given time, based on their search intent and search location. Hence, SEO is the playbook for writing ‘good content’.
21 SEO Copywriting Tips To Ensure Your Copy Ranks and Converts
- Understand your audience
- Focus on the Reader
- Write first, optimize later
- Conduct keyword research
- Target middle and bottom of the funnel keywords
- Create an SEO content outline
- Optimize for secondary keyphrases
- Target Low-to-No Volume Keywords
- Write like you’re having a conversation
- Adopt storytelling
- Teach the reader something new
- Find Your X-Factor
- Link Internally and Externally
- Add a CTA to your links
- Have a specific conversion goal for each piece of content
- Optimize your copy for user experience
- Great content always wins
- Satisfy search intent
- Answer questions your audience is asking
- Write a click-worthy headline
- Avoid Keyword stuffing, it’s annoying
Understand Your Audience
The basis of a good SEO strategy is understanding who your audience is and how you can serve them. Which pain points can you solve? Which goals can you help them achieve?
Founder of Enchanting Marketing, Henneke Duistermaat
Focus on the Reader
I don’t see SEO and conversions as mutually exclusive. Typically, when I write content, I think of the reader first. They are my priority.
I want to write content that they’ll find relevant to their needs and interest. Once I have a framework of key points, I incorporate keywords naturally to enhance the copy.
If I get it right, the copy becomes almost invisible, leaving readers to focus on meaning, not my word choices. The result is copy that ranks well and persuades readers to take action.
Freelance Copywriter, Susan Greene
SEO in 2020 is smart enough to recognize content that is informative, valuable, relevant, and easy to read. The most important thing is to keep the reader in mind when writing.
Content with the right formatting, keywords, and alt tags won’t rank or convert if your audience doesn’t enjoy reading your content.
CEO of Oree Virtual, Samantha Pennington
Write First, Optimize Later
My best SEO copywriting tip for crafting copy that humans and Google loves is to write first and optimize after.
My overarching rule is to use keywords and related phrases as often as is natural.
If the copy doesn’t read like something I would say in front of another human, I pull back on the copy optimization and focus on conversion.
It’s better to use keywords strategically than dumping them into your copy.
Copywriter and Copywriting Mentor, Belinda Weaver
Conduct Keyword Research
Ignore the keyword naysayers. Think long and hard about your keywords. Find long-tail keywords that mean something to your target audience, and you have a chance to rank for them.
Then, go after that phrase in every way including creating a piece of content worthy of ranking on the first page.
Content Marketing Expert, Barry Feldman
Sometimes, I get a content brief from a client with only a keyword idea and a few subheadings they want me to cover.
If I write the copy based on the idea alone, how do I know if the content will show up on organic search results for a keyword?
Keyword research should be the first step in your SEO copywriting checklist. Rather than writing content nobody reads, you’re crafting copy around a keyword your target audience is searching for.
You can’t beat the competition if you don’t know what they’re doing or gaps to exploit. Keyword research solves both problems for you.
I use Keyword Everywhere to find keywords with a decent search volume and SEMrush for SERP analysis, keyword gaps, and extracting semantic entities.
Target Middle and Bottom of the Funnel Keywords
Ultimately, every company is in business to make money and generate revenue.
If you’re ranking for terms that don’t lead to conversion, you’re missing out on sales. Target keywords people use when they’re ready to buy.
Freelance Writer and Storyteller Todd E. Jones
Two weeks ago, I was speaking to a Director of Content at one of the leading SaaS companies. I asked her how she picked keywords for her SaaS blog and she told me she only targeted bottom of the funnel keywords.
Me: But, but, but…
Director of Content: I know what you’re going to say, Chima. Why am I not doing something similar to every other SaaS company? Educate more with my content. But do you know that I track sales as a conversion metric directly from the blog posts?
Me: Hold up. Does that mean you have a sizeable number of readers clicking on links to purchase one of your tools when they read a blog post on your site?
Director of Content: Yes, that’s exactly what it means.
I’m a big fan of educational content. Give and give until you’ve shared everything. But you have to find the balance. Prospects at the bottom of the funnel keep the lights on for your business.
Don’t Wing it – Create an SEO Content Outline
In the early days, while working for a content mill where I wrote 4k-5k words a day, I had no time for proper research.
I would Google a keyword, open the top 10 pages ranking for that keyword, and take points on the go.
I stopped writing when I hit the word count.
As a freelance SEO copywriter, I take research seriously. I spend hours analyzing what’s ranking, looking for subheadings that reoccur, searching new trends on the topic and insights that’ll make the copy better. An SEO content outline ensures that my copy flows logically. Without structure, I’m rambling.
An SEO content outline helps you:
- Stay disciplined and focused on the points you want to cover
- Write faster
- Avoid beating around the bush
- Stay organized
Usually, I do both keyword research and a content outline as part of my SEO copywriting process. Once I have the content outline, it’s like the copy is going to write itself.
Optimize Your Content for Secondary Keyphrases
Secondary key phrases often go overlooked but they can make or break your search rankings.
Unfortunately, not all SEO writers are trained to incorporate the right secondary key phrases and they might only optimize for the main key phrase.
This leads to lost opportunities for long-tail variations of your key phrase since Google will position you for search queries even when the words are broken up or spread across your post.
To make sure your writers are using the right secondary keywords, use SEO copywriting tools like Frase.io, MarketMuse, or Clearscope. These tools generate a detailed SEO brief with the top words and subtopics to cover.
SaaS Copywriter and Content Strategist, Dayana Mayfield
Target Low-to-No Volume Keywords
Basically, I advocate for creating tailored content regardless of search volume, especially for lead-based businesses.
When you have a value prop or feature that is helpful in a specific context, targeting those hyper-niches allows you to really speak to that need in a way that no one else does, or can.
I recommend talking to customers, sales, and customer reps. Document common questions, concerns, issues, and biases that pop up.
Conduct keyword research to find search queries and terms around these questions. If it’s something that’s frequently asked, that’s a good sales angle to explore.
I also advocate creating content around these questions, whether they have search volume or not.
It would be a great resource for customer-facing teams to send to prospects when these questions arise.
For example, a client of mine is a software dev agency offering the ability to buy a sprint cycle with their team.
They are creating a piece of content on “how much software engineering costs” where they explain various flexible pricing models and position their brand as a great solution to buy from.
Tory Gray, SEO Consultant and Founder of the Gray Dot Company
Write like You’re Having a Conversation
Google continues to get better at understanding language and writing. That puts less of a burden on copywriters to write “SEO friendly” text.
Briefly review your primary keywords and related terms. Then write normally.
Optimizing for SEO may require you to sacrifice user experience. But what you supposedly gain in “optimization” you often lose with annoying or boring text.
If the content stagnates on Page 2 or is low on Page 1, it could be that you’re not answering user questions that other higher-ranking pieces of content have answered.
Fixing that gap will simultaneously close any keyword gaps without selling out your copywriting to SEO.
Derek Gleason, Content Lead at CXL Institute
Does it sound weird? Writing for SEO but reading your copy like a conversation? That’s because SEO content should be conversational.
I’ve heard some BS about how copywriters shouldn’t write the way they talk because you’ll have to break grammar rules.
And to that I say bullocks!
What if you break a few grammar rules while communicating with your ideal prospect?
Did they enjoy reading your copy?
Did they take your call to action at the end of the content?
A few tips to guide you when writing in a conversational tone:
- Open with a story to hook them from the first word
- Speak to one person
- Break grammar rules
- Ask questions to keep em engaged
- Use examples to give real-life context
- Don’t try to impress. Rather, be relatable
- Infuse your copy with personality.
Read this article to get more tips on how to write in a conversational tone.
Writing search engine optimized content is not enough. There’s got to be something more to content than ranking. Your content should engage, leave an impression, and get the reader to take action.
But how do you achieve these goals when 1,000 different bloggers are saying the exact same thing?
With storytelling, you stand out from a sea of competitors. It’s your unique perspective that helps you visualize a problem your audience faces, and solve the problem while keeping the reader engaged.
If you have a high bounce rate, storytelling leads to a higher average time on site. This means more people are staying, rather than leaving, and that’s great for SEO.
A few storytelling tips to guide you:
- Be the main character in your story. Your personal experience is an instant connection with your reader.
- Focus on feelings and emotions, not the topic. You want the reader to wear the hero’s shoes and live through the story.
- Align your story with the key message. Because stories are only powerful when they get that “aha” moment where it all comes together.
- Remember to make it entertaining, easily relatable, and organized.
Read this article to get more tips on how to use storytelling for blogging
Teach The Reader Something New
There are three essential elements to creating killer content.
It needs to be actionable, educational, and entertaining.
Any content can be one element. Hit two and you’re in a good spot. Sometimes you’ll even be strong enough to rank.
But when you hit all three in one post? THAT’S when copy magic happens.
Teach them, move them, and make ’em smile.
Justin Blackman, Voice Guide Expert and Founder of Pretty Fly Copywriting
Find Your X-Factor
Once I know the keyphrase I’m targeting, the first step is to look at what is currently ranking on page 1 for that search query.
My goal here is to get a feel for what Google considers as the best content for that keyphrase. As I look through the top 5 or so posts, I ask myself:
“What is missing?
Can I add some original data or firsthand experience?
What will make it better?”
Can I make the post longer and more comprehensive?
Can I address key steps that other websites missed?
Can I provide a more practical, step-by-step guide?
I structure the post around these objectives, trying to envision how I would teach this topic if I was a teacher in a high school classroom.
If you can nail that and create a piece that keeps people reading, the rest is easy.
On-page SEO is just a simple checklist. In my experience, the real key to ranking is writing content that people stick around to read.
Copywriter and Content Strategist Jacob McMillen
Link Internally and Externally
Here’s a question we never seem to agree on within the SEO community.
Do outbound links have a positive or negative impact on search engine optimization?
The short answer for me, yes.
Outbound links are great for SEO. I always link to authoritative sources when I write a blog post (not crowd-written content like Wikipedia).
Michiel Heijmans, the COO of Yoast SEO believes that every page should include an outbound link. It helps Google connect the dots on how websites relate to each other.
WebFX explains it better. Google wants to show the most relevant results for a search query. An external link increases the popularity of a post. Hence, the more links a post receives, the more popular it becomes.
Also, external links show relevance. The anchor text used in linking gives context on what the page is about.
The relatedness between your page content and the external web pages you link to helps search engines to better establish knowledge hubs around topics.
Still not convinced?
Reboot carried out a study to find out if outgoing links are a ranking factor and part of good SEO practice.
They created 10 websites and added 300-word articles about a new product (totally fake) that they wanted to promote. Keyword positions, text length, and structure were similar.
5 out of 10 websites included high authority outgoing links to Cambridge University, Genome Research Institute, and Oxford University.
The sites with outgoing links performed really well on Google SERP, ranking in the top 5 for most of the keywords.
Conversely, internal linking is great for increasing dwell time on page and reducing the bounce rate on your site.
By linking relevant resources on your site, you’re keeping the reader engaged and providing comprehensive information that helps them better understand a topic.
Add a CTA to Your Links
Use a relevant anchor text when linking internally or externally. Shoving a link anywhere on the page won’t drive organic traffic.
This is especially important if you’re recommending products or services within the copy as the reader will expect a link to a product page.
Your link should have some element of a CTA if you want to increase the click-through rate to your money pages.
Emily Rodgers, Digital Copywriter at Builtvisible
Use multiple types of CTAs to maximize conversion rate. A visual call out or button is always a good technique.
Couple it with in-line links to other pages on your site, and you’ll have CTAs that appeal to more than one type of reader.
Before you write any type of content, decide what you want it to achieve. Write your copy around this goal, rather than trying to shoehorn CTAs in after the fact.
Not every piece of SEO copy is about a revenue-oriented goal. In some cases, the goal could be to educate the reader about a specific topic or establishing yourself as a thought leader.
In such cases, your CTAs shouldn’t be all about Buy Now or Click Here. Instead, a good CTA might link to another piece of content on the same topic, the author’s social media pages, or a subscription to your email list.
Copywriter and Content Strategist, Liam Carnahan
Have a Specific Conversion Goal for Each Piece of Content
Have a specific conversion goal when writing copy. This goal doesn’t have to be financial such as leading to a product page.
A conversion goal could be signing up for a newsletter, reading another article, or sharing the post on social media.
It easier when you have a specific audience in mind. A persona helps you map out the piece, choose the right keywords, and find creative CTAs that fit your audience.
Social Media and Community Manager at SEMrush, Diana Richardson
Optimize Your Copy For User Experience
One of my favorite SEO copywriting tips is making the copy skimmable and readable. SEO copywriters work so hard to get content to rank and drive more traffic.
Why lose potential customers because you can’t get past the look and feel of the content?
You want visitors to read every word you write, but sadly, that’s not always the reality. Use sub-headlines, bulleted lists, short paragraphs, and italics to break up your copy.
SEO Consultant and Founder at MediaSesh, Christina Brodzky
When I come across your blog post or any web page on your site, there are several things I expect to see.
- Pages that load quickly
- Fonts that don’t make me squint my eyes
- Paragraphs that aren’t lumped together like a report
- Simple words that don’t require a dictionary
User experience goes beyond written content to presentation. It’s how you structure the page to ensure that both mobile and desktop users enjoy a wonderful experience when browsing pages on your site.
Great Content Always Wins
Your SEO game could be 100% but your content won’t rank if you’re not a good writer. At least, not for competitive queries.
According to Search Engine Land, high-quality content is a top-ranking factor for Google. Right up there with backlinks and RankBrain.
But what does great content mean to you?
Is it content that you’re thinking of weeks after you’ve read it?
Or content you rush to share with friends and colleagues at work because it’s so darn good you can’t keep it to yourself?
Whatever definition you arrive at, great content makes you feel and act. It’s unique, solves a problem comprehensively, and makes you a fan of the author. Great content is unforgettable. But most importantly, it’s relevant.
And if the engagement is crazy, Google is going to interpret it as useful content and rank it accordingly.
Alina Benny offers advice on how to create great content
It comes down to your business goals. If you’re a smaller brand looking for more conversions and revenue, I’d invest heavily in product-driven content such as:
- How-to articles
- Use cases
These are the types of content that work well here. On the flip side, if you’ve got a steady stream of leads and you’re more interested in traffic and visibility, I’d double down on creating trending content.
Satisfy Search Intent
Your content must satisfy the keyword intent behind a search query. It could be informational, transactional, navigational, or commercial.
During your keyword research process, map the search intent to the purchase intent.
Most content marketers invest in either:
- Low volume, high keyword intent product-driven content or
- High volume, low keyword intent trend-related content that drives traffic.
When you bring search intent together with your goal for that piece of content, you’ve unlocked content marketing greatness.
Alina Benny, SEO and Content Lead at Nextiva
People type phrases into Google but understanding what they really want is the key. Are they searching for a solution to their problem? Perhaps they know your solution and want to learn more?
Understanding where they are in the buyer journey and what they truly want helps you nail search intent from a business perspective, and earn conversions.
Brendan Hufford, Founder of SEO for the Rest of Us
Answer Questions Your Audience Is Asking
Google is making it easier with its People Also Ask section. They’ll rank your copy if you answer questions comprehensively.
Depending on your industry, most of these questions are bottom of the funnel and show intent.
Josh Spilker, Content Marketer and Founder of Growth Content
If you discover what your audience wants and deliver it, your content has a higher chance of converting visitors to customers.
Answerthepublic is a great way to find questions people are asking about a topic.
During my research, I look for relevant search terms and include them naturally in the body copy.
An easy way to find related terms is to look up related phrases that pop up as you type a search query.
Alternatively, you could use search engine optimization tools like LSIGraph to simplify the keyword research process. Your goal is not to use them all but to keep them in mind as you write and include the related phrase where it’s relevant.
Professional B2B Content Writer, Sharon Hurley Hall
Write a Click-Worthy Headline
Researching and adding key phrases to your content is the easy part. Creating content that grabs the reader, doesn’t let go and makes the client money… that’s the true badge of an SEO writing master.
A great headline is the foundation of a highly converting copy. Study headline formulas and use them on your sales pages.
PAS, AIDA Headline-writing formulas. Learn them all. Try them and see what works for your target reader.
Heather Lloyd-Martin – SEO Copywriter and Consultant at SuccessWorks
Integrate keywords in headers but avoid keyword stuffing. You don’t want your primary keyword in every H2 and H3 header.
Rather, use your primary keyword once or twice in the body of copy. Include LSI and secondary keywords naturally in the rest of your headers.
Brooklin Nash, Head of Content at Wiza
Here are a few more tips on writing powerful headlines from the experienced Content Strategist and SEO Specialist, Debra Mastaler
Know Your Audience
As a content SEO, I work in verticals I’m unfamiliar with, so I have to become an expert pretty quickly.
Instead of spending hours in research mode, I turn to tools like Buzzsumo to analyze industry headlines. Once I know what people are responding to, I can create appealing headlines and content using topics the community loves.
I’m not a fan of formulaic writing but from my experience, the following four types of headlines “hook” people into reading and get more clicks:
- Headlines that make promises.
- Headlines that tug on the heart or anger strings.
- Headlines that make you go “huh?” or provoke curiosity.
- Headlines that provide an answer.
If you’re thinking, “great ideas for writing simple blog posts, but what about case studies or white papers?”
Take a look at the following titles, which would you rather read?
Five Ways to Use Best Practices When Managing Software Intellectual Property in an Open Source World.
5 Ways to Save Millions by Re-Using Existing Software.
The second title provokes curiosity and provides an answer. Whereas the first one just seems to be a jumble of terms. No surprise it didn’t get many clicks.
While keywords in your headlines are important, headlines stuffed with keywords usually sound awful and don’t get people to click.
Your headlines work to earn links and shares, so keep the keywords to a single phrase and use terms that appeal to your audience.
Here’s another example:
Stuck with High Credit Card Debt? We Work to Have You Debt Free in Three Months.
Try to keep your primary keyword at the beginning of the title if possible. Longer titles seem to get more engagement on social media, but I’ve found that shorter titles work better on news and magazine sites.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing, it’s Annoying
As a copy editor, I’ve noticed that some SEO content end up sounding stiff and repetitive.
Repetition is a key element of copywriting. But when you stuff the copy with key phrases like too much dressing in a Thanksgiving turkey, it detracts from the writing and feels robotic.
The page might rank well but it turns readers off and they aren’t persuaded to click the buy button. To avoid repetition, switch up key phrases with synonyms. Be as specific as possible.
Search algorithms are advanced enough to look for contextually related words.
For example, you’re writing copy to sell purses.
What are they made from? Where are they made?
Use the information to create a detail. Maybe the purses are hand-stitched, top-grain leather purses made from lambskin. You avoid repetition and create a description that sells based on the product details.
Copy Editor, Autumn Tompkins
There you have it. SEO copywriting tips from some of the best experts I know. As you go forth, remember that SEO content isn’t written for machines but for humans.
Think keywords and semantic entities while writing but don’t obsess over it. Create helpful content filled with practical advice and your audience will engage with you.
If you need help creating human-centered content that ranks on Google and achieves your content marketing goals, I’d love to jump on a call with you. Schedule a free consultation now.