Not so long ago SEO copywriting simply meant mentioning a slew of keywords often enough so search engine algorithms could ‘tell’ what a web page was about. The resulting content was often horribly artificial, focusing on search engines rather than readers. And it wasn’t much fun for copywriters either. No self-respecting freelance writer enjoys writing rubbish.
Thankfully, the focus has changed, moving away from what search engines need and putting readers first. Having said that, we still need to include keywords because search engine algorithms still use words to decode a web page’s subject, intent and purpose. So what does writing for SEO mean in late 2014?
What does SEO actually mean?
Since so many people still seem confused about what SEO is and isn’t, here are the overall goals of search engine optimisation:
- To construct technically brilliant site that delivers a great user experience
- To allow search engines to understand the site’s hierarchy
- To enable search engines to classify and index the site’s content accurately
Search engine optimisation is not just a collection of onsite optimisation actions. It’s an ongoing process. It’s essential to embrace it, embedding it into your digital marketing strategy, tactics and plans from the very earliest stages of the site’s design and carrying on as the site develops.
Google constantly updates its ranking algorithms. Experts estimate around 500- 600 changes are made every year to the rules they use to assess web pages and sites. So it’s absolutely essential to be aware of the changes and their potential impact.
It’s also an important SEO requirement to identify the target audience and the language they use (ie. the keywords) when searching the interweb for stuff like yours. Whatever your business, products or services, your first step is thorough keyword research, followed by mapping of the keywords to relevant web pages. Then you hand your keyword findings over to me to include in your content.
What is ‘writing for SEO’ in 2014?
As someone who provides copywriting services, I’ve been disturbed to hear several digital marketers (who should know better) saying that keywords ‘aren’t important any more’. What rubbish. I’ve also come across digital marketers who still believe they have to stuff as many keywords in as possible or even include a certain percentage of keywords, for example 8%. This is equally misguided, revealing they’re stuck in the past instead of constantly updating their SEO knowledge.
Whatever anyone else may say, keywords are still king. Google itself says this: “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.” You can’t get much clearer than that.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update makes things even more interesting. Thanks to Hummingbird, using the kind of real life, plain language search queries people speak into their smartphones – the phrases and questions people use in perfectly naturally in voice search – comes with real SEO benefits as well as making life much easier for people looking for very specific information. Take the question, “What’s the latest new TV technology?”, for example. When you use the question in a web page or blog post and answer it for people, you fulfil the exact desire they’ve expressed.
At first sight some questions are more valuable than others to marketers and content creators. It’s all about audience intent. But look closer and you realise that it’s a great idea to answer all kinds of questions, across every point in the sales funnel.
Making the most of the audience intent conveyed by organic search queries
People often convey intent via the search queries they use. When you use queries loaded with intent in your web page copy or blog posts, you tap directly into the questions real people are actually asking. And answering them fulfil’s people’s needs at that particular stage in the sales funnel.
- Informational Queries – People looking for information are less likely to be on the cusp of buying. They want answers to their questions first. If your answers engage people at this early stage in the buying process, who then feel they can trust you because you know your onions, you increase the likelihood they’ll come back to you when they’re ready to buy. Do it well enough and you might even short-cut the buying process, with them making a purchase earlier than they otherwise might have.
- Navigational Queries – Navigational search queries tend to mean people simply want to find a resource, for example a business or a specific website. But they’re still valuable. When you include navigational queries and keywords in your overall keyword strategy, you make sure your site is optimised for brand and domain name-related searches. If your competitors haven’t done it, you’re at an instant SEO advantage.
- Transactional Queries – Transactional search queries clearly convey intent, whether it’s to buy something or carry out a specific task. For example “download Breaking Bad”. The searcher’s intent couldn’t be clearer – they want to download a specific TV series. Obviously if you run an ecommerce site you need to optimise your content for queries like this, which clearly signal the intent to buy… and buy now!
Still lost in SEO space?
Some digital marketers seem to be just as lost in space about keywords and SEO as ever, despite SEO being around for 15 years or so. I really don’t understand why it causes such confusion. If you want the real story, from the horse’s mouth, it’s probably best to take your lead from Google itself, since it’s still Britain’s favourite search engine. I’ve provided some useful links below.
- Follow this link to Google’s SEO help pages
- Here’s a link to their SEO starter guide
- Here’s a link to Moz’s list of Google’s major algorithm updates and what they mean to marketers