You don’t need to be told that search engines can be a great traffic driver for your website! They help make your site discoverable to potential readers interested in your articles, increasing your overall traffic, pageviews, and revenue.
Optimizing your content so it’s easily found on search engines like Google and Bing is both an art and a science.
Ultimately, you want to create content that search engines will rank highly (most people don’t click past the first page of search results!) that will also engage your readers when they come to your site.
This post is your cheat sheet for doing just that!
AdThrive Publisher-Exclusive content unlocked!
How can your content engage your users and Google algorithms?
You’ve built your website and your audience through hard work and passion, writing about the things you love. And we’re not here to change that.
SEO copywriting, the practice of creating great content that is useful both to people and to search engines, is just another tool in your arsenal. When applied correctly, you get content that Google will understand and that will engage your readers.
SEO copywriting means taking into account the way people might find your content — the terms they would search on Google and the intent behind their search.
For example, imagine you have an article with a great recipe for blueberry pie. It’s easy, only has a handful of ingredients, and your kids love it. Your article might be relevant to people searching for any number of keywords, including:
- Blueberry pie recipe
- Easy dessert recipes
- Fruit desserts
- Pie recipes
- Kid-friendly dessert recipes
- Dessert recipes with few ingredients
So how do you choose where to focus your content?
SEO copywriting is about a lot more than “keyword density”, or just peppering your article with target keywords a certain number of times. Today’s search engines are smarter than that, and your readers are sophisticated enough to know when an article was written just to be stuffed with keywords.
Instead, it’s about thinking like a search engine…
What is the most relevant article to show a user who searches for “easy dessert recipes”?
…and like a potential reader…
I need a dessert I can make quickly with ingredients I have on hand!
In the case where someone has searched for “easy dessert recipes”, the most relevant article is one that shows how easy it is to make the dessert — a few, readily available ingredients, short steps, and minimal cleanup.
Storytelling for SEO
You may think that writing about your favorite recipe and giving the instructions is pretty straightforward, but in order to rank highly in search results, you also need to tell a compelling story throughout your content.
Content structure: The Inverted Pyramid
Writing for SEO success starts with structuring your content the right way.
You can grab your readers’ attention with the “Inverted Pyramid” style of writing, with the most important information at the top.
Journalists have long relied on the Inverted Pyramid to convey the most important information quickly. The first paragraph contains the most critical information about the topic (who, where, what, why, how), while subsequent paragraphs share your story’s remaining details, from most to least important.
The next important aspect of your article’s structure is the format of the article. Is it a Q&A with an expert? A series of images? A step-by-step guide? A recipe?
Search engines have volumes of data that show the types of articles people searching a keyword tend to click on, and they rank those types the highest.
For example, if you’re optimizing an article to rank highly for the keyword “blueberry pie”, see what Google is showing for that search term. If all of the top search results for “blueberry pie” are recipes, you should probably include a recipe in your article as well.
But maybe Google has discovered that people are often looking for something else for the search term “blueberry pie” — like nutrition information, or where they can buy blueberry pies nearby — and is showing other formats in the results as well. That’s great info to have as you set out to create your content!
It can sound like SEO copywriting is simply making your article look and sound like the rest of the high-ranking articles out there. Not so!
The secret sauce of search engine optimization is finding your unique voice or take on a topic so your content adds new value to what’s out there in the world.
This may mean having a news hook for your article that makes it timely and relevant or referencing newly released sources. Or it could be having a different take on the best way to bake your blueberry pie, the best blueberries to use, or the right pan to put it in.
Every piece of successful content incorporates some new angle. For example, there’s a common anecdote in Hollywood that when the creators of the movie “Speed” pitched it to studios, they said it was “Die Hard on a bus.” Similarly, there was a time when it seemed every new startup claimed it was the “Uber of [insert category].”
Figure out your article’s angle and shape your content (including SEO features like title and meta-description) around it.
What goes into your SEO content?
Once you know your content structure, format, and angle, it’s time to consider what should go into your post.
Craft irresistible and valuable headlines
It all starts with the headline!
Make it irresistible so your readers HAVE to click, and valuable so the reader knows what they will learn from your article right away. A reader should be able to get the gist of your article by skimming the headlines and subheadings throughout the article.
Create organized, easy-to-read content
Second only to having a powerful headline is creating content that’s easy-to-read and clearly organized.
You can give a summary of your article at the top, incorporate key takeaways into each section, number your sections or include subheadings throughout the article to help guide your readers. Whatever structure your article takes, make sure it’s clear and easy to understand for people and search engines alike.
It’s also important to ensure your text is readable and free of errors. Tools like Grammarly can help you automate the editing process.
Cover target keywords, topics, and related questions
While you don’t want to overburden your content with primary, secondary, and longtail keywords, you do want to make your article relevant to the reader and easily understandable to search engines.
Be sure to address the target keywords you hope to rank for and the topics that are related to them. But also, be careful not to “keyword stuff” — search engines penalize articles that are all keywords and no content!
Find and answer questions that people ask
Every keyword has related secondary keywords and questions that people tend to ask about the topic.
When it comes to baking blueberry pie, for instance, the most commonly asked questions might be around the best types of blueberries to use, the different styles of pie by region, how to make their pie less runny, if using frozen blueberries is ok, etc.
Including those questions in your article itself can help your article be more valuable and a greater resource to more potential readers. Google also scrapes sites for these types of questions and presents them in a “People also ask” featured result, which can bring more traffic to your site.
Identify and map search intent
As SEO expert Marie Haynes writes, “Optimizing for user intent comes down to two things:
1. Figuring out what users who come to your pages are wanting to find.
2. Making your content the best option for users.”
In 2019, Google introduced the first major change to its algorithm in years, BERT, which stands for “bidirectional encoder representations from transformers”. To translate, BERT is Google’s approach to natural language processing (NLP) to understand what people are searching for when they type in a particular set of keywords or a query.
With BERT, Google favors content that “fully meets” the needs of a searcher — that is, articles that provide a “complete and perfect response or answer, so that no other results are necessary for all or almost all users to be fully satisfied.”
When considering which keywords to optimize for, think about the searcher’s intent — what he or she is really looking for — and offer it in a clear, valuable way.
Include interesting visuals
While search engines’ visual recognition lags behind text analysis, it is rapidly evolving.
Add value to your post by including visuals like images, illustrations, and videos that help your readers understand your article. If you’re stumped on what to include, think about the visuals that would have been useful to you if you were just starting to learn about the topic, then create those.
And you can help search engines understand your images by including descriptive alt-text. Remember that alt text’s primary purpose is web accessibility (allowing visually impaired readers to understand your images through screen readers), but it can also be useful for SEO.
On-page SEO copywriting
So far, we’ve discussed how to structure your article and what to include in the content to make it the best it can be for readers and search engines. There are also some very specific elements and tactics you can employ to help your article rank for your target keywords.
A meta description is an HTML element (often called a “tag”) of a webpage that describes and summarizes the contents of the page for users and search engines. Meta descriptions are important because they will show up below the title and URL of your article in search results.
Best practices for meta descriptions:
- Keep it concise. Each search engine is a little bit different, but Google will show 140-160 characters.
- Make it compelling. Be sure to describe your page in a way that will entice a searcher to click, and include relevant keywords. SEMrush has a great article on how to use meta descriptions strategically.
- Make every page’s meta description different. SEMrush’s on-site SEO study found that nearly 30% of sites had duplicate meta descriptions (and 25% had pages with no meta description at all, which is a real missed opportunity).
Also known as “header tags”, these help separate the content of your page into sections. They typically go from H1 to H6, with H1 being most important (usually the article’s title).
Heading tags provide readers and search engines with an outline of your content, so they get the gist of what the article is about at a glance. They also provide structure to your article, making it easier to read.
Check out this article you’re reading now, for example. We’ve included H2 headings for each major section of the article, with H3 headings to label subtopics within each section.
Search engines also analyze your article’s URL to understand its contents. Make sure your URL “slug” (the section of the URL after your domain name) is as descriptive and simple as possible and incorporates your main keyword. For example, this article’s slug is “optimizing-content-for-seo”.
Schema (see Schema.org) is a set of tags you can add to your website to help search engines return more informative, rich results. Among the least-used SEO boosters, schema markup helps search engines understand the relationship among items included on your webpage.
The main types of schema markup include Articles, Events, Products, People, Reviews, and Recipes. By including schema markup in your article, you are teaching the search engine what type of page it is and how to show rich snippets (like the recipe below displaying ratings) in the search results.
How to optimize content using Topic
At AdThrive, we have spent months working to develop the right solution to help our publishers grow their audience. Part of that solution is an integration with SEO optimization tool, Topic, which is currently in Beta and will be rolling out more broadly this fall.
Topic uses AI to help you optimize your on-site SEO and streamline everything about your content creation process.
Want early access to the AdThrive / Topic tool?
To be added to the waitlist for our beta, fill out the form below!
Here’s your cheat sheet for SEO copywriting:
- Plan. Start with a content brief — we’ve got a full guide for creating a stellar content brief right here! When your content strategy is on point, you (and any team members) are set up for success.
- Research. Dive into your keyword research and review competitive content.
- Write. Draft your article using your content outline. Remember to include the outline headings as H2s and H3s to give your article structure!
- Grade. Copy and paste your article draft into Topic to see an assessment of the content’s hypothetical SEO Grade.
- Enhance. Filter the “Topics to Cover” report to show unused topics and group these topics by semantic similarity. Identify areas of content from the list that you would like to include in your article and add them to your outline.
6. Revise. Update your article, now addressing these additional items.
7. Repeat. Walk through steps 4–7 until you are happy with your final draft and SEO Grade.
8. Finalize. Complete your SEO checklist (e.g. metadata, header tags) and publish your post!
Your Content Optimization roadmap
Module 1: Building a content plan and content strategy
- Develop a content strategy that drives results
- Identify and understand your target audience with personas
Module 2: SEO best practices
- Find the perfect search keywords for your target audience
- Create a content brief for great SEO
- Craft compelling content for search with SEO copywriting [You are here!]
Module 3: Measuring your success