According to GMU Online, the challenge is to write smarter and become SEO-savvy by creating compelling and engaging content that will not only appeal to readers but that will simultaneously be optimised for search engine results.
As a content writer or copywriter, you are no longer only writing for readers (a target audience), you are also writing for Google – a demanding and ever-changing external force. This requires fortitude and nuanced skills.
Wearing two hats
As a content writer, you need to get your head around these dual expectations, and for that, you will need to wear two hats. The success of your online business or e-commerce store will require more than just writing good content.
Your strategy includes two main goals:
1. Appeal and resonate with the end-user: your customers, clients, prospective audiences and target readers.
2. Solve a particular problem or answer a search query – keywords.
By wearing two hats – the hat of ‘creative writer’ and the hat of ‘keyword/SEO copywriter’ – you will not only be writing killer content, but you will see the results in your Google rankings. When a user types a term or phrase into a search engine, a list of websites will magically appear that will ‘match’ – or are relevant to – the specific search query keywords inserted. This matchmaking service is dependent on SEO.
Writing for SEO means optimising your content for search engines to make sure your website ranks higher than others for the same targeted keywords or search terms and phrases.
When a blog is more than just a blog
Blogs are probably one of the biggest ways of connecting with customers and audiences, and they are your biggest chunks of online content. But when it comes to optimising your blog content within the kingdom of SEO, there are helpful plugin tools that will ‘audit’ your blog for effective use of targeted keywords – making sure your site content meets the highest SEO standards (Squirrly and Yoast are two of the big names).
These tools do not care how good your blog is, (they are not Grammarly), they just care how often and strategically the relevant keyword combinations are spread throughout your article so that your blog can rank. They are two of Google’s matchmaking minions, behind the scenes, detecting and analysing.
Your reader, on the other hand, does care how well written and engaging your blog is, and they don’t want to stumble over ill-placed, clumsy and over-used keyword terms randomly placed throughout an article. The tension, as a content writer, is having to please two masters, and both are hard taskmasters.
Woven through your inspired blog copy needs to be these technical little search terms, and they need to fit into the sentences and phrases as naturally, creatively and organically as possible. That takes skill.
The devil is in the detail…always
As a copywriter, before you can even think of putting ‘pen to paper’ with inspirational content, you are embroiled in a fact-finding mission that involves attention to detail, and that means you have to become a keyword collector. Because your content is so much more than just content – your first call of duty is collecting highly-effective keywords. Basically, you need to become a ‘keyword junkie’ – that is the price you pay when writing for SEO. This requires research and data collection.
How do you figure out what keywords and search terms your potential customers are using? This is one of the key pieces of the SEO puzzle.
- Be tech-savvy: use free keyword generator tools, such as Google Trends and Google Search Console to help you determine your optimal keyword list, check your indexing status and optimise visibility of your website. (Also take advantage of Google autocomplete and Google Adwords Planner). Hubspot’s content strategy tool will help you plan your SEO strategy and optimise your content.
- Be a networker: ask your friends, employees, customers and potential customers – those familiar with your business, service or product – what questions they need answered, what topics are trending for them, and what problems they need solving.
- Be a social butterfly: social media channels are a wonderful place to hang out, (even if you are an introvert), where you can find out the best keyword search terms you need to be focusing on. Facebook’s graph search tool allows you to find out what is trending and what people are searching for, and Twitter’s search functionality lets you in on trending topics, keywords and hashtags.
As search engines crawl your site, they are programmed and on the prowl to index pages based on the keywords to help determine the purpose of the content. This affects rankings, and that directly impacts your content and copy.
Copy, SEO and action
In moviemaking, lights + camera + action = the super trio of celebrity success. But in the world of digital technology and performance marketing, the equation is copy + SEO + action = the super trio of content success. If you want to push out killer content that will achieve your action goals, then this is your magic formula.
Your action goals (CTAs) are to convert customers – to get them to take some action that will benefit you and them. That could be awareness (getting them to visit your website), subscribing, liking, sharing, requesting a quote, adding to cart, buying, donating, etc.
The means of these action goals is your content and SEO combo. Once your keyword collection data is sorted, then, and only then, can the fun begin – you can start writing. You now get to find your voice, your muse and your writing mojo – you get to write your story, (which will, of course, include strategically placed keywords). We are all wired for story – it is primal to our human make-up. As a content writer, you need to tell a good story, whether your role or focus is informer, persuader or influencer.
SEO keywords and technical search terms need to be couched in the wonder of creative storytelling, and as a wordsmith, this is where you live and breathe. Your reader may well be searching for a solution, an answer, a product or a service, but they are looking to find that within the world of story. Once they click on your ranked link (because you did your SEO homework), they are wanting to emotionally connect with the credibility and trustworthiness of your brand beyond the keyword search – that is what will make a difference, and that is what will make your website content stand out above that of your competitors.
Power of a story
You may be writing content for SEO, but you are actually writing content for people. Show them respect by ensuring your content is excellent, authoritative, substantial and relevant. As you take the user on a journey, your words need to capture their imagination, allowing them to connect with your brand story as they connect with your product or service.
This ‘content packaging’ will hopefully be leading the user to an action goal and to your cart. Besides being a blogging wizard, you also need to be on top of on-page optimisation and make it a constant priority.
On-page optimisation (aka on-page SEO/on-site SEO) means optimising your individual website:
- To help search engines understand your website and its content.
- To help search engines identify whether your website is relevant to a search query.
- To rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines.
All the content on your website needs to be high quality and relevant (not just blogs) – this includes page titles and category descriptions, headers, meta descriptions, titles, as well as alt text for images. When all these aspects are creatively optimised for SEO, your website’s visibility will improve in search results. It is simple cause and effect, and Google always rewards high-quality content.
Effective on-page SEO will result in users not bouncing, but continuing to view and interact with the content on your website. They will stay a while. Helpful tip: the aim of text optimisation should always be to create content that is not only built around one keyword, but that covers term combinations and entire keyword clouds in the best possible way.
Google Analytics – the proof of the pudding
When writing content for SEO, Google Analytics is the Big Friendly Giant of the performance marketing world. It is an invaluable tool to guide your content strategy, telling you the good, the bad and the ugly. It will be the left brain messenger giving you scientific insights on what is working and what isn’t and how to optimise your website, campaigns and content.
Google Analytics is a free tool tailor-made to help you refine your content, increase your audience and keep them engaged, and improve your rankings and drive sales. There are many factors at play and you need to know which questions to ask and which metrics to consult. As a content writer writing for SEO, we suggest you sign up for Google Analytics 101 ASAP or else make good friends with someone who really understands the ins and outs of Google Analytics.
Google Analytics can give you insights on how much organic SEO traffic your website is getting and where that traffic is coming from, which keywords are driving traffic to your website and to a particular page, and where to concentrate your SEO efforts going forward.