— March 16, 2018
Writing for the web is completely different from any other type of writing. Most copywriters know the importance of including keywords in the content. However, not all copywriters are SEO experts – and they don’t necessarily have to be. Copy is only one piece of the optimization puzzle, but the more a copywriter knows about how their work fits into the bigger picture, the better.
Without SEO, your content may disappear into the abyss of search results beyond page one. Anything beyond the first page of results is lucky to get any kind of traffic. At the same time, it does you no good if you are on the first page and the content isn’t good quality.
Audience First, Search Engines Second
Always write for your audience first. They need to be able to understand the content, and get value from it. If they don’t, the search engines won’t see the point in ranking it high enough to make it easier for people to find.
What does this mean? It means writing as if you were focused on talking to the person who’s reading – rather than trying to get as many keyword phrases in as possible. We’ll talk about that in just a second.
In the early days of SEO, there was a lot of talk about making sure your content had a certain keyword density, but now that’s not what matters. By focusing on keyword density, you’re focused on the search engines, and not the people who are reading your website.
Tools like Grammarly and Readable can help you ensure you’re writing content that’s grammatically correct, and on par with what your target audience expects. If you use too many long sentences, or too many big words, it makes the content harder to read.
Use Keywords, But Don’t Stuff Them
You want to use keyword phrases people are using to find the kind of content you have to offer. But, if you’re throwing keywords in there every other word, or forcing them to fit where you wouldn’t naturally see them, then you’re stuffing. This is a practice Google looks down upon and will penalize you for.
Instead of focusing directly on the keyword phrases you should be using, make sure you’re paying attention to the words that naturally would appear alongside them. This latent semantic indexing (LSI) approach is best for not only making sure your readers can understand the content, but keeping the search engines happy as well.
Tools like LSI Graph, Ultimate Keyword Hunter, and Article Insights can help you find the other words and phrases you should be including in content. Most of the time, you’ll find that you’ve included a lot of them just by writing. You shouldn’t have to look for ways to fit them in after the fact. But, knowing what they are ahead of time can help you structure your content.
Focus on the Headlines
The headlines are most likely the only thing people will actually read. If they don’t capture attention, you’ll notice a high bounce rate. That means people aren’t sticking around long enough to read the content. Studies show more than half of your visitors read your articles for 15 seconds or less. That’s because people aren’t reading your content. They’re likely just skimming it even if they took the time to go beyond the headline itself. Traffic can vary by as much as 500% just based on the headline – so those are worth split-testing.
While many say this means we should stop focusing on metrics like clicks, and focus on attention – search engines do both of these when they consider where to rank your content.
The search engines want to know people are clicking on your content, but actually sticking around to read it. If someone clicks on your content, sticks around for a few seconds, and then clicks away from it – that’s not only going to give you that high bounce rate we mentioned earlier, but it’s also going to tell Google that people didn’t find what they were looking for – even if it was actually there for them to find.
When enough people do this – Google gets the idea that maybe your content doesn’t match the search query or search intent. Over time, this will cause the rank to go down, and you won’t get as much traffic as you were before.
You can use a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to test variations of headlines for articles, too.
Because other elements, like site speed and the number of links to and from the content also have an impact on SEO and site ranking, it’s impossible for a copywriter to have complete control over the rank. But, knowing these tips and tricks can help you keep readers and search engines happy… and ensure your clients are pleased with your work.