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SEO | SEO Training

Effective SEO Copywriting: Tips, Tricks, and Mistakes to Avoid

By | May 24, 2022

Want to know how to use SEO copywriting to increase your search engine rankings?

If so, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of what makes writing copy for search engines so unique. In traditional copywriting, the singular goal is to write great content that’s readable, interesting, and designed to convert readers. SEO copywriting shares that same goal but also has another – writing content to appeal to search engine algorithms. 

In other words, SEO copy needs to not only be engaging but also must contain specific keywords, links, and other ranking factors.

The challenge lies in being able to include these keywords without sacrificing the readability and flow of your copy

If you can achieve the perfect balance between writing copy for readers that’s also SEO-friendly – you’ll reap big-time rewards. 

If you lean too heavily on the SEO side your content will become robotic and unreadable. If you focus entirely on the reader, you’ll miss out on including specific search terms that can improve your rankings.

That’s why we put together our definitive guide that’s filled with candid SEO copywriting tips. Keep reading to discover our best practices for creating reader-friendly SEO content, as well as some terrible mistakes you need to avoid!

What Is SEO Copywriting?

SEO Copywriting refers to the process of writing copy that is not only appealing to readers but also catches the attention of search engine crawlers. It’s a delicate balance that takes the right approach to do properly. 

In the early days, SEO content was robotic and contained keyword spam. Websites would churn out articles that made little to no sense but contained targeted keywords. These nefarious methods are now called Black Hat SEO or Spamdexing. 

These pages were of little value to readers, and search engine companies quickly took notice. 

You won’t find success with these techniques in today’s age. Search engine algorithms are far more robust and look for ranking factors beyond the use of keywords. 

Instead, you’ll want to include keywords and other ranking factors naturally – as well as provide valuable content for readers. That’s how SEO copywriting became what it is today. 

It has sparked the now-classic debate – should you write to cater to search engines or humans?

Believe it or not, there are still thousands of companies only writing blogs optimized for search engines. While that may bring short-term success, it won’t last for long. Readers will quickly notice that the post is boring and provides no value, and they’ll look elsewhere for information.

To find sustainable success, you’ll need to write stellar copy that informs and educates readers, all while including SEO best practices.

Speaking of best practices, there are many factors that influence your ability to rank, including:

  • Keyword Targets & Usage
  • Search Intent
  • Meta Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
  • Heading Tags
  • Content-Length
  • Internal & External Links
  • Readability
  • …and much more

In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most important factors that will make your SEO copywriting shine.

Let’s get into it.

Find Relevant Keywords With Keyword Research

A core part of SEO copywriting means that you’ll be optimizing your content to include keywords, so you’ll need to start with keyword research.

That refers to using various methods to uncover the search terms users in your niche use the most. A search engine works by matching search queries (keywords) with relevant web pages (your content). That’s why keywords are so crucial to the SEO process – as they vastly improve the visibility of your website. 

You’ll want to find a primary keyword/topic that has good search volume and resonates with the customer base you’re attracting. The HOTH offers a free ranking checker to help you find effective keywords.

There are some key metrics to consider when selecting keywords. They are:

Search volume

You’ll want to select keywords that receive a lot of searches each month. Otherwise, you’ll waste your time ranking for keywords that don’t get used that often. 

Keyword research tools will provide the average search volume for each keyword – so make sure to pay attention to the numbers. 

Trends 

Some tools (such as Google Trends) allow you to view the trends for each keyword. These include interest over time, interest by region, and related queries. It’s useful information because you can tell if the interest in a particular keyword is waning or gaining traction. 

Search volume over time

Speaking of Google Trends, another metric you can gather with it is a keyword’s search volume over time. It will go back as far as when Google Trends began, which was in 2004. It’s another tool you can use to gauge the level of interest surrounding a certain keyword. Ideally, you’ll want to focus on keywords that are gaining in popularity. 

Difficulty

A keyword’s ‘difficulty’ refers to the amount of competition surrounding it. For example, if your keyword research tool says it’s ‘hard’ to rank for a keyword, that means there’s steep competition. 

Ranking for difficult keywords isn’t recommended as it will take a huge investment of time and money to achieve any results. Instead, it’s wise to pursue keywords that have great search volume yet low difficulty. 

CPC

Lastly, you should check the cost-per-click of your targeted keywords. Even if you aren’t running paid ads, you’ll want to know if there are lots of companies using PPC ads to beat the organic search results. 

If a keyword has an astronomical CPC ($10 or above), it’s a clear indicator that there is a large group of advertisers eager to jump the line with PPC ads. You should seek keywords that don’t have high CPCs. That’s because one click only represents a visit – not a conversion. Attempting to rank for a keyword with a high CPC will generally be a waste of your budget. 

Those are the top metrics to pay attention to when conducting keyword research. To keep yourself on track, make a list of the top 10 keywords that you find. 

Remember – look for keywords that are trending, have high search volume, a low difficulty rating, and a meager CPC. Rank the keywords on your list in order of how well they check each of those boxes. Once you’ve done that, you can focus on the top 5 keywords for copywriting purposes. 

Keyword research should be an ongoing process for you. The last thing you want to do is do research one time and use the same keywords forever. Like anything else with SEO, search terms change over time. That’s why it’s wise to regularly conduct keyword research for your SEO campaigns. 

Want some help? Here are 3 easy keyword research methods to help kick start your search!

Understand What Users Want With Search Intent

What are users really looking for when they type in your chosen keyphrase?

Sometimes, the answer isn’t obvious, and if you create the wrong type of content, it will be very difficult to rank.

When you understand the “Search Intent,” you’ll understand what users are truly looking for with the keywords they use.

The easiest way to find the search intent of a keyword is to just Google it and see what type of content comes up.

Are they ultimate guides? Lists? Reviews? Product pages?

That will clue you in on what users were after when using the keyword. There are a few types of search intent that you’ll find online; they are:

Informational intent 

Users are looking for information about a subject, such as a how-to guide or a blog post explaining something. 

Content marketing is great at using informational posts to build thought leadership and gain trust among readers. At times, informational intent can lead to a purchase, but only if handled correctly. 

Navigational intent

This occurs whenever a user enters a keyword purely to reach a particular web page. An example would be searching for ‘guitar center’ to get a hyperlink to their website. 

Commercial intent 

A user has commercial intent when they’re browsing products online to make an eventual purchase, but not at the moment. Searches with commercial intent are prime for conversions down the line, so bear that in mind. Yet, at this stage of the sales funnel, the user is only browsing. 

Transactional intent

This is when a user has already browsed products and knows exactly what they want. They then use keywords to search for the products that they want to buy. If you can rank for keywords with transactional intent – you stand to increase your revenue significantly. 

Let’s consider an example to make it more clear. If you sell guitar accessories online, you may want to rank for the keyword ‘guitar string gauges.’ 

Yet, the search intent of the keyword is a little cloudy. Are users looking to buy guitar strings, or do they want to learn about the different types of gauges? Let’s pop the keyword into Google to see if we can find out. 

The top 5 results all deal with explaining how guitar string gauges work. For this reason, the search intent is informational. Users are searching for information so they can learn more about guitar gauges. 

Yet, with some clever content creation (and SEO copywriting), you can transform the informational intent into a commercial one. In fact, you can see this put into practice in the top-ranked articles on Google. They all break down how guitar gauges work and then provide a simple call-to-action (CTA) to encourage readers to buy strings from their website.

Let’s consider another keyword from the same niche. Instead of ranking for ‘guitar string gauges,’ you go for ‘guitar strings near me.’ In this case, the search intent is transactional, and it’s also local. 

The user is after guitar strings that they can purchase from a store near their home. Ranking for this keyword will help bring in foot traffic to your store – which is a plus if you have a brick-and-mortar location. 

By understanding search intent first, you’ll make sure you’re producing the right type of content. That’s critical for finding success with your content strategy – so it’s imperative not to ignore the intent behind each keyword. 

Titles & Meta Descriptions

The title tag and meta description are two of the first things search engines will see when crawling your website. As such, you’ll want to optimize them both to include your keyword and other relevant information.

In general, metadata tends to get overlooked by many websites. That’s a shame because optimizing your metadata is a core part of any SEO strategy. If your metadata includes relevant keywords – Google and other search engines will quickly know what your content is about. 

That’s a huge advantage when it comes to ranking higher in the search engine results

The title tag and meta description are also displayed on search engine results pages. The title tag contains the link to your page, and the meta description is a snippet describing your content. 

Treat this like writing an ad – you’re usually competing with up to 10 other websites for a user to click on, so you’ll want to entice your reader! As such, your meta description should be relevant, enticing, and well-written. There are also a few best practices involved with writing meta descriptions:

  • Keep it around 160 characters. This is the sweet spot for meta descriptions, so try not to stray too far on either side. 
  • Briefly answer the question posed by the title tag. 
  • Be concise and write in an active voice. Meta descriptions should never be vague or cryptic – so keep them simple and clear. 
  • Include a call to action. You want to entice readers to click on your article above all else, which is where a call to action comes into play. You won’t have much room to work with, so phrases like learn more, try it out now, and try for free are excellent CTAs. 
  • Make sure you write an entirely unique meta description for each page.

Check all these boxes, and you’ve got a stellar meta description that’s optimized and will entice readers to learn more. There’s also a right way and a wrong way to write a title tag, so here are some pro tips:

  • Keep your title within 55 characters, so it’s succinct and doesn’t get cut off the page. 
  • Make sure each title tag is unique from other pages on your website. 
  • Place your primary keyword at the front of the title tag. 
  • Aim to include your brand name in the title tag if you have room. 
  • Do your best to reflect the content of the article in the title (asking a question is a great way to go).

That’s how to create an attractive title tag that will help you rank higher on Google search. Remember, each meta description and title tag need to be 100% unique for each page. The last thing you want for any SEO campaign is to have to contend with duplicate content. 

Creating A Killer Headline

Next, you’ll want to create an engaging headline that also includes your primary keyword. This is often wrapped in a <h1> tag or header 1 tag. Being able to write a catchy headline is a fundamental skill for any copywriter. Here are some basic tips for writing a stand-out H1 tag that gets noticed by readers and search engines alike:

Only use one H1 tag

As a rule of thumb, you only ever use one H1 tag for an article or post. It’s the primary headline that serves as the title for your page. While you should definitely use subheadings to break up the text, they need to be H2, H3, H4, and so on. 

The H1 needs to sum up the content of your page 

It can ask a question, state a topic, or state a fact that you explore in the article. No matter what you choose, make sure that it directly relates to what you discuss in the post. 

Keep it between 20 and 70 characters

Much like title tags and meta descriptions, H1 tags have a sweet spot for character limits. Keeping your title in this character range will ensure that it’s not too long or too short. 

Use long-tail keywords in the title

If you can, choose a long-tail keyword that relates to your topic and use it in the H1. 

Make your title stand out

Do some research and check the titles for related posts online. What do they have in common? What do they lack? When writing your H1, don’t follow the herd. Instead, strive for a way to create a title unlike any other on the first page of Google (or another search engine). 

That’s a step-by-step guide for creating H1 tags that get noticed online. A stand-out headline gets the reader’s attention and makes them want to learn more. 

Are you totally blocked when it comes to headlines and need help writing one? No problem! Check out the free HOTH headline generator to create one for you or to use as inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. 

Optimizing The Content

Now let’s talk about how to actually optimize a new piece of content. That way, you can discover what it takes to write incredible SEO copy that ranks within the top 5 on search engines. That goes beyond writing copy and includes things like using internal links, infographics, videos, and much more. Here are some best practices related to general copywriting and on-page SEO.

Covering the topic

After you understand the user’s search intent, you’ll want to cover the topic in as much detail as possible. To see what you’re up against, do a quick search for your target keyword and take a look at the top 5 results. 

Read their articles in detail – all while making notes of where they fall short. 

Where do they fail to go into more detail? What new insights can you provide that aren’t in any article right now?

Striving to outdo your competitors is one of the best ways to create stellar content. That’s why I recommend always reading competitor articles and looking for ways to outdo them. 

Also, asking questions is another way to discover content to cover in the article. In particular, what questions do users have about the topic? Choosing to create content that answers user questions is always wise and can improve your click-through rates. 

You can also answer a common user question to qualify for a featured snippet on Google.

What’s that?

A featured snippet is a short answer to a common question shown in bold at the top of a SERP. You’ve probably seen one if you’ve ever typed a question into Google. Obtaining a featured snippet is excellent for your search engine optimization, so here’s how to write copy for one:

  • Ask a common user question within the first 100 words of your article. 
  • Answer the question immediately in a few sentences – and highlight them in bold

That will let search engines know that your content contains the answer to a user question and will increase your chances of ranking for a featured snippet.

Content length

Google defines content as thin whenever it contains less than 200 words. If you have any pages on your website that meet these criteria – either beef up the content or add it to another page. Ideally, a piece of content should contain at least 700 words for search engines to consider ranking it.

That’s because search engines only want to provide high-quality, informative content for its users. Google wants you to be able to find everything you need on one page, which is why it ignores thin content as it won’t provide much value. 

In today’s age, long-form content is becoming more and more popular. Blogs that contain 2,000 words or more tend to rank higher – so long as the content they contain is relevant and well-written. 

If your page contains a ton of filler to only meet a word count, your SEO will take a blow as a result. Remember, you’re writing to cater to search engines AND readers, so you want to make sure that every part of your content contains valuable information. 

Writing for the sake of writing won’t help your real end goal – to rank and make sales.

So write about what users care about & the answers to their questions.

If you write a blog and hit writers’ block after 600 words, you’ve likely said everything there is to say. In that scenario, publishing a concise 600-word post will provide more value than a 1,000-word one that has more filler than information. 

Building trust

In your article, back up your claims with stats and examples to help build the trust and convince the reader of your point. Your goal should be to build trust and be seen as a thought leader in your industry. 

As a writer, what you’re doing here is playing the long game

You see, customers are naturally wary of a blog or article that exists simply to sell them something. As such, you should stray away from ‘hard-sell’ tactics during content creation. 

Instead, readers are grateful for writing that saves them time, answers questions, or helps them improve their lives. That gratitude will lead them to trust you, and that trust will lead to more sales over time.

That’s why you should focus on writing blogs that inform, educate, and entertain. Even if you don’t provide a CTA at the end or feature a product, you’re providing value to readers. That will lead them to trust your brand and flock to your website whenever they want to learn something new. 

By achieving thought leader status, you’ll obtain something far more valuable than short-term sales – you’ll gain customer loyalty. That’s a great way to ensure that your brand stands the test of time. 

Divide your content with headings

Using heading tags to divide up your content helps keep people reading and improves scannability. That will keep people engaged with your content, which will help your bounce rate. 

As stated before, you start each post with an H1 tag. It’s the headline that draws in readers and intrigues them to learn more.

From there, you should break up the post with H2 tags that embellish the main topic. An H2 tag should have quite a bit of content after it – including H3 tags. An H3 tag under an H2 introduces a new subtopic and explores it. While header tags can go up to H6, most articles only use up to H3. 

Some people like to ‘scan’ articles before deciding if they want to read the entire thing. Scanners love header tags because it makes scanning the article a breeze. By reading your header tags, they can get a clear idea of the areas that you go into detail in during the post. 

Keep paragraphs short

By keeping paragraphs short to 1-3 sentences, you’ll also improve the readability of your content. This keeps the reader engaged vs. trying to read a wall of text.

It’s much easier to read short bursts of text followed by plenty of space. 

Another way to enhance your readability is to use text decorations. These include bold, italics, and underlining. If a point you make is especially potent, try bolding it or using italics. 

These decorations add visual diversity to your posts, making them even easier to read. 

External links

Finally, you need to make sure your copywriting has a good number of authoritative links. This is something that helps your readers as much as it helps Google.

Users, of course, love the ability to further research a topic. By providing trustworthy links, you allow readers to double-check what you are saying with a single click.

Link building is part of any SEO strategy, and copywriting is no different. You’ll want to use a combination of internal and external links to boost your domain authority. Do your best to locate areas where you can link to other blog posts on your website. That’s not only great for SEO but is convenient for readers as they can quickly read a related post. 

Meanwhile, Google considers your willingness to link to other sources as a sign that your website can work and play well with other writers. As a result, Google’s algorithm will rank your website higher.

You can also obtain backlinks from other websites. These are links to your website that are on other websites. There are a few ways to go about obtaining these, such as outdoing competitor content and poaching their backlinks. 

Persuasive Writing

All SEO writing ultimately revolves around a powerful “call to action.”

You must have a goal in mind, such as getting users to buy a product or sign up for a mailing list. That means the rest of your writing must persuasively line up with this goal and make it happen.

As we said, though, customers are wary if you sound like a salesman. Hard sell tactics such as making extravagant claims will do more harm than good for your business. 

How, then, can you make your text sound persuasive without seeming too pushy? It all starts with writing from the user’s POV.

For example, your readers are naturally curious about what you can do for them. Instead of imploring them to simply “Sign Up Now,” let them know how this will improve their lives.

For example, “Get Started Ranking Your Site” helps a reader imagine the tangible outcome of making a purchase. It lets them know that by clicking on the link, they will be able to improve their search engine rankings. It’s specific enough to attract prospects that want to rank higher on Google. 

From the headline to the CTA, consider your readers’ point of view. Demonstrate that you understand their concerns and, where appropriate, how you can make those concerns go away.

Put These SEO Copywriting Tips and Tricks to Good Use

Those are some of the basics you’ll want to consider for SEO copywriting.

Are you looking for a company that can provide the best SEO services for all your content needs? If so, we’ve got you covered.

Here at The HOTH, we specialize in providing relevant content that helps your site rank. To see what we can do for your business, book a free SEO consultation today.

Did you like the article? This was written by our blogging service called HOTH Blogger Pro.  If you need high-quality content for your site, be sure to check out our premier done-for-you blogging service


Director of Brand Strategy

Rachel is The HOTH’s Director of Brand Strategy. In 2016, she launched The HOTH’s content department, including HOTH Blogger. Rachel speaks at 1-2 industry conferences per month while overseeing The HOTH’s organic content and brand strategy. To book some time to chat about content creation, SEO, and SEM, click here.

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