SEO copywriting is a challenging craft because you need to create content that's easy for search engines to read and understand. But that exact same content needs to be appealing to human users too. Search engines and people that use search engines don't need to be looked at as mutually exclusive. There are ways you can satisfy both while writing in a very natural and organic way. And that's what we'll walk you through in this SEO copywriting tutorial.
We will go over the steps with a hypothetical example to give you a better idea of what SEO copywriting looks like in action from a workflow standpoint.
So to paint a scenario for this tutorial, let's assume your company sells sleep-related
products and the topic for the page you'll be creating content on is "how to get better sleep."
This copywriting tutorial will be covered in three stages.
The first stage is all about research. And the steps in this stage will set you up for ranking success. The first and arguably most important part of this research phase is to check search intent for your target query. Search intent represents the reason behind a searcher's query. And Google actually gives us clues into searcher intent right within the search results page.
For example, if you search for "slow cooker" in Google, the search results are mostly made up of shopping ads and product pages. It's basically telling us as creators that in order to rank high for this query, we'd also need to have a page that's transactional and commercial in nature - like a product page. If you change your search to "slow cooker recipes," you'll see that all top-ranking pages are blog posts that show lists of slow cooker recipes.
The search results are informational and in order to rank for this query, you'd need something similar because that's what searchers want. So because our target query for our example page is "how to get better sleep," start by searching for that on Google. Now, if you look at the top results, you'll see that nearly all pages are listicles with tips to get better sleep - not step-by-step guides or tutorials like the query might suggest. So that's the content format and angle you'd want to run with too.
The second part of the research phase is to create a thorough outline based on data.
Now, with SEO content writing, your goal is to get your page to the top of Google search for your target query. So naturally, the best place to actually start building your outline is to look for similarities among the top-ranking pages. After all, they've made it to the top of Google most likely because their pages are satisfying users. If looking at the top articles on how to get better sleep, you'll notice that they all talk
about how alcohol can negatively impact your sleep, how a sleep schedule or routine can help, and to reduce naps to get better sleep. These are foundational sleep tips so let's take note of these things and we can include our own take on these tips in our post.
Now, if you go back to the search results page, you'll also see that there's a People Also Ask box that shows related questions. There is one on getting 8 hours of sleep which seems interesting because it's what many people searching for this topic would aim to achieve. Also, there’s one question on the causes of lack of sleep, this would probably be good information to add to your post too.
The last thing to do is check for common keyword rankings among the top-ranking pages. And the reason why you should do this is because it often reveals insights about what your target audience is looking for, the language they use in search, and the topics that Google considers to be closely related. To do this, you can use Ahrefs' Content Gap tool. All you have to do is put the URLs of the top-ranking pages for your target query in the top section. And run the search, you will see all keywords that these pages rank for and their ranking positions. So based on the results, you'll see that people are using language like getting a "good night's sleep,” “deep sleep," etc.
Now, before we continue, it's important we talk about copycat content. SEO copywriting is not about copying information from top-ranking pages. What we're doing at this stage is extracting potentially important subtopics and industry jargon that may be required to cover a topic in full.
Think about it like this: If Google's job is to show the most relevant results for any given query, then that means the top 3 results are the most relevant pages for that query – at least in Google's eyes. And because Google has spent billions, maybe even trillions of dollars to get their search algorithms to where they are today, their non-human ways of understanding user satisfaction are probably better than our human ways in most cases. So look at this analysis as a way to understand how you can best serve visitors to your page.
Alright, we're done with the research phase so let's move on to the next part of the SEO copywriting process which is the drafting phase. Now, while writing styles will vary a lot, all content writers have the same goals: to educate, entertain, and/or delight readers while ideally leading them closer to a conversion goal. We’ll share a few copywriting tips you can use for different sections of your content, starting with the intro.
As cliche as it might sound, having an intro that pulls in your readers is critical because it tells them they're in the right place and that they should continue reading.
A simple, yet effective method you can use is the PAS (Problem, Agitation, Solution) formula. This is where you point out a problem, agitate it, and then offer a solution.
So for our hypothetical article on how to get better sleep, we might write something like;
"It is natural to want to to sleep better, but sadly, one can't just decide that they will get a good night's sleep. Beyond feeling groggy, research shows that the absence of quality sleep can lead to weight gain and negatively impact your daily brain function. Fortunately, many physicians have found that people who follow sleep schedules are 98% more likely to feel "at their best" throughout their days. So today, I'll share 7 evidence-based sleep tips to help you build your sleep routine and consistently get 8-hours of sleep every night."
As for the body of the content, this is when your outline that you made in the research stage is going to be clutch. For landing page copy, the body is where you'll sell your products by showcasing features and use cases. And for blog content it's where you'll resolve the reason for a visit which can help build trust with your audience. The purpose of the body is to provide immense amounts of value. You're basically delivering on your headline and you want to give it your all.
Now, because this is the drafting phase, you need not worry so much about having perfectly optimized content because that will come in the next phase.
The final piece of the content is the conclusion. And this is where you'll wrap things up and direct visitors to a destination. For example, on a landing page, that might be to a sales or checkout page. And for a blog post, that might be a recommendation to read another blog article, watch a video, or to go to a sales page. The main goal with the conclusion is that you should not leave your readers at a dead end. For example, in our hypothetical "how to get better sleep" article, the main point of your content might be to set good sleep habits to build a proper sleep schedule.
As a business, you probably want to send these readers to some of your product pages, but it's not exactly organic to recommend them here. So instead, you can actually try and point readers to other informational content that's related to getting better sleep and recommends our sleep-related products. For example, our conclusion might say:
"An important aspect of getting good sleep consistently, is building good sleep. However, it's also critical that you're using the right pillow as the wrong one can cause neck tension that no sleep schedule can fix. Read our review on the 15 best pillows to help you get better quality sleep."
And of course, that best pillow guide would have links to our products. Alright, now once you've finished the draft, it's time to move on to the final stage which
Now, many people overlook this stage and just do a final read through to check for typos. But editing is just as important as drafting. It's where you ensure your messaging is right, that all your on-page SEO optimizations have been done correctly, and where you'll ensure the content flows smoothly. Basically, you want to make it easy for people to consume your content.
A simple process you can follow is the ASMR method (Annotations, Short sentences and paragraphs, Multimedia, Read.)
The A stands for annotations.
These are good to add within your content to make certain parts standout. For example, we use side notes to bring notice to an important point without breaking the flow of the content.
The S stands for short sentences and paragraphs.
This helps improve readability and digestibility. When editing, look for instances where you used transitional words like "and," "because," and "that," and consider breaking them into shorter sentences.
The M stands for multimedia.
Consider adding videos, images, and gifs to help illustrate your points without having
to add extra words.
And R stands for read.
Make sure you actually read your copy out loud to pinpoint areas where your content may not flow smoothly.
In addition to these checks, consider simplifying the complexity of your content. That means using simpler language when possible and removing industry jargon when it's not absolutely critical. There are tools like the Hemingway app which you can use to get a graded score. As a general rule of thumb, aim for a sixth to eighth grade reading level.
Now, you might feel like you haven't really done much so-called "SEO copywriting."
And that's because the copy you write for search and humans doesn't have to be all that different. Google has evolved quite a lot compared to the days when you had to include exact match keywords in order to rank for them. Those days for the most part are over. The outline we created in the first stage where we analyzed competing pages was a big part of the SEO copywriting process. We found subtopics and key phrases that people use to search for a topic. In much the same way, Google analyzes "entities" to categorize information and understand relationships. Now, in addition to our research, drafting, and editing stages, you still practice on-page SEO best practices.