To the dismay of businesses and marketers, SEO copywriting best practices do not guarantee high SERP rankings. They aren’t a foolproof way to skyrocket sales and conversions rates, either. While there are guidelines, and legitimate hints are dropped from time to time, nobody knows exactly what will rank web pages and appeal to prospects.
Nevertheless, industry best practices are still very much worth implementing. They are trusted copywriting and search engine optimization techniques – tried and tested methods that over time have proven effective in boosting rankings, web traffic, click-through rates, and sales. They can also enhance credibility and authority.
We’ve listed 25 of the best practices of 2014 below. All of them adhere to SEO and content creation guidelines. Apply these to improve your chances of ranking and reaping…
1. Write First
In 2014, SEO copywriting is about quality – well-written optimized content that appeals to humans. It makes sense then to write first and tweak for search engines second. It’s easy enough to slot in keywords after writing, and this approach can save a lot of time.
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Appealing to readers as a content writer means engaging them. How do you engage a reader? Well, start with a magnetic headline. Once you’ve got that down, you need to keep prospects interested, which you can do by emotionally connecting with them.
3. Keep It Relevant
Relevance is one of the factors that affects quality, so stay on point. Why bother if the copy isn’t relevant to your business? If your website provides tech support, for example, cluttering your content with design info will only confuse (and lose) the reader.
Information is value. When you’re selling a product or service, people don’t want a shallow sales pitch telling them it’s the best, they want SEO copywriting that tells them what it does, how it measures up in the industry, and how it can benefit them.
5. 300w or More
While search engines have never indicated that they prefer a certain word count, webmasters, SEOs, and content writers have found that pages with 300 words or more generally perform better. Longer posts are more likely to engage, so it makes sense.
6. Make It Skimmable
For best results, your pages should be easy to scan. In other words, include headings, subheads, bullet points, and plenty of white space when creating search engine optimized content. Place emphasis on key points by using bold and italics.
7. Remember Copywriting Commandments
This is one of our best copywriting tips for sure. You may be trying to impress the search engines, but don’t forget what writing copy is all about; selling to people. Your content needs to convert. And it will if you stick to the 10 commandments.
8. Learn Keyword Research
Keywords are still the essence of search, so it is essential to know how to find the ones that deliver traffic. Since Google replaced their old tool with the new Planner, many copywriters are finding this harder to do. The Moz Guide and SEJ Guide can help.
9. One KW per Page
Good website copywriting explores one topic per page. Likewise, good SEO targets one focal keyword per page, preferably a term with high monthly searches and low competition. Any others used should be closely related variations, long tail phrases, and synonyms.
10. Optimize Body Copy
Use your main keyword 2-5 times (depending on length) throughout body copy. The term “keyword density” is no longer relevant in SEO and article writing, but “over-optimization” is, so keeping an eye on how many times a phrase appears is still a good idea.
11. Create Keyword-Rich Headings
You knew that, but still important. If you’re not putting your topic keyword in the heading (H1 tag), how will search bots know what your SEO copywriting is about? The trick is to write damn good headlines that appeal to search engines and humans.
12. Long Tail the Subheadings
Subheadings (H2 tags) organize your content and make it easy to read. They are also another opportunity to tell search engines what your content writing is about. Using keyword variations (long tail phrases, ideally) in 1-2 subheadings is a good practice.
13. Place Keywords up Top
SEO has evolved. There are many different opinions on what works and what doesn’t. But featuring primary keywords high up in copy (in the first sentence, where possible) may still be helpful. Unless it is overdone and affects quality, it surely can’t hurt.
14. Open with a Question
Asking a rhetorical question is a good way to open when blogging and writing copy; it evokes curiosity and engages the reader. That could be your first sentence. Incidentally, Google’s Hummingbird seems to like keyword-rich questions, too.
15. Search Engine Optimize Images
Images are an undervalued search engine optimization asset. Most copywriters and blog writers use images, yet they rarely optimize them for search. Use your main keyword in the file name (edit before uploading) and alt text. Captions can help lower bounce rate.
16. Hyperlink Keywords
When linking to your copy from other internal pages, or linking out to inner pages from your content, making the link text keywords may be helpful. When doing this, though, it’s important to not link the same terms repeatedly, especially within the same page.
17. Link out in the Body
Linking out to relevant, authoritative sites is a good inbound marketing strategy and can provide value for readers. It can also improve SEO. However, this shouldn’t be done in the intro of your content (first 200 words). Save the outbound links for the body copy.
18. Publish the next Day
Don’t publish your content right away. Let it sit for a couple of days and then come back to it with a fresh mind. Read it over to ensure that the prose sounds natural. If the keywords sound forced, remove them. Doing this also helps you pick up errors.
19. Read SEO Copywriting Aloud
Reading your content out loud can you a different perspective. Many great article writers do this. If you feel weird doing it, or just don’t like the sound of your own voice, use a text-to-speech reader. Or ask a friend or family member to read it to you.
20. Describe Your Content
Well-written Meta descriptions do two things: they describe your content to search engines, and they compel readers to click on your headlines in the SERPs. Great metas are action-oriented, 155 characters or less in length, and they include your money keywords.
21. Call to Action
Whether it’s blog writing or copywriting, you probably want the reader to do something on your page, so tell them to do it. Call-to-actions like click here and register now still get clicks, but well thought out CTAs that incorporate keywords can increase conversions.
22. Drop Some Names
This probably won’t do much for your SEO, but it is a best copywriting practice. Depending on the industry, mentioning the names of clients, brands, and certifications associated with your business can establish trust and give your company a credibility boost.
23. A/B Test and Adapt
A/B testing should be part of every copywriter’s content strategy. Test often. How else will you know what’s working and what isn’t? Trends and search engines are constantly evolving. The goal should always be to improve quality, conversions, and sales.
24. Encourage Social
The world has gone social. If you aren’t taking advantage of social media networks, you’re losing out big time. Professional copywriting is not enough. Encourage others (ask them) to share your content via the user-friendly buttons on your web pages.
25. Interact with SEOs/Copywriters
Following and interacting with other SEO copywriting experts can be beneficial on many levels. First off, they may follow you back, which can boost SEO and authority. You can also discover techniques, learn new tricks, and stay up to date on industry news.