The beginner’s guide to SEO copywriting

A lot of metrics and factors go into an SEO campaign but, increasingly, savvy marketers are realizing the importance of strong content.

Content marketing is a relatively new discipline but there is a proliferation of articles that cover best practice, can’t fail link building techniques and methods to build buzz around your articles, blog posts and white papers using everything from your own website to influential bloggers and social media platforms.  To get that momentum going, you first need strong content. If you’re not a confident writer or you’re new to copywriting for SEO purposes, where do you start? Right here with our beginner’s guide to SEO copywriting…

What is copywriting?

Before we delve into what makes good copy, let’s think about what copywriting actually is. Simply put, copywriting is part science, part art. Good copywriting is the act of creating compelling content and formulating words and messages in a way that resonates with the target audience. Many SEO and marketing companies will have their own in-house team of crack wordsmiths but, you can learn the basics and create effective copy yourself. In addition to the words themselves, copywriting also involves a lot of strong tactic formulation and strategy development

Copywriting is everywhere and is not restricted to web page content or a lengthy blog post. It’s in every promotional material that you see: from billboards and advertisements to brochures, social media posts and even email marketing subject lines. The thing that differentiates it from other kinds of writing (such as editorial or review writing) is that the main purpose of copywriting is to call people to action. When a reader finishes reading your copy, they should take the desired action. Think of this as the final part of your copywriting process. Your words lead the reader on a journey, then they take the final step themselves. The desired action will vary depending on the purpose and format of your copy but could include making a phone call, adding to basket, subscribing to a newsletter, liking a post or sharing with others.

So now that we have an idea of what copywriting is, let’s delve deeper into the anatomy of good copy.

Extensive research is key

The word research is usually correlated with endless sifting through keyword reports and Analytics data. This is an important prelude to copywriting but your pre-writing research doesn’t stop there.

When you’re promoting a product or service, you need to be able to describe your product perfectly. If you’re writing about a topic important to the industry, you need to be well informed. If you’re creating social media copy, you need to research the types of content and subject matter that your audience best responds to. If you’re creating copy for a web page, you need to know which keywords to include.

In addition to the hard facts about your product, service or blog topic, you also need to take note of what will make your piece of copy unique, what benefits the reader will take away from it and what makes your take on the topic, or product, better than anything else out there.

Research doesn’t just stop with what you’re promoting, it’s also done in relation to the people you’re supposed to be promoting to. Again, if you own the business and are writing the copy, you should have an idea about your target audience and what makes them tick. If you don’t have first hand experience of the product or the subject, you need to know who the copy will cater to, which consumers you are catering to and what action you want your reader to take when they get to the end of your hard thought out prose. Whether you’re writing for a business website, blog or social media channel, you’ll also need to know what kind of people are already buying the product or service. Who else would possibly buy the product? What is it about the product the customer appreciates and what do they dislike? What features or issues matter most to the end user? What are their pain points or buying triggers? Once you know these things, your research is done and you’re ready to start writing the body of your copy.

Killer headlines

The headline is arguably even more important than the bulk of your content. It has one of the most important jobs: it captures the attention of the reader and pushes them to read at least the first paragraph, if not the whole article.

It might be the smallest or shortest part of the copy but the pressure of killer headline writing looms large and it’s one thing that many copywriters will admit to struggling with. You’ve likely seen click-bait articles and even been guilty of clicking through to read a post based on a really intriguing headline. This is great if you’re wanting traffic to your blog but this type of headline is not always appropriate. If you’re writing a piece about a product or service, perhaps to go on a business blog, your title should not only grab the reader’s attention, it should be informative as well.

How exactly do you do this? Try these tips:

  • Not a big fan of beating around the bush? Try a headline that is direct and to the point. This works better for announcements like, “Discounts of Up to 50% — Visit our Online Store Now!”
  • If you’re fond of click-bait titles, opt for a more indirect headline. The trick here is to make the reader curious. Link baits work because the titles pique reader interest by raising a question that only the content can answer.
  • Write a headline that demands a customer takes action. For a CTA to be effective, your words must be strong and to the point. Choose the first words with care and ensure your choice of phrase is strong enough to command the attention needed to then provoke the desired action.
  • Try using a question for your headline. This is a tricky one to get right because you must choose a question that your readers can also relate to.
  • ‘How To’ headlines work almost every time. Just make sure that you’re able to explain the processes clearly, and that the reader has genuinely  learnt to do something by the time they reach the end of the article. Your readers will know if they’ve been cheated, so always make sure to deliver what is promised.

A good headline gives the reader an insight into what they will get from the rest of your content.  On the flip side, it’s important to keep in mind that a compelling headline is useless if the content itself does not deliver.

Write compelling content

We’ve learnt that headlines get the first sentence of your content read but what happens next? Once you have hooked the reader with a powerful headline, each subsequent sentence needs to retain that interest and guide the reader through to the end of your text.

There is no fixed structure in copywriting but there are techniques you can use to make your copy compelling and persuasive.

Here’s what you need to remember:

Writing compelling content takes more than just creativity. You need to know what matters to your reader. Understand how they use your product or service or why they would be interested in your text. What are they looking to get in return for the time it takes to read your copy?

Use everything that you know about your customer or the reader when writing your content. If you keep this information to hand when you begin the writing process, you’ll find that the structure flows much more easily. By understanding what the reader – or your customer – wants from your copy, you’ll find it much easier to structure your words and craft copy that does the job it’s intended for. Try these tips when you begin work on the main body of your copy:

  • Give each paragraph a purpose. If you’re writing about a product for example use the opening paragraph to tell the reader what they’re in for. This is where you’ll introduce your product or service. In the following paragraphs, you should be able to tell your readers what they will get from choosing your solution.. What makes you unique? What are the benefits of spending money with you rather than elsewhere?
  • One way to be able to relate with the customer experience is to tell a story. Stir up emotion with a narration that your reader can relate to.
  • You may use data like statistics or testimonials to support your claims of being the best – these could be placed early on in the text to hook the reader or used at the end for a strong finish.
  • Finish with an offer such as a free trial or money back guarantee. This shows your confidence in the product and suggests to the reader that they have nothing to lose.

Of course, this structure won’t be a good fit for all copy. If you’re writing a brochure the format will be considerably different. Good social media posts will also be different again and may begin with a fact or statistic to drive the click through.  As a final note: keep in mind that you’re writing for your reader, not just for yourself or for the people who work in your industry. Always keep them in mind.

To hone your copy, take a look at Karon Thackston’s Copywriting Shortcuts article. It’s packed with professional tips, strategies and advice for crafting better, faster copy that produces results every time.