Thought writing for SEO was just about keywords? You’ve gone off track. Hop aboard our tour of SEO copywriting and we’ll point you in the right direction.
SEO is a mystical concept to many, because it’s an ever-changing entity. Like traveling across a desert landscape, you may think you’re on track, but then everything transforms. Once you know the basics of navigation, however, you’ll soon be able to find your way. Enough with the analogies – let’s get to the basics of SEO copywriting.
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation, which essentially means ‘getting your website as high as possible in search engine results pages’ (SERPs). SEO involves three main parts:
- Site structure
A quick word on site structure
The structure of the site is where most SEO companies will start their work. They’ll look to see if your website connects together in a way that search engines can easily understand the hierarchy of pages. There is more to structure than the sitemap, but this is the main thing you can influence directly without an SEO agency.
Sitemaps are basic navigational maps that tell search engines which pages are the most important, what subjects they’ll find within your website and what pages are related to which key area. When you add new content, it is (usually) automatically added to your sitemap. So if you add a page as a top-level item on your menu, search engines will know that this is a key focus for your business as it’s high up in the hierarchy.
Likewise, if you add a lower level page, it should be added as a subpage to the topic it is most related to. For example, a page about Camembert should sit under the ‘French Cheeses’ page on worldcheeses.com (not a real site).
What about writing for SEO?
Writing for SEO is about much more than just writing blogs (though I’ll get onto why this is also of great benefit). Anywhere there is copy, there is an opportunity to improve SEO, but the most important is the copy that provides the basic information about your site and services. This includes:
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Alt text
- Page headings (H1s)
- Page subheadings (H2s and H3s)
Each page should have a meta title. This is the page title that you see on the SERP. Usually it is the page title, a separator such as a dash (-) or a vertical bar (|), and the business name. See the example below:
Meta tags are used by SERPs to understand what the page’s focus is. In the cheese example the meta tag might look like:
Camembert French Cheese | World Cheeses
Tip: Meta tags should be kept shorter than 60 characters to ensure they don’t get cut off on the SERP
The meta description sits underneath the meta tag in the SERP and offers the reader an understanding of what to expect on the page. These descriptions used to be fundamental to SEO, but they have been given less weight in more recent algorithm updates. However, they provide a vital service to the reader, so it’s more important that meta descriptions are enticing, than stuffed full of keywords (words related to the topic of the page). Meta descriptions should be 155 characters or less.
Tip: Write the meta description in a fun, or suspenseful way to pull the reader in to your website and stand apart from SERP competitors.
This is the descriptive text that is added to images when you upload them to the website. Alt text is important because it is intended as an accessibility measure – for screen readers to be able to describe the images to the visually impaired. Accessibility is increasingly an important part of SEO. Aside from this, adding alt text can help your website be discovered in the image search results.
Tip: Ensure the alt text describes the image and include a keyword where possible.
In order to list your page, search engines ‘crawl’ your website using ‘bots’. When they do, they scan for information that tells them more about the hierarchy of information. While the sitemap shows the hierarchy of the whole site, heading tags (H-tags) are used to tell the bots about the hierarchy of individual pages.
The H1 tag is the title of your page, and so it’s advisable to keep the title relevant to the subject matter. In blogs cryptic titles don’t tend to support SEO as much as descriptive titles do, because they contain less relevant terms to the subject matter. You should only ever have one H1 tag on the page.
H2 tags are subheadings, and used to tell the bots about the sections of the page. You can have multiple H2 tags and these should again have relevant keywords where possible.
H3 tags are much less relevant to SEO, but can still be used to break down more complex pages as subheadings to subsections.
Tip: Remember that H tags tell search engines what your page is about, so cryptic H-tags such as ‘What do we have here then?’ are less useful for SEO.
The reason blogs are so good for SEO (read our full blog on this subject here) is that they offer an opportunity to provide your prospects and customers with useful information. Because of the nature of blogs, they are packed full of keywords relevant to the topic that you are writing about. This tells search engines that a) this subject matter is of importance to your audience, and b) you are an expert in this area.
Because blogs are also (hopefully) interesting, they encourage users to ‘dwell’ on your website for longer, and this is a strong indicator to search engines that you have content that is engaging.
Why are connections good for SEO?
What I mean by ‘connections’ is the many ways that your content links to other content, both internally and externally. These connections include:
1. Backlinks from other websites to yours
Which indicates that your page is of value to other websites.
2. Social links back to your content
Which demonstrates that your page is popular and relevant now.
3. External links from your content to other sites
Which suggests integrity (like references in academic literature).
4. Internal reciprocal links from one page to another in your site and back again
Which create onward journeys that keep readers on your website for longer and indicate the level of interest in your services.
SEO is all about acting as Tour Guide to search engines by mapping out the structure of your site, giving them information on your expert topic, and providing them with recommendations from happy customers to make them trust you more. But search engines are regular visitors, so you’ve got to keep providing fresh information to keep them satisfied.
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