This is a step by step guide to writing SEO copy with 32 actionable tips for higher Google rankings.
Search Intent – find out what people search for
An seo copywriter may tell you to write great copy and create the best content for your target audience but I’m not going to give you vague advice.
SEO Keyword Strategy
Not everyone uses the internet to buy your products and services.
There are typically 4 stages people go through before they buy something.
This is called the buying decision process and you can use it as a template for your seo content strategy.
There are 4 things people search for that will affect the copy you’ll write.
- Alternatives, reviews and comparisons
- Purchase decisions
Search for “mens black jeans” and you’d expect to see images and links to shops for mens black jeans.
You wouldn’t expect to see ladies black jeans right ?
Google’s kinda clever eh !
Now search “web designers in Glasgow” or your city you’d see a list and map of nearby designers.
And that’s what Google has become really good at; matching the best relevant results with your query.
Ok that’s the simplified version of intent.
Here are some examples of problem searches.
- How to fix a golf slice
- Reduce inheritance tax
- fix smashed iphone screen – you’ll see different results, local repair stores, online shop results, and a how to fix a screen yourself guide.
Use a keyword tool such as Ubersuggest or Ahrefs to filter keywords with “how” or “reduce” or “fix” to find the search volume and the top pages.
Here are some examples of people making informational searches.
People type queries such as
- italian restaurants
- Dry cleaners
- Best Web Designer in Glasgow
They know what they’re looking for but are not sure of the best company or service.
Again filter keywords in your research tool with a type of service and “best” or “top”.
Evaluation of Alternative and Reviews
After people know more about a service or product they may need some help choosing between different products or services.
They are undecided in what service, product or solution to use so need help.
They will type queries such as
- ubersuggest vs ahrefs
- duda vs wordpress
- business catalyst alternative
- convertkit review
- iphone 11 review
- quickbooks review
Here are some examples of people who are searching just before they decide to buy.
- Seo cost
- Web design costs
- macbook pro price
- buy new ipad
And the vast majority of searches derive from the first 3 stages; not the purchase decision stage.
This is search intent.
Keyword Intent – find out what users want
During the keyword research stage you’ll have a good idea of what to write based on the keyword you choose.
It makes sense to write a how to guide when someone searches “how to”.
For an ecommerce site you may identify that a category page of products ranks in the top ranked pages.
So very little seo copy is required; it’s the products on the page than the user wants to browse.
Likewise it makes sense to write about your services on your service pages if the keyword you’re targeting is for example “ seo audit service
But user intent goes way deeper than keyword research and search intent.
User intent is giving users the copy and content on your page in order to satisfy them; ie: the solution or answer to their question.
It’s almost like mind reading; something many an seo content writer possesses.
Identifying user intent is the greatest copywriting technique you will acquire.Fraser McCulloch, platonik.co.uk
But understanding the user takes time but you’ll get better at it the more you do it.
Examine top page results
The long way to examining the top search results was to search the question, read all the top page titles and click and read all the top pages.
That’s a really time consuming process.
Now we use tools to help understand user intent quickly.
The easiest way to examine the top pages is with a tool called thruuu.
Enter your primary keyword into thruuu
You can quickly identify user intent by looking at the most frequent words in the page title.
However sometimes you need to read all the page titles to understand what the user wants.
Or look at the URLs.
Or even look at the h2 and h3 sections of each top page.
Before you go any further you want to write down a page title with the user intent in mind.
They searched for this, what do they want?
For example, seo copy was the main keyword for this page but the user wants to know how to get higher search rankings and traffic from Google.
Search intent or query is underlined, user intent highlighted in italics.
Knowing the user intent before I write any copy or start any copy project is perhaps one of the greatest advantages I have over my competition.
Analyse the outline or subsections of the top pages
The next step after writing the page title is to download the SERPS data from thruuu and import it into Google Sheets.
Import the spreadsheet.
Now go to the tab named H2.
Copy and paste the user driven page title you wrote into one of the blank columns.
Now scan through all the h2 headers and write down the unique headers in a separate column.
Then do the same for the h3 headers.
Then combine the h2 and h3 headers into an outline for your page.
Think about your content outline as going down a slippery slope; you start at the top and work your way to the bottom with a conclusion or call to action at the end.
Now you’re ready to write your page copy or give your outline to an seo content writer.
Go to Google Docs.
Copy your page title and make it an H1 header.
Copy and paste all your sub-headers and format them.
Now write your introduction with your main keyword in the first sentence.
This helps reduce bounce rate as it reinforces to the reader they clicked the correct page.
Some writers like to introduce the key pain point in the beginning of the copy; which is fine approach to copywriting.
For this article I could have written ” how to write seo copy when your competitors are killing you in the search engines“.
That’s a pain point right ?
But that’s not the user intent; they want “actionable seo tips“ with the outcome of higher positions in Google.
Write with one person in mind
When you write your body copy you want to visualise one person as you write.
Think about the person who would benefit most from your article or guide.
So I am thinking of you as I write this.
Short, descriptive URL that matches main search query you’re targeting Research has shown that a short url and descriptive that matches helps to better rank a web page.
So for example, if you are targeting website copy then your url should be /website-copy/.
Keep the number of words in your page url to less than 4 and do not use a month or year in the url.
Your main keyword should be near the start of your page title followed by the user intent ie: what they want.
Your meta description should have your primary keyword at the start and be fairly persuasive to encourage people to click on your result in the Google search engine.
You can use this tool to preview your page title and meta description or use Yoast for WordPress.
Title tags and meta descriptions are the only meta tags you need to worry about during the content creation process.
The heading of your web page should be wrapped with an H1 tag.
So ideally if you are targeting “seo copy” your page header will be titled “SEO Copy”.
First sentence should contain a compelling introduction
Your main keyword should be in the first sentence of your page and will be very similar to your meta description.
This helps to reinforce that the user has landed on the page they intended to visit.
You should have used h2 and h3 sub headings when you created the draft outline of your page content.
From each sub heading will flow your copy them move to your next sub heading.
It’s like mapping out chapters in a book.
Short words, shorter sentences and paragraphs
Anyone writing copy should read Dr Rudolph Flesch’s Art of Plain Talk.
In the Art of Plain Talk it was recommended you use short words, shorter sentences and paragraphs to communicate.
- Use short words
- Shorter sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Highly personal copy
Fast forward 70 years and the Yoast plugin incorporates the Flesch scoring method for web pages and posts.
Log into WordPress, look at the summary list of your posts and see how many red or amber readability scores you have.
Increase the body copy font size
When I redeveloped this website the font size of my paragraph or body font size increased from 13 points to 18 points.
I wanted to make it easier for users to read my copy on mobile devices.
My website stylesheet and WordPress theme has the ability to define different font sizes for the body, H1 to H6 headings.
Here’s a comparison between a 14 point and 18 point body font size.
Check your line and paragraph space
I have a 1rem or 16 point space between each line and a 1rem, 16 point space between each paragraph.
The paragraph space is almost the same space as a new line.
Bullet points and lists
Use bullet points and lists to keep the readers’ attention.
Use one sentence per paragraph as it’s easier to read words on a web page this way.
Make sure you have spacing between lines and paragraphs as this makes it easier for the user to read and maintain their attention.
And furthermore, bullet points in a list format sometimes earn featured snippets.
Use headers to format your page layout
Instead of cramming 3 sentences into a paragraph, have 3 sentences and 3 paragraphs.
To communicate a new paragraph use a header such as an h3, h4 or h5.
Reduce words per sentence
When your sentences extend beyond 14 words it becomes much harder to read on mobile devices.
Sentences that take up 3 lines become difficult to read as you scroll through a page.
Your sentences should not be any longer than 20 words.
One sentence per paragraph
A sentence of 14 to 20 words should be contained in one paragraph.
After you finish one sentence start a new paragraph.
Remember, we are writing copy to be read on mobile devices, tablets and computers for people who skim pages to find answers.
We’re not writing an essay for a college professor or to please a journalist or newspaper editor.
Ideally you want to add internal links to other pages on your website.
A Moz study identified the first link in the body of a page passed the most value to other pages on your website.
You want other pages with links using relevant anchor text to link to your new page as this can improve the search position of your page.
When you’ve published your page you want to identify other pages that can pass link strength to this newly published page.
There’s a few reasons to add an external link on your page; the main reason being the power of association.
An external link may help a search engine better understand your page.
Make sure that you optimise your images before adding them to your web page.
Use file save for the web with Photoshop or upload your image to TinyPNG.com who will compress your image without losing image quality.
Site speed is just one small ranking factor and large unoptimised images are definitely guilty in slowing down a page.
Written testimonials are great additions to a service page, home page or product page but little place else.
Always include testimonials in your copy.
People find it easier to believe the endorsement of a fellow consumer than the puffery of a copywriter.
David Ogilvy Sometimes your entire page copy can be a testimonial.
On my own service page I’ve dropped a few testimonials.
And how genuine are testimonials anyway ?
Use Facts and Data
Tell the truth and make it fascinating.
You’ve heard the expression, the best place to bury a body is on page 2 of the Google search engine
This is a search engine optimisation urban myth.
However, in some research I’ve done of 100 random websites, they earn, on average, 11% of their organic traffic from page 2 positions.
That’s an interesting fact no one, to date, has communicated.
Images and videos
David Ogilvy recommends using one person photography rather than illustrations to accompany copy.
That’s me buggered then !
I try to utilise screenshots to outline the instructions I recommend in my articles.
Add the primary keyword in your alt image tag; to help with image visibility.
Write for people who scan and skim copy
When you analyse user studies of people visiting web pages you will see that they quickly scan up and down the page.
People have a short attention span but once they find an important element, a phrase, heading, image or other element they will stop then read the page in full.
Length of copy
It depends on the product, service or article but the rule of thumb is the more you tell the more you sell.
Research shows readership falls off rapidly up to 50 words of copy.
But little drops off between 50 and 500 words.
In split tests, long copy outsells short copy Some web pages are very simple and do not require many words; like ecommerce category pages, contact pages and home pages.
Sometimes a few visuals and bullet points are the search results and users require.
However, research by Brian Dean has shown that pages that rank in the top 10 search results have 1890 words on average.
My average page copy is around 3400 words.
I have an 18,000 word blog post that ranks for over 1,000 search queries and delivers over 1,000 organic visits per month.
The original version of this page was 1700 words; the second version was 3900 words and this version, so far, is around 3000 words.
Call to action
The call to action and its position will vary depending on the page format and user intent.
Notice on this service landing page I have a “Download Sample Report” above the page fold.
I get a 10% conversion rate on this service page.
I felt this was a better call to action than “free consultation”.
Whereas on this long form how to article, the call to action is further down the page and repeated multiple times and I get a 12% conversion rate on my website structure blog post.
Using writing tools for content creation
When I’ve completed the draft of my copy, then I like to ensure that my copy is similar to the top ranked pages.
There’s various copy optimisation software that an seo content writer will use.
- SEMRush Writing Assistant
- Page Optimizer Pro Frase.io
I prefer the latter.
Frase.io is not a free tool but after you register to create a copy project you can optimise 5 articles.
Here’s how I use the tool to improve my seo copywriting.
Login and create a new document.
Enter the main keyword you are targeting.
Copy and paste your copy from Google Docs
Select your country and create a document.
will then analyse your copy with the top ranking pages in the search engine.
You’ll get a semantic similarity score eg: 41% or 78% You will see a list of words and phrases you’ve not included in grey.
You will see some words and phrases you need to mention more often in orange (a bit like keyword density).
Then read over your document again whilst considering where you can include some of these missing copy elements.
Now this does take time.
Generally speaking I’ll spend about 2 hours optimising my copy.
The aim is to get your topic score close to 100%.
Now you may spend less time optimising copy than me.
I’m not great with the written word and I’m definitely not a copywriter but I know my subject matter well.
And what this copy tool does is allow you to write your page copy with complete freedom and in your own style then tidy up and optimise your copy later.
If you’re unsure how to incorporate some of the missing phrases into your copy, just click on one grey or orange phrase and you’ll see the context of that phrase used in other articles.
Copy Editing Complete
When you have completed the editing of your copy, then you can add it to your content management system.
- You can share the document with colleagues
- Or you can export in html, Word or PDF format.
- Or copy paste into your CMS
Tools like Yoast only help with basic elements of SEO
After you have edited and approved your copy, then you will add it to your CMS.
If you use WordPress you’ll probably use the plugin to check the readability score.
But if you follow the above steps you won’t have any problems with poor scores.
SEO Copywriting Case Studies
Here are a few case studies that demonstrate the monetary value of SEO copy.
Blog post I wrote generates organic traffic worth £25,000
This first case study is great example of seo copy adding business value.
For just one web page.
Competitor’s top 10 pages generate organic traffic worth $1.44 million a year
The final case study is from a competitors.
The numbers I’ve quoted are the estimated organic traffic value of their pages found using Ahrefs.
These figures are the equivalent advertising costs the website owners would pay Google to generate this traffic.
Website traffic has a monetary value; you pay Google for clicks to your website or you pay in time and resources to earn the traffic organically.
What I don’t know is the actual revenue these websites generate from the traffic.
We could always ask them !
The Outcome – improved conversion rate and build your email list
I don’t do research and write copy because I enjoy it.
My aim is to educate prospects and persuade them to join my email list.
As a result I boost my conversion rates
To sum up
To attain higher rankings with these SEO tips, you don’t need to be a seo copywriter.
- have product knowledge
- do keyword research using the buying framework
- understand user intent
- use modern AI SEO software to optimise for search that aids high quality content.