SEO Copywriting [Step by Step Guide]
Recently, I was asked by a client to meet with their writers and give them some SEO copywriting tips to help improve the quality of their blog posts. This small team of copywriters all seemed like skilled writers and were aware of SEO, but somewhere along the way their strategy had gone astray. They were producing a huge amount of content every month but none of it was great quality. All of their blog posts were only 300 words, the target keywords were repetitive and not researched, and the content was just not really readable by a person.
Even though both the copywriters and marketing manager understood basic copywriting SEO, over time their strategy had lost its quality as they only prioritized quantity.
In this guide I am going to run through the main points I went over with this copywriting team. I have also adjusted this from my original presentation to answer many of the questions they asked along the way. Hopefully you will find this SEO copywriting guide as helpful as they did!
Order of Importance of Blog Post Features for SEO
The first thing I touched on with these writers was the basic order of importance of a blog post for SEO. I felt that it was important to make sure they understood this before I dove into strategy.
In my opinion, here are the most important blog post features for SEO in descending order:
- The meta title (sometimes this is the same as your page title)
- The page title or H1
- Meta description (Google doesn’t actually read this but viewers will see this on a SERP page, so it’s still really important)
- First paragraph of copy
- Subsequent headings like H2, H3, etc.
- Readability of the entire blog post
- Rest of the blog copy like the length, quality of the information, keywords, synonyms, etc.
- Use of internal and external links
- Image alt tags
- Use of multimedia like additional images and videos
Some of these features are things that Google has told us are important, and some of this is simply in the order I have found to be the most important during my experience with blog SEO.
Step-by-Step Guide for Writing SEO Blog Posts
After I felt confident that the copywriters understood how a search engine read a blog post, I dove into strategy. I walked them through the steps I would recommend taking when writing a blog post for SEO.
Step 1: Find a Focus Keyword
When finding a great focus keyword, I typically write down some top-level topics I would like to write on and then run those through an SEO tool like SEMrush or Moz to see the traffic volumes and other keyword suggestions. So say you are writing a blog post for a hardware store, jot down some high level topics like DIY renovations, best paint colors, picking a sink size, etc. These topics can come from your own imagination or can be tied to larger marketing and sales campaigns.
Once you have your high-level topics, start running them through an SEO copywriting tool which will give you similar search terms and search volumes. I often like to use the “is a question” filter too – this will show you keyword ideas that are all questions, such as, “What is the best paint color for a bathroom?” – which make for great blog posts.
From these ideas, pick a focus keyword or phrase that has a decent amount of monthly searches and that you think will resonate with your target demographic.
Step 2: Turn that Focus Keyword into a Blog Title
Sometimes a focus keyword itself makes a great title, but you often have to form that keyword into a good blog title. Try to use that focus keyword exactly while also writing a compelling title that will entice readers to read it. The title is extremely important for the reader experience; it needs to stand out while also giving the reader accurate expectations for what they can find in the blog post.
Touching back on that team of copywriters for a moment, one thing I found was that they would often ask a question in the title, then NOT answer it in the blog post! Wow, that would be a frustrating reader experience. If you write a blog post titled “Best and Worst Paint Colors for a Kitchen,” you had better deliver that list!
Step 3: Outline and Plan Headers
Planning out the headers and paragraph topics ahead of time will help you stay on message and continue to use your keyword. If you are able to, use your exact focus keyword in at least one H2. Sprinkle in some synonyms for your focus keyword in additional headings as well.
Use a header every couple of paragraphs to make your article very skimmable. Think about your own behavior when you read a blog post. When you’re hit with a huge block of text and no headers, you often just leave the page when you realize that it will be a lot of work to find what part of the blog you are looking for.
Step 4: Write Great Content
This might come as a no-brainer, but your SEO copy also needs to be written for human consumption. Never only write for the search engine bots. If a real reader comes along and then leaves your blog post immediately because of how poorly it’s written, search engines will penalize you for high bounce rates. In turn, they will reward you when readers stay on your page for a long time and even return to it over and over again. Cultivate a good user experience with your SEO copywriting by writing between 500- and 1,500-word-long, quality articles.
A great target for your writing style is to aim for a seventh-grade reading level. Not only will this make the article easy for anyone with any education level to read, but a blog post just isn’t somewhere that beautiful prose and creative sentence structures should be. Even the most well-educated people will get frustrated by unpredictable sentences.
Lastly, as you are writing, sprinkle in your focus keyword and synonyms for that term as you go. For some articles, this is very natural, but for others, it can take more deliberate efforts. Search engines want to see that these terms are used regularly throughout the copy to know that this blog post is staying relevant and on-topic.
Step 5: Review and Add Media
Take a step back and put on your casual website user hat. Think about how you “read” blog posts – there often isn’t a ton of careful reading going on. You probably first skim through the headers, and when you see a header that looks interesting, then you actually read some of the copy below it. Look at your blog post through this lens and decide if you need to change anything to improve the user experience.
Additionally, while a focus image and a keyworded alt tag might be your norm, adding in more media can be a great idea too. Breaking up blocks of text with photos, bullet points, videos, and more as you go can lead to a better user experience. Don’t force a lot of arbitrary media on a blog post, but include it when it helps.
Step 6: Determine Meta Info
This step might go hand in hand with publishing or may be a separate step for you if someone else does the publishing. Determine the correct meta title and meta description length (Google changes these often) and designate your post title and description with your focus keywords included. The meta info is both crucial to the search engine (remember our order of importance) and important for readers too. This meta info is what someone sees in a search engine results page, so it should compel them to click onto your website to read more.
The blog post URL is important too. Do not make it overly long or complicated and include your target keyword. Just a pro tip – house your blog posts under “/blog” – this makes analytics a lot easier.
Step 7: Publish Your Blog Post
It’s time to go live! Publish your blog post and make sure all formatting and meta information shows up correctly. This can take a little trial and error when media is involved. Make sure you check that your blog post looks right on both desktop and mobile.
Once all is said and done, great SEO for copywriting can become second nature to your content team. Today, you just can’t get by on thousands of poorly written SEO blog posts. Google values things readers value too, like high-quality, well-written, and well-researched content.