SEO copywriting: Black magic or good karma?

What is SEO copywriting, and where do you start when trying to make your website more attractive to Google through the words that you write?

SEO copywriting is the art - or science - of creating content which gives you the best possible chance of being picked up by the search engines.

It makes sense. Think about the last time you searched on Google and went so far as to look at the second page or search results? I'd wager that was a fair time ago. If you want to compete for search engine traffic, you're competing for roughly six spaces on the front page that aren't paid adverts.

The beauty of SEO is that it isn't necessarily a dark art, hidden behind coding manuals and secret algorithms. Think of Google as being like Pinocchio. Its parts are moving, it can listen to you and even talk back, but it's still a little bit wooden.

One day, however, it will be a real boy. Google is constantly improving towards the point where it will be able to read and rank content just like a human being would. So rather than giving you cheats to rig the system (which will probably be removed in a future update anyway), here's some real-world advice about the direction you should be pushing your copy towards.

You'll notice I'm talking a lot about Google here rather than mentioning other search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing. That's because Google accounts for nearly 90% of global searches, so if you get it right with the Big G, it'll make the most impact.

Do your keyword research first

So really, you need to be thinking about what makes Google happy. One of the first things to consider will be your keywords. These are the cornerstone of how your content will be indexed. Pick a short list of keywords and use simple tools like Ubersuggest to come up with long-tail extensions that people might also be searching for.

From there, use Google's Keyword Planner to check the search volume for your keywords and how much competition you have for them. Sort your ideas into primary, secondary and tertiary keyword.

Primary keywords are the (ideally) high-volume and low-competition ideas that present the best opportunities. You should try to incorporate these as often as you can in your copy without looking like you're forcing it.

Secondary keywords are often longer and with less traffic, but their more specific nature means they might make for more conversions. Be sure to liberally sprinkle your copy with the odd secondary keyword.

Tertiary keywords are long-tail keywords with relatively low traffic, or shorter ones with high competition. Include them if the opportunity presents itself, but these aren't the ones to focus on.

Focus on crafting great copy 

Now you've got your keywords, how are you going to use them?

Google likes to see pages properly spaced out and easy on the eye, with front-loaded information presented 'above the fold.' That is to say, immediately visible to users without them having to scroll.

Don't force your keywords in. Use them wherever it feels natural, but be sure not to miss any legit opportunities to include your primaries. Ignore anyone who talks about 'keyword density'; it just gets in the way of writing a good page.

If you're addressing multiple topics, do so by covering one per page, linked together in a clear and logical manner. This helps you avoid repeating yourself, which can split traffic between pages with content that's too similar. A little bit of thought into how your users are exploring your site, and their mindset while doing so, will pay dividends later on.

Also, even if you're no coding whizz, get to know H1 and H2 tags for your headings and sub-headings respectively. This will help Google quickly understand what your page is about and where it fits in. Be sure to include a primary keyword in any H1 tags.

Proper use of metadata is also something that can give you a big boost. Set your meta-title and description to give a quick run down of each page and again, include one keyword in the title and a couple in the description.

How long should your copy be?

Don't get too hung up on length. 300 words is perhaps the minimum for what Google can easily latch onto, and a good balance of authority and concise copy comes at around 750, but if you can reasonably fill 2,000 words on your chosen topic, do so. Indeed, long-form content can be very effective at drawing people to your site. As long as the writing is clear, informative and authoritative, Google will be very happy indeed.

We always say write for humans. How long does this content need to be? If this week's SEO edict is that 1000 words is the optimum length and you pad out your blog post to fit, you risk reducing the quality of the piece. None of this will help you further down the line when the consensus about content length changes.  

Reach out and touch someone

One of the biggest factors in SEO is inbound linking. If lots of people are talking about your site and linking to it, your ranking will shoot up. To encourage this, engage with people who address similar topics to you. Talk to bloggers, get active on social media. Get an authentic and meaningful dialogue going with your peers and the referrals will stack up.

Again, this has to be natural. Google can spot when people try to pay for links and it doesn't like it one little bit. In fact, this is a good way to drop your Google ranking overall. If you've got ten different links coming in from ten quality, authentic sites around the world with different page rankings, this is a good sign that you're legit.

Keep it natural

If you've spotted a theme running throughout this blog post, it'll be that the SEO of the future is simply about crafting great content. Over time, sites will be assessed and ranked as though real people were looking over each one.

With that in mind, never write for a machine. Write your copy for people, or work with an agency that understands these principles and crafts copy that works for you and your followers. With these values in mind you can produce copy that satisfies not only Google, but the audience you're trying to reach.