It is very easy to get lost in this world wide web of information, both for the sellers and buyers. To carve out a niche in this market, what is needed is good Search Engine Optimized copywriting. Some people don’t understand the need to invest in copywriting when the product is good. For them is this quote by Thomas Jefferson
“The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.”
A comprehensive and simple guide for search engine optimized (SEO) copywriting would therefore serve as a map to those who want to attract genuine end users and increase organic traffic to their site. Copywriting should be such that it is search engine optimized, it is clickable (interesting to click), and it can retain the visitor.
Human mind with all its potential has this tendency to veer off into side topics or get deviated from the essence. It is therefore necessary to evolve a Standard Operating Procedure for SEO copywriting. A step-by-step guide following which can assure that no significant factor has been ignored while writing the content.
The following guide is divided into three major sections. The first two are related to the research that needs to precede copywriting and the third one is an actionable guide on copywriting
The Technicals of SEO copywriting – includes definitions of SEO jargon, search engine ranking algorithms, what the spiders and crawlers want, Penalizing, health of your site
Searching for Keywords – some tools, on page and off page optimization
Copywriting – optimized for search engines, increasing the no of clicks, visitor retention, traffic analysis, improvements
But this is not all; SEO copywriting like any other process is a cycle and does not end like a list. The content needs to be updated according to the traffic analysis, feedback and relevance to the prevalent times. This is to ensure that your site retains its spot in the first page of search results that Google shows up for the keywords that you target.
The Technicals of SEO copywriting
What is SEO?
It stands for Search Engine Optimization. It means optimizing your content so that it becomes easier for search engines to find and therefore becomes accessible to a larger audience. A wider audience and increased traffic can derive huge economic benefits for the site.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization) defines it as
“The process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results.”
What is copywriting?
It is the art and science of writing a copy (content primarily used for advertising and marketing) aimed at convincing customers or readers to take action. A copy is like a salesman, who is able to connect to thousands of prospective customers at the same time.
A good salesman knows how to persuade, convince and create content which gets people to act. According to Howard Gossage, an advertising innovator of the “Mad Men” era-
“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”
Ranking Algorithms of Search engines
Every search engine uses certain factors to rank websites related to some keywords. Spiders (programs which visit the webpage and read information) crawl the internet and note the keywords, their density, location, links to other websites and other factors which the search engine considers important for ranking a website.
Here we will list down what are known as the most important components used by the most successful search engine- “Google” in its ranking algorithm.
Trust/ Authority of host domain – 23.87 %
Link popularity of specific page – 22.33 %
Anchor text of external links to page – 20.26 %
On page Keyword usage – 15.04 %
Registration + Hosting Data – 6.91 %
Traffic + CTR Data – 6.29 %
Social Graph metrics – 5.30 %
Here we could categorise these factors into on page and off page. On page relate to those which are related to the content on your website, while off site relate to those sites which are connected to your website. Thus a major chunk of these factors depends not on how you see your webpage, but how others perceive it, in other words – your value in market.
The general trust and authority of your domain name is the biggest factor, followed by the number of links to a specific page. Then comes the anchor text that other websites use to link to your website. Other factors are related to on page Search Engine Optimization.
These are not the only factors which govern ranking. There can still be many reasons why your website is not showing up in the top results. Google regularly penalizes websites, for tactics which it feels are only aimed at increasing traffic and offer no information to the user. There are many tools available online where you can check whether Google has banned your website for any such activity and take corrective action. It always helps to stay in the good books of Google. Google continuously strives towards its mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Searching for Keywords
Once you know the technicals and before going to the next step of copywriting, searching for keywords related to your topic is an important step. With tens of thousands of blogs being written each day, your new post would just disappear in the crowd.
It is thus frequently advised to target low competition, high volume keywords. If however your content is very rich and unique you may also target for high competition keywords. You can easily get these numbers regarding different keywords through Google Adwords, or sites like Wordtracker. However going only by the numbers in case of keywords will not produce the desired effect. It is also required that you choose keywords keeping in mind the requirement of the user or the searcher’s intent.
Based on searcher’s intent the keywords may be classified as commercial and informational. Those keywords which show the need of the user for a particular product or information can be commercial. Those in which the user just seeks for information at no cost of his are informational.
Commercial- where to buy a car, buy a house in Mumbai, join a gym in delhi, coaching classes in Kolkata
Informational- how to earn money, Taj Mahal history, information on Bankruptcy
Once you understand the type of user that you aim to target, choose relevant keyword. Keep in mind it’s not all about stuffing the keywords in headings and content. Try to use keywords and key-phrases only where they fit in with your content and do not make the sentence or phrase grammatically wrong.
Equipped with the basics of SEO and some keywords related to your topic, you may now start writing your copy. Your copy should do two tasks simultaneously- it must attract the spiders and readers, and figure in the top results of search engines and once the user is on your page, retain the user with useful and interesting information or links.
Attracting the Reader
We’ll next be discussing six elements of copywriting which will help you achieve the first target. These six elements are-
Site Speed– It has been noticed that about 40% people abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. What is the point in figuring in the top results, if you site takes ages to load. There are many tools like Pingdom- http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/, on the web where you can easily check your website load times. You may check previous loading times of your website under the history tab.
Higher site speed also leads to higher conversion rates. A load time below 2 seconds is considered appropriate; however you may still try to reduce it. A load time of more than 2 seconds is not recommended.
Headline– A headline is the most important part of the article. It describes what you are about to talk in the post. If your content is of high quality, but the heading is mediocre, no one would care to go through all that is written in the article. Thus a catchy and attractive heading is desirable.
Your heading can become more clickable by simple tricks, such as using figures and numbers in the heading. For example – 10 supercool excuses to bunk classes, 15 ways in which you can become rich etc.
The article should be well structured. The size of the subheadings should go on decreasing as the hierarchical order dictates. The headline should be chosen before you have written your article, so that it provides you with a boundary and limit within which you can write. This also ensures that you remain contextual throughout the article.
Content– How you write your content is a major part of SEO. Shallow content which is short or is copied from elsewhere on the net will invite the wrath of Google. You will be ranked lower for such tricks. Try to keep your articles more than 1000 words long and the content original.
Write a compelling introduction and insert some of your keywords in it. Inserting keywords in the conclusion is also another on-page SEO technique.
Try to insert keywords which are longer and are phrases, these are difficult to match exactly, and your targeting them specifically may affect your ranking positively and quickly. While you plant the keywords at strategic locations, also keep in mind the intention and implied meanings of the keywords and write according to that.
Meta Description– Meta description is the most important thing after your heading, for increasing the number of clicks and visits. Your keyword should be helpful, and make your reader understand what the webpage discusses and what the topic is. Include the selected keywords in your metadata. It is advised that you have different and specific metadata to each of your webpage. This increases the scope of your website.
It is also advised that length be kept under 150 characters (with spaces). This is the space that Google gives you or your metadata will be cut-off in the middle while it has not completely explained the topic.
For making your link mobile friendly, better keep it within 113 characters. Keep the metadata attractive like the heading, summarizing the content. Google has now started moving in this direction of adversely ranking websites which are not mobile friendly.
A higher keyword frequency is considered good for SEO, but exceeding some limits may have damaging consequences. Keep the density 1%-5%, above 5% can be considered as a spam link by Google. If you are writing quality and original content, the density will seldom go above the limit.
Some tools like SEO book keyword density toolhttp://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/, will give you the density of particular keywords in your article.
Page Links– Links both to and from you website affects your ranking. A more social website ranks higher. Create links within pages of your website. Also link to credible webpages, outside your website with relevant anchor text. In this way you help Google by making information about a topic more accessible. Post links to your website on social networking sites. If possible try to see that other websites also link to your website.
Retaining the reader
Finally while doing all this you must ensure that the quality of your content is maintained. This helps in retaining the user on the website. Some points which must be kept in mind while copywriting are-
The article must display clarity of purpose. Which means you must have clarity of what you want to achieve with this particular post. Attack a specific problem of the user and solve it. Describe a specific product, event etc. Try not to digress, and lose focus.
Include some case study or story in your article/ post. Stories attract people. It makes the information more readable and conveys the point. Do this while staying in context.
Fresh and Humorous content- try to bring up new or fresh content which you think is not available elsewhere. Stale content if written in a new style and with some humour becomes more attractive.
Innovation and cleaner design- Innovation is what runs the show. Keep the presentation style new and innovative. Also keep the design simpler and cleaner, so that it does not confuse the reader.
Keyword research is a practice commonly used by Search Engine Optimization experts to find particular keywords that users use to find information related to a certain topic. These keywords are then cashed upon by using them in copywriting or in the content of your website. When search engines find exact matches of keywords, it is likely that your website would figure in the top search results. More clicks bring a higher traffic to your website, increasing the profits from sales after conversion.
There are many tools which can help you in the process of keyword research. These include Google Ad-words, Hitwise, Word Tracker etc. But tools can only enhance your initial search/keyword, and suggest new keywords based on them.
The Basic Keywords
The first step therefore is looking for the right keywords which describe the type of content your website is hosting. Think like a user, empathise with the searcher who wants the content on your website or the product you are selling. What would/ should he search for? This is like reverse engineering the search process.
Also try to think of niche markets which often don’t figure in the keyword lists of Google Adwords and other such tools. These are not directly linked to the keyword but have a close relationship. The more specific and selective the keyword, better are the chances of it having a good conversion rate also.
Long Tail Keywords
One method of finding niche markets is looking for long tail keywords. Why are lon-tail keywords so important? They are a direct representation of the searcher’s thoughts. Although a particular shorter keyword would have a higher search volume (in terms of numbers) but they make up only about 30 % of the total searches, rest 70% are specific queries or keywords.
To ignore this 70% would be a marketing blunder. Even though this 70% includes different long tail keywords, but each percentage of users consists of millions of users. Therefore using specific long tail keywords could mean tapping into a niche market and higher than usual conversion rates.
Value of Keywords
Once you have decided some basic keywords, use tools like Google Adwords and Wordtracker to get some ideas on keywords related to your search term. This list of keyword ideas comes up with the volume of search per day/month for those particular keywords. They give you an idea of the value of these keywords.
Now enter these keywords in a few search engines. Look at the websites that come up as the top results. This gives you an idea of the kind of competition you will face if you target these keywords. Look for possible loopholes which these websites may have missed in the keywords or in the content.
Buy test traffic (or a sample campaign) from Google Ad words for the selected keywords and point it to your webpage. Collect impressions and conversion rate data over a few hundred clicks. Using this data you can easily calculate the value of a keyword.
Insert these keyword in your copy
Merely having a list of keywords, of course won’t do you much good. Inserting the keywords strategically in your content/copy/meta-descriptions/headings etc. would give you maximum benefit. This is where the gap between research and product can occur. Even if the keyword research yields good keywords, they must be utilised properly to yield results.
More information on SEO copywriting and usage of keywords at strategic locations, at a particular frequency is available in our article Let’s Simplify Copywriting for Websites (SEO).