When you hear the word SEO, do you think: Keywords? Google rankings? The coveted first page of search engine results?
While all those things matter, there’s more to it than simply mastering the art of talking to Google.
Things have changed since the 90s. Jelly sandals have slipped off the face of the earth (unless you’re four). AOL’s screechy dial-up connection is a thing of the past. And good SEO looks a lot more like a well-thought-out blog post than a page stuffed with endless keywords.
So, what can you do to level up your SEO game?
1. Be clever with keywords
Keywords are important in SEO. They’re the driving force behind rankings and help determine where your page lands on Google.
No matter what kind of copy you’re writing, you must have a solid keyword strategy to underpin it. This means keyword research, infusing your content with a good mix of search terms, and avoiding any ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques.
Do your keyword research
Keyword research is all about gathering insights into what your audience types into Google. This can then inform your wider content strategy. So, how do you carry out keyword research?
Let’s say a patisserie wants to drive traffic to its website, via a blog page and a handful of SEO-focused pillar pages. As part of their keyword research, they come up with overarching keywords such as cupcakes, baking, and cookies.
Here, they can see the search volume and difficulty of each of the keywords selected. The higher the search volume, the more important these keywords are to the target audience. In this case, ‘cupcakes’ is pretty popular. The only problem is it’s over-saturated and has a high SEO difficulty (i.e. lots of businesses are trying to rank for it).
Therefore, it’s better to come up with related search terms that are similar to ‘cupcakes’, so they aren’t competing against established bakery brands.
These related search terms can be a mix of:
Short-tail keywords: Non-specific keywords between one to three words long and act as the ‘main’ keyword (i.e., pink cupcakes, blue icing sugar, chocolate cookies).
Long-tail keywords: Longer and more specific keywords that tend to get less traffic (good for niche businesses or those with a lot of competition since specific targeting = higher conversion rates).
Serendipitous keywords: Keywords that fall out of your audience’s typical search but relate to your core business offering, e.g. ‘best patisserie chefs’ or ‘learning to bake.’
Sprinkle keywords into your content
Once you’ve done your keyword research, it’s time to sprinkle search terms into your content. But there are a few things to avoid. Known as ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques, the following might seem like a fast track to a high ranking, but Google will likely penalise your content.
Succumb to keyword stuffing: Littering your content with so many keywords that it seems unnatural and forced.
Use keyword blocks: Squeezing all your keywords into lists and bullet points (this is lazy and all that blue hyperlinking isn’t easy on the eyes).
Stoop to hidden keyword stuffing: Hiding keywords in your content by making the text the same colour as the background (Google will find you!)
Use keywords appropriately (i.e. where it fits the context of the copy)
For blogs and long-form copy, use your target keyword at least once within the headline and sprinkle it sparingly throughout your body copy (once every 200 words).
When it comes to key web pages (Home and About Page) stick to short-tail keywords.
And for specific pages (Product/Service Pages) use long-tail and serendipitous keywords.
2. Write for humans
Since Google’s Panda update in 2011, SEO doesn’t just mean talking to ‘robots’ and squeezing in as many keywords as possible. It means creating relevant and purposeful content that delivers value to readers.
In simple terms, it means writing better copy that delivers a purpose to readers – whether that’s to entertain, persuade, or inform. Copy that actually speaks to readers. Copy that’s human.
Here are a few ways you can pander (excuse the pun) to Google’s 2011 SEO update:
Invest in copywriting services: Copywriters know what it takes to create great content – it’s their specialty. Hire an in-house writer or freelance team who can do the heavy lifting. Bonus points if they can provide SEO services as part of their offering
Get rid of low-quality pages or update them with some juicy, relevant content
Remove duplicate content (content that appears on your site multiple times across multiple pages)
Avoid filling your pages with ads
3. Create a linking strategy
Backlinking and internal linking are another two core components that make up a solid SEO copywriting strategy.
Backlinks are links from one page or website to another. The more you wrack up, the higher Google will rank you. The only thing is, backlinks can’t be from any old page. They need to be from verified sources. Better still, try to get backlinks from highly reputable sites with lots of traffic.
Sites to avoid: Spammy sites, sites with low security, sites with low authority.
If you do happen to find a backlink on a spammy site that points to your website, you’ll want to separate (disavow) yourself from it. To do this, submit your query via Google Console within a .txt file.
Internal linking, on the other hand, is linking together pages from your own site (e.g. your pillar page and blog). Regular internal linking can also earn you extra brownie points with Google and help guide readers from one part of your site to another.
Top tips for internal linking:
Link from your homepage through to sub-pages – this will spread out your linking and help other pages get noticed)
Don’t go overboard with internal linking – stick to 150 or less per page to avoid encroaching on the user experience
Use anchor text – copy that is relevant and relates to the content it’s being linked to
4. Create a keyword universe
A keyword universe is similar to ‘keyword research’ applies to to your entire site. It’s a list of all the keywords and phrases your site currently ranks for, as well as the keywords you hope to rank for in the future. The size of a keyword universe can vary from as many as 50,000 keywords or as little as 100.
When creating your keyword universe, identify all the phrases and terms you already rank for – and those that you aim to rank for.
Put these in a spreadsheet to get an overview of all your search terms and keep adding to it whenever a new keyword is added to your site (or whenever you identify a phrase you want to rank for).
While a keyword universe a good indicator of your overall SEO prowess, you can also use it to inform future content. If you’re struggling with blog ideas or pillar page content, simply open up your keyword universe and use one of the search terms as a starting point for your content.
SEO is a great investment
It’s true – SEO is an investment. Aside from investing in keyword research tools, you’ll also need to have to put in the time to carry out keyword research, collate the keywords, and make sure your content is fully SEO-optimised. It’s a continuous process and results are rarely immediate, but keep at it and you’ll start to see a steady uptick in your ranking over time.