SEO copywriting, as I’ve said before, is a bit of a misnomer: All good copywriting should already be some degree of SEO copywriting. But, that said, there are still a few steps to take that can make your copy—and more often your content—more likely to show up on a search engine results page. Use this SEO copywriting guide as a checklist as you’re writing and to check your work before submitting it to a client.
SEO Copywriting Checklist
You’ve likely heard the term “SEO copywriter” or seen it in job postings. To make sure we’re on the same page, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Organizations focus on SEO when they want a particular piece of content to rank at the top of the search engine results. (And by search engine, we’re talking Google since they still get the vast majority of traffic.)
For example, if you’re writing an article for a pet magazine about the best raincoats for dogs, you want that piece to appear at the top of search engine results page, otherwise known as the SERP. So, if someone searches “best raincoats for dogs,” you’d want your blog post to show within the first few results (otherwise, it’s unlikely anyone will see it to click it!).
It used to be that SEO copywriting meant just jamming as many keywords into an article as possible, with the end result that it usually sounded absurd.
Today, SEO copywriting is almost an unnecessary term. Good copywriting should automatically incorporate the kinds of words that people would naturally use (and search for) regarding a topic. And plenty of copywriting—banner ads, emails, to name just two mediums—doesn’t involve SEO at all!
When it comes to content writing (e.g. blog posts), there is more opportunity to focus on SEO. First, the piece is longer, so you’re likely to have subheads and larger chunks of text compared to many copywriting pieces.
However, to make your copy or content even more appealing for search engines, there are a few specific SEO copywriting best practices to use.
1. Choose One, Impactful Keyword/Phrase for the Page/Post
Don’t try to make a page rank (show up on a search engine results page) for a bunch of different terms; choose the one word/phrase that’s most important and focus your efforts on that one.
Also, when you use it, use it in exactly the same way. For example, if your keywords are “men’s sherpa-lined slippers,” don’t vary it by also using “men’s slippers” or even “men’s sherpa slippers.” You can use those in the post, but you may not get credit for those in your SEO score.
2. Put Your Keyword(s) in the First Paragraph of the Copy
This one is pretty straightforward: use your keyword in the first paragraph, and as close to the beginning as possible. The algorithms for search engines are mysterious, but the tips for good SEO copywriting aren’t.
3. Put the Keyword(s) in the H1 and SEO Title
Your keyword or keyword phrase should be in the H1 Title (the title of the page when someone clicks through), as well as in the SEO title (the title that shows up on the search engine results page). Your SEO title, sometimes referred to as meta title, and your page/post title do not have to be the same. They may be very similar, but it’s your chance to provide more information to search engines about your piece of content.
As with the first paragraph, aim to include keywords at the beginning of the title. This may not always be possible, but it’s worth trying for.
You should only ever have one H1. Each of your subheadings within the piece (if you have any) are H2s.
4. Put the Keyword(s) in at Least One Subhead
If your copy/content has subheadings, try to put your keyword in one of them, too. This isn’t absolutely necessary, particularly if you have a very short piece of content, but it can certainly help with your page ranking.
5. Get the Keyword Ratio Right
For best results, aim to get your keyword(s) in your post/copy two or three times per 400 words. Any more and search engines are going to ding you for keyword stuffing.
6. Put the Keyword in the Description
Meta descriptions are special tags within the code that designate copy as important for search engines. This is the copy that often shows up as somewhat of a “preview” on the search engine results page.
If someone is searching for say “SEO copywriting guide,” then it’s crucial the meta description includes that term and expands on what the post is so a user knows whether that’s the piece of content worth clicking on to answer their question.
Even if you’re not working within your client’s content management system (CMS), you can still provide this to your clients within your copy doc. Simply format your copy doc like this:
SEO PAGE TITLE
PAGE TITLE (H1)
After this, you can format your copy doc as you normally would. It can also be helpful to flag any subheads for your clients as H2, H3, etc. For example, on this page, “SEO copywriting checklist” and “Watch More” are H2s. They are subheads within the piece. Each of the 12 tips for SEO copywriting are H3s, because they fall under the SEO copywriting checklist H2.
7. Keep the Meta Title and Descriptions the Right Lengths
For best results, keep your meta description length around 150 characters and your meta title under 55 characters. Remember that these characters include spaces! Too much more copy and text will be truncated or search engines may skip using this text and pull from your content instead.
8. Put the Keyword(s) in the URL
If you have any influence over what the page/post’s URL will be, try to include the keyword(s) in that URL. So, in our slipper’s example, the ideal scenario would be something like “https://www.jimsshoeshop.com/mens-sherpa-lined-slippers.”
9. Eliminate Stop Words in the URL
Again, if you can influence the URL, be sure to eliminate unnecessary words in it, also referred to as “stop words.” These are the most common words in the English language. And, while there’s no definitive list, you can safely take out words like “the,” “is,” “at,” “and,” “for,” etc.
10. Include Images and Videos
Pages with images tend to rank higher in search engine results. Even if you can’t include an image within the post, choose an image to be the “featured image”—this will show up when the link is posted/shared on Facebook and some other types of social media.
If you have relevant videos that you can embed on the page, that’s an added bonus. As video increasingly becomes the preferred medium for content consumption, Google is prioritizing webpages that include video.
11. Include the Keyword(s) in the Alt Description
Because it can sometimes take longer for images to load than copy, all images can have an “alt description”—copy that shows up in place of the image until it loads. This alt description should be short and straightforward and describe the image. When possible, it should include the keyword(s). But, as with everything when it comes to writing for SEO, you want it to sound natural.
12. Include Links
Links to both pages/posts on the same site and links to other, authoritative site help to show your page and site’s legitimacy. Include at least one link in each page/post.
If you’re linking to a page other than your client’s site, make sure that link opens in a new window (if you’re helping your client on the back end) or make sure your client knows to have that link open in a new window. If you’re keeping users on your site, it’s fine for links to open in that window. But if you’re driving traffic away from the site, you don’t want them to abandon your site all together! So, have that content open in a new tab.
On episode 93 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are digging deeper into the SEO copywriting myth. Find out why some (misguided) job postings include “SEO copywriter” in the description, why there’s so much more to SEO than keywords (think: site speed, mobile usability, and other technical aspects), and how you can provide top-performing copy without having to learn the ins and outs of SEO (and, trust us, there are a lot of ins and outs!).
What questions do you have about SEO copywriting that we haven’t yet answered? What else do you want in this SEO copywriting guide? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on September 18, 2023