10 Golden Rules of SEO Copywriting

For those of you inquisitive individuals doing a search on this elusive, confusing term I thought I would offer up my interpretation of what exactly SEO means.

Maybe you’ve heard the term during an office water cooler conversation or maybe you’ve seen a reference to it online.

Maybe you even know enough that it has to do with marketing your website in the search engines.

For most people, SEO means performing some crazy, juju-voodoo magic on your website with the ambitious goal of ranking your website in the top positions.

Let me just say that it doesn’t have to be that complicated and there is very little voodoo on hand here.

There’s an entire industry built around SEO and countless, never ending discussions about the finer details of the practice. But the core “best practices” of SEO are easy to learn and implement if you know specifically what you’re doing.

My definition of SEO:

SEO is short for, and officially translated as Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of “optimizing” elements within your website and related to your website so the search engines will consider your content more relevant to a user’s search inquiry.

The basic elements of SEO:

The practice of search engine optimization consists of a couple core elements.

If you feel like getting technical and spending every waking moment talking about the finer points, tricks, and new theories and developments you surely can.

There are many great sites devoted to SEO and the finer points. Without a doubt though there are 4 main things you should focus on when optimizing your website in the search engines.

Keyword research:

SEO is useless without research. If you know what people are searching for specifically you’ll have a much better time and find yourself to be far more successful in the long run.

Spend time researching the specific words and phrases that your customers and clients might use to find you.

This data is available in many forms for free (Google keyword tool) and from many affordable services (Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery) so there’s no excuse for skipping this critical step.

Essentially you need to know what people are searching for, not what you think they’re searching for.

There’s a big difference between someone typing “SEO training” and someone typing “Learn search engine optimization” for example. One search might have 10 queries a month, the other might have 1000.

Do your homework before you even start your website and it will pay off handsomely as your site grows.

Optimize your page content for the search engines:

Use your specific keywords and phrases in your content and write naturally.

It’s as simple as that. Don’t try to stuff your page with the same word over and over because that will almost guarantee that you’ll get banned from Google. This is the most basic type of search engine spam and they hate it.

The search engines are smart and getting smarter every day. They want good content that’s relevant to a user’s search inquiry and it’s getting harder and harder to fool them.

Take your time and write great, relevant content that revolves around your target subject and then turn around and write some more.

You should use your keywords several times and in several combiations throughout the document and use proper English, punctuation and check your spelling. It all figures into Google’s opinion that you’re presenting high quality, useful, relevant content.

Optimize your code for the search engines:

If you’re not a technical person this might sound like a daunting task and one that might give another website the leg up if you’ve neglected your geek hat in the back of the closet.

I say “Don’t fear the code” my friend! There are many things that you can do without being a computer scientist if you just know what’s most important.

For example, use your keywords in your page title. It’s at the very top of every HTML page and it begins with <title>.

For obvious reasons search engines pay close attention to the page title because it summarizes specifically what the subject of the page is.

Make sure the subject of your page is coded with an H1 tag.

This is fairly easy to figure out and if you need help there is surely someone who will help you with this easy task.

Essentially all you need to do is label your article title like this <H1>Subject of your article</H1>.

H1 tags should be used once on a page because they tell the search engines what this page is about. Use this tactic wisely and it will serve you well.

Make sure that you’ve named your images with the alt tag if they’re relevant to the content.

Everywhere there is an image on your page you should include the code “alt=”image-name-here” so the seach engine spiders can learn more about your content.

It makes very clear sense that if you have a page with the title of “Apple Types” and the page contains several images named alt=”Red Delicious Apple” and alt=”Granny Smith Apple” that Google would find this highly useful and relevant.

You should also consider what you name everything that appears in the address bar including your website address, directories and file names.

A page that lives at genericname.com/dir007/pageab6.html is a terrible path to a page.

It tells you nothing about what you’ll expect when you arrive there.

But myproductname.com/product-type/specific-product-name-here.html is a far superior way to present your page.

Link to others, get others to link to you and link throughout your own site

Links are very important to SEO on many levels. A link essentially says that you think something is important.

It’s a referral, suggestion, recommendation or directive to look at something else that’s relevant or related to the content you’re presenting.

Links can essentially make or break a competitive SEO campaign so take the time to link to others and get high quality links back to your site.

In addition, link to other relevant sections of your site from within your content if it makes sense and will improve the readers experience.

Summary:

As you can see, SEO is not difficult in theory.

The difficulty comes when you don’t know the basics in intimate detail and you don’t spend the time to do it right.

If you can take the time to think through things, do a little research and follow these simple guidelines I think you’ll find that you’ll be pleasantly pleased with your immediate success.

Copywriting is for brainy, spectical wearing, tight lipped, thick heeled librarian geek types you say?

Think again. Talented copywriters are in high demand these days because the vast majority of your SEO success now hinges on this person.

If you haven’t learned that your punctuation and grammar guides are your friends and that picking up a good book on how to write better, more personable and interesting copy is a good idea, then it’s time to get intimate and cozy with this advice: quality copywriting is critcal to successful SEO.

If you want a successful blog, website or SEO campaign you need to improve your writing–or die trying.

Continuing our discussion of copywriting, let’s look at some of the tried and true rules of writing for SEO.

I’ll also try to reinforce some of the new rules of SEO copywriting 3.0 and the future

1. Know your words and where they live

As we’ve discussed previously, there is one rule of effective SEO that you must follow: research your keywords before you start an SEO campaign.

The specific combinations are critical.

In addition to knowing which keywords are important, you need to know where to place them on the page.

Keywords should be prominently placed within the title of your page and within the H1 tag. If you’re a blogger, this is usually accomplished automatically for you.

This placement of your keywords shows the search engines that this is the subject of your page.

Plus, part of copywriting for SEO is about creating compelling content that generates links. If the title of your page contains important keywords and it’s compelling and interesting, it will make others want to link back to you.

Use variations of your core phrases within your subheadings. These are the H2 and H3 tags that show importance but slightly less than your main page title.

Lastly, using your keywords in a compelling way will encourage people to use that text when linking to you; a very important part of the SEO process.

A link back to your content is good. A link back that has your key phrase in the link text is highly valuable.

2. Let your keywords welcome your readers

Start off the first sentence of your content with your top keywords.

This will reinforce the subject of your page and help the search engines to learn what your page is about.

Search engines will also use the first part of your content in the results underneath the link. So try to summarize your page in a compelling way when you’re writing this very important introduction.

3. Know when to be “strong” and when to be “standard”

When appropriate, you should try to “bold” your keywords in your content with the “strong” tag. Don’t overdo it because the contrast between regular text and bold text can be distracting if you do it too frequently.

Bolding your most important keywords further places emphasis on the keywords and reinforces the subject of the page.

This will be effective if you use this technique on your most important keys.

4. Link within the family

Whenever possible, try to link to other content on your site and from within your pages.

This will improve your reader’s experience and make your content more valuable by extending the experience of your subject.

Linking within your content also reinforces the subject of your page when the search spiders see that links out to additional content are related to your page subject.

Make sure to use your keywords as the link text as well. Never link out to content with the words “click here”.

This does nothing to reinforce your relevancy compared to the users search inquiry.

5. Link out to friends

You must also realize that search engines now prefer links that appear within content because–to be honest–these are the hardest types of links to acquire.

Linking out to friends and useful information will improve the users experience but more importantly it will let others know that you appreciate what they’re doing.

The goal being that they’ll also visit your site and return the favor of linking back.

Linking out to related sites and content is becoming an important part of SEO as it further reinforces content–but more importantly–it begins the process of building relationships and friendships that are becoming more and more critical to successful SEO.

6. Focus on readability

As mentioned in item #3, you don’t want to do anything that reduces the readability of your content. Mixing bold and standard weight fonts for example is hard for the mind’s eye to scan and it’s distracting. Multi-colored text will accomplish the same substandard result.

When you’re writing, use your keywords but focus on the real humans that will ultimately read your content. Write naturally because your first goal is to provide high quality, highly useful content.

As mentioned previously in our post about the history of seo copywriting, it used to be a popular practice to work your keywords into your content as frequently as possible – even at the peril of your readability.

The focus now is to work your keywords into your content naturally because your goal is to gain readership and attract links.

If you can do this you’ll have a successful SEO campaign as well.

7. Get creative

As you’re writing your content, ask yourself if you sentences read naturally.

If not, then you need to get creative. Instead of ending a sentence and then starting a new one with the same key phrase, try to break up the keywords in a creative way.

For example, a sentence about the 10 golden rules of seo copywriting could end with “…let’s continue our discussion about the 10 golden rules.” The next sentence could begin with “SEO copywriting starts with keyword research…”

Also consider sprinkling your keywords and phrases throughout your content by using their synonyms and trying different mixtures of words.

This will help you on your way to covering more of your key phrase combinations.

8. Keep it useful, keep it brief

As a general practice you should try to edit your content and keep it brief. I am notably bad at this because I tend to blabber on about a subject. Being your own editor is a tough job.

You should shoot to keep your content concise and limit your page length.

A good practice is to keep your pages limited to around 500 words. (Yea, we’re way pat that Keep it short and break up your content into multiple pages.

A summary page with links to related pages is a good way to accomplish this.

9. Check your spelling and grammar

“I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
-Janet Minor

Your goal is to write content that’s high quality.

Part of the “high quality” equation is spelling correctly, using appropriate grammar and utilizing the appropriate words to describe what you mean. Knowing how to use punctuation properly is an added bonus too.

This will ensure that you’re respected and considering a good source for information and advice.

Do you know when to use the words “their” and “they’re”?

How often do you read your content again to double check your work? Do you have a spell checker installed to catch blatant mistakes?

Google is getting better at judging content based on spelling and proper sentence structure too; take the time to read your content again and make sure that you don’t have any spelling mistakes or sentences that read poorly.

10. Create compelling content that’s highly useful.

Nobody is going to return to your site or subscribe to your RSS feed if your content is fluff. Nobody is going to link to you if they don’t find value in your content. Google is not going to rank you well if your text is all poetic metaphor. Your content has to have some meat on it’s bones.

Your goal with SEO is to get people to link, bookmark and stay engaged with comments on your posts and interaction in your forums. To do this you must provide content that’s compelling and useful. If you’re not a wordsmith–or at the minimum–you aspire to improve, then you need to find someone who can get the job done. At the minimum you should find someone to critique your work and offer ways to improve.

Summary:

SEO copywriting is not easy. It takes time, talent, knowledge, concrete goals and a strong command of your language. Copywriting is one of the most important–if not the most important–part of SEO and you need to at least know the basics. Hopefully this tutorial will help you get started on the right path.

If you’re looking to learn more about copywriting for SEO–or writing in general, please check out Copyblogger.com and a new blog by one of my favorite bloggers: WritetoDone.com.

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